I’ve gotten to the point where I feel I have to justify to myself why I keep adding crap to my horror movie collection, so pardon me if I do so as I cover the six films of various subgenres in this post. Let’s get into them.
TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS (1973)
Why did I buy it? It has Donald Pleasence and Joan Collins, and it comes from Freddie Francis, the veteran director of many Hammer films, as well as the Amicus anthology classic Tales from the Crypt. Unfortunately, I feel he totally misses the mark with this awful anthology. Perhaps these tales would have worked as short story fiction, but they fail to deliver chills or thrills in movie format.
Donald Pleasance is a doctor in the wraparound, explaining his patients’ issues to a colleague…
1st story – a young boy has an imaginary tiger as a friend, and hates that his parents fight all the time. You can guess where this one is heading. I feel like it has been remade in another anthology movie or television show, I just can’t recall which one.
2nd story – an antiques dealer inherits a haunted bicycle and a creepy portrait. Another lackluster tale.
3rd story – leave it to Joan Collins to star in the only worthwhile short here. She plays a woman whose husband brings home a creepy as fuck female human tree sculpture and plops it right in the middle of their (hideously “modern” 1970s) living room.
Joan becomes jealous of it and the battle of the branches—I mean—bitches begins. There’s eerie tree POV and a sexual dream sequence that may have been Raimi’s inspiration for the tree attack scene in Evil Dead.
4th story – a literary agent invites her new client to her home, where he seduces her daughter to lure her into some sort of sacrificial ritual. The guy wearing tight square cut shorts is pretty much the highlight of this story.
And finally the wraparound concludes with elements of the stories inflicting themselves upon the colleague being told the stories.
THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY (1973)
Argh! The only thing that absolutely kills this movie is the 70s fucking muzak score. Why the hell did they use this shit in so many horror movies? This is the same damn year The Exorcist blew the horror genre up and used Mike Oldfield’s chilling “Tubular Bells”—not even a dedicated soundtrack composition—to great effect.
Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, The Vampires Night Orgy landed in my collection because it is on a double feature disc with one of the Paul Naschy films I covered recently. I bet you assumed I was going to say because it has the word orgy in it. Suck it, because there aren’t even any orgies in this film.
It’s about a group of domestics traveling on a bus for a chance at new employment. When their driver becomes incapacitated, they detour to a small town that seems to be void of residents. They crash at a tavern and eventually a man shows up to explain that everyone was at a funeral.
As the group tries to figure a way to get back on the road, one by one they go off on their own and encounter weird locals in scenes with tight close-ups of their faces…which I can only assume was an inspiration for the film Dead and Buried from 1981. Although this lady looks kind of like one of the body thieves from Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol…
Other terrors await as well, including a Paul Bunyan fucker with an axe who likes to hack off limbs, as well as a seductress vampire who looks like a cheap, worn out whore.
While it is a vampire flick, it also reminded me a lot of 2000 Maniacs. If it wasn’t for the shitty score, this would be a chilling little flick. I’d love to see it recut with different music.
MANSION OF THE DOOMED (1976)
Ah. The epitome of wonky 1970s horror. A mad scientist does eye transplant experiments after his grown daughter loses her sight in an accident.
It’s surprising that the U.S. title is so cryptic while the title in other countries spells it out—it was literally just called Eyes in some markets.
So this mad scientist determines he can transplant the eyes of living humans into his daughter to give her back her vision. Unfortunately, the effect doesn’t last long, soooo…he just keeps plucking eyes out of more and more victims.
It doesn’t get any more ridiculous than this, but adding to the insanity of nonstop eye replacements, he keeps the eyeless, very much alive victims locked in cages in his basement! WTF?
There is some eye gore to make us squirm, the post-op makeup effects are pretty cool, and there’s a creepy pedo-feeling scene when the doctor decides he needs to score young eyes from the park (it echoes the uncomfortable love between him and his daughter).
The highlight is, well, the final act and the zinger conclusion, which would have just as much of an impact if this were simply a 30-minute short in an anthology.
Notable is Mel from the TV show Alice as a detective, and an appearance by a young horror icon in the making…Lance Henriksen! But don’t expect to see him for long (or for him to see for long). Unfortunate considering he’s the reason I bought this one. Even so, it’s wacky 1970s horror enough for me to not regret the purchase.
THE SPELL (1977)
One of numerous Carrie rip-offs, The Spell is a made-for-TV film about an overweight girl, which is rather ironic considering the original Carrie was overweight in Stephen King’s novel. I picked this one up thanks to that damn mental condition called nostalgia—or maybe because I may have wished I had the main girl’s power when I was a chubby little kid.
This is a totally fatphobic flick, with everyone disliking the barely overweight girl, from the mean girls in the opening gym scene, to her sister Helen Hunt, to her father.
Only her mother, played by Lee Grant, seems to have some sympathy for her.
Unlike Carrie, this girl puts her powers to great use and relishes every moment of it.
If only she used the powers to get even more revenge than she does, this would be a fun movie.
Instead, short of the great and creepy performance by the main girl and one scene of a woman turning into a piece of smoking meat, this is a yawn fest until the final battle between mother and daughter, which gives the Carrie showdown a major rewrite.
THE EVICTORS (1979)
Charles B. Pierce, the director of The Town That Dreaded Sundown and The Legend of Boggy Creek, rounds out his 1970s thrillogy with what is sort of a home invasion film. It’s also kind of slow and only saved by Jessica Harper in the leading role.
How did it land in my collection? It was included as a bonus on The Town That Dreaded Sundown disc…which I just realized for the first time the other day when I was organizing my movie shelves. How long have I had this disc? I checked my Amazon order history. Eight years! Anyway, on to the film.
Occasional flashbacks in black and white (more like sepia) show a shootout between law enforcement and a family about to be evicted from their house.
Then Jessica Harper and her husband move into the house in full color. She gets slipped a snail mail note at some point telling her to “get out”, she is terrorized by some man who keeps lurking around the house, and there are a couple of creepy scenes of him chasing her in the house, including one that rips off the chase through the kitchen in Halloween.
There’s also one random kill of a guy…I guess because he’s Black.
There’s a twist at the end that explains what is really going on, but there’s also a totally missed opportunity to surprise the audience with a Norman Bates surprise.
What I’m saying is, the movie has its moments, but it could have been better.
THE DAY TIME ENDED (1979)
There’s so much bizarre shit going on in this cheesy little movie, yet I feel like a bunch of it got stolen and used in bigger movies in the 80s.
As there are reports of extraterrestrial explosions in the sky on the radio, a family reunites at the airport and then gathers at their desert ranch.
Within minutes, the daughter, played by the little girl from The Entity and The Amityville Horror, is hugging this big green glowing pyramid that appears outside. Then she sees a little alien on her bedpost. Then a little flying saucer floats outside her window.
Meanwhile, the grandparents see spaceships in the sky while they’re outside at night.
Eventually, little spaceships infiltrate the house and shoot lasers at the family.
Apparently the family is zapped into some other dimension, for when they go outside they are witness to stop motion claymation monsters fighting each other.
I can’t even begin to tell you how bad this movie is. That explains why Full Moon sent me a free full frame DVD of it when I ordered something else from them. That also explains why I then felt the need to purchase the damn widescreen Blu-ray remaster to replace it.