Premature Burial (1962)

The third of Roger Corman’s Poe movies, this time Corman decided that he wanted to make his own Por film outside of his deal with American-International Pictures. He got his financing through Pathé Lab, the company that did the print work for AIP.

While he wanted to use Vincent Price, he had an exclusive deal with AIP, so he hired Ray Milland.

Then, on the first day of shooting, James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff of AIP showed up, told Corman they were working together again and excited that they’d convinced Pathé to bring the movie back to them after threatening to pull all their lab work.

Guy Carrell (Milland) is a British aristocrat who suffers from catalepsy and worries that he will only appear dead and be buried alive. This nearly ruins his marriage to Emily (Hazel Court, who shows up in so many movies that I love, such as The Raven and The Masque of the Red Death) as he goes mad at the slightest mention of death and even passes out when she plays the piano. But hey — they get married anyways, even if he makes an incredibly complex coffin that he can escape from.

Let me tell you, the dream sequence where he does get buried alive? I saw it before I was ten when forced to visit the home of other children instead of getting to watch movies at home alone, as I have preferred my entire life. They went and played some game and I grabbed the TV Guide and found a horror movie. That sequence completely destroyed me and I remember walking onto their porch and staring into the sunset and wondering how the adults could be so carefree when death was stalking our every waking moment. Yeah, I was a weird kid and grew up to be even more odd.

But hey — Dick Miller shows up as a grave robber!

You can watch this on Tubi.

Captain Clegg (1962)

Based on the Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn series of books by Russell Thorndike — just like Disney’s The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh which was released a year later — this Hammer film was called Night Creatures* in the U.S.

A sailor (Milton Reid, who wrestled as The Mighty Chang and showed up in three Bond movies) has his tongue removed fromhis mouth and is left behind to die on an island after attacking the wife of pirate captain Nathaniel Clegg.

However, when we get back to England, the prevailing theory is that Clegg has been hung by the Royal Navy and rests in the Romney Marsh. However, by night, glowing spectral riders known as the Marsh Phantoms are terrorizing the people of the village of Dymchurch.

Captain Collier rescued that sailor and keeps him as a slave. He arrives in the village to investigate rumors of smuggling, attacking bars and safehouses before he finds a secret passage in the home of Jeremiah Mipps (Michael Ripper), a coffin maker, that leads to the smugglers’ headquarters. When the mute sailor goes into their lair, he meets clergyman Dr. Blyss (Peter Cushing), who he attacks and even tries to open the grave of Clegg.

Is Clegg still alive? Is he one of the phantoms that roam the night? Are the villagers in on it? All of these questions have very easy answers, but this film has so much style that you just enjoy it. It’s directed by Peter Graham Scott, who created Into the Labyrinth, which aired in the U.S. as part of Nickelodeon’s The Third Eye, along with The Haunting of Cassie Palmer, Under the Mountain, Children of the Stones and The Witches and the Grinnygog. It was written by Anthony Hinds, who wrote a ton of films for Hammer, including The Curse of the Werewolf**, The Kiss of the VampireThe ReptileFrankenstein Created WomanTaste the Blood of Dracula and many more.

In Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, the band in the movie is Captain Clegg & the Night Creatures. It’s Jesse Dayton, who played as the band Banjo and Sullivan for The Devil’s Rejects.

*Hammer was planning to adapt the Richard Matheson story I Am Legend into a film that would be titled Night Creatures. The British Board of Film Classification told them that they would not pass the film — the script must be sent to the BBFC before a movie is filmed — and because Hammer had promised Universal a movie with that title, Captain Clegg became Night Creature.

**The werewolf star from that movie — Oliver Reed — is in this in a rare heroic role.

Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)

Based upon the 1943 Fritz Leiber novel Conjure Wife, this movie was called Day of the Eagle in the UK before getting a title that sounded more like a horror movie for American audiences. The book had already been adapted once before as Weird Woman in 1944 and then one more time afterward in 1979 as Witches’ Brew.

The American version also has an opening in complete blackness where the voice of Paul Frees reads a spell intended to protect the audience from the evil within the film. Filmgoers also were given a special pack of salt and the words to an ancient incantation. Man, going to the movies used to be awesome. American-International Pictures knew how to sell an occult movie!

Written by a combination of Charles Beaumont (The Masque of the Red Death, several great Twilight Zone episodes), Richard Matheson (I Am LegendDuel) and George Baxt (Shadow of the Cat, The City of the Dead), this is the story of Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde, Klytus from Flash Gordon), a man who discovers that all of his career success is due to the magic skills of his wife. As soon as he demands that she burns all of her magical ephemera, everything in his life goes wrong

By the end of the movie, his rational view of the world must confront the fact that magic truly exists. It also posits that women are the magic workers of the world and that men just stumble through, a view I can completely agree with.

Ring of Terror (1962)

Despite playing college students, nearly everyone in this movie is pushing forty. If you can get past that, well, there’s a lot more wrong with this movie, but it’s just weird enough that it’s worth watching.

Medical student Lewis Moffitt (George E. Mather, who was 42 when this would made* and would go on to supervise the miniatures and optical effects for Star Wars) is afraid of the dark, ever since he saw a dead body when he was a little kid. Now that he’s in college — he must be a non-traditional freshman — the fraternity he’s trying to rush makes him steal a ring — a Ring of Terror? — from a dead man.

Clark Paylow, who directed this, was the second unit guy on so many beach movies and the production manager for The Conversation and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

*Actually, he was 35, as this was shot in 1955 and not released for several years after it was finished.

You can watch the Mysery Science Theater version of this movie on Tubi. You can also download the original cut of this movie on the Internet Archive.

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

The third film for both Kong — well, Son of Kong doesn’t feature him — and Godzilla and the first in color for both, King Kong vs. Godzilla gave Toho the idea to keep making Godzilla movies after retiring him for seven years.

The original idea came from King Kong stop motion animator Willis H. O’Brien, who had the idea that Kong should fight a gigantic Frankenstein’s Monster. He gave a script to producer John Beck, who gave Toho the idea to make this movie. Maybe he was inspired by the fact that Toho kept trying to make Frankenstein movies? Or maybe he liked that the Godzilla movies were released in Germany as Frankenstein movies, with the explanation that Dr. Victor Frankenstein had created all of the many creatures that Godzilla does battle with?

Kong creator Merian C. Cooper hated the very idea of this movie, saying “I was indignant when some Japanese company made a belittling thing, to a creative mind, called King Kong vs. Godzilla. I believe they even stooped so low as to use a man in a gorilla suit, which I have spoken out against so often in the early days of King Kong.” He even tried to file a lawsuit against Toho, Universal and Beck before discovering that he did not hold the sole rights to Kong.

Director Ishiro Honda actually had a theme that was anything but banal. Perhaps he and Cooper should have just spoken in person, because Honda was against the TV industry in Japan, which was pushing the envelope further and further, including airing a Fred Blassie pro wrestling match that was so intense that two elderly viewers had deadly heart attacks. I’ve always found that story to be pure Blassie hyperbole, but it really seems true.

This led to the idea that Pacific Pharmaceuticals would want to boost. the ratings of the shows they advertise on and bring a giant ape back from Faro Island. At the same time, the iceberg that Godzilla has been trapped in for nearly a decade hits a nuclear submarine and the big green monster is free once more. So he does what anyone would. He goes back to Tokyo to destroy everything.

Kong pretty much is the babyface in this, constantly getting set on fire and dropkicked and knocked out by the humans. Yet Japanese King Kong has an advantage over his American cousin. That’s because electric power and lightning give him energy, enough to finally defeat Godzilla, whose survival is unclear at the end of the film*.

Special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya and Honda didn’t agree on the softening of Godzilla in this movie, which would only increase as time went on and his appeal to children became his biggest selling point.

For selling the story idea to Toho — once called King Kong vs. Prometheus — Beck got rights to all nin-Asian territories. He brought together a crew of writers Paul Mason and Bruce Howard with editor Peter Zinner (The Godfather) to make an Americanized version of the movie that would combine scenes from The Mysterians with a Westernized soundtrack remixed from several movies, including Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bend of the River, Untamed Frontier, The Golden Horde, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Thunder on the Hill, While the City Sleeps, Man Made MonsterAgainst All Flags, The Monster That Challenged the World, The Deerslayer and the TV series Wichita Town.

Both films were a big success, so much so that Toho wanted to make another one called Continuation: King Kong vs. Godzilla. This led to Mothra finally battling Godzilla and the idea of a shared universe being born decades before Marvel. Toho also tried to make more King Kong movies, but RKO refused. They did help Rankin/Bass make King Kong Escapes in 1967 and reused the suit for Goro on Ultra Q.

Thanks to Famous Monsters of Filmland and their sister publication Spacemen, the rumor that Japanese audiences got an ending where Godzilla won persisted to the point that major newspapers reported it as a fact and it showed up in Trivial Pursuit. That said, the Japanese version does end with Godzilla’s roar and then Kong’s, as if the creatures were saying goodbye and making a curtain call, ala The Bad Seed. In the American version, only Kong is heard.

Take it from Art Adams, who knows all things kaiju. The double ending story is just a myth.

*King Kong a bigger box office star and Godzilla was still a villain at this point in the series. That’s why Kong gets top billing and wins the battle, which Toho confirmed in their book Toho Films Vol. 8, which says, “A spectacular duel is arranged on the summit of Mt. Fuji and King Kong is victorious. But after he has won…”

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Varan the Unbelievable (1958 and 1962)

How can a movie be made twice with the same footage and not be the same movie? Welcome to the world of kaiju cinema, where American producers only wanted the monster footage so that they could add in familiar Western faces and all monster kids wanted was more time for rubber suited destruction.

Originally made as Daikaijū Baran by Tomoyuki Tanaka, the creator of Godzilla, this was acquired by our friends Crown International Pictures — the company I love so much that I made a Letterboxd list to ensure that I see every one of the films they released — and put on a double feature with a re-edited, shortened and retitled East German/Polish science fiction movie they called First Spaceship on Venus.

Where the Toho film is filled with menace and an astounding close where Varan goes bonkers and destroys everything he possibly can, the American movie has Myron Healey* as Commander James Bradley (he was also a military man in The Incredible Melting Man) and as a kid, he would be the kind of leading man that I was instantly bored watching.

I mean, who would you rather watch? An embittered old army guy or a god monster who looks like a flying squirrel?

You know why I love Toho? Varan shows up briefly in Destroy All Monsters. Ah, if only we got to see more of him than this one film, which was originally a co-production with the ABC Network!

*This may be a made up story, but supposedly Healey believed he was going to shoot his scenes in Japan like Raymond Burr and not in Bronson Canyon. When Healy guested on Perry Mason, he shared the story with Burr, who told him that all of his scenes in Godzilla were shot on a Hollywood set.

B-MOVIE BLAST: Secret File: Hollywood (1962)

USMC Lieutenant Colonel Jack Lewis did more than write this movie. He lived a life. After enlisting in the Marines in time for World War II, he left to become a screenwriter of westerns. However, he’d return for tours in Korea and Vietnam, where he earned his second and third Air Medals. Lewis didn’t retire from the Marines until the day before his sixtieth birthday.

In between active duty, he also found time to write 12 books and an estimated 6,000 magazine articles and short stories. He was also the co-founder and editor of Gun World, a publication which led to several controversial moments, as he decried America’s reliance on the M-16 and his no-BS take on weapons and love of showing off exotic arms made several major firearms manufacturers choose to not advertise in the pages of his magazine.

Lewis’ screenplays include the Lash LaRue film King of the Bullwhip, as well as the original Naked Gun, Black Eagle of Santa Fe and quite possibly Billy the Kid Versus Dracula. Perhaps most strange of all, he was the music editor for Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?

This is a story that calls to mind the days that Hedda Hopper and Confidential! could destroy the career of a celebrity. Maxwell Carter (Robert Clark, The Hideous Sun Demon) is an ex-detective whose job it is to dig up the stories the stars don’t want to see in the rags near the checkout.

This is the first movie for Francine York (The Doll Squad). She has a great character name in this — Nan Torr. If you’re a fan of Night Train to Terror, you know that she played Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn Alive and Behind Bars (also known as Scream Your Head Off), which is one of the stories within that movie.

Other folks to keep looking for include Arch Hall Sr., Bill McKinney (Deliverance) and Carolyn Brandt, the wife of Ray Dennis Steckler, who would one day appear in The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?

They should have listed the boom mic in the credits, because it shows up in every scene.

REPOST: Dangerous Charter (1962)

Editor’s Note: This review originally ran on August 7, 2020, a part of our reviews for Mill Creek’s Savage Cinema 12-Movie collection. We’re bringing it back as part of Mill Creek’s B-Movie Blast 50-Film pack.

Savage Cinema’s last film is the 1962 film Dangerous Charter, the only narrative film directed and produced by Robert Gottschalk, who helped found Panavision. This film was to be a showcase for his new process and camera lenses.

Instead, it is 75 minutes that feels like 75 hours, an odyssey at sea that seems to never end. It has no motorcycles in it, no matter what the Savage Cinema box art may promise

The crew of a fishing boat finds a deserted luxury yacht at sea with a dead body and half a million of heroin on board. There is no Blind Dead to save this movie, just a lot of talking. In fact, they may still be talking as I write about this movie.

You can watch this movie on YouTube.

El Espejo de la Bruja (1962)

The Witch’s Mirror is why I love 1960’s Mexican horror. Some movies of that era only hint at witchcraft and the occult and this one goes full in, showing rituals and all manner of Satanic mayhem. Ah, Mexico. Long may your movies live on.

It’s directed by Chano Urueta, who also made the confoundingly wonderous El Baron del Terror and the Blue Demon films.

If you’re going to steal, I always say to steal big. Chanto takes from so many sources here — Edgar Allan Poe, Hitchcock’s RebeccaEyes Without a Face — while somehow synthesizing them into his own out there narrative.

Deborah (Rosita Arenas, Xochitl from the Aztec Mummy movies) is the new wife of Dr. Eduardo Ramos (Armando Calvo), but she has no idea that years ago, he poisoned his first wife, Elena (Dina de Marco).

The thing is, Elena may be dead, but her spirit will not rest. She calls out to her aunt, a witch named Sara (Isabela Corona), whose spells and incantations place Deborah directly in the path of revenge, starting with her face being burned in a fire.

Luckily — or maybe not — Dr. Ramos ends up being somewhat of a mad scientist, so he starts stealing dead bodies to take their skin and attempt to give his new bride her beauty back.

Somehow, in all of this, the witch comes off the best of all of them. This movie is nightmarish in ways that movies made outside of Mexico just can’t pull off, because I get the idea that the filmmakers have one foot in believing that everything in this movie is possible.

Frankestein el Vampiro y Compañía (1962)

Fifteen years after being made in America, Mexican director Benito Alazraki (Muñecos InfernalesSanto conta Los Zombis) and writer Alfredo Salazar (who would go on to write La Isla de los DinosauriosLas Luchadoras Conta el Robot Asesino and La Mujer Murcielago, amongst many, many other movies) made pretty much an exact copy of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

The difference is in the casting. Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) is now the taller and funnier of the two, Paco (Manuel “Loco” Valdés). The straight man is no longer Chick Young (Bud Abbott), but now the shorter Agapito (José Jasso). That said, both of these comedy teams work at a package station where crates arrive. Except in Mexico, those crates say The Vampire and The Frankenstein Monster. Not to be a total geek, but this is a major pet peeve, as it’s always Frankenstein’s Monster.

Nonetheless, both of these creatures are real and in both movies, an attractive evil female doctor takes them away. In America, we had Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenora Aubert). In Mexico, it’s Dr. Sofia (Nora Veryán).

There’s also a werewolf in both movies, as well as a plan for one of our heroes to have their brain get inserted into the skull of Frankenstein’s Monster and for the Vampire to take over the world — or at least the United States.

There may have been an English dubbed version of this at one point, but it’s been lost. Regardless of the film’s cheap budget and less than Universal level monsters, it’s still worth a look. The most interesting thing to me is that Dracula is super skinny, just like John Carradine usually was in Mexican vampire films, which has me wondering in the early morning hours whether or not that was a cultural thing South of the Border. I’d like to think that skinny Draculas are totally a Mexican cultural staple. Viva Draculas flacos!