Film Review – JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987)

JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987, USA, 89m, 12) **
Adventure, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Joseph Sargent; w. Michael De Guzman (based on characters created by Peter Benchley); pr. Joseph Sargent; ph. John McPherson (DeLuxe | 2.35:1); m. Michael Small; ed. Michael Brown; pd. John J. Lloyd; ad. Donald B. Woodruff.
cast: Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Lance Guest (Michael Brody), Mario Van Peebles (Jake), Karen Young (Carla Brody), Michael Caine (Hoagie), Judith Barsi (Thea), Mitchell Anderson (Sean Brody), Lynn Whitfield (Louisa), Jay Mello (Young Sean Brody), Cedric Scott (Clarence), Charles Bowleg (William), Melvin Van Peebles (Mr. Witherspoon), Mary Smith (Tiffany), Edna Billotto (Polly), Fritzi Jane Courtney (Mrs. Taft), Cyprian R. Dube (Mayor), Lee Fierro (Mrs. Kintner), Moby Griffin (Man in the Boat), Diane Hetfield (Mrs. Ferguson), Daniel J. Manning (Jesus).
Whilst not as bad as its reputation, this third sequel to 1975’s JAWS becomes increasingly preposterous and unravels totally in its final act. The family of widow Ellen Brody (Gary) has long been plagued by shark attacks, and this unfortunate association continues when her youngest son Sean (Anderson) is the victim of a massive great white. In mourning, Ellen goes to visit her other son, Michael (Guest), in the Bahamas, where she meets the charming pilot Hoagie Newcombe (Caine). As Ellen and Hoagie begin a relationship, a huge shark appears off the coast of the island, and Ellen’s trouble with the great whites begins again. The premise presented here through Gary’s paranoia is that the shark is targeting the Brody family. Whilst this is never overtly stated as the reason for the latest attacks, the lack of any logical alternative explanation leaves the film dependant on our willingness to suspend our disbelief. The film is well presented in its early scenes in Amity. When the action moves to the Bahamas, the exotic location makes for some nice photography both above and below the surface. Caine offers up a likeable performance, whilst Gary does her best to persuade us her fears are grounded. Sargent then loses total control of the film in its finale, which is hampered by poor effects work and haphazard editing, which stifle any potential build of tension. Reminders of the masterly original only serve to confirm how low the series had sunk since that classic tale of character and suspense.

Film Review – JAWS 3 (1983)

JAWS 3 (1983, USA, 99m, PG) **
Action, Horror, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures / Alan Landsburg Productions / MCA Theatricals; d. Joe Alves; w. Richard Matheson, Carl Gottlieb (based on a story by Guerdon Trueblood and characters created by Peter Benchley); pr. Rupert Hitzig; ph. James A. Contner (Technicolor | 2.39:1); m. Alan Parker; ed. Corky Ehlers, Randy Roberts; pd. Woods Mackintosh; ad. Paul Eads, Christopher Horner.
cast: Dennis Quaid (Mike Brody), Bess Armstrong (Kathryn Morgan), Simon MacCorkindale (Philip FitzRoyce), Louis Gossett Jr. (Calvin Bouchard), John Putch (Sean Brody), Lea Thompson (Kelly Ann Bukowski), P.H. Moriarty (Jack Tate), Dan Blasko (Dan), Liz Morris (Liz), Lisa Maurer (Ethel), Harry Grant (Shelby Overman), Andy Hansen (Silver Bullet), P.T. Horn (Tunnel Guide), John Edson (Bob Woodbury), Kaye Stevens (Mrs. Kallender), Rich Valliere (Leonard Glass (as Archie Valliere)), Alonzo Ward (Fred), Cathy Cervenka (Sherrie), Jane Horner (Suzie), Kathy Jenkins (Sheila).
This is the second of the increasingly preposterous sequels to 1975’s mega-hit JAWS. The gimmick here is that the film was shot in 3-D and was released as JAWS 3-D. The story here sees a young great white shark finds its way into a sea-themed park managed by Calvin Bouchard (Gossett Jr.), where workers try to capture it. But the facility’s attempt to keep the shark in captivity has dire consequences: A much larger mother shark appears in search of its offspring. Among those who must battle the angry aquatic killing machine are marine biologist Kathryn Morgan (Armstrong), her co-worker Mike Brody (Quaid) and a pair of friendly dolphins. Alves seems more interested in compiling as many 3-D jump scares and depth of field shots than he is in building a compelling story. The result is some decidedly dodgy effects work – the shark footage is often unconvincing – made all the more obvious due to the 3-D process. Quaid and Armstrong do their best to breathe life into their stock characters and situations, whilst Gossett Jr. and McCorkindale see the material for what it is and play with tongue-in-cheek. Followed by JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987).

Film Review – PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943)

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943, USA, 92m, PG) ***
Drama, Horror, Music, Romance, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Arthur Lubin; w. Eric Taylor, Samuel Hoffenstein, Hans Jacoby (based on the novel “Le Fantôme de L’Opéra” by Gaston Leroux); pr. George Waggner; ph. W. Howard Greene, Hal Mohr (Technicolor | 1.37:1); m. Edward Ward; ed. Russell F. Schoengarth; ad. Alexander Golitzen, John B. Goodman.
cast: Nelson Eddy (Anatole Garron), Susanna Foster (Christine DuBois), Claude Rains (Erique Claudin), Edgar Barrier (Raoul Daubert), Leo Carrillo (Signor Ferretti), Jane Farrar (Biancarolli), J. Edward Bromberg (Amiot), Fritz Feld (Lecours), Frank Puglia (Villeneuve), Steven Geray (Vercheres), Barbara Everest (Aunt), Hume Cronyn (Gerard), Fritz Leiber (Franz Liszt), Nicki Andre (Lorenzi), Gladys Blake (Jeanne), Elvira Curci (Biancarolli’s Maid), Hans Herbert (Marcel), Kate Drain Lawson (Landlady), Miles Mander (Pleyel), Rosina Galli (Christine’s Maid).
Lavish production of Gaston Leroux’s novel in which the talented Christine (Foster) is unaware that her singing lessons are being funded by a secret admirer, Enrique (Rains), a mysterious violinist with a disfigured face. Christine’s colleagues become suspicious when mysterious accidents start occurring at the Paris Opera House, as the deaths coincide with her meteoric rise to stardom. Christine’s suitors, Raoul (Barrier) and Anatole (Eddy), brave the dark recesses of the opera house to find the true culprit. The film suffers from the imbalance of music to horror with the former creating some longueurs. Attempts at comedy also feel forced. Rains does his best, but his role lacks the motivation that was apparently evident in earlier drafts of the script. Some effective scenes do emerge, however – notably the chase through the flies and the finale in the Phantom’s lair. The extravagant and evocative art direction and crisp Technicolor cinematography deservedly won Oscars. Filmed many times before and since to varying degrees of success.
AA: Best Cinematography, Color (Hal Mohr, W. Howard Greene); Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Color (Alexander Golitzen, John B. Goodman, Russell A. Gausman, Ira Webb)
AAN: Best Sound, Recording (Bernard B. Brown (Universal SSD)); Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Edward Ward)

Film Review – THE RAVEN (1935)

THE RAVEN (1935, USA, 61m, PG) ***½
Crime, Horror
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Lew Landers; w. David Boehm (based on the poem by Edgar Allan Poe); exec pr. Stanley Bergerman (uncredited); ph. Charles J. Stumar (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Clifford Vaughan; ed. Albert Akst; ad. Albert S. D’Agostino.
cast: Boris Karloff (Edmond Bateman), Bela Lugosi (Dr. Richard Vollin), Lester Matthews (Dr. Jerry Holden), Irene Ware (Jean Thatcher), Samuel S. Hinds (Judge Thatcher), Spencer Charters (Col. Bertram Grant), Inez Courtney (Mary Burns), Ian Wolfe (Geoffrey “Pinky”), Maidel Turner (Harriet).
Lugosi plays a spurned surgeon who seeks revenge using Edgar Allan Poe’s devices of torture and a hideously disfigured Karloff. Lugosi gives a commanding interpretation of madness in this lean horror that makes up in enthusiastic performances what it lacks in the sophistication and black humour that a director like James Whale would have brought to the proceedings. Karloff makes a late entrance and once again gives a strong physical performance mixing both pathos and threat. Ware makes a sparkling, if screechy, heroine and the final act in Lugosi’s chamber of horrors is enjoyably tense.

Film Review – DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936)

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936, USA, 71m, PG) ***
Drama, Fantasy, Horror
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Lambert Hillyer; w. Garrett Fort (based on the story “Dracula’s Guest” by Bram Stoker); pr. E.M. Asher; ph. George Robinson (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Heinz Roemheld; ed. Milton Carruth; ad. Albert S. D’Agostino.
cast: Otto Kruger (Jeffrey Garth), Gloria Holden (Countess Marya Zaleska), Marguerite Churchill (Janet), Edward Van Sloan (Professor Von Helsing), Gilbert Emery (Sir Basil Humphrey), Irving Pichel (Sandor), Halliwell Hobbes (Hawkins), Billy Bevan (Albert), Nan Grey (Lilis), Hedda Hopper (Lady Esme Hammond), Claud Allister (Sir Aubreys), Edgar Norton (Hobbs), E.E. Clive (Sergeant Wilkes).
This sequel to Universal’s 1931 adaptation of DRACULA commences where that film left off with Von Helsing (Van Sloan) arrested for the murder of Count Dracula. Dracula’s “daughter” (Holden) is still alive — and the Count’s death has brought her no closer to eradicating her vampiric thirst for blood. When attempts to free herself of the disease fail, she turns to psychiatrist Kruger for assistance, but soon finds herself struggling with her inner demons. The film lacks the gothic atmosphere of the original and underuses Van Sloan. Holden holds the screen well but there is little progression of the plot during the scenes in London leading to a rushed finale’s return to Castle Dracula in Transylvania. A nice touch is the humorous verbal interplay between Kruger and his secretary Churchill.  Followed by SON OF DRACULA (1943).

Film Review – THE BLACK CAT (1934)

THE BLACK CAT (1934, USA, 65m, PG) ***½
Crime, Horror, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Edgar G. Ulmer; w. Peter Ruric (based on a story by Edgar G. Ulmer & Peter Ruric and suggested by a story by Edgar Allan Poe); pr. Carl Laemmle Jr. (uncredited); ph. John J. Mescall (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Heinz Roemheld; ed. Ray Curtiss; ad. Charles D. Hall.
cast: Boris Karloff (Hjalmar Poelzig), Bela Lugosi (Dr. Vitus Werdegast), David Manners (Peter Alison), Julie Bishop (Joan Alison (as Jacqueline Wells)), Egon Brecher (The Majordomo), Harry Cording (Thamal), Lucille Lund (Karen), Henry Armetta (The Sergeant), Albert Conti (The Lieutenant).
Dark and macabre story sees Manners and Bishop as a newlywed couple who share their train coach with Dr Vitus (Lugosi), a psychiatrist. Later, they share a bus that crashes in a storm and they move to the fortress-like home of the sinister Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff). This effective horror thriller suffers from a loose script and uneven direction but is heightened by the expert performances of Karloff and Lugosi. Mescall’s shadowy photography and Hall’s stylish production design add to the atmosphere. Watch out for John Carradine as the organist during the cult ritual. Aka: THE HOUSE OF DOOM; THE VANISHING BODY.

Film Review – THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)

THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932, USA, 72m, PG) ****
Comedy, Horror, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. James Whale; w. Benn W. Levy (based on the novel by J.B. Priestley); pr. Carl Laemmle Jr.; ph. Arthur Edeson (uncredited) (B&W | 1.37:1); ed. Maurice Pivar (uncredited); pd. Charles D. Hall.
cast: Boris Karloff (Morgan), Melvyn Douglas (Penderel), Charles Laughton (Sir William Porterhouse), Lilian Bond (Gladys), Ernest Thesiger (Horace Femm), Eva Moore (Rebecca Femm), Raymond Massey (Philip Waverton), Gloria Stuart (Margaret Waverton), Elspeth Dudgeon (Sir Roderick Femm (as John Dudgeon)), Brember Wills (Saul Femm).
Alternately funny and chilling, this thriller sees three travellers, driving through a brutal thunderstorm in Wales, take refuge in an eerie house owned by the Femm family. Reluctantly admitted by Horace Femm (Thesiger), the three sit down to a strange dinner. Horace is neurotic; mute butler Morgan (Karloff) is an alcoholic; and Horace’s sister, Rebecca (Moore), raves about chastity. When the storm brings in an industrialist and chorus girl Gladys DuCane Perkins (Bond), Morgan’s lust and Rebecca’s ire are ignited. Whale injects the adaptation with his unmistakable brand of the camp and the macabre. Whilst some of the performances are dated in their dialogue delivery. there is plenty of atmosphere created by Edeson’s lighting of the scenes and Hall’s gothic production design of the house. Karloff commands the screen with his physical presence and it is interesting to see Laughton playing his Lancastrian aristocrat with a broad accent.

Film Review – ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948, USA) ***
Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); pr co. Universal International Pictures (UI); d. Charles Barton; w. Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, John Grant; pr. Robert Arthur; ph. Charles Van Enger (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Frank Skinner; ed. Frank Gross; ad. Hilyard M. Brown, Bernard Herzbrun; rel. 15 June 1948 (USA), August 1949 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 83m.
cast: Bud Abbott (Chick), Lou Costello (Wilbur), Lon Chaney Jr. (Lawrence Talbot / The Wolfman), Bela Lugosi (Dracula), Glenn Strange (Monster), Lenore Aubert (Sandra Mornay), Jane Randolph (Joan Raymond), Frank Ferguson (Mr. McDougal), Charles Bradstreet (Dr. Stevens).
Abbott and Costello play two hapless freight handlers who find themselves encountering Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man. Enjoyment of this horror comedy will depend on your tolerance of the antics of the comedy duo who lack the sophistication, inventiveness and dignity of Laurel & Hardy, but became immensely popular nonetheless. One or two amusing moments do surface, and it is great to see Lugosi, Chaney and co. in action again. Lugosi is particularly effective returning to his signature role of Count Dracula. Watch out for the final gag, which is the best of the production. In 2001, the Library of Congress selected this film for preservation in the National Film Registry. On screen title: BUD ABBOTT AND LOU COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. UK Title: ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE GHOSTS.

Film Review – THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM (2016)

LIMEHOUSE GOLEM, THE (2016, UK) **
Horror, Thriller
dist. Lionsgate (UK); pr co. New Sparta Films / Number 9 Films; d. Juan Carlos Medina; w. Jane Goldman (based on the novel “Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem” by Peter Ackroyd); pr. Elizabeth Karlsen, Joanna Laurie, Stephen Woolley; ph. Simon Dennis (Colour. D-Cinema. Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Todd-AO 35 (anamorphic) (source format). 2.35:1); m. Johan Söderqvist; ed. Justin Krish; pd. Grant Montgomery; ad. Nick Wilkinson; rel. 10 September 2016 (Canada), 1 September 2017 (UK), 8 September 2017 (USA – internet); BBFC cert: 15; r/t. 109m.
cast: Bill Nighy (John Kildare), Olivia Cooke (Lizzie Cree), Douglas Booth (Dan Leno), Daniel Mays (George Flood), Sam Reid (John Cree), Eddie Marsan (Uncle), María Valverde (Aveline Ortega), Adam Brown (Mr. Gerrard), Morgan Watkins (George Gissing), Damien Thomas (Solomon Weil), Peter Sullivan (Inspector Roberts), Amelia Crouch (Young Lizzie), Mark Tandy (Judge), Siobhán Cullen (Sister Mary), Clive Brunt (Charlie), Louisa-May Parker (Mrs. Gerrard), Nicholas Woodeson (Toby Dosett), Paul Ritter (Augustus Rowley), David Bamber (Mr. Greatorex), Levi Heaton (Sarah Martin).
In Victorian London, a Scotland Yard inspector (Nighy) hunts down the sadistic killer behind a series of gory, Jack the Ripper-Like murders. The story tries to be clever in its use of a non-linear structure, which doesn’t work, and comes across as simultaneously convoluted and obvious. As a result, there is little tension built from Goldman’s smug adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s novel. Medina adds some interesting directorial flourishes in an attempt to enliven the material and there is plenty of period atmosphere created by Montgomery’s production design and Dennis’ gloomy photography. However, the production fails to fully explore the themes it highlights – notably Nighy’s character’s sexuality, which is often referenced but never delved into further. The performances are okay, but the production’s fluctuating tone is also an issue and there are no standouts amongst the cast. The result will likely disappoint genre fans of both horror and mystery with the production’s desire to impress, through its non-traditional approach to the material, taking precedence over telling a coherent and well-structured story.

Film Review – SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939)

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939, USA) ****
Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Rowland V. Lee; w. Wyllis Cooper (suggested by the novel “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley); pr. Rowland V. Lee; ph. George Robinson (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Frank Skinner; ed. Ted J. Kent; ad. Jack Otterson; rel. 13 January 1939 (USA), January 1939 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 99m.
cast: Basil Rathbone (Baron Wolf von Frankenstein), Boris Karloff (The Monster), Bela Lugosi (Ygor), Lionel Atwill (Inspector Krogh), Josephine Hutchinson (Elsa von Frankenstein), Donnie Dunagan (Peter von Frankenstein), Emma Dunn (Amelia), Edgar Norton (Thomas Benson), Perry Ivins (Fritz), Lawrence Grant (Burgomaster), Lionel Belmore (Emil Lang), Michael Mark (Ewald Neumüller), Caroline Frances Cooke (Frau Neumüller), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Burgher), Lorimer Johnston (Burgher), Tom Ricketts (Burgher).
Rathbone is the son of original Frankenstein who returns to the ancestral castle long after the death of the monster (Karloff). There he meets the mad shepherd Ygor (Lugosi) who is hiding the comatose creature. To clear the family name, he revives the creature and tries to rehabilitate him. The third in the series was successful enough to re-ignite Universal’s interest in the genre. Whilst the plot may be familiar, there are still many iconic moments here that make this another high quality addition to the series. Lugosi is superb as the bitter and twisted (both mentally and physically) Ygor and Atwill enjoys himself as the police inspector with an artificial arm (lampooned hilariously in Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)). Rathbone too rises to the occasion with an energetic performance. Karloff continues to add pathos and a physical presence to the role of the creature, but here he is given less to do. The expressionistic set design and shadowy photography are first class and Lee directs the material with a sure hand. The series would descend into routine hokum starting with THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942).