Saturday, May 27, 2017

To Kick Off Your Memorial Day Weekend, Here's Birthday Boy Vincent Price with an Ode to the 'Gourmet Treat of the National Larder.'

“Here, in all its glory, is the great American hot dog. Originally a sausage invented in Frankfurt, the hot dog is now as American as blueberry pie, and under the proper circumstances it can be one of the gourmet treats of the national larder. At that particular moment when the crack of the bat signals a hit, and the white uniforms move gracefully against the green outfield, at that very moment a hawker stumbles up your aisle, and your wife taps you on the arm and asks you to buy her a hot dog. You miss the play, but you gain the world. Even at that critical moment, there is nothing more soul-satisfying than the first succulent bite into the juicy frankfurter. Whether you slather your hot dog with mustard, relish, and onions, or eat it purist style with just a delicate dab of mustard, it is, in that brief time, the perfect food.” 

-- Vincent PriceXXXX

Friday, May 19, 2017

Recommendations :: Arrow Video Unleashes the Sound Fury of Kazuhiko Yamaguchi’s Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope (1975) and Kinji Fukasaku's Cops vs. Thugs (1975)

I blame no one but myself for not knowing Sonny Chiba had a werewolf movie on his resume until I went to the mailbox the other day. Sadly, my exposure to Chiba’s oeuvre is kinda sad as off the top of my head I could only come up with Message from Space (1978) -- and he’s barely in that, and Terror Beneath the Sea (1966). Hell, I haven’t even seen The Street Fighter (1974) yet. *sigh*. Thus and so, a Chiba expert I surely am not. And yet, I found myself overly excited to receive Arrow Video’s latest release of Kazuhiko Yamaguchi’s Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope (1975) and had to sweat out a shift at work before tearing through it.

The action kicks off in full bloom as a terrified and bloodied man flees through rush hour traffic on some neon-glazed Tokyo street. Here, our hero, Akira Inugami (Chiba), a crime reporter (-- I think), enters the picture when he almost runs the man over. Then, after an effort to calm him down fails, the man, claiming a tiger is after him, flees into a darkened alley where he is torn to bloody pieces by some unseen malevolent force. We then crash-cut to the credits, a flashback, where some torch-bearing villagers massacre a clan of lycanthropes, leaving one sole survivor, a boy, who will grow up to be Inugami. And with the blood of the werewolf in his veins, during the cycle of the moon he is granted preternatural powers -- and when the moon is full, he becomes nigh invincible.

Now, I think the cops are aware of his condition as the reporter is interrogated over this gruesome death but the coroner’s report says the victim was mauled by a demon, ruling the Wolf Guy out. Sniffing out an intriguing story, Inugami eventually uncovers that four other men, all members of the same rock band, have all fallen victim to this kind of savage slaying. Further digging leads him to a girl named Miki (Nami Etsuko), who was gang-raped by the band and contracted an STD -- all at the behest of the father of her boyfriend, who had other plans for his son and needed to get her out of the picture. And turns out Miki’s rage over this is so great she is able to psionically project a phantom tiger to take out her revenge.

Things take another dark turn when both Miki and Inugami are captured by some shadowy corporation or government agency (-- again the film is a little vague here --) looking to weaponize the both of them. And while they manage to turn Miki into an untraceable assassin, their werewolf is a little more obstinate despite the copious medical torture sans anesthetic, leading to a Plan B and a blood transfusion to make their own lycanthrope. Luckily, the full moon rises before Inugami can be disposed of and he recombobulates himself, engineers an escape, and has a brief but spectacular fight with his ersatz clone, whose body winds up rejecting the wolf-blood that eats him up from the inside out. And then the film takes another odd turn when Inugami seeks shelter in his old and abandoned village, where he finds true love, avenges his family against the locals, but then must face down a brain-washed Miki as the corporation/agency looks to recapture him and take another crack at breeding a platoon of invincible soldiers...

Never officially released outside of Japan until now, Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope is pretty nucking futz. The Toei film is an unofficial sequel to Toho’s Horror of the Wolf (1973), which was also based on Kazumasa Hirai’s manga. However, unlike the previous film, Inugami doesn’t actually transform into a wolf at all and just draws strength and invulnerability from the moon. Now, I won’t lie but I found this to be a bit of a disappointment. In one of the supplemental features on the disc, director Yamaguchi explains there simply wasn’t any money to pull off a transformation. Still, there are some startling effective practical gore effects present here. And they are all plugged into a plot that is a little hazy on the details as a lot of things appear to be riding on the assumption the viewer is familiar with the comics it was based on.

Here, plot threads and character motivations spray around like silly string -- or more appropriately for this flick, spray and splatter around like a severed artery as I barely scratched the surface on the story, which takes so many out of the blue twists (-- the reporter’s motives are not altruistic but greed-induced via blackmail --) and turns (-- a psychic killer that shreds her victims --) the viewer winds up inside a pretzel inside of another pretzel. Also of note, I found it oddly distracting that Sonny Chiba's proto-afro and bushy eyebrows in this thing kept bringing Yuri Rozmanovich as interpreted by John Candy to mind. (See below.) That said, we still got Chiba doing his thing, plenty of action, and a story that’s needling toward bonkers, which always equates to a hearty recommendation from me.

Now, unlike Chiba, I am slightly more familiar with the films of Kinji Fukasaku, having crossed off Black Lizard (1968), The Green Slime (1968), Message from Space (1978), Virus (1980) and Battle Royale (2000) off the checklist; but while I’ve seen a lot of his hair-brained sci-fi output Cops vs. Thugs (1975) was my first official foray into his violent, visceral and unflinching tales of cops, crooks and corruption -- epitomized by his storied Battles Without Honor and Humanity series (1973-1976).

First off, as the film begins, one should note that title should be read as Apples vs. Oranges instead of Godzilla vs. Megalon as we won't be witnessing a fight per se but are asked to compare and contrast these two opposing factions in this based on a “real-life incident” but moved to the fictional Kurashima City to protect the not-so-innocent and find there really is no difference at all -- just a matter of both personal taste and interpretation of the facts. And whether these facts can be trusted is a whole 'nother can of worms.

And as we examine those facts as presented, we find two rival yakuza families vying for supremacy while the police try to keep a loose lid on both of them. On one side you have the Kawade clan, who have wheedled their way up the political chain, garnering favor with many city leaders and the police brass, and now appear to be on the verge of going legit by leveraging into a land deal with an oil company. On the other side of the spectrum you have the Ohara clan, who are more street level thugs, running brothels, extortion rackets, drugs and petty theft. They also have a tangential working relationship with the local detective bureau; a sort of ersatz gentlemen’s agreement that lets them get away with quite a bit to keep them satiated so things won’t escalate, which always ends in bloodshed and massive collateral damage, which, and thus, results in an uneasy peace.

At the center of this working relationship is grizzled Detective Kuno (Bunta Sugawara) and Kenji Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata), temporary chief of the Ohara clan while the big boss finishes off a jail sentence. Kuno and Hirotani’s history dates back several years, beginning when the criminal had tried to turn himself in for the murder of a rival boss but Kuno refused and let him go. (Judging by what we see later, Hirotani was most likely trying to take the fall for someone else.) And while one would think Kuno could use that as leverage to gain an inside man in the mob it goes much deeper than that as the two men connect on some primordial level over a bowl of rice. Kudo also has no love for his superiors or the Kawade clan or the seismic shift in the social structure they represent; and so he uses his influence to help Hirotani short-circuit the land grab, who steals it out from underneath his rivals, and opens “negotiations” with the oil company. And when I say ‘negotiations’ I mean extort a shit-load of money.

Obviously, the Kawade will not sit still for this and, knowing full well Kudo was probably behind it all, use their influence with the police commissioner to start a special task force led by upstart Kaida (Tatsuo Umemiya) to eliminate police corruption, put a stop to the fraternizing with the yakuza, and rein in the Ohara clan. And in short order several cops, including Kudo, quit the force but Kaida’s merciless crackdown backfires, igniting an all out war between the two factions, culminating in a bloody stand-off and siege as Hirotani and his lieutenants hole up in a brothel, refuse to surrender, and, with the press and public watching, will only agree to negotiate with the disgraced Kudo...

You know, the silly-string / arterial spray analogy doesn’t really jive when analyzing Cops vs. Thugs. Here, Fukasaku and scriptwriter Kazuo Kasahara present a spoiled onion that the viewer must first peel away to get to the center only to be called on to slop it back together into one piece to get and truly appreciate the whole picture as they explore the darker side of the criminal underworld and how “civilized” society not only allows it to happen but manipulates it to cash in -- all to a glorious funkified beat on the soundtrack. Fukasaku was never one to shy away from social commentary, and here, in case we didn’t get it, the final coda of the film is a massive punctuating punch to the junk to drive it home for good. There is no good and evil, here, just degrees in between.

Bunta Sugawara was a revelation to me here and I look forward to tracking down more of his films. And I did get a little excited when I saw Reiko Ike’s name in the credits, having fallen in love with her in the righteous Girl Boss series (1971-1973), which could really use its own boxset, Sex and Fury (1973), and Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (1973) and was subsequently shocked by her role, which was essentially being reduced to Hiroki Matsukata’s sex toy and punching bag, later pawned off to Bunta. Now THAT was a bit of an adjustment. As for Fuksaku, Cops vs. Thugs, while a lot to absorb and will leave you with a lot to think about, was nothing short of amazing in its execution and has me anxious to finally, finally, tackle the five daunting installments of Battles Without Honor or Humanity.

As always, Arrow Video’s release of both Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope and Cops vs Thugs are remastered and look beautiful on screen and are jammed with extras. The first film includes separate interviews with producer Toru Yoshida, director Yamaguchi, and the first part in series of interviews with Sonny Chiba talking about his acting technique. There’s also a limited collector’s booklet featuring essays by Patrick Macias and Jasper Sharp, who chronicles the history of Japanese monster mash-ups. The second film also includes an illustrated essay by Macias. Meanwhile, the disc includes an interview with Fukasaku biographer, Sado Yamane, who sheds some light on the complicated, Japanese-centric themes found in the film. But the true highlight is another outstanding visual essay on the director’s history with cops and criminals by film scholar Tom Mes. And while I enjoyed Cops vs. Thugs more, and it’s definitely worth a purchase, Wolf Guy was a tad disappointing due to the bitch of expectations but is still definitely worth a look -- just don’t expect a lot of hair or fangs.



Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope (1975) Toei Tokyo / P: Toru Yoshida / D: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi / W: Fumio Kônami, Kazumasa Hirai (manga) / C: Yoshio Nakajima / S: Shin'ichi "Sonny" Chiba, Kyôsuke Machida, Saburô Date, Etsuko Nami

Cops vs. Thugs (1975) Toei Tokyo / D: Kinji Fukasaku / W: Kazuo Kasahara / C: Shigeru Akatsuka / E: Kôzô Horiike / M: Toshiaki Tsushima / S: Bunta Sugawara, Tatsuo Umemiya, Hiroki Matsukata, Reiko Ike

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Prime Quick Cuts :: Amazon Digital Rental :: Hitching a Ride with Morten Tyldum's Sci-Fi Thriller Rom-Com, Passengers (2016)

On a self-automated luxury space-cruiser, due to some technical glitch thanks to a stray asteroid, one of the passengers is woken up from stasis 90 years too early, which sets the stage for Morten Tyldum’s Passengers (2016). Essentially stuck on the Space Love Boat all by himself -- well, except for the 4,999 other passengers and crew still in stasis for the 220-year journey to a new Earth colony -- until he dies, with communications impossible due to the interstellar distance, Jim Preston (Pratt) makes the best of this dire situation the best he can by exploiting the amenities of the ship, including his only companion, an android bartender named Arthur (Sheen).

But this all eventually wears thin, and after nearly a year passes, the loneliness and isolation finds our hero thinking about doing something rather rash. But then, when he decides to not kill himself, Preston next contemplates doing something even worse...

You know, Passengers sort of came and went with little fanfare, lost a bit in the wash of Rogue One (2016), which was released just a week earlier. I didn't really hear anything good about it, but I didn't really hear anything bad either. (P'rolly not helped by a bait and switch trailer that sold it as a horror/thriller, which it definitely is not.) Now, having finally seen it, I'm a little baffled that it didn't do better than it did as I found it to be highly enjoyable in spite of the predictability of the plot and the prickly moral ambiguity of the main character's motivation.

But! SPOILERS AHOY! Perhaps that might be the film's biggest problem in that Passengers has nothing whatsoever up its sleeve and is very straight forward once Preston decides to wake up another passenger, Aurora Lane (Lawrence), for some company; a decision not taken lightly, but in the end, having gone a little crazy, he cannot help himself. From there, they fall in love, and the audience waits until she inevitably finds out the truth that it wasn't a similar technical glitch that woke her early, too, followed by the hateful breakup and spiteful shunning, and then the equally inevitable third act crisis (-- the cascading system failures on the ship that are about to reach critical mass), where they must work together, get over the hump, find forgiveness, save the ship, and live happily ever after together on the Avalon.

So, yeah. No surprises here, but I was kinda OK with that. Others, apparently not. Helping out is some beautiful production design and endearing performances by Pratt and Lawrence. And I, for one, was kinda grateful for the lack of a twist or sabotage. (I kept waiting for the reveal that Aurora wasn’t the first person he’d woken up and the rest had either killed themselves or met with an “accident”. Or, worse yet, the rest of the crew wakes up and won't believe Preston that the ship is about to self-destruct and its up to Aurora to spring him from the brig to save the day.) The ship was broken, and just needed to be fixed. Simple. Straight forward. And I liked it a lot.

Passengers (2017) Columbia Pictures :: LStar Capital :: Village Roadshow Pictures :: Original Film Company Films :: Start Motion Pictures :: Wanda Pictures / EP: Greg Basser, Bruce Berman, Ben Browning, David Householter, Jon Spaihts, Lynwood Spinks, Ben Waisbren / P: Michael Maher, Ori Marmur, Neal H. Moritz, Stephen Hamel / CP: Greg Baxter / D: Morten Tyldum / W: Jon Spaihts / C: Rodrigo Prieto / E: Maryann Brandon / M: Thomas Newman / S: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Doctor Will See You Now -- For the Last Time :: A Beer-Gut Reaction to Eddie Saeta's Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls (1973)

Rushing to the emergency room to check on his wife after she was involved in a terrible auto accident, Fred Saunders (Coe) makes it to her bedside just in time as her catastrophic injuries will prove fatal. Thus, before Laura Saunders (Morrow) expires, she vows she will cheat death and return from the afterlife, somehow, and be reunited with her beloved husband. Alas, Laura dies before revealing how she will accomplish this. But taking her at her word, the grief-stricken Saunders arranges for his wife’s body to forgo the usual embalming process and has her remains placed in an unlocked crypt in an unsealed casket, which serves two purposes: it will allow Laura an exit if and or when she comes back, and second, it allows the morbidly obsessed Saunders to visit her, which he does. Constantly -- and to the point where it starts to get a little weird and needles toward full blown necrophilia, which, between you and me, makes Saunders kind of a creep.

But as weeks pass and nothing happens (-- and I'm sure the body is getting a little ripe by now), Saunders decides to get a little proactive on anchoring his wife’s restless spirit, which constantly haunts his dreams (-- including a great skull-shock moment for the opening credits), but this only leads him down an occult rabbit hole of fake psychics, charlatan New Age quacks, and even a demented body snatcher, that essentially goes nowhere. Almost ready to give up on his errant and erratic quest, Saunders spies a strange and cryptic ad in the local classifieds concerning “controlled reincarnation.” Phoning the given number, Saunders arranges a meeting with Tana (Marly), who claims to be an advocate of Dr. Death, who allegedly has the power to capture and transfer souls and reanimate the dead.

Skeptical but that desperate, Saunders agrees to meet Tana again later to witness this Dr. Death at work -- with work appearing to be some form of elaborate stage show cum carnival act. Here, Saunders watches incredulously as Dr. Death (Considine) works his magic with a flare for the Grand Guignol. And with the help of his brutish assistant, Thor (Askin), they actually saw a woman, whose face was horrible disfigured in an industrial accident, in half -- rather messily; and once that deed is done, the Doctor seizes control of the woman’s freed spirit and directs this ectoplasm to enter another fresh, and very buxom corpse (-- origin unknown), which reanimates and is now under the control of this newly inserted ethereal essence.

Rationalizing and justifying away the murder his potential client just witnessed him commit during a post-show personal consultation, Dr. Death claims the victim volunteered and the corpse was liberated from a morgue. He also claims to be over a 1,000 years old, achieved by a dubious alchemy method of transferring his soul from one body to the next over the centuries (-- told in a nifty flashback sequence but neglecting the parts where he openly murders everyone he inhabits along the way). This same service he offers to others, for a price. And so, for the sum of $50,000 he can do the same for Saunders. But there’s a catch. Seems Laura has been dead too long, and so, they will need to find another spirit to occupy the vacated shell. So, essentially, it will not be Laura at all, just her body. Fully aware of this, and knowing full well this will mean another murder, the completely obsessed Saunders decides this will be close enough, chucks his moral objections with nary a backward glance, and quickly coughs up the dough, making him, between you and me and the wall, an even bigger creep.

Anyhoo, for reasons involving mostly being too clingy -- and when I say too clingy, I mean she threw acid into the face of the newly animated corpse in a jealous snit because the good doctor was no longer paying attention to her anymore in a *ahem* ‘biblical’ sense, Tana draws the short straw, winds up bound and gagged on stage, where Thor uses her as a human dartboard, killing her.

And once Dr. Death seizes control of her spirit, they haul her to the cemetery and Laura’s tomb where things run into a bit of snag during the imbuing process. Seems this new spirit refuses to enter Laura’s body no matter how loudly Dr. Death yells at it to do so. And this he does. A lot. Like, A LOT a lot. Eventually, the smirking spirit dissipates, leaving everyone back at square one. At this point. Saunders comes to his senses and calls the whole thing off (-- I mean, What's just ONE dead body, amIright?), tells Dr. Death to keep the money, and vacates the tomb. And while I thought at first this was just Tana giving her ex-lover the middle finger from beyond the grave, turns out it’s much more serious than that. Apparently, something like this has never happened before and has our mad doctor on the prod and somewhat worried that he’s losing his power, and thus, coming to the end of his long road. And so, money or no money, he is soon bound and determined to hammer a spirit into Laura’s recalcitrant corpse. And to do this, of course, he will need another fresh body. And another. Aaaaaand another...

Eddie Saeta’s Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls (1973) is a fairly interesting idea told rather clumsily that results in a kind of a tonally inconsistent mess of a movie. The 1970s were a strange time for horror films. After a spat of psychos and slashers things were getting old school again with science gone amok and Gothic chills with a post Blood Feast (1963), murder as art, gruesome twist with the likes of The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Theater of Blood (1973). There were even attempts of Gothic contemporaneity by bringing these monsters to the modern day suburbs with Count Yorga (1970), Blacula (1972), and their subsequent sequels, resulting in a clash of crimson blood and avocado earth tones, the cock-eyed curiosity of coffins and shag carpeting, and a frisson of fangs, wide collars and bell bottoms.

Strangely enough, as originally conceived, first time director Saeta (-- who worked as an A.D. since the 1930s --) and former bit-actor turned first time scriptwriter Sal Ponti (-- whose biggest role was in George Pal’s last hurrah, Atlantis the Lost Continent, back in 1961 --) had envisioned a whole series of films starring the recurring character of Dr. Death to join the ranks of Mamuwalde and Dr. Phibes. “This character is such an interesting development that we are trying to find new ways of going with him,” said Saeta in the film’s press materials. “We feel we can create a residual interest among horror fans who will adopt Dr. Death as a new man in the field."

This, of course, did not happen. And I think the fact that Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls would be the sole directing and screenplay credit for both Saeta and Ponti goes a long way in explaining why the film floundered and was initially turned away from American International for distribution. And while the film did get picked up by Bing Crosby’s Cinerama Releasing Corporation -- who had scored a modest success by importing several of Amicus’ horror anthologies, including Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Asylum (1972), and released the two-punch killer rat combo of Willard (1971) and Ben (1972), doesn’t change the fact that after a fairly solid opening act, Dr. Death completely falls apart in the second, leaving it reeling in the third.

Yeah, once Dr. Death starts stalking more victims the film kinda slips the clutch a bit and stalls out as the doctor and Thor go on a killing spree that isn’t all that exciting and goes from kinda funny, to annoying, to kinda funny again, to really annoying, to just get on with it already as each lather, rinse and repeat murder ends with a crash-cut back to the cemetery with Dr. Death berating each spirit to get into Laura’s body (-- “GET in there. Get IN there. Get in THERE! Dammit. C’mon, please, pretty please? C’moooooon. I command you! I’m Dr. Deeeeeath. No. Really. I can do this. GET IN THERE! FINE. Thor, get me another victim.”). All refuse to recombobulate, much to the occultist’s consternation, which means he gets to do it all over again. And again. Aaaaaaand again. Sensing a pattern here.

This whole interlude wasn’t a complete waste of time, however. There was a nice little meta-moment when one victim watches a horror movie on TV that mimics her own pending demise. And the faux strangler on the tube was played by noted LA horror host Larry 'Seymour' Vincent. Mention should also be made that Moe Howard showed up earlier in the film as a volunteer at Dr. Death’s show to confirm a corpse was actually dead. Howard was apparently an old friend of Saeta, who had worked on several Three Stooges features and shorts. This would be Howard’s last screen appearance. But the coolest thing that happened is when a boyfriend of one of the intended victims comes to her aid, stabbing Dr. Death with a switchblade, causing a disgorging of blood that covers the stabbers face, which promptly disintegrates due to the caustic properties of the compressed liquid until his skull detonates. *kablooey*

This incident adds a ticking clock element to the third act as this wound appears to be mortal, giving Dr. Death a limited amount of time to get his soul-swapping mojo back, and yet the film is still plagued by startling lack of urgency. Meanwhile (-- see what I mean?), Saunders has been efforting to put Laura and Dr. Death behind him, thanks in most part to his secretary, Sandy (Miller), who kinda carries a torch for the widower. And as romance blossoms between these two, Dr. Death believes he’s finally found the answer to get a spirit into Laura: seems the victim must not die violently and in sudden terror like the others but must suffer through a slow and somnolent death through exsanguination. And, he’s tagged Sandy as the perfect candidate for this experiment, which I guess makes sense in that he wants to fulfill the original contract, which, in a sense, makes him more ethical than his client.

And once he and Thor kidnap her and haul poor Sandy back to his theater, they strap her down and tap a vein. Thankfully, the bleeding out process takes awhile, allowing dunderheaded Saunders to figure out what happened to his new girlfriend and track her back to Dr. Death’s lair with the cavalry. And while Sandy is saved and Thor is killed in the ensuing shoot-out, Dr. Death manages to escape, leaving the film with one final twist before the closing credits roll that I won’t spoil but will say it would probably have been better served and come as more of a shock if they hadn’t given the possibility of it away four reels earlier in that flashback.

You know, despite all the snark, Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls wasn’t all that terrible nor a complete waste of time. Honest. I believe they barely had a week to get the film in the can so retakes were out the window. If the actor got their lines out, it was printed and they moved on to the next shot. And the way it was shot, edited and scored, this thing really came off as a bizarre Halloween episode of Adam-12 or Emergency -- or, more apropos, a rather wackadoodle Made for TV remake of H.G. Lewis’ The Wizard of Gore (1970) with gore inserts added in for a European release. 

And the F/X, courtesy of Van Der Veer Photo Effects, are really quite good for the time. I especially dug the dismembered head sent to Saunders in a box and that detonating skull. But again, when you plug those in it only adds to that tonal inconsistency I mentioned earlier.

Star John Considine salvages a lot out of this mess and is a bit of a hammy hoot, injecting all kinds of morbid and gallows humor as this ersatz carnival huckster; as does Florence Marly, to a lesser extent, as the bitchy and kooky Tana, who gets killed out of this thing way too soon. In fact, I thought it would’ve been interesting if her spiteful spirit had stuck around to be the root cause of Dr. Death's sudden spiritual impotence and then continue to short-circuit all attempts to integrate another spirit into Laura’s body. (One also has to wonder if that first transferred soul with the acid-scarred face was also a victim of Tana’s jealousy? I know I wouldn’t put it past her.) However, it takes someone like Vincent Price to find the harmonious balance between camp and the macabre, and Considine, though valiant in his effort, is no Vincent Price.

Saeta and cinematographers Emil Oster and Kent Wakeford have a few moments, too. I’m thinking specifically of an earlier scene when Laura’s spirit lures Saunders into the graveyard, whose set designs and mood lighting and final punch easily bring Mario Bava to mind. Alas, their combined efforts weren’t quite enough to push Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls over the hump but it’s definitely an interesting misfire to endure, whose blow-back probably won’t cause any permanent damage. Maybe.

Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls (1973) Freedom Arts Pictures Corporation :: Cinerama Releasing Corporation / P: Eddie Saeta / AP: Sal Ponti / D: Eddie Saeta / W: Sal Ponti / C: Emil Oster, Kent L. Wakeford / E: Anthony DiMarco / M: Richard LaSalle / S: John Considine, Barry Coe, Cheryl Miller, Florence Marly, Leon Askin, Jo Morrow, Moe Howard
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