Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1965)

Article #230 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-1-2001
Posting date: 3-17-2002

Jesse James and Hank Tracy team up with the Wild Bunch to hold up a stagecoach, but it turns out to be a trap in which Tracy is shot. Jesse takes him to a monastery inhabited by the granddaughter of Dr. Frankenstein to heal his wounds, but she has other plans.

I think this movie is a tad bit better than it sounds, but not by much; it has a nice soundtrack, anyway. The much-maligned William Beaudine directed this movie, but I don’t know of any director who could have really done much with the concept. This is the companion movie to BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA, which at least had the presence of John Carradine to give it that little extra touch; the only name I recognized right away from the credits of this one is Nestor Paiva, the captain of the boat from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Chalk it up to another one of those failed attempts at that most elusive of genre crossings, the horror-western.

It Came From Outer Space (1953)

Article #229 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-31-2001
Posting date: 3-16-2002

An astronomer discovers a spherical spaceship which is then buried under tons of rock, and nobody believes that he really saw it. Shortly after that, some people in town start acting strangely. Soon it is discovered that they have been replaced by aliens from the spaceship.

Despite the fact that I don’t care for some of the changes in dialogue that were made in the rewrite of Ray Bradbury’s original script, and that it contains at least one godawful moment (a bogus scare involving a kid in a spaceman outfit), this is my second favorite Jack Arnold movie. The fact that both the humans and the aliens have a fear and dread of each other is something I found uncommon in many SF movies, but it makes the movie seem that much more real. It also has a nice poetic touch, with some truly eerie and memorable images that stick in the mind. I was fortunate enough to see this one in 3D during the revival in the eighties, but this is one of those movies that doesn’t really need it. This is indeed one of the most important SF movies of the fifties.

The Invisible Woman (1940)

Article #228 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-30-2001
Posting date: 3-15-2002

A scientist discovers a method to make people invisible and searches for a volunteer for the experiment. A woman seeking revenge on her boss is the volunteer.

This invisible (wo)man comedy starts out all right but gets fairly tiresome after a bit, due to the lack of really interesting gags. However, a familiar crop of faces adds some fun to the proceedings; John Barrymore in one of his last roles, Oscar Homolka, Virginia Bruce, and Shemp Howard all pop up at one time or another.

Maybe I’m being a bit cranky, but I have to admit that I’m not really all that fond of comedies about invisibility; the concept just seems a little too easy. I don’t know how many invisible man comedies there are out there, but I suspect there’s a few too many for my taste.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

Article #227 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-29-2001
Posting date: 3-14-2002

A man, after being exposed to insecticide and passing through a cloud of radiation, discovers that he is shrinking. This affects his relationship with his wife and puts his life in danger.

This is one of my very favorite SF films of the fifties, and far and away my favorite of Jack Arnold’s films. It seems to be various types of movies at once, as his shrinking effects different aspects of his life at different times; the early part of the film is a drama, the last half a thriller with religious and cosmic overtones. Though there are some moments that are a little clumsy (his ring falls off almost immediately after the line starting “as long as you wear that ring…”), once he is attacked by the cat, the movie never lets up. His battle with the spider is one of the most thrilling and harrowing sequences in all SF cinema. This is one movie that totally sweeps me up in the story, so much so that I even accept the mystical ending without batting an eye.

In the Year 2889 (1967)

IN THE YEAR 2889 (1967)
Article #226 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-28-2001
Posting date: 3-13-2002

A group of people try to survive a nuclear war by hiding out in a house surrounded by mountains to keep out the nuclear fallout.

This movie is really good . . . for about thirty seconds at the very beginning, where you see some nice fast-motion photography of rolling clouds and mountains. Then the movie starts in earnest, and you once again find yourself in the hands of Larry Buchanan, with his version of the AIP movie THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED. If you’ve seen his movies before, you know what to expect; not much. It’s static, talky, uninterestingly directed, poorly acted, and has that hangdog, weary, half-asleep-at-the-wheel feel of all of the films of his that I’ve seen. The original wasn’t great to begin with, and this version manages to remove whatever was good about the original. It is interesting to watch it in tandem with the original, if for no other reason than to see how the same script can fare in the hands of different directors. It’s all part of the fun of Larry Buchananland.

Buchananland; now there’s a concept! What would a theme park based on the works of Larry Buchanan be like? Well, instead of Mickey Mouse and Goofy running around, we’d have an eye creature and that monster with the ping-pong ball eyes running around, and they wouldn’t be sober. There would only be one dodgem car in the dodgem car ride. The ferris wheel would take you to the top and leave you hanging there bored for about an hour and a half (this ride emulates watching one of his movies). The merry-go-round would be up on blocks. And the fun house would consist of a dimly lit, dusty wooden room with a broken window and ratty curtains, and instead of the exit leading you to a room of mirrors, it would take you to a bathroom scale so you could weigh yourself. Now doesn’t that sound like fun?

And their motto would be “At least it’s not Andy Milliganland!”

All right, I’m ready for my medicine now.

I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1958)

Article #225 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-27-2001
Posting date: 3-12-2002

Dr. Frankenstein decides to create life using teenage bodies, as they are more “alive” than older bodies. He creates a teenage monster that he tries to control.

This badly written follow-up to I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF emphasizes the corrupt authority figure (Whit Bissell) over the monster (Gary Conway), the opposite approach to that of WEREWOLF. Bissell does the best he can with what he’s given to work with, but the doctor never really becomes a living, breathing three-dimensional character, despite the humorous lines he is given on occasion. Still, he’s a better-developed character than the monster, whose total personality seems to consist of his being a teenager who doesn’t want to be cooped up. The monster’s final rebellion against his creator is poorly motivated and makes little sense, and even though a better actor than Gary Conway might have pulled it off, as it is, it just feels like the moviemakers reached the point where they knew they needed to end the movie. The movie is also much talkier than its predecessor, with far too much running time spent on the Doctor’s love life. The monster’s makeup is memorable in its own way, but that bloated eye is a major distraction. All in all, my least favorite of the four “teenage” films produced by Herman Cohen.

I Bury the Living (1958)

Article #224 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-26-2001
Posting date: 3-11-2002

A businessman takes over as manager of a local cemetery. A map is used to keep track of the lots in the cemetery, white pins being used for unoccupied graves, black for graves that are now full. When he places black pins in some newly purchased plots instead of white by mistake, he is horrified to find that the people who reserved the graves die the next day. He grows to believe he has the power to cause death in this manner.

This is one of the best horror films to which I have to award the DS Rubber Brick Award for its ending; up to that point, it is a fascinating and gripping movie. I love the use of visuals in the movie; after a while, the map looks like two malevolent eyes staring out at you. The wonderful performances by Richard Boone and the various character actors adds to the terror of this movie. But the sad truth is that the movie is merely a dud firecracker with a long fuse; it builds the tension to the point where you’re waiting for the explosion, and it fizzles out. I recommend the first three quarters of this movie.

The Human Monster (1939)

Article #223 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-25-2001
Posting date: 3-10-2002

Investigators look into an insurance racket where people holding policies are found drowned in the Thames. It is somehow tied to a mysterious home for the blind.

This is quite an interesting mystery-thriller with strong horror overtones. Bela Lugosi doesn’t really play a dual role, but there are two characters who are one and the same; the only reason the movie gets away with it is that one of the characters is using a voice dubbed in by someone other than Lugosi; this was probably necessary in order to fool the audience, because whatever talents he had, Lugosi was not a master of different voices, and the voice he does have is instantly recognizable. I was indeed startled by the revelation. Otherwise, the most memorable face in the movie is that of Wilfred Walters, the big blind murderer who is the “monster” of this horror film. This was based on an Edgar Wallace novel that would be remade in the sixties as DEAD EYES OF LONDON.

The House of Frankenstein (1945)

Article #222 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-24-2001
Posting date: 3-9-2002

Dr. Niemann and his assistant Daniel escape from a prison and vow to get revenge on those that imprisoned them. In the process, they encounter Dracula, the wolfman, and the Frankenstein monster.

I will always have a great deal of affection for this movie, since it was the first Frankenstein movie I ever saw. It’s certainly not the best of the Frankenstein movies; it largely just trots out the monsters and lets them do their thing, but I still find that a lot of fun. Plus, the cast adds to the enjoyment; Boris Karloff, J. Carrol Naish, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Elena Verdugo, Anne Gwynne, Lionel Atwill and George Zucco all together in one movie. The Dracula sequence seems tacked on, and the rest of the movie feels a little like a rehash of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (Talbot wants to be cured, but the scientist is more interested in the monster), but it doesn’t change my fondness for the whole thing.

The Hideous Sun Demon (1959)

Article #221 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-23-2001
Posting date: 3-08-2002

A man suffering from a dosage of radiation turns into a monster after exposure to the sun.

I’ve heard that one of the reasons Robert Clarke directed this movie was to prove that he could make a better movie than the one he’d just appeared in, namely THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER. He succeeded, but on the other hand, it would have been harder to make a movie that was worse. This one is no better than okay, with a novel central gimmick and a decent monster head; I’ve never felt it was quite as bad as some people make it out to be (unlike THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER, which is every bit as bad). And he does avoid some of the pitfalls of low-budget movie-making, such as the heavy use of stock footage and narration. One of the interesting touches to the movie is that the main character (played by Clarke) isn’t a sympathetic character; he has pronounced character flaws (such as his drinking) that contribute to making his illness even more troublesome to him.