The Sea Hound (1947)

Article #1186 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2004
Posting Date: 11-10-2004
Directed by W. B. Eason and Mack V. Wright
Featuring Buster Crabbe, Jimmy Lloyd, Pamela Blake

Captain Silver of the Sea Hound tries to help a woman find her father, who disappeared on a distant island while hunting for treasure.

Given the choice between the Columbia serials that emphasize action and those that emphasize plot, I tend to opt for the latter. Fortunately for me, this is one of the latter. It’s nice to see Buster Crabbe again; he really was the most memorable of the serial actors and always gave a matter-of-fact conviction to his performances. In terms of fantastic content, the serial itself is rather marginal; mainly, it involves some of the gadgets that were created by Captain Silver’s oriental crewman named Kukai (pronounced “Cookie”) to help defend the ship, including a bizarre gun that shoots fireballs.

The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962)

Article #1185 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-12-2004
Posting Date: 11-9-2004
Directed by Riccardo Freda
Featuring Robert Flemyng, Barbara Steele, Harriet Medin

A necrophiliac doctor’s first wife dies from an overdose of an anasthetic that the doctor used on her to simulate death. 12 years later, the doctor returns to his ancestral home with a new wife. However, strange things are happening…

How horrible is he? There’s certainly no doubt that the doctor’s main fetish being necrophilia adds a truly perverse and unsettling touch to the proceedings. Oddly enough, the theme of necrophilia isn’t really used as mere exploitation. It’s not only essential to the plot (in particular as it plays a part in the death of the first wife), but it’s also the factor that gives Dr. Hichcock a more complex character than he might otherwise have. Without that element, this movie would largely be just another example of the standard Italian horror plot; newly married wife returns home with new husband and is terrorized for the length of the movie. As it is, I find this movie a lot more interesting than NIGHTMARE CASTLE, for example.

Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness (1963)

Article #1184 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-11-2004
Posting Date: 11-8-2004
Directed by Alvaro Mancori and Lewis Mann
Featuring Dan Vadis, Spela Rozin, Carla Calo

A son of Hercules named Argolese must rescue villagers who have been kidnapped by the denizens of an evil underground empire.

This movie appears to have been adapted for television for “The Sons of Hercules” series; it has a part one and part two, breaks for commercials, and it opens and closes with the rousing but hilarious “Sons of Hercules” theme song. Plotwise, it hits every cliche in the book; Argolese fights a lion, a dragon and a bear, pulls up a tree by the roots, catches the eye of an evil queen, falls in love with the daughter of a good king, throws a big rock, bends the bars back, etc.etc. He also has an annoying comic relief sidekick who is clumsy, cowardly and gluttonous, but still manages to help save the day. In some ways, it’s such a quintessential example of this sort of thing that I can’t help but like it. Besides, the ‘Son of Hercules” theme is worth the price of admission by itself.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

Article #1183 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-10-2004
Posting Date: 11-7-2004
Directed by Sidney Lanfield
Featuring Richard Greene, Basil Rathbone, Wendy Barrie

Sherlock Holmes is called in to investigate a curse on the house of the Baskervilles that may have caused the death of the current lord of the manor.

This wasn’t the first version of the classic Sherlock Holmes novel; I have several other versions on my hunt list that predate it. However, it’s the earliest one I’ve been able to find at this point, and it may be one of the most significant, as it introduced us to the actors who would become the most famous for the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson; Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. It’s also one of the most horror-oriented of the Sherlock Holmes movies, partly due to the fact that the ancestral curse storyline is the stuff of horror, and partly due to the moody scenes on the moor. It’s also fairly faithful to the novel, though that does create one frustrating situation, and that is that Holmes himself is missing from the story for a good stretch of the running time; this may explain why Richard Greene got higher billing as Sir Henry Baskerville. Horror fans will also want to note the presence of Lionel Atwill and John Carradine in significant roles. I also took note of the name of Eily Malyon, who plays Mrs. Berryman; I’d never known her name before, but I distinctly remembered her face, and a quick note of her credits shows that she appeared in DRACULA’S DAUGHTER, THE UNDYING MONSTER and SHE-WOLF OF LONDON. Bruce and Rathbone aren’t quite as relaxed with each other here as they would be in later entries of the series, but that’s to be expected in the first of what would prove to be a successful series.

Espionage in Tangier (1965)

(a.k.a. MARC MATO, AGENTE S.077)
Article #1182 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-9-2004
Posting Date: 11-6-2004
Directed by Gregg C. Tallas
Featuring Luis Davila, Jose Greci, Perla Cristal

When a scientist develops a powerful ray gun, it is stolen, and superspy Mike Murphy is sent out to recover it.

At the time of writing this review this movie is sitting with a 9.5 rating on IMDB. I guess this proves that I just don’t get the genre, because I thoroughly disliked it. The opening of the movie is actually quite good; within a two-minute period we actually see four double-crosses and the resulting four deaths; this all happens so fast that it’s the comic highlight of the movie. Unfortunately, I should have turned it off then; between the unpleasant hero (he’s no good at double entendres so he gets women to sleep with him by slapping them around), the dull car chases, the sometimes sadistic violence and torture, and a horribly lame ending, this was one of the most unsatisfactory trips I’ve ever had into these low-budget Bond rip-offs. The movie’s full length is 92 minutes; my version only runs sixty. I consider this a blessing. Your mileage may be better if you’re a fan of this type of movie, or if the prospect of keeping your eyes pealed for a pre-Bond George Lazenby seems like a good time to you.

Oh, and did I mention the soundtrack? I can’t decide which movie music is worse; the one-fingered piano playing or that shrill warbling noise that pops up occasionally.

Hands of a Stranger (1962)

Article #1181 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-8-2004
Posting Date: 11-5-2004
Directed by Newt Arnold
Featuring James Stapleton, Paul Lukather, Joan Harvey

When a pianist’s hands are crushed in a car accident, a surgeon decides to replace them with the hands of an unidentified murder victim.

Though the source is not credited, this is for all practical reasons another take on “The Hands or Orlac”; whether the resemblance is the result of plagiarism or coincidence is open to question. I do know that the most memorable scene in the other versions of the story (in which Orlac is confronted by a man with mechanical hands) is not present in this one. Actually, this results in an interesting ambiguity; the murder victim who supplies the hands is not identified; though it is speculated that he may have been a murderer, there is no confirmation of this. In fact, the movie does play with some interesting ideas; for example, it remains somewhat ambiguous on the subject of the moral questionability of transplants, and one senses that there is some intelligence at work here. The movie also has a strong opening, and a nice final scene (though the replacement of “The End” with the phrase “The Past is the Prologue” does leave me scratching my head). However, the movie has some major problems. The acting is horribly uneven, and the dialogue is painfully overwritten; instead of talking with each other, the characters make speeches at each other and every idea is regurgitated up again and again ad nauseum. Still, I can’t help but like it a little; each of the versions of the Orlac story have gone in different directions, and it’s fascinating to compare them.

Guess What Happened to Count Dracula (1970)

Article #1180 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-7-2004
Posting Date: 11-4-2004
Directed by Laurence Merrick
Featuring Des Roberts, Claudia Barron, John Landon

A woman comes under the spell of a vampire known as Count Adrian.

The title implies that this movie will tell us what happened to Count Dracula. It does no such thing; Count Adrian is actually the son of Dracula. Yes, I know; that was Count Alucard in another movie, but not in this one. However, there is a character named Alucard; he’s Count Adrian’s pet tiger, who likes to play with the vampires when they’re not cavorting in their sacred Macumba ceremony, in which a woman dances until she entices a man into eating a lizard. This also involves a man in a gorilla suit wearing a pendant; IMDB doesn’t credit the man in the gorilla suit, but I sure know Charley Gemora’s suit when I see it. Highlights of this movie: two vampires have a staredown, Des Roberts is offered a beer, but says “I only drink blood…bloody marys”, and a nurse decides she wants to do it with the doctor on his desk (and you’ll find out what “it” is for yourself.) Des Roberts actually uses a Bela Lugosi accent in portraying Count Adrian. Conclusions: I think this might have been a comedy, but it’s hard to tell. One thing is for sure; it’s a lot classier than the other movie on the DVD (DRACULA, THE DIRTY OLD MAN), but that’s like saying that it’s shorter than SHOAH.

Oh, and did I mention that Count Adrian runs a swinging nightclub known as Dracula’s Castle?