Monday, August 22, 2011

R.I.P.: Jimmy Sangster

Jimmy Sangster
2 December 1927 – 19 August 2011

Seminal English horror scriptwriter and, to a lesser extent, director, highly influential in the development of modern horror. He was a driving force behind many a modern English horror classic, particularly in the sphere of Gothic horror.

Born James Henry Kinmel Sangster in Kinmel Bay, North Wales, on December 2nd, 1927, the man commonly known as Jimmy Sangster was educated at Ewell Castle School in Surrey. He got his first job in the film industry, as "production assistant", at the age of 16, after which he was drafted into the R.A.F. and sent to India. Following his service, he initially worked at Ealing Studios as a third assistant director before, in 1949, joining Exclusive Studios, which soon became Bray Film Studios, the home of Hammer Film Productions Ltd. After writing a short film – A Man on the Beach (1955) – and his first feature script – X the Unknown (1956), Sangster was handed Hammer's first Gothic horror, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), legendarily because, more or less, no one else wanted to do it. A financial success and since-acknowledged film classic, it was followed by Sangster's script to Hammer's next Gothic classic, The Horror of Dracula (1958). A pragmatic man when it came to scriptwriting, his attitude was that one should never get frustrated about all the hands in the pot and that you should make sure you get paid. But for being a "product man", he continued to deliver scripts for a broad selection of Horror classics, minor classics, memorable films and entertaining turkey (and a few true duds after moving to the US).
After helping to give birth to the Golden Age of Hammer's Gothic films, Sangster began concentrating on (mostly B&W) psychological thrillers with one-word titles and an occasional horror or science fiction film for rival studios (for example, Blood of the Vampire and The Crawling Eye, both from 1958). The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies posits that Jimmy Sangster, just before moving to the US, helped seal the coffin of Hammer's Golden Age of Horror Films with his bloodily comic (and less than critically or commercially successful) directorial projects The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), which he co-wrote, and the Tudor Gates scripted Lust for a Vampire (1971).
In the US, Sangster worked on an occasional feature film, but was mostly busy on television. He also wrote an occasional novel, a few of which he later adapted as TV films. He retired in the late 80s, but brought out his autobiography Do You Want It Good or Tuesday? in 1997. He passed away at the age of 83 on 19 August 2011 and is survived by his son James, from his first marriage, as well as by his second wife Mary Peach, their son Mark James, and two grandchildren, Claire and Ian.

The photo above was taken from the excellent and in-depth obituary at Video Watchdog, found here.

X... The Unknown
(1956, dir. Leslie Norman)

Screenplay & story by Jimmy Sangster. According to Wikipedia: "The film was originally intended by Hammer to be a sequel to the previous year's successful The Quatermass Xperiment / The Creeping Unknown (trailer), but writer Nigel Kneale refused permission for the character of Bernard Quatermass to be used." Joseph Losey was intended to direct, but had just been blacklisted in the US by McCarthy; not only was it feared that his involvement could spoil the commercial viability of the film in the US, but the film's US star, Dean Jagger, was a rabid anti-communist, so Losey was replaced by Leslie Norman. At imdb, Rod Crawford explains the plot: "British Army radiation drills at a remote Scottish base attract a subterranean, radioactive entity of unknown nature that vanishes, leaving two severely radiation-burned soldiers... and a 'bottomless' crack in the earth. Others who meet the thing in the night suffer likewise, and with increasing severity; it seems to be able to 'absorb' radiation from any source, growing bigger and bigger. What is it?? How do you destroy a thing that 'feeds' on energy?"


The Curse of Frankenstein
(1957, dir. Terrence Fischer)

To quote Wikipedia: "The Curse of Frankenstein began Hammer's tradition of horror film-making. [...] When it was first released, The Curse of Frankenstein outraged many reviewers. [...] Many fans regard the film to be a horror classic and one of the best Hammer Horror films ever made. [...] The Curse of Frankenstein [...] made British actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee leading horror stars of the era." We here at A Wasted Life see the film as a certified classic, no ands, ifs or buts about it. Hard to believe that Sangster only got $450 to write it (if we are to believe imdb).


The Horror of Dracula
(1958, dir. Terrence Fischer)

How times change: when Horror of Dracula was originally released in the UK, it got an X-rating (despite cuts); in 2007, the uncut re-release was given a 12A. The whole team from The Curse of Frankenstein – scriptwriter Sangster, director Fischer and Cushing & Lee – return in Hammer's follow-up Gothic, this time tackling Bram Stoker's Dracula, from which the film deviates greatly. Another early, great if slightly creaky in the bones classic from the start of Hammer's Golden Age of Gothic Horror...


The Revenge of Frankenstein
(1958, dir. Terrence Fischer)

The filming of The Revenge of Frankenstein began mere days after Fisher had put The Horror of Dracula (1958) in the can. (In fact, many of the same sets were simply touched up and reused.) Sangster pulls a quick one in his script by ever-so-slightly changing the ending of The Curse of Frankenstein – the Baron is now walked to the guillotine with but the priest and the crippled Karl (Oscar Quitak), thus allowing for an inspired escape – and the result is a film that we here at A Wasted Life find better than its predecessor. Another classic in a series of what ended up being six films, more than one of questionable quality, but not of questionable entertainment value.


Intent to Kill
(1958, dir. by Jack Cardiff)

Sangster wrote the script (based on Brian Moore's novel) for the directorial debut of the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who later destroyed his directorial career with the unbelievably exploitive trash masterpiece, The Mutations (1973 / trailer).

The Snorkel
(1958, dir. Guy Green)

According to duke1029 at imdb: "Paul Decker (Peter van Eyck) murders his wife in her Italian villa by drugging her milk and asphyxiating her by gas. He cleverly locks the bedroom from the inside and hides inside a trapdoor in the floor until after the body is discovered by servants. He uses a scuba snorkel connected to tubes on the outside to breathe during the ordeal. Decker's stepdaughter Candy suspects him immediately, especially since no suicide note was found. She also is convinced that he murdered her father years before, but her accusations fall on deaf ears. The ruthless Decker even poisons the family spaniel when the pet takes too great an interest in the mask and realizes he will ultimately have to get rid of Candy too."


Blood of the Vampire
(1958, dir. Henry Cass)

Mysty at imdb explains the plot as thus: "A man and wife are terrorized by Mad Scientist Dr. Callistratus (Donald Wolfit) who was executed but has returned to life with a heart transplant. Along with his crippled assistant Carl, the 'anemic' Mad Scientist, believed to be a vampire, conducts blood deficiency research on the inmates of a prison hospital for the criminally insane to sustain his return to life." The Celluloid Highway does not like this film, as can be seen by this review here, but the Bad Movie Report is a lot more forgiving.

The opening staking scene & credits:

The Crawling Eye
(1958, dir. Quentin Lawrence)

AKA The Trollenberg Terror. Sangster supplies the script to a story by Peter Kay, who wrote the original television series the film is based on. According to Wikipedia, The Crawling Eye is one of the first films that Mystery Science Theater 3000 took the piss out of when it started up. Imdb says that John Carpenter credits the film as being the inspiration for The Fog (1980 / trailer). Arbogast on Film writes insightfully (as always) about the film here.


Jack the Ripper
(1959, dirs. Robert S. Baker
& Monty Berman)
This B&W fictionalized version of the tale of the famous killer is available in a cut (84 minutes) and uncut (88 minutes) version, the latter with more blood and boobs. The film has an infamous twist ending that no one who has seen the movie ever forgets. Brit Movie says: "Gruesome account of the mysteries surrounding the most infamous serial killer of them all; Jack the Ripper. Belying its obvious low budget, the film manages to effectively recreate period London in an atmospheric and suspenseful dramatization. Set in Victorian London, 1888, Scotland Yard Inspector O’Neill (Eddie Byrne) is joined on this occasion by American detective Sam Lowry (Lee Patterson) in the hunt for the man brutally murdering prostitutes in Whitechapel. Clues at the scene of the grisly murders lead them to theorize that an insane surgeon, Sir David Rogers (Ewen Solon), is the guilty party, and seeking one particular woman, Mary Clarke."


The Man Who Could Cheat Death
(1959, dir Terrence Fischer)

The plot according to "Dr. Georges Bonnet is hiding a terrible secret. He is over a hundred years old, but doesn't look like he has seen his forties yet. This is because he and a colleague, Professor Weiss, found the secret to eternal youth, and while the other doctor refused to remain young Bonnet jumped at the chance. The only problem is a critical gland needs to be surgically replaced every decade or else the years will catch up with him. But with Weiss now an old man and unable and unwilling to continue with the surgeries Bonnet has a serious issue. If that weren't enough the elixir that holds back death while he waits for the surgery is slowly driving Bonnet mad!" The Man Who Could Cheat Death is a remake of 1945's The Man on Half Moon Street, in turn originally based on a play by Barré Lyndon; the original film version is said by some to be the better one. The truly great film blog Arbogast on Film has a good (and positive) review of this film here.


The Mummy
(1959, dir. Terrence Fischer)

Hammer revives yet another monster from the Golden Age of Universal Films Horror. The plot, according to Jeremy Perkins @ imdb: "In the 1890s a team of British archaeologists discover the untouched tomb of Princess Ananka but accidentally bring the mummified body of her High Priest back to life. Three years later back in England a follower of the same Egyptian religion unleashes the mummy to exact grisly revenge on the despoilers of the sacred past." We here at A Wasted Life were not thrilled by this version of the tale, as is evident in our review of the film found here.


The Siege of Sidney Street
(1960, dirs. Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman)

Jeremy Perkins at imdb says: "As armed police surround a house in the East End of London, a young lady under medical supervision nearby thinks back to the events that lead her and a group of Russian refugee political anarchists to this situation." Filmed in Dublin (standing in for London), the film is "based" on true events from 1911, the Battle of Stepney, which also inspired the shootout ending of Alfred Hitchcock's 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (full film).

Scene from the film:

Concrete Jungle
(1960 , dir. Joseph Losey)

AKA: The Criminal. According to imdb and Sadoul & Morris's book Dictionary of Films, Sangster did uncredited work on the screenplay. Mondo Esoterica explains the plot as thus: "Johnny Bannion (Stanley Baker) is due for release from prison tomorrow. He essentially runs this wing of the gaol and when a prisoner from a rival wing is put in his territory, it is not long before that man suffers a brutal beating at the hands of one of Bannion's fellow inmates. The Prison Governor wants Bannion out however and he heads back home to meet up with his old gang, who have another job ready to go. Things are complicated though when he falls for a rather insistent young woman named Suzanne. He goes through with the job but decides to hide the money in a field and when he is arrested later that day, his gang resort to the only method they can to get Johnny to tell where he has hidden the loot – they kidnap Suzanne..."

The whole film:

The Brides of Dracula
(1960, dir. Terence Fisher)

"Transylvania, land of dark forests, dread mountains and black, unfathomed lakes. Still the home of magic and devilry as the nineteenth century draws to its close. Count Dracula, monarch of all vampires, is dead, but his disciples live on, to spread the cult and corrupt the world."
Opening Narration

Two years after the release of The Horror of Dracula, Hammer finally got around to making a sequel – this time with Dracula nowhere in sight. Instead: the blonde David Peel as the bloodsucking Baron Meinster. A lot of beautiful babes and cleavage in this well-shot film, one of the more popular of the series, though we at A Wasted Life tend to dislike it, primarily due to the stitched together narrative (Sangster wrote the first version, but supposedly everybody involved in the film and their cousins did rewrites). The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Review loves the film; they also describe the plot as follows: "Marianne Danielle, a young schoolteacher on her way to take up a position in Transylvania, is abandoned in a village by her coach driver. She ignores the warnings of the locals and accepts an offer from the Baroness Meinster to spend the night at her castle. At the castle, she meets The Baroness's handsome son whom the Baroness keeps chained up. He tells Marianne how the Baroness has usurped his rightful lands and pleads with her to free him. She does so, unaware that he is a vampire. Meinster then precedes to vampirize his mother and comes after Marianne as she journeys on to her school. Luckily for her, Dr Van Helsing is in the area, hunting down the disciples of Dracula."


Scream of Fear
(1961, dir. Seth Holt)

AKA Taste of Fear. The plot as given by Wikipedia: "A young paralyzed woman (Strasberg) returns to her family home after the mysterious disappearance of her father. She has a cool relationship with her stepmother, while the chauffeur helps her investigate the father's disappearance. During the investigations, she finds the father's corpse in various locations around the house, however it always quickly vanishes again before anyone else sees it." According to Christopher Lee, who had a supporting role in the film: "In my opinion, the best film Hammer ever made." A well-written review of the film can be found here at – of course, you can also simply watch the film yourself below.


The whole film:

The Terror of the Tongs
(1961, dir. Anthony Bushell)

Christopher Lee practices for his eventual regular role in the Fu Manchu films. At imdb, Classic Fan writes: "Hammer Studios once again proves that they knew no bounds when it came to film making. Here we see a tale of corruption, torture, murder and revenge and it actually works very well for a studio renowned for its horror films. Christopher Lee plays the leader of 'The Red Dragon Tong' in Hong Kong at the beginning of the 20th century, this organization used torture and murder to keep the people of the city under its rule and when they kill an English sea captain's daughter in an attempt to keep information from being brought before the authorities, the film becomes a story of revenge with scenes of torture and murder. Hammer Studios did a great job with this film and if you're a Hammer fan, this is definitely a film you'll want to see."


The Hellfire Club
(1961, dirs. Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman)

Not a Hammer Film, despite how it looks. Inspired ever-so-loosely by the real Hellfire Club of 18th century England, where even good ol' Ben Franklin is said to have enjoyed to party. DVD Drive-In says: "Taking the place in 1700s, The Hellfire Club tells of young boy who breaks off from his family estate with his mother, escaping his sadistic father. The mother is killed in a stagecoach accident, and the boy eventually takes residence with a group of circus performers. The boy in question, Jason (Keith Mitchell) is now grown up and learns of his father's passing. He makes his way home to claim his birthright as Lord of Netherden Castle only to discover that his nasty cousin Thomas (Peter Arne) is assuming to be the rightful heir and running a secret society called The Hellfire Club, holding orgies and other depravities in private. Jason is faced with a conspiracy against him, but cleverly plots to overcome his rival relation, even forming an alliance and romancing the red-haired beauty Isobel (Adrienne Corri) to do so."

The credits and first 3 minutes

The Pirates of Blood River
(1962, dir. John Gilling)

The plot, as according to inside pulse: "The Pirates of Blood River has cutthroats invade a Huguenot colony. Jonathan Standish (Kerwin Matthews) gets busted for having an affair with a married woman. And it turns out her elderly husband is a town leader. He doesn't appreciate a young stud pleasuring his woman. So it's off to the nearby penal colony for Standish. There's no way he'll be able to survive his time busting rocks under the hot sun while being starved and beaten. He escapes, but encounters a vicious band of French pirates in the swamp. Led by an eye patch wearing Captain LaRoche (Christopher Lee), the scurvy dogs demand a rumored treasure being hidden by the villagers. They will go to extremes to recover the fortune. While Standish wants revenge for his punishment, he doesn't wish the raping and pillaging on all the Huguenots. Will he save his community or let them feel the pain they inflicted on him?"


(1963, dir. Michael Carreras)

The plot, according to The Video Vacuum: "Hammer Studios [...] also produced forgettable Psycho rip-offs, too. This one is all about a newly single American painter played by Kerwin Matthews, who goes to a small village in France for a little painting action. He stays at an inn ran by a hottie MILF who seduces him and eventually convinces him to help her spring her husband from the looney bin. Of course she neglects to tell Kerwin that her hubby likes to wear a welding mask and blowtorch people to death (think a low-rent version of The Exterminator)."
Sounds promising to me.


(1963, dir. Freddie Francis)

Yet another "They're trying to drive me mad" thriller – but not under gaslight – from the great director who brought us Trog (1970 / trailer). DVD Drive-In says: "Nothing is quite what it seems in this riveting, complex tale of greed, dementia and deceit. Rescued from a suicide attempt by a man claiming to be her long-dead brother, a young heiress (Janette Scott) finds a new reason to live. But her relatives have doubts; they think 'Tony' (Alexander Davion) is an impostor who's trying to get his hands on the family fortune. Everyone has their own secret reasons to suspect Tony, as well as their own designs on his vast inheritance -- especially brother Simon (Oliver Reed), a magnetic but devastatingly cruel wretch who'll stop at nothing to thwart the supposed pretender. In this flavorful feast of a thriller, 'the horror-mystery elements are brewed to a fine discriminating savor.'" A beautifully shot B&W thriller.

Credits and the first eight minutes:

Das Verrätertor / Traitor's Gate
(1964, dir. Freddie Francis)

Writing under the nom de plume "John Sansom", Sangster supplied the script to this Edgar Wallace film, the 21st of the series of 32 Rialto Wallace films produced by the German producer Horst Wendlandt, this time around as a coproduction with the English film company Londoner Summit. According to Florian Pauer in his book Die Edgar Wallace Filme (1982), "Das Verrätertor is one of the most boring and least ambitious Wallace films of the entire Rialto series." It is a sentiment shared by most contemporary write-ups of this relatively unknown Wallace film. The book upon which the film is based, The Traitor's Gate, was originally conceived as a stage musical; in fact, the first film version from 1930, entitled The Yellow Mask, was a musical. The plot: The wealthy businessman Trayne (Albert Lieven) decides to steal the UK Crown Jewels, but fails to take either the clumsy tourist Hecto (Eddie Arendt) or his duplicitous colleagues into account...

German Trailer

The Devil-Ship Pirates
(1964, dir. Don Sharp)

Hammer's second pirate film, a smidgen less land-locked than the first one, and once again starring Christopher Lee. At imdb, dinky-4 of Minneapolis says: "A pirate ship, fighting in 1588 on the side of the Spanish Armada, suffers damage and must put into a village on the British coast for repairs. The village is small and isolated and the Spanish convince the villagers that the English fleet has been defeated and that they, the Spanish, are now their masters. This results in the villagers' sullen cooperation, but rumors and unrest begin to spread and soon the Spanish pirates find themselves facing a revolt."


(1964, dir. Freddie Francis)

Said to be a remake of the 1963 Argentinean film, Pesadilla; the only known surviving 35 mm print of the film is owned by the BFI. The great film blog The Bloody Pit of Horror says: "Out of all the films produced by Hammer, this is one of the most beautifully filmed. As a matter of fact it could very well be the best looking black-and-white production to ever come from the studio. [...] When she was just 11 years old, Janet (Jennie Linden) witnessed her insane, cackling mother (Isla Cameron) stab her father to death. With mum now safely locked away in an asylum, now-teenage Janet is trying to move on and piece her life back together. The fact she's plagued by horrible nightmares and wakes up screaming almost every single night makes it a bit difficult. She's also afraid she might have somehow inherited her mother's psychosis. Janet's a bit on edge these days... and very fragile... "


The Nanny
(1965, dir. Seth Holt)

Based on the 1964 book The Nanny (1964) by American author Merriam Modell (under the pen-name Evelyn Piper). Behind the Couch says "The Nanny is one of Hammer’s most subtle and mature chillers, perhaps owing more to the likes of Val Lewton than their usual Gothic outpourings. At times the psychological intrigue and ambiguity give way to more melodramatic moments, but it is never anything less than compelling." The storyline, as given by alfiehitchie at imdb: "Bette Davis is an English nanny whose charge is 10-year-old Joey, just released from a home for disturbed children where he'd spent two years undergoing treatment for drowning his little sister in the bath. Shortly after his arrival home, suspicion arouses again when his mother is poisoned. But Joey continues to insist Nanny is responsible, just as she was with the death of his little sister, with only a neighboring friend believing the young boy."


(1965, dir. Freddie Francis)

An American in London, recovering from a car crash, suffers from amnesia. Luckily, he has an anonymous benefactor who has not only paid his medical bills, but has supplied him with an apartment. Throw in a hot woman and "imagined" murderous screams, and you got a guy who thinks he might be losing his marbles. The only clue to his past: a photograph in his pocket. He hires the private dick Hemmings (Maurice Denham) to help uncover the truth. Brit Movies says: "A largely successful attempt by Hammer to imitate Hitchcock in a bleak mid-60s London, complete with tense jazzy score, psychopathic episodes, and a paranoia-inducing plot."


Dracula: Prince of Darkness
(1966, dir. Terrence Fischer)

Writing as John Sansom. We here at A Wasted Life find this film, the third of the series, to be one of the best of the Hammer Dracula films. According to legend, Christopher Lee found his lines so dreadful that he decided to play Dracula silent. The film was made back-to-back with Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966 / trailer) and shared many of the same cast and sets. Daily Dead tells the plot thus: "Four English tourists stray into Dracula's old castle in the Carpathian Mountains and are met by Dracula's servant, Klove. After being welcomed and treated to a meal, the tourists settle down for the night but one of them is curious when they see Klove dragging a case down into the basement. He follows Klove down there who proceeds to kill him and uses his blood to resurrect Dracula, unleashing his evil on the world once again."


Deadlier Than the Male
(1967, dir. Ralph Thomas)

The first Bulldog Drummond film since Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951), Deadlier Than the Male updates Drummond into a James Bond figure in the "coolly pulsating, pop-art world of the Swinging Sixties." The (now) Korean War vet and insurance investigator is after a pair of sexy assassins (Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina) who truly enjoy their work. The film was followed the next year with Some Girls Do (1968 / trailer), also directed by Thomas.


Opening credits with the theme song by The Walker Brothers:

The Anniversary
(1968, dir. Roy Ward Baker)

Based on the play by Bill MacIlwraith, it was Bette Davis's second and final foray at Hammer. At imdb, Claudio Carvalho explains the plot: "On the celebration of the anniversary of Mrs. Taggart, her three dominated sons come to her house for the party. Terry, Henry and Tom Taggart work in construction, in a business that belonged to their father and is presently managed by their manipulative mother. Tom brings his pregnant fiancée Shirley Blair to tell his mother that they will marry each other; Terry brings his wife Karen Taggart and they secretly intend to emigrate to Canada; and Henry is gay and loves to wear women's underwear. During the night, the mean Mrs. Taggart uses the most despicable means and tricks to get rid of Shirley and Terry and keep her sons close to her." The BFI is of the opinion that the film has aged like fine wine: "Greeted as something of a misfire upon its original release, Hammer's The Anniversary has ripened in the vaults into a volatile cocktail of high style, overwrought melodrama and obsidian comedy."


The Spy Killer
(1969, dir. Roy Ward Baker)

Sangster supplies the script, based on his novel Private I, for a TV movie that did well enough to earn a follow-up TV movie the next year, Foreign Exchange, also helmed by Sangster and Baker and with the same stars (and likewise based on a Sangster novel). Ted Watson at imdb says: "John Smith (Horton) is trying to make a living as a London private investigator and have a happy relationship with his girlfriend, a high fashion model (Jill St. John), who knows nothing about his previous employment. When Smith's ex-boss Max (Sebastian Cabot) has a sticky problem, he manipulates Smith into getting involved against his (Smith's) better judgment. Settle in to your chair and be prepared to pay close attention, because if you don't, you could be lost at any one of several plot twists [...]."

Slightly less than the first 5 minutes of the film:

The Horror of Frankenstein
(1970, dir. Jimmy Sangster)

The Horror of Frankenstein, Hammer's 6th Frankenstein film, is a standalone film that occurs outside of the Peter Cushing films. Often dissed as the worst in the Hammer series, it is also Sangster's directorial debut, a reworking of the script he supplied for the first film of the series, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), revamped for a younger audience. Contrary to popular opinion, the humor, like all the sex, is intentional. The plot as told at Popcorn Pictures: "Victor Frankenstein is angry when his father forbids him from going to study at college to continue his anatomical experiments. So kills his father and makes it look like accident, thus leaving Victor with the family fortune and title of Baron. He uses this wealth to finance his college studies but leaves when he gets the dean's daughter pregnant. Returning home, he sets up a laboratory and starts a series of experiments aimed at bringing the dead back to life with the intention of creating a human being from stolen body parts. Unfortunately his creature doesn't behave the way he intended it to." The film, like all of Sangster's feature film directorial efforts, was less than a commercial success.

(1970, dir. Alan Gibson)

Supposedly, the film was originally planned to be Michael Reeves's follow up project to Witchfinder General (1968). British Horror Films is of the opinion "To give a synopsis of the plot would ruin the film for anyone who hasn't seen it." But they also say that the film, "a rarely-seen addition to Hammer's Hitchcock-alike thriller series, [...] is pretty average fare. [...] It has all the hallmarks of Hammer's Paranoiac, Hysteria, Maniac, etc, but is lacking something. Well, quite a lot of things, actually. Logic, plot, shocks, surprises... pretty much any of the ingredients that make a thriller worth watching, really." The scene below does give the impression that the film might be, well, a bit turgid.

Theme to Crescendo:

A Taste of Evil
(1971, dir. John Llewellyn Moxey)

A TV movie directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, who made his feature film directorial debut in 1960 with finally atmospheric public domain horror film City of the Dead / Horror Hotel (full film), only to disappear into television directing. A Taste of Evil is yet another "They're trying to drive me mad" thriller; far from the best film Barbara Stanwyck appeared in, but also far from the worst. On the audio commentary for the Anchor Bay DVD of The Horror of Frankenstein, Sangster admits that the film is basically Taste of Fear aka Scream of Fear (1961) rewritten into a US setting. Plot: A gal returning home from a rape-induced stay in a mental institution realizes that someone is trying to drive her crazy.

The full film:

Lust for a Vampire
(1971, dir. Jimmy Sangster)

Sangster jumps in at the last second to take over for Terrence Fischer, directing a script by Tudor Gates, for the second of the three films of Hammer's so-called Karnstein Trilogy. As the "sequel" to the excellent lezzie vampire classic The Vampire Lovers (1970 / trailer), Lust for a Vampire can be said to be loosely inspired by J. Sheridan Le Fanu's classic (and well worth reading) novella from 1972, Carmilla. The film has a bad rep, but it has aged well. Its male lead, Ralph Bates, once called Lust for a Vampire "one of the worst films ever made"; allegedly, Ingrid Pitt, who starred in the preceding The Vampire Lovers, turned the film down 'cause she found the script so crappy. Plot: In 1830, Mircalla – actually Carmilla Karnstein – arrives as a new student at a finishing school; needless to say, students and local inhabitants suddenly start to drop like flies... boobs, blood, lesbianism, heterosexuality – what more does a good vampire flick need? A well-balanced review of the film can be found here at mondo digital.


Fear in the Night
(1972, dir. Jimmy Sangster)

No, not a remake of the 1945 B&W film noir cheapie based on a Cornell Woolrich story and featuring the cinematic debut of DeForest "Bones" Kelley (full movie here). This Fear in the Night, the last feature-length film Sangster directed – he still did an occasional TV movie or series episode in the future, but never again a cinema release – is yet another "They're trying to drive me mad" thriller, but this time around derived from the great French classic Diabolique (1955 / French trailer) – to which this film, for all its trashy appeal, can't hold a candle to. Plot: A young wife of an instructor at a boy's boarding school fears she is losing her mind 'cause she keeps seeing a one-armed man.


Full film:

Who Slew Auntie Roo?
(1972, dir. Curtis Harrington)

Sangster's singular contribution to the psycho biddy genre, one that Final Girl, going by her review here, finds rather boring. One of two films Harringston made with the great over-actress Shelley Winters, the other being the fab flick What's the Matter with Helen? (1971 / trailer). At imdb, Mark explains the plot as thus: "This is a retelling of the old tale of Hansel and Gretel, but set in England in the 1920s. To the children and staff at the orphanage, Auntie Roo is a kindly American widow who gives them a lavish Christmas party each year in her mansion, Forrest Grange. In reality, she is a severely disturbed woman, who keeps the mummified remains of her little daughter in a nursery in the attic. One Christmas, her eye falls upon a little girl who reminds her of her daughter and she imprisons her in her attic. Nobody believes her brother, Christopher, when he tells them what has happened, so he goes to rescue her."


(1973, dir. Vince Edwards)

ABC movie of the week. Yet another version of The Most Dangerous Game (1932 / full film), this time around starring Ben Gazzara and Sheree North (seen here from her younger days). (Personally, here at A Wasted Life, we prefer the 1961 version, Bloodlust!) In this version, two couples (Ben & Sheree and Kip Niven and Laurette Spang) on a camping trip have two man-eating tigers sent after them by a crazed animal trainer (Richard Basehart). Broadcast on December 8, 1973, this was the TV-movie directorial debut of former Ben Casey star Vince Edwards. The German-language website ("Animal Horror") says (roughly): "Director Edwards manages to produce an exciting film on a low budget and with simple means. The story is really simple, but is believably presented by convincing and quite well-known actors. It is always interesting to see what the intended victims think up next, and it is easy to put yourself in their shoes. The film is unjustifiably unknown, and virtually impossible to find."

Scream, Pretty Peggy
(1973, dir. Gordon Hessler)

German-born Gordon Hessler, who hasn't made a film since 1991, has some fun films to his name: his debut film The Woman Who Wouldn't Die (1965 / full film), The Oblong Box (1969 / full film), Cry of the Banshee (1970 / trailer), Scream and Scream Again (1970 / trailer), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971 / trailer) and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973 / trailer), but beginning with Scream, Pretty Peggy, which aired November 24, 1973, he pretty much specialized in films for the small screen. The Terror Trap, one of the few sources we found that liked the film, says: "Feisty little Psycho variation makes for fun TV terror. College student Peggy takes a part time housecleaning job at the eccentric Elliot house, home to sculptor Jeffrey and his elderly mother. Before long, Peggy spots a mysterious woman lurking about the estate at night and decides to investigate. But will Peggy live to discover the Elliots' dark secret hidden above the locked family garage? [...] Pretty Peggy is a simplistic, enjoyable telehorror with coy slasher overtones. Both Allen and Bessell [...] deliver solid performances while screen legend Davis is in fine form as the boozy Mrs. Elliot. With a memorable shock ending, this rare effort is worth seeking out.

The first ten minutes:

Good Against Evil
(1977, dir. Paul Wendkos)

"Every time I get close to a man, he dies."
Jessica Gordon (Elyssa Davalos)

Wendkos made his directorial debut in 1957 with the excellent low budget crime flick The Burglar before quickly losing his teeth with flicks like Gidgit (1959) and moving to a long and busy career as a small-screen director. This film was made as the pilot for a series about an author and exorcist who team up to battle evil, but the series never materialized. Weird Wild Realm notes: "[...] Good Against Evil is interesting mainly as part of a clutch of telefilms aired in the late 1960s through the 1970s that dealt with Satanism & other occult matters, a cycle that seems to have begun with a better Paul Wendkos telefilm, the occult detective yarn Fear No Evil (1969), and pretty much came to a close with his Good Against Evil."

The full film:

The Legacy
(1978, dir. Richard Marquand)

One of the few joint films of Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross, one of Hollywood's longest-lasting couples, made back in the day when they were both delectable dishes. (The photo here is of Ross in the final scene of the original version of The Stepford Wives [1975 / trailer]. The photo of Sam is simply from his youthful prime.) In an interview a few years after the film came out, Sam Elliott commented, "I wouldn't rush out to see it. It's about fifteen years behind its time." Still, Final Girl gives the film "6 and a half out of 10 beef jerky fingers!" At imdb, John Coyne offers a plot breakdown: "Six beautiful people arrive for a weekend in the country. Six guests of the unseen host who lies wasting away upstairs... Five heirs to a mysterious Legacy watch the body of the sixth float to the side of the pool... Four claim the unspeakable power of the Legacy, while a red stain spreads across the ceiling... Three realize that the Legacy has come to claim THEM, while outside dogs dine on what was once a man... And then there are two." Co-starring none other than Roger Daltry, the star of Vampirella (1996), who, fittingly, chokes to death on ham.


Ebony, Ivory and Jade
(1979, dir. John Llewellyn Moxey)

Moxey and Sangster, together again for the Movie of the Week of Aug 3, 1979, which can actually be found on DVD now. Presumably it was made as a possible kick-off to a series, but it went nowhere. The plot (from Mod Cinema): "Mick Jade (Bert Convy) a former tennis bum-turned-Las Vegas song-and-dance man, doubles as a private eye with two female dancers, Ebony (Debbie Allen) and Ivory (Martha Smith) in which the trio go undercover to protect a lady scientist from international hit-men as she heads for Washington D.C. from the Middle East with her super-secret formulas." At imdb, comic bookguy says: "A terrible c-version of James Bond with bad acting (especially by the stiff Bert Convy) and laughable plot holes. The pointless musical interludes merely make it clear to us that the content of this disaster of a movie is remarkably thin (to say the least)."
Much more entertaining is the 1976 Filipino-shot exploitation flick Ebony, Ivory and Jade, aka She-Devils in Chains, which is seen by some as a minor Blaxpliotation classic. Sangster had nothing to do with that film, of course, which was directed by Cirio Santiago.

Trailer, credits, who knows – the 70s Live!:

Trailer to the non-Sangster Ebony, Ivory and Jade:

The Billion Dollar Threat
(1979, dir. Barry Shear)

Sangster returns to the super-spy genre in this TV movie that tries to imitate the Roger Moore Bond films; again, the pilot, directed by TV-veteran Barry Shear, went nowhere. (Shear did do a rare and interesting cinema release in his day, including Across 110th Street [1972 / trailer] and the classic generation gap film, Wild in the Streets [1968 / trailer]). The government sends a CIA agent to investigate UFOs sighted in Utah (and a dead agent); instead, he discovers a madman out to destroy the earth's ozone unless given big money (remember the film's title?).

Once Upon a Spy
(1980, dir. Ivan Nagy)

A TV movie from Ivan Nagy, better known as the former boyfriend of Heidi Fleiss. Nagy started out with a few schlock flicks in the early seventies (Pushing Up Daisies [1973], Bad Charleston Charlie [1973] and Deadly Hero [1976]) before becoming a busy TV director; after his last cinema release in 1993, however, the horror film Skinner (trailer), he concentrated on straight-to-video masturbatory visual aids like Trailer Trash Teri (1998) – until 2001, when he seems to have disappeared into Southern California. About this film, at imdb, John Seals says: "This strangely endearing Movie of the Week features Ted Danson as a computer expert reluctantly pulled into the orbit of a mysterious American intelligence service run by grand dame Eleanor Parker. Parker needs his expertise to track down super villain Christopher Lee, a wheelchair-bound businessman with his eye on world domination via a super weapon [...]. Danson is teamed up with secret agent Mary Louise Weller, an attractive and almost believable actress who does her best with the rather hackneyed dialogue. Danson gets the best stuff from screenwriter Jimmy Sangster [...] and Lee seems to be having a grand time. Good fun if you're in the right mood."

5-minute outtake w/great Bond-like music:

(1980, dir. John Huston)

Generally considered one of John Huston's worst films by people that haven't yet seen Annie (1982 / trailer). The plot according to Wikipedia: "Psychiatrist Dr. Peter Ross (Paul Michael Glaser) M.D., is using radical techniques on his patients to cure them of their various phobias. He becomes terrified when someone starts murdering the subjects one at a time."
Opening credits, with commentary:

The Devil and Max Devlin
(1981, dir. Steven Hilliard Stern)

Perhaps the deep point of Jimmy Sangster's career: An unfunny Disney comedy. Nuff said.


No Place to Hide
(1981, dir. John Llewellyn Moxey)

Moxey and Sangster join forces to make (surprise!) yet another "They're trying to drive me mad" thriller. Hysteria Lives says: "No Place to Hide is a strictly PG-rated affair, though – there's no gore, little violence (there's only one death in the entire film) and certainly no nudity." The plot, according to Lukas Fichtinger at imdb: "Amy is the Mannings only daughter. After the death of her rich father, she lives together with her stepmother. Recently she sees a man in black following her, waiting for her in her car, wanting to kill her. The police can't help her. But who is this man in black? Is it the strange young man whom she recently dated? Or the psychologist her mother told her to visit? Or is she really insane...?"

First ten minutes:

The Toughest Man in the World
(1984, dir. Dick Lowry)

Though it is hard to conceive that Sangster could sink lower than The Devil and Max Devlin, he did just that with this film, for which he supplied the "teleplay". It is the TV movie debut no one less than Mr T – who is actually pretty cool as the bearded lady ("I am woman – I like me.") in Freaked (1993 / trailer). Imdb says the plot is as follows: "Mr. T [... plays] a tough and scowling, but softhearted, nightclub bouncer who finds himself involved with a bunch of kids after being conned into taking over a youth center."

Mr T "rapping" The Toughest Man in the World:

Flashback - Mörderische Ferien
(2000, dir. Michael Karen)

A German slasher "based on an idea by" Jimmy Sangster. Dr. Gore gives the film a rating of 1.5 out 4 because he "had a Flashback to Anatomy in the Swimming Pool on Friday the 13th with a Scream because I Know What You Did Last Summer was tutor French Deep in the Woods". For A Wasted Life's opinion of this "film", go here.


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