Gregorio and the Angel (1970)

Article #938 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-9-2003
Posting Date: 3-7-2004
Directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares
Featuring Broderick Crawford, Connie Carol, German Valdez (Tin Tan)

When a statue vanishes from a church in an orphanage, the well-loved but drunken janitor is blamed and then fired. He leaves the orphanage and ends up encountering a little girl who can work miracles.

There are definite charms to this fantasy coproduced by both the United States and Mexico. One is the performance of Broderick Crawford, who wisely underplays the role of the janitor. Another is the Mexican scenery that serves as a background for much of the action. A third is the presence of Connie Carol, who is cute as the dickens as Inez, the little girl who can work miracles. I’m less taken with the static, lifeless direction, a factor that made the movie rather tiresome until the other charms really started to work on me. I’m also not taken with German Valdez’s performance as the devil; his blatant mugging would have been appropriate in high slapstick, but it’s intrusive in this movie which requires a much gentler comedic touch. The aimlessness of the plot is also a bit of a problem, and after a while I felt the story was largely there just to give us as many ways as possible for Broderick Crawford to sneak a drink. So overall what we have here is a rather odd mixed bag, and I’m not quite sure myself how I feel about it. It does however avoid the sickly sweetness that is possible for this sort of story, and that is a plus.

Superman (1948)

Article #937 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-8-2003
Posting Date: 3-6-2004
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Thomas Carr
Featuring Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill, Carol Forman

Superman comes to Earth and does battle with a villain known as the Spider Lady (not to be confused with the Spider Woman).

I’ve already covered the sequel to this serial (ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN), and many of the things I liked about that one I like about this one. I don’t mind the use of animation for the flying sequences; though it may seem jarring at first, it does add action and interesting movement to those sequences. I like the first several episodes the best, as they deal with the origins of Superman and his joining the reporting team of the Daily Planet. I also like the fact that using a stock group of well-known characters gives us a greater variety of performances among the secondary characters than is usually found in serials. The serial also does not include a single episode that consists mostly of footage from earlier episodes, which is also a plus. However, there are certain disappointments; the Spider Lady is as dull a serial villain as any I’ve known (despite her slinky black dress); Carol Forman doesn’t appear to be having any fun with the role, and comes across as if she’d much rather be home painting her toenails. Also, things get very silly at times; though I realize that the suspension of disbelief is necessary for this sort of thing, I found it impossible to swallow that Superman could use his x-ray vision to pierce through the disguise of a villain IN A PHOTOGRAPH to figure his real identity. All in all, I’m afraid I prefer the sequel a little bit more.

The Devil’s Foot (1921)

Article #936 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-7-2003
Posting Date: 3-5-2004
Directed by Maurice Elvey
Featuring Eille Norwood, Hubert Willis, Harvey Braban

Sherlock Holmes finds four dead people seated around a table, and investigates.

The Walt Lee guide describes this one as being borderline horror, but other than the rather bizarre circumstances of the death, I find very little that would qualify this as horror. I’ve read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories at one time or another, but that doesn’t mean I can remember them, so I don’t remember precisely what the devil’s foot is, and unless I missed something in my copy of the movie, there’s no explanation there. It’s a good story, though, and this short adaptation of it works well enough, with Ellie Norwood makes a fairly decent Holmes. Horror fans, however, will find little here to catch their attention.

P.S. I’ve recently been informed that the devil’s foot is the name of the plant that plays a role in the cause of the deaths.

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.