Sunday, November 1, 2009

Post Halloween Apocalypse!

Or watch classic horror year round!

I missed posting on Halloween, so here's a belated one. These notes were made for The Bijou Blog, and please check it out, but then cut because of space down to just the House on Haunted Hill review. Other contributors to the Bijou Blog Halloween post are Bob Campbell and Victoria Balloon, who meshed it into a single voice.

Johnny Legend
Behind the fearful beard lurks an American Rockabilly musician, actor, wrestling manager and film producer and archivist. Johnny released dozens of obscure cartoons, exploitation films, low-budget horror flicks and his popular Sleazemania series through Rhino Home Video. His rare and restored videos are currently ballyhooed at Legend House and Raunchy Tonk Video. Here are three Legend(ary) releases of Johnny's to chill your Halloween.

“House on Haunted Hill”
This high quality, 50th Anniversary Edition is presented in widescreen by Johnny Legend, a video pioneer who released low-budget horror and exploitation films in the early days of Rhino Home Video. William Castle’s 1959 thriller still shocks and mystifies with ghoulish plot twists. Vincent Price invites five random guests to stay overnight in a haunted house and get $10,000 for surviving. Not all of them make it. The bonus extras are true delights starting with two trailers for House, one trumpeting the “Emergo” process (skeleton flies over audience during climax), and trailers for Vincent Price and William Castle shockers -- The Fly, Tingler, Macabre, 13 Ghosts, Mr. Sardonicus, Zotz, Straight-Jacket and more. Mr. Castle appears in many trailers to explain his latest gimmicks. Johnny himself discusses the “House” today and actress Carol Ohmart. The disc closes with Vincent Price on the Jack Benny and Red Skelton Shows and as persecuted missionary John Hayes on “TV Reader’s Digest” from 1955.

Sweeney Todd and Crimes at the Dark House
Johnny Legend loves Tod Slaughter and you will too. Never shy about appearing in his own videos, Johnny relates how he discovered Tod in the late 1960s in Los Angeles’ Cozy Theater. This bonus is followed by British horror trailers, Slaughter poster art and a rare audio of Mr. Tod as Sweeney Todd.

Tod Slaughter, affectionately known as Europe’s Horror Man, is the ultimate old-fashioned melodrama villain. He laughs maniacally as he gleefully chokes his victims... in every single film! The fiend is simply mad. Tod’s over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek villainy is not to be believed until one sees it, which has made him a cult hero among Cinephiles. In most films Slaughter is a man of wealth or position who lusts after the heroine, often gets her by lies and murder, but is foiled in the end. This is the plot of Crimes at the Dark House (1940), based on the novel “The Woman in White.” Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936) is Slaughter’s career zenith that years later spawned the stage musical and Johnny Depp film. The maniac barber kills for money, but the detail about turning his victims into meat pies is barely hinted at. Tod as Sweeney coos: “What a lovely throat she has for the razor. How I’d love to polish her off! The razor’s nice and sharp.”

Halloween in Hell
Johnny roams Hollywood Boulevard on Halloween interviewing denizens between horror trailers, then on to talks with horror directors Tim Sullivan and Ray Dennis Steckler and cult legend Arch (Eegah!) Hall Jr. If more Johnny is not enough, how about two more Tod Slaughter films! In Murder in the Red Barn (1935), Tod not only seduces the heroine but murders and buries her, laughing all the while. The Face at the Window is the most traditional horror film of the four with a monster and mad scientist scene. Is wealthy Tod the sinister Wolf Man whose hideous face appears at windows when murder strikes? All four Tod Slaughter films are highly recommended for their exceptional quality and refreshing dementia!

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