Have you ever gone back and watched a movie that creeped you out as a kid and realized it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as you remember? I have. Here’s a quartet of them from the 1970s:
Do a Wikipedia search for “preposterous” and you might well find a link to this unmitigated stinker that I – beyond all reason – kind of dig. The plot is some kind of screwy take on nature striking back against humanity for being such jerks. I think. Anyway, you end up with poor Ray Milland and a young Sam Elliott (before his moustache required its own dressing room and legal representation) trapped on an island that’s slowly being overrun with snakes, lizards and … frogs. Mind you, there are no special effects here. Just the uncanny knowledge that if you see hundreds of close-ups of frogs you will want to run out of the theater shuddering.
THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971)
Alan Alda (?!) is a brilliant young pianist who becomes the protege of a mysterious, older man (Curt Jurgens) who envies his talent and vigor. What develops is a moody tale of murder, lust and BARGAINS WITH SATAN! Jacqueline Bisset is utterly luminous in this film, which also features some of the scariest turtlenecks in motion picture history.
For my money, the best demonic ventriloquist dummy film that Anthony Hopkins ever made. Seriously, though, the dummy here – Fats – is frightening in the way that all ventriloquist dolls are. You’re always waiting for that one eyelid to open unexpectedly, am I right? It’s a strange cast here, as well, with Hopkins, Ann Margret and Burgess Meredith emoting all to hell as if this was a Paddy Chayefsky character drama. What’s most interesting now is to watch Hopkins and look for any hints of the Hannibal Lecter still to come.
TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975)
You absolutely have to see this movie to believe it. That incredible bundle of crazy-eyed moxie, Karen Black, stars in a trio of scary stories. She’s sexy, she’s mousy, she’s tragic, she’s tough. But the whole ball of wax is the final story, about a woman who buys a figurine of a Zuni warrior. It’s campy, creepy nirvana, friends – with an ending shot that stays lodged in your brain for decades.
Have a fun Halloween, everyone, and feel free to tell me about the scary movies from your past that aren’t scary anymore.