Beyond Tomorrow (1940)

BEYOND TOMORROW (1940)
Article #406 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-25-2002
Posting date: 9-18-2002

Three eccentric old men find themselves alone at Christmas, and on a bet, they throw their wallets out in the street and plan to invite anyone who returns them in for Christmas. Two of the wallets are returned, and the two people (a man and a woman) who return them become romantically attached. Then the three men die in a plane accident and return as ghosts to watch over the couple.

Yes, this is pure Hollywood schmaltz at work here, and though there is a part of me that wants to discard the movie like a stinky sock and have a good laugh at its expense, there’s a part of me that would recognize my hypocrisy. In truth, I really enjoyed the movie for the most part, and a lot of it has to do with the great performances by Charles Winninger, C. Aubrey Smith and Harry Carey (as the three old men) and especially Maria Ouspenskaya as one of their servants; her scene on the discovery of their deaths is the work of a consummate actress indeed. These four thespians are the blood and soul of this movie; the interest level drops dramatically when the story veers away from them, as it does during the second half of the movie. Richard Carlson is on hand as the young Texan who returns one of the wallets, but he has one of the least interesting roles, and is saddled with a less than convincing Texas accent to further complicate matters, and the romantic tribulations that end up being tied to his singing career are by the book. Yes, the sap level is very high in this one, but it could have been quite intolerable indeed without the help of those fine character actors that are the real stars of the film.

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Beyond the Moon (1956)

BEYOND THE MOON (1956)
(a.k.a. BEYOND THE CURTAIN OF SPACE)
Article #405 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-24-2002
Posting date: 9-17-2002

Rocky Jones takes on a mission to rescue a scientist from an enemy planet.

It is always well to remember when watching any of the Rocky Jones movies is that they are actually episodes of a TV series strung together. Fortunately, the show was somewhat serialistic in nature, though it abjured cliffhangers in favor of having a running storyline that took a few episodes to come to full conclusion, while each episode worked as a whole in its own context. If you carefully watch these movies, you will be able to tell where each episode begins and ends, and the overall experience is more enjoyable if viewed in that context.

I expected to be quite bored by this one, but was happily surprised. The special effects are quaint, some of the dialogue is horrible, but the episodes are quite well put together in terms of story, and it actually makes for entertaining space opera, not as manic as a theatrical serial, but much more satisfying from a story perspective. I enjoyed this one, and am looking forward to seeing some of the others.

Village of the Damned (1960)

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960)
Article #404 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-23-2002
Posting date: 9-16-2002

The entire town of Midwich unexpectedly passes out, and when they wake up, all the women of child-bearing age are pregnant.

I have always preferred this to the semi-sequel CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED; whereas that one has a somewhat messy story, this one is focused and powerful. I love the way it holds the interest throughout, first by catching your attention with a truly mysterious occurence, and then bit by bit drawing you into the details of the situation, only gradually letting the horror of the proceedings sneak up on you. In some ways, it is reminiscent of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, in that as the story progresses, the more you find out, the scarier it gets (though it generally avoids that movie’s visceral thrills). It also shares with that movie a certain vagueness over what is the actual cause of the events; though there is some talk of life on other planets, nothing is pinned down. In fact, it is because of what we’ve learned that the final sequence is so powerful; we’ve come to find out how powerful the children are, we know what they’re capable of, and we’re not sure whether out hero can resist them long enough to win out. This movie was based on a John Wyndham novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, the same man who also wrote THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS; though the movies take liberties with the novels, they both to some extent retain that sense of real human situations caught up in the horrific happenings; notice the various reactions to the discovered pregnancies of all the women. This is one very memorable horror movie.

Rape of the Vampire (1967)

RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE (1967)
(a.k.a. LE VIOL DU VAMPIRE)
Article #403 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-22-2002
Posting date: 9-15-2002

Let’s see, there are these four vampire women, one of whom is blind, and some strangers show up and try to cure them and then villagers show up and kill them and everyone dies. Then, in part two, the queen shows up and everyone comes back to life, and…

This is the first feature length film by cult film director Jean Rollin, a name that meant nothing to me when I started this project; it means something now, but I can’t say what. He specialized in arty, erotic, and gory films about vampires. This particular arty, erotic, and gory film about vampires was originally an arty, erotic, and gory short about vampires to which he added fifty more arty, erotic, and gory minutes. The result is a (and I’ll let you fill in the adjectives from here on out) mess, as you might expect. I can’t exactly say I was bored, but I can’t exactly say I was entertained, or much of anything else either; ninety minutes passed and it was all over. That’s the trouble with films like this for me; I emerge from them without them having any noticeable affect on me other than having taken up time. I’m tempted to talk about its plotlessness, but that isn’t strictly true; it has a story (two stories, in fact; one for each half, and I don’t think they necessarily have much to do with each other), and I get a hint of some interesting ideas here, particularly in the second half, but the artiness has a way of forcing me to hold my distance and keeps me just bored enough to not want to bother to sort things out. I guess if I want to see an arty vampire flick, I’ll opt for VAMPYR.

An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1972)

AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE (1972)
Article #402 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-21-2002
Posting date: 9-14-2002

Vincent Price narrates four of Poe’s stories; “The Telltale Heart”, “The Sphinx”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, and “The Pit and the Pendulum”.

A movie which consists entirely of recitations of prose can’t help but flirt with tediousness, even if the prose is written by Poe and the reciter is Vincent Price. Fortunately, there is solid editing, a nice well-used score, wonderful sets and great costumes for Vincent Price to keep things moving along, and this production (made for television by AIP and lasting only 52 minutes) is a model of how such an idea can be brought to life. In all honesty, I have to admit my favorite segment was “The Sphinx”, not because Vincent Price does a better job with it than the others, but rather because it’s the least familiar of the stories included; the other stories I have read so many times that there is no surprise to them. I would especially recommend this show to those not familiar with the original stories; it’s a wonderful way to be introduced to the world of Poe. And by using the stories as they were originally written, one certainly can’t complain about liberties having been taken with his work this time around.

Curse of the Undead (1959)

CURSE OF THE UNDEAD (1959)
Article #401 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-20-2002
Posting date: 9-13-2002

When a woman’s father and brother die, she holds the unscrupulous rancher next door responsible, and hires a killer to deal with him. She is not aware that the killer she has hired is a vampire.

This may be the most successful merging of the western and horror genres, a combination that is uneasy at best. The problem with this mixing of genres is that both types of movies have their own sets of myths, and they don’t mix easily; for one thing, the western feels most at home in full daylight (at least it seems so to me), while horror movies thrive at night. Making the vampire a hired gun is one of the best ideas in the movie; this would be an ideal profession for a vampire who is immune to normal bullets, and consequently he doesn’t require a fast draw to be effective. For the most part, the movie effectively walks that thin line of being both a western and a horror movie, and though some may scoff at the very concept, it’s certainly better than BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA. There are a few problems: the music in the soundtrack could use a bit more subtlety, and some of the acting early on is hysterical, but I think it comes across well enough despite a certain uneasiness to the proceedings.

Destiny (1921)

DESTINY (1921)
(a.k.a. DER MUDE TOD)
Article #400 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-19-2002
Posting date: 9-12-2002

When Death steals away with the fiance of a young woman, she kills herself in order to enter his domain and win him back from him.

It might be interesting to sit down someday and review the ways Death as a character has been portrayed in the movies. Here he is weary, hoping that the woman will prove her assertion that “Love is stronger than Death” to take some of the sadness and hardness out of his job. Her test is to attempt to save any one of three people doomed to die, and what unfolds are three very different stories on the same theme (Love Vs. Death, a theme Woody Allen would no doubt find interesting); the last one is the most comic and the most enjoyable. The ending is touching, powerful, logical and sad, and is both a victory and a loss. It’s not the best of Fritz Lang’s movies, but it’s memorable and worthwhile.