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Bonus Reviews: Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton (2015) and Beauty and the Beast (1962)
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 172
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look two more very different films: The surprisingly good 1962 pseudo-werewolf film, "Beauty and the Beast" as well as the 2015 documentary concerning Travis Walton's 1975 alien abduction.
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Beauty and the Beast (1962)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Written by George Bruce. Orville H. Hampton
Stars Joyce Taylor, Mark Damon, Eduard Franz
Run Time: 1 Hour, 17 Minutes
We start with a literal storybook. It explains that once upon a time in Italy, a lovely young maid named Althea was daughter of the Count Sardi. Althea was sent to a distant land to marry her "Prince Charming."
Duke Eduardo has only recently come to the throne, but the people are not happy. Eduardo's Uncle Bruno comes for a visit; there are rumors that Eduardo isn't healthy. The Duke has cancelled a celebration due to lack of funds. It's clear that Bruno would love to take the job of Duke away from Eduardo. Still, Bruno thinks something smells funny-- there is a problem.
Every night at sundown, Eduardo commanded everyone but his chancellor, Orsini, to leave the castle. Whenever darkness fell, Eduardo was doomed to become a werewolf.
Althea and her father, Count Roderick, arrive at the castle after dark, earlier than expected. Orsini answers the door. He recommends they stay elsewhere, but the Count isn't having it. Actually, Eduardo had a message sent a week ago, but they left before it arrived. Orsini says, "His grace is indisposed" for tonight.
The Count wonders at the lack of servants or guards. Althea soon finds herself locked in her bedroom for the night.
In the morning, Althea and the Count finally get to meet Eduardo. He fears they may need to postpone the marriage, but he has no excuse. Eduardo and Orsini talk, because Eduardo has forgotten and ignored all Orsini's advice.
That night, Grimaldi, an agent of Prince Bruno, watches the castle very closely. He talks to the servants, who also find it odd that they get sent home at night. The maid thinks maybe the Prince has sold his soul to Satan and performs a black mass every night. You know, idle gossip.
The sun goes down, and Orsini begs Eduardo to fight it like he never has before. He turns into a werewolf, but after that, he and Orsini continue to have a civilized discussion. Although there is a suggestion that they need to "feed the beast," it is very clear that Eduardo is not a raging monster.
Althea goes looking for Eduardo and follows Orsini to the dungeon where Eduardo hides at night. Orsini brings a plate of cold meat to Eduardo, and Althea gets a good look at him. She screams and faints, naturally. Reports of the screaming quickly come to Grimaldi, who repeats everything to Bruno and Sybil. Grimaldi hands Bruno the key to the main gate. Bruno wants to pay Eduardo a visit tonight.
In the morning, Eduardo explains everything to Althea and the Count. Orsini explains that Eduardo's father was harsh and a tough master, and once demanded that the Alchemist Scarlatti tell him the secret of turning lead into gold. Scarlatti was eventually entombed alive for his defiance. Scarlatti put a curse on their family. Althea refuses to abandon him.
Orsini and Eduardo continue to search for the tomb of Scarlatti. They hope that if they give him a proper burial, the curse will be lifted. Bruno and Grimaldo hear them down there, tapping on the walls. Night falls, and this time, Bruno sees what happens to Eduardo; he knows about Scarlatti's curse.
Bruno demands that Eduardo abdicate, or he'll make the curse public. That night, our heroes find Scarlatti's hidden tomb. They had hoped to find a cure, but all they see is a poem about a woman's love. It sounds like marrying Althea will break the curse. They decide to move the wedding up to tomorrow!
Bruno, however, decides to make sure that there will be no marriage. He and Grimaldi sneak into the castle to murder Althea, but Eduardo hears them. They capture Grimaldi, but Bruno gets away. Orsini suggests that Eduardo marry Althea tonight.
Bruno goes to the village and raises an angry mob with his stories. Althea and hairy-Eduardo take the carriage to the priest to get married right now! The mob swarms the carriage, and they grab Eduardo and the others. Bruno and Eduardo argue their cases in front of the mob, and it is soon decided to burn Eduardo at the stake.
They are about to set fire to Eduardo, but Althea jumps on the pyre as well, begging them to show mercy and compassion. She demands to burn with him, and suddenly, Eduardo turns human again-- the curse is lifted! The villagers get down on their knees for their now very-human Duke.
Bruno isn't going to take "no" for an answer, so Eduardo banishes him and Grimaldi from the kingdom. A few hours later, they have a big, happy wedding, and they lived happily ever after.
There's a lot of narration and exposition here, it's almost as if the story is really being read to us from a storybook. Going into this, I was expecting the usual storybook romance, but no, it's an honest-to-goodness werewolf horror film, albeit with 1962-level tameness. Still, Eduardo is probably the gentlest of all werewolves. Other than being a hairy man, he's not particularly monstrous.
For the first transformation, we see Eduardo's hand getting hairy in the usual style of stop-motion transformation. The second time, we also get Eduardo's face, and although he ends up looking like a lighter-skinned version of Lon Chaney's "Wolf Man," the transformation is much smoother than in that classic film. This was make-up genius Jack Pierce's final film, so that explains the resemblance-- he created both monsters.
This "Werewolf" not only isn't a monster, but he changes every night, not just under the full moon. We don't really know about silver bullets or an of that because they don't kill him at the end. The whole "werewolf" idea is a little loose here.
It's very, very tame, with a zero death count, except for Scarlatti, but that was decades ago and off-screen. Not even the scheming Bruno dies at the end.
Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton (2015)
Directed by Jennifer Stein
Stars Aura Gutierrez, Tim Hicks, Otto Martin
Run Time: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Travis Walton's story of alien abduction is the basis for the horror/science fiction/thriller "Fire In The Sky". This is a straight up documentary telling about the events around it, focusing much more on the guys that were with him and the aftermath rather than much detail from Travis about what happened to him while he was missing for five days. It's interesting and well put together, leaving the viewer to decide how much to believe or remain skeptical.
We begin with interviews Mike Rogers, John Goulette, Steve Pierce, Ken Peterson, Dwayne Smith, as well as Sheriff Gillespie, Deputy Ellison, and Travis Walton himself.
There is discussion about a polygraph test, Travis's twelve-pound weight loss in only five days, and much more are discussed. Then they talk about what happened on that night and during the following five days. They spend a lot of time talking about Walton's mental state in the following days and how he was most likely in PTSD from whatever happened. A psychiatrist was called in who hypnotized Travis, and his story held up for that, as well as with the lie detector. The problem was that there was absolutely zero physical evidence, which made the story hard to prove, even with seven people telling the same story.
As the years passed, the growth rate of the trees around the clearing started to increase more than it should; there is speculation the UFO altered the area in some way with radiation.
There were investigations from the CIA, NSA, and famous debunkers such as Philip J. Klass of the time. The documentary clearly implies that there was a government plot to discredit Travis and his friends.
At one point, Travis explains that the beam of light may have severely injured, or even killed, him, and the aliens took him aboard their ship to repair the damage they caused. Would that make it a happy ending?
Kevin said it went off the rails in the middle and leaned into a paranoid conspiracy tale. When they started talking about government conspiracy to debunk the story... yeah, it was a bit paranoid.
The basic facts on Earth match up fairly well with the story told in "Fire in the Sky," but Walton has always disavowed the portion of that film that shows what happened to him on the alien spacecraft. That film was terrifying torture, but he doesn't seem to think that was really the case-- they may have even been trying to help him.
It's nice hearing all these stories from the people who were originally there. I'm not convinced that it makes the story any more believable, but it was really enlightening.
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