Tag Archives: Lance Henriksen

Mansion of the Doomed (1976)

mansion

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Gouging eyes for daughter.

Dr. Leonard Chaney (Richard Basehart) is a man tormented with guilt. He was the one driving the car the day he got into an accident that caused his daughter Nancy (Trish Stewart), who was a passenger in the vehicle, to lose her sight. Since he already had a background in eye research he begins working on finding ways to restore her vision. He finally comes upon the idea of transferring the eyes from a person with sight to hers. He chooses her boyfriend Dan (Lance Henrikson), who is also a doctor, as his guinea pig. At first the surgery is a success, but then later Nancy again goes blind. Chaney becomes even more determined to find a cure and begins kidnapping more people for his eye harvesting. Once the victims have their eyes removed he does not kill them, but instead keeps them prisoner in a cage in the basement of his mansion where his nurse and cohort, Katherine (Gloria Grahame), feeds them while also sending them electrical shocks through the metal bars of the cage just in case they try to get out-of-line.

The was the first feature length film to be produced by Charles Band, who has become known has a B-horror movie maestro. He had just gotten done producing the short Last Foxtrot in Burbank, which was virtually a shot-for-shot spoof of the Last Tango in Pariswhich won him enough attention and accolades that it allowed him to get funding for this project. The star of that film Michael Pataki was commissioned to direct this one and Frank Ray Perilli, another B-actor who helped write the script for the first one, was assigned writing the screenplay here. Although the story is quite ghoulish the special effects are decent and the microscopic close-ups of eyes being poked at while in surgery will effectively make many quite squeamish.

Unlike other low budgets horrors the acting is excellent. Basehart, who was a one time considered an up-and-coming leading man but was clearly in a career decline by this point is still able to drive the story. I liked the way his character is conflicted and feels through his guilt that he’s doing the ‘right thing’ even when he isn’t, which made him a far more interesting villain than just the one-dimensional evil one. Gloria Grahame, another actor who had success, and even an Academy Award, decades earlier before plummeting into B-movie hell, isn’t as strong and her paralyzed upper lip, the unfortunate effect of too much cosmetic surgery, I found a bit annoying when she spoke, but fortunately she isn’t seen doing that too often. Henriksen is great as a caged prisoner who refuses to go down without a fight, but Vic Tayback, who had appeared with Grahame just a few years earlier in another horror flick, Blood and Lacegets stuck with an extremely small role, as a police sergeant, which has very little screen time.

The script is a bit one-note and the second act has a redundant quality as we see one eye surgery after another. The victims become a bit too easy to subdue as well. One scene has two angry men, played by JoJo D’Amore and Al Ferrara, who chase Chaney into his home after he crashes into their car. All the Dr. does to ‘make it right’ is hand them a check for $1,000, but the men accept this offer too quickly. How would they know the check wouldn’t bounce, or that Chaney would stop payment on it before they tried to cash it? Other segments have him kidnapping a hitchhiker (Katherine Stewart) and a real-estate agent (Donna Andressen), but it’s never shown how exactly he’s able to overpower them. This was a short guy who was aging (already in his 60’s) and not too big, so he wouldn’t have necessarily had the upper-hand on these other women who were much younger and more agile, so playing-out the struggles he has with them should’ve been shown.

The blinded victims locked in a dungeon is what helps this film stand apart. Granted there are logistical issues that never get explained like how do all these people crammed into a small space pee and poop? Do they just all do it in the small cage and if so how and who scoops it out? Other than that though the make-up effects where their faces are shown with empty eye sockets is genuinely horrifying and realistic. Their efforts at trying to escape are both gripping and exciting.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 1, 1976

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Pataki

Studio: Charles Band Productions

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

The Winnipeg Run (1972)

winnipeg1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Winning a snowmobile race.

Randy (Lance Henriksen) has been institutionalized for several years after suffering from PTSD from fighting in Vietnam. His Dr. (Peter Michael Goetz) feels that he’s ready to go back out into the real world, but must continue to take his medications, which Randy refuses to do. He travels back to his hometown in northern Minnesota, but finds obtaining a steady income to be tough, so he participates in a local snowmobile race that offers a cash prize. He does well enough in that it compels him to travel to Canada to take part in a race called The Winnipeg Run, which runs from Manitoba to St. Paul, but as he prepares for the competition his mental problems return.

This marked Henriksen’s film debut as well as Goetz’s and even though Lance has described this project in interviews as being ‘the worst movie he has ever done and will remain the worst movie he’s ever done’, he’s still the best thing about it. He adds conviction and nuance, which allows the character to rise above the middling material and become a multi-dimensional person that you want to root for.

The location shooting is excellent. While it was never shot in Winnipeg, despite its title, but instead Thief River Falls, Minnesota it’s great to see a movie that truly captures the frigid climate of the region. Most films with a Minnesota setting are usually shot in the summer when the weather is pleasant, or done on a soundstage with fake winter effects, but this one goes the extra step to show the massively high snow hills that you can get there, I was born and raised in the region so I know, and the icy clouds of breath that encircles each individual as they walk outside. The cold temps can also be quite brutal on the film equipment, so kudos to the crew for being brave enough to fight the elements in order to bring authenticity. The racing footage isn’t bad either and I could can only think of one other movie, the Disney pic Snowball Expresswhich came out the same year, that has snowmobile racing in it, so it gets credit for originality.

Spoiler Alert!

However, what I didn’t like is that after having this long, drawn-out build-up watching Randy prepare for the race and describing in detail the  grueling aspects of it, it then never actually occurs. Instead we find that, due to his mental illness, it’s all inside his head. While he does get on a snowmobile and drive it around it’s not a part of any competition and just him speeding alongside a lonely highway while his nervous girlfriend (Cynthia Subby) drives in a car next to him and screams for him to come home.

If the writer and director thought that this was some kind of ‘clever twist’ then it was they who had the real mental problem as it’s more of a bait-and-switch to the viewer who are primed for an action packed climax only to be left with something that has no impact at all. Even as a character study it’s misguided and it’s assessment of mental illness quite dubious. While I initially thought Lance’s take of this movie was a bit harsh, as it does start out okay, I could ultimately see why he now considers it a black mark on his resume.

Alternate Title: It Ain’t Easy

Released: November 10, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 22 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Maurice Hurley

Studio: Dandelion Films

Available: None

Damien: Omen II (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Damien learns his destiny.

After the death of his adoptive parents, Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) moves in with his Uncle Richard Thorn (William Holden) and his wife Ann (Lee Grant) in Chicago. Thorn is a rich industrialist and Damien lives a privileged life in the suburbs of Chicago alongside his cousin Mark (Lucas Donat), who is set to be heir to his father’s company, but first the two boys are sent off to the military academy. It is there that Damien learns that he is the Antichrist and puts a plan in place where he can kill off Mark and his parents so that he can take over Thorn industries and use it for his nefarious purposes.

It’s unfortunate that David Seltzer, who wrote the script to the original Omen film, choose not to pen this one and instead Harvey Bernhard the film’s producer outlined the story and then hired Stanley Mann to write the script, but the plot is basically a retread of what occurred in the first one with the father this time played by Holden, going through the same realizations that Gregory Peck did in the original, while offering no surprises or interesting twists. Had Seltzer written it he would’ve had it begin where the first one ended with Damien inside the White House having been adopted by the President and his wife, which would’ve offered far more intriguing scenarios than anything that gets played-out here.

The film also suffers from having Damien, much like in the first one, not being all that scary or mean at least not at the beginning. For the most part he behaves like a nice kid. The scene where he takes revenge on a bully at the academy actually had me on his side as well as when he shows-up a teacher in front of the class by knowing all the answers. Having an aunt character, played by Sylvia Sidney, despise him and consider him a ‘bad influence’ doesn’t help things as this is something that the viewer needs to see for themselves and not just have described by another character.

The characters played by Robert Foxworth and Lance Henriksen, who know about Damien’s secret and essentially ‘groom him’, is confusing because it’s never explained how these men would know this, or what their backgrounds are. If there’s a group of devil worshipers out there, or demons sent directly from hell in human form to help Damien in his evil quest than this needs to be elaborated instead of just having them appear knowing things that no else does, but without any explanation.

Like in the first one it’s the death scenes that make it worth watching and there are a few good ones including one that occurs under the ice of a lake and another very gory one that happens inside an elevator, but there’s also some where the victim just falls over dead due to Damien’s powers, which is a letdown. If the film is going to market itself on the death scenes then ALL of them need to be creative and memorable and not just a cherry-picked few.

The pristine, white wintry landscape is nice, although not exactly suitable for a horror film, and I did enjoy Lee Grant who plays the wife role in a far more multi-dimensional way than her counterpart Lee Remick did in the first one, she even gives the film its one unexpected wrinkle, which occurs at the end, but otherwise there’s nothing much else to get excited about here. In between the death there are a lot of boring segments with no tension at all. The movie, which is a bit overlong, does not have the terror increase as it progresses, but instead just gets more drawn-out.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 5, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Don Taylor

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Amazon Video