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The Retaliators, The Blob, Mystery of the Wax Museum, and Saloum
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 187
We’ve got our usual collection of four horror films and a short film for you this week. This week, our oldie film is the original version of "Mystery of the Wax Museum" from 1933. We'll jump a few decades and watch the original "The Blob" from 1958. Then we'll take a look at "Saloum" and "The Retaliators," both new releases.
In the Bonus reviews this week, over at
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Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Don Mullaly, Carl Erikson, Charles Belden
Stars Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell
Run Time: 1 Hour, 17 minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Years before the groundbreaking 3D thriller with Vincent Price, there was the original. It’s good and entertaining. We watched the nice-looking restored version. It’s dated, which adds to the charm that it has. The direction and cinematography are excellent. It’s worth the watch.
In 1921 London, we begin at a wax museum. Vincent Price– no, no, this was Lionel Atwill in this version, is at work on a new statue for the museum. Ivan Igor the artist goes to the door and lets in a stranger, Mr. Galatalin. Ivan shows a few of the features of the museum, and the two visitors compliment his work. His greatest work is Mary Antoinette. Galatalin wants to submit Ivan’s work to the Royal Academy upon his return.
As the two men leave, a creepy stranger waits outside. The man is Worth, Ivan’s business partner, who complains about expenses and financial losses. Neither of them has a penny left, but they do have fire insurance. Burning the place down will get their money back. Ivan doesn’t want to see his work destroyed and refuses. He’s a little eccentric, okay maybe almost crazy, referring to the statues as his children and talking about them like they are alive. Worth starts a fire right in the middle of their discussion, and Marie Antoinette is the first to burn. The two men struggle and fight, and as the fire spreads, Ivan is left behind to burn to death as Worth flees.
Time passes, and now it’s New Year’s Eve 1933. We see that Ivan is alive, albeit a little older-looking, in a wheelchair with gnarled hands. The police load a dead body onto a wagon and cart it away. The newspaper later reports that beautiful actress Joan Gale was declared a suicide.
Later, at the morgue, a disfigured man comes in on a table disguised as a corpse. He checks out the dead bodies until he finds the one he wants: Joan Gale. He ties a rope around her waist and lowers her out the window to his waiting accomplices.
At the newspaper, Florence gets fired; Editor Jim says she can save herself if she gets a good story for the next edition. She gets a tip from a cop that Joan’s husband, George Winton, may have murdered her. Florence goes to see George at the jail, and he knows nothing about the missing body. Eight bodies have gone missing in the past eighteen months. Florence suspects a connection.
There’s a new wax museum opening in town. Ralph Burton is a young sculptor, but he isn’t very good in his new boss’s eyes. His deaf assistant isn’t much better. The boss’s hands are disfigured, and he’s bitter about not being able to sculpt himself anymore. Plus there’s the wheelchair. The boss is, of course, Ivan Igor. They get a delivery from Professor Darcy, a new figure; it’s a new Joan of Arc.
Ralph calls his girlfriend Charlotte to lunch. Charlotte’s roommate is Florence. George Winton is released from jail. Florence sneaks into the museum and sees them setting up the statues; tonight is the grand opening. George comes in; his father has financed the museum. When Ivan Igor sees Charlotte, he immediately recognizes his new Marie Antoinette. What a coincidence! He asks if she’d like to pose for one of his sculptors.
Florence goes back to the office and wants to see photos of Joan Gale. She looks just like the museum’s version of Joan of Arc. Florence thinks they made a “death mask” after stealing Joan’s body. Her boss, Jim, thinks she’s crazy.
At the opening, Ivan explains how many of his statues are re-creations of his old works. He’s hired young sculptors to do the work since his hands are ruined. The shady Professor Darcy recognizes someone and tells Ivan. Florence checks out the Joan statue again. Ivan says that Darcy created the Joan of Arc statue under his direction. We see that Darcy has a connection with Mr. Worth, who is also still alive. For now.
Florence sneaks back into the museum after closing time, and she sees the disfigured man working down there. She comes out and tells George and the police that the Joan statue is really Joan Gale. She describes the man from the basement, but the cops are skeptical. They go into the basement and open a box; inside, they find bunches of alcohol bottles. They catch Darcy who incriminates the bootlegger, Worth. They all leave, but at least Florence snags a few bottles. Darcy has Judge Ramsey’s watch on him; the Judge went missing several months ago.
Later, we see the disfigured man carrying a body in a lair with a giant boiling vat of wax in the center. Darcy, an addict, starts going through withdrawal, and the cops know it’s just a matter of time before he spills the beans.
Charlotte goes to the museum looking for Ralph, and she runs into the mute Hugo instead. Ivan sends her downstairs to find Ralph, but she ends up locked in down there. Ivan follows soon after and shows her his secret waxwork factory. He stands up and grabs her, so she screams. Seems he was faking that whole wheelchair thing.
Florence arrives at the museum, but George is delayed. Ralph arrives and lets Florence inside. She figures out that the statue of Voltaire is really the missing judge. Darcy confirms all this to the police. “The whole place is a morgue!” shouts Darcy.
Charlotte fights back against Ivan and tears off his wax face disguise, revealing the deformed man beneath. The ugly man is Ivan’s real appearance. Ivan opens up a box, revealing Worth’s dead body. Ralph and Ivan fight and Ivan knocks out the other man. Then Ivan wheels Charlotte over to the wax-pouring machine, one with a complicated system so there’s a nice suspenseful chance to rescue her in time. Upstairs, Florence arrives with George and the police to help, but they can’t get in.
The police break in and chase Ivan around until they shoot him, and he falls into the wax tub. Ralph pulls Charlotte out from under the wax just in time. Later, Florence gets the biggest scoop of her career. Jim the editor suddenly wants to marry Florence.
We watched the restored, pseudo-color 2019 version of this one. The cinematography is interesting, with lots of shadows and expressionistic weird angles. The film only consists of red and green shades, but you’d barely notice it.
It’s both very dated and also a little ahead of its time. The main protagonist turns out to be the annoying, brash Florence, who figured everything out eventually. Of course, in the end, she has to marry the editor, because that’s what women did in the 30s.
Ivan Igor doesn’t hide the fact that he’s the same sculptor from London. In the remake, Vincent Price pretended to be someone else after his “rebirth.”
The Blob (1958)
Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. Russell S. Doughten Jr.
Written by Theodore Simonson, Kay Linaker, Irvine H. Millgate
Stars Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe
Run Time: 1 Hour, 26 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a little dated, and kind of talky in some places. But faults aside, it was groundbreaking for the time with the special effects. The monster makes the movie. Overall, it’s still pretty good and unsettling.
Credits roll over the funky saxophone-laden “Beware of the Blob” song. It’s said they did a lighthearted opening song to reduce the intensity of the scare factor. Steve and Jane are making out in the park, the oldest highschoolers you’ve ever seen. She thinks she’s just the latest in a long line of his conquests, but he says she’s his first. Before that goes anywhere, a meteorite crashes nearby.
Not too far away, an old man hears the crash as well and goes to investigate. He finds it and pokes it with a stick to find that it’s got a gooey filling inside. The goop gets stuck on the stick, and before he realizes what’s happening, it gets stuck on his hand.
The old man runs off, screaming before Steve and Jane arrive; they don’t see anything. The old man flags them down and says to take him to town for a doctor. Dr. Hallen is just about to leave town for the weekend when they arrive. They unwrap his hand, but by this point, his hand has melted away and the “blob” has gotten bigger.
On the way out of the doctor’s office, three teens challenge him to a drag race, but his trick backfires when the local cop, Lt. Dave, shows up. He talks his way out of trouble, and his three friends follow along to help. Steve and his buddies find the meteorite, but it’s just a warm rock at this stage. They also find the old man’s house and little dog, which Jane takes along.
Back at the Doctor’s office, the man with the blob-hand has passed out– but something’s moving under the blanket. He calls in Kate the nurse. By the time the nurse arrives, the man is gone, and there’s nothing but a rolling blob of goo. After it eats Nurse Kate, the doctor shoots it to no effect.
Steve arrives back at the doctor’s just in time to watch the doctor die. Steve goes to the police and runs into Dave and the other cops, who don’t really believe him. Dave thinks it’s just a teenage prank. When they finally get Dave to visit the place, they find the place wrecked, but there are no bodies. The cops are still skeptical, but the landlady wants to clean up and at least dust around the fingerprints.
Elsewhere, a couple of mechanics work on a car in the garage. One leaves the other under the being worked on, not seeing the oozy blob sliding toward him. Lt. Dave calls Jane and Steve’s parents, who take them home. They both promptly sneak out again. Steve starts to doubt what he already saw, but Jane supports him; she knows he wouldn’t make that up.
Steve and Jane go to the movie theater to pick up his three friends (that’s 80 cents they’ll never get back). He tells them that he saw a monster kill Doctor Hallan. They need to find the creature.
The, uh, “kids,” go through the town warning people about monsters, and that goes about how you’d expect. Steve goes into the apparently-deserted grocery store, and they find the blob inside. They can’t get out the back door, so they end up hiding in the meat cooler. The blob starts to come in under the door and changes its mind; it leaves them.
Steve gives Tony a dime to call the police and come to the grocery store. The cop who answers the phone thinks it’s a prank. Steve insists that they have to wake up the entire town, but Sgt Bert of the police thinks it’s all a conspiracy. The kids drive through town blasting their car horns to wake everyone up. The air raid siren goes off.
A huge crowd arrives in front of the grocery, where Steve relays what’s going on. The police disperse the crowd. Except we see that the blob isn’t in the grocery anymore; it’s moved to the town’s movie theater, where it oozes into the projection booth. Just as they figure out the monster’s not in the grocery, there’s a mass stampede out of the theater.
Danny, Jane’s brother, tries to shoot the monster with his cap gun and then runs into a diner. The blob covers the diner with Steve and several others inside. Dave calls and says they’re going to drop a power line on the thing to kill it. It has no effect. There’s a small fire in the diner, and Steve puts it out with a fire extinguisher. The creature withdraws from the cold of the fire extinguisher. That’s why it didn’t get them in the cooler!
Dave tells the firemen and teenagers to gather all the fire extinguishers in town and come back to fight the blob. With dozens of extinguishers, they guide the blob away from the diner, and everyone gets out unharmed. They freeze the thing solid, and the army picks it up and dumps it in the arctic.
Steve McQueen was nearly thirty when he made this, and he looks it. The acting and dialog isn’t particularly good from any of the cast, and the story is predictable. The thing is, the monster is so good that it became an almost instant classic. It’s just an amorphous blob of red goo, but it moves realistically, and it’s completely alien. Plus, it was in color, which was still a novelty for a horror film in 1958.
It’s really dated, but it’s still actually pretty good.
Short Film: Mob Ghost (2022)
Directed by Jimmy Caputo
Written by Jimmy Caputo
Stars Paul Noonan, Mark Atkinson, Nick Albanese, Jeff Blanchette
Run Time: 9 Minutes
A man sits alone eating and smells smoke; the stove in his kitchen has gone haywire. No– it’s a ghost!
He calls in a paranormal investigator who says that it’s the ghost of an Italian crime boss, Paulie the Butcher, who used to live here– and died here. “That explains the smell of pasta cooking,” says the man. The expert works cheap; he just wants some weed or something. Never look for an exorcist on Craigslist!
It’s more humor than horror, but it’s an exorcist story down deep, at least until it becomes The Sopranos. “Where’s my gabagool?”
It’s well-shot, well-acted, and very funny, especially if you like Italian mobster films. There may be worse things than living with a mob ghost, as poor George finds out in the end.
Directed by Jean Luc Herbulot
Written by Jean Luc Herbulot, Pamela Diop
Stars Yann Gael, Evelyne Ily Juhen, Roger Sallah
Run Time: 1 Hour, 24 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Great acting, great story, beautiful cinematography. It doesn’t make Africa look like a fun place to live or visit, at least in the parts they show us here, but it was a treat seeing it. African horror movies actually made by Africans with a mostly African cast are a rarity, and this one is a gem worth viewing for sure.
“We say that revenge is like a river whose bottom is reached only when we drown.”
We begin in Guinea-Bissau in 2003. A large number of soldiers and civilians are killed by men who leave calling cards all over the place. Their pledge to restore order looks like bloodshed, but they’re working against the drug trade. The main trio are guns for hire, with another guy pulled along. There’s lots of shooting as the men take their gold payment and fly away. We move to Barre, Gambia, where something goes wrong with the men’s plane. They make for Saloum, Senegal instead of Dakar, where they were supposed to drop Felix off. Credits roll.
After landing the plane in the desert, the men bury their gold and make a note with the GPS coordinates. The men figure out their plane was sabotaged before they even took off. It’s an eight-hour walk to get repair stuff and more fuel. At one point in their journey, Chaka is given a drug to knock him out, and he has a nightmare. Turns out, he’s afraid to ride in a boat because of an extreme water phobia and had to be sedated for the journey.
They come to the Baobob, a place where people will forget about them if they stay a few days. The motel there suddenly has two open rooms, so they stay there. There are no charges for food and drink and lodging, but it’s a place where everyone has to do fieldwork or chores daily to pay. White-hair-man, Papa Minuit, is a sort of shaman, who puts white-beard-man, Rafa, into a trance and says there are eyes upon them.
At dinner that night, the four men meet Youce and Sephora, a pair of artists who are also visiting the region. Awa the deaf mute is another guest, and Salamane is Omar the host’s assistant. Chaka doesn’t take his gloves off at dinner; he’s quite strange. We see that Awa can read lips, and she knows quite a bit about them already. The trio know sign language, and at dinner, she says she’s coming with them going forward– or she’s going to expose them. Felix doesn’t speak the language, so he just follows along with the others. Captain Souleymane of the police arrives, and the party breaks up.
The next morning, they are all assigned chores. Rafa and Awa are out on a boat, and she knows a lot more about the trio of men than she let on last night. They are heroes in her eyes. As Papa Minuit delivers goods to the town, we see someone running around behind him. Chaka and Omar go out with guns to stop fishing poachers. Felix ends up planting mangroves in the field, but Souleymane says that he knows that the cartel has put a price on Felix’s head. He’s a smart guy, who puts together who the trio are, and he wants Felix to help keep them distracted so he can bring in cops to deal with them. Or else.
We get several blurry, dreamlike shots of people chained up in a barn. It’s some kind of vision that Chaka has of his own childhood. Later, at dinner, he accuses Omar of hurting the child in his dreams. Omar admits it, and Chaka kills him. Omar kept Chaka as a child slave years ago, and he escaped. Captain Souleymane calls for backup, but Chaka already paid off the cops to leave - he was on to him all the time. Souleymane is on his own. Minuit and Rafa accuse Chaka of bringing them here on purpose. This was all planned.
The next morning, the skies are full of flying insects, and Felix has seizures and dies. Minuit says that it’s spirits; no man could have done this to Felix. Salamane the assistant says that Omar was the guardian; “You killed the only barrier between them and us. They’re coming to take us, one by one. You killed his ferryman!” It’s the curse of Gana Sira Bana. To avoid hearing them, you have to cover your ears or else they will take you.
Chaka goes outside and is attacked by the smoke monster; he’s soon rescued by Awa. The living clumps can be slashed or shot, which breaks them up temporarily. The house is surrounded by the cloud, but they all put on headphones to protect them from hearing the creature. Chaka and the Captain find a bunch of children, all chained up like Chaka was as a child; they release the kids. Salamane says that Omar was sacrificing them to the thing to keep it appeased. Salamane and Souleymane are both killed by the creature; so are Youce and Sephora.
Chaka and Rafe find Minuit in a meditation pose; he says he is holding the creature at bay, but he won’t last for much longer. The two younger men then shoot Minuit dead. The monster dissipates, but not for long.
To escape, they have to get in a boat, which terrifies Chaka. Awa keeps him distracted while Rafa rows the boat. The monster attacks, pulling Chaka out of the boat and drowning him.
Rafa and Awa row on with the fuel and repair parts for the airplane as the monster dissolves.
Africa doesn’t look like a very fun place to visit, even before the monster shows up.
I would love to have a suitcase with an almost-Spectre, almost-Hydra logo on the side. Very cool!
The weird swarm creature is well done and interesting. Kind of cohesive clouds of insects. It seems an awful lot like the smoke-monster from “Lost.”
It’s a good story of a complex revenge plot and a surprise monster that no one expected.
The Retaliators (2021)
Directed by Samuel Gonzalez Jr, Michael Lombardi, Bridget Smith
Written by Darren Geare, Jeff Allen Geare
Stars Michael Lombardi, Marc Menchaca, Joseph Gatt
Run Time: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
What was expected to be a pretty standard revenge flick turned out to be something pretty special. This has a strong cast, excellent effects, and a good story. It’s not strictly horror, but it does the job nicely.
We begin with a voiceover talking about justice and evil, “Maybe sometimes it’s better to keep evil alive.” As credits roll, we watch a man throw a body down a well.
Near Hillsdale, New Jersey, a couple of girls are trying to figure out a paper map. Naturally, they turn down onto a private road and get a flat tire. Someone grabs Erica and drags her off into the woods. The other girl gets a scare as a bunch of crazy-acting people close in. A guy shows up yelling that they aren’t zombies as he gets dragged away. The doors slam on the van with the girl inside, and we see the gore splashing the insides of the windows.
In Stockbridge, New Jersey, a teen girl is in a grief counseling group meeting. Sarah tells her story about something that happened when she was ten, and someone is watching from outside the room.
Pastor Bishop goes to buy a Christmas tree with his two daughters. We see that the eldest daughter is Sarah from the previous scene. The guy watching was her father, the pastor. There’s almost a fight over a tree, but Bishop backs off. Later, Sarah rubs in what a wimp he is, but he says that real life isn’t like action heroes in the movies. He incorporates the fight story into his Christmas Eve sermon. He talks about revenge on people who wrong us. You can already smell the “Death Wish” vibes on this guy.
Elsewhere, a man in a wheelchair rolls into a warehouse, where he encounters a creepy bald-headed dude, Ram Kady. Ram takes the drugs from the man in the wheelchair and kills him.
Sarah’s off to a Christmas Party, where she’s told to be home by 11:30. As she fills up the gas tank, Kady is there leering. And there’s a thumping from his trunk - the man in the wheelchair isn’t quite dead after all. She knows something isn’t right, and he knows she knows. He tries to attack her, but she sprays him with pepper spray. She calls her dad because the guy is chasing her down the road in his car. Kady runs her off the road and zip ties her hands to the steering wheel. He then pushes her car into the lake. When Bishop arrives a while later, he does not take it well.
Detective Jed Sawyer comes by to ask about Sarah’s final phone call. Sawyer explain that it wasn’t road rage, it was murder. Elsewhere, a cop pulls over Ram Kady, and the cop injects him with something. Vic, Ram’s brother, starts calling around looking for the missing goon. At the same time, people are missing that guy in the wheelchair.
John Bishop is still distraught, and wants to go looking for his daughter’s murderer.
Detective Jed tells Bishop about a serial killer from ten years back and his own personal experience with tragedy.
Elsewhere, Ram Kady wakes up in a torture chamber.
Otto, the opposing gang leader, declares war on Vic’s gang because he thinks Ram stole the drugs and the money.
Things devolve from there…
“Those aren’t zombies!”
From watching the trailer, we had doubts that this even qualified as a horror film. Yes, it definitely does.
It looks good and has good pacing and cinematography. The dialogue is a bit weak in places, but completely acceptable. The overall story is really good. I didn’t care for the music selections, but since the members of Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, and Tommy Lee were actually among the cast, I guess the soundtrack was preordained. Kevin on the other hand loved the music and thought it was awesome seeing all those people from the music industry in this.
The synopsis above makes this sound like a typical “Death Wish” revenge thriller film, but it eventually goes well over the line into horror. Keep in mind, it takes a while to get there, but the payoff is worth the wait. The gore shots are wonderfully excessive and look pretty realistic.
We both liked it a lot more than we expected to.
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