Update from The Den

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Hi everyone! Vic, here. I just wanted to drop by and check in with you all. I want to first thank everyone who has found some time to come by “Vic’s Movie Den” on a regular basis and check out my content despite things being very quiet. It is greatly appreciated and I am forever grateful.

I also would like to thank my awesome contributors (You all know who you are!) for submitting some strong content for my blog. You guys rock. Keep up the incredible work, fellas!

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Now, on to the update. My family and I are all moved into our new home, here in Rochester, New York. My work does not end with the move, though. We are pretty much settled in, but I have been very busy tending to various projects (Landscaping, Closing the pool, exterminating bees, fixing decking, setting up my office, changing out doors, etc, etc…) that have been taking up much of my time. It is an exhausting venture owning a home but the results are rewarding and it makes all of the hard work very worthwhile. Gotta keep my eyes on the prize!

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So, as a result of still working full time on the house, I will not be able to commit to submitting reviews and other kinds of posts for “Vic’s Movie Den” for the time being. Hopefully by late fall or early winter, I will be back on a somewhat normal schedule and will finally return to the blogger-verse.

Also, I have been missing out on the great material from other fellow movie bloggers lately. I hope to take a day off very soon and catch up with everyone. I miss you all!

So, thank you, everyone, for checking in and I hope to get back on track with “Vic’s Movie Den” sooner rather than later. I hope you are doing well. Take care, gang!

- Vic

Thank You!

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Hello, everyone! I wanted to thank those who have helped me out with some great guest posts, contributions and articles during my hiatus and time off from reviewing and contributing for “Vic’s Movie Den.”

You have all answered my call for help in a very timely manner and handed over some great material that has really helped me out with amazing content for my page. I will always be grateful and forever in your debt for assisting me during this important and busy time in my life. Thanks so very much, gang!

Here are the links to the pages of the fantastic group who have recently and selflessly helped me out:

Mike from

Parlor Of Horror

Mark from

Lasers, Monsters and Barbarians Oh My!

Eric from

Deacon’s Den

and many thanks to my good friend Brian Volke , here in Rochester, for taking time out of his busy work schedule to help his crazy and over-whelmed buddy during this busy time!

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Top 5: 1970’s Sci-Fi Films Not Called “Star Wars”

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Mark’s TOP 5! So, get Ready, gang!

Hey Gang! Vic here, to bring you a unique and very interesting “Top 5 “ List from Mark of “Lasers, Monsters and Barbarians Oh My!” Mark has graciously volunteered this list to help me out with content during my time off. Please visit his cool site HERE and have fun with his cool sci fi posts!

Thanks Mark, for this very awesome post. I am very grateful for your kind help and this amazing contribution! Without further ado, gang, here is Mark’s TOP 5!

Top Five 1970’s Sci-Fi Films not called “Star Wars”

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In 1977 Star Wars came blazing onto movie screens everywhere. With it came the change in how special effects were done, the re-birth of the space opera and the idea that there was a ton of money to be made in merchandising with your logo or brand slapped on it.

All too often people who didn’t grow up in this decade seem to forget about other sci-fi films from the 1970’s and the fact that it was indeed a very good decade for science fiction films. So good in fact that I had to leave some solid films off this Top 5 list. So, here you go!

1 Alien (1979)

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Essentially this is a horror film in space. The idea that works so well is that there are these characters in the very vastness of space, but when a terror is lurking in your own space ship you feel very trapped and helpless. This is a well executed story of survival.

2 Logan’s Run (1976)

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Before Star Wars there were a lot of sci-fi films about dystopias and this was one of the best. So if you turn 30, you are done for, unless you run away. This film follows a pair of people doing just that and has them examining what they knew versus what they find outside their little world.

3 Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

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The Apes series of course began in the 1960’s, but the bulk of them were done in the 1970’s. By the forth film of any series, the ideas are normally running thin. However, I find this one to be the second best in the entire series. We get to see an ape uprising and a spectacular dose of how to get the most out of a limited budget. This film brought some much needed intensity to the series as well.

4 The Omega Man (1971)

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In between fighting apes and finding out what Soylent Green was made of, Charlton Heston was in this film about a post- apocalyptic world. Heston and a few others fight a diseased light sensitive cult while trying to come up with a cure for this sickness.” Last Man on Earth” with Vincent Price, “I Am Legend” with Will Smith and “The Omega Man” are all based on the same book, but this is far and away my favorite film version.

5 Starcrash (1979)

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With the success of Star Wars came many imitators as well as this low budget Italian film that actually began filming back in 1977. Subtlety and originality are not the films strong points, but it has great pacing, action and it’s just a ton of fun. The film never takes itself too seriously and just plugs along pulling the viewer with it. A real treat for the senses for sure.

Thanks very much, Mark, for this very cool guest post! Everyone, please feel free to sound off below with your feedback and comments! We welcome it, very much. Thanks and I hope you enjoyed Mark’s TOP 5!

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1984-a-thon Movie Review: John Carpenter’s “Starman” (1984)

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1984-a-thon Movie Review For “Forgotten Films

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Starman” (1984)

From Vic of “Vic’s Movie Den”

What’s it About?

An alien takes the form of a young widow’s husband and asks her to drive him from Wisconsin to Arizona. The government tries to stop them.

Directed by John Carpenter

8 out of 10

By Vic

Director John Carpenter (The Thing, Dark Star, Christine) has been, by default, labeled as a “Horror Film” director. Obviously, because of his predilection for making multiple films in that particular genre. A few of them being very highly regarded, like “Halloween,” “The Thing” and even the under-rated “In the Mouth of Madness” which starred “Jurassic Park’s” Sam Neill.

Carpenter’s adaptation of “Christine,” released in 1983, was a moderate success for him (and Columbia) even as he proclaimed afterwards, that it was a “paycheck” gig and he needed a job after the disastrous box office performance that hampered his earlier effort, “The Thing.” Meanwhile, back at Columbia Pictures, the script for “Starman” stood languishing for several years. At Michael Douglas’ request the story was purchased but was bumped around, at times involving big names like Ed Zwick, John Badham and Adrian Lyne. Eventually the project was narrowed down to directors Peter Hyams (2010) and Carpenter.

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What sold Columbia (and was a perfect decision) was Carpenter’s approach to the story, relying greatly on the “Road Trip” aspects of the story allowing the characters of Starman and Jenny Hayden to flourish and develop. Jeff Bridges (King Kong) was cast as Scott Hayden (Starman) and Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark) as Jenny. And of course, the directing duties went, smartly, to Carpenter. Carpenter’s film is a unique sci fi tale of honest proportions and it has a clear and emotional message that is very reminiscent of older films where the two leads establish a rapport under singular circumstances.

Columbia decided to minimize the similarities to Spielberg’s “ET” and keep the overtly political themes under control in order to comply with Carpenter’s vision. The result being a significant entry in Carpenter’s, Bridges and Allen’s careers. “Starman” is an intelligent sci fi story which benefits from the tight and respectable writing of Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon. Along with JC, Composer Jack Nitzsche and Director of Photography Donald Morgan (who also shot “Christine” for Carpenter), create a beautifully rendered universe that is rural, down home, real and endearing. Nitzsche’s score will have you hooked from that first electronic note.

After receiving the multi-lingual messages left on the “Golden Disc” aboard “Voyager 2” (launched in 1977), an alien race sends an emissary to earth in the form of a glowing “energy ball,” to make contact. But, (borrowing from films like “The Day The Earth Stood Still”) as a response to the visitor’s approach, the Air Force reacts with hostility and shoots down the craft. It ends up landing violently in Wisconsin, where widow, Jenny Hayden is drowning her sorrows while watching home movies of her late husband, Scott (Jeff Bridges).

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Eventually, as it tries to find a way to survive, the alien re-shapes itself using DNA from a strand of Scott’s hair, lifted from Jenny’s photo album. As he evolves into an adult, in a very awesome practical FX sequence, Jenny looks on in disbelief. After the initial shock wears off, Jenny realizes that her dead husband, Scott, has been re-animated as “Starman,” who, in response to the hostile nature of the Government (aside from SETI scientist, Mark Shermin, played by Charles Martin Smith), tells his people to pick him up at Arizona’s Berringer Crater in 3 days (yeah, the movie is packed with religious allegory). Starman coerces Jenny into helping him get there in time to meet his rescue party and avoid detection from NSA Chief George Fox (Richard Jaeckel) during his stay.

What ensues is a heart warming sci fi romance that may surprise and enlighten many of today’s audiences used to big, over the top, CGI and loud and overdone action sequences. “Starman” ain’t that type of movie, folks. It is a bit of a timeless fare that still holds up very well by today’s standards. Propelled by the amazing performances of it’s leads, the film is a lesson in simplicity and raw emotional honesty. The complexities are kept to a minimum and Carpenter’s direction flows nicely and still exploits that great cinematic eye for composition and detail that is a brilliant staple in all of his films.

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Despite the convention of the Government being the “bad guy” (Fox has little to no motivation for chasing down Starman, here) and the “by the book” turn by C. Martin Smith as the one caring person who is trying to look out for Jenny and Scott, the movie is an impressive collection of touching and poignant rural vignettes.

Carpenter’s film explores themes of companionship and harmony. Jenny shows Starman how to fit in, in an already somewhat, xenophobic society that is full of the fear of the unknown and of those who “aren’t from around here.” Bridges plays incredibly well opposite of Allen as he learns to walk, talk and even comically drive (“yellow light means go faster”). Bridges’ unique take and interpretation of what an alien in a “human suit” would act, look and feel like is incredibly profound. Carpenter and Bridges took this very seriously and had multiple discussions on how to establish the look and feel of Starman / Scott. It turned out to be an amazing performance that earned Bridges an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor in 1984 and the only Actor nod for a Carpenter film.

Using his various steely looking “energy marbles,” Starman also displays his powers when provoked and his ability to heal and repair when faced with loss. In a stunning moment, Starman learns in a Truck Stop, about the consequences of hunting animals and when he does not understand, he is faced with more questionable behavior from the locals. But whether or not you agree with the various approaches to these dilemmas, Carpenter never shies away from letting his leads really act. They really bring their A game in this movie and it genuinely shows.

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Starman,” which I actually saw in the theaters back in 1984, is a quirky film about a quirky alien. It is very moving at times and often silly fun as well. The balances are well kept in place by Carpenter’s deft direction and the extremely sweet exploration of the characters by Bridges and Allen. Even by it’s conclusion, after the wonderful ‘road trip” mid-section, the audience is left very satisfied that this “alien meets a widow” story has gone full circle. Carpenter’s vision and focus sheds any pretense he may have had as a schlocky horror movie director.

Carpenter and company flex their artistic muscles in this great sci fi film from 1984. It is often over-looked or even forgotten but once someone discovers it, it definitely becomes a movie that resonates on a few levels. I wanted to keep the spoilers at a minimum for those who would like to re-visit it or watch it for the first time. Highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Todd from “Forgotten Films,” for the gracious invitation to review “Starman” for his 1984-a-thon. I had a blast and I hope you enjoyed it!

Vic’s Note: John Carpenter’s “Starman” is available on Netflix Streaming and on Amazon for Prime Members.

 

From Deacon’s Den: The Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked

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Hello, everyone! Vic here to officially announce Eric Jones from “Deacon’s Den” as my newest contributor here in “Vic’s Movie Den”

Eric of "Deacon's Den"

Eric of “Deacon’s Den”

Eric hails from Philadelphia, Pa and is a Graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He is an educated and passionate movie lover. Eric’s approach to movies is simple and to the point: If it looks interesting, he will check it out regardless of the Genre, Actor or Director. That’s good enough for me.

Eric’s Favorite Directors are Stanley Kubrick and the great Alfred Hitchcock. His Favorite Movie is “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977) from George Lucas.

Eric Jones with a Transformer. Digging that Superman Tee!

Eric Jones with a Transformer. Digging that Superman Tee!

Eric has graciously accepted my call to arms for guest bloggers to help out during my hiatus. I am very grateful for Eric’s assistance and he has delivered a knock out of a article for everyone to enjoy. It is his “Rankings” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! I hope you all enjoy and please feel free to leave some feedback as I welcome Eric to “Vic’s Den Crew”

Eric Jones ranks the MCU

Eric Jones ranks the MCU

First, I would like to take a moment on this post to thank Vic’s Movie Den for allowing me a chance to contribute to his blog. Very much appreciative of this opportunity!

Now that “Guardians of the Galaxy” has been released and it marks the 10th release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I feel a ranking is required about now. This will cover all movies to this point and I’ll probably revisit and revise once “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Ant-Man” are released. I had the list already made, I just needed to wait until I saw Guardians to determine where that places in the rankings. So let’s get started!

10. Iron Man 2

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The 3rd film in the franchise comes in at #10. This is the lowest film for me because it feels as if there really isn’t much Iron Man in the story. Robert Downey Jr is fantastic as always but the film is light on action. Other than a short fight at the racetrack with Mickey Rouke’s villain who by the way is underutilized, and another at the very end of the film, there isn’t much of the Avenger here. Having been excited off the original Iron Man, this really came as a disappointment.

9. Thor: The Dark World

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Suffering from a not so compelling antagonist, the use of Natalie Portman’s Jane as a plot device and not much exploration of Thor’s character after the events of The Avengers, the god of thunder’s second outing comes in at 9th place. Now what I do like about this is there is more time spent in Asgard which the first Thor lacked. However it shifts back to Earth for the finale and it feels pretty standard fare. But I will say I am a fan of the ending and what possibilities that holds.

8. The Incredible Hulk

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The red-headed stepchild of the franchise. The Incredible Hulk is certainly leagues ahead of Ang Lee’s outing in 2003. While the action in this film is top notch, especially the battle with Abomination in NY, there just seems something missing here. This makes it feel somewhat disconnected from the shared universe. Honestly if it wasn’t for a cameo from Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, this could have been a standalone feature. Also I have to say I think that Edward Norton was mis-cast as Bruce Banner. He does a good job certainly, yet I never once felt Bruce Banner and then the Hulk as an extension of Banner. I just saw Norton. I do hope we see more of Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky in a future film or films.

7. Thor

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As more films come out in the MCU I really hope Thor stays in the top 10. I actually enjoy this more than it’s placing on this list indicates. Themes of Father vs Son, Brother vs Brother. A real Shakespearean effort. With Kenneth Branagh at the helm it’s likely we would see those themes present. Like it’s sequel, Thor: The Dark World, I wish we could get an entire film in Asgard. Plus this introduced us to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and that’s certainly a plus.

6. Iron Man 3

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In at #6 is the first film in the franchise that takes place after The Avengers. The focus is the PTSD that has befallen Tony Stark after the events in New York. He has nightmares that are plaguing him and he deals with this by constantly building more Iron Man suits. Although there were liberties taken with a certain villain, I enjoyed both the action in this film and continual development of Tony Stark. His character arc sort of comes to a conclusion here. I felt this was good enough to fall just outside the top 5.

5. Captain America: The First Avenger

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Cap’s origin comes in at #5. Although it follows the standard Marvel formula of some type of powerful artifact, I love the pulpy atmosphere the 1940s Marvel universe has. Not quite a tangible as Raiders of the Lost Ark, but not serious overkill a la Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It’s fun, it’s serious and it’s exciting. Chris Evans carries the role perfectly and the character of Peggy Carter is played so confidently by Hayley Atwell, it’s no wonder she got the Agent Carter short and upcoming series. Not often do you see well written female characters and she certainly bucks the trend. The story of the first Avenger planted the seeds that would lead up to The Avengers.

4. Iron Man

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The film where it all began. Marvel took a big risk beginning a franchise and having the first film in said franchise use what some consider a second-tier character in their universe. But it worked. Robert Downey Jr is Tony Stark. His charisma alone is the driving force of this film. We see the origin of Iron Man and with that the start of the evolution of Stark. Great effects and probably the only film in the MCU that presents any form of character development, make Iron Man maybe not the top film on my list but certainly an important one.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

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If bringing Iron Man to the screen was considered risky, what do you call adapting a comic with characters that most general audiences have never even heard of? I admit, I know the Guardians of the Galaxy in name only, but I never read any books of that name. It appears that Marvel knew this and made a film about a bunch of nobodies who band together against a common threat. Full of humor, very offbeat and possessing great character interaction, Guardians of the Galaxy treats itself as that new person in a group of old friends. It just let’s it fly and makes you have a great time. By the way, it has an awesome soundtrack!

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Superheroes, spies, the role of government. These are some of themes present in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Taking a cue from the 1970s era of spy thrillers, this film has Cap questioning who does he really work for? His government says it’s to protect the people, but is infringing upon their rights the way to do so? This movie also has a great supporting cast, in particular Anthony Mackie’s Falcon. This is the movie that shakes up the franchise in a major way and it’s stripped down more grounded approach brings it to the number 2 spot on my list.

1. The Avengers

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And at number 1 comes Marvel’s The Avengers. I think on a lot of folks list this may come as number one. This is what I want my comic book movies to be. Literally a live -action comic. And like a loyal reader or in this case movie-goer, I watched as Marvel managed to juggle 4 superhero leads and devote equal opportunity to all of them.

This is due to the fact that each character got his own movie prior to this so it frees up any need for exposition. Joss Whedon may be at home in the Firefly universe but he certainly has a second home with the Avengers. Like with Firefly and Serenity, Whedon knows how to balance humor and drama when needed and one never outweighs the other. This is just a fun time at the movies regardless of if you are a comic reader or not.

There you have it. My rankings of the MCU films. What’s your rankings? Agree? Disagree? With these things there really is no right and wrong. Hope everyone enjoyed the rankings. Thanks again!

Eric from Deacon’s Den

http://www.deaconsden.wordpress.com

Enjoy some Marvel Trailers below!

 

Movierob’s Alfred Hitchcock Blog-a-thon: “Lifeboat” (1944) Vic’s Review

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What’s it About?

Several survivors of a torpedoed ship find themselves in the same boat with one of the men who sunk it.

“Lifeboat”

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Hi everyone! Vic here with my first contribution to “Movierob’s” awesome movie blog. It is a review for his latest blog-a-thon of Alfred Hitchcock films. I will be reviewing Rob’s favorite Hitchcock film, “Lifeboat.”

I hope that I have done the film justice in this review and I hope that not only Rob, but his followers and readers enjoy my write up. Thanks very much, everyone!

Vic’s Review of “Lifeboat” HERE!

Enjoy!

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Parlor of Horror’s Top 5: “Gothic” Vincent Price Films

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Hello Everyone! Vic here to present another great post and contribution from my good pal, Mike from Parlor of Horror. This time, Mike is presenting his Top 5: Favorite “Gothic” Vincent Price Films. Please remember to visit Mike’s great page from here for awesome Movie Reviews, Horror Fiction Writing Tips, Monster Model Pics and Horror Novel Reviews!

My Top 5: Gothic Vincent Price Films

Guest Post by Mike from “Parlor of Horror”

1) The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

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Only loosely based on the Poe story, and set in 16th century Spain, Nicholas (Price) is slowly driven insane by ghostly apparitions of his recently deceased wife, Elizabeth (Barbara Steele). His brother-in-law, Francis, arrives to investigate his sister’s death and is caught up in the man’s madness. In the end, all of Nicholas’s relationships are severed. Vivid dark imagery of the massive castle, the pendulum device and Price portraying an insane man (donning a twisted smile and black cloak & headpiece), make this the epitome of gothic films. Directed by Roger Corman and screenplay by Richard Matheson. Distributed by AIP.

2) House of Wax (1953)

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Henry is a NY sculpture artist in the 1890’s. He needs funding for his art but his wax exhibit is not making any money. His manager/partner sees a way to collect money, by burning down Henry’s studio with Henry in it, and collect on the insurance. But, Henry does not die and exacts revenge against all who betrayed him, turning them into the art exhibits in his new wax museum of horrors. Look for Henry’s mute assistant played by a young Charles Bronson. A Warner Brothers film directed by Andre de Toth.

3) The Witchfinder General (1968) aka: The Conquerer Worm (Currently available on Netflix)

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Sadistic tale about Mathew Hopkins, a lawyer appointed by British Parliament to purge the country of witches. He has a unique way of determining a witch. The suspect is stabbed in the back many times with a holy dagger. If the suspect lives, he or she must be a witch and is sentenced to hanging (think about that for a second). He falls in love with a young maiden in a small town and he uses her father’s life as a bargaining tool for her reciprocation. Sometimes mistaken for the Corman/Poe series, this film was produced by Tigon Films, directed by Michael Reeves and distributed by AIP.

4) The House of Usher (1960)

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Roderick (Price) is quite mad in this tale, convinced that his sister, Madeline, must not marry and pass down a terrible mental illness in the family genes. Madeline’s fiancé, Phillip, comes to rescue her but almost succumbs in the process. Madeline seems to die, but is instead buried alive. When she awakes in a sarcophagus, she goes mad and fulfills Roderick’s prophecy.  Price has bleach blond hair in this film and turns on the Shakespearean-style melodrama. The first of the Corman/Poe releases whose success produced a series of 8 films in all. Screenplay by Richard Matheson. Distributed by AIP.

5) Tomb of Ligeia (1965)

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Verden Fell’s wife, Ligeia, promises to return before she dies. Time has passed but Verden is still consumed with the idea of Ligeia’s return. To his new wife’s dismay, Verden’s behavior becomes increasingly stranger when they move into his Abbey after their honeymoon. Rowena begins to believe that Ligeia has already returned in the deep hours of night and hiding by day in the body of a mysterious black cat. Though the ending is a little choppy, this fine Poe adaptation is a remarkably underrated film and one of Price’s classic character portrayals. Directed by Roger Corman, screenplay by Robert Towne and based on the Poe story of the same name. Distributed by AIP, this was the last of the 8 Corman/Poe films.

Honorable Mention:

The Raven (1963)

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I could have easily put this horror-comedy satire in 5th place, starring Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. It’s a fun film of battling wizards that is still entertaining every time I view it.

Please enjoy the Trailers Below!

Thanks Mike, for another great post for Vic’s Movie Den. We cannot wait for the next one!

- Vic