Dreamscape (1984)

DREAMSCAPE (1984)
Article 2935 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-21-2009
Posting Date: 8-27-2009
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Featuring Dennis Quaid, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer
Country: USA

A young psychic is drawn into experimental research that involves psychically entering people’s dreams. He stumbles upon a conspiracy intent on assassinating the president through an attack on his dreamworld.

The rise of STAR WARS and the coming of age of special effects technology led to a flood of fantastically-themed cinema during the eighties, but, despite my love for the genres, I was less than enthusiastic. One of the reasons was that far too many of these movies ended up like this one – a possibly intriguing concept that does little more than lend itself to cliches and convention. The cast is surprisingly strong and rather appealing, but they’re playing cliched, one-dimensional characters that don’t challenge them. I found much of this movie unbelievable; just for example, I found it hard to believe that a ordinary horror movie concept like a scary snake monster would be enough to cause one psychic researcher to have a complete mental breakdown. For me, though, the real disappointment is that it never delivers on one of its promises; if, as one character says, you can “do anything you want” in a dream, than the movie shows a distressing lack of imagination in giving the characters that power over the dream reality. Another problem I have is one that may be a matter of individual experience; the use of dream sequences in movies has rarely worked for me because I so seldom see ones that look like actual dreams, and this movie fares no better in that regard. Sure, it’s entertaining enough if in the “popcorn” movie tradition, where you’re supposed to turn off your mind and enjoy the ride, but I’m not a fan of that form, and it takes a fairly special movie of that kind for it to work for me, and this isn’t one of them.

I have a funny feeling that I’m slated to see a lot of movies like this in years to come.

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Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls (1973)

DR. DEATH: SEEKER OF SOULS (1973)
Article 2934 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-20-2009
Posting Date: 8-26-2009
Directed by Eddie Saeta
Featuring John Considine, Barry Coe, Cheryl Miller
Country: USA

A grief-stricken widower seeks a way to bring his wife back from the dead. He encounters a sinister doctor who is capable of transferring souls to other bodies.

The basic concept here is that a man achieves immortality not by keeping his body alive but by developing ways to transfer his soul to another body when his current body runs down. He also offers his services to others. Eventually, he becomes obsessed with reanimating the body of a beautiful woman who rejects every soul he presents to it. I find this whole concept rather interesting, but the movie that is attached to it is a disappointment. At least part of it is that, despite the gore and blood, the movie ends up feeling like a TV-Movie, which, given that most of director Eddie Saeta’s work in this regard was with TV shows, is no surprise. It’s also marred by the fact that John Considine doesn’t really give us that sense that his character has lived as long as he did. I also was disappointed by the fact that, despite the novel plot elements, it tries to hone to the conventional horror movie as much as possible, so we end up being treated to constant scenes of the doctor hunting and killing victims. If there’s fun to be had with this movie, it’s the interesting assortment of actors who appear; Leon Askin plays a Tor Johnson character (called Thor), Florence (QUEEN OF BLOOD) Marly appears as a gypsy woman, Moe Howard has a cameo appearance in his last screen role, and Horror Host Larry Vincent (Seymour) appears as a strangler in a movie being watched on TV. Somewhere in this movie is a better movie longing to get out; it’s too bad it doesn’t happen.

The Revenge of Doctor X (1970)

THE REVENGE OF DOCTOR X (1970)
aka The Double Garden, Body of the Prey
Article 2933 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2009
Posting Date: 8-25-2009
Presumably directed by Kenneth G. Crane
Actually directed by Norm Thomson
Featuring James Craig and James Yagi
Country: USA / Japan

A rocket scientist decides to engage in botanical studies while on an extended vacation. He ends up created an ambulatory venus fly-trap monster.

Well, here’s a rare treat (and I use the word “treat” loosely); it’s a movie featuring one of Ed Wood’s latter-day scripts. For me, the most striking thing about the movie is watching actor James Craig channel Lon Chaney Jr.; he looks and sounds like a slightly older version of Chaney from his Inner Sanctum movies. It’s somehow fitting that Craig is channeling one of the Universal stars; Ed Wood seems to be channeling the scripts from the Universal Frankenstein series here, with at least one quote definitely inspired by a similar one from THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. Still, Ed Wood is Ed Wood, and between his efforts and those of director Kenneth G. Crane, the movie ends up channeling LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS and especially Crane’s earlier movie THE MANSTER, with the similarities to the last one being particularly striking. Unfortunately, I don’t know who the person in charge of the music was channeling, but I hope they called an exorcist. And when it came time for those who designed the opening credits of this movie to do their stuff, they should have focused on the movie at hand rather than channeling MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND; anyone looking for John Ashley, Angelique Pettyjohn or locations from the Philippines will be sorely disappointed. Did I mention the goofy-looking venus flytrap monster? If not, there’s a goofy-looking venus flytrap monster as well. The end result is bloody awful, but really, what did you expect?

Postscript: I’ve come upon some new information on this movie thanks to doctor kiss on the Classic Horror Film Board. Because the movie was first discovered in a warehouse without any sort of credits whatsoever (which is why credits from another movie were slapped onto it), much of the production info above was based on inspired guesses rather than hard research. Recent research requires an amendment. Despite the similarities to THE MANSTER, we know now that the director is not Crane, but Norm Thomson. The movie was originally titled BODY OF THE PREY, and the script was from Thomson as well rather than Ed Wood. I’ve changed a couple of things in the beginning credits above so as not to confuse anyone who just looks at them and doesn’t read the review, but I’ve left the original review intact and added this postscript for clarification. And a special thanks to doctor kiss and his research!

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972)
aka Le charme discret de la bourgeeoisie
Article 2932 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-18-2009
Posting Date: 8-24-2009
Directed by Luis Bunuel
Featuring Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphin Seyrig
Country: France / Italy / Spain

Six friends are thwarted by circumstance in their attempts to have meals together.

Given that Luis Bunuel is one of the great surrealistic directors, I’m surprised that I haven’t covered more of his work; this is only the second movie I’ve covered of his, the first being THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL. It’s basically a plotless series of setpieces tied together by the concept of several friends trying to have a meal together, but who are constantly interrupted by any number of bizarre events; the events get stranger as things go along, and eventually any sense of linearity or reality goes out the window when the events turn out to be dreams (and even dreams within dreams). One meal is cut short when the hosting couple sneak out of the house to have sex and the other guests fear that the reason for their departure was an impending police raid (it turns out some of the characters are involved in drug smuggling); another is interrupted when the chosen restaurant is keeping a dead body in the next room. There are various distractions and side issues, such as the attempted assassination of the Mirandan ambassador and the appearance of a bishop that wants to be a gardener. Three of the distractions are ghost stories, which further adds to the fantastic content. What does it all mean? Well, I have no doubt there’s some political subtext (I’d expect that from any movie with the word “bourgeoisie” in the title), but it really doesn’t matter to me; I find the movie positively hilarious at times, and it’s a great deal of fun, albeit in an art-house film way. It’s recommended for anyone with an absurdist sense of humor.

Dead & Buried (1981)

DEAD & BURIED (1981)
Article 2931 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-17-2009
Posting Date: 8-23-2009
Directed by Gary Sherman
Featuring James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson
Country: USA

A small-town sheriff investigates a bizarre series of murders in which strangers to the town are assaulted by large groups of people who take pictures of their victims before killing them.

According to IMDB, this was Jack Albertson’s final film, though I do see his name on films released later when I check his credits. If it was his last film, than he went out with a bang; here he plays the ultimate eccentric undertaker, and he steals every scene he’s in. The movie itself is written by the same team who came up with the script to ALIEN, and, despite some unanswered questions, it’s a worthy follow-up; the mystery behind the horrific events is strong enough to hold our attention, the dialogue is crisp and memorable, and the movie is full of memorable and offbeat characters. There are a number of great scenes, including a creepy one in which a schoolteacher instructs her class of children on voodoo and zombies. Though I expected the final revelations to be a bit of a disappointment, that isn’t the case; the reasons for the murders are truly twisted. In the end, this movie quite reminded me of DEAD PEOPLE, another offbeat and somewhat indescribable horror film.

The Christmas Martian (1971)

THE CHRISTMAS MARTIAN (1971)
aka Le martien de Noel
Article 2930 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-16-2009
Posting Date: 8-22-2009
Directed by Bernard Gosselin
Featuring Marcel Sabourin, Catherine Leduc, Francois Gosselin
Country: Canada

A Martian comes to a small town in Quebec. Children encounter him. Adults are flabbergasted. Hilarity ensues.

Yesterday’s movie was a children’s movie. Today’s is also. Yesterday’s movie had a rating of 8.0 on IMDB. This one has a rating of 3.5 on IMDB. The user comments on yesterday’s movie were full of glowing comments on how much the viewers remembered and loved the movie as a kid. The user comments on today’s movie are… also full of glowing comments on how much viewers remembered and loved the movie as a kid, albeit ones in which there is a knowing sense that a rewatching will prove disappointing. But the affection is there nonetheless.

Now, by any regular standards, this movie is atrocious; in fact, it’s probably the worst Christmas movie I’ve seen for this series (though I do know of at least one movie that I haven’t covered yet that is even worse). It has no plot; it’s just a set of comic setpieces, mostly with the alien (who looks for all the world like a homeless person in a bizarre mask) either flabbergasting adults or playing with children. The special effects may be a hair better than those of SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, but the other movie is better; you can at least sing along with the theme song, which is more than you can do with the horrid number that closes this movie. Yet, still, I’m impressed that even a movie like this can win the hearts and affections of those who remember seeing it in their youth. So what does that tell us? I think it says something about the power of movies and the way it can play with the imagination of our youth; even something like this can tap into our childlike view of the world and bring joy to our lives. Somehow, it just makes me glad that movies exist – even the bad ones. So let’s let this movie stand as a tribute to that power.

Child of Glass (1978)

CHILD OF GLASS (1978)
TV-Movie
Article 2929 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-15-2009
Posting Date: 8-21-2009
Directed by John Erman
Featuring Barbara Barrie, Biff McGuire, Anthony Zerbe
Country: USA

A young boy is visited by a ghost and given a task; he’s supposed to unravel the secret of a riddle or be haunted for the rest of his life.

This movie has a rating of 8.0 on IMDB, and this prompted me to check out the user comments. Practically every glowing review of this TV-Movie tells the same story; the viewer saw it as a child and it made a lasting impression on them. I can definitely see this happening; in fact, it would probably prove particularly effective on girls of a certain age. Watching it for the first time as an adult male approaching his fifties, I’m less impressed; I could care less about all the fooferaw about the authentic antebellum party the mother wants to put on (and would advise them that they’d actually want to capture the feel of plantation life “before” the civil war than “at the time of”) and I find something annoying about the ghost having the hero try to figure out an impenetrable poem instead of just telling him she wants to be reunited with her doll. My worst problem, though, is with the movie’s attempt at a southern atmosphere; though the locations are authentic enough, the accents used by most of the cast sound forced and unconvincing; only Anthony Zerbe really sounds natural to my ears. Still, these problems wouldn’t bother a child one whit, and, though it may be a little dated for today’s children, they’d be the ones who would appreciate it most