Touch Me Not (1974)

aka The Hunted
Article 4014 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-26-2012
Directed by Douglas Fithian
Featuring Lee Remick, Michael Hinz, Ivan Desny
Country: UK / Spain / West Germany / France
What it is: Thriller

Industrial spies send an agent to romance the secretary of an oil magnate while tapping his phone lines. The spy is not above killing to cover his tracks, and when the secretary discovers the truth…

So what does a movie from UK / Spain /West Germany / France look like? Well, if this one is any indication, it looks roughly like one that came from Canada. In fact, given some of the misinformation I’ve encountered with this one, I’m wondering if we’ve got a case of mistaken identity here. My source for this title (John Stanley’s CREATURE FEATURES MOVIE GUIDE STRIKES AGAIN) describes it as a version of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. However, beyond the fact that we have someone being stalked by someone else, there is simply no connection between the two movies. In fact, if it weren’t for a left-field plot twist which reveals that one of the characters involved isn’t playing with a full deck (thus throwing a bit of madness into the mix), there wouldn’t be anything here to qualify this one even marginally as genre. As it is, the first two thirds of the movie is dull industrial espionage, mostly highlighted by an interesting performance by Michael Hinz as the savvy industrial spy pretending to be an awkward suitor. The stalking sequence doesn’t come into play until the final third of the movie, and that part of the movie isn’t particularly engaging, either, thanks mostly to dull direction. And I found the twist, as unexpected as it was, actually had the effect of reducing the little suspense there already was. No, there’s little to recommend here.

Reno and the Doc (1984)

Article 4013 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-25-2012
Directed by Charles Dennis
Featuring Kenneth Welsh, Henry Ramer, Linda Griffiths
Country: Canada
What it is: Comedy

A con man hooks up with a solitary middle-aged country man who happens to be an excellent skier. He talks the man into becoming a champion skiing competitor.

The fantastic content is that the con man and the country skier have a psychic bond somewhat similar to that of the Corsican brothers. The reason I didn’t mention that detail in the plot description is that, despite the fact that it does play a bit of a role in the story that follows, it nevertheless remains less of a “plot driver” and more of an “odd touch”. There’s a few other odd touches as well, such as a woman who suffers from oral dyslexia and the skier’s ongoing feud with a group of eccentrics known as the Kukamungas. These odd touches might have gone a ways towards jazzing up the rather tired story line of an unhappy loner being pulled out of his comfort zone so he can eventually gain confidence and self-reliance. Unfortunately, the direction, the acting, the score, the editing, etc. all seem to be in the hands of people who seem only interested in pulling in the paycheck; the movie is so lacking in inspiration and spirit that it seems to evaporate right in front of your eyes. As a result, despite the feel-good ending of it all, I emerged feeling more vaguely depressed than anything else. The odd touches simply can’t redeem a movie this spiritless.

Mr. Freedom (1969)

MR. FREEDOM (1969)
Article 4012 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-23-2012
Directed by William Klein
Featuring Delphine Seyrig, John Abbey, Donald Pleasence
Country: France
What it is: Superhero satire

An American superhero is sent to France to save the country from communism, and he uses drastic means to achieve his goal.

Though it uses a superhero motif, this movie is less a parody of the superhero genre than it is a counter-cultural satire on the United States and its policies during the era of the Vietnam War. Mr. Freedom himself is a parody of the extremist right-wing mindset. Some of the satire is still relevant; after all, extremism isn’t restricted to any particular era of history. My problem with the movie is that once you see where it’s coming from, it’s all a little too obvious, and I’m afraid that the humor that is supposed to redeem it falls pretty flat for me. And though Klein is a creative director (I’m intrigued, for example, by the way he handles Mr. Freedom’s encounter with a window-washer), without the laughs the movie becomes loud, busy, distracting and overbearing. It’s also one of those movies that is so focused on its political viewpoint that it never conjures up a single real, living, breathing character amid the caricatures. I’m afraid I found this one a disappointment.

Psi Factor (1980)

Article 4011 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-23-2012
Directed by Bryan Trizers
Featuring Peter Mark Richman, Gretchen Corbett, Tom Martin
Country: USA
What it is: Alien conspiracy thriller

When a civilian scientist attached to a military space probe project stumbles across evidence of extraterrestrial life, he finds himself on the run from those who want to cover up the discovery… as well as from the aliens themselves.

The minute I saw the names Sandler and Emenegger in the opening credits, I knew three things. 1) Steven Spielberg’s sister was going to be involved as well in some capacity (she’s an associate producer); 2) I could probably cobble together an equivalent production budget by raiding a line of gumball machines, and 3) despite the lack of means to effectively tell the story and the various problems that crop up, the movie will still have something going for it. Granted, the most satisfying elements in this movie come near the very end; for most of the running time, it plays like a bad conspiracy thriller with annoying characters (both the scientist’s girlfriend and the comic-relief pilot got on my nerves) and cliched dialogue. The oddest touch is a series of obviously symbolic scenes of children playing with insects; it happens enough that you know they mean something, but it’s not until the end of the movie that you’ll know what. The movie overall seems like a variation of the associate producer’s brother’s more famous CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, but at least the final revelations are its own. Make no mistake; most of the movie is pretty bad, but I didn’t walk away empty-handed, and that’s always a plus.

Sortileges (1945)

aka The Bellman
Article 4010 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-22-2012
Directed by Christian-Jaque
Featuring Lucien Coedel, Fernand Ledoux, Renee Faure
Country: France
What it is: Crime thriller with horror elements

A bellman – that is, a man whose job it is to help lost travelers in the Alps find their way from the ringing of a bell – kills a traveler for his money and splits the proceeds with a companion. However, complications follow…

This is the fourth day in a row that I’ve been able to watch a movie that had fallen into my “ones that got away” list (and I offer my sincere thanks to those board members on CHFB who were able to point me in the direction of them). Like yesterday’s movie, this one is in French without English subtitles, so some of the plot elements are lost on me. It’s a shame; this is one I really wish I could understand more, because what I see is quite intriguing. It’s a visual treat; the snowy locations, the scenes of the murder victim’s horse running wild, and a wonderful dancing sequence are the definite highlights here. I’m not sure exactly to what extent this is a horror movie; the original plot descriptions made me think that the bellman was responsible for several murders (making him something of a serial killer), but only one occurs onscreen during the length of the movie, so if there were others, the details are hidden in the dialogue. However, the wild horse scenes give the sense of a vengeful spirit from hell, and there’s a sequence that may have touches of black magic when an ailing woman is revived with the blood of a bird. The movie seems to be forgotten nowadays, but I really hope a subtitled copy comes to light; whether it’s really a horror movie or not, it does appear to be a gripping and memorable movie.

L’homme qui vendit son ame (1943)

aka The Man Who Sold His Soul
Article 4009 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-21-2012
Directed by Jean-Paul Paulin
Featuring Andre Luguet, Robert Le Vigan, Michele Alfa
Country: France
What it is: Faust variation

A banker is saved from bankruptcy by the devil, but the new wealth he acquires has a price; he must use it for evil.

As the copy that I was able to acquire is in French without subtitles, I’m grateful for a few of the plot descriptions to help me get as much as I can out of it; otherwise, I would have found it very difficult to follow. Still, Faust variations were pretty common during the forties, and this seems like one of the lesser ones. There are some good things about it; the acting seems quite good, with whoever was playing the Mephistopheles character (Robert Le Vigan, maybe?) being the most striking, there’s a memorable sequence in which the banker is the sole audience member for an opera, and the events surrounding the moment where the banker discovers what will happen if he uses his money for good purposes is pretty fun. Still, the movie seems slow and uninteresting, especially if you can’t follow the language. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to give it another try with a plot description and/or subtitles to help me out. And I’m always glad to finally see a movie that had ended up on my “ones that got away” list.

La madre e la morte (1911)

aka If One Could See into the Future
Article 4008 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-20-2012
Directed by Arrigo Frusta
Featuring Paolo Azzurri, Maria Bay, Oreste Grandi
Country: Italy
What it is: Tragic fantasy

A woman, bereft at having her young son taken by Death, seeks out the Grim Reaper and asks that her son be returned. He takes her to a pool that shows how the child’s life would have turned out had he lived.

The English title of this one makes it sound like a work of science fiction, but it’s not; it’s a fantasy in which it is not the future of the world that is seen, but what the ultimate fate of a child would have been if it had lived. When this one popped up on my “ones that got away” list, I commented that it sounded pretty depressing, and sure enough, it is; you really feel sorry for the woman in this one who not only loses her child, but her hope that the child would have grown up to be something wonderful. Like yesterday’s movie, there is at least one truly startling effect; in the opening scenes, when Death picks up the baby, he doesn’t just vanished in the “jump cut” sense we’re used to, but he almost seems to implode. More and more I find myself respecting the early pioneers of cinema.