Each day in October, three brave souls from our gang of Groovy Goolies (co-editor Paul Childs, Boardgames Master Aaron Nash and Ultimate Movie Geek Nathaniel Jepson) are watching horror films from around the world and across a wide spectrum of the horror genre, so expect slashers, ghosts, cultists, demons, vampires, cannibals, zombies, kaiju, aliens and more!
Paul’s Choice – Carry On Screaming (1966)
After several days of dead serious films, I felt it was time to move on to a comedy horror. But which to choose? I watched Shaun of the Dead a few weeks ago, ruling it out. Tucker & Dale vs Evil was on last year’s list so that was no good either. Then I decided to try Kenny Everett’s Bloodbath At The House Of Death but wasn’t able to get the DVD. So I decided to go for the grandaddy of them all, the only horror-centric entry in the very British Carry On series. Now I’ve seen this film many, many times so wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of this, but when I was putting this list together, the great Fenella Fielding was still with us. Therefore, during my viewing of it this time I very much watched her performance closely. But I’ll come to that in a bit.
When it comes to monsters, Carry On Screaming homages rather than outright copies existing franchises. We have a mad-scientist Orlando Watt, who is also a kind of zombie (Kenneth Williams) and his sister Valeria (Fielding), a kind of vampish femme fatale. Then there’s Oddbod who seems to be a kind of hybrid werewolf/Frankenstein’s monster. Of all the monsters and creatures it’s only a mummy (the humorously named Rubbatiti) and the result of various characters taking Dr Jekyl’s formula who are recognisable. And it’s very much to the film’s benefit that it doesn’t just copy Dracula, Wolfman and co.
It’s a fairly convoluted story which doesn’t make a great deal of sense (something to do with turning women into waxworks and attempting to raise a long-dead pharaoh). But this is Carry On, where the story is usually the least important aspect. It’s got the other ingredients you come to expect: innuendo (although not as thick and fast – fnar! – as other films in the series), wordplay (the “Watt’s his name?” gag is such a joy to watch) and slapstick. And it is very funny. Yes, it’s dated, and yes, certain behaviours performed by the protagonists are frowned upon in twenty-first-century society, but on the whole, this is a film series at the very top of its game, with some of the UK’s greatest comic performers of the time doing what they did best. Such is the quality of the writing and the skill of the performers that I laughed out loud several times at punchlines that I knew were coming!
This film absolutely belongs to Fielding and Williams! Williams gives, as always, a great performance. Camp, snooty and superior, if a little neurotic and vulnerable. And Fielding just simmers – literally! She’s great to watch and delivers her famous killer line without a hint of irony, making the fun all the more delicious!
Do you mind if I smoke?
Series regulars Jim Dale, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth, Charles Hawtree and Bernard Breslaw all put in admirable work too. Harry H Corbett, making his only Carry On performance as the hapless Detective Bung, along with Butterworth’s dimwitted Constable Slobotham, make for more competent police officers than Trout and Schenley from The Abominable Doctor Phibes – a film which, bizarrely, is heavily influenced by Carry On Screaming – itself a homage/parody of Hammer and Universal horror films.
Is it scary? Not at all. Is it fun? A whole lot!
Aaron’s Choice – Phantasm (1979)
What do you get when you mix dwarves, a tall man, deadly spheres, a mausoleum and a red mining planet? 1979’s Phantasm.
It’s amazing that Phantasm did as well as it did at the time considering it’s completely off the wall plot about a tall man who turns dead bodies onto dwarves to serve his otherworldly needs, all the while a young boy and an ice cream man try to thwart him. People seemed to love it and it spawned 4 sequels over 37 years with largely the same cast.
The premise and sheer barmy plot are what drew me to the film as a kid but it is the sheer originality and awesomeness of the film that draws me back nowadays. It is a stupid film and can’t be taken seriously. From the sound effects of the dwarves to the sheer crazy reason why they’ve been made dwarves, the film embraces it.
Although I’ve said it’s stupid I don’t mean the film is so bad it’s good. It is genuinely a great horror film and has some really tense, creepy moments. It also has one of my favourite endings of any horror film.
The late Angus Scrimm creates a truly iconic villain in the Tall Man. He is imposing and scary. He says very little but what he does say leaves a lasting impression. The other iconic bad guys the film released into the world are the deadly silver spheres which guard the mausoleum. They may not look scary by today’s standards but I feel they would be in reality.
Phantasm is a film that’s stuck with me since a young age and has continued to be one of my favourite films. Sure some of it has dated a little but it is coming up to 40 years old and it’s still far better than most horror films released in recent years.
Nathaniel’s Choice – The Astronaut’s Wife (1999)
This time our resident YouTuber watches Rosemary’s Baby Meets Devil’s Advocate IN SPAAAAAACE! Watch his review below: