This is not a horror movie.
That's right, this isn't a horror movie. Oh sure, there is horror in it, but the body-melting of the Tenafly Viper drink is just the macguffin. Apart from introducing it early on in the movie it doesn't play that much of a part until near the end.
What this really is is a movie about society's invisibles, the street people on the fringes that we pretend we don't see -the winos, the derelicts, the brain-damaged, the lost, all struggling to survive one day at a time. Without the horror element I doubt if this film could have been made. And if it hadn't been made as a black comedy (often more often black than comic) it would have been completely unbearable.
Technically, it's more than accomplished. The camera-work is fluid, the image is crisp, the editing sharp, and the ensemble acting is mostly of a high standard. You are in the hands of people who know exactly what they are doing which is to create a genuinely enjoyable and original film. At least for those who can take the brutality and squalor along with the humour and the gore.
I think it's an amazing piece of work that should be far better known than it is. In its own ugly way, this is Art.
Set in the 1920's, in the first film he wreaks a Biblical revenge on the doctors who killed his wife and in the second does the same on those who would stop him resurrecting her.
The supporting cast is excellent, as are the stylish sets, in particular Phibes' art deco lair, the period music, costume, photography, and witty script. This budget price, widescreen with subtitles, diptych of movies is impossible to beat for three hours of fun.
Oh yes, and it features my favourite horror movie device - sweet faced fruit-eating bats pretending to be scary vicious blood-drinkers. Grr!
Monster, set in and around the Salton Sea (an accidentally-created man-made salt water lake in California -thank you Wikipaedia), is (for the time) a well-made giant snails movie, is quite convincing and actually made me jump when a monster appeared from a direction I wasn't expecting.
Does 'It' sound familiar to you? An unstoppable monster hides on board a spaceship in the air ducts and sets about killing the crew. No, I didn't think so either. So this alien... Anyway, at 69 minutes it does an efficient entertaining job.
Just one other thing though. Set fifteen years in the future (1973) from when it was filmed (1958), everyone on board the space ship smokes, and the women cook and serve the men their meals, make sandwiches, and pour the coffee, but are allowed to do an autopsy, fix wounds and scream a lot. There is also keep an ample supply of guns on board though I couldn't figure out why unless they were expecting a monster to get on board. And they have artificial gravity which we all know is really to keep the movie's budget down.
No matter, these two black and white movies are good old-fashioned monster fun.
As for the content, I feel this collection is more of interest from an historical perspective than for actual entertainment value, though if you like creaky black and white horror movies... The plot mixes reincarnation (the heroine is the mummy's once and only love), master-criminals (our villain is caped, masked and hat-wearing The Bat! alias smug egomaniac, and the best thing in it, Dr Krupp), the Aztec Mummy of the title who holds the key to treasure coveted by The Bat!, and sadly , in the second movie only as he livens up the proceedings no end, a masked wrestler/superhero.
It's not quite as much fun as it sounds.
In Apes, a surgeon transplants the heart from an orang utan (in the zoo, transformed into a man in a gorilla suit in the laboratory and always referred to as a gorilla) into his son. Son then transforms into a caveman and goes on a rampage of murder and rape. Not even swapping the heart for that of a comatose lady wrestler stops the transformations. There is gore aplenty -eye gouging, head ripping off, scalping, close up surgery (though this won't bother anyone who watches Holby City or Casualty), and more. There is nudity -some of it casual (camera in the shower, etc), and some of it more distastefully during sexual assault. The end is a bit feeble, but overall, rape apart, this is quite an entertaining movie.
Curse of the Doll People is a neat little chiller which was certainly pretty spooky for the time. In return for stealing an idol, the villain sets creepy small-child size dolls on those who stole it. The main character is a strong-willed woman doctor who (inevitably for the time) reverts into feeble screaming woman in distress at the sight of a menacing doll. There's no real gore but this is a generally well-crafted piece of work even if it is jarring seeing people, including doctors, smoke like chimneys inside hospitals.
In Theatre of Blood he's a ham Shakespearian actor back from the dead to wreak revenge Shakespearian style on a bunch of critics who snubbed him by giving a coveted award to someone else. Aided by a bunch of winos and his daughter, the young Diana Rigg, Price delights in sending up pompous Shakespearian actors by delivering speeches from various plays while murdering his critics (including his real-life wife to be Coral Browne). The supporting cast of top-notch British character actors could do with better lines and are very much overshadowed by Price clearly relishing his role in this deeply black horror comedy.
Madhouse isn't as good, though it isn't bad at all either, and Price plays the victim this time as a mentally fragile actor being framed for gory murders committed by his screen alter ego Dr Death. Extracts from his Roger Corman movies, among others, are edited into 'clips' from his supposed Dr Death movies. The villain is obvious but there's a nice conclusion.
Neither of them are great by any standards but both offer fast-moving gory undemanding entertainment. The transfer is a little iffy at times but usually acceptable and the subtitles read as if the translator knew what they were doing. On their own, I'd rate each movie three stars, but the package makes it worth four.
Cemetery of Terror seems as if it's going to be a teen slasher variant but moves into something quite different. Standout scene is a bunch of mostly young children running through a graveyard while mouldering zombies erupt from the graves around them. There's also a twist that wasn't quite the one I expected.
Grave Robbers has a bunch of grave robbing teens hunted by a super-strong homicidal Satanist zombie with a big axe whom they accidentally resurrected. Cue decapitations, limb severing, slashing, hand through chest, and masses of blood and other sundry mayhem. No twist ending in this one which makes a change.
Get the gang round, get out the beer and crisps, or wine and canapes if you prefer, and have fun.