Sunday, 20 April 2014

COMPETITION: FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL' BLU RAY / SHANE BRIANT Q AND A.


COMPETITION: To celebrate the release of the Hammer films classic ‘Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell’ UNCUT – coming to 2-disc DVD & single-disc Blu-ray for the first ever time in the UK on 28th April 2014....here in conjunction with Hammer films, Icon Film Distribution and Fetch Publicity is our FIRST competition..with a twist!

Next week we are launching an EXCLUSIVE 'Q and A with SHANE BRIANT' star of Hammer films 'Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell'. What we need from you are great QUESTIONS! And THAT'S how you can get your hands on some great prizes! Along with Shane Briant, we will pick the BEST THREE QUESTIONS as WINNERS! There are THREE prizes...

FIRST PRIZE: A copy of the 'Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell' Blu Ray / 2 DVD release PLUS an exclusive set of promotion 'Monster from Hell' LOBBY CARDS (Only 20 sets have been printed!) PLUS your LOBBY CARDS will be signed by SHANE BRIANT dedicated to you. PLUS your WINNING question will be featured on a 'Q and A with Shane Briant' presentation card.

SECOND PRIZE: A copy of the 'Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell' Blu Ray / 2 DVD release. PLUS your WINNING question will be featured on a 'Q and A with Shane Briant' presentation card.

THIRD PRIZE: A copy of the 'Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell' Blu Ray / 2 DVD release. PLUS your WINNING question will be featured on a 'Q and A with Shane Briant' presentation card.

The competition is now open UNTIL WEDNESDAY 23RD APRIL 2014 MID DAY GMT. So get YOUR questions in NOW!
PLEASE send your questions to us by to our EMAIL ACCOUNT: theblackboxclub@gmail.com, no later than WEDNESDAY 23RD APRIL 2014 MID DAY GMT. 

GOOD LUCK.

Our thanks to Hammer films, Icon Film Distribution and Fetch Publicity for making this PCASUK competition possible.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL BLU RAY WEEK : STARTS NEXT WEEK


NEXT WEEK: To celebrate the release of the Hammer films classic ‘Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell’ -starring Peter Cushing and Shane Briant- coming to 2-disc DVD & single-disc UNCUT Blu-ray for the first ever time in the UK on 28th April 2014, here at the PCASUK blog and PCASUK Facebook Fan Page we are marking the occasion in style! Join us for Competitions, Prizes, Win Copies of the Blu Ray...and MUCH more besides.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

'ISLAND OF TERROR' AND 'NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT' ON BLU RAY FROM ODEON ENTERTAINMENT


Odeon Entertainment have announced the release of TWO Peter Cushing blu rays. 'ISLAND OF TERROR' (1966) also starring Edward Judd and Carole Gray and 'NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT' aka 'ISLAND OF THE BURNING DAMNED' (1967) also starring Christopher Lee, Patrick Allen, Kenneth Cope and Jane Merrow. BOTH films were directed by Terence Fisher.


'NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT' is expected to be released first, and very soon. The 'NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT' Blu Ray IS REGION FREE. It is hoped that both releases and will include extras. More info to come....


Saturday, 12 April 2014

IF WALLS COULD TALK! THE AMICUS FILMS OF PETER CUSHING: PART THREE


When Cushing, Lee and Subotsky reunited for The House That Dripped Blood (1970), it was in the more familiar context of the horror anthology. The script was again penned by Robert Bloch and it offered an uncommonly consistent array of stories linked together by an interesting mystery device. A skeptical police inspector (John Bennett) is looking into the disappearance of horror star Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee), whose last known residence was the creepy house of the title.


In the course of his investigation, he is told of some other bizarre occurrences that unfolded in and around that house: horror novelist Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott) is driven to madness when it appears that his “fictitious” strangler, Dominick (Tom Addams), has taken on a life of his own; retired stock broker Philip (Cushing) becomes obsessed with the figure of Salome at a nearby wax museum; chilly widower John Reid (Lee) dishes out cruel punishments to his little girl, Jane (Chloe Franks), but it could be that it’s the little girl who is really in charge; and lastly, we see how Paul Henderson may have met his fate while appearing in a low budget horror film at nearby Shepperton Studios.


Director Peter Duffel made his feature debut with this film and he did a magnificent job of it: the individual stories are well paced and executed, while the linking segments keep the suspense factor high until the very end.  Unlike most anthologies, there really is no weak link, though many viewers complain that the Cushing segment doesn’t quite fit the overall theme of the picture; there’s some truth to this, but as an exercise in melancholy mood, it’s hard to fault.


The entire cast is in good form: Cushing’s off-screen suffering over the declining health of his beloved wife, Helen, manifests itself in his character’s sense of loss and regret, Lee is splendid as the aloof father who isn’t quite what he appears to be, Elliott is his usual brilliant and neurotic self as the horror novelist on the verge of a breakdown and Pertwee is a delight as the hammy horror star.


Not surprisingly, Vincent Price was originally offered the latter’s role, but AIP wasn’t involved in the financing and refused to allow their top horror star to go and appear in a film for the “competition.”  Price was reportedly furious over this and dragged his displeasure with him on to the set of his next AIP assignment, Gordon Hessler’s stylish but confused occult thriller The Cry of the Banshee (1970).

 

Duffel was appalled by the film’s brazenly exploitative title, but co-producer Max J. Rosenberg correctly maintained that it would pack audiences in.  The end result was another hit for the company; it arguably remains their finest anthology and one of the great, albeit unsung, examples of subtle, low key horror.


The Amicus Films Of Peter Cushing Is written by Troy Howarth
with artwork and images by Marcus Brooks

Part Four Coming Soon: I, Monster.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

THE AMICUS FILMS OF PETER CUSHING: PART TWO BY TROY HOWARTH


In 1965 Milton Subotsky next snatched up Peter Cushing’s services for a proposed series of films based on the popular TV series Dr. Who.  The show made its debut on BBC 1 in 1963 and was developed by the team of Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber and Donald Wilson.  It told of a so-called “time lord” named Dr. Who, who is able to travel back and forth through time.  The character as written was an alien, but when the time came for Subotsky to try and bring the character to the screen, it underwent some heavy alterations.


Cushing was hired to play the role as something of an eccentric old duffer and the films they devised for him—Dr Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966)—were hardly a feather in anybody’s cap. In order to secure the necessary financing, Amicus had to reach out to another company, AARU, who agreed to provide the money on the condition that they alone were credited as the production company.  And so it came to be that these films became the first “unofficial” Amicus Productions.  In any event, they have their fans, even if Cushing’s portrayal of the character (to say nothing of his “legitimacy” in the canon of Who portrayals) remains hotly contested among the fans.


In 1967, Amicus got back on terra firma with Torture Garden. The second of their series of anthology horror films, it was the first to be written by the American genre legend Robert Bloch.  Bloch devised a clever variation on the formula established in Dr Terror's House Of Horrors, as a group of strangers are gathered together at a fair ground side show and have their fortunes told to them by a huckster (or is he?) known as Dr. Diablo.  Amicus turned to Columbia Pictures for financing and this time they were allowed to keep their name on the credits. Columbia’s chief request was to include a couple of American stars in the roster, to better help the film’s chances at the box office.


Thus, the original plan to reunite Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee fell by the wayside, as the role earmarked for Lee was given to future Oscar-winner Jack Palance. The film offered up four segments of varying quality, again in keeping with the general trend in anthology films.


The first story stars Michael Bryant as a young man who murders his eccentric uncle (Maurice Denham) and finds himself under the malefic influence of a black cat with strange powers; the second told of an ambitious starlet (Beverly Adams) who gets more than she bargained for when she tries to force her way to the top; a young woman (Barbara Ewing) vies with a dead mother’s influence when trying to win the affection of a pianist (John Standing); and Edgar Allen Poe fanatics (Palance and Cushing) compete with each other to become the world’s biggest fan of their late idol.


Freddie Francis was again brought on board to direct and it would mark one of the last times that he really went out of his way to deliver a stylish movie. Working with cinematographer Norman Warwick, Francis gives each segment its own style and tone: the first segment is pure gothic, the second is slick, the third is stately and the fourth goes for an intense air of claustrophobia.


After the gripping first story, the film falls down rather badly during the next two segments, but things end on a high note with the Poe segment. Cushing and Palance play off each other beautifully: Cushing’s propensity for latching on to his character’s neuroses is muted here, which is just as well as there’s only room for one bundle of tics in this segment and Palance fits the bill beautifully.  Their contrasting acting styles is part of the joy of the piece and one can only regret that they never shared the screen again.


It proved to be another success for the studio, but they would abandon the anthology format for the next several years—and Cushing would find himself alternating between one cheapskate outfit after the other as he embarked on a series of some of his least impressive films.


Things took a turn for the better—for both Amicus and Cushing—when they joined forces again in 1969. Scream and Scream Again marked the first coproduction between Amicus and American International Pictures.  The project originated when Subotsky secured the rights to Peter Saxon’s pulp sci-fi novel The Disoriented Man and concocted a screenplay the hewed fairly close to it.  When American International came on board, however, the project took on another life.  The union of the two studios allowed for the first-ever union of the major horror icons of the period: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  (Boris Karloff had died early in the year.)


Unfortunately, the project wasn’t really conceived as a vehicle for the three of them, so the casting wasn’t properly thought through.  On top of this, American International’s choice as a director, Gordon Hessler, read Subotsky’s script and made no bones of it: he hated it.  Given that Hessler had helped in bringing in AIP’s troubled “epic” De Sade (1969) and had done a good job by The Oblong Box (1969), which he was originally scheduled to produce, with Michael Reeves directing (this changed when Reeves’ deteriorating mental state had him removed from the picture, thus necessitating for Hessler to step up to the plate and direct it himself), the studio was inclined to give him the leeway he wanted in making the picture. Hessler hired Christopher Wicking, a bold and original young talent with a genuine passion for the horror genre, to completely overhaul the script.


Subotsky’s quaint monster movie was therefore revised into a paranoid political thriller with a jigsaw-like structure designed to keep viewers feeling more than a little disoriented.Subotsky was none-too-pleased to have his script effectively junked and his visits to the set resulted in problems with Hessler: the director wasn’t shy about playing up the sex and the gore and this simply did not sit well with the rather old fashioned producer, who had always attempted to make his films as “clean” as possible.


Hessler tired of having to explain his actions, so he asked for AIP’s line producer Louis M. “Deke” Heyward to intercede.  The end result was that Subotsky was barred from the set and was not permitted to tinker with the film in editing.  Thus, the film bore precious little input from the Amicus end of the deal, and Subotsky would later express amazement that the end product proved as popular as it did at the box office. Scream and Scream Again is a strange film but one that grows in stature with reflection and repeat viewings.


The jumbled structure mixes up various plot strands and is difficult to fully comprehend on first viewing, but repeat viewings reveal that it all links together pretty well. Hessler directs with style and energy and the mixture of sci-fi and government paranoia points to the later phenomenon of The X Files.


As for the casting, Price found himself in his usual mad scientist role, but in fact, the character is less “mad” than usual. Lee is on hand to play a shady government official, while Cushing makes a brief cameo as an authority figure in the fictitious fascist state which plays a role in one of the film’s many subplots.  Fans looking forward to seeing their favorite stars sharing the screen felt cheated (Lee and Price DO appear in one scene together at the very end, but Cushing is on his own in his one scene) but it didn’t stop the film from becoming a big earner for AIP.


Next Time in Part Three: 'The House That Dripped Blood' and 'I, Monster' 

'The Amicus Films of Peter Cushing' is written by Troy Howarth
with artwork and images by Marcus Brooks


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

THE GHOUL AND THE STORY BEHIND MRS LAWRENCE PHOTOGRAPH


Among the stereo-photographic slides that Peter Cushing's character shows to Veronica Carlson's Daphne Welles Hunter, in 'The Ghoul' (Tyburn films, 1975) is a 'photo' of his character, Dr Lawrence and his wife in the Himalaya's....The pic is in fact a 'doctored' photograph, of Peter Cushing and his wife, Helen. The original photograph was of Helen and Peter on holiday in Norfolk in the early 1950's.


Both Peter and Helen can be seen again in the film mounted in two silver frames, on a shelf next the fireplace. The photographs and frames were personal possesions of peter Cushing's. This is the only film that the pic of Helen ever appeared in. The photograph of Arthur Grimsdyke's wife, in Amicus films, 'Tales From The Crypt' is often mistaken for Helen, but was a model. The photograph of Peter here was taken on holiday by his one-time girlfriend Doreen Lawrence, who later became the wife of the British actor Jack Hawkins.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

THE AMICUS FILMS OF PETER CUSHING: PART ONE


The Amicus Films of Peter Cushing : Part One of a serial feature written by Troy Howarth with images and design by Marcus Brooks


When Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky partnered up to produce films, they initially had their eye aimed squarely at the youth market.  They scored early hits with rock and roll films like Rock, Rock, Rock! (1956) and the early Richard Lester film It’s Trad, Dad! (1962), but it was their moody black and white chiller City of the Dead (1960, aka Horror Hotel) which would point to their later fortunes.  City of the Dead had been produced under the name of Vulcan Productions, but by the time they revisited the genre in the middle of the decade, the credits would read “An Amicus Production.”  Amicus, incidentally, was the Latin word for “friend,” indicating that the company was established with the best of intentions.


Truth be told, the distribution of work at Amicus was pretty much split thusly: Rosenberg set up the deals and Subotsky focused on the creative end of the partnership.  It was Subotsky who had enthusiasm for horror, sci-fi and fantasy; Rosenberg would have been quite content producing anything that turned a profit.  As such, their working relationship would prove to be harmonious—for the most part.  Dissent and hard feelings would settle in over time, but in the beginning it was a match made in heaven, with the two New Yorkers feeding into each other’s strengths.


When they decided to turn their energy to making horror pictures, they were well aware of the success that Hammer Films were enjoying in the UK.  Subotsky, in fact, had approached Hammer's Anthony Hinds with the idea of doing a remake of James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) in the mid-50s. When Hammer went off and did a very different take on Mary Shelley’s original novel, Subotsky felt cheated and would often vocalize a critical attitude towards Hammer’s output in interviews. 

Subotsky preferred his horror with a bit of subtlety; to his thinking, Hammer’s shockers were too garish, too gory, too needlessly sexy.  Thus, it came as no surprise that the horror films he oversaw were comparatively “old fashioned” in their approach. Still, Subotsky and Rosenberg knew that they needed star power to help sell their films and they wasted no time in courting Hammer’s two biggest names, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.


Lee would top-line City of the Dead and would be brought back to star in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), the first of the Amicus anthology films.  To play the fortune-telling Dr. Schreck, they would enlist the services of Peter Cushing.  The combination of Cushing and Lee was good for box office and with Hammer veteran Freddie Francis also in tow to direct, some viewers may well have thought that they were seeing a new Hammer film!



Dr. Terror would establish a very different approach, however, one which would distinguish the Amicus product from that of Hammer.  Hammer’s films were typically period pieces.  They reveled in lurid scenes of gore and sensual sexuality.  And above all else, they were always single narrative pieces.  Amicus’ films, on the other hand, would be contemporary.  They would avoid explicit gore and seldom so much as touched on the subject of sex or sexuality.  And they would often embrace the anthology format which had so impressed the young Subotsky when he saw Ealing Studios’ seminal Dead of Night (1945).



The formula would prove to be successful.  Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors was a box office hit and it even snagged some favorable notices from the critics, many of whom were put off by the excesses found in Hammer’s films.  If Subotsky and Rosenberg were taking “the high road” in some respects, it was due entirely to Subotsky’s own feelings on the matter; if Rosenberg had produced such a film on his own, there’s little doubt that he would have hewed closer to Hammer’s example.  No matter how one views it, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors made an impact and it remains one of their most purely enjoyable confections. Freddie Francis directs with style and energy, Alan Hume’s widescreen color photography is properly colorful and atmospheric, Elisabeth Lutyens contributes a spare, but chilling, soundtrack.



If it has a failing it’s in the script, written by Subotsky himself.  The stories are a pretty routine lot and at least one of them (the Voodoo segment with Roy Castle) is basically an uncredited rip-off of Cornel Woolrich’s story Papa Benjamin, which had been adapted as an episode of the popular Boris Karloff-hosted TV series, Thriller, in 1961. Even so, the stylish execution and generally excellent performances help to elevate it and result in a generally enjoyable film.  Like most anthologies, it’s uneven—one good story here, one so-so one there—but when it works, it works very well indeed. They would continue to refine the formula in later films.



The experience of making Dr. Terror would prove satisfying for Peter Cushing. He enjoyed getting to play a real character role, with makeup and an accent to boot, and he responded to Subotsky’s almost childlike enthusiasm. Indeed, the two men would find in each other kindred spirits. Much has been written about Cushing down through the years, but little of it touches on the complexity of the man. He had his faults, like anybody else, but one of his great strengths was an unerring sense of loyalty to his friends. In Subotsky, he found a producer whose love for creating mirrored his own.



If Cushing had issues with his writing, as he had with that of Hammer’s Jimmy Sangster, for example, he kept his concerns to himself—or at the very least broached the topic in gentle terms that didn’t ruffle any feathers on Subotsky’s part. Much like the “marriage” of Subotsky and Rosenberg, the union of Amicus and Cushing would prove to be a productive and happy one; it would also enjoy a happier resolution in the long run.



For their next collaboration, The Skull, Cushing would return to play the lead, with Lee along for the ride in the capacity of “guest star.” Freddie Francis was again brought on board to direct and he would deliver what was for all intents and purposes his masterpiece as a director.



The slight screenplay, adapted by Subotsky from Robert Bloch’s story “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade”, served as an ideal framework for the director to indulge in his love of mobile camerawork and artfully composed compositions. It may well be a case of style over substance, but so what?



As a mood piece, The Skull is remarkable well done. It’s even a little eerie in spots, as Cushing’s character, an obsessive collector of occult memorabilia, succumbs to the malefic influence of de Sade’s skull. Subotsky managed to assemble a top notch cast for the film: in addition to Cushing and Lee, it featured the likes of Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Jill Bennett, George Coulouris and Michael Gough.



This reflects a key strength of Subotsky as a producer—his unerring ability to entice top drawer talent to appear in genre films by offering them roles that could be filmed quickly, thus enabling them to earn a little extra money in between more “important” film and theatrical commitments.



Cushing was given an opportunity to carry the film, appearing in almost every scene and helping to ground it in reality.  He’s splendid in the role, which is in some respects one of his most under-appreciated performances.  He is relaxed and commanding when needed, but gradually conveys panic and fear as the character’s life begins to spiral out of control.


It’s a marvelous, low-key, naturalistic performance from an actor who could sometimes fall back on mannerisms when he didn’t have something more substantial to work from.  It, too, would prove to be a hit for the company and Subotsky would waste no time in continuing the association. Their next venture(s), however, would prove to be controversial among fans and sci-fi buffs in general, with many viewing the end result as something of a low point for both the studio—and the actor …

Written By Troy Howarth
Images and Design: Marcus Brooks

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