Voodoo Tiger (1952)

VOODOO TIGER (1952)
Article 1897 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-25-2006
Posting Date: 10-22-2006
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet
Featuring Johnny Weissmuller, Jean Byron, James Seay

Jungle Jim has to contend with headhunters who worship tigers, a Nazi in hiding with a large stash of art, some greedy white men, and a tiger that escaped from a crashed airplane.

Why are the natives in Africa worshiping a tiger? Well, the movie may be smart enough to ask the question, and it may be smart enough to bring in a tiger from outside, but it’s really not smart enough to answer the question. Not that it really matters that much; maybe it’s just me, but, despite the fact that the movie tries to throw everything it can at me jungle-wise, my only impression was one of enduring another routine jungle movie. It’s the kind of movie that cuts away from a potentially exciting scene (Jungle Jim fighting a lion in a cage) to show us what antics Cheeta (pardon me, Tamba) is getting into. Quite frankly, I’ve been here before, and I’ve been here under much more interesting circumstances. A few exciting scenes stand out here and there, but not enough to compensate for the overall dreariness of this one.

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Le Corbeau (1943)

LE CORBEAU (1943)
aka The Raven
Article 1896 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-24-2006
Posting Date: 10-21-2006
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Featuring Pierre Fresnay, Ginette Leclerc, Micheline Francey

A small town is plagued by an onslaught of poison pen letters signed by someone called The Raven, most of which target a doctor who is suspected of performing abortions.

Try as I might, I can’t really bring myself to classify this mystery / drama as belonging to any of the fantastic genres. Yes, it deals with the theme of madness, and one character is slightly crippled (deformities are often used in horror films), but neither of these aspects of the story are used in any way to suggest horror. Of the sources I have been using to compile my hunt list, only the Lentz guide lists this movie, and I suspect he may have been taken in by its translated title. After all, I’ve covered three other films also called THE RAVEN, and though all three are quite different (Universal horror Lugosi/Karloff vehicle , AIP fantasy comedy , and silent Poe biopic ), all of them do use the Poe poem as a source of inspiration. This one has nothing to do with Poe, but I can understand how someone seeing the title THE RAVEN on something would automatically assume a connection.

Nonetheless, this is a very good movie. It was made during the German occupation of France, and the film was condemned both by the Nazis and the French, as well as the Catholic church. Clouzot would be banned from the film industry for two years for making movies under the Nazi regime, though this movie is hardly pro-Nazi. In fact, one of the political interpretations of the film is that the fear caused by the poison-pen letters was very similar to the fear of being under Nazi control during this period. The movie will leave you guessing as to the identity of the title character, and I was able to notice a certain similarity to LES DIABOLIQUES , which should come as no surprise, as Clouzot also directed that movie. All in all, a sad, powerful and fascinating film.

Lash of the Penitentes (1937)

LASH OF THE PENITENTES (1937)
aka The Penitente Murder Case
Article 1895 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-23-2006
Posting Date: 10-20-2006
Directed by Roland Price and Harry Revier
Featuring Marie DeForrest, William Marcos, Victor Justi

A writer investigates a cult of Penitentes in New Mexico.

The cast list above is questionable; though they may have appeared in the movie as it originally appeared, only about half of the footage survives, and what does survive does not include a nude scene that was rare for that time. Still, exploitation fans will probably have a use for this one; it mostly consists of documentary footage of the Penitente self-flagellation cult going about their business, and some of the footage is quite bloody. Still, I’m not sure that this really qualifies as a horror movie; if it does, than I’ll probably be covering stuff like MONDO CANE sometime in the future. It’s quite possible; at least one of the goals of horror is to shock, and there’s no doubt that to most of us, this is pretty shocking. Still, it does make you wonder just what kind of frame of mind you’d have to be in to be a member of this cult.

Incidentally, the Penitentes don’t treat chickens all that well either.

Bombs Over London (1937)

BOMBS OVER LONDON (1937)
aka Midnight Menace
Article 1894 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-22-2006
Posting Date: 10-19-2006
Directed by Sinclair Hill
Featuring Charles Farrell, Margaret Vyner, Fritz Kortner

Whan a political reporter dies in what may or may not be an accident, the politcal cartoonist of his paper begins investigating on his own. He plants his only clue (the word SASKA) in a political cartoon, and then begins to suspect that one of the members of a Peace Conference may be up to something shady.

The fantastic content of this movie is that certain people have developed a way to remotely pilot airplanes. I’ve run into this concept before; it’s almost invariably used in the standard spy plot, where the allies develop the weapon, claim it will guarantee peace, and then the rest of the movie is about them trying to keep the secrets out of the hands of spies. That is, in fact, what I expected when I went into this. Fortunately, nothing like that is going on here. Instead, we get a fairly clever political thriller in which a man, angry at the abuses he underwent during the last war, is trying to start another one by manipulating the outcome of a peace conference and staging a bombing attack on London. It’s quite clever at times; in particular, I like the fact that our hero gets his information by planting clues in his political cartoons designed to flush out the enemies. The movie is a bit confusing at times, but it really is a unique thriller, and very enjoyable. Fritz Kortner makes for a great villain, and he even garners a bit of sympathy when he tells about the events that brought him to this pass. The remote control planes are used in the final sequence in the movie where London is bombed, and if the special effects are a little on the weak side here, it does well to remember that this was before England had access to all that stock footage from the Blitz; in this sense, the movie itself was just a little prophetic. I was quite pleased with this one.

Liliom (1934)

LILIOM (1934)
Article 1893 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-21-2006
Posting Date: 10-18-2006
Directed by Fritz Lang
Featuring Charles Boyer, Madeleine Ozeray, Florelle

A young woman falls in love with a charismatic but brutish carnival man.

Forget CAROUSEL and the 1930 version of this movie; when I want to experience this one, I’m going with this version, even if my copy is in unsubtitled French. Why? Two words: Fritz Lang. With him at the helm, the story is a rich cinematic experience; many of the scenes are fascinating even if you don’t know understand the language, and some of them tell their parts of the story so well, language is unnecessary. The opening scene is just an example; the visuals, acting, body language and facial expressions are so vivid and informative you know exactly what’s going on in the scene. Another plus is Charles Boyer; to date, he is the only person I’ve seen in the Liliom role who brings it to life; just watching his reactions to various events makes the movie a joy, especially the scene where he learns that he’s going to be a father (which, I must admit, I was only able to figure out because I’ve seen other versions of the story). Lang doesn’t stint on the darkness of the story, which is a good thing, but he also pays attention to the romantic underpinnings of it all. He also remains the only director who has handled the movie with such aplomb that I’m willing to overlook my main objection to the story, which is that it comes a little too close romanticizing abusive behavior for my liking. It helps that we see Liliom’s own reaction to seeing himself slap Julie in flashback (during the afterlife sequence, the reason this movie qualifies for this series), and it also helps that when they get to the “slap that felt like a kiss” line, it’s in French so I don’t really know what’s being said. Maybe this is my way of saying that ignorance is bliss, and if it is, so be it. Still, I think I’d like this version of the movie with subtitles just as well. And the scene with the lawyer trying to stamp the papers is hilarious in any language.

The Intruder (1933)

THE INTRUDER (1933)
Article 1892 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-20-2006
Posting Date: 10-17-2006
Directed by Albert Ray
Featuring Lila Lee, Monte Blue, Gwen Lee

A murder of a diamond thief occurs onboard a ship. When a detective gathers together the suspects, the investigation is interrupted by the sinking of the ship. The detective, the suspects, and some crew members all end up stranded on an island with a roving gorilla and a wild man.

This one is just plain weird. It’s trying to be a mystery, but the whole desert island sequence distracts from the main story. I don’t know who’s in the gorilla outfit on this one, but except for a sequence where he inadvertently saves the lives of the two women by distracting their captor, he plays little part in the action. The scene stealer in this one are Mischa Auer as the Wild Man who keeps the skeletons of his wife and a man he hates (her lover?) in his cave; at one particularly weird scene, the wild man, in a fit of anger, pulls a knife and begins attacking the skeleton of his enemy; though it makes me wonder how he interacts with the skeleton of his wife, I’m glad they didn’t bother to show it. Arthur Housman is also a bit of fun as the comic relief character, a drunken smartass. It’s enjoyable enough in its own strange way, but don’t get hung up on trying to follow the mystery too much.

Der Hund von Baskerville (1936)

DER HUND VON BASKERVILLE (1936)
aka The Hound of the Baskervilles
Article 1891 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2006
Posting Date: 10-16-2006
Directed by Carl Lamac
Featuring Peter Voss, Friedrich Kayssler, Alice Brandt

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson investigate reports of the return of a monstrous hound that has killed Lord Charles Baskerville and threatens the life of Lord Henry Baskerville.

This particular Sherlock Holmes novel must have been extraordinarily popular in Germany; I have several German versions of the movie on my hunt list, though this is the only one of them to become available to me. The movie also has a bit notoriety as being one of two films found by the Allies in Adolf Hitler’s bunker, a circumstance which may play into the fact that the movie has a lowly 1.6 rating on IMDB, a fate that the movie really doesn’t deserve, as it seems to be a fairly competent stab at the story. Granted, I can only tell so much; my version is in unsubtitled German, and it is largely my familiarity with the story (having read the book a few times and seen a couple of other screen versions of the story) that helped me to follow along. Holmes and Watson are played by Bruno Guttner and Fritz Odemar respectively, and it’s a little odd they don’t get top billing. Of course, the story does present a bit of a problem for Holmes fans anyway in that Holmes is absent from the action for a good half of the story, and that problem is compounded here by the fact that the first third of the movie is focused almost entirely on the birth of the legend (with the hound’s attack on Lord Hugo), the death of Lord Charles, and the secret of the Barrymores. The latter details would definitely have been better had it been incorporated into the main story, as it loses some of the mystery by revealing the details this early in the proceedings. Still, this appears to be a decent version of the story.

***NOTE*** Since I first wrote this review, the average rating for this movie on IMDB has risen to 3.8. Better, but still, hardly a respectable rating.