APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 13: The Day of the Triffids (1962)

As London was assaulted by the Blitz, writer John Wyndham was who witnessed the destruction of the city from the rooftops of Bloomsbury. Many of the scenes and incidents he saw, including a quiet Sunday morning after the bombs fell, were sent in letters to his long-term partner Grace Wilson and they are in his novel The Day of the Triffids. The book also suggests that while the plant-like triffids came from space, their ability to destroy our planet came from an over-reliance on technology.

Albert R. Broccoli and Irving Allen had purchased the film rights and hired Jimmy Sangster to write the script, which intimidated the screenwriter. He didn’t think that his script was good, but that version was never made. This version, written by Bernard Gordon, who had been blacklisted due to the testimony of producer William Alland. Through his friendship with Philip Yordan — and yes, Night Train to Terror does connect to everything — the writer found regular work as a writer and producer for Samuel Bronston Productions in Madrid, even if through the goodness of his heart Yordan received full credit on movies like Circus World, Battle of the Bulge, Custer of the West, The Thin Red Line, Cry of Battle and Horror Express.

Gordon was under FBI surveillance for twenty years and we wouldn’t know that he’d written many movies if it wasn’t for journalist Ted Newsom, who discovered that Gordon was the real name behind the kayfabe author credit Raymond T. Marcus. Gordon led all blacklisted creatives when the Writers Guild of America correctly credited pseudonymous screenwriters from this era.

As for Yordan, he once told his friend Gordon, “It’s Jews like you who ruined the motion picture industry with this anti-hero shit.”

As for Day of the Triffids, it’s loosely based on the book and doesn’t really get across the apocalyptic menace within its inspiration’s pages. It does, however, have giant plants spitting poison that kills at Janette Scott, so there’s that.

Directed by Steve Sekely and Freddie Francis*, it prefigures the way that zombies keep coming in waves that trap humans within increasingly smaller places to hide. Indeed, the hospital scenes in the book inspired 28 Days Later. The goofy inspiration is that the plants are turned back by seawater, a plot twist that would be used to ridiculous effect decades later in Signs.

*Kieron Moore and Janette Scott weren’t in the original cut of the film. It turns out that there were only 57 minutes of good usable footage available, so Francis directed the entire lighthouse sequence to pad the movie.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 5: The Intruder (1962)

Also known as I Hate Your GutsShame and The Stranger, this film was bought by Roger Corman from Seven Arts in 1960. He originally saw Tony Randall as the star and the movie was turned down by AIP, UA and Allied Artistsbefore he raised the money with help from Pathé Labs, with Corman and his brother Gene paying the rest. That said, Pathé eventually got cold feet and the Cormans distributed the movie themselves.

Even though it cost only $90,000, this was one of the few Corman movies to lose money.

Corman said, “We put our hearts, our souls – and what few people do – our money into this picture. Everybody asked us “Why would you make this picture?” as if to say why try to do something you believe in when everything else is so profitable. Obviously we did it because we wanted to, and we think it’s a damn good job.”

It did teach Corman a valuable lesson. He said, “I think it failed for two reasons. One: the audience at that time, the early sixties, simply didn’t want to see a picture about racial integration. Two: it was more of a lecture. From that moment on I thought my films should be entertainment on the surface and I should deliver any theme or idea or concept beneath the surface.”

Based on the Charles Beaumont novel of the same name — Beaumont also wrote the screenplay — The Intruder has Adam Cramer (William Shatner) has shown up in the small Southern town of Caxton to disrupt integration. Even though he’s a stranger and not even a Southerner, he soon charms the entire town into going from accepting blacks and whites in the same school to attempting to use that very same school’s swingset to lynch a black student.

Shatner has claimed that the lives of the cast and crew were threatened, equipment was destroyed and permission to film in a local schoolyard was revoked. He was also told that a tree in one scene actually was used for lynching. And then the entire production was kicked out of East Prairie, MO for being Communists.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Death Whistles the Blues (1962) & Rififi in the City (1963)  

About the Author:  Sean Mitus grew up watching “Chiller Theater” & Pittsburgh UHF Channels and has been a drive-in enthusiast for the last eight years.  Sean enjoys all genres but has lately become fascinated with Italian horror, giallo and poliziotteschi films.

Want something different from Jesus “Jess” Franco’s eurosleaze/eurohorror filmography, well look no further than Severin Films’ wonderful two-in-one disc Franco Noir. The prolific career of Jess Franco, born Jesus Franco Manera, spanned seven decades from 1954 to 2013.  Franco’s early filmography fit with more traditional Spanish cinema showing an entertaining visual flair.

Shortly after he directed The Awful Dr. Orloff, Franco directed La Muerte Silba Un Blues AKA Death Whistles the Blues in 1962.  It was a spirited foray into the crime genre taking inspiration from Film Noir. Just one film later, Franco directed Rififi en la ciudad AKA Rififi in the City (connection to Jules Dassin‘s Rififi by the definition of rififi meaning trouble/violent conflict/a brutal show of force).  

Both films have the dramatic light and dark shading typical of film noir.  Death Whistles the Blues has creative camera moves in the opening scene with the death of a musician and fine tracking and crane shots throughout.  There’s also a fine action sequence with exciting staging and flashy editing.  Rififi in the City has even more use of noir dark and light contrast throughout.  Both films feature wonderful jazz scores with live performances that add flavor to the proceedings.

As for the story, all you need to know is Death Whistle the Blues deals with double-crosses and betrayals coming back to haunt some of the characters. Rififi in the City followed a dogged policeman setting out to avenge a confidential informant’s killer while those involved meet their deaths at the hands of a surprise killer.  

Do yourself a favor and check out Death Whistles the Blues and Rififi in the City for good examples of noir cinema from Jess Franco.  You won’t be disappointed!

You can get both of these movies in the Franco Noir set from Severin.

References

Franco Noir featurette by Stephen Thrower; Severin Blu-ray © 2021 

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Vampiresas 1930 (1962)

As the era of silent films ends, there are those that can’t make the transition to talkies. One of those actors is Dora (Mikaela, who looks like the epitome of Jess Franco obsession, save that she was possibly too classy to follow him down his path; she’s also in From the Orient with Fury and High Season for Spies as Anne Bardot, which is a great name), who has the public perception as the cold and cunning actress she portrayed on the big screen, not the decent woman who she truly is.

I say that, but then realize she’s part of a group of former actors and musicians who trick an African-American jazz group into taking a train to Siberia so that she and her friends can put on black face and crossdress at the same time — look, if Franco is going to offend you, he’s going to really offend you — and play the club dates that that missing band is missing.

It’s also Franco making Some Like It Hot which is just as weird as a movie with a vampire title only referencing the movie they’re making at the beginning of the movie.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: La mano de un hombre muerto (1962)

The Sadistic Baron Klaus concerns a series of murders in the remote village of Holfen, a place that still may be haunted by a 17th-century baron who maintained an elaborate torture chamber that hints at the erotic nature of the horror that Franco would spend much of the rest of his career detailing.

Could it be one of the Baron’s ancestors, Max Von Klaus (Howard Vernon)? Or youngest male descendent, Ludwig (Hugo Blanco), who is warned by his grandmother on her deathbed that their family is cursed? Either way, Inspector Borowsky (Georges Rollin) and journalist Karl Steiner (Fernando Delgado) are trying to get the answers.

So yeah — it’s kinda, sorta a nascent giallo, but also a nascent Franco, because having a woman stripped topless, whipped and menaced by a hot poker had to be practically incendiary in 1962 and it presages the many outrageous things that the director would unleash over hundreds of his movies to come.

You can watch this on Kino Cult.

This movie is also on the ARROW PLAYER. Head over to ARROW to start your 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Gritos en la noche (1962)

The Awful Dr. Orloff stars Howard Vernon stars as the surgical villain, who with the help of his blind minion Morpho, is out and about and taking the flesh of women to fix the face of his daughter.

Concerned with how the film would be handled by Spanish censors, Franco made a safe version for his home country and another for British and Spanish audiences that had some nudity. And still, Spanish censors were worried that this movie would damage the reputation of their country, so Franco set it in France.

Sure, it’s a riff on Eyes With a Face, but it also is the kind of movie that Franco would return to again and again, even making a sequel two years later, El Secreto del Dr. Orloff and remixes like The Vengeance of Doctor MabuseJack the Ripper and Faceless.

This is where Franco starts and the films that follow would riff on these themes, like a doom band surrounded by smoke playing the same notes over and over but so loud that your head starts to buzz and you keep hearing the same notes and then the riff changes and for Franco, that’s a quick zoom and women just lounging as murders happen all around them and then the riff gets heavier and chugs and moves and you’re in another reality where blind men are ordered by their masters to get alabaster skin for the daughter they love and you can’t wait to buy a shirt before you drive home in the snow.

You can watch this on Kino Cult.

The Awful Dr. Orloff is also on the ARROW PLAYER. Head over to ARROW to start your 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: The Notorious Landlady (1962)

What a pedigree this movie has:

It’s written by Blake Edwards (the director of Operation PetticoatBreakfast at Tiffany’sDays of Wine and Roses, the Pink Panther movies, 10Victor/VictoriaMicki & MaudeBlind Date) and Larry Gelbart (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ForumTootsie and the creator of the M*A*S*H* TV show), and was directed by Richard Quine, who also made Bell, Book and CandleHow to Murder Your Wife).

How about this cast? Jack Lemmon as diplomat Bill Gridley, Fred Astaire* as his boss Franklyn Ambruster and an effervescent Kim Novak as Carly Hardwicke, the titular landlady, a woman who all of her neighbors believe killed her last husband, Miles. Sure, there was no body, but there’s plenty of evidence.

You can excuse Bill, who falls for Carly immediately because Novak is just so charming in this movie. Everyone man that meets her falls under her spell. Yet is she a killer? That’s why Scotland Yard wants Bill to spy on Carly, but there’s no way he can stay objective.

How weird is it that every time Lemmon and Novak teamed up on screen — Phffft! and Bell, Book and Candle**would be two other examples — she played a landlady?

And keep your eyes open, TV fans, as this was shot on the so-called Columbia Ranch, the same location as the fountain from the beginning of the show Friends.

*As a former performer in movie musicals, Quine has some smart direction here, as every time Astaire appears, he walks to the camera, much as if he’s getting the opportunity to dance. While he was retired from dancing movies, he still does his own stunts in the scene where his character follows Novak through the bad side of town.

**There are a ton of references to this movie throughout The Notorious Landlady.

Mill Creek’s new Through the Decades: 1960s Collection has twelve movies: How to Ruin a Marriage and Save Your Life, The Notorious Landlady, Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Chase, Good Neighbor Sam, Baby the Rain Must Fall, Mickey One, Lilith, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Mill Creek Drive-In Classics: Women of Devil’s Island (1962)

Oh, how I love Italian sci-fi, horror and adventure flicks — in this case, a cross-pollination of pirate and women-in-prison flicks — as women slop around the 19th century island sands and jungles in formal wear; a land where make-up never runs or smudges and nary a bead of sweat drips from their perfectly-shaped brows. Oh, and they’re all (implied) lesbians . . . and nary a breast or triangle-of-death shot, appears. But those French-period military uniforms and gowns are impressive. . . . Did Paul Naschy make this movie? If you’ve seen his works Panic Beats and Horror Rises from the Tomb, you know what we mean.

The star of this slave-woman-panning-for-gold tallywacking is U.S. TV western star Guy Madison who starred as “U.S. Marshall James Butler” for seven seasons on The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok. But B-Movie stalwarts will remember Guy best for his pre-television, early ’50s westerns Massacre River, Drums in the Deep South, and The Charge at Feather River. Then there’s the sci-fi and horror classics (well, they are to me) On the Threshold of Space and The Beast of Hollow Mountain, made during his television series’ hiatuses.

Then, as we’ve discussed many times at B&S About Movies: the actors of the 1950s that we loved — such as Gordon Mitchell and Richard Harrison (Three Men on Fire) — saw their careers cool into the acceptance of European audiences. For Guy Madison, as with Mitchell and Harrison: the sword-and-sandal epics, beckoned. So, after knocking out Slave of Rome and Sword of the Conqueror — and before knocking out films for the Italian film industry in every Neapolitan-ripped off genre imaginable — such as Executioner of Venice from my UHF-TV days — as only the Italians can finance, Guy found himself on a boat (okay, well, he shows up, later, as the camp’s new administrator) transporting scantily-clad women to France’s famed Devil’s Island penal colony off the coast of South America.

If you know your Nazisploitation* films (and we know you do), Third Reich-styled chaos, ensues, — only not as violently or sleazy — with the females forced as mining slave labor under the boot of corrupt commandants and guards. Then in steps Guy’s “new sheriff in town” who’s going to clean up the camp’s corruption. Yeah, he falls in love with a prisoner as he catches a bit of gold fever.

Yeah, Domenico Paolella, who directs — and cranked out 40-plus films between 1940 to 1979 (I’ll always remember his 1977, Death Wish-cum-Dirty Harry romp, Stunt Squad via the VHS ’80s) gets the history all wrong, and the women slopping through dirtless, rubbery swamps — only to remain perpetually stunning throughout — is pretty dumb. Well, at least we have Michèle Mercier who, while getting her start with drek like this, thanks to her leading role in the later, three-film Angélique series, rose to instant stardom and rivaled Bridgette Bardot for our testosterone-beating hearts.

Alas, a remake with Shannon Tweed and Christopher Lee was never meant to be.

Mill Creek’s copy on the Drive-In Classics set is, needless to say, pretty rough. At least it scratches another (again, G-rated mild) “women in prison” flick off your completists list. During the UHF-TV ’70s, when you’re stuck with braces and acne and couldn’t part with your Molly Hatchet concert shirt, the divine Ms. Mercier — under threat of whippings, molestation, and lechery — was a date for a Friday Night fantasy.

We found two clean rips on You Tube, here and here.

* We ramble and babble about about Nazisploitation and Women-In-Prison films in our reviews of Achtung! The Desert Tigers, The Gestapo’s Last Orgy, the trailblazing Love Camp 7, SS Experiment Camp, and the genre documentary, Fascism on a Thread: The Strange Story of Nazisploitation Cinema (2020).

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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.