Don’t Panic (1988)

Don’t Panic (1988)
Article 5800 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-1-2020
Directed by Ruben Galindo Jr.
Featuring Jon Michael Bischof, Gabriela Hassel, Helena Rojo
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican slasher

A group of friends buy a teenager a Ouija board on his birthday and try to use it. Afterwards, the man who had the birthday begins having visions of his friends being killed, but his attempts to save them just make him a suspect.

Given my past experience with earlier Mexican movies, I was hoping that this late eighties entry might have some of those weird little touches that make them more interesting than they would otherwise be. There are a couple; there’s a slight touch of giallo here, and I liked that some of the messages received by the hero are through the TV set. Still, at heart, it’s really just a slightly cheesier version of a slasher movie, albeit one that forgoes some of the more pervasive cliches of the form. It’s not truly awful, but it really isn’t particularly special either.

Don Quixote (1934)

Don Quixote (1934)
Article 5799 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-29-2020
Directed by Ub Iwerks
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Cervantes cartoonized

Don Quixote escapes from Ye Olde Bughouse and embarks on a campaign of chivalry.

Is “Don Quixote” genre? It depends on through whose eyes you look, doesn’t it? Don Quixote really believes he’s fighting a four-armed giant when he attacks the windmill. And he really believes he’s fighting a fire-breathing dragon when he takes on the steam shovel. Wait a minute… did I say steam shovel? That’s just my way of pointing out that an eight-minute cartoon adaptation of the Cervantes novel is probably not going to be particularly faithful to its source. For all that, I found this take on the story to be rather entertaining, and given that Ub Iwerks began with Disney, his animation is somewhat superior to much of the other animated product of the time. And I should point out that even when the windmill is not being mistaken for a giant, it seems to have an anthropomorphic character all its own.

Dr. Dolittle und seine Tiere (1928)

Dr. Dolittle und seine Tiere (1928)
aka The Adventures of Dr. Dolittle
Article 5798 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-24-2020
Directed by Lotte Reiniger
No cast
Country: Germany
What it is: Silhouette whimsical fantasy

Dr. Dolittle must go to Africa to battle a plague that has hit the monkey people. He has adventures along the way.

This Lotte Reiniger short (33 minutes) was cut into three parts when it was released in the United States; I think I may have reviewed two of them as individual entities. However, the short tells a single story, albeit one that could be broken into three chapters. For those unfamiliar with Lotte Reiniger, she was a German animator who specialized in elaborate animated silhouette puppets. This one isn’t her best work, but it works well enough and is fun to watch. She was an excellent animator, and there are touches of whimsy throughout. Like any of her work, it is worth catching.

Diplodocus at Large (1953)

Diplodocus at Large (1953)
Article 5797 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-22-2020
Director uncredited (but probably Donald F. Glut)
Cast uncredited (but probably Donalf F. Glut and friends)
Country: USA
What it is: Amateur dinosaur invasion

A diplodocus runs rampant through a small town. How many people will point at it as it destroys everything in sight?

I don’t know if this is Donald F. Glut’s first amateur film, but it’s the first one in the DVD set of his amateur work. The special effects include a town built of toys and a sock puppet. The actors and actress have trouble not being cognizant that they’re being filmed (they keep looking at the camera), but they’re pre-teens, so what do you expect? There’s no story; the dinosaur shows up and ravages the town, and the movie ends. It only has a rating of 3.3 on IMDB, but ratings don’t really mean anything when you’re dealing with amateur films. Take it as someone’s early foray into the films of the fantastic and it is nothing less than delightful and hilarious. It makes you want to try it yourself and see if you can do any better.

Die Screaming Marianne (1971)

Die Screaming Marianne (1971)
Article 5796 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-22-2020
Directed by Pete Walker
Featuring Susan George, Barry Evans, Christopher Sandford
Country: UK
What it is: Crime thriller

A go-go dancer is on the run from her family, the members of which have taken a sinister turn after the death of the mother. But can she trust the men she turns to?

I’m not surprised that one of my guides lists this one as being genre; it is made by a director known for his horror films (Pete Walker), and the title certainly sounds right for a horror film. At heart, though, this is a crime thriller with only a few small horror touches, the most prominent one being that the title character’s half-sister isn’t quite sane. Unfortunately, the movie is also more frustrating than thrilling; there’s a low energy vibe to the movie, and characters often behave in ways that are impenetrable given the situations they’re in. There are a few striking moments and some interesting ideas, but the story as a whole is muddled and far-fetched. Pete Walker made some good movies, but this isn’t one of them.

Dick Smart 2.007 (1967)

Dick Smart 2.007 (1967)
Article 5795 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-21-2020
Directed by Francesco Prosperi
Featuring Richard Wyler, Margaret Lee, Rosana Topajos
Country: Italy
What it is: Spyghetti

Dick Smart investigates a woman who has discovered a means of converting carbon into diamonds via a nuclear explosion. But there’s a third party also interested in the secret…

It’s another James Bond pastiche from Italy, and the title makes me wonder if there might even have been a little inspiration from the TV series “Get Smart”. This one is heavy on the pulchritude, the humor and the gadgetry (there’s an all-purpose vehicle driven by the hero that can go and land, at sea and in the air for one thing). The main premise itself is a standard science fiction concept, though it seemed to reach its peak of popularity a good half century earlier. It’s a fairly silly affair, but that may be what it’s trying for, but it doesn’t appear to have spawned any sequels, despite some hints that it might in the movie’s final moments. I rather liked this one better than many of the others of its ilk.

Devil May Hare (1954)

Devil May Hare (1954)
Article 5794 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-19-2020
Directed by Robert McKimson
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Bugs Bunny/Tasmanian Devil cartoon

Bugs Bunny faces off against a ravenous Tasmanian devil.

Since there really is an animal known as the Tasmanian Devil, I debated whether I would review this one as on the surface it seems to just involve anthropomorphic animals. However, I decided to review it anyway, as the Devil is portrayed in these cartoons as a ravenous monster. It’s also a good choice for director Robert McKimson, as the non-loquacious nature of the character (he mostly communicates in growling and gurgling sounds) helps curb McKimson’s tendency towards talkiness. Only a handful of Tasmanian Devil cartoons were made in the fifties and sixties, and this isn’t my favorite, but it does have two memorable scenes: the opening animal stampede is hilarious, and the final sequence in which Bugs calls in a female devil to distract Taz.

Destination Space (1959)

Destination Space (1959)
Article 5793 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-17-2020
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Featuring Harry Townes, John Agar, Charles Aidman
Country: USA
What it is: Failed TV Pilot

When a meteor does damage to a space station, an attempted mission to the moon must be postponed. The head of the space station must then keep it from being defunded by a senator eager to stop the project.

As an attempt to start a serious (non-juvenile) hour-long science fiction series, my heart can’t help but go out to this one. But I’m not surprised it didn’t sell. Part of the reason is that the pilot fails to effectively milk the suspense from its two “action” sequences. It also probably wasn’t the best idea to make the primary story of this one be an Earth-bound battle for funding. Furthermore, the hint that a possible plot element being a romantic triangle certainly doesn’t bode well for where the series would go. Ultimately, this pilot is rather dull, nor did it show any promise of becoming less dull as a continuing series. There’s some interesting names and faces in the cast, but they don’t really add much to the proceedings. It’s more of an interesting footnote rather than an interesting movie.

The Demons of Ludlow (1983)

The Demons of Ludlow (1983)
Article 5792 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-15-2020
Directed by Bill Rebane
Featuring Paul von Hausen, Stephanie Cushna, Carol Perry
Country: USA
What it is: Haunting from Wisconsin

The tiny town of Ludlow is celebrating its bicentennial, and receives a piano from the estate of the original founder of the town. But the founder did not leave the town under happy circumstances, and the piano is something more sinister than a mere gift…

At the beginning of the movie, there appears to be at least two people who seem more or less happy. They are the first two to die. Yes, that’s something in the way of a minor spoiler, but the point I’m making is that most of the rest of the people in this small town are very unhappy in one way or another, and the movie largely consists of these unhappy people having horrible things happen to them. And that’s a problem I seem to consistently have with Bill Rebane’s movies; it’s not the low-budget lack of wherewithal to pull off some of the effects nor the stodgy pacing that leaves the greatest impression, but rather, the air of depression and glumness that pervades them. In short, his movies are downers, and they’re not much fun; even the dreadfully incompetent films of Jerry Warren leave me feeling (on some inconceivable level) happier. And that’s pretty depressing.

Demolition Man (1993)

Demolition Man (1993)
Article 5791 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-14-2020
Directed by Marco Brambilla
Featuring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock
Country: USA
What it is: Futuristic action thriller

In an overprotective non-violent future, a criminal from the 20th century is thawed out, escape from prison, and goes on a rampage. Unable to cope with him, the police of this era unfreeze a disgraced cop (also from the 20th century) in the hopes he will have the skills to defeat the criminal.

For some reason, this movie felt to me like something of bizarre cross between ROBOCOP, a Batman movie, and SLEEPER, and though on the surface that feels like it should be an odd place to be, in reality it still feels a little too familiar. Nevertheless, this appears to be one of Stallone’s better non-Rocky/Rambo films. At least part of the reason is that the setting allows the movie to have a certain degree of satirical edge, and there are some striking moments when that comes through. Unfortunately, I find myself rather disappointed by other aspects of the movie. I’ve read some reviews praising Wesley Snipes for his lighthearted take on the villain, but to my mind he comes across as a diluted variant on the Joker. Some of the other satirical moments come across as easy and obvious. Still, for me the main problem was that the movie, for all of its other touches, plays by the action thriller playbook, which means that much of the movie consists of loud explosions, lots of stuff breaking, non-stop gun-play, ironic comic one-liners, etc. I know some people love this kind of stuff, and this movie is for them; for me, the movie’s final third is tiresome.