THE HORROR JAR: Music by Jerry Goldsmith, Part 1

1

Welcome back to THE HORROR JAR, that column where we look at lists about movies, especially horror movies.  Today we look at genre movies scored by Jerry Goldsmith, and there are a lot of them.

Jerry-Goldsmith

Jerry Goldsmith

Looking back at Jerry Goldsmith’s career, it’s amazing to see just how many horror and science fiction films he wrote the music for, and how memorable these scores are.  There are so many, in fact, that I’ve divided this column into two parts.

Here’s a partial look at his prolific career, concentrating mostly on his genre credits:

BLACK PATCH (1957) –  Jerry  Goldsmith’s first film score, a western written by tough guy actor Leo Gordon.

SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964) – provided the music for this taut nuclear war thriller directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Fredric March.  It’s DR. STRANGELOVE without the laughs.

THE SATAN BUG (1965)- Goldsmith’s first genre credit, the science fiction thriller about germ warfare

PLANET OF THE APES (1968) – This Jerry Goldsmith score remains one of my favorites.  The unusual music here really captures the feel of the Ape world and adds to the “madhouse!” emotions which Charlton Heston’s Taylor has to endure at the hands of his captors.  Classic.

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (1969) – Science fiction film based on the short story collection of the same name by Ray Bradbury and starring Rod Steiger.

THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971) – Obscure horror film with Alan Alda as a pianist who finds his soul in the hands of a scheming satanist.

ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971)-  Goldsmith goes ape again as he scores the third film in the series, a creative flick in which apes Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) travel back in time to present day Los Angeles.

THE OTHER (1972) – classic 1970s horror movie scripted by Tom Tryon.

THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD – (1975) – 1970s horror flick starring Michael Sarrazin, Jennifer O’Neil, and Margot Kidder.

THE OMEN (1976)- the big one, probaly Goldsmith’s most powerful score, and the only one for which he won an Oscar.  Still a very scary movie today, and Goldsmith’s music is a major reason why.

Omen-poster

LOGAN’S RUN (1976) – classic science fiction film from the 1970s starring Michael York and Farrah Fawcett.

DAMNATION ALLEY (1977) – Much-hyped science fiction movie about survivors in a post-apocalyptic world starring George Peppard and Jan-Michael Vincent was a major flop upon its release, as it was completely overshadowed by another science fiction release that same year, a little film called STAR WARS (1977).

COMA (1978) – Horror thriller written and directed by Michael Crichton about sinister goings-on starring Genevieve Bujold and Michael Douglas.

CAPRICORN ONE (1978) – another major flop from the 1970s, this thriller about a fake space mission to Mars featured a strong cast which included Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Waterston, O.J. Simpson (remember when he was that likable former football star who went on to make movies?), Hal Holbrook, Karen Black, and Telly Savalas.

DAMIEN:  OMEN II (1978) – Goldsmith’s back at it again, composing yet another horrific score in this OMEN sequel that, while nowhere near as good as the original, remains highly entertaining today.  Starring William Holden and Lee Grant.

THE SWARM (1978)- One of the worst movies of the decade and certainly one of the worst “disaster” movies ever made.  This tale of a swarm of killer bees attacking the United States was directed by Irwin Allen who must have been punch drunk over the success of his previous hits THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) and THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) when he made this turkey.  With an “all-star” cast which included Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, and Richard Chamberlain, and many many unforturnate more.  It’s hard to believe that this storyline– deadly killer bees– used to be considered real and scary.  I can’t believe I actually saw this one at the movies!

THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (1978) – Excellent thriller about a Nazi hunter (Laurence Olivier) on the trail of a fanatical Nazi (Gregory Peck) with plans to resurrect the Third Reich.

MAGIC (1978)- The Anthony Hopkins horror classic about a ventriliouost and his evil dummy.  1978 was a busy year for Jerry Goldsmith, as MAGIC was the sixth film he scored that year!

THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1979) – Period piece fun with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland robbing a train in Victorian England.  An underrated gem by writer/director Michael Crichton.

ALIEN (1979)- Goldsmith just keeps on rolling here with his chillingly effective score for this science fiction classic which launched the career of Sigourney Weaver.

STAR TREK:  THE MOTION PICTURE (1979) – Goldsmith’s score for the first STAR TREK movie is my personal favorite.  Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and the rest of the Enterprise crew hit the big screen for the first time with mixed results.  It’s highbrow science fiction to be sure, but it’s all so slow paced.  This one continues to grow on me over the years, but I loved Goldsmith’s music from the get-go.  Sure, his iconic new theme went on to become the main theme for STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, but that’s not what I love about this score.  It’s all rather dark and ominous, a powerful score that remains the finest music score in the STAR TREK universe.

star trek motion picture poster

THE FINAL CONFLICT (1981)- the final film in the OMEN trilogy, and by far the weakest, even with a young Sam Neill cast as the adult Damien.

OUTLAND (1981) – Interesting science fiction movie with Sean Connery playing a Marshall on a mining colony on Jupiter’s moon tangling with some baddies without help from its inhabitants.  It’s HIGH NOON (1951) in space.

POLTERGEIST (1982) – A big hit in 1982, I’ve never liked this horror vehicle by Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper.

FIRST BLOOD (1982) – provides the music for Sylvester Stallone’s first foray as Rambo.

PSYCHO II (1983) – provides yet another very effective music score in this long awaited sequel to the Alfred Hitchcock classic, once again starring Anthony Perkins as the twisted tormened Norman Bates.  It’s certainly not PSYCHO (1960) but this thriller by director Richard Franklin really isn’t all that bad.  Vera Miles also reprises her role from the original.

TWILIGHT ZONE:  THE MOVIE (1983) – Muddled big screen treatment of classic Rod Serling TV series, a real head-scratcher when you consider the talent involved – Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg each directed a segment and yet this film still is a clunker.

And that’s all the time we have.  Tune in for Part 2 of THE HORROR JAR:  Jerry Goldsmith when we look at the second half of Goldsmith’s career.  Coming soon!

To be continued—.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFTER MOVIES – LIST SOME TV SHOWS HE SCORED

Advertisements

HORROR MOVIES: Best and Worst of 2015

1

Here’s the list of horror movies I saw in 2015, from first to worst:

It Follows poster

IT FOLLOWS – *** – by far, the best horror film of the year.  If you see one horror movie this year, make it this one.  It plays like a John Carpenter film from the 1970s.  Probably my favorite thing about this movie by writer/director David Robert Mitchell is its plot which is unlike most other horror films.  Not gory at all, but suspenseful and captivating throughout.  Very stylish.

THE VISIT- *** – Who knew this M. Night Shyamalan movie about two children visiting their increasingly odd grandparents would be so good?  After a string of misfires, Shyamalan pushes all the right buttons with this one, capturing the perfect blend of horror and humor.

krampus-2015-movie-poster

KRAMPUS – *** – another flick I expected not to like that turned into one of the better horror movies of the year.  This Christmas horror movie in spite of its potentially ridiculous storyline gets the horror right and makes the most of its creepy images and suspenseful scenes.  It’s a holiday comedy with a serious horrific attitude.  Check this one out.

JURASSIC WORLD – ***- technically not really a horror film, but it does contain some angry hungry dinosaurs.  This one is mostly light in tone, but I found it entertaining throughout, and I really enjoyed Chris Pratt’s performance.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2:  THE ANGEL OF DEATH- ** 1/2 – I liked this sequel to the well-made THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012).  I enjoyed the atmosphere and the cinematography more than the story.  A Hammer Film.

UNFRIENDED – ** 1/2 – I thought I would hate this one, but the gimmick of having all the action appear on a computer screen actually works, mostly because audiences today all use computers/laptops/smartphones  and so watching this type of screen seemed perfectly natural, even if its story of high school friends tormented online isn’t very compelling.  Not half bad.

THE GREEN INFERNO – ** 1/2 – not my cup of tea, but this Eli Roth tale of cannibalism actually features likable characters and a decent story.  NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH.

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN – ** – ultimately disappointing tale of Frankenstein, told from the perspective of Igor.  So why not call this one Igor?  Best part is Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Igor.  Tries to be upbeat and action-oriented, a la the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, but doesn’t really work.

MAGGIE – ** – Arnold Schwarzenegger in a zombie movie?  Is it full of brutal kills and big gun violence?  Not at all.  This is actually a low-key drama about Arnold caring for his teen daughter who’s slowly turning into a zombie.  Slow moving and quiet.  Worth it if you’re in the right frame of mind.

maggie poster

CRIMSON PEAK- ** – good looking horror movie is undone by a dumb story that ultimately makes little sense.  The main character in this ghost story is supposed to be a strong smart heroine, and yet she’s the only person in the movie who can’t see the danger around her.

INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3- ** – didn’t like this third chapter in the INSIDOUS series at all.  I’m just not a big fan of prequels, especially when they’re as poorly written as this one.

THE LAZARUS EFFECT – * 1/2 -weak horror movie about a  “Frankenstein”- like experiment to reanimate the dead.  If only this movie could be reanimated.

SINISTER 2 – * 1/2 – utterly horrible sequel.    Story makes little sense nor is it scary.

THE GALLOWS – * – my pick for the Worst Horror Movie of the Year.  How dumb is this one?  Well, the main plot point is that in honor of the 20th anniversary of a high school play gone wrong— a student was accidentally hanged to death on stage- the school decides to put on the same play again.  Duh!  Needless to say, someone isn’t very happy about this decision, and once again more students turn up dead.  Unfortunately none of them were responsible for the script.

There you have it.  My list of horror movies from 2015.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973)

1
Here’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, on THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973), published in the December 2015 edition of THE HWA NEWSLETTER, the Official Newsletter of the Horror Writers Association.
Enjoy!
—Michael
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT
BY
MICHAEL ARRUDA
LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE
Not only is December a great time to watch a haunted house movie, but the plot of today’s movie ­ THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) ­­­ actually takes place in December. How cool is that? Okay, so I’m easily amused.
I actually saw THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE when it was first released at the drive­in as part of a double feature with THE OTHER (1972). I was nine years­old when my parents took my younger brother and me to see this double bill, and while I slept through THE OTHER, I remember enjoying HELL HOUSE. So, there was certainly some nostalgia watching this one again recently on Netflix Streaming, especially since I hadn’t seen it in years.
Its tale of an investigative team probing a haunted house, trying to prove or disprove the existence of ghosts, reminds me an awful lot of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” and the movie THE HAUNTING (1963) which is based on the Shirley Jackson story. But it’s actually based on the novel Hell House by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie.
In THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill) a physicist, leads the examination into Hell House. His team includes his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), a psychic Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), and a physical medium, Benjamin Fischer (Roddy McDowall), who has the distinction of being the only survivor from a previous investigation into the house.
legend of hell house - team
So, do ghosts exist or not? Dr. Barrett seems hell bent on proving once and for all that they do not exist, but the spirit that occupies Hell House has other ideas.
THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is ghostly fun from start to finish. It’s full of spooky atmosphere and contains plenty of creepy scenes.
Director John Hough, fresh off his horror hit for Hammer Films, the vampire film TWINS OF EVIL (1971) starring Peter Cushing, pretty much strikes gold again. Both of these films are excellent horror movies. Hough would go on to direct the Walt Disney classic ESCAPE FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN (1975), as well as its sequel RETURN FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN (1978) starring Christopher Lee. Hough would also direct Peter Cushing’s final movie, BIGGLES: ADVENTURES IN TIME (1986).
Roddy McDowall leads a fine cast. McDowall is excellent here as Benjamin Fischer, the man with the most insight into Hell House since he had been there before. I was already a Roddy McDowall fan when I saw this at the movies in 1973 because of the PLANET OF THE APES films. THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE was probably the first movie where I actually got to see his face!
So that’s what Cornelius looks like!
Clive Revill is authoritative as physicist and lead investigator Dr. Barrett, and Gayle Hunnicutt is memorable as his wife Ann. Pamela Franklin makes for a beautiful and oftentimes vulnerable psychic Florence Tanner. Even Michael Gough shows up as a corpse, which is a nice way of keeping this Hammer favorite from his signature overacting!
All four of the main characters go through changes since they are all affected one way or another by the spirit occupying Hell House. McDowall’s character probably fares the best, as he seems to
be best equipped to fend off the ghost.
Clive Revill’s Dr. Barrett, on the other hand, the supposed the leader of the team, is influenced by
the Hell House spirit pretty much from the get­go, as he quickly becomes irritable, angry, and worst of all confused. Sure, these could just be personality flaws, but more likely, they’re the work of the ghost.
Barrett’s wife Ann becomes sexually aroused and continually makes advances towards Ben Fischer, while psychic Florence senses who the ghost is but no one on her team seems to believe her, probably because she too exhibits odd behavior.
Is this assembled team just a group of oddballs? Or are they all influenced and infected by the supernatural presence residing at Hell House? You know the answer to that question, and that’s what makes THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE so much fun.
The prevailing feeling throughout THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is one of uncertainty and doubt. The supernatural entity makes its presence known immediately, and the characters all become affected quickly, even if they don’t realize it.
THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is an excellent horror movie and is yet another quality horror film from the 1970s, a decade which is chock full of horror classics. Sure, there are the big budget  classics like THE EXORCIST (1973), JAWS (1975), THE OMEN (1976) and ALIEN (1979),  but it’s also the decade of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and HALLOWEEN (1978). It’s also the decade of films
like THE FOOD OF THE GODS (1976), THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1977), and KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), low budget films that didn’t become huge hits but provided quality horror entertainment all the same. THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE falls into this latter category.
As we look back today at the 1970s, a decade famous for its bad hairstyles and disco music, it’s quite clear that for horror movie fans, it’s one of the best decades ever. There are a lot of really good horror movies made in the 1970s.
If there’s one weakness regarding THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE it’s the film’s plot. Its haunted house tale is nothing I haven’t seen before, and even though the film has fun with it, and it all works, at the end of the day, it’s still just another haunted house story with all the similar
trimmings.
What makes THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE stand out among other films of its type is a talented cast, strong direction, and a decent script by Richard Matheson.
As you make the rounds this holiday season, visiting family and fiends­­­ er, friends, don’t forget  to stop by HELL HOUSE. There’s someone there who’s dying to see you.
­­­END­­­

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964)

0

tomb of ligeia - posterThis is a reprint of a column that originally ran in the October 2007 issue of The HWA Newsletter, on the Vincent Price movie THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964). It’s reprinted in the current October 2015 issue of the HWA Newsletter as well as here.  And don’t forget:  if you like this column, you can read 115 more in my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT collection, available both as an EBook (www.neconebooks.com)  and in a print-on-demand edition (https://www.createspace.com/4293038.).

Enjoy!

—Michael

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

BY

MICHAEL ARRUDA

I prefer horror to be an emotional experience, which is why, sometimes Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations don’t work for me.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), starring Vincent Price, Corman’s eighth and final Poe adaptation, is a perfect example.

Technically, the film is flawless.  It’s arguably Corman’s best job at the helm.  The film looks phenomenal, there’s great use of locations, and the camera work is extremely stylish.  For these reasons alone watching THE TOMB OF LIGEIA can be as rewarding and mouthwatering as reading a good novel.  Your intelligence won’t be let down.

It also has a decent screenplay by Robert Towne, which lives up to its source material.

However, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA has never been one of my favorites because as it plays out, it’s as cold as a corpse with about as much life (unless of course you’re talking vampire and zombies, which get around rather well, but there ain’t no vampires or zombies here!).  Perhaps this is on purpose, and perhaps it’s just another sign of Corman’s genius.  Could be.  But for me, the fact remains that as I watch THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, and as I recognize while watching that “hmm, this movie is extremely well made,” I also realize I’m not emotionally invested in the characters or the situations.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA tells the story of Verden Fell (Vincent Price) who’s— what else?— brooding over the death of his wife, Ligeia.  When a new woman, the Lady Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd, in a dual role, as she also appears as Ligeia) expresses interest in Verden, the ghost of Ligeia takes offense, setting off the usual, standard ghostly shenanigans.  We learn that Verden isn’t mourning his deceased wife— he’s afraid of her, afraid that she’s not really dead.  Turns out Ligeia was a bold, energetic woman who had asserted she would never die, and she definitely got inside Verden’s head.

It’s this part of the film that works best for me.  Is Ligeia really a ghost?   Or is it Verden?  So mind-washed by his deceased wife that he himself is causing the mayhem?  On this level, the film works well.

And the performances by the two leads are terrific.  Price stands out as Verden.  His look, with the dark brown hair and dark glasses, to shield his ultra-sensitive eyes from the light, is unique to this movie.  Price moves through this role effortlessly, as if he could do it in his sleep.  Elizabeth Shepherd is just as good as The Lady Rowena.  Her portrayal of Rowena as a strong woman who is not intimidated by evil spirits is refreshing.  Tomb-of-Ligeia-Price

But THE TOMB OF LIGEIA fails to connect on an emotional level.  Price’s Verden isn’t that likeable, and while Shepherd’s Lady Rowena is, she’s not a central enough character to carry the movie on her own.  I don’t really care about these characters, and as a result, I don’t care all that much about what happens to them, which makes for a lackluster movie viewing experience.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA is a mixed bag, which for Halloween, is OK.  In a trick or treat bag, chances are you’ll get candy you’re not crazy about along with your favorites, but still, it’s candy, and you’re not going to throw it away.  Likewise, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA is a stylish, almost beautiful horror movie that is pleasing to the eye and to the intellect, but not so attractive to the heart.  For those of us who tell tales, the heart can be the difference maker.  Still, it’s Corman, it’s Price, it’s Poe, it’s candy.

It’s Halloween.  Eat up.

(October 2007)

IN THE SHADOWS: UNA O’CONNOR

0
Una O'Connor as Mrs. Hall in THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933).

Una O’Connor as Mrs. Hall in THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933).

In The Shadows:  UNA O’CONNOR

 By Michael Arruda

Welcome everyone to another edition of In The Shadows, the column where we honor character actors from the movies, especially horror movies.  Today we look at the career of Una O’Connor.

Una O’Connor made a ton of movies, 84 screen credits in all, but to horror fans, she’s most remembered for her roles in two classic Universal monster movies, THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).  When I was a kid, I used to call her “the screaming woman” because her shrill cries were unforgettable.  I think she could give Jonathan Harris’ Doctor Smith on the classic TV show LOST IN SPACE (1965-68) a run for his money, and anyone who’s seen him shriek on LOST IN SPACE knows what I’m talking about.

Una O’Connor often provided the comic relief in the movies in which she appeared, and her appearances in both THE INVISIBLE MAN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN are no exception.

In THE INVISIBLE MAN, she plays Mrs. Jenny Hall, the owner of the tavern in which Claude Rains’ mad Dr. Griffin happens upon one snowy night, entering the crowded tavern all wrapped in bandages.  It’s one of the grander entrances of all the Universal monsters.

As Mrs. Hall, O’Connor enjoys a bunch of scenes muttering her displeasure over Griffin’s eccentricities, and she also has the pleasure of being thrown out his room.  When she sends her husband upstairs to physically toss Griffin off the premises, and Griffin returns the favor by throwing Mr. Griffin down a flight of stairs, Mrs. Hall responds with her signature shrieking and wailing, a scene that makes me laugh out loud each and every time I see it.

In THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, O’Connor plays Minnie, one of the head servants in the Frankenstein household.  She enjoys some memorable scenes in this one.  She’s the first character to see that the Monster has survived the fire in the windmill at the end of FRANKENSTEIN (1931)— or at least the first character to see him and survive.  The Monster had already killed the parents of Maria, the little girl he drowned in the first movie, but when he happens upon Minnie moments later, she shrieks at him and runs away.  Being the wise Monster that he is, he leaves her alone.

Of course, when she returns to Castle Frankenstein and says she has seen the Monster and he’s still alive, no one believes her.  Moments later, she’s also the first one to see that Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is still alive and has survived his fall from the burning windmill.  In a scene reminiscent of the creation scene in the first film, she sees Henry Frankenstein’s hand move, and she screams, “He’s alive!!!”

She also gets to introduce the memorable and iconic character Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger) to Henry and Elizabeth Frankenstein, when Pretorious arrives at the door and demands to be announced.  No one says “Pretorius” better than Una O’Connor!

So, for those of us who grew up with the Universal monster movies, we know and adore Una O’Connor, based on those two performances alone.

Here’s a partial list of Una O’Connor’s 84 movie credits:

 

DARK RED ROSES (1929) – Mrs. Weeks – O’Connor’s first movie, a drama about a sculptor who plots to chop off the hands of his wife’s pianist lover.

MURDER! (1930) – Mrs. Grogram- lends her support to this early Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) – Mrs. Hall – Poor Mrs. Hall.  You shouldn’t have sent your husband up those stairs.  My favorite O’Connor role.  Her cries can wake the dead.

ORIENT EXPRESS (1934) – Mrs. Peters – Murder on a train.

CHAINED (1934) – Amy, Diane’s Maid – Romance starring Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, and Otto Kruger.  O’Connor plays Crawford’s maid.

THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (1934) – Wilson.  Period piece drama/biography starring Charles Laughton and Fredric March.

DAVID COPPERFIELD (1935) – Mrs. Gummidge – George Cukor directed this version of Charles Dickens’ novel, which also featured Elsa Lanchester who would co-star with O’Connor in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

 THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) – Minnie – adds memorable support as Minnie the main servant in the Frankenstein household in this all-time classic monster masterpiece by director James Whale, starring Boris Karloff as the Monster and Elsa Lanchester as his bride.  O’Connor’s best line:  Dr. Pretorious? Pretorious?

 THE INFORMER (1935) – Mrs. McPhillip – John Ford-directed drama.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) – Bess – Classic adventure starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, and Patrick Knowles.

THE SEA HAWK (1940) – Miss Latham – Sea adventure directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Errol Flynn and Claude Rains.

THIS LAND IS MINE (1943) – Mrs. Emma Lory – World War II drama— contemporary at the time— directed by Jean Renoir and starring Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, and George Sanders.

THE CANTERVILLE GHOST (1944) – Mrs. Umney –  Comedy fantasy based on the Oscar Wilde story about a cowardly ghost starring Charles Laughton, Robert Young, and Margaret O’Brien.

THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S (1945) – Mrs. Breen – Bing Crosby reprises his role as Father O’Malley in this well-made sequel to GOING MY WAY (1944), about Crosby running a Catholic school and butting heads with nun Sister Mary Benedict, played by Ingrid Bergman.

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) – Janet – O’Connor’s final role, in this Billy Wilder directed version of the Agatha Christie story (Wilder also wrote the screenplay), starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, and Elsa Lanchester, Won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor for Laughton, and Best Supporting Actress for Lanchester.

Una O’Connor died on February 4, 1959 from a heart ailment at the age of 79.

Una O’Connor:  October 23, 1880 – February 4, 1959.

Thanks for reading everybody!

—Michael

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)

0

House on Haunted Hill - posterHere’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, on the Vincent Price flick HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959), up now in the June 2014 edition of The Horror Writers Association Newsletter.
And just a friendly reminder: if you enjoy this column, my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT book, a collection of 115 In The Spooklight columns, is available as an EBook at http://www.neconebooks.com, and as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4293038.
—Michael

 

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT
BY
MICHAEL ARRUDA

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) may have been the first Vincent Price film I ever saw.

I’m not exactly sure because as a kid, I was already a fan of Hammer Films and of the Universal monster movies, and so Vincent Price was always taking a back seat to Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney Jr.

It took a while for Price to grow on me, but that being said, today I’m a big Vincent Price fan.

The first time I saw HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL on television I was pretty young— I don’t think I was even ten yet— and it scared the crap out of me. There’s one scene in particular, where a creepy old lady suddenly appears out of nowhere and frightens the young heroine that nearly made me scream.

Nearly.

I was barely ten, remember.

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL has always been one of my favorite Vincent Price films, mostly because Price’s performance as the enigmatic millionaire Frederick Loren is the way I most remember him in the movies: somewhat sinister with a sly sense of humor, with a deadpan delivery and an air of mystery about him which makes him difficult to read. He may be a murderer, perhaps even insane, or he may simply be a man with a colorful sense of the macabre. It’s a great performance by Price.

In HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, Vincent Price plays the eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren who throws a party for his equally eccentric wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) in which he invites five guests to a supposedly haunted house. These guests must promise to stay the night in the haunted house with Frederick and Annabelle, and if they do, Frederick promises to pay them each ten thousand dollars, a hefty sum back in 1959.

It only takes one scene for us to realize that Frederick and Annabelle are not in love. In fact, they can’t stand each other. Annabelle even confides in some of the guests that she fears Frederick is trying to kill her, having thrown this party as a cover. This way, he can kill her and make it look like she was murdered by one of the ghosts that haunts the house, and with five witnesses to attest to the supernatural’s involvement, he’d be home free.

Plenty of strange things do indeed happen in the HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, including murder, but just who killed whom and for what reason isn’t revealed until the final frame.

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL was directed by William Castle, the king of the “gimmick” horror movies from the 1950s and 60s. After the success of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, Castle would go on to direct THE TINGLER (1959), also starring Price, 13 GHOSTS (1960), MR. SARDONICUS (1961) STRAIT-JACKET (1964) and I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965).

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL has a fun screenplay by Robb White who also wrote Castle’s THE TINGLER and 13 GHOSTS. It provides Vincent Price with some memorable lines of dialogue, and its plot about a group of people trying to spend the night in a haunted house while a murder plot is being hatched is ripe for suspense and mystery. It plays like one of those murder mystery party games. It’s a hoot, and it’s scary.

However, the story doesn’t hold up all that well today. Its tale of husband vs. wife comes off as forced and contrived. There are easier ways to get rid of a spouse than by an elaborate plot involving spooks, paid guests, and haunted houses. Ever hear of a good divorce lawyer?

But when I was a kid I didn’t care, and to be honest, as an adult, I still don’t mind all that much as the film possesses an energy and a creepiness that make it highly enjoyable.

The best part of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL however is Vincent Price. It’s really the first time in a horror movie that Price displayed his sinister side, something he would do with more frequency in his later films. Sure, before HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL he played the villain in the horror films HOUSE OF WAX (1953) and THE MAD MAGICIAN (1954), but in these roles he was more of a straightforward madman. In HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, we see Price begin to hone and sharpen that devilish personality with which we’d become familiar in his roles in the 1960s and 70s.

Also in the cast of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is Richard Long, who most people know from the TV western THE BIG VALLEY which also starred Barbara Stanwyck and the future SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN Lee Majors, but when I first saw HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL in the early 1970s, I was familiar with Long from the popular show NANNY AND THE PROFESSOR, which when I was a kid was one of my favorites. Long died young, at age 47 in 1974.

Elisha Cook Jr. is also in the cast as Watson Pritchard, the man who knows all about the house and its murderous past. Pritchard is full of ominous anecdotes, and he’s responsible for generating much of the feelings of unease in the early parts of this movie. Just the guy you want to have around at a haunted house party.

Cook appeared in a gazillion movies, but I always remember him from his bit part in THE NIGHT STALKER (1972), the film that introduced Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak. And of course, who can forget Cook as the shady gunman in THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), who gets his comeuppance several times over at the hands of Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade.

But HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL belongs to Vincent Price. He’s quick with the one-liner, gracious, and proper, but always with an undercurrent of deadliness about him, so you never know what to expect.

Price would go on to become famous for his appearances in the colorful Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe films from the 1960s, and he is excellent in these movies. But I actually prefer Price in this movie. His performance here is less hammy, less over the top, and more biting, more frightening. It’s Price at his best.

Looking for an all-night party this summer? Look no further than HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.

Stay the night. Really.

It’s a scream.

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

THE HORROR: THE QUIET ONES (2014)

0

the-quiet-ones-poster-THE HORROR: THE QUIET ONES (2014)
Horror Movie Review by Michael Arruda

THE QUIET ONES is an excellent horror movie.

Which is why I’m posting this follow-up review to the CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review by L.L. Soares and myself earlier this week at cinemaknifefight.com, because quality horror movies are a rare breed these days, so when I encounter an intelligent well-made horror flick, I want to get the word out.

Its tale of a college professor who employs several of his students to help him with an experiment, as he attempts to a cure a young woman who has been accused of being possessed by an evil spirit by proving to her that it’s all in her own mind, is a thought-provoking chiller that is boasted by a solid script, terrific acting, and a bang-up directing job; and it’s scary to boot!

I was eager to see this one because it’s the latest film produced by England’s Hammer Films, as Hammer continues its recent comeback in the horror business. And while they still haven’t had a huge hit on their hands yet, they have been releasing some quality movies, films like LET ME IN (2010) and THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012).

In THE QUIET ONES, Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) gathers some students to help him with his lifelong work, which is, to prove that the supernatural can all be explained away, and if he can succeed in curing one person believed to be possessed of the supernatural, by scientific means, then he could prove once and for all that it’s not ghosts and demons haunting people, but their own psychoses.

Helping the good professor is an impressionable and likable young cameraman, Brian (Sam Claflin), and it’s his job to document the experiment. Coupland is also assisted by young Krissi (Erin Ricards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) as they try to cure the possessed young woman, Jane (Olivia Cooke), who is kept locked away in a room so she can’t hurt herself or them.

The professor’s main method of curing Jane is to give her a doll, a doll in which he wants her alter ego to enter. He encourages Jane to call out the inner demon that is haunting her, and to send it into the doll, and once she has done that, she will be cured. Harry has set up various devices to record the psychosomatic energy which will prove that this transference is all of Jane’s doing, and nothing to do with ghosts or demons.

Of course, very strange things begin to happen, things that the professor has difficulty explaining, and so his young team begins to question both his uncharacteristic methods, which seem to be putting Jane at risk, and his theory that ghosts don’t exist. To them, Jane seems very possessed. As the professor fights to keep his team together and to cure Jane, things grow more and more deadly for everyone involved.

I really liked THE QUIET ONES, much more than I expected to. Sure, it could be that I was just overly excited about seeing another Hammer Film on the big screen, but I don’t think so. This is a very good horror movie.

By far, my favorite part of this one was its story. I just found it so refreshing in light of the recent films we’ve been deluged with over the last few years showing us over-the-top dramatic hauntings and possessions by ghosts and demons with characters who accepted these things so easily. Here, we have in Professor Coupland, a character who says no, that these things aren’t supernatural, that they can all be explained by science, and that with science, people suspected of being possessed can be cured.

So, I give high marks to the screenplay by Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, and director John Pogue, which was based on a screenplay by Tom de Ville.

It’s interesting that Coupland’s method of curing Jane also steers away from the traditional psychiatric methods. Coupland attacks the problem using physical science. He wants Jane to manifest her inner voice into something physical that she can expunge into another object, thus purging it from her body and in effect curing her. I’m not saying I believe in all this—it certainly sounds ridiculous at times—but it was different, and for a slow-moving movie, I was never bored because I was so interested in what was going on.

I also liked how the other characters doubted things throughout. Eventually, they think Coupland is wrong, and that Jane really is possessed by an evil spirit, but earlier, Brian wonders if he’s being set up because he’s the gullible cameraman, and he accuses Krissi and Harry of being in on it with the professor. There’s a lot going on in this movie, and I liked every bit of it.

THE QUIET ONES is based on a true story which occurred in the 1970s, where a college professor conducted a similar experiment. As such, this movie takes place in the 1970s at Oxford University, and it does a nice job capturing the feel of the decade.

Director John Pogue not only captures the feel of the 1970s but also the feel of movies made in the 1960s and 70s. It’s no surprise then that it reminded me of films like THE HAUNTING (1963) and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973). The style here is offbeat and not at all by the numbers, which I liked. It played a lot like an independent film. Scenes sometimes seem to end right in the middle of things, while other times you’re not quite sure why you’re watching this particular scene at this moment in time.

It also captures the strong feeling of claustrophobia, as the characters are all holed up in that one house, and Jane is confined to that one room.

This is not a gory movie at all, and yet I found it unnerving and scary. It really got under my skin. There’s also a neat sequence towards the end when the power goes out and Jane disappears, and they’re all searching for her in the darkened house, and they’re running around in a panic that I thought was particularly scary.

I liked the way the characters interacted with each other. Sometimes they don’t trust each other, while other times they have strong feelings of attraction towards each other, which makes sense since they’re together in the same house for an extended period of time, and so when they sleep with each other, it comes off as genuine, not just for the sake of the movie.

The cast is solid. Jared Harris is excellent as Professor Coupland. He’s calm, cool, and authoritative throughout. I’ve seen Harris in a bunch of movies, but I don’t think I’ve enjoyed him more than I did here in this movie.

Sam Claflin makes for a very likable cameraman Brian, and he’s the character the audience probably most identifies with, since he seems to be the voice of reason. He’s also the one who questions the proceedings the most and worries about the safety of Jane.

Both Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne are adequate in their roles as the other two members of the professor’s team, Krissi and Harry.

And Olivia Cooke, from TV’s BATES MOTEL, is rather creepy and unnerving as Jane, the girl who may or may not be possessed. Cooke is excellent here, and although I prefer her performance on BATES MOTEL, she’s still very effective as Jane, as she provides a good mix of sympathy and chills. Like Brian in the movie, we’re never quite sure what to make of her: should we feel sorry for her and want to help her, or should we run for our lives as quickly as we can?

The weakest link of this one is probably its title. THE QUIET ONES sounds like a period piece drama or a love story about mimes. It certainly doesn’t sound like a horror movie. I’m also still not sure what it refers to. Nobody in the movie is all that quiet, except for Brian the cameraman, but I don’t think the title refers to him. Then again, maybe it does!

I also wasn’t completely sold on the ending, which I found a bit confusing and not nearly as tight as the rest of the movie.

A satisfying ending would have made this one an instant classic. The whole film is so original, I really expected an original ending—something that fit with the rest of the movie. But the ending seems almost tacked on, like “this is how we should end a horror movie” instead of just ending the story naturally and letting the audience digest it. With a cold and determined character like Professor Coupland, there are any number of ways that this film could have ended on a sinister note, and remain consistent with all that came before it. Oh well.

But both of these points are minor matters. I loved THE QUIET ONES. I can see how it might not be for everyone. It’s slow-paced, quirky, and not by the numbers, but it is one eerie film that held my interest from beginning to end.

I highly recommend it and encourage people to get out and see it before it leaves the theater.

—END—