Once You’re in My Shop, I’ll Wager You’ll Do Anything I Ask

08 the devil doll

They don’t get much weirder then this Tod Browning flick. Lionel Barrymore breaks out of prison with a mad scientist. The scientist has developed a method to shrink people and animals into tiny little obedient doll-like creatures. The scientist dies, Barrymore starts dressing in drag, and opens a toy business, while he looks for vengeance.

Then we have a tiny little woman in heels playing thief and assassin, some family intrigue, some detectives, and a little guy hanging from a Christmas tree.

This vampire business, it has given me a great idea for a new act.

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Bela Lugosi plays vampire for Tod Browning again, and he seems to have fewer lines then he did in Dracula. It’s a remake of Browning’s London After Midnight, and it’s a fine little picture, with some pretty silly effects, including a slow flying bat that keeps dropping by.

Lionel Barrymore is fine as the Van Helsing stand in, and the final act twists keep the party interesting. Not a classic, but well worth an hour of your time.

Lugosi walks around with an unexplained bullet wound in his head, which is said to tie back to some scenes that were cut from the film because they implied an incestious relationship between Lugosi’s character and his daughter.

they’re dead people from the grave

06 london after midnight

Made in 1927, directed by Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney, London After Midnight is, unfortunately, lost. What’s airing on TCM is a photo reconstruction, comprised of still photographs, text screens, and a musical score. It is rather difficult to watch in this form, and get any kind of fell for what the film was like. You can put together the storyline, but the tone, which is the most important aspect of a horror picture, is lost. Still intriguing from a historical standpoint.

There are centuries in this room, Mrs. Rolf…

05 burnt offerings

Haunted house picture by Dan Curtis, of Dark Shadows and Kolchak The Night Stalker fame. It’s got a solid cast of character actors including Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith, Bette Davis, and Karen Black. William F. Nolan, creator of Logan’s Run, worked on the script with Curtis.

It moves slowly and deliberately, and much of the evil of the house is subtle. The constant soft focus adds a feeling of unreality to the whole affair.

Some of the twists seem a little obvious, and a few things are never satisfactorily explained, but it’s still remarkably effective.

 

Whatever Walked There, Walked Alone

04 the haunting

The Haunting is the undisputed master of haunted house movies, based on the greatest haunted house novel ever written, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It’s directed by the versatile Robert Wise, who also directed The Sound of Music, West Side Story, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and Star Trek The Motion Picture.

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

It’s a familiar set up now, used in The Legend of Hell House (which we’ve already seen this evening) and Stephen King’s Rose Red, along with an ill conceived remake, but this is where it all began, a team of investigators stay in a notorious haunted house with hopes of making scientific sense of the haunting.

The entire cast is superb, especially Julie Harris, who falls apart completely over the course of the film.

The Rest of The Page is Blank

03 13 ghosts

Another William Castle film, but no Vincent Price this time. A sitcom like happy family inherit a house haunted by, you guessed it, 13 ghosts. Solid cast that manages to be funny and charming one minute and scared to death the next. Seems like a possible precursor to Poltergeist, with the mix of family friendly with the supernatural.

The gimmick in this one, because Castle always had a gimmick, was a special set of glasses you had to wear to see the ghosts.

It’s written by Robb White, who also wrote House on Haunted Hill, and it ends with a similar sort of twist and deception, and it feels a bit repetitive, but that may be because I’ve just watched the earlier film a couple of hours ago.

“His was a frightening visiage, like the face of a demon that had taken on some human aspect.”

02 hell house

“Drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, beastiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies. Shall I go on? “

Richard Matheson wrote the screenplay to this corker, based on his own novel. He had to tone down a lot of the sexual elements of the book, but they still provide a strong undercurrent to the film. Roddy McDowell is excellent in this, one of his most memorable roles. Clive Revill, Pamela Franklin, and Gayle Hunnicutt are all solid, as well.

The film’s boogeyman, Emeric Belasco, is modeled on Aleister Crowley, the self-proclaimed magician and “most evil man in London”.

It’s a very seventies film in costume and stage dressing, but the narrative is compelling enough that you don’t even notice after a few minutes, save for McDowell’s bell bottoms.

On to 13 Ghosts…