Category: Z-View

“The Tingler” (1959) Directed by William Castle & Starring Vincent Price / Z-View

The Tingler (1959)

Director:  William Castle

Screenplay:  Robb White

Stars:  Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Philip Coolidge, Gail Bonney and William Castle.

Tagline: Amazing NEW TERROR Device Makes You A Living Participant in the FLESH-CRAWLING ACTION! PERCEPTO!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Dr. Warren Chapin (Price) discovers that the tingling people feel along their spine during cases of extreme fear is caused by a parasite.  Chapin names this creature “the tingler”.  As a person becomes more afraid, the tingler grows in size and strength ultimately causing the victim to die.  Interestingly enough, if the person screams, the tingler stops growing.  Dr. Chapin decides to conduct experiments on people to learn more about the tingler.  What could possibly go wrong?

Producer/Director William Castle was the king of gimmick films.  The Tingler‘s gimmick was that some seats in theaters were hooked with buzzers set off when the tingler was loose.  The buzzers vibrated seats causing theater goers to scream.  The Tingler also holds the distinction of being the first Hollywood mainstream feature film to depict LSD use.  The Tingler is also famous for being a black and white film that has bright red blood flowing in a sink and a full bathtub while everything else in the scene remained black and white.  If you’re a William Castle fan or low-budget horror movies, you’ll enjoy The Tingler.

The Tingler earns 2 of 5 stars.

“The Man in the Barn” (1937) Directed by Jacques Tourneur / Z-View

The Man in the Barn (1937)

Director:  Jacques Tourneur

Screenplay:  Morgan Cox

Stars:  Carey Wilson, Virginia Brissac

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

In 1903, David E. George on his deathbed claimed to be John Wilkes Booth, the man who killed Abraham Lincoln.

Although accepted history has it that Booth was killed in a barn twelve days after his murder of President Lincoln, this short explores the possibility that David George was in fact John Wilkes Booth!

I wanted to see this short for two reasons:

  1. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur, the director of The Cat People, Out of the Past, Curse of the Demon and so many other films.
  2. It involved the conspiracy theory that John Wilkes Booth survived until 1903.  I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy theory.

Tourneur’s talent is wasted & so was my time.

The Man in the Barn earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Barbarian” (2022) Written and Directed by Zach Cregger, starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård & Justin Long / Z-View

Barbarian (2022)

Director:  Zach Cregger

Screenplay:  Zach Cregger

Stars:  Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis, Richard Brake, J.R. Esposito, Derek Morse and Zach Cregger.

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Tess Marshall (Campbell) arrives late one rainy night to the home she’s rented. Tess is in town for a job interview.  Surprisingly, she finds the house has been double-booked.  The other renter is named Keith (Skarsgård).  After unsuccessfully trying to reach the rental office, Tess decides to get a hotel room.  When she’s unable to find any available, she learns there’s a big convention in town.  Keith suggests that they both stay in the house.  Although a little concerned about Keith at first, Tess feels comfortable enough to stay the night.  Keith takes the couch and Tess the bedroom with the door locked.

The next morning Tess and Keith leave for the day.  Tess is shocked by the condition of the neighborhood.  Every house on the block is deserted and dilapidated.    After her interview, Tess returns to the house.  Keith isn’t back yet.  As Tess is checking out the place, she accidentally locks herself in the basement.  Looking for another way out, Tess discovers a hidden room.  In the room is a dirty, bloody mattress and a camcorder.  Tess is starting to freak out when she hears Keith has returned…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Writer-director Zach Cregger intentionally made Barbarian‘s tone feel like two different films.  The first half is “a Fincher movie” while the second is like “a Raimi movie…”.   This creates an interesting juxtaposition.  In the first half of the film, Tess doesn’t trust her instincts enough to leave.  She then makes poor decisions, but for good reasons.  Cregger lets it all play out slowly and as Tess begins to think the situation is okay, we as an audience still have doubts.  When things reach a climax, Cregger breaks away to introduce a character named AJ (Long).

At first this is very disorienting.  Then it becomes clear that AJ’s story ties in to what’s happening with Tess.  In fact, AJ will soon find himself in the same danger as Tess.  When a character is introduced late in a film, he/she is often the hero who will save the day.  Not so, here.

Not only did Cregger change up character expectations, but this is where his filmmaking style changes.  Things move quicker and we’re no longer in a psychological thriller, but a full blown horror movie.  Hats off to Cregger for having faith in himself (and his audience) to make such a move.

Not only is there a disparity in the tone of Tess and AJ’s stories, but their characters as well.  Tess made poor decisions to help another, while AJ makes poor decisions for selfish reasons.  The contrast between the characters as well as the way their stories are shown are as different as, uh, up and down.  ; )

Georgina Campbell is an actress that I hadn’t seen before.  She’s excellent.  I’ll be watching for her in the future. Bill Skarsgård hits all the right notes.  Is he the nice guy he wants us to believe or is he a monster who has Tess fooled?  Justin Long plays against type and does it well.  The real star of the show is writer/director Zach Cregger,  Barbarian is his first feature and he executed it with style.  I’m excited to see Cregger’s plans for his next film.

Oh, and if you think you’ve figured out how the movie plays out from this review… you haven’t.

Barbarian earns 4 of 5 stars.

“King of the Zombies” (1941) Starring Mantan Moreland & Dick Purcell / Z-View

King of the Zombies (1941)

Director:  Jean Yarbrough

Screenplay:  Edmond Kelso

Stars:  Dick Purcell, Joan Woodbury,  Mantan Moreland, Henry Victor, John Archer and Marguerite Whitten. 

Tagline:  HUMAN SACRIFICES! SAVAGE TORTURE! VOODOO RITES!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

1941.  World War II is raging across Europe.  James “Mac” McCarthy (Purcell) is flying his small plane from Cuba.  With McCarthy is his valet, Jeff Jackson (Moreland) and his buddy, Bill Summers (Archer).  A terrible storm blows them off course.  Running low on fuel, they pick up a transmission in a foreign language.  They spot a small island and although banged up, survive a crash landing.

Dr. Miklos Sangre (Victor) lives on the island with his wife, Alyce (Stacey), and his many servants.  Sangre invites Mac, Jeff and Bill into his mansion.  Sangre shows Mac and Bill respect, but Jeff is treated like one of the servants.  Jeff quickly picks up that something is off with Dr. Sangre. There are strange things taking place on the island.  Will Jeff be able to convince Mac and Bill?  And if they do believe Jeff will it be too late?

King of the Zombies was originally conceived as a straight up horror film.  Bela Lugosi was announced to star.  With the success of Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers, King of the Zombies was re-written as a comedy.  Mantan Moreland’s character was added.  The producers were unable to get Lugosi.  Their second choice was Peter Lore.  He was also unavailable, so they went with Henry Victor.  Victor is excellent as the creepy foreign agent.

The real star of King of the Zombies is Mantan Moreland.  He is excellent as the scared, but perceptive sidekick (who steals the show).  Marguerite Whitten who appeared with Moreland in Mr. Washington Goes to Town and Lucky Ghost, is a welcome addition as a source of information and Mantan’s love interest.  Madame Sul-Te-Wan makes a believable voodoo priestess.

King of the Zombies is a low budget “B” picture that is heads and shoulders above most of the same type films of this era.  If you’re a fan of the genre, you should enjoy King of the Zombies.

King of the Zombies earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Idle Roomers” (1944) Starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Idle Roomers (1944)

Director:  Del Lord

Screenplay:  Del Lord, Elwood Ullman

Stars:  Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Duke York, Christine McIntyre and Vernon Dent

Tagline: None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Moe, Larry and Curly are bellmen at an upscale hotel.  When Mr. and Mrs. Leander check in, the boys only see Mrs. Leander.  Not knowing she has a jealous husband, they fight over helping her to her room.  When the husband arrives, there’s trouble.  And even more trouble when the wolfman he has caged gets loose!

Curly does most of the heavy-lifting in this one (and I’m not just talking about the Leander’s luggage).  Any time you have the boys running out of their minds with fear from monsters, you’re guaranteed laughs.

Idle Roomers earns 4 of 5 stars.

“The Patient” starring Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson / Z-View

The Patient (2o22)

Directors:  Chris Long (episodes 1,2, 8-10); Kevin Bray (episodes 3-5); Gwyneth Horder-Payton (episodes 6,7)

Teleplay:  Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg

Stars:  Steve Carell, Domhnall Gleeson, Laura Niemi and David Alan Grier.

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Dr. Alan Strauss (Carroll) is a psychotherapist who one morning wakes up in the basement of a strange house.  A chain is padlocked to his leg and a bolt in the cement floor.  Dr. Strauss soon learns that his captor is Sam Fortner (Gleeson).  Fortner is a serial killer who believes that Dr. Strauss can cure him of the compulsion to kill.

Thoughts (Beware of spoilers)…

What a great setup for a limited series.  If Strauss cures Fortner, Strauss is a liability because of his knowledge of the murders.  If Strauss can’t cure Fortner, there’s no reason to keep him alive.  It’s a game of cat and mouse and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

I was a little hesitant that Steve Carroll was the dramatic lead because of his role as Michael Scott from The Office.  I shouldn’t have worried.  Carroll was excellent, as is Laura Niemi who plays Sam’s mother.  She’s aware that her son is a serial killer, but cannot bring herself to turn him in.  David Alan Grier (another comedian) shows his dramatic chops.

The real surprise to me was Domhnall Gleeson.  What a performance!  Definitely worthy of an Emmy.  While I had seen Gleeson in a few films (True Grit, Dredd and The Revenant), I had no idea of how good an actor he is.

I liked that The Patient was written as series of ten episodes.  Because it was a limited series all bets were off as to who would live or die.  Expect some surprises along the way.

The Patient earns 5 of 5 stars.

“Lucky Ghost” aka “Lady Luck” (1942) Starring Mantan Moreland & F.E. Miller / Z-View

Lucky Ghost aka Lady Luck (1942)

Director:  William Beaudine

Screenplay:  Lex Neal, Vernon Smith

Stars:  Mantan Moreland, F.E. Miller, Maceo Bruce Sheffield and Napoleon Whiting. 

Tagline:  A Thriller-Diller Laff Sensation Feature!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Washington (Moreland) and Jefferson (Miller) are down-on-their-luck friends looking for an opportunity.  When they meet a couple of rich men standing by a limo, they learn that the driver has gone for gas.  Washington entices the men into a dice game.  By the time the driver has returned, Washington has won all of the men’s money, their fancy clothes and the car!

Washington and Jefferson have the driver take them to a nearby country club.  The club is run by a crook named Dr. Brutus Blake (Sheffield).  Blake invites Washington to play in his private gambling room.  There he plans to swindle Washington out of all his cash using crooked dice.  What Blake doesn’t know is that ghosts are watching and don’t like what they’re seeing.

The movie really takes off once Mantan begins playing craps in the club.  He’s hilarious when he’s forced to roll using dice he knows will cause him to lose.  Lady Luck isn’t as funny as Mr. Washington Goes to Town, but this semi-sequel has its moments.

Lucky Ghost aka Lady Luck earns 3 of 5 stars.

“The Northman” (2022) starring Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman & Claes Bang / Z-View

The Northman (2o22)

Director:  Robert Eggers

Screenplay:  Sjón, Robert Eggers

Stars:  Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy and Willem Dafoe.

Tagline:  Conquer your fate.

The Plot…

Amleth (Skarsgård) is a boy destined to become King.  That changes when Amleth’s father, King Aurvandil War-Raven (Hawke) is brutally murdered.  Amleth watches in shock as his Uncle, Fjölnir (Bang) kills his father!  As Fjölnir carries Amleth’s mother (Kidman) away, he orders his men to find and kill Amleth.  Amleth escapes and vows to avenge his father and mother…

Years later Amleth has grown into a strong Viking warrior and is now ready to take his vengeance.

Thoughts (Beware of spoilers)…

The Northman‘s trailer led me to believe it would be a great adventure/revenge film with a little Viking mythology thrown in.  It turned out to be an interesting adventure/revenge film with quite a bit of Viking mythology.  There’s stuff like interactions with a Seeress and he-witch, prophetic dreams, rescue from chains by ravens, and a Valkyrie from Valhalla.  For me, a little of that goes a long way.

Alexander Skarsgård makes a scary, believable Viking… especially in full blown warrior mode.  Ethan Hawke’s role could best be described as a cameo.  A small amount of screen time, but his character’s death sets everything in motion.  Then again, if Ethan Hawke’s screen time amounts to a cameo, I’m not sure what you’d call Willem Dafoe’s role as a fool.  Claes Bang and Nicole Kidman make worthy villains, but are they truly the “bad guys”?

One of the interesting aspects is that for the whole movie, Amleth wants to avenge his mother and father.  He sees his father brutally murdered and his mother carried off by his father’s killer.  When Amleth, as an adult, meets his mother we learn that she was once a slave; that Amleth’s father raped and forced her into marriage.  Further it was she who convinced Fjölnir to kill her husband and take her away,  She wasn’t screaming in fear as Fjölnir carried her off, she was laughing!  Amleth’s father wasn’t the great man he (and we) had been led to believe!  So is it heroic when Amleth kills his mother and her son by Fjölnir?  And when Fjölnir learns of their deaths, and challenges Amleth to battle, isn’t Fjölnir as much of a hero as Amleth?  Just some things to think about…

The Northman earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Angel’s Alley” (1948) Starring Leo Gorcey and The Bowery Boys / Z-View

Angel’s Alley (1948)

Director:  William Beaudine

Screenplay:  Edmond Seward, Tim Ryan, Gerald Schnitzer

Stars:  Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, William ‘Billy’ Benedict, David Gorcey, Nestor Paiva, Benny Bartlett,  John Eldredge and Mary Gordon.

Tagline:  The Bowery Boys Make It Rough On Racketeers!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Slip Mahoney (Gorcey) learns that his cousin is being pressured into stealing cars for Tony Locarno (Paiva), a local crime boss.  Slip decides that the best way to get his cousin out is for Slip to break in… to Locarno’s gang.  Slip will then learn Locarno’s set-up and call the police.  That’s the plan, but since this is a Bowery Boys’ movie, we know how their plans work out…

Angel’s Alley earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Hot Water” (1924) Starring Harold Lloyd / Z-View

Hot Water (1924)

Director:  Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor

Screenplay:  Thomas J. Gray, Sam Taylor, Tim Whelan, John Grey

Stars:  Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Josephine Crowell, Charles Stevenson and Mickey McBan

Tagline:  A cyclonic comedy of newlyweds and meddling relatives!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Hubby (Lloyd) is a confirmed bachelor who cannot understand someone wanting to get married.  In his dash to get to a wedding on time, Hubby knocks down a woman (Ralston).  As he helps her to her feet, their eyes meet… and the next thing you know they’re married.  What follows are three vignettes of Hubby’s married life.

As Hubby heads home from work, Wifey asks him to pick up a “few” things from the store. While at the store Hubby wins a live turkey.  Hubby has a tough time making it to the trolley and home with more groceries than he can carry and a live turkey!

When Hubby’s mother-in-law, brother-in-law and nephew show up unexpectedly, Hubby decides to take them for a ride in his new car.  Runs-ins with other autos and the police are just part of the fun.

The third episode involves his sleepwalking mother-in-law, a potential murder and possible ghosts!

The segments were hit and miss for me.  I liked the third episode the best.

Hot Water earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Mr. Washington Goes to Town” (1941) Starring Mantan Moreland & F.E. Miller / Z-View

Mr. Washington Goes to Town (1941)

Director:  Jed Buell, William Beaudine (uncredited)

Screenplay:  Lex Neal from a story by Walter Weems

Stars:  Mantan Moreland, F.E. Miller, Maceo Bruce Sheffield and Marguerite Whitten. 

Tagline: The First All Colored Cast Feature Comedy Ever Made!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Wallingford (Miller) and Schenectady Jones (Moreland) are buddies serving time in the county jail.  Wallingford sees a newspaper article about a rich man who died and left his hotel to any living relative that he may have had. Since the man’s last name was Jones and he was from the same area as Schenectady, Wallingford asks his buddy if he may have been related to the rich old man.  The two discuss the life of luxury that would come from being a rich hotel owner.  As Schenectady falls asleep he dreams…

Miller and Moreland can be favorably compared to Abbott and Costello.  Both duos are funny.  Miller, like Abbott is the brains of the two and takes advantage of his partner.  The difference is that Miller is more of a true friend.  Mantan Moreland is one of the most under-rated comedians in Hollywood.  He has great timing and his line and non-verbal reactions are priceless.

The set-up of owning a hotel presents great opportunities for gags as different guests arrive.  We get a magician, a Lonesome Ranger, a guest with a gorilla, an invisible man, and more.  Each different arrival provides laughs.  The main storyline involves Brutus Blake (Sheffield) looking for money hidden somewhere in the hotel and hoping that midnight arrives before Moreland can pay the balance owed on the hotel’s mortgage.

Mr. Washington Goes to Town earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Invisible Ghost” (1941) Starring Bela Lugosi / Z-View

Invisible Ghost (1941)

Director:  Joseph H. Lewis

Screenplay:  Al Martin, Helen Martin

Stars:  Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, John McGuire and Clarence Muse, Laurence Criner and Emil Van Horn

Tagline:  THE PHANTOM KILLER STRIKES! Only a terrified woman knows the secret of this ghostly murderer…who strikes in the night and leaves no clues—but his victims!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Dr. Charles Kessler (Lugosi) hasn’t been the same since his wife left him several years ago.  Kessler hasn’t seen or heard from her since.  His grown daughter, Virginia (Young) and Evans (Muse) their butler accommodate Dr. Kessler’s  eccentricities.  When one of the Kessler’s servants is killed, Virginia’s fiancée Ralph Dickson (McGuire) is arrested, tried, sentenced to death and executed in the electric chair!

Soon Ralph’s twin brother, Paul shows up.  He doesn’t believe that Ralph could have committed the murder… but if  Ralph didn’t, who did?  As Paul, Dr. Kessler and Virginia follow the clues, they get closer to the unbelievable truth that could get them all killed!

Surprisingly, Invisible Ghost features no one that’s invisible and not a single ghost.  Perhaps the title is evidence to how much thought was put into the story.  Bela Lugosi deserved better… and so did poor Ralph.

Invisible Ghost earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Law of the Jungle” (1942) / Z-View

Law of the Jungle (1942)

Director:  Jean Yarbrough

Screenplay:  George Bricker, Edmond Kelso (additional dialogue)

Stars:  Arline Judge, John ‘Dusty’ King, Mantan Moreland, Arthur O’Connell, Laurence Criner and Emil Van Horn

Tagline:  A Story to Thrill You and Chill You to the Rhythm of Jungle Tom-toms!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Enemy agents attempt to blackmail Nora Brooks (Judge) into transporting important papers out of Africa.  Brooks refuses instead running into the jungle.  There she meets explorer Larry Manson (King) and his assistant, Jeff Jones (Mantan).  With enemy agents leading hostile natives after them, Manson, Brooks and Jones have little chance for survival…

Not even Mantan Moreland’s comedy relief can save Law of the Jungle.

Law of the Jungle earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Harlem on the Prairie” (1937) Starring Herb Jeffries / Z-View

Harlem on the Prairie (1937)

Director:  Sam Newfield, Jed Buell

Screenplay:  Fred Myton, F.E. Miller (additional dialogue)

Stars:  Herb Jeffries, F.E. Miller, Mantan Moreland, Consuelo Harris, Maceo Bruce Sheffield and Spencer Williams

Tagline:  KING OF THE JUKE BOX AND RADIO NOW SEEN IN FULL FEATURE!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Jeff Kincaid (Jeffries) is riding to the next town when he comes across Doc Clayburn’s (Williams) medicine show.  Kincaid joins them for dinner and a few songs.  Kincaid and Clayburn’s daughter, Connie (Harris) are obviously attracted to each other.  What no one knows is that outlaws have their eye on Clayburn.  Years ago, Clayburn ran with a group of bank robbers.  Clayburn was the only one who wasn’t killed and the outlaws want the gold he has hidden.  After some more songs and comedy from Crawfish (Miller) and Mistletoe (Moreland) things will come to gunplay when the outlaws attack.

Herb Jeffries was a popular singing radio star who decided to try acting.  Jeffries wanted to play a black singing cowboy leading man along the lines of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.  Harlem on the Prairie is played straight (with some comedic moments) just like a Rogers or Autry film.  Jeffries riding a beautiful white stallion makes a serviceable lead.  Spencer Williams has great facial expressions telling more of his story without a word.  Mantan Moreland and F.E. (Flournoy Eakin) Miller provide comedy relief.  If you’re a fan of singing cowboy films, then give Harlem on the Prairie a shot.

Harlem on the Prairie earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Black and Tan” Starring Duke Ellington and Fredi Washington / Z-View

Black and Tan (1929)

Director:  Dudley Murphy

Screenplay:  Dudley Murphy

Stars: Duke Ellington and his Duke Ellington Orchestra, Fredi Washington, Edgar Connor, Alec Lovejoy and Arthur Whetsol

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Duke (Ellington) is an out of work jazz musician struggling to make ends meet.  When his girlfriend, Fredi (Washington) tells Duke that she’s scored them a job – her dancing and him with his orchestra, Duke reminds her that the doctor said she shouldn’t exert herself  because of her heart condition.  Despite the doctor’s warnings, Fredi is determined to perform since they need the money…

For a short, the film employs creative camera work.  We see many of the dances from the view of a mirrored floor.  As Fredi waits to perform and is feeling ill, we see the performers from her perspective.  Black and Tan was the film debut of both Duke Ellington and Fredi Washington.  Black and Tan was inducted to the National Film Registry in 2015.

Black and Tan earns 4 of 5 stars.