When we last left off in my quest for more Bava in my life, I had just watched Blood and Black Lace and fallen in love. I concluded that Bava was the perfect man for me, although Dario Argento was the right man. And Lucio Fulci was just some guy on the side. So you see. I prefer beauty in my horror films, beauty before anything else and Bava completely encompasses this fact. Argento mixes beauty with blood and gore and Fulci is just gore. It would make a nice Venn diagram. So on this night, while feeling particularly in the mood for some beauty and stylized beauty at that, I decided to put in a movie that has been recommended to me countless times. I had no idea that this was a trilogy of three "chilling tales" hosted by none other than Boris Karloff.
This only escalated my excitement and to make things easier I've broken down all three tales in three very wonderful mini reviews. Don't thank me, thank Mario Bava.
Telephone is one of those rare occurrences where our expectations are often turned on their head and in this case more than once. Here we have a story that we've seen several times, a story where the phone seems to act as the epicenter of fear. From the more modern Scream, to When a Stranger Calls, and even perhaps Sorry, Wrong Number--we have always been taught that although seemingly harmless, those pesky telephones always have the ability to suddenly become harbinger's of doom....all it takes is one phone call.
Our story begins as they typically do with a phone call. A beautiful lass Rosy picks up the phone and gets no response. The phone continues to ring, soon providing us with the menacing voice of her presumed future attacker.
One thing you should probably know about Rosy which is also something that I missed, most likely due to being distracted as I ate my delicious Popsicle... but Rosy is a frickin' hooker ya'll! I know I didn't believe it either and I'm still confused where they mentioned that but yes she is a high class hooker or "call girl". Anyways, the night wears on, Rosy changes into a nightgown and the phone calls relentlessly continue on. But things get serious when the killer threatens murder!
She soon discovers a piece of paper under the door that says her former Pimp has escaped from prison! Yes, apparently the caller is Frank.
Panicked, Rosy calls her friend Mary who agrees to come over and console her. SUDDENLY. The killer calls again and asks why she called her friend Mary when Mary cannot protect her. Yes, it would appear the killer is closer than she thought. The camera slowly pans out revealing DUN DUN DUN Mary to be the "killer".
But rest assured, she doesn't want to kill Rosy, she wants her to welcome her back into her life. Because yes, they were once lesbian lovers. After an awkward sleep over, and some real sassy music ( I really thought things were going to you know, heat up or something) Mary writes a letter of apology and then someone ELSE comes in and like kills people. Maybe I should stop there I think I'm ruining too much....
Anyways. This was a quick dose of good old fashioned story telling. No it's not particularly horrifying but it is rather intriguing. What seems at first to be a typical tale of an ex-lover's return for revenge gets flipped---and then flipped again. I loved witnessing what has to be an inspiration to Scream-the killer soon identifying that fact that he can actually see our victim. I also enjoyed seeing Rosy literally sweat when she is put into fearful situations-
BUT she still remains beautiful of course. I was possibly disappointed when Mary turned out just to be bluffing but then instantly redeemed by the true murderer's presence. No the climax doesn't contain a spot of blood but who needs it when Rosy's apartment fills us with enough visual stimulation to last a life time. Honestly, I'm in the wrong business. Apparently if you are an up class hooker you can live in a replica of an Ancient Greek or Roman museum display! AND have sleepovers in beautiful nightgowns AND get a telephone that is black and red. Wow. I'm really missing out.
I once said that Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi had a really tough time of proving that they could get past their iconic roles. This little story however completely defies that notion as Boris Karloff is both fantastic and barely recognizable as the grandfather who pretends not to be a vampire. I barely recognized him! And he was great, creepy, and wore a cloak most likely lined with human hair.
Apparently Wurdalak means Vampire, or at least it better because then the story would make no sense. While horseback riding through the barren mountains of.....*Googles* RUSSIA, a strapping lad comes across....a stabbed and bloody sheet!
But that's no sheet, that's a person with their head cut off! He gallops off to a mysteriously foggy house where he enters uninvited and finds the outline of the same dagger found in the body residing on the wall.
He soon learns that this family has been anxiously awaiting for the arrival of their father, Gorcha, who has been gone 5 days fighting the evil criminal and apparently wurdalak, of the village. At midnight he returns looking....smelly and kind of like a vampire. But he talks and stuff so...they let him in.
Slowly but surely we start to notice something is wrong. Gorcha is hungry but not for meat. He demands that his favorite dog be killed. He also proves that he has slain the vampire.
And then uses this proof to make a lovely mailbox!
But IS Gorcha a vampire? Well fine, I'll tell you....YES he is. And he miraculously and quickly turns the rest of the family into one. It's all very nicely done. Perhaps the creepiest being the little boy, whom is killed by Gorcha, and because his mother cannot bear for him to be stabbed (once he's already dead) he comes back in the night and cries out for his mother in a soft weepy voice, "Mama! Mama! Let me in. I'm cold", the brute. She, blinded by her adoration stabs her husband who tries to prevent her and goes out to let her dead son back in. I'm really sick of people doing that. When will they learn? When?!
The vampire mythos is treated here with a certain curious respect. Nothing outwardly cries trademark, except the biting on the neck--
and yet we understand where everything is going. It's in fact, an interesting depiction of a vampire's willingness to live off of those he loves. In more recent times this has meant who the vampire truly sexually desires, but here it is taken to be a more familial kind of love- and that's pretty touching man. Although one can argue that Gorcha's love for his grandson is a bit suspect....
This without a doubt is the best story of the three, and I so enjoyed the seemingly throwback to Black Sunday--where beautiful colors and beautiful women in their apartments are replaced with beautiful shadows and the haunting atmosphere of the environment. I'm also a sucker for people that carry other people's heads in their purses. I was so excited when I realized that Gorcha had a head in his purse that I dropped the piece of pizza I was holding! It was worth it to see him fling that head across the room. Yes, it was worth it.
You may have heard that ghosts stories are my favorite. The same goes for the ghosts and spooks genre of horror. There's something about that creaky house that gets me each and every time. And I'll tell you, The Drop of Water is a very mean, very cruel kind of story...because it is TERRIFYING. I'm almost positive I'm going to have a nightmare tonight about the Countess's face OR that I'm going to come into my bedroom and she'll be on my bed and ugh. That is the true power of this story and I challenge anyone to a scary faces contests and this one will win. Every single time.
Nurse Helen gets summoned to ready the dead body of an elderly psychic woman. A woman who lived in a derelict house with a lot of cats. Upon arrival, the maid is a bit spooked and pleads that Nurse Helen hurry up in her work. When entering the bedroom of the Countess, we are first presented with her ghastly face.
Need a closer look?
Is that not the scariest face you've ever seen? I still say it's a contender for the scariest face ever with maybe only the demon Exorcist face to come close. So Helen begins her preparations, but not before stealing the beautiful ring the Countess has on her finger. Almost immediately strange things start to happen. A fly repeatedly lands on the dead woman's fingers, a glass of water is knocked over and begins to drip, and perhaps the most startling---after closing the Countess's eyes,
Helen goes to put on the shoes looks up and and....oh it's too terrible to say!!
Her eyes have opened once more!!
Back at her own apartment, Helen begins experiencing more things. The same fly lands on her finger, she hears the same rhythm of dripping water all over her apartment. Doors creak, windows are open, the lights go off and worst of all...the dead woman is lying on her BED!
I seriously was peeing my pants by this point. I knew that face would come back and when we see her on the bed and then RISING from the bed.
I'm all like...
Ahhhhh what the fuck?!
And then it just keeps getting worse. This woman is everywhere! On the rocking chair petting a cat.
Stretching her fingers around the wall, walking towards Helen ready to strangle her.
I honestly don't know how I persevered through those ending moments. This is a classic ghost story with a trickling of the guilt concept found in The Tell-Tale Heart. The sound of the water dripping is almost maddening. But also curious is how Helen never seems to associate the happenings with the presence of the ring. If the lady is coming at you, take off the ring and throw it at her for Christ's sake! The ending was that nice little twist that we all love, but honestly I was so scarred from the old lady being in the bed that I'm not sure I was conscious. It filled me with the same kind of traumatic fear one finds in the scene where Zelda appears in the bed in Pet Sematary. It's the most unfair kind of fear! Bollocks, I'm scared to go to bed tonight!
I leave you with some parting words from our dear friend Boris.
Hmmm I can only hope.