The Erotic Three (1969)

aka Scratch Harry
Article 1800 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-17-2006
Posting Date: 7-17-2006
Directed by Alex Matter
Featuring Christine Kelly, Harry Walker Staff, Victoria Wilde

A rich woman catches her philandering husband in the act, and concocts a plan for vengeance. However, she is caught unprepared when he responds with a plan of his own…

The title would have you believe that this is a skin-drenched piece of erotica for late night viewing, and most of the plot descriptions I’ve seen would leave you to believe the same. Well, despite the presence of some sex scenes, that’s not what this is, and those viewing the movie with that expectation will feel cheated. The opening commentary in the movie describes itself as an “amphetamine fantasy”; well, having never taken amphetamines, I can’t attest to this one way or another, but it explains all the really arty sequences. No, what this movie really is is your basic thriller about a dysfunctional married couple whose relationship turns deadly when the husband can’t pay off a debt to the mob and is forced to go to desperate means to get money. The fantastic content is embodied by the strange bespectacled character who hangs around the house unseen by the other characters but visible to us; you’ll probably figure out who he is, and once you do, you’ll have an idea on how the movie will end. The characters are unpleasant and the movie has a plethora of dull stretches, but it’s still a little better than I thought it was going to be, largely due to some touches of humor and the occasional decent plot twist. Still, it’s not really worth the time.

Terror Beneath the Sea (1966)

Article 1799 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-16-2006
Posting Date: 7-16-2006
Directed by Hajime Sato
Featuring Sonny Chiba, Peggy Neal, Franz Gruber

When a strange vision of a swimming creature is seen by two reporters during a test of guided torpedos, they decide to investigate, and are captured by underwater fish-men and kept prisoner in an underwater city.

Director Hajime Sato only worked on a handful of movies, but he appears to be something of a cult item. I suspect this may be due to his last film, the queasy, nihilistic GOKE BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL. I’m not really impressed with this one from a year earlier; it’s loaded with cliches, the gillman-on-a-budget suits are pretty cheesy, the make-up is awful, and some of the acting is painful. Though it’s tempting to attribute the last problem to bad dubbing, the fact of the matter is that much of the cast seems to be speaking English already; certainly, Peggy Neal doesn’t appear to be dubbed at all. It’s her performance that I really dislike in the movie, but I’m not sure it’s her fault; she has one of those characters that I simply find too annoying for words. She is useless in any tense situation, screams at everything, complains that when she isn’t believed that she’s being dismissed as a hysterical female (and then acts the role through the entire movie), and when she undergoes the first step to transform her into one of the underwater cyborgs, what seems to traumatize her most is that she’s not beautiful anymore. Even when the movie pulls the old Who-Shot-The-Gun fakeout (if you don’t know what this cliche is from my name for it, you will when you see it), it’s not even her at the trigger. Sonny Chiba would go on to fame as The Street Fighter in a series of martial arts films.

Mission Stardust (1967)

aka …4 …3 …2 …1 …morte, Perry Rhodan – SOS aus dem Weltall
Article 1798 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-15-2006
Posting Date: 7-15-2006
Directed by Primo Zeglio
Featuring Lang Jeffries, Essy Persson, Luis Davila

Perry Rhodan leads a team of astronauts that goes to the moon. There they discover a spaceship from another planet and its inhabitants; an ancient civilization that is dying.

I remember seeing quite a few Perry Rhodan novels at a local book store when I was a kid, and I was toying with the idea of picking one up some day, but I never did. As such, this is my first encounter with Perry Rhodan, and if the user comments on IMDB are any indication, this is hardly true to the original stories. In this movie, he’s your basic hero with a sense of humor and a way with women, but that’s a pretty standard character. The movie is on the cheesy side, but it’s enjoyable in a light-hearted way, and I have to admit that I’m a sucker for that hairstyle sported by Essy Persson, which compensates somewhat for the fact that her snotty attitude gets old fairly quickly. Most of the action takes place in Africa, and this adds a little exotic feel to the proceedings. I’m betting that this was supposed to kick off a series that never followed.

The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964)

Article 1797 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-14-2006
Posting Date: 7-14-2006
Directed by Del Tenney
Featuring Helen Warren, Roy Scheider, Margot Hartman

When a man with a dread fear of being buried alive dies, his relatives gather at his estate. It is then discovered that he left instructions in his will for each heir outlining several tasks to be performed by each one, all of which are then neglected. Each heir begins to die one by one.

For what it’s worth, this is Del Tenney’s best feature film; it’s certainly the most professional looking as well. In fact, it looks like it’s going to be pretty good at first; then one of the actors begins to speak and the illusion is shattered. Basically, it’s a cross between THE PREMATURE BURIAL and the whole “Old Dark House” genre, with a skulking figure in black, secret passages, villains watching people through the eyes of paintings, etc. It does get a little more outdoor action than most of those movies ususally do. The movie is so bluntly contrived at times that it’s amusing on this level alone; each heir has a task that they fail to perform, and each heir has a special fear that the villain uses as a means of disposing of them, and one can almost see the the boxes on a checklist being marked off.

One thing that did strike me is how old-fashioned the movie was in some ways, while being quite modern in others. The gore and sex aspects of the movie were certainly up-to-date in 1964, but the skulking cloaked figure, the whole “old dark house” plot, and the comic relief all seem to belong to another era. In particular, the comic relief characters feel like throwbacks to the thirties. This aspect would also pop up in Tenney’s HORROR OF PARTY BEACH; remember Eulabelle the maid? The movie also features the only other movie appearance of Candace Hilligoss (from CARNIVAL OF SOULS ), and the feature film debut of Roy Scheider, and I found it rather strange to hear him spouting some of the heightened, flowery dialogue he was given as I’m so used to seeing him work in a much more realistic mode; nonetheless, he gives perhaps the best performance in the movie.

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

Article 1796 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-13-2006
Posting Date: 7-13-2006
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Featuring Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent

A giant super-computer built for the defense of the United States hooks up to a similar computer in the Soviet Union. They combine forces to place mankind under their control.

This is perhaps the best of the evil supercomputer movies I’ve seen so far. It’s certainly one of the most intelligent, but I think that its best quality may be that it is so sneaky. In some ways, Colossus doesn’t seem quite as big a threat as he is; certainly, he is underestimated by everyone, including his creator, and it is this failure to take proper measure of its foe that spells disaster for mankind. There are a number of interesting points to the movie. I think it is significant that the computers in this movie were designed for defense, because one of the ironies is that a machine designed to release us from fear ends up being a thing to be feared itself. I like some of the other touches, such as the fact that in dealing with the Russians, the movie decides to have interpreters present rather than having everyone speak English. For me, the movie’s most chilling moment when the computer announces the execution of two programmers followed immediately by the next move in a chess game he is playing with his creator. I don’t recognize most of the cast members, but William Schallert is instantly recognizable, and it is interesting to note that both Robert Cornthwaite and Paul Frees (as the voice of Colossus) appeared together in that earlier science fiction classic, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD .

Jack the Ripper (1959)

Article 1795 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-12-2006
Posting Date: 7-12-2006
Directed by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman
Featuring Lee Patterson, Eddie Byrne, Betty McDowall

A serial killer called Jack the Ripper is loose in London, and the police try to discover the identity of the killer.

The trailer for this movie tries to make it sound like it was going to be an accurate account of the Jack the Ripper story; still, even the trailer made it look as if the movie was more fictional fabrication than fact. This feeling was backed up by the fact that the movie is based on a story rather than true events. Those looking for a reenactment of the Ripper events had best turn elsewhere. As a fictionalized version of true events, it is entertaining enough, though, Apparently, the movie was considered somewhat controversial, and I think that is because there is a certain degree of savagery that comes through even when the movie isn’t explicit. As for the killer, there are a number of suspects to wonder about, from the troublemaker who wants to torture anyone he suspects is the Ripper to the mute hunchback to the doctor who performs the post-mortems on the victims. There is about one second of color footage towards the end of the movie. Oddly enough, the movie did poorly in the US, despite the fact that it was given heavy promotion and saturation booking.

Count Dracula’s Great Love (1972)

aka Dracula’s Great Love, El Gran amor del conde Dracula
Article 1794 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-11-2006
Posting Date: 7-11-2006
Directed by Javier Aguirre
Featuring Jacinto Molina (Paul Naschy), Haydee Politoff, Rosanna Yanni

Several travelers find themselves stranded at the castle of Count Dracula, and soon, people are being attacked by vampires….

Yes, it’s another Paul Naschy film. It’s not as good as INQUISITION , but it’s worlds better than FURY OF THE WOLFMAN ; even in its badly dubbed state, it’s easier to follow. It’s heavy on the exploitation; there are lots of heaving bosoms, draped and undraped, and one could argue that their regular day attire for the females in the cast were a lot more revealing than their nighties. Somebody once pointed out to me that, in a Paul Naschy film, all the women have the hots for him, and certainly, there’s two of them here. My own observation is that Naschy seems to have the desire to play both the monster and the hero in his movies. This, of course, explains why El Hombre Lobo was his favorite character; he could make his human form the hero, and on nights of the full moon he’d be the monster. But how do you handle that in a vampire movie? After all, Dracula himself is the monster, and the hero is the person who would stake Dracula and kill the other vampires. So how does Naschy manage that? Don’t worry; he does.

The Horrors of Burke and Hare (1972)

aka Burke and Hare
Article 1793 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-10-2006
Posting Date: 7-10-2006
Directed by Vernon Sewell
Featuring Derren Nesbitt, Harry Andrews, Glynn Edwards

Two lower class men decide to augment their incomes by selling a dead body to a medical doctor. Deciding that this is a profitable enterprise, they continue to do so, only taking the extra step of using murder to create the supply.

This movie opens with a rock group called the Scaffold singing a somewhat comic song about Burke and Hare; I would love to know who’s in this group, because one of the background vocalists sounds an awful lot like Vivian Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Band. The song should clue you into the way this movie is going to approach the Burke and Hare story – as a bawdy comedy! And when I say bawdy, I mean bawdy; much of the story dwells on the goings-on in a nearby brothel, where we see many naked women cavorting with their customers. This alone pushes the movie into exploitation territory; but somehow, I like it well enough, largely due to some interesting dialogue and energetic direction from Vernon Sewell, whose credits include THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR and CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR; this would be his last directorial effort. The performances are also fun; in particular, Harry Andrews gives a memorable performance as Dr. Knox, who wears an eyepatch and regales his friends with off-color jokes. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, as I wasn’t expecting much.

NOTE: I have tracked down that at least one member of the Scaffold worked with Vivian Stanshall on occasion.

Angel on the Amazon (1948)

aka Drums Along the Amazon
Article 1792 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-9-2006
Posting Date: 7-9-2006
Directed by John H. Auer
Featuring George Brent, Vera Ralston, Brian Aherne

In the jungle, a man meets a mysterious woman hunter who disappears shortly after their meeting. He meets her again at a horse race, and tries to strike up a relationship with her, but she has a terrible secret…

Given the title, I fully expected that I was about to endure another Double-Stuffed Safari-O, probably about a beautiful White Goddess. I began to suspect that this was going to be somewhat better early on, when the movie opens with the mysterious woman fearlessly killing an attacking panther; this scene was directed with a much greater amount of suspense and tension than I was used to for a jungle movie. This feeling persisted into the movie, with unusually sharp dialogue (especially the lines written for Constance Bennett’s character) and some strong moments of suspense (in particular, an attack by a wounded black panther is incredibly tense). In fact, except for flashbacks, the last two thirds of the movie don’t take place in the jungle at all. In reality, this is a romantic drama, and a fairly moving one. There is definitely fantastic content to the movie as well, but other than pointing out that the movie bears a certain similarity to BLACK OXEN , I’m not going to elaborate on the nature of the mysterious woman’s secret. The movie has a few problems; the middle section is rather dull, and Vera Ralston really isn’t a strong enough actress to bring her character completely to life, but despite this, it’s a strong movie, and the ending is quite moving. This one was a definite and welcome surprise, and is recommended.

The Tenth Victim (1965)

aka La Decima vittima
Article 1791 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-8-2006
Posting Date: 7-8-2006
Directed by Elio Petri
Featuring Marcello Mastrioianni, Ursula Andress, Elsa Martinelli

In the future, people can sign up for a hunt game. They can win a million dollars if they win ten rounds, five of which have them hunting another person, the other five of which they are the hunted. This is the story of one hunter and one victim.

This is one of that subgenre of movies about violent futuristic sports movies where the sport in question is usually fatal to the loser. Movies like THE RUNNING MAN, ROLLERBALL and DEATH RACE 2000 all belong somewhat to this genre, but none of them are quite as unique, clever, or disarmingly charming as this one. It’s a duel to the death as romantic comedy, and it is frankly hilarious as Ursula Andress (as the Hunter) and Marcello Mastroianni (as the Victim) try to kill each other while falling in love at the same time. The killing is hampered by contractual obligations; both sides have decided to maximize their profits by agreeing to endorse products so that the resulting kill can be used in an advertising campaign. Despite the undertone of dark satire, this movie has as light a touch as any movie by Rene Clair, and both Andress and Mastroianni are so charming in their respective roles that I found the movie utterly irresistible. Compared to it, movies like DEATH RACE 2000 are heavy-handed and obvious. And I laughed more than once at some of the scenes, my favorite being a long complaint being made by a hunter about all the restrictions about where you can kill people in Rome (no hospitals, for example). The movie was based on a short story by Robert Sheckley.