Il Castello dei Morti Vivi (1964)

Castle of the Living Dead is a movie of mystery.

Who directed it?

Warren Kiefer, who couldn’t be directly credited for the film as the film required an Italian director?

Herbert Wise — Luciano Ricci, the film’s first assistant director — whose name was used to fulfill that needed native director credit?

Riccardo Freda, who left I Vampiri for Mario Bava to finish and also made Double Face and Tragic Ceremony?

Michael Reeves, the tragically lost too song director who made Witchfinder General? Depending on who is asked, Reeves either did minor second unit work, a polish on the script’s dwarf character, a complete takeover of the movie or nothing at all.

And did Mario Bava do effects?

So many mysteries!

This gothic horror movie stars Christopher Lee as Count Drago, a man who embalms humans and animals, making them part of his eternal theater thanks to a chemical formula that instantly kills and embalms anything that lives, arresting them at the very moment of death.

Beyond Lee, the cast includes Gaia Germani (Hercules In the Haunted World), Philippe Leroy (The Laughing Woman), Luciano Pigozzi (the Italian Peter Lorre), Luigi Bonos (Frankenstein 80) and Donald Sutherland in his first movie playing a witch, an old man and Sergeant Paul.

Co-writer Paul Maslansky would go on to produce tons of movies like Death LineShe BeastRace with the DevilDamnation Alley and Ski Patrol amongst so many others, as well as creating the original concept — and producing — all of the Police Academy movies.

You can watch this on Tubi.

I Maniaci (1964)

Before Lucio Fulci was the Godfather of Gore, he was a director known for comedy. This 1964 film is all about the mania — the title translates as The Maniacs — that men and women exude every day, told in short skits, such as “The Elaboration,” in which a hearse driver fixes up his vehicle so he can get his passengers to the grave in less time and “Sport,” in which a boss loses so many bets that he must sell his wife to his co-workers.

The film finds time to make fun of protesters, housewives convinced their husbands are cheating, writers, strip club patrons, government agents and more. Its comedy doesn’t really translate so many years later, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that Fulci was considered a dependable comedy director.

In addition to the Morricone soundtrack, Fulci cast some of the 60s most gorgeous actresses, foremost amongst them Barbara Steele. Also on hand are Gaia Germani (Hercules In the Haunted World), Ingrid Schoeller (who was also in Fulci’s Oh! Those Most Secret Agents), Lisa Gastoni (The War of the Planets), Dominique Boschero (Who Saw Her Die?), Margaret Lee (Venus In Furs), Mary Arden (Blood and Black Lace) and Rada Rassimov (The Cat o’ Nine Tails).

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Dr. Orloff’s Monster (1964)

Jess Franco had enough money for film stock and some of the cast, the rest of this movie was made thanks to the kindness of others. And this time, the shadow of Dr. Orloff has been cast on Doctor Conrad Jekyll, one of his students, who has been sent the secrets of using ultrasound to animate his robotic creation, which is really his brother Andros who he murdered after discovering that he was cucking him with his wife. So what does he do? Uses the robot creature to hunt down his ex-lovers and strangle them.

Yes, it’s dream-logic or more to the point, Franco logic.

An example: the robot knows who to kill based on the necklaces that Dr. Jekyll gives to these nightclub women. Inside is a radio transmitter giving orders to kill, baby, kill.

Also known as The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll, The Secret of Dr. Orloff and Dr. Orloff’s Monster Brides, this only hints at the nightclub scenes of later Franco, as well as the jazz music moments which threaten to obscure the story and take over the film.

Also, a Christmas movie.

You can watch this on KinoCult.

Dr. Orloff’s Monster 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.

Onibaba (1964)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxld

In Japanese, the word oni おにmeans demon andばばmeans old woman or hag. In this case, we are dealing specifically with a sexually repressed meddling mother-in-law. Onibaba is set in feudal Japan during the bloody civil war period that preceded the Tokugawa period. An unnamed old woman (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter-in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) are forced to kill wandering warriors and sell their armor for food in order to survive while they wait for the man of the house to return.  One day, neighbor Hachi (Kei Sato) returns to tell the old woman that her son is dead. The old woman is suspicious of whether or not Hachi killed her son but allows him to stay around because he is useful. Relatively quickly, Hachi and they newly-widowed young woman begin an affair. Needless to say, the old woman is not very happy about this and does everything in her power to keep them apart. She constantly talks of sin and watches her daughter-in-law like a hawk. Despite the old woman’s best efforts, the young woman still manages to sneak out and have hot, sweaty summer sex in the tall grass while the wind blows on the soundtrack.  

One night a Samurai wearing a frightening bull mask visits the old woman and asks her to lead him through the fields to the nearest road. Seeing an opportunity, she kills the Samurai, takes his mask and proceeds to use it to scare her daughter-in-law by pretending to be a demon. For several nights, the young woman’s plans to meet her lover are thwarted, sending her back to her hut in tears. One night, Hachi finds her screaming in the rain and convinces her that demons do not exist. The two make love while voyeuristic mother in-law looks on, her own internal emotions symbolically flashing on the screen and soundtrack via lightning and thunder.  

 

Nobuko Otowa as the old woman is a stand out.  Her cat-like facial expressions, spying and manipulation might very well ring true to many viewers who have difficult mothers-in-law. Technically, this film is a fine achievement and is today taught in many film schools as a classic example of the post-war Japanese cinema era. The black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous. The grasses of the fields blow ominously in the wind around the characters’ meager huts, conveying a desperation to the characters’ existence rarely seen in modern cinema. The heat of the Japanese summer almost radiates from the screen as the sweat glistens off of the women’s work-stained flesh. Disturbing screams of pain enhance the minimalist soundtrack adding to the uneasy feeling of the whole piece. 

The film concludes in a none-too-happy, supernatural manner for everyone involved, especially the mother in-law. Onibaba was based on a famous Japanese legend/morality tale (which explains the lack of character names) and all humans are punished for their evil deeds. Onibaba is an enjoyable suspense-drama that is definitely worthy of a look. 

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Lilith (1964)

Director and writer Robert Rossen (All the King’s MenThe Hustler) made this his last movie, as he was disillusioned with Hollywood*. What a film to go out on, a bleak and sullen meditation on mental health and lost love.

Vincent Bruce (Warren Beatty) has returned from the war, but perhaps not all of him mentally has, but he finds work at Chestnut Lodge in Rockville, Maryland. There, he seeks to help — and becomes obsessed by — an artistic patient named Lilith (Jean Seberg, an icon of the French New Wave and a woman so hounded by the FBI that she had a miscarriage and continually tried to kill herself on every anniversary of her lost child’s birthday until she succeeded).

Lilith is seduction incarnate, as though she secludes herself inside her room, her mind is at the same level as her outward appearance. Every person she encounters wants her and she also has no compunction over seducing everyone she meets, no matter their age. This begins to upset Bruce as they become lovers and he becomes more jealous of her multiple affections, even causing another patient, Stephen Evshevsky (Peter Fonda) to kill himself after he learns that the man has romantic feelings for Lilith.

That death takes Lilith back into her world of seclusion, reminding her of the moment that her life would never be the same again: her brother killed himself after she made incestuous attempts to make love to him.

With appearances by Gene Hackman, Jessica Walter and Kim Hunter, this is a movie that may haunt me for some time, much like the woman at the center of this story. It doesn’t end happily at all and actually has quite an open close, if that is an actual phrase.

I wondered what “hiara pirlu resh kavawn” written above Lilith’s bed meant. According to the book, it’s her own language and says, “If you can read this, you will know I love you.”

*Kim Hunter said, “The tensions on the set contributed to his (Rossen’s) death. I don’t think I want to talk about it.”

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, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Good Neighbor Sam (1964)

James Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum made a career out of comedy, starting TV and debuting their first movie script here. They also wrote The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Shakiest Gun in the West, Angel in My Pocket and The Reluctant Astronaut. Greenbaum’s talent also was used to create the sculptures in this movie.

Sam Bissell (Jack Lemmon) is an ad exec who wants off the hamster wheel so that he can concentrate on his true love — the aforementioned sculpture work that he makes out of found materials. He has a great marriage with Minerva (Dorothy Provine, That Darn Cat!) and two kids, but when his wife’s best friend Janet (French actress Romy Schneider, who was briefly in Hollywood to make this movie and What’s New Pussycat?) arrives, his life goes to pieces.

The good? He’s a family man, unlike the rest of the agency, so he’s the perfect man to keep their toughest client, dairy owner Simon Nurdlinger (Edward G. Robinson) on retainer. But Simon thinks that Janet is Sam’s wife. And because Janet can only get her inheritance if she’s married, she has to convince her relatives that Sam is her ex-husband. But how will his wife handle all of this?

As someone who has spent his life in advertising, I loved seeing the glory days of 50s advertising, even if it’s portrayed as a soulless place. The agency in the film, Burke & Hare, is named after the notorious body snatchers William Burke and William Hare*, while everyone there seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown. So, you know, it’s very realistic.

You just know that the agency that partnered with this movie missed all of the work/life balance lessons in the movie and instead celebrated that they were able to get product placements all over Good Neighbor Sam for their clients Hertz, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Air Lines and Allied Van Lines.

*It’s also a reference to Jack Finney, who wrote the book that this was based on. And oh yeah — he also was the writer of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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, 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.

Day Dream (1964)

Hakujitsumu is based on a 1926 short story by Junichiro Tanizaki that plays with the nature of reality.

An artist and a young woman are in a dentist’s waiting room and the man is too shy to even connect with her. In the same examining room, they’re both giving anesthetic as he imagines that she is being abused and tortured and even chased by a vampire. The uncut Dutch version even has a sexually explicit scene during which the woman is digitally attacked by the dentist.

A big budget example of a pinky violence movie, this film even dared to show female pubic hair, a major cultural crime in Japan. Most instances — even in the most hardcore of films — are digitally fogged or have a mosaic over them.

Director and writer Tetsuji Takechi was nearly 70 when this was made. He’d already filmed Day Dream once before in 1964, after starting his career in kabuki theater and having his own TV show, The Tetsuji Takechi Hour, during which he reinterpreted Japanese stage classics. His next film, 1965’s Black Snow, saw him arrested on indecency charges and fighting a public battle over censorship between the intellectuals of Japan and the country’s government. Takechi won the lawsuit, which opened the way for the pinky films of the 60s and 70s.

Black Snow may be more controversial for its themes than its sex: its protagonist is a young Japanese man whose mother serves the U.S. military at Yokota Air Base as a prostitute. He’s impotent unless making love with a loaded gun in his hand and before long, he’s killed a black soldier before being cut down by several Americans. The film is also fiercely nationalist with Americans — most pointedly the black man who is killed — shown to be nothing but sex-wild animals.

In the journal Eiga Geinjutsu, Takechi said, “The censors are getting tough about Black Snow. I admit there are many nude scenes in the film, but they are psychological nude scenes symbolizing the defencelessness of the Japanese people in the face of the American invasion. Prompted by the CIA and the U.S. Army they say my film is immoral. This is of course an old story that has been going on for centuries. When they suppressed Kabuki plays during the Edo period, forbidding women to act, because of prostitution, and young actors, because of homosexuality, they said it was to preserve public morals. In fact it was a matter of rank political suppression.”

The remake of Day Dream comes a full decade after newspapers would not advertise his movies and the director was only writing. That film is literally Japan’s first hardcore pornographic movie and it was a big budget movie played on big screens.

Yet while Westerners see his influence, in Japan, Takechi was an outsider in the mainstream and pinky world, so he’s forgotten. His right wing politics clash with the protest ethos within other pinky films, so all in all, he’s lost in many ways.

Female star Kyoko Aizome — who plays Chieko– would gain notoriety from this film and become a star in the worlds of feature dancing (being arrested for indecency for her on-stage behavior) and hard and soft AV (adult video) movies. According to an article on The Bloody Pit of Horror, she had her hymen surgically repaired so she could lose her virginity again on camera and also had her own King Kong vs. Godzilla moment when she starred in Traci Takes Tokyo opposite an underage Traci Lords.

As for the vampires, the dentist’s assistants (Saeda Kawaguchi and Yuri Yaio) have fangs and the dentist himself is Kwaidan actor Kei Sato, a mainstream talent appearing in a movie that is anything but. Even after Chieko runs over the dentist and decapitates him, he comes back as a traditional film vampire.

After the original movie was made, South Korean director Yu Hyun-mok remade it as Chunmong (Empty Dream) and was arrested because there was a rumored nude scene. There were also rumors that actress Park Su-jeong had been humiliated by appearing nude on the set. The truth was that she wore a body stocking. Supposedly, the Korean film, which was kept off screens until 2004, is a superior piece of surrealist art.

GIALLOPALOOZA PRIMER: Blood and Black Lace (1964)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Probably my favorite giallo is the one that’s considered amongst the first in the form. Mario Bava’s 6 donne per l’assassino AKA Blood and Black Lace was originally written about on our site on March 24, 2019. I’m super excited to see it at the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama Giallopalooza on September 17 and 18. Let’s raise a glass of J&B and get into it.

There’s no way to calculate the influence of Blood and Black Lace. It takes the giallo from where Bava started with The Girl Who Knew Too Much and adds what was missing: high fashion, shocking gore and plenty of sex. The results are dizzying; it’s as if Bava’s move from black and white to color has pushed his camera lens to the brink of insanity.

Isabella is an untouchably gorgeous model, pure perfection on human legs. But that doesn’t save her as she walks through the grounds of the fashion house and is brutally murdered by a killer in a white mask.

Police Inspector Sylvester takes the case and interviews Max Morlan (Cameron Mitchell!), who co-manages the salon with his recently widowed lover, the Countess Christina Como. Soon, our police hero discovers that the fashion house is a den of sin, what with all the corruption, sex, blackmail, drugs and abortions going on under its roof. Isabella was murdered because she had kept a diary of all the infractions against God that happened inside these four walls.

Nicole finds the diary and tells the police she will deliver it, but it’s stolen by Peggy. As she arrives at the antique store her boyfriend Frank owns, the killer appears and kills her with a spiked glove to the face. The killing is shocking. Brutal. And definitely the forerunner to the slasher genre.

Even after the cops arrest everyone in the fashion house, the murders keep on piling up. Peggy claims that she burned the diary, so the killer burns her face until she dies. Greta is smothered to death. And Tilde is killed in the bathtub, then her wrists are slit open, spraying red into the water and marking her as a suicide.

So who is it? Come on. You’re going to have to watch it for yourself.

The success of Black Sunday and Black Sabbath had given Bava the opportunity to do anything he wanted. His producers thought that this movie would be a krimi film along the lines of an Edgar Wallace adaption. Instead, Bava gave more importance to the killings than the detective work, emphasizing sex, violence and horror more than any film in this form had quite before.

Blood and Black Lace was a failure in Italy and only a minor success in West Germany, the home of Edgar Wallace. And in America, AIP passed on the film due to its combination of sex and brutality. Instead, it was released by the Woolner Brothers with a new animated opening.

Today, Blood and Black Lace is seen as a forerunner of body count murder movies and the excesses of later giallo films. To me, it’s a classic film, filled with Bava’s camera wizardry and love of color. It is everything perfect about movies.

Drive-In Super Monster-Rama is presenting “Giallopalooza”, two big nights of classic, fully restored giallo thrillers from such maestros as Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino!

On Friday, September 17, the line-up will be What Have You Done to Solange?, Torso, A Lizard In a Woman’s Skin and The Cat O’Nine Tails. Saturday, September 18 they will present Deep Red, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Blood and Black Lace and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.

Admission is $10 per person each night (children 12 and under FREE with adult guardian). Camping on the premises is available each night for an additional $10 a person, and that includes breakfast.

Advance tickets are available online at the Riverside Drive In’s webpage.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We recently shared this article about The Tomb of Ligeia on July 7, 2021. We’re sharing it again as Kino Lorber is re-releasing this film on blu ray, complete with new audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, as well as an audio commentary by producer/director Roger Corman and another by actress Elizabeth Shepherd, plus the Joe Dante Trailers from Hell episode about this movie, the theatrical trailer and a limited edition slipcase. You can order it directly from Kino Lorber.

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia” and adapted by Robert Towne, this is the last of the Roger Corman Poe films. Because Poe’s story was so short, Towne expanded on the themes of mesmerism and necrophilia. The result? “Literally being controlled by someone who was dead, which is gruesome notion but perfectly consistent with Poe.” said Towne to John Brady in The Craft of the Screenwriter.

In that same book, Towne confessed he thought that “…it would have been better if it had been with a man who didn’t look like a necrophiliac to begin with. I love Vincent. He’s very sweet. But, going in, you suspect that Vincent could bang cats, chickens, girls, dogs, everything. You just feel that necrophilia might be one of his Basic Things.”

Corman agreed, as he was thinking Richard Chamberlain would be perfect. Yet American-International Pictures wanted Price and Corman had to break the news to Towne.

The film starts with a casket on display with a young woman’s face visible through a window in the pine box. A black cat jumps on the coffin and takes her soul, which belonged to  Ligeia, the wife of Verden Fell (Vincent Price). He’s troubled by her death, as she refused to die and was blasphemous about God to the end of her life.

Despite his strange appearance — he must wear special glasses as he is allergic to sunlight* — he meets another woman at the grave, Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd, The Kidnapping of the PresidentThe Omen II). They fall instantly in love and he moves her into his home which is haunted by the spirit of his wife in the form of that black cat. By the end of the film, we learn that he’s been mesmerized by his dead wife and can only love her, yet he battles the cat that has her soul until her tomb burns around them.

As for his new wife, well, she goes back to the man she left at the start of the movie and has a happy future, which is pretty sad for poor Vincent Price.

*Poe invented being goth.

The Comedy of Terrors (1964)

American-International Pictures follow up to The Raven, this movie reunites Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff. Adding to the trio is Basil Rathbone, giving this film an astounding cast. They’re all working from a script by Richard Matheson and direction by Jacques Tourneur, who for my money made some of the greatest horror movies ever like Night of the DemonThe Leopard Man and Cat People.

Price is Waldo Trumbull, a funeral home owner, a business that he stole from his partner Amos Hinchley (Karloff) after marrying his daughter Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson). They only have one coffin, which saves them money, as Felix Gillie (Lorre) dumps the bodies when he isn’t setting up the death of wealthy clients.

Rathbone plays John F. Black, Esq., the landlord that tries to evict Trumbull but keeps dying and coming back to life, giving soliloquies and dying again. The cat, who keeps waking him up due to allergies, is played by Orangey the cat, who also menaced The Incredible Shrinking Man.

While a fun movie, this one could have really used Corman’s touch. That said I’m a big fan of Tourneur. It wasn’t a big success, but it’s still worth a watch. You might even spot the hearse coach that now is part of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

This new Kino Lorber release has commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, a feature on Matheson, a trailer and a great looking slipcase. You can get it directly from Kino Lorber.