Buzzing Thru the Pylon: Halloween Free-For-All, Pt. 4: Midnight Matinees

OK, so I treated myself. Halloween rolls around, and I get all crazy with the DVD buying. Specifically, horror and science fiction movie buying. You may have noticed already from the fact that this post is Part 4 of my Halloween Free-For-All, with at least three more posts in sight.

Here's the deal: Amazon often has a big horror movie sale on their site at this time of the year, and for once, I was prepared. Instead of going for the bigger ticket items which are often on some form of sale throughout the year anyway, I decided to jump into their pile of 5.99 or less DVDs, and see what I could roust out of there. The first things that popped out at me were a quartet of discs from MGM's (and occasionally, 20th Century Fox's) ongoing (and seemingly popular, at least with psychotronic freaks like me) Midnight Movies series. A few years back, I grabbed about a dozen of these discs from Wal-Mart for 5 bucks a shot, finishing off my Corman Poe collection in the process. Now, it's a similar situation on Amazon: only about $20, and I have eight more films in my collection, two of which I actively like, another two which are so innocently bad they just cannot be missed, four of which I have never seen, and three of those four never-seens are ones which I have always wanted to watch. So, I can't really lose on any front with these selections, and they are going to make for some interesting viewing over the next week. The discs:

20th Century Fox and MGM Present(s) Midnite Movies Double Features
Disc #1

Panic in Year Zero! (1962)

Ray Milland AIP, 1:33, b/w
Cinema 4 Rating: haven’t seen yet

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Director: Ubaldo Ragona & Sidney Salkow

API/AIP, 1:26, b/w

Cinema 4 Rating: 6

First, a Ray Milland film of which I have heard a good deal -- some decent, some moderately ill -- but given that I am a huge Milland nut (I will not rest until It Happens Every Spring, my favorite baseball movie, is on disc), I figured that I just have to own a movie that the man himself directed. Post-apocalypse, here we come -- at least, before our government's rapture nuts take us there. Also hanging out in that time after decent civilization has finally gotten out of its own hair is Vincent Price in the first film version of the awesome I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth. Like all three film versions, this one is not quite the novel, but for a neo-zombie flick with the great Price, it ain't hay. And while I have yet to watch this disc, it just has to hold a better print, coming from a major studio like MGM, than the umpteen versions of this public domain flick bopping about on cheap, fly-by-night video companies (or on the internet for free). I'm hoping to discover that I will like it all the more without all of the pops, crackles and erratic cuts. Then again, it could backfire and ruin the atmosphere.

Disc #2
A Blueprint for Murder (1953)

Director: Andrew L. Stone
20th Century Fox, 1:17, b/w

Cinema 4 Rating: haven’t seen yet

Man in the Attic (1953)

Director: Hugo Fregonese

20th Century Fox, 1:22, b/w
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

For fans of mysteries or psycho killers or both, Man in the Attic has just got to be seen for a terrific performance by a young but always edgy Jack Palance as a serial killing pathologist named Slade, who rents a room from Andy Griffith's Aunt Bea (no joke) -- ala The Lodger, a relationship noted in the credits -- and then proceeds to murder showgirls all over London. Low-budget but very tense mood, lots of sleazy girls in heels and stockings, and a maniacal Palance -- why would one miss this? I caught up with it recently on TCM, and had a good, gritty time watching it. I have not seen A Blueprint for Murder, which came out the same year as Man in the Attic, but it gives me an opportunity to see Joseph Cotten, always a favorite of mine, working his magic away from Hitchcock and Welles. I don't really know much else about it, but I am looking forward to it all the same.

Disc #3
Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955)

Director: Dan Milner
Milner Bros./ARC, 1:20, b/w
Cinema 4 Rating: 3

Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)
Director: David Kramarsky & Lou Price
San Mateo/ARC, 1:15, b/w
Cinema 4 Rating: 2

Boy, are these a pair of really crappy films. Bottom of the barrel sludge, both of them, and as far as I know, both floating about in the public domain. I own Phantom on one such disc (one of those "50 movies for 12 bucks" things), and while I really don't need to own it a second time, I do have a thing for mutant sea creatures, so having an actual widescreen print of Phantom made the decision for me. And this monster is such a dopey sad sack that you almost want to cuddle it, even when he is attacking girls in bikinis.

There is no actual creature with a million eyes in Beast, not even a dopey one, and if you go in waiting for such a creature like I did, there will only be sad disappointment. Thank goodness I'm not an ophthalmologist. However, if you are interested in seeing just how absurdly boring a film with such a title can actually turn out to be, this will be your cup of tea. It's like someone fed the Cleavers or the Nelsons downers and then followed them around with cameras, all the while making them believe that aliens are out to get them. Despite the fear factor, everyone still practically walks around in a stupor, making this one just drip, drip, drip along... and yet, I find it fascinating that someone would even release this. And now, because my taste for these things is set extremely low, and because I am a rubbernecker of the old school, I own this slow-motion trainwreck.

Disc #4
The Return of Dracula (1958)

Director: Paul Landres

Artists, 1:17, b/w (partial color)
Cinema 4 Rating: haven’t seen yet

The Vampire (1957)
Director: Paul Landres Gramercy/United Artists, 1:15, b/w
Cinema 4 Rating: haven’t seen yet

OK, I have no doubt that these two are going to end up seeming supremely disappointing to me, but I am looking forward to watching them all the same. A pair of Paul Landres-directed films that I have never run into through all of my video travels, but have read plenty about in numerous horror movie texts. Even the texts lead me to not expect too much, but I can't help but get excited about even the worst or even just plain boring films when they have been so hidden from me all this time. Obscure plays HUGE with me, and ultimately, for me, sometimes the experience means more than the actual outcome of the experience.

So it is with all four films on these discs that I have not seen. It means that instead of watching the same two dozen films on TCM or AMC for the Halloween weekend, I will have a stockpile of undiscovered treasures at my fingertips. Treasures, no matter their quality. As I said, it's the experience. Sometimes you just have to take a cinematic Cleveland Steamer to the chest to get your senses straight and your movie sights re-calibrated.


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