October movie challenge # somethin'ornother

Who cares about what number it is, it's just movie reviews, right?

Fall of the House of Usher (B&W, 1948) Extremely weird British adaptation of Poe strays from the source heavily, but in completely absurd and nightmarish ways.  Starting in a stodgy old gentlemen’s club where goofy twits are swapping tales, one pulls a Poe book off the shelf and then, apparently, just starts making shit up because the enactment that follows involves an old torture chamber in the woods where an insane old hag stands guard over a living severed head!  By way of explaining Roderick Usher’s illness, an older man takes him there and explains that the hag is Roderick’s mother and the head is her lover, murdered by her father.   It looks like some Ming The Merciless mask, and  the hag looks like the singer for a black metal band..  The only way Roderick can break the curse and live past age thirty is to either burn the head, or sacrifice his sister Madeleine.  Option one - burning the head - proves difficult, and the hag murders a couple of guys in the process.   She also has secret tunnels to get into the house so she can try to get Madeleine.  Then, abruptly, it starts being Poe’s actual story, more or less, with Madeleine dying, being put in a tomb for a week, then returning from the dead during a storm.   The budget is low and the film has that stiffness that most British films had back then, but it’s got lots of atmosphere and such a crazy, dreamlike storyline that it’s a curio worth seeking out.

Ruby (C, 1977) aka Blood Ruby.  Piper Laurie (forever known to my friends and I as "Carrie White's freakin' mama") is Ruby, a gangland moll who gives birth out of shock as her gangster boyfriend is gunned down.  She goes straight and opens a drive-in theater, but supernatural happenings start plaguing the place.  The projectionist is found lynched by a reel of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, a guy gets beaten up by an invisible presence, and another guy's corpse gets stuck in a soda machine and hooked up so it dispenses his blood.  The rather-unbalanced Ruby and her helper Stuart Whitman think the ghost of her murdered boyfriend is back for revenge because he died thinking she set him up to be killed.  Ruby's daughter Leslie is mute and deranged, but soon she's acting possessed, developing bullet holes in her face, doing backbends, and talking in the dead gangster's voice.  A parapsychologist is brought in to play exorcist, but Ruby may have a date with a somewhat-ridiculous destiny.  This should be more absorbing than it is, but somehow it didn't grab me, even though it's not really a bad film.

Haunted Castle, The (B&W, 1921) aka Schloss Vogeloed, Vogelod Castle.  Count Oetsch invites himself to a hunting party and gives the sinister prediction that only one shot will be fired.  His presence is awkward because he's rumored to have murdered his brother, who was married to a Baroness who's in attendance.  A priest from Rome shows up, but soon disappears and everyone thinks Count Oetsch murdered him.  People start having strange nightmares (one in which a monster claw drags a man through a window, and another in which chefs slap each other!) and they start leaving.  Count Oetsch starts panicking everyone by revealing their dark secrets and says he'll expose the one who really killed his brother.  The Baroness reveals the identity of the real killer to the priest when he shows up again... but the Baron is a very tricky guy.  I'm a big fan of F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, but this one's not nearly as skillful and it's pretty hard to follow (the blurry, cut-down Alpha DVD wasn't much help).  There are moments of eeriness but it's mostly a stiff, static drama and not much of a horror film, despite the title.

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