Archive for Sheila Keith

House of Long Shadows (1983) Review

Posted in House of Long Shadows with tags , , , , , , , on November 25, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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HOUSE OF LONG SHADOWS

** Out of 5

Tagline- Room for Every Nightmare. A Nightmare in Every Room

Release Date- June 17th, 1983

Running Time- 102-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Michael Armstrong

Director- Pete Walker

Starring- Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Desi Arnaz, John Carradine, Sheila Keith

Released in 1983 House of Long Shadows is a semi-forgotten film, but has retained some notoriety due to the cast, which includes iconic horror actors Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. The cast also includes the wonderful Sheila Keith who sadly seems sort of forgotten. Lastly, House of Long Shadows was also the last film directed by Pete Walker best known for his genre classics House of Whipcord and Frightmare, which are my two favorite Pete Walker films. With such a great cast, perhaps the best casting for any horror picture and a great filmmaker in Pete Walker, House of Long Shadows should have been epic and the film was also produced by Yoram Globus & Menahem Golan, but instead the end result was simply an average film that was a nice attempt, but ultimately extremely lackluster.

House of Long Shadows is in many ways a throwback to the Universal horror films of the 30s and is often compared to the James Whale classic the Old Dark House, which was later remade by William Castle in the 60s and Castle was a filmmaker Vincent Price had plenty of success with. Unlike many of Pete Walker’s films of the 70s, which could be graphic at times and of course 80s horror were often quite gory, House of Long Shadows relies more on atmosphere just like the horror films of the 30s. As much as I love 80s horror I also adore horror films from the 30s as it was a much simpler time. I have zero problems with nudity and gore, but when it becomes a cheap gimmick to cover up subpar filmmaking I do have as issue so I appreciate what Pete Walker was attempting it just again was lackluster. Getting a copy of House of Long Shadows is quite difficult and pricy. I saw the film on Amazon Instant Video and it had to be from a VHS since at times its far too dark to make anything out and maybe in someways it also hindered my enjoyment. As I read reviews I see a lot of perfect scores or nearly perfect and while I understand we’re all gonna have a different opinion, but would you really rate this as highly as something as Dawn of the Dead? When a film is long OOP or a seldom seen film it seems to me as if reviews are often overly kind and I can’t help except think people rate films like this higher since they’re tough to come by and aren’t well known.

Kenneth Magee (Arnaz) a successful author makes a 20-grand bet with his publisher he can write a classic novel in only 24-hours. He heads off to a remote manor to get started, but upon arriving he finds the manor inhabited by a strange family harboring a dark secret.

House of Long Shadows is based off a novel from 1913 titled Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers and is also based off a play by George M. Cohan of the same name as the novel. Since I never read the novel or saw the play I have no idea how true to the script sticks to the original material. The Old Dark House was also based off a novel from 1928 titled Benighted by J.B. Priestly. So I really couldn’t tell you if any of the novels are a like or if House of Long Shadows has more in common with one than the other. I love the idea behind the film, but the script by Michael Armstrong just isn’t as interesting as the plot. Characters are fairly decent, but also not interesting enough to carry the film despite having a truly terrific group of actors. I think many of the problems of the film boil down to the script. While not poorly written per se its just again never as interesting as the plot.

Director Pete Walker gained a cult following with his films in the 70s such as Schizo, House of Whipcord, Frightmare, the Confessional and the Comeback. House of Long Shadows was quite a departure from those films for two reasons. The first being all those films have a decent amount of violence however they aren’t body count films and Pete Walker really knows how to stage a great death scene and along with Dario Argento are my two favorites in that regard. Walker is also no stranger to controversy as such films as House of Whipcord, the Confessional and Home Before Midnight caused a bit of a stir and if released in modern times they would still be controversial in particular the last two films mentioned. House of Long Shadows however features very little violence and there’s no controversy either. Most of the deaths aren’t seen and the most graphic is a woman who has her face burnt, but we don’t actually see it happen we just see her face afterwards, but its nothing graphic and the PG rating is warranted unlike films such as Jaws and Grizzly, which are quite violent for PG rated films (of course those two as well as this came before PG-13 it wasn’t until 1984 with Red Dawn though Red Dawn was the 2nd film rated PG-13, but first to be released). As much as I like Pete Walker his films can at times have some pacing issues and I found the pace to House of Long Shadows quite slow and while there is some decent suspense at times this would easily rate at my least favorite film he’s made with this being the 6th film I’ve seen by him.

The cast as I mentioned was terrific and Price, Cushing, Lee and Carradine like always are wonderful too bad they didn’t have better material. Sheila Keith at least to me is just as iconic in the horror genre as the other actors in the film and she deserves far more attention than she gets. Her performances in Pete Walker’s other films such as House of Whipcord, Frightmare and the Comeback are amazing. Desi Arnaz, Jr is of course the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and he’s gotten some negative reviews here, but I think they’re off base as he was actually quite good and it really isn’t fair to compare him to the other actors as they’re icons for a reason.

Overall I really wanted to like House of Long Shadows as a fan of the cast and director, but after a decent start I found the middle sections a little too slow before getting better in the final act, but by this time the film lost me. Perhaps on another viewing I’ll warm up to it, but I just wasn’t feeling it. As I mentioned this was the final film made by Pete Walker.

Frightmare (1974) Review

Posted in Frightmare with tags , , , , on October 7, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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FRIGHTMARE

**** Out 5

Tagline- What Terrifying Craving Made Her Kill and Kill and Kill

Release Date- November 6th, 1974

Running Time- 83-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- David McGillivray (Story Pete Walker)

Director- Pete Walker

Starring- Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood, Kim Butcher

Released in 1974 Frightmare has often been dubbed the UK version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and while these two films have a couple of things in common they’re also very different. As I write this review this is the 4th film by Pete Walker that I’ve seen. Schizo and the Comeback were ok films that had potential, but were a little sluggish in pacing and in the end were simply ok films that didn’t reach their fullest potential. The House of Whipcord was an excellent film and that’s the film that really made me a fan of Walker. Frightmare is one of those sneaky good films. It starts off ok and as the film goes along there really isn’t anything special about it, but by the end I was totally hooked.

In 1957 Dorothy Yates (Keith) and her husband Edmund (Davies) were sent off to an insane asylum for a series of brutal murders. Now released they live in a remote village, but soon Dorothy is back to old ways luring people to her house and killing them.

The screenplay by David McGillivray based off a story by Pete Walker is as much a drama as it is a horror film. For the good majority of the first half the focus is more on Edmund’s daughter Jackie (Fairfax) who is looking after her younger and rebellious sister Debbie (Butcher). Jackie also checks in on her father and stepmother and like I said the script is very much a drama early on and while in someways this does slow things down, but it also adds a lot of depth to the characters as well. For the most part, Frightmare is cleverly plotted and well written.

Thus far of the 4 films I’ve seen by Pete Walker the biggest problem I’ve had is the pacing can sometimes be a little sluggish with the exception of House of Whipcord. Sometimes a films biggest asset can also be its biggest flaw. In Schizo it mixes horror and drama and the same can be said about the Comeback and the horror elements themselves are a mixture of slasher and ghost story. I guess what I’m getting at is I like the fact Walker attempts to add more depth to his films, but they can sometimes lack an identity. Frightmare follows in tune with that as its very much a family drama through the first half and even the 2nd half it still plays a large part. The pacing of Frightmare can be a little sluggish in some spots, but never boring and with that said though there are moments where you might wonder where this is all going. The first onscreen murder doesn’t happen until the 54-minute mark. However be patient because when the final act comes all the family drama is very much worth it as this really adds to the intense final act, which featured some great suspense as there were plenty of tense moments with a total shocker of an ending.

I also love the visual look of the film towards the end with the bluish tint used outside of the farmhouse as this really adds a layer of tension. Frightmare though is most noted for its graphic violence and sure there is plenty of carnage on display and of all the films by Pete Walker I’ve seen this is probably his most violent, but its not as graphic as most cite. I suppose for 1974 there is a lot of carnage, but I can think of many films far more violent around this time or even before it. Though some deaths are nice and brutal with almost a meanness behind them, which in part makes them a little more shocking than they actually are. House of Whipcord is still my favorite Pete Walker film, but Frightmare is very close behind. Like I said through some of the film you might be wondering where all this is going, but just be patient as its all worth it at the end.

All the performances are quite strong, but Sheila Keith is brilliant as Dorothy Yates; she’s amazingly creepy and she’s also worked with Pete Walker on a few other films and she was great in those as well, but this was by far her creepiest role and its a shame she’s sort of forgotten. I’d rate her as one of the great horror actresses who deserves far, far more credit than given. The rest of the cast is also excellent in their roles with Kim Butcher besides Sheila Keith being the standout.

Overall Frightmare is an excellent film and the film is sometimes dubbed a Texas Chainsaw Massacre knockoff is way off base and for the record both films were released the same year. In someways, Frightmare can be a little slow and like I said before you might wonder where this is all going, but when it gets there you’ll better appreciate the first half of the film. Frightmare is creepy with a brilliant and chilling final act.

Frightmare like many European films goes under many different titles. Alternate titles were a little more common in non-English speaking countries, but Frightmare also goes under the title Cover Up, Once Upon a Frightmare and even Frightmare II. Back in 1983 there was another film titled Frightmare and its common sometimes for distribution companies to bill one films as a sequel even if unrelated. Peter Walker’s Frightmare pre-dates the 1983 production by 9-years!

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Top 15 Scream Queens

Posted in Top 15 Scream Queens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

What exactly makes a Scream Queen? Is it someone who has appeared in many horror films? What about an actress that made 1 horror film that she gave a great performance to go along with a great film? Many people will say you need a few horror films to be a Scream Queen and that’s fair enough, but what about if most of those films are terrible? So with this list I decided that it doesn’t matter if you have 1 credit or 100. All that matters is quality of the film and performance.

I know some will disagree with me including actresses that aren’t really known for horror, but again it’s about quality more than anything else. There were several actresses left out that I really wanted to include such as Daniela Doria, Zora Kerova, Lorraine De Selle and they almost made the cut, but in the end decided against it.

(For some reason I am having trouble with uploads so if any pictures don’t show sorry about that.

15. Hayden Panettiere

Notable films- Scream 4

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I know many will disagree with my placing of Hayden at number 15 and I could have placed several other actresses here, but I went with Hayden because Kirby in Scream 4 is just awesome! A hot chick who loves horror. As much as I liked Scream 4 without Hayden it might have been a little less.

14. Franca Stoppi

Notable Films- Beyond the Darkness, The Other Hell

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Her character Iris was downright creepy in Beyond the Darkness and while that may be her most notable credit (she has done other horror flicks) Iris is one of the more memorable characters and Stoppi more than deserving.

13. Marilyn Burns

Notable films- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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Like the above she has a couple more credits, but TCM is all she needs. I easily could have rated her higher. Besides a great performance the hell that she went through while filming alone gets her on this list. As Sally, Marilyn Burns was great and sure I could fill this up with other actresses with tons of credits, but none of those actresses gave as strong a performance or were in as good a film.

12. Lisa Wilcox

Notable films- A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 & 5

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I always preferred Alice over Nancy. That’s just me, but for certain purposes I couldn’t rate Lisa Wilcox higher. I just love how Alice starts and what she becomes. From shy nerd to kick ass chick ready to kick Freddy’s ass

11. Corteney Cox

Notable films- Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4

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Nobody can play the bitch like Corteney and rather than wanna see her meet a grisly end you root for her to survive. Her performances are hysterical and she always brings the fun factor to the Scream movies.

10. Cristina Galbo

Notable films- What Have You Done to Solange, The Killer Must Kill Again, Living Dead at Manchester Morgue

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One of the most stunning women to grace the screen, in all her films, Cristina not only brings beauty, but something innocent and naive to her performances.

9. Jennifer Love Hewitt

Notable films- I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

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I know some will disagree with J. Love on the list and perhaps as high as she rates. What guy wasn’t totally crushing on Jennifer back in the 90s? With her stunning looks, beautiful smile, J. Love brought the super hot girl next door quality to her films.

8. Catriona MacColl

Notable films- City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, House by the Cemetery

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Her work with Fulci was great and MacColl brought a lot of class and charm in her work with Lucio Fulci.

7. Heather Langenkamp

Notable films- A Nightmare on Elm Street, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, New Nightmare

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I can hear the groans now over the ranking. Nancy is one of the greats for sure and the original Elm Street a masterpiece. Nancy wasn’t like most characters in horror films as she was not only smart, but didn’t need help in taking down Freddy. I’ve always loved the character and how she changed in the series.

6. Edwige Fenech

Notable films- The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, The Case of the Bloody Iris, Strip Nude for Your Killer, Hostel: Part II

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Is there any woman more stunning? I think not. Her Giallo work was truly excellent and it didn’t hurt she was always willing to shed her clothes. Edwige is one of my all-time favorites and wanted to rate her even higher.

5. Daria Nicolodi

Notable Films- Deep Red, Inferno, Tenebre, Phenomena, Opera

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Her work with Argento is brilliant and at times European horror isn’t always know for strong female characters, but with Deep Red she broke that. Through the years her work with Argento made her a staple in the horror genre and Daria who sadly sometimes gets looked over is a terrific actress.

4. Danielle Harris

Notable Films- Halloween 4, Halloween 5, Halloween, Halloween II, Hatchet II

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Danielle is probably the only child actor in a horror film that didn’t get on my nerves. As young Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 & 5, Danielle gave performances far beyond her years and her work with Rob Zombie in his Halloween films were great. Halloween II she really got to show off her acting range. But she will always be remembered as Jamie Lloyd and dare I say I liked her more than Laurie?

3. Sheila Keith

Notable Films- The House of Whipcord, Frightmare, The Comeback

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Sadly an actress that time has forgotten. Her work with Pete Walker is truly amazing. She was downright creepy in House of Whipcord and the Comeback, but Frightmare she was just chilling! Its sad many horror fans don’t mention her as she was a terrific actress and if she doesn’t seriously creep you out something must be wrong with you.

2. Jamie Lee Curtis

Notable Films- Halloween, The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, Halloween II, Halloween H20

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What can I say about Jamie that hasn’t already been stated before? Her title of the scream queen is more than fitting and deserving as her work in the genre is iconic for a reason. As Laurie Strode she set the bar on the woman in danger role. I often alternate on my top 2 picks since both are more than deserving.

1. Neve Campbell

Notable Films- Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4, The Craft

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This might be a surprise to some, but as Sydney, Neve Campbell set the bar for the modern scream queen. She was vulnerable, but not weak as she fights back at every turn. Neve brought this sweet tough innocence to Syd, but when push comes to shove she’ll kick your ass!