IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973)

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Far out, man!

The early 1970s was such a groovy time the vampires just couldn’t keep away.  Dan Curtis’ THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) unleashed a superhuman vampire onto the streets of 1972 Las Vegas, while Hammer’s DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) and THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973) resurrected Dracula (Christopher Lee) in 1970s London.

Likewise, the black exploitation films BLACULA (1972) and its sequel, SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973), the film we’re looking at today, revived a vampire in 1970s Los Angeles.

When you hear the name Blacula, you no doubt laugh.  You shouldn’t.  The BLACULA films, in spite of their campy titles, are no laughing matter. They’re actually decent horror movies.

I’ve always enjoyed the two BLACULA movies, and like Hammer’s DRACULA A.D. 1972, they were dismissed back in the day as silly 1970s schlock, but they have aged well.  In fact, they’ve gotten better.

For me, the main reason the BLACULA movies have aged well and the number one reason to see them is the performance by William Marshall as Blacula.  Marshall was a Shakespearean trained actor and it shows.  With his deep majestic voice, he’s perfect as the noble vampire, Prince Mamuwalde.  In a way, it’s too bad these films came out in the early 1970s and Marshall had to star in a film called BLACULA because he easily could have portrayed Stoker’s Dracula, and had he done so, he’d be in the conversation as one of the screen’s better Draculas.  And that’s not to take anything away from Marshall’s Mamuwalde character, because he’s a memorable vampire in his own right.  It’s just that you don’t often hear Marshall’s name in the conversation about best movie vampires. Perhaps it’s time that changed.

SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM continues the story of  Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall), the vampire introduced in BLACULA.  In that film, Mamuwalde, an African prince, was bitten by Dracula and then locked in a coffin where he remained until he was resurrected by an antique dealer in 1972 Los Angeles.

In SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, he’s revived yet again, this time by voodoo.  In fact, voodoo plays an integral part in this movie’s plot.  The voodoo scenes in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM reminded me a lot of similar scenes in the first Roger Moore James Bond movie, LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) which immersed Bond in early 1970s culture.  I told you the early 70s was a happening time.  Even James Bond got in on the action.

Anyway, in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, cult member Willis (Richard Lawson) vows revenge against his fellow cult members because he feels slighted at not being chosen as its new leader.  He decides to use voodoo to resurrect Blacula thinking the vampire can exact revenge for him, but things don’t go as planned as Blacula has other ideas and quickly makes Willis his slave.

The young woman who does lead the voodoo cult, Lisa Fortier (Pam Grier) crosses paths with Blacula who immediately takes an interest in her.  He seeks out her help, as he wants her to use her voodoo skills to perform an exorcism to free him of his vampire curse.  But Lisa’s boyfriend Justin (Don Mitchell) and the police arrive, spoiling the moment, and Blacula vows revenge.  Now seeing Blacula as a threat to her boyfriend, Lisa changes her tune about the vampire prince and uses her voodoo powers to combat him.

As far as vampire stories go, the one that SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM  has to tell with its voodoo elements is actually pretty cool and quite different.  You don’t see that combination of vampirism and voodoo very often.  The screenplay was written by Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig, and Maurice Jules, and it tells a pretty neat tale.  The dialogue is standard for the period, with lots of early 70s groovin and hip jargon.  You expect to see Kojak or Starsky and Hutch racing to the crime scene.  In fact, Bernie Hamilton who would go on to play Captain Dobey on STARSKY AND HUTCH (1975-79) has a small role here.

Bob Kelljan directed SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, and he’s no stranger to 1970s vampire movies, as he also directed COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970) and THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971), two films that also featured a vampire in modern-day Los Angeles, Count Yorga (Robert Quarry), and these films actually pre-dated THE NIGHT STALKER, which is often credited as launching the vampire-in-modern-times craze of the early 1970s.

There’s some pretty creepy scenes in this one, as William Marshall makes for a frightening vampire, and when he gets really angry, he suddenly breaks out in wolf-like make-up. There are also some entertaining scenes featuring Blacula on the streets of L.A., and one in particular where he tangles with some street thugs.  Needless to say, things don’t turn out so well for the thugs.

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Blacula (William Marshall) getting angry in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973).  You won’t like him when he’s angry.

Is it as frightening as THE NIGHT STALKER?  No, but Blacula’s scenes are as scary or perhaps even scarier than any of Christopher Lee’s Dracula scenes in DRACULA A.D. 1972 and THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA.

Again, William Marshall does a fine job as Blacula.  Marshall also appeared in the demonic possession film ABBY (1974) and went on to appear in many TV shows during the 1970s and 1980s. Probably the last film I saw him in was the Mel Gibson version of MAVERICK (1994) in which he had a bit part as a poker player.  Marshall passed away in 2003 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.  He was 78.

Pam Grier is also very good as Lisa.  Grier has and still is appearing in a ton of movies.  The last film I saw her in was THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012), and arguably her most famous role was in Quentin Tarantino’s JACKIE BROWN (1997), an homage to her own FOXY BROWN (1974).

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Pam Grier and William Marshall in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973).

Also in the cast is Michael Conrad as the sheriff.  Conrad would go on to fame for playing Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on the TV show HILL STREET BLUES (1981-1984).

But it’s William Marshall who gives the most biting performance in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM.  Marshall is thoroughly enjoyable as Blacula/Prince Mamuwalde, and his work in both BLACULA films is noteworthy enough to place him among the better screen vampires.

So, don’t be fooled by the title.  SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM is more than just a silly 1970s exploitation flick.  It’s well-made, it has an engrossing story that implements voodoo into its vampire lore, and as such it’s all rather refreshing.  It’s also done quite seriously.  It’s not played for laughs, and William Marshall delivers a commanding performance that is both dignified and frightening.

If you haven’t yet seen SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM or the first BLACULA movie, you definitely want to add them to your vampire movie list.  They’re part of a special time in vampire movie history, when the undead left their period piece environment and flocked to the hippie-filled streets of the 1970s.

Get your voodoo dolls ready.  It’s vampirism vs. voodoo!  It’s SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM!

Just watch where you stick those pins.

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

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IN THE SHADOWS: TORIN THATCHER

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Torin Thatcher as the evil magician Sokurah in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958).

Welcome back to IN THE SHADOWS, that column where we look at the career of character actors in the movies, especially horror movies.

Today IN THE SHADOWS it’s Torin Thatcher, a character actor known mostly for his villainous roles.  I remember him most for his outstanding portrayal of the evil magician Sokurah in the classic fantasy film THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) which also features some of Ray Harryhausen’s best stop-motion special effects.

And when you watch a movie featuring Ray Harryhausen’s special effects, it’s usually those effects that you remember, not the actors in the film.  This is true with THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, with the exception of Torin Thatcher.  His work in 7TH VOYAGE is so strong you remember the magician Sokurah just as vividly as you do Harryhausen’s fantastic creatures.

Before he become an actor, Torin Thatcher was a school teacher.  How cool would that have been?  To have Sokurah the Magician as your teacher.  But seriously, I can only imagine how powerfully effective he must have been standing in a classroom teaching students.

Here now is a partial list of Torin Thatcher’s 150 film and TV credits:

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1927) – Solanio – Torin Thatcher’s first movie credit as Solanio in this silent short adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.

NORAH O’NEALE (1934) – Dr. Hackey – Thatcher’s first screen credit in a feature-length movie.  Early drama starring Lester Matthews, known to horror fans for his work in WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935) and the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi classic THE RAVEN (1935).

SABOTEUR (1942) – uncredited appearance in this classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946) – Bentley Drummle – small role in the classic David Lean version of the Charles Dickens tale starring John Mills, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson who played Elizabeth in the Boris Karloff classic THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), and future Hammer Films stars from THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) Martita Hunt and Freda Jackson.

THE FALLEN IDOL (1948) – Policeman – Plays a policeman in this classic mystery from director Carol Reed (Oliver Reed’s uncle) with a script by Graham Greene.

THE CRIMSON PIRATE (1952) – Humble Bellows – Swashbuckling pirate adventure starring Burt Lancaster and directed by Robert Siodmak, the director of SON OF DRACULA (1943).  Also memorable for featuring a young Christopher Lee in a supporting role.

THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO (1952) – Johnson – classic drama starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, and Leo G. Carroll.

THE DESERT RATS (1953) – Col. Barney White – Robert Wise-directed war movie starring Richard Burton and James Mason.

THE ROBE (1953) – Sen. Gallio – Biblical tale  of Roman tribune with a conscience starring Richard Burton and Michael Rennie.

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) – Mr. Myers – Billy Wilder-directed Agatha Christie tale starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, and the Bride of Frankenstein herself, Elsa Lanchester.  Also features veteran character actor Una O’Connor, also from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) and THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933).

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) – Sokurah the Magician – My favorite all-time Torin Thatcher role.  This classic fantasy adventures features some of Ray Harryhausen’s best special effects ever.  Who can ever forget his giant Cyclops?  In addition, it also features a rousing Bernard Herrmann score, one of my favorites.  The third outstanding element of this movie is Torin Thatcher’s performance as Sokurah.  It’s a rare occurrence indeed in a Ray Harryhausen movie for anything to be as memorable as his creature effects, but Torin Thatcher achieves this feat.  He’s just as memorable in this film as Harryhausen’s effects.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1957-59) – Constable Johnson – “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” (1957)/ Felix Edward Manbridge – “Relative Value” – appearances in two episodes of the classic Alfred Hitchcock TV series.

THRILLER (1961) – Jeremy Teal – “Well of Doom” – appearance in the classic horror anthology TV show hosted by Boris Karloff.

JACK THE GIANT KILLER (1962) – Pendragon – Once again playing the villain in a fantasy adventure.  Thatcher is reunited with 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD director Nathan Juran and lead actor Kerwin Matthews who played Sinbad in 7TH VOYAGE and plays Jack here, but missing this time around is Ray Harryhausen and his fantastic creatures, resulting in inferior special effects.

GET SMART (1966) – Dr. Braam – “All In the Mind” (1966) – appearance in the classic Mel Brooks TV series starring Don Adams as Secret Agent Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99.

LOST IN SPACE (1966) – The Space Trader- “The Space Trader” (1966)- plays a villain in this Season 1 episode of the Irwin Allen science fiction adventure TV show.  Trades with the Robinson family, takes advantage of Dr. Smith’s greed and makes him his slave, only to be eventually outsmarted by the Robinson Robot.  Way to go, bubble headed booby!

STAR TREK (1967) – Marplon- “The Return of the Archons” (1967) – appearance in this Season 1 episode of the classic TV series chronicling the adventures of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy aboard the starship Enterprise.

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1968) – Sir John Turnbull – TV movie version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale, produced by Dan Curtis, the man behind DARK SHADOWS and THE NIGHT STALKER (1971).  Starring Jack Palance as a very sinister Mr. Hyde.

LAND OF THE GIANTS (1970) – Dr. Berger – “Nightmare” (1970) – appearance in this Irwin Allen fantasy TV show.

NIGHT GALLERY ( 1971) – Captain of the Lusitania – “Lone Survivor” (1971) – appearance in the horror anthology series by Rod Serling.

BRENDA STARR ( 1976) – Lassiter- Torin Thatcher’s last screen credit is in this TV movie adventure involving extortion, voodoo, and the supernatural.  Starring Jill St. John.

Thatcher passed away on March 4, 1981 at the age of 76 from cancer.

Torin Thatcher – January 15, 1905 – March 4, 1981.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of IN THE SHADOWS.  Join me next time when we look at the career of another classic character actor.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Movies of 2016

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La La Land (2016)Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in LA LA LAND (2016

 

Here’s a look at my picks for the Top 10 movies of 2016.  Of course, while I do see a lot of movies— 58 this year, and that’s just theatrical releases—  I’m not able to see every movie that comes out, and so this list is limited to only those movies I have seen.

We’ll start with #10 and count down to #1:

 

10. THE INFILTRATOR

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Excellent performance by Bryan Cranston powers this crime drama which tells the true story of how U. S. Customs Official Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) went undercover to take down a  Columbian drug lord.

 

9. THE JUNGLE BOOK

Loved this remake of Disney’s animated THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967), and I’m a huge fan of that original 1967 animated classic.  Special effects here were amazing, and I really liked how director Jon Favreau made this family friendly film a serious hard-hitting adventure.

 

8. DEADPOOL

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The role Ryan Reynolds has been waiting for.  Sure, this vulgar, violent tale isn’t for everybody, but the humor is spot-on.  My second favorite superhero movie of the year. Best part is it is so unlike other traditional superhero movies.

 

7. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

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My pick for the best superhero movie of 2016.  Plays much more like THE AVENGERS 2.5, rhis exciting tale pits Team Captain America vs. Team Iron Man, and the rift between these two friends comes off as real and believable, something that the similarly themed BATMAN V SUPERMAN:  DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) failed miserably at.  The scenes with newcomer Tom Holland as Spider-Man are off-the-charts good.

 

6. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

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Hilarious comedy-drama starring Hailee Steinfeld as a seventeen year-old dealing with life as a teenager.  Things get complicated when her best friend starts dating her older brother.  Topnotch script and direction by writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig.

 

 

Now we get down to my picks for the Top 5 movies of 2016:

5. HANDS OF STONE

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Critics panned this movie, but I absolutely loved this boxing pic about boxing champ Roberto Durant.  Edgar Ramirez  gives a spirited performance as Roberto Durant, and he’s supported by a fine cast which includes Robert De Niro, Ruben Blades, and Usher Raymond as Sugar Ray Leonard.  Excellent movie, much better than critics gave it credit for, although admittedly I am a sucker for boxing movies.

 

4. HELL OR HIGH WATER

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Easily could be my pick for the best movie of the year, this impeccably made crime drama follows a Texas crime spree by two brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) with an old Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) hot on their trail.  Features fantastic peformances by the three leads.  Jeff Bridges is amazing as always, and the same can be said of Ben Foster, and it’s also fun to see Chris Pine get to do a whole lot more than when he plays Captain Kirk in the rebooted STAR TREK movies.  Riveting direction by David Mackenzie, and a phenomenal thought-provoking script by one of my favorite screen writers working today, Taylor Sheridan.

 

3. SULLY

Easily the most efficient film of the year, SULLY, starring Tom Hanks, and directed by Clint Eastwood, clocks in at a brisk 96 minutes, and not a minute is wasted.  It tells the emotionally riveting true tale of pilot Chesley Sullenberger, aka “Sully,” and his decision to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River.  It’s an amazing story because all the passengers on the plane survived, and the film makes things even more compelling as it follows the subsequent investigation by officials who questioned Sully’s decision to land in the water in the first place.  SULLY features another remarkable performance by Tom Hanks, and yet another superb directorial effort by Clint Eastwood.  Eastwood is 86 years old, and yet SULLY plays with as much energy, oomph, and emotion as if directed by someone half that age.  I left the theater incredibly impressed.

 

2. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

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This film could also have been my number one pick of the year.  MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is a finely acted drama, led by two powerhouse performances by Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, about a man Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) thrust into a life-changing situation as he finds himself having to care fo for his deceased brother’s sixteen year-old son.  His life in a shambles due to an earlier traumatic event, Lee knows he’s not the man for the job, but since there is no on else, he pushes himself to live up to his brother’s wishes and care for his nephew. Atmospheric direction by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, with a script that is as honest and believable as they come.

And now, for my pick for the Number 1 movie of 2016:

 

 

  1. LA LA LAND

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My pick for the Best Movie of 2016 also happened to be the last movie I saw in 2016, LA LA LAND.  What a fabulous way to end the calendar year!  LA LA LAND is an absolutely wonderful movie.

I  loved the energy writer/director Damien Chazelle brings to this one.  The opening dance number on a gridlocked L.A. freeway dazzles, and the film never looks back.  Emma Stone gives the best performance of her career to date, imbuing her struggling actress character Mia with so much raw emotion and quirky pizzazz she’s one of the liveliest characters I’ve seen on screen in a long while. Ryan Gosling is just as good as jazz musician Sebastian in this uplifting almost magical musical which follows Mia and Sebastian through a romance in which they help each other achieve their artistic dreams before reality ultimately sets in, forcing them to make decisions which affect their future.  A remarkable movie and genuine crowd pleaser.

Hands down, LA LA LAND is the Best Movie I saw in 2016.

Okay, that about wraps things up for today.  Thanks for joining me in 2016, and here’s to another fine year of movies in 2017!

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

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THE QUOTABLE CUSHING:  THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

BySatanic Rites of Dracula - Van Helsing

Michael Arruda

Welcome back to THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, that column where we celebrate classic lines of dialogue from Peter Cushing movies.

Today we look at the final Dracula movie starring both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973).

Hammer made the ill-fated decision— influenced by the enormous success of Dan Curtis’ THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) which featured a superhuman vampire terrorizing modern day Las Vegas— to update their Dracula series to modern times.  And so they came out with DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) which brought Dracula (Christopher Lee) into the 1970s in the midst of the far-out groovy man culture while taking on Lorimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), a descendant of the original Van Helsing.

DRACULA A.D. 1972 bombed at the box office, which meant Hammer’s follow-up, THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, received a small release and didn’t make its way to the United States until five years later in 1978, under the alternate— and inferior— title COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE.

 

I’ve always preferred the campy DRACULA A.D. 1972 over the more serious THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA. DRACULA A.D. 1972 is high camp and as such is a terribly fun movie. THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA tries to make Dracula a manipulative Bond-like villain, but the film just isn’t ambitious enough to work on this level.

Another reason I’ve never been a big fan of SATANIC RITES— and don’t get me wrong, I still like this movie— is that Peter Cushing doesn’t really have many memorable scenes or lines of dialogue in this movie.

The plot in SATANIC RITES largely follows Scotland Yard Inspector Murray (Michael Coles), back from DRACULA A.D. 1972, as we works closely with British intelligence as they try to break up a mysterious satanic cult which happens to be run by Dracula.  The intelligence agency is interested in this cult because some of the most powerful men in the country, including the head of their department, belong to it.  Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing is called in by Murray as a consultant, and he helps with the investigation, which of course, ultimately leads them to Dracula (Christopher Lee).

While there really aren’t a whole bunch of memorable Peter Cushing quotes in THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, there are some.  Here’s a look at some of these lines from THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, screenplay by Don Houghton.

In this scene, Inspector Murray seeks Van Helsing’s advice as to what he thinks they’re dealing with, based on the evidence of their investigation so far:

INSPECTOR MURRAY:  So, what do you think, professor?  Is it just a black mass ritual?

VAN HELSING:  No.  No, not exactly.  In the Dark Ages, the worship of natural substances was quite common.  Soil, water, sand of the desert, various plants.  But the strongest cults were those that worshipped the most mystical substance of all, the fountainhead of life itself, the glorification of blood.  And more often than not, human blood.

A few moments later, British intelligence agent Torrence (William Franklyn) asks Van Helsing why these prominent men would join a satanic cult.  Van Helsing’s response is ripe with early 1970s flavor:

TORRENCE:  Are these men involved in this business because they’re under some kind of threat?  Or drugs?

VAN HELSING:  Or hypnosis?  This particular evil is more potent, more addictive than heroin, I assure you.  And the end result is just as fatal.

Freddie Jones gets some of the best lines in the movie as Professor Keeley, Van Helsing’s colleague who is now part of Dracula’s cult.  In this scene, Van Helsing visits his old friend to find out if indeed he’s become part of the satanic cult.  Keeley takes the opportunity to sail into his former colleague, telling him about the value of evil.  It’s one of the best pieces of dialogue in the movie, superbly acted by Jones:

KEELEY:  Evil rules, you know.  It really does.  Evil and violence are the only two measures that hold any power.  Look at the world— chaos.  It is a preordained pattern.  Violence, greed, intolerance, sloth, jealousy.  The deadly sins.  All the deadly virtues.  The Supreme Being is the devil, Lorimer.  Serve him, and he offers you immortality.  He’ll remove death, the common enemy.  Nothing is too vile.  Nothing is too dreadful, too awful.  You need to know the terror, the horror, Lorimer.  You need to feel the threat of disgust, the beauty of obscenity.

VAN HELSING:  Julian!  In God’s name!

At which time Peter Cushing grabs Jones by the shoulders and slaps him across the face, in order to slap some sense into him.

The best scenes in this one are when Van Helsing and Dracula confront each other.  Van Helsing’s investigation has led him to a rich tycoon named D.D. Denham who seems to be financing the cult.  Denham is a recluse, and Van Helsing wisely believes that Denham is really Dracula.

When Van Helsing arrives at Denham’s high rise office, Denham aims a bright desk lamp at him, to prevent Van Helsing from seeing his face.  Denham also speaks with an accent.  These are both attempts by Dracula to conceal his identity from his adversary.  Christopher Lee chose to do this scene with a Bela Lugosi accent in homage to his Dracula predecessor.

DENHAM:  Professor Van Helsing.

VAN HELSING:  Mr. Denham.

DENHAM:  I have been expecting you.

VAN HELSING:  I rather thought you might.

A few minutes later, Denham outlines his plans to Van Helsing:

DENHAM:  There is a group of us who are determined that the decadence of the present day can and will be halted.  A new political regime is planned.

However, Van Helsing is not swayed.

VAN HELSING:  Evil begets evil.  There is an unholy aura in this place.  And it is not a question of a little occultism, or a touch of mysticism, Mr. Denham.  It is vampirism.  And there’s a host of damned souls at Pelham house.  What are you going to do with me?   You can’t let me go, can you?  I know too much.  Do you mind if I smoke?  A bad habit, I know, but it helps me to concentrate.

At this moment, Van Helsing “accidentally” knocks some books off Denham’s desk.  When he bends down to pick them up, he secretly slips in a Bible and places it on Denham’s desk.

DENHAM:  You are an interfering man, Professor.  Do not meddle, or you will have to deal with me!

As Denham pounds his desk, his fist lands on the Bible, and he hisses in pain as his hand sizzles with burning smoke.  Van Helsing leaps from his chair and turns the light on Denham’s face, seeing clearly that D.D. Denham is indeed Count Dracula.

VAN HELSING:  You are Count Dracula!  Of course, Mr. Denham, the powerful recluse.  Here, you’re safe.  No one expects to see him in the daytime.

Van Helsing pulls out a crucifix and prays in Latin.  He then pulls out a gun and aims it at Dracula, and Dracula smiles.  When Dracula next speaks, it is no longer with an accent but in Lee’s deep resonating voice.

DRACULA:  Foolish man.  Bullets cannot harm me.The-Satanic-Rites-of-Dracula-Count-Dracula-

VAN HELSING:  A silver bullet!

Dracula stops smiling, but his fear is short-lived, as members of his cult come to his rescue and overpower Van Helsing.  They tell Dracula to kill Van Helsing, but Dracula explains that he has other plans for his nemesis.

DRACULA:  It cannot be made so simple for him, not for Van Helsing. Nor for his granddaughter.

And it’s Lee’s Dracula who gets some of the best lines during the film’s climax.  Dracula leans into the unconscious Jessica Van Helsing while he speaks to a restrained Van Helsing.

DRACULA:  The girl you love is mine already, and through her you will yet do my bidding.

Sorry, Drac, you never win in these movies.  Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing always gets the upper hand.

But you do get some good lines, like this one, when you chase Van Helsing around the burning house:

DRACULA:  My revenge has spread over centuries and is just begun!

Wrong again.  You’re about to be destroyed by Van Helsing for the final time.

Okay, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed today’s QUOTABLE CUSHING column on THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA. Join me again next time with more quotes from another Peter Cushing movie.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)

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Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak in THE NIGHT STALKER.

Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak in THE NIGHT STALKER.

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)
By
Michael Arruda

Today we look at memorable quotes from one of my favorite horror movies from the 1970s, THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) starring Darren McGavin in the role that most of us consider to be his signature role, the inexorable reporter Carl Kolchak.
This movie is so good it’s easy to forget that it was a made-for-TV movie. In fact, it earned such high ratings when it premiered on television on January 11, 1972 that in a largely unprecedented move, it was released theatrically after it played on TV because the film was that popular. Amazing.

And it really is a superior horror movie, which is no surprise since it was produced by Dan Curtis, the man behind the Dark Shadows phenomenon. The other thing to remember is that this was a time, the early 1970s, when a plethora of quality made-for-TV horror movies were being released to the television-viewing public. THE NIGHT STALKER is probably the best of the lot.

It’s also an incredibly lean production, as it clocks in at just 74 minutes. There isn’t an ounce of fat on this baby.

Not only is this movie about a superhuman vampire on the loose in modern day Las Vegas terrifying, but it also introduced the character of Carl Kolchak to the world, a character Darren McGavin would reprise in a sequel THE NIGHT STRANGLER 1973) and then in the weekly TV series The Night Stalker which sadly only lasted one season.

THE NIGHT STALKER boasts a fantastic script, and you would expect no less since it was written by Richard Matheson, based on an unpublished novel by Jeff Rice. The legendary Matheson wrote a ton of movies and so it would be difficult to call THE NIGHT STALKER his best screenplay, but I will say that for me, it’s probably my favorite screenplay that Matheson wrote.

As you would expect, then, this movie is chock-full of memorable quotes. Let’s get right to them, a look at some notable dialogue from THE NIGHT STALKER, screenplay by Richard Matheson:

Some of the best dialogue in the movie comes from scenes where reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) argues with his editor boss Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), as Kolchak is constantly trying to print stories that a vampire is on the loose in Las Vegas, while Vincenzo, under pressure from the local authorities, is doing his best to quash them.

Let’s listen:

KOLCHAK: Did I say it was a vampire?

VINCENZO: What does your suggested headline say?

KOLCHAK: The story makes it clear.

VINCENZO (reading): “Vampire killer in Las Vegas, question mark.” Do I misread?

KOLCHAK: The story makes it clear!

VINCENZO: Did I misread or did you use the word “vampire”?

KOLCHAK: Some screwball who imagines he’s a vampire is loose in Las Vegas, and the people ought to be told.

VINCENZO: If there’s a screwball running around loose in Las Vegas, his last name begins with a K!

And later:

KOLCHAK: What do you want, Vincenzo? A testimonial from Count Dracula?

VINCENZO: Out! Get out!

KOLCHAK: What is this out, out, get out game we play? This nut thinks he’s a vampire! He’s killed four, maybe five women! He has drained every drop of blood from every one of them! Now that is news, Vincezo. News! And we are a newspaper! We’re supposed to print news, not suppress it!

THE NIGHT STALKER also does an amazing job early on building up a sense of unease and eeriness before the brutal vampire actually makes his appearance, as in this scene where the police find another dead body. The body is lying in a sandy pit, far away from where the struggle seems to have taken place, and there are no footprints leading towards the body other than those belonging to the police. Of course, Kolchak is right alongside the police here.

POLICE OFFICER: This girl lost a lot of blood, Sheriff, but she didn’t lose it here.

SHERIFF BUTCHER: (calling to other officers): Anything?

OFFICER #2 (in the distance): We found a purse! There’s signs of a struggle up here!

SHERIFF BUTCHER: But nothing in between. Only our footprints.

KOLCHAK: What’d he do? Throw her?

There are also several neat exchanges between Kolchak and the authorities, such as in this scene where the coroner makes his report to the police and district attorney, and to the press:

CORONER: We found the death in each case was extremely swift, coming in something like less than a minute. After the initial wounds were inflicted, the blood was drained very quickly, some kind of suction device being used. Now this would explain why no blood was found anywhere in the victims or in the areas where they were discovered.

KOLCHAK: Doctor— Kolchak, Daily News. Do you have any idea what could have made these wounds?

CORONER: They’re not unlike the bite of a medium-sized dog.

SHERIFF: What do you mean, dog?

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: What? Dog, dog! What are you telling us? A dog did these murders?

CORONER: I didn’t mean to indicate that the wounds were actually inflicted by a dog, only that they’re similar to those which might be caused by a dog. A rather interesting point is we found another substance mixed in with the traces of blood in the throat wounds, namely saliva.

SHERIFF: What do you mean, saliva?

CORONER: I mean saliva, Sheriff Butcher. Human saliva.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: What do you mean “human”? Are you suggesting that each of these women were bitten in the throat by a man?

CORONER: At present, the evidence points that way. However I couldn’t and wouldn’t hazard a guess as to motivation. I could only be sure they each died from shock, induced by massive loss of blood.

KOLCHAK: Is it possible that he killed these women by biting them in the throat for the express purpose of drinking their blood?

SHERIFF: Kolchak, now you’re here by the mutual suffrage of us all!

KOLCHAK: It’s sufferance.

SHERIFF: What?

KOLCHAK: It’s sufferance, sheriff.

SHERIFF: Whatever it is! Just shut up!

And later:

KOLCHAK: Now, I was at the hospital yesterday, and a lot of things were happening that you just simply cannot explain away. Sheriff, your own men shot at him, some at point blank range. How come it didn’t even slow him down? How come a man over 70 years old can outrun a police car? How come this same man when slugged in the head doesn’t even bleed?

How come, indeed! If you haven’t seen THE NIGHT STALKER, you’re missing one of the best horror movies of all time. Check it out!

Don’t believe me? Well, don’t take my word for it. Listen to Kolchak himself as he speaks into his cassette recorder, telling the story of THE NIGHT STALKER:

KOLCHAK: Judge for yourself its believability and then try to tell yourself, wherever you may be, it couldn’t happen here.

Thanks for reading!
—Michael

 

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: DRACULA (1974)

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DanCurtisDraculaHere’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, published in this month’s HWA Newsletter, on the Dan Curtis made-for-television shocker DRACULA (1974).

—Michael

 IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

BY

MICHAEL ARRUDA

Dan Curtis, the man behind the original “Dark Shadows” TV show, and THE NIGHT STALKER (1972), the film that introduced Carl Kolchak to the world, and a bunch of other above average TV horror movies from the 1970s, including TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975), produced and directed today’s movie, DRACULA (1974), a made-for-television retelling of the Bram Stoker tale with Jack Palance cast as the King of the Undead, Dracula.

My first memory of DRACULA was not a good one.  It was 1973, and I was nine years old.  I had aggressively lobbied my parents to let me stay up to watch the new DRACULA movie that had been advertised all week, and to my delight, they said yes!  Unfortunately, Richard Nixon also chose that night to announce to the nation in an hour long news conference covered by all three networks that he had selected Gerald Ford as his new Vice President.  In doing so, he pre-empted the showing of DRACULA.  My plans had been thwarted.  But I got the last laugh, as DRACULA was finally shown a few months later (thus the 1974 release date), and well, we all know what happened to Tricky Dick.

DRACULA is a decent enough movie, although it’s nowhere near as good as Curtis’ prior vampire efforts, THE NIGHT STALKER and “Dark Shadows.”  My favorite part of this movie is that it looks and plays like a Hammer Film, only not as good.

In fact, DRACULA shares some similarities with Hammer’s HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).  As in HORROR OF DRACULA, the character of Renfield is noticeably absent, and Van Helsing is portrayed once again as a medical doctor instead of the old professor from the novel.  We also don’t see Dracula change into a bat.

One difference between DRACULA and HORROR OF DRACULA—and Stoker’s novel as well— is the beefier role for Arthur Holmwood (Simon Ward.)  Perhaps this was because Simon Ward was an up and coming star, and they wanted to give him plenty of screen time.

DRACULA boasts a decent enough cast, but unfortunately no one really stands out.

You’d think Jack Palance with his experience playing villains in the movies would have made an excellent Dracula, but he really doesn’t. One reason for this is the script emphasizes the romantic element, as we find Dracula in love with Lucy (Fiona Lewis) as she is the splitting image of his long lost love.  So, we get to see some romantic flashbacks with Palance and his love, and I don’t know about you, but I just don’t see Palance as the leading man type.  He’s much more the straight villain, and unfortunately, he doesn’t really get the opportunity to be all that evil in this one.  He fared much better in the evil department when he played Mr. Hyde in THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1968).

When he’s allowed to be angry, Palance is very good as Dracula.  However, there’s a difference between anger and evil, and strangely, in this film, Palance doesn’t do evil all that well.  There’s something lacking in his performance, and it’s almost as if Palance, Curtis, and screenwriter Richard Matheson were trying to make Dracula more human and less supernatural.  It makes one appreciate just how good Christopher Lee was as Dracula.  Lee has always been able to capture the essence of evil in his performances as the Prince of Darkness.

Speaking of Christopher Lee, in 1974 producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman wanted Jack Palance to play the villain in their latest James Bond movie, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974), but Palance had to turn them down because he was contracted to do DRACULA.  So Broccoli and Saltzman were forced to look elsewhere.  The part of villainous hit man Scaramanga eventually went to Christopher Lee.  So, you might say Lee could thank Dracula for landing him a role in a James Bond movie.

Simon Ward makes for a decent Arthur Holmwood, although I liked him better as Karl, the young doctor blackmailed by Peter Cushing’s evil Baron Frankenstein into helping the Baron transplant people’s brains in the superior Hammer shocker FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969).

The rest of the cast is rather blah.  Nigel Davenport is OK as Van Helsing, but compared to Peter Cushing, he’s rather dull.  And neither Fiona Lewis as Lucy or Penelope Horner as Mina makes for very effective heroines.  Murray Brown is wooden as Jonathan Harker.

I do like the direction by Dan Curtis.  DRACULA is probably the best looking “Hammer Film that’s not really a Hammer Film” ever made!  From beginning to end, it looks and plays like a Hammer Dracula movie.  While Curtis crafts plenty of good looking scenes, taking full advantage of the color red throughout, unfortunately one thing he forgot to do was make this one scary.  DRACULA doesn’t come close to being as effective, memorable, or as flat out frightening as Curtis’ earlier hit THE NIGHT STALKER.

There’s a neat scene where Dracula shows off his superior strength when he’s confronted by a group of men.  Drac goes into action star mode and makes short work of these guys.  The film could have used more scenes like this.

The screenplay by Richard Matheson does include a neat bit from the novel which before then hadn’t really made it into any of the movies, where Van Helsing hypnotizes Mina and is able to tap into her psychic connection with Dracula in order to gain insight into his thoughts.  It’s through this process that they are able to learn of Dracula’s plans to return to his castle.

However, the script does a lousy job with Mina and Lucy.  Lucy is supposed to be Dracula’s great love in this movie, but she’s killed off with a stake in the heart early on, and so that love affair goes nowhere, and Mina isn’t the strong heroine she is in the novel.  Her part is greatly reduced here.

And again, while Jack Palance isn’t bad as Dracula, he’s not great either.  He lacks Christopher Lee’s ability to personify evil, and he’s certainly not the romantic lead we’d find in Frank Langella as Dracula five years later in the 1979 John Badham film.

DRACULA is a mediocre film version of Bram Stoker’s iconic novel.  It’s beautifully photographed and it features a decent performance by Jack Palance as the Count, but the rest of the cast isn’t up to snuff.  It ultimately plays like “Hammer Lite.”

Dracula should have sharpened his fangs for this one.

It could have used more bite.

—END—