Following up Curse of the Cat People, it’s clear that Wise didn’t have a firm handle on things yet. The whole aspect that this is Scotland in the 1800s is very weak, while the plot is just the Burke and Hare story but set two years later, so the characters being murdered keep redundantly mentioning the more famous murders.

Karloff is the local snatcher, bringing bodies to medical school for Dr. Henry Daniell (Kirk Douglas’s brother in Lust for Life). Lugosi plays an idiot foreigner who gets killed shortly after the singing homeless girl. The doctor gets spooked and dies in a rainy carriage crash, and that’s the end of that. I think the last Val Lewton horror I’ve got left is Bedlam, another Karloff period piece, oh boy.

Frilly doctor is standing pig-center:

Frank vs. Drac:

Corman the year after The Intruder and Tales of Terror, same year as X, lightens things up with a very silly Poe comedy. Based on the opening poem and magician Vincent Price casually drawing with light in his living room, you don’t get a sense of the movie’s tone, but as soon as the raven transforms into Peter Lorre you know what you’re in for.

Adventurers Price, Lorre, and their kids Jack Nicholson and Olive Sturgess:

Rival magician Boris Karloff has got the traitor Lenore (Hazel Court), and speaking of traitors, Lorre has been sent to retrieve Price by claiming to be in trouble. There’s a henchman named Grimes; Price zaps his brains with magic finger-bolts. Lorre gets turned into goo during the ensuing magician’s duel, I think the kids survive, and Price goes back to his happy place: giving soliloquies to birds.

Price and the gang are all good but the real MVP is the trained raven:

A great movie to watch in the covid era. Friends and strangers are quarantined on a Greek island, told no touching, no gathering in groups, and each person stands up in turn saying “oh but I am the special exception and I simply must leave the island.”

Brutal General Boris Karloff puts himself in charge of law and order. Ellen Drew (halfway between Christmas in July and Baron of Arizona) cares for Katherine Emery (The Maze), while a boring white guy (Marc Cramer of The Canterville Ghost) pines for Ellen. Not pining for Ellen are Karloff and the Lady In Black (Helene Thimig of Cloak & Dagger), who believe Ellen is an evil spirit who brought the plague. This belief is explained by the amazing opening titles: “under conquest and oppression the people of Greece allowed their legends to degenerate into superstition.”

Conspirators:

Confronting Ellen:

Baron Boris Karloff is an 1830’s tyrant, and right before the villagers can violently depose him, he suggests (to the surprisingly patient angry mob) trading places with his lovable, crippled twin brother Anton. Everyone (except maybe the brother) is pleased. Before going into exile the outgoing baron shows his brother around the place, takes him into the cursed Black Room, and shoves him down a hole to his death – then pretends to have a crippled arm and a soft, friendly manner in order to retain power and marry the pretty harpist Marian Marsh (the poor girl who turns Peter Lorre’s criminal life around in Sternberg’s Crime & Punishment).

Now all Fake Anton has to do is avoid using his right arm, and never return to the black room, where the ancient prophecy said he’ll die. But signing a marriage document, his would-be father-in-law (Thurston Hall of The Great McGinty and Renoir’s This Land is Mine) spies him in a mirror (in a lovely zoom shot) and has to get murdered, the crime pinned on the harpist’s other suitor Robert Allen (a Westerns regular also in The Awful Truth). Then on the wedding day a suspicious dog chases Karloff straight into the Black Room where he falls on his late brother’s sword.

Probably better than the other Karloff movie I watched this month. Playing identical twins is always a good actor showcase, and I thought the movie would avoid throwing both Karloffs together, but right after they meet they’re in an action scene together, neat. Neill was a directing machine, cranking out 100+ movies until he worked himself to death.

Harpist and dad:

I get barely over an hour of laptop time on the flights, and don’t wanna stoop to watching Prestige Cable TV Dramas, so this box set of 65-minute Boris Karloff movies was just the ticket.

Karloff plays a mad genius (the same year he donned the neckscrews for the third and final time in Son of Frankenstein), working with Dr. Lang (Byron Foulger, a Preston Sturges regular who would later work with the real Lang) to perfect a mechanized external glass circulatory system for reviving the dead, so patients’ hearts can be stopped then revived, rather than having to keep them alive during major surgeries. Maybe not a great era for Euro-accented scientists to advocate gassing people to death. Anyway, Karloff’s test subject is willing student Bob, whose girlfriend Nurse Betty (Capra regular Ann Doran) calls the police, who bust up the experiment, ensuring Bob can’t be revived. After receiving the death penalty, Karloff is allowed to walk around the court insulting everyone… of course he’s donating his body to science, and Lang is there to collect.

“Make it weird, make it dramatic, and make it snappy.” A megalomaniac vengeance-seeking undead mad scientist can’t be our 1930’s movie hero, so enter Karloff’s beautiful daughter Lorna Gray (the 1940’s Captain America serial and Adventure in Sahara) and her reporter boyfriend Scoop, who crash daddy’s months-later plot to trap his condemning judge and jury in a booby-trapped house and murder them one by one, using electrified walls and poisoned telephones. Lorna and Scoop and the cops stop the rampage after only a couple victims, and a dying Boris shoots up his glass contraption, because who deserves eternal life, who can say?

Karloff, Lang, and the glass contraption:

Scoop up front with a bunch of dead men:

Lorna is disappointed in her dad:

“How could you do that?”
“Had to! Science, you know!”

Historians/Archaeologists being uncareful with their findings, discover the mummy of Imhotep who was buried alive. These guys have fragile British minds, and one goes instantly mad when he sees the mummy walk away from the dig site. Unlike the Hammer version, the mummy doesn’t return as a silent grey-ragged monster but as a well-spoken Boris Karloff, who helps the remaining dudes and one of their sons figure out where to dig next. Karloff hypnotizes a hottie named Helen to make her into his immortal queen, but the other guys needlessly interfere after realizing Karloff is their lost mummy by watching flashbacks in a magical TV-pool.

Imhotep’s funeral procession as seen in the Flashback Pool:

The hottie was Zita Johann of Howard Hawks’s Tiger Shark. Her movie career was as short as Freund’s directing career – he had shot Dracula and Metropolis, and after stepping up for this movie he made Mad Love and a few others before returning to his cinematographer role. David Manners, our young hero nobody cares about, also played the hero nobody cares about in Dracula, and his dad was Arthur Byron, sadly unrelated to Mary Shelley’s buddy Lord Byron.

L-R: Byron, Johann, Karloff, Manners

P-Bog’s first (official) feature is a doozy, following two stories and expertly building tension until they collide at the end. I’d seen P-Bog’s latest movies, She’s Funny That Way and the Tom Petty doc and The Cat’s Meow, but none of his most famous work, so I checked this one out for Shocktober.

Cranking out a cheapie thriller with Boris Karloff, P-Bog himself plays film director Sam who cranks out cheapie thrillers with Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff) – although the Orlok pictures look like more generic costume/castle/monster flicks (Corman’s The Terror, specifically), while Targets is up to something else entirely. After his latest screening, Sam is plotting something new, a more self-reflexive movie which will use Orlok’s star power in a different way, but Orlok is sick of it all and decides to retire immediately (Sam: “I’m gonna go offer it to Vincent Price”). Orlok will go back and forth over the next day, finally agreeing to read the new script and un-canceling his speaking appearance at the local drive-in.

Meanwhile, Bobby (a clean-cut Matt Damon-type) has a bland life with his mom, gun-nut dad (James Brown of Objective, Burma!) and inattentive wife (he tries to tell her he “gets funny ideas”, but she fatally doesn’t listen). After calmly scouting locations, he shoots his wife and mom, leaves a note for the police then heads out on a murder rampage, first targeting highway drivers then positioning himself behind the drive-in screen. He starts shooting spectators – real violence erupting from behind/inside a horror film – until Orlok marches over and slaps him down.

Long takes, unusually naturalistic movie, complete with stumbled lines and people talking over each other. Orlok/Karloff watches himself in Howard Hawks’s The Criminal Code and Sam comments “all the good movies have been made.” Fascinating blend of P-Bog’s cinephilia and realistic violence (based on a California sniper attack a couple years prior). Uncredited script work by Sam Fuller, apparently, and shot by the great Laszlo Kovacs.

K. Uhlich:

Struck this time by how mercilessly this Corman-produced quickie portrays the banality of evil. One of the finest treatises on the subject, in addition to how viewing movies as an escape is an outright denial of their much more ambiguous function in society.

Part one, featuring Richard Kiel, a Scooby-Doo mystery, a rooster-beast, Ida Lupino, Barré Lyndon (not Barry Lyndon), a mannequin museum, John Ireland and a voodoo cult can be found here. I watched those four years ago, so at this rate I’ll be through season one in the year 2054. Thriller paired well with Black Sabbath, which also had three episodes hosted by Boris Karloff.

The Twisted Image

First episode of the show started off with a bang. Leslie Nielsen (post-Forbidden Planet and Tammy and the Bachelor) plays bland but successful executive and family man Alan, and not one but two people are insanely obsessed with him. Secretary Lily (Natalie Trundy of the Planet of the Apes series) wants to marry him and Mailroom Merle (George Grizzard of Happy Birthday, Wanda June) wants to be him. Lily stalks Alan and writes letters to his wife (Dianne Foster of Drive a Crooked Road). Merle is more dangerous, steals Alan’s watch, wallet, car and daughter, and murders Lily when she says he’s no Alan.

Typical plot-contrivance follows. Alan goes to Lily’s apartment (because if your wife suspects you’re having an affair, you should definitely go to the girl’s apartment alone at night), finds her dead, is spotted at the scene, then goes looking for Merle alone.

Wife: “Why can’t you call the police?”
Alan: “Judy, you don’t understand. I can’t go into details now, just take it easy.”

Happy ending, family values are upheld, etc. Lot of good close-ups of Lily with confident, creepy eyes. Also featuring Constance Ford (the 1962 The Cabinet of Caligari) as Merle’s abusive sister and Virginia Christine (Becky’s cousin in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as his annoyed boss. Arthur Hiller later made See No Evil, Hear No Evil, which is not a horror movie, though quite horrible in its own way.

Pigeons From Hell

“Those were no ordinary pigeons – they were the pigeons from hell” says Karloff without even smiling. Maybe Thriller was trying to distance itself from the smartass introductions on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Too bad the intro proved to be the most amusing part of this talky, boring episode.

Two doofus college-age brothers get stuck in a swamp, immediately blame it on the South, then camp out in an abandoned house, where one brother appears from upstairs all bloody attempting to axe-murder the other. Survivor Tim (Brandon De Wilde of Hud and Shane) flees, interrupts a redneck sheriff (Crahan Denton, a huge racist in Bunuel’s The Young One) who was drinking with his buddies, tells the crazy story and is accused of killing his brother, the end.

But wait, it’s not the end! The most fantastic part of this episode isn’t the house full of haunted pigeons or the zombie remnants of the family that owned it, but the rural cop deciding to investigate this city kid’s story, consider the evidence and finally believe him and try to discover what really happened. From a story by Robert Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian.

Rose’s Last Summer

Drunken nuisance ex-movie star Rose French (played by actual movie star Mary Astor, princess in The Palm Beach Story) goes on a trip, is found dead in a random suburb. Her friend Frank and ex-husband Haley (Jack “brother of Roger” Livesey) are more suspicious than the cops were, investigate the family whose yard Rose died in.

Mary!

Turns out Rose has been hired by the family to be their dying mother, who needs to stay alive a few more weeks to claim inheritance from eccentric relative (a genius doll inventor!), after which they’d planned to dispose of Rose to protect their secret before Frank rescued her.

Real mom, fake mom:

Lots of afraid-looking ladies standing in finely arranged rooms with mysterious glowing green light sources, speaking with absolutely appalling lipsync, the worst I’ve seen. This was made a few years after Black Sunday, which is somehow a different movie. Their original Italian titles are something like Mask of Satan and Three Faces of Fear, which are far more descriptive, since Black Sunday is about a mask of satan, and this one is an anthology of three fear-based short stories introduced by Boris Karloff.

The Telephone

Pretty good suspense story, with your usual black-gloved Italian knife murderer. Rosy (Michele Mercier, friendly prostitute in Shoot The Piano Player) is being harassed by telephone, thinks her just-escaped-from-prison ex Frank is returning for revenge, so calls over her former friend Mary. But Mary was making the calls as a fun prank in order to get invited over. As she writes a letter explaining this, Rosy’s just-escaped-from-prison ex Frank arrives and strangles Mary, then he’s killed by a knife-wielding Rosy, who now has no more friends. Fun fact: if you speak into the phone through a folded handkerchief your voice sounds just like Frank’s.

Dead by dawn! Dead by dawn!

Old friends hangin’ out:

The Wurdulak

Count Vladimir arrives at an inn where the locals are holed up in fear of wurdulaks: zombies who “yearn for the blood of those they loved most when they were alive.” When Father returns from hunting wurdulaks, it’s clear to the viewer that he has become one, because he’s Boris Karloff and looks insane. Yup, Boris kills his son Massimo Righi (of Danger!! Death Ray and Planet of the Vampires), steals his grandson and rides into the night. Vlad hangs out through all this because he thinks some girl is pretty (“my lips are dead without your kisses”), so he’s as doomed as they are.

The Drop of Water

Helen (Jacqueline Pierreux, Jean-Pierre Leaud’s mom) is a nurse, I guess. She’s called to the house of a dead recluse by Milly the maid, interrupting Helen’s plans to sit alone and get drunk, so understandably she is annoyed. While dressing the dead woman in funeral clothes, she steals the woman’s ring. This ring was apparently the source of the old woman’s fatal ghostly torment, because when Helen goes home and resumes drinking, after being harassed by flies and not-at-all-scary drops of water, she becomes possessed and strangles herself. Her landlady steals the ring, etc. This would have easily been the worst chapter if not for the dead old lady’s amazing death mask.

After all this, Karloff reappears and Bava reveals the studio artifice, Taste of Cherry-style. Karloff, a few years after Corridors of Blood, looks like he’s having fun.

Segments were written by Tolstoy and Chekhov (really). IMDB says Polanski choking himself in The Tenant was a reference to this, and apparently the mom in The Babadook is seen watching it.