In the 1970’s the major networks began producing their own horror movies brought on by the success of the Dan Curtis’ TV film, Dark Shadows, and it‘s subsequent series. At this time period more than any other, horror flicks flourished on prime-time network television. I am going to review a bunch of these flicks. Each will be posted with my “TV Horror flick logo”
The Night Stalker (1972)
Directed by John Llewllyn Moxey Starring Darren McGavin Simon Oakland Carol Lynley Barry Atwater
Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson teamed up to produce and adapt the Jeff Rice unpublished novel, The Kolchak Papers. Renamed The Night Stalker. It held the record in ratings for the most watched TV movie up to that time boasting a 54% Market share. Filmed for ABC, it was an entertaining vampire film with an outstanding protagonist in Carl Kolchak played deftly by Darren McGavin. I remember the vampire being highly active and having tremendous strength, different than vampires in films up to the time. It was a huge event to have a horror film on prime time TV and it made for active water cooler and school hall chatter for weeks. The finale where Kolchak enters the vampires lair to drive a stake through the vampire’s heart offers rich suspense and atmosphere as powerful as any major film. This film was followed by another made for TV film, The Night Strangler, and a TV series. Unfortunately, Curtis and Matheson were not part of the series which struggled for two years before being cancelled, but there are some fun episodes in the series nevertheless. The Night Stalker is a great movie and holds up well even to this day.
Stuart Townsend Aaliyah Marguerite Moreau Paul McGann Vincent Pérez Lena Olin
All the seductive energy and violence you would want from a vampire film oozes off the screen in the rich atmospheric tone of Queen of the Damned. There was a period soon after the hey-day of MTV and the pinnacle of the music-video where movies resembled music videos; lots of fast cuts, visual flashes that hint at the scenes set up, and active camera movement. Luckily Rymer interspersed this style with long slow motion shots (especially of Aaliyah) to add some variety. The film does indeed feel like a string of music videos with the storyline shuffled in between the visual montages. Add to that the music of Jonathan Davis (Korn) and the fact that in this film Lestat becomes the singer of a goth/metal band and you can’t help but draw the comparisons. But it works in this film which is a much bigger story in Anne Rice’ s Novel than can fit into a normal length movie.
The film seduces the viewer with sensual visuals in much the same way as Bela Lugosi’ s Dracula did to audiences in the 1930s. It also presents the visceral violence and blood that belongs in a vampire film (this is no Twilight!). Lestat (Stuart Townsend) plays the rock star persona perfectly. He is charming and dangerous, a lethal mixture for his female fans in the film. Akasha (Aaliyah) is a seductive diva whose every move is a graceful dance even as she dispels her underlings. With splayed fingers and a sly sideways glance her kinetic energy reaches through the screen. Throughout the film Aaliyah moves like a serpent and speaks like a serpent, with S-heavy whispers. It would have been an asset to the film if they had captured a bit of her singing voice to immortalize her even more after her untimely death.
For those who liked the goth-rock music scene of the time, and the music video style, the film should be enjoyable. However, those who don’t enjoy at least some of Davis’s music might feel the story is a little shallow and may not connect with the characters. Having been in the music scene for much of the first half of my life, as a musician and as a journalist, the film does connect with me. I also enjoy the visual artistry that film can be, especially when it’s joined with heady music. So you can choose to sit back and enjoy the spectacle or you could just pass on this film depending on your tastes. I choose to watch it.
An adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel that is just as much a visual medium as a story telling experience.
I give it 3.9 bloody fangs out of 5 on the visceral vampire vixen scale.
Directed by Roy Ward Baker Produced by Milton Subotsky Starring Vincent Price Donald Pleasence John Carradine Stuart Whitman Britt Ekland Patrick Magee –
This is often considered the last Amicus Film, however Amicus was dismantled shortly before working on this film. This is also the last film that Milton Subotsky worked on in his career. It is based on short stories by British horror author R. Chetwynd-Hayes who is also a main character in the film. Vincent Price plays Eramus, a vampire who attacks the author, R.Chetwynd-Hayes, played by John Carradine. When he realizes he has attacked his favorite author, he offers Chetwynd-Hayes access to a place that will give him ideas for his next book. He brings him to a club where all the ghouls and creatures of the night gather. At a small table in the corner three stories are revealed. The first story concerns a Shadmock described as a lesser monster who’s only power is his demonic whistle. The Shadmock, Raven, puts out an ad to hire a personal assistant. A young man convinces his girl to take the job just so they can later rob the rich old estate owner blind. At first the young woman is fearful of Raven’s strange, deathly look. But soon it seems the Shadmock and the assistant may be falling in love. As his trust in her grows he reveals the hidden safe showing the riches of the centuries. But will the young woman steal his valuables or stay on as his assistant and let their budding love flourish? Raven puckers his lips but is it for a kiss or to whistle? The second story tells the tale of a young family who lives in a big scary house and the husband/father who ‘works nights’. A few detectives in a van start flowing the young boy and asking him questions. What does your father actually do for a living? Why does he sleep all day in the cellar? etc. The detectives finally convince little Jimmy to let them In and lead them to the cellar. They are modern day vampire hunters with wooden stakes and garlic cloves. Can Jimmy’s dad somehow survive a daytime attack? In the final story an impatient movie director, Sam, goes location hunting for his next film and finds a small town inhabited by the Humgoo (ghouls). The ghouls won’t let him leave the town, they want him to stay for dinner. They paw and grab at him like zombies, trying sluggishly to bite him. He takes sanctuary in an abandoned church where they seem reluctant to enter. There he learns the strange history of the town. All the stories are campy entertainment and there isn’t a moment of anything remotely scary in the whole film. The film is amusing and entertaining, but I wouldn‘t consider it much more than a novelty. Between the story segments there are full 1980’s MTV video style songs played by bands at the club with mixed results. There’s also an interesting stripper dance where the woman takes off more than her clothes. The wrap around story concludes with a social message. The undead creatures make R.Chetwynd-Hayes, an honorary member of the Monster Club, after describing what man does to his fellow man (to a montage of news clips and video) and concluding that man is the biggest monster of all.
Be sure to view all the Amicus films I have reviewed on Parlor of Horror at this master page: Amicus Films Overview