The Walking Dead (1936)

he Walking Dead (1936) movie poster

director Michael Curtiz
viewed: 10/18/2018

Michael Curtiz’s stylish and capable direction and Boris Karloff’s powerful presence can’t quite elevate the 1936 Warner Brothers horror picture, The Walking Dead, from mediocrity.

A rather cornball script with an over convoluted plot weakens the whole.

A Melancholy and tragic Karloff plays a patsy who gets convicted of a murder he didn’t commit. Too late, literally in the electric chair, he is exonerated. And a well-meaning scientist brings him back to life.

Deus ex machina rules the logic of the film. Curtiz certainly makes it as interesting as he can but it ultimately is what it is.

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (1958)

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (1958) movie poster

director  Rafael Portillo
viewed: 10/16/2018

Little wonder that when Jerry Warren got his hands on the Mexican flick La Momia Azteca that he saw the possibilities of chopping and splicing it into a his eventual Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1964). The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy had already cannibalized La Momia Azteca and its sequel La Maldición de la Momia Azteca as the first half of this one, the final in Rafael Portillo’s Aztec Mummy trilogy.

And frankly, I’m guessing that The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy is the only original Aztec Mummy movie you really need. Parts one and two fill up via storytelling flashbacks and voiceovers what you might have needed to know.

Only, like Godzilla later, the Aztec Mummy goes from original villain to monster good guy over the period of his films. The Aztec Mummy is actually kinda cool and scary looking.

I’m not the first to notice that super villain The Bat is a magnificent Z movie Orson Welles. The whole pulp world of the Aztec Mummy feels like Dick Tracy serials. And let me tell you, nothing trudges slower than a mummy except a poorly designed robot.

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy is low grade pulp, but highly pleasing low grade pulp.

Race with the Devil (1975)

Race with the Devil (1975) movie poster

director Jack Starrett
viewed: 10/14/2018

If your small Texas town library has a good stock of texts on black magic, you might want to be a little suspicious of everybody: the police, the RV camp denizen, and especially orgiastic backwoods Satanists . Life lessons from Race with the Devil.

This devil worship-car chase-PG horror flick sports some excellent stunt driving, an always awesome Warren Oates, and some spot on editing. It’s rural horror, specific to Texas that is pretty rock solid despite lacking the elements to restrict the age limits for viewing. Race with the Devil also sports an excellent title sequence.

Look at this, Ethel, a microwave oven!”

I thought it would make a good double feature with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, though it could probably pair with a number of flicks.

Scarecrows (1988)

Scarecrows (1988) movie poster

director William Wesley
viewed: 10/13/2018

In the mold of Predator/Aliens, Scarecrows hybridizes horror with action in what is an ambitious concept on a tight budget.

A paramilitary gang, escaping post-heist with prisoners in tow, land in a swamp/jungle that turns out to be also the home to living scarecrows. It’s such an original conceit that I feel bad not loving it properly.

But at best it’s decent but mediocre everything, almost uniformly. I consider it really, truly almost a good film, maybe as close to a good movie without being a good movie. And I can certainly see why some hold significant affection for it.

The scarecrows themselves, however, are sure cool.

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) movie poster

director Deborah Brock
viewed: 10/13/2018

It’s hard to be scary when you’re so damn cheesy. But if cheese and gore tantalize your cinematic taste buds, Slumber Party Massacre II might please you well.

“Sunday’s my birthday and I don’t want to spend it in a mental hospital!”

Slumber Party Massacre II teems with fun energy, employing a playful contrast between tones (soft focus to sudden bloodletting), teasing throughout. Is the rock’n’roll killer wielding the drill-enabled guitar just a delusion of Courtney’s (Crystal Bernard) deranged imagination or are all these flashes of foreshadowing of real attacks to come?

Writer-director Deborah Brock plays with the surreal nightmare imagery, making a more fun and less “by the book” sequel to the somewhat more straightforward slasher Slumber Party Massacre (1982).

The Mummy’s Curse (1944)

The Mummy's Curse (1944) movie poster

director Leslie Goodwins
viewed: 11/13/2018

The final installment of the original Universal Studio’s mummy series, The Mummy’s Curse deserves a little more love than the average critic throws its way. True, it has the perplexing relocation from Massachusetts swamps to the Louisiana bayou, but that flavoring adds character as well as disjointedness.

They are literally draining the swamp when they unearth the mummy (Lon Chaney, Jr. again). But more impressive, nay pretty sublime, is Princess Ananka’s rise from the mud. This sequence alone is worth the price of admission. It might even be one of the most amazing in the Universal canon.

Princess Ananka has morphed from Ramsay Ames into Virginia Christine (Rrroowwr!!!) It’s a little weird to realize that Christine would also be the Mrs. Olson from the Folger’s Coffee commercials that I grew up with.

There is also a nice matte painting of the ruined abbey quite (I have a serious penchant for cool matte paintings), though it seems rather incongruous with the Louisiana milieu. Maybe it’s somewhere between Massachusetts and Louisiana.

A slow ambling mummy gathers no babes to strangle.

At least Chaney didn’t have to don the mummy garb again. He apparently hated it.

The Mummy’s Ghost (1944)

The Mummy's Ghost (1944) movie poster

director  Reginald Le Borg
viewed: 10/11/2018

If The Mummy’s Tomb could have been titled The Mummy Goes America, The Mummy’s Ghost could be called The Bride of the Mummy. Because this is the first mummy flick to give the mummy the love interest motive, the rest of the time it’s been those high priests chasing the ladies. Ramsey Ames, the girl in question, even developes a white streak in hair like the Bride of Frankenstein.

For “Ghost,” our high priest is John Carradine (weird to see John Carradine so youthful) sent to America to return the mummy and the princess now to Egypt. The California hills pass for Massachusetts yet again.

One thing, when Lon Chaney, Jr. is the mummy, he gets up and about much earlier. It’s gotta be said, that mummy get-up is pretty form-fitting and none too forgiving.

The pessimistic ending, though planned with a sequel in mind, still adds an air of darkness to this episode, a very uncommon non-Hollywood ending.

“It sounds like a lot of applesauce to me.”

The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)

The Mummy's Tomb (1942) movie poster

director  Harold Young
viewed: 10/11/2018

It’s called The Mummy’s Tomb, but if you’re really trying to tell one mummy movie from the next, think of this one as The Mummy Comes to America.

Because Universal’s mummy pictures can easily run together.

Tomb” gets shambling along via stock footage and flashbacks, consolidating The Mummy’s Hand in 10 minutes. Maybe the only justice it needs.

Turhan Bey is the mummy’s director here, the only dude remotely descended from people of the Middle East to play such a character in the series. The film tints a very Asiatic quality to Bey.

On the plus side, much earlier and more mummy action due no doubt to Lon Chaney, Jr. picking up the shroud. He’s certainly a less svelte mummy.

Great lighting and good cinematography also highlight this picture. It’s quite beautifully shot.

It all goes well for Bey until he decides to take the girl for himself.

Still, this gets the mummy to Mapleton, Massachusetts, where he’ll stay for the next flick.

Hallucinations (1986)

Hallucinations (1986)

directors John Polonia, Mark Polonia,Todd Michael Smith
viewed: 10/10/2018

It’s tough being the slow one.

While Hallucinations won’t pass the Bechdel test (it’s only three teen boys and a camcorder in a house), it far surpasses any regular sensibilities and transcends any reducible aspects of cinema. A true masterpiece of SOV homemade filmmaking.

The Mummy’s Hand (1940)

The Mummy's Hand (1940) movie poster

director Christy Cabanne
viewed: 10/09/2018

Franchise reboots are at least as old as The Mummy’s Hand. Nobody is back from the 1932 Boris Karloff/Karl Freund/Zita Yohann Universal original. It’s also not the A-lister that the original was, The Mummy’s Hand is seriously a B picture.

The California hills pose as a poor stand-in for Egypt. But hey, this is Hollywood 1940, just put a fez on a dude and he’s a North African. A lot of low grade comedy and unnecessary plot developments round this one out. Also oodles of implicit racism “silly native superstition” run par for the course.

Interestingly the bad guys are native folk fighting to protect their historical artifacts, and the mummy kills the colonialists and treasure hunters. Though this doesn’t stop them from being the bad guys.

The mummy himself (Tom Tyler) looks super cool thanks to the uncredited Jack Pierce. But he doesn’t get shambling until pretty late in the picture and doesn’t have a ton to do. Still, this would inspire three more sequels.