Repost: The Devil’s Hand (1961)

Editor’s Note: We reviewed this way back on November 22, 2018, during one of our first Mill Creek blowouts with the Chilling Classic film pack of 50 movies. Now Mill Creek’s brought it back as part of their Gorehouse Greats 12-pack. Two box sets, twice the movie fun!

Also known as Witchcraft, The Naked Goddess, Devil’s Doll and Live to Love, this black and white film is all about some people in Los Angeles who want to be ahead of the Black House’s curve in San Francisco and start worshipping Satan…err, Gamba, the Great Devil God.

Probably the most interesting thing that I can tell you about this movie is that Chess Records released Baker Harris and the Knightmares’ “Theme from ‘The Devil’s Hand.” No word on how many people bought it.

Rick Turner (Robert Alda, Father Michael from the bastardized version of Bava’s Lisa and the Devil that was retitled The House of Exorcism, which strangely enough also has a similar plot to this movie, so Satan has to be behind this coincidence) keeps seeing a succubus, a nearly nude vision of a woman dancing in the clouds. Soon, he has come to a doll shop that has one in the exact image of his dreams, which is a likeness of Bianca Milan (Linda Christian, the first Bond girl).

Understandably, his girlfriend Donna (Ariadna Welter, El Vampiro) is freaked out when she finds a doll that looks just like herself. Rick is too after the shop owner Frank Lamont (Neil Hamilton, Commissioner Gordon from TV’s Batman) knows him by name. He also refuses to sell Donna her doll, instead stabbing it and causing her no end of pain.

Of course, while his lady is in the hospital, Rick becomes Bianca’s lover. She’s been sending thoughts into his mind and wants him to join her cult and takes him to a meeting, where Gamba decides if a woman lives or dies when his wheel of knives descends on a woman. She lives, but a cult member takes photos of the event.

Donna is cured by midnight and released from the hospital. There are bigger problems, as the cultist who took the photo is a reporter who Frank curses and kills like Dr. Lavey cutting out photos of Jayne Mansfield.

Soon, the cult is having another meeting to test Rick, asking him to choose if Donna lives or dies. Who knew being in a devil cult had so many meetings? It seems like an awful lot of commitment to make. He chooses her and all of the cult dies in a fire.

The film ends quite ambiguously for when it was made, as the couple thinks everything is copacetic and we soon see in the skies, waiting for him. This is one weird movie, one that feels like a waking dream.

You can watch this for free on the Internet Archive or on Amazon Prime with your membership.

The Mask (1961)

When I was just getting really into psychotronic film, I was obsessed with the RE/Search book Incredibly Strange Films. It’s where I learned all about obsessions like Blast of SilenceSpider BabyGod Told Me To and the movies of Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, David F. Friedman, Ed Wood, Radley Metzger, Ray Dennis Steckler, Ted V. Mikels and many more. If you don’t have a copy, I find it indispensable even in today’s internet era.

The cover of that guide had a photo of The Mask, AKA Eyes of Hell, that blew me away. It’s at the same time so goofy looking and yet so sinister, like a piece of outlaw art ready to steal your soul.

It’s taken me around thirty years to get around to watching this movie, because I was sure that it could never live up to that image. Guess what? It’s even better.

The story itself is pretty simple. Dr. Allen Barnes (Paul Stevens, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, The Black Six) has just received a tribal mask from one of his patients who has committed suicide. Whenever he puts on the mask — which demands to be worn — he goes into a trance with visions that become more violent, like some lo-fi version of Videodrome.

The thing is, how that story is told is astounding. The dream sequences shift to 3D, with some of the most bizarre imagery to ever appear in a studio picture, seeing as how this was put out by Warner Brothers. This wasn’t some movie they hid, either. It had a ton of hype behind it and patrons even got a pair of Magic Mystic Masks to see the other world with.

The majority of the movie is just fine, but much like any time a giant monster walks into a Toho film, the movie comes alive any time you hear a voice say, “Put on The Mask!” That’s when things get out of control, with fog, flame and pseudo-occult rituals filling every part of the screen. Seriously, just wait until you see just how wild this movie gets. Somehow, it’s a drug movie in 1961 with practical effects that blows anything made today with full technology out of the ozone.

Director Julian Roffman would go on to write and produce The Glove, as well as produce another startling strange movie, The Pyx. He can claim that he made Canada’s first horror movie, of the country’s first films to be exported to the United States and its only 3D movie, too.

You can get this from Kino Lorber.

Nude on the Moon (1961)

Before we start, I have to explain.

As I look for movies that feature matriarchial societies, it seems like so many of them end up being straight-up male gaze fuelled fantasies. Or so you’d think, because while this movie was made by Anthony Brooks and O.O. Miller, only one of those names belongs to a man.

Brooks may have been Raymond Phelan (the writer, director, editor and one of the main actors of Too Young, Too Immoral), but Miller is really Doris Wishman, who Joe Bob Briggs referred to as “The greatest female exploitation film director in history.” From a series of nudist colony movies to movies with incredible names like Bad Girls Go to HellSatan Was a Lady and Let Me Die a Woman, as well as A Night to Dismember and two Eurospy films (Deadly Weapons and Double Agent 73) starring all 73-inches of the woman with the largest bust on record, Chesty Morgan.

The truth is, this movie does introduce us to a female-run society on the moon, which for some reason is the occult-created Coral Castle near Miami, but they’re all topless. Yet like many of the nudist films of the early 60’s, this comes off as quite innocent. And unlike so many of them, this movie isn’t boring.

Dr. Jeff Huntley (Lester Brown in his one and only role) has inherited millions in his uncle’s will and is finally going to the moon with his mentor, Professor Nichols (William Mayer, who shows up as in several of these movies, like Blaze Starr Goes Nudist, which was not much of a life change).

Nichols sees Huntley like a son and worries about how dangerous the moon will be. He’s old, so he’s ready to die. But he wants Huntley to live and find a wife. After all, their secretary Cathy (Marietta) is in love with him and he doesn’t see it or doesn’t care. All he wants to do is go to the moon.

They get there, wearing brightly colored spacesuits with plenty of spaces for the lack of environment on the lunar surface to kill them. But instead, you know, they end up at Coral Castle and meet an entire planet of clothing-free ladies who are led by a Moon Queen (also Marietta) who uses her psychic powers — or maybe Dr. Jeff has never seen breasts before in person — to make our young moon-obsessed friend get obsessed over her mountain peaks.

Perhaps this explains why Jack Parsons blew himself up after falling so hard for Marjorie Cameron. I mean, you become besotten with one literal Whore of Babylon and you lose your security clearance but still get a peak on the dark side of the Moon named after you.

But I digress.

For two guys who planned a trip to the moon for years, they didn’t bring enough oxygen and also leave their camera behind, so no one will believe them that the lunar surface looks more like the aforementioned Blaze Starr’s 2 O’Clock Club.

It all works out, because that’s when the hood doctor discovers that his secretary — who he’s been ignoring forever, who sits and types the same letter all night long hoping that he will notice her — looks just like the Moon Queen. They embrace, the camera dollys back to give them some privacy and then the Professor walks in on them and just looks on approvingly. He just stands there and watches and smiles to the camera.

Keep an eye out for Shelby Livingston, who just three short years later would be chopped to pieces –just a few towns away in Kissimmee, Florida — in Two Thousand Maniacs! Lacey Kelly, who was in Bunny Yeager’s Nude Camera and Common Law Wife, is also on the Moon.

There’s also a moment where the two space-loving men discuss Dr. Jeff going to a movie, as they drive past the Variety Theater, which is showing Wishman’s Hideout in the Sun. Did Dr. Jeff recognize Pat Reilly when he also saw her up there in space?

This movie also has its own theme song, which is pretty cool when you think about it. “I’m Mooning Over You (My Little Moon Doll),” which was warbled by Ralph Young over orchestration that had been arranged by — but not credited to —  Doc Severinsen.

While not the most feminist leaning film ever, we can still point to the fact that the Moon Queen does rule her planet and you know, if you can breathe the lack of air on the lunar surface — to be fair, at the end the scientists have no idea where they’ve really come back from — you can forget puritanical mumbo jumbo and just walk around unencumbered.

After all, it worked for Blaze Starr, who was smart enough to get 4% of the profits for the 1984 movies about her life, Blaze.

The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

Tor Johnson is one of those actors who was a special effect without any help. Just by showing up on screen, he’s thrilling. In this one, he’s Joseph Jaworsky, a Russian scientist who runs from the Iron Curtain and finds his way to Yucca Flats, where radiation turns him into a mute beast. All he wanted to do was give the Americans the secrets to the Russian moon landing!

American actor, writer, producer and director Coleman Francis made this, casting his sons and himself in the movie. His oeuvre, as it were, is made up of films like The Skydivers and Red Zone Cuba. People don’t just smoke in his movies. The smoking becomes central to the entire film. Kevin Murphy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 said that the themes of his movies are ” death, hatefulness, death, pain, and death.”

The police, for no real reason or trial, shoot the irradiated Tor Johnson over and over, but he lives just enough to hug a jackalope* before he dies. The police officers in Francis’ films, which often end his stories by brutally blowing away the bad guys, may be the most realistic ones in the history of movies.

Everything in this movie is dubbed. Nobody speaks on camera. Even guns are fired off-camera and then b-roll of guns being shot is cut in. The editing is such that some characters appear to have been shot to death and then arise and come back in later scenes. There’s also a murder scene in the beginning with a naked woman in the shower being choked. That scene is only in this because Francis likes shooting nude scenes.

What’s funny is that this movie predates The Incredible Hulk and seems very much like the same  origin story. Maybe that’s a coincidence. As for Tor Johnson, he would only make one more movie, appearing without credit in Head.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*The jackalope wandered on set and Tor Johnson improvised caressing it. Man, life is awesome, isn’t it?

The Choppers (1961)

Arch Hall, Jr. appears in seven movies — all uniformly pretty rough going, to be honest — but I kind of love the guy. He’s game for whatever comes his way, whether it’s this film about chopping up cars, battling a caveman in Eegah, conquering the music industry in Wild Guitar, being a maniac in The Sadist or taking advantage of the Eurospy (The Nasty Rabbit) or Western (Deadwood ’76) genres, Hall always seems just so happy to be there.

This time around, he’s Jack “Cruiser” Bryan, part of a gang of poor teens who cruise the town and rip up cars and sell the parts for money. He’s joined by Playboy September 1959 Playmate of the Month Marianne Gaba.

The Choppers will only take up sixty-six minutes of your life, which isn’t a big commitment. It was made in 1959 but not released until 1961, because producer — and obviously, the dad of Arch Hall Jr. — Arch Hall Sr. was unable to get a distribution deal that could make him his money back. He was able to release this on a double bill with Eegah.

You also get two Arch Jr. songs! We should all be so lucky!

You can watch this on Tubi.

Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis (1961)

Known elsewhere as Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis, this is the film debut of Reg Park as Hercules, or Ercole as he’s referred to in the Italian title (Ercole alla Conquista di Atlantide).

Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi, this had a complete retitle, re-edit and rescore* — as well as a title design by Filmation — before playing in America.

Strange things are happening in Greece, but Hercules — now married to Deianira with a son named Hylas — is content and comfortable with his family life. However, his son feels the call to adventure that his father once did.

That means that Androcles must take matters into his own hands, drug Hercules and take him on his ship as Hylas stows away. After refusing to take part in heroics, Hercules finally consents and battles a god named Proteus and rescues a princess of Atlantis.

But man, Atlantis is messed up. They plan on murdering the princess to keep the fog that hides them from the rest of the world. They also have this weird ritual where children are taken from their parents and forced to touch a stone made from the blood of Uranus that either transforms them into blonde-haired superhumans or makes them mutants that are cast into the pit. With an army of these Aryan-looking demigods, Queen Antinea (Fay Spain, who somehow has shown up in both this movie and William Gréfe’s The Naked Zoo) plans on conquering the universe.

The only way to stop all of this? Hercules has to tear the top of a cave off and blow up Atlantis real good. Of course, none of this has anything to do with the real myth of Hercules, but such is Italian cinema.

I read that Hercules exemplifies the characteristics of sprezzatura, or studied carelessness, or even the ability to do something extremely well without showing that it took any effort. That’s an intriguing way to look at him, especially as until midway through this, he really wants nothing to do with anything, but by the end, he’s willing to die for the men he has journeyed with and his son, who has found his way to the pit filled with the castoffs of Atlantis’ Faustian bargain with the gods.

You can download this from the Internet Archive or watch it on YouTube. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 version is also available on Tubi.

*There is a noticeable steal from Creature of the Black Lagoon in the American music.

 

The Hustler (1961)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim LaMotta is one of Pittsburgh’s premiere wrestling announcers, as well as a great writer. This article originally appeared on Steel City Underground. You can follow Jim on Twitter.

In another example of the “Mr. Braddock classics,” I originally saw The Hustler a few decades after its 1961 debut as my dad recorded it from the Turner Classic Movies channel, a network that shows films uncut and unedited, and had the name of the movie written in blue pen on the VHS tape. A side note, my uncle, the late legendary, Willie Visconti actually ran a pool room in Braddock, PA in the 1970s. The Braddock Free Press once ran a note about his birthday, January 7th, describing him as “the popular proprietor” of the Braddock Recreation Center. As mentor to my dad in many ways, Uncle Willie let him run the hall when he was busy, despite the fact that my dad was still in his teenage years. Between the Pepsi machine, pool tables, and some concessions, the venue remained popular for most of that era before Uncle Willie decided to sell the building and take part ownership in a small convenience store in Braddock until he passed in the early-90s. To this day, my dad really enjoys telling stories about his late mentor and it’s always comical when he recounts the many times that Uncle Willie would “randomly” show up to visit when he knew my dad was cooking. “Oh, Jim, you cookin?” “Yeah, Will, why don’t you come in and eat?” “Oh well, I guess so, I’m here now.” I have to say up front that this film is really an incredible example of American cinema and those much better versed in the interpretation of film have done much better analysis of the movie, but after I saw it in my middle school years, my appreciation for the complex narrative has only grown since that time. Initially seeing it more than half my lifetime ago, the Robert Rossen-directed drama went from just a cool movie about pool with charismatic characters to an example of some of the resounding themes of life as I watched it through older eyes. Based on Walter Tevis’ 1959 novel of the same name, the film unites an all-star cast to chronicle the turbulent travels of “Fast” Eddie Felson, a pool hustler brilliantly played by the legendary Paul Newman. Before he had a “Cool Hand,” made sauce for charity, or buckled up as a race car driver, Newman took aim with a pool stick to portray “Fast” Eddie, who some have speculated was based on real-life pool shark, Eddie Parker, but even before this iconic role, Newman, who has dozens of notable titles on his resume, was already considered a major name in the industry with roles in A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Exodus, and other films.

The opening scene is simplistic in its presentation, but reveals the theme of the film to the audience, it’s all about the hustle. Fast Eddie and his backer Charlie, played by Myron McCormick, stroll into a small bar that has “pool” advertised in the windows. The pair of pals claim they are appliance salesmen on their way to a convention in Pittsburgh the next day, but stopped off on their drive for a drink and some retreat from the muggy weather before they complete the final two hours of the trip. They start a friendly game, with Felson indulging in an occasional whiskey between shots before the supposed salesman wants to wager a few dollars against Charlie. The games continue as the two exchange wins before an apparently intoxicated Felson makes an incredibly difficult shot to finish a game. Charlie wagers that Eddie can’t hit the shot again and his near staggering pal misses before protesting that he wants to make another bet. Charlie, not wanting to take advantage of his bumbling buddy, declines and heads to the car. However, the spectators in the bar are more than eager to take some easy cash, including the hard-nosed bartender. The stumbling Felson empties his pocket of $105, a week of commission for the biggest bet of the afternoon as the bartender matches it right from the cash register, not wanting to let the chance at easy money pass him by before Felson sobers up. With the cue ball and the eight ball in place, “Fast Eddie” gives up a slight smile before he connects on the trick shot, taking the cash with him. The next shot shows Eddie with a smile as he hands Charlie his portion of the winnings, inviting the audience in on the game, the partners worked the spectators into believing that Felson was drunk, but the facade was only to get them to put their money on the table before he took them for the most money possible. It’s all about the hustle.

In a direct contrast, the next scene finds the two pool partners at their actual next destination, the next pool hall on the road to find some action. However, this particular establishment has “Billiards”  printed on the windows instead, the proper name alone suggesting it’s a more serious venue. Upon their arrival, a sign at the front desk ironically says, “no gambling allowed” and the gruff manager informs them, “no bar, no pinball, just pool” as the gullible onlookers from the previous day are replaces with unimpressed viewers around the room this time. Without booze as a potential set up, the two have to look for another angle and Felson finds it as he begins to confidently brag about how much money he’s going to win, proclaiming a goal of $10,000 in one night. One of the locals walks over and lets Fast Eddie knows the patrons of this pool room are well aware of his hustling reputation, and that if he’s there to play Minnesota Fats, the kingpin with legendary status among the smokey nine-ball tables, he should think twice about it. The gritty guy attempts to insult Charlie, who Felson fiercely defends, setting the record straight that Charlie is an equal partner, an aspect that provides some insight into their friendship. But with Felson’s pride insulted with the notion that he can’t defeat Minnesota Fats, he becomes determined to show up the well-known player.

As promised, Jackie Gleason struts into the pool hall at exactly 8 PM with a lavish overcoat and his hair slicked, nothing out of place to distract from the presence he brings to the smoke-filled room. After introductions are made, the terms of the game are agreed upon and Fast Eddie gets to square off with Minnesota Fats. Gleason’s work here is top-notch because with Fats’ introduction to the film, his lines aren’t anything profound, but the way he presents the character brings depth to the persona. When he glides around the table, finding the perfect angle for each shot and calling them in the process, his body language projects that pool isn’t a game for him, it’s a serious business. As he focused in on a shot, he put down his lit cigarette because it’s not a leisure time for him, it’s his work as he precisely dust the cue stick with chalk to ensure a clean shot.

With an upbeat jazz tune to accompany it, a montage shows the hours wear on with the shots, the racks, and the money exchanged. Gleason has the advantage before his opponent gets a chance to take over the game, but “Fast” Eddie begins to spout about his skills while he aggressively sinks shots in each pocket, suggesting this exhibition is more about ego than business for him. The jazz rejoins us and the montage continues, this time with odds tilting in Felson’s favor. When Charlie tells Eddie that he won $1,000 so far, the hustler wants to up the bet, asking Fats’ if they can wage a thousand a game. Gleason accepts, calling for a drink and the arrival of his financial backer, George C. Scott’s Bert Gordon, who arrogantly sips a glass of milk in the pool room as he viewers the game. More jazz brings along another montage of called shots, racks, and Charlie nervously chain-smoking from the sidelines. After 25 hours and $18,000 of profit, a weary Felson is slumped in a chair. Fast Eddie refuses to conclude the game until Minnesota Fats says it’s over. Despite Charlie’s pleas, Eddie angrily grabs his cue stick while he chugs more whiskey. On the flip side, Gleason is diligently washing his hands and getting cleaned up before he slips the suit jacket back on to continue the game. Felson ignored the most important rule of gambling, you have to known when to walk away. Bert Gordon smirks from his chair, knowing that Eddie is in over his head and he looks to take joy in Felson’s downfall.

Not surprisingly, Felson loses everything except his original $200 start up cash. Ironically, the actual intoxicated Felson couldn’t keep pace with the pro that Gleason was. As Eddie stumbled around the table, Minnesota Fats looks on with a combination of concern and disappointment while Bert gleefully enjoys the foolish display. Gleason rejects the offer to play a final game for the remaining $200, mercifully sparing Felson some money and leaves the pool hall. Still drunk and almost delirious from the lack of sleep, Eddie collapses, prompting Charlie to check on his fallen protegee. Back at the hotel, Eddie stays true to his word, leaving his partner half of the remaining cash and goes to the bus station, where he meets Sarah Packard at the diner. Still hung over, Felson falls asleep in the booth, but when he goes to the bar at the bus station he runs into Piper Laurie’s character again. With booze to replace the coffee from earlier, the two actually get to know each other, revealing that they both ended up at the bus station that morning simply because they had no where else to go. Sarah explains she enjoys a drink and attends a few college classes during the week, sounding as if her plan was more to pass the time than to pursue any higher education.

Without much in common other than a lack of direction in life, the two lonely souls decide to get a bottle of scotch and go to Sarah’s apartment. They kiss at her door way before she reconsiders the plan, and Eddie leaves quietly, finding a cheap dingy hotel room for the night. He hustles a few dollars at a low-end pool hall the next day before he goes back to the diner for coffee when he’s reunited with Sarah. This time they go back to her apartment and the next scene finds them discussing their plans the next day. Again, they seem to be brought together more by desperation than anything since Eddie is too embarrassed to meet up with him mentor and Sarah seems to be hopelessly lonely. With her school books, groceries, and booze in tow, Sarah arrives home the following day and we find that Eddie has brought over his belongings from the shady motel room. Despite barely knowing him, Sarah allows Eddie to stay with her. Eddie insists on paying for his share of the groceries, providing a level of depth to the character. He might be pool shark, but he believes in fairness for those not involved in the hustle. He even suggest that Sarah shouldn’t drink and get help before a knock at the door reveals that Charlie found Eddie.

A tense discussion shows that Felson wanted a rematch with Minnesota Fats while Charlie wants to go back on the road. Charlie explains that he doesn’t care about the money Eddie lost in the game, showing that their friendship isn’t just about dollars and cents. Charlie reveals that he saved some of the winnings for him, but Eddie refuses his offer to return to the road, ending their partnership in the pool rooms. With sadness in his eyes, Charlie leaves the apartment, a sign of the end of their friendship as well.

A few weeks later, we find Sarah next to a half empty bottle of scotch and as Eddie gets ready to go to the next local dive bar to find some action, even intoxicated, she finally makes some realistic statements about their relationship and the fact they don’t really know each other. Instead of finding pool, Eddie runs into Bert Gordon at the bar, who offers to become his new money backer with the proposition that takes a hefty portion of the winnings for fronting the cash. When Bert won’t budge on the percentage of the offer, Eddie refuses before Bert gives him a warning about walking into the wrong pool room. That night, Felson goes to hustle at the wrong place and a group of thugs breaks both of his thumbs, taking him out of the pool scene indefinitely.

The next scene finds Eddie at the door and when Sarah answers, she finds him bruised with the broken appendages. The next few weeks show her finding stability through caring for Eddie, as she opts not to get a drink when she writes an assignment for class. The two enjoy a picnic and Eddie discusses the possibility of defeating Minnesota Fats if he stays focused. After that we see him approach the apartment door with his hands out of the casts and his thumbs healed as he surprises Sarah with the news of his recovery. He thanks her for caring for him through the injury. She might be an alcoholic, but this sequence shows that a flaw instead of necessarily someone’s defining trait. The same way Eddie’s mishaps in the game against Fats didn’t define him as a pool hustler.

Speaking of the game with Fats, Eddie is back at the bar where the original game took place to practice, attempting to get some flexibility back in his hands. He runs into Bert Gordon, who heard about the incident at the dive bar. Bert emphasizes the importance of character in winning, offering again to back him on the road and eventually in another game with Gleason. This time, Felson accepts and tells Sarah that he will be traveling to Louisville with Bert to hustle some games against wealthy businessmen at a lavish party. Sarah gets drunk and hysterical, as she fears Eddie will decide to leave her. In the drunken rant she reveals that her father left the family when she was young and now sends her money to make up for it, but won’t be involved in her life so she has financial security, but feels completely unwanted by her family. This scene reveals just how flawed and fractured she is from the trauma in her life.

To reassure Sarah, Eddie makes arrangements for her to take the trip with them. Upon their arrival, while Eddie is practicing, Bert takes the opportunity to tell Sarah that he only tolerated her on the trip because of the money to be made from Felson’s pool hustling. After they attend some horse races, the trio meet up with Findley, played by Murray Hamilton, who famously had the role of Mayor Larry Vaughn in the 1975 classic, Jaws. Bert arranged the game with Findley, who invites his guests to the party that evening. Knowing that Eddie is being exploited, Sarah gets drunk at the party while Eddie loses, by design, to the snarky businessman. She begs him to leave, but after Eddie sends her back to the hotel, Bert agrees to back him for $1,000 a game. At the end of the night, Findley owes $12,000 and Bert looks satisfied while Eddie seems disappointed because of the argument with Sarah earlier in the night. Even getting his share of the cash, Eddie is disgusted with himself because he argued with Sarah just to win money. Despite the arrival of a cab, he opts to walk to the hotel, which meant Bert arrived first. Finally showing what a coward he is underneath the tailor-made suit, Bert takes a drink before he enters Sarah’s room and fabricates a story that Eddie wants her to leave. When Felson gets back to the hotel, he finds the authorities in his room and that Sarah committed suicide in the bathroom because she thought she was abandoned again. Bert sheepishly tries to explain what happened before Eddie jumps at him, pummeling the shady businessman before the police restrain him.

Back at the billiards hall, “Fast” Eddie shows up to challenge Minnesota Fats in a rematch at $3,000 a game, his share from the Louisville trip that led to Sarah’s death. With Bert watching from his usual spot, Eddie, focused more on a form of self redemption than proving anything to anyone else, takes Bert to task. As he sinks each pool ball with precision, Eddie tells the businessman that his lavish lifestyle doesn’t make up for his lack of character, as he only knows how to exploit others for his own personal gain without knowing the true value of anything. Eventually, Minnesota Fats hauls the games, acknowledging that Eddie is the better player on this occasion. As the pool shark puts his stick back in its case, Bert Gordon has the audacity to attempt to collect a percentage of the winnings, referencing their deal in Louisville. Gleason looks concerned for Eddie’s safety when Bert reveals that he was the one who had Felson’s thumbs broken in the dive bar. Newman does an incredible job in this scene with lines where Eddie explains that Bert could get his thugs to break his thumbs again, but he would come back to kill Bert if there was anything left of the broken pieces. Knowing the hustler was serious, Bert agrees to let Eddie walk, but cautions him that his career as a pool shark is over.

Eddie’s run as a hustler was finished anyway because he realized the value of friendship and companionship were much more important than his reputation as a pool hustler or the money that came along with it. In some ways, Eddie has to lose everything to understand what was actually important in the first place. Almost 60 years after its original release The Hustler remains one of the most stellar examples of character development, storytelling, and drama in the history of American film.

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Hammer had already made films for Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, and The Mummy. Surely it was time for the werewolf, with this being the first furry horror film shot in color, as well as Oliver Reed’s first starring role.

This wolf — Leon — has a wild origin story. His mother (Yvonne Romain, Devil Doll) was a mute jailer’s daughter who was assaulted by a beggar who had the gall to complain at a nobelman’s wedding and ends up imprisoned for 18 years. She had turned down the rich man herself and was sent to the dungeons, which caused her to be impregnated. Once released to “entertain” the nobleman, she kills him instead and runs into the forest.

She gives birth and dies. Because the beggar had died right after attacking her, that makes young Leon an orphan. He’s raised by Don Alfredo Corledo and his housekeeper Teresa. As he was born on Christmas Day, that means that he’s cursed to become a werewolf, already hunting for the blood of goats before he’s even out of puberty.

Leon finds work in a winery, but become despondent when he realizes that his station in life will never allow him to marry the owner’s daughter. When a co-worker takes him to a house of ill repute, his wolf nature comes out and he ends up killing one of the girls and his friend.

Too late, our hero learns that the love of a good woman can keep the wolf in check. Seriously, British werewolves are crazy, because you can become one without being bitten. You just need to not be born on December 25th. And man, if you’re unlucky in love, people are going to get, well, wolfed down.

Eventually, Leon’s adoptive father must make a silver bullet and take care of matters. All of this period drama longing seems to take forever to get to that transformation though. I remember this airing on UHF TV in my single digit years and just fiending for the moment that the man became wolf. It takes nearly sixty minutes of the movie’s 93-minute run time before we get to see Reed go fully hirsute.

Before being released, the British Board of Film Classification gave Hammer Films this edict: This movie could either have scenes of sex or violence, but not both. So they went with violence.

The publicity shots for this and the images of Reed in full werewolf mode were pretty popular. The actual film doesn’t live up to what was in my mind as a kid, but it’s still pretty fun.

Espiritismo (1961)

Benito also directed Munecos InfernalesSanto vs. the Zombies and the astoundingly titled Frankenstein el Vampiro y Compania. This time, he’s sending his movie up north where Espiritismo will become Spiritism thanks to K. Gordon Murray.

This goes the Monkey’s Paw one better by having Satan himself grant the wishes. I mean, when the Lord of Lies is giving things away, that’s when you start questioning things.

This movie features a character so clueless that she goes to a seance for herself, which sounds like a joke I should be saving for the next time someone wants to play The Dozens against me.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Munecos Infernales (1961)

Better known by its U.S. title Curse of the Doll People, this movie was directed by Benito Alazraki, who also was behind Santo contra Los Zombies and Espiritismo, both made the same year as this film.

Four men have stolen an idol from a voodoo priest. I don’t have to tell you what a bad idea that is in any country. Soon, evil dolls begin killing their family members years before we even heard of Puppet Master. It’s actually based on the book Burn Witch Burn! by A. Merritt, which has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. That British-American film was originally called Night of the Eagle and based on the Fritz Leiber novel Conjure Wife.

Speaking of that movie, it had a Paul Frees-narrated prologue in which he read a protective spell for the audience, who were also given further occult defenses via a special pack of salt and the words to an ancient incantation.

This movie has no such assurances.

K. Gordon Murray, who brought The Brainiac and Santa Claus up north, as well as the writer of Shanty Tramp, also brought this movie to America, but not before adding some new scenes.

Ramon Gay, who was in all of the Aztec Mummy films, stars. He was one of the brightest lights in Mexican cinema when a dispute over the affections of the actress Evangelina Elizondo ended with her estranged husband shooting Gay dead.

You can watch this on Tubi.