Homicidal (1961)

Directed by William Castle [Other horror films: Macabre (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler (1959), 13 Ghosts (1960), Mr. Sardonicus (1961), The Old Dark House (1963), Strait-Jacket (1964), The Night Walker (1964), I Saw What You Did (1965), Let’s Kill Uncle (1966), The Spirit Is Willing (1967), Shanks (1974)]

William Castle is probably one of my personal favorite directors when it comes to pre-1970’s horror. His campy style never fails to entertain, and though his movies may rarely be necessarily special (with the exception of House on Haunted Hill, which is definitely special, and perhaps Mr. Sardonicus), they’re almost always entertaining, and Homicidal is no different.

Partially influenced by the success of Psycho from a year previous, Homicidal gives us a story filled with different characters and plenty of mystery, along with a conclusion of which the influence of Psycho can clearly be gleaned. Just because the film shares some elements with it’s better doesn’t mean Homicidal is without credit, though, because this movie has a lot going for it.

The cast throughout is stellar. It’s true that Joan Marshall gives one hell of a performance, and though maybe a little over-the-top at times, it’s a Castle movie, so I don’t imagine many could hold that against her. What’s even more impressive, though, is the performance given by Eugenie Leontovich, who plays a mute character, and must express herself solely via facial expressions. The terror that her character felt in certain scenes was palatable, and I loved it.

Patricia Breslin (who also popped up in Castle’s I Saw What You Did) was pretty good as the focal character past a certain point, and though she wasn’t really near as stellar as others, I definitely appreciated her presence. Somewhat similar is Glenn Corbett – he was perfectly fine in his role, but he didn’t stand out quite as much as other cast members.

Being a movie from the early 60’s, and also being black-and-white, Homicidal doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of gore (though there are two scenes of note – one a multiple gut-stab, the other the results of a decapitation – that are worth seeing), but it does give us a decent little mystery with a really fun finale (following Castle’s corny Fright Break, of course, which allowed theater-goers 45 seconds to leave prior to the film’s conclusion).

Since I’ve seen this once or twice before, I obviously knew how the film was going to end, and I suspect that most modern-day audiences, hard-wired to see plot twists coming from a mile away, will spot this one from, well, miles away, but that doesn’t, in my mind, make the conclusion any less stellar. It may well be obvious to new-time viewers, but I recall being surprised the first time I saw this, and while that may just mean I’m gullible, I still felt appreciation for that.

What I also appreciated was the opening to this film, which had director William Castle speaking to the audience, referencing previous works (Macabre, House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, and 13 Ghosts) and having a jolly time with it. It reminded me a bit of Edward Van Sloan’s speech which opened up Frankenstein. It’s corny, but it’s fun, which I think Castle excelled at.

Homicidal may not be my favorite work from Castle, but I do think it’s a pretty good movie, and I definitely recommend it to fans of the classics the genre has to offer.

8/10

Torture Garden (1967)

Directed by Freddie Francis [Other horror films: The Brain (1962), The Day of the Triffids (1963), Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), Hysteria (1965), The Skull (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1966), They Came from Beyond Space (1967), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970), Trog (1970), Gebissen wird nur nachts – das Happening der Vampire (1971), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Creeping Flesh (1973), Son of Dracula (1973), Tales That Witness Madness (1973), Craze (1974), Legend of the Werewolf (1975), The Ghoul (1975), The Doctor and the Devils (1985), Dark Tower (1989)]

Amicus’ second anthology horror film (following 1965’s Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors), Torture Garden is a film I’ve seen once before, but didn’t particularly care for. Seeing it again does confirm, to me, at least, that it’s one of the weakest of Amicus’ anthologies that I’ve seen.

I find the framing story as fun as any other, and the route it takes, while predictable, is still fun, but none of the four stories throughout the film really interest me. No doubt that two of them (‘Terror Over Hollywood’ and ‘The Man Who Collected Poe’) had potential, but I don’t feel either one was necessarily executed that well. Of the four, I guess I’d say that ‘The Man Who Collected Poe’ was the best, but really, all four of these felt somewhat underwhelming, especially compared to Amicus’ later entities, such as Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror.

The first and third stories (‘Enoch’ and ‘Mr. Steinway,’ respectively) had their own issues – for ‘Enoch,’ it just felt sort of been-there done-that, and ‘Mr. Steinway’ felt undercooked (and that ridiculous ending, while almost fun, just felt, well, ridiculous), and while some performances stood out in each (Michael Bryant, who later starred in The Stone Tape, for ‘Enoch,’ and John Standing, later in Nightflyers, for ‘Mr. Steinway’), these stories felt weak in ways that reminded me of another weak Amicus outing, being their final anthology, From Beyond the Grave.

Good performances are common throughout the film, of course. Jack Palance (Man in the Attic, Alone in the Dark, and Without Warning) was somewhat enjoyable, though his character’s personality threw me off. Of course, Peter Cushing is always a joy to see, no matter how flawed the particular story was. Others that are worth a mention include Robert Hutton (The Slime People), John Phillips (The Mummy’s Shroud), Michael Ripper (who was in The Mummy along with quite a few other Hammer outings), and of course the enjoyably hammy Burgess Meredith (who I primarily know from the Batman series, but was also in Burnt Offerings and Magic).

Of course, worth-while performances can only go so far if their stories don’t do them justice, and I don’t think any of these really did, aside from maybe Meredith’s role in the framing story (though even that edit cut toward the end just felt poorly done). Little in any of the stories aside from wasted potential stuck me as memorable (especially ‘Terror Over Hollywood,’ which I really think could have been interesting in a Michael Crichton way), but aside from the framing story, which threw in a surprise or two, nothing here is going to stick with me.

Naturally, being a big fan of some of Amicus’ later work, this doesn’t give me pleasure to admit, but I found this even weaker than the aforementioned From Beyond the Grave, if only because one of those stories was actually about average. As of this writing, the only Amicus anthology I’ve not seen is Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, but as that’s the first of this kind, I’m definitely hoping for a little more out of that one. As for Torture Garden, despite some quality performances (Meredith, Cushing, and Palance alone had quality star power), I just don’t think it did that much right.

5/10

The Raven (1963)

Directed by Roger Corman [Other horror films: The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955), Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), Not of This Earth (1957), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Undead (1957), War of the Satellites (1958), The Wasp Woman (1959), A Bucket of Blood (1959), House of Usher (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), Tower of London (1962), The Terror (1963), X (1963), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990)]

For many, this is a classic film, an enjoyable blend of horror and comedy, but I have to admit that, despite the fantastic cast, this movie really didn’t do a thing for me.

Which is a damn shame, as you can imagine. I mean, check out the cast – Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill, The Haunted Palace, and Theatre of Blood), Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, The Black Cat, The Ghoul, and The Walking Dead), and Peter Lorre (Mad Love, The Beast with Five Fingers, and You’ll Find Out) are the central actors, and what a great mix it is. A young Jack Nicholson (The Shining and The Terror) appears throughout, and we also get some Hazel Court (The Premature Burial, Ghost Ship, The Masque of the Red Death, and The Curse of Frankenstein). All of these performances (and throw in Olive Sturgess for good measure) were solid.

I just don’t care for the story, though, which is very heavily entwined with comedy and fantasy. It started out strong, with some stanzas from Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem being read by Price, but as soon as the raven (Lorre’s character who was transformed during a failed magical duel with Karloff’s sinister warlock character) flew in, I was just taken aback. Don’t get me wrong, I knew the film was partly comedy, but I didn’t quite realize it’d play so heavily a part, and some of the intended comedy just didn’t do much for me (such as Nicholson’s scene on the carriage).

And of course, this isn’t to take away from the performances, which were fantastic throughout, and they even managed a few pretty good scenes (I personally think the best one was Nicholson’s character traversing a ledge outside Karloff’s castle in order to get to another room, which held quality tension), but then there was a lengthy magical duel at the end between Price and Karloff which went on for at least six minutes with zero dialogue, and I can’t express how drowsy that made me.

Vincent Price is one of my personal favorite actors of the horror genre, being in multiple movies I absolutely love (such as the aforementioned House on Haunted Hill and Theatre of Blood), so it gives me no pleasure to admit that I didn’t care for this, especially because I also have a huge respect for Lorre and Karloff. The story just wasn’t my cup of tea, though, and I just did not derive much in the way of enjoyment from this whatsoever.

Most people enjoy this one, though, so if you’re into classic movies, by all means, give it a shot. Just know what you’re going into.

5/10

Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967)

Directed by Jean Yarbrough [Other horror films: The Devil Bat (1940), King of the Zombies (1941), House of Horrors (1946), She-Wolf of London (1946), The Brute Man (1946), The Creeper (1948), Master Minds (1949)]

When I recorded this off TCM (gotta give TCM props for playing something like this, on a side-note), I had no delusions that it’d somehow be a good movie, and boy, what a quality prediction that was. Hillbillys (which isn’t even a proper plural version of the word) in a Haunted House was something I’ve never really experienced before, and never really want to again.

For a movie from the later 60’s, this was very-much steeped in the 1930’s and 1940’s. A haunted house that wasn’t really haunted, but a headquarter for spies who were trying to scare people away (which is pretty much what Ghosts on the Loose from 1943 focused on), a gorilla (right out of The Monster Walks and The Gorilla), even older names that were popular around that time (such as John Carradine, Basil Rathbone, and Lon Chaney, Jr.) – this movie was really late to the game, and the country angle doesn’t really make it any fresher.

And if you’re wondering where the country angle comes from, by “hillbillys,” the movie means country musicians (the film stars Ferlin Husky, who I’m not a particular fan of, but he has the occasionally catchy song). And being performers, much of the film is singing from various different people (a guy watches some television to help him sleep, and sees performances from artists such as Merle Haggard, for instance). There’s a lot of music in this film, some of it decent, some more generic, but always laughable when it pops up.

The best part might be the ending – at around 70 minutes in or so, the haunted house mystery is wrapped up, the antagonists taken care of, and the central trio (Ferlin Husky, Joi Lansing, and Don Bowman) are driving away, not a care in the world. Perfect ending, right?

Wrong.

Because they’re going to Nashville for a concert, and instead of ending the story at a sensible moment, the movie instead finds it necessary to have six songs performed by six different artists to close the film out. And the final song (performed by Husky himself) isn’t announced as the final song – he just sings his song (as Merle Haggard, Don Bowman, Marcella Wright, Joi Lansing, and Molly Bee did before him) and boom, the movie’s over.

Now, to be fair, many of the songs were decent, such as “Heartbreak U.S.A.” by Molly Bee, “Swinging Doors” by Merle Haggard (which is definitely going onto my iTunes), the comedic, spoken (think artists like Red Sovine or maybe even Jerry Reed a la “Telephone Song) “Wrong House” by Don Bowman, and “The Bridge I’ve Never Crossed” by Ferlin Husky, but to end a film with 15 minutes of random country songs with zero relevance or reference to what happened in the previous 70 minutes of the movie – what madness is this?

And you’re probably wondering where the appeal to the film arises from, which I couldn’t blame you for. Sure, I enjoy some classic country (from The Statler Brothers to Waylon Jennings from Bobby Bare to Lefty Frizzell, I dabble a little in the genre), but the real appeal comes from seeing the aforementioned John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., and Basil Rathbone, all three rather large stars (or were at points previously to 1967).

Carradine (Bluebeard, The House of Seven Corpses, and hundreds of other films) and Rathbone (Son of Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskervilles ‘39, and Queen of Blood among his appearances) worked well together, though to be honest, their characters were somewhat interchangeable. Chaney Jr. provided a more simple-minded character, and while never all that sympathetic, he probably stood out the most of the three. On a side-note, this is Rathbone’s second-to-last film, as he died in mid-1967.

Ferlin Husky was as fine as he could have been, I suspect, given his character. In my view, Joi Lansing was cast more due to her physical attributes as opposed to acting ability (let’s just say that while of course there’s nothing close to nudity in this film, Lansing still provides quite the view), but honestly, for a movie like this, I can’t imagine bad acting being that much a concern. Don Bowman (who was both a country singer and a comedian, apparently) was the generic, cowardly side-character, and his Texas accent (and penchant for saying “weirdwolf” as opposed to “werewolf” for some unknown reason) did annoy me, but hey, that song he sang toward the end was funny, so as the kids say, whateves.

I don’t really know why this was made (perhaps there was a country craze in the mid-to-late 1960’s, as this is technically a sequel to non-horror film Las Vegas Hillbillys). I also don’t know why I spent ten whole paragraphs on it. I enjoyed a decent amount of the music, but the spy angle didn’t really catch my interest at all (and the whole M.O.T.H.E.R. organization just solidified my disinterest), and while it can be entertaining, you have to know beforehand what you’re going into.

As it was, Hillbillys in a Haunted House was something I won’t soon forget, but don’t mistake that for thinking it’s decent. At best, it’s still below average, with the fun musical numbers buoying it against the generically forgettable story, but I don’t think it buoys it that effectively.

5.5/10

Black Zoo (1963)

Directed by Robert Gordon [Other horror films: It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)]

Maybe I was expecting too much, but I left Black Zoo feeling somewhat underwhelmed. The movie wasn’t poor, by any means, and there were some amusing scenes, along with performances worth noting, but a few elements of the story tasted funny, and I think the film, for me, ends up around average, if not a little lower.

I did appreciate the first 12 minutes of the film, though, wherein a tour bus of, well, tourists, comes to a zoo, and are taken through a tour by the head of the zoo, played by Michael Gough, and it’s just a nice, pleasant trip through the zoo, almost like one of those science documentaries my people sometimes watched in school when we had a substitute teacher. It was a charming opening, and I enjoyed it.

Also worth mentioning, Black Zoo is in color, which I didn’t know beforehand (and certainly wasn’t a given during this period of cinema). I don’t know if it really mattered in the end, but it was sort of nice to see.

Of course, Michael Gough is best known for playing Alfred in the Batman movies, though he has done plenty of horror (appearing in films such as the 1962 Phantom of the Opera, Horrors of the Black Museum, Berserk, What a Carve Up!, and Trog), and he gives a solid performance here, occasionally hammy, but enjoyable throughout. I was indifferent on Jeanne Cooper, who played Gough’s wife, but both Rod Lauren (The Crawling Hand and Terrified) and Elisha Cook Jr. (House on Haunted Hill) were solid, though I admit I didn’t care entirely for Lauren’s story.

On that note, there’s a bit of a twist at the end regarding Rod Lauren’s character, but I really didn’t find myself caring that much about it, because it didn’t really make a difference as far as I could tell. Also, while I understand the concept, that one crazy animal cult (they basically believe that the souls of recently-deceased animals can enter a new animal and live again) was just a bit too silly, and Michael Gough’s character didn’t strike me as someone who’d want to mix-in with a lot like that.

Points are given, though, for the murders that Gough’s character plans. Who doesn’t like him taking revenge on people with the help of his lions, tigers, and gorillas? There’s even an emotional scene, of sorts, where one of his animals is killed by Cook Jr. and, in a rage, takes him out (honestly, I can’t blame him at all for that, as Cook Jr.’s character was the one that was begging to be attacked).

Overall, though, Black Zoo was just an okay movie. I didn’t have a terrible time with it, but I definitely think it could have been better in some ways. It’s worth a watch just for something different (how many zoo-based horror films even are there, aside from this and Murders in the Zoo?), but it’s not an amazing film.

6/10

Yabu no naka no kuroneko (1968)

Directed by Kaneto Shindô [Other horror films: Onibaba (1964)]

Largely known as The Black Cat, Yabu no naka no kuroneko started off a decent movie, but I have to say that, after thirty minutes or so, I thought it began to drag, and it never really fully picked up steam again.

The film has a beautiful setting, taking place near a bamboo forest, and it looks quite stunning in black and white (which actually, on a side-note, surprised me, as many Japanese movies I’ve seen from the late 1960’s, and even before, have been in color), and the story has some emotional resonance to it also, to be sure.

For the first thirty minutes, showcasing the two women who are raped and killed, and then coming back as vengeful spirits to get revenge on all samurai, the movie was pretty solid. I thought they were going through their revenge pretty quickly, but that’s because their focus wasn’t there yet (a newly-appointed samurai who they both knew in their previous life), so that’s fine.

And the story that follows isn’t too bad, either, and like I said, even carried with it some emotional scenes, not to mention suspenseful scenes, such as the precursor to the final battle. I just personally found much of it boring beyond belief.

Kichiemon Nakamura was solid as the peasant farmer who, due to valor in battle, moved up to become a samurai. He was a good character, through-and-through, and him finding out that, after three years of being away from home due to his forced conscription, his house had burned down and family missing, was effective and saddening. I just wish I could say that either Nobuko Otowa (Onibaba) or Kiwako Taichi could have made more an emotional impact past the opening scene, but at least Kei Satô provided a little amusement.

Certainly this film had some moments that should have been a bit more of a tug on the heart, but they just didn’t hit me that way. Even toward the end, when Nakamura’s character figures out how to destroy the spirit of his mother, I just wasn’t getting that depressing vibe that you’d sort of expect out of the situation.

Regardless of that, though, the fact that I found the film boring is probably what’s most damning. Others may not see the film that way (many others, given the high rating this sports on IMDb), but I definitely did, and really, given the story rarely got me invested, I’ll have to admit to being disappointed with this Japanese film; it’s no doubt solid and moody at times, but I was just more bored than anything else.

5.5/10

The Witches (1966)

Directed by Cyril Frankel [Other horror films: Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960)]

Known as The Devil’s Own in the USA, Hammer’s foray into witches was okay. It was far from great, and I think the ending could have used a hell of a lot of work, but it was watchable, albeit it in a below average way. It just wasn’t much more.

What I can say for The Witches is that it lays out a somewhat engrossing mystery in a small English village, but by the final twenty minutes, when everything is laid out and we see that extraordinarily goofy (and lengthy) Satanic ritual, my interest has pretty much disappeared entirely.

And let me talk about that stupid ritual for a second. Getting a majority of a small village to join a Satanic cult might be possible, but if they knew how goofy they’d have to act during the rituals, how over-exaggerated and silly they’d look, I think it’d lose most of the potential members. It just didn’t seem realistic at all to me.

I also felt somewhat torn about the time-lapse about halfway through. Even after that, though, I can admit the movie had a decent atmosphere and I was still engaged with the story. But that stupid fucking ritual. That just really killed what little interest I had left at that point completely.

I’m not familiar with Joan Fontaine, but she was okay here. I appreciated how she wasn’t the typical young woman (not that she looked old here, by any means – she just looked quite a bit more mature), and I liked the nightmarish scenario she had in Africa. Alec McCowen was decent, though ultimately, pretty pointless, as he played zero part in the conclusion (surprisingly so). I started out liking Kay Walsh, but by the end, I just found her overly illogical and goofy.

The Witches had a good atmosphere at times, and it has that small village feel that I enjoy from films around the same time period (such as The Reptile and The Gorgon), but that final act wasn’t the way to go. I can understand how this one isn’t one of the more celebrated Hammer films, because it just sort of falls apart, and ends up a movie with potential, but ultimately disappointing.

5.5/10

Children of the Damned (1964)

Directed by Anton Leader [Other horror films: N/A]

Yeah, this didn’t do it for me. It’s a shame, because after revisiting the 1960 Village of the Damned, I was moderately happy, but this one was just lacking something that made that first film special. Not that Children of the Damned is a bad film, necessarily, and not that I particularly enjoyed Village of the Damned, because I didn’t, but Children of the Damned is not a film that I really got much out of whatsoever.

I’ll give it moderate props for looking at the children through the lens of the arms’ race (each of the six children are from different countries, so for instance, obviously the USSR wouldn’t want their ‘weapon’ being taught in the UK), and it lent a somewhat unique political climate to the film (which was partially played with in the first movie, but this is far more explicit), but it didn’t make for an exciting time.

That’s honestly my main problem. A few of the scenes were a little creepy, but once the children got together in an abandoned church and held off the military with their super intellect and by virtue of holding a woman captive, I pretty much tuned out. I mean, I wasn’t in the least bit interested, and nothing past that point, be it the arguments as to whether or not the kids should be destroyed to the finale, made any impact whatsoever.

I wouldn’t say that Alan Badel or Ian Hendry stood out (because even now, reading the characters names, I forget who’s who despite just having finished this), but they probably made more of an impression than anyone else, which isn’t saying much.

Honestly, I don’t have anything else. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for this. Maybe it’s something that I’ll grow to appreciate the next time I see it, if I ever do. Whatever the reason, while enjoying revisiting Village of the Damned, this one fell flat for me.

5/10

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Directed by Terence Fisher [Other horror films: Three’s Company (1953, episodes ‘The Surgeon’ & ‘ Take a Number’), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Mummy (1959), The Stranglers of Bombay (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Horror of It All (1964), The Gorgon (1964), The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Island of Terror (1966), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Night of the Big Heat (1967), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)]

Better known under it’s American title The Devil’s Bride, this is a classic Satanist film that certainly has it’s place, but apparently, after seeing it twice, it’s place isn’t with me.

The movie’s not a bad movie. I just don’t care about a lot of it. Trying to keep two people safe from a Satanic cult has the potential to be a good movie, no doubt, but I was, more than anything, somewhat bored sitting through this, which is a shame given the film looks quite nice and has a solid cast.

Christopher Lee as the main character was a nice touch, and I sort of enjoyed his regal outrage at a friend who got into Satanism. He hates religious freedom it seems, but it was still nice to see such a popular face here. Charles Gray was fine as the lead Satanist, but I never got an overwhelming thrill from him.

Leon Greene was pretty good as a loyal friend of Lee’s and I thought he character played well off Lee’s as a more action-oriented individual. Patrick Mower (who plays the young friend that gets involved in some Satanic bois) was okay, but I wanted to know a bit more about him, and we never really do. Nike Arrighi was also decent, but again, we didn’t really know her character, so it made it hard to really care about after a certain point.

The special effects are okay. Perhaps the best scene is when four of the protagonists are protected within a circle and various visions are being flung at them, hoping to scare or coax them out of the protection, including a little girl being attacked by a giant tarantula, a horseman of death or something like that, and a knocking on the door from a supposed friend. Lee keeps his head throughout the scene though, and it doesn’t really keep that suspenseful feel going.

Overall, this just isn’t a film that much impresses or amuses me. I was probably a little lenient on it the first time I saw it, but after seeing it again, The Devil Rides Out just doesn’t do it for me.

5.5/10

Maciste all’inferno (1962)

Directed by Riccardo Freda [Other horror films: I vampiri (1957), Caltiki il mostro immortale (1959), L’orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock (1962), Lo spettro (1963), L’iguana dalla lingua di fuoco (1971), Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea (1972), Murder Obsession (1981)]

Known sometimes as The Witch’s Curse, this Italian production isn’t a bad film, but is can be somewhat tedious, so ends up in the middle of the road.

I’ve seen this story done before in the 1925 Italian movie of the same name – in both, strongman Maciste goes down to Hell, and must defeat evil and resist temptation before coming back to the over-world. Though I like the somewhat intense framing for the reasoning Maciste went into Hell in this movie more, I’ll say that the 1925 version is a lot more fun.

There’s a Corman-Price movie from 1963 titled The Haunted Palace, which I recently revisited, and what struck me as amusing was how the first 15 minutes of this film follows that beginning of The Haunted Palace almost exactly – a witch/warlock is burned to death and puts a curse on the village, years later an ancestor of that witch/warlock moves back into the castle to the horror of the superstitious townspeople, and instantly the the townspeople want to rush to the castle and set the ancestor to the flame.

In The Haunted Palace, though, the townspeople hold off a bit. Here, though, on the first night that the ancestor and husband get there, they rush the castle with torches and pitchforks, and drag the woman out to be slain. All hope looks lost until the shirtless Maciste comes forth to save the innocent woman, and enters hell to do so.

From a modern, American viewpoint, Maciste is pretty much Superman. He’s an embodiment of all that’s right and good, strong and virtuous, and even when he gets into Hell, he tried to help some of the people suffering, which shows strong character. In relation, I did think Hell looked better in the 1925 version of this story, but here it’s in proper color, and doesn’t look all too shabby.

Kirk Morris is the handsome feller who played Maciste, and I think he did a pretty fair job. Any time he struggled to lift something (which was about half of what he spent time doing), he did a fair job acting like what he was trying to lift was actually heavy. Vira Silenti did pretty good – it was tense that, while Maciste was slowly trying to through Hell to find the witch, that Silenti’s character was getting closer and closer to being burned to death. And playing her husband, Angelo Zanolli did great showing his devotion, perhaps foolishly so, to his wife.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t a young boy in Italy back in the 1960’s, but if I were, I would think that I’d find The Witch’s Curse a moderately fun romp. I don’t personally think this is a great film, but I am somewhat surprised by how it has only a 5.1/10 on IMDb as of this writing. The film has it’s charm, and for a pre-giallo Italian horror/fantasy/adventure film, I think it’s decent.

6.5/10