THE CHRISTOPHER LEE CENTENARY CELEBRATION PRIMER: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can see this classic this weekend at the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama! Get more info at the official Drive-In Super Monster-Rama Facebook page and get your tickets at the Riverside Drive-In’s webpage.

Hammer was originally founded in 1934 by William Hinds, whose stage name was Will Hammer as he grew up in the Hammersmith section of London. They produced the now lost The Public Life of Henry the Ninth, as well as The Bank Messenger MysteryThe Mystery of the Mary CelesteSong of Freedom and Sporting Love before going out of business. That said, Hinds also co-owned a distribution company, Exclusive Films, with Enrique Carreras which stayed in business.

In 1947, after the war, Hammer was revived and began shooting low-budget adaptions of radio shows. They learned that they could save money by shooting in country homes than film sets — and stayed with that for much of their output — and would remodel Down Place on the Thames into Bray Studios, their best-known base of operations.

Hammer’s first horror movie was their 1955 adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s BBC Television science fiction serial The Quatermass ExperimentThe Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2 were big hits; while the TV show was an unknown entity in the U.S., it was exported here as The Creeping Unknown to play a double feature with The Black Sleep. The results were so successful that United Artists offered to pay for part of the sequel.

Also — in the November 6, 1956 issue of Variety, it was claimed that a nine-year-old boy died of a ruptured artery while watching that movie in Oak Park, Illinois. According to The Guinness Book of Records, this would be the only known case of an audience member dying of fright. William Castle immediately took notice, one imagines.

As production began on Quatermass 2, Hammer needed someone in the U.S. willing to invest in and promote their movies. This led them to Associated Artists Productions. At the same time, Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky had sent Associated Artists an adaption of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. They’d only made one movie and were hard to bet on, but Associated Artists’ boss Eliot Hyman did send the script to Hammer.

Until the day he died — and beyond — Rosenberg claimed that he produced The Curse of Frankenstein. However, it’s been said that Subotsky’s script was perhaps very close to Universal’s Son of Frankenstein, as well as being only 55 minutes in length. Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster said that he never saw Subotsky’s script or was aware of Rosenberg’s involvement. In fact, he never saw the Universal Frankenstein films and just wrote what he thought the movie should be.

If the names Rosenberg and Subotsky are familiar, well — they became Amicus.

Another issue Hammer had to deal with was the fact that in England, studios had to submit their scripts to censors before making them. The censors literally said, “We are concerned about the flavour of this script, which, in its preoccupation with horror and gruesome detail, goes far beyond what we are accustomed to allow even for the ‘X’ category. I am afraid we can give no assurance that we should be able to pass a film based on the present script and a revised script should be sent us for our comments, in which the overall unpleasantness should be mitigated.”

You can only imagine how much more upsetting it would all be in vivid color instead of black and white. Hammer’s new take of horror didn’t avoid blood or gore; compared to the horror of the past, it pretty much zoomed in on it and let it take up the screen. Today, it may seem tame, but in the days before splatter and even Blood Feast, it was incendiary.

Directed by Terence Fisher, The Curse of Frankenstein has an intriguing opening that puts you right in the middle of the story: As Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing in his first major film role) awaits execution for the murder of his maid Justine (Valerie Gaunt), he reveals his story to a priest (Alex Gallier).

With the death of his mother, Victor owns the Frankenstein estate and pays for his remaining family, Aunt Sophia (Noel Hood) and her daughter Elizabeth (Hazel Court). He also pays for Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart) to teach him science, which leads to them bringing a dead dog back to life. Certainly, they can do the same with human beings, but as Victor descends into scientific butchery, Paul leaves just as Victor’s fiancee — his cousin Elizabeth — comes to live with him.

His plan is sound, if not maniacal, as the dead body parts are sewn together to make the ideal human being, which will be guided by the brain of a professor. Sadly, that brain is damaged as Paul returns to try and stop Frankenstein. At this point, the scientist is so deluded that he thinks that it’s fine that he’s pushed the old teacher to his death. The creature (Christopher Lee) he brings to life is a madman and Paul helps him stop it; later that night Frankenstein still brings it back to life and uses it to murder Justine, who he has been having an affair with. She seals her fate by claiming that she will reveal that he has impregnated her and is conducting experiments against nature.

Paul is invited back to the house the evening before the Frankenstein wedding, but the creature goes wild and grabs Elizabeth. Victor stops it and sends it into a vat of acid where it disappears; he is arrested and Paul refuses to tell the truth. Standing outside with Elizabeth, they remark about the insanity that took Victor as he is led to the gallows.

Released on May 20, 1957 with Woman of Rome in the UK and on July 20 in the U.S. with Hammer’s Quatermass-inspired X the UnknownThe Curse of Frankenstein made back seventy times what it cost to make. It led to five sequels and one comedic remake, the only time Cushing didn’t play Victor. The look of this film led to a Gothic craze in horror that everyone from Corman to Bava eventually took to greater heights. It sensationalized British critics who hated how bloody and exploitative it was, but as for fans of horror films, well…Hammer was the new name on their lips.

El Vampiro (1957)

The horror boom in Mexican film can be attributed to this movie, one that takes Mexico’s love for the Universall monsters — indeed, there was even a Spanish language version filmed at the same time as Dracula with an entirely different cast and crew — and gives them their own vampiric villain, Conde Karol de Lavud (German Robles).

Marta (Ariadna Welter, El Barón del Terror) is our heroine, back home to plan the funeral of her aunt. Soon, she learns that her home is infested with vampires and they plan on taking the life of her other aunt as well.

While many consider El Vampiro to be the first film to have a vampire with elongated fangs – -a full year before Hammer’s Horror of Dracula — the Finnish movie Valkoinen Peura has a vampiric reindeer woman who has huge fangs. You can also look to Dracula In Istanbul and, of course, Nosferantu for two other canine fanged bloodsuckers before this movie. That said, Robles took the inspiration of Lugosi and created his own take on a vampire that would influence films all over the world.

Director Fernando Méndez also made The Black Pit of Dr. M and Ladrón de Cadáveres, two classic Mexican horror films. It was written by Ramón Obón (Cien Gritos de Terror) and Ramon Rodriguez. Like all great vampires, Conde Karol de Lavud would return soon enough in El Ataúd del Vampiro.

You can watch this on Tubi.

El jinete sin cabeza (1957)

Chano Urueta’s (El Baron del TerrorThe Headless Horseman is that most rare of all mixed genres, the horror western, a story of a secret brotherhood of skull-masked and long-robed killers who rule the farms with a bony hand until the Zorro-esque hero called El Jinete– with a mask that makes him look headless — stands up to them.

This movie is outright odd as it has musical numbers out of nowhere, something that happens often in older Mexican horror movies as often as they do in Bollywood films.

It’s also part of a series of films, preceded by El Tigre Enmascarado and followed by La Marca de Satanás and La Cabeza de Pancho Villa. It’s the kind of movie where a handsome man can start a song in a jail cell and instantly his mariachi bands can appear and help him do the song but not escape his bars.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: The Scare Film Archives Volume 1: Drug Stories!

Something Weird has made out lives so much richer, saving the strange, the smutty, the scary and everything in between. Working with the American Genre Film Archives, they created this mixtape of sheer lunacy which adds up the scare films of the past. You’ll never do drugs again until the next time to do drugs.

This blu ray has the following movies, all uncut and in 2K:

Beyond LSD (1967): This movie astounded me because instead of telling parents that their kids are maniacs, it tells them to listen to them because they’re going through some things. How is this even real?

Director Paul Burnford mainly made shorts and documentary films, like 1944’s Nostradamus IV and the 1943 blood transfusion ten-minute epic Brothers in Blood. He also directed the first movie in the Rusty series and an entry in the A Crime Does Not Pay series, Dark Shadows, which is about a psychiatrist matching wits with a killer.

In short — it’s less about drugs and more about how to treat your kids. It’s still relevant today.

The Bottle and the Throttle (1961, 1968): Narrated by Timothy Farrell, who was one of the two narrators and the psychiatrist in Glen or Glenda, as well Girl Gang, Pin-Down GirlDance Hall RacketTest Tube BabiesThe Violent YearsJail Bait and many more. He was also a bailiff for the Los Angeles Marshal’s Department when he was acting in movies like Paris After Midnight, which was raided by the Los Angeles Vice Squad during filming.

A bunch of kids a drinking beach beers — Budweiser, Schlitz and Hamm’s — and Bill has had one too many. He ends up driving home and killing a child and breaking the back of her mother. Was it worth it?

Do you remember that wheel of how many drinks you had and how long until you sober up back in driver’s ed or health class? Man, I used to think of that all the time and here I am, now trying to gauge edibles which are magical and unpredictable lunacy when compared to whiskey.

The major difference between the 1961 and 1968 films is that the former is made with the help of the Culver City Police Department and the Culver City Unified School District while the latter is made with the West Covina Police Department. I’d like to think these organizations were scammed and paid twice for one movie.

“The little girl died on the way to the hospital and the mother will probably never walk again. No matter how your trial comes out, you’ll always have to live with those facts, won’t you Bill. A child dead. A mother crippled. Not a pleasant future to face at the age of 18.”

Pure nihilism.

Sidney Davis Productions also made The DropoutBoys Beware (an anti-homosexual scare movie), the Ib Melchior-directed — yes, the guy who wrote Death Race 2000 and directed The Angry Red Planet — Keep Off the GrassSkateboard Sense and LSD: Trip or Trap!

Curious Alice (1971): Dave Dixon, the Culture Czar, was the lead DJ of the legendary “Air Aces” on Detroit’s rock station WABX and the first person to play Sabbath, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and The Doors in the Motor City. Beyond co-writing Peter, Paul and Mary’s “I Dig Rock & Roll Music,” he co-wrote this animated film that explains drugs through Alice In Wonderland which is totally right on with the kids and four years after Jefferson Airplane did the same thing in “White Rabbit.”

The art in this movie is mind-boggling, however, and you’ll be entranced as Alice learns about LSD from the Mad Hatter, speed from the March Hare, heroin from the King of Hearts and barbituates from the Dormouse.

Made by the National Institute of Mental Health in 1971 and meant for use with ten-year-old students, if I had seen this before my teen years I would have done all the drugs in high school. The National Coordinating Council on Drug Education agreed, writing that viewers “may be intrigued by the fantasy world of drugs” after watching it.

The Distant Drummer (1970): A short-lived series of four 22-minute American documentary films that warned the kids about drugs, these were all directed by William Templeton (The Fallen Idol) and written by Don Peterson.

The first two movies in this series, A Movable Scene and A Movable Feast, were narrated by Robert Mitchum, who served 43 days at a California prison farm for possession of marijuana in 1948, a conviction that was overturned in 1951.

Here’s just a sample of Mitchum’s speech: “Thousands of snapshots on police station walls remain the only link between many of America’s most affluent families and the children who embodied their great expectations. Nearly everyone in the hippie community smokes marijuana — whether they call it pot, grass, hemp, gage, joint or mary jane — the marijuana is the basic background for the shared drug experience. The experience is shared to such an extent that roach pipes are always in demand — a roach is a marijuana butt and it requires some form of holder for those last few drags. The new generation, whether they are runaways or rebels-in-residence, use marijuana as a symbol of discontent with the basic values of the establishment. For some, there exists a social imperative beyond flaunting society’s rules — for these adventurers the mind-expanding drugs open a window on a whole new frontier…”

The other two parts, Bridge from No Place and Flowers of Darkness, were narrated by Rod Steiger and Paul Newman.

Drugs, Drinking and Driving (1971): Herbert Moskowitz is now here to explain why you should never mix the three things in the title. I love that this movie has no issues with using the Mission: Impossible theme over and over and over, flaunting copyright law with each successive refrain.

This also seems pre-Jackass with a stunt where two drivers are each given drugs, one amphetamine and one barbituates, and then told to drive for 36 hours straight until they either pass out or wreck their cars.

LSD: Insight or Insanity (1967): “Now, everybody who takes it admits that there’s always the risk of a bad trip, a bummer, a freak-out, even a flip-out. But, why be lame, baby? Give yourself a real kick. Yes, a kick in the head!”

That’s Sal Mineo talking in this Max Miller-directed (the same dude who made the Sonny Bono anti-drug movie Marijuana) film which explains what LSD is, how it’s made and when people take it they jump in front of cars and take leaps off cliffs like Diane Linkletter out of the windows of the Shoreham Towers, blamed on LSD even if the last person who saw her alive — Edward Dunston — may have also was the last person to see actress Carol Wayne alive. Then again, both Dunstons could be different people and for some other reason, people seem to confuse them with David E. Durston, the man who taught us that Satan was an acidhead in I Drink Your Blood.

See, I may make some detours, but I always get you back on the road.

This ends with a Russian Roulette freakout and Mineo singing over the closing credits, which inform us that everyone in this movie was not an actor. You won’t be surprised.

LSD 25 (1967): Directed by David Parker and written by Hank Harrison — the father of Courtney Love — this movie is narrated by an LSD tab which proves that the creators of this may very well be getting high on their own supply.

“Today, you’re high. Tomorrow, you’re dead.”

Yes, LSD starts all happy explaining all the good things it does and by the end, your fingerprints can’t get out of any police database.

So go ahead and take that sugar cube. You’ll learn all the secrets of the infinite and then, you know, you won’t be able to tell anyone.

Because you’ll be dead.

Narcotics the Decision: Goofballs and Tea (1958): Written by Pittsburgh native Roger Emerson Garris, who was the story editor for the Sherlock Holmes TV series, this police training film is all about barbituates and marijuana. Yes, people once called drugs these words.

Narrated by Art Gilmore, who was on Dragnet and voiced the radio announcer on The Waltons, this movie lets kids know that it starts with sneaking their parent’s booze and ends up with you in jail, dead or worse. Avoid weed, avoid malt shops, avoid everything.

None for the Road (1957): Margaret Travis wrote 83 shorts that we know of, movies like The Other Fellow’s FeelingsHealth: Your Clothing and Rowan and Martin on the Driveway One Fine Day, an industrial film for Phillips 66 Petroleum where the future Laugh-In stars run a gas station. This movie, too.

But the director? That’s Herk Harvey, who made around four hundred or more industrial films like Shake Hands with Danger. And one very important movie, Carnival of Souls.

Three men all use alcohol in different ways: not at all, a little and too much. They’re like the lab rats that we later see injected with alcohol, which sounds like a good way to spend a weekend. But wow, we’ve been warning people about drunk driving for 65 years and not everyone listens.

The Trip Back (1970): It’s no accident that an episode of Strangers With Candy was titled “The Trip Back.” Jerri Blank on that show is literally the star of this movie, Florrie Fisher, played for comic effect.

Fisher was married four times by the time she filmed this speech, first an arranged marriage, then to a pimp, then another drug addict and finally to a man she met via the mail. She credited her recovery to Synanon, which was originally established as a drug rehabilitation program and became one of the most dangerous and violent cults America had ever seen.

Wait, what?

Founded by Charles E. “Chuck” Dederich Sr., Synanon — a mix of togetherness (“syn”) with the unknown (“anon”) — was an alternative community centered on group truth-telling sessions called the “Synanon Game”, a form of attack therapy during which participants humiliated one another and exposed each other’s innermost weaknesses. There are theories that Dedereich was given LSD by Dr. Keith S. Dittman and Dr. Sidney Cohen, as well as encouraged to start Synanon as part of the CIA MK Ultra program.

Headquarted in a former beachfront hotel in Santa Monica called the Club Casa del Mar, women who joined Synanon had to shave their heads. Men were given forced vasectomies. Pregnant women were forced to abort their babies. Married couples were broken up and had to take new partners as the group became the Church of Synanon.

After Synanon’s transition into an alternate society in 1968, the game became a 72-hour ordeal for most members. The program of rehabilitation went from two years to a lifetime rehabilitation program, as they now preached that addicts would never truly be well enough to return to society.

Throughout this period, San Francisco area media covered the adult and child abuse caused by the church, but were often sued for libel by Synanon’s lawyers. If all of this sounds like Scientology, well…there was a group within the group called the Imperial Marines authorized to beat members into oblivion.

When NBC started reporting on the church in the late 70s, executives received hundreds of threats and Paul Morantz, a lawyer who had helped members escape, had a de-rattled rattlesnake placed in his mailbox. It bit him and put him in the hospital. A police search found a tape of Dederich speaking about Morantz, saying: “We’re not going to mess with the old-time, turn-the-other-cheek religious postures. Our religious posture is: Don’t mess with us. You can get killed dead, literally dead/ These are real threats. They are draining life’s blood from us, and expecting us to play by their silly rules. We will make the rules. I see nothing frightening about it. I am quite willing to break some lawyer’s legs, and next break his wife’s legs, and threaten to cut their child’s arm off. That is the end of that lawyer. That is a very satisfactory, humane way of transmitting information. I really do want an ear in a glass of alcohol on my desk.”

The teachings of Synanon influenced groups like CEDU, Daytop Village (the very place Nancy Reagan visited and became aware of the drug problem, which led to Just Say No), Phoenix House and those boot camps that always show up on daytime talk shows.

Back to Florrie Fisher.

An interview with David Susskind led to her appearing on The Mike Douglas Show, speaking at schools and an autobiography, The Lonely Trip Back. This film captures her speaking at a New York City high school, barraging the audience with a rambling dissertation on turning tricks, six of her marijuana friends all dying in the chair, jailhouse sapphic antics and shouting things like “I now know that I can’t smoke one stick of pot! I can’t take one snort of horse! I can’t take one needle of cocaine because I am an addictive personality! And that’s all I need is one of anything. Ya know I need one dress. If I happen to like this dress in tan, I buy the same dress in green and black and pink. This is the type of personality I am!”

Despite how horrible Synanon was for some, it worked for Florrie. Sadly, she died during the lecture tour she’s on in this movie due to liver cancer and kidney failure.

This movie is totally worth the price of this entire blu ray.

Users Are Losers (1971): Think drugs are for teens? This kid is saving up his milk money to pay for his habit, doing odd jobs and being incredibly thrifty just to get some marijuana. It made me think, parents are always on kids for throwing their money away, but this kid knows what he wants, works hard for it and then is selfless and shares what he gets with his friends.

Some kids also find one of their friends dead on a mattress and some young narc says, “If you blow pot, you’re blowing your future.” Get off my TV, kid.

Plus, you also get DRUG STORIES! NARCOTIC NIGHTMARES AND HALLUCINOGENIC HELLRIDES, a full-length mixtape from the AGFA team.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go blow some pot. Get toasty toast. Go clambaking. Fly Mexican Airlines. Run within an endless field. Walk the green ducks. Roll into the Backwoods. Be a ninja. Do some chiefing at the Rooney statue.

You can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 21: Final Curtain (1957)

Narrated by Dudley Manlove (Eros from Plan 9 from Outer Space) and intended for TV, Final Curtain would have been an episode of Portraits of Terror. If it seems familiar, well, that’s because some of the footage would be in Night of the Ghouls.

That said, a complete version of the episode was long thought lost until a copy was found by Jason Insalaco, great-nephew of one of Ed Wood’s returning players Paul Marco.

Duke Moore (Lt. Harper from Plan 9) is the actor — in a role intended for Bela Lugosi  wandering a theater, stalked by a vampire (Jeannie Stevens, whose only other role was in Night of the Ghouls, but that doesn’t really count because it’s just repurposed footage from this short).

Wood would recycle dialogue from this in his book Orgy of the Dead. Sadly, the world would never see a weekly series from Ed and we’re all the worse for it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 20: The Story of Mankind (1957)

Hendrik Willem van Loon wrote and illustrated The Story of Mankind in 1921, telling brief chapters of the history of Western civilization, always asking “Did the person or event in question perform an act without which the entire history of civilization would have been different?”

Thirty years later, former publicist Irwin Allen chose the book as his first non-documentary film, directing, writing and producing the film with the goal of only having an actor and actress appear in the film before changing up his strategy and taking a page out of the recent box office hit Around the World In 80 Days and having a cast of nearly fifty stars tell the story. Oh yeah and lots and lots of repurposed b-roll from other movies and stock footage.

Ronald Colman is The Spirit of Man and Vincent Price is Mr. Scratch. They’re testifying in front of a tribunal that will decide the fate of mankind, who has created a Super H-Bomb, and the powers that run the universe will determine whether they stop the bomb or allow it to destroy the human race. That leads to a cavalcade of stardom, with Hedy Lamarr as Joan of Arc,  Virginia Mayo as Cleopatra, Agnes Moorehead as Queen Elizabeth I, Peter Lorre as Nero, Charles Coburn as Hippocrates, along with all three Marx Brothers in their last film together.

But wait — there’s more. Cesar Romero! John Carradine! Dennis Hopper as Napoleon!  Francis X. Bushman as Moses! Jim Ameche, taking over the role his brother made famous, Alexander Graham Bell!

All on sets that seem made for TV with dialogue made for the grade school stage. Yes, The Story of Mankind certainly is something else. Everyone in this showed up for one day to film their part and were all paid pretty well. So who cares if the movie is so strange, kind of like a religious epic with no religion.

When asked if the film was based on a book, Colman replied, “Yes. But they are using only the notes on the dust jacket.”

There was a comic book though. Dell released an adaption written by Gaylord Du Bois with art by Bob Jenney.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 5: The Undead (1957)

In the mid-1950s, reincarnation was in and The Search for Bridey Murphy was being made, so Roger Corman asked Charles Griffith to write a script, which was originally called The Trance of Diana Love, which is a great title, and was to be in all iambic pentameter.

Griffith said, “I separated all the different things with sequences with the devil, which were really elaborate, and the dialogue in the past was all in iambic pentameter. Roger got very excited by that. He handed the script around for everybody to read, but nobody understood the dialogue, so he told me to translate it into English. The script was ruined.”

I can’t even add up how many wasted hours that was.

Mel Welles, who played Smolkin, told Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup “it was a wonderful script and it probably would have been the cult film rather than Little Shop of Horrors had it been shot that way. But either Roger or someone at American-International Pictures didn’t think it was commercially viable to do it that way and at the last minute a decision was made to rewrite the script without that.”

Quintus Ratcliff (Val DuFour) is a psychic researcher who has spent years in Tibet to learn how to mentally regress someone back into their past life. He wants to prove to an old professor that he can do this, so he hires Diana Love (Pamela Duncan) for $500 to place her into a trance for two days.

She’s soon back in the Middle Ages, trapped in the mind of her ancestor Helene, accused of witchcraft. Diana is able to inform her past self of how to escape, so she heads into the night and meets up with the real witch Livia (Allison Hayes) and even Satan himself (Richard Devon).

Using the link between Diana and Helene, Quintus comes back in time, hoping to convince Helene to avoid her death and change history.

With Billy Barty as an imp and Dick Miller as a leper, this Corman film may have been a cheap one — and one that caused him stress with the bad smelling fog and budget issues — but it’s a fun idea well told. You can’t even tell that it was shot inside a supermarket.

You can watch this on Tubi.

I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957)

Five months after American-International Picture’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Herbert L. Strock (The Crawling Hand) directed this follow-up, which has British professor Professor Frankenstein (Whit Bissell, who was also the mad scientist in AIP’s first teenager as a monster movie) coming to America to assemble his monster from the bodies of teenagers who didn’t make it through Dead Man’s Curve.

He’s the kind of scientist who has no problem feeding former Lois Lane Phyllis Coates to alligators (AIP’s Herman Cohen kayfabe stated that the alligator had been used to dispose of the bodies of the victims of serial killer Joe Ball from a small town outside San Antonio, which I love) or cutting off the face of a boy on Lover’s Lane (Gary Conway, The Farmer) for his undead monster.

How did AIP not follow this up with I Was a Teenage Dracula?

The Giant Claw (1957)

Directed by Fred J. Sears (Don’t Knock the RockEarth vs. the Flying Saucers, Teen-Age Crime Wave), The Giant Claw is somehow inspired by matter and anti-matter, as well as la Carcagne, the mythical bird-like banshee from French-Canadian folklore. Yes, some heady material, but then this movie has one of the goofiest — and most awesome — monsters ever.

Producer Sam Katzman originally planned to utilize stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen. This movie didn’t have the money for that, so he hired a Mexico City effects studio who sent him a marionette that, well, looks like a monstrous turkey. Seeing as how he spent fifty dollars on the monster, I think he got so much more than what he paid for.

No one in the movie knew what that creature looked like until they saw the movie. This really embarrassed lead actor Jeff Morrow, who was there to see the movie live in his hometown and every time the monster showed up, people laughed louder, until the actor ran home and started drinking. I mean, Morrow must have felt the same way when he was in Octaman.

Obviously, the poster artists never saw the special effects either. That said, the film is also quite aware of the UFO sightings of the day, which is what they think the monster is until scientists discover that it’s an evil bird from an antimatter universe.

This is a pretty nihilistic film for the time, as the evil bird kills people without a thought when it isn’t destroying every building it can.

The Giant Claw is one of four movies on Arrow Video’s new Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman set along with The WerewolfThe Zombies of Mora Tau and Creature with the Atom Brain. Each film has a 1080p blu ray presentation, along with a fully illustrated 60-page collector’s book featuring extensive new writing by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper, as well as 80-page collector’s art book featuring reproduction stills and artwork from each film and new writing by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette, the former artist of Swamp Thing. Plus, you get two double-sided posters featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin and reversible sleeves for each movie with original and newly commissioned artwork for each film by Matt Griffin.

The Giant Claw has extras including an introduction by critic Kim Newman Brand, commentary by critics Emma Westwood and Cerise Howard, a visual essay from Mike White examining the theme of Cold War paranoia in Sam Katzman monster movies, a trailer, an image gallery and a condensed Super 8mm version of the movie.

You can get this set from MVD.

The Zombies of Mora Tau (1957)

You have to feel for the deep sea divers in this movie. Sure, they have to deal with their boss, rich businessman George Harrison, but now to get the diamonds out of the wreck of a ship that sank sixty years ago, they have to deal with not only a curse, but the ship’s undead zombie crew who must remain there until the curse is removed or the diamonds are destroyed. This is getting into some Return of the Curse of the Creature’s Ghost-like shenanigans, right?

Somehow, fate has decreed that I watch multiple Alison Hayes films as of late. Between Gunslinger,  The UnearthlyThe Crawling Hand and this movie, I really have come to enjoy seeing her show up. Marjorie Eaton — who was the physical actress who played Emperor Palpatine in the non-special editions — is also on hand.

The prologue to this movie says, ‘In the darkness of an ancient world — on a shore that time has forgotten – there is a twilight zone between life and death. Here dwell those nameless creatures who are condemned to prowl the land eternally — the Walking Dead.” That’s right, this movie used Twilight Zone two years before Rod Serling and 46 years before the comic book. And wow, zombies sure got different a decade or so later.

The Zombies of Mora Tau is one of four movies on Arrow Video’s new Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman set along with Creature with the Atom BrainThe Werewolf and The Giant Claw. Each film has a 1080p blu ray presentation, along with a fully illustrated 60-page collector’s book featuring extensive new writing by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper, as well as 80-page collector’s art book featuring reproduction stills and artwork from each film and new writing by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette, the former artist of Swamp Thing. Plus, you get two double-sided posters featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin and reversible sleeves for each movie with original and newly commissioned artwork for each film by Matt Griffin.

The Zombies of Mora Tau has plenty of extras, including an introduction by Kim Newman, commentary by critic Kat Ellinger, a visual essay exploring the intersection of mythical horror creatures and the rational world of science in the films of Sam Katzman by critic Josh Hurtado, the theatrical trailer and an image gallery.

You can get this set from MVD.