Agente X 1-7 Operacion Oceano (1965)

AGENTE X 1-7 OPERACION OCEANO (1965)
Article 1959 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-26-2006
Posting Date: 12-23-2006
Directed by Tanio Boccia
Featuring Lang Jeffries, Aurora de Alba, Rafael Bardem

A superspy acts cool, beats up villains, and beds women to help protect the free world from evildoers (generic spy thriller description #1).

Why did I leave the title of this movie in a foreign language? And why is my plot description so vague? If you’re thinking that this movie wasn’t dubbed into English, you’re on the right track, so let me give you the full lowdown. It’s an nth-generation dupe of a TV transmission of a badly panned-and-scanned copy of a low-budget Italian James Bond-style-superspy movie dubbed into Spanish for maximum incomprehensibility. Most of the movie consists of action sequences, the hero driving around to bad soundtrack music, beautiful women, and scenes that explain the plot, none of which I could understand. Don’t ask me about the fantastic content; there’s some gadgets and machines in here, so I’m assuming it’s borderline science fiction. The only parts of this movie that are English are the lyrics to a couple of the songs, and they stink. And we’re in the middle of a heat wave, and my foot hurts, and my digestion is acting up, and I get way too much spam from companies that want to sell me medications, and…all right, so I’m going on. But if I can’t give this movie a proper review, I need to put something in this write-up!

 

Samson and the Slave Queen (1963)

SAMSON AND THE SLAVE QUEEN (1963)
aka ZORRO CONTRO MACISTE
Article 1958 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-25-2006
Posting Date: 12-22-2006
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Pierre Brice, Sergio Ciani, Moira Orfei

When a Spanish King dies, he leaves behind two daughters, one of which will become queen. Both daughters want to see the King’s will; the good daughter wants to know whether she will be queen, but the evil daughter wants to suppress it and make sure that she gets the crown. Each one sends a hero to get the will for her; the good daughter sends Zorro, the bad daughter sends Samson, who isn’t aware of that daughter’s evil ways.

Do you want to like Sword-and-Sandal films, but always find yourself disappointed by the lack of caped-and-masked expert swordsmen and fencers battling evil? Do you want to enjoy Zorro movies, but find yourself frustrated by the lack of bare-chested musclemen throwing big rocks? If so, this movie is the answer to your prayers, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of sword-and-sandal/masked swordsman movies. The only problem is – how do you get one of these musclemen from ancient history and a swordsman from Spain from a time period almost two millenia later together in the same movie? The answer – get Maciste! We’ve already established that he can travel in time, and even if he’s called Samson in this movie, that won’t fool you. And so another one of those improbable out-of-time sword-and-sandal epics are upon us, and the fantastic content is once again Maciste’s great strength. At least this one has a bit of a sense of humor; there’s something genuinely amusing at the antics Zorro and Maciste take in procuring the dead king’s will from each other. I don’t know who the “Slave Queen” of the title is, but after all the effort the movie-makers took to get Maciste and Zorro together in the same movie, I don’t think it’s really fair to ask them to come up with a title that makes sense as well.

 

Radio Patrol (1937)

RADIO PATROL (1937)
Serial
Article 1957 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-24-2006
Posting Date: 12-21-2006
Directed by Ford Beebe and Clifford Smith
Featuring Grant Withers, Kay Hughes, Mickey Rentschler

A cop finds himself investigating the murder of noted scientist and the theft of his secret, the formula for a new flexible bulletproof steel.

If my theory that serials put their best foot forward in the opening episode holds any water, what does it say about this one that within ten hours of having seen the first episode of this one, I had totally forgotten the storyline? The prognosis is not good, I’m afraid, and this one turned out to be a rather listless and dull affair. Which is not to say that there aren’t points of interest here. The story is fairly elaborate; instead of your basic good guy versus villain plot, we have our good guy, two sets of bad guys (one headed by a company executive, the other an international crime syndicate headed by a man with hypnotic powers), and two wild cards, a brother (who was the johnny-on-the-spot when the inventor was killed) and sister (who works under an alias as the secretary to the executive) who could go either way. Naturally, it falls into the hands of two cops to solve the problem. No, make that one cop; his partner may be good in a fight, but he’s so busy solving crossword puzzles that he’s totally useless as a lookout. Is it any wonder that the cop recruits the help of associates any policeman would find essential; namely, a ten-year-old boy who lives in a junkyard and his dog (who steals the movie and isn’t in it near enough). He even lets the kid drive in a pinch, which wouldn’t seem so bad an idea if there hadn’t already been a full-grown woman also available to take the wheel. I will admit that the cliffhanger in episode eleven is pretty good, but, for the most part, I found it hard to believe that this one would actually keep the wide-eyed attention of that little boy reading a “Radio Patrol” comic book who appears after the opening credits; my wife theorized that he must actually be perusing a Bettie Page centerfold.

 

Friday the 13th (1980)

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
Article 1956 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-23-2006
Posting Date: 12-20-2006
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Featuring Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby

After having been closed for twenty-two years after the accidental drowning of a young boy and the murder of two counselors, Camp Crystal Lake is reopened. Then, on Friday the 13th during a full moon, the murders start up again.

I’ll confess upfront that I have something of a grudge against this movie and the series it spawned. I think the grudge was due to the fact that I dearly loved the old classic monsters, and there was a point when I discovered that if you brought up the subject of monsters to members of the younger generation, they would think Jason or Freddy rather than Dracula or Frankenstein. I felt that time had movied on irrevocably, and I didn’t like it, and I blamed the movies that had spawned the change.

I knew eventually I would have to contend with this series sooner or later in my project, and sure enough, here it is. Despite my grudge, I wanted to give the movie a fair shot; after all, a series like this doesn’t become so popular for no reason at all. Having finally watched it, I’m afraid I’m still in the dark as to why this series was so popular. It’s competently made, and generates a certain degree of suspense, but as far as shock moments go, only one caught me off guard (the final fake-out); the rest were so telescoped by the music and camerawork that I was fully prepared for them. Nor did I find the murders anywhere near as creative as I was led to believe; quite frankly, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM was a lot more interesting in this regard.

Still, I did find one interesting point. I’ve always held that the slasher genre was a logical (though somewhat long-in-coming) progression from Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. If such is the case, it is interesting to note that a certain family relationship in this movie is the direct opposite of the one in PSYCHO. Some of the accusations also levelled at this movie aren’t quite fair; I’ve often heard it said that the counselors act with supreme stupidity in that, despite knowing they’re in danger, they go off alone. In truth, nobody knows that people are being picked off one by one until only two counselors are left. Still, I don’t quite understand the popularity of this series, and I hold that, as far as slasher movies go, this is a pretty ordinary movie.

 

Earthquake (1974)

EARTHQUAKE (1974)
Article 1955 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-22-2006
Posting Date: 12-19-2006
Directed by Mark Robson
Featuring Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, George Kennedy

A huge earthquake devastates Los Angeles, affecting the lives of all in the vicinity.

I’m not sure to what extent this movie falls into the genres I’m covering. It might be considered borderline science fiction due to the fact that disasters of this magnitude could have enough of a devastating impact on the world, or it might be the plot element about the guy who has developed a way to predict earthquakes. At any rate, it’s your typical seventies disaster movie – great special effects coupled with dumb personal stories, and the usual array of character types – heroes, people for the heroes to rescue, people to die in sundry ways, people you want to die in sundry ways – you know the routine. Of course, there are lots of well-known names in the cast; outside of those listed above, we have Lorne Greene, Genevieve Bujold, Richard Roundtree, Marjoe Gortner, Barry Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan, and Victoria Principal, and former East Side Kid Gabriel Dell. There’s also the guy who plays the drunk with really bad clothes sense; he’s just who you think he is, and that alias he uses in the final credits will fool nobody. It even had a big gimmick to go with it – SENSURROUND, in which heavy bass speakers caused the the place to vibrate in selected theaters. A sequel was planned, but never made.

 

Crack in the World (1965)

CRACK IN THE WORLD (1965)
Article 1954 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2006
Posting Date: 12-18-2006
Directed by Andrew Marton
Featuring Dana Andrews, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore

When a scientific team uses a nuclear bomb to break through a hard crust so they can tap in to the geothermal energy of the earth, they open a crack which threatens to circle the world and destroy it.

The plus side of the movie is that it does a good job of selling its science fiction premise; I don’t know if the science is accurate, but the movie does a strong job of explaining and demonstrating the ideas, and the movie works well in this regard. I’m less impressed with the human story that attaches itself to this premise; it’s one of the most hackneyed subplots around. I wish I could come up with a pithy little phrase for it, but for now I’ll call Standard Triangle Subplot #1. The basic description is – Two men are personal and professional rivals working on the same project, but with differing views on how things should be run. They are also rivals for the affection of the same woman, who really can’t decide between them (though she may actually be married to one of them). In the end, there’s only one way to resolve this conflict – one of them must heroically sacrifice himself so that the woman is spared the agony of having to choose.

That’s pretty much the human story at play here. The only interesting variation on it here is that one of the men is also dying from cancer, and this element actually does a good job of making us understand the actions of that character, in terms of the both the subplot and the main story. However, that doesn’t change the fact that there are virtually no surprises in the subplot. Still, the main plot is strong enough to hold your attention, and the special effects are excellent, and this movie is worth viewing for these reasons alone.

 

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

THE COMPUTER WORE TENNIS SHOES (1969)
Article 1953 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-20-2006
Posting Date: 12-17-2006
Directed by Robert Butler
Featuring Kurt Russell, Cesar Romero, Joe Flynn

After he’s zapped by a computer cable, a college student develops super intelligence.

With this, I complete the Dexter Reilly shopping-cart movies Disney put out in the late sixties and going into the seventies. None of these movies are particularly strong, but at least NOW YOU SEE HIM, NOW YOU DON’T had great special effects and a good dose of energy to it, and at the very least, THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD trotted out a dazzling display of well-known actors. This one is relatively listless. Not only that, whereas shopping-cart movies are more likely to suffer from an overabundance of silliness, this one almost forgets it’s a comedy for good stretches of the story. Given the fact that the story is utterly routine (the first half is Dexter-learns-a-valuable-life-lesson, the second half is Let’s-rescue-Dexter-from-the-kidnappers-so-we-can-win-the-big-college-quiz-game), it would have been better off going for big laughs. This one was remade as a TV-movie in the mid-nineties, a trend of Disney’s that has gotten far too common.