Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Halloween Watch 2017: Theatre of Blood, Altered States, House of Dracula
Well, it's that time of the year, and we're watching movies about monsters and murders and transdimensional-psychotic states brought on by a rich cocktail of hallucinogens.
Theater of Blood (or: Theatre of Blood): 70's-era Vincent Price, co-starring Diana Rigg. A disgraced Shakespearean performer (Price) returns from the grave (kind of) to kill the London Theater Critics Circle in a series of murders based upon the works of the Bard.
This is actually a great, fun movie. Not a lot of actual scares as you're cheering for Price, who seems to be having a blast in every shot. I don't always love the repetition baked into the "we're getting picked off, one-by-one" plotting of some movies like this, but it really does turn into "oh, this is going to be darkly hilarious" after a while.
Altered States: Uhhhhhhhh.... So, William Hurt is a research genius who meets the lady who played the titular character on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, He's already doing some quasi-iffy experiments by submerging himself in a sensory deprivation tank with the help of Bob Balaban.* They literally marry and have a bunch of kids and get divorced in about three minutes of screentime - but remain emotionally attached. Oh, and he has spiritual visions whenever he has sex.
Like, this is directed by Ken Russell, so I don't want to just blow past the spiritual visions bit. This was insane stuff. Fire, dozens of nude extras clinging to rocks. Lava. Imagery from Revelations. Molly Dodd naked. William Hurt naked. And then smash cut back to good ol' William Hurt speaking in William Hurt-voice and being urbane and everything. It's a whole thing, man.
I'm not sure it holds up super well in the back 1/3rd of the movie, but it's a hell of a thing to see. College-me would have been all over this movie, and I kind of wish I'd seen it back then.
House of Dracula: This is considered, near as I can tell, the movie that made Universal throw in the towel on monster movies for a while. Which - look, this whole thing feels like it was cranked out by 12-year-olds on a Nerds-bender. Nothing holds together, plot-wise, and after building up ideas and plotlines for an hour (it runs 67 minutes), it just ends in a big, dumb ball of fire and literally nothing resolves. Maybe that's how real life works from time-to-time, but it is not how you tell a story.
Of *course* there are people who want to give this movie a pass, and it does have a few good things going for it. I really liked Jane Adams as the "hunchback" nurse, for example. But... man. This thing is a mess, but in a fun way, where you get to keep looking at the screen and asking "...what..?".
But if this was all Universal could crank out (I mean, we were in year 4 of WWII when it came out, so I want to forgive it a little), maybe it was best they gave these movies a rest for a while.
*always great to see Balaban
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Vincent Price is always a good choice! Theater of Blood is one of those that caught when I was way too young on some late night chiller-fest thing, so when I watched it recently I had that weird deja-vu "Oh that's why I'm terrified of someone stuffing my face with food like that..."
If you like Altered States, let me recommend "Beyond the Black Rainbow" as a modern homage to the genre.
Haven't seen HoD. Adding to the queue!
AH! Beyond The Black Rainbow! I totally meant to see that. Thanks for the reminder!
And, btw - my friend SimonUK that I watched the movie with described something similar. "I saw this when I was way too young and those poodles really stuck with me."
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