Two tricks, two treats
Image courtesy John McElwee; click to enlarge.
TCM recently broadcast Zombies of Mora Tau (1957) as part of a day-long zombie marathon. During Hollywood’s studio years, zombies and gorilla movies were the ghetto of the horror genre. Universal Pictures specialized in monster movies, but even they soft-peddled zombies and gorillas. I last saw Zombies of Mora Tau about forty years ago and thought it was cool…no doubt swayed by its star, sultry Allison Hayes, she of Attack of the 50ft Woman.
My feelings for Ms. Hayes have woefully abated and the situation seems far clearer: the film’s dull, stupid and entirely uninspired. Things work so much better in a young, unfettered mind. Now, however, I could barely get through its seventy coma inducing minutes without nodding off.
I don’t know whether to thank or blame Peter at Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee for inadvertently reminding me that I’d never seen Gorilla at Large (1954). Twenty-three-year-old Anne Bancroft in trapeze tights, along with Cameron Mitchell, Raymond Burr, Lee J. Cobb, Lee Marvin and a guy in a gorilla suit. I figured, how could you possibly go wrong? Sorry to report, the movie is dullsville from start to finish. It was directed by Harmon Jones, and I’ve always wondered if there was a connection between him and the character Oliver Harmon Jones in M*A*S*H*.
Two vampire pictures from the ‘50s that still hold up rather well have come out together on a double feature DVD: The Vampire (1957) and Return of Dracula (1958). Both have musical scores by Gerald Fried, both were written by Pat Fielder, directed by Paul Landres, and produced by Arthur Gardner and Jules Levy. Modestly budgeted and competently made, they’re small gems with intelligent scripts that quietly address post-World War II concerns.
They’re both set in rural American towns whose deeply rooted traditions are challenged by unwanted change and parasitic threats. In The Vampire, it’s the onset of drugs, anti-social behavior and the breakdown of the family unit; in Return of Dracula, xenophobia, communist infiltration and nonconformist aliens. Residents of lily-white Norman Rockwell utopias try to work their tidy Christian ethics on dicey people and situations far beyond their ken. Both films end similarly: lives and dreams are shattered, characters are stunned into submission by opposing values, all pointing toward the cultural upheaval to come throughout the next decade.
Labels: Capsule reviews