Happy Birthday to Three Horror Legends
Visitors to this humble blog may have noted a dearth of content of late. The fact of the matter is, things have been pretty crazy here around the Stalking Moon premises. Not only has the day job been at its busiest peak, we've also been dealing with the nervous tension and stress created by our 8-month-old son going through heart surgery, leaving me with very little enthusiasm or energy to write. Now that our boy is through the worst of it and is recovering nicely (thank God), I've regained some of my usual vim and vigor, and realized that I couldn't let the end of May pass without saying a few words about those three icons of horror cinema, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price.
Even those who don't much care for the horror genre will likely recognize the above three names. But what many might not be aware of is that all three men were not only great friends in real life, but also were born within the same two days of each other (in fact, Cushing and Lee were both born on the same day). Being as 2013 marks Peter Cushing's 100th birthday, I thought I'd celebrate this momentous occasion by spending a little time talking about some of these three fellows' most memorable performances, both the ones everyone remembers them for, as well as a few gems perhaps less well-known than they deserve to be.
At the Earth's Core (1976)
"You can't hypnotize me...I'm British!"
Aside from Tarzan, the fantasy/adventure classics of Edgar Rice Burroughs have not fared so well on film. Since so much of Burroughs' work dates from 75 to 100 years ago, and so many filmmakers, from George Lucas to James Cameron, have been inspired by (some may say begged, borrowed or just plain stole from) him over the years, that when someone tries to do a more-or-less faithful rendition of one of his works, like last year's mega-budget misfire John Carter, the results can come off as stale and overly familiar.
Back in the 1970s, though, the time seemed ripe for Burroughs' patented style of pacy pulp adventure storytelling. The nostalgia boom was still going strong, with various publishing houses releasing massive paperback runs of nearly all of Burroughs books, not to mention stories by Robert E. Howard (featuring Conan, Solomon Kane and other series characters), E.E. Doc Smith's Lensmen novels, reprints of Doc Savage and The Shadow pulps, etc.
In Britain, the independent production company Amicus (most noted for their horror anthologies like From Beyond the Grave, Asylum, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, et al) took a chance and brought three of Burroughs' more memorable novels to the big screen. Amicus, founded by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, enjoyed a certain level of success and made some fine genre films. To say their efforts in bringing Burroughs' larger-than-life, elaborate lost worlds to film were not entirely successful would be an understatement. However, the three films in question - The Land that Time Forgot (1975) and its sequel, The People That Time Forgot (1977) (based off the Caspak trilogy) and At the Earth's Core (1976) (the first book in the Pellucidar series) - all have their hearts in the right place and bring plenty of old-fashioned fun to the table. For those of us who saw these movies as youngsters when they first came out, they still hold a certain nostalgic appeal that (just barely) transcends their clumsy monster effects and general silliness, and most of their (many) faults can be blamed on the production teams' trying to do far too much with way too limited means.
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