The Corman-Poe Cycle

vincent-price-in-the-raven-film-still-feature-640x340No, it’s not some stupid new band. Or even some stupid old band. To be honest it does kind of sound like the name of some 70’s super group. But, no. The Corman-Poe cycle refers to a series of films in the 60’s by Roger Corman and based on works of Edgar Allan Poe. There’s a very good reason that I’m talking about it today though. Other than it being Halloween today, of course.

The other week Dave had me thinking about what got me into horror. Not just the things that I love now, but stuff from when I was a kid. I’ve spoken before about my ultra-permissive parents. I was pretty much allowed to watch whatever I wanted because I wasn’t easy to scare. Thinking back on it this might have come from the fact that by the time I was 10 (or however old I was when I started picking out scary stuff to watch) I had already read a lot of creepy books. My father always had tons of books around. While he wasn’t into horror novels he did have things like Lovecraft, Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe. I read all of them, but the Poe stories stuck with me. So much so that some of the first horror movies I ever saw were the Roger Corman films based on Poe’s stories.

Now most people think of Roger Corman in relation to schlock B-movies of the 50’s or the SyFy schlock of the 2000’s-the nows. There was this lovely time in the 60’s though where he produced and directed some really good schlock featuring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, and many other notable actors of the time. I was drawn in by the stories, but I stayed for the acting. I’m sure you can understand why. If you haven’t seen them I highly recommend you give at least one of them a shot. Clearly Corman and Price worked well together as they went on to do 7 films based (sometimes VERY loosely)on the works of Poe. They aren’t scary, but they are creepy and fun.
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Retro Movie Review – 9 Thoughts About The Devil Rides Out

SPOILER WARNING – THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS’ THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, AKA THE DEVIL’S BRIDE, WHICH IS 41 YEARS OLD SO MAYBE DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT

In 2001 the band Fantômas released an album called The Director’s Cut. This album is, in my opinion, their best work and one of the coolest albums I own. It features covers, rearrangements, and updates of themes from various genre films, ranging from Der Golem to Cape Fear to Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer.

Side Note: Another track on the album, inspired by Ronald Stein’s theme to Spider Baby, is the greatest Halloween song ever recorded.

One of the tracks on the album is an arrangement of James Bernard’s theme to Hammer Horror’s The Devil Rides Out. The title and the track were very compelling to me. I wasn’t familiar with the film, but as soon as I found out it was a Hammer production, I wanted to see it. Hammer Horror played a huge role in my development as a horror fan.

American releases of this film have been few and far between, to the point where I’m having trouble finding out if there have even been any aside from the original theatrical run, when the movie was retitled The Devil’s Bride because there was concern the original title made it sound like a Western.

I will go ahead and confirm their concern was correct, because that’s exactly what I thought when I saw the title. And I kind of still want the movie that conjured in my head.

Since 2001 I have been casually keeping an eye out for this movie. I don’t get terribly obsessive about specific things, as there are always other movies, books, and toys to keep my interest. So it was more a matter of being generally aware of a release, not poring over the dark recesses of the internet desperate to find a copy. Obviously I would have if that had been the case, as there have been foreign releases over the years and I’m sure it’s available via more nefarious methods that I do not, personally employ.

Earlier this year Shout Factory – that wonderful hero of genre film – announced they would be releasing The Devil Rides Out on Blu-ray; a new 2K scan with the original effects intact. Honestly I didn’t care about the details, I was just delighted that I’d finally be able to see this oddly elusive film.

This movie represents the time when Hammer was looking for genres other than classic monsters. They had gone to that well a few too many times and turned to the looming threat of Satanism for inspiration.

Starring Christopher Lee and Charles Gray, the film presents a clash between good and evil in the south of England in 1929; a literal battle for a man’s soul.

Did it deliver or had I built my expectations up too high based on very little information? Read on and find out! Continue reading “Retro Movie Review – 9 Thoughts About The Devil Rides Out”

Movie Review – 11 Thoughts About Joker

SPOILER WARNING – THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WARNER BROS.’ NEW FILM JOKER

In order to fully enjoy Todd Phillips’ new movie, Joker, you have to put aside any ideas you might have that it’s a prequel to any sort of Joker anything that you’re aware of. It isn’t.

I’m looking at this movie as a sort of alternate reality project that’s taking the idea of a character that is well-known and exploring a different way of using said character. If you know your DC comics, then you know that’s pretty much what their Elseworlds imprint did for years and to me this is basically an Elseworlds Joker movie.

You might, as you’re out and about on the internet, see people mention the bizarre concept of “Joker’s origin”. Thye might claim that there is one and that this story of a man named Arthur Fleck isn’t it. Those people are wrong – there has never been a definitive Joker origin, though many writers have presented possibilities or suggestions. The most widely adopted origin is probably the one in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke. While that’s a fantastic story and the original presented is compelling and believable, the origin and, indeed, the entire story occupy shaky ground in DC continuity.

But people like it, so they adopt it.

I’m all for as many variations on characters as creators want to provide, as long as there’s a certain amount of clarity as to where they each fall in current canon. In my opinion Warner Bros. and company did the best job they possibly could at emphasizing Joker’s uniqueness and standalone (for the time being, anyway) nature.

I was excited for this movie, mostly because of Joaquin Phoenix. That guy can act. But I was also excited because I felt like it was a bold decision for Warner Bros. to strike out in a new direction with their DC Comics characters. I didn’t necessarily believe they had found a new path to success, but at least they recognized that what they were doing wasn’t working. Something fresh and new might not be great, but at least it would be free of expectations tied to the existing film franchises.

Was what Joker delivered worth diverging from the set course or should WB have stuck to their guns? Read on and find out! Continue reading “Movie Review – 11 Thoughts About Joker”

Horror Movies of 1999

I normally like to talk about 30 year old horror movies every October. This year is going to be different for two very good reasons. First: I’ve been doing the yearly old-nerd podcasts with Dave for several years now, and anything truly outstanding (or abysmal) can be discussed there. Second: there just aren’t any horror movies from 1989 that are worth talking about to me. There’s a lot of crap for sure, but I don’t want to spend 1000 words talking about terrible things. Most of them don’t even fall into the “so bad they’re good” category. The best thing about Pet Sematary was song The Ramones did for it. Well Fred Gwynne was great, but that’s about it. Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween had some pretty bad sequels that year too, but I don’t really have anything besides that to say about them.

So this year I’ll be looking at the much more fun horror year of 1999. And while there are no Oscar winners in here, there are certainly several that are fun even if they aren’t great films. There aren’t even any that came out that year I hated. Maybe some that I’m indifferent to or never got around to seeing, but nothing that I just want to trash. It’s always tough for me to judge if horror movies are well known or not because I have so many friends that are into scary stuff too. To me most of these should be fairly well known, but if you haven’t seen any of these then please do so. Everything here has my spooky seal of approval.
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Movie Review – The Dead Don’t Die

hero_dead-dont-die-image.jpgThe town of Centerville used to be “A Real Nice Place” according to the sign that welcomes you to this sleepy farmland. The kind of town where a white farmer wears a hat that says “Keep America White Again” while talking to a black farmer in the local diner. The gas station doubles as a horror themed comic shop, but it’s not so out of the way that it can’t get regular deliveries from WU-PS (because RZA is the delivery man. Get it?). The three local cops are going about their quiet lives on the day that the dead decide to rise from the grave. Nobody seems very surprised though since Adam Driver’s junior cop immediately pegs this disturbance as zombies. What follows is the dead-est of deadpan comedies as the characters all try to survive this outbreak. It isn’t quite a “zomedy”, but it also isn’t too gory for you to watch with the squeamish types. I don’t know a ton of people who have seen this yet so I’ll go easy on spoiling anything. I want everyone to see this movie, and there’s a better chance of that if I don’t tell you how it ends. But, as Adam Driver’s character repeatedly tells us, “this is going to end badly”. Continue reading “Movie Review – The Dead Don’t Die”

Beth’s Dragon Con Recap – Part 2

If you’re late to the party you should check out part 1 of my recap.

With the main panel I wanted to see out of my reach I instead took advantage off my room, and lounged around getting ready to face the day. As well as prepared to face the public. On to my first panel of the day: Geek Year 1989 on the American Sci-Fi Classics track. It was a Needless Things presents panel so Dave, Nicole, Rebeccah Wood, and I were on with special guest Gary Mitchell. Dave records everything so I’m sure you’ll get some audio on both of our panels from Friday. You can also hear Nicole and I get publicly shamed for not following through with the costumes Dave requested we bring for a “bit” he wanted to do. Dave just loves his bits. This one was tough for me since I had just done the 1989 podcast a few months ago. Two of my top picks were Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and UHF. Not only could I not reuse my podcast picks, but I was doing individual panels on both of them for the Classic track later in the weekend. So I had come up with all new things. It was a real head scratcher, and a good way to start off my panel filled con though.
Continue reading “Beth’s Dragon Con Recap – Part 2”

Movie Review – 7 Thoughts About 3 from Hell

SPOILER WARNING – THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR LIONSGATE’S NEW FILM 3 FROM HELL

I am a massive fan of pretty much everything Rob Zombie does.

That’s not to say that I think every movie, comic book, and album he has produced is perfect. Far from it. But I love his style and his ability to make even the most bizarre concepts seem somehow mainstream. The man is a pop culture icon; there’s no denying that.

Among all of Zombie’s creations, the Firefly family of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects are particularly special to me. Not because they’re aspirational or admirable characters – they absolutely are not. They’re awful, nightmarish people. But there’s something compelling to me about these people and their relationships to one another, as well as the world that Zombie has built around them.

I saw House of 1000 Corpses in the theater on opening night. I had been following its troubled production for years at that point and didn’t really believe it would ever be released. I’ll always have a soft spot for Lionsgate just for making that happen.

The film blew me away with its over-the-top style and outrageousness, and my respect for Zombie increased due to his willingness to do seemingly anything, and damn the system.

While I enjoyed the heck out of House, I can’t say that I expected a masterpiece as a follow-up. At best I thought The Devil’s Rejects would be another ninety minutes of schlocky, gory music video. I was so very wrong.

The 2005 sequel was a fantastically shot, brutal piece of despair. With not a single virtuous character to be found, the movie relied on style and grisly action to keep the viewer engaged. For me, it succeeded. The Devil’s Rejects is one of my favorite movies and Bill Moseley’s Otis Driftwood is one of my favorite villains. I’ve dressed up as him on multiple occasions and we named our first dog after him back in 2006.

Since the release of that film Zombie has experimented with a range of other subjects. From his vision of Michael Myers to the psychedelic witchcraft of Lords of Salem to a Ralph Bakshi-esque animated feature, Zombie has dabbled in many corners of genre film. Some I’ve loved and some I haven’t, but Zombie’s name always guarantees a compelling watch.

After fourteen years away from the Firefly family I had no idea what their creator might have in mind or if he even still had the same gusto that made them so compelling in the first place. In my personal experience getting older means getting gentler, but a toned-down Otis, Baby, and Captain Spaulding simply would not work. As such, I went into 3 from Hell full of uncertainty. Beyond the characters, would Zombie even be able to harness the brutal energy of the previous films? Did he still have it in him to create that relentless tone?

3 from Hell was released as a limited theatrical experience via Fathom Events. As soon as tickets went on sale I ordered for the first night, despite the fact that I had to work the next day. Nothing less than an opening night viewing would be good enough for me, and there was no way I was missing the third entry in this series on the big screen after experiencing the first two that way.

Do Zombie and the cast still have what it takes? Was this a worthy follow-up or should the Firefly family have stayed as dead as the conclusion of The Devil’s Rejects suggested? Read on and find out! Continue reading “Movie Review – 7 Thoughts About 3 from Hell”