Day 17 – Vampire Laffs! – Transylvania Twist (1989)

Here’s a surprise, a genuinely funny 80s vampire comedy! As we all know, vampire comedies (and horror comedies in general) can be pretty dire, but I found Jim Wynorski’s Transylvania Twist to be every bit as funny as Love at First Bite and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. The humor is goofy and Naked Gun – lite, but the laugh-to-dud ratio is enviable. Plus Angus Scrimm (Phantasm‘s Tall Man) is a sinister butler, Forry Ackerman does a cameo, and Robert Vaughn (The Man from UNCLE!) is Count Byron Orlock (come on he’s obviously Dracula). It’s fun!

This is long out of print, so enjoy this decent quality upload!

Day 16 – Phibes Check! – The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

No Halloween movie list is complete without a film styarring Vincent Price. Now, we’ve featured one VP film so far (Last Man on Earth, you’ll recall) but  as I mentioned in my overview of the film, Vincent has been described as “mis-cast” in that movie, despite giving an excellent performance. It’s a good role in a good film, but it is in way a “Vincent Price role.” By the 1960s and early 70’s Vincent Price had gone from second string leading man (the 40s) to first-rate character actor specializing in villains (the 50s) to legitimate horror icon. And by then the public had come to associate Vincent with a certain type of performance; arch (sometimes approaching “camp”), large (but not “hammy”), witty but dark, usually villainous but always compelling. Like William Shatner, the myth of what a “Vincent Price” performance is often overshadows the fact that VIncent was a genuinely good actor. And The Abominable Dr Phibes is proof of this. In probably the MOST “Vincent Price” performance of his career, he delivers an impressive and understated performance, conveying a wealth of character while being limited to using only his eyes for the majority of the film (his face is revealed to be a motionless mask, sorry, *SPOILER*).

Beyond that, this movie is a hell of a lot of fun! Inspired art deco set design, murders inspired by the plagues of Egypt, and a great cast of British character actors, plus a witty script. If you haven’t seen it, you must! If you have seen it, you must see it again!

The version online is DVD quality. Enjoy!

Day 15 – It’s the Addams’ Family Movie! No, not that one. Or the other ones either. This one is Addams’ Family Reunion (1998)

You would actually probably be surprised how many versions of the Addams’ Family there have been. Beside the classic TV show of the 60’s and the two 90’s big-budget features, there have been many, many offshoots and reboots and cartoon shows (even a guest shot on Scooby-Doo, featuring ALL the main actors from the 60s TV series PLUS Jodie Foster as Pugsley! I KNOW!). One that’s kind of slipped through the cracks and, really, kind of undeservedly so, is Addams Family Reunion , a direct-to-VHS reboot with a great cast (Tim Curry is Gomez and is excellent, but you knew that as soon as I said the name; Daryl Hannah is Morticia and commits – she’s better than you might think; Caryl Struycken returns as Lurch; Alice Ghostley is Grandmama and Kevin McCarthy, Estelle Harris, Ed Begley Jr, and Ray Walston are in here too; plus the new Wednesday, Nicole Fugere, is quite good and would reprise the role on the underrated New Addams’ Family TV series). Yeah, the plot kind of sucks, but that’s one thing ALL Addams’ features have in common. The good part is that there are a lot of good gags (ok, a lot of bad ones too) and if you don’t expect too much you’ll enjoy this more than you’d expect.

This movie is NOT AVAILABLE on DVD or any streaming service, so this youtube vid is just about the ONLY way you can see this! So, it’s a VHS rip and as such will serve to remind you just what sort of crappy quality we put up with back in the day (and we LIKED it!). Enjoy!

Day 14 – Right Here, Right Now, Watching And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)

Here’s one you probably haven’t heard of! Amicus Films was a British film company that was kind of a Hammer wanna-be which nevertheless made quite a few very good movies. It’s most well known for its anthology films such as Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, The House That Dripped Blood, Tales From the Crypt, Asylum, etc. etc. (BTW co-founder Milton Subotsky went on to produce the Stephen King anthology Cat’s Eye, which is also very worthwhile), and that’s as it should be, these are cool movies, but it also delivered a few good features, of which And Now the Screaming Starts is one of the lesser-known. This is probably because it has a reputation as being boring (Castle of Frankenstein‘s review: “And now the yawning begins.”) But that is just. plain. wrong. This film is a gothic, gothic, GOTHIC whole mess o’fun! Disembodied hands, rapacious ghosts, family curses, people named Fengriffen , and Peter Cushing besides! If this movie were a book it would have a woman in a ballgown running away from a mansion with a single lit window on its cover. And you can see it here for free!

It’s a great print, too! Enjoy!

Day 13 – Hammer Again, Vampires Again – The Vampire Lovers (1970)

As the 60s slouched into the 70’s the gothic crypts underneath Hammer Studios were getting kind of dusty and their films were starting to fall out of favor as new flavours of horror began to grace the drive-in screens, led by the groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead and its gruesome ilk. A bit too stodgy to try anything unusual or radical, Hammer nevertheless did try to keep up with changing times by upping the eroticism quotient (and eventually adding hippies, swashbuckling and kung fu to their bag o’ tricks, but that came later). One of the best films from this let-it-all-hang-out era at Hammer is The Vampire Lovers, which stars the charismatic Ingrid Pitt as a seductive vampiress and Madeline Smith as her intended victim, plus the added bonus of Peter Cushing, who shows up to do some staking late in the proceedings. The horror is spooky, the lustiness is lusty, it’s based on LeFanu’s Carmilla so you can probably get school credit for watching, what’s not to love?

This is a nice letterboxed print (it’s not 3 hrs long, BTW, the film repeats a few times for reasons unknown, possibly to confound youtube’s censoring mechanisms(?)). Enjoy!

Day 12 – Hammer for free! – Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

In the “it’s on utube but it probably shouldn’t be” department, I was browsing around and discovered this classic Hammer production from their heyday. Hammer productions, for the unitintiated, was a British film company that produced dozens of horror movies from the late 50s until the early 70s, most of which were worthwhile and a much-better-than-average number of which were flat-out exceptional. Kiss of the Vampire is one of the latter, despite its lack of Hammer mainstays Peter Cushing and Chirstopher Lee (I would go so far as to say that it is the best of the non-Lee or Cushing Hammers, though your mileage may vary). It features the Hammer hallmarks of vibrant color, strong gothic production design, solid acting and scripting (and unfortunately another hallmark, ambitious set-pieces that the FX budget can’t quite pull off). The plot is pretty typical, couple runs afoul of vampires, but there’s an undercurrent of eroticism that’s pretty daring for the day. If you like Hammer and/or Gothic Horror, give this lesser-seen gem a spin!

The print here is beautiful crisp wide-screen. Enjoy!

Day 11 – If There’s One Thing I hate More Than Telemarketers, It’s When Michael Calls (1972)

As the month is churning onward, I’ve found that our selection here is jumping from bona-fide classics to interesting and spooky things that you probably haven’t heard of and back again. When Michael Calls is definitely the latter; it’s no forgotten masterpiece, instead it’s a very much of-its-time TV-movie thriller. However, everyone who saw it back in the day remembers it for its creepy premise – a woman begins to receive eerie phone calls from her supposedly dead nephew. Is she going crazy? Is Michael a legit ghost, or is he somehow still alive? And then people start dying…

I’m recommending this for a nice Halloween-season watch because 1.) It’s not boring (it’s based on a John Farris novel); 2.) It’s fun to see a young Michael Douglas playing one of the main characters; 3.) The phone calls are weird and spooky; and 4.) There’s a great scene at a Halloween party. Don’t plan on this being your “Big Halloween Movie” by any means but it’s a nice little film to mix in among the slashers and the Blumhouse if you’re binging.

The version I’ve found here is quite good considering its age and source. Image is sharp and the sound is good. Enjoy!

Day 10 – Try Your Luck at the Carnival of Souls (1962)

Speaking of movies which are ubiquitous on cheap “Horror Classics” multi-disc bargain sets, here’s another genuinely terrific movie that one might be inclined to dismiss offhand unless one already knows of it by reputation or one is the adventurous sort who watches all of the 50 movies on the set seeking gems. Well, Carnival of Souls is that gem. Made for next to nothing but looking pretty damn impressive¬† (there’s animpressive car crash and a cool abandoned carnival) by a director who, sadly, never made another feature. The plot is simple: after a crash, a woman (Candace Hilligoss, giving a fine ethereal performance) becomes unsettled and disconnected from everything around her, and begins seeing ghostly figures (the creepiest one is played by the director, Herk Harvey). You’ll see where this is going right away; nevertheless the film has an eerie. unsettling tone and a spooky poetry to it. It’s a classic of low budget, independent cinema.

And, after decades of crappy VHS prints, we now live in a blessed era of pristine restorations such as the one below, which is watchable for free on youtube, like all of the films I’m posting this month! Though, to really get the effect, you should see it on a grainy drive-in screen on a chilly night.¬† Enjoy!

Day 9 – Vincent Price wouldn’t trust Vincent Price if he was The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend is a legit classic of vampire fiction, and it’s no surprise that it’s been filmed several times, including  The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. However, none of the films comes as close to catching the nail-biting apocalyptic pessimism of the novel as the first, filmed in Italy with the lame title Last Man on Earth and starring an arguably mis-cast Vincent Price as an everyman who finds himself the sole human survivor of a plague that has killed most of humanity and turned the rest into hungry vampires. This is a very good movie, with some incredible creepy imagery that clearly inspired later films like Night of the Living Dead. The first third of the movie is a horror masterpiece, generating a sense of epic dread. Both film and novel have difficulty maintaing that threshold throughout their lengths, but that’s a quibble. This is a must-see. (For the record, Vincent is very good as the lead; it’s just that this isn’t a Vincent Price role so it seems a little weird.)

And the news gets better… this is a fantastic wide screen print. If you’ve seen the film on one of those 50 Horror Movies for Ten Bucks pan and scan public-domain box sets you still haven’t really seen it – the black and white cinematography is outstanding. Enjoy!

Day 8 – The Grooviest little Arsenic and Old Lace on Youtube – Arsenic and Old Lace (1969)

Arsenic and Old Lace is a perennial Halloween favorite, and with good reason; it’s a classic black comedy that even takes place on All Hallow’s Eve. We’ve all seen the great Frank Capra/Cary Grant version (and if you haven’t, rectify that!) but here’s one you may not even know existed: a 1969 TV-movie with an amazing, one-of-a-kind cast: Lilian Gish, star of silent movies (whose swan song was the terrific drama The Whales of August, which isn’t horror but it does co-star Bette Davis and Vincent Price!), Helen Hayes, the great stage actress of the 30s who was in every Disney comedy in the 70s; Sue Lyon, the original Lolita; Jack Gilford (you’ve seen him, he was in everything); Richard Deacon (Mel Cooley!); David Wayne (as Teddy!) and the one-two punch of Fred “Herman Munster” Gwynne as Jonathan and Bob Crane (say it with me: “Ho-GAN!”) as Mortimer. And, ok, it’s not as good as the Capra version but that’s like saying  “I don’t like Ghostbusters because it’s not The Innocents” – this is a fun version of a fun play. Crane is more subdued than Cary Grant’s manic performance, but he’s still very funny, and Gwynne more than makes up for Crane’s insular qualities with an over-the-top Karloff imitation (as opposed to Raymond Massey’s Jonathan in the original, which he played completely straight, coming off as legitimately threatening). It’s set in the “current day”, which means it opens at a Go-Go club! Groovy!

The quality here is pretty good, nice clear picture and decent sound. By all means check this rarity out! Enjoy!