TIME MACHINE OF TERROR! 1971: Year of the Horny Europeans in Castles
by Mark McLaughlin
Welcome back to the Time Machine of Terror! — or TMOT! for short.
First, the basics, for those of you who have not yet read the previous installment of this blog. I purchased the TMOT! at a quaint little shoppe of second-hand horrors known as PROFESSOR LAGUNGO’S EXOTIC ARTIFACTS & ASSORTED MYSTIC COLLECTIBLES.
The TMOT! resembles a giant, batwinged alarm clock. And while it can zip around with chronological ease, it can only visit the movies and TV shows of other time periods. It was already broken when the shoppe-keeper, Professor LaGungo, acquired it, and his attempts to repair it with parts from VCRs, TVs and film projectors only partially fixed it.
But then, he did the best he could. The TMOT! runs off of ancient Lemurian time-technology, and there aren’t any ancient Lemurians around to fix it.
Back in 1970, Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw starred in LOVE STORY, the tender tale of a young couple whose romance holds only one problem — the girl is terminally ill. Bummer! The slogan of that poignant melodrama was “Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.”
The next year, another movie came along with a poster that showed a beautiful woman smooching with a guy whose face resembled a dried-out skull partially covered with a scarred layer of leathery hide.
The movie was THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES and its slogan was “Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Ugly.” Let’s set the TMOT! for 1971 and find out a bit more about Dr. Phibes, and also see what else what going on that year.
Here are some notable dates from 1971:
On January 2, cigarette advertisements were banned from radio and television in the United States.
On January 12, the classic sitcom ALL IN THE FAMILY premiered on CBS.
On January 25, Charles Manson and three of his cult members were found guilty of the Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969.
On February 5, Apollo 14 landed on the Moon and returned to Earth on February 9.
On February 20, 74 people died when multiple tornadoes swarmed across Mississippi.
On May 12, an earthquake tore apart the city of Burdur in Turkey. On May 22, Bingöl, Turkey was also hit by an earthquake, killing more than 1,000.
On June 18, Southwest Airlines began flights between the Texas cities of San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston.
On June 30, the Soyuz 11 spacecraft sprang a leak and lost its air supply, killing the crew.
On July 3, rock star Jim Morrison was found dead in a Parisian bathtub.
On July 31, Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin took the first lunar rover ride on the Moon. On August 7, Apollo 15 came home.
On September 4, a Boeing 727 crashed into an Alaskan mountain, killing 111 passengers.
On September 8, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts opened in Washington, DC. On October 1, Walt Disney World opened in Florida. But not all the world’s entertainment centers enjoyed good fortune: on October 28, Cairo’s Egyptian Opera House burned down.
On November 13, Mariner 9 became the first spacecraft to enter Mars’ orbit with success.
On November 24, the mysterious D. B. Cooper parachuted from a plane he’d hijacked, along with $200,000 in ransom money. He was never seen again.
On December 18, the world’s largest hydroelectric plant revved into action in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
The top film of the year was FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. The latest James Bond adventure was DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, and the year’s top Disney film was BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS.
Before we peek in on Dr. Phibes, let’s visit a few other 1971 locales, shall we?
1971 was apparently a good year for imposters, if the movie THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE is any indication. It’s an Italian production with mostly Italian actors, but they’re all pretending they’re English. The dubbed-in voices won’t fool you – they’re all Italians speaking English and striving to sound like upper-class Brits. Couldn’t they have hired David Niven or even Mollie Sugden for a weekend to do some voicework?
This suspenseful horror-mystery concerns a wealthy, mentally ill young gent, Lord Cunningham, who is madly obsessed with his dead, red-haired wife, Evelyn. He cruises nightclubs looking for beautiful redheads so he can take them back to the castle for some psychotic love-games. These games soon turn lethal — or do they? Is he actually murdering any of these women?
He eventually meets and falls in love with a blonde, and soon proposes to her. She thinks she’s pretty lucky to have caught a handsome millionaire. But her luck takes a turn for the worse when she decides to try on a red wig for kicks.
THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE has loads of plot twists and turns, and also features the lovely Erika Blanc, a seductive redhead whose every expression and movement pulsates with smoldering sexuality. Today’s cinema would have you believe that Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway are hot stuff, but they’re just skinny, flickering birthday candles compared to the erotic lava-flow known as Erika Blanc.
Erika Blanc plays an erotic dancer who Lord Cunningham menaces for a while, but we eventually learn that this particular redhead is a formidable opponent and basically, the wrong lady to mess with.
Erika Blanc was pretty busy in 1971. In THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE, or LA TERRIFICANTE NOTTE DEL DEMONIO, she stars as a mysterious woman who is not only the daughter of a rich Nazi, but also a lascivious sex-demon, or succubus (wouldn’t you like to hear Daffy Duck trying to pronounce “lascivious Nazi succubus’?).
One night, a busload of tourists is stranded at her family’s ancestral castle, and she decides to send them all straight to Hades, with the help of a skinny little weirdo who is apparently the Devil. It’s odd to think of the Devil as skinny and little, but then, he was a snake in Eden, and that’s pretty darned skinny and little.
So, one by one, the tourists are killed off, all dying in the act of committing a mortal sin. That sort of thing guarantees each of them a one-way ticket to Hell. But then, as tourists, they should be willing to visit exciting new ports of call.
The henna-haired horror-honey is not unopposed in her efforts. One of the tourists is a handsome young seminarian, and it’s quite amusing, watching our diabolical darling try to bump and grind her way into his affections.
Does our titillating Teutonic terror-tart triumph? Does our sizzling succubus succeed when confronted with Holy Roman chastity? It would be a mortal sin to give away the ending.
I do want to mention this, as a side note: The last frame of the movie is an art-card of the words ‘The End’ in Italian: FINE. So if you don’t like the ending, that’s FINE by me!
More sultry Seventies devil-women spice up the silver screen in another sexy Euro-potboiler, THE WEREWOLF VS. VAMPIRE WOMEN. Paul Naschy stars as a rich, horny werewolf with a crazy sister and his very own castle. Apparently, the economy and people’s libidos were both great in Europe in 1971, because as you can see from the movies so far, everyone back then was sex-crazed and had their own castle.
Two pretty lady travelers happen upon the castle of the werewolf, and they soon become his guests. One becomes the werewolf’s lover and the other is turned into a vampire when she is bitten by Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy, the local version of Countess Bathory.
At one point, the werewolf (in human form during the day) has to bury his sister, who is a victim of the vampire. To make sure his sister doesn’t become a vampire (as vampire-victims so often do), he drives a stake through her heart and cuts off her head. I can just see him at the bar later that night: “What a day! I had to dig my sister’s grave, drive a stake through her heart AND cut off her head. I’m always doing things for other people — I never get any ‘me’ time!”
The finale is a battle royale between the werewolf and the corpuscle-craving countess. This scene is worth sitting through all the movie’s more boring stretches (mainly, scenes of people explaining the matters-at-hand to each other, thus providing the audience with exposition). And after all, when was the last time you saw a really good fight between a werewolf and a vampire in a mantilla? For that matter, when was the last time you saw anyone in a mantilla, let alone a vampire?
The title character of LADY FRANKENSTEIN is also horny and lives in a castle, and she even goes so far as to create a composite lover out of a mentally challenged hunk and an aging scientist who helps her with her experiments. You have to admire her resourcefulness in working with the resources at hand, with minimal waste. Now that’s one environment-conscious insane lady scientist.
This movie stars veteran actor Joseph Cotten as Dr. Frankenstein, and his matter-of-fact action-hero voice sounds odd, coming out of a German doctor’s voice in a dubbed Italian horror epic. They didn’t dub his voice, but should have.
In LEGACY OF BLOOD, an elderly millionaire, played with relish by John Carradine, passes away and leaves his fortune to his adult children — with one stipulation (but then, the last will and testament in any horror movie always has a catch to it). The heirs have to spend a week in his mansion to collection the fortune, and pretty soon a mysterious murderer begins picking them off, one by one. Of course, they have sex with their various partners to pass the time — in an American mansion instead of a European castle, but still, it’s a pricey piece of real estate.
In the horror classic DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, we have another vampire Countess Bathory — and unlike the one in the werewolf movie, this one doesn’t wear a mantilla. This one wears a red sequined evening gown and furs and red, red lipstick. This one also has wavy blonde hair, a coy smile and no fangs. She is accompanied by a younger lesbian lover/companion, who is profoundly tired of the jet-set vampire lifestyle her more experienced lover has enjoyed for centuries.
The Countess and her companion check into a huge, grand hotel which is practically empty since it is located in a remote location (in Europe, of course) and it is the off-season. Soon the Countess starts eyeballing a young married couple, the only other guests staying there.
The vampire and her vixen play cat-and-mouse with the couple through most of the movie, and we soon learn that the husband is not only a sex-fiend, but also a psychological train-wreck. Can this marriage be saved? Don’t bet on it. Kinky lovemaking in a lavish setting strikes again — and soon, everything changes for the Countess, her companion, and the newlyweds.
And now, let’s look in on THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. There’s no sex in this one, but the good doctor, played by Vincent Price, is totally in love with his wife — and he does live in a beautiful mansion in England. Unfortunately, Mrs. Phibes dies during a surgical operation, and Dr. Phibes gets his face burned off when his limo crashes as he hurries to get to the hospital to be with her. He gets better and learns to how to rebuild his facial features with putty, make-up and wigs, and as you can well imagine, it’s a major understatement to say that he’s pissed off at the doctors and nurse whose efforts failed to keep his wife alive.
Dr. Phibes begins killing off the medical team one by one, using the ten curses of the Old Testament as his weapons. Bats, boils, hail, rats, locusts … the body count climbs as the curses tally up.
Because of the injuries he received in the car crash, Dr. Phibes now speaks through a tube in his neck, which means that Vincent Price plays the part without opening his mouth once. Surely this was a cinematic first for Vinny, who was always eager to chew up the scenery. The doctor has an assistant — Virginia North as the beautiful, mute Vulnavia — and her graceful presence adds elegance and sultry allure to the proceedings.
THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES is stylish, suspenseful, and fiendishly clever. Every detail is perfect. The English detectives are entertaining in their befuddlement, and the jazzy soundtrack is quite enjoyable. It’s even fun watching the clockwork musicians as they perform with mechanical precision in Dr. Phibes’ grand ballroom.
Speaking of clockwork, the TMOT! is sounding a little creaky, so I’d better steer it back to the present day and oil it up. It really was amazing to see how many rich folks were knocking boots in their European castles back in 1971. The economy has sure gone downhill since then! People aren’t buying castles any more — but hey, at least love is free (and if you’re paying for it, I don’t want to know).
Until next time!
Mark McLaughlin’s latest books are the ebook novel, MONSTER BEHIND THE WHEEL from www.MedallionPress.com and PARTNERS IN SLIME, a story collection from www.DamnationBooks.com. Both books were co-written by Mark’s frequent collaborator, Michael McCarty. You can befriend Mark on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/MarkMcLaughlinMedia.