Terror Storm (1978)

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Yeah, I know the poster says Cyclone but I prefer the other title, Terror Storm, because, you know, it’s funnier.  We  have another would be masterpiece from Rene Cardona Jr., who, for some reason, does not know how to edit a movie to a reasonable length.  There is no reason why Terror Storm should be 118 minutes long.

My other beef with the movie is that there is too much humanity in it.  It’s a freakin’ Rene Cardona Jr. picture!  I’ve already seen Tintorera: Killer Shark and Guyana: Crime of the Century so I know this guy’s modus operandi so I don’t understand why they needed to have the touching scene where the woman has the baby and everyone takes turns holding it but hey…

Funny how Terror Storm has more to do with sharks than Tintorera: Killer Shark.  It also would have been a pretty standard disaster film like The Towering Inferno or The Poseidon Adventure but this is Rene Cardona Jr. and only recently he produced his father’s film Survive! about a group of people in the Andes forced to cannibalism.  So, why not make his own movie with cannibalism?

Basically a tropical cyclone causes a plane to crash and a ship to sink and, as a result, the survivors end up on a mid-sized boat that is touring some area in the tropics.  The survivors are forced to ration food and water and to deal with each other.  Among the passengers include Carol Baker who has a pet dog, Olga Carlotos (the girl from Zombie who gets the wood splint in her eye) as a pregnant woman, another Zombie cast member who I forgot, Lionel Stander (who was in a bunch of cool movies including Roman Polanski’s Cul De Sac) and Andreas Garcia (the brawny guy who looks like Elliott Gould and was also in Tintorera: Killer Shark).  Stuart Whitman is in it briefly as well but his role is pretty minimal.

Let’s see; at first people try to act civil to each other and then shit starts to get real.  They kill Caroll Baker’s dog and eat it, cut parts out of somebody to use as fish bait and eventually eat someone.  A couple people die and the Elliott Gould lookalike plays the clear-headed, rational guy who tries to keep everybody in line.  There’s a preacher, there’s a couple angry fishermen, there’s a little girl and there are a bunch of other stock people who are not really worth mentioning.

The best part is near the end where you think the passengers are saved and then the sharks start eating them.  I know I gave away a lot of what happens in this movie but you know damn well you don’t care about story or character development.  You just want to see crazy and sick shit occur.  And it does but just not often enough.  You have to wait long periods of time for stuff to happen.  At least when it does, it’s fairly graphic.  Again, though, Cardona Jr. could have edited this down and sped up the pace.

The Vampire (1957)

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Well, for one thing, it’s not really a vampire.

Vampire-1957

Actually he/it looks more like Lee Marvin after dipping his head in a vat of acid.  But, anyway, judging by how this review came after the one for The Return of Dracula, you can safely assume I just watched this pair of fun, somewhat schlocky, late 1950s, drive-in “quickies” back to back on the same DVD.  It turns out this one was also written and directed by Paul Landres.

The big difference between The Vampire and The Return of Dracula is that, in this case, the movie has more of a science fiction feel to it than fantastical horror.  Also, this one is slightly more interesting because of the nihilistic tone it takes.  I know you’re thinking that I’m reading too much into it when I draw such a conclusion.  But, when you see how the movie plays out, it makes sense.  Sure, you could just as easily chalk it up to bad writing as a result of just trying to get a movie quickly made but it’s worth acknowledging.

Basically, what happens is Dr. Paul Beacher (John Beal) mistakenly takes a pill made from the blood of vampire bats instead of the aspirin he was supposed to take.  Henceforth, he turns into the above pictured monster nightly and starts picking off innocent victims one after another.  I know the plot sounds more like a scientific werewolf movie but he doesn’t brutally mutilate his victims; he just drains them of their life-blood via the neck.  And instead of becoming part of the undead, they just remain… dead.

So why is that nihilistic?  Well, it was Dr. Beacher’s daughter that mistakenly switched the pills and, because of her completely innocent mistake, she watches her single father deteriorate until he’s forced to be killed in the film’s climax.  No redemption in spite the fact that other than accidentally taking the wrong pill, he was a completely benign doctor.  I could see the climax being some form of poetic justice if the doctor was a mad scientist or just overzealous but he wasn’t.  He was a good, normal doctor.

Otherwise The Vampire is a fun, quickly moving, horror thriller with nicely placed shocks and kills – including an old lady, which I thought was cool since, in spite of the more innocent era in which the movie was made, it did not prevent an old lady from being a victim to the monster.

There are some okayish stock characters; a cute nurse, a nosy detective and, of course, the doctor’s daughter and the direction was solid, with neat shots and quick pace.  Plus John Beal’s make-up job was cool too.

 

The Return of Dracula (1958)

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The title for this quick, little drive-in picture from writer/director Paul Landres is a little misleading since it’s not a sequel nor canonical in any way with any other Dracula story or franchise.  It’s just a one off story about a vampire that assumes the identity of a Czech artist, moves into a small town and proceeds to terrorize its inhabitants.

That’s okay though.  For the most part, it’s a good, fun little thriller with all of the vampire movie cliches and typically expected twists.  There isn’t that much to say about it.  Francis Lederer is the vampire who acts “mysteriously” by sleeping all day, going out at night and refusing to attend social gatherings- including a Halloween party where you’d think he’d fit in fine.

The acting is pretty standard stuff to get you through the plot but the movie looks cool so that’s a plus.  There are a few well placed shocks, including a corpse, among other stuff and the climax in the cave is pretty cool as well.

I know it seems odd to give three out of four iron crosses to a movie which I have so little to say about but, really there just isn’t that much to this.  There’s a neat mausoleum scene at the beginning and cave at the end looked cool but there just that much more to say about it.

It did come at an interesting time in horror cinema.  By the late 1950s, the horror movie was all but dead and it seemed that many of the studios tried to keep horror in a modern context since it takes place in the modern time.  This one sort of fell by the wayside by the time Hammer and American International breathed fresh life into gothic horror cinema with their color adaptations.