Horror '73: An Annus Horribilis at 40
October 20–November 26
A landmark year for horror cinema, 1973 was the year William Friedkin's THE EXORCIST cleaned up at the box office on its way to earning 10 Oscar nominations, including a win for Best Screenplay; Nicholas Roeg's DON'T LOOK NOW set a new standard for arthouse/grindhouse comingling–not to mention that of stars Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, and their still-legendary on-screen love scenes; and while British horror stalwarts Hammer, Amicus, and Tigon had all begun their inevitable decline, British Lion released the one-of-a-kind cult classic THE WICKER MAN.
THE EXORCIST and THE WICKER MAN will receive 40th anniversary re-releases this fall, but many fascinating titles from this era are known today only through home video viewing or by reputation, if at all. Horror '73 offers fans of the genre an opportunity to see nearly 20 of these innovative and diverse experiments in screen terror in their proper setting—a dark theater—with many titles screened from rare archival prints.
AFI Member passes accepted at all screenings in the Horror '73 series.
THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE
Obsessed with the possibility of life after death, a dying millionaire funds an expedition to the "Mount Everest of haunted houses," the Belasco Mansion. The team is led by paranormal researcher and physicist Dr. Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill), and includes his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt) and two psychic mediums—spiritualist Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) and cynical Ben Fischer (Roddy McDowall), the lone survivor of a disastrous previous exploration. The coolly rationalist Barrett has developed a machine that can absorb the stray electromagnetic energy he believes "ghosts" really are—but is his science any match for the murder, madness, angry furniture and erotically charged forces on the loose?
DIR John Hough; SCR Richard Matheson, from his novel "Hell House"; PROD Albert Fennell, Norman T. Herman. UK, 1973, color, 95 min, 35mm. RATED PG
Sun, Oct 20, 9:20; Wed, Oct 23, 9:00
DON'T LOOK NOW
Nicholas Roeg's landmark film—controversial in its day for both its startlingly frank sex scenes between stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, and its innovative, complex editing structure, full of flashbacks, flash-forwards and intricate visual clues and associations—has only seen its stature grow over the years. Reeling with grief after losing their young daughter in a drowning accident at their English country home, architect John Baxter (Sutherland) and wife Laura (Christie) decamp to Venice for a church restoration job and a much-needed change of scenery. But in the labyrinthine streets of this ancient city, strange visions of a red-cloaked figure—their daughter?—and the unnerving pronouncements of two creepy old sisters Laura befriends have the couple on edge, and contemplating the supernatural. Dreamlike, hallucinatory and ultimately enigmatic, this is a spellbinding cinematic experience.
DIR Nicholas Roeg; SCR Allan Scott, Chris Bryant, from a story by Daphne du Maurier; PROD Peter Katz. UK/Italy, 1973, color, 110 min, 35mm. RATED R
Mon, Oct 21, 9:00; Thu, Oct 24, 9:00
THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA aka COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDES
This unusual Hammer horror film is much more in the tradition of James Bond spy capers, conspiracy thrillers and dystopian sci-fi than the Gothic vampire tales the studio had made its name with. Scotland Yard uncovers a satanic cult whose members include key cabinet officials and powerful peers, with plans to unleash a super strand of the bubonic plague upon humanity. Consulting with occult expert Prof. Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), assisted by his lovely granddaughter Jessica (Joanna Lumley), the Yard follows up a lead on a reclusive real-estate developer named D. D. Denham—Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) in disguise. For many, Cushing and Lumley's sleuthing duo is reminiscent of 1960s TV hit THE AVENGERS, if not DOCTOR WHO—screenwriter Don Houghton was a veteran of the series—and Cushing had himself played the Doctor in two movie versions.
DIR Alan Gibson; SCR Don Houghton; PROD Roy Skeggs. UK, 1973, color, 87 min, 35mm. RATED R
Sat, Oct 26, 12 midnight; Thu, Oct 31, 9:45--note new time!
Brian De Palma's first thriller combines multiple Hitchcockian homages with a nasty knack for horrifically creative screen homicide—a template to which he would return again and again over the length of his career. Margot Kidder plays Danielle, a glamorous model-actress who was separated from her conjoined twin, Dominique, only after reaching adulthood. But sibling bonds—especially this one—die hard. Journalist Jennifer Salt witnesses Danielle—or was it Dominique?—murdering her date in the window across from hers; failing to convince the police of what she saw, she and private eye Charles Durning begin an investigation of their own. De Palma makes distinctive use of split screens during several tense action scenes, enhanced by Bernard Herrmann's pulsating score.
DIR/SCR Brian De Palma; SCR Louisa Rose; PROD Edward R. Pressman. US, 1973, color, 93 min, 35mm. RATED R
Sun, Oct 27, 9:00–note new time!; Wed, Oct 30, 9:15
TORSO [I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale]
This controversial film from giallo specialist Sergio Martino (THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH, ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK) marks a key transition point from the genre's roots in crime fiction and mystery to proto-slasher cinema, larding on ever-more gruesome killings, gore and sexual content. After the murder of three undergrads rocks their campus, best friends Jane (Suzy Kendall) and Danni (Tina Aumont), seeking peace and quiet, leave campus for the countryside and a visit to the villa of Jane's art history professor. But the ski-masked killer, realizing that Jane was a witness to his crime, follows the girls there.
DIR/SCR Sergio Martino; SCR Ernesto Gastaldi; PROD Carlo Ponti. Italy, 1973, color, 92 min. RATED R
Fri, Nov 1, 11:40--note new time!; Mon, Nov 4, 9:40; Wed, Nov 6, 9:15
FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN
Director Paul Morrissey takes on the horror genre to exploit its exploitativeness, resulting in an absurdly funny, ambivalently sexy and exceedingly gory horror-comedy. The one and only Udo Kier (DANCER IN THE DARK, BREAKING THE WAVES) plays the role of Baron Frankenstein—now married (to his sister!) with children (little creeps)—who spends way too much time in his lab. He has successfully created a beautiful woman and hopes to transplant the brain of lusty peasant Joe Dallesandro for her mate. See it on the big screen, in CinemaScope, in all its tasteless glory.
DIR/SCR Paul Morrissey; SCR Tonino Guerra, Pat Hackett; PROD Andrew Braunsberg, Lou Peraino, Carlo Ponti, Andy Warhol. Italy/France, 1973, color, 95 min. RATED R
Sat, Nov 2, 11:45--note new time!; Sun, Nov 3, 9:20
THE VAULT OF HORROR
Ripped from the terrifying pages of EC Comics, this underrated horror omnibus is the semi-sequel to TALES FROM THE CRYPT. In a London office building, five men hop on an elevator, only to be let out in the basement and trapped in a mysterious room. While they wait for rescue, the conversation turns to dreams as each man shares his horrifying recurring nightmares. Filled with murder, curses, vampires, voodoo—and insurance scams—you won't soon forget these fiendish tales. One memorable segment stars a pre-DOCTOR WHO Tom Baker as a wronged painter, with the power to make the subjects of his portraits suffer with the flick of his brush.
DIR Roy Ward Baker; SCR/PROD Milton Subotsky, from stories by Al Feldstein and William M. Gaines; PROD Max Rosenberg. UK/US, 1973, color, 83 min, 35mm. RATED R
Sun, Nov 3, 5:00; Thu, Nov 7, 7:15
THE CRAZIES (1973)
When a military plane crashes in Evans City, Pennsylvania, a mysterious toxin seeps into the water supply, turning the small-town residents into big-time killers. The biological weapon, codenamed "Trixie," leaves its victims either dead or psychologically deranged. Vietnam vet David and his pregnant wife Judy must escape the military-enforced quarantine, the crazed townsfolk and a band of rednecks to get to safety. Five years after NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, George Romero crafted another powerful allegory about government cover-ups and conspiracies in the shadow of Watergate and several high-profile environmental disasters.
DIR/SCR George Romero; SCR Paul McCollough; PROD A. C. Croft. US, 1973, color, 103 min, 35mm. RATED R
LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL
Tue, Nov 5, 9:00; Thu, Nov 7, 9:15
"LEMORA exists in a suffocating, ur-Southern Gothic nightscape all its own. Unashamedly shoestring, Blackburn's dream odyssey through pubertal agony drips with Freudian syrup, but it's also a fervidly physical film—the midnight back alleys of Old South ghost towns are not places you'll be longing to revisit. More so even than CARNIVAL OF SOULS and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, this mysterious phantasm plays like a visit to the underworld." –Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice
Richard Blackburn's legendary Southern Gothic vampire fable—much rumored about, little seen, and, though sadly shorn of nearly half an hour's footage, still potent in its truncated form—stands out for its original take on vampire mythology, full of Freudian fairy-tale imagery, aquiver with provocative psychosexual tension. In the Deep South of the 1920s, young Lila Lee (Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith) receives a desperate letter from her ne'er-do-well father and, leaving the care of Rev. Mueller (Blackburn), goes to look for him in the mysterious town of Astaroth. Menaced by a pack of beastly vampires in the swampy woods outside of town, Lila is rescued by the regal Lemora (Leslie Gilb), who welcomes her to her mansion. But Lemora, despite her beauty and grace, is a vampire, too, less monstrous than the swamp-dwellers but even more dangerous. And she has taken an intense interest in Lila's fate.
DIR/SCR Richard Blackburn; SCR/PROD Robert Fern. US, 1973, color, 85 min, 16mm. RATED PG
The Restored Director's Cut of
Fri, Nov 8, 9:15; Thu, Nov 14, 9:00
GANJA & HESS
New 35mm Print!
Originally looking to capitalize on the success of BLACULA, this bloodthirsty combo of horror and Blaxploitation wound up aiming higher and evolved into an art-house thriller about addiction, culture clashes and moral redemption. Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) is a well-respected anthropologist who comes under the spell of an ancient African dagger and soon thirsts for blood. But eternal life comes at a cost, something Hess discovers when he falls in love with Ganja (Marlene Clark). Drastically recut by its original studio, unhappy with the perceived pretensions of the film's writer/director Bill Gunn (screenwriter of Hal Ashby's THE LANDLORD), the uncut version can now be seen in this beautifully restored print.
DIR/SCR Bill Gunn; PROD Chiz Schultz. US, 1973, color, 110 min, 35mm. RATED R
Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Film Foundation.
MESSIAH OF EVIL
Sat, Nov 9, 9:30--note new time!; Tue, Nov 12, 9:00
A visual punchline in Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL—Alvy Singer's suspicions about a sinister L.A. lurking beneath the shiny surface are confirmed by a theater marquee running this film—MESSIAH OF EVIL is fascinatingly of its time. Made on the cheap by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (Oscar-nominated for the screenplay to George Lucas's AMERICAN GRAFITTI, their other 1973 release), USC film school grads steeped in American counter-culture and European New Wave cinema, the frankly confusing story (extensively reworked in the editing) about flesh-eating zombies in a coastal California town and the prophesied return of a satanic figure, the Dark Stranger, is short on genuine scares but long on bizarre atmosphere. Legendary production designer Jack Fisk and frequent Terrence Malick editor Billy Weber received some of their first screen credits here, as did future writer/director/producer Walter Hill, making his lone appearance as an actor to date.
DIR/SCR Willard Huyck; SCR/PROD Gloria Katz. US, 1973, color, 90 min, 35mm. RATED R
THE KILLING KIND
Sun, Nov 10, 9:45; Mon, Nov 11, 9:45
A provocative, long-unseen gem from underground auteur Curtis Harrington (NIGHT TIDE, GAMES, WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?, WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?), rediscovered decades later on DVD after a botched theatrical release in the 1970s. Forced to participate in a gang rape, the highly suggestible, mother-fixated Terry Lambert (John Savage) returns home from a stint in prison. He's welcomed home with open arms by his domineering mother (Ann Sothern), who runs a dowdy Hollywood boarding house. After an offhand remark by his mother blaming Terry's sentence on the victim, who lied about some crucial evidence, and his attorney's failure to get him off, Terry tracks down and murders them both. His mother's smothering love has made Terry a killer—and it may be the only thing that can stop him.
DIR Curtis Harrington; SCR Tony Crechales; SCR/PROD George Edwards. US, 1973, color, 95 min, DVD. RATED R
Fri, Nov 15, 9:15; Mon, Nov 18, 9:35
Victorian scientist and amateur photographer Sir Hugo Cunningham (eminent Shakespearean Robert Stephens) has a morbid fascination with death, taking photos of the deceased at the exact moment they pass on. His photo documentation reveals a mysterious blur escaping the newly dead—scientific evidence of the soul, or "asphyx" as he terms it—which, if trapped, could ensure immortality. Striking visuals by Oscar-winning cinematographer Freddie Young (DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) lend class to a film Variety declared a "thinking man's horror film."
DIR Peter Newbrook; SCR Brian Comport, story by Christina and Laurence Beers; PROD John Brittany. UK, 1973, color, 83 min, 35mm. RATED PG
Sat, Nov 16, 11:00 a.m.; Wed, Nov 20, 9:15
THEATRE OF BLOOD
Savaged by theater critics throughout his career, Shakespearean ham actor Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) fakes his suicide to return as a vengeful ghost, doing in his critics one by one with murder methods quoted from the Bard's plays. Price kills—onstage and off—in this wry camp classic, abetted in his skullduggery by loyal daughter Diana Rigg; the excellent cast includes Robert Morley, Jack Hawkins, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Joan Hickson and Price's future wife Coral Browne.
DIR Douglas Hickox; SCR Anthony Greville-Bell; PROD John Kohn, Stanley Mann. UK, 1973, color, 104 min, 35mm. RATED R
THE CREEPING FLESH
Sat, Nov 16, 9:15; Wed, Nov 20, 6:30 (Montgomery College Show)
Scientist Peter Cushing's discovery of an ancient skeleton may just be the incarnation of evil that can provide an antidote to man's worst instincts. But Christopher Lee, warden of the local madhouse, has other ideas. Word to the wise: don't inject your daughter with blood extracted from ancient corpses. "The best 'something-evil-shows-up-in-England-in-a-box' film ever made!" –George Murer.
DIR Freddie Francis; SCR Peter Spenceley, Jonathan Rumbold; PROD Michael P. Redbourn. UK, 1973, color, 94 min, 35mm. RATED PG
Sun, Nov 17, 11:00 a.m.; Thu, Nov 21, 9:30
New York, 2022: Ecological disaster has struck. The world is overheated, overpopulated, mostly unemployed and underfed. The masses subsist on the Soylent Corporation's bland processed food, while the privileged pay exorbitant amounts for even a small taste of natural foods. Jaded cop Charlton Heston, called on to investigate the murder of Soylent exec Joseph Cotten, at first just enjoys making himself at home in the rich man's world of entitlement, high above the teeming masses. But the secrets he uncovers lead to one of the screen's most wicked revelations. Edward G. Robinson, in his final role, turns in a moving performance as Heston's best friend.
DIR Richard Fleischer; SCR Stanley R. Greenberg, from the novel "Make Room! Make Room!" by Harry Harrison; PROD Walter Seltzer, Russell Thacher. US, 1973, color, 97 min, 35mm. RATED PG
Fri, Nov 22, 3:30; Sat, Nov 23, 11:00 a.m.; Sun, Nov 24, 11:00 a.m.;
Mon, Nov 25, 5:00; Tue, Nov 26, 5:00
THE WICKER MAN
A remote Scottish isle inhabited by neo-pagans practicing fertility rites and sexual magic provides the setting for one of the coolest, creepiest cult classics from the 1970s, written by Tony Award winner Anthony Shaffer (SLEUTH). Devout, uptight constable Edward Woodward comes to Summerisle following an anonymous tip about a missing girl but is puzzled by the islanders' seeming lack of concern, truly alarmed by their beliefs and oblivious to the danger he's in. Sexy Britt Ekland dances up a storm, and horror film icon Christopher Lee clearly relishes his role as Lord Summerisle, the dandyish local noble. With Ingrid Pitt and Diane Cilento.
DIR Robin Hardy; SCR Anthony Shaffer; PROD Peter Snell. UK, 1973, color, 88 min, DCP. RATED R
Fri, Nov 22, 9:30; Sat, Nov 23, 7:45; Sun, Nov 24, 4:45
— AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS!
Anthology specialists Amicus switch things up with this feature-length Gothic chiller, a gloss on REBECCA, with a bit of ROSEMARY'S BABY thrown in for good measure.
Charles Fengriffen (Ian Ogilvy) brings new bride Catherine (Stephanie Beacham) home to his ancestral family mansion, once the site of an unspeakable debauchery. There, on her wedding night, Catherine is raped by a spectral presence, and left in a state of hysteria. Unable to do anything for her, the family doctor, Dr. Whittle (Patrick Magee) summons in an expert, Dr. Pope (Peter Cushing), who recognizes the telltale signs of "sexual relations with demons" when he sees them. Lurid, and often laughably contrived (many characters are done in just as they're about to reveal some secret), the film nonetheless boasts an excellent cast and an impressively psychotic finale.
DIR Roy Ward Baker; SCR Roger Marshall, from the novel "Fengriffen" by David Case; PROD Milton Subotsky, Max Rosenberg. UK, 1973, color, 91 min, 35mm. RATED R
Sat, Nov 23, 11:05 a.m.; Sun, Nov 24, 9:30; Mon, Nov 25, 9:20
BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO
Peter Strickland's (KATALIN VARGA) inspired homage to 1970s-era Italian horror filmmaking finds shy, retiring English soundman Gilderoy (Toby Jones, in an impressive performance), a veteran of nature documentaries, taking a job at the gloomy Berberian Sound Studio in Italy to work on the sound editing for THE EQUESTRIAN VORTEX, a depraved giallo about Satanic doings at a girls' school. He gets to work recording actresses belting out operatic screams and sound techs quashing a cornucopia of vegetables, all in an effort to simulate the most convincing sounds of terror and grievous bodily harm. But as his taskmaster producer pushes him to work day and night, the intensity of the work begins to take a toll on Gilderoy's fragile psyche. The psychedelic score by Broadcast, alternately pounding and moody, greatly enhances the atmospheric and aural authenticity of this new cult classic. "Seriously weird and seriously good." –Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.
DIR/SCR Peter Strickland; PROD Mary Burke, Keith Griffiths. UK, 2012, color, 92 min, DCP. NOT RATED
Sat, Nov 23, 9:45; Tue, Nov 26, 9:20