The Mad Magician Review

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It’s time to look at the Mad Magician, a Vincent Price film that plays it by the numbers for better or worse. The instant you see him show up you know that things are going to be tragic for his character and that he will turn to a life a crime. This film does handle itself fairly well though and may be one of the better Price films. Most of the characters are not very smart as you would expect though.

The film starts off with Mr. Gallico getting ready to perform his first ever show. For years he has built the magic tricks behind the scenes that have allowed others to get famous. Well, this will happen no more! Gallico is determined to show that he can be a great showman too. Unfortunately his boss shuts the show down and informs Gallico that he will never be allowed to take any credit for as long as he lives. Gallico decides that this is acceptable and so begins his murder spree as he tries to stay off the radar but more and more people start realizing that he is guilty. Can Gallico ever find peace?

Naturally Gallico does dig his own grave with the first murder. Honestly he was doomed as soon as he let the heroine get away with the head during the opening scenes as it certainly did make him look suspicious. Otherwise he could have just not murdered anybody and could have acted innocent the whole time. This didn’t quite pan out but it shows how an early mistake can really have an impact.

At least you can feel a little sympathy for Gallico unlike the average villain. It’s always a shame when corporate takes someone hostage thanks to the contract. Apparently this one was unbreakable and basically the company owns Gallico for life. It’s definitely an extreme contract and I’m sure that Gallico is wishing that he had read the contract a little better now. As always Price makes his characters pretty interesting to watch as his voice is very charismatic. You always get the feeling that the character is up to something. He certainly was a great inventor here, just a mad one.

The supporting cast here was better than usual. First up is the cop who won’t take no for an answer. Alan certainly goes through a lot of work trying to prove his fingerprint theory. That being said, he is unfortunately very weak and not very smart. Even after Alan breaks into Gallico’s office and knows with a decent amount of confidence that the man is guilty, he allows himself to be caught by surprise. He goes down quite easily to Gallico’s impressive karate chops. So I can give the cop some props for his deductive skills and being pretty pro active but the climax didn’t help him all that much.

There is also the murder author who allows Gallico to stay over while he is disguised as his boss who he murdered. This buys him some time but certainly doesn’t help in the long run as she is very perceptive and has come up with some plots that involved a lot of murders. There is one odd scene where she almost seems nervous about Gallico’s crematorium but by then she may have started to piece the puzzle together so it makes sense. Unfortunately she also looks a little weak in the climax. While Gallico is beating the cop like a drum, the author and the main heroine don’t lift a finger to help and instead run to the window to yell for help. A little assistance would have been nice and they would have outnumbered Gallico 3-1 so I would have liked their odds.

As far as the meaner characters are concerned, Gallico’s boss was a fun character to watch. He was rather extreme the whole time but at least he acted with confidence. His end was certainly inevitable though. Likewise, Rinaldi was also doomed as he kept trying to rub it in to Gallico that the inventor would never be allowed to star in he show. Once he found out that Gallico had been murdering people you would have assumed that he would play it cautiously right? Instead he goes back to the house to brag when the two of them are all alone and doesn’t notice that Gallico has locked the door. At that point you knew that he didn’t stand a chance. The same goes for the ex wife of Gallico who left him for money. She doesn’t try to blackmail him for anything but seems like he type of character who would at some point. She also took a little too long to realize how dangerous he was.

As far as the deaths go, the film is fairly tame. Only the first death is rather violent and it is off screen so it’s really just the implied violence that makes the scene intense. The other deaths are totally off screen. The writing is pretty solid as you would expect from an old school film like this one. All of the characters are very confident and self assured as they talk with smug expressions on their faces. That’s why the characters can be charismatic whether they are heroes or villains.

The whole idea of using a realistic mask to make yourself appear to be someone else definitely is a bit of a stretch but I suppose none of the characters knew the magicians too well. Those who did were able to quickly see through the disguise so there is that. I think Gallico probably made a mistake in not giving his hand prints right away while disguised as Rinaldi. This is really what made the cops suspicious of him. If he had given his prints and they were seen to be the same as the guy who died, then perhaps the cops would have been forced to have forgotten about the finger print idea entirely. It was a gamble either way though, Gallico put himself in a bad spot.

Overall, The Mad Magician is a fun film that will keep you entertained. It may be part horror, but the film feels like it attempts to have quite a few moments of comedy that work well. Basically this involves any scene where Gallico is slowly walking towards his prey. The villains eventually drive Gallico mad but but at least he doesn’t start randomly taking it out on everyone and mainly sticks to his goals. The film doesn’t try to be extra gritty or anything and the pacing is pretty good all the way through. I’d recommend checking this film out and it’ll serve as a good reminder that signing a contract with corporate is always a risky endeavor at best.

Overall 7/10

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Bedlam Review

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It’s time to take a look at an old asylum horror film. It’s not by the Asylum crew but it takes place in one and I can’t think of too many settings that are worse than this. Bedlam just isn’t the kind of place that you really want a film to take place in. The whole film is rather dreary and it can get rather dark for the inmates. While the film has a happy ending it does take a long while to get there and in the meantime there just aren’t many reasons to like this film. The characters can also be annoying and I’m basically spoiling my review here so lets get started.

The film starts with a prisoner trying to escape Bedlam, but quickly being murdered by the warden. His name is George and he runs a tight ship around here. He is called in by the rich to explain what happened and George responds by showing the world how enslaved his prisoners are. The corrupt laugh at this spectacle and decide not to press charges, but one rich lady decides to put a stop to this. Her name is Nell and she decides to remodel the prison. George can’t have that so he has her arrested under guise of insanity and through Nell’s poor choice of words at the event she is found guilty. Nell is thrown inside the prison and must now try to communicate with them or she may not make it out alive.

First of all, we have to look at how bad Nell is throughout the film. She doesn’t make a stand against the malicious practices of Bedlam until she is goaded into it by a Quaker. Once she does make a stand, she really doesn’t do a good job of it. She doesn’t enact any actual changes until she is in the prison. Before that she goes to court to prove that she isn’t crazy. You’d expect her to have a calm head on her shoulders as she answers questions without sass right? No, instead she is sarcastic to the council and insults them quite a few times. She refuses to answer their questions and admits to doing crazy things like eating money. Naturally the council banishes her. Sure, the council was definitely bribed here, but she made their job so easy. Why did she have to be so antagonistic right from the start?

Then, Nell doesn’t even give the prisoners a chance once she is in the cage as she asks the Quaker for a weapon to defend herself. She considers the prisoners to all be savages and you wonder what happened to her lofty goals. Gradually the prisoners get her to join them in a game of cards and she realizes that they can be good. From here she is a good character who does make things better for the prisoners but it sure took her a while. I don’t blame her for not getting in the cage with the violent prisoner as that really could have ended pretty badly, but otherwise George actually had a point that she was all talk for a while.

Naturally George isn’t a very likable main character as he plays the cruel villain role. He likes asserting his dominance over the criminally insane and as we saw with Nell, he basically chooses who he thinks is insane. A lot of these people may be innocent but apparently the whole town is rather corrupt. Everyone looks the other way when it comes to George but that does backfire on him in the end. His end definitely plays out as you would expect as there was no way that he was going to live through this. He had simply done too much by this point.

Then we’ve got the Quaker. Unfortunately he is a very annoying character the whole time. He wants George to stand trial instead of being murdered by the inmates. A noble sentiment, but since he owns the town we all know that he would have gotten away scot free and then he would have murdered the inmates. The Quaker refuses to lift a hand to help anybody since he is a complete pacifist so it’s not like he would have helped to protect them. He comes across as oblivious to the world and rather naive. He could have been a good character, but they took him to the extreme and anyone could do what they wanted to him. It’s a shame since otherwise he probably would have been the best character here.

The film never actually shows much so it isn’t all that violent or anything, but things definitely get rough for the characters. The prison implies as much violence as it can and the living conditions are certainly abysmal. There is also a parrot that gets arrested by the end and I don’t really like where that plot may have gone even if we didn’t see the conclusion. This just isn’t a good film and it drags on quite a lot. At the end of the day, the only way to fix the prison is to get rid of the head so if George wasn’t forcibly removed then it’s not like Nell would have actually fixed much. Given that he was going to experiment on her and nobody was going to stop him, it just shows how far gone the town is.

Overall, Bedlam definitely isn’t a fun watch. While it has a happy ending, that’s only the final minute or so as the rest of the film can be rather dark. The only happy scenes before the ending are when Nell is talking tough to George, but she never ends up with the last laugh there. George is always one step ahead of her which severely limits how entertaining the scenes can possibly be. Prison films in general don’t tend to be great as even the Naruto film that dealt with this was one of the weaker installments in that series. I suppose at least some of the prisoners like the ex judge were fun characters. If you want to watch a good film about overthrowing a corrupt person in power…then you better start looking as I can’t think of a good one off the top of my head. Still, I’m sure that there are more than a few out there, you just have to know where to look.

Overall 3/10

Cause for Alarm Review

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It’s time to look at a very old school thriller. This one may not have a bunch of explosions or guys running around in cool suits, but it does have a letter that could potentially destroy someone’s life. It’s a smaller scale thriller to keep you at the edge of your seat. It’s certainly aged quite a lot as the main heroine would likely act a whole lot different if this was made nowadays. I wouldn’t really call it a bad film, but it can make for an annoying watch and definitely doesn’t have a whole lot of replay value. This is one of those films that you only watch once for the suspense and then move on.

The plot follows a lady named Ellen. She used to go out with a doctor named Ranney but then she rebounded with George. They married very quickly but then George got injured and was forced into early retirement. He has now gone mad with paranoia that Ellen is cheating on him and that along with Ranney she plans to end his life. His only course of action is to try and deliver a letter to the mail man but he doesn’t have the strength to stand. He has to give her the letter to mail and then the government will come to protect him. Ellen doesn’t realize what danger she is about to get herself into if she delivers the letter. Who will win this battle of wits!?

The annoying aspect of the film is Ellen basically being at George’s beck and call the whole time. She has essentially made the wrong choice in getting together with him and has been paying for it ever since he was discharged from the army. As he grows meaner and meaner she still stands by him and tends to his every need. You just want her to throw him out or just ignore his various demands after a while. It doesn’t appear as if he can do a lot about it since he is supposedly bed ridden. That’s why a great plot twist would have been if she was actually trying to destroy him. That would have completely changed the dynamic of her character and turned her from a pushover to a tactician. It may have meant that she wouldn’t be as heroic, but at least she would have taken a stand against him. George couldn’t die soon enough.

Even in the flashback when George first appears he looks pretty bad. He basically tricks Ellen into being with him for a while as a lot of misunderstandings led her to believe that he was a sick man who needed cheering up. Either way she should have left the room the instant he started flirting since at the time she was with Ranney. Ranney didn’t seem to care much considering his stake in it so I can at least see why she left him. The guy definitely didn’t have much personality and didn’t seem to think about the situation much. Even in the present he doesn’t actually contribute much. It is more reassuring to have someone supporting you, but it’s barely better than nothing when this guy is involved. At least he did get Ellen to tell him what was going on rather than just taking what she was saying at face value.

George’s mother appears to also reinforce the notion that he was always a bad guy. She explains that he never really wants to see her and closes himself off from the world. All of this still makes me wonder how he got together with Ellen in the first place. Was it really just because he was an air force pilot and that’s supposed to be super impressive? You’ll just have to suspend your disbelief for the whole movie on that front. So, part 1 of the film drags on a bit as all of the George scenes will just have you rolling your eyes as you wait for him to die. I suppose this may be different if you didn’t know that he was going to die, but it was in the movie summary so you know that the plot can’t start moving until he does.

Part 2 of the film is significantly better as Ellen tries to challenge the postal service. The mailman is a stickler for the rules who refuses to give back mail after he has taken it, even if it is the same person who gave him the mail. He tries to spin it as company policy but I just think he had some beef against the main characters. I’ve never heard of such an outlandish policy and considering what a small town this is I hardly think he would have gotten in trouble. He has a legal leg to stand on I guess, but it doesn’t make the guy any more likable. Ellen doesn’t really do a good job of confronting his superior though. She does come across as really unreasonable from the guy’s point of view. She should have either tried to falsify the statement at home with the forms he gave her or just thrown in the towel and start to prepare a defense. Instead she keeps trying for the letter until the guy promises to put it through. You always have to be thinking of what tactic to use for discussions like this instead of just looking desperate.

Part of the irony in the film is that Ellen is making George’s job very easy. She runs around everywhere which looks suspicious and won’t even talk to the neighbors. It’s too bad since the neighbor seemed like a nice enough character who probably would have been able to help. The kid wouldn’t have been a very good witness though. He’s not a bad character, but who would believe a kid? He also seemed rather greedy with how many cookies he was trying to eat the whole time. You’d think he would have been satisfied with 1 or 2 when they were offered.

I have to finally question George’s plan one more time. He wanted Ellen to deliver the letter, but lets face it. If she really was going to murder him why would she possibly deliver the letter? She would have read or burned it instead because you wouldn’t take such a chance when the plan is so close to being complete. George’s plan only works if Ellen was innocent which really makes it a poor plan indeed. Fortunately for Ellen things work out all right. While there will probably still be some questions and inquiries they will be a lot easier without the letter. In this case destroying the evidence actually turned out to be a good thing.

Overall, Cause For Alarm isn’t the best thriller because it only works thanks to a lot of conveniences. The main character had to be a wall flower and also one who isn’t very intelligent for this to work at all. If she hadn’t been overreacting the whole time the letter may not have been very effective anyway since she would have been able to convince the world that George was crazy along with Ranney. Ranney was involved so him being a doctor wouldn’t end the discussion but it would still help. I have a feeling that a lot of George’s cohorts would have been able to have given supporting testimony as well. If you still like to see a tense film where it seems like the walls are closing in on the lead then I suppose this is a decent thriller to watch. At the very least the writing is fairly solid except for George’s cringy villainous rants. Otherwise, I’d say stick to other retro films. There have just been many that were better than this one.

Overall 5/10

Laura Review

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It’s time to look at a very retro mystery film. The cast is actually smaller than I thought it was as Wikipedia only lists 6 people in the film. Naturally, some of them may just not have been big enough to have their own section, but it goes to show that if the story is quick enough you won’t even notice this. It’s a solid movie that really does a good job of throwing in a lot of twists and turns without getting redundant. The cast is solid and this film really flies by. This review does have some big spoilers depending on what you count. It’s a big plot point that happens around halfway through the film so it’s pretty debatable.

The basic premise of the film is that a lady by the name of Laura has been murdered. She went up against a shotgun and didn’t exactly win the encounter. A private eye known as Mark shows up to get to the bottom of this. Waldo wants justice because Laura was a close business associate of his and he had been helping her rise up the business ranks until this happened. Mark continues his investigation which leads him to Shelby, a rather suspicious man who has many affairs and always seems to be after people with money. This mystery will be a piece of cake for this baseball master, but unfortunately Mark starts to realize that this case is quite personal. Can he put his feelings aside or has he always been on a path to destruction?

Ironically, the weakest character here may be Mark. Shelby is certainly more unlikable as he’s just a bad guy, but it’s incredibly difficult to sympathize with Mark’s plight. How can you possibly start to fall for a picture? If someone’s dead, they’re not exactly going to make for a very attractive prospect. What the film should have done was just doubled down on his tough demeanor to show that this guy was one detective who wouldn’t get pushed around by anyone. He would solve this case no matter how tough it got. By making him distracted it took away from his whole character. I did like his Baseball gimmick though. Right when he started taking out the game I knew that it would be the best part of his character.

At least the detective doesn’t look downright bad for the most part. His only unfortunate moment was at the very end of the film where he assures Laura that she will be safe and then runs out of the building so fast that you’ll think he’s a blur. This gives the culprit plenty of time to waltz in and finish the job. Laura is just lucky that the villain is such a poor shot or else this could have been the end.

Wait, why is Laura even being mentioned? Well, that’s one of the big plot points of the film. Laura isn’t actually dead and merely went to the forest for a while. Since these were the days before radio and internet nobody actually knew where she was and when they went to the house she had stepped out for a moment. Definitely some interesting logic there, but I can buy it to an extent as there wasn’t much else to do back in the day aside from walking so she may have just been adventuring all day. Laura isn’t a very likable character as she does lead everyone on and doesn’t even mind playing second fiddle after a while. It gets rather complicated, but she knows from the start that Shelby can’t be trusted and also allows Waldo to treat her to many meals. They may be platonic friends, but then she should pay the bill, otherwise things get dicey. She just seems rather easy and Mark should be careful what he’s getting himself into. Her web of deceit will continue to stretch farther and farther.

As for Waldo, he’s certainly the most amusing character in the film. He’s always got a snappy comeback at the ready and certainly doesn’t get intimidated by anyone. To think that he started out as a rather snobbish businessman before he got involved with Laura and changed quite a bit. You can’t deny that the guy does his homework though. He didn’t even need to make up lies about the people Laura hung out with, he just dug up the dirt that they left around the house. They made his job easy, but he always went the extra mile. Naturally a person this obsessive tends to be fairly dangerous in films like these but if the detective is going to make a move he better be careful about it.

Finally there is Shelby. It’s certainly different to see Vincent Price in a young role for a change. The character is fairly quick witted, but can never quite keep up with Waldo. He does make for a good rival though. He’s not exactly a man of principles, but isn’t ashamed to admit as much. Everyone knows what kind of a guy he is, but they don’t care because of his charisma. It’s definitely a credit to his character that he is able to deceive people so easily and he makes for a solid antagonist.

The only weak aspect of this film is naturally the romance. It’s just not handled very well at all. Laura basically plays everyone and they all fall for the game quite easily. It would have been nice if the same had been true for them and at the end they all admitted to just manipulating the others for personal gain. That’s practically what the situation was for most of them anyway. A film like this one should have everyone stay purely platonic as that would certainly add to the suspense and make the characters look a little tougher and more savvy on how things usually play out here.

Still, the writing was certainly great beyond that. The film did a good job of making everyone seem suspicious at times and having all of the characters stay on guard. The banter between all of the characters was on point as you would expect it to be. Dialogue is crucial for a noir film like this one and I’m happy to say that it did indeed deliver. It’s why its so hard to do a film like this one nowadays. The writing just isn’t up to par with the good ole days and it’s very rare that a film proves me wrong. There were just higher standards in the past and that’s why there were so many well written films like this one hiding in the cracks of time.

Overall, Laura is a really fun film. It’s a murder mystery that still has quite a bit of humor and solid pacing to go along with it. The romance is rather weak, but what else is new right? The twist of Laura being alive could have been rather disastrous if handled wrong, but since it rarely tends to happen the twist worked really well. I can definitely recommend this film to anyone who likes a little suspense and danger. There’s never a dull moment in this film so you’ll end up being on guard from start to finish. In a film like this one, you really can’t trust anyone.

Overall 8/10

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane Review

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Time to take a look at the film with the little girl down the lane. From the title you may think of a light hearted comedy type film but this one’s actually a horror title. Time to let the warning bells commence. This one falls into the pitfalls you would expect from a horror title and then throws in one that most wouldn’t add. It’s a gritty film that is really no good.

The film starts off with an old house that the Rynn is living in. Some neighbors come over at various times, but her father is never around to greet them. Rynn claims that he is sleeping or working but this excuse can only work for so long. One of the neighbors is unfortunately a villain who wants her and while the rest of the town knows about it, they can’t lay a hand on him since his mother is the most powerful person in the town. Fortunately for Rynn, another guy drops by and serves as her guardian and partner. Can she still survive in this tough world without parents to back her up.

Right off the bat, the opening scene threw this film out the window. It’s a terrible scene and one that is dragged out for way too long. Any duration for this plot wouldn’t be good though as a villain going after kids for reasons you can probably guess is not a theme you ever want to have in a film. When a film goes down that route, a 0 is all but guaranteed. It barely even matters how the plot ends as far as the score is concerned but fortunately he does get destroyed by the end of the film and there are large gaps where he does not appear.

Then we’ve also got the animal violence. The main villain destroys Rynn’s pet hamster and the instant you saw the animal show up you knew this would happen. It’s an unfortunately predictable trope that horror films use all the time. They already don’t tend to have any class so it makes sense why they wouldn’t care after a while. The main romance plot is also rather bad and unnecessary. Naturally the guy who goes over to help Rynn ends up romantically involved. This is totally unnecessary and destroys whatever character he had. Why couldn’t he just be protecting her as a friend? Losing to the flu so easily is also pretty bad considering he knew what would probably happen if he didn’t head back to Rynn.

This film also went down a different route than I had expected going in. I figured it would be about Rynn murdering everybody which would also be bad and dark in its own way but preferable to this plot. What other impression could you get from the poster seen above? It’s a total bait and switch as Rynn is rarely an intentional murderer. If it had gone that route, it would be sad for the nice people who enter her house, but the plot still wouldn’t be as shady as this film. During the whole opening scene I was waiting for Rynn to destroy the guy or do something, but when she didn’t and he walked out without a scratch, that was when I knew that the film wasn’t going with that angle. Instead she never seems all that ready for the danger in front of her. She only had one trick up her sleeve and if that didn’t work then she was basically toast. She talks tough, but doesn’t even carry any weapons on her person. Her friend has to do all of the work when the villain breaks in because she doesn’t life a finger to help. Realistically, she is a little kid so there’s not much she can do, but if she is really ready for the world like her father taught her to be, she should certainly have a knife.

Alternately, the main character just shouldn’t have been a kid. That would have helped the film immensely. I suppose I can use this film as another example for why having a kid as the main character is never a good idea at least. There aren’t really any positives to the film that I can think of either. The landscapes are bland and since the whole town is corrupt it’s not as if there is anyone to root for. If the “good guys” are content to do nothing, then it makes sense why evil took over the town. There’s even a whole saying about it.

Overall, This film was absolutely horrible and another one for the trash bin. This movie starts out dark and continues with that theme for quite a while. The film even makes it clear that this isn’t the first time the villain has gone after kids just to really hammer it home that the villains always win in this town. There’s never a really happy scene here. The romance ones are just hard to watch, especially in this context and so you’ll just be glancing at your watch every 5 seconds. I highly recommend avoiding this one and going to Dunkin Donuts for a bagel instead of something. It will save you a lot of time and only for the cost of a dollar. It’s just a bargain when you think about it.

Overall 0/10

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave Review

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It’s time for another Dracula film. This series has never been particularly good and this one is no exception. Dracula’s a joke and everyone knows it. Even the poster knows this. Look at his facial expression above and tell me that this is a serious villain. He died from falling in a pool of water in the last film! This guy is played for laughs at times and if he is meant to be completely serious then that’s almost sad. Anyway, this film does nothing unique and instead just goes through the motions without doing anything cool or interesting. It’s definitely a very forgettable film and one that will soon blend in with the rest. There’s just nothing to really like here but it is always surreal to see some of the choices that the main characters make. Needless to say they were not prepared for a fight like this.

The film starts off with Dracula murdering someone and we then cut to the present where Ernest walks into that town. Everyone is still afraid of Dracula because while he may be dead at the moment, his aura is still enough to corrupt everything that it reaches. It apparently even gets into the Church so everyone just hangs around the bar now. Ernest laughs at them and runs over to Dracula’s castle which he seals with the Cross. Unfortunately, the drunk pastor who had been following him trips and breaks Dracula out of his tomb of ice. Dracula then decides to team up with this guy so they can get revenge on Ernest by getting his nephew, Maria. Will their nefarious plan succeed?

Dracula has just never been a good concept for a film. I still stand by that today. The writing is often terrible for these films and they just heavily rely on shock value the entire time. The heroes also never manage to stop him before he bites the main heroine so they’re simply too late. The fact that his victims all crumble into quivering children when faced with his power is also annoying. They’ll just start fainting and running away while in his presence which is not really the kind of thing you want to see from characters who are supposed to have strong wills. The pastor guy was drunk and apparently spineless from the start though so I suppose I shouldn’t use him as a base to judge anything.

Still, the characters are really annoying. First off we’ve got our lead Paul. He wants to leave a good impression with Maria’s folks since he is supposedly serious about her, but that doesn’t stop him from passing through the bar and deciding to drink a little. Naturally this doesn’t end well and he messes up the Uncle’s big return by ruining the mood. He decides to sulk by getting even more drunk and allowing himself to be ensnared by the waitress named Zena. He hardly resists her actions and just shrugs it off. Then when Maria actually needs his help he gets one shotted by Dracula several times. He missed with the fire shovel and then runs right into Dracula’s arms. Paul’s a terrible main character and I certainly couldn’t support him during the movie. He makes all of the wrong decisions and doesn’t come off as genuine. How do you lose so many battles in one film?

Unfortunately, Maria is just as bad. She gets mind controlled by Dracula and gets thrown into a dungeon by the waitress. The heroes get to her in time before anything drastic occurs and ask her what happened. Her response is to faint multiple times and to explain in the most cryptic and misleading ways possible. She doesn’t mention any of the people who were there, which puts the heroes at a disadvantage. Thanks to her weak mind, Dracula can also enter the house as she opens the windows for him. While not everyone can agree with me that mind control only works on the weak that quickly, we can all agree that she should have at least told everyone what happened the first time.

Meanwhile, we’ve got Ernest. He’s probably the only quality character in the film and even then he makes some of the same mistakes as the others. He is betrayed and knocked out to the point of death by the drunk. Later, we see the drunk arrive at his house with Paul (Paul invited him because he’s helpful like that) and instead of warning everyone that the guy is evil, Ernest faints from fright. It’s almost amusing since you Never see the old, experienced tough guy faint in a film like this one. It’s unheard of and also incredibly hard to wrap your head around this. It doesn’t make any sense and it feels like a lazy way for the writers to get Maria kidnapped. Otherwise there’s no way Dracula could have broken in.

Zena is the waitress and she’s certainly not a good character. She only exists to flirt with everyone and to get Paul on the wrong path. You know that she is doomed immediately since that always happens to these characters in horror films. Staying in the friend zone is typically the only way you’re safe. Zena didn’t and ultimately ended up paying the price. As for Dracula himself, he’s not really a cool villain at all. He blames all of his failings on Zena and doesn’t even look very good in combat. He shrinks away in fear whenever someone holds some fire or the cross. He trips over his own feet in the climax as he lands in his doom. He even sleeps in a coffin that’s in the basement of a busy bread shop so it’s easy for someone to murder him during the day. It’s almost hard to see why everyone fears him so much when the guy just isn’t very smart.

This film is also pretty violent as you would expect from a Hammer production. It really does its best to show blood whenever possible and lots of it. Everyone gushes blood as if we’re back in Bleach whenever they’re stabbed and you can tell that they’re just doing it because they can. The Vampire bites are still as iffy as ever and since the characters take so long so stop Dracula it can barely be counted as a win. The actual body count actually isn’t all that big in this film but the movie makes sure that each one gets enough screen time for two.

Overall, Dracula Returns is a pretty terrible film. The writing is lousy and the cast of characters are completely uninspired. There is nobody to root for and that is always a problem if you ask me. You won’t be able to stay invested in the film and the best way to get through it is to take a shot of water every time a character makes the worst move possible. Anything stronger than water and you’ll likely faint so try and stay safe. Still, I’d recommend watching many other films before I’d ever even consider this one. If you have to pick a Dracula film, at least pick the modern one from the new cinematic universe that Universal has been putting together. At least that one tries to stay classy.

Overall 1/10

K-19: The Widowmaker

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It’s time to look at a historical film that adapts an event from a while back. Naturally with any adaption you look at it and absorb the story while picking and choosing which specifics make sense as some of it will naturally be dramatized for added effect. By and large this film seemed to play it straight though at least in the sense that nothing too fantastic happened.

So, the Widowmaker is a large submarine that the Russians want to bring to the Americas in case a cold war starts. They’re treated like the villains from start to finish which is interesting, but at the same time one of the big themes in the film is that the actual men on the ship are just your average 9-5 guys. They didn’t ask for this, but it’s their task so they’ll see it through to the end. Unfortunately, the ship isn’t ready for the sea yet as the captain Misha tries to tell the higher ups. They don’t listen and send in Alexei to spearhead the operation. Can the crew survive?

One of the interesting parts here is that the ship was seemingly very capable. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s something that the film altered a bit since based on the reputation you’d expect it to be less impressive. It would have easily made it all the way to the destination, but Alexei wanted to show off and kept making the mission more and more dangerous. Going lower than they were supposed to go, running drills nonstop, etc. Even then the ship did well enough, but it’s fair to say that at least in the film’s portrayal, Alexei is largely responsible for how the ship began to melt down and almost started the war on his own.

I liked how America was portrayed here. They were ready to forego country politics and save the crew from their sub. Sure, we would take control of the sub of course, but it is in our waters anyway and that’s a fair price for saving lives. If they had only listened to us, then maybe things would have been very different. At least their reasons for refusing aid were fairly decent as we wouldn’t take kindly to seeing a nuke on their sub. Especially since it was primed to detonate and nothing would have stopped it at that point. I’m sure we would have had some decent radioactive suits to try something, but there wasn’t much time either.

The film can be a little grotesque though like when the characters walk into the radiation chamber and try to turn the valve. We get that the radiation is super serious so we don’t need to see them puking all over the sub that I’m sure had just been polished. It adds that extra dimension of realism that nobody wants to see and that’s how you differentiate a movie from a great one. The greats know how to be realistic without going too far while the others go all the way. Other scenarios of lesser gravity in a film would be simple things like brushing your teeth or going to the bathroom. We know that the characters have to do that anyway so there’s no need to show it right? It’s just understood.

The characters suffer the same fate of being very realistic at times with painful dialogue and chatter amongst themselves. You just want them to stop talking and start working already. Of course, considering one of them is a drunk, another one is too nervous to tell his boss when the ship is sinking, and the rest of are being fed red wine every day, I suppose there isn’t much they can really do about that now is there? I would have liked to have had a comparison shot where we see a US sub where everyone is playing cards and the place looks nice and shiny.

There is one unfortunate scene that didn’t help this film’s plight and it also came out of left field. An animal dies. The instant it appears and got on the ship I knew this movie was going to go the dark route. Not taking shots at the film…but you could just tell. It simply is that kind of film and the fact that I was right just makes it all the sadder. If that really was in the true event then it should have been cut out and if it was made up for the movie for extra emotion then that’s even worse.

Overall, I’m sure this film will be a lot more powerful for people who are in the army or grew up during the tense cold war period. I find those topics decently interesting myself, but typically as a purely fictional movie or one that stays in the court room. I don’t need the gritty details, just the story. I also wonder how the Russian viewers would take this interpretation since I personally thought they were depicted as being quite cruel and unreasonable. Of course, that may be the facts, but the upper crust seems to just want a scapegoat whenever they are on screen. The jury didn’t seem very passionate and in general the air was always very dead. I know in general their culture isn’t quite as loud or in your face as America’s, but I still expected a little more than that. Even their style of humor like flashing the American choppers who were just doing their job was a little murky. Of course, I can easily see something like that happening with America too depending on the circumstances so I can’t speak for that much. So, if you’re interested in a sort of documentary film like this one then check it out, but I can’t say it was my cup of tea. Films based on a true story rarely work out for me.

Medusa vs The Son of Hercules Review

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It’s time for a really old film that basically nobody remembers at this point. It’s just very obscure and it’s easy to see why since it’s pretty low budget and feels kind of random. The good news about this is that the film can basically do whatever it wants because it’s not like there were any expectations for it. The film’s pretty fun and has some nice monster designs. I wasn’t sure if it would be able to stay the course for the whole film and cross the line into boring territory but it stayed entertaining throughout.

The character names are a little tricky, but I know the important ones. Perseo is just an ordinary guy living in the poor slums of the world. He doesn’t know that he is actually the son of Hercules so I’m assuming that as a baby he got lost or was banished for some reason. Either way, he’s content since the princess (He doesn’t know that she is royalty) comes to visit him every day but never tells him that her name. He vows to catch her one day before she escapes him. The problem is that Andromeda has an arranged marriage to Galenore in order to stop an impending war. Galenore and Perseo meet which ends up with Perseo getting humiliated in combat. He will get one chance to redeem himself as Andromeda saves him by initiating a tournament. The winner claims Andromeda so the stakes are high. Can Perseo win?

This is one of those films with a ton of different climaxes. There are many times you’ll think the film is about to end when it just keeps on going. I’d say that this is a good thing for the most part since it means that the film keeps up a very fast tempo. I’d expect nothing less. It’s old but the effects are actually pretty good for its time. Case in point, the monsters. There are two main monsters here. The first one is a Sea Serpent who picks off anyone who gets too close to the water. Fortunately for the serpent, everyone runs to the water and even the villain trips inside it towards the end for plot convenience. I liked his design and this monster was not to be trifled with. Nobody could stop him.

Then we have the Medusa. It’s a living Tornado with an evil eye that turns everyone into stone. It claims a lot of victims during the very first scene but sadly only appears once or twice after that. It’s definitely another strong opponent and this may be my personal favorite Medusa design. At the very least you have to admit that it’s very original and unexpected. Since the Medusa is even in the title, you want it to go down with a little dignity. It certainly had a lot more than the human villains.

Galenore is the main antagonist and he talks a good game while he’s winning. Once he suffers his first defeat, he quickly becomes afraid of his Perseo. He basically cowers behind his father from this point on and only fights when his opponent is at a disadvantage. Naturally I’m not a fan since his only motivation is basically that he wants to marry Andromeda. You can probably see why he’s not my kind of villain from that scene alone. His whip skills were fairly solid I suppose, buit I definitely don’t consider it t be one of the better weapons out there. Give me a sword any day.

Andromeda was an okay heroine. She had bow and arrow skills which is more than I can say for most. I would have been happier if she had used them more during the film though as opposed to getting knocked out with ease. Granted she was in her room in the palace so you’d think that nobody would break in, but the guards were all dispatched in an instant. Honestly the security was pretty terrible. Going against the arranged marriage was good and all, but she could have been more direct with Perseo. The romance was pretty weak throughout though so I’m glad it was given a relatively small presence. I saw the comedy version on Svengoolie with the extra sound effects and I can certainly say that they did at least make all of the scenes a lot funnier. Enough that I’d possibly give it an extra star as most of the additions were pretty well placed and also made Andromeda a better character.

To round out the main cast, I can’t say that I like Perseo all that much either. He just seems a little desperate for Andromeda and yet he still gets completely wrecked in his first fight. I was expecting him to put forth a little more effort to be honest. It was just sad how he lost and even in the rematch he was not faring well for a while until Galenore got overconfident and went too close. It was interesting to see him suddenly become the head of the army and break into the villain base though. It was a pretty big shift in stature in just the span of a few minutes. The King of the heroes wasn’t even that grateful the whole time as he forced Perseo to get in the army. Then we got a plot twist about where Perseo truly belonged which was at least mentioned in the beginning so there was some foreshadowing. I felt bad for the Mom since it took ages for Perseo to arrive. I believe she ended up dying rather tragically as well but I don’t remember the specifics.

It would have been nice if Perseo’s army was a little stronger though. The difference in power was crazy and how did the villains get those overpowered monsters? The heroes losing everyone to the Medusa was also pretty suspect since you’d expect at least a few to throw some arrows or sword stabs into the tornado while it was busy freezing others. Of course, given their lack of teamwork and how they got picked off by random guys the whole time, I suppose it is to be expected.

Overall, This was a pretty fun film. It’s certainly not amazing or anything, but it’s surprisingly a pretty solid experience. Something is always happening and the film never got too fishy with Galenor’s obsession with Andromeda. Perseo was always ready to break things up. The action scenes are entertaining and this just makes for a really good light hearted action film. It’s certainly not serious and it’s not even self aware but you’d be surprised at what you can do with a limited budget. This film was clearly ready for it and I’d certainly be up to seeing more films in this series. I’d recommend checking it out but don’t expect the monsters to get a huge role. At the end of the day, it’s just a story of the hero trying to save the Princess from the villains.

Overall 6/10

Dracula: Prince of Darkness Review

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Time for more Dracula! This film actually had the best beginning out of all the Dracula films which was quite impressive. For a little while there, I actually began to think that this film could actually be good. The second half falls back down the rails into terrible territory but at least it actually tried this time. If only the film had stuck to being a slice of life with a few jump scares instead of a nitty gritty vampire film. Don’t we have enough of those anyway?

The film starts off with a bunch of savages about to impale a girl who’s already dead. They want to make sure she stays that way. A passing preacher/evangelist stops them with his pocket gun and tough negotiating skills. He then heads to a cabin where we meet the Kents. 4 people are going on a big tour of the world and are having fun stopping at all of the various bars. He warns them not to go to a castle coming up since it’s evil. To their credit, half of the party listens. The 4 people are Alan, Helen, Charles, and Diana. Helen really doesn’t want to go inside and Diana isn’t fond of doing so either. Luckily a carriage comes along so Charles proposes that they get on it and head for the next town. Unfortunately the Horses are uncontrollable and quickly take the heroes to the castle. It appears to be empty, but a butler remains.

Helen continues to believe that something bad is going to happen and her fears are put to rest as Alan is destroyed and she goes next. Unlike Alan, she is at least given the pleasure of becoming a fellow vampire who will serve Dracula. Dracula wants Diana next, but Charles intends to put up a fight to save her. Charles and Diana head to the old guy from the intro and hide in his church, but the Church has a traitor who works for Dracula and the guy invites him in. It’s now a desperate battle for time, can Dracula be stopped!?

I really did like the intro. The first 30-40 minutes are basically the heroes bickering among themselves and just enjoying the hospitality once they get into the castle. You know that it’s not going to end well for them but at least they are having fun in the meantime. Charles is a pretty good character as he’s not a nervous wreck like the rest of the heroes and doesn’t mind taking charge. Diana may not be as brave, but she always stands by Charles. Alan and Helen aren’t quite as good. Helen is extremely nervous of everything to the point of paranoia which gets old fast and Alan just barely seems like a character. He’s just along for the ride for the most part. Still, it’s a fun group dynamic. These are actually characters that I can get behind and it’s just an entertaining intro.

Then Dracula shows up and things get messy. First of all, the film is quite violent. The Hammer films in general are always a little more intense and this one is no exception. One character basically bleeds to death which takes a while and it’s on screen. Another character gets impaled with a stake on screen. Ironically, Dracula’s death at the end is the least violent since he simply slips on some ice and freezes to his doom. Not exactly the way you’d imagine the famous Prince of Darkness to go out. I’m aware of the Garlic and the Cross as counters to Dracula even if the former never works. I never heard about Vampires drowning in clear water though. I never assumed they could breath underwater, but it’s actually a weakness now? The deck is really stacked against Dracula since he is quite slow and is weak to just about everything under the sun. Good luck beating any more humans at this rate count.

The traitor inside of the Church was annoying as well. He’s a prisoner as they even say to take him back to his cell, but people still take orders from him? Clearly the guy isn’t the only crazy in the place. It’s also awfully convenient how many empty rooms are in the Church so it’s easy for Dracula to sneak around. I was hoping there would be more people running around trying to stop him. It’s also annoying how quick the hypnosis works on Diana. It’s essentially instantaneous which isn’t surprising, but still not all that great. Where is the will power in all of this?

As a side note, this is probably the worst Dracula design. The red eyes just make him look super weak and then the actual movie certainly doesn’t do anything to dissuade you of that notion. Anyone can out run him and while he has super strength, he tends to let his opponents go. He’s also lucky that Alan was quite naive and not too smart as he otherwise wouldn’t have gotten resurrected in the first place. The heroes make a bunch of bad calls throughout the movie. In another scene they see the butler with a baseball bat or some kind of knife, but just shrug. All 4 of them agree that the butler seems crazy and likely dangerous, but they are still fine with sleeping in the manor. At worst they should have just overpowered him and then gone to sleep. They could have woke up the next day with a “Nothing personal” story and that would have worked. Well, I suppose at least some of them got the last laugh in the end so that’s a start.

Overall, This film is really just more of the same. Once Dracula shows up you can switch the footage with any other Dracula film and it’s basically the same. The film goes through the same beats as he takes the heroes down one by one but then plot armor comes to help the heroes. Dracula gets Charles in his grasp at one point, but then throws him away. He completely had the victory sealed up there, but lets him get away. Why would he do that? Seems like it was a bad move to me. Ah well, I’d recommend staying away from this film. You can watch other Dracula films that aren’t as over the top violent and at the end of the day, vampires are past their prime anyway. If you don’t mind stopping early, then the film is quite good if you just watch right up til Alan says he is going to check downstairs. Stop the film right there and it’s a solid 7/10 with a good cast and solid writing. If every film ended as well as it started, a lot of scores would be quite different in the horror genre.

Overall 2/10

Son of Dracula Review

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Given that I’m in the middle of a vampire arc in Detective Conan, it seemed like a good time to review a Dracula film. It’s definitely pretty odd to see Lon Chaney playing the role, but this way he continues to play all of the Universal monsters at some point so I can roll with that. Unfortunately, not even his acting can save the film as it still ends up being your standard Dracula film through and through. It’s just hard to make a good Dracula film whether it be in this day and age of even in the past.

So, the plot starts with a mysterious man moving into town. The main farmer dies very mysteriously during this time frame. That’s when Dracula shows up and suddenly Katherine marries him despite being seriously engaged to Frank. Frank suspects something is up and grabs his gun, but this Dracula fellow appears to be bullet proof and intangible so the bullet goes through and destroys Katherine. Frank is quickly arrested, but it appears that Katherine is still alive. She is now going to be doing experiments with Dracula at night and says she won’t be available during the daytime anymore. Something’s fishy here, but Frank’s in jail so he can’t do much about it. It’s going to be up to Lazlo and Brewster to see what’s happened. Can they really deal with two vampires though?

The film does have a unique twist that I can get behind. Usually the main heroine falls head over heels for Dracula due to mind control and just generally looks terrible the whole time. The twist this time is that Katherine actually went with him willingly as part of her own plan. She plans to murder him once she is undead as well but to do that she will need Frank’s help. She’ll bust him out of jail so he can go to Dracula’s coffin during the daytime and destroy him. Technically it’s a full proof plan, but he makes one big mistake…he goes outside while it’s still night time. Heh…..heh…..hahhahahahahahahahaha!! Of all the mistakes to make…..why is Frank so terrible? I mean, we finally have a good plan and then he messes it up. He even destroys Katherine afterwards because he doesn’t want to be a vampire. I wish I could say he made the right call, but I really can’t. He comes across as a very ungrateful guy who’s of no use throughout the entire film. While Katherine’s plan was extremely dangerous, risky, and probably not good at all, she did pull it off. Frank got the easy job and he still messed it up. That’s got to be a downer.

Dracula doesn’t look very good here. I mean that’s to be expected considering how many weaknesses he has, but it’s still sad for his fans. It’s gotten to the point where just being in the same room as a cross is enough to get him sweating and the doctors always handle him without too much trouble. Dracula is at his best when he’s just uttering threats as opposed to trying to follow up on them. At any rate, at least Dracula is fun to listen to. Seriously, Chaney has one of the best voices in cinema with ease. Most other actors can’t even get close to his level. Dracula is just not a good character though.

I felt like the rest of the cast were pretty slow on the uptake here. Katherine’s sister made a few half hearted attempts to see what was happening, but didn’t play her cards right. She basically told Frank that the cops were onto him and took forever to get out of harm’s way. Brewster noticed right away that Alucard is just another way of saying Dracula, but just brushed it off and didn’t remember until we were deep into the film. He could have saved lives if he had acted with a little more urgency. Lazlo was experienced at least so that was nice to see. He may have been the best character here even if that isn’t saying a lot. At least he was making a real effort to do his best.

The Sheriff meant well. When he investigated the place and found the dead body, it was certainly reasonable for him to suspect Brewster as an accomplice. It’s also hard to take their word for it that a vampire is on the prowl since that doesn’t seem all that reasonable. At least he was better than the other cop who couldn’t guard a man if his life depended on it and got scared of everything. If you’re going to be a cop, I feel like there’s at least a minimum level of bravery that you should have and it should be enough for you to not be scared of vampires.

Overall, Son of Dracula is more of less what you’d expect from the series. There’s not a whole lot to say about the film that I haven’t already. At least there was no animal violence this time. That’s certainly a nice start. The supporting cast was also quite reasonable for a change even if it could still be annoying how they wouldn’t realize anything until it was too late. The cops were a nice addition. I wouldn’t recommend this film and you should probably stay far away. Just remember for the next time that while Dracula can be scary, it can always be worse. You could be dealing with the Wolf Man who has less obvious weaknesses. With Dracula you can hold up to sticks and cross them and that’s enough to deter him. The ending to the film was pretty weak and here’s how it should have happened. Frank becomes a vampire along with Katherine and then they play it off like she was in the woods or something and that’s why her body vanished. She explains that they were just imagining they saw her dead body and this way everyone lives happily ever after. Sure, Frank didn’t get a choice on if he wanted to be a vampire or not, but it can’t always be perfect for the guy.

Overall 4/10