The Head (1959)

THE HEAD (1959)
Article #220 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-22-2001
Posting date: 3-7-2002

The strange Dr. Ood keeps the head of Professor Abel alive in order to get the formula for the serum that he needs. He also replaces the twisted body of a woman with the beautiful body of a model.

This is one of the stranger oddities I’ve encountered. It’s like a slightly less sleazy version of THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE with elements of HOUSE OF DRACULA and CHARLY thrown in for good measure. Dr. Ood is as bizarre as his name; you find out why near the end of the movie. The house where most of the action takes place is a real treat, with a really bizarre looking staircase. And I’ve been trying to figure out why they have so many shots of Professor Abel from the back whenever he’s talking; it’s almost like they don’t want to show you his face (that is, while he still has a body). I always have a soft spot for movies this weird, and I think there should have been a whole series of Dr. Ood movies. Let’s fabricate a few.

THE ODD DR. OOD – The immediate sequel has Dr. Ood married, but his wife has been horribly scarred in an accident, and he tries to restore her beauty. Unfortunately, his squirrel gland injections turn her into a murderous weresquirrel.

THE OOD COUPLE – Dr. Ood grafts Tony Randall’s head onto Jack Klugman’s body, and Walter Matthau’s onto Jack Lemmon’s. The two hideous creatures battle to the death.

OOD OUT WEST – Dr. Ood moves to the wild west, where he grafts the feet of Rudolf Nureyev, the hands of Orlac, the head of Wyatt Earp, and the trunk of an elephant onto a cactus. This creature then gets into a wrestling match with Tor Johnson.

Y’know, it’s probably a damn good thing I don’t work in the movie business.

The Hands of Orlac (1961)

THE HANDS OF ORLAC (1961)
Article #219 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-21-2001
Posting date: 3-6-2002

When a pianist’s hands are crushed in an accident, a brilliant surgeon grafts the hands of an executed killer in their place. The pianist then discovers he has trouble playing the piano and is tortured by thoughts of murder.

This is the third version of this story of which I am aware. It’s not my favorite; as Orlac, Mel Ferrer is just not very interesting, and the script is so clumsy and obvious in continually bringing up the murderer’s name to him that it feels pretty contrived. The movie itself seems more interested in Nero the magician (played by Christopher Lee), but I find myself wondering what Nero is trying to gain from terrorizing Orlac; it doesn’t appear to be money or revenge, as in the earlier two versions. As it is, he appears to be doing it out of sheer meanness. Even the climax of the movie has little to do with Orlac, being more concerned with Nero and his assistant. Perhaps they should have gone all out and just made a movie about Nero. The cast also features Donald Wolfit and Donald Pleasence in small roles.

Supernatural (1933)

SUPERNATURAL (1933)
Article #218 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-20-2001
Posting date: 3-5-2002

A woman is executed for strangling men. When a scientist with a theory concerning transmutation of spirits takes her body after the execution, the spirit ends up possessing another woman.

This is my favorite of the Halperin Brothers’ horror movies that I’ve seen. It’s genuinely eerie and full of good performances, though I can’t help but notice that they have this thing about superimposed glaring eyes, specifically Lugosi’s glaring eyes. I do have to admire them insofar as they seemed to put as much work into their movies as their budgets would permit; I don’t always care for their results, but I don’t get the feeling they were just churned out.

Half Human (1957)

HALF HUMAN (1957)
Article #217 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-19-2001
Posting date: 3-4-2002

An abominable snowman is discovered in Japan.

This Ishiro Honda movie, like GODZILLA, was released in this country with different footage to make it more accessible to American audiences; it doesn’t do it nearly as well, though. In fact, the sequences consist of little more than John Carradine talking endlessly, though they do perform an autopsy on the the costume of the baby yeti, which Toho lent to the makers of this version for use in the movie. It still comes off better than a Jerry Warren movie, though, but I don’t care for the fact that it is the new footage that is almost entirely represented in the movie’s credits, with only a token mention of the actual Japanese cast and crew that were responsible for most of the movie. Incidentally, the story looks quite interesting and the Yeti costume is fantastic; I’m surprised that Toho could come up with a big hairy creature as good-looking as this one is and then bungle the costume used for King Kong (in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA). I can’t help but notice that in general movies about abominable snowmen are more interesting than movies about Bigfoot. I wish I could see the full Japanese version of the movie, but I gather that it is considered politically incorrect in Japan and is no longer available.

Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971)

ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971)
Article #216 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-18-2001
Posting date: 3-3-2002

Three chimps escape from the nuclear devastation of Earth in the future to arrive in the present day. Their presence startles the world, and the government begins to get paranoid after discovering what the future may hold for the human race.

I had fond memories of seeing this movie as a kid, and the scenes I remember best (the scene where Zira aces several intelligence tests but doesn’t eat the banana, Zira fainting at the sight of a large animal on display in a museum and revealing her pregnancy, and the memorable final scenes of the film) were pretty much as I remember them. However, I have problems with the movie nowadays; the scenes where the chimps share their wisdom with the world (particularly Zira’s address to a woman’s group) seem horribly trite, and much of the movie is dull and clumsy. Also, the use of a man in a gorilla suit (who kills one of the chimps) looks horribly fake; I’m surprised they were still using that approach at this late a date. And

SPOILERS AHEAD

I’m surprised that this movie got a G rating in theaters; the shooting of the baby, bloodless as it is, seems far too intense for the very young.

The Green Slime (1969)

THE GREEN SLIME (1969)
Article #215 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-17-2001
Posting date: 3-2-2002

A strange mold from a wandering planet gets taken aboard a space station, where it grows into hideous energy-eating creatures.

You know, this Japanese/American coproduction wouldn’t be too bad if it didn’t have a few problems; 1) the sets and special effects are unconvincing and cheap, 2) the monsters are rather silly-looking, especially the mushy red masses on either side of their eyes, 3) the two men who hate/respect each other and love the same woman are enmeshed in one of the most hackneyed subplots I’ve seen, and 4) the acting throughout is none too good. Other than that, not too bad. I do like late-sixties quasi-Jimi-Hendrix-psychedelic theme song.

I also can’t help but notice that the movie does anticipate one area of life that will improve immensely in the future, and that is the efficacy of post-ballistics projectile weapon tossing, that strategy whereby one finds a last-minute use for a firearm devoid of ammunition by throwing it at his foe. I can’t help but notice that in most movies where this technique is used, the results are pretty pathetic, but in this one, it seems to be the best way of handling the creatures; once those ray guns can zap no more, tossing them at the slime creatures invariably results in hitting them squre in the eye, causing them to shriek horribly. Since the ammunition did no damage itself, one wonders why they just didn’t skip that step and toss their firearms from the beginning.

The Golem (1920)

THE GOLEM (1920)
Article #214 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-16-2001
Posting date: 3-1-2002

In order to fight a pogrom, a rabbi creates a Golem which he brings to the castle and uses to convince the king not to evict his people. Afterwards, the Golem runs wild.

This movie served as a prequel to the 1915 movie also called THE GOLEM, though technically, the full title of this one is THE GOLEM: HOW HE CAME INTO THE WORLD. I would love to see the 1915 version sometime, but I’m not even sure if it exists, though I’ve heard claims to the contrary. I suspect that a lot of these claims are from people who think they’ve seen the 1915 version but have actually seen the 1920 version. To complicate matters, IMDB has the 1915 version of the movie marked as being available on DVD, but the link merely takes you to a collection of German classics which contains the 1920 version. There are also about fifty votes for the 1915 version, but the only user comment on the movie contains what is clearly a description of the 1920 movie, so I have to write that off as confusion between the two movies.

The 1920 version is quite entertaining, and it’s interesting to compare it to the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN; both movies involve the creation of artificial men that get out of control, both have impressive high sets, and both have central scenes involving the monster and a little girl. What I most admire about this movie was Paul Wegener’s way of controlling his body in order to make the Golem look as if he was actually made out of stone; this and his makeup job combine to make the character a lot more convincing than it would otherwise be.

Rocketship X-M (1950)

ROCKETSHIP X-M (1950)
Article #213 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-15-2001
Posting date: 2-28-2002

An expedition is planned to the moon, but technical problems with the fuel cause the spaceship to end up going to Mars instead.

This movie was quickly made to try to cash in on the hype surrounding DESTINATION MOON, and actually beat that movie to the theatres. It’s actually quite fascinating to compare the two, as this movie does aspire to be a science fiction adventure drama like DESTINATION MOON. The characters seem a little more human in this one; in fact, overall this is the better acted of the two movies, with a number of familiar faces (Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, Morris Ankrum, John Emery, Noah Beery, Hugh O’Brian). It’s also the more downbeat of the two movies, though at the same time I think it is somewhat more conventional, and its social commentary is a bit on the obvious side. Still, it did attempt to be a serious entry in the genre of SF, and avoids being a mere rip-off of its inspiration, and for that it certainly deserves applause.

It also set some of the cliches for this type of movie. It has the first “spaceship caught in a meteor shower” sequence. It also has the sole female member of the crew which paved the way for romance as well as the blatant sexism prevalent at the time. Still, the movie doesn’t fall into the trap of backing up the sexism. Osa Massen’s character doesn’t just go around serving coffee; she is a vital member of the crew who knows her stuff about the fuel being used. In fact, it’s important to note that after the scene where there is a discrepancy between her calculations and those of John Emery, and John makes the decision to use his and discard hers, that it was his mixture of the fuel that threw them off course and sent them to Mars; could it be that the woman had been right? An interesting movie.

The Raven (1935)

THE RAVEN (1935)
Article #212 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-14-2001
Posting date: 2-27-2002

A surgeon is denied the love of the woman he desires and gets revenge by devising horrible tortures for his victims.

This is something of a companion piece to the earlier THE BLACK CAT, also featuring both Karloff and Lugosi. For the most part, it lacks that movie’s style, wit, and sense of poetry, though it does a nice job of defining some common horror themes. Karloff certainly has a less interesting role, though it doesn’t start out that way; unfortunately, after the operation, the character just becomes rather predictable, and if you took away his dialogue, Tor Johnson could have played him. Lugosi’s Dr. Vollin is better, but still not as interesting as his Vitus Verdegast in THE BLACK CAT. In fact, I find THE RAVEN to be rather humdrum and immemorable, though it actually has more to do with Poe than THE BLACK CAT. There is, however, one really great moment for Lugosi when he tries to explain what Poe means to him; this soliloquy is one of Lugosi’s finest moments and shows just how wonderful an actor this man could be.

The Monster Maker (1944)

THE MONSTER MAKER (1944)
Article #211 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-13-2001
Posting date: 2-26-2002

A doctor falls in love with the daughter of a pianist, but she denies him. He tries to force her hand by injecting her father with germs that cause acromegaly.

One thing that came to mind while watching this movie is that whatever you can say about the cheapness of the production, PRC certainly cared a lot more about their horror product than Monogram. I found you can take their movies quite seriously, where all too often the Monogram movies were jokey and campy. The acromegaly angle makes this movie tasteless to some, but I quite like it; the story and the performances hold my interest throughout. The cast features Ralph Morgan, J. Carrol Naish, and Glenn Strange. Incidentally, acromegaly was the real-life ailment that distorted the features of actor Rondo Hatton.