Phase IV (1974) – Episode 72 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“The Day The Earth Was Turned Into A Cemetery!” the tagline for Phase IV promises a horror film the heady, occasionally trippy, sci-fi film cannot live up to. Yet, the film succeeds in establishing dread and exposing mankind’s fragile relationship with nature and the planet. Join your faithful Grue Crew – Doc Rotten, Bill Mulligan, and Jeff Mohr – as they face an attack of killer ants who burrow into their fears.

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 72 – Phase IV (1974)

In the early Seventies, every studio had their Sci-Fi epic, a version of their own 2001: A Space Odyssey. And Paramount wanted one too. What they got was Saul Bass’s horror/sci-fi oddity Phase IV. Bass, better known for creating memorable title sequences for films such as Psycho, North by Northwest, and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, brings a distinct artist’s touch to the film giving it a heady, trippy aesthetic that makes the film stand out from the crowd. Sadly, the film did not connect with 1974 audiences, but the film has gained a cult following.  The cast includes Nigel Davenport, Michael Murphy, and Lynne Frederick as they face an army of intelligent ants of various kinds uniting to take over humanity.

Having never seen the film, Doc Rotten was able to finally catch Phase IV at a theatrical screening at the FantasticRealm Film Series. Having listened to The Black Saint and Bill Mulligan champion the film episode after episode, this was a must, as was including it on the Decades of Horror schedule. Now he can join Bill and Jeff Mohr in discussing the film’s use of “nature” style film to chronicle the ants’ attack on the desert community, it’s distinctive set-design, and much of the movie’s haunting imagery. The slow pace of the film builds towards a chilling and provocative conclusion that only Saul Bass could provide.

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Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) – Episode 56 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“How’d you like to wake up with pieces of cat in your stomach?” Eww! So says one of the dubious, but fearless, vampire hunters in this episode’s featured film, Count Yorga, Vampire (1970). Doc Rotten is still on hiatus, diligently working on the next issues of the Gruesome Magazine quarterly print edition (You have yours, right?). In the interim, your regular hosts, The Black Saint and Jeff Mohr, are joined by the capable and knowledgeable Bill Mulligan, film director and bon vivant, and Chad Hunt, comic book artist/writer and host of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast. Journey with this episode’s Grue Crew as they don their crushed velvet smoking jackets and channel the Count.

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 56 – Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)

In Count Yorga, Vampire, Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) gives pseudo-séances while scouting women to victimize with the aid of his ghastly assistant Brudah (Edward Walsh). Paul (Michael Murphy) and Mike (Michael Macready) attempt to rescue the Count’s most recent victims, Donna (Donna Anders) and Erica (Judy Lang), with the help of Dr. James Hayes (Roger Perry).

The brainchild of writer/director Bob Kelljan and producer/actor Michael Macready, Count Yorga, Vampire was made on a skintight budget of $64,000 while having the look of a film with a much bigger investment. Robert Quarry gives an excellent performance as the Count and creates a vampire unlike any other in cinema. At one time, Quarry was thought to be a successor to Vincent Price, but events did not unfold as planned. Viewers will almost certainly recognize Roger Perry and Michael Murphy as accomplished, capable actors who plied their trade in film and television throughout several decades.

Count Yorga, Vampire has several iconic scenes that still haunt The Black Saint years after he first viewed the film as a seven-year-old. In fact, he places it in his top ten horror films of the 1970s. Bill Mulligan questions the filmmakers’ explanation of the kitten scene and thinks something a little more horrific might be closer to the truth – with the help of Brudah, of course. Jeff Mohr loves the film but questions whether an overdubbed, long walk through the city was an effective way for Paul and Mike to devise a rescue plan. In fact, Chad Hunt thinks they are the stupidest vampire hunters in the history of vampire films. The rest of the crew couldn’t disagree. Though there might be some holes in the plot, the hosts all highly recommend Count Yorga, Vampire for its production values, horrific and memorable scenes, and stylized vision of vampires.

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