One Christmas long ago, I got Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds. I was excited, of course, because I loved anything War of the Worlds. The cover was incredible, featuring a a Martian tripod melting the deck of an ironclad. As I flipped through the included book of artwork, my hopes steadily grew. It was full of paintings of tripods blasting old-timey looking British people. Now that was what I’d been wanting from a War of the Worlds adaptation!
From 2013 through 2017, I wrote an annual Halloween article for Alcohol Professor about haunted bars or adjacent drinking and carousing. I don’t have anything new this year — between finalizing Cocktails and Capers and day-to-day work, I just couldn’t think of a fresh angle — but in lieu of a freshly dug grave, I thought I’d resurrect the previous five year’s of articles to provide a haunted tour of some of the world’s most famous haunted bars, spooky spirits, and spine-chilling literary libations.
Under normal circumstances, The Cat and the Canary could have been a simple affair — a living room, a bedroom, shots of the spooky exterior of a mansion. Sprinkle some cobwebs and people looking side-eyed at one another, and there you go. In the hands of German Expressionist Paul Leni however, things were going to be different.
I often forget that, for a little while, I worked at Atlantic Records. It was such a bizarre position that every day I was there, I wasn’t sure I still worked there. Even today, some fifteen years later, I’m not sure I ever actually quit, like maybe I could just show up tomorrow and everyone would shrug and go on with their business.
Best known for his gritty crime films and, for better or worse, cannibal movies, Italian director Umberto Lenzi spent his early career making fun swashbuckling adventures. Queen of the Seas was the first of them, and it’s a fun tale of high seas adventures and a sassy pirate queen.
The greatest compliment you could pay an exploitation film is to say it looks like they designed the poster first and then recreated it on screen. This describes Inframan perfectly. Every scene could be bullet-pointed with the word “SEE!” SEE! Hong Kong engulfed in flames! SEE! The sorceress with an army of kung fu monsters!
In the 1980s, Shaw Brothers was running out of gas. They responded by letting directors go totally insane. Amid the maelstrom are the delirious martial arts fantasies Bastard Swordsman and Return of the Bastard Swordsman
At the end of Beyond the Black Rainbow, directed by Panos Cosmatos, a period of quiet contemplation is required to begin unpacking everything one has seen during the preceding 110 minutes.
Twists are heaped upon perversions until the whole thing threatens to collapse into one giddily irredeemable pile of filth that happily violates any taboo of which it could think, and then finds a way to make it all weirder still.
Lucio Fulci’s filmography is littered with bodies gruesomely snuffed out. There is a deep vein of cynicism running through the center of Don’t Torture a Duckling.
Mudy wants to get her son Tony laid. She enlists Rosalba Neri and they, in turn, enlist Edwige Fenech to do the job for a nice payday. The rub is that Tony is very much an introvert, possibly a psychotic, and definitely a firebug.
As with his previous film, Miraglia takes the modern setting integral to the spirit of gialli and dresses it up in a bit of old-fashioned Gothic spookiness by, once again, setting a portion of it in a moody Gothic estate full of dark secret passages and dungeon chambers.
Sergio Sollima didn’t direct very many films. His career is split fairly evenly between theatrical and televised fare. Devil in the Brain is not what anyone would consider a technically outstanding movie, but it is solid in its craftsmanship.
The Sister of Ursula is like watching a Jess Franco film without that director’s flare. Contemplate that one on the Tree of Woe. Sex scenes, the Italian coast, outlandish murders — everything about The Sister of Ursula seems to operate under the directive of “Well, this should be good, but we’re going to mess it up.”
In fairness, there does seem to be a genuine attempt to create an actual film here. Take the word “attempt” literally in this case. Moments of suspense and dread, though presented with apparent sincerity, are nonetheless clumsily presented few and far between.
Cruel Gun Story is based on a book by hardboiled crime novelist Haruhiko Oyabu. It tells the story of Togawa, a con who is sprung from prison early via the machinations of a mysterious underworld kingpin who wants Togawa to carry out a robbery that they’ve planned.
Had Dark Purpose been an hour long episode of a TV show, it would have delivered. But forced to come up with, roughly, three half-hour acts, it can’t sustain the momentum and Shirley Jones, while perfectly acceptable, just isn’t dynamic enough to make us forget nothing much is going on.