August 2014

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

DNDF: Flora, Flora, Flora!

Step right up!  Step right up!  For your amusement, within the confines of this here Divine Search Engine™, is the most heinous of sights, the most vile of aberrations, the most, nay I say it, repugnant of creatures ever to claw it’s way out of the fetid primordial ooze.  Now you might be a thinking, how could I catch a glimpse at such a thing when I am but a simple, ignorant, backwoods type human?  Could my feeble monkey brain comprehend the cosmic awesomeness of something this disturbing?  Well maybe it can, maybe it can’t.  But what you should be asking is how much will it cost me to discover the depths of my own depravity.  Friends, for one night and one night only I will allow you to gaze upon the vestige of true horror not for twenty dollars, not for ten dollars, not even for the reasonable price of five dollars.  I only ask, for the rare privilege of experiencing this extraordinarily terrible thing, one simple thing.  All you have to do is simply…

SPIN THE WHEEL!

Carnivorous plants are plants that derive some or most of their nutrients (but not energy) from trapping and consuming animals or protozoans, typically insects and other arthropods.  Carnivorous plants have adapted to grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic bogs and rock outcroppings.  Charles Darwin wrote Insectivorous Plants, the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants, in 1875.

True carnivory is thought to have evolved independently six times in five different orders of flowering plants, and these are now represented by more than a dozen genera.  These include about 630 species that attract and trap prey, produce digestive enzymes, and absorb the resulting available nutrients.  Additionally, over 300 protocarnivorous plant species in several genera show some but not all of these characteristics.

Five basic trapping mechanisms are found in carnivorous plants.

  • Pitfall traps (pitcher plants) trap prey in a rolled leaf that contains a pool of digestive enzymes or bacteria.
  • Flypaper traps use a sticky mucilage.
  • Snap traps utilize rapid leaf movements.
  • Bladder traps suck in prey with a bladder that generates an internal vacuum.
  • Lobster-pot traps force prey to move towards a digestive organ with inward-pointing hairs.

These traps may be active or passive, depending on whether movement aids the capture of prey.  For example, Triphyophyllum is a passive flypaper that secretes mucilage, but whose leaves do not grow or move in response to prey capture.  Meanwhile, sundews are active flypaper traps whose leaves undergo rapid acid growth, which is an expansion of individual cells as opposed to cell division.  The rapid acid growth allows the sundew tentacles to bend, aiding in the retention and digestion of prey.

The sundew species Drosera glanduligera employs a unique trapping mechanism with features of both flypaper and snap traps; this has been termed a catapult-flypaper trap.  But enough of that noise, let’s talk about movies!

The Woman Eater (1958)

  • Original Title: Womaneater
  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Charles Saunders
  • Produced: Guido Coen
  • Written: Brandon Fleming
  • Starring: George Coulouris, Vera Day, Peter Wayn, Joyce Gregg, Joy Webster, Jimmy Vaughn, Robert MacKenzie, Norman Claridge
  • Music: Edwin Astley
  • Cinematography: Ernest Palmer
  • Editing: Seymour Logie
  • Studio: Fortress Film Productions Ltd.
  • Distributed:
    • Eros Films  
    • Columbia Pictures  
    • Image Entertainment
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • April 1958 (UK)
    • July 1959 (US)
  • Running Time: 70 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language: English

The Woman Eater (AKA Womaneater on it's original UK release), is a low budget 1958 black and white British horror film.

Dr. James Moran is a scientist whose goals are beyond the pale of established medical science.  While on an expedition to a remote part of the Amazon jungles, he encounters a huge plant being worshipped by a mysterious race descended from the Incas -- a plant that feeds off of women, devouring them almost like a giant Venus flytrap, and which also generates a fluid that can bring the dead back to life.  Five years later, Moran has moved the plant into a laboratory in his basement, complete with a member of the tribe of worshipers who is capable of caring for it, and begins to experiment with it -- but he must find women to feed to it.  Moran believes that using his scientific approach, the plant's sap will not only reanimate the dead, but could give its recipients immortality.  He proceeds with his experiments despite the inquiries of the police, who are investigating the disappearances of several young women.  He adds to the inevitable complications of his deceit when he brings in a pretty local girl to assist his middle-aged housekeeper, evoking deep and ultimately murderous jealousy from the older woman, who loves the doctor and also hasn't a clue as to what he's been up to in the basement laboratory, which is always locked.  He's forced to kill her, and she becomes the object of his first serum experiment -- but she returns to life as a mindless zombie, and Moran realizes that all of his work, and the murders he's committed, have been for nothing.  He recognizes that he has a monstrosity in his home, but it's still protected by that tribesman, who cares about nothing except the good of the plant.

In The Radio Times, David McGillivray gave the film one star, and wrote, "fans of mad scientists and killer vegetables should on no account miss this little-known Z-grade affair, a British studio's successful attempt to match similar trash that was coming out of Hollywood in the late 1950s...Director Charles Saunders began his career with the charming wartime comedy Tawny Pipit and ended it with horror and cheap sleaze.  Coulouris was in Citizen Kane.  Their conversations in the studio canteen must have been particularly melancholic."


Venus Flytrap (1970)

  • Original Title: Body of the Prey
  • Alternate Title: The Revenge of Doctor X
  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Norman Thomson
  • Produced: Norman Thomson
  • Written: Edward D. Wood Jr.
  • Starring: James Craig, Tota Kondo, Lawrence O'Neill, Al Ricketts, Atsuko Rome, Edward M. Shannon, John Stanley, James Yagi
  • Music: Unknown
  • Cinematography: Arnold Dibble
  • Editing: Unknown
  • Studio: Toei Company
  • Distributed:
    • Mill Creek Entertainment  
    • New Horizons Home Video  
    • Reel Classic Films  
    • Regal Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 1970
  • Running Time: 94 minutes
  • Country: USA  Japan
  • Language: English

Venus Flytrap (filmed 1966, released 1970) is an American horror film shot partly in Japan.  The plot features a mad scientist who uses thunder and lightning to turn carnivorous plants into man-eating creatures.  It is known variously as Body of the Prey, The Revenge of Doctor X (American video title), and The Revenge of Dr. X (American video box title).  Although the film is based on a 1950s screenplay by Ed Wood, he remained uncredited. Confusingly, the American video release erroneously features the major credits for 1969 Philippines production The Mad Doctor of Blood Island.  Nothing says quality quite like getting the credits to your own film wrong.

Dr. Bragan is a workaholic rocket scientist with NASA who is coming unglued from the stress.  A colleague arranges for him to take a much needed holiday in Japan, and Bragan accepts, hoping to use this free time to pursue his first love, botany.  He brings a potted Venus Flytrap with him, with plans to study carnivorous flora and prove his theory that human beings are descended from plants.  His Japanese assistant, Noroko, arranges for them to work in seclusion at her father's abandoned resort hotel, located on a mountain next to an active volcano. They get to work in the greenhouse, toiling night and day to strengthen the Venus Flytrap with the alien Nipponese soil, which causes it to grow to an unusual size.  But Bragan is as obsessive and abusive as he was in America, and his constant mood swings cause Noroko to suspect that he is going mad.  An experimental graft with a Japanese carnivorous plant succeeds in creating the "Sectovorus," a bizarre, vaguely human creature with vicious flytrap paws, and Bragan knows he is on the right track.  Unfortunately, the beast must be fed mice, chickens, puppies and eventually human blood to keep it alive, and the stronger it grows, the more dangerous it becomes. When the Sectovorus learns to uproot itself and venture to a nearby village for victims, Dr. Bragan must decide whether to protect his work of genius, or lure it into the volcano to save mankind.


Please Don't Eat My Mother (1973)

  • Genre: Comedy – Horror
  • Directed: Carl Monson
  • Produced:
    • Carl Monson 
    • Harry H. Novak
  • Written: Eric Norden
  • Starring: Buck Kartalian, Lynn Lundgren, Art Hedberg, Alice Friedland, Adam Blair, Flora Weisel, Ric Lutze, Rene Bond, Dick Burns, Carl Monson
  • Music: Unknown
  • Cinematography: Unknown
  • Editing: Paul Heslin
  • Studio: Boxoffice International Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Boxoffice International Pictures  
    • Something Weird Video  
    • Video Dimensions
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: March 1973
  • Running Time: 98 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

Please Don't Eat My Mother is a 1973 exploitation film directed by Carl J. Monson.  It is an adult-themed remake of Roger Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors, because the fans were clamoring for one.

A shy and timid man who lives with his mother buys a plant he thinks talked to him.  His loneliness is very apparent in the way he tries to turn the plant into a friend.  Well, the plant is carnivorous and can talk with a woman's sexy voice.  Henry, the protagonist, now has two joys in life.  One is being a voyeur (he is much too shy to actually talk to a girl) and the other is his new plant friend.  Soon he discovers the plant likes bugs (and then frogs and dogs and cats but he draws the line at elephants).  Eventually the plant wants to try a delicious woman, like in the pictures Henry has hanging in his room.

One day, Henry's mother breaks into his room thinking to confront him with a woman and all she can find are Henry and the plant.  But soon the plant eats her and discovers that women are really tasty.  When detective O'Columbus shows up, the plant discovers she does not like eating men, just women.

Eventually the plant experiences urges and Henry finds a male specimen.  The male eats men while the female eats women.  One woman is willing to end Henry's life of virginity but accidentally gets eaten.  Henry is broken and tries to kill himself while the plants get passionate with one another.  Henry is too clumsy to succeed and changes his mind when he sees all of the little baby plants.

No trailer due to it language and nudity, but trust me this is not a great movie.  In fact, I’m regretting even bring up this “film”.


The Mutations (1974)

  • Alternate Title: The Freakmaker
  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Jack Cardiff
  • Produced:
    • J. Ronald Getty 
    • Brad Harris 
    • Herbert G. Luft 
    • Robert D. Weinbach
  • Written:
    • Edward Mann 
    • Robert D. Weinbach
  • Starring: Donald Pleasence, Tom Baker, Brad Harris, Julie Ege, Michael Dunn, Scott Antony, Jill Haworth, Olga Anthony
  • Music:
    • Basil Kirchin 
    • Jack Nathan
  • Cinematography: Paul Beeson
  • Editing: John Trumper
  • Studio:
    • Cyclone 
    • Getty Pictures Corp.
  • Distributed:
    • Columbia-Warner Distributors  
    • Columbia Pictures  
    • Vidcrest  
    • RCA/Columbia Pictures Video Ltd.  
    • Subversive Cinema  
    • Columbia TriStar Home Video  
    • Maritim Pictures  
    • LK-TEL Vídeo  
    • RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 25 September 1974
  • Running Time: 92 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language:
    • English 
    • German

The Mutations is a 1974 British horror film directed by Jack Cardiff.  The film was also released under the title, The Freakmaker.

Reflecting its storyline about a mad scientist who gene-splices people and plants to create monsters, this lurid UK flick offers two movies for the price of one.  The putative main story is an unintentionally hilarious stinker, with Donald Pleasence phoning in his bad-guy performance while the film’s special-effects team delivers laughably bad monster costumes.  However, a major subplot about the mad scientist’s deformed henchman has a certain degree of pathos and suspense, especially because the subplot borrows many elements from the 1932 cult classic Freaks.  Set in modern-day England, The Mutations stars Pleasence as Professor Nolter, a psycho who envisions a new race of humans imbued with plant characteristics. Nolter’s accomplice is Lynch, a deformed giant who abducts young men and women for Nolter to use as test subjects.  Lynch is the leader of a group of circus freaks living at an amusement park, yet while the other circus performers are harmless, Lynch is a self-loathing psychotic.  Thus, while Nolter tempts fate by taking his experiments too far, Lynch is driven to madness by waiting for Nolter to deliver on promises of correcting Lynch’s deformity.  (The picture also features perfunctory material involving attractive students either investigating the disappearances of their classmates or becoming victims of Nolter’s weird science.)

As helmed by Jack Cardiff, a master cinematographer who occasionally directed, The Mutations has a colorful look and one or two genuinely creepy scenes, notably the Freaks-influenced conclusion of Lynch’s storyline.  The acting is generally bland, but Baker (beloved by many for his long run on the UK TV series Doctor Who) does well playing Lynch in the Vincent Price mode of a killer besieged by inner demons.  The film’s other noteworthy performance comes from the diminutive Michael Dunn, familiar to American TV fans for his work as Dr. Loveless on the ’60s show The Wild Wild West.  He plays the little person who represents the conscience of the circus-freak community.  Furthermore, starlets including the scrumptious Julie Ege provide major eye candy while clothed and otherwise, and The Mutations benefits from an eerie music score that utilizes dissonant classical music—a truly unsettling flourish.  FYI, many of the performers in this film were played by people with ‘unique qualities’, something which immediately sets the film apart from the cinematic crowd.

 

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Friday, August 29, 2014

CC: The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Dennis Yates Wheatley (8 January 1897 – 10 November 1977) was an English author whose prolific output of thrillers and occult novels made him one of the world's best-selling writers from the 1930s through the 1960s.  His Gregory Sallust series was one of the main inspirations for Ian Fleming's James Bond stories.

His first novel published, The Forbidden Territory, was an immediate success when issued by Hutchinson in 1933, being reprinted seven times in seven weeks.  The release the next year of his occult story, The Devil Rides Out—hailed by James Hilton as "the best thing of its kind since Dracula"—cemented his reputation as "The Prince of Thriller Writers."

Wheatley mainly wrote adventure novels, with many books in a series of linked works.  Background themes included the French Revolution (the Roger Brook series), Satanism (the Duke de Richleau series), World War II (the Gregory Sallust series) and espionage (the Julian Day novels).  Over time, each of his major series would include at least one book pitting the hero against some manifestation of the supernatural.  He came to be considered an authority on this, Satanism, the practice of exorcism, and black magic, to all of which he was hostile.  During his study of the paranormal, though, he joined the Ghost Club.

The Devil Rides Out is a 1934 novel by Dennis Wheatley telling a disturbing story of black magic and the occult.  The four main characters appear in a series of novels by Wheatley.  The book was made into a film by Hammer Film Productions in 1968.

Set in 1930s London and the South of England, the Duke de Richleau and Rex van Ryn rescue their friend Simon Aron from a devil-worshipping cult.

A group of old friends discover that one of them has been lured into a coven of Satanists.  They determine to rescue him - and a beautiful girl employed as a medium.  The head of the coven proves to be no charlatan but an Adept of the Dark Arts, able to infiltrate dreams and conjure up fearsome entities.  Duke de Richleau fights back with his own knowledge of occultism and ancient lore.   A duel ensues between White and Black Magic, Good and Evil used as weapons.

Whenever, subsequently, Dennis Wheatley was asked what he really believed about the supernatural, he would just reply 'Don't meddle!' Few readers will need that warning repeated.


The Devil Rides Out (1968)

  • Alternate Title: The Devil’s Bride
  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Terence Fisher
  • Produced: Anthony Nelson Keys
  • Written:
    • Dennis Wheatley (novel "The Devil Rides Out")
    • Richard Matheson
  • Starring: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi, Leon Greene, Patrick Mower, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies, Sarah Lawson, Paul Eddington, Rosalyn Landor, Russell Waters
  • Music: James Bernard
  • Cinematography: Arthur Grant
  • Editing: Spencer Reeve
  • Studio:
    • Associated British-Pathé 
    • Hammer Film Productions 
    • Seven Arts Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Warner-Pathé Distributors  
    • Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation  
    • Anchor Bay Entertainment  
    • Luminous Film & Video Works  
    • Regency Media   Studio Canal
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 20 July 1968 (UK) 
    • 18 December 1968 (US)
  • Running Time: 95 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language: English

The Devil Rides Out, known as The Devil's Bride in the United States, is a 1968 British horror film, based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley.  It was written by Richard Matheson (Author: I am Legend,  The Shrinking Man, etc.) and directed by Terence Fisher (Most of the remakes of the Universal monster movies by Hammer were directed by him).

Set in London and the south of England in 1929, the story finds Nicholas, Duc de Richleau, investigating the strange actions of the son of a friend, Simon Aron, who has a house complete with strange markings and a pentagram.  He quickly deduces that Simon is involved with the Occult.  Nicholas de Richleau and Rex Van Ryn manage to rescue Simon and another young initiate, Tanith, from a devil-worshipping cult.  During the rescue they disrupt a ceremony on Salisbury Plain in which the Devil himself appears.

They escape to the home of the Eatons, friends of Richleau and Van Ryn, and are followed by the group's leader, Mocata, who has a psychic connection to the two initiates.  After visiting the house to discuss the matter and an unsuccessful attempt to influence the initiates to return, Mocata forces Richleau and the other occupants to defend themselves through a night of black magic attacks, ending with the conjuring of the angel of death.  Richleau is able to repel the angel, but it kills Tanith instead (as once summoned, it must take a life).  His attacks defeated, Mocata kidnaps little Peggy.  The Duc has Tanith's spirit possess Peggy's mother in order to find Mocata, but they are only able to get a single clue, from which Rex realizes that the cultists are at a house he visited earlier.

Simon tries to rescue Peggy on his own, but is recaptured by the cult.  The Duc, Richard, and Peggy's family, also try to rescue her, but they are defeated by Mocata.  Suddenly, a powerful force (or Tanith herself) begins ruling Mrs. Eaton and puts a stop to Peggy's trance.  She then leads Peggy in the recitation of a spell, which kills all of the cultists and transforms their coven room into a church.  When the Duc and his companions awaken, they discover that the spell Peggy was led into casting has reversed time and changed the future in their favor.

Simon and Tanith have survived, while Mocata's spell to conjure the angel of death has been reflected back on him. Now, he pays the price of loss of life and eternal damnation of his soul for having wrongly summoned the angel of death.  Nicholas de Richleau comments that it is God that they must be thankful for.

First proposed in 1963, the film eventually went ahead four years later once censorship worries over Satanism had eased.  In the United States the film was retitled The Devil's Bride.  Christopher Lee has often stated that of all his vast back catalogue of films this is his favorite and the one he would like to see remade with modern special effects and with him playing a mature Duke de Richleau.

The A-side of British rock band Icarus's debut single, "The Devil Rides Out", was inspired by the advance publicity for the film of the same name.  Though the song does not appear in the film, the single's release was timed to coincide with the film's premiere, and the band themselves were invited to the premiere.

Reviews of the film have been widely favorable.  It holds a 93% fresh rating on rotten tomatoes.

 

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

WTFW: The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966)

A rather odd, meandering novel in the "killer plants" genre by a guy named Murray Leinster, a.k.a. William Jenkins which was the basis for an even more meandering 1966 Michael Hoey film with the silly title of The Navy vs. the Night Monsters.

The Monster from Earth's End concerns a small US Navy radar outpost on Gow Island, an island off the coast of South America.  In Antarctica, some scientists have discovered specimens of prehistoric trees in the hot lakes region, and are flying them back to Washington, D.C., intending to stop off at Gow en route to refuel.

Commanding officer Drake (no first name or rank is ever given; he is simply "Drake") is fairly uninterested in this, as he has his sights set on secretary Nora, who he is having an affair with.  Since fraternizing is frowned upon in the Navy, the two have to keep their relationship secret, especially from supply officer Spaulding who it is suggested also has a bit of a thing for Nora.  Love triangle ahoy!  Spaulding is also slowly going stir crazy from too long of a stay on Gow, and Drake is intent on getting the poor bastard off of the island on the incoming plane.

Then something goes wrong, as they are wont to do in novels of this sort.  The cargo plane begins flying erratically. The pilots won't answer Gow's hails, and dump their cargo before making an impromptu landing without lowering their gear, thoroughly crippling the plane and blocking the runway.  Rescue crews rush out to the airfield but of the ten people aboard, only one of the pilots, Brown, is found alive and he promptly shoots himself with his service revolver.  Drake and company can find no sign of the other pilot, crew members and the scientist passengers, and all but one of the tree specimens got dumped.

Everything from the plane, including Brown's corpse, is moved to a warehouse for safekeeping whilst the engineering crews begin attempting to move the plane off the runway.  Drake's report to Washington is scoffed at; none of the top brass wants to believe that nine people can simply disappear off of a plane midflight (amazingly, that they fell out when the cargo got dumped never seems to occur to these idiots).  All of Gow's personnel are instructed to write their own individual accounts of what they witnessed.  Unsure what this is supposed to accomplish.  Half of the reports will be some variation of "the plane flew wildly and then crash landed."

Drake and Nora's tepid romance continues uninterrupted.  Spaulding becomes increasingly unhinged, suggesting wild theories like aliens or even giant birds as the culprits.  Drake mostly just humors him.  The tree specimens are discovered to be still alive.  Head biologist Beechum has them planted near the island's hot springs to keep them viable until their trip to Washington after the runway is cleared.  That night, though, mysterious things begin happening.  First the dead body of Brown disappears!  And something slaughters some dogs and destroys the nesting site of Gow's native seagull population!

Drake, proving to be pretty quick on the uptake, begins suspecting something nasty got brought back from the Antarctic aboard the plane, which killed the people on the plane and is now loose on the island.  But can he and his men along with Beechum solve the mystery before living human begins begin disappearing?  And can Drake's romance with Nora get any blander?  You bet it can!

Michael A. Hoey read the original novel in 1959 and thought it could make a good science fiction film along the lines of The Thing From Another World (1951).  He optioned it and wrote a screenplay, originally called The Nightcrawlers.  Producer George Edwards read it and agreed to finance the film; because of the limited amount of money available, Hoey was hired to direct.  He says he was paid $10,000 for the script and his services, $4,000 of which went to Murray Leinster, $2,000 to the Directors Guild and another thousand to his agent.

The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (also known as Monsters of the Night and The Night Crawlers) is a 1966 American science fiction film, produced by Jack Broder (and Roger Corman, uncredited), written and directed by Michael A. Hoey, and distributed by Realart Pictures Inc.

The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi – Horror
  • Directed:
    • Michael A. Hoey 
    • Jon Hall 
    • Arthur C. Pierce
  • Produced:
    • Jack Broder 
    • Madelynn Broder 
    • George Edwards 
    • Roger Corman
  • Written:
    • Murray Leinster (novel "The Monster from Earth's End") 
    • Michael A. Hoey 
    • Arthur C. Pierce
  • Starring: Mamie Van Doren, Anthony Eisley, Billy Gray, Bobby Van, Pamela Mason, Walter Sande, Edward Faulkner, Phillip Terry, David Brandon, Kaye Elhardt, Taggart Casey, Russ Bender, Mike Sargent
  • Music: Gordon Zahler
  • Cinematography: Stanley Cortez
  • Editing: George White
  • Studio: Standard Club of California Productions Inc.
  • Distributed:
    • Realart Pictures Inc.  
    • Peerless Films  
    • Englewood Entertainment  
    • Entertainment Programs Inc.  
    • Cheezy Flicks Entertainment  
    • MediaOutlet.com  
    • Paragon Video Productions
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 19 May 1966
  • Running Time: 87 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

A group of scientists with Operation Deep Freeze1 discover frozen prehistoric trees and other specimens in the Antarctic dating back to the first Ice Age; the scientists collect samples for further study and load them aboard a C-47 transport plane.

The dull, workaday life at the Navy weather station base on Gow Island in the South Pacific is interrupted when that same transport plane, on a routine approach for re-fueling, experiences some kind of unusual trouble and crash-lands on the island's single airstrip, blocking its further use.  The seven scientists and crew who were aboard the cargo plane when it left the Antarctic are now missing; the only one found aboard is the plane's pilot, who is traumatized and in a state of shock, unable to speak.

Unloading the prehistoric cargo from the crashed plane, local scientist Dr. Arthur Beecham recommends planting the trees to ensure their survival in the island's tropical conditions.  Awhile later, Gow Island's bird population becomes disturbed by something unknown; at the same time, the weather station's scientists try to figure out a connection between this event and a corrosive residue that starts turning up at various island locations.

It slowly becomes clear that the planted prehistoric trees have quickly grown into acid-secreting, carnivorous monsters that move about Gow Island at will during the night.  They reproduce fast and eventually cut off the island with their growing numbers and nocturnal assaults; the Navy personnel's only available weapons prove largely ineffective against the monsters.  Lt. Charles Brown, in temporary command, has to hold together his dwindling Navy personnel and the coterie of scientists and civilians and figure out a way to stop this prehistoric onslaught.

Eventually, the weather station is able to radio the mainland for help.  In response the Navy sends in multiple aircraft strikes from their nearest base; the naval fighter jets drop both napalm and fire air-to-ground missiles at the slow-moving night monsters, blowing then up or setting them ablaze.  As a result, the prehistoric threat to Gow Island's surviving personnel is quickly eliminated.

The executive producer was Jack Broder, with Roger Corman providing some uncredited assistance.  Hoey says that during rehearsal Broder announced the film's new title would be The Navy vs. The Night Monsters.  "The entire cast was ready to walk out," says Hoey.  "They were furious that he would give it that title."

Broder wanted to make the movie back to back with another film, Women of the Prehistoric Planet, using the same crews and George Edwards as line producer on both.  Hoey thought highly of Edwards, claiming "he was really a creative producer... a good producer who tried to keep things away from you while you were on the set; keep the picture moving forward smoothly; keep oil on the waters.  And at the same time make creative decisions that made sense, which was the antithesis of what Jack Broder did."  Shooting took just ten days.

Broder had requested a 90 minute film so he could sell it to television and Hoey's original cut went for 78 minutes. When Hoey left the film, Broder hired Arthur Pierce, director of Women of the Prehistoric Planet to shoot additional scenes.  Hoey later claimed these scenes would "change the whole premise" of the film.  "He added all those scenes of those navy officers in that base on the mainland.  It completely ruined the premise of what I had in mind."

Behold! Tree Monster!

 

Notes:

1.  Operation Deep Freeze (OpDFrz or ODF) is the codename for a series of United States missions to Antarctica, beginning with "Operation Deep Freeze I" in 1955–56, followed by "Operation Deep Freeze II", "Operation Deep Freeze III", and so on.  Given the continuing and constant US presence in Antarctica since that date, "Operation Deep Freeze" has come to be used as a general term for US operations in that continent, and in particular for the regular missions to resupply US Antarctic bases, coordinated by the United States military.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WIAC: The Exorcist (1973)

It is Tuesday, December 25th, 1973 and in twenty-four hours the world will change when The Exorcist initially opens at twenty-four theaters across the United States.  The script was adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name.  The book, inspired by the 1949 exorcism case of Roland Doe, deals with the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and her mother's desperate attempts to win back her child through an exorcism conducted by two priests.  The film will earn 10 Academy Award nominations, winning two (Best Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay), and losing Best Picture to The Sting.  It will became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, grossing over $441 million worldwide.  It is also the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.  Forty years later and this is still one of the best horror movies ever made in my opinion.

But before that happens we will need to know what came before this monumental film hit the big screen.  So let us explore the literature and films that proceeded to see how lightning got captured in a jar.

Exorcism in the real world:

Exorcism (from Greek exorkismos - binding by oath) is the practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or an area they are believed to have possessed.  Depending on the spiritual beliefs of the exorcist, this may be done by causing the entity to swear an oath, performing an elaborate ritual, or simply by commanding it to depart in the name of a higher power.  The practice is ancient and part of the belief system of many cultures and religions.

Requested and performed exorcisms had begun to decline in the United States by the 18th century and occurred rarely until the latter half of the 20th century when the public saw a sharp rise due to the media attention exorcisms were getting.  There was “a 50% increase in the number of exorcisms performed between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s”.1

Since the novel and film deal with Catholic priests performing the ritual I will limit myself to only that belief system but there are rituals for exorcism in most of the world religions.  In Catholic Christianity, exorcisms are performed in the name of Jesus Christ.  A distinction is made between a formal exorcism, which can only be conducted by a priest during a baptism or with the permission of a Bishop, and "prayers of deliverance"2 which can be said by anyone.

The Catholic rite for a formal exorcism, called a "Major Exorcism", is given in Section 11 of the Rituale Romanum.  The Ritual lists guidelines for conducting an exorcism, and for determining when a formal exorcism is required.  Priests are instructed to carefully determine that the nature of the affliction is not actually a psychological or physical illness before proceeding.

In Catholic practice the person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is a consecrated priest.  The exorcist recites prayers according to the rubrics of the rite, and may make use of religious materials such as icons and sacramentals.  The exorcist invokes God—specifically the Name of Jesus—as well as members of the Church Triumphant3 and the Archangel Michael to intervene with the exorcism.  According to Catholic understanding, several weekly exorcisms over many years are sometimes required to expel a deeply entrenched demon.

In general, possessed persons are not regarded as evil in themselves, nor wholly responsible for their actions.  Therefore, practitioners regard exorcism as a cure and not some kind of punishment.  The Catholic rite usually take this into account, ensuring that there is no violence to those possessed, only that they be tied down if deemed necessary for their own protection and that of the practitioners.

Solemn exorcisms, according to the Canon law of the Church, can be exercised only by an ordained priest (or higher prelate), with the express permission of the local bishop, and only after a careful medical examination to exclude the possibility of mental illness.  The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908) enjoined: "Superstition ought not to be confounded with religion, however much their history may be interwoven, nor magic, however white it may be, with a legitimate religious rite."  Things listed in the Roman Ritual as being indicators of possible demonic possession include: speaking foreign or ancient languages of which the possessed has no prior knowledge; supernatural abilities and strength; knowledge of hidden or remote things which the possessed has no way of knowing; an aversion to anything holy; and profuse blasphemy and/or sacrilege.

The Exorcism of Roland Doe:

The exorcism of Roland Doe refers to events surrounding the supposed demonic possession and exorcism of an anonymous American boy, which occurred in the late 1940s.  Roland Doe is the pseudonym assigned to the exorcized boy by the Catholic Church.  Later the pseudonym was changed by author Thomas B. Allen to "Robbie Mannheim" and the subsequent supernatural claims surrounding those events went on to inspire the 1971 novel The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty and the 1973 film adaptation, as well as Thomas B. Allen's 1993 historical account Possessed, a second edition of it in 1999, and the 2000 film by the same name, based on Allen's book.

Most of the information regarding "Roland Doe" and the events surrounding his alleged possession and exorcism comes from a diary kept by the attending priest, Fr. Raymond Bishop.  At the time of the alleged events (circa mid-1949) several newspaper articles printed anonymous reports.  These were later traced back to the family's former pastor, the Reverend Luther Miles Schulze.  The pseudonym "Roland Doe" was assigned by the Catholic Church to the boy in question.  Doe has no memory of being possessed.

Thomas Allen released his book Possessed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of The Exorcist.  The book is based on two sources; Bishop's diary and the testimony of Fr. Walter H. Halloran.  Halloran was one of the last surviving eyewitnesses of the events and participated in the exorcism.

Roland was born into a German Lutheran family.  During the 1940s the family lived in Cottage City, Maryland.  According to Allen, Roland was an only child and depended upon adults in his household for playmates, primarily his Aunt Harriet.  His aunt, who was a spiritualist, introduced Roland to the Ouija board when he expressed interest in it.  When Roland was thirteen his aunt died in St. Louis.  Several books suggest that Roland tried to contact his deceased aunt via the Ouija board.

According to Allen's book, supernatural activity began soon after the death of Doe’s Aunt Harriet.  This includes the sound of squeaky and marching feet as well as other strange noises.  Furniture moved on its own accord, and ordinary objects, including a vase, allegedly flew or levitated and a picture of Jesus rattled on the wall as if it was being thumped from behind.  A container of holy water placed near him smashed to the ground.  Nine priests and thirty-nine other witnesses signed the final ecclesiastical papers documenting Roland's experience.

The frightened family turned to their Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Luther Miles Schulze, for help.   According to a report made by Reverend Schulze to The Evening Star, a Washington D.C. newspaper, the boy was examined by both medical and psychiatric doctors, who could offer no explanation for these disturbing events taking place. Schulze arranged for the boy to spend the night of February 17 in his home in order to observe him.  The boy slept near the minister in a twin bed and the minister reported that in the dark he heard vibrating sounds from the bed and scratching sounds on the wall.  During the rest of the night he allegedly witnessed some strange events, a heavy armchair in which the boy sat seemingly tilted on its own and tipped over and a pallet of blankets on which the sleeping boy lay inexplicably moved around the room and slapped people in the face.  Schulze concluded that there was evil at work in Roland, and a Lutheran rite of exorcism would be performed on Roland.

According to the traditional story, the boy then underwent an exorcism under auspices of the Episcopal Church (Anglican).  After this, the case was referred to the Rev. Edward Hughes, a Roman Catholic priest, who, after examining the boy at St. James Church, conducted an exorcism on Roland at Georgetown University Hospital, a Jesuit institution.

During the exorcism, the boy slipped one of his hands out of the restraints; he then broke a bedspring from under the mattress and used it as an impromptu weapon, slashing the priest's arm from wrist to shoulder and causing a wound that required over one hundred stitches.  As a result, the exorcism ritual was stopped and the boy went home to be with his family, where strange welts on the boy's body led to desperation.  The family then proceeded to take the train to St. Louis.  While they were in the city, Roland's cousin contacted one of his professors at St. Louis University, the Rev. Raymond J. Bishop, SJ, who in turn spoke to the Rev. William S. Bowdern, an associate of College Church.  Together, both priests visited Roland in his relatives' home, where they noticed his aversion to anything sacred, a shaking bed, flying objects, and Roland speaking in a guttural voice.  Fr. Bowdern sought permission from the archbishop to have the plaguing demons cast out from the boy.  Permission for Bowdern to perform the exorcism was granted by the archbishop, with the requirement that a detailed diary be kept.

Before the exorcism ritual began, Fr. Walter Halloran was called to the psychiatric wing of the hospital, where he was asked to assist Fr. Bowdern.  The Rev. William Van Roo, a third Jesuit priest, was also there to assist.  Fr. Halloran stated that during this scene words such as "evil" and "hell", along with other various marks, appeared on the teenager's body.  Moreover, Roland broke Fr. Halloran's nose during the process.  The exorcism ritual was performed thirty times over several weeks.  When the final exorcism was complete witnesses reported loud noise going off throughout the hospital.  After the exorcism was over, the boy went on to lead a normal life.

The case also inspired the 2000 movie Possessed, which is said to be closer to the "real" story since it is based on Allen's book.  A documentary was also made of the case, titled In the Grip of Evil.  Another documentary movie was made in 2010 named "The Haunted Boy: The Secret Diary of the Exorcist" where a group of investigators travels to the location in question and uncovers the diary that is said to be kept by Father Bowdern.

 

The Dybbuk:

The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds is a 1914 play by S. Ansky, relating the story of a young bride possessed by a dybbuk —a malicious possessing spirit, believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person— on the eve of her wedding.

The Dybbuk is considered a seminal play in the history of Jewish theater, and played an important role in the development of Yiddish theatre and theatre in Israel.  The play was based on years of research by S. Ansky, who travelled between Jewish shtetls4 in Russia and Ukraine, documenting folk beliefs and stories of the Hassidic Jews.

Act 1:  Hannan, a brilliant talmudic scholar, falls in love with Leah'le, the daughter of Sender, a rich merchant. Sender opposes a marriage between the two, as he prefers a rich suitor for his daughter.  In desperation, Hannan decides to study the mystical arts of the Kabbalah, in the hopes of finding a way to win back Leah'le, who he feels is his predestined bride.  When Sender announces that he has found a suitable bridegroom for Leah'le, Hannan drops dead in a state of mystical ecstasy.

Act 2:  On the day of her wedding, Leah'le goes to the graveyard, for the purpose of inviting the spirit of her dead mother to attend the wedding.  She stops by the graves of a bride and groom who were murdered together before their marriage was consummated, and invites their spirits to the wedding.  Finally she is drawn to the grave of Hannan, and leaves the graveyard appearing somehow "changed".  Under the wedding canopy, Leah'le suddenly cries out to her intended: "You are not my bridegroom!" and rushes to the grave of the slaughtered bride and groom.  A man's voice issues from her mouth, saying "I have returned to my predestined bride, and I shall not leave her".  She has been possessed by the Dybbuk.

Act 3:  Leah'le is brought to the home of a Hassidic sage who is to exorcise the dybbuk from her body.  Several attempts fail, and finally the sage calls upon the chief rabbi of the city for assistance.  The chief rabbi arrives and tells of a dream he had, in which Nisn, the long-dead father of Hannan, demanded that Sender, father of Leah'le, be called before the rabbinical court.

Act 4:  The room is prepared as a court, and the spirit of Hannan's father is invited to plead its case from within a chalk circle drawn upon the floor.  The spirit speaks to the rabbi, and tells him of a pact made between him and Sender, many years ago, that their two children shall be wed.  By denying Hannan his daughter's hand in marriage, Sender broke the pact.  The rabbis attempt to appease the spirit, and order that Sender must give half of his worldly goods and money to the poor, and say Kaddish over the spirits of Hannan and his father.  But the dybbuk does not acknowledge that it has been appeased.  Leah'le is left within the chalk circle of protection while the others leave to prepare for her wedding.  The image of Hannan appears before her, and she leaves the safety of the circle to unite with her beloved—presumably, in death.

In 1937, the play, with some changes in the plot structure, was filmed by director Michał Waszyński in Warsaw, starring Lili Liliana as Leah, Leon Liebgold as Hannan (Channon, in the English-language subtitles), and Abraham Morewski as Rabbi Azrael ben Hodos.  The film adds an additional act before those in the original play: it shows the close friendship of Sender and Nisn as young men.  Besides the language of the film itself, the picture is noted among film historians for the striking scene of Leah's wedding, which is shot in the style of German Expressionism.  The film is generally considered one of the finest in the Yiddish language.  The Dybbuk was filmed on location in Kazimierz, Poland, and at the Falanga Film Studios in Warsaw.

Il demonio:

Il demonio is a 1963 Italian drama film directed by Brunello Rondi.  The film premiered at the 24th Venice International Film Festival.

Set in a remote Italian farming village, Puri is very unhappy that the love of her life is marrying another woman.  She tries simple, elemental witchcraft to gain his affections.  She performs a ceremony high on the cliffs above the church while he gets married to try and curse the couples' good luck.  She stalks their home on wedding night, using dead animals to distract the guards.  Is she possessed?  Is she a witch?  Is she mentally unbalanced?

Dressed in black, her defiant appearance and physical presence simply doesn't fit in.  The villagers even believe she's a blight on their crops.  They use a local faith healer to try and cast out the demon in her.  His private ceremony involves trussing her up and then he takes advantage of her.

Throughout the story, many try to cure her, usually with disproportionate violence. As her behavior becomes more and more extreme, their methods also escalate.  The superstitious villagers use simple chants and tokens to ward her off, though her behavior looks just as much like a distraught woman having a breakdown.  Though her spider walk in a cathedral and her violent reaction to nuns and rosary beads appears to be a demonic possession.

The film has an episodic, semi-documentary look and sometimes not much explanation to link the abrupt change between locations or to examine the implications of what has just happened.  But her extraordinary performance and the spectacular rural locations make this uniquely memorable.

Not a proper trailer but it’s what I could find.

 

Kill, Baby, Kill:

Kill, Baby, Kill (Italian: Operazione paura) is a 1966 Italian horror film by director Mario Bava.  It is known under many titles including Curse of the Dead, Curse of the Living Dead, Don't Walk in the Park, Kill, Baby... Kill! and Operation Fear.

In a turn-of-the-century Carpathian village a series of murders are occurring in which the victims are found with silver coins embedded in their hearts.  The coins are revealed to be talismans placed on the victims by the town witch, meant to ward off the supernatural powers of the aged Baroness Graps.  The baroness has been performing these duties for the ghost of her murdered daughter, who wants to claim the villagers' souls.  In order to free the village from the curse, Dali must find the sequestered baroness and destroy her.

Slant Magazine called it "arguably Bava's greatest achievement", giving it four stars out of a possible four.  Allmovie called the film "an eerie and atmospheric effort that reflects many of the elements that have made the popular Italian director's films so compelling: excellent cinematography and strong performances from the talented cast."  In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films.  Kill, Baby, Kill placed at number 56 on their top 100 list.

 

The Possession of Joel Delaney:

The Possession of Joel Delaney is a 1972 American horror film directed by Waris Hussein and starring Shirley MacLaine and Perry King.  It is based on the 1970 novel of the same name by Ramona Stewart.

Due to a release during the early seventies and its dealing with the theme of possession, many reviewers compare it, some favorably, to The Exorcist, which would come one year later.  The film was entered into the 22nd Berlin International Film Festival.  The Possession of Joel Delaney was the first film for Perry King and the last horror film Shirley MacLaine made.

The Possession of Joel Delaney is a story of demonic possession, much on the order of "The Exorcist," but in many ways more believable.  A young man, played by Perry King, has his body taken over by the soul of a serial killer.  His sister, Shirley MacLaine in one of her better performances, tries to find out why his behavior has so drastically changed, and her quest takes her into the Voodoo underground of Manhattan's Spanish Harlem.  The plot develops slowly but builds to a powerful, unexpected finish in which MacLaine and her two young children are lured to a secluded beach house and threatened by a knife wielding Perry.  This includes one of the most shocking scenes involving a minor in American movies. 

One of the more controversial elements of the film is its ending.  Thirteen-year-old actor David Elliott is shown fully naked during a sequence in which his character is humiliated by the possessed Joel Delaney.

In the March 5, 2004 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King wrote about the film and that particular scene, claiming that today it would earn the film an NC-17 rating.  The VHS was released uncensored in 1998.  The new Region 1 DVD reflects an altered version.

No children were harmed emotionally in the making of this trailer.

 

The Exorcist (Novel):

The Exorcist is a 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty.  The book details the demonic possession of twelve-year-old Regan MacNeil, the daughter of a famous actress, and the Jesuit psychiatrist priest who attempts to exorcise the demon.  Published by Harper & Row, the novel was the basis of a highly successful film adaption released two years later, whose screenplay was also written by Blatty.

The novel was inspired by a 1949 case of demonic possession and exorcism that Blatty heard about while he was a student in the class of 1950 at Georgetown University.  As a result, the novel takes place in Washington D.C. near the campus of Georgetown University.  In September 2011, the novel was reprinted by Harper Collins to celebrate its fortieth anniversary, with slight revisions made by Blatty as well as interior title artwork by Jeremy Caniglia.

An elderly Jesuit priest named Father Lankester Merrin is leading an archaeological dig in northern Iraq and is studying ancient relics.  After discovering a small statue of the demon Pazuzu (an actual ancient Assyrian demigod), a series of omens alerts him to a pending confrontation with a powerful evil, which, unknown to the reader at this point, he has battled before in an exorcism in Africa.

Meanwhile, in Georgetown, a young girl named Regan MacNeil is living with her famous mother, actress Chris MacNeil, who is in Georgetown filming a movie.  As Chris finishes her work on the film, Regan begins to become inexplicably ill.  After a gradual series of poltergeist-like disturbances in their rented house, for which Chris attempts to find rational explanations, Regan begins to rapidly undergo disturbing psychological and physical changes: she refuses to eat or sleep, becomes withdrawn and frenetic, and increasingly aggressive and violent. Chris initially mistakes Regan's behavior as a result of repressed anger over her parents' divorce and absent father.

After several unsuccessful psychiatric and medical treatments, Regan's mother, an atheist, turns to a local Jesuit priest for help as Regan's personality becomes increasingly disturbed.  Father Damien Karras, who is currently going through a crisis of faith coupled with the loss of his mother, agrees to see Regan as a psychiatrist, but initially resists the notion that it is an actual demonic possession.  After a few meetings with the child, now completely inhabited by a diabolical personality, he turns to the local bishop for permission to perform an exorcism on the child.

The bishop with whom he consults does not believe Karras is qualified to perform the rites, and appoints the experienced Merrin—who has recently returned to the United States—to perform the exorcism, although he does allow the doubt-ridden Karras to assist him.  The lengthy exorcism tests the priests both physically and spiritually. When Merrin, who had previously suffered cardiac arrhythmia, dies during the process, completion of the exorcism ultimately falls upon Father Karras.  When he demands that the demonic spirit inhabit him instead of the innocent Regan, the demon seizes the opportunity to possess the priest.  Karras heroically surrenders his own life in exchange for Regan's by jumping out of her bedroom window and falling to his death, regaining his faith in God as his last rites are read.

On October 31, 2010, Cemetery Dance published a special omnibus edition of The Exorcist and its sequel Legion, signed by Blatty.  A limited edition of 750 copies (with an additional 52 leatherbound copies), it is now out of print.  On September 27, 2011, The Exorcist was re-released as a 40th Anniversary Edition in paperback, hardcover and audiobook editions with differing cover artwork.  This new, updated edition featured and revised material, as Blatty writes: "The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Exorcist will have a touch of new material in it as part of an all-around polish of the dialogue and prose.  It also features all new cover artwork and interiors by the artist Jeremy Caniglia.  First time around I never had the time (meaning the funds) to do a second draft, and this, finally, is it.  With forty years to think about it, a few little changes were inevitable -- plus one new character in a totally new very spooky scene.  This is the version I would like to be remembered for."

In addition to the film based upon the novel, in February 2014, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a two-part adaptation of the novel by Robert Forrest produced and directed by Gaynor MacFarlane and starring Robert Glenister as Father Karras, Lydia Wilson as Regan, Teresa Gallagher as Chris MacNeil, Karl Johnson as Detective Kinderman, Bryan Dick as Father Dyer, Alexandra Mathie as The Demon and Ian McDiarmid as Father Merrin.

 

And to bring it full circle:

The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name.  The film features Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb, and (in voice only) Mercedes McCambridge.  It is one of a cycle of "demonic child" films produced from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, including Rosemary's Baby and The Omen.

The film has had a significant influence on popular culture.  It was named the scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly and Movies.com and by viewers of AMC in 2006, and was No. 3 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments.  In 2010, the Library of Congress selected the film to be preserved as part of its National Film Registry.  In 2003, it was placed at No. 2 in Channel 4's The 100 Greatest Scary Moments in the United Kingdom.

During an archaeological dig in Iraq, Lankester Merrin—an archeologist and priest—discovers a small amulet and realizes it matches that of a statue of Pazuzu, an evil demon Merrin defeated many years ago.  Merrin suspects the time has come to face the demon once again.

In the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C., actress Chris McNeil begins noticing strange and frightening behavioral changes in her daughter, Regan, which includes constant swearing and abnormal strength.  When medicine fails, Regan is given a few unpleasant tests, but X-ray results prove "negative" much to the confusion of the doctors.  In reality, Regan is now possessed by Pazuzu, who earlier pretended to be her imaginary friend "Captain Howdy" through a Ouija board.

Burke Dennings, the British director of Chris's latest film, dies mysteriously after falling from Regan's open bedroom window while Chris' secretary, Sharon Spencer, was away from the house.  His murder is investigated by detective William Kinderman, who questions both Chris and a young priest named Damien Karras who has lost faith in God after the death of his ill and elderly mother.  Chris begins to suspect Regan played a role in Burke's death.  After Regan assaults a psychiatrist, the doctors decide that if Regan believes she is possessed, an exorcism may be Regan's only hope into restoring her sanity.  Chris, however, is tentative as she and Regan have no religious beliefs.

Karras agrees to see Regan for Chris but refuses to perform an exorcism; however, further supernatural phenomena force him to accept Regan needs an exorcism.  Karras is given permission by the bishop, who—at the request of the university's president—also hires Merrin to help, since Merrin has prior experience with exorcisms.

Working together, Karras and Merrin attempt to exorcise Pazuzu from Regan—who now refers to herself as the Devil—but the demon taunts them, especially Karras for his weak faith and guilt over his mother's death.  Karras is dismissed after a break, as Merrin knows he is not mentally fit for a second attempt.  Despite this, Karras returns to the room where Regan is now free from her binds and Merrin lies dead.  In a fit of rage he assaults Regan and orders the demon to take him instead.  Pazuzu obeys and Karras throws himself from the window.  He then dies of his injuries, but not before receiving last rites from his friend Father Dyer.

Days later, the McNeils leave for Los Angeles.  They meet Dyer and say goodbye.  Regan remembers nothing, but embraces Dyer after noticing his white collar.

If you have never seen the reaction to this film when it was first released then I offer the following video.

 

Notes:

1.  Martin, M (1992). Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco. p. 120.

2.  Deliverance prayer is used for ‘demonic bonds’ that one might call ‘weak’.  It is up to the exorcist priest to discern between the problems that the person is experiencing and the seriousness of the ‘entry points’.  If during the course of this prayer there are significant ‘manifestations’, that means that it is necessary to go on to exorcism (which often has to be repeated several times).  Any priest can carry out deliverance prayer. [TLIG Website]

3.  In Christian theology, the Christian Church, or Church Universal, is traditionally divided into:

  1. the Church Militant (Ecclesia Militans), comprising Christians on earth who are living; Christian militia, who struggle against sin, the devil and "..the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
  2. the Church Triumphant (Ecclesia Triumphans), comprising those who are in Heaven, and
  3. the Church Penitent (Ecclesia Penitens), a.k.a. Church Suffering or Church Padecent or Church Expectant (Ecclesia Expectans), which in Catholic theology comprises those Christians presently in Purgatory.

4.  Shtetls were small towns with large Jewish population which existed in Central and Eastern Europe before the Holocaust.  Shtetls were mainly found in the areas which constituted the 19th century Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire, the Congress Kingdom of Poland, Galicia and Romania.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ICFIFC: Half Human (1958)

Half Human, originally released in Japan as Jūjin Yuki Otoko (lit. "Monster Snowman"), is a tokusatsu1 film produced and released by Toho Film Productions Ltd. in 1955.  The film was made by Toho's Godzilla production team, consisting of Ishirō Honda, Eiji Tsuburaya, and Tomoyuki Tanaka.  This was director Honda's second assignment in the kaiju2 genre, after the original Godzilla (1954).

According to Wikipedia Japan, the film has been removed from circulation due to the original version depicting the inhabitants of the remote village similar to the Ainu people as being deformed from generations of inbreeding as well as showing backwards and violent behavior.  However, no such reference is made in the film's dialogue, but for this reason broadcasters and media publishing companies have refrained from showing it.

 

Half Human (1958)

  • Original Title: Half Human: The Story of the Abominable Snowman
  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed:
    • Ishirô Honda (Japanese scenes) 
    • Kenneth G. Crane (US scenes)
  • Produced:
    • Robert B. Homel 
    • Minoru Sakamoto 
    • Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Written: Takeo Murata
  • Starring: John Carradine, Momoko Kôchi, Akira Takarada, Akemi Negishi, Russell Thorson, Robert Karnes, Sachio Sakai, Nobuo Nakamura, Kuninori Kôdô, Morris Ankrum, Kenji Kasahara
  • Music: Masaru Sato
  • Cinematography:
    • Lucien N. Andriot 
    • Tadashi Iimura
  • Editing: Kenneth G. Crane
  • Studio: Toho Company
  • Distributed:
    • Distributors Corporation of America  
    • Rhino Home Video  
    • Englewood Entertainment  
    • Media Home Entertainment  
    • Something Weird Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • August 14, 1955 (Japan) 
    • December 1958 (USA)
  • Running Time:
    • 94 minutes (Japan) 
    • 63 minutes (USA)
  • Country:
    • Japan 
    • USA
  • Language: English

The Japanese version is told in flashbacks framed by scenes of a reporter questioning the expedition after they have returned from their harrowing ordeal in the mountains.  Five young friends, university students, have come to the Japanese Alps during New Year's for a skiing vacation.  Among them are Takashi Iijima, his girlfriend Machiko Takeno and her brother Nakada.  The other members of the group are their friends, Gen and Kaji.

Exhilarated by the mountain views, Gen and Kaji get a little carried away and decide to ski way on ahead of the others.  Takashi warns them that the way down the mountain is a lot more difficult than it looks; but the other two decide to go ahead anyway.  Sure enough, when Takashi, Nakata and Machiko return to their lodge, the innkeeper has seen no sign of the other two.  Because the weather has taken a sudden downturn: the mountain is about to get hit by a blizzard.

Fortunately there is another shelter down the mountain, where a sixth member of the group, Machiko's elder brother, should be waiting for them already.  With a little luck Gen and Kaji should have been able to reach it.  The caretaker tries to telephone the remote cabin... but nobody answers.  He tries to hide his concern, but nobody's fooled.  While Takashi takes over trying to ring the cabin, Machiko stares out the window into the deepening storm. She catches sight of a shadowy figure shambling toward the lodge!  It's really a fur-clad young woman named Chika, who lives in a remote village somewhere deep in the mountains.  Chika is none too pleased to see so many visitors in the lodge, since the people of her village shun all contact with outsiders.  However, the night is so brutal that she has little choice but to join them if she wants to stay warm.  Even now, there is no response from the cabin; and the little group is horrified to hear the sound of an avalanche thundering down a nearby slope.

The lodge telephone starts ringing.  It's the cabin where Gen and Kaji are.  Machiko runs to the phone; but no sooner has she put it up to her ear when she throws it back down again in horror.  Through the earpiece comes the sound of screams, followed by a single gunshot.  There is a moment of silence.  Takashi picks up the receiver, he hears another agonized scream and the line goes dead.  Chika puts her furs back on and slips away, unnoticed by the others.

The next day, as soon as the weather clears, a rescue party goes off to find Gen and Kaji.  Gen is found dead on the cabin floor; Kaji's body has been dragged out into the snow.  Their injuries suggest they were attacked by something far stronger than a man.  Of the elder Takeno, though, there is no sign.  Takashi and Nakata find strange tufts of hair around the cabin, as though whatever had left them was absurdly large.  But most disturbing of all are the enormous bare footprints leading off into the snow.  The search team splits up, with one group bringing the dead men back to the lodge and the other continuing the search for Takeno.  By nightfall, there is still no sign of Takeno, and the leader of the rescue team informs the others that they'll have to return to Tōkyo until the spring thaw.

Once the snow on the mountains have thawed enough for a proper search to be mounted, Takashi and Machiko return to the Alps with Professor Koizumi and his expedition.  There is little hope of Takeno having survived, a fact which Machiko seems to have come to terms with; but if there is some clue what happened to him and the others, Takashi is determined to find it.  Determining Takeno's fate, though, is almost incidental to Koizumi's intentions: the main focus of the expedition is to find out if there's a previously unknown bipedal primate lurking in the area.

When the party arrives at an inn, Machiko is distracted by a monkey in a cage.  As she stops to feed it some treats, the shifty little man who seems to own the animal turns to the innkeeper and asks him who the Koizumi expedition might be.  The innkeeper explains that this is a famous zoologist from the city who will be spending some time in the area.  As soon as the innkeeper's back is turned, the little man sneaks out of the room and goes to find his boss.  His boss is Ōba, an animal broker of less-than-sterling reputation.  His job is to capture animals for circuses and he's heard stories of one animal in particular that account for his presence here.  When his lackey tells him a university scientist has come with a fully equipped expedition, Ōba has no trouble guessing what he's looking for.  Ōba had thought he had the area to himself.  But there may be an up-side to Koizumi's competition. Ōba and his men can follow the expedition surreptitiously, make use of Koizumi's knowledge of the local wildlife, and sneak in ahead of him when they start getting close to their target.  Little does Ōba know that he's not the only one following Koizumi's progress.  As the expedition gets further into the mountains, a white-bearded old man and his oddly shaped sidekick watch them warily.

Late one night, as the expedition tries to get some sleep after the day's misfortunes, a very large shadow falls across Machiko's tent.  A face appears at the tent window, it's the Snowman.  The creature reaches into the tent and touches Machiko's face, causing her to wake up and scream.  The Snowman runs off into the forest, while Takashi chases after him.  Takashi loses his way and takes a bad fall.  As he stumbles back to the campfire that he believes marks the expedition site, he's astonished to find himself surrounded by Ōba and his cronies.  Ōba's men give Takashi a beating and casually toss him into a lethally deep ravine.

Takashi is found at the bottom of the cliff by none other than Chika, the girl who'd appeared and disappeared so mysteriously during the snowstorm.  Chika brings him back to her village, a place so isolated that it's had little or no contact with the outside world for generations that the population has become inbred and disfigured.  There she tends to his wounds as he regains consciousness.  She is the granddaughter of the white-bearded old village chief. When the village finds out Chika has brought someone from civilization into their midst, they become furious; but the chief, pretending to be reasonable, sends Chika out to bring an offering of game to the Snowman, who the villagers worship as a deity, while he confers with the others.  She takes her grandfather at his word, and leaves Takashi alone with the angry crowd.  They bind him, gag him, and hang him off a cliff to be eaten by the vultures. When Chika gets back, she's horrified to find Takashi gone.  When she confronts her grandfather, the old man castigates her, both for defying tradition and for challenging his authority.  He also beats her viciously with a stick.

Chika goes off on her own up the mountain to nurse her injuries.  Sitting alone on a rocky path, she runs into Ōba and his henchman.  She mistakes them from members of Koizumi's party out looking for Takashi.  Ōba seizes the opportunity to try to worm his way into the girl's trust.  He trades her a shiny silver ring for some information on where the Snowman can be found.  The gift of the ring persuades her, and Chika marks the spot for Ōba by throwing a stone across the valley.

Meanwhile, the Snowman is on his way back to its cave, with a freshly killed deer over his shoulder, when he sees a curious thing: a human hanging off a cliff by a rope.  So the beast calmly puts down the deer, pulls Takashi back up, unties his hands, shoulders the deer again and walks off without a second glance.  Ōba and his men lug their traps and equipment up the mountain to the creature's lair.  But when they get there, they make an astonishing discovery: there's a juvenile Snowman playing by the cave entrance.  Ōba's eyes light up with fiendish inspiration: they'll trap the young Snowman and use it as bait to capture the adult!  The Snowman comes back a little while later, and is horrified to find the cave empty.  As he searches frantically for the little creature, Ōba's men remove the gag from the juvenile's mouth; its cries of terror bring the Snowman storming back out of the cave.  A heavy net falls on it, trapping the creature; and Ōba's men use chloroform to knock him out.

Back in the village, Chika is still being punished for breaking the rules; and in the course of her punishment, her grandfather finds the ring.  Chika admits that she's told the outsiders about the Snowman's lair.  The old man and the other villagers arrive at the cave just in time to see Ōba preparing the unconscious beast for transport.  When the old chief tries to intervene, Ōba shoots him.  Terrified, the remaining villagers can do little more than jeer impotently and throw stones as the outsiders drag the Snowman away.  The young creature has managed to slip out of his bonds and run away.  Ōba is at first too excited by capturing the adult creature, and later too busy fending off the locals, to notice that the little beast has escaped.  But the young creature has no intention of running away.  When the truck carrying the Snowman starts off down the mountain, the juvenile springs onto the platform and works at undoing the ropes.  Ōba finds himself the last surviving human as the adult creature begins to break his way out of the cage.  In the chaos that results, Ōba ends up killing the juvenile Snowman.  The adult grabs Ōba and throws him to a gruesome death.  With its offspring dead, the Snowman, enraged and full of grief, runs back to the village and destroys it.

Takashi makes it back to the camp and tells his story to his companions.  The Snowman is then heard approaching their camp.  The beast grabs Michiko while she's adding logs to the fire.  The next day, the expedition spots smoke in the distance.  They find the smoldering remnants of the village and Chika.  Chika tells them about what happened and Takashi asks her where the Snowman's cave is.  She then leads them to the cave.  There, they find the bones of Takeno, as well as the fragments of his journal.  According to the last, fragmentary journal entries, Takeno had been tracking the creature when he was caught in an avalanche.  The Snowman had actually tried to save Takeno's life, giving the injured man food and shelter.  Going further into the cave, the party finds a large pile of bones — Snowman bones.  Koizumi finds poisonous amanita muscaria3 mushrooms growing near the bones, and speculates that eating these mushrooms may have killed off the Snowman population.

The creature storms in, with Machiko over his shoulder.  They chase the beast further into the cave, until it stops by a pit of boiling sulfur.  Chika comes to the rescue, attacking the Snowman with her knife; she distracts the creature enough that Takashi is able to get a clear shot at it.  The mortally wounded Snowman, grabs Chika and drags her down with him, as he plunges into the sulfur pool to certain death.

 

English Version:

It is assumed that the film was shown in its entirety in the United States, in the Japanese language at Japanese-American ("Chinatown") theaters on the West Coast, as were most other films produced in that country.  This release may or may not have included English subtitles.  The film itself received no wider release but principal sequences involving the basic plot structure were used to create an American hybrid entitled Half Human.

The 1958 nationwide U.S. release of this film took sequences of Jujin Yuki Otoko and added extensive new scenes starring John Carradine and featuring Morris Ankrum and two lesser-known American actors (Russell Thorson and Robert Karnes), and the entire soundtrack was replaced with American stock music cues, sound-effects, and voice-over narration by Carradine replacing all dialogue in the Japanese scenes.

Toho's costume for the snowman's son was even imported by the new film's makers and used in a scene where the creature has supposedly just been autopsied by Ankrum and is seen lying on an operating table.  Including the extensive American footage, this version runs only 63 minutes in total.  The US version of Half Human was released on VHS by Rhino in North America.

 

Notes:

1.  Tokusatsu is a Japanese term that applies to any live-action film or television drama that features considerable use of special effects (tokusatsu literally translates as "special filming" in Japanese).

2.  Kaiju is a Japanese word that literally translates to "giant beast."  The word has been translated and defined in English as "strange monster" and is used to refer to a genre of tokusatsu entertainment.  Kaiju films usually showcase monsters of various forms, usually attacking a major Japanese city or engaging another (or multiple) monster(s) in battle.  Related terms include kaijū eiga (monster movie), a film featuring giant monsters or a single monster; kaijin (referring to roughly humanoid monsters); and daikaiju (giant kaiju), specifically meaning the larger variety of monsters.

3.  Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, is a mushroom and psychoactive basidiomycete fungus, one of many in the genus Amanita.  Native throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, Amanita muscaria has been unintentionally introduced to many countries in the Southern Hemisphere, generally as a symbiont with pine plantations, and is now a true cosmopolitan species.  It associates with various deciduous and coniferous trees.  The quintessential toadstool, it is a large white-gilled, white-spotted, usually red mushroom, one of the most recognizable and widely encountered in popular culture. Several subspecies with differing cap color have been recognized, including the brown regalis (often considered a separate species), the yellow-orange flavivolvata, guessowii, formosa, and the pinkish persicina.  Genetic studies published in 2006 and 2008 show several sharply delineated clades that may represent separate species.

 

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