Comedy of Terrors (1964) Review

Posted in Comedy of Terrors with tags , , , , on November 20, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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COMEDY OF TERRORS

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Your Favorite Creeps Are Together Again!

Release Date- January 22nd, 1964

Running Time- 84-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Richard Matheson

Director- Jacques Tourneur

Starring- Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Joyce Jameson and Basil Rathbone

The Comedy of Terrors apparently had a showing in 1963 before getting a theatrical release in 1964. The Comedy of Terrors mixes horror and comedy and features quite a legendary cast with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone. I really can’t think of a horror film with a better cast as all these actors are icons and it doesn’t end there as the script was by Richard Matheson and directed by Jacques Tourneur. Comedy of Terrors has amazing talent involved and it doesn’t really disappoint either, but with such talent involved the stakes are raised. While I enjoy horror and comedy there aren’t many though that would make my top list and slapstick, which this film often goes for can be hit or miss even within the same film for me.

With his business failing Waldo Trumbull (Price) does what any good owner of a funeral parlor would do and that’s murder people to drum up business.

Richard Matheson is perhaps best known for his novel I Am Legend and a year after this movie he’d co-write an adaption of it titled the Last Man on Earth, which starred Vincent Price. As a screenwriter Matheson’s most notable films are probably the Edgar Alan Poe adaptions directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price with such films as House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum and Tales of Terror. Richard Matheson also wrote a number of episodes of the Twilight Zone, while continuing to be a critically acclaimed author. The script for Comedy of Terrors has a simple plot, but the writing is quite sharp and often funny. Characters are terrific, which is a mixture of the writing and the actors involved. Comedy of Terrors is a well written spoof and while it can get a little too silly in spots it always remains funny.

Director Jacques Tourneur is quite an iconic horror filmmaker and its s shame he isn’t talked about more. Curse of the Demon is seen as a classic of the genre and his work with Val Lewton with Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and the Leopard Man are some of the most influential genre films of their time. Jacques Tourneur delivers a well made and well paced film and stages some terrific comedy. The film high on camp is a joy from opening to start and for me the best moments are the ones that border slapstick, but are held back just a notch. The more over the top gags are also quite funny, but for me after a bit slapstick can get a little tiresome and while here I always found it funny I did prefer the scenes where Tourneur held back just a bit.

As mention the cast is legendary are is hands down one of my favorite casts of any genre. Vincent Price is hysterical as Waldo Trumbull and it was clear he enjoyed playing the role. Price was one of those actors that was so gifted he could even make a subpar film just a little better. My personal favorite Vincent Price film and performance was the Witchfinder General. Price’s performance with Comedy of Terrors is no doubt one of my very favorites as well. He’s simply a joy to watch here and his work with Peter Lorre is a riot. Boris Karloff is one of my all time favorite actors and his performance in the 1931 version of Frankenstein despite having no dialogue is in my opinion amongst the greatest performances ever. At this stage in his career, Karloff was making a bit of a comeback thanks to Roger Corman, but his health was starting to decline and originally Karloff was cast as Mr. Black, but due to his arthritis he wasn’t able to play the demanding role and Basil Rathbone took over the part and Karloff took the role of Amos Hinchley. Karloff’s comedic timing is excellent and I’ve seen many Karloff films and this could very well make my top 5 Karloff performances. Basil Rathbone is best known for his performances as Sherlock Holmes, but he’s no stranger to the horror genre and one of his most notable horror roles came in Son of Frankenstein, which also happened to be the last time Boris Karloff played the Monster. Rathbone is simply outstanding in a wild performance as John Black. Like a true pro Rathbone and the rest of the cast aren’t afraid to ham it up.

Overall the Comedy of Terrors is a terrific film that’s quite funny throughout and while the comedy can be a little too over the top for me at times I never lost interest. As mentioned when you have the talent of the highest level involved the stakes are raised so I can see how some might be letdown, but with strong writing and directing a cast that is clearly having fun working with each other the Comedy of Terrors delivers the goods.

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The Big Doll House (1971) Review

Posted in Big Doll House with tags , , , , on November 19, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE BIG DOLL HOUSE

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Soft Young Girls Behind Hard Prison Bars

Release Date- April 30th, 1971

Running Time- 94-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Don Spencer

Director- Jack Hill

Starring- Judy Brown, Roberta Collins, Pam Grier, Brooke Mills, Pat Woodell and Sid Haig as Harry

Released in 1971 The Big Doll House by many is considered the film that started the new wave of Women in Prison films that were highly successful in the 1970s before fading by the end of the decade, but like always filmmakers will try and squeeze every last dollar out of something and a few were made in the 80s, but most weren’t very successful and the WIP film became a thing of the past. The Big Doll House wasn’t the first WIP film nor was it the first to feature the things these films would be known for. In 1969 99 Women was released, which was directed by Jess Franco and in someways that’s the film that started many of the cliches, but despite coming first it was the Roger Corman produced WIP films that kick started the genre and the Big Doll House is pretty much the film that got this genre going.

The Corman produced WIP films feature some violence as well as nudity, but they aren’t very sleazy with perhaps Women in Cages being a slight exception. That may have been a little sleazier than the others, but nowhere near the level these films would later reach. Filmmakers such Jesùs Franco & Oswaldo de Oliveira would very much up the ante on the sleaze factor, but while the Corman WIP films may be a little tame when compared to such films as Franco’s Sadomania or Oliveira’s Bare Behind Bars, they still very much deliver what fans of the WIP films expect to see and even if they lack the graphic nudity on sex they are in my opinion the best the WIP genre has to offer. The Big Doll House was a solid if not flawed film and my personal favorite film of this genre would be the sequel of sorts the Big Bird Cage (released the following year in 1972), but the Big Doll House is still a highly entertaining film.

Unhappy with the harsh conditions where torture is frequent and wanting freedom several women hatch an escape plan from the prison they’re being held in.

The screenplay was written by Don Spencer and its light on plot as the escape plan doesn’t enter to about the midway mark. The beauty of the WIP film is plot isn’t really required, but in someways it does hinder the script as it has no real identity or point for that matter. However the Big Doll House is still fairly well written as it features fun and highly entertaining characters (the excellent cast helps that) and the script is just a lot of fun even if it does feel like random scenes were written. Despite the flaws I have no issues with Spencer’s script that keeps me from enjoying it as again despite the lack of plot its made up for in the fun factor.

Director Jack Hill crafts a fun film that at 94-minutes does feel a little overly long due to the lack of plot, but to Hill’s credit he manages to always keep the film fun despite the pacing issues. While the film features all the aspects the WIP film is known for it also is a little restrained in content, which is why the Corman productions are my favorite of this genre. As much as I enjoy the WIP film and love the exploitation film as a whole too many filmmakers tried to up the ante by adding graphic nature, which I have zero problems with, but at times it did feel a little forced. That’s not to say the Big Doll House was tame, but Hill never takes the film too far to where it even becomes absurd like Franco’s Sadomania (which however was a blast). The Big Doll House very much earns its R-rating and again the film isn’t tame, but Jack Hill is a good enough filmmaker that he doesn’t need to resort to shock value for the sake of it. Overall Jack Hill delivers an excellent and fun film and while I did have issues with the pacing at times as I mentioned I was never bored though. This was Hill’s first WIP film and in my opinion he would master it with the Big Bird Cage, but when all is said and done flaws and all, Jack Hill delivers an exploitation classic.

The Big Doll House features a terrific cast and fans of 70s exploitation films should recognize most of the cast. Judy Brown also appeared in Women in Cages and her last credit was in 1986 with an episode of Falcon Crest. Roberta Collins also appeared in Women in Cages and appeared in another Corman WIP film Caged Heat and was also in Death Race 2000. Of course Pam Grier and Sid Haig need no introduction. The Big Doll House was Pam Grier’s first starring role. The previous year in 1970 she had a role in Beyond Valley of the Dolls, which was written by Roger Ebert. Grier would work with Jack Hill several times on such films as Coffy and Foxy Brown and the Big Bird Cage all of those, which also starred Sid Haig and they would later both appear together in the Tarantino classic Jackie Brown. Sid Haig also starred in Spider Baby, which was Jack Hill’s directorial debut.

Roberta Collins sadly passed away on August 16th, 2008 at the age of 63 from an accidental overdose from alcohol and drugs. After the suicide of her son she fell into a deep depression.

Overall the Big Doll is a highly entertaining film with an excellent cast and while the lack of plot in someways does hinder the film it is made up for in the fun factor. The following year with the Big Bird Cage, which is a sequel of sorts (though no connection between the films) is for me the better of the two, but the Big Doll House still isn’t to be missed for fans of the WIP film.

The song in the opening Long Time Woman is sung by Pam Grier. Not only incredibly beautiful and a great actress, but a very good singer as well.

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Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) Review

Posted in Abominable Dr. Phibes with tags , on November 18, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Ugly

Release Date- May 21st, 1971

Running Time- 94-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- James Whiton & William Goldstein

Director- Robert Fuest

Starring- Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Virginia North, Peter Jeffrey

Released in 1971 the Abominable Dr. Phibes was in many ways the start of an end of an era for Vincent Price. Starting around the mid 60s and becoming more apparent in the 70s with the emergence of such filmmakers as Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, George Romero, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, Dario Argento and even John Carpenter the film industry started to change with these rebel filmmakers. Of course there are many more filmmakers, but I don’t wanna veer too far off subject. Vincent Price was highly successful in the 50s, which continued in the 60s and a good portion of Price’s most noted films were with William Castle and Roger Corman. But by 1971 things were really starting to change and over the next couple of years the film industry would change even more and the films of Vincent Price’s past and what would come while popular didn’t exactly have the same impact they once did. The change could even be seen in Witchfinder General from 1968, which was quite a departure from what Vincent Price starred in prior. Abominable Dr. Phibes kind of continued that trend and like Witchfinder General this really stands out for the bulk of Price’s films. While not exactly gory, but it does feature more make-up F/X than the classic Vincent Price era.

Over the years I’ve seen bits and pieces of Abominable Dr. Phibes, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t think it was bad or anything, but the film just couldn’t grab my interest, but after picking up the blu-ray set of the Vincent Price Collection, which this is one of the 6-films included and this time around for whatever reasons I was able to watch it and become hooked instantly. Picking my favorite Vincent Price film would be quite difficult, but odds are I would go with Witchfinder General, but Dr. Phibes is a close 2nd.

Anton Phibes (Price) seeks revenge on the doctors he holds responsible for the death of his wife.

The screenplay by James Whiton & William Goldstein is terrific. Well plotted with terrific characters and the script is also quite funny at times. The 70s were my favorite time in cinema and not just horror, but pretty much all genres. The script is just well written it doesn’t try to be anything except entertaining and it very much succeeds as the scripts excellently blends horror and comedy.

Director Robert Fuest crafts an excellent and well paced film that’s often fun and exciting as well as suspenseful. The death scenes are quite fun and creative and while not exactly gory do feature some F/X. Abominable Dr. Phibes is truly a terrific film it gets off to a great start and never lets up. Like how the script perfectly balances comedy and horror, Fuest very much does the same with the direction.

Like I said when Abominable Dr. Phibes was released film was really changing and that started in the 60s and very much continued in the 70s. With such films has Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left the films Price starred in prior while still wonderful films probably didn’t make the same impact on viewers as they once did. Vincent Price would continue to have a successful career all the way up to his death in 1993 and with Witchfinder General and Dr. Phibes perhaps Vincent Price was aware he needed to do something different as an actor to keep up with the times. Now don’t take that wrong as Vincent Price was not only a great actor, but his films with William Castle and Roger Corman are classic horror films and have stood the test of time (in particular his work with Corman), but I think the change in direction was the absolute correct choice.

The wife of Dr. Phibes who appears very briefly on screen at the end and is mostly seen in photos is actually Caroline Munro best known to horror fans for her roles in Maniac, Don’t Open Till Christmas and Slaughter High.

Abominable Dr. Phibes was released on blu-ray by Scream Factory in October of 2013 along with 5 other films. The HD presentation is terrific as the print looks wonderful with strong colors. Of all 6 films I felt this was the best transfer. Audio is also excellent and Scream Factory delivers a great product.

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Haunted Palace (1963) Review

Posted in Haunted Palace with tags , , , , on November 17, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE HAUNTED PALACE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- What Was the Terrifying Thing in the Pit That Wanted Women

Release Date- August 28th, 1963

Running Time- 87-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Charles Beaumont (Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft)

Director- Roger Corman

Starring- Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Frank Maxwell, Leo Gordon and Lon Chaney as Simon

When it comes to the career of Roger Corman he’s quite legendary in B-cinema and while he has plenty of directing credits its as producer that he’s most prolific. To most Corman is just some guy that produces B-films, but I don’t think people realize the impact that Roger Corman made not just in B-cinema, but film as a whole. It was Corman who launched the careers of many Hollywood superstars and resurrected the career of Boris Karloff. When you produce as many low budget films as Roger Corman has you’re bound to have a whole lot of poor films and since the Hollywood monster grew and grew in the mid 90s the good portion of Corman’s films have been poor (though some are fun in a silly way, but not like those in his prime). While Roger Corman produced some very popular cult films (though not always credited) such as The Big Bird Cage and Women in Cages. While not the first WIP (Women in Prison) films they were the ones that paved the way for what followed. Even in slasher films Corman made an impact with films such as Slumber Party Massacre and of course monster films with films like Humanoids from the Deep. Nobody will mistake Corman’s work for Oscar worthy caliber films, but he is an icon in the film industry even if your average person doesn’t realize it. As I stated he launched the careers of many big players such as Jack Nicholson and Francis Ford Coppola. Back in the 60s when Roger Corman was an active director he actually made some very solid films and not silly B-Movies, which while a lot of fun don’t showcase fully how talented he is. However regardless if the film is good or a so bad its good film there is good reason why Roger Corman’s career has spanned as long as it has. And as I mentioned not making Oscar caliber films, Corman has an Oscar for his achievements in film and while some may disagree, but I think it was very warranted.

The Haunted Palace is actually based off the work of H.P. Lovecraft rather than Poe, but there was more marketing in Poe’s name and this was very common in the 60s to have all these films based off the work of Poe, but the film had little or nothing to do with his work. Actually not only the 60s, but even in the 30s with some of the Karloff and Lugosi films based off Edgar Allan Poe stories had nothing to do with them. It’s sort of like the based on a true story, which in reality has very little of the true story its inspired by. Regardless of the fact, The Haunted Palace is an excellent film in the careers of Vincent Price and Roger Corman and while I can’t say for sure its my favorite Price/Corman film it is easily a contender.

Joseph Curwen (Price) was an evil warlock that was burned at the stake by villagers, but just before he puts a curse on future generations of the villagers. Now 110-years later Charles Dexter (Price in a dual role) inherits the palace. Curwen possesses the body of Charles and seeks revenge on the ancestors of those who killed him while also trying to bring his dead wife back.

The screenplay by Charles Beaumont is generally well written with solid characters and for the most part the Haunted Palace is well plotted, but certain things just sort of happen with no real explanation, but with that said it never hurts the film. Outside of some minor flaws Beaumont’s script is quite well done.

As director Roger Corman shows here he’s more than just campy films. The Haunted Palace is well made with a great an eerie gothic look. Corman delivers a well paced film with plenty of suspense and again eerie atmosphere. As I mentioned Corman is more prolific as a producer and he’s produced some excellent films with many being silly and campy fun, but a lot of his directorial efforts weren’t silly nor campy and he deserves far more credit as a director than he gets. While he may not be on the level of say John Carpenter, Roger Corman in my opinion is still one of the great horror filmmakers.

The Haunted Palace is a great showcase for the talents of Vincent Price as he’s equally great as both the villain and good guy. Price was such a terrific actor and is one of the horror genre greats and in many ways reminds me of Boris Karloff as each brought a touch of class to their films regardless on quality of the film and both could play the good guy and villain and be great in each role. It’s always great to see Lon Chaney who was far better than given credit for and while Chaney is seen as a horror icon he was always in the shadow of his father and than later Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I always preferred Chaney, Jr over Sr and I like Lon Chaney, Jr as much as Lugosi (Karloff will always be the king of the genre for me). This film was released when Chaney’s best roles were behind him and this was probably the best film he’s made in years and possibly his last great role.

Overall The Haunted Palace is a terrific gothic horror film that has quite a creepy feel with a terrific performance by Vincent Price and Lon Chaney. It’s films like Haunted Palace that really showcase the talents of Roger Corman.

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House on Haunted Hill (1959) Review

Posted in House on Haunted Hill (1959) with tags , , on November 13, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The 13 Greatest Shocks of All Time.

Release Date- February 17th, 1959

Running Time- 74-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Robb White

Director- William Castle

Starring- Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook

When it comes to the career of William Castle he’s probably better known for his gimmicks rather than the films he made. While his films are seen as cult classics and when originally released many of them turned a profit, but his detractors think it was the gimmicks that sold these films, which is true to some degree, but seeing as his films are seen as cult films I think there was more to William Castle than just that, as these gimmicks are lost on home video. The House on Haunted Hill was released in 1959 and stars the legendary Vincent Price who had two major horror hits with House of Wax and the Fly and he added yet another hit here and was now a bankable horror star.

Millionaire Frederick Loren (Price) offers 10 grand to 5 people willing to spend the night in an old spooky house that’s supposed to be haunted.

The screenplay was written by Robb White who was a regular for William Castle as besides this he also wrote Macabre, the Tingler, 13 Ghosts and Homicidal all directed by Castle. The screenplay is actually decently plotted with some nice plot twists. The setup is you classic haunted house film and the characters while kind of lack are also entertaining. Robb White doesn’t write a great film it’s simply B-movie fun, but effective.

William Castle was truly great at promotion and he did a great job at marketing his films with fun gimmicks such as the fright meter in Homicidal, the screen going dark in the Tingler and Vincent Price telling everyone in the theater to be calm. Here apparently a skeleton at some point would hover over the crowd during the suspense scenes. If William Castle was as good a director as he was at promotion he’d be the best. However with that said William Castle was more than just a gimmick filmmaker and was very much a competent filmmaker as there’s a reason why he’s become a cult figure and such films as I Saw What You Did, Strait-Jacket and the Old Dark House remake showcase his skills as a director and even the House on Haunted Hill. From the very start, Castle establishes a fun tone, which he’s able to mainly maintain throughout the picture. There are some pace issues in the middle, but running at only 74-minutes it doesn’t take long for the film to get back on track. For a modern audience the suspense probably won’t play out well, but there is some legit suspense at times and even if it doesn’t work as well now it does retain its fun factor.

The cast is solid, but its Vincent Price that really makes this film. I’ve said this before in other reviews, but Price is the kind of actor that was so gifted with such a great screen presence that he could make even a subpar film watchable. Outside of his work with Roger Corman, Price is most associated with William Castle and without Vincent Price the House on Haunted Hill would have still been fun, but not nearly as enjoyable.

Overall the House on Haunted Hill is a fun movie that has that B-movie charm. It isn’t a great film by any means, but the pure fun factor elevates it.

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Big Bird Cage (1972) Review

Posted in Big Bird Cage with tags , , , , , on November 11, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE BIG BIRD CAGE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Women So Hot with Desire They Melt the Chains That Enslave Them!

Release Date- July, 1972

Running Time- 95-Minutes

Rating- R

Writer/Director- Jack Hill

Starring- Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Candice Roman, Vic Diaz, Andy Centenera

When it comes to the exploitation film Roger Corman is one of the biggest names though more often than not he’s not always mentioned outside of the hardcore exploitation film fans. Roger Corman has been involved with 100s and 100s of films and though he may not always have an onscreen credit, but for me he’s one of my biggest influences and not only was he a pioneer in exploitation films, but he also helped launched the career of several notable actors and filmmakers. When it comes to the Women in Prison genre, Corman may not have started it, but he did however probably make the biggest impact on future filmmakers of WIP films. When you look at the career of Roger Corman when you are involved with as many films as he was you’re bound to have a lot of poor films, but Corman also produced (as well as written and directed) many upon many cult classics and the Big Bird Cage is one of my favorite Corman films and probably my favorite Jack Hill film.

WIP films are often known for violence and sleaze, but the Corman WIP films are a bit tamer than what would follow. The Big Bird Cage features some violence and nudity, but its not as graphic as other films within the genre, but that doesn’t make the film any less effective. This film is sometimes billed as a sequel of sorts to the Big Doll House, which was released the previous year. While the Big Bird Cage has some of the same cast and crew as well as being shot in the Philippines, but outside of that there really isn’t much of a connection and I personally don’t see it as a sequel at all. While the Big Bird Cage may not be the best WIP film ever made it easily though rates as one of my favorites. This is one of those films you can just sit back and have a good time with. The Big Bird Cage has been labeled a satire of WIP films and I suppose there might be a couple of satirical moments I wouldn’t label it one. Not every exploitation film that plays up to camp value is a satire. This film is quite campy and funny and it really makes for such an entertaining viewing.

Blossom (Grier) and Django (Haig) are revolutionary fighters and to start the revolution they hatch a plan for Grier to be sent to prison with Django breaking her out.

The screenplay by Jack Hill might be light on plot, but more than made up for in the fun factor. Hill’s script is often funny and while the characters might lack depth they are however a lot of fun. Hill’s script is quite clever and a bit different than most WIP films. As I mentioned this film is sometimes labeled a satire and while there might be a few satirical aspects, the script is simply meant to be fun and campy and Jack Hill very much delivers.

As director Jack Hill delivers an excellent and well paced film. From the very start until the closing shot, The Big Bird Cage runs at a smooth and fun pace. There are also so,e really great action scenes in the final act and made more impressive when taking into account the low budget. I’ve seen a few films by Jack Hill and this would probably be my favorite. It’s just a really fun film with strong pacing, characters and action scenes. The Big Bird Cage is just a real fun time and at 95-minutes it actually feels way shorter. If you’re into WIP films, this one comes highly recommend. Jack Hill crafts not only one of my favorite WIP films, but one of my favorite exploitation films.

There are some truly funny scenes here and Vic Diaz as a gay prison guard is a riot and is many of the more memorable scenes. And he even gets raped by one of the sexually frustrated female inmates. There isn’t anything in the least offensive since everything is so campy and another highlight is Sid Haig posing as a gay prison guard, which will have you rolling in laughter. Sid Haig did plenty of exploitation films and worked with Jack Hill a few times and this in my opinion was their best outing. Pam Grier as Blossom is a joy to watch and seriously was there a woman finer than Pam Grier back in the 70s? Like Sid Haig, Pam Grier also worked with Jack Hill many times and again this would be my favorite film they did together.

Overall the Big Bird Cage is one of my favorite WIP films. We have Roger Corman, Jack Hill, Sid Haig, Pam Grier, beautiful women and really what more can one ask for? This was just a really fun film with plenty of great comedic moments and excellent action scenes.

Shout Factory released this on DVD and blu-ray as the Women in Cages Triple Feature along with Women in Cages and the Big Doll House. I have the blu-ray and I must say The Big Bird Cage looks incredible in HD. Due to the age and budget of the film one cannot expect perfection. Grain levels are never overpowering and there is some minor print damage. Clarity is excellent and the Big Bird Cage looks great. There are a few shots here and there where quality drops, but for the most part the film looks wonderful and retains its gritty exploitation look. The audio was also quite strong as well and this was a top notch release from Shout Factory.

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Last Man on Earth (1964) Review

Posted in Last Man on Earth with tags , , , on November 10, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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LAST MAN ON EARTH

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Do You Dare to Imagine What It Would Be Like to Be the Last Man on Earth or the Last Woman?

Release Date- March 8th, 1964

Running Time- 86-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- William F. Leicester & Logan Swanson

Director- Ubaldo B. Ragona & Sidney Salkow

Starring- Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi

Released in 1964 the Last Man on Earth while a cult favorite also draws some mixed reviews with some thinking Vincent Price was miscast in the lead role, which probably stems from Richard Matheson stating that in an interview. The Last Man on Earth is based off the classic novel I Am Legend, which was written by Richard Matheson and its also had two other adaptions. There was the Omega Man with Charlton Heston and lastly I Am Legend with Will Smith. In my opinion Last Man on Earth was the best adaption followed by the Omega Man. As for the casting while all three actors did well in their role I thought Vincent Price was the best of the three. While the idea for the novel by Richard Matheson was terrific and there’s a reason the novel is seen as a classic, but its a very difficult novel to adapt since most of the dialogue are the thoughts of the main character (Robert Neville in the book). The Last Man on Earth is quite a low budget film, which is quite obvious and while it can hinder the film a tiny bit I also think the low budget helps elevate the film.

After a deadly plague wipes out mankind leaving only vampire/zombie hybrids, Robert Morgan (Price) is the last survivor.

The screenplay was written by William F. Leicester & Logan Swanson and Logan Swanson is actually Richard Matheson who wasn’t overly fond of the final product and decided to use an alias. As mentioned I Am Legend is quite difficult to adapt, but I felt Leicester and Matheson actually do a fairly decent job. For most of the first act its filled with voice overs and though it mainly worked there’s a reason most films avoid using voice overs. Characters are decent with the strongest being Robert Morgan, which probably has more to do with Vincent Price. While sure the script has some issues it’s still a good script and solid adaption of the novel.

I’m not sure exactly who directed the film since certain prints credit Ubaldo B. Ragona and others Sidney Salkow. The one thing this film very much gets right is the look. The deserted streets outside of a few corpses is quite a chilling site and Ragona & Salkow deliver some eerie atmosphere. The pace of the film isn’t the most exciting, but the film mainly works due to the bleak tone. Despite the short running time perhaps a few minutes could have been lost, but while the pace is a bit slow in spots its made up for in the bleak tone established. The final act is where the action really kicks in and while it plays out well the low budget might hinder how they were staged. Last Man on Earth isn’t exactly filmmaking at its very best, but Ragona & Salkow craft an eerie film that makes up for the shortcomings.

In my opinion Vincent Price was absolutely the perfect choice for the lead. For a good portion of the film Price goes at it solo and you can really feel the loneliness and isolation Morgan feels. Vincent Price was an actor that could even make subpar films at the very least watchable and when given great material he’s as good as an actor as anyone else. Here the material isn’t perhaps the best he’s had to work with, but its strong enough to allow Price to showcase his talents and quite honestly I’d rate this in perhaps my top 5 Vincent Price performances.

Overall the Last Man on Earth has its flaws and again the novel really isn’t easy to adapt. The pace may not be the most exciting, but its made up for in atmosphere and the acting by Price. Just soak up the atmosphere and it help makes up for the flaws to some degree. While the Omega Man and I Am Legend might be the more exciting films this one in my opinion is the best. The interesting thing about the film is the infected are a vampire/zombie hybrid and there are certain scenes you can easily see the influence on such films as Night of the Living Dead and countless other zombie movies.

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