Horror Bites - Weekend with Argento

THE ANIMAL TRILOGY (1970-1972)

Dario Argento's first three Giallo movies may lack the signature music from Goblin and Claudio Simonetti and they rarely include the crazy visual flourishes he would become known for with Deep Red and Suspiria. But they sit firmly within the world of murder mysteries as solid examples of the Italian crime genre. There are no ventures into the supernatural, and no examples of extra sensory perception. The eye popping colour schemes are missing too which is kind of a shame. However there are still glimpses of a style developing, and there are imaginative moments to be found sprinkled all over the place. Things never quite come into their own but it's still worth considering each on their own merits, so let's take a look.

Monster Bites - Triple Threat

GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964)

Ten years on from the original 1954 release of Gojira, there were a few obvious recurring elements in the series. The familiar monsters Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan were all back. So were actors like Kenji Sahara as yet another bad guy wearing sunglasses, and Hiroshi Koizumi, again playing a professor. Things were getting sillier and more outlandish as science fiction and crime movie tropes melded with the usual disaster themes. If there was going to be a breaking point it was probably going to be here. However at the rate these were being produced it would take at least another year for the cracks to show, since this is one of the best instalments.


Review Roundup - It Came From...

THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017)

As I probably talked about during my review of Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro is at his best when the Hollywood blockbuster action is dialled back and the weird and horrifying elements are given room to breathe. His finest Spanish language efforts are a mixture of the Gothic and the cruel, while maintaining a certain amount of fairytale fantasy. So where does this latest release fall in terms of cinema magic? It certainly won a few prestigious awards and it appears to have all the baroque visuals that mark the touch of a passionate artist in his element. But this is more than just a merman romance and there are a lot of intricately crafted pieces to explore in this story of monsters, misfits and Russian spies.


Monster Bites - Egg Sale

MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964)

So at last we get to the good stuff, and after a few rough patches the series began to approach its 1960s zenith on the path to Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster and Destroy All Monsters. There are a few odd moments in between of course, and there would be plenty more to come... but overall these three represent the major peaks in quality during the original run that followed the 1954 movie. They're nothing like that first foray into the monstrous power of atomic fission, but that's okay. Toho was hitting its stride in other ways by delivering light entertainment instead of dark symbolism. But still this would mark the final appearance of Godzilla as a malevolent force until his rebirth in the 1980s.

Monster Bites - Henshin A-Go-Go Baby

THE SUPER INFRAMAN (1975)

Also known simply as Infra-Man. I suppose it was inevitable that I'd eventually cover something in the Kyodai Hero (giant hero) genre. While technically Godzilla vs Megalon sort of fits into under this banner, it's a densely packed branch of Japanese special effects cinema with a lot to cover. The likes of Ultra Q and other shows will have to be approached at a later date. Instead let's jump over to Hong Kong where the Shaw Brothers Studio were happy to shamelessly copy the whole thing. The original title is Chinese Superman and the poster even shows the giant 'S' logo from DC comics; you've got to love the nerve of these guys. Let's head over to Science Headquarters and see what's unfolding.


Horror Bites - Bump in the Night

THE CHANGELING (1980)

Time for something with a little more class that the usual stream of endless schlock covered here. Whether it's actually written better or is as well constructed just as a story may be debatable of course, but for the most part this is a stylish affair. It's also a movie where George C. Scott yells at a ghost; which you know I have time for. But for the most part this haunted house story is fairly restrained with an emphasis on sinister atmosphere and eerie corridors. So get ready for a lot of spooky noises in the dark and plenty of unexplained phenomenons - though it's a film from the beginning of the 1980s this is certainly more a product of the previous decade right down to the slow burn mystery and the bleak colour palette.


Monster Bites - He Slimed Me

THE H-MAN (1958)

Also know as Beauty and the Liquid People... this is yet another example of atomic fears being turned into entertainment as you might expect from the period. But it's also a crime thriller about cops trying to take down a drug smuggling syndicate. Like Dogora and Ghidora it blends science fiction elements with gangster storylines to create a kind of hybrid plot in which the mundane elements contrast with the ridiculous. But this isn't a giant creature feature, but of a more straightforward B-horror picture. How much these two sides of the film succeed is often debatable but it's certainly an interesting and sometimes rather eerie experience that is worth looking at as a change of pace from all the usual giant monster chaos.


Monster Bites - Bugging Out

MOTHRA (1961)

Time to go back to a mysterious time when monster cross overs were unheard of and Toho still had Godzilla on ice after that whole tuna fishery episode. It would be another year before they'd decide to bring him back to fight another island dwelling creature. In this period there was still plenty of output from Ishirō Honda ranging from science fiction to horror, but the kaiju features that would surface are some of the most enduring. While Godzilla in 1954 may have been partially inspired by a re-release of King Kong in Japan, it was the first appearance of Mothra that would take the most from the 1933 classic. In a lot of ways this is the archetypal creature feature that sticks to all the usual tropes, but it remains one of the best.


Scorecard

JUNE


FILM OF THE MONTH: Akira ☆☆☆☆
Mothra ☆☆☆☆
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm ☆☆☆☆
Withnail and I ☆☆☆☆
Yokai: 100 Monsters ☆☆☆☆
Predator ☆☆☆☆