Day 22- 31 Days of Halloween- The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

Day 22- 31 Days of Halloween- The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

I first learnt of this film’s existence by walking past a cinema at the tender age of 4 and seeing a poster for the double bill of this and a TV movie that was shown theatrically in the UK called The Savage Bees (to be reviewed tomorrow night). Even the poster for this genius double bill of terror fucked me up psychologically as I was obsessed with the idea of the villians of both films coming to get me when I was least expecting it.

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I finally saw The Incredible Melting Man years later on TV- and loved it. It harks back to the horror films made for drive-ins in the 1950s. The plot involves three astronauts going on an expedition to Saturn (“You’ve never seen anything til you’ve seen the Sun through the rings of Saturn”). But something goes wrong and the only surviving astronaut, Steve West comes back to Earth to find that his body is slowly melting. We find out that to slow this down Steve who is now insane, must consume human flesh to decelerate the decomposing process.

This film is ripe for people to call it ‘so bad its good’ as if its absolutely terrible. It isn’t- and not by a long chalk.

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Yes, sometimes the acting is a little, erm, natural shall we say (the actress who plays the mother who stops off to steal lemons reminded me of Edith Massey from John Waters’ films. Yes, her acting is that raw!).

But theres also some of the best special effects I’ve ever seen which were crafted by a young Rick Baker. Yes, the Rick Baker who won seven Oscars (take that cinema elitists). The melting effects are very aesthetically pleasing and the scenes in which El Melto sheds an eyeball and leaves his oozing ear on a bush have to be seen to be believed. Watching a severed head splat on a rock after going down a waterfall in slow motion is also a beautiful sight for horror fans.

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Theres also a cameo by a young Jonathan Demme as the boyfriend of a teenage girl played by none other than Janus Blythe who played Ruby in The Hills Have Eyes. Her performance is brilliant. I love any character that goes mad at the horror of what has just occurred. She does a great job with her character alternately crying and laughing manically.

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But theres also a greater depth to this film. There are many scenes of West walking up and down hillsides with the sun setting behind him and with the sounds from the expedition in his head. These scenes show Steve to be completely alone and nomadic. West is a melting freak but not through choice and is so grotesque that he’s utterly ostracised and feels completely separated from the rest of the human race. These sequences reminded me of the melancholic piano music at the end of each episode of The Incredible Hulk or the underlying sadness to the TV programme The Littlest Hobo. The audience feels pity for West and his condition rather than his character being a two-dimensional grotesque baddie with no other sides to his persona.

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Theres also a heartbreaking scene wherein Steve reaches a barrel of water on his wanderings and sees his reflection that makes him cry out and place his head in his heads.

This film also possesses a scene which is the hallmark of a really fucked up movie- someone runs through glass. A nurse runs through a plate glass door after seeing Steve’s face when he removes his bandages for the first time. If this ‘running/throwing yourself through glass’ scene is in a film you know its special and that you’re watching high art. The scene appears twice in Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), twice in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) and once in Halloween 2 (1981)- all great, fucked up pieces of cinema.

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Any film that features the lead character melt in a great big pool of ooze at the end and is then seen being swept up and placed into a trash can by a janitor is A-OK with me.

The next time someone tells you that The Incredible Melting Man is one of the worst movies ever made tell them to fuck off. They wouldn’t know great entertainment if they fell over it.

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Day 6- 31 Days of Halloween- The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)

Day 6- 31 Days of Halloween- The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)

Vincent Price’s Dr Phibes avenges the death of his wife by bumping off the culprits with each murder having a biblical connection.

Very camp, very funny and very unsettling- this is one of Price’s best just like Witchfinder General and the Poe films he also made with Roger Corman.

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Check out Phibes’ clockwork band- one of the eeriest things committed to celluloid.

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Also check out the classic art deco decors and groovier surroundings that capture the early 70s so fantastically.

Caroline Munro appears but only as photos of Phibes’ tragic dead wife.

4.5 out of 5

Day 1- 31 Days of Halloween- The Nanny (1965)

Day 1- 31 Days of Halloween- The Nanny (1965)

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What a cracking film to start my 31 Days of Halloween with.

This is a British film which stars Bette Davis as a nanny for a family living in London in which a young boy has been sent away for supposedly killing his sister. The boy is due to be released after two years and return to his family home and under Ms Davis’ supervision.

The boy vehemently protests his innocence and insists that instead it was the nanny who committed the terrible deed. Is he right? Or is the nanny indeed guilty?

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Theres already the almost unspeakable taboo of a child killing another child within this film which gives the film a grittiness right from the get go. The household in question is steeped in gothic tension even though it is in fact light and airy. No Baby Jane mansion here.

Theres also the stifling formality of English life at this time. There are so many manners and formalities at play that are overwhelmingly suffocating and claustrophobic.

Within the film there is also a delicious generation gap which underlines this and presents a tangible ‘Old vs new’ scenario. The boy in question, Joey forges a friendship with a 14 year old girl who lives in the same building. She dresses like a hip 60s girl, all white lipstick and black eyeliner. When we see within her bedroom Joey gazes up at a Beatles mobile she has hanging from the ceiling and at one point we see her reclining on her bed reading a copy of the girls magazine Jackie which has a pin up of Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones on its back cover.

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Beautifully acted (especially Ms Davis of course, whose character has a pair of the ugliest eyebrows ever captured on film) and elegantly directed, this is one of Hammer’s finest films.

Of course this would only have been made with Ms Davis if Hollywood wasn’t casting the very best stars of yesteryear anymore. Every cloud has a silver lining. What was Hollywood’s loss was very much Hammer’s gain.

31 Days of Halloween 2017

31 Days of Halloween 2017

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Every day in October I will be reviewing a different horror film.

Some of the criteria I’ve used for the choice of films are

– a film from each decade from the 1920s onwards

– films from a number of different countries

– a Friday the 13th film as within October this year the 13th falls on a Friday!!! (mind blown)

The rest of my choices were films that I had wanted to see for ages but hadn’t gotten around to or were films that I have seen before but was dying to revisit (three of the films have ratings already by myself. These are some of the films that will be revisited and be reviewed again to see if my opinion has changed).

When I had my list of films they were then fed into an online randomiser so that they could be mixed up. With my randomised list I made one change- I made sure that the film watched on the 13th of October was the Friday the 13th movie. But thats the only change.

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Here are the films-

Day 1- The Nanny (1965)

Day 2- Battle Royale (2000)

Day 3- The Exorcist (1973)

Day 4- Piranha (1978)

Day 5- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) and Tales From The Unexpected episode ‘Flypaper’ (1980)

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Day 6- The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)

Day 7- The Fog (1980)

Day 8- Eyes Without A Face (1960)

Day 9- Phantasm (1979)

Day 10- Nosferatu (1922)

 

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Day 11- Blood Beach (1980)

Day 12- The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Day 13- Friday the 13th Part 4- The Final Chapter (1984)

Day 14- M (1931)

Day 15- Freaks (1932)

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Day 16- The Tingler (1959)

Day 17- Drive-in Massacre (1976)

Day 18- Kill Baby, Kill (1966)

Day 19- Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978)

Day 20- Ginger Snaps (2000)

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Day 21- The Beast With Five Fingers (1946)

Day 22- The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

Day 23- Ringu (1998)

Day 24- Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Day 25- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

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Day 26- Les Diaboliques (1955)

Day 27- The Sadist (1963)

Day 28- The Lift (1983)

Day 29- Prom Night (1980)

Day 30- It Follows (2014)

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Day 31- Seytan (1974)

Please join me on this horrifying journey 🙂

Joan Collins vs Santa Claus

Joan Collins vs Santa Claus

Tales From The Crypt was released in 1972- a horror movie made up of five different tales of terror.

One of these vignettes was ‘…And All Through The House’ a Christmas based story regarding a woman who has just bumped off her hubby for his insurance. But she has more to content with…You can watch it here.

This segment is noteworthy for many reasons. The fabulous story with a twist in the tail, the gaudy and quite fantastic 70s decor, the Tales From The Unexpected on crack feel to the proceedings.

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But the best ingredient is the casting of The Very Ms Joan Collins in the lead role. She is perfect in this (shes pretty much perfect in everything). Never has anyone looked so exquisite- even when shes being throttled by a maniac Father Christmas.

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For more 70s Joanie horror fun check out The Within Her aka I Don’t Want To Be Born aka Sharon’s Baby. One of the best movies of the 70s. And one of the most demented. But I’ll save that for a future blog post.

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Psychomania Filming Locations

Psychomania Filming Locations

And now its over to Meathook Cinema’s Liverpool correspondent, Mr Colin Cooper who has been to revisit the filming locations of the masterpiece Psychomania…

”I first saw Psychomania when I was about 13 years old in the early 80s, back in the day when there were only three TV channels, and long before we could afford a video recorder. It was a film that always stuck in my mind and it felt like something I had never seen before. I can still recall my mother looking on disapprovingly as I laughed out loud as a screaming mother and her baby’s pram are sent crashing down a supermarket aisle due to the evil actions of the said film’s biker gang; ‘The Living Dead.”

Some years later it was shown on TV again, in a late night slot (its spiritual home), by which point the VHS recorder had been acquired. This remained my main source to introduce the film to friends, and one night in particular went down in memory, as five friends and myself watched it together in my flat. It was fair to say we were all suitably ‘enhanced’ to fully appreciate everything Psychomania had to offer. The howls of laughter when our deceased gang leader explodes from his grave, still riding his motorbike, which was rewound a number of times for repeated views. Then the very next night as luck would have it, occupying its late-night TV slot, to our astonishment was Psychomania. Cue the sound of numerous VHS cassettes being prepared for its impending broadcast to the nation. Which I’m sure was in itself a message from beyond the grave, from the Living Dead.

For the uninitiated Psychomania is a 1973 British biker occultist zombie horror (in the loosest sense) movie. However it is much, much more (or should that be less?) than that. It is unintentionally hilarious, with a ludicrous plot in which the protagonists discover the secret of immortality. This involves their own willing suicides by various farcical methods to return as the actual living dead. Add to this Beryl Reid as mother to the bike gang’s leader, with a mean sideline as a spiritual medium. Alongside George Sanders in his last movie, given star billing for his minimal role as the family’s somber butler. All delivered with total sincerity, despite the clear ridiculousness of the script. Psychomania was never intended to be a comedy, but a low budget exploitation horror film that would do the rounds, usually as part of a double bill, making the studio some easy cash, then be forgotten. Thankfully due to its screenings on late night TV, no doubt licensed at minimal cost to fill out the schedule, it has gradually gained a cult following.

Motorcycles and their associated gangs / dropouts / rebels were no strangers to the cinema screen. From the counterculture blockbuster Easy Rider (1969) and its psychedelically tinged cinematography and panoramic landscapes. The monochrome cool of the Wild One (1953) starring Marlon Brando, which was only granted a certificate in the UK, some fourteen years after its original release. To The Leather Boys (1964) a rare British addition to the genre, with its kitchen sink realism coupled with a controversial gay subplot. Not to mention the glut of late 60s biker spinoffs from America and beyond.

So what does Psychomania bring to the table? A bunch of predominantly middle class, well spoken, spotlessly clean ‘hell raisers’ terrorising the good people of Walton on Thames. Storming around on a motley collection of ‘heaps of shit’ motorbikes, much to the dismay of actor and keen motorcyclist Nick Henson. His main motivation to sign up to the movie was the thought of leading his band of reprobates atop a Harley Davidson. Needless to say Psychomania’s budget could not extend to such esteemed machines, and a team of mechanics were required to keep the scrap heap bikes running throughout filming. Henson is still somewhat embarrassed and astonished that out of his extensive career as a professional actor, Psychomania has fittingly come back to haunt him from beyond the grave.

Not to mention the dialogue, after another blood free bloodbath, surrounded by bodies, a police inspector when informed of the culprits declares, “That lot!” being one of many highlights. Throw in a stone circle, frog fixated occultism, driving through brick walls, a psychedelic nightmare scene, some natty threads all accompanied by an eerie semi progrock soundtrack. What’s not to like?

Psychomania has only recently been issued on DVD (and Blu-ray) in the UK. I had obtained an American import some years ago, which itself had long been out of print. As always the BFI have made an impressive effort to bring this masterpiece to your living room in all its glory. Beautifully remastered, loads of extras with a well-researched booklet.

So to go the extra mile, heres some photographs from my recent pilgrimage to the film locations around the Walton on Thames area.

Many have long since been redeveloped as it was always a dream of mine to go shopping in the featured supermarket whist pushing a pram. Sadly no longer possible, life sucks!”

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From the film
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The bridge today
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The field as it appears in the film (above and below)

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The field today
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The high rise
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The same building today
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The riverbank
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The riverbank today with a cameo by the author
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Roadside then
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Roadside now

Psychomania has now been given the loving treatment it deserves and is released on Blu ray by the BFI. According to sources the transfer is beautiful. Buy it here for a classic slice of British biker death wish greatness.