Lost Island of Kioga (1966)

TV-Movie version of serial HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS (1938)
Article 2596 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-14-2008
Posting Date: 9-21-208
Directed by John English and William Witney
Featuring Bruce Bennett, Mala, Monte Blue
Country: USA

A boy whose parents died in a shipwreck grows up on an island in the arctic regions that is kept unseasonably warm by an active volcano. Years later, friends of his parents show up along with a set of modern-day pirates after a treasure. He also has to contend with a hostile band of Indians.

Here’s more serial-converted-into-feature action for you. It’s better edited than is usual for this sort of thing, and it helps that the serial itself didn’t really follow the standard-issue serial plot. It’s still pretty episodic, and Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toones is far from my favorite comic relief actor, but it is nice to see Noble Johnson in a much larger role than usual for him as Kioga’s Indian friend. The island itself and a haunted cave provide the fantastic content. And, since it’s now been quite a while since I’ve done one of these serials-into-features, I’m not in the mood to be my usual cranky self about them; in fact, I rather enjoyed this one.



The Color of Love (1975)

aka Lord Shango
Article 2595 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-13-2008
Posting Date: 9-20-208
Directed by Ray Marsh
Featuring Marlene Clark, Lawrence Cook, Wally Taylor
Country: USA

The baptism of the daughter of an unwed mother is interrupted by her boyfriend attempting to prevent the ceremony. In the resulting struggle, the boyfriend is drowned, though it is not sure whether it was intentional or accidental. When the daughter runs away, the mother turns her back on the church and turns to a voodoo cult to get her daughter back. But there are prices to pay…

I had the worst time coming up with a decent plot description for this movie with an all-black cast, because it was difficult to come up with one that gave a real feel for what this movie is like. Anyone going into this hoping for the usual blaxploitation horror movie will emerge frustrated and feel cheated. If, however, you go in expecting a complex, almost Lewtonian horror movie in which the lines between good and evil aren’t quite as clearly defined as they usually are, you’ll be better prepared. It’s more of a drama with subtle horror elements than a full-blown horror movie, and the movie features at least one great performance; as the drummer-turned-drinker who serves as a commentator on the action, Lawrence Cook is fascinating and complex. The movie does a fascinating job of using music to set off the traditional Christian culture with the voodoo culture, and I suspect that devout Christians will not find this one to their liking. Myself, I found it offbeat, subtle, intelligent and compelling, but it will definitely not be to everyone’s taste.


Let’s Kill Uncle (1966)

Article 2594 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-12-2008
Posting Date: 9-19-2008
Directed by William Castle
Featuring Nigel Green, Mary Badham, Pat Cardi
Country: UK/USA

A young boy loses his parents and inherits their fortune. He goes to live with an uncle on an island. However, the uncle has designs on the boy’s money, and plots to do away with him while making it look like an accident. The boy discovers the plot, and decides that the best way to save his own life is to kill his uncle first.

The acting is uneven and the pace isn’t always the best, but when William Castle is on his game, the fun factor is undeniable. Well, in this offbeat and somewhat lighthearted variation of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, he’s on his game, and it’s great fun watching the boy match wits with his uncle, whose seemingly friendly manner is offset by the fact that he’s a veteran who wrote a book called “Killing the Enemy”. The movie also features sharks, tarantulas, and a crippled man on a cart. It’s Castle’s light touch with this one that really makes it work.


Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

Article 2593 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-11-2008
Posting Date: 9-18-2008
Directed by Bob Kelljan
Featuring William Marshall, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier
Country: USA

When Blacula is resurrected in a voodoo ceremony, he seeks a voodoo priestess who can rid him of his curse.

I’ve heard tell that BLACULA is the best of the horror blaxploitation titles of the seventies, and that this sequel doesn’t quite measure up to that one. So I’ll refrain from making any judgment on the original based on having watched this one except to say that it must certainly share this movie’s great strength, which is William Marshall’s excellent performance. His Blacula has such a commanding, authoritative presence that he single-handedly raises this film several notches in my eyes. This is good, because the movie has a few problems. Perhaps the worst one is that the movie’s believability at any one moment is in inverse proportion to the amount of jive talk being used on the screen at the time; this movie has some of the least convincing jive talk I’ve ever heard. Marshall only uses jive talk in one speech, and though it’s the best line in the movie, you can clearly hear the quote marks around them. The performers who are given the least jive talk fare best; both Don Mitchell and Pam Grier come off all right. Still, the story takes an interesting approach, and occasional moments work quite well.


A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)

aka Schizoid, Una Lucertola con la pelle di donna
Article 2592 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-10-2008
Posting Date: 9-17-2008
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Featuring Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Jean Sorel
Country: Spain/Italy/France

A woman reports a dream to her therapist about having murdered a neighbor woman. When the neighbor woman turns up dead a few days later, the evidence points to the woman who had the dream. Is she guilty? Or is she being framed? If so, then who…and how?

I wasn’t particularly impressed with Fulci’s NEW YORK RIPPER a few days ago, and commented that I didn’t think it had a particular sense of style. Not so with this one; this one is very strong on that level, and also manages to make the style enhance and complement the very interesting story itself. This is easily the most impressive Fulci movie I’ve seen yet, as well as being one of the most entertaining giallos I’ve seen as well. It has some fine dream sequences, an excellent Ennio Morricone score, a clever mystery element with a strong ending, a strong sense of suspense, an odd assortment of characters, and it even manages to throw in some Hitchcock references without letting them take over the movie. If IMDB’s ratings can be taken into account, this is one of Fulci’s best movies, and I’m inclined to agree at this point.


984: Prisoner of the Future (1982)

Article 2591 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-9-2008
Posting Date: 9-16-2008
Directed by Tibor Takacs
Featuring Stephen Markle, Michele Chicoine, David Clement
Country: Canada

An executive finds himself a prisoner when a new political regime comes into power, and he is being tortured to confess to crimes he didn’t commit.

One of my books describes this movie as being Kafkaesque, but I think it lacks the maddening ambiguity of Kafka’s work; I’d say it’s a lot more Orwellian dystopic. From a distance, I rather admire the movie; it’s always a bit interesting to see a science fiction movie from the period that wasn’t flaunting a STAR WARS influence. Nevertheless, I have to admit that, despite all the brooding nihilism and darkness here, I watched the movie with only mild interest. I attribute this to the fact that the movie simply isn’t very convincing. It’s not the weak special effects; though the roller-skating enforcer robots are pretty silly, they aren’t show-stoppers, if you know what I mean. No, it’s more the confused script, the dull characters (Don Francks’ attempts to make his Warden character more eccentric is more distracting than effective), and a general lack of conviction. In short, I never really believe what’s happening, or that it really matters; even the final twist is more of a shrug than a shock. It’s a nice try, but not really a success.


La notte dei dannati (1971)

aka Night of the Damned
Article 2590 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-8-2008
Posting Date: 9-15-2008
Directed by Filippo Walter Ratti
Featuring Pierre Brice, Mario Carra, Daniela D’Agostino
Country: Italy

A journalist who specializes in unsolved mysteries visits an ailing friend who is actually under the spell of a 200 year old witch.

At heart, I believe it’s patently unfair to make critical judgments about a movie that you’ve only seen in a language you don’t understand. Nevertheless, since I’m writing up every movie on my list, I’ve got to put something down, and I always try to point out when I’m watching something under these circumstances. Therefore, since I’m seeing this one in unsubtitled Italian, you can take it with a grain of salt when I say that I suspect the movie is a bore. I could be wrong; if the dialogue is sparkling and fascinating, this might be a really enjoyable movie. Seen in this state where I can barely comprehend what’s going on (I borrowed heavily from comments on IMDB to get a plot description together), I can’t appreciate it on that level, and, despite the fact that there’s a few moody scenes, a fair amount of nudity, a witch that likes leaving scratch marks on women’s breasts, and other odd touches, my primary impression is that this movie is somewhat static and talks your ears off. Also, Patrizia Viotti (who plays the female journalist) has one of the lousiest screams I’ve ever heard in a movie, and we get treated to it far too often. Still, until I get to see it in a form where I can really understand it, this is only speculation – except for the bit about the scream.