RECENT POST FROM THE BLACK BOX CLUB

Thursday, 11 June 2015

CINEMA ICON: SIR CHRISTOPHER LEE DIES



It is with extreme sadness that we write to tell you friends, that Sir Christopher Lee passed away on SUNDAY 7th June at 8.30am at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure. The family gave permission for the announcement of Lee passing to be released to press agencies this morning. Christopher Lee was 93. Our thoughts are with Sir Christopher's wife Gitte and daughter Christina.


Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ 1922 - 2015. RIP.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

KISS OF THE VAMPIRE: REVIEW AND GALLERY : HAMMER FILMS


PRODUCTION:
Director – Don Sharp, Screenplay – John Elder [Anthony Hinds], Producer – Anthony Hinds, Photography – Alan Hume, Music – James Bernard, Special Effects – Les Bowie, Makeup – Roy Ashton, Production Design – Bernard Robinson. Production Company – Hammer films. UK 1962


CAST:
Edward de Souza (Gerald Harcourt), Jennifer Daniel (Marianne Harcourt), Clifford Evans (Professor Zimmer), Noel Willman (Dr Ravna), Barry Warren (Carl Ravna), Jacqui Wallis (Sabena), Isobel Black (Tania), Peter Maddern (Bruno), Noel Howlett (Father Xavier)

SYNOPSIS:
The early part of the century. Gerald Harcourt and his newlywed wife Marianne are passing through Bavaria on their honeymoon when their car breaks down. They seek refuge in the local village where the locals seem very superstitious and fearful. They are befriended by the wealthy and charming Dr Ravna who invites them to a masque at the Chateau Ravna. Gerald passes out drunk and when he wakes in the morning he finds that Marianne is missing. Both Ravna and the entire village deny any trace of her existence. The only person who will help him is the embittered Professor Zimmer and so Gerald bands together with him to rescue Marianne from being claimed by Ravna’s vampire coven.

COMMENTARY:
Kiss of the Vampire is one of the more interesting vampire films to come out of Hammer Films during the 1960s. It was made in the period after Hammer had had their huge initial international success with Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958). For several years after that, Christopher Lee refused to return to the part of Dracula, determining to establish himself as a serious actor first. The period saw The Brides of Dracula (1960), which tried to be a Dracula film without having Christopher Lee or any Dracula present.
Kiss of the Vampire interestingly enough had begun life as another tentative Christopher Lee-less Dracula film. Hammer then decided to make it an original film that would not be dependent on such a notable absence at its center and such connections were written out.
Kiss of the Vampire is an interesting effort. It has been aptly called a vampire version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) – a film that Hammer later directly remade in 1979. Producer Anthony Hinds sets up a fair and reasonable script, better than most of the later Dracula sequels. The focus is not so much the hardly interesting married couple but the two opposing figures of good and evil fighting on either side of the film – Noel Willman who plays the vampire with glacial stolidity but alas lacks any real charismatic presence, and Clifford Evans who plays the vampire hunter with a brooding harshness. Kiss of the Vampire also comes filled with several other intriguing performances packed around the sides, most notably from Barry Warren as Ravna’s very weird son and Barbara Steele-lookalike Isobel Black as the innkeeper’s vampirised daughter who one wishes had been given more screen time.
Don Sharp’s handling sometimes falters but he is aided considerably by the sumptuous production values of all early Hammer films, which buoy the film up, most notably during the beautifully staged masque sequence. [The masque scenes were later wittily parodied in Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers/Dance of the Vampires (1967)]. There is an unusual climax featuring hordes of attacking vampire bats (a sequence that had originally been intended as the climax of The Brides of Dracula), which falters slightly through merely adequate effects.

Kiss of the Vampire was the genre debut of Australian-born Don Sharp who later became a regular director within the British horror industry making the likes of Witchcraft (1964), Curse of the Fly (1965), the first two of the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu series The Face of Fu Manchu (1965) and The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), Hammer’s Rasputin The Mad Monk (1966), the period sf comedy Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon/Those Fantastic Flying Fools/Blast Off (1967), the psycho-thriller Dark Places (1972), the undead biker film Psychomania (1973) and the lost world film Secrets of the Phantom Caverns/What Waits Below (1984).

Kiss of the Vampire exists in two different versions, the original cinematic and video release. Kiss of Evil is a cut version for tv, which adds additional scenes taken from Hammer’s The Evil of Frankenstein (1964).

REVIEW:Richard Scheib  Here

Saturday, 13 September 2014

ARE YOU AS SHARP AS SHERLOCK???


Just a week to get your entries in on a great competition happening over at PETERCUSHING.ORG.UK . TWO Sherlock Holmes 'Hound of the Baskervilles' competitions, and the first is up now. There are TEN copies of the SHOCK blu ray /dvd combo release up as prizes...thumbs up to Shock for a beautiful print, this is the first time this film has been available on blu ray...all you have to do in this first competition, is spot TEN differences in a vintage photograph from the classic Hammer film. So, just click the link, get your magnifying glasses out, send in your answers and bag yourself a prize!


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

OLIVER REED'S TOP FIVE FLICKS: CHOSEN BY KATE VOSS


Oliver Reed was one of the most gifted and enigmatic actors of his generation. He delivered many exquisite on screen performances, and his off-screen exploits are also legendary. He was a burly drunkard, permanently scarred from his days of barroom brawling in his youth. Part of what made Reed so compelling though, was that for all his macho posturing and mania, he was a remarkably skilled actor, and possessed a true command of the English language. Although he appeared in over 70 feature films across a wide range of genres, Reed will forever hold a special place in the hearts of horror enthusiasts, especially for his appearances in the gothic horror films produced by Hammer Studios in the sixties. Here is a look at the five best horror films in which Reed appeared.



5. Burnt Offerings (1976)
The film stars Reed as Ben Rolf, who has recently moved into what would seem to be the idyllic home of his wife Marian (Karen Black). Things are fine at first, and then events become progressively stranger within the home. Appliances seem to turn themselves on and off.



Ben is overcome by seemingly random, violent outbursts. Based on the book by Robert Marasco, Burnt Offerings is cut from the same cloth as films like The Sentinel (1977) and The Amityville Horror (1979). It tells the story of a house which seems to have some sort of willpower unto itself, wherein the house, or some unnamed demonic presence which occupies the house, take possession of the home’s occupants.




4. Paranoiac (1963)

Reed stars as Simon Ashby, a materialistic drunkard who, years after the supposed suicide of his older brother, is hell bent on killing his sister so that he will be the sole heir to his family’s fortune. This film is an all-too-frequently overlooked Psycho-derivative proto-slasher film, one that is all the more significant in the annals of that subgenre for its use of the “masked killer” trope. Part of what distinguishes this film’s use of the masked maniac motif is that the film is largely about false and mistaken identities. The mask in this film is not merely creepy or uncanny, but also conceptually congruous with its own theme.
TRAILER HERE


3. The Brood (1979)
The Brood is definitely the best film that David Cronenberg made in the seventies, and arguably the best film he ever made. Oliver Reed stars as Hal Raglan, an experimental psychotherapist who has developed a strange method which he calls “psychoplasmics,” in which patients channel their anger or pain, and manifest it bodily. In some cases it manifests as bruises and abrasions. In the case of patient Nola (Samantha Eggar), the trauma she suffers as a consequence of childhood abuse manifests in the form of deformed children who murder whomever Nola is mad at.





Nola births an entire brood of these children (hence the name of the film). It’s a richly imaginative work of ''Body Count' and features a particularly strong performance from Reed, who is more subdued here than in many other roles, but no less captivating. Although the film was initially met with negative reviews from high-profile critics like Roger Ebert  and Leonard Maltin, the film receives more of the appreciation it deserves now, can occasionally be seen as a direct television special, and is still popular in the midnight movie circuit.




2. The Devils (1971)
Based on Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun , which was itself a dramatised account of the life ofUrban Grandier, who was a politically powerful and philandering priest, wrongfully accused of heresy and ultimately executed in the French province of Loudon in the 17th Century.


This is one of the most controversial films of all time, reviled for its graphic depictions of violence and also for blasphemous scenes which feature nuns engaging in orgies in a church and a particularly disturbing scene which eroticizes the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Reed portrays Grandier, and delivers one of the most compelling performances of his career, well complemented by Vanessa Redgrave’s performance as the sexually repressed, deformed nun who reports Grandier to the police.



1. Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
This was Oliver Reed’s first credited role in a feature length film, and it was also Hammer’s first werewolf film. The story takes place in Spain in the 1700’s. Reed plays Leon Corledo, the bastard son of a wrongfully imprisoned jailer’s daughter who was assaulted and impregnated in a dungeon by a strange, feral beggar.



It features some of the most frightening special effects makeup of any werewolf film, and Reed brings a real intensity of the role, given his exuberance as a performer and his intimidating physical stature.




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