Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Amityville Horror

Tonight's movie was the "true story" The Amityville Horror (1979).  I picked up this copy of the book in a thrift store a while back because 1) it's a hoot to read and 2) there's a Scholastic Books logo on it, meaning it was packaged for school kids to buy through their English class.  Elementary school kids.  Because in the seventies, we didn't screw around with "Goosebumbs," we started straight on the hard stuff.

It's... interesting.  As a cultural artifact, it's a nice little piece- were Margot Kidder and James Brolin (Lois Lane and the guy from Marcus Welby!) ever that young?   But watching it after reading the book kills it-you know they're all going to escape at the end, so there's not any real suspense.  In fact the most horrific part a child getting his fingers smashed by a window. (Oddly enough, the Defeo murders are pretty tame compared to an episode of Law and Order).

I also watched the Amityville Horror episdoe of In Search Of... (10.4.79).  It's an even bigger crock of poop than the movie itself (no, I don't buy into the "true story" b.s.) but it does make for a good companion to the movie dealing more with the murders that instigated the events of the movie.

I remember when the remake came out- I was working at a mall bookstore and people came in looking for copies of the book, which at the time was out of print but could be easily found in second hand shops.  I saw the remake in a virtually empty theater and I got caught up in the suspense, up to a point, but I realized I knew how the story ended so I allowed myself to forget about the story and pay attention to something I loved- the sets and props.  And I tell you, the remake is more seventies than the original.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Night Tide

I'm sure there's no such thing as "Southern California Beach Gothic," but if there were, Curtis Harrington's theatrical motion picture Night Tide (61) would be an excellent example of it.

A very, very young Dennis Hopper plays a sailor who falls in love with a mysterious girl named Mora.  She works as a mermaid in Santa Monica and her last two boyfriends died mysteriously.

Hopper doesn't care- he's young (very very young), kind of naive, and Mora is very beautiful.

Of course, things go bad- it's a Harrington movie that has to be a tragedy.

It's a slow paced piece, dreamy in it's presentation, Hopper, a small town boy from Colorado, in a strange place, the ocean side, meeting strange people, mermaids and psychics.

It's an original script by Harrington, and it seems to be more personal than his later work.  It's from AIP so there's a serious Corman vibe to it, especially in the coffeehouse jazz scene.

This concludes Harrington week... until I can find copies of his tv shows- including Charlie's Angels.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Cat Creature

The Cat Creature (12.11.73) is another Curtis Harrington and Robert Bloch made for television collaboration. 

In the collection of a dead man, an appraiser finds a sarcophagus with a mummy wearing a gold amulet.  The amulet is stolen and the mummy disappears.  Soon, people start dying- sometimes mauled, sometimes hypnotized by a mysterious black cat.

A Vampire Cat.  Yes. 

What's really fascinating is the casting- Gale Sondergaard- playing the owner of an occult bookstore, Keye Luke as a thief, John Carradine as a hotel clerk.  Harrington is showing his love of old Hollywood again by bringing in these actors.

In fact, this feels almost like one of Universal Pictures "Inner Sanctum" movies than a movie-of-the-week- in the best possible way of course.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Dead Don't Die

The Dead Don't Die (1.14.75) is another Curtis Harrington treat- a tribute to film noir with a script written by Robert Bloch based on his short story.
Set in 1934, George Hamilton plays Don Drake, a man trying to clear the name of his brother, executed after being accused of killing his wife.

There's dance marathons and zombies- the Hatian kind rather than the flesh eating kind.

Harrington and Bloch had to have been having fun playing with the conventions of the genre with a supernatural twist.  There's the mysterious woman.  A shop with a secret.  The boss behind it all.  Heck, Drake's brother is executed by the electric chair and they even call it "old sparky" and there are shots of lamps dimming.

Here's another wonder when watching it in the Future World of 2015:  In 1975, there would have been people watching it who would have remember 1934 from their childhoods.  In fact, 1975 is only slightly further removed from 1934 than 2015 is from 1975.  I think I hurt my brain.

But, as a member of what Orson Welles' "new Hollywood" (from the unfinished The Other Side of the Wind), it's clear to see Harrington's love of the Old Hollywood in this movie.

(One last thing:  Boy, George Hamilton was tan.  Really, really tan.  Like, tanner than everyone else in the movie.  It's almost disconcerting.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell!!

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell!!! (10.31.78)  Ok, the title doesn't really have exclamation points, but it should.

This is another made for television piece from Curtis Harrington, for CBS this time- for Halloween, even.

Quite the treat, actually.

First, the premise- it's The Omen meets Lassie.  A devil cult breeds a dog with a demon to produce a litter of Satanic puppies.

One of the litter ended up with the Barry family, parents Richard Crenna and Yvette Mimieux and kids Ike Eisenman and Kim Richards, reprising their Escape to Witch Mountain roles as siblings.

The devil dog works it demon magic on the kids making them evil, eventually getting their mother as well.  So it's up to Dick Crenna to save the day.

And of course he does.  Despite the fact it's a Halloween movie special, it's CBS in the seventies so the family unit emerges intact, and stronger for its trials.

Until little Kim points out their dog was part of a litter...

Because things get hazy as you get older, I actually used to get this movie confused with Dracula's Dog (Zoltan: Hound of Dracula) also from 1978.  Imagine that.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Awful About Allan!

My obsession with Curtis Harrington continues!
How Awful About Allan (9.22.70) was an Aaron Spelling television movie based on a Henry (What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?) Farrell novel of the same title.

Allan is played by Anthony Perkins, this time with daddy issues... his father was killed in a fire and Allan develops hysterical blindness as a result.

He recovers some vision.  Not enough to properly see, but allowing him shapes and shadows.   On his return home, however, he has to deal with the psychological and physical scars of the fire... developing a serious case of paranoia.

Yes, Anthony Perkins playing a crazy person.  Imagine that.

It's not bad for a by the numbers movies of the week.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Who Slew Auntie Roo?

Another Curtis Harrington movie, the follow-up to "What's the Matter With Helen?", Who Slew Auntie Roo? (1971).

      At Christmas time, Auntie Roo, Rose Forrest, played by Shelley Winters, has ten orphans from the local orphange over for the holidays.  This time, Christopher and Katy have stowed away and Auntie Roo takes a shine to Katy, reminding her of her dead daughter.

And Christopher has an overactive imagination- he starts to think Auntie Roo wants to eat them, part of a Hansel and Gretel fantasy he's built up.

Harrington, working with a script from Jimmy Sangster, noted for many of his scripts for Hammer Studios, turns this into a dark little fairy tale.

Afterwards, I watched The House of Harrington, a documentary on the director and he declared his films were tragedies- “they all have a tragic ending, every one of them.”  That includes "Who Slew Auntie Roo?".