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Friday, April 28, 2017

Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge

Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


#2,345. The Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)

Posted: 28 Apr 2017 08:10 AM PDT


Directed By: Al Adamson

Starring: John Carradine, Paula Raymond, Alex D'Arcy



Tag line: "HORROR BEYOND BELIEF... LIES WAITING FOR ALL WHO DARE ENTER THE VAMPIRE'S DUNGEON!"

Trivia: The introductory sequence was shot at Marineland, located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County






At this point, I know what to expect from an Al Adamson film; along with their shoddy production values, his movies usually feature actors and actresses who aren't quite up to snuff. Like most of the director's flicks, 1969's The Blood of Dracula's Castle was produced on a shoestring budget, and as a result the set pieces and make-up effects fall well short of the mark. This time out, though, Adamson was able to assemble a decent stable of actors, all of whom do their best to make The Blood of Dracula's Castle a tolerable motion picture.

I'd even go so far as to say I had a good time watching it.

The Count (Alex D'Arcy) and Countess Townsend (Paula Raymond), aka Dracula and his bride, are centuries-old vampires, and for the past 60 years have been living in a California castle with their longtime butler George (John Carradine) and a deformed mute servant named Mango (Ray Young). To satisfy the Townsend's thirst for blood, Mango roams the countryside, capturing nubile young women and dragging them to the castle, where George chains them to the wall and, each night, draws blood from them. Thus far, this set-up has worked well for the Count and Countess, and they welcome the recent news that another of their faithful servants, the handsome but psychopathic Johnny (Robert Dix), has just escaped from prison and is on his way back to them.

But the good times might be coming to an end sooner than they think. It seems that the owner of the castle the Townsend's call home has died, and left the property to his estranged nephew, Glenn (Gene Otis Shayne), a fashion photographer engaged to be married to his voluptuous model, Liz (Jennifer Bishop). The Townsends' attempts to reach an agreement with Glenn fail to generate any results, and before long the new owner announces that he and Liz intend to move into the castle as soon as possible (meaning the Count and Countess must go). As Glenn will discover, however, the Townsends and their domestic staff are an ornery bunch, and they have no intention of leaving the premises peacefully.

John Carradine, a Hollywood veteran who spent his later years dabbling in low-budget schlock, is predictably solid as George, the moon-worshiping butler whose chief job is to draw the blood that keeps his employers alive; and Robert Dix proves he can play a psychopath as well as anyone (his Johnny even turns into a werewolf some nights when the moon is full, an aspect of the story that, for some bizarre reason, is never fully explained). The real stars of The Blood of Dracula's Castle, though, are Alex D'Arcy and Paula Raymond, who, by bringing an air of sophistication to the Count and Countess Townsend, single-handedly transform the film into a dark comedy. While introducing themselves to Ann (Vicki Volante), the newest addition to their plasma supply chain, the Townsends reveal to the frightened young lady that they're vampires, and they need her blood to stay alive. Ann, of course, scoffs at the notion that these two are, in reality, the living dead. "Well, I know we may seem to be a novelty", the Countess replies matter-of-factly, "but there are a few of us left". Acting at all times like a pair of rich snobs on their way to a high-society ball, D'Arcy and Raymond are genuinely funny, and the scenes in which they appear are, without question, the film's strongest.

Its cast aside, The Blood of Dracula's Castle features a threadbare storyline that runs out of steam at about the halfway point (even a sacrifice to the Moon God falls flat), and the make-up used to depict Mango's deformity looks like it's always about to slide off his face. Thanks to D'Arcy and Raymond, however, this particular Al Adamson monster flick has its moments.







#2,344. The Hearse (1980)

Posted: 27 Apr 2017 05:32 PM PDT


Directed By: George Bowers

Starring: Trish Van Devere, Joseph Cotten, David Gautreaux



Tag line: "There is a door between life and death and now, that door is open!"

Trivia: William Bleich originally devised this movie as a more teen-oriented slasher outing when he was first hired to write the script






The Hearse, a 1980 horror film, harkens back to an earlier time when a haunted house and a creepy mystery were all that was required to give an audience a good scare. Unfortunately, director George Bowers and his crew forgot that one basic element that even a classically-styled horror movie can't do without: imagination. From start to finish, The Hearse is a routine fright flick, and never once does it bring anything new to the table.

In need of a change, recently divorced schoolteacher Jane Hardy (Trish Van Devere) decides to spend the summer at a country house that belonged to her late Aunt, who died 30 years earlier under bizarre circumstances. The house has been abandoned for decades, and Pritchard (Joseph Cotton), the lawyer who handled the aunt's will, was hoping to buy it from Jane's family. Needless to say, he's none too happy that Jane is suddenly interested in the old place, and does what he can to discourage her from staying. 

But Pritchard isn't the only one in town who treats her badly; aside from Paul (Perry Lang), a lovestruck teenager Jane hires to work as her handyman, the rest of the townsfolk want nothing to do with their newest resident, especially when they discover whose house she's living in.

According to local legend, Jane's aunt spent her final days romancing a man who worshiped Satan, and in so doing made an unholy pact with the devil. Jane dismisses these stories as rumor and innuendo, but after a while begins to experience some strange phenomena of her own, including a black hearse that follows her wherever she goes. Things improve temporarily for Jane when she meets Tom Sullivan (David Gautreaux), with whom she falls in love. But is Tom really who he claims to be, or does he know more about the house's history than he's letting on?

Trish Van Devere delivers a solid performance as the strong-willed Jane, who won't let anyone or anything (living or otherwise) run her out of town, and Perry Lang is also good as the young man who develops a crush on her. In addition, The Hearse marked the big-screen debut of Christopher McDonald (Requiem for a Dream. Happy Gilmore), who plays one of Paul's friends, and while I can't find him listed anywhere in the credits, I'm 99% certain that Dennis Quaid makes a cameo appearance in the film (as a repairman who is on-screen for about 10 seconds). As for Joseph Cotten, the role of Pritchard won't be remembered as one of his finest screen portrayals, but it's always fun to see him in this sort of movie.

Alas, try as they might, the cast of The Hearse can't save it from the throes of mediocrity; the scares are of the generic variety (banging doors, quick glimpses of a ghost in a mirror, etc.), and while Jane is, indeed, a determined, strong-minded woman, she also isn't very bright (she doesn't go to the police when someone breaks into her house one evening). Yet the film's worst aspect is its central mystery, which is anything but mysterious. In fact, it's as predictable as they come, making the "big reveal" at the end a major disappointment.

Even in 1980, when slasher films were all the rage, it was still possible to make a decent haunted house movie; The Changeling (which also co-starred Van Devere, playing opposite her real-life husband George C. Scott) was released that year and is a damn scary motion picture. But then, The Changeling wasn't afraid to try something new, whereas The Hearse gives us nothing we haven't seen before.







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