Dark Intruder (1965)

Article #380 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-30-2002
Posting date: 8-23-2002

In 1890, a strange series of murders are being committed. The murderer leaves a small statue at each killing. The police bring in an undercover agent who specializes in cases of the supernatural.

This movie was originally intended as a pilot for a TV series that was never sold. It’s a shame; if the pilot was any indication, it would have made a dandy horror series. It would have been like a horror-oriented “The Wild Wild West,” or possibly “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” set in period times. At any rate, it is loaded with atmosphere, both horrific and period, has some interesting characters, and some interesting surprises in the story. It’s only 59 minutes, but it’s worth a look if you can find it. It features Leslie Nielsen and Werner Klemperer, though you won’t recognize the latter.


Creature with the Atom Brain (1965)

Article #379 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-29-2002
Posting date: 8-22-2002

A gangster uses the talents of a scientist to animate dead bodies and cause them to commit murders of vengeance.

This science fiction/horror thriller isn’t a great movie, but it’s quite entertaining if you’re in the right mood for it. Edward L. Cahn wasn’t really a great director, but he could do all right if he was given the right story, and I think this one was right for him; the movie manages to deliver some thrills despite the general cheapness of the production and a sense that it was made mostly by people primarily interested in pulling in a paycheck. Still, I think I was in the right mood for it, and in its own way, it actually might be another of those films like INVISIBLE INVADERS that set the scene for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. This is a good one for a slow Sunday afternoon.

Outward Bound (1930)

Article #378 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-28-2002
Posting date: 8-21-2002

Several people find themselves the only inhabitants of an ocean liner bound for unknown parts.

This movie was adapted from a successful stage play that opened in London in 1923, and went on to international success. It’s not giving away too much to tell you that they’re all dead and heading towards their final judgment. The movie is somewhat static and talky, but for what it’s trying to do, that’s somewhat unavoidable; what saves it is the excellent script and top-notch acting. It’s essential that the characters matter to you for this to work, and they do; I find myself drawn into their worlds, their hopes, aspirations, disappointments, failures, and tribulations. Beryl Mercer, Leslie Howard, and Dudley Digges all give fine performances, but I could just as easily pick another three names. And the movie makes very good use of its few opportunities to emphasize the visuals; some of the long shots of the boat are breathtaking. Yes, it’s old, and it creaks, but it’s definitely worth a look. It was remade about fifteen years later with Sidney Greenstreet in the Dudley Digges role and Edmund Gwenn in the Alec B. Francis role.

Night Unto Night (1949)

Article #377 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-27-2002
Posting date: 8-20-2002

A man suffering from epilepsy but allergic to the medicine escapes to Florida, but finds himself in a relationship with a troubled widow.

WARNING: If you’re primarily interested in fantastic cinema, I suggest you read the last paragraph before you read the next one; it just might save you from wasting your time.

You know, there’s a good, solid basis for a tear-jerking drama buried somewhere in the depths of this movie, and you can see hints of it if you make it to the last twenty minutes. Unfortunately, up to that point you will have to contend with the interminable first two-thirds of the movie, where for endless scene after endless scene you will hear people pontificate ponderous profundities; I swear, each scene of this movie thinks it’s the deepest, most important scene of the movie. I knew this movie was getting to me when I found myself hoping that the Ritz Brothers might come in and lighten up the proceedings. I’m reminded of a writing rule I once heard; when it comes time to edit what you’ve written, find the part you consider the most brilliant, and get rid of it. In this case, it might have involved eradicating about sixty minutes of script, but it would have been the better for it.

Of course, the BIG question here is; just what in blazes does this movie have to do with Fantastic cinema? Well, the troubled widow thinks her husband’s ghost is in the house. Then, for about five seconds in the middle of the movie, we hear his voice, and it’s most likely just her imagination. That’s it. In other words, this movie is about as marginal as you can get. Consider yourself warned.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Article #376 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-26-2002
Posting date: 8-19-2002

A homicidal preacher terrorizes some children in the hope of getting them to reveal where ten thousand dollars of stolen money is hidden.

Charles Laughton only took to directing once in his career; it’s a crying shame he stopped with one. The one he left us is fascinating, at once terrifying and lyrical, it’s a nightmare/fable/fairy tale, as scary for adults as it is for children. Robert Mitchum’s performance is stunning; his preacher is perhaps the most terrifying psycho in movie history, partially because we know what he’s capable of and partially because we know how effectively he can deceive those around him. Lillian Gish also gives an impressive performance as the frail old woman who still has the will and the power to stand up to the preacher; you want to stand up and cheer when she says “and he ain’t no preacher, either” and chases him off the farm with her shotgun. This is an amazing movie, one of a kind, almost biblical in its portrayal of hope and strength standing up in the face of omnipresent evil.

Murder at Dawn (1932)

Article #375 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-25-2002
Posting date: 8-18-2002

A scientist responsible for creating a new source of energy is kidnapped for his formula.

What we have here is another old dark house movie with slight science fiction elements, fairly common for this period. Some of these can be fun, but this one is crowded with too many characters that never really sort themselves out, and a plot that is muddled and annoying. If the comic relief was funny, it might salvage the movie, but alas, it doesn’t even work on that level. This one reminds us that some forgotten horrors have been forgotten for very good reasons.

The Monster (1925)

Article #374 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-24-2002
Posting date: 8-10-2002

A mysterious disappearance near an old sanitarium prompts a clerk studying to be a detective to launch his own investigation.

Lon Chaney is given top billing in this one, but his screen time is fairly limited; most of the screen time goes to Johnny Arthur, the ambitious clerk. It’s an old dark house horror comedy, and it even predates THE CAT AND THE CANARY in making it to the screen, so it may well have blazed the way for the onslaught of such movies during the thirties. Lon Chaney fans may be a little disappointed; though he certainly does well enough, the movie offers no challenge to either his makeup expertise or his acting skills, and despite the fact that he could be considered a horror star, he seems a little out of place in a horror comedy. The movie itself starts off nicely, but I found it got a little tiresome once we reach the old dark house; the pacing seems a little too slow. I also noticed that the funniest bits of the movie are the title cards, and I wonder if the comedic thrust of the play was primarily verbal, which would present a problem in a silent movie adaptation. It might make it interesting to dig up the original script some time and see.

The Mermaid (1904)

Article #373 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-23-2002
Posting date: 8-9-2002

There’s no plot to speak of in this Melies’ short; it’s just a series of setpieces that begins with a man filling up a fishtank of water and ends with him turning into Neptune, God of the Seas. It’s pretty much cinema as magic act, and clearly one of those movies in which the special effects are everything. It’s impressive to watch, but doesn’t really give me much to write about it.

Hold That Hypnotist (1957)

Article #372 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-22-2002
Posting date: 8-8-2002

Sach is hypnotised and regressed to discover that he was a tax collector who came into possession of a map showing the location of Blackbeard’s treasure.

Sooner or later I knew I’d run across the Bowery Boys in my cinematic travels; unfortunately, this one, lacking Leo Gorcey, is hardly representative. This leaves Huntz Hall to carry the load, and he does okay, but no better than that. The plot is based on the Bridey Murphy case; I was going to say “inspired by,” but that implies that inspiration was at work here. The Bowery Boys weren’t talentless; I can see traces of some decent comic timing at work here and there. But by this point in the game, they were largely going through the motions, and without Gorcey’s malapropisms, all we really have left is Huntz’s mugging. This is not the place to start with them.

The Man With the Rubber Hand (1901)

Article #371 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-21-2002
Posting date: 8-7-2002

Yes, it’s true! The man in this Melies short does indeed have a rubber head. It’s not his own, mind you; well, actually it is, but it’s not the one he keeps perched on his neck, if you get my drift. He keeps this one in a box.

So what can you do with a rubber head? Well, you can inflate it with your trusty bellows, just like the monster’s head in THE BRAINIAC. And that is exactly what the man does. Once it’s full, he shows how you can deflate it by releasing the pressure, and it returns to its original size.

Having demonstrated how the head works, our hero than puts some clown in charge of this job (and when I say some clown, I mean some clown). And then…

Well, you don’t want me to give away the ending, do you?

Incidentally, this is the earliest movie I’ve covered to date.