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Posts Tagged ‘Dracula: Prince of Darkness’

In a particularly meta moment in the oh so meta Scream 2, Randy (Jamie Kennedy) tells us “Sequels suck!” and “By definition alone, sequels are inferior films!”. Classmate Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) disagrees “It’s bullshit generalization. Many sequels have surpassed their originals.”  He suggests T-2, another classmate played by Joshua Jackson thinks “Aliens. Far better than the first.”  While I don’t totally agree, I prefer The Terminator to T-2, and love Alien and Aliens equally, there are however, some horror sequels and second films is series that I prefer to the first:Aliens and T2

Bride of Frankenstein (1935): I love the original, but the sequel has the edge.  Together cinematographer John Mescall and art director Charles D. Hall, director James Whale created Expressionist masterpiece that isn’t just a horror movie, it’s also a social satire and a comedy.  The greatest of the Universal horrors. Bride of Frankenstein

Dawn of the Dead (1978): George A. Romero’s masterpiece came a whole decade after the original film, Night Of The Living Dead. Tom Savini (who also appears in the film) provided the zombie makeup that makes the film so effective.  The allegory of modern consumer society is more and more relevant as time passes.  A film that manages to be both a truly gruesome horror and a clever satire.  Dawn of the Dead

Evil Dead II (1987): Bruce Campbell returns as Ash in Sam Raimi’s sequel to The Evil Dead.  It is essentially more of the same from the first film but more polished, more gory and a hell of a lot funnier. Evil Dead II

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966): Most fans will tell you the first Hammer Dracula, Horror of Dracula from 1958 is the best.  While a great film and one of the studio’s best, it is a retread of Bram Stoker ‘s original often told story.  Prince of Darkness is an original story, and a really effective one. It lacks  Peter Cushing as Van Helsing (except a prologue recap of the previous film) but Andrew Keir’s Father Sandor is a suitable substitute.  Famously, Christopher Lee doesn’t speak in this film (as the dialogue in the script was so bad), this makes his performance is more chilling.  A true horror that has a feeling of dread from start to finish. Dracula Prince of Darkness

Blade II (2002): Wesley Snipes is perfectly cast as the half human, half vampire “daywalker” vampire hunter.  Predating the MCU, Blade (1998) proved what Marvel movies could be.  It works as both a horror, and an action movie, with suitable amounts of both gore and humour.  How could you make this better?  Hire Guillermo del Toro to direct it!  del Toro brings even more style, but also, as always  he plays with the idea of who the monsters are. blade II

The Devil’s Rejects (2005): Admittedly this one has something of low bar, 2003’s House of 1,000 Corpses wasn’t great, but this second instalment of the (mis)adventures of the Firefly family is a really solid grindhouse inspired gore-fest.  By far the best Rob Zombie directed movie, and the end is fantastic.  A third instalment 3 from Hell is in post production and due out in 2019. The Devil_s Rejects

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016):  Totally different to the original, telling a very different story, and dropping the now tired found footage gimmick.  Most of the film is a claustrophobic three-hander; John Goodman is fantastic, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is even better. 10 Cloverfield Lane

I have only included horror movies, there are plenty of examples from other genres, I have also stuck to examples where I think the sequel is better than the original movie, not merely good sequels.  

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I get to see reissues of old movies at the cinema from time to time, but something I haven’t had chance to do for a long time is to see an old movie for the first time at the cinema. Thanks to the Independent Cinema Office I have had the chance to do just that. They describe their Made in Britain season as been “sandwiched between the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics and will give audiences across the country the opportunity to enjoy five restored classic British films on the big screen”. I have already seen four of the movies: Passport to Pimlico (1949), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Hobson’s Choice (1954) and Quatermass and the Pitt (1967) but I had never seen Plague of the Zombies (1966) until last night.

Sir James Forbes (André Morell) receives a letter from former student Dr. Peter Tompson (Brook Williams), now a doctor in Cornwall whose patients are dieing unexpectedly. Together with his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare), Sir James travels to the aid of his former pupil. They arrive to find another young man has died with no discernable cause and Tompson’s wife Alice Mary (a young Jacqueline Pearce, better know for her later role as Servalan in Blakes 7) acting strangely.

Although the movie lacks any of the Hammer big names it is as full of atmosphere and style as you would expect. It also contains many iconic images that have since become synonymous with the genre. Fitting perfectly between early zombie classics like White Zombie (1932) and I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and the reinvention of the genre by George A. Romero and Sam Raimi. Interestingly it only predates Night of the Living Dead by two years. Predating both infected zombies and “When there’s no more room in hell….” these are traditional Haitian Voodoo zombies. There isn’t a huge amount of zombie action, but there are a couple of standout scenes at the centre of the movie. The movies treatment of its zombies really cements its place within the genre. It actually contains just as much political subtext as Romero movies, but with typically British restraint it is all a little to subtle for some.

The movie does occasionally suffer from shaky dialogue (and sets) and the final act is a little week in comparison to the rest of the movie but I am prepared to live with this for the rich atmosphere and charm. Possibly more a steppingstone than a milestone in the zombie genre but certainly one worth seeing. Interestingly it was originally shown as a double billing with the first Hammer movie I have Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

I won’t be going to next weeks screening of The Man Who Fell to Earth clashes with the England v Ukraine football. I’m not sure about Hobson’s Choice the week after but will certainly be going to see one of my favourite Hammer movies Quatermass & The Pit on 3rd July.

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Legend is a word that is used too lightly but with a career that has spanned eight decades and a Guinness World Record of 275 films, Knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009 and receiving the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011, it is a title that fits Christopher Lee very well. As I mentioned a couple of years ago I was introduced to Christopher Lee when I was about ten years old, I had no idea who he was. A few months later Channel 4 started showing a series of old Hammer Horror movies starting with Dracula: Prince of Darkness. This is when I first got interested in horror movies. So today, his 90th birthday here is the briefest overview of his movies.

In the mid 1940’s Lee joined the Rank Organisation and was given a seven-year contract (as was the norm of the day), during this period he made numerous movies. His first significant roles came a decade later when in 1957 he played the monster in Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein alongside Peter Cushing as Frankenstein. The following year Fisher made Dracula (1958), he cast Lee in his most iconic role Dracula and Cushing as Van Helsing. He reprised the role in sequels: Dracula Prince of Darkness in 1965, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969), Scars of Dracula (1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). Lee’s other work for Hammer included The Mummy (1959), Rasputin, the Mad Monk and the little known classic Taste of Fear (1961). Possibly his best Hammer movie and one of his (and my) personal favourites was the occult adventure/horror/thriller The Devil Rides Out (1967) based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley. He also appeared in two versions of the Jekyll and Hyde story The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) and I, Monster (1971) (only the former being made by Hammer).

Having already played Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) Lee went on to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962), and Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock’s smarter brother) in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). He played Holmes again in the TV movies: Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). A step-cousin of author Ian Fleming, he was rumoured to be in contention to play James Bond, he was offered the part of Dr. No in the movie of the same name (1962) but was vetoed by the movies producers. He did eventually play a Bond villain, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and was the best thing about the movie. As cinema, particularly horror cinema changed in the 1970’s the gothic horror he was most famous for became outdated he appeared to be moving with the times making one of his best horror films The Wicker Man (1973). Sadly the quality of his roles dried up with a lot of TV movies and lesser work in the decades that followed.

More recently his career has gone through a renaissance with a small part in Sleepy Hollow (1999) leading to further collaborations with Tim Burton: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Dark Shadows (2012). Following Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness who appeared in the original Star Wars (1977) Lee plays Sith Lord, Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). But his most notable role in recent years came in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A great fan of The Lord of the Rings Lee has stated that it was a life long dream to play Gandalf, the Peter Jackson film trilogy came too late for him to realise this ambition but he did get a significant part in the movies playing Saruman. Later this year he will be reprising the in the prequel film The Hobbit. Retuning to the studio that made his name Lee had a small part in the new Hammer movie The Resident (2011). More significantly for a actor who has made so many movies he appeared in Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema Hugo (2011).

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I have long held a theory about scary movies; although it has always been there in the back of my mind, I hadn’t thought about for a long time or discussed for even longer. They, it all came flooding back to me recently whilst watching the culture show on BBC2. During an interview about her new movie, The Awakening Mark Kermode asked Rebecca Hall “What’s the scariest movie you ever saw?” Her response, Don’t Look Now (1973), she went on to explain why. She had seen it alone, when she was around twelve or thirteen years old. This really struck a chord with me as if asked I would say the same movie and for the same reason. I also watched the movie at around that age, probably too young! I was really disturbed by it and couldn’t get it out of my head and still to this day think of the movie whenever I see a read coat. Directed by Nicolas Roeg’s and based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier the movie is still creepy and disturbing, it will stay with you for days after you watch it (or is that just me?) but it isn’t actually scary.

This is in stark contrast to my experience of The Exorcist (1973). For those who don’t know The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin with a screenplay by William Peter Blatty based on his own novel is regarded as one of the scariest movies ever made. A huge hit at the box-office, adjusted for inflation it took more money than Avatar but this was all before I was born. In my formative years, the 1980’s it had fallen foul of Video Recordings Act 1984 and was considered a “video nasty”. The studio didn’t submit it to the BBFC for classification (it was never actually banned). The long and short of it, the movie was available not available on video after 1984 and I didn’t get to see it. That was until 1994. I was 18 years old and in my first couple of weeks at university. The movie was screened to a packed house in a small independent cinema. Was it the anticipation and reputation, or the packed auditorium that influenced my opinion? I’m not sure but one thing I can say, I enjoyed the movie finding it interesting, entertaining and thought provoking as well as been well made and well acted, but I didn’t find it frightening the way I found Don’t Look Now five years before.

As a child, I remember being scared of King Kong (1933) and later Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) in a way that no modern horror has affected me. I’m yet to have the same experience again, there have been other movies that have been creepy or a bit disturbing like The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007) but not like the other movies I have mentioned. Have I been desensitised scary movies by early exposure or is Don’t Look Now just the most frightening movie ever made? Possibly a combination of the two, whatever the reason my early experiences have cemented my love for “genre movies” as they are sometimes (unkindly) referred. By the way if you haven’t already check out The Awakening starring the brilliant Rebecca Hall.

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