This movie review is only for those who revel in cheesy, almost unwatchably bad horror and sci-fi movies of yesteryear.
Before I get started, I want to give a personal anecdote about this movie. Back when I was ten years old, I was a big fan of horror and sci-fi movies that I watched mostly on the New York City local television station channels 5, 9 and 11. They each had some kind of weekly show like Creature Feature, Chiller Theater or Million Dollar Movie that often featured such classics as Attack of the Crab Monsters or Tarantula. Well at some point I saw “The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake” and became fascinated with the idea that there were such things as shrunken heads. Coincidentally a kid’s toy came out called Witch Doctor Head Shrinkers Kit by a company called Pressman that had the cheesiest commercial demonstrating how you could make the aforementioned shrunken heads. Suffice it to say that from the time the commercial appeared until next Christmas I harangued my parents relentlessly to make this my one and only Christmas gift. Now money was short back then and this toy was on the pricey side but sure enough it was under the tree that morning at Christmas. I was ecstatic and wasted no time making my first shrunken head. I added the “plastic” powder and the warm water to the with doctor’s cauldron and stirred it while reciting the mystic spell, yikes. Then I poured the goop into the mold and let it set. Anyway, the stuff was like a gelatinous plaster of Paris and after it set for a day, I guess it somewhat shrank but honestly it wasn’t very much for all the hype associated and within a week or so it was in the garbage pail. A very important lesson for me in the difference between expectations and reality. And now seeing this movie for the first time in fifty some odd years it’s a similar experience.
Don’t worry about any actors’ names. No one has ever heard of any of these people, either then or now. The plot is that the Drake family has a curse on them because 180 years previous their ancestor was a merchant down in the Amazon jungle and one of his men was kidnapped by a local tribe of headhunters. During a rescue mission it was discovered that the kidnapped man had been killed and his head cut off in preparation for it being shrunk. Ancestor Drake became so angry that he had the whole village slaughtered. The only one who escaped was the witchdoctor who took the head of the employee killed. After this a curse was placed on the Drakes by the witchdoctor. All the male heirs of Drake would have their heads cut off at about age sixty and shrunken down. The skulls were kindly returned to the family crypt but not the shrunken head.
Skip ahead four generations and Jonathan and Kenneth Drake are the last male descendants of old Drake. Jonathan is concerned for his brother Kenneth because his sixtieth birthday is approaching. But before Jonathan can reach him an extremely tall Amazonian Indian stabs Kenneth with a curare envenomed blade. He’s interrupted right after the lethal stab but later on he returns to the casket containing Kenneth’s body and decapitates it and takes the head away in this nifty hat box shaped wicker basket. Then we meet Dr. Emil Zurich (from Switzerland!) who assists the tribesman in processing the head for shrinking. It’s all very official. The head is boiled then the skull is very cleverly removed and the rest of the head is filled with ashes and hot stones that miraculously transforms it into the charming shrunken head that would look sporty hanging from a rear-view mirror or possibly on a keychain.
Things get complicated with Jonathan’s daughter Alison and an appreciative police detective Jeff Rowan and a medical doctor named Bradford and a police forensics guy whose name escapes everyone. Eventually we learn that Dr. Zurich and the really tall Indian are two hundred years old and have been doing the killing all along. Zurich is a zombie with the head of the original victim from Drake’s Amazonian adventure sewn onto an Indian’s body by the witchdoctor who is the really tall Indian. During the fun and games. Jeff and Dr. Bradford save Jonathan from a curare attack by the Indian and in revenge Zurich has Bradford’s head removed and stored in what looks like a food pantry. Finally, Jeff kills both the villains and the movie ends with Jonathan cutting Zurich’s head off. This allows him to turn to dust and the movie mercifully expires too.
This movie is nowhere near as entertaining or witty as I’ve made it sound. It’s awful. It takes a special individual to sit through this. Someone fearless and intrepid. War Pig, this one is all yours.
Being a husband is a whole-time job. That is why so many husbands fail. They cannot give their entire attention to it.
Enoch Arnold Bennett
As is always the case in New England, the weather here is almost always annoying and always bizarre. Halloween makes me think about trees full of yellow and red leaves and pumpkins in the garden and kids running from house to house getting candy. Instead here we get 4 inches of snow and trees full of leaves get weighed down by all the snow those leaves will hold. And when those overloaded branches crack some of them take the power lines. So that’s what trick or treat looks like around here. But I do enjoy complaining about New England weather so I guess there is a bright side to it.
I’ve been trying to be cautious about my optimism on the election but it’s getting more difficult. The tenor of news coming from the official organs of the Democrat establishment, (CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WP, and the tv networks) really doesn’t sound very hopeful for Creepy Uncle Joe. Even the “good” news sounds like them whistling past the graveyard. Now maybe 2016 has permanently traumatized them and provided some much needed hesitance to embrace polls that have been shown consistently biased in only one direction. But I’ve got to tell you that when the black celebrities start flirting with endorsing Trump and Hispanic polls start veering dangerously high for the President it gets harder and harder to see Joe winning. I and my cronies will spend Election Night overeating and discussing the results as they come in. I’ll open up a post for comments and will update the post with thoughts, snide comments and hopefully links to video of suicidal leftists.
Happy Halloween. I’ll continue to review horror and sf&f movies right through the holiday and beyond. I always enjoy the fun of seeing old movies I haven’t seen in decades and praising them or mocking them (or both). I still haven’t gotten the resources together to review the movies and books of the Thomas Harris (Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, etc.) series completely. Some of the books are no longer around the house (you have to get rids of some things) and I haven’t seen some of the movies in years. But that’s still on the radar. Because of the movie reviews and the election I have been a little remiss on my Star Trek reviews but that will be fixed soon.
And finally, I have been talking about how I think the COVID crisis will be allowed to peter out once the election is over. Currently New England is in full blown panic because testing is showing a spike in new cases. If my theory is correct, the state governments and media will discover that COVID has suddenly become much less dangerous. I’m dying for that to be so because I would love to salvage at least Christmas this year. Let’s see.
So, my good friends out in the real America, stay tuned and and stay well. The best is yet to come.
‘Ye can call it influenza if ye like,’ said Mrs Machin. ‘There was no influenza in my young days. We called a cold a cold.
Enoch Arnold Bennett
This movie is a cinematic retelling of H. G. Wells’ novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” As opposed to the majority of the creature features and horror flicks this film has a very substantial actor involved. Charles Laughton plays Dr. Moreau. He’s a scientist who was chased out of the civilized world for the experimentation he was doing on animals. So, he lives on a small island in the South Pacific and a boat skipper delivers a cargo of live animals once a year. As the story opens up the boat picks up a survivor of a shipwreck. This survivor, Edward Parker, is headed for a nearby island but he gets into a beef with the captain and gets dumped into Moreau’s launch as it is transferring the animals to the island. When he arrives there, he notices that the island is inhabited by the strangest looking people imaginable. Most of them resemble apes in pants. Later on, when Parker walks out in the jungle he is accosted by a group of the natives and has to be rescued by Moreau. Moreau sounds a gong and the natives assemble and to the accompaniment of Moreau’s cracking bullwhip they recite their creed.
Moreau: What is the law?
Sayer of the Law (SOTL): Not to spill blood, that is the law. Are we not men?
Moreau: What is the law?
SOTL: Not to eat meat, that is the law. Are we not men?
Moreau: What is the law?
SOTL: Not to walk on all fours, that is the law. Are we not men?
Incidentally, The Sayer of the Law is Bela Lugosi but his face is so completely covered with fur that the only way to tell is by his unmistakable voice. Parker is confused by all that’s going on and in the next scene he hears agonized screams coming from Moreau’s laboratory. Breaking in he thinks he is witnessing Moreau vivisecting one of the natives without anesthesia. And now Moreau explains to Parker the truth about the natives. They are actually animals that Moreau has modified through biochemical and surgical modifications. The laboratory where Moreau performs these modifications is called by the patients, for obvious reasons, “the house of pain.”
Moreau uses a subterfuge to keep Parker from leaving the island because he wants to carry out an experiment on him. He has manufactured a woman out of a panther named Lota and he wants to test whether she reacts like a woman when brought into contact with a man, Parker. This experiment is a success until Parker notices that Lota’s fingernails have reverted to panther’s claws.
And just at this point Parker’s fiancée, Ruth, arrives at Moreau’s island to bring him home. But Moreau cancels his Lota plan and instead plans to test his male creatures by having one of them kidnap Ruth. When this plan is thwarted Moreau orders one of his creatures to murder the ship captain who is helping Ruth to free Parker. But when the creature realizes that Moreau has ordered him to break the law by spilling blood he goes before the assembly and tells them that the law is no more. And then they figure out that since the captain is like Moreau and since they can kill the captain then by the transitive law of monster logic, they can kill Moreau. And that’s just what they get ready to do. While Parker and Ruth are escaping out the back door to safety on the boat, the creature mob catches up with the whip wielding Moreau and back him into his compound. Finally, in desperation when he has reached the wall, he reminds them that they are at the house of pain. The Sayer of the Law makes one more imaginative leap and has the mob drag Moreau into his laboratory and using his own surgical instruments they gleefully vivisect him to the rousing accompaniment of his screams.
I get the feeling that Laughton enjoyed this part. He played the part with great verve. He endowed Moreau with humor and perverse curiosity in the details of his cruel experiments. And like all good mad scientists of the 1930’s he does mention to Parker that he knows what it’s like to be God.
From a special effects point of view, the creature costumes are pretty cheesy. More interestingly it does appear that certain of the actors playing creatures had facial and other anomalies that could not have been simulated. But even if the special effects were rudimentary this is an interesting plot. Moreau’s relationship with his creatures is nuanced. Their obvious investment in the concept of their humanity is pitted against the fear and hatred they feel toward their creator. Moreau is a cruel god but he is completely absorbed in the wonder of his ability to create people. He doesn’t realize his peril when he provides the forbidden fruit of knowledge to his creatures by breaking his own law and by demonstrating that regular humans are mortal. Good story, fun horror movie, good work by Laughton. Recommended.
Recently during a phone call, a friend of mine asked my opinion on Glenn Greenwald. For those unaware Greenwald was involved in the Snowden NSA leaks and has written on many aspects of the government overreach on privacy issues. He has of late been very critical of the lock step solidarity by the tech giants and the Democratic/MSM complex to censor important news stories based on partisan viewpoint.
During the phone call I was pretty heatedly adamant that Glenn Greenwald wasn’t an ally, he was part of the Left and therefore my opponent. But thinking about it for a while I figure it’s worthwhile clarifying exactly how I characterize guys like Greenwald and Taibbi. In a short phrase I’d call them honest Leftists. They believe in most of the things that the woke psychos believe in but they also believe in the Bill of Rights. They don’t think it’s acceptable for the government to conspire with the media to railroad someone even if he’s a no-good conservative. They probably don’t mind if Google algorithmically advantages the Left and disadvantages the Right but they don’t want it suppressing news outlets from broadcasting their stories across their platform.
And when I see a Matt Taibbi story calling MSNBC and the New York Times hypocrites for running stories that they know are false in order to advantage the Democrats, I praise him. And when Greenwald is willing to walk away from the website that he founded because the owner forbids him to speak honestly about the Hunter Biden story then I praise him. And what I am praising is his honesty and moral consistency. And nowadays that’s a lot. On left or right that’s a rare thing. It’s an admirable trait and deserves praise. It should be recognized and praised.
What it’s not is a reason to “reach across the aisle” and try to form an alliance. That was the mistake that conservatives made with the neoconservatives. Conservatives thought that because both sides wanted a strong defense against the Russians and free market capitalism that we could join forces and work a compromise that would work to both sides’ advantage. Instead we got a series of wars in the Middle East and a globalist financial agenda while they adopted all of the social policies of the far Left. That meant gay marriage, transgenderism, open borders, intersectionality in our schools and BLM in the streets.
And as long as all of these things were slowly assimilated into the culture without violence in the street and approved by the Supreme Court voted in by the Uniparty then the neocons would be fine with it. And if you weren’t fine with it then you were a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic bigot. And the same slippery slope goes double for Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald. All they require is that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. They are honest and they honestly want all the things that make life in America awful. The only difference is that they’re willing to let you say what you think before they call you a racist homophobe. The woke people want to silence you so you can’t even say it, or write it or even think it. They need to be dealt with drastically. They need to be put out of business. Taibbi and Greenwald can be ignored.
Bottom line, I respect Taibbi and Greenwald. But they are not my friends, allies or partners. They are my enemies even if they are enemies whose honesty I respect.
Always leave them wanting more.
Phineas T. Barnum