Category Archives: Halloween Season

THE IRON ROSE (1973) FOR HALLOWEEN

title screen

the iron roseLA ROSE DE FER (1973) – This film’s title was translated into English as The Iron Rose even though The Rose of Iron would be a more literal translation, but that’s just a tiny nitpick. La Rose de Fer was the fifth movie from Jean Rollin, whose horror productions can range from brilliant to So Bad They’re Good level.

The Iron Rose is possibly the greatest example of the “love it or hate it” nature of Rollin’s films. Personally, I love it and consider it one of his best works, but I can certainly understand why some viewers dismiss it as dull, pretentious and self-consciously artsy.

iro roThere IS a body count in The Iron Rose, but there is certainly no blood and gore. As our story begins, a beautiful woman (Francoise Pascal) lounges on the beach and regards an iron rose that has washed in with the tide. After tossing it aside she goes about her business, and before long is on a bicycling date with a young man (Hugues Quester).

Eventually the couple – listed as Le Femme and L’homme in the credits – end up taking a walk through one of those bizarrely scenic European graveyards which were tailor-made for this kind of atmospheric, artsy film. A creepy female clown and a sinister-seeming old woman are among the few other people our main characters encounter in the sprawling cemetery.

Viewers have had a few hints along the way that neither one of these young people are one hundred percent stable, but things soon go to the next level. Continue reading

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CREATURE COMMANDOS

For this weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post we’ll do the DC characters called the Creature Commandos.

wwt 93WEIRD WAR TALES Vol 1 #93 (November 1980)

Title: The Creature Commandos

Villains: Nazi soldiers

Synopsis: This story introduced Project M, a fictional 1942 War Department effort to unleash supernatural monsters upon the Axis armies. The members of these Creature Commandos:

*** Warren Griffith, an institutionalized teenager who irrationally thought he was a werewolf, so the scientists of Project M turned him into a real, biological man-wolf who could become his monstrous self at will. 

*** Marine Private Elliot “Lucky” Taylor, who blew away much of his body by stepping on a land mine. Government scientists used patchwork body parts to reassemble him into a huge, yellow-skinned Frankenstein’s Monster figure.

cc 1*** Army Sergeant Vincent Velcro, who was given a choice of 30 years of hard labor for crippling a superior officer or being a human guinea pig for chemical injections derived from bat blood. The injections turned him into a science-spawned vampire.

*** Lieutenant Matthew Shrieve, Army Intelligence, a normal human placed in charge of the Creature Commandos. 

In their first mission, the Commandos are sent into France to attack Castle Conquest, where the Nazis and French collaborators are designing android duplicates of high-level politicians from Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill on down. The plan is to use the nearly completed robots to replace the originals and surrender to the Axis Nations. Continue reading

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AND FOUR MORE NEGLECTED MONSTERS FOR HALLOWEEN SEASON

Balladeer’s Blog’s recent looks at Eight Neglected Monsters for Halloween Season and Six More Neglected Monsters for Halloween Season were big hits with readers, so here are four more.

maldoror and his smile by lord orlandoMALDOROR

First Appearance: The Songs of Maldoror (1868)

Cryptid Category: Malevolent Unearthly Entity

Lore: Maldoror repeatedly lied about his nature and origins, casting doubt upon everything except the unspeakable vileness of … whatever he was. He/ It was possessed of greater than human strength, sadistic cunning and the ability to sprout tentacles, wings or other appendages from his shoulder blades.

This supernatural menace glided through the world with a serial killer’s mentality and viewed all other living things – even children and animals – as nothing but potential victims. Maldoror’s graphic violence against those he preyed upon was so disturbing that it would know no equal until the most depraved murderers of the 20th Century came along.

The monstrous entity encountered many other oddities like a hermaphrodite, a philosophical mad gravedigger, a large black tarantula, the Angel of the Lamp and others. Continue reading

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THE RIDER OF THE SKULLS (1965) MEXICAN HORROR FILM

el charro de las calaverasTHE RIDER OF THE SKULLS aka El Charro de las Calaveras (1965) – Halloween is fast approaching, so here is another seasonal post from Balladeer’s Blog. Regular readers know how much I enjoy the campy, so-bad-they’re-good horror films from Mexico. I reviewed several of them HERE years ago.

El Charro de las Calaveras was written and directed by Alfredo Salazar, brother of Abel Salazar, the Brainiac himself from that 1961 horror movie. This was Alfredo’s first turn in the director’s chair but he had written many, many Mexican horror flicks, including the original Aztec Mummy trilogy, Wrestling Women movies, you name it.

This particular movie is a textbook example of a fun-bad film. The Rider of the Skulls (Dagoberto Rodriguez) is a masked gunslinging hero in Old Mexico, clad all in black including a big sombrero but with drawings of skulls on his back and on each shoulder. Well, at first. The shoulder skulls change to one on each breast in the second act.

Our hero has been fighting the forces of evil ever since his parents were slain by criminals years earlier.

wolfman in elEl Charro arrives in a nearly deserted town with a dilapidated cemetery in which assorted skulls lie around in piles. The masked hero encounters the first of three monsters he will fight in this flick – a ridiculous looking werewolf with a headpiece so large it makes him look like the mascot of a sports team. Continue reading

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KILLCROP: A GOBLIN TALE FROM 1828

Halloween month continues at Balladeer’s Blog with another look at a Gothic horror tale that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Killcrop the ChangelingKILLCROP THE CHANGELING (1828) – By Richard Thompson. Gothic horror stories always earn extra points from me if they spotlight a supernatural menace that is NOT a vampire or a ghost. This tale features a goblin child who changes places with a human child.

Killcrop the Changeling features the nearly forgotten version of goblin lore, which presented them as supernatural humanoid vermin who mystically inhabit old, uninhabited buildings. In this case the London building in question used to belong to an undertaker who also sold equipment for infants. The establishment was called Both Ends in reference to this cradle and grave specialization, NOT because it was a gay bar. Continue reading

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HORROR CINEMA’S NEW ICON

art the clown faceWith less than a week to go in Halloween Month, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the controversial new icon of horror cinema: Art the Clown from the Terrifier series. If you’re tired of the endless reboots and retcons involving Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, then check out the assorted films of Damien Leone’s depraved slasher.

I usually find killer clowns boring, but in my opinion Art is far more disturbing than Pennywise or other horror clowns. This “terrifying” character has gone from short films to an anthology movie to a pair of feature films, the second of which was released this year. 

art in actionLeone first presented Art the Clown in his film short The 9th Circle in 2008. That film depicted the deranged, silent and sinister figure, played by Mike Giannelli, striking on Halloween night on behalf of a Satanic Cult.

Art’s second appearance came in 2011 in another Damien Leone horror short, titled Terrifier. Art, still portrayed by Mike Giannelli, struck with uncompromising violence and conveyed his vile, sadistic nature entirely through facial expressions and body acting since the slasher never speaks. Picture Freddy Krueger remaining as silent as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, and that’s Art. Continue reading

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LILITH: DRACULA’S DAUGHTER

For this weekend’s escapist superhero post Balladeer’s Blog will take a Halloween Season look at Marvel Comics’ character Lilith, the daughter of Dracula. 

gs chillers 1GIANT-SIZE CHILLERS Vol 1 #1 (June 1974) 

Title: Night of the She-Demon 

Villain: Dracula

NOTE: In the 1970s Marvel Comics launched several horror titles, most of which I have reviewed previously here at Balladeer’s Blog. One of those horror titles dealt with Dracula being on the loose in the present day. Lilith’s tales took place in that same continuity.

Synopsis: In England, Dracula visits one of his human thralls, Lord Henry, to order him to pursue diplomatic immunity for an alias that Drac will adopt. 

The undead count’s presence in England has supernaturally triggered some stirring in a grave outside London. It is the grave of Dracula’s daughter Lilith, who was put there 30 years ago by vampire hunter Quincy Harker, Marvel Comics’ descendant of Jonathan Harker from the 1897 novel Dracula. Continue reading

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HORROR FILMS: EXTREME AND ENVELOPE-PUSHING

With Halloween Month rolling along, Balladeer’s Blog presents a list of some horror films that are extreme with their graphic gore or their envelope-pushing themes.

rabid grannies coverRABID GRANNIES (UNCUT VERSION) (1988) – We’ll start with the mildest one on this list. Yes, even in its original, uncut and graphically violent form it’s mild for this list. Those darn Belgians produced this Evil Dead-inspired movie which featured a pair of nonagenarian aunts being sent a birthday gift by their Satanist nephew.

When the gift is opened that night, it transforms the pair into hideously ugly demonoids who prey upon all of the relatives gathered to celebrate their birthday at their remote mansion home. Not even children are exempt from getting killed as the ever-mutating “grannies” slaughter the family members. 

What the two demonoids do to the priest in the family is very, very dark. FOR MY FULL-LENGTH REVIEW CLICK HERE.

NOTE: The movies below this point tend to be very distressing for people with more conventional tastes in horror films. Turn back NOW if you do not like extreme violence and/or extreme themes. Continue reading

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INVADERS FROM THE DARK (1925)

invaders from the darkINVADERS FROM THE DARK (1925) – Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this horror story written by Fanny Greye Bragg aka “Greye La Spina” for her skill at weaving. Invaders from the Dark was first published in the iconic pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1925, then republished in revised form in 1960.

Regular readers may remember my review of the 1918 novel The Ghost Garden, in which a female ghost and a witch fight over a mortal man they both love. This 1925 tale features a similar love triangle among supernatural figures.

masc graveyard smallerIn 1920s New York City, Portia Delore marries a magic practitioner named Howard Differdale, but Differdale’s sorcery forbids the pair from consummating their marriage. Portia learns a great deal of magic from her spouse, but a lady has desires, and after Howard’s death (dare I say “Howard’s End?”) Portia’s are aimed at handsome Owen Edwardes.

She has competition from Russian Princess Irma Andreyevna Tchernova, a werewolf by choice. The ladies woo Owen, with Princess Tchernova even trying to lure the real estate man into becoming a werewolf himself via mystical plants and spells. The princess takes to preying on children and cops. Continue reading

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STRANGLER OF THE SWAMP (1946): HALLOWEEN GHOST FILM

strangler of the swampSTRANGLER OF THE SWAMP (1946) – Halloween Month rolls along here at Balladeer’s Blog with this appealing cult film from 1946. Strangler of the Swamp seems destined to be forever overpraised or overpanned. Personally, I find it an ideal Halloween movie for those people who don’t like blood, gore and graphic violence in their horror films.

NOTE: I review movies from the most blood-soaked to the most mild, so be wary and don’t assume all horror films reviewed at Balladeer’s Blog are comparatively mild.

I’ll throw out some quick trivia to hopefully make this neglected work more appealing to people who normally scorn black & white and/or bloodless horror flicks:

*** THE Blake Edwards, prominent director famed for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Pink Panther, 10 and many other films, plays the male lead.

maria and the Strangler of the Swamp*** Charles Middleton, who played Ming the Merciless in early Flash Gordon serials, portrays the ghostly ferryman of the title.

*** Rosemary LaPlanche, Miss America of 1941, stars as the female lead.

Strangler of the Swamp was directed and co-written by German-American director Frank Wisbar. He was adapting his 1936 German film Fahrmann Maria to an American setting and amping up the horror angle.

In the 1936 movie the figure of Death personified was the main menace. For Strangler of the Swamp, Wisbar changed nearly the entire story and made a murderous ghost the villain. Wisbar masterfully converted the European flavor to Southern Gothic.

THE STORY: Continue reading

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