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.

The Demons (1972)

THE DEMONS (1972)
(a.k.a. LES DEMONS)
Article #1470 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-24-2005
Posting Date: 8-21-2005
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Anne Libert, Britt Nichols, Doris Thomas

A witch passes a curse on those who burnt her at the stake. The curse is brought about by the actions of her two twin daughters.

I’ve seen only a handful of Jesus Franco films at this point, but I’ve seen little to make me understand why he’s something of a cult item; at his worst, his movies are as boring as anything by Jerry Warren. However, I did get a few hints in this movie. He certainly finds some wonderful places to serve as backdrops for his movies; the interiors in this movie are truly stunning. It’s basically a cross between a witch’s curse movie and nunsploitation. The plot is somewhat coherent this time, and though it moves at a snail’s pace, it never grinds to a complete halt. Still, it’s hard for me to think of Franco as something other than a proponent of pure exploitation when he sees fit to make sure that every five minutes or so we get close-ups of masturbation, torture, genitalia or pubic hair (or several at once, if he can manage it). Yet, for all its excesses, I found it more watchable than FEMALE VAMPIRE, for example, though I still prefer Jean Rollin for my arty erotic horror needs. At least, however, I am getting a few hints as to why he has his cult following.

Haunted Harbor (1944)

HAUNTED HARBOR (1944)
(Serial)
(a.k.a. PIRATES’ HARBOR)
Article #1469 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-23-2005
Posting Date: 8-20-2005
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Wallace Grissell
Featuring Jim Marsden, Kay Aldridge, Roy Barcroft

In order to recover his gold and clear his name, a seaman must discover the secret identity of a man named Carter and brave the terrors of Haunted Harbor.

When this serial was first released, it was the year of movies like THE UNINVITED; ghosts being big that year, the word “haunted” probably seemed like a fine adjective. When it was re-released several years later, it was after TREASURE ISLAND was a big hit, and I’m willing to bet that was why the title was changed to PIRATES’ HARBOR (the title on my copy of the serial). Oddly enough, there are no ghosts nor pirates to be found, but somehow, that doesn’t surprise me. It does, however, have a mechanical sea serpent, and even though you know it’s mechanical, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. They even save the creature for the middle of the serial rather than trotting it out in the first episode, so I can’t complain about the serial spinning its wheels during the middle.

All in all, this is definitely one of the better serials out there. It does run on a bit too long, but the cliffhangers are quite entertaining, it does have an air of mystery about it, and it never once dedicates any of its episodes to a recap. Still, I couldn’t help notice that Kay Aldridge’s heroine, spunky as she is, has a hair-trigger faint mechanism; basically, she’ll go out every time she lightly bumps into a wall (I wonder if she finds it dangerous to brush her hair). And someday I’d like to start a school for aspiring serial heroes, simply so I could teach them how to use the brakes on their vehicles; they would get out of any number of perilous situations (and save money on insurance as well) if they used this method to avoid traffic accidents rather than abandoning the vehicle at every opportunity.

Delirium (1972)

DELIRIUM (1972)
(a.k.a. DELIRIO CALDO)
Article #1468 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-22-2005
Posting Date: 8-19-2005
Directed by Renato Polselli
Featuring Mickey Hargitay, Rita Caleroni, Raoul Rossi

An impotent doctor tries to make up for his inability to satisfy his wife by committing gruesome murders on beautiful women. When he tries to set himself to be caught by the police, though, his own attempt at murder is interrupted by another murder.

I must admit that I distrust the giallo subgenre; I’m never quite sure to what extent the extended, graphic murders of women common to that form are really examples of “violence as art” or just plain sadistic pandering. If the movies I’d seen had consisted of nothing more than stretches of sadistic violence, I would definitely opt for the latter; however, there always seemed to be something else going on as well, and it’s this extra layer that makes them somewhat more interesting and less offensive.

Still, I was tempted to forgo the more explicit international version of this movie with the shortened American version, and since the DVD jacket points out that the two versions have different subplots and develop in different ways, I could have made the argument that neither version was probably definitive (the American version apparently has a subplot about the Vietnam war). Nevertheless, I opted for the longer version as the more legitimate of the two (and I really didn’t feel up to watching both versions). The murders are pretty nasty, less for explicit gore and more for the sadistic sexuality behind them. It’s something of a mixed bag; it’s confusing at times, laughable at others (especially the silly fantasy sequences), and just because you’re watching the Italian version doesn’t mean you’re not going to be set upon by bad dubbing. Certain plot points are utterly predictable; though I was surprised when a second murderer came on the scene, it took me less than ten minutes to figure out who it would be. Some of the other touches make it intriguing, though; in particular, I found myself fascinated by a the character of the parking lot attendant who somehow ended up being on the scene for practically every murder and naturally becomes the main suspect. Of course he’s not guilty, but I found myself asking why he just happened to be there; was it bad luck? Sheer stupidity? Or was there some ulterior motive to it all? At any rate, his presence adds a bizarre comic touch to the proceedings, which is all to the good, especially since the somewhat outrageous, over-the-top ending has a comic tinge all its own, if for no other reason than it pushes the envelope as to just how many perverted psychos you can cram into one movie.

The Day of the Triffids (1962)

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962)
Article #1467 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-21-2005
Posting Date: 8-18-2005
Directed by Steve Sekely
Featuring Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette Scott

A breed of killer plants infests the earth at just the time when almost the entire human race has been stricken blind by a meteor shower.

Those who have read John Wyndham’s novel on which this movie was based generally find this movie to be a disappointment. Fortunately, there is a 1981 TV version of the novel that is much better in this regard. This earlier version is largely a monster movie, and I think for the most part it works well enough on that level; in fact, in some ways, it is genuinely terrifying. It’s not so much the plant monsters that are scary (though the sound they make does raise some goose bumps); it’s the premise of a blinded human race that gets to you, and this movie does make good use of the concept. Still, it really does have problems; Howard Keel is a little too bland here to be memorable, the special effects fall short at times, and neither the ending of the Howard Keel storyline (which is somewhat dull) nor the lighthouse storyline (which is a little too pat, though flashier) really satisfies.

Incidentally, I first saw this on my local Creature Feature years ago. Now, in order to fit these movies into the proper time slots, they were usually cut. For this movie, the cut was very simple; all the lighthouse scenes were excised. I was quite surprised at these sequences when I first saw the complete movie on videotape.

The Inheritance (1947)

THE INHERITANCE (1947)
(a.k.a. UNCLE SILAS)
Article #1466 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-20-2005
Posting Date: 8-17-2005
Directed by Charles Frank
Featuring Jean Simmons, Katina Paxinou, Derrick De Marney

The young heiress of a vast fortune finds herself under the guardianship of her Uncle Silas, who has evil plans for obtaining her fortune.

Given the above plot description, and taking into account that the plot involves an elaborate deception, an evil governess, drugged wine and a locked area of a mansion with a secret, we’re definitely in Tod Slaughter-style melodrama territory; in fact, this movie could have been easily adapted for Slaughter with him playing Uncle Silas. That movie would have been a lot of fun, but I think it would have lacked some of the nicer points of this one, which takes itself a little more seriously than your average Slaughter opus. It’s not a horror movie, but by tapping in to its strong Gothic roots, and by shooting several of the scenes with a gloomy and forbidding atmosphere, it has the feel of a horror movie on occasion; there are spooky cobweb-filled passages and a frightening face in the window just for starters. It also has fine performances from all, with special mention going to Katina Paxinou, whose hard-drinking French governess character is unsettlingly creepy. It takes a while to get rolling, and some of the pacing is awkward, but it builds up to a truly satisfying climax. One thing I’m sure of, though; if Slaughter had played the character of Uncle Silas, the end of the movie would have changed drastically, as Slaughter would most likely have never performed the final act of that character in this movie.

Cry of the Banshee (1970)

CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1970)
Article #1465 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-19-2005
Posting Date: 8-16-2005
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Featuring Vincent Price, Hilary Heath, Carl Rigg

A witch places a curse on the family of a magistrate after he slaughters several members of her coven. The curse causes a banshee to kill off the magistrate’s family members.

You know, I’ve been pretty hard on some of Corman’s Poe movies. I honestly wish I had watched this unpleasant, unsatisfying movie before reviewing them; I found it made me really appreciate them. This one opens with a quote by Poe, but at least it doesn’t claim that the story comes from him. The basic premise isn’t bad, and Vincent Price is always fun to watch in action, but I found this movie to be merely unpleasant and exploitative. The main focus of the movie seems to be on the degradation (via torture and stripping) of as many young female characters as it can fit into its plot, and the character development exists almost entirely to bring this about; in short, there’s a lot of sadistic characters. Even Price’s character is woefully underdeveloped, though he does his best to fight this. It also doesn’t help that with a few exceptions (Price, Elisabeth Bergner, Marshall Jones and Hugh Griffith), the acting is pretty subpar. And (unless I’m very much mistaken) I really think they should have gotten a real dog to do the barking for the mad dog in the movie; someone’s dog imitation just doesn’t pass muster here.