R.I.P: Cinefantastique Alumni Dan Cziraky

Dan Cziraky

Following a long battle with ill health, Cinefantastique writer Dan Cziraky passed away in the early hours of May 17, 2020, just a few days after his birthday; he was 58.

A freelance writer with many credits, he contributed frequently to our publications: Cinefantastique, Imagi-Movies, Femmes Fatales. Often he covered cult topics (e.g. MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000), and he had an amusing talent for scathing reviews of undeserving films (“Whoever thought [Pamela Anderson] Lee, with her Barbie doll body and Betty Boop voice, could be even marginally convincing as a tough action heroine must be living in their own comic book universe!” he wrote of 1996’s BARB WIRE).

Dan was irascible and opinionated but always in tongue-in-cheek way, and he had certainly earned the right to his opinions with his breadth of knowledge regarding film, horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

If memory serves, I first spoke to him (by phone – we never met in person) when I took over editorial duties at Imagi-Movies magazine. “Don’t piss me off!” he warned, obviously joking, but at the same time I took him seriously (at the time, he was having issues with another editor, who did not always treat writers fairly).

I guess I never pissed him off, since we remained in contact ever since, even after I left Cinefantastique for a time to supervise online content at Fandom, for which Dan supplied several articles. After Cinefantastique stopped print publication, Dan contributed to our website (you can find his articles here). He also helped out at Hollywood Gothique (a guide to horror-themed entertainment in Los Angeles), keeping the website’s calendar up to date with local events.

With the decline in the freelance market since the rise of the Internet, Dan had struggled in the past few years, but he managed to make ends meet, still turning out articles for Videoscope. In 1999, he moved from Newark, New Jersey to North Carolina; he was residing in the town of Dallas at the time of his death.

For the past few years, Dan and I kept in touch by email and over Facebook, where his love for his pet cats provided a touching counterpoint to the snarky persona he cultivated in his reviews. He had been in the hospital for a few months, with liver and kidney problems, but he remained in relatively good spirits, documenting his ailments in a video Facebook post, and he was scheduled to be moved to rehab before he unexpectedly lapsed into a coma from which he never fully recovered.

I would personally like to offer posthumous thanks to Dan for his contributions to Cinefantastique in particular and genre film criticism in general. He will be missed by his readers and his friends.

The Living Skeleton: complete movie free

Watch THE LIVING SKELETON (1968) for free on YouTube.
The 81-minute black-and-white Japanese ghost story was directed by Hiroshi Matsuno, from a script by Kyuzo Kobayashi, Kikuma Shimoizaka. Kikko Matsuoka stars in dual role as an innocent woman and her vengeful dead sister, along with Yasunori Irikawa, masumi Okada, Asao Uchida, Asao Koike.
This was one of four horror films made by Shochiku Eiga in the 1960s. The company was more well known for melodramas but decided to cash in on popular trends.
See a larger version of the video below:


Possession (1980) – watch free

Some films are too weird to satisfy yet too fascinating to dismiss. Take, for instance, POSSESSION (1980), the uber-strange film from Polish director Andrzej Zulawski, which stars Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill as a married couple undergoing some kind of breakdown. Conventional melodrama, right? No. The marital discord manifests in bizarre and frightening ways, as when the Adjani character gives birth to some kind of monster in a subway, which later grows up to become tentacled creature (courtesy of ALIEN’s Carlo Rambaldi) that engages in an incestuous relationship with its mother. Also, there are younger, fresher-looking duplicates (clones? aliens?) of the couple, who maybe represents a rebirth or maybe some new form of life replacing humanity.
However you add it up, it’s like nothing else you’ve seen. Neill himself was quite fond of it, when I brought up the title during an interview on the set of MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN. He took the bizarre and occasionally incomprehensible imagery to be externalizations of the couple’s tormented psyches, which is as good an explanation as any.
Note: Despite its Polish origin, the film was shot in English. The YouTube version includes Spanish subtitles.
The film never got a U.S. release. It has shown up on video here and there, not necessarily fully intact. Now you can see the complete film for free, courtesy of YouTube.

La La Noche de Walpurgis (1971) – complete movie, free

LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (“The Night of Walpurgis,” 1971)  is the third film in which Spanish actor Paul Naschy portrayed Waldemar Daninsky, a nobleman cursed with lycanthropy. As in the previous year’s LOS MONSTROUS DEL TERROR (“The Monsters of Terror,” a.k.a. ASSIGNMENT TERROR), Daninsky is revived when the silver bullets that “killed” him in the previous film are removed from his heart. Hoping to end his uncontrollable rampages during the full moon, the reluctant werewolf seeks out the tomb of a female vampire, whose corpse was laid to rest with a silver cross in her heart. Daninsky needs the cross to end his own immortal existence; unfortunately, removing it from the corpse revives the vampire, leading to complications and an eventual final-reel confrontation.

click to view instantly
click to view instantly

As with many of Naschy’s films, it has often been hard to find LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS in an unadulterated version in the U.S. market, where it was typically available only in a dubbed and truncated version, retitled THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN (which you can purchase on a 2008 DVD from Synergy Entertainment or watch on Amazon Instant Video). However, THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN is eight minutes shorter than LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS, which is the version presented here. Picture quality is superior (the image has not been cropped or panned-and-scanned), and the original soundtrack is intact. Subtitles are included; unfortunately, the are half-a-minute out of synch with the image.
LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS, 1971The restored footage mostly takes the form of a couple additional scenes with a police inspector investigating the murders committed by the werewolf. There is also an extended version of a love scene, including nudity, between Daninsky and a college girl who has been seeking the tomb as part of a class project. Missing here is the English-language version’s opening credits sequence, which takes monster footage from later in the film and moves it up front, for the benefit of ADHD viewers.
It may not be a classic, but LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS is good fun for cult movie enthuiasts, and it is wonderful to see an intact version at last. Thanks to Full Classic Movies for posting this (and other public domain titles) on YouTube.

9 – The Complete Original Short Subject

The original short subject 9, on which the new feature film is based, is a cryptic little gem. Without the time to develop its premise fully into a dramatic story, writer-director Shane Acker instead presents an eerie vignette that throws us into a seemingly post-apocalyptic world. Without dialogue or exposition, Acker’s film leaves us to draw our own conclusions based on what we see: gloomy vistas of empty buildings separated by dusty streets littered with refuse and rubble, inhabited by tiny humanoid figures, artificial life forms that seem stitched together from burlap. They search through the detritus for useful bits and pieces, their quest interrupted by some robotic-looking predator that literally sucks the life force from its victims.
What it all means is up to the viewer to determine, but the film succeeds because its novel visuals somehow manage to convey an impression of familiarity – as if we were reliving some ancient nightmare long forgotten. In a feature-length movie, the unresolved nature of the narrative might be a hindrance; audiences would have a right to expect some more solid explanation in exchange for sitting an hour-and-a-half. Shane Acker, however, cleverly uses the short form to his advantage, turning its limitation into a strength, offering enough memorable imagery to intrigue us while leaving the implications open to interpretation.
See a larger version of the video below

Dressed to Kill – Watch for Free

Yesterday, we mentioned the website Fancast, which offers a variety of free movies and television epsidoes, including writer-director Brian DePalma’s 1980 giallo-style thriller, DRESSED TO KILL, starring Michael Caine, Nancy Allen, and Keith Gordon. Since Fancast has an embed function, we thought we would give you a chance to enjoy the film here at Cinefantastique Online.

Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – Watch Free!

The remake of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL comes out on home video this week, and one of the nice features of the 3-disc Blu-ray set is that the third disc contains the 1951 original, widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction flms ever made (a reputation in no way threatened by the 2008 version). Directed by Rober Wise and starring Michael Rennie as Klatuu, the alien who arrives on Earth to put a stop to mankind’s fliratation with nuclear weapons, the 1951 classic is more serious story-telling than spectacle – a clever, witty message picture that just happens to use an alien to deliver the message. Anway, you can view the entire film for free here, or if you prefer a large image (with an option for full screen on your computer), click here.

Frankenstein (1910) – Watch for Free

Produced by Thomas Edision, this is the first film adaptation of Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein– a ten-minute short subject written and directed by J. Searle Dawley, who takes a few key incidents and weaves them into an imaginative, mystical take on the story. (In keeping with the novel, this film has little to say about science; Frankenstein’s methods seem more magical than medical.)
Although old-fashioned and somewhat stagey in its presentation, this version of FRAKENSTEIN remains of more than historical interest, thanks to an interesting use of early special effects and a cleverly condensed storyline (prompting the Overlook Encyclopedia of Film: Horrorto label the film “an extraordinary effort for its time”). The creation scene is a stand-out, and the ending is like nothing seen in any subsequent film (although it does emphasize the doppelganger theme of the story, literally turning the monster into a mirror image of its creator).
FRANKENSTEIN (1910). Produced by Thomas Edison, Written and Directed by J. Searle Dawley. Cast: Agustus Phillipe (Frankenstein), Charles Ogle (Frankenstein’s creation), Mary Fuller (Frankenstein’s fiance).

Watch Invaders from Mars

A couple days ago we offered up free viewing of 20,000 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. Now, with ALIEN TRESPASS opening in theatres today, it seems like a good time to offer INVADERS FROM MARS. ALIEN TRESPASS, of course, is a spoof of old sci-fi films about aliens invading Earth, so why not return to the source and actually watch an old sci-film about aliens invading Earth? This is the 1953 original, directed by former production designer William Cameron Menzies (GONE WITH THE WIND). It was later remade in the 1980s with lots more money but no more charm.