Archive for July, 2013

by Sam Juliano

A regional based horror piece with supernatural underpinnings “The Hungry Glass” is set in a sedate seaside community during a brisk and picturesque New England autumn.  This atmospheric early Thriller pre-dates the celebrated “Pigeons From Hell,” which likewise made striking visual and thematic use of it’s deep south environs.  Based on a story by Thriller stalwart Robert Bloch titled “The Hungry House” the show is a chilling ghost story that plays on one’s aversion to mirrors. Indeed Karloff, in grand Edwardian garb, sporting a stovepipe hat and carrying a lantern urges his audience during his introduction to “make sure that your television casts no reflection!” while gazing into a mirror that showcases the episode’s star players.  Other perceptions revealed during the course of his opening include: “Mirrors never lie,” “Mirrors bring a house to life” and “Every time you look in a mirror, you see death.”

Beginning with a prologue that is equally as effective as ones that began the classic episodes “The Cheaters” and “The Grim Reaper” Laura Bellman fans herself while admiring her reflecting in one of a roomful of mirrors.  A man then raps at the door and is answered with “Leave me alone, can’t you–leave me alone with my mirrors.”  Then the story proper begins when Gil and Marcia Trasker buy the old Bellman house, a brooding but picturesque enclave along the seashore.  After hearing some cryptic warnings from the locals about the Bellman house they are escorted to their new home by the realtor Adam Talmadge and his wife Liz.  Gil inquires about the absence of mirrors in the house and Adam informs him that some previous residents were killed by shattered glass.  The deaths were given more sinister interpretations by the superstitious townspeople. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1948 94m) not on DVD

I hate to be mauled

p  S.Sylvan Simon  d  S.Sylvan Simon  w  Roy Huggins  ph  Charles Lawton Jnr  ed  Al Clark  m  George Duning  art  Stephen Goosson, Leslie Thomas

Franchot Tone (Stuart Bailey), Janet Blair (Norma Shannon/Gretchen Breeger), Janis Carter (Mrs Caprillo/Jane Breeger/Janie Joy), Adele Jergens (Boots Nestor), Glenda Farrell (Hazel Bixby), Steve Geray (Keller), Eduardo Ciannelli (Caprillo), John Ireland (Reno), Lynn Merrick (Mrs Johnston), Tom Powers (Johnston), Raymond Burr (Herb), Robert Barrat (Lt.Quint), Donald Curtis (Martin), Roseanne Murray (Miss Phipps), Sid Tomack (Buster Buffin), Martha Montgomery (Angel),

As I write I Love Trouble isn’t available on DVD.  The only way to see it is by dodgy off-air recordings.  My copy flickers, has jumping frames, other frames and even seconds where it cuts to black and a soundtrack which goes out of synch.  It’s truly in a desperate state.  All of which may be a surprise when one considers how so many of the third generation public domain noirs have been lovingly restored to DVD – think Decoy, Born to Kill – but quite a few others that are yet to be so.  There are a host of cult noirs that one could have included in this selection; de Toth’s Pitfall (Dick Powell and a never better Lizabeth Scott), Shane’s Fear in the Night (actually on DVD but unrestored), Lewis’ The Undercover Man (Glenn Ford does Eliot Ness in all but name), Lubin’s Impact (with the imperious bitch Helen Walker), Wiles’ The Gangster (with Barry Sullivan), and Too Late for Tears (with Scott, Dan Duryea and Arthur Kennedy).  All are solid examples of the B noir tradition.  Yet I leave all at the gates, because I really do love Trouble(more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

Since right now I’m under a severe case of flu, I decided to post a quickie for today. The top 10 films of 2013 so far and some quick words if available, if not… well, screw you then. (Sorry, it’s the flu speaking).

10. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)

I know how people can fall in love with this film: it’s beautiful and it can surely be complicated on a first look, but at the same time it has a straightforward story if we take everything we see as real (except in the moments in which the conscience of the characters is altered), which I won’t bother explaining here, but it’s quite interesting in its repercusions and its power to alter someone’s mind thanks to a drug/living organism. The cinematography is something out of this world, completely worth any future nomination in any competition in the future, specially in my favorite part: when we see the decomposing pigs and we return to the beginning of the film and we see how everything in the movie is just a small fraction of something much more important: a circle of life, a movie about biology is ok, I guess. (more…)

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by Maurizio Roca

I initially had this piece slated for early March of this year before abandoning it for reasons that now escape me. I decided to post it after catching up with one or two new inclusions that motivated me.


 The criteria for this list are movies made and released in 2012 or films made in 2011 but released theatrically in the USA during 2012.  Two major exceptions are Once Upon A Time In Anatolia and The Turin Horse which arrived in NYC during the first quarter of 2012 but which I happened to see in 2011 due to certain favorable circumstances (and thus are ineligible). The former was named my second favorite picture of 2011 (behind only The Tree Of Life) while the latter just missed my top ten. Both would be in the same exact position this year if I decided to include them (Anatolia possibly even supplanting my #1 pick).

My list includes:

  • Ten films made and released theatrically in the United States in 2012
  • Zero film made in 2011, but not shown theatrically in the US until 2012.

Thirteen Almosts: Elena, The Invisible War, 5 Broken Cameras, Oslo August 31st, The Kid With A Bike, Monsieur Lazhar, Prometheus, This Is Not A Film, The Gatekeepers, Gerhard Richter Painting, The Hunter, Beyond The Hills, The Grey.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Spain 1969 99m) not on DVD

Aka. La Residencia; The House That Screamed

General Franco’s school for girls

d/w  Narciso Ibáñez Serrador  ph  Manuel Berenguer, Godofredo Pacheco  ed  Mercedes Alonso, Reginald Mills  m  Waldo de los Rios  art  Ramiro Gómez

Lilli Palmer (Mme.Fourneau), Cristina Galbó (Theresa), John Moulder Brown (Luis), Maribel Martin (Isabelle), Mary Maude (Irene), Candida Losada (M’elle Desprez), Pauline Challoner (Catherine), Tomas Blanco (Father Baldie), Teresa Hurtado (Andrea),

It takes a brave man to wade through some of the Stygian depths of Spanish horror of the late sixties and seventies.  There were some cheesy, awful horror films made in Italy, too, of course, and in Britain and France come to that, but Spanish horror was a special brand of cheese.  There were a couple of worthwhile entries, however.  The Blood Spattered Bride made excellent use of its young women, Alexandre Bastedo and Maribel Martin and had a few choice shocks in the best manner.  Best of all was The Boarding School, surely one of the best horrors made in Europe at the turn of the seventies.

It’s set in Madame Fourneau’s school for wayward girls in France.  A young girl, Theresa, arrives there in the hope that she isn’t there for long.  She quickly becomes aware of the iron rule of its headmistress and of the prefects (more like young kapos) who she uses to do her ugly work for her.  Their latest victim of choice is Catherine, a rebellious but otherwise kindly girl, who is whipped for her disobedience.  Theresa does befriend some of the girls, but as girls begin to go missing, girls and prefects alike begin to suspect foul play.  Could it be the hired help the girls sneak out to have sex with every so often, could it be Madame Fourneau herself, or her hidden away son, the sexually repressed Luis, dreaming of girls and resorting to voyeurism to get his kicks? (more…)

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Mads Mikkelsen and Thomas Bo Larsen in Thomas Vinterberg’s wrenching Danish drama “The Hunt.”

by Sam Juliano

In The Hunt the devastation wrought on an innocent man and his rural Danish community reaches tragic proportions after an innocuous comment leads authorities on a witch hunt.  Family relationships are severely strained, loyalty succumbs to mistrust and banishment, and simmering resentment morphs into guilt by association and finally, violence.  Acclaimed Danish director Thomas Vinterberg returns to the central focus of his exceptional 1998 film Festen, though it examines a different aspect of sex abuse issue that was broached almost immediately in the earlier work.  In the appropriately-titled new filmthe thrust is less concerned with denial, than it is with how easily a community is willing to believe an unsubstantiated allegation without any semblance of fair play.   The film is certainly a cautionary tale aimed at those who embrace rumors and baseless charges, but even more resonantly it’s a harrowing drama that is powerfully engrossing, all the time boiling your blood over the shocking injustice it showcases.

A mild-mannered, popular teacher, Lucas, trying to make ends meet after a divorce takes a position in a kindergarten day school.  An imaginative young girl feels jilted after Lucas smartly gives back her plastic heart and politely rebuffs her kiss.  Spurred on by a pornographic image seen on her brother’s iPad, she tells the principal that Lucas is “stupid” and he has a penis that “sticks out.”  The woman then uses some persuasive wordplay to turn that declaration into a accusation of indecent exposure.  The school psychologist then leads on Klara further with loaded questions that fully support the baseless allegation.  The entire community takes to believing the girl under the bizarre notion that all children tell the truth, and a horrific series of events spiral bringing terrible retribution to the formerly well-liked and popular father of a teen age son. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

We continue to move deeper into the summer and in most regions the heat is settling in for a protracted stay.  Many friends and associates are away, taking refuge at their regular vacation spots, while others are enjoying first-time explorations.  Of course it’s winter for a few of us, a time when every observation is pretty much in reverse.

Though it seemed like an eternity for western ballot voters to cast their lot, we are now down to about two weeks -16 days to be exact- for those who intend on offering up their two cents (rather 60)to help determine the 70 films that will be be essayed at the site over several months for the third genre polling that has been negotiated at WitD.  The western countdown will commence on or about September 1st and will run till mid-December.  At least a dozen writers have already expressed their desire to participate with several already placing reservations on some titles that appear certain to make the final cut.  A few voters like Jon Warner, Sachin Gandhi and Shubhait Lahiri are to be especially applauded for their remarkable dedication to the project. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture Magnolia, US (5 votes)

Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson, Magnolia (5 votes)

Best Actor Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story (8 votes)

Best Actress Reese Witherspoon, Election (5 votes)

Best Supp Actor Tom Cruise, Magnolia (6 votes)

Best Supp Actress Julianne Moore, Magnolia (7 votes)

Best Cinematography Conrad L. Hall, American Beauty (5 votes)

Best Score Thomas Newman, American Beauty (6 votes)

Best Short The Old Man and the Sea, Russia, Aleksandr Petrov (4 votes)


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pigeons from hell

by Sam Juliano

The figure had moved into the bar of moonlight now, and Griswell recognized it. Then he saw Branner’s face, and a shriek burst from Griswell’s lips.  Branner’s face was bloodless, corpse-like; gouts of blood dripped darkly down it; his eyes were glassy and set, and blood oozed from the great gash which cleft the crown of his head.”                      -Robert E. Howard

Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936) is one of literature’s pre-eminent authors of action and adventure stories. The creator of Conan the Cimmerian, Kull of Atlantis, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, ‘El Borak,’ and many other notable characters, Howard, in an all-too-short 12 year career, wrote well over a hundred stories for the pulp magazines of his time. While he is widely regarded as the ‘father of Sword and Sorcery’ and the creator of Conan the Barbarian, this reputation, while helping to keep his work in the public eye for six decades since his death, has unfortunately overshadowed the wider scope of his imagination, his talent for mastering a variety of genres, and forms. (He excelled at poetry as well as prose) Howard contributed his most acclaimed work to the most celebrated fantasy pulp magazine of the era, Weird Tales.  A good number of his stories also appeared in other publications of the day such as Action StoriesArgosyFight StoriesOriental StoriesSpicy AdventureSport Story, and others.  His vivid and animated writing was hugely popular with readers and his dynamic skills as a storyteller enabled him to achieve some success in other genres. Even after his death publishers continued for some time to publish his stories or reprint them under other by-lines. So enduring is the appeal of his work that over a half century later he continues to gain new fans, introduced to his tales through paperbacks, comics, and movies. His work has also inspired subsequent generations of fantasy writers and a loyal following that has taken to cyberspace to spread the word.  Most literary critics and readers have maintained that Howard’s absolute masterpiece is “Pigeons From Hell,” a macabre story about voodoo, zombies, murder and malevolent birds set in a decaying mansion in the deep south. Published posthumously in 1938, two years after Howard’s death by his own hand, “Pigeons From Hell” has been called “one of the greatest horror stories written in the century” by Stephen King in Danse Macabre, and is one of several Howard stories set in the “piney woods,” located in three states in an area that includes sections of Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana.  “The Shadow of the Beast,” “Moon of Zambebwie” and “Black Canaan” are among some of the others.  With it’s thinly disguised undercurrent of sexual sadism, the story is steeped in the Gothic tradition and features an evil, psychotic spinster and and a disintegrating southern family, suggestive of the writings of William Faulkner.  Howard was not a specialist in horror, but most literary critics have favorably compared “Pigeons From Hell” to the works of Poe. (more…)

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dp 2

by Allan Fish

(USA 1947 106m) DVD1/2

Hold Your Breath and Cross Your Fingers

p  Jerry Wald  d  Delmer Daves  w  Delmer Daves  novel  David Goodis  ph  Sid Hickox  ed  David Weisbart  m  Franz Waxman  art  Charles H.Clarke

Humphrey Bogart (Vincent Parry), Lauren Bacall (Irene Jansen), Agnes Moorehead (Madge Rapf), Bruce Bennett (Bob), Douglas Kennedy (Det.Kennedy), Clifton Young (Baker), Houseley Stevenson (Dr Walter Coley), Tom d’Andrea (Sam, the cabby), Rory Mallinson (George Fellsinger), Mary Field (Aunt Mary), John Arledge (lonely man),

When discussing the films Bogie and Bacall made together, Dark Passage was, and to a degree still is, seen as ‘the other one’.  Not The Big Sleep, not To Have and Have Not, not Key Largo, but the other one.  The director had something to do with this, for while John Huston and Howard Hawks are accepted masters, Delmer Daves was not.  He’s known today for the westerns he made in the mid-fifties, and 3:10 to Yuma is covered later in this piece.  Yet Dark Passage still lingers, the ultimate deeply flawed film which has too much to be cast aside.  Even the title makes one tingle.

Bogart played Vincent Parry, an escaped convict wrongly accused of murdering his wife and off to try and find out who did.  He’s helped, seemingly for no reason, by Irene Jansen, who helps him past the police blocks and back to San Francisco where she puts him up for the night.  Realising the danger he’s putting her in he decides to go, and encounters a philosophical taxi driver who ‘likes his face’ and decides to help him change it.  The cabby takes him to a discredited but excellent plastic surgeon who changes his face.  Vincent thinks he has a place to stay with his friend George, but when he gets there he finds him murdered, too, and is forced to go back to Irene’s.  Time is running out if he hopes to find out who did murder his wife and George and clear his name. (more…)

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