Hello, and welcome to my 2021 April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year, I am going to list all the horror movies that we (my boyfriend and I) have watched during the pandemic (so far). There sure are a lot of them, as you will see. Anyway, I am going to list them, and give you some notes about each movie. Sometimes, these notes will be pretty minimal. Sometimes, I will just tell you about the one part of a particular film that I still remember, many months after seeing it. Sometimes, I will give you the title of the movie, and note that I remember nothing about it. Sometimes, I will go into detail. And sometimes these notes may end up being more about me than about a particular film.
I do not intend to give you proper reviews of these films, though occasionally my notes may stray into review territory. However, I will supply an IMDB link for each film, so that it will be easy for the curious to find out more.
Without further ado, then… let us begin!
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Director: Robert Fuest
One of my favorite movies. Fabulously beautiful, fantastically ugly. Like Art Deco threw up all over it (in a good way). We (re)watched this early on in the pandemic, and I talked about it a bit, somewhere in my View From Atherton Court series of posts.
Vincent Price plays Dr. Phibes. Dr. Phibes is a man with no face, an elaborate and mechanical method by which he produces speech from his ruined throat, and a serious hate-on for the doctors and nurses who didn’t save his wife’s life after the accident all those years ago. Virginia North out-dresses Price (by a nose; all the costumes in this are things of beauty) as his mute secretary/dancing partner/murder accomplice. Why she decides to go along with Dr. Phibes’ plans is a bit of a mystery to me. I wonder what kind of advertisement she answered to get this job.
It is the source of my Theme Reveal Mystery Picture. Because, even though it is a movie about Plagues of Egypt-based revenge, it takes time out to show us that Dr. Phibes has a robot band in his home.
I love this movie. I don’t know how to convey the beauty and strangeness of it to you. Watch it, if you haven’t. I mean, unless you don’t want to. Then, don’t.
Director: Ridley Scott
Yep. Good movie. I feel no need to go into details. I mean, you’ve probably seen it.
QUESTION: If you haven’t seen Alien, why not? Seriously, I want to know. I myself saw it for the first time in 2020, after I realized with a mild sense of shock that I really had never done so before. So, for me, it was just that I hadn’t gotten around to it. And, I mean, it felt like I’d seen it. It is so heavily referenced in popular culture that actually seeing the actual movie almost felt unnecessarily completist. If that makes any sense (which I rather doubt). Anyway, I’m glad I did see it.
Alien From the Deep (Alien degli abissi) (1989)
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Um. So, when I say we watched this one, I should be a little more specific. We watched a French dub because that was all we could get. Since we don’t speak French, we got YouTube to autotranslate some English subtitles for us. I think technology is wonderful. Those subtitles sometimes even almost made sense. And I have to admit, they had a lot of Dadaist charm to them when the meaning broke down. But can I really say I have watched Alien from the Deep? It is a real question.
QUESTION: To what arcane methods have you resorted in order to keep yourself entertained during the pandemic? Have you done anything similar to what I have described above?
All The Colors of the Dark (Tutti i colori del buio) (1972)
Director: Sergio Martino
Edwige Fenech stars in this movie. She is gorgeous and talented. We like her a lot here. Apparently, she’s still in the movie business, too, primarily on the production side of things (though she consented to be in Hostel 2, which is a movie I unfortunately don’t want to see, even for the undoubted thrill of seeing Fenech acting in it).
I think that this is the movie with the weird, trippy, and oddly vertiginous scene in which Edwige Fenech has to kiss all the Satanists. So… there are Satanists in it. And kissing. And… yeah, my memory appears to have gone a little vague on the other elements of this one. We’ve watched it once (and enjoyed it), but we haven’t watched it for a second time (and we do tend to re-watch our favorite gialli more than once, because they are often visually quite beautiful). Still, we may re-explore this one in the future.
As I mentioned above, this is a giallo. Giallo is a primarily Italian genre of horror/thriller/slasher film, flourishing in the 1970s, in which men (and ladies) in black gloves strangle enormous quantities of beautiful women. I’m not saying that that specific thing actually specifically happens in lots of specific gialli, but I say it to give you a sense of the tone. They tend to be mysteries in structure (in fact, they are called “giallo,” which means “yellow” in Italian, because they were often loosely inspired by the yellow-backed mystery novels popular at the time), with lots of sadism, lots of eroticism, lots of psychology, and lots and lots of murder. Here is what the BFI has to say about giallo:
“…a tradition that gleefully mixes high and low culture, where you’ll find flashes of artistic brilliance sharing the screen with moments of jaw-dropping squalor.”
…which is, on the whole, fair enough.
And I’m no film historian, but I am fairly certain that the giallo genre was hugely influential in the creation of the slasher movie.
Alone in the Dark (1982)
Director: Jack Sholder
We did not finish this one. It was sort of relentlessly awful, and we just couldn’t take it. Everyone seemed unpleasant. Our sympathies floundered, fumbling for someone to attach themselves to, and grabbing nothing.
When we realized that there was a pedophile among the escaped lunatics who were about to go and besiege their psychiatrist’s home, and that there was a child alone and defenseless at that home, we decided that we didn’t trust the movie enough to continue watching it. The movie had done nothing to earn our trust, and we felt that it was a big ask.
Donald Pleasence is in it.
QUESTION: Have you seen this movie? Ought we to have given it more of a chance?
Alucarda (Alucarda, la hija de las tinieblas)(1977)
Director: Juan López Moctezuma
On the whole, I remember liking this one. Unfortunately, we watched it fairly early on in the pandemic, and so a lot of the details have faded. By the way, I totally didn’t plan to do this A to Z until a day or so before my Theme Reveal got posted. So it isn’t like I took notes while watching these movies. Or even kept a complete list of the movies we watched. Anyway, I wish I remembered more about Alucarda.
The basics, though, I do sort of remember. The movie takes place in a convent. Alucarda and another girl (Justine) are both… novices? Orphans? Both? I’m not absolutely certain about their status. Anyway, they get corrupted by the Devil (or maybe Alucarda was corrupted already). The main thing I do remember about the movie is Alucarda herself, who has this intensity about her.
American Rickshaw (American risciò) (1989)
Director: Sergio Martino
I mean. Wow. What? This movie I watched literally last night, and I can’t. I just… I just don’t know what happened in it. I can’t explain it, and I bet you wouldn’t be able to explain it either. Not actually explain it. Of course, there are things one can say about the movie, but that isn’t really the same.
Donald Pleasence is in it. That is one solid statement I can make about the film, and I make it without fear of contradiction. I have a horrible, sinking feeling that I’ve spelled the man’s last name wrong, but I’ve checked on that like 6 times now and I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed it.
To go into slightly more detail: I guess the movie is fundamentally a magical duel between an immortal Chinese mystic and the Evangelist preacher Donald Pleasence. He stole a magical boar statue from her and got powerful; she wants it back but apparently can’t go and get it herself. She’d rather trap a moonlighting rickshaw runner into an elaborate web of circumstances, so that eventually he will get it for her. This rickshaw runner guy is nominally the star, but mainly he just flounders on, a confused pawn in a bizarre contest of wills.
The only really memorable bit of this film occurs at the very end, when…
Ahem! Spoilers. I have decided to write all spoilers in white text. Highlight the text in order to read it.
…Donald Pleasence turns into a horrible pig-monster. I’ll remember that image for quite a long time.
Well folks, that’s it for today! Have you seen any of these movies? Do any of them sound like things you might want to watch? Tell me about it in the Comments section!
Today’s Mystery Picture (in which I show you a screenshot of one of the movies I will be reviewing tomorrow; so, I mean, in this case, you know that the movie will begin with a “B.” Actually, here’s a further hint: the English title of this movie begins with a “B;” the original title appears to begin with a number):