The Savage Girl (1932)

THE SAVAGE GIRL (1932)
Article #1020 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-30-2003
Posting Date: 5-28-2004
Directed by Harry L. Fraser
Featuring Rochelle Hudson, Walter Byron, Adolph Miller

A safari discovers a wild white woman living in the jungle.

All right, a quick description of the characters.

First, we have the hero who leads the expedition. He will protect any white goddess found in the jungle from the machinations of those who wish to take advantage of her.

We have the villain, who has plans to take advantage of the white goddess, and is good friends with the local headhunters; if anyone stands in his way, he can ask them for favors.

We have the white goddess, whose main act of savagery seems to be hugging the kittens of a jaguar. Despite having lived by herself in the wild for years, her main defense against those who attack her is to scream and try to run.

We have the comic relief drunken millionaire who goes to Africa to gather a menagerie and see if elephants are really afraid of mice. I’ll leave it to you to find out the result of that experiment.

Take these characters, add ten minutes of plot, ten minutes of comic relief and lots of stock footage of safaris, and you have an idea of how this movie goes.

Oh, and how does it end? I won’t say, but I will give you a couple of clues –

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Heroes by there very nature are not allowed to kill villains no matter how villainous they are; that’s how heroes are (in the movies, anyway).

Unrepentant villains can not be left alive at the end of a movie.

Wandering gorillas are not subject to the same moral code as heroes.

****END OF SPOILER*********

Summary. Given the choice between watching this movie and doing the laundry, keep these things in mind.

1) It takes about as long to do a load of laundry as it does to watch this movie.

2) Both tasks are equally entertaining.

3) After doing one of these things, you have a nice stack of clean clothes. After doing the other, you still need to do your laundry.

Make your choices accordingly.

The Dragon Murder Case (1934)

THE DRAGON MURDER CASE (1934)
Article #1019 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-29-2003
Posting Date: 5-27-2004
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone
Featuring Warren William, Margaret Lindsay, Lyle Talbot

When a man dives into a swimming pool and never comes up, Philo Vance is called in on the case.

Warren William was one of the less interesting actors I’ve seen in the role, but he had to eradicate memories of William Powell and Basil Rathbone for starters. As it is, it’s some of the other characters that make this one interesting; it’s fun to see a young Lyle Talbot in the role of Dale Leland, Etienne Girardot is great as a fussy coroner, and Eugene Pallette steals the show as Sergeant Heath. This one also has a marked horror element, as the murder is believed (by certain people) to be the work of a mythical “dragon” that resides in the pool (hence the title), an explanation that comes a little closer to the truth than you might expect. It also doesn’t waste time, as it runs around sixty-eight minutes. This is a fun entry in the series.

The Bishop Murder Case (1930)

THE BISHOP MURDER CASE (1930)
Article #1018 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-28-2003
Posting Date: 5-26-2004
Directed by Nick Grinde
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Lella Hyams, Roland Young

Philo Vance is called onto a case where a man is discovered on a professor’s lawn with an arrow through his chest.

Several years before Rathbone became the most famous Sherlock Holmes of them all, he played Philo Vance in this early talkie, and it’s kind of interesting to watch on that level; he is referred to as Holmes at least once during the course of the movie, and even goes into a Holmesian what-you-did-last-night type of monologue that is just like the sort of thing Holmes would do in the stories. This movie is in itself quite interesting, with some well-staged murders (including one that involves a house of cards) and a clever story, but it suffers a little from being slow as molasses at times, and many of the lesser actors were still working in the overdone silent acting style that was quickly becoming out of date during the talkie era. It’s worth catching for Rathbone and Roland Young fans who like a good mystery.

Beautiful Dreamer (1952)

BEAUTIFUL DREAMER (1952)
(a.k.a. EL BELLO DURMIENTE)
Article #1017 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-27-2003
Posting Date: 5-25-2004
Directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares
Featuring German Valdes (Tin Tan), Lilia del Valle, Wolf Ruvinskis

A caveman is engaged in a struggle with a rival for the love of a cavewoman.

At this point I have seen several foreign movies in their native languages without subtitles, and usually my reaction is one of head-scratching inconclusiveness. There are those handful of movies, though, that still seem to come across despite the fact that you can’t understand what’s being said, and this is one of them. Part of it is that it’s a caveman movie, and the pleasures of those movies usually have little to do with clever dialogue; it’s to see dinosaurs (in this case, puppets) and men and women in skimpy costumes. The fact that this is also a slapstick comedy also helps, due to the fact that it relies on visual jokes rather than verbal ones. German Valdes is in his element here, and his energy makes this romp rather enjoyable. It gets a little more difficult to follow when the action moves to the modern times, with our hapless caveman trying to cope with a world in which his usual methods of communication (rubbing noses, patting people about the face with three-stooges-like gestures, and hitting people over the head with clubs, the latter being extremely common) are no longer acceptable, but even here some of the plot elements and themes come through (including one involving either reincarnation or ancestral memories). For anyone wishing to try their luck at watching an unsubtitled and undubbed foreigh movie, this is one that I’d recommend. Incidentally, Wolf Ruvinskis would go on to play Neutron.

The Old Dark House (1963)

THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1963)
Article #1016 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-26-2003
Posting Date: 5-24-2004
Directed by William Castle
Featuring Tom Poston, Robert Morley, Janette Scott

An American car salesman tries to deliver a new car to the home of a man with whom he shares an apartment, and he ends up stranded in a house of eccentrics, one of which is intent on killing off the rest.

James Whale certainly does not need to worry that this movie poses any threat to the reputation of his own version of the story; the 1932 version is definitely the superior. This being said, I have to admit that I didn’t find this one without interest, and it piqued my curiosity about the J. B. Priestley novel (which I haven’t read) and whether either of the versions follows the novel. Though this version has certain similarities to the Whale version, the differences are somewhat interesting; the lineup of characters is different, with only one real outsider to speak of, and the family seems to be a very different one than the original movie, though some have similar names. Morgan, who was a butler in the original, is here an actual family member, though he is still a mute. There are several familiar faces in the cast, and some of the characters are quite interesting, particular Mervyn Johns’ Petiphar, a man obsessed with the inevitable onset of the biblical flood; unfortunately, his subplot results in the lousiest special effect of the movie, but I suppose they couldn’t use a real hyena for the scene. The movie does have some real problems; not only does it fail to be as funny as the original (it unfortunately relies on slapstick moments to try for laughs), but it also fails to reach the heights of real danger and tension that mark the climax of the earlier movie. And even though the movie never really gels as a whole, it does have its moments, particularly during the opening credits (in which the backgrounds are designed by Charles Addams) and a joke involving a horrible knitting accident. And I will also admit that the revelation of the killer’s identity did indeed catch me off guard.

The Nude Vampire (1969)

THE NUDE VAMPIRE (1969)
(a.k.a. LA VAMPIRE NUE)
Article #1015 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-25-2003
Posting Date: 5-23-2004
Directed by Jean Rollin
Featuring Olivier Martin, Maurice Lemaitre, Caroline Cartier

Plot description: Huh?

First of all, I consider the title somewhat redundant. This being a Jean Rollin film, I would actually be surprised if the vampire didn’t turn up nude sooner or later. Now, I find that figuring out what’s going on in a Jean Rollin film can be a chore even under the best of circumstances; the print I found for this one is not only in very poor condition, but is neither dubbed nor subtitled in English, so that should go a ways toward explaining the plot description above. Another aspect about this being a Rollin film is I find myself wanting to go back to three adjectives of Rollin; arty, erotic and gory. However, I’ll throw out ‘gory’ in this case; in comparison to other movies I’ve seen, this one is relatively bloodless. It also looks like it might be somewhat easier to figure out than RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to wait for subtitles. There are some striking visual moments, however, and there’s a nice, rather curious scene with a crucifix that I quite liked. I’ll leave it to Rollin fans who can speak French to figure out this one.

The Mad Doctor (1941)

THE MAD DOCTOR (1941)
Article #1014 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-24-2003
Posting Date: 5-22-2003
Directed by Tim Whelan
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Ellen Drew, John Howard

A psychiatrist who marries women for their money and then murders them decides to turn over a new leaf, but his past catches up with him.

Despite the title, this isn’t a horror movie in the usual sense, though it nudges up against the genre due to its use of the theme of madness and the appearance of a graveyard scene. It has a good cast, with Basil Rathbone, Ralph Morgan and Martin Kosleck all up to their usual standards, and it works up a decent amount of suspense in the second half. However, it tries a little too hard to turn the murderer into something of a sympathetic character, which doesn’t quite work here because it’s hard to find sympathy with a serial murderer who seems to know precisely what he’s doing and why, and though Rathbone is a fine actor, his character always seems far too much in control of himself to really lead us to believe that he can’t help what he’s doing. Consequently, there are some parts of the movie that don’t work very well; the middle section gets a little too drawn out, and the very ending is rather unsatisfying. This one is largely worth catching for the familiar faces.

Little Red Riding Hood (1960)

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (1960)
(a.k.a. LA CAPERUCITA ROJA)
Article #1013 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-23-2003
Posting Date: 5-21-2003
Directed by Roberto Rodriguez
Featuring Maria Gracia, Manuel ‘Loco’ Valdes, Santnon

A big, bad wolf has plans of making a meal of a girl known as Little Red Riding Hood.

After steeling myself with Mexican horror movies, and then further building up strength by taking on Mexican wrestling movies, I now finally have taken the step and truly plunged into the abyss; the Mexican Kiddie Movie, brought to us by the courtesy of K. Gordon Murray. So here are ten thoughts on one of the strangest of kiddie movies, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD.

1) Whatever you can say about the various pros and cons of the movies from south of the border, one talent they certainly didn’t have was in building a good costume. The costumes for both the Skunk and the Wolf are almost unspeakably bad. They also look itchy. I hope the actors in them were well paid.

2) I learned several things from this movie. One is that the Mexicans celebrate Mardi Gras. Another is that they have maypoles at their Mardi Gras. The third is that they dance around the maypole. This in itself doesn’t strike me as strange; however, the fact that they dance ‘The Polka’ around the maypole did give me pause.

3) The voice of the skunk convinced me of one thing; there was once a fourth Chipmunk that David Seville kicked out of the group. I think he was named Stinky.

4) The reason Stinky was kicked out of the Chipmunks was because he couldn’t carry a tune. Need proof? Just listen to the skunk in this movie warbling a song to his true love, a parrot.

5) When the skunk began to sing, I felt like I was listening to the last member of the cast that I wanted to hear crooning a tune. I discovered I was wrong; the wolf also gets to sing a song.

6) Incidentally, the wolf only sings to the Grandma after tying her up, putting her in a stewpot, and stuffing a potato in her mouth. Amazingly, Grandma survives this (the singing, that is).

7) And while we’re still talking about the singing, take note that Red Riding Hood herself has a singing voice that suffers from Jim Nabors syndrome; it’s so vastly different from her speaking voice that I’m confident it added at least twenty years to her age.

8) All right, I’m still on this singing kick. Somehow, I just think it’s horribly unfair to have to listen to a singing group of lumberjacks and not hear them do Monty Python’s “I’m a Lumberjack” song.

9) The wolf, by the way, is a successful master of disguise. I attribute this not to any appreciable talent on his part, but rather to acute astigmatism on the part of the rest of the cast.

10) This movie tells a lot more than the basic Little Red Riding Hood story; it also reveals her mythic origins and gives her the previously unsuspected power to banish evil spirits from haunted caves. Either she’s an exorcist, or the moviemakers decided to throw in their deus ex machina twenty minutes before the end of the movie.

….and *SPOILER*SPOILER*SPOILER

11) Do you know how angry villagers punish a Big Bad Wolf? They burn him at the stake (and he didn’t even turn anyone into a newt) and allow a skunk to slap him around. However, if a girl in a red riding hood pleads for his pardon, they are legally obliged not only to set him free, they must find a job for him, dress him in a nice suit of clothes, and give him a rifle. The Mexican judicial system must be something else indeed.

****END OF SPOILER*********

In summary, let me say this. I don’t take drugs, and as long as I can view hallucinatory movies like this one, I’ll never need them.

Man Made Monster (1941)

MAN MADE MONSTER (1941)
Article #1012 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-22-2003
Posting Date: 5-20-2003
Directed by George Waggner
Featuring Lon Chaney Jr., Lionel Atwill, Anne Nagel

When a man miraculously survives being electrocuted in an automobile accident, scientists experiment to discover why he is immune to electricity. One scientist begins to experiment on him with high doses of electricity to test a theory.

In some ways, this is the real introduction of Lon Chaney Jr. to the realm of horror, and he makes good use of it by giving a strong performance as the unfortunate Dynamo Dan, the Electric Man. Oddly enough, though, this remains one of the more obscure of the Universal horrors; it isn’t unknown, by any means, but in comparison to some of the other output of the studio, it’s rarely discussed. This is probably because the movie isn’t quite as effective as the other Universal horrors; the fact that the monster is really just a man in a rubber suit may have something to do with this. His death is also a little disappointing, and I’m not sure it really makes much sense considering he spends a goodly part of the movie walking around without the protection of the rubber suit. Lionel Atwill does all right as the mad scientist, though he seems a little too cliched in the way his madness manifests itself; there was no real reason for him to reveal himself to the heroine near the end of the movie at all. Chaney and the director would reunite shortly for their breakthrough horror movie THE WOLF MAN.

G-Men Vs. the Black Dragon (1943)

G-MEN VS. THE BLACK DRAGON (1943)
(Serial)
Article #1011 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2003
Posting Date: 5-19-2003
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and William Witney
Featuring Rod Cameron, Roland Got, Constance Worth

A government does battle with the Black Dragon, an organization bent on using sabotage to aid the Japanese war effort.

You can tell this is a yellow peril serial right off the bat; the title of the first episode is “Yellow Peril”. Of course, this being a wartime serial, the peril is from Japan rather than China; in fact, the hero’s second-hand man is an agent from China.

When I started watching this one, I vowed to keep track of just how many times the serial used the most tired cliffhanger of all; i.e. the hero is seen to die in a fatal vehicular accident, and the next episode shows that he saw it coming and bailed out just in time. Of the fourteen cliffhangers here, five of them feature this cliffhanger, but fortunately, only two involve cars; two others are by plane and one is by boat. Oddly enough, I thought the score was going to be less than that, because there were so few in the first ten episodes of the serial. However, towards the end of the serial it starts becoming common; in fact, the last three cliffhangers of the serial are all of this variety.

Nonetheless, this is definitely one of the better serials I’ve seen. Part of the reason is that the villain is fairly fun, mostly because his pet raven gets into some of the action. The female member of the team of good guys actually gets in on the action, too, and isn’t there just to be rescued on occasion. The fight scenes are wonderfully staged; energetic, creative and easy to follow. All in all, this is an excellent example of the work Republic would put into their serials. And not a single episode of the fifteen succumbs to the money-saving tactic of recycling action footage from earlier in the serial.

One thing I did notice this time is there are a lot of fight scenes in warehouses. I couldn’t help but notice that in these fights, if you threw a man against against a big wooden crate (say, 6 foot by 10 foot by 3 foot), the crate will tip over. Maybe it’s just me, but I do believe a crate that size would require a lot more effort to tip over, even if it’s empty. Unless it was made of balsa wood, of course, but I don’t think they ship items in balsa. At any rate, there are a lot of crates and barrels in this one that seem awfully easy to move in comparison to their real-life counterparts.