Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2 October short takes:


Lawlessness is rampant in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars--don't know why that’s important, but that’s what we're told. A traveling theatrical troupe is warned about their iffy future, in rhyme, by an old hag (Donald Sutherland in drag, who also has a role as one of the actors). They are invited to stay at the castle of Count Drago (Christopher Lee) who has a room full of stuffed animals—he’s an amateur taxidermist. One by one, members of the troupe are killed off and it looks like the Count will soon have a room of stuffed humans to call his own. This has potential, but once you know where it's going, it takes a long time getting there; despite some atmospheric shots in the castle and a handful of startling deaths (one with an arrow through an eye), my partner remarked halfway through the movie, "My, but life was tedious in the 19th century." Michael Reeves (THE CONQUERER WORM) is credited as a co-writer. [TCM]


This movie plays out like THE OLD DARK HOUSE if the Munsters had been in the lead roles. American Jack Robinson (Pat Boone, believe it or not!) arrives at his girlfriend's family's mansion in England to ask for her hand in marriage. The family, in mourning for cousin Creighton, is an odd lot: Cornwallis is a ham actor, Natalia is a vampiric-looking lady, Muldoon is a crazy brute who has to be kept locked up, Percival is a delusional old man who keeps inventing things that have already been invented, and Grandpa is stuck in bed, reading Playboy. Soon, they start getting bumped off one by one and Jack's sure that someone is after the family's money and estate. This is a loony movie that is fun to watch once, but I can't imagine sitting through it again. One critic compared it to ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, and I think that's the kind of mood the director was going for, but Terence Fisher, despite being an old hand at Hammer horror films, is no Frank Capra, and Boone is definitely no Cary Grant, though he's OK, and he even gets a musical number midway through the movie. [TCM]

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