Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things (1971)

Directed by Thomas Casey [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a somewhat interesting combination of crime and horror. Certainly there’s the occasional feel of a proto-slasher, but otherwise, it’s almost a crime-drama, dealing with a criminal disguising himself as an older woman to hide from the police. More than anything, it’s a mixed bag.

It’s a shame, really, because the idea is generally interesting and more so, the title of the film is just wild, but unfortunately what this movie has is usually tame. Oh, there was some okay nudity and tomfoolery, not to mention an early gay couple, but the kills weren’t anything to write home about, and while not dull, I wouldn’t exactly call much of the film engaging.

With few stand-out performances, I think the best has to go to Abe Zwick. This is his sole role, which is a bit of a shame, as he really comes across as a sadistic bastard at times in this movie, but he also possesses a decent emotional range. I liked many of his interactions with Crawford’s character, from the silly chasing-him-with-scissors scene to the somewhat sad ending. As such, Crawford’s character was hard to get into, but I appreciated his pastimes (hanging out with hippies, getting stoned, and engaging in, shall we say, activities most carnal).

Otherwise, there’s not much of a cast here to speak of. Certainly Robin Hughes was pretty cute, but it figures that she’s the one main young woman here not to get topless. Ah, well, not every day can be lucky.

Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things is an evocative title that the film doesn’t really live up to. It’s a somewhat unique little movie, but I didn’t love some of the characters or a few aspects of the story (such as Don Craig’s character), and I’d give this one a below average rating. It’s not really worth looking out for.

6/10

Another Son of Sam (1977)

Directed by Dave Adams [Other horror films: N/A]

What a poor, poor film. Sometimes called a proto-slasher, I was expecting quite a bit more from this, but I got oh so little.

The cinematography here is whack, and I mean whack. Some freeze-frames with dialogue of a different scene running (seemed to be a delay, or something), some slow-motion, rather inept editing that makes a few scenes difficult to really get a handle on. Pretty much everything about Another Son of Sam screams amateurish.

It’s also dull, which is in large part due to the procedural route this movie went past a certain point. The last forty minutes or so are spent in a dormitory (that looks nothing at all like a dormitory), and nothing very interesting happens. Nothing interested happened before, so it wasn’t a big loss, but even so, it’s just disappointing that a psychopathic serial killer can take down half a SWAT team and it’s still boring.

I’ll give a little props for a few cute girls (didn’t catch their names, but one might be Bonnie Schrier) and one solid scene of the killer’s hand coming up from beneath the bed of an unsuspecting victim. It was almost creepy, which is more than what I can say about anything else in the film.

Easily, I could see this movie, rough as it is, making it’s rounds in drive-in theaters toward the end of the 1970’s, and it may have even entertained some people. It does possess proto-slasher elements, and though very little is executed well, there’s a little here. It doesn’t matter, though, because Another Son of Sam has very little going for it. It’s not even a particularly gritty or gory film – it’s just dull, and certainly not worth another watch. It was barely worth the first watch, and I can’t, in good conscience, recommend it.

3/10

Jaws 2 (1978)

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc [Other horror films: The Devil’s Daughter (1973), Bug (1975), The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986)]

GODDAMN, SON, THAT’S HOW YOU KILL A FUCKING SHARK!

Personally, I enjoyed this film a lot more than the first Jaws, and I’m not entirely sure why. Whereas the first often felt dry and almost procedural, Jaws 2 generally feels a lot more soulful and tense. This isn’t to say the second half of the first film wasn’t great, but Jaws 2 was fun all-around fun, and the drama was top-notch.

One of the best scenes in the film has to be when Roy Scheider’s character comes home drunk after getting fired as police chief. He’s drunkenly telling jokes and making toasts while his wife and second-in-command have some of the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. That scene really blew me away with how touching it was, and while there was nary a fin in sight, this was the highlight of the film.

There’s solid shark frenzies, though, especially that first one with the sailing teenagers. Talk about carnage and utter tension. Even when things wind down, the scene of the kids trying to help out the young boy (in-movie, Schieder’s youngest), was rather touching.

And that ending? Read the first line of the review again to see my enthusiasm toward the fantastic finale.

Roy Scheider’s pretty much the only performance that matters here, and he does a great job. From the breakdown on the beach to that city council scene, Scheider did just amazing here, and you really felt for his character. I know I did, especially after he was fired. And while he’s not there a whole lot, Murray Hamilton, who also appeared in the first movie, was nice to see again, though his character, that of the mayor, was pretty atrocious.

Jaws 2 hit the spots in a way the first movie was unable to, and I really got a kick out of this one. Pretty much a fun ride from beginning to end, this is a sequel that did it right.

8.5/10

Jaws (1975)

Directed by Steven Spielberg [Other horror films: Duel (1971), Something Evil (1972), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983, segment ‘Kick the Can’), War of the Worlds (2005)]

While certainly one of the true classics of not just the horror genre, but cinema as a whole, Jaws is a film that I don’t love, and don’t really come close to loving. There’s a lot of good stuff in it, especially the second half of the movie, but there’s also some rather sluggish scenes that no amount of good orchestra music makes up for.

Luckily, the three main characters are all pretty decent. While it took some time for Quint’s gruff character to grow on me, there’s no denying that Robert Shaw does a fine job, especially during the scene where the group compares stories and scars. I always liked Richard Dreyfuss’ character, and he consistently solid through the film. Lastly, Roy Scheider does commendably also, though honestly, I think he stands out more in Jaws 2.

The movie picks up beautifully as these three embark on a small ship in order to take out the great white, but the movie beforehand was somewhat patchy, and while never bad, portions just bored me. The second half of the film isn’t perfect, but it was a lot more tense and enjoyable in my opinion.

Obviously, this is a classic, and there’s decent reason for that, but like some other classics of the 1970’s, such as The Exorcist, I was more underwhelmed than anything. I’d probably say the movie’s just a bit below average, but it’s close. Jaws is still worth seeing, please don’t think I doubt that, but unless you’re already a fan, I don’t know how likely it is that you’ll end up loving it.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Directed by Mel Brooks [Other horror films: Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)]

Perhaps one of the most famous horror spoofs of all time, Young Frankenstein is a great flick with mostly solid comedy and a good feel of classic horror films, especially, unsurprisingly, the 1931 classic Frankenstein.

Gene Wilder is an actor I’ve not seen in many other films, but he is great nonetheless. I particularly love his louder moments, from his outburst at the beginning of the movie (“I AM A SCIENTIST, NOT A PHILOSOPHER!”) to the always-fun “IT COULD WORK!” He’s funny throughout, though, from lines like “That goes without saying,” to “What knockers,” all eliciting solid laughs.

Marty Feldman is the other piece that really makes the film work. His often-sassy attitude (“Well, they were wrong then, weren’t they”) is a lot of fun, and he works well with Wilder, though his charade ability really sucks. Also worth mentioning, playing the Monster, Peter Boyle does a fantastic job, and though his dialogue is rather lacking, he does present some great facial expressions.

In all honesty, Young Frankenstein isn’t really the type of movie that I’d go out of my way to see. Personally, I do happen to consider spoofs of the horror genre a part of the genre themselves, but even so, overtly comedic horror films aren’t my go-to (though I am certainly no stranger to comedy films in general). This one did get a bit silly a few times (such as the dancing scene during the scientific demonstration), but much of it was just as funny now as it was when I last saw it. It’s a classic for a reason, and Wilder certainly makes it a film that’s not forgettable.

8/10

Sisters (1972)

Directed by Brian De Palma [Other horror films: Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Carrie (1976), The Fury (1978), Raising Cain (1992)]

Brian De Palma’s first real movie of note (shortly afterwards overshadowed almost entirely by the immensely popular Carrie), Sisters is a rather interesting and somewhat decent film, though it’s not necessarily altogether as enjoyable as I remember it being from my first experience viewing.

For the longest time, pretty much everything works out. You’ve a journalist (played by Jennifer Salt, an actress often used in De Palma’s earlier films) investigating a murder she witnessed (which the police don’t have enough evidence to look into) with the occasional help of private detective (Charles Durning). The murderer, Margot Kidder’s potentially psychotic character. For the first 50-odd minutes, I think Sisters is an enjoyably immersive movie.

There comes a point, though, about in hour in when there’s a bit of a turn taken that I didn’t entirely care for. Instead of a more clear-cut investigation, it turns more into a trippy, drug-fueled flick for ten, fifteen minutes, and that transition I didn’t care for. Also, while I really love the final shot in the film, I find the overall conclusion somewhat unsatisfactory.

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Kidder’s performance here, but I did really enjoy both Charles Durning and Jennifer Salt. William Finley (who later appeared in such films as Hooper’s Eaten Alive and The Funhouse) also appeared, but much like Kidder, neither his character nor his performance, especially toward the end, did much for me at all.

Sisters does have a few positives going for it, of course, perhaps most notably a rather fun sequence involving split screen (which was also used briefly in De Palma’s later film, Carrie). The split screen sequence was really enjoyable, and brought with it a solid vibe. Also, the gore, while not a highlight of the film, by any means, is decent. Lastly, like I said, I really love the final shot of the film – not sure exactly why, but it always has a somewhat ominous feel to me.

I enjoyed Sisters a lot more the first time I saw it than I did this time around. Certainly aspects are well-done, and for a majority of the movie, I find myself having a good time, but the conclusion really didn’t work out for me, and while it’s likely still worth seeing, I actually find the film somewhat below average, at least this time around.

6.5/10

Forced Entry (1973)

Directed by Shaun Costello [Other horror films: Daughters of Discipline (1978), Dracula Exotica (1980)]

Oh boy, where do I start with this one?

Well, first, I guess I should state what this film primarily is, and that’s a pornographic movie. A very gritty and grimy porno, not to mention hairy, but a porno all the same. You can find this on IMDb if you look it up on a search engine such as Google or Webcrawler, but looking it up on the site’s search-bar will bring you to the 1976 remake, which was non-pornographic, and focused more on the kills (I’d guess, as I’ve not seen it).

Just because this is a more gritty and harrowing experience doesn’t make it any more wholesome, though. The high points of the film would be the few consensual sex scenes, particularly the lesbian one (though both actresses involved, Ruby Runhouse and Nina Fawcett, were extraordinarily annoying). There was also a solid stabbing scene, where a nude woman is slashed down the chest then stabbed twice. That’s really the only time I truly felt this was a horror film. Otherwise, it was a virtually plot-less fiddle flick.

Often, it’s just tedious sex scene after sex scene. Multiple forced blowjobs, a lot of derivative sex talk (‘Oh, you like it, don’t you.’ and ‘You know how to do this, you practiced, didn’t you’), and a lot of real-war sequences from Vietnam.

I think that’s perhaps the most (and only) interesting thing about the film. The serial rapist is a Vietnam vet with P.T.S.D., and instead of getting the treatment the U.S. Government should have given all returning soldiers, they’re thrown back into their lives without any way to cope with the horrors of war (and despite all the rape in the film, I really feel like the overarching trauma of war was the true culprit).

The movie didn’t really go out of their way to address this point – sure, they threw in a lot of images from Vietnam, and the killer (played rather well by Harry Reems) definitely had a problem with hippies and large crowds (which seemed to set off some of his manic behavior). Still, if you take any bigger idea away from this movie, it’d be the solid anti-war sentiment that’s apparent throughout.

Still, this is a porno, and not a particularly enjoyable one. Unless you’re into anal rape and forced blowjobs under coercion, all with the gritty and hairy sensibilities of the 1970’s, I don’t think Forced Entry would have much to give off. I will say that it’s finally refreshing to actually see male sexual organs in a horror film for once, but boy, after seeing this one twice, I don’t think there’s any enjoyment at all to derive from this.

3.5/10

Warlock Moon (1973)

Directed by William Herbert [Other horror movies: N/A]

While not entirely that good of a film, this early 70’s flick occasionally carries a psychedelic vibe that does really well for it. Much of the film, while certainly not incoherent, feels like a bad trip, and questioning the reality of the situation will probably happen at least once. This doesn’t make Warlock Moon a good movie, but it does allow it a more unique feel.

If one happened to be somewhat bored throughout a lot of the film, I don’t know how much I’d blame them. There’s certainly a sluggish and potentially-repetitive feel at times, and though it does pick up the pace a bit at the end, this movie makes you work for it.

The movie really only has three noteworthy characters, and two of them are decently well-acted. Playing the main young woman, Laurie Walters is pretty adorable, and has a very youthful, innocent feel to her. She does great when she believes she’s losing it later and, and pulls off much of her time onscreen well. Edna MacAfee did great in her role of a kindly, yet potentially dangerous, older woman. On the flip-side, Joe Spano did very little for me, and that includes the conclusion, in which we learn more of his character. Still, Walters and MacAfee are good enough to make up for that.

For much of Warlock Moon, I appreciate what they were going for, and even the ending, while I don’t personally love it, or enjoy it that much, shows a solid grasp on their goal of a somber, psychedelic experience. Maybe in a somewhat shorter film, things would have come out better, but as it is, while I was decently engrossed through most of the film, I felt lukewarm about most of it.

I think that the atmosphere of the movie is pretty good, and I think there’s a good feel for the confusion of Walters’ character. Really, Warlock Moon isn’t a bad film, it’s just lacking a bit here and there. The setting (a mostly dilapidated spa resort) is rather ominous, and at times, the uncomfortable vibes of the much more modern Get Out (2017) pop up.

Though I find the film below average, I would say that if you’re a fan of 70’s horror, it’s still potentially worth a look. You may not necessarily love it, but I do think you’d appreciate some of the elements and ideas they threw into the film.

6/10

The Clown Murders (1976)

Directed by Martyn Burke [Other horror films: N/A]

While there are some horror aspects to The Clown Murders, fundamentally, this is a melodramatic flick with far too much talking and far too little killing.

As for the positives, there was a cool shotgun blast through the chest. Also, someone’s hand got stabbed in what was probably one of the most action-packed scenes in this otherwise kill-me-now-I’m-so-bored movie. I mean, this movie was just dull. It had potential, but it meandered and just entirely blew it.

Oh, I’m supposed to be talking positives? Well, I did like William Osler and his character, who had a thick Irish accent. He didn’t appear much, but he was consistently the most amusing thing in this dull piece of tripe.

The Clown Murders is strictly a drama movie for the first hour and five minutes or so. About fifty minutes in, once the group got to the farmhouse, things really could have picked up and gone a more traditionally slasher-esque route, but that’s not what happened. Instead, we got – more talking.

I didn’t get Susan Keller’s character or how exactly she was hoping the prank pulled on her and her husband would go. Half the time, she seems entirely complicit in everything, so when tensions start really rising toward the end of the film, I found myself getting incredibly frustrated.

Pretty much everyone besides Osler is rather annoying in this film. John Candy is probably the worst offender, but Gary Reineke and John Bayliss were pretty bad too. Because of the situation, there’s really no character to particularly root for, and half the time, you just want the characters to shut up and just think through how to best get out of the situation they got themselves into (which shouldn’t be too hard, because as I said, the woman they ‘kidnapped’ seemed to be fine with everything).

There were some slasher aspects for a few minutes, so sure, The Clown Murders is a horror film in my eyes. Many don’t believe it to be, and I entirely understand where they’re coming from. Does a drama that lasts an hour and 35 minutes become horror with just six minutes of horror scenes? Damned if I know, but I thought there was enough to count.

Unfortunately, just because it actually felt like a horror movie at times only makes this atrocity that much worse, since it was obviously marketed as a horror film. And while there are aspects of the genre, it’s really a stretch. I have long-heard this would be a boring movie, and it really is. There’s really nothing here to go out of your way to find this movie for. John Candy was horrible, the film overall was a mess, and there’s nothing to boast about when The Clown Murders is concerned.

4/10

Il trono di fuoco (1970)

Directed by Jesús Franco [Other horror films: Gritos en la noche (1962), La mano de un hombre muerto (1962), El secreto del Dr. Orloff (1964), Miss Muerte (1966), Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden (1968), The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968), Der heiße Tod (1969), Marquis de Sade: Justine (1969), The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969), Paroxismus (1969), De Sade 70 (1970), Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht (1970), Les cauchemars naissent la nuit (1970), Vampyros Lesbos (1971), Sie tötete in Ekstase (1971), Jungfrauen-Report (1972), Drácula contra Frankenstein (1972), Der Todesrächer von Soho (1972), La fille de Dracula (1972), Dr. M schlägt zu (1972), Les démons (1973), La comtesse noire (1973), La maldición de Frankenstein (1973), La nuit des étoiles filantes (1973), Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973), Al otro lado del espejo (1973), La noche de los asesinos (1974), Les possédées du diable (1974), La comtesse perverse (1974), Les gloutonnes (1975), L’éventreur de Notre-Dame (1975), Sexorcismes (1975), Frauengefängnis (1976), Jack the Ripper (1976), Un silencio de tumba (1976), In 80 Betten um die Welt (1976), Die Marquise von Sade (1976), Greta – Haus ohne Männer (1977), Die Liebesbriefe einer portugiesischen Nonne (1977), Die teuflischen Schwestern (1977), Der Ruf der blonden Göttin (1977), El sádico de Notre-Dame (1979), Mondo cannibale (1980), El caníbal (1980), Die Säge des Todes (1981), La tumba de los muertos vivientes (1982), La mansión de los muertos vivientes (1982), Revenge in the House of Usher (1983), El tesoro de la diosa blanca (1983), Macumba sexual (1983), Sola ante el terror (1983), Sangre en mis zapatos (1983), Mil sexos tiene la noche (1984), El siniestro doctor Orloff (1984), Lilian (la virgen pervertida) (1984), La esclava blanca (1985), Faceless (1987), Killer Barbys (1996), Tender Flesh (1997), Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula (1998), Lust for Frankenstein (1998), Vampire Blues (1999), Dr. Wong’s Virtual Hell (1999), Helter Skelter (2000), Vampire Junction (2001), Incubus (2002), Killer Barbys vs. Dracula (2002), Snakewoman (2005), La cripta de las mujeres malditas (2008), La cripta de las mujeres malditas II (2008), La cripta de las condenadas (2012), La cripta de las condenadas: Parte II (2012)]

This Jesús Franco film didn’t really do a whole lot for me. While there are some solid scenes of torture every now and again, much of the film came across as a historical drama, and were it not for Christopher Lee (playing the sinister Judge Jeffries), I would have liked this film a lot less.

Widely known as The Bloody Judge, I really appreciate, as a moderate student of history (a minor of mine in college) the historical nature of the film, though I am slightly put off by how it overshadows any and all of the horror aspects (which come primarily from the torture sequences).

Of course, this film isn’t without it’s positives. Christopher Lee does great in his role (though I don’t think the conclusion insofar as Jeffries was concerned was that satisfactory), and Hans Hass Jr., Milo Quesada, and Maria Rohm stand out also. Also, there was a solid sequence at the end once William of Orange came ashore. Alas, the ending played out somewhat quickly, which gave it a somewhat anticlimactic feel.

Personally, I think the biggest problem with this film is it’s meandering plot. The basic plot, in which the son of a Lord is looking to get married to the sister of a woman killed for being a witch and escape out of England is all well-and-good, but at an hour and forty minutes, I will admit to having stopped caring past a certain point. Loved the torture sequences (though none were overly over-the-top), and every scene with Lee, but much of the film just wasn’t my cup of tea.

As it is, when it comes to historical horror films, I already have the 1968 Witchfinder General to fill the void. If you see this for any reason, it should be Lee’s solid performance as a despicable judge killing innocents in the name of God and country. Truth be told, I was hoping for more than I got from this. The Bloody Judge may work for you, but it didn’t do a lot for me.

5.5/10