Bloodthirsty Butchers – 1970, UK/US, 79m. Director: Andy Milligan. Streaming: Tubi
House of the Long Shadows – 1983, UK, 101m. Director: Pete Walker. Streaming: Tubi
King Kong – 1933, US, 100m. Director: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack. Streaming: Max
BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (1970) Staten Island’s own Andy Milligan (The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!) once again returned to his beloved England for this splatter movie variation on the Sweeney Todd story. Fleet Street’s Mrs. Lovett (Jane Hilary) gifts her London neighborhood with ample meat pies, the contents of which are supplied by Sweeney Todd (John Miranda). But Todd isn’t a butcher in the normal sense of the word—Sweeney is a womanizing barber who murders his clients and sends the remains to Mrs. Lovett’s oven. Expect a lot of non-acting, rough editing, harsh lighting, third-rate makeup effects, and absence of any kind of story or character structure. In other words, a typical Milligan production. Funniest scene: after a woman walks in on the carnage in Mrs. Lovett’s cellar, she heaves and vomits on a police inspector. Stephen Sondheim need not worry. D–
HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983) Kenneth Magee (Desi Arnaz Jr.), an arrogant American writer on tour in London, makes a $25,000 bet with his publisher that he can whip up an epic novel better than Wuthering Heights in twenty-four hours. In order to get the full gothic experience, Kenneth’s publisher suggests he travel to the Welsh countryside and an abandoned manor where Kenneth can get the inspiration for his new masterpiece. But instead of an empty house Kenneth discovers the place filled with the eccentric Grisbane family, including Lionel Grisbane (Vincent Price), who’s just returned to his ancestral home after having been away for decades. More members of the Grisbane clan arrive, as well as the mysterious Corrigan (Christopher Lee), who claims he’s purchased the property for demolition. Oh, there’s also a secret, murderous Grisbane who’s been locked away since they were fourteen and is now running amok. It’s fun to see some of horror’s most iconic faces together—Peter Cushing and John Carradine round out the cast—and the writers were obviously paying tribute to the “old dark house” chillers of yesteryear. There is some blood towards the end, but those expecting a typically gory Pete (The Flesh and Blood Show) Walker vehicle will be disappointed in House of the Long Shadow‘s restrained handling of the material. Ironically, the movie would have benefited from some additional splatter to fill in the plot holes and the somewhat meandering screenplay. C+
KING KONG (1933) One of the most iconic films of all time, this RKO classic still holds up today as a genuine masterwork of special FX storytelling. An expedition headed by infamous explorer/filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) to an exotic, isolated piece of land referred to as Skull Mountain—Skull Island would become the more popular name in subsequent sequels and remakes—runs smack into Kong, a mammoth ape-like creature that develops eyes for Carl’s newest starlet, Ann Darrow (original Scream Queen, Fay Wray). After a brisk jungle adventure where Carl and his merry crew of camera operators and seamen run afoul of dinosaurs, pythons, and other toothy terrors, Carl gases Kong and brings him back to New York City to star in the Carl Denham Production of “King Kong: The Eighth Wonder of the World.” To the surprise of nobody, Kong breaks free and wreaks havoc in the busy city streets—and kills a lot of people in the processes—eventually culminating to the movie’s famous Empire State Building climax. With its seamless mix of groundbreaking special effects work, crackerjack pacing, and general excitement, King Kong remains a magical experience and precursor to the modern blockbuster. A–
The Video Verdict, a movie podcast I cohost with Frank Pittarese, is now available on Spotify! Listen to our latest episode on King Kong!