With this double feature, SCREAM! FACTORY brings together the first two entries in THE CURSE series. The first film dealing with a family whose farm is struck by a meteorite, thus resulting in some rather bizarre occurrences. That is followed up by the sequel(in name only), CURSE II : THE BITE, about a man who is bitten by a nuclear altered snake, and soon undergoes bizarre changes.
MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE - 1971 - Directed by Gordon Hessler -
The film, MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, takes place in 20th Century Paris, and centers around a theater company, which is led by Cesar Charron. The company, which specializes in the gory style of storytelling, are in the middle of their latest production, "Murders in the Rue Morgue" It is a play, which has an emphasis on chaos and death, however, little did they know that real life tragedy would soon strike. Death is soon in full swing, when an Axe weilding killer. who dons a mask, and cape, begins to cut down several theater members, both past and present. The killer is elusive, as everyone is shocked and stunned by the happenings. This includes Cesar Charron, who after noting similarities between each victim, links the attacks as well as deaths, to one Rene Marot, his former theater partner. But, how can it be when Marot previously died by suicide? After a production mishap, which left his face, permanently scarred, Marot fell into a depression, which caused him to viciously kill his lover, shortly before taking his own life. Cesar knows this to be true, as he attended his funeral. But, as more bodies turn up, all signs still point to Marot. Not to mention, that Cesar's wife, and the daughter of Marot's slain love, Madeline, begins to have nightmares, which seem to boldly mimic, and predict the grim reality of the killer and his crimes.
Well, here is a film that previously, I was aware of, yet never had seen. Honestly, I took this double feature on, simply to have some variety on the site. I didn't think that I would like it. But you know what? MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE is a film, that truly isn't half bad. Although, it does have some focus on blood shed, MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, is more mystery than anything else. It's all about finding out the identity of a killer, whom is the centerpiece of the film. After killing off a stage performer, who does so while wearing a gorilla suit, the killer is able to infiltrate the theater group, by donning the costume themselves. It is from there. that their reign of terror begins as everyone is left baffled, While Rene Marot's face is never a mystery to us, as we see his face early on in the film, we don't lean who the man is until a little later, as details are revealed at a slow burning pace. With this said, the film does a rather solid job with the way that it progressively reveals its story, making it kind of fun. This storytelling is accompanied by a series of dream sequences, in which one of the film's main characters, Madeline has. They are dream sequences, which actually depict her nightmares. They are trippy, and seem to play out, exactly as Edgar Alan Poe had written them. They are dark, ominous, and although sometimes confusing, they add a sense of style to the film.
As for the acting in the film, everyone does fine. Jason Robards, who is top billed here, is a great lead here, as he portrays the character of theater troupe leader, "Cesar Charron" As the Antagonist, we have Herbert Lom, as the mysterious, and supposed-to-be- dead, "Rene Marot", who is really the one who keeps the intrigue going. Next to round out the film's 3 leads is Christine Kaufmann, as "Madeline Charron", Cesar's young wife, who just so happens to be the daughter of the woman who both Cesar and Rene once loved(yes, here we have a bit of a love triangle). Kaufmann is good here, as she serves as someone who is essentially kind of a muse for the killer.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed this film a lot more than I expected to. While it isn't a film that I could see myself revisiting often, for me, i'd say that it was definitely worth the view.
As for the high definition transfer from SCREAM! FACTORY, it looks great. Released in 1971, MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, the film looks and sounds as good as new here. I was actually surprised with how good it looked.
Overall Rating : 6/10
THE DUNWICH HORROR - 1970 - Directed by Daniel Haller -
Next, THE DUNWICH HORROR takes place in New England, and begins at Arkham University, when the town odd ball takes an interest in 2 things. First an old occult book called the "Necrocomicon", and then Nancy Wagner, a young student. He wants to borrow the old book, however, Henry Armitage, the University's doctor of Philosophy, refuses, saying that the book must remain on campus. From there, weird Wilbur strikes up conversation with both the Doctor, and the girl that he has his eye on, Nancy. When it gets late, and Wilbur misses his bus back into the town of Dunwich, Nancy graciously offers him a ride. However, little did she know that a simple ride into town would be the start of something big. After dropping him off at his creepy estate, and some conversing, she goes to leave, but finds that her car won't start(for Wilbur has tampered with it), she has no choice but to stay over, which ends up being an extended stay - Whateley drugged her tea to make sure of it. Her disappearance causes concern for both Armitage, and Nancy's friend Elizabeth, who come looking for her. Meanwhile, Armitage digs deeper into the Whateley family history via town psycian, Dr. Cory, who reveals some shocking truth. It appears that the Whateley family are known to be worshipers of an occult race known as "The Old Ones", and for years, have attempted, to what they call, "bring them back". This would explain why the family has been so distant from the rest of the town. Unfortunately, now with Nancy in his grasp, Wilbur plans to perform an ancient ritual that is said to open up a portal within the dimension in which "The Old Ones" are trapped. But, as if that wasn't bad enough, just as Wilbur prepares to perform the ritual, something ghastly emerges from the Whateley home to reek havoc. He's the Whateley family secret, and he's not of this world!
As was the case with the other film in this set, THE DUNWICH HORROR was a film that I had heard of, but never seen. Out of the 2 films presented here, i'd guess that THE DUNWICH HORROR is the more popular title. The film begins with an animated title sequence that would suggest the involvement of the Devil, as well as the birthing of children. On that alone, I was perpared for yet another "Satan's having a baby" story. Fortunately though, it's not exactly one of "those" tales. Well it is in a way, but with a twist. You see, the story involves a woman, who gave birth to twins, one was supposedly stillborn, and the other is the character we get to know here, named Wilbur. We are told for most of the film that the other child had died, however, some strange things happening at the Whateley house, would suggest otherwise. The woman's other child is very much alive, except, he's much "different". taking after his "father".
Co-produced by B-Movie master Roger Corman, THE DUNWICH HORROR, is predictably campy and fun. Dean Stockwell chews up the scenery, as the seemingly always wide eyed "Wilbur Whatley" he's meant to be odd, and Stockwell makes sure that we notice. Opposite him for most of the film is the beautiful Sandra Dee, as the Doe in Wilbur's cross-hairs, Both work well together to create a particular polar opposite dynamic. Elsewhere, is Actor Ed Begley, Sr. as the occult-wise, Dr. Henry Armitage. Begley does decently as the Doctor, as he represents an opposing force for the evil which draws near. The character of Henry Armitage also gets further support from Dr. Cory, who is portrayed by Lloyd Bochner. Another appearance worth mentioning comes from Talia Shire(then Coppola), which came 6 years before she hit it big with ROCKY.
So, is THE DUNWICH HORROR a great film? Well, simply put - no. But is it a fun film? Absolutely. It might not be as fun as say, THE MANITOU, but it is the same type. of B-Movie insanity. I didn't love it, but I enjoyed it. It's definitely worth checking out if B-Movies are your thing.
Like in the case of MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, the transfer here for THE DUNWICH HORROR looks better than expected, and the film also sounds great as well.
Overall Rating : 6.5/10