'Boris Karloff Collection'
(Boris Karloff, Julissa, Andres Garcia, Carlos East, Enrique Guzmán, et al / 2-DVD / NR / 2018 / MVD Visual)
Overview: A compilation of four rare films on 2 DVDs starring the master of horror, Boris Karloff. 'Alien Terror,' 'Cult Of The Dead,' 'Dance Of Death,' and 'Torture Zone.'
DVD Verdict: This wondrous collection of Boris Karloff's lesser known movies begins in fine style with 'Dance of Death' (aka 'House of Evil') (1968). Relatives of a recently deceased man meet at his eerie castle for a reading of the will. They encounter a sinister piano player who turns out to be a toy maker, and his toys are imbued with murderous intentions.
This is the first of four infamous, and odd, last movies starring the great Boris Karloff and directed by Jack Hill and Juan Ibánez. Unlike 'Snake People' (1971), 'The Incredible Invasion' (also 1971) and 'The Fear Chamber' (1972) which were all released after Karloff's death in 1969, 'House Of Evil' was released in 1968, when Karloff was still alive.
The (truly odd) story is set somewhere in Europe in the 19th century. After some girls are murdered and found with their eyes ripped out, Mathias Morteval (Karloff), an enthusiastic organ player, invites his few remaining relatives to his bizarre mansion, which is full of eerie toys. His kinfolk includes Lucy Durant (Julissa), who is engaged to one of the police inspectors investigating the murders.
Most of he supporting performances are hilariously amateurish, the cinematography is terrible and the locations and sceneries are beneath contempt. The story line lacks the least bit of logic and the dialogue often does not make the slightest sense ... and yet it's a right royal beauty to behold!
Next up is 'Torture Zone' (aka 'Fear Chamber') (1968). A scientist notices strange frequencies coming from within the Earth. He and his assistants discover a living rock underneath a volcano. They bring the rock to their lab, and discover that it needs the hormones that are produced by humans when they are fearful in order to survive. They then abduct and sacrifice young girls to keep the living rock alive.
This was Karloff's very last movie and sadly, it's also an extremely poorly produced flick (apart from Karloff and Isela Vega, who played Warren Oates' girlfriend in Sam Peckinpah's surreal masterpiece 'Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia.'
The acting is pretty bad too. The lab and the attached fear chamber look extremely ridiculous and resemble of the UFO in Ed Wood's brilliant 'Plan 9 From Outer Space.' The movie's crappiest (and most hilarious) aspect, however, is its script; especially the dialogue.
The head scientist, Dr. Carl Mendel (Karloff) assumes, for example, that the living rock could reveal "all secrets of the universe" and "the secret of our very existence", although none of the scientists seems to have the slightest reason to make such an assumption!
That said, the late, great Boris Karloff makes anything worth watching, and so this film has big value to it re: it is probably one of the most absurd movies ever, and therefore creates its very own, and possibly unintentional, high fun factor!
Next up is 'Alien Terror' (1971) where in the European village of Gudenberg in 1890, Prof. Mayer and his assistant Isabel have created a powerful ray machine.
One of the powerful rays is shot into space and attracts a flying saucer. The alien pilot decides that the ray poses too great a threat to the universe and must be destroyed.
Sex murderer Thomas is possessed by an alien intelligence and infiltrates Mayer's household; Mayer himself is later taken over by an alien mind. Paul Rosten, a young scientist who is in love with Mayer's niece Laura, arrives.
The aliens "Mayer" and "Thomas" rig the ray gun to explode, killing all who know its secret. Thomas kills Isabel, but before he can murder Laura, Mayer throws off the alien intelligence and she is saved.
Mayer realizes that the ray is too powerful for human use, and he destroys it. The flying saucer departs. The End!
Well, kinda sorta as I've purposely left a few things out as plot lines, but that said, yes, it really is as wonderfully cheesy as that speech makes it out to be!
Sure the music is shrill and strident, while the dialogue sounds incredibly stilted and to even describe the direction is inept is insulting! And sure, the story has a cobbled together feel with no thrills, tension, scares or suspense despite having the elements that had the potential to make it so. But my goodness, Karloff chews up the scenes (and the scenery) in such a magnificent, sideways-look style!
Finally, we get 'Cult of the Dead' (aka 'Isle of the Snake People') (1971). The inhabitants of a small, remote island have been practicing voodoo rites and worshiping an evil priest named Damballah for years, but the local law officials generally turn a blind eye to this death cult's bizarre activities.
Captain Labesch arrives from the mainland, determined to crack down on the island's lawlessness and clean up the ineffectual, hard-drinking police force. He appeals for assistance from wealthy plantation tycoon Carl Van Molder, who owns nearly half of the island and wields a great deal of influence over the population.
Van Molder has made the study of parapsychology his life's work and believes in the secret powers of the mind. He warns Labesch not to interfere with this forgotten island's ancient ways.
Also visiting is Van Molder's niece, Annabella, a temperance crusader who wants her uncle to help fund the International Anti-Saloon League. She falls in love with handsome police lieutenant Andrew Wilhelm, despite his fondness for rum!
As a horror movie, 'Snake People' fails entirely! As an unintentional comedy, however, it is hilarious! As aforementioned, the dialogue is extremely poor (and therefore extremely hilarious) and apart from Karloff, the acting is really bad too.
The locations are amateurish, the plot has huge holes and many logical errors. While Captain Labesch, for example, is obviously French, and came to the island sent by 'the government', other law enforcement officers of this government have English names!
I laughed a lot when I saw this movie the first time, and I did so again having watched it all these years later for this review.
Don't expect any suspense, but watch this as the unintentional comedy it is and entertainment will be guaranteed! These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.