The Beast in the Cellar (1971)

Directed by James Kelley [Other horror films: La tua presenza nuda! (1972)]

This is a somewhat hard film to get a gauge on. It’s true that much of the film was a bit dry and dull, but there was a bit of charm to be had in this British movie. Even so, I need to err on the side of caution, and say this isn’t really a good film.

I did find the story somewhat interesting, despite the oft-dry tone. There’s a little mystery, some okay atmosphere, and a nice setting, so by no means is it the case the movie that has nothing to offer. Problematically, though, while we do see a couple of murders, saying The Beast in the Cellar picks up speed at any point is a hard case to make.

In the final thirty minutes, we get a lengthy story from Beryl Reid’s character that lasts a good portion of that thirty minutes. It’s told well, with plenty of emotion, and during this, we do see people out searching for the animal-like man that’s been out killing soldiers. But it’s hard to say that there’s any real tension save for perhaps the final five minutes, when the killer comes to the house in the pouring rain (which was nicely atmospheric, to be sure).

Beryl Reid (who I mostly know from Entertaining Mr. Sloane) gave the best performance of the film, and she worked beautifully with Flora Robson (The Shuttered Room), who played her sister. The two of them did great, though Reid gave the lengthy confession toward the end, and got some more emotional scenes in. Smaller roles, such as those provided by John Hamill and Tessa Wyatt, were perfectly good, but as Reid and Robson were the sole focus, no one else had a chance to really stand out.

The print I watched was a bit rough, I admit. I imagine it was a VHS rip, as it was quite scratchy and very dark during night sequences. I don’t think this negatively impacted the film aside from making some things a bit harder to discern (the kills were especially somewhat rough), and it could be said the print maybe even helped give the film a bit more of a grindhouse feel.

Produced by Tigon (who were also behind producing such films as Curse of the Crimson Altar, Witchfinder General, Virgin Witch, The Blood on Satan’s Claw, and The Haunted House of Horror), The Beast in the Cellar is an okay piece of lower budget British horror. It is quite dry, but the performances are compelling even if some of the finale isn’t. It’s not a good movie, but I can’t help but see the charm this one possesses.


La tarantola dal ventre nero (1971)

Directed by Paolo Cavara [Other horror films: Mondo cane (1962), E tanta paura (1976)]

Giallo is one of those genres that I enjoy in small doses, and as such, there are still many quite well-known gialli that I’ve not yet seen. La tarantola dal ventre nero, better known as Black Belly of the Tarantula, is one such film, and I have to admit that, while it was decent, I was expecting a little more.

In part, I think this has to do with the lack of characterization some individuals get, not to mention a lack of as many suspects as one might hope for. There’s also elements that I don’t think are fully explained (what the link was between Giancarlo Prete’s character and Ezio Marano’s character, for instance), and the whole finale, while okay, was just that – okay, and largely unspectacular.

Admittedly this came as a surprise, as I have heard this is one of the more popular gialli out there, and perhaps one of the better ones not done by Mario Bava, Sergino Martino, Lucio Fulci, or Dario Argento. It’s a perfectly fine mystery, and the kills are decent, but even as a fan of these movies, I do feel that large portions were somewhat sluggish, and not getting the hang of the whole picture (at least as clearly as other films do, such as Deep Red) just made it feel weaker.

As far as the cast goes, the only ones who really stand out are Ezio Marano, Eugene Walter, and Giancarlo Giannini. I don’t think we really get that much information on Marano’s character, but he does well with the role. Eugene Walter had almost no relevance whatsoever to the plot, but his character appeared a few times, and he amused me. Giannini (who would pop up 30 years later as the Italian cop going after Lecter in Hannibal) was pretty solid as the lead, which is good, because otherwise, we wouldn’t have had much.

I’m always the type to enjoy mysteries mixed up with my murder, which is why giallo films appeal to me. They’re not always great (such as Mario Bava’s Five Dolls for an August Moon), but sometimes they can be quite good (Don’t Torture a Duckling and the aforementioned Deep Red). Black Belly of the Tarantula is an okay movie. It’s certainly not bad, even if it does perhaps drag a little. But there’s not enough here for me to think of the movie as necessarily good, and while I’ve wanted to see it for some time now, I can admit that it doesn’t do as much for me as I’d have hoped.


La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba (1971)

Directed by Emilio Miraglia [Other horror films: La dama rossa uccide sette volte (1972)]

Commonly known as The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, this Italian giallo is a very solid movie, providing you have the right print. It’s a movie I’ve seen before, but it didn’t make much of an impression, so seeing it again, in a quality copy, really allowed the film to shine.

I was first exposed to this film via the Mill Creek 50-movie pack titled Pure Terror – while the copy there is perhaps serviceable (I don’t remember much from my first viewing, but I didn’t hate it, at least), it’s video quality is quite bad, and the film’s dubbed. With this new viewing, I caught it on Shudder – I can’t express how much better the film looks. Also, the Shudder version is Italian with English subtitles, which is always my preference. Definitely makes a rewatch for this one worth it.

The story isn’t anything mind-blowingly new, and if anyone is familiar with the tenets of both Italian giallo and gothic movies, maybe some of the elements here will feel pedestrian, but I think everything blended together beautifully and made The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave work very well.

I’ve always loved gialli, and I think the reason is easy to understand – I also loved those old dark house horror films of the 1920’s and 1930’s (The Last Warning, The Cat and the Canary, The Monster Walks, and The Bat Whispers, for instance). I love mystery mixed in with my horror, and when we’re thrown multiple suspects, as many gialli do, I have a great time trying to figure out who the killer is, and why they’re committing these crimes. And it’s no different with this movie.

At times, I will admit it felt a bit like films such as The Screaming Skull and Diabolique, and it’s pretty clear early on that there’s no true supernatural elements here, and that a plot is afoot. The question then becomes who is the plot aimed at, who’s doing the plotting, and why is the plotting being done, and as with all great gialli (though to be sure, this film is moderately unique in that it throws in a supernatural facade for the giallo-centric murders), there’s a lot of possible combinations that make perfect sense.

The best part about all of this? It’s been so long since I’ve seen this movie, I completely blanked on the finale, and so when we got to the final 15 minutes, where we get a lot of revelations, I was overjoyed and having the blast of my life.

I can’t say that anyone in the cast stood out, but pretty much everyone did a good job. Anthony Steffen made for a solid lead, and Enzo Tarascio probably played one of the more interesting characters, but the rest, from Marina Malfatti, Roberto Maldera, and Giacomo Rossi Stuart to Umberto Raho, Joan C. Davis, Erika Blanc, all performed well.

If I did have one complaint, and to be sure, it’s a mild one at that, but the fact that the central character’s wife’s infidelity didn’t play into the film. We saw the flashback of his wife and a mysterious man making love in a garden, and I was guessing that the man would somehow matter later on, but it just didn’t swing that way. I can’t tell if that’s just me seeing too much from the flashback, or an intentional red herring, but I did find it a little annoying.

Other than that, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is a very solid movie, and if you have access to a quality print of it, it’s an Italian movie that’s certainly worth seeing, especially if Italian horror from the 1970’s is a preference of yours.


The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

Directed by Piers Haggard [Other horror films: Venom (1981)]

While this British film certainly possesses some elements that are, on the whole, enjoyable, after seeing it twice, I have to admit that it feels somewhat aimless in it’s goal, and though I do enjoy good portions of this, overall, I’m not sure it’s as strong as it could have been.

The rather small setting – a little hamlet in jolly Olde England – works well with this story, and the production is decent enough to give everything a viable enough feeling of that time period. That doesn’t help the movie feel any more focused, but it does ring true, and that counts for a lot given this is a period piece.

I think much of the meandering tone can be best explained by the fact that originally, the movie was supposed to be three separate stories, an idea that was dropped to just a singular story, but I get the sense that, while things are still connected, they didn’t entirely lose that original mindset. And in a way, this is sort of unique, but even so, it doesn’t always make for the most enjoyable viewing experience.

Patrick Wymark (The Skull and The Psychopath) takes a little to grow on me, but he eventually does, especially when he comes back toward the finale. Linda Hayden (of Taste the Blood of Dracula and Madhouse) was fun to see anytime she was on-screen. Not too many others stood out, though, aside from perhaps Simon Williams (of Remembrance of the Daleks, perhaps on of Sylvester McCoy’s most memorable stories during his stint as the Doctor) and James Hayter.

The special effects, when they pop up, are decent. You get some quality claws, a dismembered hand, and a few other surprises, but despite the title of the film, it’s not as though there’s a lot of gore to be had here. Think any average Hammer movie, and that’s pretty much what you’re in for (though to be clear, this is from Tigon).

The Blood on Satan’s Claw isn’t a bad movie, and those in the horror community know that it’s generally well-respected. It’s a movie I’ve seen twice now, though, and as much as I wish I could like it more, elements just fall flat for me, and the quasi-disjointed nature of the story irks me. It’s not bad for a watch every five years, maybe, but it’s far from a preferred 70’s film of mine.


Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Directed by Michel Levesque [Other horror films: N/A]

Werewolves on Wheels? Sounds like a fun time. Instead, this is an ultimately dull and really forgettable experience with very little going for it.

And I do mean little. Most of the movie is tedious bike-riding or just the bikers chilling, not doing much of anything aside from arguing about the validity of tarot cards. The werewolf attacks are fine, but there’s only two in the first hour and ten minutes, and the ending, which certainly increases the death toll, is virtually incomprehensible.

What hurts Werewolves on Wheels most is that none of the characters, and I mean none of them, are memorable in any way. I didn’t feel anything for any one of them, aside from Donna Anders, who had a nude scene with the Satanic monks (not as exciting as it sounds, I’m afraid to report).

I’m not saying that Werewolves on Wheels didn’t have potential, because, I mean, it’s called Werewolves on Wheels. But for most of the film the story dragged something awful, and there’s very little here that’s worth remembering or seeing the movie again for.


Death by Invitation (1971)

Directed by Ken Friedman [Other horror films: N/A]

Every Christmas season, you can find a Yule Log channel or video, with some solid crackling and dancing flames, to give you a feel of an authentic fireplace. I never really understood the appeal, but after seeing Death by Invitation, I think that’d easily be a more enjoyable alternative.

Could Death by Invitation have worked? It’s certainly possible, and I won’t take away from the potential the story had, if only the execution had been better. What we got here instead was just dull and tedious, with really boring conversations and not much else.

Well, in the movie’s defense, there was one solid scene, in which a character cuts off the head of another character and holds it up to a younger sister, appropriately startling her. But that was something like an hour into the movie, and that was the only scene to me that was worth seeing. Unless, of course, you like hearing a young woman talk about some Native American tribe where the women did the hunting and the men greased the women up, but they had to be on their knees, so the women… (This story is luckily only told once, which is good, as it was just six minutes of a woman talking slowly while a man watched her, expression either astonished, aroused, or afraid – I could never tell which – but it was threatened to be told again toward the end, and I legitimately groaned at the time).

The movie eventually connects the death of the witch at the beginning of the film to the events that befall an unfortunate family in present day, but it was never clear to me that it clicked to any of the characters, and while there were a bunch of three-second flashbacks to the judgment and execution of the suspected witch, I think that was more for the audience than the characters, which is ultimately a bad choice, as the audience didn’t really need nor want it.

Was Shelby Leverington attractive? Indeed she was. Was there ever any nudity, despite the fact her character seduced two men? Not once. And this is the 1970’s we’re talking about. ‘Tis shameful, as is the movie as a whole. Even worse, it’s just so damn dull.


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.


The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Directed by Robert Fuest [Other horror films: And Soon the Darkness (1970), Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), The Devil’s Rain (1975), Three Dangerous Ladies (1977, segment ‘The Island’)]

I’ve seen this one something like three or four times before, and I always left with a lukewarm feeling. Seeing it once again, I don’t find the movie bad, or even all that mediocre, but despite the cleverness and amusing pieces of dialogue throughout, this still isn’t a movie I love.

As it is, I really like most of the really random kills (perhaps the death-by-brass-unicorn is my favorite, but the bat kill was great, as were the locusts, snow-blower, and the exsanguination scenes), and the character of Dr. Phibes, played by Vincent Price, was really interesting and moderately tragic. Even so, the movie doesn’t work for me.

Vincent Price was a clear stand-out, but this movie isn’t really as driven by him as many of his other films are (such as House on Haunted Hill or Theater of Blood), possibly because he didn’t speak all that often. Others were pretty solid also, such as Joseph Cotton, Terry-Thomas (who I love in anything I see him in, from The Vault of Horror to my favorite comedy, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World), and Peter Jeffrey.

The movie does possess a bit of a tragic feel, especially toward the somewhat somber conclusion (which also had a solid precursor to a Saw series trap, which was innovative), so that worked out well, but though I enjoyed much of the comedy (which was never too pervasive, luckily), I still find the movie hovering around average, which may change sometime in the future with another viewing.


This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

La corta notte delle bambole di vetro (1971)

Directed by Aldo Lado [Other horror films: Chi l’ha vista morire? (1972), L’ultimo treno della notte (1975), Il Notturno di Chopin (2013)]

This Italian giallo, widely known as Short Night of Glass Dolls, was a decent film for much if the run-time, but toward the end, it sort of went into a somewhat incoherent mess.

The mystery here is pretty good, and enjoyable to watch unfold. A young woman disappears without a trace in Prague, and her lover, an American journalist, attempts to find her. It’s typical for a giallo, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. It’s made better by the setting, and more so, the time period, as this took place when then-Czechoslovakia was a Communist state behind the Iron Curtain.

Because of that, there is a bit of anti-USSR material strewn throughout the film, and even toward the conclusion, though I don’t think it’s terribly over-troubling. It does lead to a more oppressive feel, and much of the going-ons have a very conspiratorial feeling to them. Problematically, the conclusion doesn’t explain what’s going on nearly as well as I’d have liked, and honestly, I’m at a loss right now as to what actually happened, and why. It’s just not made clear, as far as I could tell.

Worth noting, most of the main story is told via flashback, and the present-day material, luckily, is decently engaging. Still, I don’t care much for the conclusion they had there, either, though it certainly possessed a somewhat bleaker feel than some audiences might be used to.

I’m not trying to harp too much on the movie, because much of it is really engrossing. It’s not until the final ten minutes or so that the movie, in my opinion, falls apart. It’s just rather noticeable because my enjoyment level went down so much as the ending unfolded, and I felt that given how good the film was before, it was rather unfortunate.

I liked much of the principal cast of this film. Jean Sorel took a little bit, but he grew on me as the film went on. Playing a friend of his, I thought that Mario Adorf did well with his more care-free, fun-loving character. Lastly, playing the woman who goes missing, Barbara Bach did well as a beautiful, semi-mysterious woman.

For a giallo, La corta notte delle bambole di vetro is extraordinarily tame. There’s little to no gore, and many of the staples you might expect from the subgenre, such as first-person view from the killer, or black gloves, are absent. The mystery is certainly here, and like I said, it’s done well, but this movie feels really toned down, and if you’re expecting a run-of-the-mill giallo, then you’ll likely to be disappointed.

I will admit to being disappointed by this one, if only because the conclusion (to both the flashback and present-day stories) were so unsatisfactory. I can live with little gore, because the story was otherwise engaging, but what draws me to giallos is how everything’s pieced together nicely at the end, and I definitely didn’t get that feeling here. For what this movie is, it’s okay, but I’d definitely temper your expectations before jumping in.


Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal (1971)


Directed by Joël Séria [Other horror films: N/A]

What makes a slow-burn movie good? It’s upon examination of this question that will lead to whether you will like or dislike this film. Known in the USA as Don’t Deliver Us from Evil, this French film is an interesting one, and as alluded to, quite the slow-burn. But does the ending pay off?

The plot of the film is simple, in that two Catholic girls decide they want to push the limits and sin (welcome to the consequences of religious oppression). For the first hour and twenty minutes, there’s very few horror elements – it’s just the two girls going around doing ‘bad’ things of varying degrees (poisoning canaries, setting bales of hay on fire, teasing men with sexual come-ons), and it feels somewhat aimless, in many ways.

Eventually, when something more in the realm of the genre happens, things pick up a bit, but that’s in the final twenty minutes of the film. Now, what doesn’t make this a complete loss is the fact that the two main actresses Jeanne Goupil and Catherine Wagener were amazing in their roles. They were both very convincing, both as innocent Catholic schoolgirls, and then as randy, sensual young women wanting to explore the more lustful side of life (on a side-note, for a good majority of this movie, it seems like a coming-of-age story).

Honestly, for a French film, this was pretty tame. Despite plenty of scenes of the two young women in their underwear, never once is lesbianism encroached upon (I’ll be honest, I was expecting something like that from the very beginning), and while there’s occasionally nudity, it’s pretty brief. And the two attempted rape scenes are both more on the mild side, at least compared to other such scenes of the same time period.

Instead, they attempted to build up to the end, which somewhat worked, but a somewhat shocking final minute of the film doesn’t really excuse an hour and forty minutes of very little happening beforehand. Still, Don’t Deliver Us from Evil occasionally had a chilly vibe, helped along by a very haunting soundtrack that popped up multiple times throughout the film.

A classic of sorts, with pretty high ratings from various sources, this movie didn’t entirely do it for me. Fantastic acting aside, it was just way too slow, despite occasionally showing us some interesting scenes. No doubt I was pretty engaged during the whole of the film, but I was hoping for something more than the great ending they had. If you’re a practicing Catholic, though, this film will probably be a lot more effective.