The Live Ghost (1934)

THE LIVE GHOST (1934)
Short

Article 3580 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-14-2011
Posting Date: 6-3-2011
Directed by Charley Rogers
Featuring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Walter Long
What it is: Laurel and Hardy short

A captain is having trouble getting a full crew for his ship due to the persistent rumors of its being haunted. He hires Stan and Ollie to help him shanghai some men, but soon they too end up aboard the ship.

Here’s a pretty good short from the boys. The first half has them engaged in the plot to shanghai the sailors, which involves a gag with an egg. The second half has them aboard the ship and mistakenly believing they’ve killed a man. My favorite bit has the boys explaining why they have no wish to be sailors. As for the fantastic content, there are no real ghosts in the movie, but there is a man mistaken for one.

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King Klunk (1933)

KING KLUNK (1933)
Animated short

Article 3579 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-13-2011
Posting Date: 6-2-2011
Director unknown
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: KING KONG parody

Pooch the Pup goes into the jungle to film the giant monster known as King Klunk. Unfortunately, the monster takes a liking to his girlfriend, and he must rescue her from the monster.

King Kong was one of the few classic monsters of the era that didn’t originate from Universal, but it looks like they got one of the first parodies of the movie out with this Walter Lantz short. It features the mostly forgotten character of Pooch the Pup, and it isn’t a particularly great cartoon. Pooch plays a combination of characters from the movie, including the Carl Denham and the John Driscoll characters as well as one of the biplane pilots, and there’s a short Tarzan parody as well. The sacrifice scene, the fight with the dinosaur, and the final scenes in the city are all parodied. It’s all done in the cartoon style of the period, with minimal dialogue and lots of rubbery characters. All in all, more of a curio than a must-see, but genre fans will want to catch it.

Hansel and Gretel (1954)

HANSEL AND GRETEL (1954)
aka Hansel und Gretel

Article 3578 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-12-2011
Posting Date: 6-1-2011
Directed by Walter Janssen
Featuring Jurgen Micksch, Maren Bielenberg, Barbara Gallauner
Country: West Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

A poor family is in danger of being thrown out of their house by a wicked landlord. In order to save them, the two children seek out a gingerbread house rumored to have a large cache of gold hidden within. However, there’s a witch in the house… and the witch has a taste for little children…

Here are ten thoughts on this adaptation of everyone’s favorite children’s story about cannibalism.

1) The family seems to live on subsistence rations despite the fact that there are rabbits and deer hanging around outside of their rented home in the woods. Methinks the development of rudimentary hunting skills might have benefited them mightily.

2) I was originally going to make a joke here about how the mother and children do all the work (gathering the sticks in the forest and selling baskets in the village) while the father does little more than smoke cheap tobacco. Then I remembered that the father actually weaves the baskets from the sticks, thus contributing his share to the household and undercutting my joke about a dysfunctional family. Still, that doesn’t give him the right to blow tobacco smoke in his own son’s face. Remember, the second-hand smoke is just as bad.

3) There’s a magic snowman in the movie. He hits the landlord with his broom, plays pranks on the family by knocking on the window, and then climbs a tree when winter is over. Really, couldn’t you have done more with the character than this?

4) This is the second movie in a row I’ve seen with an evil landlord. He even threatens to sic the dogs on the family. He also has the goofiest moustache I’ve seen in ages.

5) In their first foray into the forest to find the gingerbread house, Hansel decides to mark the way by using rocks in his pocket, which seems to be an improvement over the old “bread crumbs” idea of the story. Then we see a big bear wandering around. I can’t tell you how much I was expecting the movie to change the story so it involved a rock-eating bear. No such luck.

6) Hint – if the old woman has a pet raven named Satan, she is more likely to be a witch than a kindly old lady.

7) Another hint – if she is able to make food appear out of nowhere by magic, she is more likely to be a witch than a kindly old lady.

8) Another hint – If, despite the fact that she can make food appear out of nowhere, she prefers to eat a stew made up of arsenic, poison mushrooms and toadstool stems, she is probably a witch rather than a kindly old woman. I would also be reluctant to eat anything she offered me.

9) When the witch is shoved into the oven, the whole house breaks apart and falls to pieces. Either her abode was maintained by a witchcraft that disintegrated upon her death, or putting a witch into an oven is somewhat similar to putting something metal in a microwave. Consider this a useful household tip.

10) Okay, I’m having some fun with this movie, and though I usually do my “ten thoughts” lists on movies that are prime stinkers, let’s consider it a compliment in this case. After having seen THE SHOEMAKER AND THE ELVES (a movie which mostly consisted of footage of children dressed as elves building shoes), I was expecting an exercise in tedium of the worst kind. This one was actually efficient, creative and a bit of fun. No, it’s not great, but I know that I was more entertained than I expected to be, and that’s always a plus.

To Kill a Clown (1972)

TO KILL A CLOWN (1972)
Article 3577 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-11-2011
Posting Date: 5-31-2011
Directed by George Bloomfield
Featuring Alan Alda, Blythe Danner, Heath Lamberts
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho movie

A couple rents a beachside house in an isolated area from a crippled Vietnam vet who lives next door. They soon discover that their landlord is not quite sane… and that his dobermans obey his every command.

I don’t know when the concept of a psychotic Vietnam veteran became a movie cliche, but I don’t think it was quite this early in the game. At any rate, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill psycho, and Alan Alda gives one of his most interesting performances here in the role of the veteran. One does sense there’s something a little wrong with him early on, but it’s not until the veteran and the husband engage in a game that is supposed to teach the husband how to “focus” that we start getting a real sense of the veteran’s madness. The couple themselves have some real problems, and their relationship is quite complex. As a result, there are some really interesting moments in the movie, and in some ways it reminds me of CUL-DE-SAC. The movie does have a few problems; it’s too slow at times, and certain scenes don’t seem to have a point. Its worst problem, however, is its ending; for some reason, it is totally unsatisfying in that it leaves so much unresolved, and I came out of it with the feeling that the movie doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be. The movie was based on a novel by Algis Budrys.

Search for the Evil One (1967)

SEARCH FOR THE EVIL ONE (1967)
Article 3576 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-10-2011
Posting Date: 5-30-2011
Directed by Joseph Kane
Featuring Lee Patterson, Lisa Pera, Henry Brandon
Country: USA
What it is: Hitler-is-still-alive action flick

A German Jew living in Argentina (who has kept his true identity and heritage a secret) is recruited to infiltrate a castle in the Andes that is believed to harbor Adolf Hitler.

Unless you’re a subscriber to certain conspiracy theories, movies about Hitler being alive and planning a fourth Reich would go under the heading of alternate universes, or at least speculative fiction, which is no doubt why this movie is included here. Unless you’re partial to either low-budget drive-in action fare or really want to see Pitt Herbert chew the scenery as Hitler, there’s probably little reason to catch this piece of nonsense; the movie is utterly predictable and has no real surprises. The movie also features H.M. Wynant, who had a long career in television and recently appeared in a few movies helmed by Larry Blamire.

The People (1972)

THE PEOPLE (1972)
TV-Movie

Article 3575 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-9-2011
Posting Date: 5-29-2011
Directed by John Korty
Featuring Kim Darby, William Shatner, Diane Varsi
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction drama

A schoolteacher goes to work at an isolated farm community where the residents are sullen and strange and children live joyless lives. As she tries to get her students to open up, she discovers that the people here have a great secret… and have powers that are definitely inhuman.

Of the many TV-Movies that served as unsold TV series pilots, this is one that I really wished had made it to a series. Of course, that is based on the hope that the scripts would retain the sensitivity and the sincerity of this TV-Movie. The story was based on a series of books by Zenna Henderson; I’ve not read any of them, but this movie has definitely piqued my interest. Pretty much every review gives away the basic premise, but I’ve decided not to give it away. Suffice it to say that the heart of the story lies in explaining the reasons for the sullenness and joylessness of the people and why they choose to live in isolation; the reasons are good ones, and the whole movie is quite moving. William Shatner is at his least hammy in this one, and though Kim Darby’s character as the teacher takes some getting used to, she ends up doing fine as well.

Der Rest ist Schweigen (1959)

DER REST IST SCHWEIGEN (1959)
aka The Rest is Silence

Article 3574 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-8-2011
Posting Date: 5-28-2011
Directed by Helmut Kautner
Featuring Hardy Kruger, Peter van Eyck, Ingrid Andree
Country: West Germany
What it is: Modernized Shakespeare

A young man returns home to find his father dead… and his mother married to the man he suspects is his father’s murderer.

Here’s another movie that was rescued from my “ones that got away” list, those movies that I hunted for unsuccessfully for years. And, like most foreign movies that end up on that list, if it does manifest itself, it’s usually not on a copy with English dubbing or subtitles, and such is the case here. However, I was armed with one extra piece of info; this movie is a fairly faithful modernized adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, a play I am quite familiar with. As a result, I was able to match the characters in the movie with the equivalent characters in the play, and follow the thread of the plot. It’s a good thing, too; had I not been able to follow it, the plot wouldn’t have made any sense to me, and the fantastic content would have been invisible. In fact, I’m still not sure it’s there; in the play, Hamlet is clued in to the plot of Claudius by a visit from the ghost of his dead father, and there is no recognizably equivalent scene in this movie. There is, however, a mysterious phone call in a flashback sequence which may be indicative of a call from a ghost, and there’s an interesting scene where the main character discovers a secret safe from a clue in a painting of his father. However, since I was not privy to an understanding of the dialogue surrounding these scenes, this may be nothing but conjecture. I’m actually surprised that this is the first version of “Hamlet” I’ve encountered for this series, given the directness of the fantastic content in the story, and it would be ironic if this one didn’t contain that content. At any rate, I enjoyed the movie, and it saves its biggest departure from its source script for the ending scene, which leaves many more characters alive than the original does and makes the final act of justice come from an unexpected hand. My favorite scene is when Fee (this movie’s equivalent to the character of Ophelia) descends into madness and cuts off all of the flowers in a greenhouse; for some reason, I found this scene unbelievably sad.