Friday night at the home drive-in: Dr. Orloff’s Monster AKA The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll (1964)

Jess Franco directed over 200 movies in his lifetime. Most of them are considered to be bad by mainstream critics. I first took an interest in him when reading bad reviews of his movies in Video Trash and Treasures by L.A. Morse.

The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) is one Jess Franco movie that is considered to be a minor classic. Dr. Orloff’s Monster AKA The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll (1964) is the first of several sequels. Oddly enough, it could also be seen as a sequel to The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock (1962), a movie that was paired with The Awful Dr. Orlof for distribution in the U.S.A..

Dr. Orloff’s Monster is a black and white monster movie, with a touch of gentle Euro-sleaziness that only Jess Franco could have added. It’s not as sleazy as many of his later films, but in a way that’s what makes it so charming. It features some pretty great music as well, including a couple of night club performances shown in their entirety.

Jess Franco’s oeuvre isn’t for everyone, but for those with a taste for his kind of cinematic madness, Dr. Orloff’s Monster is worth seeking out. And it’s a welcome addition to the #NotQuiteClassicCinema library.

Friday night at the home drive-in: Chamber of Horrors AKA The Door with Seven Locks (1940)

I don’t think I ever saw Chamber of Horrors AKA The Door with Seven Locks (1940) on late night TV – although I could have. It has all of the elements that I recognize from classic “Old Dark House” movies of the 1930s and ’40s. Eyes watching a character through the eyes of painting on the wall, dead bodies that disappear when a character tries to point them out, a mad villain with a collection of torture devices (well, maybe that one is a little less common, but…), etc.

When I saw that it was based on a book called The Door With Seven Locks, I wondered if it was the same book that inspired House Of Dark Shadows (1983), but that was an earlier novel called Seven Keys to Baldpate which, oddly enough, was made into a movie seven times. The Door With Seven Locks has only been made twice.

I’m not sure how many movies can be included in this “Old Dark House” genre. One list on the imdb has 112 titles on it (and I recall seeing quite a few of them). Chamber of Horrors is not the best, or most famous, of these films. But I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema, and I will undoubtedly be watching it again.

Friday night at the home drive-in: Society (1989)

Re-Animator (1985) is probably one of my favourite movies of the 1980s. I didn’t see Bride of Re-Animator (1989) when it first came out, probably because it wasn’t directed by Stuart Gordon. But I did see Society (1989), which was advertised as “From the Producer of Re-Animator“. So, I guess I was okay with Brian Yuzna trying his hand at directing – I just didn’t want to think that Stuart Gordon was somehow being cheated out of a job. In reality, I’m sure it was nothing like that. But it’s kind of like one of your favourite bands getting a new singer. They may still be a good band. but sometimes it just doesn’t feel right…

The good news was, and is, that Society is, and was, a good movie. I bought a copy on VHS back in the day, and, more recently, upgraded it to Blu-ray. It holds up as one of the better lesser-known horror films of the 1980s. I think what makes it good, is probably what made it less than successful back when it first came out: it’s different. It’s hard to categorize it. It’s not a slasher film. It’s not a zombie film. It’s a fairly unusual slow burn of a movie from before they referred to movie as “slow burns”. And it’s got a sense of humour, which is something I can always appreciate in a horror movie.

It’s also great to see Heidi Kozak Haddad, from Slumber Party Massacre 2 (1987) in a supporting role. 

For it’s lack of initial mainstream success, and it’s resistance to easy categorization, I hereby certify Society 100% #NotQuiteClassicCinema.

Friday night at the home drive-in: Fiend Without a Face (1958)

Fiend Without a Face (1958) is a movie that I’ve been aware of for many years. I first saw images from it in a Famous Monsters magazine that I bought in a drug store when I was a kid. I loved that magazine, and would flip through it regularly, looking at all the pictures. Most of them were from films I had never heard of – although there were images of Dracula, Frankenstein and Chewbacca from Star Wars. I recall staring at pictures from movies with titles like Enter The Devil and Night Beast and wishing I could see the films. The poster from Fiend Without a Face, which featured a creepy brain that seemed to float in the air, was one of the many intriguing images.

I practically wore that magazine out in a few short weeks, and I wanted more. Most magazines I knew about were published every month, and I expected, or hoped, that Famous Monsters was no different. I went back to the drug store, but alas, there was no new issue on the rack. I went back several times over the next few months, and even asked the store clerk about it. She told me that the magazine was probably out of print.  I was so disappointed. How could I discover a magazine (one that had been around for years, by the way) just as they published their final issue? In reality, that store clerk was wrong, but I had no way of knowing.

MobStoryFiend Without a Face (1958) is a black and white sci-fi / horror film that is so exactly like the films I used to watch on Not Quite Classic Theatre – with one exception: it’s set in Manitoba, Canada. I remember when I was young, watching movies on TV and wondering if I would ever see a place that I recognized onscreen; a scene shot on the streets of my home town, Winnipeg. We had several TV stations, and they had local news programmes that showed images of our city. So, why not a movie, or a regular TV show of some sort? But alas, I never really saw anything I recognized… Years later, I saw films by the Winnipeg Film Group, and movies like Mob Story (1989), which were made and set in Winnipeg. But FIend Without A Facestill, when watching Fiend Without a Face for the first time, I couldn’t believe my eyes when, in the opening few seconds, a sign appeared on screen that read: “U.S. Air Force Interceptor Command Experimental Station No.6 Winthrop Manitoba Canada.”  If I had seen this movie on Not Quite Classic Theatre when I was young, it would have blown my mind.

The movie was not shot in Manitoba. There’s no town called Winthrop (Win – throp, Win -nipeg – coincidence?), the mountains in the background of some shots certainly don’t belong, and I’ve never heard of a U.S. Air Force base operating on Manitoba soil (although, according to The National Post, “The U.S. Army secretly dumped a carcinogen on unknowing Canadians in Winnipeg” in 1953, so what do I know?). But signs identical to the one pictured above are shown throughout the movie to remind us that it is definitely set in Manitoba. A fictional Manitoba, perhaps. A Manitoba where mad scientists develop technology that unleashes strange invisible creatures upon the unsuspecting citizens. The kind of Manitoba that could only exist in #NotQuiteClassicCinema.

And if you as me, that’s a very good place to be.