31 Days of Halloween 2020- Day 21- The House With Laughing Windows (1976)

31 Days of Halloween 2020- Day 21- The House With Laughing Windows (1976)

A young man who can restore frescos (ancient works of art) arrives to restore one such artwork but finds events within the remote town to be far from normal. Indeed, they are downright bizarre. Does the fresco hold any clues? Does it depict what people have been led to believe it shows? Will the events directly affect Stefano?

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This Italian film is one hell of a gorgeous (and VERY disturbing) journey. Not only do we get the backstory of the artist who first painted the fresco but also the freaky events that are happening in the Valli di Commacchio area that the action takes place in. 

With all the best of Italian horror/gialli, it also makes you want to go to Italy and experience such a seemingly fantastic and aesthetically pleasing way of life. The photography is magnificent. I’d love to see this film on the big screen. 

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The locales are sumptuous, the characters are left field to the max (at times I kept think of the films of Jodorowsky) which all adds to the overall vision and atmosphere of this gorgeous film.

I’d love to speak about the conclusion of the film but that would massively spoil the entire film for those of you who haven’t been lucky enough to see it yet. Also, if I tried to write down what happens you probably wouldn’t believe me. Just to say- it’s surreal, can’t be predicted and gets under your skin and inside your head and remains there long after the actual film has ended. Fantastic.

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****and a half out of *****

31 Days of Halloween 2020- Day 14- Schizo (1976)

31 Days of Halloween 2020- Day 14- Schizo (1976)

This is another Pete Walker horror sleazefest (hooray!!!)

Figure skater Samantha is about to get married to wealthy businessman Alan. Her mother’s former partner has just been released from prison and starts stalking her, travelling from the North East to London to accomplish the job.

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‘Hello? Police? I think I’m being stalked…’

This film mines into the whole phenomenon of being followed, peeping toms and was ahead of it’s time in depicting stalking which wasn’t widely known about at the time.

The film also gives Hitchcock-esque psychological explanations as to what schizophrenia is (again, a term that was relatively unknown by many at the time) to help the audience better understand what they are going to see and the kind of mental condition which would drive the killer to carry out their plans.

But is all as it seems? In a word- NO! The film keeps us guessing as to the killer’s identity right up until the end and takes us on a voyage through 70’s locales to do so with impeccably decorated flats and the London streets of the time (again, Walker is so good at capturing the time and place that he sets his films within. Here we get gorgeous snapshots of a bygone era and a time capsule of London in 1976 whether it be the exterior of King’s Cross railway station, the inside of a supermarket or the grimy flophouses cum hostels of N1).

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The cast are all fantastic especially Lynne Frederick as Samantha and an early appearance by Stephanie Beecham as her best friend Beth. There’s even John ‘Johnny Remember Me’ Leyton and Queenie Watts in supporting roles.

Watch out for the literally eye-popping clairvoyant meeting scene which is both terrifying and very funny. Walker also has the ability of making something truly scary and unnerving but bookending this with dark observational humour. The character of Joy embodies this perfectly.

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Another Walker masterpiece. He really is worthy of more praise and to be reappraised as the King of 70’s British Horror.

****and a half out of *****

Poster of the Week- Freaky Friday (1976)

Poster of the Week- Freaky Friday (1976)

This week’s Poster of the Week is one that is framed and adorns one of the walls in my flat! It’s artist Brian Bysouth’s extraordinary poster for the 1976 ‘body switch’ comedy Freaky Friday.

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The attention to detail is amazing with several scenes and characters from the film being depicted and drawn so well!

I’m so glad that a film that is now seen as a family viewing classic that effortlessly captured the goofy 70’s zeitgeist of it’s time should have a poster drawn with such love and imagination by an artist such as Bysouth. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if I saw this artwork outside a cinema back then and didn’t know anything about the film, I’d instantly venture inside to investigate further which is one of the effects of great film artwork.

To see portions of the poster in more detail please head on over to the excellent Film On Paper website.

It’s almost as if a great film inspires other great artwork for it’s advertising. Check out the German and American posters for the same film.

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How Freaky Friday was advertised in Germany…

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…and America

Poster of the Week- Taxi Driver (1976)

Poster of the Week- Taxi Driver (1976)

I was 14 and the exact right age to watch Taxi Driver for the first time. The perfect movie about alienation being watched by a moody teenager who felt completely alienated.

I would regularly venture from my hometown of York to the bustling neighbouring city of Leeds and it was on my next excursion after seeing Taxi Driver that I sought out the UK quad poster in a film memorabilia shop called Movie Boulevard (unfortunately long gone). The perfect movie (it’s still my favourite film to this day followed by John Carpenter’s Halloween and John Waters’ Female Trouble) had to have the perfect poster. And it did.

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Lead character Travis Bickle walking down a New York street, completely alone in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world. The tagline ‘On every street in every city there’s a nobody who dreams of being a somebody’ is one of the poignant and apt in film history.

It’s strange how a film and it’s iconography can take on a life of it’s own. The ‘You talkin’ to me?’ line is one of the most quoted amongst cineastes and the general public alike but is also misunderstood and misinterpreted when taken out of context. Stills from Taxi Driver have also been taken out of context and made into posters to be hung on teenager’s walls. Strangely they seem to dwell solely on Travis holding guns which is alarming. I’m glad the studio made UK quad emphasised the loneliness aspect rather than the macho/firearms angle.

Poster of the Week- Carrie (1976)

Poster of the Week- Carrie (1976)

 

New feature! Every week I’ll be presenting one of my favourite film posters. I actually think of film art as art in it’s own right. I’m sure visitors to this website feel the same way.

This first poster is the iconic UK poster for Brian De Palma’s classic horror movie Carrie from 1976.

The UK quad poster was actually censored as it was felt that the shot of Carrie covered in pigs blood would be too graphic for the general public of the day. And hence why said pic of her was actually presented in negative.

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The uncensored poster resplendent with the original pic is shown below.

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But there was another poster that was made depicting a note from Carrie that warned people who had seen the film from warning their friends about some of the scares the film held so that the film wouldn’t be ruined by word of mouth.

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An iconic film with iconic imagery, Carrie is a classic on every level imaginable.

Day 22- 31 Days of Halloween- Look What’s Happened To Rosemary’s Baby (1976)

Day 22- 31 Days of Halloween- Look What’s Happened To Rosemary’s Baby (1976)

It’s extremely brave to decide to make a sequel to a beloved horror classic. It can almost feel like some kind of suicide mission as critics and the general public alike will trot out the hackneyed old cliche of ‘It’s not as good as the first film!’ as if this is an extremely original and perceptive line of criticism to extol.

If you do decide to make said sequel there are several routes you can take when doing this. You can either try to recreate the tone and feel of the original (Halloween 2 is an example of this and a very good sequel). You can try to make a film that has a tone and atmosphere all of it’s own whilst setting the action years ahead of the events of the original film (for example, Psycho 2 is an excellent film). Then you can make a film that is completely out there and batshit crazy. The ‘made for TV sequel’ to Rosemary’s Baby, the masterpiece made by Roman Polanski in 1968, goes down this route. It’s not often that whilst I watch a film I have a smile permanently etched onto my face at the sheer insanity I’m watching on the screen and that after the film has ended I have to take a few moments to reacclimatise myself to everyday life again whilst thinking ‘What the fuck was that?!’ And I mean that in the best possible sense.

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I will try to summarise the madness contained within this gem’s plot. I don’t normally like to give detailed and ‘scene by scene’ plot outlines in my reviews but what you will read speaks for itself and sells the film perfectly.

The film starts with a voice-over précis of the final events of the original but with the voices of the new actors in this production (only one actor returns from the original film and thankfully it’s Ruth Gordon who is as brilliant in this movie). In this scene Rosemary (now played by Patty Duke) discovers  the baby she has given birth to but has been swiftly taken away from her. Rosemary looks at him and expresses horror at his eyes. Obviously, the dialogue here is different and not as impactful as the original.

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The first part of the film is called The Book of Rosemary and concerns her taking her son (called Adrian by the Satanic coven we know and love from the original but called Andrew by her to try and distance him from the role the coven think he’s destined to live) away from the clutches of the coven and running away. She seeks refuge in a synagogue knowing that if she is in a house of God then the coven can’t harm her in any way. It’s here that we see her press a crucifix on a chain into her son’s chest only for her to later see with horror that it has seared an imprint into his skin. We then see Rosemary the next day at a bus stop making a call to her famous actor ex-husband Guy (now played by George Maharis). As she speaks to him a group of children start to taunt Adrian/Andrew and take his toy car from him. In return he turns all full-on Satan on them and they fall to the ground unconscious. A random stranger Marjean has seen the whole incident and hides Rosemary and her son in her trailer. Marjean then offers to help Rosemary and her son to get onto a bus to escape. But whilst Rosemary boards the bus, the bus doors close and it rides off with her trapped on it whilst Marjean is at the roadside with Adrian/Andrew in her arms. It becomes apparent that Marjean is in fact a follower of the coven and this was planned all along. Rosemary goes to speak to the driver of the bus but it’s then revealed that there is no driver on the bus. And this is the first act of the film! Crazy doesn’t describe it!

The second part of the film is called The Book of Adrian. It’s more than 20 years later. We see Andrew/Adrian get pulled over for speeding. He later goes to a casino/nightclub that Marjean runs (described by him as his Aunt) who is alarmed by his apparently wild behaviour. She then refers to his parents as being killed in a car crash. We then see Adrian/Andrew’s demonic side come to the fore as he tries to run over a biker gang. Minnie and Roman (the wonderful Gordon and Ray Millard) turn up to the casino to see Andrew/Adrian and ask him to drink one of Minnie’s concoctions (echoes here of the chocolate mousse and ‘health drink’ from the original film) and when he falls unconscious they paint him in demonic warpaint.

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The warpaint scene. Once seen, never unseen

It’s here that I will leave the plot synopsis alone as to reveal anymore would impact on the viewers experience on watching this TV movie for the first time (just to add that there is a third act to the film called The Book of Andrew). Theres a musical interlude within this second segment where we see a far-out rock band at the casino get stage invaded by Andrew/Adrian. It’s one of the freakiest scenes of the whole movie and thats really saying something!

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Lets here it for the band

There are never any troughs in this movie. It starts at weirdness level 11 and continues at that level until the climax.

I’m so glad that this sequel was made in the hedonistic, narcotically charged 70’s as the full unbridled eccentricity of the movie could be shot with no holds barred by filmmakers who were clearly heavily medicated. Add to the mental shenanigans a brilliant darkly psychedelic soundtrack by the ever great Charles Bernstein and you have a rollicking great time. There is also some impressive cinematography that is some of the best I’ve seen in a TV movie. In fact, I love the idea of some Average Joe at home in his 70’s American home watching this be accident. I actually think it enriched and expanded minds.

I’m so glad that this movie was made and that comes from a massive fan of the original film. If you love mental cinema, watch this. In fact, watch this back to back with the Exorcist 2: The Heretic.

I saw this on YouTube in a transfer from a very poor VHS tape. With Scream Factory releasing horror TV movies on Blu ray nowadays I hope to God (pun not intended) that they unleash this. A great transfer using a pristine print would be something to behold. This film deserves it.

4/5 out of 5 stars

 

Day 4- 31 Days of Halloween- The Witch Who Came From The Sea (1976)

Day 4- 31 Days of Halloween- The Witch Who Came From The Sea (1976)

A far-out and thoroughly groovy tale of the swinging scene of 1970’s California. But also a disturbing tale of childhood abuse. Molly has fantasies of tying up men that also involves the use of razors. Two American Football stars are found butchered. Could Molly be responsible? Have her fantasises started to overlap with reality?

The great thing about the Video Nasties list was that it contained low-key gems that were truly left-field like this movie.

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The film doesn’t really make much sense but it doesn’t have to. The Drive-In and 42nd Street crowd would have been watching this film with their friend Mary Jane in attendance. And its possibly much more of a mind-expanding experience that way. But either way this is a very enjoyable piece of off-kilter 70’s goodness.

The film also looks unexpectedly gorgeous. And so it should as the Director of Photography was a young Dean Cundey. He shot this just two years before Halloween.

4 out of 5 stars

Day 17- 31 Days of Halloween- Drive In Massacre (1976)

Day 17- 31 Days of Halloween- Drive In Massacre (1976)

I’ll always have a soft spot for this movie. An obscure horror film made in America in the 70s and set in a drive in. Whats not to like?

Could it be the mentally challenged employee there called Germy who could be the killer? Or the local sex pest we see the cops interview? (‘I didn’t do anything wrong! I was just at the drive in to beat my meat!’)

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Yes, its slow in places, yes there are obvious filler scenes to pad out the running time. But its full of character and is pretty scary.

I first saw this on VHS and then DVD in the 80s and both released through VIPCO. It was the worst print used for a transfer EVER. The film is now on Blu ray through Severin Films and looks amazing after a long lost print was found, where else, but in an abandoned drive in. Life imitates life. Or something.

3.5 out of 5

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