Let’s Live Again (1948)

LET’S LIVE AGAIN (1948)
Article #973 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-13-2003
Posting Date: 4-11-2004
Directed by Herbert I. Leeds
Featuring John Emery, Hillary Brooke, Taylor Holmes

A nuclear scientist loses his brother in an airplane accident. He then believes a dog he encounters is the reincarnation of his brother.

I first encountered John Emery as one of the scientists in ROCKETSHIP X-M; at that time, I didn’t think of him as a comic actor, and none of the other roles of his that I’d seen led me to believe anything different. Yet here he is, playing the lead role in this comedy about a man who may or may not be suffering from delusions, and after watching it, I’m only more firmly convinced that he isn’t a comic actor; his performance comes across as rather quiet and glum, and this just doesn’t make for good comedy. As a whole, the movie comes across as forced and unconvincing; it never works up any energy and all seems rather pointless. It’s a shame; I’ve been curious about this one for some time based on the plot description, as I believe it could have gone in some interesting directions. As it is, I believe there are good reasons this movie is as obscure and hard-to-find as it is.

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The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD (1949)
Article #972 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-12-2003
Posting Date: 4-10-2004
Directed by James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, et al.
Featuring the Voices of Basil Rathbone, Bing Crosby, Eric Blore

Two stories are told. The first is about a toad whose wild exploits land him in trouble with the police. The second is about a schoolmaster who ends up competing with the town bully for the hand of a beautiful woman.

This was made during the forties, when Disney was reckoning somewhat with the unpredictability of making animated features, where a single feature could take an enormous amount of time which could then be lost if the movie failed to make a profit. One of his solutions was to make some features which actually consisted of several stories at once. I’m not sure what inspired him to combine “The Wind in the Willows” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, other than that they were both adapted from works of literature. I remember reading “The Wind in the Willows” as a child, but I don’t really recall this particular toad adventure, and though it is occasionally entertaining, it certainly isn’t representative of the book as a whole. In fact, this never really comes to life; there are reasons these characters never became Disney favorites. The Ichabod sequence comes off much better, though it too reduces many of the events to slapstick comedy; even the scary headless horseman sequence (the best part of the movie and the part most of interest to horror fans) suffers a little bit from the overuse of gags. Nonetheless, the headless horseman himself is never played for laughs, and the ambiguous ending is retained. Overall, I’d have to say that this was a pretty minor effort from Disney.

Death by Invitation (1971)

DEATH BY INVITATION (1971)
Article #971 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-11-2003
Posting Date: 4-9-2004
Directed by Ken Friedman
Featuring Shelby Leverington, Aaron Phillips, Norman Paige

Many years ago, a man was responsible for the execution of a witch. Years later, a woman is killing off a family of descendants from that man.

This movie has a fairly common horror plotline, and if it did nothing more than rehash that plot, it would be of little interest. However, it does try for something more; my problem is I’m not quite sure what it’s trying to do. It appears to be delving into some sexual themes in the story; before the first murder, the woman tells her victim this long extended story about a tribe led by women which connects the dots between sexual domination, sadomasochism, and cannibalism, and though it’s effective in some ways, the story goes on way too long, and when she starts to retell the story at a later point in the plot, you’re very glad that she gets interrupted. However, other elements in the movie just don’t mesh well with anything else; it’s all directed in a rather static, arty style; some of the scenes seem to be comic in nature (especially a pointless sequence in which a man visits an office building and is given horribly confusing directions on how to get to the office of the man he’s visiting), and it’s full of meaningless conversations and awkward pauses. We also have a stupid policeman to contend with, and we get to hear the least relevant graveside biblical readings I’ve ever encountered. It’s also hampered by an extremely low budget, which is particularly problematic during the opening sequence which takes place in a period setting that never looks convincing.

No, there’s no doubt this movie is trying something different, but until I know what it is that it’s trying to do, I’ll have to file it under a big question mark.

Destination Inner Space (1966)

DESTINATION INNER SPACE (1966)
Article #970 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-10-2003
Posting Date: 4-8-2004
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Featuring Scott Brady, Sheree North, Gary Merrill

Inhabitants of an underwater sea lab are threatened by an extraterrestrial aquatic menace.

You know, I have to admit to having liked the title to this one; because I wasn’t sure what “Inner Space” meant or why we’d want to go there, I though I’d find a movie that would explain what it was and take us there would be at least a little interesting. Unfortunately, it turned out that “Inner Space” was merely an enticing term for the ocean depths, and what we have here can be summed up as simply a cross between THE THING (FROM ANOTHER WORLD), THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE and THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. This in itself isn’t a bad idea, but everything about this one is hackneyed and uninspired; you’ve seen these conflicts a thousand times before, the monster suit is fairly lame, and there isn’t a single real surprise to be found during the length of the movie. And though it doesn’t appear to be a TV-Movie, between the connect-the-dots storytelling and the perpetual edge-of-your-seat soundtrack, it sure feels like one. It’s not awful, but it never rises above the merely competent, and my primary feeling at the end of this one is that I hope everyone got their paychecks for this.

The Last Reunion (1955)

THE LAST REUNION (1955)
Article #969 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-9-2003
Posting Date: 4-7-2004
Directed by Leonard Brett
Featuring Eric Portman, Michael Gough, Basil Appleby

The survivors of the crew of a bomber raid get together yearly to reminisce about their commander, the only man to die in the raid. However, one of the members feels the ghostly presence of the commander during these reunions.

Basically, this plays like an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” and at 53 minutes, runs no longer than one of the hour-long episodes of the series. I suspect that if it had been done as an episode, it would have most likely been reduced to one of the shorter episodes, though; the first half of the movie is quite talky, with a great deal of speculation on the nature of death and the role of grieving. This talk can be quite fascinating in its way, and it allows us to get to know the various characters, so they have a certain dimension to them before we reach the central dramatic moment of the story where the characters recreate the mission; this sequence makes very effective use of sound and lighting to add to its drama. It’s all anchored by an excellent performance by Michael Gough; this movie demonstrates exactly how great an actor he is. The ending is effective and very sad indeed. It’s recommended for TZ fans with an interest in philosophy.

The Jungle Book (1942)

THE JUNGLE BOOK (1942)
Article #968 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-8-2003
Posting Date: 4-6-2004
Directed by Zoltan Korda
Featuring Sabu, Joseph Calleia, John Qualen

A boy is lost in the jungle where he is raised by wolves. He returns to his own village years later and tries to adjust to the human world.

I’ve never had the privilege of reading the Rudyard Kipling novel, but one of the very first movies I remember seeing as a child was the Disney version of this story. I can’t say whether either of them is particularly faithful to the book, but I do think it kind of interesting that they tell two different stories; in fact, this version feels something like a sequel to the later version, with the story really beginning in this one after Mowgli’s return to his own people, the event which marked the end of the later version. The two movies also come to different conclusions about Mowgli’s proper place in the world. This one is very colorful indeed, and Sabu gives a great and impassioned performance as Mowgli. The animal scenes are exciting, though you can tell the faked animals from the real one, but it works well enough anyway. Nonetheless, I’m always thrown off a little whenever I see John Qualen appear as something other than a Norwegian; here he is an Indian barber.

The Unholy Night (1929)

THE UNHOLY NIGHT (1929)
Article #967 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-7-2003
Posting Date: 4-5-2004
Directed by Lionel Barrymore
Featuring Ernest Torrence, Roland Young, Dorothy Sebastian

Someone is killing off the members of a regiment, and a Scotland Yard inspector believes the culprit may be one of the remaining members.

Once again we hit a movie that was directed by someone better known as an actor, in this case, Lionel Barrymore. Actually, it’s kind of difficult to really gauge his success in this enterprise, as this is one of those early talkies that is somewhat stiff and static due to the limitations that were imposed by early sound techniques. Nonetheless, this one is fairly watchable, largely due to a fairly decent story with a surprising number of clever twists, a witty script from a Ben Hecht story, and a fun performance by Roland Young. The movie also features an uncredited performance by Boris Karloff in the pivotal role of Abdoul, and sadly, it just isn’t one of Karloff’s shining moments. Karloff had considerable talents, but he was not a master of accents, and the Arabian accent (I think that’s what is was supposed to be) not only makes him sound unnatural, but it appears to have resulted in a certain degree of overacting as well. The horror elements become quite marked as the movie progresses, especially during a particularly effective seance sequence near the end of the movie. All in all, one of the better early talkies I’ve seen.