October Mini-Reviews – Screaming Skull to Jason Takes Manhattan

I’m writing about October and already it’s mid-November and Thanksgiving is almost upon us.  How can the year be going so quickly as the pandemic just seems to crawl on and on and on?  (Stay safe!  Get vaxed!  Get boosted!)  But… HALLOWEEN!  Season of Monster Movies!  We all had fun during Halloween season, right?  Right!

Call me nuts, but I decided to try to watch as many Friday the 13th movies as I could during the month — only having seen 1 or 2 previously.  That turned out to be less of a waste of time than I thought it might be.  (Though I never did find the time to watch all the Halloween movies as a follow up, which had been the plan.)

What other discoveries (or re-discoveries) did I make during the month?  And what will be my running totals of movies and shows at the month’s end?  Read on, pilgrim, and find 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.

Screaming Skull, The **** You can’t really do better with a low-budget thriller than this beautifully filmed exercise in paranoia & possible ghostly visitation.
Unknown Terror *** Looking for a loved one leads explorers to an island with a cave full of parasitic fungus turning people into monsters. Little seen.
Monster of Piedras Blancas *** Pretty standard plot about carnivorous monster wreaking havoc on costal town. Boasts good monster costume & some 50s sexy.
Back from the Dead *** Woman is possessed by husband’s dead wife thanks to family. Like a long One Step Beyond. Played 2nd to Unknown Terror.
FM 1200 **** Creepy short about depressed man under job pressure following signal to strange FM station in boonies. Lovecraftian fun.
Tormented **** Possibly my favorite Bert I. Gordon film. SPFX a bit dodgy, but woman returning to haunt her lover on her wedding day is strong.
Gorgo **** Classic tale of dinosaur-like Gorgo being captured & brought to London for exhibit, leading to bigger problems. Great monster suit.
Let’s Kill Uncle *** William Castle’s black comedy for kids is colorful & full of twists & turns, like a Scooby-Doo episode. Enjoyable.
Malignant **** A battered woman develops a psychic connection with a supernatural killer in Jame’s Wan’s fast-paced, twisty horror show.
Batman (serial) *** Plenty of action, including the heroes getting beat up — a lot — plus some unfortunate WWII-era racism & yellowface. Not terrible.
Case of the Lucky Legs, The *** Warren William’s flirtatious Perry Mason gets wrapped up in a murder case involving a legs model. Fairly typical tangled mystery.
Flying Saucer, The * A single flying saucer created in Alaska (!) menaces the Earth. But mostly, endless boring travel shots. Watch 1st 5 & last 10 mins.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein ***** First and best of the A&C meet the monster, and also a perfect horror comedy. Chaney, Lugosi, & Strange reprise classic monsters, with Bela proving that he should have played Dracula in ALL of Universal’s classics. “Watch” for Vincent Price cameo.
Deadly Friend *** When cut neighbor is killed, scientist teen puts a chip in her brain to revive her, with Frankenstein-like results. Amusing Craven film.
Blair Witch (2016) *** Friends go out searching for brother missing after Blair Witch hunt. Similar to original, but 1 underground scene creeped me out.
Case of the Velvet Claws *** Warren William’s Mason keeps getting his honeymoon with Della Street interrupted to defend a woman accused of murder.
Case of the Black Cat *** Ricardo Cortez’s Perry Mason helps old man write granddaughter out of his will & then defends her against murder accusations.
Howl of the Devil **** Writer/star Naschy plays many classic monsters as well as a brother with penchant for kinky sex. Musings on fame, religion, sex.
Cartoon Carnival **** Showcase of silent cartoons & the people who collect & enjoy them shows the history of cartoon movie development. Fascinating.
Young Man’s Fancy *** Amusing short in the “how to catch a guy” genre with teen learning how to cook & making an exciting meal for possible beau.
Adam Adamant Lives *** Strange TV show pilot from England that features a spy frozen only to be thawed in the 60s. (Holy Austin Powers!) Played straight.
Frozen Alive ** Very soapy SF. Drunken wife (best character) accidentally kills self as husband police suspect goes into suspended animation.
Frankenstein (1931 – Sven) ***** Karloff is the monster in this Universal classic that invokes both horror & pathos. Colin Clive & Dwight Frye in supporting roles.
American Haunting, An *** Star-studded cast of story of the Bell Witch that bookends the present with tale of troubled teen “possessed” by ghosts in the past.
City of Fear *** Noir-like crime story of criminal on the loose with cannister of deadly Cobalt-60, convinced it’s drugs he can sell.
Case of the Stuttering Bishop *** Stuttering Bishop hires Perry Mason & then goes missing, though he may be the key witness in a murder. Usual detective stuff.
Monster Maker, The *** J. Carrol Naish gives creepy, Orlac-like performance as Dr. who infects man in order to cure him & win daughter’s hand.
Son of Frankenstein ***** 3rd Karloff Frankenstein is still fab, with Lugosi’s Igor a career highlight & Lionel Atwill & Basil Rathbone rounding out great cast.
Horror of Dracula ***** Christopher Lee’s kick-off to the best Dracula series of all time starts strong with interesting adaptation of the book & great end.
Blob, The (1988) **** The 80s remake of the classic has a lot of witty moments & plenty of practical & old school SFX to entertain. Fun!
Radar Men from the Moon (serial) **** Lydercker Brothers SFX & their Commando Cody tech rule this cool (retro) story of moon men scheming to invade earth.
Horror in the Atomic Age **** 3-DVD set has around 5 hours of interviews, clips, & perspectives of 1950s monster movies features both stars & fans. Excellent.
Mark of the Vampire **** Lugosi & Carroll Borland star in this London After Midnight remake. Watch their great creepy work & ignore the nonsensical story.
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave ***** 3rd in Chris Lee’s Dracula series is another strong one with Veronica Carlson, priests good & bad, & memorable action scenes.
A Tale Dark & Grim (S1) **** Fun family-friendly adaptation of Grimm’s Fairly Tales with plenty of twists & turns, likable characters. Good season. More coming?
Dune (2021) ***** New adaptation of Dune is the best yet with strong actors & production & plenty of atmosphere & action. Part 2 soon, please!
Creeper, The *** Woman’s fear of cats stems from incident she can’t quite remember & lab work mates think she might be crazy killer. Not bad.
Escapement *** Mysterious deaths are somehow linked to a machine that uses taped performances, a la BRAINWAVE, to relieve trauma.
Creature of the Walking Dead ** 1950s Dr. brings back 1800s mad doctor to learn the secret of draining women’s blood to remain immortal. Edited Mexican film.
Late Fee Liar *** Short about a video store clerk who becomes violently tired of customers lying when they return videos to avoid late fees.
Annabelle Lee *** Vincent Price’s reading of the Poe poem highlights this psychedelic short from the end of the Swingin’ Sixties.
Solomon Kane The Return of Sir Richard Grenville *** Short poem-based Solomon Kane fan film, heavy on battle & atmosphere but well filmed.
Alpha-Omega Man, The **** Joshua Kennedy’s loving film school remake/tribute to Charlton Heston’s Omega Man. Low production values but fun.
Invaders, The (S2) **** David Vincent finds more allies to support him in fighting the Invaders. Despite good eps, series cancelled, but finale suits ending.
Monster, The *** Silent horror-comedy with Lon Chaney. Mad doctor waylays cars to get victims for his experiments. Old Dark House stuff, too.
Dimension 5 ** Jeffrey Hunter is Bond-like spy whose agency has a time-travel belt to help their missions. 60s sexism & SF doesn’t really work.
Night of the Lepus *** Yeah, giant killer rabbits is silly, but other than that, this creature amok movie has a good cast & works on most levels.
Friday the 13th Part 2 *** Back to Crystal Lake for more camp counselors threatened by freakish Jason, a real monster this time. Prototypical 80s slasher.
Eyes Without a Face **** Artsy, French mad scientist movie is gorgeous to look. Doctor tries to restore his daughter’s destroyed face by stealing other faces.
Razorback *** Wacky Australian movie about a giant killer pig on the loose, ravaging the countryside. Low-buget, punkish in places, pretty fun.
Giant Behemoth, The *** Willis O’Brien & Pete Peterson’s monster animation makes familiar city-stomping tale worth seeing, despite low budget.
Friday the 13th Part 3 *** The 3D shots are funny without 3D. Jason is back, running through annoying campers & some bikers, too. Like the rest.
Friday the 13th (4) The Final Chapter **** Some quality kills make this supposed “last” in the series a bit more fun than usual. Kid Corey Feldman gets the last slay & look.
Mummy Rebirth, The ** Starts out with nice production values of Ancient Egypt, by the end it’s a meandering mummy movie with a giant monster. Almost.
Terror-Creatures from the Grave *** Barbara Steele is creepy & sexy, but the tale of undead returning to avenge her late husband is slow until the end.
Tales from the Crypt *** Tourists stumble into ancient crypt & tell their tales to the Keeper. Based on the comics, Joan Collins, Ralph Richardson.
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors **** Peter Cushing’s tarot cards tell train riders’ fortunes. All end in death. Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Donald Sutherland
Evil, The **** 1970s haunted house story with researchers trapped in malevolent mansion with deeper secret in the basement. Fun.
Friday the 13th (5) A New Beginning *** Tommy, the kid from the last film, is sent to a country rehab home that is soon plagued by gruesome killings. Decent denouement.
Tales of the Unexpected: The Vorpal Blade **** Peter Cushing starts in TV antho episode about a deadly occurrence at his Heidelberg Dueling Club when he was young. Good.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives *** Tommy all grown up, accidentally resurrects Jason while trying to destroy his body. Standard middle, good resurrection & finale.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood ** Despite telekinetic girl character, mostly the same old slasher stuff, save for the battle at the end. Disappointing.
Werewolf in the Amazon ** Paul Naschy is title character & mad Dr. Moreau creates a race of Amazons to rule the jungle. Less interesting than it sounds, and even Naschy in werewolf makeup can’t save it. Some decent nudity.
Devil’s Bride, The **** Hammer does Dennis Wheatley with Christopher Lee as Van Helsing-like Duke de Richelieu battling devil worshipers. Fine film.
To the Devil a Daughter *** Hammer’s 2nd Wheatley film mangles the original story badly. Barely watchable despite Christopher Lee & naked Natasia Kinsky.
Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait ** Slow ghost story of woman being possessed by Cival War woman kicked out of house for being pregnant & unmarried. Boring.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan **** Jason rises from the lake & heads for NYC on a cruise ship. Creative kills on ship & city return in this fun series outing.

And that’s plenty for October, though I often wish the Month of Monsters would never end.  (Of course, with a bit of strategic buying during the month’s sales, the goodness can last much longer.)

Totals… ’cause that’s why you really come here, right? 😉 … An astonishing 67 films, significant shorts, and series for the month, and a grand total of 559 for the year.  600 looks to be very much in range for 2021.

Next Month: In November I not only continue movie watching, I not only tune into the Monster Kid Movie Club every Saturday and most Tuesdays, but I also stumble across a bunch of series on Netflix that I simply must watch.  How will that turn out?  Tune in and discover it with me!

Get Vaccinated!  Tell your family & friends! End the Pandemic before the New Year!  Please!

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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