Fury on the Bosphorus (1965)

Article #935 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2003
Posting Date: 3-4-2004
Directed by Sergio Grieco
Featuring Ken Clark, Margaret Lee, Philippe Hersent

Secret agent 077 investigates the kidnapping of a scientist capable of creating a death ray gun.

The DS Movie of the Day would like to take this opportunity to present an edition of “Adventures in Movie-hunting: The trials and tribulations of trying to find genre movies”.

When this movie popped up on my hunt list, the book listed the title as FURY ON THE BOSPHORUS. When a simple hunt on IMDB failed to provide me with that title, I had to try several searches by cast names until I stumbled across a movie with a French title of FUREUR SUR LE BOSPHORE; since the other information synced up with this entry, I assumed I had found the right title. It’s title in IMDB was AGENTE 077 DALL’ORIENTE CON FURORE, and was known in English by either of the titles AGENT 077 FURY IN THE ORIENT or AGENT 077 OPERATION ISTANBUL. Was I able to find the movie under these titles? No. However, I was able to find a movie called AGENTE 077: FROM THE ORIENT WITH FURY, which was a literal translation of the Italian title, so I ordered that one. When it arrived in the mail, I was surprised to see that the title on the movie was VOLLMACHT FUR JACK CLIFTON, an incident that had me scrambling back to IMDB to try to confirm that I had the correct movie; after all, IMDB listed the main character as being named Dick Maloy, not Jack Clifton. After fumbling around for about ten minutes, I discovered that VOLLMACHT FUR JACK CLIFTON was indeed the German title for AGENTE 077 DALL’ORIENTE CON FURORE. Whew! The moral of this story? Hunting down obscure genre movies is not a task for the faint of heart.

The country of origin of this movie is listed as Italy/Spain/France on IMDB, so what language do you think was on the actual film I got? It was German, which you might have guessed seeing how I had acquired the print with the German title. Oddly enough, the only parts that weren’t in German were the lyrics to the songs, which were in English; however, since the songs don’t reveal plot elements, this was pretty useless for me.

Actually, this movie turned out not to be as difficult to enjoy as I thought it would be. Spy movies tend to be difficult to follow in the first place, and ones in unsubtitled German would seem to be all that much harder. I think the reason this one didn’t give me much of a problem is simply that the main pleasures of watching these types of superspy movies are visual; the plot is only there to move you from setpiece to another, and though the overriding storyline would remain a bit obscure at times, I was able to discern the important elements in any individual scene, such as who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, and what they were fighting about. The science fiction elements in this one don’t really manifest themselves until the last ten minutes of the movie, but when they do, they are quite marked. Overall, I found it quite enjoyable, which is good; considering all the trouble I went through to find it, it would have been depressing if the movie stunk.

A Dog, a Mouse, and a Sputnik (1958)

Article #934 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-5-2003
Posting Date: 3-3-2004
Directed by Jean Dreville
Featuring Noel-Noel, Denise Grey, Mischa Auer
When a dog and a mouse descend from a Sputnik and land in France, they are found by a man suffering from loss of memory who thinks the dog is an old pet. When the government shows up to claim the dog, he vows not to give him up.

I really don’t have much to say about this one; it’s a French comedy with a topical theme, and the last part of the movie involves men being sent up into space, so it qualifies as science fiction. It’s mildly amusing throughout, though it never really becomes anything more than that. My favorite moment is probably when the Frenchman is taken on a tour of Russia and consistently sticks his foot in his mouth when talking with his guide.

Crowhaven Farm (1970)

Article #933 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-4-2003
Posting Date: 3-2-2004
Directed by Walter Grauman
Featuring Hope Lange, Paul Burke, Lloyd Bochner

A childless couple inherit a farm that used to serve as a meeting place for a coven of witches, and the woman begins to have an eerie feeling that she’s lived there in a past life.

This is a TV movie, and I have to admit that I’m not really a particular fan of the form. This movie illustrates some of the common problems I have with the TV movies; it is painfully blatant about setting up its foreshadowing (at one point, someone asks the wife if she thinks her husband is going to take down that gun hanging over the fireplace and shoot someone), and it overplays some of its emotional reactions quite badly (when the handyman carries the door out of the cellar into the kitchen, we see the wife turn and see it, look upset, have a flashback to the vision of the door in her nightmares, scream “Burn it! Burn it!”, drop a plate on the floor which then shatters, and then turn to us again just in case we hadn’t figured out that she was upset). My overall reaction to moments like these is that they thought I was too stupid to pick up on the clues and felt they had to deliver them wrapped around the head of a sledgehammer. On the positive side, though, since TV movies were under much of the same type of censorship that hovered over theatrical movies from the thirties to the fifties, they had to make the horrors themselves a little bit subtler, and that is something that this movie does accomplish. Thought the movie itself seems modeled somewhat after ROSEMARY’S BABY, it’s also a good thing that it’s telling a different story at heart, and it does have definite surprises in the plot. John Carradine is on hand here, but he really isn’t give much to do.

Colossus of the Arena (1962)

Article #932 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-3-2003
Posting Date: 3-1-2004
Directed by Michele Lupo
Featuring Mark Forest, Scilla Gabel, Jon Chevron

Several gladiators are enlisted to aid in an attempt to overthrow a queen who protects the common people from the wrath of the nobles, but Maciste is on hand to prevent this.

Hey, it’s another sword and sandal with a plot I can follow, and it has a fairly good one this time. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its requisite share of problems; the dubbing is horrendous (if you’re going to dub a monkey, please use the voice of a monkey), and there’s no one by the name of Colossus to be found (though there is this guy named Maciste, though). It certainly doesn’t stint on the action, though; it’s hard to find a scene here that doesn’t involve a fight, some in quite interesting places (two men duke it out in the rapids of a river while other soldiers fight in a pen of sheep). It also seems to be at least partially a comedy; there’s an extended fight in a bar that is definitely played for laughs, though it is heavily marred by the fact that a) the scene involves the gladiators bullying and tormenting women, old men, weaklings, little kids and midgets, and b) the scene goes on way too long. Still, it’s not bad for this sort of thing, but you’ll really get annoyed with the old man whining about his beard. Unfortunately, the fantastic aspects are very weak here; though Maciste is strong, he doesn’t appear inhumanly so, and so this remains marginal only because of its sword-and-sandal origins.

End of August at the Hotel Ozone (1967)

Article #931 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-2-2003
Posting Date: 2-29-2004
Directed by Jan Schmidt
Featuring Jitka Horejsi, Ondrej Jaricheck, Vanda Kalinovat

A band of woman wander through the countryside after the apocalypse searching for food.

Yes, it’s another Czech movie without subtitles, but once you are aware of the above plot description, you actually have enough knowledge to make a go at enjoying this movie. Yes, all the dialogue is in Czech, but since the movie really relies more on visuals to tell its story, you’ll still find plenty to hold your interest. It’s fairly brutal in some ways; animals certainly don’t fare well here, as several are killed during the length of the film (and unless the special effects are very convincing, I don’t think the deaths were faked). It’s also very sad, especially at the end, in which the existence of a gramaphone and a recording of “Roll Out the Barrel” in Czech play a decisive role in the fate of one of the characters. Perhaps the saddest thing at the end of the movie is the realization that all our links with civilization (outside of a few pieces of paraphernalia) as we know it have been severed, and as such it may well be one of the bleakest after-the-apocalypse movies I’ve seen.

Der Tunnel (1933)

(a.k.a. THE TUNNEL)
Article #930 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-1-2003
Posting Date: 2-28-2004
Directed by Curtis Bernhardt
Featuring Paul Hartmann, Attila Horbiger, Olly von Flint

A massive construction plan is undertaken to build a tunnel from America to Europe underneath the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s been some time since I’ve seen the English language remake of this movie by Maurice Elvey in 1935, but I do remember enough of the ending of that one to say that it is rather different from the ending of this one. There are other differences as well, I am sure, but the fact that my print of this movie is (here we go again) in unsubtitled German severely damages my ability to make any serious comparison between the two movies. I can say that the spectacle of this one is quite entertaining, maybe even a hair more than the spectacle of the remake, and I do enjoy seeing Otto Wernicke as something other than Lohmann (from M and THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE), but all in all, watching this one was a fairly unnecessary experience without subtitles. Nonetheless, I did so for the sake of completeness, so here it is. And I’m sure I’ll have plenty of similar experiences in the future. Ah, the life of a completist.

S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939)

S.O.S. TIDAL WAVE (1939)
Article #929 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-30-2003
Posting Date: 2-27-2004
Directed by John H. Auer
Featuring Ralph Byrd, George Barbier, Kay Sutton

A television newsman feels ambivalent over blowing the whistle on a local corrupt politician.

I was initially unsure as to why this movie qualified as fantastic cinema, but one of the guides I used pointed out that the movie took place in the future when television was common. This is pretty much the qualifying factor in what is essentially a pretty ordinary political melodrama that borrows from both the panic that accompanied Orson Welle’s broadcast of ‘The War of the Worlds’ as well as ample footage from DELUGE. At times it’s quite effective; at other times it’s quite silly, and at least one manipulative sequence involving an injured child and a ventriloquist’s dummy is about as badly handled as any scene I’ve ever seen. Ralph Byrd is largely remembered for playing Dick Tracy in several serials and movies.

Skeleton on Horseback (1937)

(a.k.a. BILA NEMOC)
Article #928 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2003
Posting Date: 2-26-2004
Directed by Hugo Haas
Featuring Hugo Haas, Zdenek Stapanek, Bedrich Karen

A doctor discovers the cure to a leprous disease that is decimating the world, but decides he will only use it if the dictator of his country does not wage war.

Don’t wait around for a physical manifestation of the English title; it is only a metaphor in this Czech work of medical/political science fiction. Sadly, my copy is in unsubtitled Czech, and a great deal of the plot requires dialogue rather than visualization; I was only able to figure out certain aspects of the plot by checking a couple of sources that had more elaborate plot descriptions. Nonetheless, the emotional tenor of the situations comes across very strongly indeed, and even without knowing the plot details I was able to appreciate both the strong anti-fascist nature of the movie and the chilling irony of the ending of the movie. Apparently, this was the last movie made in Czechoslovakia before the Nazi invasion, and the movie was banned by the Nazis for its message; it was smuggled to the United States by Hugo Haas himself and given distribution in this country by Carl Laemmle. Hugo Haas would end up making a bunch of low-budget potboilers with Cleo Moore. All in all, this is one movie that deserves to be more widely known and seen. Ths movie was based on a play by Karel Capek, who gave us the play “R.U.R.” where the term “robot” was first coined, as well as the classic satirical novel “War of the Newts”.

Rubezahl’s Wedding (1916)

Article #927 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-28-2003
Posting Date: 2-25-2004
Directed by Paul Wegener and Rochus Gliese
Featuring Paul Wegener, Lydia Salmonova, Arthur Ehrens

A giant becomes enamored with an elf, and tries to win her hand in marriage.

I’m guessing a little on the plot, as the title cards on this movie are in German, and given the fact that my print seems to be fairly well down the line on the dupe heirarchy, they are also hard to read. However, it looks like a fairly fun comic fantasy. The fantasy elements are quite strong; Rubezahl is obviously a giant, and there are several scenes of him towering over a mountainous landscape; there is also a witch involved, and a unicorn pops up at one point. I can only hope that someday these forgotten silent movies can be given proper restorations and translated subtitles so that there are aren’t so many obstacles to my enjoyment of them.

Phantom (1922)

PHANTOM (1922)
Article #926 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-27-2003
Posting Date: 2-24-2004
Directed by F. W. Murnau
Featuring Alfred Abel, Grete Burger, Lil Dagover

A government clerk falls for a woman after being hit by her carriage in the street; this, along with the belief that he’s about to become rich as a poet, causes him to borrow money recklessly.

My print of this movie had German subtitles, but fortunately I had a printed translation of the subtitles. Unfortunately, they fall hopelessly out of sync towards the end, so I had to do a lot of guessing from that point onwards. It’s an entertaining enough drama, but those attracted to the movie by the supernatural title and the fact that Murnau also gave us NOSFERATU will be severely disappointed; the phantom is purely mental. It’s the image of the woman he loves but can never attain, and despite the fact that the metaphor is manifested physically in the movie (as a ghostly carriage that he chases), there is precious little here for lovers of the fantastic other than a stunning shot of the buildings of the city threatening to fall in upon our hero. The script is by Thea von Harbou, who would participate in many of Fritz Lang’s silent classics.