July 2020 Mini-Reviews — Underworld Story to The Raven

Where does the time go?  Well, clearly some of it goes to watching a LOT of movies, but the rest…?

Well, there was Shark Week during August, too, and that took up time that maybe I could have used to post my July reviews.  (Don’t worry, shark fans!  A separate page of Shark Week 2020 reviews is coming, too.)

One of the things that keeps pushing my count up is Monster Kid Movie Club, which features at least 4 movies every Saturday, and 2 movies every Tuesday, plus an excellent array of one-shot documentaries and short subjects.

HAMILTON is one of the headliners this month — though I almost forgot to type it into the list, which would have been a huge oversight because it’s AWESOME.  I also blow through a number of TV seasons, including both series of What We Do in the Shadows and Warrior Nun (all excellent), plus, of course a whole boatload of monster and monster-related movies and shows.  There’s sure to be something there for you to enjoy.  Check ’em out!

Ratings are out of five stars. Here’s what those stars mean to me…

* – This film is not good. Avoid it unless you tolerate dreck well.
** – A flawed film. You may enjoy it if you like this genre or the folks in it.
*** – A good solid film. If you like this genre, you’ll probably like this film.
**** – A superior film within its genre. Thoroughly enjoyable.
***** – An outstanding film on many levels. A great example of its genre.

Underworld Story, The **** Crooked newspaperman kicked out of big city takes over small-town paper & gets mixed up with Noir murder & conspiracy.
What We Do in the Shadows (S1) **** Three olde-time vampires living together are a hoot as they try to deal with the modern world. Vampire Trial is a scream.
Horray for Horrorwood **** Forry Ackerman of Famous Monsters takes us on a memory tour of the horror stars & films he loves.
Attack of the Octopus People *** Joshua Kennedy’s first film is filled with cool homages & even clips of things he admires. Sound & picture a bit iffy.
Tales of Frankenstein *** Frankenstein finds a new brain for monster. Hammer meets Universal in this failed anthology pilot. Could have been good.
House of Ghosts **** Mihm’s Castle homage has party who turn on Ghost Machine only to be haunted to gruesome ends. Great lighting.
Creature from the Haunted Sea ** Corman cheapie made in almost no time is an odd mishmash of spy, treasure hunter, & monster story. Not enough monster.
Bride of the Gorilla *** Raymond Burr gives a great performance in Sidomak’s low-budget Wolf-Man-like tale of man who turns into a gorilla.
Track of the Vampire ** Also known as Blood Bath in a different cut, this story of a mad artist has vampire scenes inserted. Interesting.
Jaws: The Sharksploitation Edit *** Not nearly as good as the original, but an interesting re-take on the film, with an ending that made me laugh with glee.
Swimmer, The ***** Burt Lancaster is brilliant in this epic tale of a middle-aged man’s attempt to swim home through county pools. Devastating.
What We Do in the Shadows (S2) **** The new season picks up after the last, but with clever new subplots & the hilarious-as-usual cast. Too much fun!
Hamilton ***** Brilliant modern musical about Hamilton, one of the country’s founding fathers & his often-tragic life. Great production.
Gammera The Invincible (MKR rewatch) *** The clunky US-inserted scenes make this teeter toward 2 stars, but the fun giant monster (& song) pull it back up.
Geharha: The Long & Dark-Haired Monster **** Brilliant short film about a long-haired kaiju menacing Japan. Part homage, part parody, but mostly just cool. And I totally hope they make the sequel they previewed.
Varan the Unbelievable (US cut) *** Like Gammera, the US-inserted scenes come close to making this 2 stars, but the kaiju action pulls it up. See original.
Animal Icons: It Came from Japan *** Animal Planet documentary about Japanese Monster movies (!) is a nice survey of the field & history.
Gigantis the Fire Monster (US) *** Yet the third movie of the day where US cut meddling & dub injures the film. But this sitll has great monsters & moments.
War of the Monsters (Gamera v. Barugon) **** HD-dub cut. This version combines a modern HD print with the classic 60s dub for a really super kaiju film experience. One of the best of the original Gamera films.
Warrior Nun (S1) **** Starts slow but builds into a supernatural superhero actioner with great characters & some unexpected twists. Good season!
Manhunt of Mystery Island *** Great villiain mad science. Yakama Canut stunts. Linda Stirling kayoed too much. Some of the cliffhanger formulas weary.
Winchester ’73 ***** A contest shootout between Jimmy Stewart & a rival for the title gun plays out across multiple characters. Top notch.
Hardcore **** George C. Scott as religious Midwesterner who’s daughter goes missing, only to turn up on West Coast pornos. Strong.
Lugosi – The Forgotten King **** Ackerman hosted look at Lugosi’s life & career also includes interviews with people who acted with him. Great stuff.
History of the Quatermass Xperiment **** Good history of the original Quatermass serial & the Hammer movie, The Quatermass Xperiment, that came from it
Veil, The “Summer Heat” **** Man sees a murder from his window that doesn’t happen until days later. Strong One Step Beyond Feeling.
Vesuvius Xperiment, The **** Kennedy’s Quatermass tribute has very creepy moments.
Doctor Mabuse (2013) *** The mad doctor battles against witches in his quest to take over the world. Interesting first film for Ansel Faraj.
Doctor Mabuse: Etiopomar (2014) *** Mabuse, in a new body, returns to try and create his ideal society, at the cost of everyone else in the world.
Thousand & One Lives of Dr. Mabuse, The (2020 – Premiere) **** Made during the pandemic, this experimental film is both fun and creepy as evil Mabuse is on the loose again.
Job Interview, The ***** John Karlen & Jerry Lacey & Kathryn Leigh Scott (all Dark Shadows actors) conduct interview for vampire’s assistant. Short.
Attack of the Mayan Mummy * US version of an Aztec mummy movie is relentlessly padded & has an ending so abrupt it’s astonishing. Very bad.
Cat Creature, The *** A fine cast & Robert Bloch story make this TV film about a missing mummy & stolen amultet extra creepy. Great fun.
Naked Monster, The *** Loving low-budget homage to 50s monster films stars many 50s monster stars. Fun & worth it for those stars.
Born to Play **** The troubles & triumphs of the Boston Raiders, a women’s semi-pro football team. Entertaining & enlightening.
Grantchester (S5) **** New minister makes mistakes & falls in love. The cop has mother-in-law trouble. Plus engaging mysteries in PBS staple.
Missing, The (S1 Baptiste) **** French detective Baptiste takes on the mystery of a vanished child. Told in past & present investigations. Heart wrenching.
Voyage to the Planet of Teenage Cavewomen *** Joshua Kennedy’s homage to Italian SciFi movies of the ’60s even has fake dubbing. Low budget good time.
Tales of Tomorrow – “Red Dust” *** Interesting SF TV show about spacecraft returning to Earth, but contaminated dust that will kill anyone… in 15 years.
First Spaceship on Venus **** Well made DEFA (East German) SF with strong special effects & good story by Stanislaw Lem. Groundbreaking classic.
Eolomea **** DEFA SF about space ships going missing & a plan to find a Utopian planet far away. Good SFX, interesting plot.
Sign of the Ram **** Rebecca-like gothic noir about wheelchair-bound woman (actual paraplegic actress) plotting to control her children & family.
Biography – Boris Karloff ***** Peter Graves hosts excellent biography of Boris Karloff, including strong TV & film clips & interview with friends & family.
I’ve Got a Secret – Boris Karloff *** Karloff goes on the game show & gets women to scream to stump the panel as to what he’s doing. Great fun.
Amazing Mr. X, The *** A fake psychic (aren’t they all) tries to trick a rich widow & her sister out of their fortune. Atmospheric.
Killers From Space *** Peter Graves as amnesiac pilot who crashes but is actually abducted & experimented upon by bug-eyed aliens. Sincere.
Man in the Attic *** Jack Palance is the mysterious title character in a re-imagining of the superior Laird Cregar LODGER. Odd ending.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers **** Re-watch with friends. Still the best flying saucer movie ever. Harryhausen\s SFX can’t be beat.
Star Trek the Animated Series (S1) **** It’s delightful to see nearly the entire cast of the original Trek, even in short animated stories, some of which are great.
Queen of Blood **** It’s amazing what a good director/writer can do with clips from a Soviet SF epic & imagination. Fine space monster flick.
Three Strangers **** Noir tale of 3 strangers who hitch their fortunes to a sweepstakes ticket, a race, & a luck goddess station. Surprising finale.
Endeavor: Confection (S6-3) **** Re-watch. Complications follow when poison pen letters spark a series of small-town murders. Superior mystery as usual.
Sky Calls, The *** Soviet film story of Russians who abandon Mars trip to help US mission gone wrong. Strong SFX. Almost fraternal.
SF Theater: The Other Side of the Moon *** A scientist believes his telescope reveals alien activity on the far side of the moon. (Don’t hope to see any aliens.)
Survivor, The *** Micro budget student film still has some fun handmade miniatures & SFX. Story of aliens attacking Earth & kidnapping girl.
Battle Beyond the Stars ** American version of The Sky Calls cuts out romance & other subplots & sticks in brief cheesy monsters. Original is better.
Mission Stardust *** Italian Perry Rhodan film is a mix of SF & “manly” action. Sometimes a bit slow on location, but fun practical SFX.
Raven, The **** This horror-comedy’s plot can get a little thin, but Karloff, Price, & Lorre are having such a great time & you will, too.

57 films and shows, if my count is right, this month.  Total for the year is 373, and next month we make it over 400 easily.  If this pace keeps up — and with the pandemic, I don’t see that it’s gonna change — there’s a very good chance that I’ll crack the old record, with well over 500 films and shows watched this year.  Stay tuned!

Next Month: August is nearly over as I write this, and the movie watching has continued at a furious clip (thanks in part to the Monster Kid Movie Club stream)!  So, with a little luck maybe I’ll get the reviews up earlier.  (Though I still have the Shark Week reviews to post, too.)  Stay Safe & Healthy!

Remember, you can support this and all my other writing work, including Frost Harrow, Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors, and more, by joining my Patreon for a buck or two a month.  Thanks!

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