All Gummed Up (1947)

ALL GUMMED UP (1947)
Article #1477 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-31-2005
Posting Date: 8-28-2005
Directed by Jules White
Featuring Shemp Howard, Larry Fine, Moe Howard

The Three Stooges try to get rich by concocting a drug that will restore youth to the elderly.

At their best, the Three Stooges would time their slapstick antics and sound effects so impeccably that the result was also musical. They were also able to pull them off so nimbly and swiftly that the gag was over almost before it began. This is one of those shorts where the timing was right on the money. It also has the added appeal of putting the stooges in a profession where you definitely wouldn’t want to encounter them in real life (in this case, as pharmacists). The mounting absurdity of the preparation of the drug is also a plus in this one. This short was made the year that Shemp replaced an ailing Curly.

Death Smiles at Murder (1973)

DEATH SMILES AT MURDER (1973)
(a.k.a. LA MORTE HA SORRISO ALL’ASSASSINO)
Article #1476 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-30-2005
Posting Date: 8-27-2005
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Featuring Ewa Aulin, Klaus Kinski, Angela Bo

When an amnesiac woman suffers an accident near a country estate, the couple that lives there takes her in. Her arrival sets off a series of murders.

Somewhere in this bizarre compendium of—
a) jerky hand-held camera style photography
b) confusing editing
c) extreme close-ups (especially of eyes)
d) bizarre camera angles (you know, the type where someone’s hand will be bigger than the rest of their body)
e) gory murders,
f) sex
g) very bad dubbing, and
h) subplots about a secret Inca formula to raise the dead

—there may be a plot. There may even be a point. Unfortunately, one thing it doesn’t have (for me anyway) is a real compelling reason to bother sorting out the whole mess. I was also hoping that the familiar face of Klaus Kinski would be enough to help me wend my way through this movie, but he’s stuck in a subplot that ends abruptly and vanishes from the movie after the first half hour.

This movie serves as my introduction to the work of prolific cult director Joe D’Amato. I’ll probably be covering more of them. If the ratings on IMDB are any indication, it may be his best movie. If it is, I don’t really look forward to the future.

Dark Places (1973)

DARK PLACES (1973)
Article #1475 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-29-2005
Posting Date: 8-26-2005
Directed by Don Sharp
Featuring Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Robert Hardy

When a doctor from an asylum hears of a fortune hidden in an old house, he poses as an heir to find the money. Unfortunately, the house is rumored to be haunted, and…

Though there’s not a whole lot of novelty to this story of ghostly possession, it does have some interesting points to it. I like the way that the protagonist finds himself shuttled back and forth between his life in the present and the life of the possessing spirit in the past. Furthermore, the movie is well acted, with solid work from Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Robert Hardy and Herbert Lom. However, the problems eventually sink the production. The pace is quite sluggish throughout, and it tends to repeat some of its ideas more often than is strictly necessary. It’s worst problems arrive towards the end of the movie; the revelations about the past events in the house have a somewhat silly edge to them, and the movie loses a lot of steam in its final moments and ends with a whimper rather than a bang. In short, it’s watchable, but not very memorable.

Shamrock Hill (1949)

SHAMROCK HILL (1949)
Article #1474 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-28-2005
Posting Date: 8-25-2005
Directed by Arthur Dreifuss
Featuring Peggy Ryan, Ray McDonald, Trudy Marshall

A girl wants to save a magical place called Shamrock Hill from being turned into a television station.

….umm, let’s see…free-spirited Irish girl with eccentric family wins over the heart of lawyer loved by wealthy socialite and daughter to businessman planning on bringing TV to the masses…socialite makes moves on Irish girl’s boyfriend to teach her a lesson…Irish mother practices oil painting and uses the color green quite a bit…wacky uncle invents an umbrella that doesn’t work and an electron TV tube while trying to make hair grow on father’s head…Irish girl embarrassed when family shows up at a soiree and does a jig…Irish girl consults leprachauns who sing an inspirational song to her…lawn in front of house of Irish family is hard enough for boyfriend to perform tap-dances on but soft enough to grow bushes…ends happily with every one smiling and cheery….

When I was a kid, I hated musicals. As I grew older, I learned to appreciate the form.

This movie made me nostalgic for my childhood.

Oh, and on the good side, the dancing is fun.

Boom in the Moon (1946)

BOOM IN THE MOON (1946)
(a.k.a. A MODERN BLUEBEARD / EL MODERNO BARBA AZUL)
Article #1473 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-27-2005
Posting Date: 8-24-2005
Directed by Jaime Salvador
Featuring Buster Keaton, Luis G. Barreiro, Guillermo Bravo Sosa

A confused American soldier from World War II surrenders himself to the Mexicans under the mistaken belief they are Japanese. They in turn confuse him with a notorious Bluebeard. He is then offered the option to avoid the electric chair by volunteering for a planned expedition to the moon.

This may be the most depressing movie I’ve seen for this series. It’s not necessarily the worst, though it is pretty bad. It’s just that bad comedies tend to be pretty depressing anyway, and this is only compounded by the fact that it represents the nadir for one of the greatest screen comedians of all time, Buster Keaton. If that’s not depressing enough, consider these points. Fellow silent comedian Charlie Chaplin would take the Bluebeard concept that this movie touches upon and produce the brilliant and daring MONSIEUR VERDOUX just a year later. Then consider that Abbot and Costello (two comedians who, though I have a great deal of affection for them, simply weren’t in the same league as Buster Keaton) would use some of the same elements of this movie (two convicts aboard a rocketship; Earth being mistaken for another planet) to make ABBOTT AND COSTELLO GO TO MARS, which, despite the fact that it was one of their weakest movies, is still better than this one. It’s also more than a little depressing that at the time of this writing, this remains the only Buster Keaton movie I’ve covered for this series (and SUNSET BLVD. doesn’t count, as it contains Buster only in a cameo). Still, the saddest thing about this one is that every once in a while during this movie, you’ll see Buster do something that for a fleeting few seconds reminds you of the old Buster of the silent era. It never lasts long enough to make a joke work; all it does is remind you of how low he’d fallen to this point. Let’s just hope there aren’t any other movies out there more depressing than this one.

The Missing Guest (1938)

THE MISSING GUEST (1938)
Article #1472 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-26-2005
Posting Date: 8-23-2005
Directed by John Rawlins
Featuring Paul Kelly, Constance Moore, William Lundigan

A reporter tries to get a story on a haunted house and a mysterious blue room in which people get murdered.

I always wondered why it was that Universal made so many versions of the Blue Room story; this was the second of three versions by the studio within a twelve year period. None of them are classics, but they’re watchable enough. The first one had a memorable cast (Lionel Atwill, Edward Arnold, Gloria Stuart, etc.). This one doesn’t, but goes heavy on the comedy. It’s your basic ‘old dark house’ movie, with mysterious murders, fake scares, secret passages, etc. As a time killer, it’s pleasant enough, but it’s pretty routine.

Some Girls Do (1969)

SOME GIRLS DO (1969)
Article #1471 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-25-2005
Posting Date: 8-22-2005
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Featuring Richard Johnson, Daliah Lavi, Beba Loncar

Hugh Drummond investigates several murders that are tied to the development of a supersonic airliner.

Having only been familiar with Hugh ‘Bulldog’ Drummond through the movies about him in the thirties, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that the character was revived for a short time during the late sixties. However, I was not surprised to discover that the character was revived as a James Bond knockoff. Nor was I surprised that all the regular characters from the earlier series (Algy Longworth, Tenny, Inspector Nelson) were thrown by the wayside for other characters. However, I was quite surprised and delighted to see that the sense of humor that the earlier series had displayed had somehow remained intact. If anything, the humor is even stronger; this superspy movie is more than half a comedy, with its eccentric characters (Ronnie Stevens as Drummond’s prissy bodyguard, Robert Morley in a scene-stealing cameo as the instructor in a cooking school) and pithy one-liners. In truth, I found the humor here much more appealing than that of the Bond movies themselves; I always found those movies to be just a little too smug for my taste. In short, I was quite delighted by this movie, even if it was the last of the short-lived revival, and I look forward to seeing the first movie of the series. This is currently my favorite Bond rip-off.