Take 3: The Abominable Dr. Phibes Review

The Abominable Dr. Phibes was recommended by one of my readers named Michael. When I found out the movie was considered a horror-comedy, I thought it’d be a perfect entry for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur, as horror-comedies are the theme for February. Then I discovered the film was released in 1971. Because Kim and Drew, from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews, are hosting the 6th Annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon, where the subject is movies premiering in years ending in 1, I decided to review The Abominable Dr. Phibes for both blogathons! As of early 2021, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen and written about. Most of these movies have either belonged in the horror genre or have been mysterious in nature. With The Abominable Dr. Phibes, this will be a little different, as part of the story is a comedy. Out of the movies of Vincent’s I have seen, none of them have featured a large amount of humor. So, by choosing this film for the aforementioned blogathons, I am given an opportunity to see Vincent work with slightly different material!

The Abominable Dr. Phibes poster created by American International Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The mystery: In horror movies, there is usually a mysterious element that can come in a variety of forms. One of these forms is a mystery. Throughout The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the detectives at Scotland Yard are attempting to figure out why several doctors in their neighborhood are dying of mysterious causes. The way the mystery is presented allows the audience to solve it alongside the characters. This presents the idea of the audience sharing an experience with the detectives in the film. Even though we see what is making these doctors die, it doesn’t take away from the intrigue of the mystery. In fact, it keeps the audience invested in what is about to happen next. Seeing how all the pieces of the story connected was interesting to see. It definitely kept my attention as I watched the film!

The craftmanship: There were several items in this movie that caught my eye due to their quality and artistry. A frog mask is just one example. The head covering mask is covered in three different shades of green, allowing it to shine from many different angles. Gold piping can also be found on the mask, assisting in distinguishing its shape. Jewels add finishing touches as the mask features gold gems around the frog’s eyes and an emerald clasp in the back. Dr. Phibes’ mask also boasts incredible craftsmanship! The eye covering mask is shaped like a bird and is coated in shiny shades of green, bronze, and gold. Both masks were two of the beautiful I’ve ever seen!

The set design: The Abominable Dr. Phibes features several interesting set designs that are worth noting. Despite Dr. Phibe’s house only being shown at night and only part of its exterior could be seen, it was a magnificent structure! Its Victorian style brightened the night with its white frames and cherry wood doors. The house features a grand white marble staircase paired beautifully with chandeliers and crystal sconces. I wish more scenes had taken place by this staircase, as it is an impressive part of Dr. Phibes’ residence! Other locations in the story also displayed memorable set designs.  Dr. Vesalius’ apartment is a great example. Near the front door is a curved, frosted window. The door itself was covered in a light and dark wood that ending up complimenting the faded yellow walls. This location looked reflective of the late ‘60s to early ‘70s due to its color scheme and furniture selections.

Scared audience image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/terrified-friends-watching-horror-movie-in-cinema_1027311.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Vincent Price: As I said in my introduction, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen. Therefore, I, as an audience member, know what he is capable of, talent wise. Despite being the top billed actor in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Vincent wasn’t given much material to work with. He didn’t have any speaking lines in this movie. While there is an explanation given within the story, the only time we hear Vincent’s iconic voice is through recordings. It also doesn’t help that the different ways Dr. Phibes went after his victims overshadows Vincent’s performance. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the creative team behind this film cast Vincent Price simply to get more people to see the movie?

Weak on comedy: The Abominable Dr. Phibes is classified as a horror-comedy. When I made this discovery, I was expecting the movie to be more like Young Frankenstein. Even though there were a few times I found myself giggling, the film didn’t contain much humor. The Abominable Dr. Phibes relies more on the horror genre. It also contains a mystery within the overall plot, which would make it a horror-mystery. I felt misled after these reveals.

Depiction of demises partially used for shock value: Strictly from a story-telling perspective, it was interesting to see how Dr. Phibes carried out his plan. But when the plan is put into practice, the depiction of his victims’ demises comes across as more gross than scary. Within a segment of the story involving rats, there was a brief shot of a rat chewing on what looks like a bloody bone. I won’t spoil The Abominable Dr. Phibes, in case any of my readers haven’t seen it. But parts of the film like the one I described feels like the movie’s creative team just wanted to shock their audience.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon (1) banner created by Kim and Drew from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews.

My overall impression:

When I think of the term “horror-comedy”, Young Frankenstein immediately comes to mind. Even though I haven’t seen this film, I am aware of its premise. Because of my expectations, I was somewhat let down by The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Sure, its mystery was intriguing and kept me invested in the overall story. But as I look back on this movie, I find myself expecting more. Despite its classification as a horror-comedy, it ended up being a horror-mystery, with very little comedy to be found. I was also disappointed to see Vincent Price underutilized in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. While he was given different material to work with, he didn’t have any speaking lines. The way Dr. Phibes’ victims met their demise overshadowed Vincent’s performance. These factors make his portrayal of the titular character feel like a part of an ensemble instead of someone leading a film. This is an interesting movie, but I can think of stories of this nature that are stronger than this one. I still prefer a picture like The Crow over The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Overall score: 7-7.1 out of 10

Have you seen a horror-comedy? Which film of Vincent Price’s would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: House of the Long Shadows Review

Vincent Price is an actor who has become as much of a household name as the Michael Jackson song he provided the voice-over for, Thriller. Prior to my involvement in the Vincent Price Blogathon, the only film of Vincent’s I have seen is one that is very different from what he is known for: The Whales of August. Last August (me reviewing The Whales of August in August was not intentional), I reviewed that film for the A Month Without the Code Blogathon. Even though I liked Vincent’s performance in that movie, I found the movie itself to be mundane. So, for this current blogathon, I wanted to watch one of Vincent’s films that contained more horror. When I discovered House of the Long Shadows, I was intrigued by the movie’s synopsis. For those of you who have visited my blog before, you would know I enjoy a good mystery from time to time. Because of this film’s mysterious nature, I had hopes to get, at least, some enjoyment out of this project!

House of the Long Shadows poster
House of the Long Shadows poster created by London-Cannon Films and Cannon. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LongShadows.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Prior to watching House of the Long Shadows, I haven’t seen many of the projects from Desi Arnaz Jr.’s filmography. In fact, I’ve only watched his guest appearances on I Love Lucy and his special appearance on The Brady Bunch. Despite this, I was impressed with his lead performance in the film! His casual yet effortless acting style worked with how the character was written. Desi’s acting abilities fit the role of the protagonist, Kenneth Magee! I also liked Julie Peasgood’s portrayal of Mary Norton! Her expressions and emotions really highlighted the sense of urgency her character was experiencing. A scene where Julie sold me on what Mary was going through is when Mary first comes to the Manor to warn Kenneth of the unseen dangers he will face. Because this blogathon is dedicated to Vincent Price, his performance should not be overlooked. As I said in the introduction, the only other film of his that I’ve seen is The Whales of August. The great thing about House of the Long Shadows is how Vincent is given more material to work with as an actor. This allowed him and his character to have a more commanding presence!

 

The use of music: The music that can be heard in the film’s background does a really good job at keeping the movie’s tone consistent. Throughout Kenneth’s stay at the Manor, scores that sound mysterious, sinister, and even sad are played at various moments of the movie. At times when the tone changes, the music never skips a beat and adapts with the events of the story. A great example is when Kenneth is driving to the train station. When the weather is fair and the sky is sunny, light-hearted music can be heard during Kenneth’s drive. As soon as the skies turn dark and stormy, ominous music takes the place of the previous tune.

 

The element of mystery: For those who haven’t yet seen House of the Long Shadows, I won’t spoil the story. What I will say is the mystery element of the film was well-written! The narrative is presented in a way that allows the audience to solve the mystery alongside Kenneth and Mary. This creates an interactive and shared experience between the characters and the viewers. It also maintains a sense of intrigue throughout the movie. As the story unfolds, it makes the audience wonder what will happen next.

Terrified friends watching horror movie in cinema
Scared audience image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/terrified-friends-watching-horror-movie-in-cinema_1027311.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited use of horror: Vincent Price is an actor who is known for starring in horror-esque films. This detail made me believe House of the Long Shadows would be a horror movie. While there are elements of horror to be found, they primarily existed in the film’s second half. The story as a whole placed more emphasis on the element of mystery. This made the movie not as scary as I expected.

 

Diane and Andrew’s subplot: In House of the Long Shadows, there is a subplot involving a young couple named Diane and Andrew. They are in the area of the Manor due to a vacation gone wrong. While watching this movie, I found their subplot to not be integrated in the overall story as well as the other characters’ stories. If anything, it felt like it was there for the sake of being there.

 

The limited use of lighting: I understand the limited use of lighting was adopted to emphasis the atmosphere of the Manor. Where this succeeds on that regard, it also hides the beauty of the Manor itself. One of the most striking features of this location is the grand staircase. It had visually appealing details, such as the gold ornamentations along the iron bars of the stairs. Unfortunately, it was difficult to see this part of the Manor clearly because there was little to no lighting in this space.

Vincent Price Blogathon banner
The Vincent Price Blogathon banner created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews and Barry from Cinematic Catharsis. Image found at https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/2020/02/20/vincent-price-blogathon/

My overall impression:

Vincent Price: a name that is, more often than not, associated with projects featuring ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night. While this has become a part of Vincent’s legacy, it’s important to remember what he offered to the horror genre, as well as the world of film, as an actor. When I watched his performance in House of the Long Shadows, Vincent’s performance reminded me of Bela Lugosi’s performance in the 1931 film, Dracula! Even though both actors are on screen for a certain amount of time, they use their acting abilities to control the camera’s focus and command its undivided attention. As for the film itself, House of the Long Shadows is truly a hidden gem! Despite being different from what I expected, it’s a movie I think fans of mystery, horror and Vincent himself will enjoy! Maybe the final words of this review are nowhere near as memorable as Vincent’s closing monologue in Thriller. But they do have a special place in this post.

 

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

 

Have you seen any of Vincent Price’s films? If so, which one is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Nosferatu Review (A Month Without the Code — #1)

Like last month, I will be participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code Blogathon! Unlike the Clean Movie Month Blogathon, the purpose of this month’s blogathon is to watch and talk about films that were released outside of the Breen Code era. That way, elements of the Breen Code can be applied to these films through discussion and analysis. For the very first review, I have chosen Nosferatu! It’s a film that I had definitely heard of, but had never seen. So far, I’ve had a good track record when it comes to the silent film genre. The Kid, Wild Oranges, and Sunnyside are films that I have seen and enjoyed. Also, I thought it would be interesting to apply the Breen Code to a film that was released before the Breen Code existed. It’s time to start this unfrightening and not-so-spooky review of 1922’s Nosferatu!

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Like the poster for Les Enfants Terribles, I’ve seen other posters for Nosferatu. This one, however, is the one I like the most! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I’ve said in my review of Wild Oranges, actors and actresses in silent films have to rely on body language, facial expressions, and actions/behaviors. The cast in Nosferatu used these acting elements to their full advantage, as if the “silent” part of silent films was never considered as a disadvantage. Both Gustav von Wangenheim and Greta Schroder, the actors who portrayed the characters of Hutter and Ellen, were very expressive! Their acting abilities helped the audience figure out what their characters were thinking and feeling. The two actors that stole the show, though, were Max Schreck and Alexander Granach! Even though their characters, Count Orlok/Nosferatu and Knock, are only on-screen for a limited time, they made the most of their on-screen presence. Both of these actors use their facial expressions to make their characters appear as creepy as possible. Because their acting abilities were that good, it made the portrayal of their characters appear believable!

 

The music: Similar to films like Sunnyside, the music in Nosferatu represented the tone of the overall film. This movie is classified as a horror movie, so the music during frightening scenes was tense and suspenseful. For less scary moments, the music was calmer and gentler. While Hutter visits an inn on his trip to Count Orlok’s castle, the music is light-hearted. This shows what Hutter is feeling, which is excitement toward his journey. When he shares his destination with the innkeeper, every patron in the inn becomes scared. At this moment, the music quickly changes to sound more mysterious and eerie. The fact that the music was always on-point with what was happening on-screen helped make the movie-viewing experience that much more engaging!

 

The on-screen chemistry: Even though their relationship wasn’t featured on-screen for very long, I liked seeing the on-screen chemistry between Gustav von Wangenheim and Greta Schroder! Anytime Hutter and Ellen interacted with each other, it was apparent that these characters truly cared about one another. As I already said, Gustav and Greta’s performances were very expressive. This not only helped make their portrayals endearing, but also help the audience stay invested in Hutter and Ellen’s relationship. This part of the story was a good way to balance out the scariness of Count Orlok/Nosferatu’s character. It was just one way of providing enough light-hearted moments to not frighten the audience too much.

176402-OWIP8M-64
Happy vampire image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/several-vampires-ready-for-halloween_1317599.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/party”>Party vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Nosferatu’s limited presence: Before I watched this film, I had assumed that Count Orlok/Nosferatu would have a significantly large presence on-screen. Unfortunately, he was only featured in a handful of scenes. I also thought that most of the plot would revolve around Count Orlok/Nosferatu, especially since the movie is titled Nosferatu. However, the plot was about the fear associated with this character. While Count Orlok/Nosferatu was not an afterthought, it felt like the movie was about everything but him. This character ended up serving the plot very sparingly.

 

Not so subtle dialogue: Because Nosferatu is a “silent film”, the film’s dialogue is featured on title cards and shots that look like the audience is reading a page from a book. But this dialogue didn’t want to hide the fact that there was a vampire in the movie. Toward the beginning of the film, Knock, Hutter’s boss, tells him that in order to sell a house to Count Orlok, it would require a little bit of blood. When Count Orlok sees a picture of Hutter’s wife, Ellen, he says that she has a nice-looking neck. These are just two examples of how this dialogue was not so subtle about who Count Orlok really was. This happened so frequently, that I felt annoyed by it.

 

Contradicting logic: In, at least, two instances, there were times when logic in Nosferatu was contradicted. One example is when Count Orlok tells Hutter that he only sleeps during the day, which causes people to think that he doesn’t exist. But, when he boards a ship on his way to Wisborg, Count Orlok/Nosferatu walks around the ship’s deck in broad daylight. In a shot that was sharing the film’s plot, it was revealed that the people of Wisborg were afraid to leave their homes because they were unaware of who was affected by the “plague”. When they accused Knock of infecting the town with the “plague”, these same townspeople were chasing Knock throughout the town and a neighboring field. Moments like these made the story seem like it wasn’t as strong as it could have been.

A Month Without the Code banner
A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode65/.

My overall impression:

After watching Nosferatu, I can see that this year’s A Month Without the Code is off to a good start! I have been lucky when it comes to the silent film genre, as I enjoyed every film I’ve seen and/or reviewed so far! Nosferatu has such a rich story, making for an interesting and engaging movie. The stories of how this project was made and restored are also fascinating. It makes me thankful that someone went out of their way to preserve this piece of cinema and save it from obscurity. If this film was created during the Breen Code era, it would be very different. For one thing, it would not be a silent film, as movies released between 1934 to 1954 had audio where cast members could be heard. From the perspective of content, there are a few things that would need to change. These things are the following:

 

  • The references to blood would need to be reduced. Since one of the characters in Nosferatu is a vampire, talking about blood makes sense. But, because mentions of bodily functions are looked down on, blood would have to be talked about at a minimum.

 

  • There are two shots in this movie that could be seen as disturbing: one shows a Venus Fly Trap eating a fly and one shows a spider eating its prey. These scenes would have to be removed.

 

  • On two separate occasions, a dead body is shown on-screen. These images would have to be removed and the on-screen deaths would need to be implied either through dialogue or clever visuals.

 

 

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

 

 

Have you seen Nosferatu? What is your favorite movie featuring vampires? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Christine Review

On 18 Cinema Lane, most of the movies that I’ve reviewed so far have been Hallmark movies. While I enjoy watching and talking about these kinds of films, I also try my best to provide a variety of movies to discuss on my blog. Recently, I had the chance to watch Christine and felt that it would be a good opportunity to talk about something new on 18 Cinema Lane. This was the first time I had ever seen a John Carpenter directed film, but I have definitely heard of his cinematic projects over the years. While I don’t review rated R movies often, I watched a TV-14/PG-13 version of this film, so I consider Christine to be an exception. Now that we’ve gotten through the introductions, let’s buckle up and cruise through my review of Christine.

Christine movie poster
Christine poster created by Columbia Pictures. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ChristinePoster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I thought the cast of Christine was talented! The one actor that stood out to me, though, was Keith Gordon! His portrayal of Arnie Cunningham was so memorable and captivating, his performance stayed in my memory long after I watched the film. Arnie’s evolution was showcased so well in this movie, with Keith bringing the right amount of versatility that a role like this could have asked for. This is definitely one of the best acting performances in any of Stephen King’s book-to-film adaptations!

 

The soundtrack: Though most of the music in this movie was meant to sound and feel like tunes from decades past, I think it was a great component to the film! The collection of songs that was featured in the movie was all great! Whenever Christine was reacting to a particular situation, there was always a perfect song to match what she was thinking. I also liked the instrumental tunes that were used during suspenseful moments, as they really set the tone that the film wanted to achieve.

 

The cars: Even though the movie is all about Christine, she ended up stealing the show. The red car that was used to portray the titular character was absolutely gorgeous! Besides Christine, there were other nice-looking cars as well, such as Dennis’ blue car and Buddy’s silver car.

21494-NTOUHB
Antique car image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/red-classic-car_803652.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Dennis: John Stockwell did a good job portraying the character of Dennis Guilder! This character was not only well-acted, but also well-written. However, Dennis was not in the movie as much as I would have hoped. While the movie primarily focuses on Arnie’s transformation, it seems like most of Dennis’ significance is to, simply, be Arnie’s friend. Dennis does gain an important role in Christine, but that comes toward the end of the film.

 

The bullies: Similar to what I said about Dennis, each of the bullies in this film were well-acted. But I don’t feel that the bullies were well-written characters. To me, it seemed that these characters being mere bullies is what defined them. If that definition were to be taken away, these characters would be pretty weak. There also wasn’t any depth to these characters, like they were written into this story just for the sake of Arnie needing to have a conflict.

 

An anti-climatic ending: I’m not going to spoil anything if you haven’t seen Christine, but I thought the ending was very uneventful. For starters, this movie wasn’t as “scary” as I had expected. I know a story about a villainous car can sound silly, but this story was based on the novel by Stephen King, who is known for such literary works like Misery and The Shining. The plot itself did have some intrigue, but I just couldn’t take the idea of an angry car very seriously.

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Scary movie screening image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/small-skeleton-with-popcorn-and-tv_1323292.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

John Carpenter is known for directing some pretty scary films, such as The Thing and Halloween. Stephen King is famous for writing some pretty scary stories, such as Misery and The Shining, which were previously mentioned. On paper, this sounds like a one-in-a-million, horror movie “dream team”. Because of Mr. Carpenter directing a movie based on one of Mr. King’s books, I expected Christine to be scarier and more frightening. In reality, this movie did not reach my personal expectations. Though the film fell short of being remotely scary, I don’t think it was a terrible film. I have seen other movies based on Stephen King’s stories and while I don’t think it’s one of the best adaptations, it’s definitely not one of the worst. I think that a story about a villainous car was a creative concept, but in the end, it felt more silly than scary.

 

Overall score: 6.5 out of 10

 

Have you seen Christine? What’s your favorite Stephen King adaptation? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen