Monday, June 20, 2011

Legend of the Werewolf (1975)

What do you get when you make a movie with Peter Cushing, a werewolf and Paris, France as the main location? You get a Hammer knock off made by Tyburn films.

The action takes place in 19th century France but it’s inhabitants are clearly British actors, some with extreme “cockney” accents. A traveling side show comes across a feral boy in the woods. His family was attacked and killed by wolves when he was an infant. He was raised by the wolves until the gypsies who own the traveling side show take him in as an added attraction. The boy, Etoile, grows into adulthood (played by David Rintoul) and begins to transform into a wolf during the full moon, a side effect of being weaned on wolf milk perhaps?

Etoile takes up work at the Paris zoo, which seems to be an alley way with a couple cages, one with wolves no less. At each full moon Etoile transforms into a “Curse of the Werewolf” (Hammer 1961) inspired wolfman. He is befriended by one of the local prostitutes, Christine (Lynn Dalby) but is enraged when he finds out what she does for a living. This truly triggers the beast within and thus sets up the “beauty and the beast” aspect of the tale……although not really that well done. Peter Cushing finally makes an appearance in the film as Prof. Paul, the city’s coroner. He knows the current string of murders is being committed by an animal and finds the truth. In the end Etoile is finally killed by the traditional silver bullet… least I think so, at this point my eyes were getting pretty hazy and I was finding it hard to stay awake. This production didn’t exactly grab me by the throat and keep my attention.
Ahh Dr. Prof. Paul.....paycheck whatever.
 Based on Guy Endore’s novel, The Werewolf of Paris, Tyburn films fell flat on what could have been a very entertaining lycanthropy film. Freddie Francis’ direction was typical “workman-like” which I come to expect from his films. The sets are believable, except the zoo, the acting is pretty good, Cushing being the brightest light and the werewolf makeup was well done for the time.
Grandpa No!!
There could have been more action in the attacks though. We get some “wolf vision” sequences but too many close ups of werewolf eyes and bloody werewolf teeth. I would have to say that the most distracting aspect of the whole film was the lack of any French accent! I would have thought maybe Cushing would have taken his character in with some appropriate accent but since no one else was playing “frenchie” I guess he said screw it, it’s a paycheck. Track down the Interglobal VHS release, it’s pretty cheap on ebay. As far as a DVD release goes, I believe there are some bootlegs out there to be had. There was a UK DVD release however but I believe it is out of print.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Hatchet (2006)

Just when you thought slasher flicks were pretty much dead along comes one that reinvigorates the genre and gives a nice dose of Friday the 13th inspired bloodshed!

Hatchet starts off with a prelude that includes a cameo by Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund. Englund portrays a New Orleans gator hunter. He and his son are attacked and brutally murdered by an unseen assailant. It’s a nice opening sequence that harkens back to the opening of the original Friday the 13th (1980).

The story then shifts to Ben (Joel David Moore) and Marcus (Deon Richmond), two college buddies out on the town in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Ben is in the dumps since he and girlfriend split and Marcus is trying to cheer him up by taking him to Mardi Gras. The two find themselves taking a “haunted boat ride” into the swamp. The boat ride is captained by a young Asian man with a really bad “Nawleans” accent. Here we are introduced to the film’s cannon fodder. An older couple, a sleazy film maker and his two starlets and a quiet girl named Marybeth. Ben tries to hit on Marybeth but fails miserably. It turns out that Marybeth is the daughter of Robert Englund’s character at the beginning of the film and she has taken the ride in order to get out in the swamp and find her dad.
While on the trip the boat passes by an old shack which is supposedly haunted by a local legend by the name of Victor Crowley. Crowley is a disfigured man who was accidentally killed by his father, portrayed by Kane Hodder. Hodder is of course famous for portraying the maniacal, zombiefied killer in the Friday the 13th series. Here is plays the father of Crowley in a flashback explaining his tragic death and the present day Crowley who haunts the woods. 

Victor Crowley Hatchet's man about town.
The group’s boat runs accidentally runs aground and they are forced to try and make their way back on land. Unfortunately they are stuck right by the house of Crowley. Here is where the movie takes off at full throttle. I’m not sure what else to do other than go for a body count. One of the first to die gets a multitude of hatchet blows to the shoulder. Crowley keeps hacking away while the guy is screaming. His wife gets off’d immediately following his demise. This has got to be the greatest head ripping effect I have ever seen. There is a quick cut where the camera revolves around the action and it completely makes the entire effect one of the most believable and nasty beheadings ever committed to film. I’m not going to go into each and every death but this first set of killings really hits you like a ton of lead. A couple of other highlights include a belt sander to the face and shovel decapitation.

Marybeth and Ben are the only two left after being chased throughout the woods and witnessing their friends die in various gruesome ways. The two lure Victor back into the old house and attempt to set him on fire, which works well until it begins to rain and the fire is extinguished. Victor chases them into an old cemetery where they finally impale Victor on an iron rod. The two try to make it to safety by boarding a John Boat and heading across the lake. The ending, which is kinda cool but I saw it coming a mile away, leaves avenues open for a sequel which went straight to video by the way.

Overall this is a great tribute to the great slashers of the 80’s and plenty of fun to watch. I didn’t find myself annoyed by all the characters, a flaw with many of the slashers that spilled out in the theaters and video shelves and I actually was rooting for Victor! Well, I think I always root for the killer in these movies so I guess that’s nothing new. One of these days I will have to check out the sequel. Hopefully it’s somewhere near as good the original.