Vulcan, Son of Jupiter (1961)

VULCAN, SON OF JUPITER (1961)
(a.k.a. VULCANO, FIGLIO DI GIOVE)
Article #1626 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-27-2005
Posting Date: 1-24-2006
Directed by Emimmo Salve
Featuring Richard Lloyd, Gordon Mitchell, Bella Cortez

When Mars and Vulcan, rivals for the hand of Venus, have their powers taken away by an angry Jupiter over their squabbling, they go to Earth. Mars attempts to stage an uprising against Jupiter, while Vulcan attempts to save his people who are captured by lizard men and then made slaves by the minions of Mars.

Even by sword-and-sandal standards, this is pretty silly stuff. Usually, the gods keep somewhat in the background in these movies; here they’re front and center, with a tired and cranky Jupiter, an effeminate and fawning Mercury, a sarcastic Pluto, and a slatternly Venus (among others) romping around Olympus, home of the Gods and land of choral music and ground fog. The lizard men have long fangs and wear lizard costumes. The prisoners use a brilliant strategy to escape from them; they toss a musical dwarf into the sea. We also get to see Vulcan tote that dwarf around like a six-pack at one point. Still, I will admit that the dwarf is pretty handy with a club, even if he uses it primarily to hit people that are already down. Supposedly, the plan to attack Olympus involves building a tower tall enough to reach it, but even by the end of the movie they haven’t made much in the way of progress on it. It’s bizarrely plotted, full of howler lines, and ends with Jupiter laughing manically. This is a strange one.

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Virgin Witch (1972)

VIRGIN WITCH (1972)
Article #1625 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-26-2005
Posting Date: 1-23-2006
Directed by Ray Austin
Featuring Ann Michelle, Vicki Michelle, Keith Buckley

Two sisters run off to the big city. One gets hired by a modelling agency which is actually a front for a witch’s coven.

As stated above, the two sisters run off to the city, which requires they parade around in micro-mini-skirts. One sister applies for a modelling job, and naturally her interview requires that she strip naked for the lesbian head of the modelling agency. Both sisters go to a mansion for a photo shoot. This requires that the new model lounge around naked on the top of the car while the other one parades around in her micro-mini-skirt and be startled that creepy men leer at her. The model then is initiated into the witch’s coven, which requires that she strip naked and be rubbed with oils, and then everyone else strips naked for the orgy. It is at this point halfway through the movie that the truly inexplicable happens; the movie decides it has a plot, and the rest of the running time is largely devoted to the struggle of power between the new witch and the leader of the coven. It’s not really a great plot, but given the ubiquitous parade of female flesh that has passed for a movie up to this point, I was surprised that a story even existed. And the movie even somewhat abandons the constant parade of flesh to make way for the story, though not totally; after all, we have at least one more orgy before it’s all over with. As for me, I suppose something positive could be said about a movie that pulls itself up from the level of being a total waste of time to one that is only primarily a waste of time. Still, that’s hardly a recommendation, is it? For exploitation fans, or anyone who thinks that this movie sounds just like their cup of tea.

The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960)

THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA (1960)
(a.k.a. L’AMANTE DEL VAMPIRO)
Article #1624 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-25-2005
Posting Date: 1-22-2006
Directed by Renato Polselli
Featuring Helene Remy, Maria Luisa Rolando, Tina Gloriani

A troop of ballerinas has to contend with a vampire from a nearby castle.

Don’t confuse this one with THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE. That one is an Italian horror film from the early sixties about a troop of ballerinas being terrorized by a vampire in the form of Walter Brandi. This one, on the other hand, is – uh – an Italian horror film from the early sixties about a troop of ballerinas being terrorized by a vampire in the form of Walter Brandi. Of course, in the other film, the so-called ballerinas weren’t really ballerinas; once you saw them dancing, you knew that in reality they were burlesque showgirls. When they dance in this one, on the other hand, they remind you of – uh – burlesque showgirls (though at least these look a little bit like ballerinas). On second thought, go ahead and confuse the two movies; I don’t have a problem with that. Quality-wise, I would have a problem picking between them; they both came across as third-rate Euro-Horrors. The only real difference I could tell is that PLAYGIRLS was a little sleazier. There are probably more differences, but if it’s all the same with you, I’m not up to going back and watch the other movie to try to sort them out. Life is too short.

Renegade Satellite (1956)

RENEGADE SATELLITE (1956)
(a.k.a. THE TRIAL OF ROCKY JONES)
Article #1623 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-24-2005
Posting Date: 1-21-2006
Directed by Hollingsworth Morse
Featuring Richard Crane, Dayton Lummis, Sally Mansfield

When Rocky Jones lands on a neutral planet that doesn’t have extradition alliances with the other United Worlds, he finds himself framed for assault and piracy by old enemies.

Yes, it’s another feature film version of the Rocky Jones TV series, and I’m sure this was considered a ‘very special’ episode of the series in its day. One of the things I do like about the Rocky Jones series, though, is that certain non-regular characters reappear throughout the series, and this one features three-and-a-half old enemies of Rocky Jones; the half is the now-reformed space pirate Pinto Vortando from SILVER NEEDLE IN THE SKY. So what makes these episodes extra-special? When the trial begins, Ranger Biffen Cardoza (Rocky’s defense lawyer) discovers a law in the books that allows testimony about past events not directly connected to the issue at hand, and before you can say “clips episode”, we are treated to plenty of footage from previous Rocky Jones adventures—really, with an alternate title like THE TRIAL OF ROCKY JONES, I should have seen it coming. I’m sure I saw clips from at least four of the five movies I’ve covered so far. So, what does it say that I found this particularly entry in the Rocky Jones saga to be relatively fast-moving and fun, and consequently the most entertaining of the lot? I don’t know, but for me it was. On a side note, for those of you who like to shoot holes in old aphorisms, ask yourself how well the old saw “Crime Doesn’t Pay” holds up in this series when you consider that the formerly successful space pirate Pinto Vortando only becomes a penniless bum AFTER he gives up piracy and embraces law and order.

A Taste of Blood (1967)

A TASTE OF BLOOD (1967)
Article #1622 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-23-2005
Posting Date: 1-20-2006
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Featuring Bill Rogers, Elizabeth Wilkinson, William Kerwin

An American businessman, the sole descendant of Count Dracula, receives a shipment of two bottles of brandy from Carfax Abbey. This brandy is mingled with the blood of Dracula, and it turns the businessman into a vampire with the intention of taking vengeance on the descendants of those who destroyed Dracula.

Apparently, Herschell Gordon Lewis considered this movie his epic and his move into the mainstream. He also considers it a mistake, and I think I know what he means. It looks better than many of Lewis’s other films, the acting is on a higher level (thought still quite bad at times), the gore is pretty mild (for Lewis) and the story itself is fairly decent; in particular, I like the fact that it attempts to be a sequel to the original novel rather than a particular movie version of “Dracula”. The cheapness comes through in the usual ways; the sound is once again quite awful and the musical soundtrack is ghastly and repetitive. However, its worst problem is one that I haven’t run into before with Lewis’s movie, and that is that it’s way too long; after all, none of the movies I’ve covered of his have run more than ninety minutes, and he actually had to add footage to THE GRUESOME TWOSOME to get it up to an acceptable length. This one runs 117 minutes, and its turgid pacing really kills the movie. On a couple of side notes, the movie features a very rare appearance of Lewis himself as a cockney seamen (though with his accent, you’ll have to take his word he’s a Cockney), and one piece of advice I’d give to him is that the final chase sequence is the wrong time in a movie to introduce a new comic relief character. On the plus side, this movie beats the similarly titled TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA to the concept of becoming a vampire by drinking Dracula’s blood by three years.

THX 1138 (1971)

THX 1138 (1971)
Article #1621 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-22-2005
Posting Date: 1-19-2006
Directed by George Lucas
Featuring Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, Don Pedro Colley

In an oppressive future environment where sex is outlawed and drugs are mandatory, a man who has gotten his roommate pregnant finds himself at the mercy of the authorities.

Those who know Lucas’s science fiction work solely through the Star Wars movies may be caught off guard by this, his first full-length motion picture (based on a student film). Though it too is science fiction, it is a far cry from the serial-like thrills of his later series. Storywise, it’s a bit of a cross between “1984” and “Brave New World”, with a little big of THE GREAT ESCAPE thrown in for good measure (and it shares one cast member from that movie — namely, Donald Pleasence). The movie takes place in a bleak, depressing world, and it’s quite difficult to follow at times. However, it does have a great sense of style, and it makes you wonder about the other directions his career might have gone if STAR WARS hadn’t become the phenomenon it did. It’s well acted by all the principles, though I think Donald Pleasence’s character the most complex and fascinating. The director’s cut has what looks like a bit of tampering; there are some scenes involving ape-like creatures that I don’t think I’ve seen before and which look a too CGI-ish for the time in which the original movie was made. Still, I like some of the touches; the patter between the robot guards is amusing, and the fact that the pursuit of the escapees will only continue for as long as it doesn’t go more than five percent over the budget allotted to it; this is the kind of detail I just love in movies like this. The movie also features Don Pedro Colley, Maggie McOmie and Ian Wolfe in memorable roles, and Sid Haig has a great moment destroying a robot guard.

Thunderball (1965)

THUNDERBALL (1965)
Article #1620 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-21-2005
Posting Date: 1-18-2006
Directed by Terence Young
Featuring Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi

James Bond tries to discover who was responsible for the theft of two atomic bombs which are being held for ransom.

Because of their marginal science fiction elements, I will most likely be covering all of the James Bond movies sooner or later. The only real surprise I have so far is that this is only the second one I’ve covered, especially given the plethora of Italian knock-offs that have passed my way. Maybe it’s just as well; at heart, I don’t really enjoy covering these movies, largely because I’m in the minority opinion as far as these things go. In short, I’m not particularly partial to them; I don’t think they’re the coolest movies ever made, and I can’t think of a single moment in my life where I actually felt that a Bond movie would be just the right thing for me at that moment. To me, they seem like homogenized male fantasies of sex and violence put forth with a certain degree of shameless cockiness; they’re shallow (by design) but incredibly stylish. They’re certainly not badly made, and there are individual moments that are quite wonderful. Furthermore, because the fantasy does have a certain appeal, the movies can hold my interest for a little while, but I have yet to see one that really holds it for the length of the movie; somewhere at the halfway point, my attention starts to flag. Maybe if they were shorter…

At any rate, because the series doesn’t generate a strong reaction to me, I have trouble telling them apart; each one pretty much looks like the others to me. As a result, I find it difficult to comment on them. About my only real gauge of quality I have is to how good the villains and subvillains are, and on this level, this one is a bit of a disappointment. Adolfo Celi is mostly memorable for throwing people to the sharks and his eyepatch, and his hired thugs are singularly uninteresting compared to Oddjob. Yet at heart, I don’t think the movie works for me any less than some of the others, and the only real problem is that the underwater fight scenes do get particularly tiresome; I can only see so many scenes of spearguns going off before I nod off. If I have any hobby at all during these movies, it’s trying to see how many different actors end up playing Felix Leiter at one time or another during the series.