Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)

DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (1966)
(a.k.a. SPIE VENGONO DAL SEMIFREDDO)
Article #1484 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-7-2005
Posting Date: 9-4-2005
Directed by Mario Bava
Featuring Vincent Price, Fabian, Franco and Ciccio

Dr. Goldfoot uses his girl bombs to hatch a plot to start a war between the U.S. and Russia.

You know, you’re within your rights to have pretty high expectations for a pairing of one of the greatest horror actors of all time (Vincent Price) and the master of Italian horror Mario Bava. Even if you knew advance that the collaboration would be a sequel to DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE, you’d still have a right to expect that it would be better than that one. Instead, it almost looks like they both set out to make the worst movies of each of their respective careers. It’s a frantic, hectic comedy that is desperately and disastrously unfunny; I think I counted one half of one joke that worked. At least DGATBM had some sly references to other AIP productions to help it along; this one has nothing but an endless string of horrible gags. I don’t know much about the comedy team of Franco and Ciccio, and I haven’t seen any of their other movies, but here, they’re positively embarrassing. In fact, if the IMDB ratings are to be believed, it’s their worst movie as well. And though it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, there is really nothing quite as painful as an aggressive comedy where every rapid-fire joke misses its target.

I don’t know if there’s a movie theater in hell, but if there is, you can rest assured that this is what’s playing.

Doctor Faustus (1967)

DOCTOR FAUSTUS (1967)
Article #1483 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-6-2005
Posting Date: 9-3-2005
Directed by Richard Burton and Nevill Coghill
Featuring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Andreas Teuber

Doctor Faustus sells his soul to the devil in hopes of reaping great benefits.

Richard Burton (“Great Actor”) performs in an adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus” (“Classic Literature”) and the result is this movie (“Great Work of Art”). He is helped in this effort by co-director and co-producer Richard Burton (“Production Crew guaranteed not to steal the thunder from the Great Actor”). The only other name actor in the cast is Elizabeth Taylor (“Great Actor’s Wife”), and she plays several characters, all of which are beautiful women who stand around with little to do but look beautiful (“Co-Star carefully cast to also not steal thunder from Great Actor but to provide Sex Appeal”). The rest of the cast consists of drama students from Burton’s alma mater, Oxford University (“Cast of Unknowns to also ensure that no one steals the thunder from Great Actor”). This type of idea isn’t hopeless, and Burton certainly possessed the acting chops to pull it off. Unfortunately, the movie (“Great Work of Art”) suffers from a huge problem; it never for one moment forgets that it’s a “Great Work of Art” (this movie), and that knees-bent uber-reverent attitude infuses every frame of the movie. The movie is so busy chiseling itself into stone that it never comes to life. It does try to be cinematically creative and visually arresting on occasion, but this backfires. Example: Burton holds a skull in the air and talks about gold, and imaginary gold falls out of the skull. He then talks about pearls, and imaginary pearls fall out of the nose of the skull. He then looks into a crystal and talks about lions, and wouldn’t you know it, we see lions in the crystal, and by this time the obvious artifice of this kind of conceit has rendered the movie almost laughable. Even when the movie tries to lighten itself up in a slapstick sequence with the Pope, it’s still so much a “Great Work of Art” that it hamstrings any chance of the scene actually being funny.

Still, there are moments that work well enough. Classics are sturdy things, and Burton is good enough to make some of the dialogue work. But for the most part, this movie is a bore, and Taylor (who can be an excellent actress) deserves better than a role that relies only on her beauty. This story deserves to be brought to life, but this version embalms it.

Three Arabian Nuts (1951)

THREE ARABIAN NUTS (1951)
Article #1482 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-5-2005
Posting Date: 9-2-2005
Directed by Edward Bernds
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard

The Three Stooges undertake the delivery of some Oriental treasures, and happen upon Aladdin’s lamp. They also find themselves pursued by Arabs.

With a rating of 8.5 on IMDB at the time of this writing, I can only assume that this is a favorite of Stooges fans. Myself, I found it a fairly ordinary entry in the series; there’s a few good laughs (including one involving a kettle full of hot tea and the final moment), but all in all, I thought it was business as usual. Moe does have a fun little opening gag reading a label on a crate, though.

The Student of Prague (1926)

THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE (1926)
(a.k.a. DER STUDENT VON PRAG)
Article #1481 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-4-2005
Posting Date: 9-1-2005
Directed by Henrik Galeen
Featuring Conrad Veidt, Elizza La Porta, Fritz Alberti

A poor student with an infatuation for a rich society girl meets a mysterious man who offers him a huge supply of gold in trade for any one item within the student’s apartment. When the student agrees, the man makes off with the student’s mirror reflection, which then begins to interfere with the student’s life.

When I covered the 1913 version of this story, I was unable to go into much detail, since my copy of the movie only had German title cards. This one has English title cards, and it’s a pleasure to finally understand the story. Furthermore, this is the superior version, thanks to some moody direction by Henrik Galeen (who was involved in either a writing or directorial capacities in an astonishing number of German horror movies, such as both versions of THE GOLEM, WAXWORKS, ALRAUNE and NOSFERATU) and a fine, powerful performance from Conrad Veidt, who may actually have been the finest horror actor of the silents and is here reunited with his CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI co-star Werner Krauss. The movie isn’t perfect; it’s confusing at times, too slow-moving at others, and the soundtrack on my copy, though it does have a dolorous, somber feel to it very appropriate to the story as a whole, is at times annoyingly repetitive. Still, that doesn’t really matter, as there’s a real power in the growing horror of the story, and the final sequences in which Veidt is stalked by himself are absolutely chilling. In a sense, there’s no other horror movie out there quite like this one, and I’m surprised no one has seen fit to remake it in recent years (though there was one in 1935). Highly recommended, especially to fans of silent horror.

Mystery Plane (1939)

MYSTERY PLANE (1939)
Article #1480 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-3-2005
Posting Date: 8-31-2005
Directed by George Waggner
Featuring John Trent, Marjorie Reynolds, Milburn Stone

A pilot invents a device that allows bombers to engage in remote-control bombing. He is then kidnapped by spies who want his information, and finds that an old flying idol of his is in cahoots with them.

My source for this movie refers to a title called SKY PIRATE, but no movies with that title matched up with the cast list in my source. After hunting around a bit, I came to the conclusion that the movie actually being referred to was MYSTERY PLANE; the cast list more or less matches, and it’s alternate title SKY PILOT bears a strong similarity to the SKY PIRATE title. The movie does have a science fiction element; namely, the remote-control bomber mechanism in the plot description. It’s a Tailspin Tommy movie, the first of four made by Monogram in the late thirties. It’s done with a fair amount of energy (courtesy of director George Waggner, who would go on to direct THE WOLF MAN), and the human element (with a down-on-his-luck former pilot) is also handled well. There are a few dead spots, and at times certain of the characters verge on the annoying, but these are fairly mild quibbles for what is a fine example of poverty-row film-making at its most effective.

Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN WASHINGTON (1943)
Article #1479 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-2-2005
Posting Date: 8-30-2005
Directed by Roy William Neill
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Marjorie Lord

When a secret service agent is kidnapped and then murdered by spies to locate a secret document, Sherlock Holmes is called to Washington on the case.

Fantastic content: None to speak of in this one. The book that listed it lists all the Sherlock Holmes movies in the series despite the fact that only a few of them had anything of the fantastic in them.

Unlike SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR, this entry in the modern-day Sherlock Holmes series at Universal eases up considerably on the propaganda, largely confining it to a few closing comments near the end of the movie. It’s one of what I’ve come to call the “bad-haircut Holmes” movies; personally, I’m glad Rathbone eventually got away from that distracting coiffure he has here. All in all, though, it’s a very entertaining entry in the series, and it’s almost Hitchcockian at times; I love the party sequence where the item everyone is hunting for passes from hand to hand with no one aware of its significance. This movie also has the novelty of featuring both a former Moriarty and a future Moriarty; George Zucco had played him in THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, and Henry Daniell would play him in THE WOMAN IN GREEN. I also like the sequence aboard the train where we see the agent pass on the document to any one of several people. The bumbling of Nigel Bruce’s Dr. Watson character is kept to a minimum here, largely confined to Holmes having a few jokes at his friend’s expense. Incidentally, the incredibly familiar face of the clerk in the antique shop is Ian Wolfe, who appeared in four of the Sherlock Holmes movies. The movie also contains a reference to the ‘Blue Room’, of all things.

Return to Glennascaul (1951)

RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL (1951)
(a.k.a. ORSON WELLES’ GHOST STORY)
Article #1478 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-1-2005
Posting Date: 8-29-2005
Directed by Hilton Edwards
Featuing Orson Welles, Michael Laurence, Shelah Richards

On break from his filming of OTHELLO, Orson Welles picks up a stranded man on his way to Dublin, and is told an eerie tale by him.

Orson Welles directed OTHELLO in Europe over a three-year period, as he had to occasionally shut down production for one reason or another. To help finance his project, he would occasionally appear in other movies during this period. He also narrated and appeared in this short (as himself, which serves as a bit of a joke at times), directed by the actor who was playing Brabantio in OTHELLO. It’s a fairly straightforward ghost story with little in the way of surprises, but it’s simply and elegantly told, and the presence of Welles gives it a special touch of humor. The short was also nominated for an Academy Award in the “Best Short Subject 2-Reel” category.