August 13th, 2010

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror ~ "The Killer Shrews"

"The Killer Shrews" should be noted for it's historical connection with television. James Best ( Sheriff Roscoe from "The Dukes of Hazzard") is a boat captain who is forced to stay on a creep[y island with Killer Shrews. Dan Curtis (Cletus on "Gunsmoke" and many John Wayne classics) produced this film and assumes 3rd billing as a drunken, coward with a gun. Sidney Lumet's Dad, Barusch Lumet, portrays the mad scientist. The forgettable leading lady is Ingrid Goude, Miss Universe 1957. As for the monster itself, "The Killer Shrews" look like some stuffed animals that Curtis & Best must have had hanging on the walls of their homes. In the wide shot, the dead animal heads are placed on hound dogs, who give chase to the humans.

One can see that his film was inspired by "Key Largo" from 13 years ago. One can see "The Killer Shrews" as inspiration for George Romero's original "Night of the Living Dead." Both "The Killer Shrews" and "Night of the Living Dead' feature claustrophobic horror, scenes of people boarding windows while under assault from a relentless, hungry enemy and a classic fight between a brave man and a coward.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror "The Brain that Wouldn't Die" or "The Head that Wouldn't Die?"

The film begins with the title "The Brain that Wouldn't Die" and concludes with a different title, "The Head that Wouldn't Die." This schizophrenia best describes the bipolar nature of this film. The film opens with an important debate about medical ethics, but the film descends into the realm of unintentional slapstick absurdity.

This Mad Doctor from 1962 is an expert in body transplants. After a successful operation, the Mad Doctor races his sports car. He crashes his car and his girlfriend is decapitated. Using the latest chemicals created with his benson burner, the Mad Doctor salvages the head of his girlfriend.

Realizing that his girlfriend needs a body, the Mad Doctor goes to a strip club in the guise of medical research. The strippers realize that he is a doctor and they wrestle over him. After a literal catfight, the movie shifts focus to the head that wouldn't die and a handicapped scientist. The head and the sickly doctor debate medical ethics.

There is also a monster behind a locked door. In the final minutes, one can see the monster who provides a funny and revolting finale
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror "King of the Zombies'

Mantan Moreland worked steadily as a fast talking sidekick during the 1930s and 1940s. After World War II and the advent of Civil Rights reform, Moreland became persona non grata to the black community. "Feets don't fail me now," would be something this fast talking wide eyed comedian would have said in one of his many movies when confronted by a ghost, monster or killer. In "King of the Zombies," Moreland steals the show with his energy.

During World War II, Moreland and his leading man crash land their airplane on a Caribbean Island. They are greeted by German Doctor with a big secret. This mad doctor is portrayed by Henry Victor, who was a tall leading man in the silent movies. The contrast in size between Moreland and King crates a stereotypical conflict that works.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror ~ John Barrymore as "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," 1920

Robert Louis Stevenson's novella "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" has been filmed multiple times. At the time of the the printing, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" was more of a mystery novella and the surprise ending was that Dr. Jekyll WAS Mr. Hyde. Movie adaptation probably surrendered the surprise ending to popular culture.

John Barrymore portrayed Dr. Jekyll in this 1920 silent version. A renown actor from the stage, Barrymore captures a trick that he would have probably performed on stage, transferring from Jekyll to Hyde without make-up. given the sophistication of the cinema and stage shows of the time, this performance is a tour de force.

Sadly, the additional music to this silent film mars the production values. The organ music sounds like something the Church Lady would play.