An American Werewolf in London (1981)

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
Article 3439 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-5-2010
Posting Date: 1-13-2011
Directed by John Landis
Featuring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Werewolf movie

Two young American men are attacked by a werewolf while walking the moors in northern England. One dies and finds his soul trapped in limbo; the other survives and carries the curse of the werewolf.

I first saw this movie on commercial TV, and now having seen the theatrical version, I’m definitely classifying this one as one of those movies that can’t survive the bowdlerization necessary to make it palatable on commercial TV. Still, I don’t find myself quite as taken with this movie as some others, mostly because John Landis’s comic style blows hot and cold for me, and though I smile sometimes at the humor in this movie, I never laugh. However, I’m really taken with some of the other aspects of the movie. The transformation sequence is a truly amazing piece of work. The modifications to the werewolf myth are very interesting; I particularly like the fact that the werewolf is haunted by the limbo-consigned spirits of his victims. I think the movie also shows real cleverness in handling cliches; though the ominous villagers in the pub cliche is here in all its glory, they’re given more dimension and variety than I usual find, making them more than a hoary old plot device. And I have to admit to a taking a certain satisfaction at Landis’s decision to turn one standard movie setpiece on its ear; many movies tend to glorify the multiple-car-crash cliche by unrealistically having no pedestrians hurt in the process, but this movie offers no such easy out. By the way, that’s Muppet wrangler Frank Oz as the ambassador, and SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY is a porno film.

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Terror at Red Wolf Inn (1972)

TERROR AT RED WOLF INN (1972)
aka Terror House, The Folks at Red Wolf Inn
Article 3438 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-4-2010
Posting Date: 1-12-2011
Directed by Bud Townsend
Featuring Linda Gillen, John Neilson, Arthur Space
Country: USA
What it is: Inn with a dreadful secret movie

A college student wins a free vacation at the quaint Red Wolf Inn. However, the inn holds a dreadful secret…

… And I’m not going to give away that secret here out of respect for those who go into this one knowing nothing about it, but practically every review and plot description gives the game away. Not that it’s any great mystery; though the movie doesn’t explicitly let us know the situation until a long ways into it, anyone familiar with the subgenre of this type of movie will pick up the early hints, particularly in an early extended scene where we see several of the prize-winners chow down with their hosts. My major problem with the movie is that nobody acts with much intelligence; the hosts don’t do a particularly strong job of hiding their secrets from their prizewinners, nor do they show much real initiative when the prizewinners do discover the truth. If it weren’t for the fact that the prizewinners show even less intelligence when they do discover the truth, the hosts’ game would have been up long ago. The movie has a twist ending that is fairly predictable for this sort of movie, and then throws another last second twist that can only be interpreted as showing that the movie can’t be taken seriously. This may well be why the movie is considered a comedy by some, though it doesn’t play that way for most of its length. Still, there are some interesting moments that brighten this very uneven movie.

Tender Dracula (1974)

TENDER DRACULA (1974)
aka Tendre Dracula
Article 3437 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-3-2010
Posting Date: 1-11-2011
Directed by Pierre Grunstein
Featuring Peter Cushing, Alida Valli, Bernard Menez
Country: France
What it is: French horror comedy

A noted horror actor wants to stop making horror movies and play romantic leads. Two screenwriters and two actresses are sent to his castle to convince him to move back into horror.

There’s something about the offbeat premise of this movie that makes me want to like it. However, the movie fights me at every step of the way. Some of it may not be the movie’s fault; my copy is in fairly dismal shape, the running time is short about 14 minutes, and the English dubbing isn’t very good. But I think the real culprit lies in the fact that the movie is edited in this rather herky-jerky style which is immensely disorientating, and it leaves me feeling queasy rather than amused. It’s somewhat similar to being on a carnival ride which you can’t enjoy because the attendant has put your safety straps on too tightly and all you notice is the discomfort. Though the movie has a clear center (the horror vs. romance theme), it’s sometimes nearly impossible to tell what many of the surrounding scenes have to do with this theme, and for a comedy, I found it laughless. I think Cushing is giving a good performance, but in this mess it’s hard to appreciate. This movie is pretty obscure, and from what I can tell, it is deservedly so.

Sweet Sweet Rachel (1971)

SWEET SWEET RACHEL (1971)
TV-Movie
Article 3436 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-2-2010
Posting Date: 1-20-2011
Directed by Sutton Roley
Featuring Alex Dreier, Pat Hingle, Louise Latham
Country: USA
What it is: Psychic investigator TV pilot

A psychic investigator helps a woman who wants to make sure she didn’t psychically cause the death of her husband. He discovers the death was caused psychically… but by whom?

Here’s a TV-Movie pilot that did eventually end up as a series; with some casting changes it emerged as the syndicated TV show “The Sixth Sense”. The story is quite interesting and is fairly suspenseful, and I liked Pat Dreier’s character enough that I regret that he didn’t make the final series. Nonetheless, I do have some problems with the movie. There are a few times where the movie gets strident and hysterical, and I can’t help but notice that the female characters all tend to overacting whereas all the male ones underplay. There are some very clever moments; my favorite is how the psychic investigator gets the police to exhume a body and perform an autopsy on it when he has no hard evidence that they should do so. Apparently, the TV show that arose from this would eventually re-enter syndication; it’s episodes were cut to thirty minutes and added to the syndicated runs of “Night Gallery”.

Jungle Raiders (1945)

JUNGLE RAIDERS (1945)
Serial
Article 3435 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-1-2010
Posting Date: 1-9-2011
Directed by Lesley Selander
Featuring Kane Richmond, Eddie Quillan, Veda Ann Borg
Country: USA
What it is: “Jungle” serial thrills

The Arzec tribe lives in an isolated valley with a secret entrance. They have a rare fungus with amazing healing properties and a cache of jewels. Scientists want to find their way to the village for the fungus; bad guys want the jewels, and think the good guys are after them as well. Complications arise.

Like several other serials I’ve encountered, this one uses a much wider definition of “jungle” than you’d expect; if you get mostly prairie settings and rock formations with only a smattering of trees, you’re hardly in a jungle. Furthermore, the comic relief is not only not funny, but his constant fat jokes about the trading post owner become extremely tiresome. Yet, when I judge a serial, my main criteria anymore is – did it manage to hold my attention during its individual episodes or did I spend most of my time wondering what was in the refrigerator? To its credit, this one managed to hold my attention. I think the reason it works for me is that it has a good assortment of different characters to pay attention to. Many serials have only two real characters (the hero and the villain), while the rest of the characters are interchangeable and merely align themselves with one side or the other. This one has a more elaborate group of people with varying motives, and at least one villain (the tribal witch doctor) must be kept alive by the heroes as he is the only one who knows the location of the fungus. So, all in all, I liked this one well enough. I just hope that my next jungle serial (if there is one) has the novelty of actually taking place in a jungle.

The Stranger Within (1974)

THE STRANGER WITHIN (1974)
TV-Movie
Article 3434 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-29-2010
Posting Date: 1-8-2011
Directed by Lee Philips
Featuring Barbara Eden, George Grizzard, Joyce Van Patten
Country: USA
What it is: Mysterious pregnancy movie

Ann Collins is pregnant, but her husband David has had a vasectomy and cannot be the father. Ann wishes to keep the child despite the fact that her last attempt to have one ended tragically. When Ann’s personality begins to change radically, the question as to the child’s real parentage becomes critical…

I was really impressed with the opening scenes of this movie; there seemed to be an impressive amount of intelligence and honesty in the script’s portrayal of a marriage in crisis, and the performances by both George Grizzard and Barbara Eden are outstanding. It was making for such an interesting human drama that I was almost disappointed when the shifts in the wife’s personality manifest themselves, and the sudden sicknesses and healings point to an otherworldly origin for the child. The reason the shift from drama to fantastically-themed mystery disappointed me is that it made the movie far less complex; I could think of two explanations for the child’s origin, and one of them turned out to be right, and that doesn’t really make for much of a mystery. The movie is a bit too long for the story as well; the middle of the movie gets bogged down in scenes that constantly reiterate the wife’s odd behavior. I mean, just how often does the movie need to establish that she’s putting way to much salt on all of her food. Still, since the beginning of the movie made us care for the characters, we remain involved during the second half, and though the ending isn’t a surprise, it’s still acceptable. All in all, this is a very good TV-Movie.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986)
Article 3433 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-28-2010
Posting Date: 1-7-2011
Directed by Leonard Nimoy
Featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
Country: USA
What it is: Star Trek movie

A mysterious space probe is sending untranslatable messages into the oceans of the Earth, threatening in the process to destroy the planet. Captain Kirk and his crew discover that the probe is trying to communicate with humpback whales, a species extinct since the 21st century. They decide to go back in time and bring some whales to the future in order to save the Earth.

I’ve covered the first two movies in the series, and now I find myself skipping the third and hitting the fourth. Since the common belief is that the even-numbered movies in the “Star Trek” series are the superior ones, this might be interpreted as jumping to the next good one, though I myself don’t have any major problems with THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, though I haven’t seen it in years. Nonetheless, this is a very good one in the series; it roughly completes a trilogy that began with the second movie in that there’s a certain flow of the story line to all three movies that finally comes to a conclusion here. It steps away from the heavy action emphasis of the previous two movies and relies primarily on character and wit; the scenes of Kirk’s crew alternately struggling with and feeling superior to the technology and mores of the late twentieth century are very amusing. I particularly like watching Spock struggling in an attempt to use profanity, McCoy grousing about the barbarous state of medicine, and watching what develops with the tactical mistake of sending Chekov on the mission to acquire nuclear materials. And, having been an old fan of the series, I always like those neat character moments when the characters react just as we’ve grown to know they would. And, of course, the scene I most remember most is here, too; you know, the one with the punk rocker on the bus.