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 Gorgon (1964)

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 Earth Dies Screaming (1964), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Island of Terror (1966), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Night of the Big Heat (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)]

This Hammer film is a very worthwhile watch on many levels. Not only is the cast superb, but the story here is actually decently mysterious up to a point, and though the finale isn’t all that it could have been, the story here’s interesting and memorable.

Peter Cushing is one of the stars, playing  a tight-lipped medical examiner, and that alone is enough to push this movie in a positive direction, given Cushing is one of my favorite actors (after Vincent Price). What’s even better is that Christopher Lee eventually shows up, and the two of them together is great. Lee is always of good quality, and he’s best here during his heated conversation with Patrick Troughton. Horror fans might best remember Troughton from The Omen, and that was a solid role, but being a rather big fan of the science-fiction series Doctor Who, I know Troughton as the Second Doctor, perhaps one of my favorite incarnations of the character.

Seeing Cushing, Troughton, and Lee all in one movie is very much a treat. Lee has a very commanding presence here, and though Troughton is a bit brow-beaten, his situation doesn’t really do him any favors. Even without those stars, Barbara Shelley (who has a somewhat unique story arc here), Michael Goodliffe (though he gave one of the worst justifications for the belief in the supernatural that I have ever heard in my life), and Richard Pasco came to play. Goodliffe really carries the first half of the film, and has a somewhat touching last scene. With a cast like this, even an okay story can go a long way.

Luckily, The Gorgon has a somewhat interesting one, which deals with memory loss and people being turned to stone. Much like other Hammer films, this possesses a strong atmosphere, and while in my opinion the color somewhat mutes that, it’s still nice to see a classic story like this using the best of the techniques at the time.

I’ve seen The Gorgon a handful of times before, and I still find it an enjoyably solid movie with a pretty interesting (and somewhat surprising) finale. The only real flaw here is that the design of the Gorgon, when it fully appears, is somewhat laughable. Otherwise, this is an enjoyable slice of 1960’s British horror. Just look at that cast and say ‘yes.’

7.5/10

The Strangler (1964)

Directed by Burt Topper [Other horror films: N/A]

What makes The Strangler a movie worth remembering is the performance of Victor Buono. Sure, the crisp black-and-white looks nice, and it doesn’t feel too far removed from Psycho (which I’m sure influenced this), but Buono’s performance here is what makes it work.

Others in the film do fine, including his atrocious mother played by Ellen Corby, a detective played by David McLean, and two attractive young women Davey Davison and Diane Sayer, but no one stands out as well as Buono does, and truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before this, Buono had a quite a few small television roles, along with some uncredited movie roles, until he played a character in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which was probably one of his first bigger roles. But The Strangler was one of his earliest starring roles, and boy, does it work for him.

While the kills are as tepid as you could expect from the 1960’s, the characterization Buono puts in is fantastic, and I personally can’t help but feel sympathetic for his character (especially after seeing what his mother puts him through). It’s just heartbreaking at times, and Victor Buono really shows it on his face and pained expressions.

The Strangler was a good movie when I first saw it some years back, and it’s still a movie very much worth watching. In many ways, I’m reminded of a movie I saw just some weeks ago called The Couch, which was also a 1960’s film focusing on an insane killer and his steady decline in a psychological manner. The Strangler is the better of the two, but I think both would fit well on a two-pack, but no matter what, definitely give this one a look if you’re a fan of 60’s horror.

8/10

Witchcraft (1964)

witch

Directed by Don Sharp [Other horror films: The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), Curse of the Fly (1965), The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), Psychomania (1973), Dark Places (1974), To the Devil a Daughter (1976), What Waits Below (1984)]

This is a moderately fun black-and-white British production, but I couldn’t help but feel as though something was missing.

The story’s set-up, being a long-standing family feud, was pretty good, and generally, the story was perfectly fine, though I thought it went down a really expected path past a certain point. The crisp black-and-white rendered some of the sequences rather creepy, especially the graveyard scene near the beginning.

As far as the performances go, most of the fun comes from Lon Chaney – though it’s over twenty years since he graced the screen as The Wolf Man, he stills does a good job playing a menacing character. As a lead, Jack Hedley does a fine job also, though he’s not near as mesmerizing as Chaney is. Most others are somewhat pedestrian.

Like I said, though, the story goes down a somewhat predictable path, and while I wasn’t expecting a twist, or anything like that, I was sort of hoping they’d eschew expectations somehow. The whole “this family is good, the other is bad” doesn’t make for an overly-captivating family feud film, in my view.

There are still some creepy scenes through, not to mention some rather suspenseful ones (I rather liked some of the driving sequences – I thought they did that pretty well), but for a flick from the classic decade that is the 1960’s, I expected a bit more out of it. If anything, see it for Lon Chaney. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

6/10

The Horror of It All (1964)

Horror of it All

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 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), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)]

Starring Pat Boone (who provides the one jazzy musical number of the film, a song sharing the title of the film), this horror comedy ended up being a lot more fun than I anticipated going in.

At times, this flick felt a bit goofy, as though I were watching an episode of the Addams Family, but actually, for the most part, the humor was both still amusing and rather snappy at times. It felt like a more well-rounded version of The Old Dark House remake from 1963, I feel. Snappy story, fun sequences, a catchy song, and even a moment of both dread and suspense.

Pat Boone does perfectly fine as the lead character, and like I said, his one song lends the movie a bit more enjoyment. Erica Rogers and Andree Melly had solid presences also. Everyone else was just sort of there (Valentine Dyall has sort of a Vincent Price thing going on there in a few scenes), but no one did poorly, which it really all that matters.

Directed by the talented Terence Fisher (for a list of his contributions to the genre, just scroll up), The Horror of It All isn’t necessarily a classic, but I had a lot of fun with it, especially with the song and the ending.

7.5/10