Thursday, October 23, 2014

Death Valley - Ralphie Runs For His Life!!!

Death Valley
D: Dick Richards
W: Richard Rothstein

S: Paul Le Mat, Catherine Hicks & Peter Billingley
Rated R     -     Approx. 87 Minutes
Cinema VII

 - Welcome To Death Valley

 - Not even a scream escapes...

Alternate Titles
Pesadelo no Vale da Morte (Nightmare in Death Valley)  - Brazil
El valle de la muerte (The Valley of Death)  - Colombia
La Vallée de la Mort (The Valley of Death) - France
Dolina smierci (Valley of Death) - Poland
O Vale das Sombras (The Valley of Shadows) - Portugal

Küçük Kahraman - Ölüm Vadisi  (Little Hero - Death Valley)- Turkey

"Billy, the phone's's for you."

I love it when a movie comes out of nowhere and endlessly surprises me.  I hadn't heard of Death Valley before Scream Factory released their Blu Ray/DVD double disc.....though the cover did look oddly familiar.  Perhaps I glimpsed it at a video store in my youth and then forgot about it, who knows.  The point is that this was a blind buy for me.  I knew I had to buy it as soon as I saw Peter Billingsley was in it.

"HOLY SHIT!  RALPHIE'S IN A HORROR MOVIE!" I shouted to no one in particular.

I bought it and there it stayed in the movie vault for some time.  Then the whole nearly getting shot in the head thing happened, we packed up and moved in the the wilds of New Hampshire and I forgot all about it until I was searching through my film library this evening looking for some rainy night entertainment and I came face to face with this magnificent cover again.

"BINGO!"  I yelled.

"What?"  The Mrs jumped in her chair.

"I've got the perfect movie!  Just wait until you see what I've got!" I giggled like a mentally handicapped ape.

"Oh boy."  The Mrs. was not looking impressed.

That's when I popped in the Blu Ray and without a word ran the trailer for her.  Her eyes widened.

"Ralphie's in a horror movie!" She perked up!

"HELL'S YEAH!"  I yelled.

"Ssshhhhh"  She hushed me.  "I can hear you, I'm right here."

I tend to get a little too excited and boisterous sometimes.  My bad.

And thus or cinematic adventure to Death Valley began.  Little did I know in those first moments before the credits even started how awesome actors are in this thing!  Catharine Hicks (who of course was in Child's Play) is mean Billy's Mom.  His Dad is played by none other than Edward Herrmann!  You know him....we was Max in Lost Boys!  SYEAH!  As if that wasn't cool enough, we've got Wilford Brimley playing the Sheriff and Paul Le Mat (from Strange Invaders!) as Mike, Billy's Mom's boyfriend!  It was a total 80's overload of awesome.  Seriously, I was that excited.


Say.....could that be the infamous Black Bart?

Death Valley is also a surprisingly good flick.  Not quite a slasher (the body count is only around six....which is more than some slashers, I suppose....but the kills are rather sporadic), it falls more into the suspense/thriller category.  See, Billy's out in Arizona on vacation with  his mom and her boyfriend when he unwittingly and unknowingly steps into a murder scene.  While he doesn't find the bodies of the victims, he does find an unusual golden frog medallion.

I love boobs as much as the next guy, but I think I would notice that dude grabbing a knife.....

.......and that's what happens when you only pay attention to boobs.

The killer, finds out that Billy has the medallion and is afraid that he will be able to ID him, so he begins to pursue him, trying to kill him in various places.  What works so well for a large part of the film is that we the audience know exactly what's going on.  Billy and his family have no idea and we cringe as the killer tries multiple times to kill Billy, including a close call in a tourist attraction called Frontier Town, where the killer is disguised as an old west gunman with a bandanna over his face.  Billy thinks he's just one of the actors at Frontier Town and engages him in what he thinks is a make believe gun fight in the trinket museum.

It ain't no Red Rider BBQ Gun, but he still pulls off some sweet trick shots while watching a western!

Why do psychos always end up on the roof with a shotgun?

The last act of the film is intense as the killer comes for Billy at night when his mother and her boyfriend leave him with a babysitter while they go out on a date.  As you would expect in a flick like this, the babysitter gets offed and Billy is left to fend for himself.  It's a cat and mouse game as the killer closes in on him.  The ending was a bit rushed, but all in all it was a pretty good flick with a bit of a twist ending that you will probably see coming (though I didn't.....which kinda surprised me).

We've got some red stuff spraying here as our friendly neighborhood psycho does his deeds.  What I especially loved is the fact that they use the melted red crayon style blood.

We do get to see a rather firm pair of breasts early on in the flick!  They're not there for long, but hey beggars can't be choosers!

Creatures Featured
What we've got here is a certified psychopath!  He's pretty damn creepy too.

Final Thoughts
I had fun with this flick.  It's got it's share of problems (in a larger fellow, I didn't care for the way they treated hefty people!  Sure, us big folks like our food just fine, but we're not going to die if we're not eating every five seconds.  I mean seriously....(SLIGHT SPOILER) the babysitter is killed because she got baited with free soda after eating a bunch of chocolate, corn chips and is on the way back to the room with a banana split. Sheesh.) but all in all, it's a good time and I do believe I now know why Ralphie in A Christmas Story has fantasies about facing off with a bandit called Black Bart!  Total reference to this flick!

Final Rating
Three out of Five Pizza Rolls

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hugo's House of Horrors - Haunted House of DOS

Back in the early 90's my Dad got our first IBM PC Compatible and a whole new world opened up to me.  One of the earliest games I remember playing was Hugo's House of Horrors, an adventure game utilizing a combination of keyboard controls and text input.  So basically you would control Hugo's movements using the arrow keys and then you would type in simple commands such as "Look at the door" or "Tell Igor to press button".  

Hugo's House of Horrors is a simplistic game that takes only about 15 to 20 minutes to complete if you know what you're doing.  That's the operative phrase, however....IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING!  

Much like many adventure games of the 80's and 90's it was sometimes extremely difficult to figure out what to do next.  This was back before there was a walkthrough available online for every game known to man.  For a good part of my younger teenage years I was stuck at a certain point and I could not figure out how to proceed.  This was largely in part to slightly wonky controls and the fact that there are several points in the game that a point of no return so to speak.  If you don't save your game before you try certain parts and screw them up, there's no way to move forward.  I hate that and I think it's a cheap way to make you start all over.  

Okay that's enough backstory, I'm sure you're here because you want to hear about the game itself!  Hugo's girlfriend, Penelope has been kidnapped by a mad scientist and is being held captive in a spooky old house.  It's up to you and Hugo to make your way through the house, solve it's puzzles and save your girl.

Looks like a nice place......*GULP*

....yeah.....I get the feeling this isn't going to end well....

The house is populated by the mad scientists, a dining room full of monsters having a dinner party and one very mean dog!  Your adventure will take you underneath the house as well, which is where things will REALLY start to get difficult for you!

The game starts you off just outside the house.  The door is locked and you must find a way in.  A good many of the puzzles are either logic based or just a matter of looking around.  In this case, there is a jack o'lantern sitting on the front porch if you break it open, you'll find a key inside.  Fairly easy stuff.  

Once inside you'll find yourself in the main foyer.  You can either go upstairs and explore the rooms up there or you can explore the rooms downstairs.....when you're playing for the first time you are more than likely going to check out the first floor.  Makes sense right?  Why would anything deadly be in the immediate area when you first start playing?  Well, I'll tell you what....if you walk into the room immediately to the left you'll find an entire room full of monsters having a dinner party.  Guess what?  Now you're the main course.  The end.

 It's a monster dinner party!  Swell!  Anybody wanna do the Time Warp?

Yep, you even get to visit the haunted house's shed! Ooooh!

After cheap death number one, you're back outside and starting again.  You decide to trying the other room down stairs.  Turns out it's a kitchen.  Nothing to see's your standard kitchen...although it IS a ghastly green color that will make you question the owner's interior decorating skills.  Say, what's in that room to the left of the kitchen?  You walk in and........are immediately eaten by a dog.  Son of a bitch.

Cheap death #2 and you're back in front of the house.  Hopefully by now you've learned to save your progress before venturing into any new rooms.  Yes, it's tedious, but it sure beats starting over every damn time you take two steps in the wrong direction!  I'm not going to run through the entire game here, I just wanted to give you an idea of how the game works and give you a feeling for the frustration level that will inevitably occur as you play.

Now don't get me wrong, it's a fun game and it's a good time going through the house and trying to solve the puzzles....but just remember that back in the day these games were made by a small staff of programmers....sometimes only one.....and what makes perfect sense to them as a puzzle may have you scratching your head for hours, days, weeks or in my case a few years!  Although in my case it wasn't so much a puzzle that did me in as the wording that was expected to be used.  That will get ya sometimes be sure to CAREFULLY read every bit of text the game throws at ya!  

This guy is really wrapped up in himself........

This is what happened to Karnov when he got old and found he couldn't retire:  Henchman Duty.

After you manage to make your way through the house, you end up in the basement and then into conjoining caves full of bats and another one with a mummy in it!  Things get even more bizarre from there. 

The graphics are simple DOS 8-Bit style graphics but they are charming and do a good job of evoking a spooky fun Halloween vibe.  There are some fun monsters to check out and some fun environments to "sort-of" explore.  If you like adventure games of this ilk, then you'll dig Hugo's House of Horrors.  I would recommend it to anyone looking for some retro Halloween fun on their PC.  If I'm not mistaken, the game is available as Abandoneware through several fire up your DOSBox emulator and get in the house to save Penelope!

I should also mention that there were two sequels to Hugo's House of Horrors:  Hugo II:  Whodunit and Hugo III:  Jungle of Doom.  Just as they sound, the second is a murder mystery and the third is a jungle adventure.  I do believe these are also available on Abandonware sites, so if you dig the first one you may want to take a look at the other two!

If you should want to see the full game without having to go through the motions of playing yourself, I went ahead and included a video of the full playthrough.  It only lasts about sixteen minutes so it's a good way to see the full game.  I did all the hard work so you don't have to!  Enjoy!


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Spook Busters - Haunted House of Laughs

Spook Busters
D: William Beaudine
W: Edmond Seward &Tim Ryan 

S: Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall & Douglass Dumbrille
Unrated  - Approx 68 Min
Monogram Pictures


Alternate Titles:
Ghost Busters (Working Title)
Cientista da Fuzarca - Brazil
(I could not get an accurate translation of this)

"Run for you life!  Charlie's got an ax!"
                                                             - Sach

If you listened to Episode II of the Midnight Cinephile podcast (you DID listen, didn't you?) you may have heard Doc Terror and myself discussing the programming on Turner Classic Movies this month.  For my money, TCM has THE best Halloween programming bar none across all channels.  Every year they sport a specific theme (one year, as mentioned by Doc, they showed all Hammer horror films!) and this year is no different.  This year's main theme is ghost stories....and they're digging up some great stuff that I've either never seen or haven't seen in a long time.

Secret passages that lead into a graveyard!  YES!

Tonight's offering, Spooky Busters is an old favorite of mine.  I remember watching this one as a kid on local cable late at night and even on the occasional Sunday afternoon.  It is the fourth film in The Bowery Boys series, which had a total of FORTY-EIGHT films!  More on the staggering number of films later.  The Bowery Boys were an incarnation of the original Dead End Kids, who then became The Little Tough Guys and then The East Side Kids before settling into their final incarnation. Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney was the leader of the gang which also consisted of Horace Debussey "Sach" Jones, Bobby, Gabe, Whitey and Chuck.  Each flick had them hanging around Louie's Sweet Shop until adventure came calling.  In this case, Slip & The Boys had graduated from Insect Extermination School and set up their own extermination business in the back of Louie's place.
Just as they are about to tear the place apart looking for a mouse they are summoned to Brown's Real Estate office with the promise of an extermination job.  Upon arrival they are informed that an old abandoned mansion is in dire of extermination.....from ghosts!  Slip, never one to turn down a job assures Mr. Brown that they can take care of the problem with no fuss.  Off the boys go on their first real job, completely oblivious to the danger they're in.

"Hey Buddy...lemme AX you a question!"

See, the mansion isn't abandoned at all.  There's a mad scientist who's conducting mad experiments in the basement and will do anything to get rid of the boys....including making them think that the house is haunted....just as he's been doing to keep everyone else out.

If you're a fan of the old school haunted house flicks, this hits all the tropes.  Secret passageways, hands reaching out of doorways and grasping, lights turning on by themselves, things moving on their own, etc.  It's all played explicitly for laughs as the boys bumble their way through the house.  Oddly enough there is a room full of magic and illusion props, such as a magic cabinet that makes Sachs vanish.  Slip goes in to look for him and a 5 minute coming and going schtick takes place.

Never trust a magic cabinet in a haunted house!

When the boys reach the basement and discover what's going on, Sach becomes and unwitting participant in the mad doctor's schemes.  See he wants to take Sach's brain and transplant it into a gorilla that he has caged up down there.  Yep...there's even a gorilla!

At a mere 68 minutes, you really can't go wrong with this flick.  If you're a fan of old dark house flicks and you like 40's style slapstick, then you're in for a treat.  To me this kind of flick screams Halloween and  I had a really great time with this one.  I haven't seen it in probably 20 years and had forgotten most of it, but I'm inspired to dig in and check out more of The Bowery Boy's films.

I don't imagine this is going to end well for her!

Before sitting down to write this review, I had been aware of some of the other Bowery Boy's films.  I had no idea that they totaled forty-eight though!  As I had mentioned before The Bowery Boys were originally known as The Dead End Kids andtseven films were made under that moniker for Warner Brothers.  After their contracts were expired, Universal hired most of the original cast and made The Little Tough Guys series, which featured twelve films and three 12-Chapter serials.  At the same time the Universal were making their Tough Guy films, Monogram hired several other of the Dead End Kids and created the East Side Kids series.  A total of twenty-one films were made under this moniker.  Finally, in 1945 The Bowrey Boys were formed when Leo Gorcey quite The East End Kids, effectively ending the series.  Gorcey, Bobby Hall and Jan Grippo formed Jan Grippo Productions and started up the series again under the final moniker of The Bowery Boys (or as it was sometimes known, Leo Gorcey & The Bowrey Boys).  If you've been keeping tally of all the films made from The Dead End Kids through the final Bowery Boys flick....that's a total of 88 films!  That's pretty damn impressive!

All of the Bowrey Boys pictures were released by Monogram Pictures, which as you may know released a good many potboilers in the 30's through the 50's.  Bela Lugosi starred in quite a few Monogram Pictures as well.  The studio was known for it's low budget features and was part of the studio collective known as Poverty Row, which were a group of B-Movie Studios that were active from the 1920's through the 1950's.  Monogram is perhaps the best known of these studios, along with Republic Pictures.  Other studios included Tiffany Pictures, Mascot Pictures, Grand National Films among others.  Interestingly, CBC Productions (which would become Columbia Pictures) was considered part of Poverty Row from about 1919 until around 1924 when it was reorganzied!

The gang regroups and gets their wits together

No sir!  Not here!

Sorry to disappoint again, but no.

Creatures Featured
While it turns out there are no ghosts in the house, for your money you get a mad scientist and a gorilla in a cage!  Plus you get all the spooky atmosphere!

Final Thoughts
I'm not going to lie, I'm quite biased when it comes to stuff like this.  It reminds me of my childhood and it reminds me that Halloween is a fun & spooky time that should be enjoyed by all ages.  If you're inner child goes wild for the simpler pleasures of spooks, scares and laughs and you (like me) have a soft spot for classic films, then do yourself a favor and give The Bowery Boys a call!

Final Rating
Four out of Five Pizza Rolls

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Video Game - The Saw Is Pixelated

Picture it:  It's Christmas Eve 1982.  You're sitting in front of a toasty fireplace drinking Hood™ Egg Nog and chowing down on gingerbread cookies while you flip through Issue #24 of Fangoria (ya know the one with Xtro on the cover) which just came in the mail the day before.  As you peruse the issue, the rest of the family is watching the Christmas episode of Family Ties that your Dad recorded with the VCR he got for his birthday a few months before.  The show finishes and your mother realizes that she has more presents to wrap.  So in an effort to keep all the kids occupied and out of her hair, she lets you and your siblings open one present each.  She hands you a beautifully wrapped box and you tear it open with fervor.  Your heart skips a beat.  You are now holding in your hands The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Video Game for the Atari 2600!  HOLY CATS!
I would like to believe that the above story happened to someone, somewhere.  I know it's Halloween and almost blasphemous to mention Christmas, but ya gotta admit...that's a pretty damn great little Christmas Story, no?  Okay, didn't come here to hear stories of Christmases long ago, you came here to read about more 8-Bit carnage courtesy of Wizard Video Games!

Unlike Halloween....this one even has a Title Screen!

Yep.  That's you.  Leatherface.  Look at you all scary 'n' shit......

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the only other video game produced by Wizard (though they did have plans to release a third game based on the 70's soft porn flick Flesh Gordon!!!)  Much like Halloween, this is an "endless" game in which your only goal is to rack up as high a score as possible.  UNLIKE Halloween, this game has something of a timer on it.  I will explain.

In the game, you control Leatherface.  The goal is to hunt down and kill as many teenagers as you can.  You've got several things working against you however.  First off, you're chainsaw runs on gas.  There is a fuel gauge at the top of the screen.  You're fuel slowly and constantly depletes....when you use your saw the fuel depletes even faster.  Secondly the landscape is littered with cow skulls, fences, barbed wire and wheelchairs (In what I can only assume is an homage to poor Franklin).  The bitch of it is that if even so much as one pixel of Leatherface's sprite touches even so much as one pixel of one of the obstacles, he becomes stuck on the spot.  You can either rev up the chainsaw to get yourself unstuck faster or you can sit there like a jackass for a few seconds.  Either way, it's fuel wasted.

All right!  Time to carve some girl meat!

Um.  I don't know exactly what the hell that is supposed to be....other than this game's interpretation of a chainsaw victim. 

When you come up on a  teenager they will try to evade you.  I don't have it down to an exact science, but it seems that if you come up behind them at an angle, you have a better chance of getting a kill.  Many times if you come up behind them straight on they will magically teleport behind you.  I'm not kidding!  They just vanish and then POOF they're behind you and running the other direction.  Apparently you are hunting down David Copperfield's magic assistants.  I have only seen two types of teenagers, both female and they are really nothing more than palette swaps.  One is wearing a yellow & green outfit while the other is white & pink.

As I mentioned before you are ruled by the fuel gauge.  You have tanks of fuel.  Each time it runs out you start anew and the screen will clear of any teenagers that may have been in the vicinity.   When your last tank of fuel runs out, the screen turns black and one of the teenage girls runs up behind Leatherface and kicks him right in the ass, sending him off screen.  Apparently Leatherface is completely defenseless against a girl without his trusty saw.  I find that rather hilarious.  

Wheelchairs!  Watch out, they move by faster than the other obstacles and will stop you dead in your tracks.

Ooooh, a different girl to get acquainted with my saw!

Speaking of hilarious, let's talk about Leatherface's sprite in the game.  It's pretty awful.  You've got a tan face, which is cool....I get it....kinda looks leatherish.  The rest of your body is their weird teal color.  Your chainsaw is too.  So it looks like it's part of your body.  It's kinda positioned over the stomach area, but to me it still looks like he's got a massive mutant dick, running around after girls.  
The play area and backgrounds really aren't that great.  The game takes place during the day.., skies, green grass and green leaves.  There's a tiny house and car in the background, which I assume is the Sawyer house.  I think that palette swapping and having the game take place at night would have done quite a bit to improve the atmosphere.  There is no music, either.  Just the electronic "Grrrr" of the chainsaw and an ear piercing electric beep that is supposed to be the teenagers screaming as you chase them.  While we're on the subject of negatives....this game doesn't have the gore that Halloween did either.  When you manage to kill a teenager, their sprite inverts (which I'm assuming is supposed to be them falling to the ground) and they turn kinda white and maroon....but I don't know if the maroon is supposed to be blood or if it's just a palette swap to differentiate live teens from dead ones.  The bodies also vanish immediately.  It would have been really cool if you could leave a trail of dead bodies behind you.  

That's really about all there is to it.  I would say that this one is a bit less enjoyable than Halloween.  Though it's really fun that you get to play the killer, it's lack of atmosphere and wonky hit detection does it no favors.  Would I recommend you play it?  If you are fan of the movies and a retro gamer than absolutely.  This game, just like Halloween, has historical significance and it's fun to give it a go or two around the Halloween season....but this certainly isn't a game that you're going to spend more than five to ten minutes on.  After you've gotten yourself stuck on a wheelchair or a cow skull for the umpteenth time you'll want to move on to something else.  

Aw, nuts I'm completely out of fuel!  What was that?  I think I heard something behind me.

Talk about getting an ass-kicking!

Like with Halloween, it's all fine and good to tell you about the game and show you some screen shots, but to really get a feel for it, it's best if you get to see some video.  So for your entertainment pleasure, here is one complete go at TCM:  The Video Game.  It only lasts a couple minutes so watch till the end to see Leatherface get his ass whooping!


Halloween: The Video Game - The Night HE Came Home in 8-Bit

A few nights ago, I took you back to my childhood with
Friday the 13th:  The Computer Game for the Commodore 64.  It was a nostalgia fueled look back at a simpler time in horror gaming.  You may have thought that was as far back as horror movie tie-ins went with video games, but you would be gravely mistaken.

See back in 1983, Charles Band's Wizard label decided to try and cash in on the video game market (before ET ruined it for everyone).  Thus was born two video games that I still can't believe actually got made:  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which will be reviewed soon) and Halloween.

Shit!  Things start off with a bang when Michael appears IMMEDIATELY and chases me! 
Following typical slasher movie tropes, he's already in the next room.  I spy a kid that needs saving!

The box art for both games showed the movie posters and most game retailers kept these games behind counters and out of sight of minors.  Yep.  Back in 1983, you had to go to the store and ask for the game by name at the counter....while the store clerk probably looked at your if you were asking for porn!  Speaking of which, there are pornographic Atari 2600 games as well.....but we're not here to talk about those.  We're here to talk about Michael Myer's one and only foray into the realm of video games.

I never played this game until well into adulthood (sadly it never appeared under my Christmas tree as a child).  I didn't even know of it's existence until about fifteen years ago when a friend of mine happened to own a copy and showed it to me.  So how does this ancient bit of obscure video gaming history hold up after all these years?

Just as I'm about the grab the kid, Michael appears and starts slashing

Through blind luck we both escape without a scratch!

Well, as far as games for the Atari 2600 go, it's quite playable.  You take on the role of Laurie Strode (referred to simply as "The Babysitter" by the manual) and it's your job to protect the children in the house from Michael Myers (referred to simply as "The Killer"),  So what you have here is a split level screen showing the two floors of the Doyle house (I assume it's the Doyle house....where else would Laurie be babysitting that night?).  To go between the two floors you must use the doors that appear on some screens.  You can walk from left to right and up and down (you can only go so far down as the middle of the screen) on each screen.  You must search the house for children and bring them to safety....which means bringing them to one of the two rooms on either end of the house.  Apparently Michael can't get them there.

Meanwhile, you must watch out for Mr. Myers as he stalks you through the house.  When he appears his familiar theme song will start to play in that glorious bleepy-bloopy atari soundchip style.  If he catches up with a child, he will stab them to death and blood will spray out across the floor as they fall down dead.  NO SHIT!  If he catches up to Laurie, he cuts her head clean off and she runs across the room, headless with blood spurting out of her neck stump!!!!!!!!!  HOLY HELL!!!!!!!

Bringing my first child to safety, I net myself 675 points!  WOOT!

After saving another kid, I find a weapon!  Awww yeah....bring it!

That's really all there is to it.  Games back then were primarily played for scores and typically did not have you will just continue to rescue kids and rack up a score until you tire of it, or until you lose three lives (which are kept track of using three jack o'lanterns on the top of the screen.)

Is it fun?  Yeah, it's fun for a few minutes...and every Halloween I put in a few plays.  If you are a retro game fan then you will dig it simply for it's historical value.  Let's not forget that they also GRAPHICALLY MURDER CHILDREN IN A VIDEO GAME!!!!!!!!!!  That's quite trippy the first time you experience it, I'll tell ya what!

Well, that didn't go so well.  That blood is never gonna come out of the carpet.

....and now I'm decapitated and running with blood spurting from my neck stump.

It's one thing to read about this and see the screen shots, but to really appreciate the ridiculousness (especially of the kills) you need to see actual gameplay footage, which I've provided for you below!  Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fingers at the Window - Ax Murder Lunacy!

Fingers at the Window
D: Charles Lederer
W: Rose Caylor & Lawrence P. Bachmann

S: Lew Ayres, Laraine Day & Basil Rathbone
Rated PG - Approx 80 Minutes


Alternate Titles
Dedos Diabólicos (Diabolical Fingers)  - Brazil
Schatten am Fenster (Shadow at the Window)  - Germany

Follia scatenata (Madness Unleashed)  - Italy

"Very pretty shot, Inspector.  A bullseye!"
                                                          -Dr. Cromwall

Turner Classic Movies never ceases to astound me.  There I was searching for Halloween goodies to stock up the ol' DVR with and while searching through the listings, I happened across this interesting title:  Fingers at the Window.  "Gee, that sounds like it could be a horror flick" I said to myself.  Was I right?  Well, no....not exactly....I certainly would not classify this as an outright horror flick.  More like murder-mystery noir with horror overtones.

See there's been a rash of ax murders in Chicago.  Now before you say "1940's Slasher Flick" (which is what I thought I had stumble onto at first) I should tell you that these murders are not all committed by a single homicidal maniac.  In fact each of the six murders were committed by six different men.  Each of them highly mentally disturbed.....and I do mean DISTURBED....we're talking One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest here.  So what's tying it all together?  Why are mental patients suddenly taking up axes and chopping up the good citizens of Chicago?  Ah, well, therein lies the mystery.

I don't think it's really a spoiler to tell you that it's the work of a single mastermind who is manipulating these men to murder.  That we find out quite early on.  It's the who and it's the why that make up the mystery.

Our two main protagonists, Edwina Brown and Oliver Duffy meet one night when Duffy spies a man with an ax following Edwina down a darkened street.  Oliver being the wonderful and caring fellow that he is escorts Edwina home and watches over her from the fire escape.  Seems like sticking your neck out quite a bit for someone you just met....but hey, what do I know.

As you may suspect a romance begins to brew between the two as the mystery deepens and another madman tries to turn Edwina into chopped liver (and intestines....and pancreas....and spleen).  Duffy is on the case and (much to the chagrin of Inspector Gallagher, the lead homicide man on the case) starts to play detective himself.  

The acting is delightfully over the top in typical 40's fashion.  Duffy (played by Lew Ayers) isn't exactly a dashing hero but he's quite amusing and clever.  Edwina  (played by Laraine Day) is quite beautiful and their chemistry on screen is warm yet a bit wonky.  Though it's played for humor, their banter back and forth is at times funny yet off putting as he outright calls her an idiot or tells another character that she hasn't got the brains of a pancake.  You get the sense that they were attempting to make them something of a comedy team with Duffy as the partner with the one liners....but it adds unintentional humor where it doesn't belong.  Edwina doesn't help matters much with some of her dialog either.  At one point confessing that she'd been lying about important information before because she was afraid that he wouldn't be romantically interested in her anymore.  I'll tell ya what....if someone's trying to chop me up with an ax....I'll worry about romance after the stalker and potential killer is taken care of.

Likewise the police and the psychiatrist they hire to help profile the killer are some of the most gullible and dim witted I've seen in some time.  A psychiatrist who is supposedly one of the most respected and renowned in the entire world was easily fooled into thinking that Duffy was mental patient simply because he emulated what he saw another mental patient doing a few hours before.  No examination.  No Rorschach nothing.  Five minutes of conversation and BLAMMO!  He's got a full diagnosis for his "disorder" and not only that, allows him access to patient files because he believes him to be harmless!!!  The police go along with whatever anybody tells them without much investigation or examination.  It's a bit frustrating at times, but ultimately it all adds to the films wonky charms.

Are you kidding?  This was made in 1942!  No gore.

Once again....nope.

Creatures Featured:
No creatures....but you do get several ax murderers stalking the streets of Chicago and an evil mastermind!

Final Thoughts
Don't let my small rant before sway you.  The character flaws with the protagonists, psychiatrist and police are really minor grips in the long run.  If you are a fan of classic films and noir films in particular then I think that you'll have a lot of fun with this one.  There are some great uses of light and shadow in the cinematography and the revelation and resolution of the mystery at the end are quite satisfying.

Final Rating
Three out of  Five Pizza Rolls