October 2020 Mini-Reviews – Human Beasts to The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

Where in heck did November go?!  I had the header for the October reviews done early in the month, and then… VOOM!  Suddenly its December.  Sorry to anyone who missed my mini-reviews last month.  I’ll try to get 2 done this month, to make up.

October 2020 was a WHOPPER of a month for movies and shows — which isn’t unusual for Halloween Season, but… Yow!  My official count for the moth is 86 shows/films — which might be some kind of single-month record.  I don’t know, I’m not keeping track.

It certainly helped that TCM had Peter Cushing as their Star of the Month, and played a lot of his early films that I hadn’t seen.  They also played one that annoyed me enough to want Peter to kill all the rest of the cast, but sadly he never did.  A selection of excellent shorter films on MonsterKidMovie.club (live every Saturday) helped, too.  Plus, the club streamed most days during Halloween week.

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.

Human Beasts **** Naschy gets tangled with yakuza, betrays them & winds up recovering in an old dark house. Strange, wonderful, & sometimes gory twists liven up this fast-moving film that never seems to go where you expect.
Legend of Korra (season 1) ***** Strong sequel to AVATAR THE LAST AIR BENDER has a new, inexperience female avatar sent to a big city on the verge of civil war between benders & normal folks. Great characters, story, & production values equal to original series.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010) *** Remake of the TV film classic adds many CGI monsters & a little girl with estranged parents who becomes story’s focus.
Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong! **** Doc about long-running Oakland horror show Creature Features & hosts, Bob Wilkins & John Stanley. Interesting guests & a fabulous peek into the days when locally produced television shows could do interesting & innovative things.
Ghost & the Guest, The *** Poverty row old dark house film but with comic reporter, cop, & gangster elements. Amusing enough despite stereotypes.
Plot Thickens, The *** Amusing mystery show pilot featuring panelists, including Groucho Marx, who must question suspects in staged mystery.
Frankenstein’s Light **** A man has a heart attack & Frankenstein’s monster steps off the screen to save him. Well done Twilight Zone-like short.
Interview with Rod Serling (1970) **** Rod talks about “Time Element” landing him TWILIGHT ZONE & his love of SF, TV etc. Sadly, some missing footage.
Encounter with the Unknown ** Low-budget anthology narrated by Rod Serling. First a group of young people faces the supernatural revenge consequences of a prank gone wrong. Then there’s something in a deep hole that might need rescuing. Lastly, a classic vanishing hitchhiker kind of story. But ruthless padding at the end drags it all down a star. 🙁
Les Diaboliques **** Plan to murder a woman’s husband goes badly wrong in this French suspense (supernatural?) classic. Well worth it.
End of the Affair, The ** Peter Cushing’s wife & his best friend ,who are cheating together, are so unlikable, I wanted them to die from the start.
Beyond the Moon *** Pilot & follow-up episodes for Rocky Jones make a pretty good early space movie, despite sexism. Goofy fun costumes.
Cosmos: War of the Planets * An incoherent mash of space ideas – ships, robots, alien infection – in the Italian style. Doubt a better print would help.
Time without Pity **** A drunk tries to track down a murderer before his son is executed for the crime. Cushing is lawyer. Hard-hitting noir.
Night of the Werewolf (El Returno del Hombre Lobo) ***** One of Naschy’s best films pits his werewolf against Elizabeth Bathory & her vampire minions. Has some time & never-neverland stuff, but strong on Naschy’s themes as writer & director. Strong cast. Lovely production, too!
John Paul Jones *** Robert Stack in standard (whitewash) US historic biopic still has some strong moments. Cushing is great as Brit captain.
Chump at Oxford, A *** Laurel & Hardy take their usual hijinx to Oxford. Peter Cushing & other students harass them & Laurel becomes a Lord.
Monster & the Girl, The *** Surprising horror story of wrongly executed man whose brain is transplanted into ape & returns to protect sister. Fun.
Captive Wild Woman *** The origin of Paula the Ape Woman is a tight 60 minutes with lots of Clyde Beatty doubling lion & tiger act. Amusing.
Vigil in the Night *** Romantic medical melodrama. Nurse takes the fall for her sister’s mistake & their redemptions. Cushing as sis’ husband.
Blood & Black Lace *** “Faceless” murderer kills bevy of young lovlies in stylish Bava crime thriller (giallo). Lovely but fairly standard for genre.
Magic Sword, The **** Entertaining D&D-like kids’ film by Bert I. Gordon has good production & lots of fantasy creatures, uncluding a dragon.
Witcher: First Hunt *** Short fan film of the Witcher is mostly combat, but it’s fairly well done combat. Good production values.
Deliverer *** Another short fan film, this time of mysterious stranger with mysterious gauntlet who has to “hulk out” to stop a robbery.
Conan the Cimmerian *** A short Conan fan film has a good Conan and some nice combat.
Horn of Gondor **** Superior fan short telling of the creation of the original Riders of Rohan. Top flight production values. Tolkien worthy.
Prisoners of the Lost Universe **** Surprisingly fun goofy film about a man & a woman who fall from our universe into a fantasy one ruled by John Saxon.
Fantopia ***** Excellent short film with a troubled child retreating into D&D-like fantasy game to cope with life problems. Superior.
Robo Vampire * The hopping vampire stuff in this film gets another star, but the spy-cyborg stuff often drags & makes little sense.
Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated (S1) ***** Fun reimagining of Scooby & gang takes them back to High School, monster busting roots, & great homages. Some may object to the added romances & complications; I didn’t mind. The animation is fun & fabulous, too. Fave Scoob sequel.
This Is Not a Test *** Motorists caught on the highway during an atomic attack contend with controlling cop & each other. Good moments.
Star Pilot ** Another Italian space film has moments of good FX as aliens from Hydra kidnap people to try to return to home planet.
Violent Playground *** Juvenile liaison cop tries to help troubled kids, local young hood, & pretty sister in noirish cityscape. Cushing is a priest.
Legend of Korra (season 2) *** Less focused than the excellent S1 & more “airy fairy” with the goals & “magic” rules, but still highly entertaining.
History of Horror, A (Part 1) **** Mark Gatiss takes a look at the first era of classic horror films at Universal & its contemporaries. Engrossing.
Halloween Safety *** Amusing short PSA film from the late 60s or early 70s advising children to stay safe on Halloween with boring costumes.
Return of Chandu, The (serial) *** Bela Lugosi has some action scenes (his only ones?) plus interesting settings make this serial worthwhile. A bit slow.
Loon Lake ***** Well made & atmospheric low-budget film about a legendary witch & a city man in the country. Dark Shadows stars, too!
Mysteries of Black Magic (Misterios de la Magia Negra) **** An ambitious professor stirs up a witch performing a stage act, unleashing vengeance on the unwary. Good Mexi-horror.
Naked Witch, The ** Larry Buchanan strikes again with a film about a naked witch with (mostly) black bars on her bits. Very little dialogue in this one & a lot of voice-over, including a long prologue about witches with art by old masters. Witch is cute, though.
Crypt of Dark Secrets *** Crooks kill Vietnam vet to find swamp treasure, but nude witch snake-shifter resurrects him as snake shifter, too, for revenge. Slow, thin plot. Bonus star for unabashed female nudity. On Something Weird Video double with Naked Witch.
Corruption *** Peter Cushing resorts to murder & experimental surgery to restore his wife’s damaged face. Funky 60s horror.
Enter the Ninja *** Franco Nero is a bit absurd as a White Ninja, yet the story has enough fun, goofy action to recommend it. Sho Kosugi.
Return of the Ninja *** Sho Kosugi headlines this time as a martial artist whose son (Kane Kosugi) runs afowl of smugglers. Great ninja action.
Van der Valk (1.3) Death in Venice **** Finale of the first series of VDV films has the detective dealing with new murders & struggling with his past. Good series.
Horror of Dracula ***** Cushing & Lee as Van Helsing & Dracula bring the count to Hammer horror with modern violence & a bit of sex. Great.
Black Sabbath **** Boris Karloff narrates the US version of Bava’s 3-story anthology film with 2 very scary segments about witch & vampire.
Curse of Frankenstein ***** Hammer’s take on Frankenstein focuses on the mad scientist & brings some gore for a new twist on the classic tale.
Menace from Outer Space *** Rocky Jones & crew must travel to a new planet to stop an interplanetary incident & war. TV show compilation.
Astral Factor, The ** Killer gains psychic powers in prison & goes for revenge. Good cast & brief Stefanie Powers nude scene can’t save this.
Hunchback of the Morgue, The **** Naschy is hunchbacked morgue worker, tormented by students, & befriened by dying girl & mad scientist. Unpredictable.
Creature from the Black Lagoon, The ***** Classic film of amphibian gill-man found in the Amazon vs. scientists looking to exploit him & girl he’s attracted to. Great.
Blob, The **** Steve McQueen & good cast make tale of invading blob from outer space believable & even scary at times. Classic.
Tingler, The **** William Castle classic ballyhoo with Vincent Price discovering creature that lives in the spine & grows until you scream.
History of Horror, A – Pt.2 Home County Horror **** Mark Gatiss continues his personal reflection on horror history by moving into the Hammer era & beyond. Really well done, though can’t cover everything.
Daughter of Horror *** Woman is swept into dark, seedy part of the city because of trauma when growing up. But how much is real? Interesting.
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter *** Cheap horror western about lady Doc & outlaws still manages to be amusing & have some Frankenstein touches.
Curse of the Insect Woman *** Mythic horror film about friends haunted by spirit of evil insect woman. Made by Joshua Kennedy at age 16. Promising.
Voodoo Woman ** Mad doctor mixes voodoo with science to create unstoppable creature while thieves look for jungle treasure. Okay.
Ninja 3: The Domination *** Wacky actioner about woman possessed by evil ninja spirit on the warpath, eventually confronted by Sho Kosugi. Fun.
Pickman’s Muse *** An artist is slowly going mad because of his art & a mysterious nearby church. Based on several Lovecraft stories.
Devil’s Messenger, The *** Lon Chaney, Jr., is Satan sending an attractive suicide back to earth to do missions for him. Better antho than expected.
Madhouse *** Vincent Price is aging horror star who may be killing folks after his stint in a sanitarium. Peter Cushing, too. Amicus fun.
House, The *** Short: A couple house shopping where the house seems very familiar to the woman buyer for a spooky reason. Fun.
Nothing But the Night *** Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee investigate strange goings on at a boarding school. A bit slow. Surprising, cool ending.
Halloween That Almost Wasn’t, The *** Kid’s show/short. Dracula must gather the monsters to convince a witch to save Halloween. Goofy but fun.
Dragonfly for Each Corpse, A *** Naschy is a police inspector (without any strange kinks) in this straightforward giallo suspense-murder picture. Good.
Ghost, The *** Barbara Steele & her lover plot to steal her wicked husband’s fortune once he’s dead, but his ghost has other ideas.
Dracula A.D. 1972 *** Mod stuff doesn’t quite work, but Cushing vs. Lee’s Dracula is always worth seeing. Some great stars, but story a bit thin.
Satanic Rites of Dracula, The **** Conflict steps up in 72’s sequel as Dracula plans to destroy the world & Van Helsing, Lee & Cushing’s last confrontation.
House of Black Wings *** Traumatized singer leaves show-biz & with friend renovates possibly haunted apartment. Nightmarish. A bit Lovecraftian.
White Zombie ***** Best Poverty Row shocker ever. Lugosi is super creepy & production values are high. Woman falls prey to voodoo spell.
Vampire Bat, The *** Lionel Atwill & Fay Wray do lab work as mysterious vampire-like killings plague town. Good film with letdown ending.
House of Dreams ** Writer has dreams in which he visits strange house & seemingly predicts deaths. Low budget. Terrible organ music.
Blood Rites of the Vampyr *** Low-budget homage to Rolin & other surrealist horror/supernatural directors about vampyr woman risen to plague town.
Torticola contra Franeknberg ** Very silly French “serial” with mad doctor, a Frankenstein-like monster (Torticola) & man with cat brain. Weird.
Ghost Rider (PSA) **** Surprisingly interesting Bus Safety PSA features the ghost of a dead girl & a literal cliffhanger with bang-up finish.
Eldritch Code (short) *** IT guy tries to root out malicious code brought to the system by employee & gets in over his head.
666 Square Feet (short) *** A man discovers a problem in the walls of his newly rented apartment. Short but fun & a bit funny.
Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf ***(*) Waldemar Daninsky (El Hombre Lobo) returns & goes to Dr. Jekyll for a cure. This PD version docked a star for cuts.
Haunted Gold *** John Wayne is half heir to an apparently haunted gold mine. Good actioner with, sadly, stereotype black sidekick.
Princess Bride LIVE Reunion, The ***** Brilliant live event for the WI Dems reunites nearly all of the surviving cast in a live rendition of the entire film.
Dead Matter, The *** Gal with ancient relic hopes to contact her dead brother, runs afowl of 2 vampire clans who want it. Good low budget.
Brainiac, The (El Baron del Terror) *** Fun Mexican horror pic with pretty absurd-looking monster, out for revenge on descendants of those who executed him.
Rocky Horror LIVE Reunion **** Oodles of guest actors & singers help re-create Rocky Horror. Tim Curry, recovering from a stroke, is touching & helped through his lines by Little Nel, who can still hit her Boop-like notes. Few flaws overshadowed by great enthusiasm.
Brain That Wouldn’t Die, The **** Low-budget shocker has plenty of sleaze, a fine performance by decapitated Virginia Leith & creepy monster. A gem.

So, there you go, a HUGE list for the most wonderful (monster) month of the year.  There were some amazing surprise discoveries, including among the early Cushing films (and one serious turkey there), a bevy of super-fine shorter subjects, and some pretty wonderful cast readings (in honor of the election) at the end.  (Despite that, I still wish election day could be moved away from Halloween!)

Total for the year is 590 films — a new record, I believe — with magic #600 right around the corner.

Next Time: November films!  Hitting the Big 600!  More Scooby-Doo!  More Monster Kid Movie Club!  And helpfully, more of you reading these entries and finding new films to try (and maybe love).  Hope to see you then!  (And hope to get it done before January!)

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!