The HorrorDads 2012 Halloween Triple Dip Shockapalooza!

Halloween is fast approaching … where did October go? Well, no time for rhetorical questions, it’s time to get our spook on. With that in mind, I have scrambled the HorrorDads and tasked each to provide us with his idea of an ultimate Halloween triple bill. To impose a sense of order on what might have turned into a maelstrom of free association, I further asked that the three features follow these stipulations:

  1. Choose a “matinee” geared toward the kids.
  2. Follow this with something seasonably appropriate, something classic.
  3. End your evening of chills with something pitched at the horror lifers, the true believers. No punches pulled, no quarter given, fangs bared. [...MORE]

The Sinister Charm of Simon Ward

One of the strangest aspects of today’s Internet film culture is being bombarded by death notices week after week. No one’s life is unworthy of celebration and onetime television TV actors with a single role under the belt often compete with Oscar winning movie stars for attention after they’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

In the flood of online wakes that seem to accumulate around every actor’s death it has become nearly impossible to overlook anyone’s passing so you can imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that one of my favorite British actors, the talented Simon Ward, had passed away in July following a long illness and I had managed to overlook it. Even more depressing were some of the obituaries I read that glossed over much of his career and seemed to suggest that Ward hadn’t lived up to his potential while completely ignoring his outstanding contributions to horror cinema.

Naturally I felt the urge to rectify this since I had grown up admiring the actor in a bundle of praiseworthy thrillers so October seemed like the perfect month to spotlight Simon Ward’s contribution to a genre that continues to divide critics and audiences.

Simon Ward was born on October 16, 1941. At age 13 he joined London’s National Youth Theater and continued to study at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts,). He started acting in British television productions in the mid-1960s and after taking an unaccredited role in Lindsay Anderson’s IF…. (1967), Ward was offered his first major film role in David Greene’s exceptional British thriller, I START COUNTING (1969). Ward’s boyish good looks and edgy screen presence allowed him to effortlessly transform himself into seductive villains as well as romantic heroes but his chameleon-like abilities may have confused producers who couldn’t easily pigeonhole him and didn’t seem to know how to harness his talent.

The actor went on to appear in many popular and critically acclaimed films including YOUNG CHURCHILL (1972), THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973), THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974) and ZULU DAWN (1979) but throughout his career Ward returned again and again to the horror genre. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the best horror films and thrillers he appeared in.

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Man’s Best Fiend

One of my neighbors owns a beautiful big black lab and the dog lets out a loud howl every time a siren goes off in the distance. The noise can be a little unsettling and tends to shatter the tranquility of our quiet suburban street. The dog’s gloomy cries sound like the melancholy moans of a dying man or the wailing lament of his grieving loved ones. Some element of the dog’s howl gets under my skin and seeps into my bones reminding me of all the dogs I’ve feared and loved. Since it’s the season of scaring I thought it would be a good time to revisit some dog-centric horror movies where man’s best friend was transformed into man’s best fiend.

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Frankenstein Created Susan Denberg

Susan Denberg (aka Dietlinde Ortrun Zechner) was blond, beautiful and unapologetically curvaceous. A Polish-born Kim Novak with strong sex appeal and an endearing screen presence. Like Novak, Denberg dated Sammy Davis Jr. while some of her other romantic conquests included Stuart Whitman, Sidney Poitier, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown and Roman Polanski. Following a few television appearances and a role in the Oscar nominated film AN AMERICAN DREAM (1966), Denberg posed for Playboy magazine and soon afterward she was offered her first and last starring role in FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967). The 21-year-old actress was positioned to become another Hollywood ‘it girl’ but the stress of sudden stardom, abusive boyfriends and excessive drug use combined with her swinging lifestyle took their toll and sent Denberg spiraling into a self-destructive cycle that prematurely ended her career.

For years rumors circulated that Susan Denberg was dead; a victim of suicide following lengthy stays in psychiatric hospitals but this was only partially true. She was hospitalized in 1967 after suffering a drug overdose followed by a mental breakdown that was eventually linked to the sexual abuse she had endured as a child. Although attempts at suicide may have occurred, Susan Denberg managed to overcome her personal demons and survive her brief brush with the darker aspects of fame and fortune. Today the long-retired and reclusive actress is still alive and celebrating her 68th birthday so I thought I’d use the day to laud her brief career in front of the camera by taking a closer look at Denberg’s memorable performance in FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN where she starred opposite Peter Cushing and earned her rightful place in Hammer film’s pantheon of glamor girls.

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“We exist… only in Hell!”

The new Synapse Films DVD/Blu-ray combo pack of Hammer’s TWINS OF EVIL (1971), third leg of the studio’s “Karnstein Trilogy,” arrived just a wee bit late to make the cut for last week’s Morlocks subject, which means I’m two days post-street date and about the 10,000th geek throwing his musings out into the Interwebs on the subject. But no matter… it’s TWINS OF EVIL! [...MORE]

Tales from the trenches: Me vs. the Asphyx

I’m holding in my hands an absolutely marvelous Blu-Ray edition of the terrific British sci-fi chiller The Asphyx, and I can say unequivocally that you need to own this.  Among other things it represents one of the residual gifts to movie lovers from the late Don Krim, who set this Blu-Ray in motion before his untimely passing, and if he thought so highly of you to make this movie available in such a delicious form, then you should repay the compliment.  But the main reason I’m talking about it this week is because I had nothing whatsoever to do with this Blu-Ray, which gets right everything I screwed up when I produced the 1997 DVD version of The Asphyx.  This week’s post is a cautionary tale about what I did wrong, and why.

(I have no conflict of interest here—I no longer hold a stake in The Asphyx in any way.  Even if you were to foolishly abstain from Kino’s exemplary release and instead seek out one of the overpriced out of print copies of my DVD on eBay, I wouldn’t get any of that money.  My connection to this movie was severed long ago.)

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Hammer’s Enduring Legacy: An Interview with Marcus Hearn

Last week I included Marcus Hearn’s latest book, The Hammer Vault: Treasures From the Archive of Hammer Films, in my two part list of Favorite Film Related Books of 2011. This week I got the opportunity to ask the author a few questions about his new book as well as discuss Hammer’s enduring legacy. The studio best known for its gothic horror films has continued to gain new fans and produce new movies including THE WOMAN IN BLACK, which is scheduled to be released in February of 2012.

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The HorrorDads’ 2011 Dusk-to-Dawn All-Nite/All Fright Halloween Screamboree!

RHS: Let’s pretend the HorrorDads have the run of a disused movie theater and permission to run a Halloween dusk to dawn horrorthon. We will all contribute a movie to the line-up but before we begin, let’s talk about the kinds of horror movies each of us think is right for this time of year. Go… [...MORE]

Some Favorite DVD Releases of 2010

Every year I try to compile a list of my favorite new DVD releases. These lists tend to focus on films from the ’60s and ’70s since they’re my favorite film eras. This year I decided to expand my view a little and disregard limitations so I could share a varied list of all my favorite DVD releases with Movie Morlock readers. This list is far from complete since I haven’t had the opportunity to see every new DVD that was released but I hope it will encourage a few people to seek out these films. Many of the movies on my list were released on DVD for the first time last year so they’ve been hard to see unless you own them on video or caught them playing on television. So without further ado, here’s some of my favorite DVD releases from 2010 listed alphabetically for easy reference.

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From the Archive of Hammer Films

During the holiday months I like to browse the shelves at my local bookstore to see what film related books publishers have released in anticipation of the “season of sharing.” This year I spotted many of the usual suspects; a couple of oversized glamour photo books featuring glossy pictures of Hollywood legends from the ‘40s and ‘50s as well as biographies of some highly acclaimed directors and celebrities. What I didn’t expect to see was Marcus Hearn’s latest book, The Art of Hammer: The Official Poster Collection From the Archive of Hammer Films. Recently I’ve been mourning the loss of Hammer starlet Ingrid Pitt and director Roy Ward Baker who helmed some of the studios best productions including Quatermass and the Pit (1967) and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971). Coming across Hearn’s book was a much-welcomed surprise and an unexpected treat for this Hammer fan and movie poster admirer.

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