Stolen Face (1952)

STOLEN FACE (1952)
Article 2076 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-20-2006
Posting Date: 4-19-2007
Directed by Terence Fisher
Featuring Paul Henreid, Lizabeth Scott, Andre Morell

A plastic surgeon, in love with a woman promised to another, undertakes to perform plastic surgery on a deformed female criminal and gives her the face of the woman he loves.

This movie is anchored by a good performance from Lizabeth Scott in a dual role as both the object of the doctor’s affection and as the criminal whose face he reconstructs and whom he marries. Paul Henreid also does fine as the surgeon. Nonetheless, I wasn’t very impressed with the movie. It does surprise me that it didn’t quite go in the direction I expected, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with where it did go. Part of the problem is that the movie never really does anything significant with its central gimmick; even though the fact that the doctor does this act gives us a glimpse inside the doctor’s psyche, he’s not really that interesting enough a character for this to be truly effective. The only other use the movie makes of its concept is that one of the two women gains information through being mistaken for the other one, but with some very minor plot changes, they could have gotten the information in other ways. Take away the central gimmick, and there’s really nothing more here than a rather ordinary romantic melodrama. The ending, though an example of poetic justice, is also a little too pat for my taste.

 

Omoo-Omoo The Shark God (1949)

OMOO-OMOO THE SHARK GOD (1949)
Article 2075 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-19-2006
Posting Date: 4-18-2007
Directed by Leon Leonard
Featuring Ron Randell, Devera Burton, Richard Benedict

A captain, having hidden two black pearls that were used as the eyes of Omoo-Omoo the Shark God, finds himself under a curse as a result.

I’m not sure how true this story is to the Herman Melville novel from which it was derived, but it feels like a pretty conventional south seas flick to me. It’s mildly entertaining, I suppose, but it’s also thoroughly run-of-the-mill. Still, a few items of notice.

1) There are no sharks in this movie. Now I know that it’s not supposed to be about sharks (just a shark god), but I don’t think it’s asking too much that a movie about a shark god should have sharks as well. There are also no cows, despite the fact that you can hear “moo” twice in the title, but, to be honest, I didn’t really expect any.

2) I find it hard to believe that Omoo-Omoo would curse people; he has such a big smile on his face, it’s kind of like getting hexed by Santa Claus. Granted, I don’t think a curse that seems to make its sufferers less likely to return the black pearls (among other symptoms, sufferers seem to get greedier and more selfish) is particularly effective.

3) I suppose stock footage of a fight between a moray eel and an octopus is appropriate for a south seas epic. However, I couldn’t help but notice that during the fight (which is witnessed by two people on a ship looking down into the water), the octopus constantly puts his suckers on the side of the aquarium where the real battle took place. So much for the illusion.

 

The Mutations (1974)

THE MUTATIONS (1974)
Article 2074 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-18-2006
Posting Date: 4-17-2007
Directed by Jack Cardiff
Featuring Donald Pleasence, Tom Baker, Brad Harris

A scientist experiments with crossing animal and plant life on human beings; he dumps his failures into a freak show, one of whose members (a sufferer from acromegaly) he enlists as a henchman by promising him he will cure him of his deformity.

Perhaps the oddest thing about this cross between FREAKS and any number of mad scientist movies (for some reason, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE came to mind while watching this) is that it seems somewhat out of its time for the year it was made; most horror movies of the mid seventies were more interested in witchcraft and demonic possession, and an old-fashioned monster movie (which this primarily is) was an anomaly. It borrows heavily from FREAKS for the subplot about the freak show, and, like that movie, it uses real freaks for most of the movie’s freaks; the main exceptions are the monsters produced by the scientist, and the acromegalic Lynch (played by “Doctor Who’s”‘ Tom Baker, wearing a costume that looks actually fairly close to the one he wore in the series). Somehow, I think it’s rather interesting that the freak who rejects the fellowship of his comrades is the one played by an actor in make-up (it looks somewhat similar to that used by John Hurt in THE ELEPHANT MAN) rather than a true-life freak. The movie manages to work up a decent amount of pathos for the freaks, though much of it is due to the its borrowings from FREAKS, though the scene where Lynch seeks out a prostitute and has to pay her extra to get her to tell him she loves him is original to this one. The mad scientist plot is standard, but the movie benefits from an interesting cast; outside of the aforementioned Baker, the movie also features Donald Pleasence as the scientist (who lovingly strokes his rabbits before feeding them to a hokey carnivorous plant with a really big chin), sword-and-sandal star Brad Harris, Norwegian bombshell Julie Ege, and the great Michael Dunn, who leads the freaks but is bullied and intimated by Lynch; he was a great actor, and his facial expressions are sometimes heartbreaking. This would be one of his last roles.

 

Finian’s Rainbow (1968)

FINIAN’S RAINBOW (1968)
Article 2073 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-17-2006
Posting Date: 4-16-2007
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Featuring Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele

An Irishman comes to the small town of Rainbow Valley to bury a pot of gold (stolen from a leprachaun) near Fort Knox, in the hope that it will produce more gold. He ends up having to contend with his nemesis, the leprechaun who wants his pot of gold back and is slowly turning mortal, and a corrupt senator who is trying to seize the land in the town.

This movie was based on a 1947 Broadway musical that took twenty years to finally make it to the silver screen; this was due to the fact that those studios who were interested in adapting it to the screen wanted to make changes to the story (the themes of racism were ahead of their time and considered too hot to handle), but the writers held out until a faithful version could be made. By the time the movie was made, the themes were no longer controversial, but time had also rendered some of it quaint and a little dated.

Nevertheless, I found the movie thoroughly enjoyable. The opening scenes in which Fred Astaire and Petula Clark are seen walking against a backdrop of beautiful landscapes and famous sites (including the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore) are a form of cinematic magic that fires the imagination and prepares one for the magical events that follow. Fred Astaire was in his late sixties at the time, and even though he keeps his dancing quite simple, he still remains light on his feet and engaging throughout. The movie is also filled with top-notch songs and people who can actually sing (two things that DOCTOR DOLITTLE could have used), with Petula Clark and Don Francks performing beautifully, but Tommy Steele (as the leprechaun) doesn’t always manage to keep on the right side of annoying. Barbara Hancock is wonderful as a deaf and dumb girl (who communicates through dance, an appropriate conceit for a musical). Keenan Wynn almost steals the movie (he would have if Fred Astaire hadn’t been present) as the racist, pompous Senator who is turned black to learn the other side of his racist ways; unfortunately, his makeup is not particularly convincing in many of the scenes. The use of language is stunning in this movie; you can hear the music of the Irish lilt, and it is loaded with memorable lines. It’s a bit too long, though, and the plot gets confused at times, but there’s a lot of real magic here, and it’s become one of my favorite movie musicals.

 

License to Kill (1964)

LICENSE TO KILL (1964)
aka NICK CARTER VA TOUT CASSER
Article 2072 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-16-2006
Posting Date: 4-15-2007
Directed by Henri Decoin
Featuring Eddie Constantine, Daphne Dayle, Paul Frankeur

A scientist hires Nick Carter to protect his invention (a machine that uses a small flying saucer to destroy things) from Chinese spies.

Don’t let the title fool you; this movie is not one of the rash of James Bond clones that appeared in the mid-to-late sixties. No, this movie owes much more to detective B movies, mysteries, and yellow peril movies from the thirties and forties. The only time I’ve really had a chance to encounter Eddie Constantine before this was in ALPHAVILLE, and I suspect that that movie (having been dominated by director Jean Luc-Godard) didn’t really represent his oeuvre very well. In this one he is thoroughly charming. Part of it may be that this is the first time I’ve heard him use his own voice for the English dubbing, which is wonderful for the part. The movie has a naive don’t-take-it-too-seriously charm about it, and is filled with fun elements from old mystery and detective movies; Nick Carter has a jealous secretary and a dim-witted assistant, the plot involves a locked door mystery at one point, there’s lots of gadgetry (Carter’s watch dial is able to burn through ropes), and it even can’t resist ending the movie with a parting joke reminiscent of movies from an earlier era. Best of all are the fights; they’re hardly convincing, but they’re hilarious, as Nick Carter dispatches gangs of assailants with unflappable ease. My favorite moment in the latter is where he encounters a series of killers with machine guns who, despite the fact that their weapons are spurting out lead at an incredible rate, never hit a target and are dispatched with one shot of Carter’s pistol. Taken seriously, the movie is hard to swallow; take it as a comedy, and it’s great fun. Recommended.

 

The Legend of Blood Castle (1973)

THE LEGEND OF BLOOD CASTLE (1973)
aka THE FEMALE BUTCHER, CEREMONIA SANGRIENTA
Article 2071 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-15-2006
Posting Date: 4-14-2007
Directed by Jorge Grau
Featuring Lucia Bose, Espartaco Santoni, Ewa Aulin

A countess discovers that bathing in the blood of maidens can restore her youth. Her husband (who pretends to be a vampire) supplies her with the maidens to allow her to do this.

This movie is filled with interesting ideas and fascinating moments. I like the character of the marquess, who is quite dismissive of the vampire legend. I also liked the character of the housekeeper, whose sinister presence goes a long way towards leading the marquesa down her path. I also like the scenes where a vampire (already staked and consequently unable to defend himself) is put on trial for his crimes (his corpse in attendance), and the firing of the servants once the marquess and marquesa have begun their evil ways. Still, I’m less impressed with the presentation, much of which may be due to the dubbing; most of the actors sound bored out of their skulls, and my interest level dips quite low on occasion. My version runs about 85 minutes, which is a good 17 minutes short of the complete version, which may make a significant difference in the proceedings. The ending moment is, however, truly memorable.

 

Future Woman (1969)

FUTURE WOMAN (1969)
aka THE SEVEN SECRETS OF SUMURU
Article 2070 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-16-2006
Posting Date: 4-13-2007
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Shirley Eaton, Richard Wyler, George Sanders

A man who is believed to be in possession of a suitcase with a large amount of money in it is being pursued by both a crime boss and a cabal of women who plan to take over the world.

Anyone who has followed my reviews up to this point knows that I’m not big fan of Jesus Franco, but given that I’m destined to encounter a huge number of his movies, I’ve decided to make every effort to give him a fair shake. I’ve seen enough of his work that I know that the times I’m least impressed by his work is when he engages in action thrillers, and the last time I encountered his name in tandem with that of Sax Rohmer’s was in THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, which I found intensely dull. This is just more of the same. It is here that I find his somewhat detached style becomes positively sleep-inducing, and I get the impression that far more time was spent on the costumes of the female characters than was spent on acting, pace, story and tightening up the action sequences. Even the presence of George Sanders doesn’t do a thing to bring this one to life, probably because he looks a little embarrassed whenever he’s on the screen. The fantastic element is the presence of some lame spy-style gadgetry, particularly some ineffective torture devices in the possession of the villainess.