Thursday, June 27, 2024

Junesploitation 2024 Day 27: Barbara Steele!


  1. I have been watching Barbara Steele for a long time now. For newbies to her films, I would recommend Castle of Blood, Nightmare Castle, or Black Sunday as the strongest horror films she starred in. The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, The Long Hair Of Death, and An Angel For Satan are excellent productions without a lot of horror elements in them. David Cronenberg’s Shivers is also noteworthy though Steele’s role in that one is small.

    Despite being an aficionado of Italian gothic horror, I willingly admit that none of the films are without flaws. The major issues are slow pacing and lack of logic in the scripts, aspects that one just has to tolerate with the Italian productions.

    My choice for today is...

    THE GHOST (1963, dir. Riccardo Freda)

    I went with the gothic film that had the longest gap since the last viewing experience. The widescreen version on Tubi, though not in high definition, is the best I have seen The Ghost look. I watched it as a pan-and-scan VHS rip before. In the film, Barbara is a cold-hearted murderer trying to profit from her husband’s death in early 20-century Scotland, but things do not turn out as planned. The Ghost is connected to an earlier film, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, yet it is a completely separate story. It gave Barbara Steele one of her most dramatic roles and has solid direction by Riccardo Freda. The Ghost, overall, is a decent deep cut in her career.

  2. Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

    This movie has a great cast (Barbara Steele, Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff) but unfortunately doesn't do much with them. It's got some dream sequences to break the monotony, but they just come across as "too much" and go on too long. You DO get to see Steele in blue make-up wearing goat horns, but then even that just drags on.

    It's going against stiff competition, but far and away the least enjoyable movie I've watched this month.

    1. I completely agree with you on Curse of the Crimson Altar, Paul. It is a weak film all around, especially surprising with three British horror icons present. It just shows how important a decent script and a sense of pacing is to creating a watchable film.

    2. I'm a little regretful, because I've been wanting to watch Black Sunday but didn't realise she was in it. I could have made a better choice rather than just picking something off of Tubi without doing any research.

      However, the one standout performance was Karloff. I wasn't familiar with him, so it was nice discovery.

  3. Black Sunday (1960)

    Yet another reason I love Junesploitation...watching movies I wouldn't have found otherwise. I reallllly like this one. It's slow, moody, spooky, and BEAUTIFULLY shot in B&W. The 3rd act amps everything up in such a fun horror way. Steele is phenom in her roles, showing huge range. This flick feels like the ultimate bridge between Universal horror and modern horror. Dig it!

  4. Black Sunday (1960)

    totally agree with Maske's comments above. I was struck on this viewing how much the photography evoked the Universal movies. Between the crypt-like interiors and foggy exteriors, it felt equal parts Dracula and The Wolf Man from a style perspective.

  5. Replies
    1. The first act of this movie had me feeling like it may have been overlooked slightly, but as it goes on the pastiche of it's superior influences falls apart almost completely. Ms. Steele's haunted eyes are used effectively, but like every performance in the film, let down by the storytelling. Photography, music, locations and aforementioned acting are all strong making this a frustrating watch.

  6. Castle of Blood (1964)

    My first Antonio Margheriti, my third Barbara Steele (well, maybe fourth, since there's two of them in Black Sunday).

  7. Castle of Blood (1964)

    The set up is amazing, and the lighting, set decoration, costumes, melodrama, etc is exactly what I'm looking for in a gothic haunted house horror movie.

  8. AN ANGEL FOR SATAN (1966)
    An evil spirit escapes from an ancient statue and possesses the niece of a wealthy count. She then seeks revenge (sexy revenge!) against everyone in town. Steele is terrific in this, doing different variations on the evil seductress persona depending on which character she’s interacting with. But after a while, it feels more like soap opera melodrama than horror. I suppose they’re going for a gothic literature feel. I for one would have preferred some big thrills to go along with the gloom n’ doom.

    A witch is burned at the stake, and years later her daughter plots supernatural (and sexy!) revenge. At least I think that’s what happens. We’re jumping back and forth from past to present, with multiple actors playing dual roles. This is another one that’s more about the vibes than the plot. You just want to spend time in this world, watching Steele wander an old castle while wearing a flowing nightgown and holding a candelabra.

    Bonus Universal Monster-sploitation: CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)
    Can I get a “Heck, yeah!” from the crowd? This is the definitive monster movie, with a sense of adventure, and monster that’s both scary and sympathetic. It just hits all the right notes, and that even includes the blaring horns in the score.

    1. An Angel For Satan is a weird one in Steele's film career. The melodrama is a little too dominant for it to be a completely satisfying watch. I want to like the film more than I do.

      Are you watching Revenge of the Creature tomorrow? I prefer that over the original film, but Julie Adams does leave a strong impression from Creature From The Black Lagoon.

  9. The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

    Good Poe adaption by Corman. This and Black Sunday from earlier today have me thinking folks are compelled to paint portraits of Barbara Steele. Vincent Price uses almost ALL of his facial expressions in this one. He is so damned fun to watch.

  10. The Capitol Conspiracy aka The Prophet (1998)

    I knew I was getting Don 'The Dragon' Wilson and Barbara Steele when I impulse clicked this one from my search results, but I had no idea it was a Corman produced Fred Olen Ray joint also featuring Arthur Roberts of "Revenge Of The Ninja" fame. Full-circle junesploitation moment. I ended up genuinely enjoying it despite major shortcomings.

  11. Caged Heat (1974)

    Wow, I actually watched the flick from which the post pic was taken! Totally unintentional-- I just needed to weave a Women in Prison film into my Junespolitation experience! Steele is excellent as the steely, wheelchair bound, sexually repressed warden in this crackerjack action flick. Written and directed by Jonathan Demme, with Tak Fujimoto as DP, and soundtrack my John Cale, there's a lotta talent behind the camera. Add exploitation stalwarts Erica Gavin, Roberta Collins, Juanita Brown, and Rainbeaux Smith (among others), and you've got a recipe for WIP gold! One of the finest WIP flicks I've seen, I'd place this right up with Jack Hill's best. Also, one of my favorite films this June! We are charging down the stretch, folks!

  12. Forgot to post my review yesterday, but here it is.

    The Long Hair of Death (1964, dir. Antonio Margheriti)

    In a medieval village, a lord and his scheming son sentence a woman to death for witchcraft and murder her daughter to keep their own family's indiscretions secret. But several years later, as the 15th century is nearing its end, their past comes to haunt them in the form of a stranger who resembles the murdered daughter and a plague that sweeps the land.

    The cinematography and the soundtrack deliver some excellent gothic vibes and Barbara Steele is great, but the story barely hangs together and gets tedious (and slightly confusing) pretty fast.

  13. The Ghost (1963)
    Tepid sequel to The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock sees Barbara Steele and her lover do away with her husband. 90 minutes of tedium ensue. At times it seems as if any scary scenes have been somehow cut out, leaving us with a soap-opera grade gothic romance that just lurches from scene to scene. Awful.

  14. An Angel for Satan (1966 Dir Camillo Mastrocinque)

    Two boatsman drown and an evil statue is pulled from the lake. Then I fell asleep.