Night Fright (1967)

 

<<Seven Second Survey>>

  • Movie production stuff
  • John Agar: how to get ahead in Hollywood
  • Yeah, its bad
  • John Agar – Life on the B-Side
  • ‘Blubber blown beyond all believable bounds’
  • Should we still watch it?
  • How John Agar found his Zen

 night_fright_box_

Movie title:
Night Fright (1967, USA)
E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie (1983(?), UK)
Matthew at the Movies Rating: (one star-out of 10)
Movie genres: Sci-fi; Horror, B-movie,
Actors:

  • John Agar as Sheriff Clint Crawford
  • Carol Gilley as Nurse Joan Scott
  • Ralph Baker Jr. as Chris Jordan
  • Dorothy Davis as Judy
  • Bill Thurman as Deputy Ben Whitfield
  • Roger Ready as Prof. Alan Clayton
  • Gary McLain as Wes Blau
  • Darlene Drew as Darlene Scott
  • Frank Jolly as Rex Bowers
  • Bill Holly as Deputy Pat Lance
  • Janiz Menshew as Carla
  • Russ Marker as Mitch
  • Toni Pearce as Betty the Waitress
  • Christi Simmons as Annie
  • Brenda Venus as Sue
  • Byron Lord as Government Man
  • Ronnie Weaver as Government Man
  • Olivia Pinion as Partygoer
  • Nancy Mann as Partygoer
  • Lewis Helm as Partygoer
  • Jeanie Wilson as Mary Bennett
  • Rod Paxton as Buddy Williams
  • The Wildcats – soundtrack effects and music played in movie

 Writers: Russ Marker
Directors:
James A. Sullivan
Producer: Wallace Clyce Jr.
Cinematography: Robert C. Jessup
Edited by: Arthur Sullivan
Movie length:
88 m.
65 m. (UK)

 

Girl: Good heaven’s I just realized where we are – Satan’s hollar – why did we come all the way here to park?

Guy: Just to be alone (saunters in for another kiss).

Girl: Silly – I know that (in overdone, southern girl accent) Buuut why this spooky place? The lake would have been…more romantic.

Guy: Sure. And busy as a meat market selling 10-cent steaks.

The Most Interesting Man (In This Movie)
The most interesting thing about Night Fright (1967) is probably not the virtually unbearable dialog nor even the movie itself – but rather the one actor that the credits seem to actually highlight in bright, bold letters – both right off the bat and at its end – as if to surreptitiously suggest that this person is exactly why we should even be watching this movie: John Agar. john_agar_stillAgar began his career by virtue of being married to a young woman who would be given the cherished title of America’s Sweetheart, Shirley Temple. His sister had gone to school with her and somewhere along the line she had caught both his eye and his fancy – and so when the opportunity came along to be her escort to a big party thrown by then-Hollywood mogul David O. Selznick, who had earned notoriety by directing two pictures; both of which had earned best picture Academy Awards, Gone with the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940), he jumped at the opportunity. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind is famous in its own right and Rebecca holds the distinction of being the only Alfred Hitchcock film to earn Best Picture. With these successes under his belt knew not just how to achieve success – but also how and where to find it.

John Agar: Boy Meets Girl / Friends With Benefits
Selznick also no doubt knew how to throw a serious party and the one in 1944 where Agar and Temple met was almost assuredly seriously jumping; he would later be known for his use of amphetamines and shooting movies literally for 22 hours straight at times. It was amidst this Hollywood whose-who and high-energy party-hard socializing that John and Shirley fell in love and soon became an official item. Marriage in 1945 soon followed. And in Hollywood – then as it is now – it’s not what you know but who – and for Agar – being married to a Hollywood starlet meant having a friend with very distinct benefits: a 5 year acting contract that included lessons on how to actually do it. For you see Agar had had his eye on Temple – but it was Selznick who had his eye on Agar. And when all was said and done those who had seen it all go down, knew that it begged the question, just as the song says – ‘who made who?’[1] In 1946, when then-sergeant Agar resigned from his position as a physical fitness instructor at the the United States Army Air Corp’s March Field in Riverside, he knew he had walked out onto a whole new field of play. The lessons must have worked – because after a while, Agar was acting next to John Wayne and would actually go on to made six movies with him (Fort Apache, Sands of Iwo Jima, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Undefeated, Chisum, and Big Jake).[2]

Relegation To The B-Side
john-agar-1967But along with the success and high-energy socializing also came alcohol. And Agar proved not to be as adept with its management; adding alcoholic to his list of personal capabilities. This lead to a fractious marriage – fraught with Agar’s heavy drinking and a subsequent arrest for drunk driving which supposedly drove the two apart. Temple divorced Agar in 1949 citing ‘mental cruelty’ and – for Agar – much of his movie mojo walked out of the door along with her. Although he would go on to make at least two more hits along with John Wayne – he eventually found himself relegated to the B-movie list of which Night Fright (1967) [not to be confused with the hugely successful and beloved 1980’s, vampire flick Fright Night (1985)] is only one among many. He never complained though. For him – if people were enjoying what he was doing – even it if was a small subset of people – he was having fun and being productive in his own eyes. There is something to be said about this self-awareness, existential-realization and self-authentication, as it were. Not many A-listers could make the transition to or back to the B-side of things. But Agar did not just have fun – he thrived on it.

I don’t resent being identified with B science fiction movies at all -why should I? Even though they were not considered top of the line, for those people that like sci-fi, I guess they were fun. – John Agar

Oh, About That Film…
Wait – wasn’t this supposed to be a movie review? Oh, yeah…about that film. In addition to terrible dialogue the movies suffers from disjointed scene transitions that make even the most amateur of movie reviewers wince. The movie genuinely drags along and it seems that the director felt that abrupt scene transitions might actually constitute a startle to the observer – strong enough to perhaps gloss over the overt cheesiness through which the entire escapade seems to melt through.

aquanet-grabv1The film begins with our intrepid lovers who have gone to a remote local somehow named ‘Satan’s hollar’ to get their groove on – only to have their passionate embrace abruptly interrupted by a mysterious creature that kills the girl leaves the boy wounded. Does he die later? – I can’t honestly remember. A reporter starts asking questions about the attacks – you’d think that he could have figured into the progression of the plot – but he does not really. Perhaps the scriptwriter was trying to be original in this regard – but the result is a character that is just kind of awash on the dance floor of a 60’s dance party. John Agar plays Sheriff Clint Crawford, who is the only one who seems to know how to act. There is enough stiffness in this film that it might be confused with the local Lowes’ lumberyard. Sherriff Crawford thinks that there is some kind of animal on the loose and forbids the love-struck gang of proverbially rebellious teens from going back out into the woods to dance, make out or do whatever it was they were doing.

This Doesn’t Need a Monster to be a Mess
screamDeputy Ben Whitfield is then killed in another attack – and his cries for help go unheeded because nobody was ever in the office to hear his cried of anguish over the CB radio. Again – this could have potentially been used in an interesting way. Aren’t horror films supposed to be scary? Perhaps the most absurd point in the movie is when Sheriff Crawford gives Prof. Alan Clayton a plaster cast of the monsters foot. He agrees to study and examine it and says that he will report back. The next day he spills the beans to the Sheriff Crawford saying that he knows of both the creature and from whence it came. I remember watching the scene and thinking that the real world reaction to this would have been a swift punch to the face from Sheriff to Professor. The intimation is made that the professor knew all along what was up – but needed to check or verify something or other. I mean – lives are at stake right? There is more frustration here than fear or horror. Again – this is bungled on the part of the scriptwriter in my personal opinion.

The Monster…
As he tells the story – the monster is/was actually an earthly animal of some unspecified kind that was placed inside a rocket, along with 40 other kind of animals in a project dubbed ‘Noah’s Ark’ which was designed as an experiment to see the effects of cosmic radiation on live animals. Professor Clayton explains that 300k miles out- they lost contact with the animal-laden rocket ship. That was – as he explains – until the other day, when it had unexpectedly crashed back to earth. Professor Clayton goes on to explain that he had personally inspected the crash – and found all of the animals grotesquely mutated into bizarre unearthly monsters. Many were dead, a few from the crash, but then the remaining had been eaten – presumably from the largest animal, which was both horrifically mutated – and was now on the loose. night-fright-1967-monster

…And The Case of The Exploding Whale
You can kind of get the gist of how the movie goes from here; all the college kids rebel and go exactly back to ‘Satan’s Holler’ for more arthritic dancing and the good sheriff goes after the creature. I will save you the time and tell you that they set up a decoy mannequin and load it down with dynamite. After luring the creature out into the open they run past the decoy – which the creature then attacks. Dynamite. Boom. Bad creature dead. Of course there is nothing left of the creature – or at least that we see anymore, save a piece of now blown apart mannequin. Some people reading this may remember a similar situation when dynamite was also used to get rid of a likewise unwanted monstrosity. The case in point took place in Florence, Oregon. It was 1970 and an eight-ton whale had washed up on shore and someone had the bright idea to blow it up with half a ton of dynamite. You have to wonder if they were inspired by this movie. As the newsman who reported it – “the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.” I would not expect you to watch Night Fright – but you should definitely take five minutes and watch the real-life grotesque horror, born of good intentions that that mess became. The news of that has become a staple of Internet lore – having become one of the most watched clips ever uploaded to youtube.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?iv&src_vid=xBgThvB_IDQ&v=uD5sPgV61bw#t=43s)

Bad Prints Abound – and There’s a Reason for itfootprint
The copy of the film that I watched (from TGG Direct, 15 Horror Movies) was not a very good transfer. Likewise – copies that I found online were only marginally better in their quality – although not as bad as some that I have seen. This did make me appreciate some of the older movies that I have re-watched that I have been redone and put on Blu-ray – such as the restored James Bond films in the Blu-ray collector’s edition. Dr No (1962) – which was no doubt shot with the best cameras available in the early 60’s has been given a level of restorative detail that you have to wonder if one could have even been able to to see the film with such clarity in the theatres when it was first released – nevertheless even on tube sets prior to the modern flat screen Ultra-HD marvels that we have today. I would wager that what you can now watch on your laptop is a higher quality version then most people who have seen the film have seen it in. The level of quality that has been teased out of some of these older films is simply amazing. In the case of Dr No it was done frame by frame and selection were made from across all available archival prints. Night Fright will likely never ever see that level of attention – and while I am not any kind of authority on film technology – I think that the Bond films probably had the best film running through their cameras that money could buy to begin. And what was used for Night Fright – probably not so much; the budget and the intentions were never to hit the highest marks. According to IMDB, Night Fright had a budget of $18,000 in 1967. Dr. No had racked up an estimated budget of 1.1 million dollars in 1962, although it would go on to gross something to the tune of 16 million in the United States alone.

Exploiting the Success of Others
e-t-n-extra-terrestrial-nastieSometime in the early 80’s – someone had the idea to re-release the movie with a new title E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie and the film was edited from 88 to 65 min. The title was a clear reference to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – which, as you know, is regarded as one of the greatest films ever made – which had come out it 1982. It held the title for highest grossing film for 11 years. I am surprised that they were not sued for it. E.T.N was released in the U.K. – probably in an effort to skirt American copyright laws.

Why Watch Unbelievably Bad Movies
This brings us to a closing point: why watch mediocre movies from the 60’s like this anyway? For one – there is always the issue that to be able to see real money – you have to handle a lot of counterfeit. I’ve heard stories that this is how some banks train their tellers to be able to tell the good green from the bad – however proverbial this may in fact be – regardless – the same is true with cinematography. You should be willing to see your fair share of bad acting to be able to appreciate and call out really good acting when you see it, because it isn’t enough to just always see the best all the time, every time. I will be honest and say that I have often thought that some critics I’ve read were just being too critical in their commentary on some acting or related aspect of a given film. gonnabeactors-grab.jpg
I’ve heard words like ‘wooden’ or ‘disjointed’ used to describe scenes that I thought were well done. Is it that the critics in these cases were just being cranky because he or she were told and taught that this is just what critics do: that they just criticize everything and everybody endlessly? Maybe so. Or maybe some critics have never actually sat through and watched a movie like Night Fright and actually seen authentically wooden, half-acted out dialogue and scene transitions so disjointed they make your stomach lurch. Should movies like this serve as veritable low-water marks for movie quality? Or is that standard to be fixed somewhere else? Maybe. But regardless- I still think that someone who wants to go from movie lover to movie critic should start watching more bad movies as well as those marked as being generally and/or exceedingly good. It might be an arduous task for some to call themselves to – but it certainly cannot hurt. And one might certainly even develop a certain kind of taste for this kind of cheese. I think I certainly have.

Anyway – as far as I can tell – John Agar is the only person in this film who could have been considered an actual actor – though his own work here lacks the heft that he was able to bring to the screen when he was working alongside John Wayne. The adults in the film seem to somewhat know what they were doing in front of a camera – but the kids – they were juvenile and not just in character but also in theatrical capacity. I have to wonder how many of them were just hired off the street and given lines to say while a camera was rolling. You just have to wonder. The music that they all dance to in several scenes, along with all of the sound affects, were supposedly done by a local music group – The Wildcats. Somehow – I don’t think they are on iTunes anywhere.

How Agar Found Zen on the B-Side of Life
I definitely would not go out of my way to see this film. But I am sure that somewhere, someone is loading up a poorly digitized copy of Night Fright to fill a slot on a late night, bad horror movie marathon. If you are cleaning the house and have nothing better to do then to have it playing in the background – then most certainly you should watch the film – but from only out of the corner of your eye -while you do the dishes or something more important. But have fun with it – regardless of how bad it is; just like one should try to do with most anything in life that one would come up against or experience. It’s here. It’s bad. But lets have fun with it regardless. And if you are trying to hone your skill at being a critic – then go ahead and set the low water mark for seemingly low-skill, amateur acting. And just like John Agar – who himself probably knew very well that his best days were well behind him and who yet continued to enjoy making many movies that only a few enjoyed anymore – we should note that not everything has to be noteworthy to be fun and to be noticed by at least a few. John Agar understood this and he soldiered on without John Wayne by his side, though the B-movie landscape and he continued doing so for many years going forward. John Agar – by the way – remarried in 1951 and stayed married, faithfully, to the same woman – Loretta Barnett Combs (1922–2000) – for 49 years. He said goodbye to a bad, possibly even overtly pretentious marriage and to making A-list movies along with it. And for him – that at least seemed like something he could make a living at and still have a good run at a worthwhile-to-some acting career with. In the end – he was still loved and appreciated by b-movie sci-fi fans everywhere, often attending conventions where he would speak and crack jokes about being the first to ever ‘sock it to’ “American’s Sweetheart”. He was loved – and he loved what he was able to continue to do. Sounds like a wager well played, if you ask me. The camera rolled on – and the monsters to kill and blow up along with it. And so did he.

My whole feeling about working as an actor is, if I give anybody any enjoyment – I’m doing my job, and that’s what counts.

– John Agar

 

night-fright-fifth-dimension-vhs

Purchase:
91w6refqhdl-_sy445_

https://www.amazon.com/Classic-Horror-Movies-Gift-Box/dp/B00C90HFC0

https://www.amazon.com/Night-Fright-John-Agar/dp/B0000D1FGC/ref=as_sl_pc_tf_til?tag=myspace08d-

Links:
Wiki:                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Fright
Wiki:                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Agar
IMDB:                        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062036/
Rotten
Tomatoes:            https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/night_fright
John Agar:           http://www.classicscreams.com/Celeb_Pages/John_Agar.html

Watch:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJsFVk6YE5Q
http://free-classic-movies.com/movies-06/06-1967-11-Night-Fright/index.php

Footnotes:
[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiZHNw1MtzI

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Agar

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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The first thing you need to know about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is that it is thought to be the first horror film ever actually put down on celluloid. The second thing – it is a masterpiece.

<<Seven Second Survey>>

  1. The best you’ve never heard of
  2. Political Horror Silently Transposed onto the Silver Screen
  3. The First of its Kind Among Equals
  4. Plot: of dualities; existential and socio-political inversions
  5. Real life/real horrors/for real
  6. Why you need to see it. For real.

Das-Cabinet-des-Dr-Caligari-poster

Movie title: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Matthew’s Rating: ★★★★★ (five stars)
Movie genres: German Expressionist Cinema; Horror; (proto-)film noir; silent film
Actors: Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari, Conrad Veidt as Cesare, Friedrich Feher as Francis, Lil Dagover as Jane, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski as Alan, Rudolf Lettinger as Dr. Olsen, Hans Lanser-Ludolff as Old Man on Bench, Henri Peters-Arnolds as Young Doctor, Ludwig Rex as Criminal, and Elsa Wagner as Landlady.

Writers: Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer
Directors:
Robert Wiene
Movie length: 71 m.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkPdvRontMc – Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuocVLKdSqQ – Full Movie

The Best Movie You’ve Never Heard Of
There is a very real possibility that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the best film that you have never even heard of. First cast upon the silver screen in 1920 – it is often overlooked and underappreciated because it is both silent and foreign. While it may be true that most people who love films never dig very deep into the silent film era – especially those of foreign extraction – Caligari should appropriately be an exception to this. The honest truth is that the film still holds up as being immensely enjoyable to both serious and casual film lovers alike. Virtually everybody who happens upon the film and winds up watching it – either out of reference to a reviewer like myself or being told about it by a friend – discovers that they enjoy it immensely. It has stood the test of time and its artistry has spanned across generations of actors, writers, and cinemagoers alike. All in all – there a few things about the film that are of quintessential essence; the first thing you need to know about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is that it is thought to be the first horror film ever put down on celluloid. The second thing – it is a masterpiece.

whysoscary

Influenced By and Influences Of
Caligari was written by two men, Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer – both of whom had served in the German army during WWI and both of whom were subsequently pushed into pacifism by what they had seen and endured. Although they did not claim to have made the movie expressly from what they had gone through – their respective stories served very much as the muses they would employ for the script that they would later write; borrowing from their stories and life experiences – such was when Janowitz believed he had inadvertently witnessed the murder of a young woman in 1913, in the town of Holstenwall, – which later was written as the home town that Caligari took place in. Both Janowitz and Mayer were outsiders in terms of their relationship to the existing film industry, while they worked together on the script over a period of six weeks in the winter of 1918-19. But it was not long before their names were known across the world. The initial ideological undercurrent of the film was the intent to argue that arbitrary authority in respective controlling situations is virtually almost always both harsh and irrational in its innate state and the conditions that it invariably leads to. This was, of course, an indirect commentary and blatant condemnation of the collective ‘German mind’; or at least the national attitudes of unquestioning subservience to a militaristic-nationalist and altogether generally unquestioned patriotism, which they felt it had and was continuing to overtly express itself into their national socio-political culture. It was only after the movies release that this implied philosophical ethos was transferred into a forthrightly expressed commentary regarding the cultural state and political situation-experience of Germany both before and during WWII. This comparison was so strong that in 1947 film critic and writer Siegfried Kracauer wrote a book entitled From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film which is believed to be one of the most scholarly books ever written about film. In it he argued that it was the non-political and ideologically escapist mentalities that were allegedly rife in the Weimar-era cinema scene that invariably led to the totalitarian horror that was to come. This thesis was argued for and against by many subsequent critics. [1]

Janowitz and Mayer said that they designed the sets of Caligari to be in contrast with American movies, which had been banned in Germany in 1916 – so that it would stand out from the standard Hollywood fair – which tended to ideally focus on sentimental romanticism at the time in natural and conventional forms and contexts for their stories and style. Written and shot in the German Expressionist style – it is now regarded as being the foremost example of the styles quintessential essences of embodying stark, moody and disjointed scenery along with non-traditional themes of madness/insanity, unfaithfulness and other non-romantic concepts. The entire film seems to be take place in a jagged, out of kilter landscape; its use of oblique and distorted lines, the theme of madness, murder, and abused authority all combing to initially separate it from Hollywood general output – and then secondly – make it the first real horror film – which is why critics refer to it as exactly that.

With the advent of Caligari, film writers saw an entire new category of film writing open up – where the desire to unsettle and frighten became the principle motivating factors in movie scripts. Caligari is certainly a smart horror film – in that it is using themes and style to convey its unease to viewers – but it was the inadvertent application of this script intelligence that give birth to modern horror cinematography and what went on to become classic horror cinema. As does Caligari – classic horror embodied non-romanticized thematic concepts as story drivers meant to entertain the viewer by virtue of the unmasking of deep existential fears within those who would come to watch them. Modern horror has, arguably, de-evolved into bloody, ‘slasher’ flicks where all the special affects go into more realistically done blood splattering. This is unfortunate. For in mindlessly pushing the envelope – modern horror has lost touch with what made classic horror so great; their grounding of themselves in existential uncertainties: Wolf Man, for example, which represented the fear of the hidden and uncontrollable beast that may or may not reside in all of us; The Mummy, which would come to represent a fear of the past – and the Vampire, which would eventually evolve inarguably into the most sexual of all creature features. [Read more about this in my essay(s) Monster Metanarratives on my other blog hollerscholar.com].

Plot
Caligari is a “Rahmenerzählung”, or frame story – which essentially means that the film contains a prologue and a corresponding epilogue, which serve to delineate the main body of the story as essentially being a flashback. There is also a twist at the end, which lovers of that sort of thing will most certainly enjoy. One of the first things that you may notice is that all of the sets of the movie are disjointed and out of perspective. This , as noted before, owes to the films expressionist style.

As I am often tempted to do when reviewing films that I feel have no excuse to not be watched and are easily viewable on Youtube – I will refrain from giving any significant details of the plot away. But I will make one exception and tell you that in addition to all the unique innovations and styles that Janowitz and Mayer employed while writing Caligari, – they also utilized a very unique protagonist for their agent of horror, as it were: a somnambulist or sleep walker.

The_Cabinet_of_Dr_Caligari_Conrad_Veidt

Cesare, as he is called, is one of the many characters, which are unveiled to have double or dual identities. Cesare is both monster and victim. Later, we find that even Dr. Caligari himself is portrayed initially as the respected and caring director of a mental institution – only to devolve into a madman himself. The film critic Kracauer wrote that it was this duality in character which also reflected into the character of the social and political situation of order/chaos and traditional authority/oppression – aspects that were represented by Caligari’s environment but also experienced in the Weimar Republic’s state of cultural affairs – which allowed Caligari to take such a firm grasp upon the viewing publics imagination and corresponding insecurities. This duality is expressed even into the visual style of the film and how the characters are portrayed with bright white contrasted in dark shadows.

Conclusions
There really is no excuse to not watch this film. Even if you hate horror films – you should be able to appreciate the depth that this film as to offer. Unlike too many other films – it is operating at an appreciable depth, both in its style and in its intent. There is truly so much going on in terms of both its influence and the nature of its originality, both purposeful and inadvertent- that it has rightly been the domain of scholars and enthusiasts alike since its inception. Hopefully – after reading what I have written here – you will watch it and then maybe even read the full Wikipedia entry on it. This is a film that deserves any attention you give it. And if you are a lover of film, history, politics, or philosophy – there really is something here for you. I promise. This is why Caligari has stood the test of time and the worthiness of attentive scholarship. Like so many things in the popular culture of past ages – it is rediscovered and enjoyed by each generation of moviegoers. In this sense – Caligari has become one with history – and is an indelible part of it. In committing to film their life experiences, philosophical ideologies and existential insecurities, Janowitz and Mayer created something that has outlived themselves and has achieved the sought after immortality of the artist; the creation of a work that lives for as long as there are people with the astute capacity to recognize them for the magisterial works of art that they are. Not all of us can achieve this –for there are few who can ever actually do such. But we can join with them in celebrating achievements of excellence when we do find them. And Caligari – with its neo-horror, proto-film noir, dark jaggedness easily pulls us into a world of authoritarian madness – one where we are all lulled into subservient sleep, just as Caligari’s Cesare – to be rudely awakened with the questions of what are we doing – and what have we done? What has become of the powers of the One?

The_Cabinet_of_Dr_Caligari_Werner_Krauss

In a mere four years – Caligari will celebrate its own 100th anniversary. Our own convoluted political architecture of ambivalence and a corresponding stark misuse of both political and social power may not be all that unlike Caligari’s own story and its creators’ post-WWI Weimar Germany. Are we likewise sleepwalking under the domination of arbitrary authority? Time will tell. And the horrors of our own future may well be our own to write in the present.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cabinet_of_Dr._Caligari
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0010323/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuocVLKdSqQ – Full Movie
https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1003361-cabinet_of_dr_caligari/
https://www.amazon.com/Cabinet-Dr-Caligari-Special-Collectors/dp/6305075492

 

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Caligari_to_Hitler

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Night of the Bood Beast [1958] -a review

<<Ten Second Survey>>
1) What were they thinking?
2) It cost how much to make this?
3) The Gist of the Plot explained
4) ‘Honey I’m having the alien’s baby’ and other existential quandaries of totalizing cognitive subservience; attempted themes in review
4_night-of-the-blood-beast-half-sheet-1958
Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKq0qcAJVr8
Full Movie – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9aQk4Q6Ye8

Movie title: Night of the Blood Beast (1958)
Movie genres: Sci-Fi; Horror
Actors: John Baer, Angela Greene, Ed Nelson, Georgianna Carter, Michael Emmet, Tyler McVey, Ross Sturlin, Bernard L. Kowalski
Directors: Bernard L. Kowalski
Movie length: 62 m.

When I first conceived of the idea of doing these movie reviews – Night of the Blood Beast was the first movie that I actually watched. Truth be told – I was only mildly inspired to even put any words down at all about it and moved on to watch several others that proved to be much more adept at being inspirational. At least one of those reviews has proven to be so long that I thought it best to do a couple of shorter reviews before dumping anything really huge here – so here goes…

Night of the Blood Beast is one of those movies that you have to wonder how many people thought what were we thinking at the end of the first test screenings. Needless to say – it takes money to make even the worst of movies, so stuff like this gets sent out to be watched, sold and otherwise purveyed wherever films can be suitably monetized to recoup the investment. At least that usually seems the case.[1] According to IMDB.com the budget for this film was estimated to have been $68,000 in 1958. According to http://www.usinflationcalculator.com, adjusted for inflation, that equals out to $567,148.24 in 2016 dollars. I have not been able to find anywhere on the Internet if it has ever been documented whether or not the film ever broke even. Whether or not that ever actually happened, I feel pretty confident that a lot of expectation and hopes were – at least among those hapless moviegoers who actually paid money to go see it.

Plot (On the Cheap)
Without affording the film too much detail – the plot centers on the astronaut John Corcoran (played by Michael Emmet[2]) who is launched into space as the NASA’s first man in space – only to be mysterious attacked and hurtled back to earth. Because of the steep angle of his spacecrafts descent Corcoran does not survive the impact. Or at least that is what his would-be rescuers initially assume. For half a million dollars – you’d think that they might have been able to make a more convincing stage prop for the spacecraft. According to Wiki – even the monster’s costume was borrowed from a previous Roger Corman film, Teenage Cave Man (1958). The Corman brothers. Roger[3] and Gene[4], were, as is shown here – notorious cheapskate moviemakers. My favorite part of this scene is the ‘creature’, which initially takes on the form of a kind of mud that coats the space capsule. The alien makes its initial departure in a process that looks like a bad rug being pulled off of the prop.

The body of Corcoran is brought back to the research lab where it is discovered to still have blood pressure and living human cells and strange alien ones – viewable under a microscope. The creature makes its arrival and eventually attacks one of the men – Dave Randall (played by Ed Nelson[5]) – as they are investigating a mysterious power failure at the lab. Upon returning to the lab – they find that the mysterious creature has attacked it, and they initially think that it has stolen Corcoran’s body. They are shocked to find, instead, that Corcoran has been mysteriously reanimated. What follows is a kind of hokey telepathic advocacy on Corcoran’s part – on behalf of the creature – even after finding that there are now lizard-like alien embryos growing in his abdomen.
NOTBB_dumbestv1
Later, the creature attacks the lab for a second time – but this time it kills Dr. Alex Wyman (played by Tyler McVey[6]) by beheading him and (it is hinted at) eating his brain. This gives the creature telepathic powers and enables it to communicate with Corcoran and even the others. Corcoran continues his alien apologetic for the creature arguing that it is not necessarily evil and should not automatically be destroyed.

How It Ends
Eventually we wind up at a cave – and the creature is arguing that it has come in peace and that its purpose is to save mankind from itself. There is an allusion towards an eventual common consciousness to be shared by everyone – as the creature states that Dr. Wyman is now with him and that they are sharing knowledge and awareness with one another. At the last minute, Corcoran seems to have a moment of existential clarity and realizes that both he and the creature must be destroyed. He runs toward the creature, pulls out a knife and stabs himself, and then falls over in typical cheesy fashion. The other men throw makeshift Molotov cocktails at the creature and kill it with fire. As the creature goes down it rambles something or other about the human race not being ready – but that others will come.

Suitable Movie Use
If it is Halloween – and you have just finished watching Night of the Blood Beast as your corny horror movie/background music/distraction/party favor – then here are some thoughts/concepts that I think that movie brings up – but that are not really explored to any tangible depth in the film, but that would nonetheless definitely make for good conversation between fellow horror movie aficionados.

Idea 1: Alien Pregnancy
I have been told that doctorial theses have been written on the sublime horror that men everywhere experienced when they went to the movies and watched the infamous ‘chest bursting scene’ in Ridley Scott’s Alien. The concept of pregnancy is supposedly what horrified so many movie-going men – at least thats what many leading feminist theorists tell us. (You can watch the scene here [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdBu6VAESeI] and a mini-documentary on it here [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbNRdQELnic]) This much is true – the graphic and notoriously horrific scene is what helped establish the movie Alien as one of the most influencial and well-regarded sci-fi alien horror films ever made. Ever. But here in Night of the Blood Beast the man who is impregnated with little lizard beasties doesn’t really even initially think that they are that big of a deal.

Idea 2: Existential Thoughts
Another veritable gold mine of neglected potential is the whole envelope of existentialism that the movies barely touches on and only does so really in the end. The monster was obviously written to be horrific – but better script writing might have developed the script further around the creatures stated intentions of ‘rescuing humanity from itself’ by (if I understood correctly) some kind of universal thought and will absorption.

Idea 3: Alien subservience
Both of the previous concepts serve to highlight the barely mentioned concept that all would have invariably led to – that this monster would have enslaved all of humanity for its own good. Any libertarians out there and actually reading this?

Conclusions
In the end Night of the Blood Beast would have probably done a lot better by just keeping the monster mean and baseless – and avoided the discursive horrors implied by the complexities of existentialist rumination and insinuated totalitarian subservience. These concepts can carry an entire film on their own – here they just add to the already existing disorder. The filmmakers were no doubt aiming for some kind of high-minded philosophizing but the carrier signal on those ruminations is much too weak here. What can be said – however – is that they at least touch on them, and maybe amid the cheap spectacle that is this disarray of a film, it is possibly some kind of saving grace – or at least something you can talk about with your Halloween night dinner guests, as the credits roll and you sort the candy for other real world horrors.

 

Links for your suitable persual

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Blood_Beast
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051993/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9aQk4Q6Ye8 – Original
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_9KAxuOgKM – MST3K treatment
https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/night_of_the_blood_beast/
http://www.badmovies.org/movies/bloodbeast/
https://www.amazon.com/Night-Blood-Beast-Michael-Emmet/dp/B00009NHAK

 

Footnotes

[1] Rarely is a film so bad that the studio actually refuses to release it. One notable example of this is Tod Browning’s Freaks – which the studio found so horrific that it force-edited almost 30 minutes of its 90 minute length down to approximately 60 minutes. The edits that were removed were likely destroyed as they are considered to be lost. Even with these changes the film was pulled early from the theaters, a woman threatened to sue because she said watching the movie made her miscarry, and it was – believe it or not – officially banned in the UK for 30 years. Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJVXTKkjsxA

[2] Michael Emmet, actor – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0256523/

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Corman

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Corman

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Nelson

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyler_McVey

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Within the immense pantheon of horror film greats, there exists a small column of heroes – they are found off to the side; diminutive in stature – but they are rightfully there; sincerely important to the style and its tradition nonetheless. This diminutive, albeit sacred space is dedicated to the people and films of the horror film genre that were created with full and honest intentions by their creators so as to be horrific – but wound up being something altogether quite different; comical, sarcastic, or often just plain ruinous in terms of their rendered artistry. Ed Wood, Troll 2, and Plan 9 From Outer Space can be found here – as well as many others. This review/essay will explore the failed horror film The She-Beast and will argue for its rightful inclusion within this classification.

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