It’s time for my annual Halloween post! Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year; a time when I can not be ashamed of my love for horror films and monsters. Originally my Halloween posts were about several horror films that I wanted to bring attention to throughout the year, but the last few years I have decided to let a few contributors (those I have met through my journeys reviewing their works here, or to some friends that I am more than happy to give them some attention). This year I reached out to a few pals, and gave them free reign to write about ANYTHING that is related to Halloween, horror or monster films, or the season itself.
One of my favorite writers I have met since starting to focus on blogging reviews is Gary A. Smith, who has written many wonderful books (you can read some of my reviews on his books by typing his name into the search engine and visiting the archives section). Smith has been a contributor to the magazine Little Shoppe of Horrors from 1980-2013, and has written several books about various aspects of films. He also gives me some great film choices to watch throughout the year. He, like me, has the habit of trying to watch a horror film every day during the month of October to get in the mood. He decided to take a look at female characters in horror films:
Most of us are familiar with the famous male monsters but the far fewer female ones have often unfairly taken a back seat to their male counterparts…sort of like in the American workplace. Here are ten which are just as fearsome as any male monster you might encounter, often more so. After all, hell hath no fury…..
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)- There is quite a buildup until we finally get to see “The Bride” in all her horrible glory. As played by Elsa Lanchester, her few minutes on screen at the climax of the movie have made an indelible impression on movie fans ever since. She also makes quite an impression on Frankenstein’s poor monster who sheds a tear at her rejection of him and then blows them both to smithereens.
DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936)- Countess Marya Zaleska as played by Gloria Holden is far less well known than her illustrious father. She is an artist living in London and claims she only wants release from the vampire curse. But does she really? I’m sure victim Nan Grey would tell you otherwise. The odd tone of the movie did not set well with Universal execs and brought about the end of their first cycle of horror movies which had begun with DRACULA in 1931.
THE CAT PEOPLE (1942)- Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) is convinced she suffers from a Serbian curse which turns her into a panther. Jealousy is one of the emotions that triggers the change so heaven help lovers Kent Smith and Jane Randolph. This was the first in the outstanding series of horror movies produced at RKO by Val Lewton. THE CAT PEOPLE was remade very effectively in 1982 with Nastassja Kinski as Irena, although its horrors were far less subtle.
CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943)- Paula Dupree has the distinction of being the only female monster in the Universal pantheon to have a series of her own. Admittedly it isn’t one of the most distinguished series they made but it is definitely worth watching. Paula is the name given to Cheela the gorilla when mad scientist John Carradine transforms her into a woman. Paula appeared in three films. In the first two, CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN and JUNGLE WOMAN (1944) she is played by Aquanetta. In the third, JUNGLE CAPTIVE (1945), Vicky Lane takes over the part.
THE SHE-CREATURE (1956)- During the horror movie boom of the Fifties, there were a number of female monsters and THE SHE-CREATURE was one of the first.This early offering from American-International Pictures has gorgeous Marla English regressed hypnotically by Chester Morris into a prehistoric sea monster, beautifully designed by Paul Blaisdell. Once you’ve seen her, you’re not likely forget her in either form.
BLOOD OF DRACULA (1958)- Another AIP movie which, despite the title, has nothing at all to do with Dracula. Instead we have Nancy (Sandra Harrison), an unhappy teenager sent to a private girl’s school where the science teacher (Louise Lewis) decides she would be the perfect candidate for an experiment. Unfortunately said experiment transforms Nancy into an especially gruesome looking blood sucking vampire. Teenage terror ensues among Nancy’s curvy classmates.
FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967)- In Hammer’s fourth outing featuring Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein, the good doctor takes the body of a crippled woman who has committed suicide, infuses her with the soul of her wrongly executed lover and creates the stunningly beautiful Susan Denberg. She then uses her beauty to revenge herself on the trio of dandies who framed her lover for murder. One of the most memorable and tragic films in all the Hammer canon.
THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970)- Although many buxom vampire women had been featured in previous Hammer films, this is the first of their movies to have one in the central role. The extraordinary Ingrid Pitt plays Carmilla Karnstein, a rapacious lady vampire who seduces her (mostly female) victims and then slowly bleeds them dry. The movie inspired two follow ups: LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1970) and TWINS OF EVIL (1971). Together they have become known as The Karnstein Trilogy.
SUGAR HILL (1974)- In this deft combination of blaxploitation and horror, Sugar Hill (Marki Bey) uses voodoo to raise an army of zombies to get revenge on the mob boss (Robert Quarry) who killed her lover. This may well be the last movie to feature zombies created by voodoo before they gave way to the gut munching creatures that have come to proliferate in movies and TV.
And last but certainly not least….
CARRIE (1976)- Based on Stephen King’s first novel about a telekinetic teenager, Brian DePalma created a masterpiece of horror that has never come close to being equalled by the several remakes. Cissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, as the abused teen and her religious fanatic mother, were both nominated for Academy Awards. And the movie has what is possibly the greatest shock ending in all of horror cinema.
You can order Gary’s books at :
I always like to add some polls , asking my readers their opinions on some Halloween themed questions. Here are the results:
Halloween 2019 Poll Results:
- Best Halloween Candy?
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 90%
- Which is the Worst Candy for Halloween?
Candy Corn 84%
(No surprise here, many tend to HATE the Candy Corn)
3. Which actress who has NOT been in a horror film (that you know of) would you like to see in one?
Gal Gadot 55%
Taylor Swift 40%
Other (Brie Larson) 5%
(It was interesting to see Taylor Swift have such a big vote in this, since she’s not known much as an actress)
4. Should Sci-Fi and Horror Films be in Separate Categories?
(No contest here, and I agree. I get frustrated when stores put the horror films with the Sci Fi selections)
5. Best Halloween Song?
Michael Jackson “Thriller” 50%
Boris Picket’s “Monster Mash” 45%
(The “Others” included “Purple People Eater” and a few rarer songs. It seems that M.J. is still the King of Halloween. No love for Alice Cooper or Jumping Gene Simmons’ “Haunted House” novelty song this year)
My next contributor is Eric Walker, who runs WatchTowerHeroes Comics in Columbiana, Ohio, who loves Halloween and monsters as much as I do. Eric decided to focus on monsters in comics, which is very interesting topic.
From Filmland to the Comic Pages
When the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolf Man are mentioned, one typically thinks of Lugosi, Chaney Jr., and Karloff. An oft-overlooked contributor to the horror genre is comic books. From the Golden Age of pre-code horror to the booming 70’s of mainstream horror books, comic books have been sending chills down spines for decades. With such an extensive roster of horrific characters that would take forever to delve into, let’s look at just the 3 a fore-mentioned icons and their introduction to mainstream comics in the 70’s.
The most well-known comic book featuring Dracula is Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula. The series begins with Dracula arising from his tomb and his direct descendant, Frank Drake, set on hunting him down and sending him back to his grave. While a horror title, the comic series also has fun undertones with a good amount of action and turmoil. The series is also credited with introducing everyone’s favorite vampire slayer, Blade!
The Monster has been used in many different iterations throughout comics but received his own title in the 70’s called The Monster of Frankenstein. This series was relatively short-lived, with the first few issues just retelling his origin. The series ultimately ended with the Monster somehow in current times. The storytelling in the series is a little light but it gave some fun moments and crossovers, with some pretty cool art.
In the comic books, the werewolf to know is in the pages of Werewolf by Night. In this series, Jack Russell (creative name) must deal with curse of being a werewolf. As if this wasn’t a struggle enough, he must also constantly keep his sister safe from the same curse. Jack faces off against Dracula, Morbius, and the ever-popular Moon Knight. The exploits of Jack Russell are a true representation of the fun that is Marvel’s age of horror.
We all have our Halloween season traditions; watching scary movies, carving pumpkins, eating too much candy. Why not add to the fun and read a horror comic series or graphic novel to add to the terror? Happy Halloween
Visit the WatchtowerHeroes store if you are near Columbiana, Ohio or visit his site at : http://www.watchtowerheroes.com/)
Another movie expert, and someone I have been a fan of his site for a while now, is Mike Perry. Mike is a major movie collector, along with a vast knowledge of films (so much so that I learn something every time he posts something). One should visit his site, http://www.mikestakeonthemovies.com/ , not just for the movie information and his personal opinions on films, but also to see his pictures and videos of his collection. Either way you will be educated. Last year, Mike took us on his Hammer film likes , and again, he enlightens us with more Hammer films.
5 Hammer Recommendations Minus Lee and Cushing
Time to turn my thoughts once again to the films we love to revisit during the Halloween season. Last year, Lance Lumley, invited me over to his site, Lance Writes, as a guest blogger and has kindly done so once again for the 2019 season. For my previous entry I focused on my five favorite duets of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Feel free to check them out here.
As Mr. Lee and Mr. Cushing are quite often associated to the Studio That Dripped Blood, Hammer Films, I thought I’d shine the light on some other titles from the studio that did not star either one of the dynamic duo of horror. To do so I reached for my handy copy of Hammer Films : An Exhaustive Filmography from writers Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio from McFarland Publishing.
Let the debates begin but here are five titles I’ve come up with for today. Ask me tomorrow and I may change my tune and after thumbing through that book I’m not sure how I’m going to narrow this to five so you can definitely expect some honorable mentions at the bottom of the page.
Here we go in no specific order…..
Plague of the Zombies (1966)
Directed by John Gilling and starring the very dependable Andre Morell, this Hammer outing was like discovering a new flavor of ice cream when I first saw it thanks to it’s release on VHS tape via Anchor Bay in the clam shell case. I guess one could argue that Morell scores the Cushing role as a man trying to find out what is terrorizing a small community while John Carson scores the Lee role. Meaning he’s the villain who has been dabbling with voodoo dolls and raising the dead.
The production has that gorgeous Hammer look and feel to it that fans have come to recognize and of course character player Michael Ripper makes his customary appearance to give us that warm and comfortable feeling. Highly recommended if you’ve somehow missed this one that I think has gained in popularity thanks to the home video market. Oh, and I’m totally convinced if this had starred either Lee or Cushing or better still, both, it would have been one of Hammer’s more popular titles looking back.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Another outing from 1966 proved to be a memorable one for different reasons. As a kid there’s no doubt that it was the special effects of stop motion master, Ray Harryhausen. Any film that turned up on TV featuring his amazing work was always a reason for celebration and would cause this young hockey player to forgo the neighborhood road hockey game to stay indoors and watch the Saturday matinee on TV. The teen years hit and you’d still be forgoing the road hockey match because you wanted to watch Raquel Welch parading around in a caveman era bikini. Now that I’ve aged into fatherhood I’m not sure which reason becomes more prevalent. Harryhausen or Welch?
Either way this one is worth looking into for both reasons though it’s all rather silly in the end. Still, a must see for the work of Harryhausen. A true genius of whose importance to cinema goes far beyond the films of Hammer thus making my list of films to see.
Hammer dabbled in a number of Psycho like tales once Hitchcock unleashed the story of Norman Bates upon the world. For this effort from director, Freddie Francis, making his debut for the studio, a suitably brooding Oliver Reed has been cast in the lead role playing a troubled young man awaiting an inheritance to finally be awarded to him. His parents are long dead as is a missing brother who supposedly committed suicide years ago. Problems arise when the long thought dead brother arrives at the estate shortly before the money is handed over to the alcoholic Ollie.
Ollie an alcoholic? Perish the thought!
I’ve always liked this one and that’s in large part because I’ve always been a fan of the cinema’s number one badass, Reed. Director Francis would go on to do a number of Hammer films including both a Frankenstein and Dracula title as well as guiding a number of Amicus titles starring both Peter and Christopher.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
Bizarre twist on the famous Stevenson tale has the perfect casting. Ralph Bates as the good Doctor and look-a-like Martine Beswick as the murderous Hyde. Roy ward Baker takes the directing duties for this colorful tale of Victorian England that the studio excelled at. There’s not a lot to explain here. If you know the story of Jekyll and Hyde (assuming you have a pulse then you should know it) then the title gives all the plot points you’ll need to understand about what’s going to be happening to poor Ralph Bates.
Exploitative? You bet and by this time the studio had been dabbling in lesbians vampires and nudity. No lovely vampires cross over into the Jekyll story but Miss Beswick does offer up some skin for those looking to get a more intimate look at one of Sean Connery’s Bond girls.
I know it’s a Halloween theme but I can’t list my Hammer favorites without including this superb police drama starring the one and only Stanley Baker…..
Hell Is a City (1960)
Baker is a precursor to Dirty Harry as a cop looking to take down a murderer on the loose in Manchester. To do so he plays it mean and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The killer is effectively played by John Crawford who has escaped from prison and managed to pull off a heist. What Baker doesn’t yet know is all the crimes committed in the story are connected but with some forceful interrogation of key suspects he’s going to begin to connect the dots.
The film also stars Billie Whitelaw and in his only appearance for Hammer, Donald Pleasence. One would think that Donald should have been a sure fit for the studio’s many thrillers but it wasn’t meant to be.
This is another film that I had no idea of it’s existence until Anchor Bay released it on VHS for home video. Funny thing is I remember putting off purchasing it till I had all the other releases first. The reason? Cause it wasn’t a horror film and Hammer for me had always represented horror. As the years and film studies would go by I’d learn that they had a number of Noir tales in the books as well prior to Curse of Frankenstein that changed their fortunes and direction for the years ahead.
Be sure to watch this one. A solid gangster film and one that’s worthy to make a best of list when it comes to naming top British gangster pictures.
I know, I know, where’s Captain Kronos? Tell me about, that one’s got Caroline Munro! And how could you totally ignore Countess Dracula and the Quatermaas films? Honestly when it comes the Quatermaas films, I really like the first two but am less then enamored of the third film which seems to be the one most others like the best. On that note, X-The Unknown is also a good one alongside The Snorkel starring a deadly Peter Van Eyck. For a dose of real terror that was years ahead of it’s time one should check out Never Take Sweets From a Stranger. A chilling studio entry that’s just as relevant today as it was then.
I guess the bottom line is I would encourage one and all to look beyond the usual titles and films that featured Lee and Cushing. Hammer fans I know will be familiar with all the titles above but for those that are not then hopefully I’ve given you something to track down and enjoy. Thanks to Lance for having me over to share some fun titles for the pumpkin season.
Finally, since the horror genre was pretty much lacking in quality this year in my opinion overall, I decided to write about something I wanted to do for a long time. Not only movies and comics have had scary characters, but the influence on them has been a major factor in the world of professional wrestling. There have been many wrestlers with a vampire gimmick (Freddy Blassie and Gangrel come to mind), a Yeti, devil worshipers, and even Dr. Frank from Memphis, who was a Frankenstein Monster (who was stuck in his coffin during a bomb threat during the live TV show).
Right now WWE’s Bray Wyatt’s character is one of the talked about wrestlers today, providing a fresh take on a somewhat schizophrenic character (part Kane, Mankind, and Doink The Clown mixed together with Mr. Rogers) Wrestling has had many scary (and wild) characters throughout the years; from The Undertaker, Wolfmen, Vampires, Mummys, Chuckys, Zombies, Leatherfaces, the Frankenstein Monster, and more. I thought for Halloween I would list a few of the most scary wrestling gimmicks I grew up on.
The Boogieman- Trained by Booker T and Stevie Ray, Martin Wright may not have been the best wrestler in the ring, but his gimmick was so weird it was hard to trace what he really was. He would come to the ring with an alarm clock, and smash it over his head. He would also eat and spit out real worms in the ring and onto opponents. A mix between Papa Shango’s voodoo look and a painted devil, during a time where it was hard to scare people, the character was so weird and interesting at the same time.
The Sheik- When many mention The Sheik, they think of The Iron Sheik, but true fans know there was only one-Ed Farhat, one of the originators of hard core wrestling. Today a rich Arabian character may not be scary , but during his time, fans and wrestlers were totally freaked out by this man, both in and out of the ring. He was one of the earliest wrestlers to throw fireballs at his opponents, along with carrying pencils to carve his enemies’ foreheads. He was in some of the bloodiest matches in the 1960s and 1970s. Farhat was so into his character, that he would play his gimmick even outside the ring 24/7. His influence on hardcore wrestling, especially his nephew from ECW Sabu, is not stated enough.
Abdullah The Butcher- One of my earliest memories of wrestling was seeing Abdullah ‘s pictures in the wrestling magazines against people like Carlos Colón and Bruiser Brody, both covered in blood from Puerto Rico. Another founder of hardcore wrestling, it seemed odd when Abby DIDN’T have a foreign object in his hands to attack his opponents. Even when he came to Texas’ World Class Championship Wrestling and was on ESPN TV, he was still a scary site for me in my teen years, especially seeing the scars on his forehead, due to the massive blading occurred in his bouts (again his long time feuds with Bruiser Brody were wild and major bloodbaths) . Although he became a tamer wrestler when he arrived in WCW to feud against Sting in the 1990s, we smarter fans knew that he was a legendary force, although some remember him for his comical “Electrocution” during Halloween Havoc 1991, he regained some respect back during the “Heroes of Wrestling” match vs. The One Man Gang in my opinion.
George “The Animal “Steele- Steele was the first person I ever saw on TV, and I was hooked ever since on wrestling. Many remember Steele as a fan favorite with his “Mine” Doll, or during the Attitude era dancing with The Oddities, but during the 1970s and early 1980s, Steele was a true “Animal,” challenging Bruno Sammartino and the other WWWF Champions, attacking everyone including the ring announcer on TV tapings, running around the ring (in and out) and using objects as weapons. He also tore apart the turnbuckles, throwing the stuffing at opponents, referees, and the TV camera, while sticking out his green tongue. He may not looked “scary” in a way like a vampire, but he freaked me out as a young teen, and became one of my all time favorites. He was referred to as the “missing link” by announcers, before Dewey Robertson took the gimmick as the more known Missing Link character. Outside the ring, he was a teacher and a wrestling agent.
The Wild Samoans- Afa and Sika were terrifying when I was a kid, seeing them eating chicken legs and raw fish in interviews, grunting while letting manager Lou Albano do the talking for them. In the ring, they were huge and just as wild. Outside the ring, they were responsible for training many huge stars, along with their family tree linked to today’s stars. From Calgary, Mid South, WWF and Georgia, they were one of the first wild wrestlers I saw (besides George Steele), and their influence on future stars with similar gimmicks like Kamala, Umaga, and The Headshrinkers. I could imagine them coming out of the jungles looking for food (especially humans), and would do anything in the ring to attack opponents.
Jos LeDuc- When wrestling got more TV time, I could get the Memphis area wrestling on one of our TV Channels , and one guy who scared me was LeDuc, who had a lumberjack gimmick. This guy was old school wrestling; big, tough, rough, and had a groveling voice to match. Even though he wrestled in many territories, I didn’t see him until his time in the CWA in the mid 1980s. Although his 1988 brief stint in the WWF as The Headbanger Butcher was pretty much forgettable, his time in Memphis as a heel and a good guy were both believable as a crazy man who performed feats of strength, along with just flipping out on a dime to become one of the baddest guys you did not want to deal with. In 1986, he had some memorable stories with Buddy Landel and Bill Dundee. In his interviews, he threatened opponents with an axes, chains, and 2X4s. Leduc was old school crazy, who even when he was a face (good guy) gave me nightmares.
Regardless of your liking on comics, film, or wrestling, hopefully theses topics have given a different perspective and ideas on how to enjoy the Halloween season. Thanks to my contributors, my readers for their fan voting, along with a year of support. Have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!