Scream of Fear (1961) Review

One from the re-watch pile…
Scream of Fear aka Taste of Fear (1961)

Madman’s release of Scream of Fear on Bluray


Film: I have mentioned regularly, not just here (such as in my review of The Nanny) but also in other websites I have reviewed horror films for, that I am a big fan of Hammer films, and that I love some of these earlier, less gory and more psychologically driven thrillers.

This film initially caught my attention for the same reason the aforementioned The Nanny did, it is written by Jimmy Sangster, who did a great job of adapting the book that The Nanny was based upon, but also gave us the Hammer versions of Dracula (in The Horror of Dracula) and The Mummy. It’s directed wonderfully by Seth Holt, who directed The Nanny, but also is responsible for my favourite Hammer film, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, which stars the stunning Valerie Leon.

Scream of Fear: Susan Strasberg as Penny


Speaking of stunning, this film stars Susan Strasberg as Penny Appleby, a woman who has an unreasonable fear of everything, and is bound to a wheelchair after an accident where a horse fell on her a broke two of her vertebrae. She is returning home to her estranged father’s (Fred Johnson) house in the French Riviera after not being in too much contact with him for 9 or 10 years, based on an invitation he sent to her.

Upon returning she is picked up from the airport by kindly chauffeur, Robert (Ronald Lewis) who takes her to her father’s house only to find that he has gone away, and she is left in the arms of her step-mother, whom she has never met, Jane (Ann Todd).

The two bond quickly, but Penny starts to suspect something is amiss when she finds what appears to be her father’s corpse sitting in one of the rooms. When she tells Jane and Robert though, the corpse mysteriously has disappeared.

Penny quickly suspects that something is going on, and enlists Robert in her quest for the truth, even though her step-mother, and her father’s friend, Dr Gerrad (Christopher Lee) suggest that maybe she is having flights of fancy… or do they have a more sinister plan in mind…

Scream of Fear: Christopher Lee as Dr Gerrad


Filmed in glorious black and white, Scream of Fear is a wonderful example of a thriller. It unfortunately didn’t find much success in the USA but was a hit in Europe and had several imitators, according to Marcus Hearn in his book The Hammer Vault (if you are a Hammer fan, this MUST be in your collection). 

The performances are melodramatic as one would expect from a film of this vintage, and Christopher Lee’s French accent is of dubious pedigree, but it really adds to the atmosphere of the film.

More twists than a strand of DNA, this film is a wonderful watch, and will keep everyone guessing almost to the very end. 

Score: ****

Madman’s Scream of Fear menu screen: no extras here!


Format: The version of this film reviewed was the Australian, region B bluray which runs for approximately 82 minutes. The film is presented in a grainy, and occasionally blurry 1.85:1 image with a Dolby Digital mono soundtrack which sounds pretty good. One can’t expect a film of this age to look perfect, but there are many films from this time and earlier which look much better due to various restoration processes.

Score: **1/2

Extras: None, which is a shame, though considering pretty much well everyone who worked on the film is no longer with us, not surprising. A film of this quality at least deserves some kind of commentary or featurette from Hammer enthusiasts, film critics or other directors who champion it.

Score: 0

WISIA: A beautifully shot film with a stunning lead, not to mention Christopher Lee, but as with a lot of these sorts of films, once the secret is out, the impact of the film is lessened. That, however, doesn’t make it an occasional rewatch pile contender as it is entertaining.

Scream of Fear: father’s locked piano!

Ted V. Mikels R.I.P.

Seriously, 2016, what did we do to you?!


Low budget/ grindhouse director Ted V. Mikels has passed away on the 16th October 2016.

Probably not well known to your average cinema fan, Mikels, born in 1929 as Theodore Mikacevich, gave us such films as The Doll Squad, The Corpse Grinders and The Astro-Zombies.  Mikels worked on many aspects of his films, from director to writer to actor to cinematographer,and he started his career in filmmaking in 1963 and worked even to this year when he wrote and directed Ten Violent Women: Part Two, a sequel to his 1982 film Ten Violent Women.

Whilst his films may not necessarily been technically brilliant, they showed  a passion for the art form, which is far more impressive than any big-budget blockbuster that has just as much money spent on its advertising to make sure everyone gets their butts into cinemas.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Mikels.

The Gorgon (1964) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Gorgon (1964)

The cover of the Australian Bluray of The Gorgon


Film: Hammer horror films are some of my favourite horror films, and I have been a champion of them for many years, even to the point I once had a letter published in an early issue of Kitbuilders Magazine wondering why there were hundreds of Universal Horror characters available in model kit form, but Hammer horror characters didn’t seem to get much respect from those in the ‘kitbashing’ and resin model kit hobby.

Thankfully those days are gone and those still in that hobby, of which I am no longer one (due mainly to time restraints), have many Hammer characters to choose from.. and perhaps I like to think I may have had a small part in that.

The Gorgon: Peter Cushing as Dr. Namaroff


These films have had us see heaps of exposure to wonderful actors like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Michael Ripper and their female counterparts, the so-called Hammer Glamour set, such as Caroline Monroe, Stephanie Beacham and Madeline Smith. The most famous of their films were about Dracula, or Frankenstein, but their forays into other creatures, like zombies, in The Plague of Zombies, or lizard-women, like in The Reptile were also occasionally incredibly entertaining.

Which leads us to this film, The Gorgon.

Paul Heinz (Richard Pasco) has travelled to a small village to investigate the death of his father, Professor Jules Heinz (Michael Goodliffe) and his brother, Bruno (Jeremy Longhurst), who apparently killed himself after murdering his pregnant girlfriend.

The doctor who pronounced them both dead, Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) seems to be hiding something from Paul’s investigation though, which may or may not involve his assistant, Carla (Barbara Shelley), and legends of the mythical Gorgon, Megaera, keep turning up in conversation.

Thankfully, Paul’s mentor, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee) turns up to assist, but can they solve the mystery before either one of them get… ahem… stoned?

The Gorgon: Patrick Troighton and Christopher Lee


Immediately this film is notable as it has Lee and Cushing in it, so Hammer fans should sit up and take notice, and the performances of all concerned are melodramatic, as one would expect. Special note should be made that this film also features second Doctor Who Patrick Troughton as the chief of police, and Prudence Hyman, who starred in other Hammer films like The Witches and Rasputin The Mad Monk. Hammer direction stalwart Terrance Fischer uses his talent to create some great sequences, but the joy stops there.

The story was written by one time movie writer, J. Llewellyn Devine, and developed into a screenplay by yet another Hammer regular, John Gilling, a writer/ director who is possibly best known for another Hammer film, The Mummy’s Shroud. This film, from a story point of view, unfortunately, is little more than a derivative of a werewolf film, with the big mystery being WHO is the normal person who changes, and that is telegraphed so early you could turn off the film at the 20 minute mark and know the result.

That would be a shame though, as the Gorgon make-up is magnificently cheesy.

In effect, it’s not that is a bad film but from a story point of view, it’s just disastrously generic, and bereft of surprises.

Score: ***

The Gorgon Madman Bluray menu screen: no extras for you!


Format: The reviewed copy is the Australian region B bluray, which runs for approximately 1 hour and 24 minutes, and is presented in a quite clear 1.75:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital Mono audio 

Score: ***

Extras: Nothing!

Score: 0

WISIA: Tragically, this is probably a Hammer film I won’t revisit just because the story is done so much better by so many other werewolf films, even though this isn’t a werewolf film.

The Gorgon: Barbara Shelley as Carla

X-Men Apocalypse (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
X-men: Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men Australian Bluray Steelbook


Film: I got my first X-men comic in 1983. I remember it clearly as I received, like I did every Sunday, two comics when I went with my step-dad to the newsagency to get the Sunday paper. It must have been May or June in that year, and I remember it clearly as I got New Mutants issue 1 and The Uncanny X-men issue 167 and this started a decade long love of the mutant characters until the early nineties when Marvel decided that after being innovators of comics for so long, they now had to copy the ultra-violent stupidity of the first generation of Image comics after those artists and writers jumped ship.

Thankfully Marvel eventually mostly abandoned these imitations and went back to what they do best: solid stories with great art and innovation (though recently best Marvel and DC seem to have lost their ways again, what with Marvel re-living past glories with new versions of Secret Wars and Civil War, and DC with their constant 5 years cycle of rebooting their entire universe).

Aside from all that I do have to admit to loving most of the X-men films. I loved the first two, thought the first was overblown and overdone, then loved the First Class and Days of Future Past films, but how do I feel about X-men Apocalypse? I must prologue this review but pointing out I was never a fan of the character of Apocalypse…

Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse


Which leads us to the plot synopsis for X-Men Apocalypse.

We start in ancient Egypt, where En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), an ancient mutant, is engaging in a body transference to extend his life when two traitorous members of his group cause the temple he is in to collapse around him. En Sabah Nur absorbs the strength and powers of any mutants he body transfers into, and has with his four henchmen, ‘horsemen’ if you will, to help him on his quest for power. All of whom are destroyed by the collapsing temple.

Several centuries later, another group resurrect him and he sees this new world of 1983 to be full of power that he can tap into…

Meanwhile, Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) has turned his family home into a school for mutants so they can learn how to use their powers. Hank McCoy (Nicolas Hoult) help him at his school also. He has several new students, Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee) to add to his others that he is already teaching, but when Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) turns up to tell him that Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) has gone bad again after the murder of his family that he formed whilst hiding from the law after the events of the previous film.

Michael Fassbender as Magneto


Not only has he turned bad, though, he has also joined El Sabah Nur along with Psylocke (Olivia Mann), Ororo (Alexandra Shipp) and Angel (Ben Hardy) in his quest for domination.

If you’ve got so much happening, you may as well throw fan favourites Quicksilver (Evan Peters, in a sequence that is quite possibly the most fun ever had with super powers in a film), Alex (Lucas Till) and a certain clawed mutant that some people kind of like too.

Will all these good mutants be able to defeat these four horsemen and Apocalypse?

One would assume so, but how will they do it?!?

As you can immediately see by my synopsis, the movie has a LOT of cast and a LOT of stuff happening, and it almost requires the superpower of ‘ultimate attention span’ to keep up with it. Fan service is good in comic to movie situations, but this is ridiculous.

The key to the X-men films, and I guess all comic-to-film adaptations, is that your comic fandom has to be checked at the door, and X-Men Apocalypse is no exception. The movie history and the comic history follow different paths, but one still gets a thrill when one sees favourite heroes pop up, even if their comic history is in a different context.

Outside of those criticisms, the story isn’t bad though, it’s just plot and character heavy. Bryan Singer’s direction is as good as it ever was, and honestly I wish he would do more science fiction outside of the X-men scope.

The key to how clever these post X-men: First Class (2011) X-men films is though is how they still sit in with the other films, even though the timeline has been changed. It was an incredibly clever deus ex machina that was able to relaunch the series from the first trilogy to this one, and realistically, Apocalypse is another one to relaunch the series yet again.

X-Men Apocalypse is a pretty good film for sure, but there is constantly a hell of a lot happening, so don’t turn your back for a second. Thankfully due to their resets, the X-men movie universe doesn’t suffer from the entire weight of, say, the other Marvel Avengers films, in which the viewer has an obligation to see every film across multiple franchises to get the full story. Here at least one only has to watch the ‘X-men’ series, and the Wolverine and Deadpool films are merely garnishes.

Score: ****

X-Men Apocalypse Bluray Menu Screen


Format: This Australian bluray (steelbook) release of X-Men Apocalypse runs for approximately 143 minutes and is presented in an immaculate 2.40:1 aspect ratio with an amazing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Master Audio.

Score: *****

Extras: A nice bunch of extras on this disc:

Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Introductions by Bryan Singer. There is a great tribute to John Hughes films in the scene titled ‘The Safety Dance’, these can be watched either with or without introductions by Singer.

Gag Reel is what it says it is, not the greatest of its type but certainly has a couple of funny moments. It’s not an all-day guffaw fest though!

Wrap Party Video is a series of behind the scenes clips put together to music. The title would suggest it was shown at the wrap party. 

X-men Apocalypse Unearthed is a series of 6 mini features which go together to make a complete ‘making of’. I don’t know why this had to be made into 6 smaller features when it could have been one total one, that’s not to say they aren’t interesting though! I have to say one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen is Bryan Singer face timing Patrick Stewart so he could watch James McAvoy get his head shaved so he could be a ‘proper’ Professor X. Is that meta or surreal? I can never tell.

Audio Commentary by Bryan Singer and Screenwriter Simon Kinberg is pretty good, but they get caught up in watching the film and there are a few breaks in the commentary.

Photo Galleries are something I normally hate if it’s just movie stills, but this is an amazing series of pre-production paintings and on-set photographs, so i’ll belay my normal complaints.

There are also a bunch of trailers of the film.

Easter Egg is just a hidden bit that could have been stuck in the gag reel that goes for about 5 seconds. Yawn.

This bluray edition also came with a digital download of the film.

Score: ****1/2

WISIA: Being an old comic fan means I love watching comic movies, over and over again, this won’t be any different.

Arcade (1993) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Arcade (1993)

The cover of 88 Films Arcade


Film: The 90s were a pretty dire time for this horror fan, and as an 80s horror fan, that may have been partially my fault. It the 80s we had become accustomed to every film becoming a franchise: Freddy, Jason, Michael…. even Full Moon Pictures, who produced this film Arcade, had their franchises with the Puppet Master and Subspecies films. By the time the 90s hit, horror was just potential series starting and failing; I’m looking at you, Brainscan and Doctor Giggles.

Those few early years of the 90s just were terrible, and even Fangoria knew that there was something gumming up horror’s plumbing as some of the articles, and covers of this period included mainstream films like Jurassic Park and Batman Returns!

Thankfully due to fresh blood like The Blair Witch Project (not a film I like but I appreciate what it did for the genre) and revamped old blood like Wes Craven’s with his successfully, cynical and self-aware Scream films, horror survived and didn’t go the way of the western or the musical, a topic discussed occasionally at the time.

Arcade is one of the not so successful attempts at franchise creation, but it does stand out as having, for its day, some pretty incredible computer effects not done by a big Hollywood company like ILM.

Arcade: Megan Ward and Peter Billingsley


Onto the story: Alex (Megan Ward) has had a rough year. First her mother committed suicide, and then her Dad, well, he should be committed. To make matters worse, her friends are a bunch of 90210-styled buttholes (amongst them, Seth Green, who still looks exactly the same as he does now). 

Dante’s Inferno is a club/ video game arcade that they hang out in, and some of them are quite excited to try a brand new virtual reality game called ‘Arcade’ which is introduced to them by a video game executive from Vertigo Tronics called Difford (John De Lancie), but there is something not quite right about the game.

The games antagonist, Arcade, can bring people into the game peemanentky, and manipulate reality to his own ends…

So I’ll get a few of the bad points out of the way first. The characters are the most facile, awful bunch of turds I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing. Seriously, they are like the worst of each of the jerk characters from the Nightmare On Elm Street series all put together in one film, and they grate on every single nerve you have. Now this wouldn’t be a problem if any of them could act, but there were less wooden performances in 18th century puppet shows.

Next is the character of ‘Arcade’ itself. Remember how the killer from Bad Dreams was like a poor man’s Freddy, and then the bad guy from Brainscan was like an even cheaper version of him? Well Arcade is an even cheaper version of him, but they spent a fortune on now-archaic special effects to realise him. He’s (it’s?) a taunting smartarse just like the rest of the group, so I am surprised he wants to kill them, and not just join their gang of butt-plugs.

Next, it’s Albert Pyun’s direction. Normally I like his direction, and count The Sword and the Sorcerer as one of my favourite fantasy films, but here it meanders along with the adore mentioned sub-par acting and clunky dialogue.

Arcade: Megan Ward and Peter Billingsley


Which brings us to the final issue. The packaging for this disc from 88 Films proudly announces ‘from the writer of The Dark Knight and Man of Steel’. The person they refer to is David S. Goyer, who didn’t just write THOSE two films, but also two of the best Call of Dutys (in Black Ops 1 and 2), and the Blade films, and the weird scifi film Dark City. This is not a careers highlight, and it’s not necessarily that the idea is bad, because it was great when it was a film called ‘Tron’, it’s just poorly executed, which possible circles back to the acting and direction.

It’s a circle of suck.

On the plus side, the computer effects, considering their time, are a fun look at where we were in computer graphics was at this time.

I must say though that my favourite bit is when the surviving kids meet the game programmer, who doesn’t look like a cool, hippy-nerd in a superhero shirt, but instead is a 40-something, porno-moustached nerd in a labcoat and spectacles.

As a weird aside, one thing I did find interesting was I kept getting reminded of the film Pulse that starred Kristin Bell and Ian Somerhalder, which in itself was a remake of the Japanese film of the same name from 2001. It was probably just me, but I just felt a few suggestions made by the film made me think of that one.
Unfortunately those couple of musing things didn’t make up for the rest of the film, and I kid you not, every 20 minutes feels like an hour. Don’t bother.

Score: *

88 Films Arcade title screen


Format: The reviewed copy of the film was the UK’s 88 Films region free DVD release. This film ran for approximately 85 minutes, and was presented in an average 1.33:1 video with a decent digital 2.0 audio

Score: **1/2

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc, but not a great deal. First we have a ‘making of’ in the form of ‘Videozone’ which Full Moon Pictures used to put on VHS tapes at the end of the feature. This one’s pretty good as it has an early look at how what we now call CGI is created for the film.

There is also a trailer for Arcade, and an 88 Films Trailer Park featuring trailers for The Corpse Grinders, Two Moon Junction, Blood Orgy of the She Devils, Hideous, Girl in Gold Boots, Robot Wars, Dollman, The Doll Squad, Castle Freak and Slice N Dice.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I am never, ever, ever, ever, ever going to watch this ever again.

New Halloween Shirts from Fright Rags!


Do you have your Michael Myers shirt really for Halloween this year?

No?!? Well you better click THIS LINK to check out Fright Rags new Halloween collection!! Fright Rags are being quite secretive about it, but there is going to be heaps of Halloween stuff dropped on us this year, and October the 12th has the first lot… yep, FIRST!! Why am I excited? Well Halloween socks, obviously!!

The Conjuring 2 (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Conjuring 2 (2016)

The Cover of the Australian Bluray for The Conjuring 2


Film: I don’t deliberately try to be antagonistic when I find things I don’t like that the rest of the general public, and fandom enjoy. It’s put me at the solo end of several arguments: my dislike of The Blair Witch Project, my love of the Holly Valance action film DOA and my absolute apathy towards George Lucas’ fiddling with the original Star Wars saga.

My more recent battles have been regarding my dislike of a lot of these post millennial ghost movies. I am no great fan of ghost stories anyway as I don’t have a great belief in the supernatural, particularly ghosts. Of all these ghost movies that have come out the only one that I really enjoyed was the Ethan Hawke vehicle Sinister, but as far as the Insidious series and these Conjuring films, including Annabelle, well, I’m not a fan.

(I will hold one caveat to the previous statement: I did really dig the initial ghostly j-horror films like Ring and The Grudge when they first came out, but the ‘wet girl’ ghost became old quite quickly)

The Conjuring 2 is another adventure of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), ghost hunter/ psychic investigator/ exorcists who in this instalment travel to rainy Ol’ England in 1977 to help the Hodgson family. 

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in The Conjuring 2


Janet (Madison Wolfe) and Margaret (Lauren Esposito), the two daughters, decide to play, one night, with a witch board and accidentally bring out the horrible spirit of a man named Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) who decides to torture them, their brothers (Benjamin Haigh and Patrick McAuley) and their single mother, Peggy (Frances O’Conner)… or does he not even exist?

The Warrens are recently accused of being charlatans after an investigation of the Amityville house, and can’t be seen, as agents of the church, to be involved in any sort of chicanery… but is the evil in the house even MORE clever than first suspected..?

Straight up I have to compliment Wilson and Farmiga for their excellent performances. They are the rocks in the middle of the entire tale and are just so well cast and perform with so much conviction and they are a pleasure to watch. Add O’Conner to that mix and you have a pretty solid central cast. The kids are mostly all great though one of the young characters is supposed to have a stutter, and rather than be a realistic stutter, it sounds more like lines from Morris Minor and the Major’s Stutter Rap. 

On a personal side note I have to say I was delighted to see Anatomie and Creep’s Franka Potente back. I feel like I haven’t seen her in years!

The spooky nun from The Conjuring 2


James Wan’s direction is quite good, and there are some clever camera tricks, and what felt like an occasional tribute to older horror films… I kept getting a Hammer Horror vibe at times… and in general it had a pretty cool, cold creepy feel to it. 

There were two epic missteps that I found a shame though. One was the realisation of a ‘Crooked Man’ character who seemed too cartoony for the look of the film, and the final reveal, which I won’t explore for spoiler reasons, was just a little generic.

A small shoutout to the soundtrack as well. The ghostly incidental music is perfectly juxtaposed with music of the time, which both set the scares and the period. I’ve no doubt this soundtrack will end up in my collection.

The story was OK and whilst I am still not convinced by ghostly movies, I did quite enjoy this but it was about performance rather than the tale. It was a improvement of the first Conjuring, and a galaxy away from the bursting gall bladder that was Annabelle.

Score: ***


Format: As one would expect a modern film in a modern format looks excellent. The Conjuring 2 review copy is an Australian region B which goes for approximately 134 minutes and is presented in 2.40:1 with a Dolby Atmos 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a pretty good bunch of extras on this, the shame is none of them run for very long.

Crafting the Conjuring as you may guess by the name, is a making-of deal, and is brief, but interesting.

The Enfield Poltergeist: Living the Horror investigates the ‘real’ case of the Enfield Incident, including interviews with the now-adult sisters that the film portrays, and Lorraine Warren herself! 

Creating Crooked explains the invention and execution of the Crooked Man character, which I reckon would have been a cool make up effect and creature, but not in this film. Here he just seems to be a tacked on scare, which suits no purpose other than that,

The Conjuring 2: Hollywood’s Haunted Stage looks at paranormal investigator Johnny Matook and his investigation of one of Warner Bros soundstages which is apparently haunted. It’s pretty stupid and essentially a waste of disc space.

The Sounds of Scary checks out the score. Being a soundtrack nut I was excited to watch this, and was only disappointed by the brevity of it. I mean, horror soundtrack featurettes usually hit the same notes: it’s moody, scary, etc. I guess I might be a frustrated musician.

Deleted scenes are as occasionally correct in their absence from the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: Like I said, I’m not really a fan of ghost movies, so I’ll only watch this again if my family, who love these sorts of movies, want to watch it, otherwise it’s a dust gatherer.