I can never have enough of either in my horror collection, so here’s a look at four flicks I’ve recently added to my shelves that come from back in the day.
CHAMBER OF HORRORS (1966)
House of Wax is the movie concept that just goes on and on. Chamber of Horrors, recently released on Blu-ray, was originally intended as a pilot for a House of Wax television series, but it was considered too disturbing for home viewing, so it was released to theaters instead. They even added a William Castle gimmick…a narrator at the beginning informs viewers there will be a Fear Flasher and Horror Horn warnings right before anything terrifying happens so you can look away.
You know what you see if you don’t look away? NOTHING. The gruesome scenes are literally cutaways. For instance, killer raises a cleaver to chop up victim aaaaand…cut away. Yawn.
However, there are what could be considered some pretty damn disturbing concepts for the time, beginning with a man marrying a dead woman and then keeping her body in his bed for the rest of the movie. Sure, everything is implied, and she doesn’t rot for us (he even sees her as beautiful and alive), but it’s still implying necrophilia back in 1966.
The killer is caught with the help of wannabe detectives that run the House of Wax in town. The killer escapes his handcuffs by hacking off his hand, replaces it with a hook, and then comes back for revenge.
Most of the time, he lurks in alleys like Jack the Ripper, and he occasionally kills someone.
The wax bust of him made for the museum also bears an uncanny resemblance to Vincent Price, which I can only assume is a wink to Price having starred in the 1953 version of House of Wax.
The absolute best scene of the film involves the killer faking out one of the detectives with his hook hand. The absolute oddest thing about the film is that it has little to do with the wax museum…until the final frame, which feels very much like it’s a cliffhanger setting us up for the TV show that never happened.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1971)
This one is like Rosemary’s Baby meets Children of the Corn right from the opening scene of children behaving badly, complete with some good scary kid music.
A man, woman, and child passing through a town become trapped there with a few locals—sheriff, doctor, priest—that are trying to figure out why there have been a series of murders and where all the missing children have gone.
Meanwhile, all the old people in town are in a cult and drawing the children their way. This movie really should have been called Adulthood vs. Childhood of Satan…
In true drug trippy 1970s horror fashion, this is one bizarre movie with creepy but often illogical scenes (like a knight on a horse suddenly galloping into the picture to behead someone).
The priest is the first to predict that witchcraft and the supernatural are to blame, and he’s also kind of pretty.
It’s not super suspenseful or gory, but The Brotherhood of Satan is unnerving and unsettling, with some genuinely eerie atmosphere and disturbing occult aspects.
SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS (1977)
Greydon Clark, director of Wacko, Uninvited, and Without Warning, took his first stab at horror with this goofy film in the 1970s. I admire him for not calling it quits after this disaster, which can at least be enjoyed now as the campy mess that it is.
It all begins with cheerleaders practicing on a beach to horrendous disco music. Don’t get me wrong, I was already a little disco queen when this film came out the same year as Saturday Night Fever, but this is horrendous disco.
They then take a shower and do a ridiculous dance and slap their asses while a bearish janitor peeps at them. After they leave, he goes and sniffs around their lockers. And when the girls have car trouble, wouldn’t you know the janitor shows up, throws them all in his truck, cops a few feels, drives them into the woods, and tries to sacrifice one to…the door knocker from Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol?
Before you know it, the cheerleaders are being chased through the woods by a zany cult, including the janitor, the sheriff, a farmer with a pitchfork, and a satanic monk, who is by far the funniest, most campy part of the film (and I think it’s actually intentional). Yet what’s funnier is when the sheriff rips open one girl’s blouse as he prepares to rape her, and her response is, “I’ll tell your wife.”
Lilly Munster is the sheriff’s wife, and she spends some time sitting around looking stunned at how bad the dialogue is and how bad the girls’ acting is before siccing her dogs on them.
While running away, one of the girls even has a run-in with John Carradine as a self-proclaimed crazy old bum.
Yes, Yvonne De Carlo and John Carradine both got suckered into doing this film. For a film called Satan’s Cheerleaders featuring two big names forever tied to the horror genre, it’s astounding that there’s no gore, little nudity, and no exploitation. That rape never even happens, so I guess the “I’ll tell your wife” line worked like a charm.
In the end, the cult is in for a big surprise, because one of the cheerleaders has some magic tricks up her sleeve.
KILLER’S DELIGHT (aka: The Sport Killer) (1978)
I sort of got bamboozled into buying this one because it was part of one of Vinegar Syndrome’s new release packaged deals. I could have sworn when I preordered I opted not to take the whole package because this one didn’t strike me as horror, but when my order eventually arrived, there it was.
This isn’t really much of a horror movie. However, there are some scenes that sure do leave an impression, including the opener of a man throwing a woman’s naked body off a cliff, and another woman’s body being found with her crying dog snuggled up against it.
The few kills are okay, and very disturbing in a 1970s vulnerable female panic way (you had to be there), and there is a pretty sadistic scene of the killer snapping limbs of a woman he’s holding captive. We know who the killer is all along (John Karlen of Dark Shadows), and he wears disguises so cheesy that a guy even rags on one of his looks to the main detective. This is definitely not about scares or suspense. Much of the film focuses on the detective following up after each body is found. Yawn.
Then the film just veers in a new direction, with Susan Sullivan, who only lasted one season on It’s a Living, stepping in to help out the detective and becoming the focus of the killer. There’s even a forced, cliché profiling of the killer tossed in during the final scene…by the killer! The killer literally self-diagnosis himself as a mamma’s boy. Ugh.