Ring of Terror (1962)

Ring of Terror

Directed by Clark L. Paylow

Written by Lewis Simeon and G.J. Zinnerman

Run Time: 71 min

“All monuments, from the simplest to the most elaborate, stand erect on the closed books of the lives of our dearly departed.”
– Cemetary caretaker


OK, first, sorry for the fuzzy screen shots. Some of these movies I review are from a long time ago, and the pictures are not always of the best quality. Having said that, let’s get down to business.

There is a special niche in hell reserved for such films as Monster A-Go Go, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and The Beast of Yucca Flats. After watching these horrible movies, it is of some comfort to know that these video cassettes and DVD’s are burning forever in flaming lakes of sulphur and brimstone.

Yea verily, these films will languish there for all time, and rightfully so.

Then again, there are movies like "Ring of Terror". While not necessarily as inept and insulting as the aforementioned films, they are still dreadfully boring, repetitious, directionless, campy, and well, if I may take off my writer’s hat for just a moment:They just plain suck.

Everything about this movie cries out for punishment and ridicule. From the actors in their mid-30’s playing 20-year old college students, the lack of plot, direction, and creativity, the dialog, I…I…I can’t continue.

The "story" revolves around a group of medical school students (who look to be around 40-years old). One of the students, Lewis Moffitt, is pledging a fraternity, and boy do the frat boys have an initiation prank in store for him. Lewis has to go out to a cemetery and remove the ring from a freshly autopsied body. However, Lewis is afraid of the dark (don’t ask) and ends up panicking in the mausoleum when a cat screeches. He proceeds to get his coat caught on the corpse’s arm and dies of a heart attack. (Oh yeah, he doesn’t get into the frat either.)

Are you ready for "Ring of Terror"? I don’t think you are, but here we go:

Recap:

We open with a shot of a funeral procession. The pallbearers march in time as their solemn procession makes its way to the cemetery I suspect these people are the so-called college students, but since everybody appears to be in their 40’s it’s hard to say just who they are. (By the way, I have to laugh at the director’s name: Clark Paylow…yeah, I would suspect the people associated with this film weren’t in any position to retire after the box-office returns came in…)

Cut to a montage of cemetery scenes, in order to set the mood of terror! Now that terror has been instilled in the viewer, we move on to the caretaker’s office, a one R. Dobson, who engages us in an illuminating (and incoherent) narration:

"Let me invite you for a stroll down Graveyard Lane…where beauty and love abide (?)… and in death, we are born to eternal life.
All monuments, from the simplest to the most elaborate, stand erect on the closed books of the lives of our dearly departed. (??)And each marker withholds many stories, some filled with happiness, some…filled with sorrow.
I wonder…what would they do if they had the chance to relive their lives again. What would you do?"

After this meandering and confusing oration, Dobson leaves his house and starts looking for his cat, Puma. If you think this sounds exciting, I’ll write down the dialog for the whole sequence of "looking-for-a-cat-in-a-graveyard" scenes:

"Puma?…Puma?…Puma!…Puma…Puma!…Puma?…PUMA!…Come to Raygor (?)…Where are you?…PUMA!…Don’t be afraid, Puma…Don’t be afraid!…Puma!…Ahhh, there you are, Puma!…Nice kitty…yes…nice Puma…Were you frightened of something?…Yes Puma…Now let’s you and I go for a stroll…"

The above scene runs for nearly minute and a half …isn’t that sweet?

After all this blatant padding of the run-time, Dobson sets down the cat and accidentally steps on its tail (!!). Puma screeches and runs off. (Please don’t let this mean we are in for another 90 seconds of calling out for Puma…)

Oh GOD! He’s looking for Puma again!!!

"Puma?…Puma!…Puma?…Puma…Puma..Puma…Where are you?…Don’t be afraid…There, Puma…Come to Raygor (?)…I’m sorry I hurt you…I didn’t mean to step on you…"

Might I interject that it has been a FULL TWO MINUTES since the opening narration!

Finally, the first lines of dialog not related to Puma: Dobson finds that Puma is sitting beside the headstone of Lewis B. Moffitt, the young frat pledge who dies such a terrible death…a death caused by (dum! dum! dum!) the Ring Of Terror!

Dobson cackles while reading the headstone, and says, "I remember him…", cue wavy dissolve to a flashback, yes, a flashback to a frat house where, *ahem*, students are lounging about listening to really hip jazz music.

While the other guys head to the cafeteria ("The girls will be there!"), Lewis declines and prefers to study for classes. Even when the fact that "Betty might be there" is dangled in his face, Lewis stays behind to study.

Meanwhile, at the sorority house (I guess), a gaggle of gossipy girls are sitting around talking about the successes and failures of their latest dates. (It’s really hard to tell what they are saying sometimes because it sounds like the microphones were sitting in a toilet bowl.)

Anyway, the whole point of that scene (besides hearing some more oh-so-hip jazz riffs in the background) is to establish that Lewis has "nerves that won’t quit". (Mine quit a long time ago.) The girls decide that something needs to be done to ‘shake up’ the fearless Lewis, because his lack of fear "might hurt him someday". (As opposed to dying of fright from the Ring Of Terror! Muwuhahaha!)

Well, that plot point successfully dumped into our laps, Betty decides to call Lewis. The other girls leave for the cafeteria because "It’s going to get sticky in here." (??) When Lewis picks up the phone, Betty mentions that she’s fixed herself up for their date, to which Lewis replies, "You’ll be the slickest chick at that ever-lovin’ hop!" Lewis changes his mind regarding the cafeteria, and Betty swings by to pick him up.

Moving right along now. The "young" couple head out for some moon-light necking before going to the cafeteria. As the tongues start lashing back and forth (implied), Lewis explains his choice of professions with some carefully chosen romantic words: "I’m not afraid of any of it. I’m not afraid of the blood, or the corpses, or the operations…", after which, with the romantic mood now set, they go back to kissing.

Without warning, a rattle-snake (!!!) slithers up into the car. OK, watching people kiss, watching a snake, watching people kiss, watching a snake. Am I moving too fast for you?

A dry rattle shatters the night and indicates that all is not well. Lewis flings out the snake with a stick (don’t ask) and stomps the serpentine intruder to death. A grateful Betty cuddles the intrepid Lewis and they head off to the cafeteria.

At the Campus Cafeteria, we see a band called "The Campus Cool Cats" (!) jazzing it up for all the kids. Well, not actually playing since we hear a sax solo and see the sax player holding his instrument in his lap…in the same shot. Great editing!

Playful banter ensues as Lewis and Betty join the others at the cafeteria. It turns out that Lewis just may get to perform the autopsy he’s been looking forward to the very next night. (The music loops over and over and over, simulating the band, er, ‘playing’. Oddly, the music reminds me of the score from the Mos Eisly cantina scene from Star Wars. Sort of. Maybe my brain is desperately trying to focus on better movies while I watch this one. In another inexplicably bit, the music features a trumpet riff while there is plainly no trumpet player in the bad. "Cool Cats" indeed!)

The next night one of the medical school staff, Professor Ravers (played by actor Lomax Study (!)), receives a call from the morgue. The morgue has just received a fresh stiff and it is available for autopsy. Ravers proceeds to ring the students to inform them of the ‘good news’. They are to meet at the "City Morgue" in 15 minutes in order to witness the magic first hand. The boys are given the news at a school dance, and they all rush off to the morgue, leaving their dates standing alone in confused frustration. (Nice move, guys.)

At the morgue, the students are gathered around as Lewis eagerly wheels in the body at the doctor’s request. As Lewis returns to his seat, the attending mortician lifts up the right hand of the body and says, "Mr. John Doe left this world with one possession: A gold ring." (Plot Point! Could that be the, <gulp>, Ring of Terror??!!) Upon seeing the ring, two of the frat boys begin whispering, and a cruel prank is in the works…

The autopsy proceeds via a sequence of shots showing nauseated students (one faints, recovers, and faints again. Humor!), and the doctor standing over the body (not shown) and reciting medical mumbo-jumbo designed to ‘gross out’ the viewer ("intestinal tissue", "fat globules", blah blah). As the autopsy "proceeds", needless to say, Lewis, sitting in the front row, is completely unaffected by the gory procedure.

Wow. This scene is taking a long time. A long, long, time.

The autopsy is wrapped up exactly four full minutes later. I’m not exaggerating, I timed it. This movie sucks.

We find out that Mr. John Doe will be transferred to the "General Mausoleum at the Ravenhill Cemetery where he will be stored in the receiving vault". Now that is something I’m sure the students needed to know. Oh, I see. It’s so the frat boys will know where to send Lewis in order to fetch the ring as part of his initiation. This movie does make sense. It really doesn’t suck after all!

Oh wait. Yes it does.

As John Doe is wheeled out of the examination room ("Take him to his drawer", commands the doctor to his assistants), the body’s hand slips out from under the sheet, revealing the Ring Of Terror one last time. (Terror!)

I’m really trying to get a screen-shot for you, but the video quality is so crappy I’ve given up.

The next day at school, the girls refuse to talk to the guys after being stood up at the dance. (Can you blame them?) One of the guys notes that he hopes the girls will forgive them before the barbeque next Friday. Oh gee. Is that the barbeque where the frat members will give out the initiation assignments to all the pledges? Why, yes it is! Gee whiz! I’m good.

Later, Lewis and Nameless Guy at are a funeral home at an open casket viewing. (I’m not sure I know who it is or why they are there, I must have been getting a beer, and I’m not rewinding to find out.) A breeze blows through the funeral parlor window and extinguishes the (only) candle. As darkness engulfs the parlor, Lewis begins to panic but is saved when his buddy re-lights the candle.

Somehow, Lewis now figures out the source of all his nightmares. Here, you go:

"When I was 8-years old, my grandfather died, the coffin was in the living room (!!). The night before the funeral I begged my mother to leave the light on in my room…she wouldn’t do it…and I cried…and she told me if I didn’t stop my grandfather would get up and give me a licking!"

Nice parents.

After this heart-rending scene of emotional release, Lewis and Nameless Guy leave the parlor, but only after Lewis makes him promise not to tell the other guys about his little secret. Sure, no problem.

Back at the frat house, the guys are finalizing the initiation assignments. All sorts of devious plans are in the works…one involves over-imbibing (alcohol poisoning is always good for a laugh, eh), another involves having somebody dress up like Cupid…"Flashlight, bow-and-arrow, the works!" (I don’t recall Cupid having a flash-light…but anyway.)

The finally come down to Lewis’s assignment…cue devious laughter…muwuhahaha!

Cut to the next day at school. Lewis makes up with Betty (if anybody cares) and then we cut to some sort of swimming suit fashion show (?) before heading over to the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the barbeque

The pledges go through their respective initiation assignments, and much laughter ensues (from the actors, not from me.)

Um, may I please ask when the, er, terror, is going to start?

For a movie with the word "Terror" in its title, there sure isn’t a hell of a lot of actual, er, terror in the movie itself.

OK, finally, Lewis opens his assignment, accompanied by a spooky voice-over as he reads it to himself. If you are still awake at this point, we find out that Lewis has to retrieve the ring off the corpse that was previously autopsied.

Almost finished, hang in there, people.

Lewis finds the cemetery gates are locked (what? Locked gates in the middle of the night?), so he’s forced to drive around the back and scale a wall. After stalking through the graveyard, he finally, oh man, do I mean finally, reaches the mausoleum. (The world renowned "2-Minute-45-Second-Lewis-Walking-Through-The-Graveyard-Scene" includes lame "shock" scenes where he bumps his head on a low-hanging branch and stumbles over a tombstone… in a nut shell: Terror!)

Inside the mausoleum, Lewis seeks out and finds the body in question. Rest assured, the viewer is treated to an extensive (read: boring) scene showing Lewis walk from room to room looking for the body.

Here, let me put this all in perspective for you:

Lewis locates and pulls out the coffin.

He reaches in and begins pulling off the ring.

A cat meows and Lewis goes to the window.

Lewis returns to the coffin and resumes the ring removal.

Cat screeches.

Lewis jumps up and gets coat caught on the hand.

Lewis has heart attack and dies.

Cut to cat…why, it’s Puma.

Fade back to the present, where we see caretaker Dobson kneeling beside Lewis’s grave. As expected (and feared), Dobson breaks into his mandatory closing narration:

"Fear dwells in all of us…young and old alike. Has terrifying fear ever gripped you?"

Fade to black.

Ring of Terror

What the…?!

Dennis Grisbeck (May 2005)

Afterthoughts

Oh man, was this film bad. It could have been, and I stress could have, been an acceptable "Tales From the Darkside" episode, but a full-length movie? Fuggiddabboutit!

Seventy minutes for this?

To all you aspiring film makers out there, if you want a lesson in how to pad run-time (and put your viewer to sleep), check out this film.

I must admit that this is the first movie on my site that doesn’t feature a "monster", per se. Believe it or not, I debated posting this review based on those grounds. In the end, I relented, and rationalized my decision by realizing that although the movie doesn’t feature any actual monsters, it is itself a monstrosity.

Does that count?

The MST3K version was pretty funny, but "Joel and the Bots" didn’t really have a lot to work worth. I can’t imagine watching the non-MST3K version. If you dare do that, then you should open your own web-site because you sure have a lot of guts, buddy.

Read more about Ring of Terror at

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