Friday, September 22, 2023


Director: León Klimovsky

Writer: Jacinto Molina (Paul Naschy)

Producer: Salvadore Romero

Cast: Paul Naschy, Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, Patty Shepard (as Paty Shepard), Andrés Resino, Yelena Samarina, José Marco, Barta Barri, Julio Peña, Betsabé Ruiz, Luis Gaspar, María Luisa Tovar, Ruperto Ares, Eduardo Chappa (uncredited), Carlos Aured (uncredited) 

Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) and Genevieve (Barbara Capell) are two college students traveling in Northern France doing research for their thesis. They are looking for the tomb of Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy (Patty Shepard), a notorious 11th-century Hungarian rumored to be a witch and a vampire that drank the blood of the virgins she killed. The two students happen to meet reclusive writer Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy). He agrees to help them find Countess Wandesa’s tomb while they stay at his country house. Daninsky is suffering from a werewolf curse and believes that finding the tomb can help him end his affliction. When the remains of Wandesa are discovered, the vampire countess is accidentally revived just before Walpurgis Night when her master Satan’s power will be at its peak. 

The Flashback Fanatic movie review 

Paul Naschy’s werewolf character, Waldemar Daninsky, had already appeared in four previous films. After the character’s successful debut in Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1968), aka The Mark of the Wolfman, the next three films suffered many production difficulties and muddled results. In fact, the second Daninsky movie, Nights of the Wolfman (1968), was supposedly never completed and is considered a lost film. 

The Daninsky-Werewolf films were not a series in the normal sense. Many of the films often introduced the character with a new origin for his lycanthropy affliction and the stories could take place in different settings and eras. Many consider Walpurgis Night a sequel to The Fury of the Wolfman (1970/released 1972?). However, that previously made film was released at least a year later and only shares a couple details with Walpurgis Night, which was released in the US as The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman. As in other Waldemar Daninsky films, there is no specific movie series continuity adhered to in this story. We are introduced to the Daninsky character as a corpse lying in a morgue with two silver bullets in his chest. Although Daninsky had been killed in earlier films, this story is not necessarily an actual sequel to any of them. 

The pentagrams finally all seemed to be in alignment for Walpurgis Night. It was the box-office hit that finally made horror hot in Spanish cinema. It would be the most successful film in actor/screenwriter (and later director) Paul Naschy’s vast filmography.

Here Naschy works for the first time with the reliable and versatile director León Klimovsky. Following the suggestions in Naschy’s script, Klimovsky shot slow motion sequences for the vampires that add a dreamy, mystical atmosphere to the film. It has been suggested that this may very well have influenced director Amando de Ossorio’s similar technique for the blood-drinking specters in his famous Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972) and its sequels. The Blind Dead series’ creatures also look quite similar to the zombie monk seen in Walpurgis Night. 

What is always of interest to this Paul Naschy fan is the recurrence of Naschy’s particular tropes in his stories. Naschy’s scripts often have the character he plays getting it on with at least one beauty he meets in the story. That’s always a nice perk for a screenwriter starring in his own films. As is also usually the case, here the attraction is almost immediate and declarations of love and sex soon follow. 

This film also includes the Naschy trope of the violent rural dweller (Luis Gaspar) accosting Naschy’s hero. It seems practically every time one of Naschy’s characters gets away from the hustle and bustle of the city, he ends up being assailed by at least one dangerous country ruffian that just happens to drop in for no good reason. I wonder if that reflects some deep-seated resentment of what Naschy may have considered a rustic Spanish mindset that might have impeded the acceptance of the horror films that Naschy wanted to make. At that time Spain’s Francisco Franco regime decreed that Spanish films should be devoted to portraying traditional Spanish culture and values in a positive light. This stifled a lot of genre films, especially horror, from being made in Spain, unless the stories were set in other countries. 

In a nod to the monster mash inspirations from the Universal Pictures of his youth, Naschy provides that favorite trope of multiple menaces in his horror films. Here in Walpurgis Night, we not only have a werewolf and a vampire to deal with; we also get that vampire’s ancient monk ally (Eduardo Chappa) rising from the dead, a victim of the vampire becoming another vampire, a dangerously unhinged handyman (José Marco), a vengeful, knife-wielding, country widower, and Waldemar Daninsky’s deranged, breast-fixated sister Elizabeth (Yelena Samarina) attacking his nubile guests. 

All of these offbeat characters enliven a simple story with one-dimensional characters. That simplicity enhances the often-dreamlike feel of the film, but there are no characters of much dramatic interest here. This film is chiefly an exercise in supernatural situations and atmosphere. 

Of course, Naschy once again effectively vents his werewolf animosity. That is in great contrast to the subdued and controlled manner of his human side. It is only in close ups of Naschy that we see subtle flickers of emotion register on his stoic features. As Waldemar Daninsky, he conveys certain resignation to his plight as one who is cursed and seeking the release of a permanent death. 

Gaby Fuchs is stuck with the film’s second-most thankless role. As Elvira, her character never displays much personality or motivation. She is supposed to be the plot’s major protagonist as a researcher looking for the grave of the vampire Countess Wandesa. She is also the lady that falls for the tragic Waldemar. However, this doomed love angle is never as poignant as it should be due to the thin characterizations of both Elvira and Waldemar. Although it is often difficult to judge the effectiveness of an actor in a dubbed performance, despite being the lead character along with Naschy’s Waldemar, Fuch’s role of Elvira seems to be little more than a plot device. 

Elvira’s classmate and friend, Genevieve (Barbara Capell), is a character of no greater depth, but she has a bit of vivacious charm and humor. She also has the interest advantage by indulging in vampire shenanigans after the Countess puts the bite on her. 

Patty Shepard had appeared as a different character in an earlier Daninsky film Assignment Terror (1970), aka The Monsters of Terror. In Walpurgis Night her Countess Wandesa would be another of those proponents for lesbian vampirism becoming all the rage in 1970s horror films. According to Paul Naschy, Shepard regretted taking the part, but it is probably the one she is most remembered for. Patty Shepard really looks great in her very limited role. With her enigmatic, pale beauty draped in wispy, black veils, her character has a great spectral presence. Her vertical rise from her tomb late in the story is probably my favorite shot in the entire film. There is something about that simple feat that seems truly supernatural. 

If you are still wondering who has this film’s most thankless role, you are to be congratulated for hanging on my every word. Of course, since Elvira is the second-most thankless role here, it stands to reason that Andrés Resino, as her boyfriend, Inspector Marcel, would take top prize for the most thankless role in Walpurgis Night. He is not only ineffectual, he also gets passed over by his girlfriend for a werewolf with a death wish who lets his loony sister run about unsupervised to grope her. In fact, Marcel is the plot device that enables Elvira’s character (who is barely more than a plot device herself) to have someone to relay the exposition to regarding the Countess Wandessa history for the benefit of the audience. Resino looks like he is actually delivering his lines with some conviction; despite the sometimes-awkward English dialogue dubbing he receives. 

Regardless of any nits to pick, Euro-horror buffs and Paul Naschy fans will find Walpurgis Night to be essential viewing. Paul Naschy himself was initially underwhelmed with his first viewing of the film, as he considered director Klimovsky more of a craftsman than an artist. But Naschy did appreciate the film’s most effective sequences and later took pride in Walpurgis Night energizing Spanish horror film production in the 1970s. 

I have to believe that part of this film’s record-setting box office performance in Spain was due to some happy accident of timing. Spanish filmmakers had been dabbling in horror for most of the 1960s, yet those productions seemed to find greater success in other countries. In 1971 it seemed that many Spanish moviegoers were finally ready to succumb to the lurid allure of homegrown horror. Paul Naschy was just the right guy to feed their fright flick fever.

Friday, September 8, 2023


Director: Gordon Douglas

Writers: Marvin H. Albert and Jack Guss adapting Albert’s 1961 novel

Producer: Aaron Rosenberg

Cast: Frank Sinatra, Raquel Welch, Dan Blocker, Richard Conte, Lainie Kazan, Martin Gabel, Steve Peck, Pat Henry, Richard Deacon, Christine Todd, Alex Stevens, Virginia Wood, Frank Raiter, Mac Robbins, Tommy Uhlar, Rey Baumel, Pauly Dash, Andy Jarrell, Peter Hock, (and uncredited cast members) Lanita Kent, Bunny Yeager, Charlene Mathies, Shirley Parker, Al Algiro, Robert ‘Buzz’ Henry, Joe E. Lewis, B.S. Pully, Jilly Rizzo, Chris Robinson, Maxie Rosenbloom, Coz Serrapere, Dick Sterling 

While scuba diving off the Miami, Florida coast, private detective Tony Rome (Frank Sinatra) discovers the naked corpse of a beautiful blonde (Christine Todd) on the ocean floor with her feet encased in a block of cement. Rome reports the bizarre discovery to the police and the autopsy determines that the unidentified woman died of a knife wound to the heart. Soon after this incident, a huge and intimidating man named Waldo Gronsky (Dan Blocker) hires Rome. For reasons he will not divulge, Gronsky wants Rome to find a woman named Sandra Lomax. Rome’s investigations soon have him mingling with go-go dancers, gangsters, and a beautiful boozing and gambling heiress named Kit Forrest (Raquel Welch). More people are found dead of knife wounds and Rome is implicated. 

The Flashback Fanatic movie review 

Despite 1967’s Tony Rome supposedly being a dud at the box office, the sequel Lady in Cement was made the following year. Frank Sinatra returns to play the private eye, and this time around Marvin H. Albert, the original author of the Tony Rome detective novels, works on the screenplay. 

Again we have an approach to the material that is both adult and light-hearted. There is more grim and sleazy stuff going on, but there is always a flippant counterpoint delivered by Tony Rome and the other characters used to the cold, cruel world of Miami’s criminal environment. 

The underwater scene at the beginning of the picture is unusual and impressive. Christine Todd as a naked corpse has several sharks cruising around her as the scuba diving stuntman playing Tony Rome is swimming among them. The diver actually kicks away some of the sharks as they get too close for comfort. This is where the expertise of underwater sequence supervisor Riccou Browning came in handy. He had performed the swimming scenes as the monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and its sequels. Browning also supervised the teams of divers for the extensive underwater action in the James Bond epic Thunderball (1965). 

Aside from the eerie underwater opening, the rest of the film has an approach that is even lighter than its predecessor. It never spills over into spoof territory, but there is humor throughout. That light touch seems to also influence the look of the film. Nearly every scene takes place in broad daylight or brightly lit interiors. 

Despite an even lighter tone in this film, Sinatra’s dialogue isn’t quite as snappy this time around. But he still instills his Tony Rome with the easy confidence that makes him fun to watch. 

Some of Sinatra’s best scenes are those with Dan Blocker as Waldo Gronsky. Rome’s mysterious and hulking client is both menacing and likable. Blocker also brings a touch of humor to the role. Of course, Blocker was already famous as Hoss Cartwright in the long-running western television series Bonanza (1959-73). Blocker had to take a hiatus from the series to appear in this film. 

A real stand out for this lecher is Lainie Kazan as voluptuous go-go dancer Maria Baretto. She is really good in the one brief scene she shares with Sinatra. You realize that her character is already a bit lit just trying to get through another night of shaking her money maker. Maria knows just how to play a customer for another drink and maybe for something more. I can’t believe it when Sinatra’s Tony Rome later remarks to the club’s manager, “She’s lousy.” I guess Rome is pissed that the magnificent Maria had him order her champagne. 

This film is probably remembered as much for ’60s sex symbol Raquel Welch as for Sinatra. Like Jill St. John from the previous film, Welch as Kit Forrest plays another glamorous potential love interest for our hero. Initially, Welch dazzles us with her bikinied beauty that compensates for her introduction that is stiff in more ways than one. Welch loosens up a bit as things go on, and I suppose that her early stilted manner could be due to her character not being immediately at ease with Tony Rome ogling her, yet she never appears self-conscious about what she flaunts. 

Tony Rome is pretty sure Kit Forrest is mixed up in this mystery, but he just does not know how. That creates a bit of friction between them and makes Tony Rome seem pretty high-handed. First he disses the delectable dancer Maria, and then his suspicious nature offends the gorgeous Kit. However, it does serve to remind us that Rome is in a dangerous profession and finds trust hard to come by, even with someone who slays a bikini like Kit. 

Like the previous Tony Rome flick, the mystery of Lady in Cement concludes in a humorous fashion and our gambling hero really hits the jackpot that he missed out on in the first movie. This is more male wish fulfillment fun and I wish that Sinatra’s Tony Rome could have continued to cruise through a few more cases.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

TONY ROME (1967)

Director: Gordon Douglas

Writers: Richard L. Breen adapting Marvin H. Albert’s 1960 novel Miami Mayhem

Producer: Aaron Rosenberg

Cast: Frank Sinatra, Jill St. John, Richard Conte, Simon Oakland, Gena Rowlands, Sue Lyon, Robert J. Wilke, Lloyd Bochner, Jeffrey Lynn, Shecky Greene, Jeanne Cooper, Joan Shawlee, Virginia Vincent, Rocky Graziano, Richard Krisher, Lloyd Gough, Babe Hart, Templeton Fox, Elisabeth Fraser, Harry Davis, Stanley Ralph Ross, (and uncredited cast members) Deanna Lund, Rey Baumel, Tiffany Bolling, Sean Bersell, Joe E. Ross, Linda Dano, Robert ‘Buzz’ Henry, Levi Forte, Beau Jack, Norman Marlow, Jilly Rizzo, Michael Romanoff, Carl Starling 

Miami private detective Tony Rome (Frank Sinatra) is asked by his ex-partner Ralph Turpin (Robert J. Wilke) to bring home a girl (Sue Lyon) that is sleeping off a drunk at a seedy hotel. Turpin is the hotel’s house detective and does not want any bad publicity since the girl, Diana, is the daughter of local construction tycoon Rudolph Kosterman (Simon Oakland). After bringing Diana home, Rome is offered money by various Kosterman family members for different and conflicting concerns. Before long Rome is being accosted by thugs and bodies start turning up. 

The Flashback Fanatic movie review 

While Dean Martin was showing 1960s America how he would handle being a secret agent in the Matt Helm films, fellow Rat Packer Frank Sinatra was making like a private eye. He would star as Tony Rome in two films adapting novels by the crime and adventure author Marvin H. Albert. The Tony Rome films were not genre spoofs like Dean Martin’s spy flicks, but they are still loaded with ’60s establishment male wish fulfillment and a sense of humor. Most of all, it is the Sinatra chutzpah that puts them over. 

The main appeal of the fictional private detective is individualism. Private eyes are their own bosses, and if they also are smart, brave, and tough, we can’t help but admire them. In the case of Tony Rome, he is further distinguished by living on the boat he won in a dice game in sunny Miami, Florida. Sinatra as Tony Rome certainly does it his way. 

Another aspect of private detectives that appeals to us is their recklessness. That risk-taking is something many of us are averse to, yet we envy the confidence that such characters have. Tony Rome is always just one case or bet away from being flush with cash or broke, yet he acts like he has the town in the palm of his hand. Everywhere he goes he is helping himself to people’s phones to ask favors and place bets. 

This guy is so busy chasing a buck that he doesn’t even have time to make it with two beauties putting the moves on him. Oh well, when you’ve got Sinatra-style charisma there’s always more to come… 

The story unfolds in a pretty leisurely manner and the plot gets twisty due to conflicting interests among the members of the Kosterman family. In keeping with the breezy manner of the film, the final reveal and resolution is almost anti-climactic. However, it suits the tone of the film and the unruffled confidence of the hero. 

Frank Sinatra is great in this. He fires off witticisms and judgments with the offhand directness that makes us envy and respect his character. His manner and dialogue is the reason to watch the film. If you are not a Sinatra fan, this is the fun sort of stuff that may win you over. 

Jill St. John’s character of Ann Archer really does not serve much purpose in the story beyond confirming what a chick magnet Sinatra — er — I mean Tony Rome —  is supposed to be. This promiscuous knockout becomes something of a running gag as she is practically throwing herself at Rome and he is always too busy to follow through to a carnal conclusion. However, she always takes it in stride as she has as much confidence as Tony Rome. Ann Archer looks great in a bikini and has the good sense to use vodka in her martinis. She’s quite a woman. 

Deanna Lund is also quite provocative in her role as a lesbian stripper that nonchalantly parades about in her underwear in front of Tony Rome. Lund had her name removed from the credits due to her discomfort with the role. Nevertheless, she is also featured in the sexy poster for the film. Lund is probably best known for her role of Valerie Ames Scott in the Land of the Giants ABC television sci-fi series (1968-70). 

In typical P.I. fashion, Tony Rome manages to take advantage of his friendship with a high-ranking member of local law enforcement. Richard Conte, as Lt. Dave Santini, is Rome’s Miami Police contact and exasperated friend. Rome also knows where the Santini family fridge is located when he needs to help himself to a cold one. Conte’s Lt. Santini would return in the sequel and have good reason to get even more pissed off at Rome. 

Gordon Douglas had already directed Frank Sinatra in 1964’s Robin and the 7 Hoods. In 1968 Douglas would continue directing Sinatra in the sequel Lady in Cement and a much grimmer police procedural called The Detective. 

Maybe Tony Rome’s gambling habit was catching. Tony Rome was supposed to have been a box-office failure, yet the sequel Lady in Cement was still made the following year. That second Tony Rome flick was also supposed to have been a money loser. Neither Tony Rome film seemed to score well with the critics, either. Was distributor 20th Century Fox betting that the Sinatra name would inevitably turn a profit for these pictures, or was there some bookkeeping chicanery afoot? Only Tony Rome could figure that one out.

Sunday, August 27, 2023


Director: Albert Ray

Writers: Kurt Kempler, Frances Hyland

Producer: M.H. Hoffman

Cast: Ginger Rogers, Lyle Talbot, Purnell Pratt, Harvey Clark, Lillian Harmer, Arthur Hoyt, Louise Beavers (as Louise Beaver), Clarence Wilson, (and uncredited cast members) Maurice Black, Jim Farley, Cyril Ring, Tiny Sandford, Philip Sleeman, Dick Rush 

In the middle of the night at the towering Harker Apartments Building in New York City, the millionaire owner Adam Harker falls screaming from his penthouse to his death. Newspaper reporter Pat Morgan (Ginger Rogers) has been posing as Harker’s live-in secretary to investigate his rumored ties to organized crime. Ted Rand (Lyle Talbot) is another reporter from a rival newspaper also trying to get a scoop on this case as he tries to woo Pat. Despite their competition, Pat and Ted cooperate trying to find the reason for Harker’s death as more bodies turn up in the Harker Apartments. 

The Flashback Fanatic movie review 

A Shriek in the Night is another of those little B-film thrillers from the 1930s that has plenty of humor, a tricky murder gimmick, and fine performances from the main players. It also has an atypical approach to its characters. The lead protagonists that are the most appealing and who get the most screen time are not as instrumental in solving the mystery as other seemingly minor characters. These developments are more of a surprise than the reveal of the villain. 

This film certainly begins with a bang, or actually with a shriek and a thud to be more precise. The brief opening credits have barely had time to finish before the first death via high dive off of the Harker Apartments Building occurs. This grim event is immediately dealt a bit of irreverence as one happily boozed-up bystander assumes that the fresh corpse of Harker is drunk. This is just the first hint of how this film will confound a lot of our expectations about crime thriller conventions. 

A tipsy crime scene gawker is only the first of many indications that the prohibition era was running out of steam. Booze was on the brain of a restless public anticipating the legalization of intoxicants. This is another early ’30s film in synch with that sentiment. Characters frequently indulge in drink and reference going to speakeasies. One shady character’s last name is Martini (Maurice Black). Even Police Inspector Russell (Purnell Pratt) savors the scent from a bottle of booze at a crime scene. This irreverence for the legal restrictions about alcohol seems to carry over into the narrative’s disregard for genre expectations and creates an overall sense of mischief. This flick even gives us more than one way for characters to get “gassed.” 

Ginger Rogers had already starred just the previous year in another Albert Ray-directed mystery thriller, The Thirteenth Guest (1932). Being just on the verge of superstardom in 1933, Rogers stars here as newspaper reporter Pat Morgan. All it takes is her beauty and relaxed charm to make us pay attention to her simple character in this odd, little yarn. Later that year, Rogers’ movie immortality really took off by appearing for the first time with Fred Astaire in Flying Down to Rio (1933).

Lyle Talbot had also co-starred with Ginger Rogers in that earlier Albert Ray film. At this time Talbot was in the midst of his six-year Warner Brothers contract and probably at the height of his fame. He was often cast in villain roles and, as Talbot wished to play good guys, he must have relished the opportunities getting loaned out to appear as the heroic lead in a couple of Albert Ray’s B-flicks. In later years he would have a long career as a character actor on film and television. Superhero fans know him best for being the first film actor to play Commissioner Gordon in the serial Batman and Robin (1949) and Superman’s archenemy Luthor in the serial Atom Man vs. Superman (1950). Cult film fans will remember Talbot’s appearances in three of famed bad movie director Ed Wood’s films: Glen or Glenda (1953), Jail Bait (1954), and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957).

In A Shriek in the Night, Rogers and Talbot as our leads are the attractive couple we think are going to hook up, despite their playful antagonism. Since they are both newspaper reporters, we also expect them to solve the mystery. This film devotes plenty of attention to them, but there are other characters that actually prove to be just as instrumental in getting to the solution of this case. It can even be argued that the Rogers and Talbot characters of Pat Morgan and Ted Rand are not really solving the mystery but just spicing up the plot with some humor and romance. 

Another character that is a change of pace is Police Inspector Russell. Unlike many other such figures in crime thrillers featuring amateur sleuths, this official representative of law enforcement seems quite capable and likable. Russell doesn’t want reporters interfering with his investigation, but he is quite civil and intelligent. He even seems to take a genuine liking to Ginger Rogers’ Pat Morgan; the guy has great taste. Yet in spite of the respect this character is portrayed with, he is not picking up all of the crime-solving slack left by our romantic leads. 

Many horror and mystery films of this era had comic relief characters. There are several here, as well, such as the panicky maid Augusta (Lillian Harmer) and Inspector Russell's meek secretary Wilfred (Arthur Hoyt). However, some of them are absolutely vital in dealing with this film’s mystery and menace. That is another quirk in this offbeat, little thriller that does not always meet expectations. It seems to suit the sense of mischief running throughout the story. 

Despite all of this disregard for typical genre character responsibilities, there are a few macabre touches that help to maintain the intrigue. Exactly how the victims are being killed is as puzzling as the killer’s identity. The murderer also indulges in a bit of mental sadism by sending a peculiar warning card to the intended victims. 

Director Albert Ray does not get too fanciful in his direction. He does not need to do much in a film with a short running time and the humor of the Rogers and Talbot performances to keep things moving. Ray does use the interesting trick a few times of having scenes become very dark as we lose sight of characters to keep us disoriented and in suspense. This has a nice payoff as A Shriek in the Night reaches its climax in the film’s most irreverent touch.


Director: León Klimovsky Writer: Jacinto Molina (Paul Naschy) Producer: Salvadore Romero Cast: Paul Naschy, Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, ...