El Grito de La Muerte (1959)

The Screaming Death was directed by Fernando Méndez, who also made El VampiroThe Black Pit of Dr. M and Ladrón de Cadáveres. It was written by Ramón Obón, the screenwriter of the first Mil Mascaras movies, as well as the director and writer of Cien Gritos de Terror.

The American version — The Living Coffin — was remixed for U.S. audiences by K. Gordon Murray, who did a lot of that and really didn’t ever bother consulting the source material.

Gastón (Gastón Santos, a former bullfighter who played himself in many of his movies) and his sidekick Coyote Loco (Pedro de Aguillón) arrive in a town haunted by La Llorona, the crying woman. Maria (María Duval) believes that the red idol that Gastón is carrying was carved by her deceased aunt Clotilde. And the locals think that that woman is, in fact, the crying woman killing the townsfolk.

The film looks great and mixes gothic horror with western action, but never gets going. But it’s an awesome idea and I’ll keep looking out for the perfect horror in the west.

Misterios de ultratumba (1959)

Released as The Black Pit of Dr. M in the U.S., this movie explores man’s fascination with what comes after this world.

Dr. Mazali (Rafael Bertrand) and Dr. Jacinto Aldama (Antonio Raxel) make a bet with one another: whoever dies first will return to tell the other what happens after death. Aldama goes first and appears to Mazali during a seance, telling him that within three months, he will know everything about the afterlife.

Aldama’s ghost leads Patricia (Mapita Cortés) — also his daughter, but that’s a spoiler — to the insane asylum Mazali leads. The older doctor falls for her, but she and an intern named Eduardo (Gastón Santos) are in love. He also lets another inmate out of her cell and she instantly burns an orderly with acid right to the face. She’s murdered, Mazali takes the fall and heads to the gallows, proving that he will indeed soon know the afterlife.

While most early Mexican horror repeats the Universal horror movies and most Americans only know lucha movies to be the rest of the genre output from south of the border, the truth is that there are moments of sheer gothic dread for those willing to look. I’d definitely recommend this movie — the opening with the mental patients filling the frame is harrowing and a man rises from his grave in an incredibly unsettling fashion — as well as Hasta el Viento Tiene Miedo.

This was dubbed into English at one point, but that print is believed to be lost.

You can watch this on YouTube.

 

Uncle Was a Vampire (1959)

Baron Osvaldo Lambertenghi (Renato Rascel, who represented Italy in the 1960 Eurovision contest and acted in several films) has sold his ancestral castle and stays on as a porter, which he does without complaint until the day that his uncle Baron Roderico da Frankurte (Christopher Lee) arrives.

Roderico is a vampire, in case you didn’t read the title.  Osvaldo tries to tell the guests, but they think he’s crazy, at which point he gets bitten too. This was made nearly instantly after Hammer’s Horror of Dracula and if he wasn’t a big enough box office star to get people to show up, Sylva Koscina from Hercules is here as well. So is Susanne Loret (Atom Age Vampire), Kai Fischer (The Hellfire Club) and Lia Zoppelli (who was in Toto and Cleopatra) are also on board.

Director Steno is mostly known for comedy films, like his films with Toto, Banana Joe with Bud Spencer, Dr. Jekyll Likes Them Hot with Edwige Fenech and Man, Beast and Virtue, which had Toto and Orson Welles in the same movie.

For Hammer fans, you can almost consider this a lost Lee Dracula, except that the humor and the horrible dubbing Lee got may take you out of the movie.

MILL CREEK DRIVE-IN MOVIE CLASSICS: Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s repeat time — Sam already watched this one on September 30, 2020, but it’s in this Mill Creek box set too.

Filmed at the same time as Ski Troop Attack and released on a double bill with The Wasp Woman, this Monte Hellman movie would mark the first of his many projects with Roger Corman.

Hellman would say, “What interested me about it was that it really wasn’t a monster movie. Roger liked Key Largo very much. I think that was one of his favorite movies. He kept making Key Largo just different versions of it. In this case he added a monster to it.

As for the titular beast, Hellman would say, “They literally spent two dollars at the dime store. It was mostly angel hair and paper mache monster.” The crew nicknamed the beast Humphrass. It was created and operated by Chris Robinson, who would go on to play the lead in William Grefé’s Stanley.

Basically, a gang gets together and tries to steal some gold, but ends up waking this monster and, well, bad things happen.

Linné Ahlstrand, who plays the doomed barmaid Natalie, was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month for July 1958 and Richard Sinatra, who plays Marty, was a cousin of Ol’ Blue Eyes. It’s things like that that sell a movie, you know.

There was a sequel planned — that’s why this ends like it does — but it never happened. However, Corman would pretty much make the movie all over again in 1961 and call it Creature from Haunted Sea.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)

Based on the play The Man in Half Moon Street, which was already made into a movie in 1945 and a TV movie 18 months before this was released, this Terrence Fisher-directed film was originally going to star Peter Cushing. However, the actor was exhausted following The Hound of the Baskervilles and stepped out six days before filming was to begin.

Hammer threatened him with legal action, but since there was no contract, there wasn’t much they could do. The lead role went to Anton Diffring, who had previously played the part of Dr. Georges Bonnet in the aforementioned TV version of the story that had appeared on the British show Hour of Mystery.

Released in the U.S. by Paramount, it played drive-ins until well into the 1960s, supporting Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as late as 1965.

This is the story of playboy scientist and sculptor Dr. Georges Bonnet, who may look like a vibrant thirtysomething but is truly 104-years-old, staying alive through parathyroid gland transplants every decade. His personal surgeon, Professor Ludwig Weiss, can no longer operate after his stroke, so Bonnet must drink a steaming green drink to get a month of youth at a time. Now, the hunt is on to find a new surgeon to complete his vitality regimen.

The police start catching on to Bonnet, as models go missing every time he needs a transplant. Or maybe they just want to arrest him for obscenity — the European release of the film featured a scene in which Court appeared topless, which is cut from the UK and U.S. prints and has been lost — as he loves sculpting nude ladies like Janine Dubois (Hazel Court, who was my favorite character in The Masque of the Red Death, Julianna).

Of course, our antagonist soon finds himself running out of options and death starts creeping up on him, at which point he starts killing a number of models and surgeons. He also rekindles his romance with Janine, but it’s to no avail. Time comes for all men, even The Man Who Could Cheat Death.

And hey! Christopher Lee is a surgeon in this!

It’s a bit talky, but hey, Hammer is Hammer. It’s definitely a high class operation all the way and you could see how a lesser studio would make this much scummier. There’s always a veneer of class even when topless art models are having their glands harvested when this studio makes the picture.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Repost: Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Editor’s Note: We reviewed this third drive-in feature from television director Bernard Kowalksi on January 6, 2020, just because, no Mill Creek inducement required. We’re bringing it back as part of our three day “Bernard Kowalksi Week” tribute. For when you’re dealing with Bernard Kowalksi, you repost reviews of old to make readers aware of his greatness.

Gene Corman broke into the film industry before his brother Roger, working as an agent before becoming vice president of MCA, representing such clients as Joan Crawford, Fred MacMurray, Richard Conte, Harry Belafonte and Ray Milland.

By the late 50’s, he moved to produce his own films before starting his own producing unit at MGM. and then becoming vice-president of 20th Century Fox Television.

This film is directed by Bernard L. Kowalski, who also created Night of the Blood Beast and Sssssss. It was written by Leo Gordon, who had hundreds of roles as an actor, as well as being the author of movies like The Wasp WomanThe Cry Baby Killer and Hot Car Girl.

Did you know that there are larger than human intelligent leeches that live in the Florida Everglades? Yep. There sure are.

Those leeches love nothing more than dragging human beings down into their underwater caves and slowly feeding off their blood.

Liz Walker (Yvette Vickers, who was Playboy‘s July 1959 Playmate of the Month in a centerfold that was photographed by Russ Meyer; she’s also the girl who starts all the trouble by cheating with the husband of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) is the first victim. Again, she plays a loose woman who is cheating on her husband, so she and her new man must pay.

Game warden Steve Benton (Ken Clark, who was Dick Malloy in the Agent 077 series of films), his girlfriend Nan Grayson and her doctor father are the heroes here and they deal with the leeches in the way that we all knew they would: they use dynamite to blow them up real good.

So yeah. Giant leeches. Wanton women. Dynamite. Cheap film making.

How cheap? Corman didn’t want to pay the grips the extra money for pushing the camera raft in the water, so at first, the director did it, then his brother and finally Corman himself. The cold water led to Corman getting pneumonia and ending up in the hospital. And yes, that is the same music from Night of the Blood Beast. The exact same music is also in Beast from the Haunted Cave.

This movie had some legs. In 1959, it played a double bill with A Bucket of Blood. Then, a year later, it ran alongside Corman’s brother’s film House of Usher. It was also remade in 2008 by Brett Kelly and written by Jeff O’Brien in a film that starred no one you’ve ever heard of.

You can watch this on Tubi with and without commentary from Mystery Science Theater. It’s in the public domain, so you can also grab it from the Internet Archive and watch it on Amazon Prime.

Rymdinvasion i Lappland (1959)

EDITOR’S NOTE: How about I already watched this back on January 7 of last year? Oh well — this time I went deeper into the original vesion of this movie.

In Sweden, this name’s title translates as Space Invasion of Lapland. Internationally, it was Terror In the Midnight Sun. And in America, after it was purchased by Associated Distributors Productions Inc. — Jerry Warren’s company — it became Invasion of the Animal People.

Warren is legendary to me because sure, he took movies from other countries and sliced and diced them, but many of the foreign movies that he brought to America would have been seen here otherwise.

Mexican (Bullet for Billy the Kid, La Momia Azteca — which became Attack of the Mayan Mummy and Face of the Screaming Werewolf, which also has scenes from La Casa del Terror), La Marca del Muerto which was Warren’s Creature of the Walking Dead), Brazilian (The Violent and the Damned) Swedish, (No Time to Kill, X) and Chilean films (La Casa está Vacía and La Dama de la Muerte edited to make Curse of the Stone Hand) all went through the Warren blender, during which he would cut out the original dialogue, shoot new scenes in which the American actors would give the exposition and also feature scenes of people talking to one another. Somehow, he got to keep making these movies and made some money. Warren even released two singles at this time with his band The Pets, “Streets of Love” and “Monkey Walk.”

Sadly, after The Wild World of Batwoman, Warren would stop making movies for 15 years, coming back to just make one more, Frankenstein Island.

Sure, Warren did movies on his own, but we’re here to discuss his cut and paste career, which starts here. The funny thing is that the original film was shot in English and by all accounts made narrative sense. The remix, however, does not.

There’s an entire framing device that adds twenty minutes to the movie before we get to the UAP that’s flying over Sweden and also John Carradine as your narrator. That’s because according to Swedish producer Bertil Jernberg, his co-producer Gustaf Unger had told him that Paramount was buying their film, then sold it. to Warren and kept all the money.

So yeah — Warren cut the movie down by 18-minutes and still was able to add footage, which I call being really great at math. Now, Diane Wilson has been involved with alien craft before and there are also some ham radio operators who show up, take time away from the main tale and never show up again. Some of the cut footage did, however, come back when this movie was sold to syndication and that footage is a Jerry Warren trademark — people sit around and discuss the action we’ve seen already.

You can download the original version of this movie on the Internet Archive.

Prince of Space (1959)

Planet Prince was a 1958 Japanese tokusatsu made by Toei Films that was made in the wake of the success of Super Giant (Starman in the U.S.) that went from a 49 episode TV series to two theatrical movies — Planet Prince and Planet Prince: The Terrifying Spaceship — released one week apart.

Prince of Space is both of those movies smashed together, edited and dubbed into English. His enemy, the Ambassador Phantom of the Silver Planet, has been renamed Dictator Phantom of the Planet Krankor. To make things even goofier, the American translation of our hero’s real name — Waku-san — is Wally. Hey everyone! Here’s Wally to save the world!

The Dictator Phantom is really pretty great. He looks like a chicken masked Darth Vader and is given to saying things like, “Come on out or we’re gonna kill some children!” and “I will arrive tomorrow night at precisely eight o’clock. At that time I shall make my wishes known to you. You will obey them…or die! Have a pleasant night’s sleep!”

The man who wrote all this, Masaru Igami, was also behind Johnny Sokko and His Flying RobotKamen Rider and Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds.

You can watch this on YouTube.

 

The Rebel Set (1959)

For a movie that promises “The big jolt from Beatsville!” this movie really delivers a pretty standard crime movie, with the owner of a coffee shop (Edward Platt from Get Smart) hiring three of his beatnik customers to be part of a robbery.

Gene Fowler, Jr., who directed this, was mainly known as an editor. Probably his best known work in that endeavor would be It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He also directed a few other movies, including I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Married a Monster from Outer Space. He was also an uncredited director on the 1978 film The Astral Factor.

I. Stanford Jolley, who was the voice of The Crimson Ghost in that famous movie serial, plays a beat poet named King Invader, which is a great name.

You can watch the Mystery Science Theater version of this movie on Tubi or download the original cut from the Internet Archive.

Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)

“We are the angel mutants
The streets for us seduction
Our cause unjust and ancient
In this B film born invasion”

The Misfits, “Teenagers from Mars”

Teenagers from Outer Space was written, produced and directed* by its star Tom Graeff, who sold the movie to Warner Brothers and made no money from it. It did play a double bill with Gigantis the Fire Monster, which is really Godzilla Raids Again.

Shortly after making this movie, Graeff decided to change his name to Jesus Christ II, saying that God had shown him truth and love. In his second — His second? — ad in the Los Angeles Times, Graeff even listed semons at churches. However, when he applied to have his name legally changed, the Christian Defense League fought to keep that from happening. He also took out an ad in Variety in 1968 claiming that he’d sold a screenplay for more than anyone in the history of movies. After the ad appeared, he was publicly attacked by LA Times columnist Joyce Haber. Graeff claimed that Robert Wise and Carl Reiner were part of this movie, so Haber outed him as Jesus Christ II. Graeff’s career was over and a few years later, he would kill himself by carbon monoxide poisoning.

It also turned out that Graeff and David Love, who played Derek the alien in this, were lovers in a time where that could destroy careers.

This is somehow a movie about Thor — producer Bryan Grant, who had to sue to get his money for this film — searching for Gargons, a lobster creature that’s a delicacy across the galaxy. He also likes to shoot lasers at dogs. Meanwhile, the alien teen Derek, a member of the underground, escapes and runs wild on Earth.

This is the very definition of a movie made on a budget. Masking tape is used as costume decorations on surplus military uniforms for the aliens, while stock footage takes the place of special effects. The same skeleton is used for every dead body, a toy laser gun and a sound mixer — clearly labeled as a multichannel mixer — shows up as alien equipment and all of the music used comes from library cues. You’ll recognize it from other low budget films like Red Zone CubaThe Killer Shrews and Night of the Living Dead.

Yet Graeff was kind of a genius, as he invented a process called Cinemagraph that allowed him to pre-recorded some of the film’s dialog for several scenes and synch it with the actors reading their lines later.

Sadly, the stress of making this film, its failure and the dissolution of his friendship with the producer caused his decline.

*He also did the cinematography, special effects, and music coordination.