Advent Horizon
Screecher Comforts
En Pointe of Purchase
U.S. House of Horrors
Flush Forward
Bells & Wassails
The Haunted Manchin
The Missed of Time
Gift Rapt
Red Meet
Crystal Bawls
The Gift of Grab
Monster Rally 2020
A Hitch in Time
WHAT NOT 2017-2018
WHAT NOT 2014-2016
WHAT NOT 2012-2013
WHAT NOT 2009-2011
WHAT NOT 2005 2

Screecher Comforts

Satirical illustration of political figures in the Federal Horrorday: Nation's Spookiest Haunted House Tour in front of a haunted house with a Capitol dome atop it and bats flying out of it. Posed are Lauren Boebert dressed as the horror film character The Nun with a disembodied hand on her breast, Mitch McConnell as the Mummy in an open sarcophagus, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the Re-Animator holding his own head in a lab tray as he brandishes a syringe marked 'Vax', and Justice Clarence Thomas as Candyman with money on his bloody hook hand. In front of them are Donald Trump as Hellboy being protected by the Exorcist Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, Jack o’ Lantern Robert Melendez having a pair of hands placing a 14-karat gold bar in his pumpkin head, and President Joe Biden as a Count Dracula-like vampire in a coffin pushing the lid up as a Democratic donkey tries shutting it from above.

Once upon a midnight dreary, as we pondered, weak and weary, we made another Poe decision and called upon our ravin’ film critic E. Basil St. Blaise to offer us a Halloweentide review of scary cinema. When we reached him on Zoom we noted his grand ‘chamber’ was the interior of his well-worn RV –– his so-called mobile HQ –– and the bust in the corner was of Elvis rather than 'Pallas.' His faithful Affenpinscher Josef stood on a stack of VCR tapes with his back up like a certain Black Cat and yapped incessantly at the computer screen during our session. They were parked somewhere in the Southwest and even in the wee hours the temperature neared 80º so it hardly felt like the Fall of the House of Usher (St. Blaise’s first job and original entre into the World of Entertainment.)

He patiently sipped a seasonal cocktail he dubbed the Flask of the Red Death which consisted of two jiggers of gin, a cup of Amontillado, tell-tale heart of palm, eye of hop-frog, absinthe and tomato juice. He quipped, “By the time you’ve laid a couple of these to rest, you’ll crave a Premature Burial ((1850) –– Rise and whine.)”

St. Blaise, true to his reputation, came out carping, “A word to the wise, leave the punnery to a professional –– your stabs at Poe are painful, but in the entirely wrong way. And look at the illustration you’ve slapped on my cinephiliac guide –– another ‘political cartoon’ that’s more Jim Carrey than Thomas Nast. I’m not saying this scribbler is talentless (it does not need to be said), but isn’t there anywhere we can hide from Hellboy and his Imps of the Perverse? I was hoping to corral a menagerie of creature features this year and the only critter pictured here that inspires me is the disgusted rodent that takes me back to a charming pair of urban thrillers about a boy and his rat.

In the first the boy is 1971’s title character Willard, a social misfit who wreaks vengeance on the slayer of one mangy pet with the squeaky aid of another. I judged it 'Ratso risible.' The sequel was named after the avenging vermin, Ben ((1972) Rodent rage.), now fostered by a lad named Danny whose gnawing suspicions allow him to escape the fate of Willard in the first. Ben inspired the hit Oscar-nominated theme crooned by Michael Jackson, a tender love song dedicated to a scavenger. A young male scavenge, appropriatelyr. Now let me delve deeper into Horror’s Wild Kingdom.

B.I.G Little Lies

Producer/ Writer/Director Bert I. Gordon gave new meaning to the phrase 'economies of scale' by paying a mere pittance to produce horror films with massive monsters. Forrest J. Ackerman of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine dubbed him B.I.G. based on his initials and his tendency to inflate beasts, not budgets. Gordon died this year at the age of 10o –– not sure of the cause, but we know he suffered from dimension precox. And no word on the size of the tombstone, but we assume the plot was minimal. Here's a look back at his fun-sized flops, while ignoring his other average stinkers.

King Dinosaur (1955) –– Tee-hee-rex.
Beginning of the End
(1957) –– Over and ouch!
You'll need a giant grasshopper or two to get through this hopping mad epic.

The Cyclops (1957) –– What's the big eye, dear?
The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) ––Sighs matter.
This was the film I first saw on a twin bill with Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon ((1950) -– Four gone conclusions.) at my local Bijou when I was a mere cinéaste cadet. This outré pairing –– like chalk and cheese or, if you prefer, like sludge and sushi –– convinced me to devote myself to a life of criticism. I vowed then and there 'to love the sinner, but hate the cinema', the motto I hope to add to the St. Blaise family crest if I can get someone to translate it into Latin… elegantly.

Attack of the Puppet People (1958) –– Stupid smally.
B.I.G. went little with this one which featured a band of miniaturized unfortunates menaced by a lonely toymaker. The boxoffice shrunk accordingly.

War of the Colossal Beast (1958) –– Campaign sloggin'.
Say what you will about the quality of the writing, special effects or overdubbed grunts and groans, but the makeup on giant-sized Col. Manning is a certified nightmare that might haunt you decades after you first saw it on a black-and-white TV.

The Spider
(1958) –– Web clawer.
Village of the Giants (1965) –– Oversized sweaters.
These 30-foot tall glandular teens must be perspiring like pigs as they dance the Frug. Or is it the Hully Gully? Most likely the Stomp.

B.I.G. Mac then took his junk food cinema and decided to super-size it with a side of H.G. Wells. I suspect that if the acclaimed author of speculative fiction could have climbed into The Time Machine ((1895) –– Mechanical eras.) he'd imagined and traveled to the 70s to see either of these beastly adaptations he'd have viciously set upon Gordon with a whip like a Morlock on an Eloi.
The Food of the Gods (1976) –– Animal crackups.
Empire of the Ants (1977) –– Antsy nothing yet.

Ape Jam

A far more successful take on an intriguing sci-fi concept is the original adaptation of Pierre Boulle's French novel Planet of the Apes ((1963) –– Singes souci.) Stress 'the original.' Led by a stalwart Charlton Heston, a discombobulated crew of astronauts crash lands on a mysterious planet which is ruled by upright, talking apes with a decidedly fascist bent. It has a twist ending centered around the discovery of the Statue of Liberty mostly-buried on a beach that should be *unspoilable* at this late date.
Planet of the Apes (1968) –– The ApeBC’s.

Then came the sequels, flung at the public like so much… y'know.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) –– When the chimps are down.
This one at least had radiation-scarred mutants, a cameo from Heston and an implied nuclear holocaust at its conclusion which should have ended the series. But studio monkeys didn't see, didn't do.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) –– Simian says.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) –– Orang is the new black.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) –– The monkey shot.

After they'd run the concept into the Primate House privy it was time for the inevitable weekly TV series also entitled Planet of the Apes ((1974) –– Chimp off the old block.) Roddy McDowall played his third different ape in the POTAEU and brought surprising shadings to the character despite the exact same bitchy Mid-Atlantic accent. It lasted 14 episodes.

To Tim Burton, a remake of a one-time smash hit must've seemed, after a string of post-Batman Returns ((1992) –– Stop Signal.) misses, like an idea he could not resist. He shoulda. The lone plus was a pleasingly diverse cast of simians in masks with lips that actually moved, but the climax on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a chimp Great Emancipator and a gorilla goon squad setting upon our hero left audiences and critics alike scratching their heads as though for nits. It was way less fun than a barrel of… almost anything. I decried this Planet of the Apes (2001) –– Ape linkin’.

20th Century Fox, now 20th Century Studios because new owner Disney is not as clever as a Fox, produced a trilogy of reboots this century that I've previously reviewed in the Critic's Corner: Rise of, Dawn of, and War for the Planet of the Apes. The increasingly pretentious series hadn't much to say about the Law of the Jungle while convincingly illustrating the Law of Diminishing Returns.

2024 will supposedly bring us Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes with the top-billed blockbuster cast of, I kid thee not, Freya Allan, Owen Teague, Peter Macon, and Dichen Lachman. Couldn't they afford Bubbles? Why wait to rate these monkeyshines? My prereview: 'Kingdom dumb.'

La Vie Mayhem

Thinking of all those sweaty monkey suits has me harkening back to the days Bela Lugosi played the mad Dr. Mirakle in a, shall we say, bananas version of Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue ((1932) –– Bad garret.) The screenwriters' motivation for this sideshow entertainer to send his ape Erik up Parisian downpipes to kidnap a beauty was his desire to mingle her virginal blood with his hairy pet's in the hopes of creating a… mate? Gorilla my dreams, indeed. In 1954 Warner Bros. attempted a 3D (Dull, Dense, Daft) version with a dimly similar storyline entitled Phantom of the Rue Morgue. It offered further fancification of the plot with Karl Malden as another evil doctor and zookeeper named Marais and more opportunities for ratiocination (no, I can't really pronounce it, either) by Auguste Dupin –– culprit here, not detective. I suspected the ape was hiding right under Malden's nose because it was so enormous. The nose, I mean. However, I'd no idea where they'd stashed the script so I judged it an 'Unwritten Rue.'

There was a Murders in the Rue Morgue remake in 1971 with Jason Robards in a florid theatrical setting with added absurd plot twists, which I dismissed as 'A Poe substitute.' More of a policier, The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986) would restore the indefinite article to the title à la the source material as it posed the undying question: can the long arm of the law outreach an orangutan's? George C. Scott eschewed an accent as he chewed the scenery as the French detective. I riffed on his name when I 'Dupined it.' Pan and brrr.

Two other acts of apery that had me climbing the trees were the London-set Konga of 1961 wherein a less mad than hysterical doctor played by a twitchy Michael Gough pumped up his pet ape into a poor man's King Kong ((1931) –– Twat's beauty killed the beast.) I suggested it was a 'Banana rammer.' And, finally, there was the safari from and to Hell looking for diamonds with a chatty gorilla and a jabbering primatologist in an adaptation of Michael Crichton's absurd Congo ((1995) –– Oo oo haha.)

Oh, well. Have fun swinging from the rafters no matter if you attend your costume party this year as a Kong, Konga, Congo or Bingo Bongo ((1982) –– Scimmia break!). Little Josef is going to our local do as the infectious Capuchin monkey named Betsy from the plague suspense film Outbreak ((1982) –– Covers the spread.) He was too small for the Cheeta costume. And me? Me Tarzan!"

Happy Halloween to all and to all a Hell Night.

Previous St. Blaise Halloween Round-ups:
U.S. House of Horrors
The Haunted Manchin
Red Meet
Monster Rally 2020
The Phantom Minus
Slash and Burn
Hardy Horror
scroll down for these 3:
Trump or Treat
Field of Screams
Screamed Corn

Listen to E. Basil St. Blaise on his Critic's Corner Podcast.