Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965)
Article #1156 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-14-2001
Posting Date: 10-11-2004
Directed by Robert Gaffney
Featuring Marilyn Hanold, Lou Cutell, Robert Reilly

Space aliens planning on kidnapping Earth women for breeding stock destroy a rocket manned by a robot, which is then damaged so that it goes on a murderous rampage.

When you see a movie with the name “Frankenstein” in the title, you have every right to feeling ripped off if the movie has nothing to do with Frankenstein or his creation. The title here is akin to that of some sword and sandal movies in which Hercules as such does not appear; the hero is just some guy who is real strong, so they call him Hercules. Here the robot’s murderous rampage elicits a comment from someone that he’s turned into a “Frankenstein”; hence, the title.

Actually, I remember this movie well enough from having seen it on my local Creature Feature years ago; the monster, the creepy alien Dr. Nadir, and the fact that the robot uses an axe to kill a man all stuck in my memory. There’s no doubt that the movie has a certain drive-in appeal. Beyond that, there’s very little to recommend in this cheap little movie unless the succession of kidnapped bathing beauties (who submit passively to whatever the aliens want them to do because it spares them from actually having to act) is enough for you. For me the cheapness and the tediousness of some of the scenes (including endless scenes of people tooling around on a motor scooter while one of the soundtrack’s two swinging sixties songs plays) became overly repetitive. This one is largely for fans of cheap drive-in fare.

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Flight to Mars (1951)

FLIGHT TO MARS (1951)
Article #1155 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-13-2004
Posting Date: 10-10-2004
Directed by Lesley Selander
Featuring Cameron Mitchell, Marguerite Chapman, Arthur Franz

Five people go to Mars to discover a dying society.

I find it somewhat surprising that the poverty row studio Monogram would try to undertake a color science fiction epic. However, I’m not surprised that the result ended up like this. On the plus side, there are the familiar faces of Cameron Mitchell (looking so young I can hardly recognize him), Marguerite Chapman, Arthur Franz and Morris Ankrum (as the bad guy, of all things). It also is full of pretty colors, and the women of Mars where extremely short miniskirts (which counts for a lot in some quarters). On the down side, we have the plot (one half ROCKETSHIP X-M, one half tepid melodrama) and the uninspired direction in which almost everything that happens is reduced to scene after scene of people standing around (or sitting around) and talking while the camera just takes it all in. All the action is saved for the last one and a half minutes of the movie, and its ending is almost as abrupt as the one in CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON. It has its charms, I suppose, but I’d rather watch ROCKETSHIP X-M or DESTINATION MOON anytime.

First Man Into Space (1959)

FIRST MAN INTO SPACE (1959)
Article #1154 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-12-2004
Posting Date: 10-9-2004
Directed by Robert Day
Featuring Marshall Thompson, Marla Landi, Bill Edwards

A pilot defies the orders of his commander and takes a test plane into the reaches of outer space.

The first half of this movie is a draggy bore; the conflicts between the main characters are cliched, and the director does nothing to make the exposition exciting or interesting. However, once we find ourselves dealing with a blood-thirsty monster in the second half, the movie perks up considerably, and even manages to work itself up to a fairly strong sequence near the end where the heroes try to steer the monster to a pressure chamber by appealing to its reason while keeping far enough away from it so as not to suffer damage. It even manages to be touching enough near the end to get away with a line that must have looked awful in print (it’s the line that includes the title of the movie), though some of that credit should go to Bill Edwards (if that’s him doing the voice at the end), who manages to delivery with just the right touch of emotion to make it work. Still, for me the most interesting thing about the movie is the presence of Roger Delgado in a small role as a bullfight entrepreneur who is seeking restitution for damages done to his arena when a passing missile caused a mishap in the bullring; for those not familiar with the name, he is most famous for having played the Master during the Jon Pertwee seasons of “Doctor Who.” Delgado was a wonderful actor, and he turns his role into something special and memorable.

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966)
Article #1153 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-11-2004
Posting Date: 10-8-2004
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Featuring Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack

In the future where all books are burned, a fireman defies the law and begins to read.

Ray Bradbury was one of my favorite authors as a kid, and I still love his work today. Yet despite this, I’ve never quite warmed up to his most famous novel, which is odd, because I’m inordinately fond of his novella, “Pillar of Fire”, which covers much of the same thematic ground. Furthermore, I’ve seen a few of Francois Truffaut’s movies, and I must confess that I have real trouble appreciating them; there’s something about his style that doesn’t speak to me. It should then come as no surprise that I have some problems with this movie. I think it’s overlong, I find Oskar Werner entirely too distant in the role of Montag, and there are times where I really find myself pining for the visual equivalent of Bradbury’s prose for good stretches of this movie. Still, this movie is far from a washout; on the plus side, Julie Christie’s performances in both her roles are memorable and Cyril Cusack is simply wonderful as the captain of the firemen whose poetic dismissal of the whole book culture is so ringingly beautiful to the ears that it serves to slyly undercut the very gist of his message. I also admire the way the printed word has been almost completely expunged from the sets; even the opening credits are narrated so as to deprive you of the pleasure of reading them. Plus, the movie has at least two unforgettable scenes that more than compensate for any of my other objections; namely, the sequence where the old lady with the secret library takes matters into her own hands with a box of matches, and the entire end of the movie with the book people, a sequence that is sad, beautiful, charming and sometimes quite funny and which never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Half empty or half full? Me, I’ll probably watch this one again, but I hope you’ll excuse me if I keep the fast forward handy.

Dungeon of Harrow (1962)

DUNGEON OF HARROW (1962)
Article #1152 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-10-2004
Posting Date: 10-7-2004
Directed by Pat Boyette
Featuring Russ Harvey, Helen Hogan, William McNulty

A noble gets stranded on an island with the mad Count Lorente de Sade.

Imagine you’re watching THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME….

Now imagine watching THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME done on a budget that would barely cover the cost of a pack of Juicy Fruit…

Throw in some lepers and some torture…

Now throw in some people to recite the dialogue in the script. I’d call them actors except that would be misleading…

Now imagine these actors delivering their dialogue. Except it isn’t dialogue they’re reciting. It’s a series of lengthy speeches. Therefore, imagine them speechifying…

Imagine them speechifying badly….

Imagine them speechifying badly and very very slooooooooowly…

Imagine our hero describing his emotions and feelings in voice-over narration. Imagine being grateful at having him let you know how he’s feeling because there’s no way you could have seen it on his face…

Imagine a shipwreck scene that is shot so darkly that it almost (but not quite) completely obscures the fact that the boat is obviously a badly designed toy…

Imagine a scene that takes place in a cabin on the boat during a storm that is even less convincing than the cockpit sequences in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE…

Imagine sound quality worse than that of a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie…

Imagine that the guy who directed the acting was also responsible for the script as well as the music. Imagine that his level of competence is about equal on all these tasks….

Now imagine that you’re not imagining.

Okay, you can run screaming now.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)
Article #1151 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-9-2004
Posting Date: 10-6-2004
Directed by Freddie Francis
Featuring Chrisopher Lee, Rupert Davies, Veronica Carlson

Dracula is resurrected only to find that his castle has been exorcised and the door is barred by a cross. He vows revenge on the Monsignor responsible for this.

Watching movies is a very individual experience. Something in a movie that can distract and bother one viewer may be easily glossed over or even go unnoticed by the second. Furthermore, an interesting touch or telling detail may make a great deal of difference to one viewer but mean nothing to another. It’s not really a matter of good or bad as much as a mark of the individuality of each of us. For example, I myself generally have no trouble with continuity errors and usually don’t notice them.

I only bring this point up to mention that I did notice certain continuity errors that distracted me during this movie. I only noticed these because they involved details that had significant impacts on the plots at certain points; because a previous scene had clearly established the importance of certain details, it seemed very obvious to me when the a following scene failed to follow up on the detail. I won’t mention the details, as I feel continuity-error hunting can take the fun out of a movie and there’s always a chance that another viewer may not notice. Nonetheless, despite these distractions, I did find this a fairly entertaining entry in Hammer’s Dracula series. Though in some ways I miss the presence of Cushing, there really is no role for him here, and the fact that the final battle with Dracula pits him against characters who are all too fallible and vulnerable (one is an atheist whose disbelief in God leaves him without the spiritual strength to effectively battle this fiend, and a priest whose lack of will makes him a too-easy prey; in fact, he’s Dracula’s helper for most of the movie). Christopher Lee is given dialogue this time, though it is kept to a minimum. Everyone does well, with special honors to Lee and to Rupert Davies as the Monsignor.

Dorian Gray (1970)

DORIAN GRAY (1970)
(a.k.a. THE SECRET OF DORIAN GRAY)
Article #1150 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-8-2004
Posting Date: 10-5-2004
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Featuring Helmut Berger, Richard Todd, Herbert Lom

A young man wishes that a painting of him would age in his place, and the wish comes true.

It’s no surprise that this one was made; after all, the more permissive times of the sixties onwards opened up the gates for making explicit all the debauchery that is hinted at in the story. Unfortunately, the sex, violence and nudity is handled in that rather cheap, sleazy and exploitative style common to the time which undercuts the elegance and wit which are necessary in any handling of an Oscar Wilde story. Only Herbert Lom (in the character played by George Sanders in the 1945 version) manages to convey those qualities, but even with him, the few lines that actually come from Wilde himself seem out of place with the rest of the production. It was also a bit of a mistake to update the story to modern times; since the story itself takes place over a few decades, it’s hard to believe that any time is passing when the styles at the beginning of the movie look just the same as the styles at the end of the movie, which is a problem that is less noticeable when you leave the story in a period setting. The acting is mostly acceptable, though, and Helmut Berger is well cast in the title role. Nevertheless, when I want to see this story again, I know that it’s the 1945 version I will seek out.