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Category Archives: movies

The Amazing Transparent Post

I have not written about or even watched a cheesy movie in a long time.  I was delighted, therefore, when Steven agreed to watch a selection from The Best of the Worst DVD I had given him for his birthday last March.  We picked The Amazing Transparent Man (1960), one we had not seen before.  I’m not sure I would classify it as either superlative, but I do not despair of coming up with a few paragraphs about it.

Spoiler Alert! As usual, I intend to give a plot summary as well as commentary, and I’ll probably give a lot away.  Not that suspense is one of this movie’s strong points to begin with.

The movie opens with a jail break, and I wondered if they were making use of stock footage, because I thought at first we had seen it before.  It is the usual jail-break images:  the spotlights moving across the walls and fences, the guys in the tower looking around with binoculars, the dogs pulling at their leashes barking wildly.

Soon the jail breaker is dressed in a tux riding in a convertible with a classily dressed lady.  The car was my favorite part of the movie. I adore classic cars.

It seems the lady has helped they guy escape for reasons unknown to him.  His name is Faust.  As I told Steven, that is just the sort of heavy-handed reference I would have been proud of in junior high or perhaps high school. Oh well, maybe I didn’t know who Faust was at that time.  For those of you who don’t know now, Faust sold his soul to the devil and had a really good time with the proceeds till he was about to die, and then he said, “Oh, crap, now I have to go to hell.”  Or words to that effect.

The reason for the break soon becomes clear when we find that Faust is a master safe cracker.  When Crenna, the head bad guy (I remember “Crenna,” because I kept thinking of Richard Crenna) (and I could not figure out what kind of a reference this was supposed to be) tells him this, Faust laughs in his face.

“I can’t show my face in a bank,” he exclaims.  Ah, the evil Crenna has provided for this, as anyone who noticed the title of the picture will have guessed.

The maker of the invisibility machine we have been waiting for since the credits is a sweet old man with an indeterminate European accent.  He has a tragic backstory which actually adds some depth to the movie.  Unfortunately, the depth is undermined by the mysterious door his daughter is being held hostage behind. Oh dear, I’m not explaining this part very well.  My point is, mysterious door, cheesy movie: I was expecting a monster or torture chamber and I was doomed to disappointment.

Just to add to my ongoing disapproval of Hollywood’s treatment of animals, there is a guinea pig who gets made invisible then visible and does not seem to be happy about it.  Later on the poor things dies of radiation sickness.  I confess to being a little disappointed that it did not turn into a monster and attack people.  I mean, as long as it was going to come to a bad end anyways, why not make it dramatic?  Oh well, as I often observe, one can’t have everything.

There is a lot more to the movie, but I guess there is no point in spoiling everything (also, I am pressed for time).  I think they tried to make a profound point at the end, but you know I don’t pay a great deal of attention to the non-cheesy parts.

In general I am not a fan of invisibility as part of the monster genre. For cinematic purposes, especially cheesy ones, I prefer a monster I can see. I suppose I could end this post making a profound point about how what you can’t see can be more frightening that what you can.   I think I will just let you ponder that on your own, if you feel so inclined.  Let know what you come up with, and also, please do tell if you figure out a literary reference in calling the head bad guy Crenna.

 

Severed Head Sunday

Spoiler Alert!  I’m going to be talking about several movies and I’m not going to worry if I give anything away.  Jaws, Strait-Jacket, Sleepy Hollow, The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.

We’re watching Jaws, because it is a good summer flick.  This is what I call relaxing movie viewing: something we’ve seen before that we can just enjoy.  Until the moment when Robert Shaw scrapes his fingernails along the chalkboard to get everybody’s attention during the big village meeting.  I cringed.

“My most UN-favorite moment of the movie,” I said.  “I don’t even mind the severed head.”

In fact, the first time I saw the severed head (you know, when Richard Dreyfus is underwater looking at the recently sunken boat), I jumped and said, “EEWW!”  But it’s a great moment in a scary movie.  Thinking about it, I came up with the title of today’s blog post.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

Last night we watched Strait-Jacket with the incomparable Joan Crawford.  This movie featured several severed heads.  It is one of my favorites.  I loved it even before I knew it was produced and directed by that master of such movies, William Castle.

Naturally I started thinking about other movies we could watch that featured severed heads.  My first thought was Sleepy Hollow, or as I like to call it, The Headless Everybody.  I told Steven we should watch some more severed head films and he said, “Like The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.”

“You’re a genius,” I said.

Ooh, as I typed all this in, the movie progressed and they are ALMOST to the moment of the severed head.  I must stop typing and watch.  As I look back on this post, I do not believe the Spoiler Alert was truly necessary.  No matter.  A couple of bold-faced words is always a good start for a blog post.  I hope you are all enjoying your Sunday as much as I am.

 

Hit Pause, Write Post, Hit Play

We’re having Femme Fatale Sunday.  That is, we are watching movies with murderous dames (these are movies from the 1940s; I’m allowed to say “dames”).  You probably guessed I was not vamping around in ankle-strap pumps myself.  Although that might be fun sometime.

 

Usually when I write about movies in the blog, I prefer to stick with the cheesy variety.  Today, however we are enjoying some classic films noir, Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.  Both are based on novels from James M. Cain, a notable writer of pulp fiction back in the day.

 

I love film noir, but I must confess I like it for the plots above all else.  Other aficionados of the genre (doesn’t that phrase sound nice?) appreciate the cinematography, the play of shadows and the use of light and dark.   I enjoy that too, but for me it is the story that keeps me coming back for more.  Sometimes I’ll watch a picture that is advertised as a film noir only to be disappointed.  The woman will be femme but not fatale, the movie as a whole will lack that moral ambiguity that I treasure.

 

There is probably a much better discussion to be had here, but right now I am having a lazy Sunday watching movies.  I may pause to make some popcorn.

 

Cheesy Queen

I thought I might have found a cheesy movie when I saw the title Queen of Outer Space (1958) on the TCM schedule. When I saw that Zsa Zsa Gabor starred, I was even more hopeful. My hopes were confirmed with Ben Mankiewicz’s pre-movie commentary. A typical ’50s sci fi flick: low budget, cheesy special effects and a lot of fun. I will say: not the most fun movie I could think of, but considering the cheese shortage I have been experiencing lately, it’ll do.

Spoiler alert: I’m going to give a lot away. I don’t think I’m spoiling much, though, because it’s the sort of movie where you pretty much see everything coming.

My first disappointment was that Zsa Zsa was not the queen. I learned that during the pre-movie commentary. My next disappointment was that the movie takes forever to get started.

The plot concerns that staple of cheesy movies, a civilization of all women. This one is on, what a surprise, Venus. But of course we can’t start out actually on Venus tussling with the ladies. We must start out on Earth, learning the mission of the three astronauts and their important passenger blah blah blah. Important takeaway: these guys are tops in astronauting but the mission is supposed to be a milk run.

I did not notice what year the movie is supposed to take place in — the future of 1958 anyways — but space travel has certainly advanced. The astronauts are taking Important Guy to a space station, which one astronaut refers to as a bus depot.

A word about the three astronauts. They are a captain and two lieutenants. I think they were supposed to have distinct personalities. The stalwart leader, the ladies man and the wise cracker. However, they seemed pretty much interchangeable to me.

Take off is slightly delayed when Ladies Man (I think) pauses on the tarmac to kiss a beautiful blond good-bye.

“Space ships are dangerous,” she squeaks in the approved airhead voice. “What if you get lost?”

As things turn out she should be more worried about his wandering eye than any wandering the ship might do, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Then again, this blond is not seen, mentioned nor thought of again, so I guess the whole movie is hard luck on her.

Stalwart Leader looks out the window (!) at them, then gets on the loudspeaker (!) and tells Ladies Man to get on board. After a few more smooches, he does.

The movie is further delayed when they feel the need to let us hear the whole countdown. Couldn’t they at least have started on five? In your better movies, during the countdown a character is trying frantically to get something done or a villain perpetrates some nefarious act. This movie just flashes on the spaceship, the blond looking worried, and the guys strapping themselves into beds. Apparently space travel has become very relaxing in whatever year this is supposed to be.

It’s gotten pretty hands-off as well. After the space station is blown to smithereens before their eyes and they are under attack themselves, Stalwart Leader puts it on autopilot and they strap themselves back into the beds.

“Who’s flying the ship?” I asked.

Flash to some of those cheesy special effects: either a model or a cardboard cut-out of the ship moves shakily across the screen while fake-looking flames squiggle below.

As is often the case in science fiction, the gravity and atmosphere on another planet are nothing to worry about. As a nod to reality, one of the astronauts says to Important Guy that he thought the atmosphere on Venus was too heavy from… something.

“I used to subscribe to that theory,” Important Guy says importantly.

“But my subscription ran out and I didn’t renew it,” I interjected and thought I was pretty clever for making Steven laugh.

The men disembark from their disabled but not totaled spacecraft and are soon captured by women with some pretty tough firearms. They speak English because, as one explains scornfully, they have been intercepting Earth’s radio transmissions.

I must say I was pretty glad to see the women show up. Who knew single gender movies could be so dull? Naturally the women wear low-cut, form fitting mini- dresses. I expected something like that. I have to ask myself: is it feminist or anti-feminist that with no men around to impress or entice, movie women just naturally pick the sexiest way to dress?

Another thing I wonder about thee all-female societies is the age distribution. It seems the entire population is in the 18 to 29-year-old range (Zsa Zsa might be a little older, but we’ll let that slide). Where are the little girls and the old ladies? Some mention is made about how the men are sequestered somewhere in a “breeding colony.” I wondered if they had figured out a way to make the men be pregnant, because I didn’t see any baby bumps either.

You know I don’t pay too much attention to these things, especially the boring parts like explanations. As near as I could figure out, the women, led by the one who is now queen, kicked out all the men, because the women were tired of war. They promptly built the super-duper weapon that destroyed the space station and now plan to destroy the Earth as well, for reasons unspecified. It is either a profound statement on absolute power corrupting absolutely, some kind of feminist or anti-feminist propaganda, or a typical B movie “Waaaait a minute” plot development.

However, one lets these considerations slide when enjoying a cheesy sci-fi flick. I’m afraid it was not an hour and a half on unalloyed enjoyment, but for an evening’s entertainment and the subject of a blog post, it was OK.

Flying Saucers Over My House

Did I mention I’m on vacation this week? I seem to remember writing or typing it any number of times, but I may have crossed it out or erased it each time. It was not my idea to take vacation this week, but I do like to take a day off. Or a few days. And it seems I am taking some days off blogging as well. On the other hand, I just read the first paragraph of another blog that said people never read blogs during the summer (probably would be nice to credit that quote, wouldn’t it? I think it was Return of the Modern Philosopher).

Be all that as it may, today is Non-Sequitur Thursday and all I’m going to do is list the movies Steven and I have looked at this afternoon. We began with The Stranger (1946) with Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young and Richard Long. We like to have a connection from movie to movie, so after that we watched House on Haunted Hill (1958) which featured Richard Long. The movie starred the incomparable Vincent Price and was directed by the great William Castle.

We do not have another movie with Richard Long. In fact, the only other thing I know him from is a TV show from the early 1970s called Nanny and the Professor. So we went another way with Plan 9 From Outer Space. I could probably think of a good connection between this and the other two movies, but this is Non-Sequitur Thursday and, as I said, I’m on vacation. I’m listing and hitting publish. But I may indulge in some commentary on Lame Post Friday. As always, I hope you’ll stay tuned.

I Liked Philo’s Dog

This week I offer Mystery Movie Monday. I would prefer Monster Movie Monday, but I didn’t have a monster movie to hand. Instead, I asked Steven to make a selection from his DVD set of 50 Mystery Classics. He chose The Kennel Murders (1933), a Philo Vance mystery.

Spoiler Alert! I probably won’t give away the solution, because I didn’t properly understand it, but I will certainly give away some major plot points.

I was a little concerned to see the word “kennel” in the title, knowing Hollywood’s history of NOT being kind to animals (perhaps you read my blog post about it). I did not want to watch a movie where dogs die.

Sure enough, a dog gets murdered. Philo does not seem too exercised about that murder, although the dog’s owner threatens to kill whoever did it. I was not clear on who did do it, and I couldn’t figure out how it fit in with the rest of the plot. Then again, as regular readers know, I don’t always pay a whole lot of attention to these things. Another dog gets hit on the head with a poker, which does figure in, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The movie opens on a dog show. There is Philo Vance with an extremely cute Scotty dog. His dog does not win, but Philo loves him. So there’s one reason to like Philo Vance, at any rate.

Next we meet a beautiful heiress (is there another kind?) who can’t seem to get any of her own money from her unpleasant trustee or guardian or whatever he is to her besides unpleasant. It’s pretty clear who the victim is going to be and there will be no shortage of suspects.

It is a bit of a surprise later on when one of the suspects who was starting to look really good (as a suspect, I mean) ends up dead. I guess I should have seen that coming. After all, it’s “murders” plural in the tile, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t count the dog.

The dog that gets hit on the head seems to make a full recovery and I guess helps solve the mystery. Or helps Philo prove he has correctly solved the mystery. Like I said, the solution kind of mystified me. As is often the case, the “proof” would never hold up in a court of law. For that matter, the medical evidence was pretty spurious, too. But these are mere quibbles. One must take movie mysteries at their own estimation or not at all.

Philo’s dog has a pretty good scene where he shows Philo something important. I just love a cute little dog.

In retrospect, I’m thinking it might have been a good idea if I had paid more attention to the movie, maybe made a few notes, before I tried to write about it. Then again, it’s Monday.

“Marvelously Theatrical” Cheese

It was a sad day for me when I realized I had seen all 50 of the Horror Classics on the DVD set I gave Steven some birthdays ago. Now where will I find cheesy movies to write about, I lamented. Then I remembered that I had also gotten him 50 Mystery Classics. I don’t know if I can expect mysteries to be as cheesy as horror movies. Still, murder and mayhem, what’s not to like? I would give it a try.

I selected Fog Island (1945), starring George Zucco. Zucco, I remembered, was described as “marvelously theatrical” in a horror classic I had seen. That boded well. I eschewed the description on this one, because I know from experience they often give too much away.

Speaking of which, SPOILER ALERT!!! A big one this time, because I am going to tell you EVERYTHING, including the climax and the end. So you’ve been warned.

I’m actually not too worried about giving away the plot, because I didn’t properly understand it. I think Zucco just got out of prison where he had been sent on trumped up charges of cheating some people who think there is still some money to be had somewhere. While Zucco was in prison, somebody came to Fog Island and murdered Zucco’s wife in hopes of gaining said money.

Zucco and his beautiful stepdaughter (the obligatory beautiful young girl) are on Fog Island, discussing this while at least two suspicious-looking types listen in. The stepdaughter wants only to be left alone, but Zucco has invited all his malefactors to the island. The malefactors will accept the invitation, because they think they might get at the money. Zucco, of course, has other plans.

Now I don’t properly understand high finance, but if the money-stealing charges against Zucco were trumped up, shouldn’t the malefactors already have the money? And if there is no money, as in fact seems to be the case, where did it go? I guess money can just disappear in these investment schemes, but I thought usually somebody somewhere eventually ended up with it. But no matter. We have a murder, we have a guy seeking revenge. What more do we need?

The eavesdroppers from scene one turn out to be Zucco’s colleague who was also sent to prison (different prison, similar charges) and the mysterious butler, who, if his mystery was ever explained, I missed it (in my defense, I was writing notes in the TV Journal).

Of course the greedy malefactors show up at Fog Island. As many of you saw coming, the only boat on the place returns to the mainland and there is no phone. I don’t have a problem with the set-up; it’s the basis of many a good thriller. However, you would think a villain clever enough to get George Zucco sent to prison on false charges when they don’t even know where the money is would be foresighted enough to take their own damn boat to an island.

Before his guests arrive, Zucco rigs a rather heinous booby trap. In a room deep in the basement, the door will lock and water will pour in. He moves a table over the device that triggers the trap and put a skull on the table. I am rather fond of skulls as decor myself, so I would undoubtedly be lured by such a trap. I’ll have to watch my step.

Amongst the malefactors is the son of one who had died, a nice-looking young man who apparently has some past with Stepdaughter (just when you thought there wasn’t going to be a love interest). The other malefactors include a turbaned psychic, a hot blonde and a couple of guys. The psychic was my favorite, but I tried not to get too attached to her, because I figured they would all come to a bad end.

And of course they did, even George Zucco (I TOLD you I was going to tell the ending!). Zucco at least dies happy, because he feels that in stabbing him, the guy has as good as confessed to murdering his wife. The guy next stabs the psychic, who is dumb enough to turn her back on him. Then he and the remaining two malefactors get trapped in the heinous set-up I mentioned earlier. That scene was as disturbing as I feared it would be, but I have a horror of being trapped and drowning.

In the meantime, Young Man and Stepdaughter have patched up their differences and are preparing to leave the island (is it morning already? How time flies when you’re killing off malefactors!). While Stepdaughter packs, Young Man discovers the corpses.

“I should tell my stepfather I’m going,” she says.

He tells her he’s seen stepdad, who is OK with her leaving. He also tells her, in effect, not to worry her pretty little head over the others, just get on the boat. They exit happily into sunshine. Get it? Fog Island is no longer covered with fog. Romantic sigh.

I have left out a few things, but we don’t need this blog post stretching off into eternity after all. I do tend to get long-winded in these movie write-ups. I was quite pleased with the cheese factor in the movie. I look forward to watching others in that DVD set. And I may take some Lame Post Friday to philosophize half-bakedly on the meaning of “marvelously theatrical.”

I’m Afraid this is a Post about Movies

This past weekend as I was running in place on the mini-tramp and watching Nosferatu (1922), I began to consider the question what makes a movie scary?

I describe Nosferatu as possibly the scariest movie ever made. I am sure there are many who disagree (not even counting the ones who disagree just to be disagreeable) (you know who you are). However, having seen an auditorium of young children reduced to tears over it, I feel comfortable in calling it a scary movie.

As I ran, I asked myself, am I being scared right now? The answer was generally no. During a few shots I said, “Ooh, scary!” but in fact I was not frightened.

Then again, it was broad daylight. I remember once years and years ago reading the book The Amityville Horror. My sister had read it first. She was reading it one night when I came home from babysitting. As was my habit, I ran home, burst into the house and slammed the door behind me. My sister knew I was expected, knew it was me as I came through the door, and still jumped a foot in the air when I slammed it shut.

She proceeded to tell me every scary thing she had just been reading and made me walk with her to her upstairs bedroom. I came back downstairs and had to spend a good half hour reading the Bible and watching “Highlights from Bing Crosby Christmas Specials” (which I providentially found on the meager cable available in the ’70s) before I dared to go to bed myself. After all, we were the last ones up. ALL the lights were going to be off.

With this in mind, I looked forward to reading the book myself. I started it one evening. Yikes! I finished it the following afternoon. What a disappointment! I know, I should have just waited till dark to finish it. As a reader, I am almost completely incapable of such behavior.

But getting back to Nosferatu, I wonder if I would have been more frightened had I watched it in the dark. I can see where it would have disturbed my sleep as a child. I would have lain in bed and just seen that scary vampire somewhere out there in the dark. The big nose, the deep-set eyes — no sexy savoir-faire for this blood sucker. I’d be watching the wall for his eerie shadow with the long, claw-like fingers. Ooohh.

On this last viewing, however, I noted and admired his scariness, but I was not scared. I was pleased that my interest was caught enough that I ran a little faster and kept running till the dramatic conclusion. But my sleep patterns were not disturbed (at least, I had my usual insomnia, but that’s a whole other topic).

So I had to ask myself: what makes a movie scary? One answer is: that you think it might happen to you. Many people suffer from a fear of birds after watching Alfred Hitchcock’s movie about them. That’s a pretty scary movie by this criteria, because those were perfectly ordinary birds such as you might see anywhere, until… It could happen! Right here! Right now! EEEEEeee!

Monster movies, when one looks at them rationally, should not be as scary, because we know there are no monsters. Or do we? I will probably never see a vampire coming at me, of the Max Schreck or Bela Lugosi variety. But IF I did, it would be scary! This is where having a vivid imagination (as I do) can greatly enhance your enjoyment of a scary movie.

Next time, I’m watching that movie after dark. Maybe on the night of a full moon.

An Unusual Voodoo/Witchcraft Kind of Guy

I’ve become suspicious of zombie movies, because the word “zombie” seems to cover such a wide fictional territory. Are they undead or just hypnotized? Flesh-eating or hate salt? Fast or slow? Body parts rotting or intact? There are many kinds of zombies.

Doubts aside, I DVR’d Plague of the Zombies (1966) from TCM in October. I ended up being glad I did. For one thing, it is a Hammer Film. I’m kind of a latecomer to the Hammer party, but I am a fan.

Spoiler Alert! I’m going to give away what seems to me important stuff, not just which kind of zombies these are. You might like to see the movie before reading this, if like me you like to be surprised.

The movie opens on some kind of voodoo ceremony. I don’t think the writers of horror movies research these things very well. I think they just put some half-naked Africans beating on drums and throw in whatever creepy stuff occurs to them at the time. In this case, it is a guy in a mask with a little doll (presumably a voodoo doll) and a vial of blood.

The voodoo doll is obviously female. Flash to a lovely woman sleeping restlessly. When mask guy starts chanting something weird, so does she. We see that her wrist is bandaged (and remember it later, of course). Suddenly she sits bolt upright and screams. End of prologue.

Next we meet a distinguished white-haired doctor and his beautiful blond daughter. They are going to Cornwall or the moors or someplace to help another doctor, who married an old schoolfriend of the daughter, investigate some mysterious deaths.

As the carriage rolls across the countryside, they see a fox, who is shortly followed by five guys in red coats on horses. What, no dogs? I don’t know much about fox hunting, but I thought there were always dogs. Anyways, the young bloods (I know that’s what they are, because that is how they are listed in the end credits) ask if anybody has seen a fox. Beautiful Daughter sweetly misdirects them.

Then it is on to the village, where a funeral is in progress. As Father and Daughter discreetly wait for the cortege to pass, the Young Bloods come thundering back and knock the coffin over a bridge. This makes for a nice creepy shot of the dead body.

The Young Bloods are mad at Daughter for misdirecting them. The brother of the dead guy is mad at both of them. I guess he blames them for the Young Bloods’ intrusion, which I personally thought a little unreasonable. Oh well, he is grief stricken.

It seems that twelve people have died. The families in this backward area will not allow autopsies, giving Distinguished Dad Doctor and Young Doctor a chance for some grave digging (“Could be worse; could be raining”) (oh wait, wrong movie).

We don’t have to wait too awful long to see the zombies, and they are scary. I was particularly fascinated by the motivations of the head bad guy, the leader of the voodoo/witchcraft kind of cult. He uses evil means to kill people and make them zombies, then utilizes them for a sound economic reason. He is also interested in beautiful young women for blood sacrifice purposes (less unusual in these pictures).

I kind of wish they had made more of the economic side of things, because that struck me as something different for a voodoo/witchcraft kind of bad guy. Any number of movie bad guys want to hypnotize beautiful young women for blood sacrifice purposes. However, zombie-izing young men to staff a haunted tin mine is a bit of entrepreneurialism that commands my respect.

Then again, I am a recently converted horror movie aficionado. Economics could play a time-honored role in zombie movies and I just haven’t seen enough of them. Obviously I have more movie watching to do.

In any case, I found Plague of the Zombies a delight. The dramatic conclusion is very satisfying, and Andre Morell as Distinguished Doctor Dad is an excellent hero. In post-movie commentary, Ben Mankiewicz mentioned that Morell is Watson to Peter Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles. That would be a good movie to see again. Love that Peter Cushing.

If You Like Voodoo Curses

When I started to watch The Devil’s Own (1966), another movie I DVR’d in October, I was delighted to find that it was from Hammer Studios. I love Hammer movies!

Unfortunately, this one did not entertain me as much as, for example. Frankenstein Created Woman. I think I like monsters better than voodoo curses and devil worshipers. But that’s just me.

Spoiler Alert! This is another write-up where I’m pretty much going to recount the plot. What can I say? These are fun for me to write.

The movie starts out scarily enough with Joan Fontaine frantically packing to leave an African village before… something happens. The natives helping her sensibly flee in terror. She turns around and sees a scary voodoo doll. OK, I cracked up a little at the doll.

Then the door bursts open and a giant mask comes through. You can’t even tell if there’s really a person behind it, so I can see where that would be a little disconcerting. Fontaine screams and collapses.

I thought at first she was about to get killed and that I had been mistaken in thinking it was Joan Fontaine. However, the next scene finds her, some time later, in England interviewing to be a headmistress at a school. With a nervous smile, she glosses over her “health problems,” by which we surmise she had some sort of nervous breakdown in Africa. Or something. Of course she gets the job; we knew that from the description on digital cable.

And then the movie slows right down. Oh, stuff happens. But it’s your basic human interaction kind of plot. This weird girl is being romanced by a boy, to the distress of her grandmother. Other villagers seem concerned as well, so there’s a bit of creepy foreshadowing.

About the time the boy falls victim to a voodoo curse (which we, the audience immediately recognize) (some characters are slower on the uptake, despite the headless Ken doll found on a tree branch), I made the note that I prefer monsters. After that, things get a little more exciting. Spoiler alert notwithstanding, I don’t want to give everything away.

It really was not a bad movie. When things got a little slow for my tastes, I amused myself by studying Joan Fontaine’s face, looking for a family resemblance with Olivia de Havilland. I think it’s there, especially in certain expressions, but I’ll have to watch Hush… Hush… Sweet Charlotte again to be sure.

The climactic scenes are scary or comical, depending on how you feel about devil worshipers writhing in a dance of… something or other. It gets suspenseful, although anybody paying any attention (even my desultory kind), knows how Fontaine can ultimately triumph. Oh dear, did I just give something else away? Sorry.

I enjoyed the movie. And I got a bit of crocheting done, which is important to me this time of year. But for my next Hammer film, I’m hoping for a monster.