THE SECRET OF THE MUMMY (1982, 1983) – This Brazilian horror film was released as O Segredo da Mumia in 1982 and with English subtitles as The Secret of the Mummy in 1983. It was directed by the one and only Ivan Cardoso aka Ivan the Terrible to fans.
That nickname was not an insult but was a sincere compliment to the cult horror film director, playing on the real-life Ivan the Terrible and his frightful reputation. Cardoso previously served as an Assistant Director to Brazil’s King of Horror – Coffin Joe himself! (For my look at eight Coffin Joe films click HERE.)
The Secret of the Mummy is a terrific starting point for Ivan’s movies, whether you’re interested in foreign cinema or looking for a change of pace in a mummy flick. It’s also a good introduction to his eccentric style – frequent changes between black & white footage and color footage, riffs on global cinema and periodic insertions of bizarre sex comedy. Continue reading
GHOSTWATCH (1992) – This was a British made for t.v. movie that aired on Halloween Night in 1992. Ghostwatch is a nice – albeit boring – little novelty item for the way it anticipated the paranormal “reality” (LMAO) shows of today.
The telefilm also can’t help but put viewers in mind of the Paranormal Activity series and countless other Found Footage horror movies. Ghostwatch involves much older technology of course but for once, since the make-believe t.v. crew is filming their investigation of a haunted house, it MAKES SENSE for people to be filming everything.
The casting for this production was well-done in that it contains virtually NO recognizable faces. Usually when watching BBC items from back then viewers can’t help but play Spot the Doctor Who/ Sherlock Holmes/ British Murder Mysteries Actor. Continue reading
THE CALL OF CTHULHU (2005) – The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society produced this terrific – but decidedly niche – horror film based on Lovecraft’s tale The Call of Cthulhu from 1928. The clever approach employed by the producers was to present this black and white film as if it was a Silent Movie made in the 1920s.
Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog may remember that I’m a silent film geek so I fell in love with this movie immediately. The Lovecraft Historical Society players threw themselves into this labor of love, terrifically adapting the broad over-acting, dialogue boards and cinematic grammar of the Silent Age.
The running time of The Call of Cthulhu is just 47 minutes, so we get the actual story with no pointless filler or additions. You can count me among those who consider this unlikely project to be the purest film adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Continue reading
Gaston Leroux’s The Machine to Kill was written in NINETEEN TWENTY-FOUR. Many book sites list it as 1935, but that was just the year it was finally translated into English.
Personally I would use the title The Clockwork Dead Man or The Clockwork Killer because for modern readers The Machine to Kill sounds like a traditional science fiction tale about technology run amok.
In reality this neglected Gaston Leroux novel is a horror/sci fi hybrid about an android/ cyborg mix whose mechanized body has been outfitted with the brain, eyes and nervous system of a guillotined murderer. The robotic man – called Gabriel – was created by Dr Jacques Cotentin, who needed an absolutely fresh brain, hence having to settle for a just-executed criminal. Continue reading
Some of Balladeer’s Blog’s readers have let me know that they feel I did not do as many blog posts about horror as I usually do during October. I’m all about you readers, so here’s a horror film review to help make up for it.
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994) – Directed by John Carpenter and written by Michael De Luca, this movie was an unabashed valentine to H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King’s imitations of Lovecraft, and The King in Yellow by Robert W Chambers. The King in Yellow, of course, is the 1895 book previously reviewed here at Balladeer’s Blog, and which Lovecraft admitted was an influence on his own works.
The story is about the title “king”, or more precisely about a stage play about that monarch. Everyone who reads the play The King in Yellow goes insane, causing worldwide chaos. Some of the King’s minions enter into our dimension to do his evil bidding, but unlike Lovecraft’s tentacled, enormous Old Ones, the monstrous servitors of the King in Yellow are humanoid in size and form.
That out of the way, let’s take it from the top. My LEAST favorite element of this otherwise excellent movie is the way it opens up. We are shown a crazed John Trent (Sam Neill) being committed to an insane asylum. Dialogue makes it clear that he’s just one of many people going mad in a worldwide epidemic of violent insanity. Even some of the staff at the insane asylum seem like they’re not all there anymore.
Soon, Trent is visited in his padded cell, where he has used a black crayon to cover his body and the padded walls with crucifixes for protection. His visitor is Dr Wrenn, played by David Warner, the panicked, crucifix-surrounded man from The Omen, now talking to the panicked, crucifix-surrounded Sam Neill in this film. (I admit that’s a sly touch in keeping with the style of the movie. It even has echoes of the victim in Equinox fixating on his protective crucifix.) Continue reading
THE GHOST PIRATES (1909) – HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Balladeer’s Blog wraps up another Halloween Month with a look at this novella written by William Hope Hodgson. Just a few years ago my review of Hodgson’s 1908 The House on the Borderland closed out October here. That excellent novel was a forerunner of Lovecraftian cosmic horror combined with traditional haunted house elements.
The Ghost Pirates, published a year later, combined haunted ship tales with ghost stories and themes of the living dead emerging from the sea to swell their own ranks with more doomed men. In addition there is some nice theorizing about the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead.
The story begins in turn of the century San Francisco, as a seasoned sailor named Jessop signs onto an outgoing ship called the Mortzestus. When it had arrived in San Francisco all but one member of the officers and crew fled the vessel, refusing to return and even forsaking the pay they would have received for sailing the ship back to its home port in Great Britain.
That sole member of the original crew, Williams, tells Jessop and other new crew members about the ship being haunted and worse, but Jessop, like the other replacement hires, dismisses such claims. Williams seems a bit unnerved and maybe even unhinged by whatever happened on the original journey to San Francisco. He is bitterly obsessed with completing the round trip and collecting his pay despite horrific incidents that he is obviously hiding. Continue reading
Halloween month continues at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at two dozen of my favorite silent horror films.
THE CRIMSON STAIN MYSTERY (1916) – This was a 16 chapter silent serial that contained multiple horrific elements. The fact that it is so little remembered these days makes it perfect for this list, given Balladeer’s Blog’s overall theme. A mad scientist calling himself the Crimson Stain experiments on human guinea pigs in an attempt to create an intellectually superior race. His experiments all fail, producing hideous, mutated monsters. The Crimson Stain organizes his misbegotten menagerie into a villainous organization and wages a campaign of terror on the world at large. A heroic detective leads the opposition against them and tries to learn the identity of the Crimson Stain. Chapters in this serial boasted wonderfully campy titles like The Brand of Satan, The Devil’s Symphony, Despoiling Brutes and The Human Tiger.
THE MAN WITHOUT A SOUL (1916) – A man returns from the dead bereft of any trace of morality or humanity. He now views the people around him as victims and prey.
THE GOLEM AND THE DANCER (1917) – In the very first known horror movie sequel Paul Wegener starred and directed himself once again as the clay monster called the Golem. In this enjoyably “meta” production decades before Scream or The Human Caterpillar II, Wegener played himself. Continue reading
Halloween Month is racing toward its end so here’s another seasonal post. It’s a review of the first three volumes of Graveyard Shift, the “monsters as superheroes” series by Jon Malin, Mark Poulton and Aaron Alfeche.
GRAVEYARD SHIFT Volume 1 (2019)
Professor Blood, the Monster, the Bride, Monster Girl, Sea Urchin and Ghost in the Machine. I’d call this team the greatest heroes alive … except they’re all dead. This initial Graveyard Shift installment was a critical and financial triumph, blending horror, science fiction, superheroics and OUTSTANDING artwork into one of the most acclaimed independent comics ever. (Yes, these sequential art visionaries left the creative suffocation at the Big Two publishers to pursue their own projects.)
Each volume is the length of almost 3 regular comic books. The unfolding story in Graveyard Shift also pays homage to many horror classics through the names of several characters and organizations.
Atlantis Corporation, a subaquatic base for scientific research run by a man named Abraham Van Helsing is pursuing many projects for its charming but nefarious founder. One of those projects is an enormous spaceship that is being readied to transport thousands of scientists and colonists into space to explore distant planets.
Another undertaking (as it were) is Project Wormwood, which involves Regen Chambers to restore life to newly slain soldiers in order to form an unbeatable army, and Mind Wipe technology to reprogram the revived dead to know nothing but their new existence as servitors of whatever nation buys them (but really as servitors of Van Helsing himself). Continue reading
THE BLACK REAPER (1899) – By Bernard Capes. Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this neglected horror tale. The story takes place in 1665 in a secluded British farming town called Anathoth.
The Black Reaper of the title is an interesting humanoid monster. Religious superstition and human evil mingle in this tale, just like in so many other great horror stories. And it seems Stephen King must have been, uh … “inspired” by The Black Reaper.
The citizens of Anathoth are described in the narrative as the kind of religious people who merely pay lip service to their beliefs but don’t live by them. They even treated their previous Vicar like a joke.
Now the plague is once more at large in the land and a new fire-and- brimstone preacher has replaced the disrespected man in Anathoth. The new “holy” man frequently rails at the citizens, telling them that they are all horrible sinners and that God will one day mow them down like ripe corn.
All of them, that is, except the children. Continue reading
Halloween month rolls along with Balladeer’s Blog’s salute to Zuma, the king of Philippine horror movies, and his sequel film Daughter of Zuma.
ZUMA (1985) – Category: Enjoyably bad movie elevated by its obscurity value
There’s an old saying that goes “Once you have a big green bald guy with pythons growing out of his neck you never go back.” Or something to that effect. This monstrous figure is Zuma himself, the Freddy Krueger of the Philippines in the 1980s. Big, muscular and green like the Hulk, bald like Mr Clean and with pythons growing out of his neck like the late Michael Jackson. (Disclaimer: The preceding remark is probably not true)
Originally a comic book character in the Philippines, Zuma took the film industry of the islands by storm with his debut film in 1985 and a sequel in 1987. Copies of these films have been Continue reading