Tuesday, December 26, 2023

December Quick Picks and Pans


Next of Kin

Next of Kin (1982) Director/co-writer Tony Williams’ engrossing Australian gothic tale is full of surprises. Linda (Jacki Kerin) inherits her aunt’s retirement home (replete with the residents), an old gothic mansion (filmed at Overnewton Castle in Keilor, Victoria). She rekindles her romance with Barney (John Jarratt), an old flame, but soon discovers that all isn’t what it seems within the dusty recesses of the house. As the residents start mysteriously dying off, she begins to suspect that someone is gaslighting her – but for what purpose? This slow-burn thriller features excellent cinematography, strong performances by the cast, and a literally (and figuratively) explosive finale. 

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray and Tubi 

The Shadow of the Cat

The Shadow of the Cat (1961) This John Gilling-directed film fits in nicely with the black-and-white Hammer thrillers of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. With the help of his loyal servants, scheming husband Walter Venable (André Morell) perpetrates the death of his wealthy, elderly wife to secure her estate. The only witness to the murder is her beloved cat, who continually evades the tormented co-conspirators. When his niece Beth (Barbara Shelley) comes to stay with them, she quickly suspects something is terribly wrong, starting with their irrational fear of the cat. While The Shadow of the Cat might not be the best-remembered Hammer thriller of its era, it has enough atmosphere and twists to merit a watch (or two). 

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray and DVD 



Looker (1981) Albert Finney stars as Dr. Larry Roberts, a Los Angeles-based plastic surgeon who fixes imperfections (perceived and otherwise) in fashion models, bestowing them with more desirable attributes. After the sudden deaths of some of his clients are chalked off to suicide, he attempts to prevent the same thing from happening to another model, Cindy Fairmont (Susan Dey). He stumbles upon a sinister plot, with signs pointing to unscrupulous Digital Matrix CEO John Reston (James Coburn). Writer/director Michael Chrichton’s tech-thriller is surprisingly prescient, with its concept of using virtual, computer-generated personalities to replace flesh-and-blood actors. The execution is sloppy, with plot holes galore, but the ahead-of-its-time premise makes this well worth a look. 

Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray and DVD


Idaho Transfer

Idaho Transfer (1973) Peter Fonda directed this bleak, low-key science fiction film, which raises more questions than it answers. As part of a top-secret experiment (hidden from the scrutiny of the feds), a small group of young people travel 50+ years into the future. Due to an environmental cataclysm, most of the Earth’s population has been wiped out, so their mission is to repopulate the planet. Unfortunately for the intrepid bunch, things don’t go quite as planned. The movie suffers from lackluster performances by the young (mostly unknown) leads, and pacing borders on tedious. It’s almost redeemed, however, by its unique, lo-fi approach to time travel (travel by anyone over age 28 results in fatal kidney damage), and an ending that will make you wonder what you just watched. 

Rating: ***. Available on DVD and Tubi

The Man with Two Heads (1972) Writer/director/cinematographer Andy Milligan strikes again; this time, with his take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s enduring story, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Denis DeMarne stars as Dr. William Jekyll (inexplicably changed from Henry Jekyll in the original story) devises a serum to isolate the evil that dwells within all men, using himself as guinea pig. An eager assistant mucks up his formula, causing him to undergo a radical transformation, and bringing out suppressed violent urges. While Milligan’s film looks about as professional as your grandparents’ home movies, The Man with Two Heads manages to be more entertaining than Amicus’ more polished, albeit tepid, version, I, Monster, thanks to the main character’s vacillating moods and sadistic tendencies. Considering Milligan’s capricious nature, I suspect there were some autobiographical elements that came into play.   

Rating: **½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD, Tubi and Midnight Pulp

Monday, December 4, 2023

The Hammer-Amicus Blogathon IV – Final Recap


The Hammer-Amicus Blogathon Banner

All good things must come to an end, and so concludes the fourth edition of the Hammer-Amicus Blogathon, hosted by Yours Truly and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews. I can’t thank Gill enough for being such a wonderful co-host, and look forward to our future collaborations. And thanks to you, dear bloggers (and readers), for helping to make this something truly special. With 28 confirmed bloggers contributing (As of December 4th), this has been one of our biggest blogathons yet!

The Gorgon

As always, we were impressed with the variety of fascinating posts about the movies and people that made these two beloved production companies so exceptional. If we get any additional late submissions this week I’ll add ‘em to the list below.

The Skull

As Gill mentioned on her blog, Hammer-Amicus will take a break next year, but we look forward to its return in 2025. Meanwhile, since 2024 is just around the corner, we’d like to remind you that we have two brand-new blogathons looming on the horizon, and we’re itching to tell you about them. … Except you’ll have to wait just a bit longer. Until then, please enjoy the sensational posts below, and stay tuned for more blogging fun in the New Year!   

Sword of Sherwood Forest

In addition to today’s links, don’t miss the previous days’ submissions:

Day 1  

Day 2  

and Day 3 


Hammer Film Production

The Curse of Frankenstein

Sally Silverscreen from 18 Cinema Lane cautions us to beware the Curse of Frankenstein (1957) 


Asylum Poster

Join Rebecca from Taking Up Room, if you dare, as she visits the Asylum (1972).

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The game is afoot when Hamlette (Rachel) from Hamlette’s Soliloquy investigates The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959).

Vampire Circus Poster

What does glam rock have to do with vampires? Amber (aka: Tango in Eden) clues us in with her review of Vampire Circus (1972).


Night Creatures

Stately Wayne Manor from On Manor’s Mind shares you some of his thoughts about Night Creatures (aka: Captain Clegg) (1962). 

An Amicus Production

At the Earth's Core

How low can you go? The eponymous Craggus from What the Craggus Saw finds out, when he reviews At the Earth’s Core (1976).



Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Hammer-Amicus Blogathon IV – Day 3 Recap


Hammer-Amicus Blogathon IV Banner - From Beyond the Grave

Believe it or not, we’ve already reached Day Three of the Hammer-Amicus Blogathon IV, hosted by Yours Truly and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews. While there are fewer posts, compared to the past two days, don’t let that dissuade you from reading these superb posts! It’s been a blast co-hosting with Gill, and look forward to our continued collaboration for next year’s (Secret) and (Also secret) blogathons. Watch for announcements in the months ahead…

The Lost Continent

Gill and I have reserved Day 4 for any last-minute posts, so no worries if you’re still running late. Post a comment below, email me at barry_cinematic@yahoo.com, Twitter (@barry_cinematic), Instagram (barry_cinematic), or by commenting below. You may also contact Gill by commenting on her post, or through her blog’s Contact Me page.

Horror Hotel

In addition to today’s links, be sure to visit the Day 1 and Day 2 Recaps. 


A Hammer Film Production


The Lost Continent Poster

Brian from Films from Beyond invites us to visit The Lost Continent (1968)

To the Devil a Daughter

Mocata from Synthetic Cinema has some choice words to share about To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

The Mystery of the Mary Celeste

Lê from Critica Retro delves into The Mystery of the Mary Celeste (aka, Phantom Ship) (1935)

The Steel Bayonet Poster

J-Dub of Dubsism gives us his assessment of The Steel Bayonet (1957)


Amicus Productions

From Beyond the Grave Poster

Michael from Maniacs and Monsters weighs in on the portmanteau anthology, From Beyond the Grave (1974).

The Land that Time Forgot Poster

The People that Time Forgot Poster

Eric Binford from Diary of a Movie Maniac is here to remind you about The Land That Time Forgot (1974) and The People That Time Forgot (1977).

Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Hammer-Amicus Blogathon IV – Day 2 Recap

Hammer-Amicus Blogathon IV Banner - Twins of Evil

We’re back for Day 2 of the Hammer-Amicus Blogathon IV, hosted by Yours Truly and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews. Today, we have another batch of eclectic posts for your reading pleasure. Oh, and please excuse my tardiness if you haven’t received a comment from me yet. You should be hearing from me soon.

The Abominable Snowman

Don’t worry if you’re running a bit late! We’ll be sure to post your link on Day Three or (just confirmed) Bonus Day 4. Post a comment below, email me at barry_cinematic@yahoo.com, Twitter (@barry_cinematic), Instagram (barry_cinematic), or by commenting below. You may also contact Gill by commenting on her post, or through her blog’s Contact Me page.


Tales from the Crypt

Here are today’s offerings...  and be sure to check out the posts from Day 1, and stay tuned for Day 3!


A Hammer Film Production

Paranoiac Poster

What’s that behind you? Never fear, it’s only John from Tales from the Freakboy Zone discussing Paranoiac (1963).

The Woman in Black 2 Poster

Andrew from Maniacs and Monsters is back in black with TheWoman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2014).

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave

Rise and shine with Jack Seabrook’s (from Bare Bones E-Zine) look at Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968). 

Nightmare Poster

Don’t be afraid to check out Nitrate Glow’s review of Nightmare (1964).

The Engelsfors Trilogy

Kevin, aka: The Grump of Horror looks at books – specifically The Engelsfors Trilogy


The Viking Queen Poster

Holger Haase from Hammer and Beyond spends some quality time with The Viking Queen (1967).  

The Witches Poster

Sit a spell with Eddie Harrison from Film Authority as he reviews The Witches (1966).

The Gorgon Poster

You’d better not avert your eyes from Dan Stephens’ (from Top 10 Films) take on The Gorgon (1964). 


The Reptile Poster

…And don’t slither away before reading my review of The Reptile (1966).


Amicus Productions

The Skull Poster

I hear your noggin, but you can’t come in. Check out Black Cats and Poppies’ take on The Skull (1965). 

Hey, daddy-o, don’t be a drag. Hang with cool cat Terence Towles Canote from A Shroud of Thoughts, as he comments on It’s Trad, Dad! (1962). 


The Reptile

The Reptile Poster

(1966) Directed by John Gilling; Written by John Elder; Starring: Noel Willman, Ray Barrett, Michael Ripper, Jennifer Daniel, Jacqueline Pearce, John Laurie and Marne Maitland; Available on Blu-ray and DVD. 

Rating: ***½ 

First of all, congratulations are in order for my superb co-host, Gill Jacob from Realweegiemidget Reviews, for co-hosting a fourth (!) edition of the Hammer-Amicus Blogathon, delving further into the wealth of cinematic delights from both esteemed production companies. Be sure to check out all the wonderful posts! 

The Reptile Lurks in the Shadows

“Mr. Spalding, I was a professional seaman, and I too, have knocked around the world a bit, but I’ve seen things that your logic could not explain away.” – Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper) 

“It was hell… I spent a couple of hours in makeup every morning. I could only shoot every other day because taking it off would leave my skin so raw. I wasn’t comfortable in that at all.” – Jacqueline Pearce (excerpted from Hammer Glamour, by Marcus Hearn)

Charles Spalding

As any music enthusiast would likely attest, the B-side can be just as intriguing, if not more so, veering in directions that would be unthinkable for a potential hit single. Intended to be the second film on a double bill with Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966), The Reptile is a second feature that’s anything but secondary. It was the last in a series of four films that were shot back-to-back (preceded by Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Rasputin the Mad Monk, and Plague of the Zombies), as part of producer Anthony Nelson Keys’ cost-cutting experiment.* Production started only a week after shooting for Plague of the Zombies ceased. Bernard Robinson’s lavish set design (employed on a shoestring) cleverly concealed the film’s low-budget origins.*** Director John Gilling claimed to have rewritten John Elder’s** script “…more or less as I went along,” but the Shout Factory Blu-ray commentary seems to suggest otherwise, stating there has been no proof of Gilling’s reworking of the original script.

* Fun Fact #1: Of the four films, only The Reptile finished under budget, for the paltry sum of £100,599. 

** Fun Fact #2: John Elder’s story was originally pitched to Universal in 1963 as The Curse of the Reptiles. When it finally reached production in 1965 under Hammer, budgetary constraints necessitated paring things down to one monster. 

*** Fun Fact #3: The gothic country house Oakley Court (built in 1859) stood in for Dr. Franklyn’s mansion. If you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu, your brain isn’t deceiving you. It’s been featured in several other productions over the years, including The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Vampyres (1974), and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). 

Valerie and Harry Spalding

After the untimely death of his brother Charles (David Baron), Captain Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett) and his wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) inherit the elder Spalding’s modest estate, Larkrise. They arrive in the village to an icy reception from the suspicious residents, who fear “the black death,” which has claimed a handful of other lives. Only barkeep Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper) extends a hand of friendship to the perplexed couple. They soon encounter theologian Dr. Franklyn, who’s settled in the sleepy Cornish village after traveling in the Far East. He lives with his reclusive daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce), holding dominion over her… but why? The answer could be Captain Spalding’s undoing.

Tom Bailey

Our main protagonists, Harry and Valerie, are about as vanilla as you can get. If you want any spice, look no further than the exemplary supporting performances, especially by Hammer’s Swiss Army Knife in residence, Michael Ripper, as pub owner Tom Bailey.* In most other movies, it would be a thankless, insubstantial role, but Ripper imbues the part with depth, warmth and unexpected humor – a testament to his formidable talent. Tom shows Spalding and his wife compassion when most of the villagers turn their backs, and becomes the hero Spalding couldn’t be. To her credit, Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) is a stronger female character, compared to most other Hammer heroines of the period. Instead of shrieking in hysterics, she remains calm in the face of adversity. Despite the danger, she rises to the challenge on multiple occasions. When her husband is envenomated, she promptly treats his wound, and ventures in his place to the perilous Franklyn residence. 

* Fun Fact #4: Ripper biographer Derk Pykett commented, “It’s a role that could have easily been overplayed, or gone by hardly unnoticed. But the Rip plays the role perfectly, with just the right amount of humor and dread that makes barkeep Tom Bailey a memorable character.”

Mad Peter

John Laurie provides another noteworthy supporting performance as “Mad” Peter,* the town eccentric. He’s at once beloved by the townsfolk but written off because he’s a nonconformist (seeing and hearing what others ignore). While he provides some much-needed levity to the film, he much more than comic relief. It’s too bad he’s afforded so little screen time, because he almost deserved his own movie. 

* Side Note: I couldn’t help but speculate if Mad Peter was the ancestor of another cinematic doomsayer, Crazy Ralph from the first two installments of the Friday the 13th Franchise.

Dr. Franklyn

Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman) is the most enigmatic character, initially unlikeable but ultimately sympathetic. We eventually come to learn what a terrible burden he carries, with no means of righting the wrongs he’s committed. Haunted by his indiscretion after traveling to Borneo to pursue the mysteries of an elusive cult, the Ourang Sancto, Franklyn, now a puppet of the mysterious Malay (Marne Maitland), is responsible for his daughter’s present condition,

Anna Franklyn

Jacqueline Pearce, probably best known today for her role as the scheming villainess Servalan in the TV show Blake’s 7, will likely surprise some viewers, playing such a sensitive, tragic figure as Anna Franklyn. She endures a seemingly uncurable affliction: undergoing a transformation into a deadly snake woman. Kept in isolation by her father, she longs for companionship, keeping a room full of small animals as “pets.”* Her relationship with Dr. Franklyn is best described as contentious. In one scene, she plays the sitar for her guests, Captain Spalding and Valerie, only to have it unceremoniously smashed over the fireplace by her father. 

* Fun Fact #5 (MINOR SPOILER): Pet lovers will be relieved to know that Valerie’s adorable kitten featured in the beginning of the film does not become reptile food, but survives the (literally) fiery conclusion.

Anna as The Reptile

Roy Ashton used care when applying Pearce’s reptile makeup, which she didn’t tolerate well (he claimed the actress was claustrophobic). The makeup might appear crude* by today’s standards, but it does the job. Anna, in reptile form,** is genuinely scary as depicted, emerging from the shadows or in quick cuts, compensating for the limitations of the makeup. The dreadful effects of the Reptile’s venom are manifested in three progressively hideous stages, with the skin of the victims turning black and green, blood running from their eyes, and froth foaming at the mouth. 

* Fun Fact #6: Ashton used papier mâché for the shed skin Dr. Franklyn discovers in his daughter’s bed. 

** Fun Fact #7: After being unimpressed by some of the rushes (raw, unedited footage) of Jacqueline Pearce in makeup, Hammer ordered re-shoots (something almost unheard of for the thrifty production company).


Dr. Franklyn and The Malay

The Reptile’s theme about a threat from the East, is undeniably steeped in xenophobia, with a curse by an Eastern shaman, known only as “The Malay” (Marne Maitland). While the film sets up Dr. Franklyn as the victim, he imposed himself on a culture that didn’t want him there (“…my research into the primitive religions of the East”), unfortunately resulting in his daughter paying an unfathomable price. The filmmakers were sure to keep The Malay as one-dimensional as possible, so he appeared unsympathetic and more monstrous than the creature he helped create. He poses as Franklyn’s servant, but the reverse is true, with Franklyn inextricably indebted to the strange man. It’s only a smoke screen, however, to distract us from a greater truth. Franklyn, a colonial, was an interloper in an indigenous society he didn’t respect and knew little about.

Valerie, Capt Spalding and Tom

The Reptile transcends its second-billing leanings, ingeniously obscuring its low-budget origins, and veering in unexpected directions (such as Tom Bailey’s heroism). It also stands apart from many other Hammer horror films, featuring an original creature that was created for the movie, and not a retread of a Universal property. One of the Blu-ray commenters asserted that it wasn’t much of a mystery who the eponymous creature was, but I don’t think that was ever the point. It’s simply an entertaining, and frequently scary yarn, perfect for Saturday matinees and rainy days.


Sources for this article: The Hammer Story, by Marcus Hearn and Alan Barnes; The Hammer Vault, by Marcus Hearn; Hammer Glamour, by Marcus Hearn; Hammer Films: The Unsung Heroes, by Wayne Kinsey; Micheal Ripper: Unmasked, by Derek Pykett, Shout Factory Blu-ray Commentary by Steve Haberman, Ted Newsom, and Constantine Nasr

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