Demon Seed (1977)

DEMON SEED (1977)
Article 2049 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-24-2006
Posting Date: 3-23-2007
Directed by Donald Cammell
Featuring Julie Christie, Fritz Weaver, Gerrit Graham

A super-computer takes over the house of the estranged wife of its creator, with the intention of fertilizing her and creating a child for itself.

When I first heard of the concept of this movie, I thought it was an absurd idea, and had the script been any less well-written than it was, I’d still think so. Still, despite overcoming this obstacle, this cross between COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT and a certain type of exploitation horror movie (THE PSYCHO LOVER is an example) doesn’t quite work. It’s certainly scary enough, and it’s downright brutal at times (Proteus is more adept at terrorizing people than is strictly necessary), and the fact that it doesn’t aspire to crude exploitation doesn’t make the movie any less queasy. At times it even aspires to a 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY type of mysticism, and you might find some interesting parallels between the two movies. My biggest problem is with the ending, and I’m not even quite sure why; there seems to be something missing, and the movie seems a little incomplete. The special effects are extremely good, and I especially like that bizarre metallic structure that Proteus creates; it looks somewhat like a three-dimensional puzzle that was popular for a while several years back. I’ve always wondered as to whether a sequel might have been planned; I, for one, am quite curious as to what would happen next.

 

Blast Off (1956)

BLAST OFF (1956)
TV-Movie edited from “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger”
Article 2048 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-23-2006
Posting Date: 3-22-2007
Directed by Hollingsworth Morse
Featuring Richard Crane, Sally Mansfield, Paul Marion

Rocky Jones and Bobby are forced to land on an unexplored planet when their ship suffers damage in a meteor cluster. There they find a band of primitive men who mistake them for gods who have promised to return.

I’ve always held that the Rocky Jones “movies” are best watched with an awareness of just what they are; episodes of a low-budget syndicated juvenile science fiction adventure series edited together. It helps that the groups of episodes were meant to tell a single story in each case, but I do advise taking a little break every twenty-five minutes at the point where each episode ends; the stiffness and slow pace are much better taken in small doses. If you have a little sympathy for its innate limitations, you might find things to like about them.

For those wishing to try the series, this might be a good one to start with. The show developed its own little mythology, and sometimes it’s a little hard to keep track of the various characters, but this one is fairly self-contained. The concept of space travelers being mistaken as gods by a primitive tribe is common enough, though I’m not sure I can think of a movie or TV show that featured the plot previous to this one. Science fiction movie fans may also enjoy the presence of Donna Martell (who played Briteis in PROJECT MOON BASE) and Don Megowan (THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US, THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS) as two of the cave people.

If I’ve calculated correctly, there should be only two more of the Rocky Jones movies to go…

 

Delirium (1979)

DELIRIUM (1979)
Article 2047 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-22-2006
Posting Date: 3-21-2007
Directed by Peter Maris
Featuring Turk Cekovsky, Nick Panouzis, Terry TenBroek

A psycho-killer is on the loose, and detectives are trying to catch him. Meanwhile, criminals who have escaped justice are found hanged, and evidence indicates it was suicide, though in truth, they were murdered by a vigilante group. Are these incidents related?

Probably the best thing about this movie is its central premise; a psycho killer is hired by a vigilante group. While watching this movie, I found my mind playing around with the possible ways you could handle the story, especially in terms of how you would handle certain characters to make the story plausible. I wish the makers of the movie had bothered asking these questions; instead, we get a compendium of cop/action and psycho-killer cliches (the psycho killer is both a disturbed Vietnam vet AND impotent – the cop investigating the case has a romance with one of the witnesses – witness decides to do her own investigation instead of waiting for the police) and stupid characters (vigilantes take extra care in making their punishments look like suicide but take none of that care when knocking off their people in their own group – hitchhiker victim of psycho, despite knowing that she’s been picked up by an obviously disturbed man, uses her opportunity to get away from him to follow him down to the river, go skinny-dipping in front of him, and taunts him for not taking off his clothes and joining her – witness decide to do her own investigation instead of waiting for the police – wait, did you just hear an echo?). For all that, the movie is watchable in its own low-budget way, but I really got tired of the Vietnam flashbacks after a while.

 

Deborah (1974)

DEBORAH (1974)
aka UN FIOCCO NERO PER DEBORAH
Article 2046 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-21-2006
Posting Date: 3-20-2007
Directed by Marcello Andrei
Featuring Bradford Dillman, Marina Malfatti, Gig Young

A sterile woman’s obsession with having a child results in her development of psychic powers. After she witnesses an auto accident, she develops a hysterical pregnancy and begins meeting with the woman who was in the accident. However, things may not be what they seem…

This horror / drama (an oddball little variation of ROSEMARY’S BABY without Satanism, a similarity that is further underscored by Marina Malfatti’s Mia-Farrow-like hairstyle) shows a bit of promise, and could have been an interesting movie. Unfortunately, substandard dubbing, unlikable and shrill characters, an overbearing and wrong-headed musical soundtrack, and stylistic misfires (occasionally it comes across as third-rate De Palma) all conspire to make the very watching of the movie a real chore, and this short-circuits the movie’s effectiveness. Still, there’s at least one good twist near the end, as well as one that is pretty obvious, but when all is said and done, this would have worked better as a thirty-minute episode of “The Twilight Zone”.

 

The Deathhead Virgin (1974)

THE DEATHHEAD VIRGIN (1974)
Article 2045 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-20-2006
Posting Date: 3-19-2007
Directed by Norman Foster
Featuring Jock Gaynor, Larry Ward, Diane McBain

When a treasure hunter releases a skeleton from a sunken ship, he unleashes a curse that turns him into a murderer and puts his fellow treasure hunter at risk for his life.

This movie has a lame monster (a naked woman wearing a mask), indifferent direction and acting, and an air of cheapness about the production. But if you’re a bit on the patient side and enjoy somewhat offbeat plots (as I do), this one may work well enough for you. It’s one of those movies where you’re never sure where it’s going, and this is especially true about three quarters of the way through, when you think it’s almost finished, but then turns out to have a couple more twists in the works. The Philippine locations also give the movie a nice flavor, though this is really unlike most of the Filipino horror movies I’ve seen. It worked for me, but your mileage may vary.

 

Marquis de Sade’s Justine (1969)

MARQUIS DE SADE’S JUSTINE (1969)
aka DEADLY SANCTUARY
Article 2044 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-19-2006
Posting Date: 3-18-2007
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Klaus Kinski, Romin Power, Maria Rohm

Two young women are expelled from a convent when their money runs out. One turns to prostitution and, following her evil ways, rises in the world. The other chooses the path of virtue and finds herself victimized at every turn by the unscrupulous.

I’m not familiar with the writings of De Sade, nor do I particularly have much interest in pursuing that knowledge, so I can’t say whether Franco’s foray into his work really captures the views and philosophy of the man. I will say, however, that this is the first movie I’ve seen of Franco’s that makes me understand something of his appeal; it definitely has a marked sense of style about it, and I never once get the feeling that the movie is running on automatic pilot. It’s only marginally genre, however; take away the torture sequences in the monastery and the fact that the monks are quite mad, and there’s no horror content here at all. Reportedly, it was his most expensive movie to date, which may explain how he was able to gather together a fairly impressive cast; Jack Palance (who gives a truly eccentric performance), Klaus Kinski (as de Sade), Akim Tamiroff, Mercedes McCambridge and Howard Vernon all appear. One impression I got from the movie is that, despite all the darkness and perversion, it is at least partially a comedy, particularly during the first half; since I saw the complete 124 minute version, it leaves me wondering which thirty minutes were cut from the movie and what it was like in that form. At times Franco’s style is annoying, particularly during the first scene where he overuses the technique of going in and out of focus. Nonetheless, I found this movie much more watchable and enjoyable than most of the other Franco movies I’ve seen. Quite frankly, I’m surprised; I thought I was going to hate this one and that I would have to strain to say something nice.

 

Daughter of the Mind (1969)

DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969)
Article 2043 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-18-2006
Posting Date: 3-17-2007
Directed by Walter Grauman
Featuring Don Murray, Ray Milland, Gene Tierney

When a professor begins seeing visions of his deceased daughter, he calls in a parapsychologist to help him figure it out.

This movie starts out as a fairly ordinary but mildly interesting ghost story, but twenty minutes into the movie, the ghost tells the professor that she won’t come back if he continues the work he’s doing, and we discover that he’s been (unbeknownst to him) working for the military. At this point, the sense that the movie is going to move out of the realm of the supernatural becomes overpowering. The movie goes on for about another fifty minutes before it drops the other shoe, but it’s a credit to the filmmakers that this part of the movie is quite interesting anyways. It does three things very well; it plays up the mystery of whether the events are supernatural or not; it tries to figure out how certain events were faked (if they were indeed faked), and it sets up a tense dramatic situation by putting the parapsychologist under a tough timeline by which he must either prove the events in question were faked, or betray either his friend or his country. Once the other shoe drops, the rest of the movie is pretty conventional, and even if it moves away from the supernatural, it does move into the realm of science fiction a little. Overall, not a bad little movie, but once it’s all over, you’ll be spotting quite a few of the plot holes. Still, this one works more than it doesn’t.