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)

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)

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.

Arabian Nights (1942)

Article #311 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-20-2002
Posting date: 6-6-2002

The Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid has his throne usurped by his evil brother Kamar, and finds himself thrown in with a beautiful dancer and a troupe of performers.

The cast has Jon Hall, Maria Montez, and Sabu; now you know most of what there is to know about the movie. It also has Turhan Bey and Acquanetta. Far and away my favorite credits in the movie are for Aladdin (John Qualen, mostly known for playing Scandinavians) who spends most of the movie rubbing every lamp he can find, and Sinbad (Shemp Howard—yes, THAT Shemp Howard; did you think there was more than one?). It also has Billy Gilbert, who fights by bumping into people with his belly (to the sound of a timpani going “Boinngg!”) and dresses up as a woman at one point, so this should give you an idea of the level of humor in the movie. The color is beautiful, which is as usual for these types of movies. Believe it or not, I enjoyed this movie.

You’ll Find Out (1940)

Article #310 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-19-2002
Posting date: 6-5-2002

A band leader and his musicians agree to perform at a birthday party in an isolated mansion, where they encounter a series of suspicious characters.

Kay Kyser’s band was energetic and spirited, and the musical numbers in this movie are actually some of the high points (and I can’t tell you how rare it is when I make that comment), but his schtick was a matter of taste, and he really wasn’t much of a comic actor (Ish Kabibble was better). Of course, the reason to watch this movie for horror buffs is the presence of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Peter Lorre, each of which is given a memorable introductory scene. They really don’t have a whole lot of screen time, but the seance sequence is actually pretty good for this type of movie, and all three seem to be having fun. By the way, does anybody else out there think that Ish Kabibble looks like a cross between Jim Carrey and Moe Howard?

The Secret Witness (1931)

Article #309 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-18-2002
Posting date: 6-4-2002

A murder is committed in a penthouse apartment, and several suspects are held for questioning.

The horror genre is closely aligned in spirit with the mystery genre, causing a certain amount of slopover between the two. This is one of the most marginal I’ve run into, as its only horror element seems to be a chimp who can shoot a gun, and that doesn’t even play a real part in the solution of the mystery. This one is okay, but it does get a bit tiresome before it is all through, though you do get caught up in whether or not Zasu Pitts will finally be able to go dancing with Elmer. The movie also features Nat Pendleton and Una Merkel, and is also known as TERROR BY NIGHT; don’t confuse it with the Sherlock Holmes movie of the same name.

Terror From the Year 5000 (1958)

Article #308 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-17-2002
Posting date: 6-3-2002

Scientists experimenting with a time travel apparatus bring a radiation-scarred mutant from the future into our time.

This movie has a lot of problems: it’s cheaply shot, it’s not directed particularly well, the acting is quite poor at times, and the soundtrack has too many moments that sound like they were lifted from sitcoms. What it does have is an interesting story and some very nice touches and ideas here and there, so it holds you’re interest. Quite frankly, it’s one of those movies that could leave either a good or bad impression, depending on whether you see the glass as half empty or half full; me, I found it quite engaging. I especially like the touch when the woman from the future tries to accost someone by speaking in ancient Greek; she thought that was the native language when she was sent a fraternity medal with Greek letters on it.