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.

Teenage Cave Man (1958)

Article #307 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-16-2002
Posting date: 6-2-2002

A rebellious cave man keeps breaking the laws of the tribe to explore the regions in the land across the river.

It’s easy to poke fun at the obvious cheapness and the silliness of a lot of this movie, but if you consider that it was a caveman epic, it was quite ambitious in some ways. It’s actually trying to make some real commentary on the nature of law and tradition, and I can’t help but admire the intention; if only the script weren’t so preachily verbose about it, it might have worked better. The fact that the story just seems to wander from scene to scene doesn’t help much, either; it really could have used a couple of rewrites. Still, it gives you a chance to see ample dinosaur stock footage, with my favorite slurpasaurs Ignatz and Rumsford thrown into the mix to perform their classic battle dance. You also get to see footage from THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED and THE SHE-CREATURE, not to mention the costume from NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST. The movie features a young Robert Vaughan, Frank De Kova, Leslie Bradley, Beech Dickerson (in several roles) and Jonathan Haze.

Stanley (1972)

STANLEY (1972)
Article #306 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-15-2002
Posting date: 6-1-2002

An American Indian who love snakes deals harshly with unsavory characters who don’t like American Indians and kill snakes.

Maltin describes the movie as “WILLARD with snakes” and though I usually don’t like to quote other peoples’ reviews, it’s just too apt a description to pass by. For all that, it’s the best movie of William Grefe’s I’ve seen; however, that’s not saying much when you consider the other movies I’ve seen of his are DEATH CURSE OF TARTU and STING OF DEATH. It does manage to be actually quite touching when Stanley (the snake) becomes a father; it’s Chris Robinson’s best moment in the movie. Otherwise, it’s business as usual in the swamps of Florida, with a stupid snake-skin belt entrepeneur (it’s never a good idea to try to make business deals with the sons of people you’ve killed), a bizarre but addled psycho (named Psycho; why didn’t they name the two guys he was with Victim Number One and Victim Number Two?), and an unattractive man who spends a couple of minutes admiring himself in a mirror before the snakes get him; believe me, William Grefe did know how to make you glad to see someone buy it. There’s also three singer/songwriter ditties to enliven the proceedings. Administer therapy immediately.

The hero wears Stanley the rattler around his neck in most of the scenes. This made me wish for an ending that I knew I wasn’t going to get; after killing off all the bad guys, I wondered if our “hero” was going to meet his own fate when he absent-mindedly tried to tie his tie.

Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman (1944)

Article #305 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-14-2002
Posting date: 5-31-2002

Sherlock Holmes investigates a series of suicides of known gamblers. He begins by faking his own death to put the culprit off of her guard.

I don’t know how many of the Sherlock Holmes movies will qualify as fantastic cinema; this one gets by because of its use of spiders as a weapon of murder, which places it at least marginally in the horror category. I never got a chance to see many of these as a kid (despite being a strong fan of the original stories), so this is probably the first time in almost thirty years that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing one. They weren’t exactly faithful to the source, but if this movie is any indication, they were a great deal of fun nonetheless. I think a lot of it had to do with the ease that Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce worked together; they made a highly entertaining team, with Watson even beating Holmes to the punch with an observation at one point. Gale Sondergaard plays the villain in this one, and even though he isn’t listed in the credits (he doesn’t have a speaking role), I thought I recognized Angelo Rossitto as the pygmy. This is good, old-fashioned mystery fun.

The Sea Bat (1930)

THE SEA BAT (1930)
Article #304 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-13-2002
Posting date: 5-30-2002

The opening lines of this movie set the tone. “Portuga island…through the night, the weird chants of voodoo worship…through the day, the weird industry of sponge fishing…” I don’t know about you, but to me this doesn’t bode well.

So what is this movie about? Well, you learn early on that a sea bat is a really big manta ray, so this means we’re in the same territory as the infamous DEVIL MONSTER; well, it is at least better than that movie. So, is it about sailors facing the perils of the sea bat? It is, for about fifteen minutes. Then the fake preacher shows up and it turns into a variation of Somerset Maugham’s “Rain,” with a romance erupting between the fake preacher (who is actually an escaped convict) and the bitter woman who has turned away from Christian beliefs because her brother was killed by the sea bat while carrying a cross. However, the convict is finding that carrying a Bible around does have an effect on one’s soul…

That should tell you all you need to know. The sea bat footage is actually pretty good, and if you keep your eyes open, you might spot Boris Karloff a couple of times before his character dies (offscreen). The only other name that rang a bell in the cast was Raquel Torres as the sister; she also appeared as the woman tempting Groucho Marx in DUCK SOUP.

White Zombie (1932)

Article #303 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-12-2002
Posting date: 5-29-2002

A man wishes to win an engaged woman for his own, so he hooks up with an evil plantation owner, who sets up a scheme to fake her death and revive her once the fiance has departed. However, the plantation owner, who has a crew of zombies, has ideas of his own.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I really need a good copy of this one; I’ve heard that it can make all the difference in the world. As it is, I have to admit that this time that I watched it, I was able to understand its appeal a lot more, especially after seeing some of the other movies of the Halperin brothers. On top of some absolutely unforgettable scenes (particularly the zombie falling into the mill which, being manned by zombies, just keeps running), it also has quite a few that are stiff and static, and watching a so-so copy of the movie only enhances the dullness of these scenes. I do enjoy Lugosi’s performance quite a bit, and some of the zombies are quite memorable, and I like the use of sound throughout, though I consider the music somewhat variable. However, I plan to reserve judgment until I can see a good copy of the movie.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)

Article #302 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-11-2002
Posting date: 5-28-2002

An ex-vaudeville star terrorizes her crippled ex-movie star sister when she discovers that she was planning to sell their house and send her to a home.

I’ve never really been a fan of Bette Davis, but I do have to admit she gives one hell of a performance in this movie, as does Victor Buono as the somewhat decrepit musician she befriends. I’m less impressed with Joan Crawford, but in all fairness, she doesn’t have the good role. This movie marks the beginning of a truly odd subgenre of horror films which found challenging roles for actresses that were most likely considered over-the-hill at that time, and there’s no doubt there is a lot of dimension to the grotesque character of Baby Jane in this movie, and it gave both actresses a new phase in their career, though only Davis would really pull it off; Crawford would end up in the likes of BERSERK and TROG. As for the movie itself, I think it’s overlong and could have used some better pacing, but it really is a very unique movie.