Tarzan’s Revenge (1938)

Article #860 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-23-2003
Posting Date: 12-20-2003
Directed by D. Ross Lederman
Featuring Glenn Morris, Eleanor Holm, George Barbier

An expedition out to trap a white alligator encounters a wild jungle man named Tarzan.

Title check: Except for picking up a man who tried to shoot him and throwing him on the ground, there is precious little vengeance going on here.

It’s tempting to write this movie off as a defanged and laundered take on the Weissmueller series, and for the most part the movie fulfills that function. The meeting between Tarzan and Eleanor here is far too reminiscent of the meeting between him and Jane in the Weissmuller films; they even go swimming together. However, the savagery of the Weissmuller films is not to be found here; this Tarzan is just one real nice animal-loving guy. Nonetheless, it is not without merit; the soundtrack was quite nice, and it does manage to add a touch of gentle lyricism to the mix that doesn’t appear to have been lifted from its inspiration; it’s a touch that this movie can definitely call its own. No, it’s not up to the Weissmuller series, but it’s not an embarassment, either, but I suspect that those who like the character of Tarzan for his violent savagery will find little to entertain them here.

The Ghost of Rashmon Hall (1947)

Article #859 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-22-2003
Posting Date: 12-19-2003
Directed by Denis Kavanagh
Featuring Valentine Dyall, Anne Howard, Alec Faversham

A couple buys a house that is haunted by ghosts.

Title check: At a certain point in this movie, they pronounce the name of the Hall, and it certainly doesn’t sound like ‘Rashmon’; the title of the house also appears as a word in a book, and it looked far too long to be ‘Rashmon’. Maybe they made a movie about the wrong ghost…

There’s some interesting twists that pop up in the story towards the end, and the painting that has characters appearing, moving and disappearing is an interesting touch, but overall, this is just another ghost story. It’s creaky, slow-moving, and not particularly scary, and I’ll probably forget all about it before another day passes. This one is for ghost movie completists.

Man With Two Lives (1942)

Article #858 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2003
Posting Date: 12-18-2003
Directed by Phil Rosen
Featuring Edward Norris, Marlo Dwyer, Eleanor Lawson

When a man dies from shock after a car accident, he is brought back to life by a scientist; however, since he was revived at the same time a criminal was executed, the criminal’s soul has taken over his body.

Title check: It’s an appropriate enough title for this one.

The movie opens with a dog’s heart being kept alive, which I thought was amusing since I had just seen LIFE RETURNS before this. The basic idea is interesting enough, and the movie seems well acted throughout, though it is somewhat reminiscent of BLACK FRIDAY. It’s pretty standard stuff, though; entertaining, but a bit predictable. And someone should have had the good sense to cut out the last two minutes of the movie, in which a hoary old plot twist is trotted out that is doubly bad since the story was already over at that time.

Life Returns (1935)

Article #857 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-20-2003
Posting Date: 12-17-2003
Directed by Eugene Frenke
Featuring Onslow Stevens, George Breakston, Valerie Hobson

A scientist working on life resuscitation loses his job and then his wife, and then discovers that the law wants to send his son to a juvenile home.

Title check: It refers to the central gimmick of the film; see below.

This movie was built around footage of Dr. Robert E. Cornish bringing a dead dog back to life; this footage does indeed look like stock footage of a real life event rather than original footage, and the dialogue during this sequence has the quality of having been said rather than written, which is not the case during the rest of the film. I wasn’t sure whether to call this science fiction or not, but I’ve heard the revival of a dead animal is highly dependant on how soon you can get to it after it dies; since I suspect the span of time implied in the plot of the movie is most likely longer than the span of time of the real life event, I’ll call it science fiction. I am somewhat amused that rather than filming the story of the doctor himself, they seem to film the story of a fictional associate that then becomes a tear-jerking children’s movie, where the scientist’s wife dies of something that no one bothers to explain. Part of the plot revolves around the child trying to save his dog from an evil dogcatcher who plans to gas him. It’s corny, silly, and poorly written, though I’m willing to bet if I saw it as a child I would have been in tears. Still, it is a curious approach to telling this type of story.

The Lemon Grove Kids (1965)

Article #856 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-19-2003
Posting Date: 12-16-2003
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Featuring Cash Flagg (Steckler), Carolyn Brandt, Coleman Francis

There are several adventures involving a group of teenagers and kids known as the Lemon Grove Kids.

Title check: Since they’re called the Lemon Grove Kids (they live on Lemon Grove Street), no problem here.

Ray Dennis Steckler bore an uncanny resemblance to Huntz Hall of the Bowery Boys, and this is one of the most blatant uses of someone’s similarity to another celebrity since Sammy Petrillo appeared as a Jerry Lewis character in BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA. The movie is actually three shorts. Imagine, if you will, a Bowery Boys movie in color during the swinging sixties with Three Stooges style antics (though not their timing) at breakneck speed in which the Bowery Boys have been stripped of all dignity (and if you didn’t think the Bowery Boys had dignity, you will after seeing this). In some ways, it’s pretty audacious, but Steckler’s editing tends to give me a slight headache, and except for a scene in which Steckler’s character (named Gopher) does battle with a mummy who fights by trying to do the old Three Stooges poke in the eyes gag, I was more stupefied than amused. Both the first and the third shorts have fantastic elements; the first features an insect creature from outer space and his vampire-like assistant, and the third features the mummy and a gorilla, not to mention a cameo from Rat Pfink from another Steckler movie.

The Exterminating Angel (1962)

Article #855 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-18-2003
Posting Date: 12-15-2003
Directed by Luis Bunuel
Featuring Claudio Brook, Silvia Pinal, Lucy Gallardo

Members of a posh dinner party find themselves unable to leave the room after a recital, and eventually courtesy and civilization deteriorate among them.

Title check: I’d have to know exactly what the movie means to say anything about the title, though I suspect it has something to do with the very last moments of the movie.

For those of you not familiar with the work of Luis Bunuel, this bizarre little fantasy (and I call it a fantasy because I’m not sure what else you can call it) will most likely leave you scratching your head. If you are, you might still be left scratching your head, but at least it won’t catch you off guard. I find it fascinating to watch the mental deterioration of those trapped in the room, and I love the little surreal touches that pop up; there’s even a crawling hand segment that might remind you of THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (I’ve heard rumors that Bunuel was involved with the filming of that one). In some ways it’s a bizarre puzzle movie with an interesting solution, though that is definitely a simplification. At any rate, this is for fans of the offbeat, the bizarre and the surreal.

Experiment Perilous (1944)

Article #854 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-17-2003
Posting Date: 12-14-2003
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Featuring Hedy Lamarr, George Brent, Paul Lukas

A doctor becomes involved with a woman who is married to a man who is up to something suspicious.

Title check: The title is from a poem that is quoted in the movie; it sounds good, but I don’t think it really gives a good sense of the movie.

The movie starts out strong, with some moody shots of a train during a storm, and a passenger on the train meeting a woman who seems to be scared about something but covering it up. Unfortunately, the movie gets bogged down somewhat after this by some overlong sequences of character development and exposition; fortunately, it picked up again before I lost interest completely. It’s only marginally a horror movie (madness plays a role in the proceedings), and I’ve often heard it described as a variation on GASLIGHT; quite frankly, I was quite pleased to find out that, though it has certain plot elements that bear a similarity to that movie, it really is playing a somewhat different game. Not bad, but the first half does require an extra dose of patience.

A Woman’s Face (1941)

Article #853 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-16-2003
Posting Date: 12-13-2003
Directed by George Cukor
Featuring Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas, Conrad Veidt

A bitter woman with a scarred face turns to crime, and then gets an opportunity to undergo plastic surgery to restore her looks.

Title check: Why not just call it JOAN CRAWFORD’S FACE? She has so many close ups, it would be an apt title; it might also inspire Kim Carnes to come up with a companion song to BETTE DAVIS EYES.

If you’ve followed some of my MOTDs up to this point, you probably know that I’m not a particular fan of Joan Crawford. For all of her star quality, I’ve never really cared for any of her characters; they never quite make that jump to convincing me they’re real people rather than personas put on by the actress. This movie only touches marginally on the horror genre by skirting the same ground as any number of Lon Chaney movies (with whom she worked in THE UNKNOWN) or in Peter Lorre’s FACE BEHIND THE MASK; the fact that she is a scarred criminal at the beginning of the movie is the only real horror element. The movie is in thrall with her; if I were, I’d like it more than I do. As it is, I mostly just enjoy the moments when the movie gets away from her long enough for me to notice that George Zucco is on hand as the nice attorney, Henry Daniell as the mean one (he seemed to specialize in mean SOBs, didn’t he?). At heart, I enjoyed watching Marjorie Main (who is also on hand) more than I do Crawford, and I quite like how Conrad Veidt has a nice mad speech that manages to pull the focus from Crawford even while he shares the screen with her in one scene; it was nice to see the camera pay attention to someone else for a change.

Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens (1964)

Article #852 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-15-2003
Posting Date: 12-12-2003
Directed by Emimmo Salvi
Featuring Gordon Mitchell, Bella Cortez, Dan Harrison

Ali Baba (or is it Sinbad) takes on the evil Omar. Somewhere in the plot are a mute with a map on his back, a mewling eunuch, a midget and Seven Saracens (I’m taking the last one on faith).

Title: No comment until tell someone tells me if that’s Ali Baba or Sinbad. I also think the Seven Saracens should either be given readily identifiable names (Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, etc) or at least wear t-shirts that say “Saracen Number One”, “Saracen Number Two”, etc., so I can identify them.

Even by sword-and-sandal standards, this one is lame. The fight scenes are some of the least exciting and most lethargic ever staged, one of the outdoor scenes is so obviously done inside a studio you can see the lights shining on the blue tarpaulin on the back wall. IMDB says Gordon Mitchell plays Sinbad (or Ali Baba), but unless I’m getting my musclemen confused, it sure looks like he’s playing Omar the bad guy here. The dubbing is also subpar (even for sword-and-sandal movies). Other than the existence of a character named Ali Baba (or Sinbad), there are no fantastic elements here. Those interested in investigating the genre should start elsewhere than here.

The Jungle (1952)

Article #851 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-14-2003
Posting Date: 12-11-2003
Directed by William Berke
Featuring Rod Cameron, Cesar Romero, Marie Windsor

An expedition is made into the depths of India to investigate reports of mammoths.

Title check: Since it does take place in a jungle, it’s appropriate enough, but it’s also vague enough that it could have been called any one of a number of other titles; THE MAMMOTHS, THE COWARDLY HUNTER, THE PRINCESS, THE PRINCESS’S BOYFRIEND, THE KNEELING ELEPHANT, THE WRESTLING BEAR, THE PYTHON IN THE TREE, etc.

This movie has helped me to concoct a new movie term; THE DOUBLE-STUFFED SAFARI-O. This movie is like an Oreo cookie in that it consists of exposition at one end, denoument at the other, and is filled in the middle with an overly generous helping of safari. Unfortunately, unlike most Oreo cookies, the stuffing is hardly the best part.

Actually, I take that back; the stuffing may be the best part of this lame little movie. Despite a certain science-fiction angle in the plot, the movie is predictable fare; it’s something like MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL with mammoths instead of wasps. If there is anything really novel about it, it is that it takes place in India rather than Africa, and it actually looks like it was filmed on location. Consequently, there is a novelty to the scenery that sets it apart from most other jungle movies, so I’d have to say the movie works best as a travelogue.

Oh, and what are cold-weather creatures like mammoths doing in the sultry climate of India? The answer is perfectly clear; there were plenty of elephants present to wear those heavy shaggy coats to make them look like their prehistoric relations (you’ll notice that you never see the mammoths in the same shot with the humans so you can do some comparison of the sizes).