The Hallucinations of Baron Munchausen (1911)

Article #725 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-10-2003
Posting Date: 8-7-2003
Directed by Georges Melies

Baron Munchausen eats and drinks too much and has nightmares.

Melies was often imitated during his time, and somehow it seems fitting that this movie was inspired by a movie that was inspired by his work; in particular, this movie is something of a variation on Edwin S. Porter’s DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND. The difference is that Porter could probably not have dreamed up the bizarre creatures that Melies puts together for the nightmare sequence that takes up most of this movie. Among the most interesting creations are a moon with a long tongue and a long nose that finally turns into an elephant-like creature, and a flying google-eyed dragon that looks for all the world like the Tenniel illustrations of the Jabberwock. This is enormous fun for Melies fans; others may be left scratching their heads.


A Guy Named Joe (1943)

Article #724 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-9-2003
Posting Date: 8-6-2003
Directed by Victor Fleming
Featuring Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne, Van Johnson

A pilot who dies during a mission spends his afterlife helping another pilot learn his craft.

This movie made by MGM, directed by Victor Fleming, and featuring an A-list cast was one of many movies that came in the wake of HERE COMES MR. JORDAN in which the spirits of the dead remain among the living to guide their lives; in fact, this movie features actor James Gleason (always a welcome addition to a movie), who also appeared in that earlier movie. There’s no doubt that the concepts here have a certain appeal; after all, Steven Spielberg felt compelled to remake this movie (as ALWAYS). There are some lovely scenes here, the acting is top-notch, and the special effects during the battle scenes are breathtaking. Unfortunately, I find the pace too leisurely, and it’s two-hour running time really starts to test my patience, though I strongly suspect that others may not feel this way. Nevertheless, I am of the belief that a good thirty-minutes could have been trimmed off of this movie, and the impact of what remained would be that much stronger. Nevertheless, this could be quite enjoyable to anyone who doesn’t mind a little bit of schmaltz.

The Spiders, Part 1: The Golden Sea (1919)

Article #723 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-8-2003
Posting Date: 8-5-2003
Directed by Fritz Lang
Featuring Carl de Vogt, Ressel Orla, Georg John

An adventurer competes with a criminal organization to reach an island inhabited by Incan descendants with a vast treasure.

I’ve already covered the second part of this projected series (of which four parts were planned but only the first two were made), and I’d watched the first part then so that I would know what was going on. My print runs about 56 minutes, though that does not match the times I see on IMDB. At this time, it is extremely fast-moving; it’s almost a little hard to follow at times because of that, but there’s no doubt it’s energetic. It’s quite good (once again, it makes me wish that Lang had directed THE INDIAN TOMB), though not quite up to the level of some of his later classics.

The Clutching Hand (1936)

Article #722 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-7-2003
Posting Date: 8-4-2003
Directed by Albert Herman
Featuring Jack Mulhall, Rex Lease, Mae Busch

An archfiend known as the Clutching Hand is after a gold formula.

This creaky, confusing serial may well give you a headache trying to sort out the characters and the plot; I started to get lost halfway through the first episode, and that’s not a good sign. I spent the first eight or nine episodes in a confused haze, though things cleared up a little during a sequence aboard a boat, which has one hilarious fight scene involving several crewmen being denied shore leave, and for a while I was able to grab a thread of the plot, but it didn’t last long. That’s the problem when you have too many characters, none of which have been sharply delineated from the others, all with conflicting loyalties and dressed in similar three-piece suits. After a while it all reduces itself to large groups of people flailing at each other with their fists. Actually, the ending is pretty good, but it’s a long, bumpy ride there. If anything, I’ve come out of this one with an appreciation for the relative straightforwardness of the Columbia serials I’ve seen. The word for this one is inco-hokey-herent.

Fury of the Congo (1951)

Article #721 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-6-2003
Posting Date: 8-3-2003
Directed by William Berke
Featuring Johnny Weissmuller, Sherry Moreland, William Henry

Jungle Jim discovers that a gang of drug dealers are using gland extracts from a rare horse-like animal to create their drugs.

When Johnny Weissmuller became too old to play Tarzan any longer, he made a series of low-budget movies around the character of Jungle Jim; they’re essentially Tarzan movies without Tarzan. He’s still in good enough shape to do scenes without his shirt, as he exhibits in the opening scenes here, but he does spend less time in the trees and more on land. A giant spider is the most fantastic element in the movie, and it is anomalous, used for a quick thrill and then no longer a part of the story. It’s largely just a rather tepid action movie, and I’m really not much of an action fan when you get down to it, so I have limited use for this one.

It did help me to define a new term, though; the Xerox Chase Scene. This is a type of chase scene that pops up a lot in low-budget action movies and serials. You begin by establishing that person B is chasing person A. Then, you find a stretch of landscape. Person A enters at point A, and then drives/runs/rides across the landscape to exit at point B, the camera following him every step of the way. The camera then cuts back point A in the landscape. Person B enters at point A, and then drives/runs/rides across the landscape to also exit at point B, the camera once again following him every step of the way. At no point do we see pursuer or pursued in the same frame. These two scenes are shot identically except for the fact that the people are different. You then cut to a new landscape and repeat the process again. You do this repeatedly until you’ve padded the running time enough. This happens several times in this movie, and I must admit that (IMHO) this is possibly the least interesting way I know of to shoot what should be an exciting sequence.

Frenzy (1946)

FRENZY (1946)
Article #720 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-5-2003
Posting Date: 8-2-2003
Directed by Vernon Sewell
Featuring Derrick De Marnay, Frederick Valk, Joan Seton

A haunted sculptor’s studio is tied to the strange disappearance of the wife of the previous occupant (also a sculptor).

This minor thriller functions as both a horror movie and a mystery, and I suspect that an alert horror movie fan will be able to figure out the answer to the central question of the mystery well before the ending is reached. Nonetheless, the horror elements are quite marked, and the movie is enhanced by some strong acting from all concerned, as well as some very nice camerawork and direction. The movie is somewhat obscure nowadays, but it is worth catching.

Where Do We Go From Here? (1945)

Article #719 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-4-2003
Posting Date: 8-1-2003
Directed by Gregory Ratoff
Featuring Fred MacMurray, Joan Leslie, June Haver

A man unable to join the military during World War II encounters a genie who tries to get him into the army; however, since his watch is busted, he sends him back to the days of George Washington instead.

I’m not really a musical fan, and I’m a little out of my territory in trying to critique them, at least partially because I’m not particularly partial to the types of music generally found in them, but I’ll put in my two cents anyway. The musical sequences are fairly decent, including a big number in a USO club early in the proceedings, and an operetta sequence aboard one of the ships of Christopher Columbus. The story is pretty silly, but that’s probably no surprise if you’ve read the above description. Still, if you’re just dying to hear Fred MacMurray do an impersonation of Adolf Hitler, this is the movie for you. My favorite gag is a musical one; namely, near the end of the movie there is point where our heroes travel among the clouds which are marked with the various centuries they are passing through; the music they play when they hit the twentieth century is great. Anthony Quinn plays an Indian chief who makes a business deal.

Three Wise Fools (1946)

Article #718 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-3-2003
Posting Date: 7-31-2003
Directed by Edward Buzzell
Featuring Margaret O’Brien, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone

The three guardians of an orphaned Irish girl try to get hold of her property, which contains a tree she believes is inhabited by fairies.

All right, you have Margaret O’Brien as a sweet delightful young girl brimming with youthful vivacity and Irish charm going up against three curmudgeonly cynics, one of whom is played by Lionel Barrymore, who has always seemed to me to be the one actor most inclined to play the role of a crusty old curmudgeon whose heart would melt at the charm and vivacity of a orphaned irish girl. If you’re a betting man, you should know on whom to place your money in this battle of wills.

And incidentally, the whole movie is narrated by a pixie (as played by Henry Davenport, who I’ve always like as an actor, even a role like this).

When I embarked on this survey of fantastic films, I knew there would be movies like this. Therefore, I will offer no excuses; I’ve made my bed, and I’m sleeping in it.

Oh, and take your insulin shot; you’ll need it.

Saadia (1953)

SAADIA (1953)
Article #717 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2003
Posting Date: 7-30-2003
Directed by Albert Lewin
Featuring Cornel Wilde, Mel Ferrer, Rita Gam

A French doctor plying his trade in Morocco falls for a girl named Saadia.

If the above description fails to contain any information to explain why this movie falls within the purview of a survey of fantastic cinema, there’s a reason; though there are elements here that are often found in horror films (specifically, the presence of a witch who is jealous of the doctor’s success in both taking away her trade and the companionship of Saadia, and her attempts to lay a curse on him), the movie only uses these elements to point up a recurring theme of the power of the mind to overcome limitations of the body, and the movie never falls into real horror territory. The movie doesn’t appear to be well loved, probably due to the fact that it is very subdued, almost somnambulent at times. It does have a nice sense of exotic culture in the colorful locations and the dancing and singing of the natives, but you really need to be in a pretty patient laid-back mood to enjoy it, and even then, it never really becomes anything more than a fair movie. In short, this is highly marginal and not required viewing.

For Heaven’s Sake (1950)

Article #716 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2003
Posting Date: 7-29-2003
Directed by George Seaton
Featuring Clifton Webb, Joan Bennett, Robert Cummings

An angel attempts to help the spirit of an unborn child to manifest herself in the lives of two self-involved theatrical types.

As a self-involved theatrical type myself, the thought that some disembodied spirit has been hanging around me for several years waiting for me to start propagating is pretty scary; nonetheless, this isn’t a horror movie. It’s also not particularly funny or compelling; Clifton Webb can be a fun actor, but watching him spend most of the movie trying to imitate Gary Cooper and making colorful cowpoke metaphors (many with the word “tick” in the title) makes me wish they had gotten Walter Brennan instead. Edmund Gwenn is also on hand, and even though he has long been one of my favorite actors, even he needs something a little less slight than his angelic adviser role here. Joan Blondell steals the movie by just being there, and Whit Bissell is also on hand as a psychiatrist. And if there are any disembodied spirts hanging around my apartment, I’m giving them a fair warning; I’m spraying next week.