A local chapter of the NAACP is suing the City of Albuquerque, charging that it treats African-American employees poorly. And Jewel Hall says the city is not backing the 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Multicultural Celebration next month.
Cast: Anton Diffring, Erika Remberg, Yvonne Monlaur, Donald Pleasence, Jane Hylton, Kenneth Griffith, Conrad Phillips, Jack Gwillim, Vanda Hudson, Colette Wilde, William Mervyn
Are you an insane plastic surgeon on the run for pursuing your unethical experiments? Have you directed your own facial reconstructive surgery in a mirror using only a local anesthesic? Do you enjoy dallying with the lovely ladies whose deformed features your skill has made whole again? Are you willing to cut down anyone in your path who dares defy your iron will? Well, have you ever considered running a circus?
Hawk-faced Anton Diffring (Fahrenheit 451, The Blue Max) excels as the cruel, oddly sympathetic and totally bonkers Dr. Schüler (or is it Rossiter?), mad doctor turned circus master, in this outrageous, non-supernatural, vibrantly technicolor horror film (from the producers of Michael Powell’s notorious Peeping Tom). The ridiculousness of the scenario (Schüler collects scarred criminals—mostly women—heals them and binds them to perpetual service in his circus) is made compelling by its twisted character studies, particularly the doctor’s toady-like accomplices (Kenneth Griffith and Jane Hylton) who seethe with mixed worship and revulsion for their master. Hurried exposition (especially at the beginning) and laughable animal costumery detract only slightly from psychodrama, blood and intrigue. Great actual circus performances and a genuine pop hit (“Look for a Star”) round out the lurid entertainment.
Cast: Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicutt, Peter Bowles, Roddy McDowall, Roland Culver, Pamela Franklin
For this ludicrous-yet-effective haunted house film, Richard Matheson adapted his own down-and-dirty novel for the screen, somehow managing to create a reasonable PG version from the NC-17 source material. The scenario is very deliberately a sexed-up ’70s remix of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (not Hell House, got it?), itself filmed quite effectively in 1961 as The Haunting.
Some of that nice composition I was talking about.
The setup is archetypal. Four quirky characters investigate a haunted house: The physicist and his wife (Clive Revill and Gayle Hunnicutt), the touchy-feely medium (Pamela Franklin, formerly haunted as a child actress in The Innocents) and the sole survivor of a previous expedition (Roddy McDowall). The cast is great and utters potentially clunky lines about “ectoplasm” and “multiple hauntings” with so much in-character authority that they totally work.
My previous VHS viewing of this film did not include the pleasure of beholding the awesome wide-angle, widescreen frame composition employed throughout (and especially during the opening sequences). Creepy exterior shots of the fogbound house with datestamps presage each supernatural incident, creating both quickie verisimilitude and a rhythm of suspense. The general aura of competency and class—plus Delia Derbyshire/Brian Hodgson’s extra-delicious electronic score—makes Hell House an excellent Halloween A/V treat. (Well, aside from the overwrought ending.) I watched it twice.
Cast: John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Richard Backus, Henderson Forsythe
This low-budget riff on the W.W. Jacobs short story “The Monkey’s Paw” begins where the original ends: Instead of wishing the undead son away, his family invites him in. Sure, he seems a little weird, preferring to sit silently in his room all day and waiting for dark before he emerges with mod sunglasses and white turtleneck to prey upon the living. But that’s how it is when you’ve been dragged back from the grave by a mother’s love.
“Everything's fine, Bob.”
Director Bob Clark (himself now one of the undead) made a handful of notable indie horror films in the ’70s (not to mention an all-star Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper flick) before hitting box office paydirt with Porky’s and A Christmas Story. Much of the credit for Deathdream’s effectiveness must go to screenwriter (and monster-makeup artist) Alan Ormsby for creating a queasy sense of doom, Richard Backus who rocks it as the deadpan, unwillingly-revived son, as well as actors John Marley and Lynn Carlin for convincingly transplanting their troubled-married-couple routine from John Cassavetes’ 1968 film Faces into this weird little horror movie. How long can a family stay together under these conditions? Answer: not long. The downer ending manages to be both sad and horrifying, the lesson of the Monkey’s Paw learned the hard way.
This week, columnist Gene Grant called for African-Americans to speak up against injustices in New Mexico. In particular, he looked at the case of 16-year Journal photographer Adolphe Pierre-Louis, who spent 30 minutes cuffed on the side of I-40, though he committed no crime. Grant also pointed to the case of state trooper Dexter Brock, who was cuffed to a telephone pole by coworkers in 2000. Grant writes:
What happened to these two New Mexico brothers would not stand in many other states, and it should not stand here. It's time to put disapproval from African-Americans on the record for all to witness.
The piece reminded me of a brilliant essay we ran in 2007 called “Can I Touch Your Hair?” by Virginia Lovliere Hampton. It’s really one of the better discussions of race in our state that’s been published, and it’s one of my favorite articles that’s run in the paper. She writes about the positive aspects of living in New Mexico, as well as the downside of being in a region where African-Americans are a small percentage of the population.
One of those common experiences is having our hair “touched” if we have or wear our hair “nappy.” In Albuquerque—and, I hear, in Santa Fe, too—“nappy-headed” people of African descent are confronted regularly with having perfect strangers reach toward us to touch our hair or, worse, that of our young children—often without asking—like we’re dolls or other merchandise to be handled. It's unsettling, objectifying and rude, especially for those of us who, like me, are from the South, where, apparently, white folks are raised a little better.
I hear all the time that racism isn’t so prevalent in New Mexico—particularly against African-Americans. But it’s worth considering the insidious problems ignoring these issues can create.
Cast: John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Richard Backus, Henderson Forsythe
A four-decade retrospective on display at Exhibit/208 shows Bruce Lowney’s range as a master of the tri-tone lithograph. Collected Works charts his evolution as a printer and visual poet, while making space for his equally impressive large-scale oil works.
Happy Tuesday Report Station fans. These are more tracks that came off the phone’s voicemail, not the Alibi’s. Again, this means these people were called from the phone booth and are calling the number back.
Four little gems from our favorite social experiment. The angle with these recordings is that they were left on the phone’s own voicemail. This is a number that someone would have only after having been called from the phone. Check out the surreal storytelling in the last track. These guys are in deep.