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Author: William I. Lengeman III

Old Dark House Double Feature VI: The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) and Hillbillies in a Haunted House (1967)

Old Dark House Double Feature VI: The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) and Hillbillies in a Haunted House (1967)

The Ghost and Mr Chicken poster

This time around, two old dark house flicks that are separated by about a year. A classic of the genre and one’s that’s a bit of a dud.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
Universal Pictures (1966)
Directed by Alan Rafkin
Written by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum
Starring Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Liam Redmond, Sandra Gould, Dick Sargent and Skip Homeier

Your opinion about The Ghost and Mr. Chicken will probably depend on how you feel about Don Knotts, someone who made a career of playing variations on the same character — a jittery, keyed up guy who often tried to cover up his bumbling with bluster.

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

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As a TOS fan who came to the other Star Trek series relatively recently, I have to admit that The Next Generation, although entertaining, didn’t grab me as much as its predecessor. Nor did the first entry in the TNG run of movies — Generations.

Fortunately, First Contact fares quite a bit better than that installment.

Part of the appeal this time around, in this the eighth of the Star Trek movies, is that it centers on the Borg. Who were the most effective of all Star Trek villains, in my opinion. They first appeared in Star Trek: Next Generation and then in each of the TV series after that. They turned up very frequently in Voyager, which featured Seven of Nine, a “recovering” Borg/human, as a regular member of the cast.

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Old Dark House Double Feature V: The Cat and the Canary (1939) and Ghosts on the Loose (1943)

Old Dark House Double Feature V: The Cat and the Canary (1939) and Ghosts on the Loose (1943)

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The Cat and the Canary
Paramount Pictures (1939)
Directed by Elliott Nugentdard
Written by Walter de Leon and Lynn Starling
Starring Bob Hope, Paulette God, John Beal, Douglass Montgomery, and Gale Sondergaard

Growing up, I never quite understood the appeal of Bob Hope. At the time, he was an oldish guy who told mostly unfunny jokes, usually while holding a golf club. I wasn’t familiar with his many film roles of yore and I’m still not familiar with a lot of them.

But he comes off better in old dark house movies such as The Ghost Breakers (1940) and The Cat and the Canary (1939). His wisecracking, scaredy-cat persona in these films was considerably more appealing than his golf club wielding standup persona of later years.

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek: Generations (1994)

Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek: Generations (1994)

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I think the statute of limitations on spoilers has probably run out 22 years after this movie was released… but be advised that there’s a sort of big spoiler ahead.

I suppose I should also mention that I was a TOS guy back in the day and didn’t even get around to watching the other Star Trek series until about a decade ago. I ended up liking The Next Generation well enough, although oddly it always seemed to me that it might have been more dated than its predecessor. But that’s neither here nor there.

What I’m getting around to, perhaps awkwardly, is that even though I’m mostly a TOS fan, I thought that six TOS movies were enough and perhaps even a bit too much, and it was probably a good time to switch things up a bit. But not before some TOS crew members appear on the scene, early on in this movie.

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Old Dark House Double Feature IV: Two Haunted Honeymoons

Old Dark House Double Feature IV: Two Haunted Honeymoons

haunted-honeymoon-lobby-poster

For this Old Dark House Double Feature I’ve chosen two films that are unrelated except for the fact that they share a title — Haunted Honeymoon. You might rightly make the argument that the earlier of these movies is more of a standard whodunit than an old dark house movie, but the coincidence was too good for me to pass up.

Haunted Honeymoon
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1940)
Directed by Arthur B. Woods
Screenplay by Monckton Hoffe, Angus MacPhail, and Harold Goldman
Starring Robert Montgomery and Constance Cummings

Dorothy Sayers isn’t really a household name nowadays but she was a rather well-known mystery writer during the so-called Golden Age of mysteries, which lasted for a few decades, starting more or less in the Twenties. Busman’s Honeymoon, the source for this movie, first saw the light of day as a play, in 1936. A year later Sayers converted it to a novel and a few years after that it made its way to the big screen. Over on this side of Atlantic the movie was given the name Haunted Honeymoon, since few of us Yanks probably known what a busman’s holiday is (a holiday where¬†you spend doing the same kind of thing that you usually do for your job, says Merriam-Webster).

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Old Dark House Double Feature III: The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) and Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)

Old Dark House Double Feature III: The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) and Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)

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The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini
American International Pictures (1966)
Directed by Don Weis
Written by Louis M. Heyward and Elwood Ullman
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley, Aron Kincaid

I’m not sure how the phrase “everything but the kitchen sink” originated. Perhaps to describe this movie, which pulls out all the stops. As with Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow, I went into it with very low expectations and ended up being surprised.

I’m pretty sure this is the only movie ever made that starred Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff and Tommy Kirk. Black Gate readers will probably know the first two names and I think it’s safe to say that this movie wasn’t the highlight of their careers, although Rathbone turns in an energetic performance.

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek V – The Final Frontier (1989)

Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek V – The Final Frontier (1989)

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Early on I was inclined to be charitable about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and I wasn’t really sure what all the fuss was about. As you may be aware, the consensus seems to be that it was one of the worst of all of the Star Trek movies.

But up until about the halfway mark I didn’t quite get it. Not that the first half of this movie is a masterpiece, mind you. But as the second half began to unfold I started to catch on.

The plot can be dispensed with in a few words. Spock’s half-brother — one of those free-spirited emotional Vulcan types — commandeers the Enterprise and sets off to the center of the galaxy to find God. Which doesn’t seem to be all that far removed from the premise of the first Star Trek movie. Which also featured an abundance of scenes of people trying to look awed but mostly looking dopey. Since there’s little drama or interest to be found in this premise there’s also some standard stuff about Klingons with bad intentions lurking about.

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Here Be Spiders: Arachnophobia & Arachnoquake

Here Be Spiders: Arachnophobia & Arachnoquake

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After watching and reviewing all five of the Tremors movies lately, I decided to turn my attention to movies about critters that mostly dwell above the ground — spiders.

Arachnophobia, a big-budget mainstream effort from 1990, is one of the better known examples of this sub-sub-genre. Then there’s Arachnoquake, one of those SyFy originals (yes, one of those) that came out in 2012.

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Notes From the Underground, Part II: Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins and Tremors 5: Bloodlines

Notes From the Underground, Part II: Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins and Tremors 5: Bloodlines

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Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001)
Directed by Brent Maddock

Burt Gummer: Is your head up your ass for the warmth?

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the movie Tremors to almost anyone. I think there’s plenty to like in it, even for the casual viewer, unless they have a strong aversion to horror/monster movies. Tremors 2: Aftershocks was a decent sequel but I’d recommend it only to more serious horror fans and Tremors cultists. Which is even more true for Tremors 3: Back to Perfection.

As the title suggests, the action moves from the remote corner of Mexico featured in the second movie to the small desert town of Perfection, Nevada, the setting for Tremors. The town sign now lists a population of five, down from the 14 of the first movie.

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Notes from the Underground: Tremors & Tremors 2: Aftershocks

Notes from the Underground: Tremors & Tremors 2: Aftershocks

Tremors Kevn Bacon Fred Ward

Tremors (1990)
Directed by Ron Underwood

Earl Bassett: What kind of fuse is that?
Burt Gummer: Cannon fuse
Earl Bassett: What the hell do you use it for?
Burt Gummer: My cannon!

Will Tremors, the movie, go down through the ages as a great and enduring work of art? Nah. Is it a pretty good monster movie and perhaps even one of the better examples of the breed? I would argue that it is.

Once upon a time — the Fifties, to be more specific — there was a flood of movies about giant critters of various shapes and sizes wreaking havoc in assorted and sundry ways. Once in a while the planets would align just so and someone might turn out a pretty decent one of these. Them, a yarn about rampaging giant ants, springs to mind.

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