2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Bat Whispers (1930)

THE BAT WHISPERS (1930)
Article #320 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-29-2002
Posting date: 6-15-2002

A supercriminal known as the Bat terrorizes residents of a country home.

This movie used a very early widescreen process, which makes it somewhat novel, and frankly it needs all the novelty it can get. The first twenty minutes aren’t bad, with some very effective swooping camera shots; you can see how they were done, but they’re still fun. It’s only when the action settles into the country home where it starts to feel like a photographed stage play, shot with the same stiff snooze-inducing style that hamstringed DRACULA, and considering the fairly large array of characters that get thrown your way in a very short time, this is not a good thing. The comic relief maid wears thin very quickly, and the lack of music makes it all that much more hard to pay attention. It has a nice gimmick ending, though.

The Avenging Conscience (1914)

THE AVENGING CONSCIENCE (1914)
Article #319 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-28-2002
Posting date: 6-14-2002

A boy is raised to manhood by his one-eyed uncle. When the uncle stands in the way of the boy’s romance, the boy kills him and bricks up the body in a fireplace.

This is a very early adaptation of Poe’s “The Telltale Heart” by D. W. Griffith, one of the most important pioneers in cinema history due to his development of cinematic storytelling techniques. Though the movie borrows the events of the Poe story (as well as touches of Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee”), it’s definitely more in the spirit of early melodrama than of horror, though the hellish visions that the murderer sees when he is confronted by a detective are quite interesting. The movie also features an early split-screen sequence (horizontally rather than vertically) and some rather odd visions of Pan in a forest.

SPOILER

A happy ending is had by all. This is thanks to a storytelling trick that is apt to garner the DS Rubber Brick award for endings that make you want to throw something at your TV screen, but this movie is of early enough vintage that the ending wasn’t an overused cliche at that time, so I’ll let it go. Besides, except for some old-time histrionics, I think the movie holds up nicely.

What a Carve Up! (1962)

WHAT A CARVE UP! (1962)
(a.k.a. NO PLACE LIKE HOMICIDE)
Article #318 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-27-2002
Posting date: 6-13-2002

A man who corrects grammatical errors in horror books discovers that he is one of the heirs to a fortune, and goes to the creepy estate for the reading of the will.

According to the IMDB, Frank King wrote both a play and a novel called The Ghoul; this was based on the novel, while the 1934 movie THE GHOUL was based on the play. I’m somewhat curious as to whether the play and the novel had the same story, because outside of the fact that we have a man who is not really dead in the story, there isn’t a whole lot of similarity between the two movies. For horror fans, we have Dennis Price, Michael Gough, and Donald Pleasence to round out the cast, but despite some nice atmosphere and the odd amusing moment, this comic horror movie just kind of limps along from one scene to the next. My favorite moments are the revelation of what the nurse (Shirley Eaton) receives in the will, and one murder that takes place while two characters are playing the organ (no, not Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, but Chopsticks).

Angel on My Shoulder (1946)

ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER (1946)
Article #317 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-26-2002
Posting date: 6-12-2002

A gangster killed by his partner after his release from the penitentiary finds himself in hell. The devil decides to use him in a plot to discredit a judge who he resembles who has been contributing in a big way to a recent shortage of help in hell.

What this movie boils down to is a reworking of HERE COMES MR. JORDAN, only from the opposite direction. It even borrows Claude Rains from that movie, and the actor is quite capable of playing both the angelic Mr. Jordan and Nick the devil himself. Rains steals the movie from the main star, Paul Muni, who was considered one of the finest actors in Hollywood at one time, but his star had definitely faded; in this movie, he seems mannered, and you get the feeling he’s playing a character rather than becoming the character. As you might expect from Hollywood during this time, the devil definitely gets the bad end of the deal, though it is interesting to see how the gangster fares in the bargain. It is quite amusing to see how the gangster’s anger and bad temper actually contribute to making the judge look like a hero.

And Then There Were None (1945)

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (1945)
Article #316 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-25-2002
Posting date: 6-11-2002

Several people are brought to a house on a deserted island by a mysterious man they’ve never met named U. N. Owen, and they are killed off one by one.

This is one of the basic Old Dark House premises given the grand treatment in this Agatha Christie mystery. A memorable cast of character actors fills the movie, including Walter Huston, Barry Fitzgerald, Mischa Auer, Roland Young, Judith Anderson, Richard Haydn and C. Aubrey Smith. It is quite entertaining to see these people all starting to get very suspicious of each other, especially whenever there are only two of them together at the same time. Unfortunately for me, I’d read the stage play some time ago, so I knew who the culprit was, but I think the movie does a good job of keeping the identity of the killer a secret till the end. This one is definitely worth catching, even if it is only marginally a horror movie.

The Wolf Man (1941)

THE WOLF MAN (1941)
Article #315 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-24-2002
Posting date: 6-10-2002

A man is bitten by a wolf which he then kills, only to discover that he was fighting a werewolf and that he himself will become one.

Despite this movie’s status as one of the Universal horror classics, I don’t really put it on the same par with their front line of classics (the James Whale movies, THE MUMMY, THE BLACK CAT, etc.), as I’m always a little bit disappointed by it. One of the problems I have with the movie is that, though it adds a lot of detail to the proceedings, the details don’t really add a whole lot to the story as such. I think it would have been better if they had downplayed the romance part of the story, and really beefed up the relationship with Talbot and his father, which is potentially the most compelling non-fantastic aspect of this movie; plus, it would have given more for Claude Rains to sink his teeth into. Still, you can tell quite a bit of care went into this movie; Universal obviously still saw their horror product as important at this point. It also has a nice cast, with the aforementioned Rains, Lon Chaney Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi (in the small but memorable role as Bela the gypsy), and the one who steals the movie, Maria Ouspenskaya, whose Maleva the gypsy woman is one of the great characters in horror cinema history.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
Article #314 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-23-2002
Posting date: 6-9-2002

What, you really want a plot description of this one?

If there was a list of the most instantly familiar movies ever made, I’m sure this one would be on the list. I came from the generation that grew up when it would show up once a year on network TV around Easter, and it was a tradition to sit down and watch the movie. Any review or commentary I could make would be superfluous, so I’ve decided to make my comments refer to other movies as much as possible. The scene where Dorothy looks out the window of the house when it is in the grip of the tornado and sees the various people go by almost feels like one of the shorts by Melies. Also, does anyone think that the talking trees have more than just a passing resemblance to the Tabanga from FROM HELL IT CAME? Or that the tin man at one point walks with the stiff-legged gait reminiscent of that attributed to the monster in FRANKENSTEIN? Or that the witch suffers the same fate as THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (only without the helpful janitor)? And even though Judy Garland is no Vincent Price, she does all right with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (a reference to DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN).

And one straight comment; I think the flying monkey sequence is one of the greatest fantasy sequences of all time.

Thirteen Women (1932)

THIRTEEN WOMEN (1932)
Article #313 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-22-2002
Posting date: 6-8-2002

Members of a school sorority find themselves dying in strange ways as a result of predictions by a mystic.

Though they never once use the word in the movie, hypnotism is the plot device here, as Myrna Loy plays another one of her evil Orientals (remember MASK OF FU MANCHU?) who is using hypnotism to bring about the deaths of those who shamed her in school because of her status as a half-breed. It’s all kind of silly, and the movie itself lets the premise slide a little when she employs much more conventional means to try to murder the son of one of the sorority members (Irene Dunne, who rarely dabbled in horror). At sixty minutes or so, it holds the attention, but I’m not sure it all really works, though it does have an interesting ending.

On the Beach (1959)

ON THE BEACH (1959)
Article #312 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-21-2002
Posting date: 6-7-2002

Various people living in Australia await their eventual death by radiation after the rest of the world has been destroyed in nucleur holocaust.

Science Fiction drama is a rare enough commodity that I think it praiseworthy when attempts are made in its direction, and there are many scenes in this movie that are quite effective. However, I do have certain reservations about the movie; it’s overlong, for one thing. It’s also a little too much of a Hollywood movie for my taste, particularly in the romance subplot. And it’s so taken with its own seriousness that you find yourself longing for more moments of wit and humor, even if it does turn out to be gallows humor. That’s why two of my favorite scenes in the movie are ones that undercut the ponderousness of the proceedings by being slightly bizarre and amusing; a somewhat curious conversation between two wine connoisseurs bemoaning the fact that there’s not enough time to drink the 400 bottles of port, and the conversation between the crewman who stays in San Francisco and Gregory Peck who talks to him through the intercom of the submarine, a slightly surreal touch that adds dimension to the tragedy of the moment. Outside of that, the most interesting thing about the movie is seeing Fred Astaire essaying his first dramatic role after having been in motion pictures for nearly thirty years. Ava Gardner and Anthony Perkins are also present.