The Madness of Dr. Tube (1915)

THE MADNESS OF DR. TUBE (1915)
aka LA FOLIE DU DOCTEUR TUBE
Article 2066 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-10-2006
Posting Date: 4-9-2007
Directed by Abel Gance
Featuring Albert Dieudonne

A mad scientist develops a powder that distorts everything around him. He uses it on a dog, his assistant, himself, and two pairs of young lovers.

How mad is he? After a few minutes of his eye-rolling, you won’t be making bets on his sanity. Basically, it’s a one-note joke – most of the movie looks like it was shot through a fun house mirror – but it’s a fun and visually interesting one, rather similar to Abel Gance’s later AU SECOURS! in technique, though the latter has a better story.

 

The Fifth Cord (1971)

THE FIFTH CORD (1971)
aka GIORNATA NERA PER L’AREITE
Article 2065 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-9-2006
Posting Date: 4-8-2007
Directed by Luigi Bazzoni
Featuring Franco Nero, Silvia Monti, Wolfgang Preiss

An alcoholic reporter finds himself a suspect in a series of murders of people he knows. The killer leaves a glove at each killing, with a finger removed for each successive victim.

For those who like watching giallos for the gore, disappointment awaits them here, as it is a relatively (but not totally) bloodless example of the form. However, those who get into the style, the mystery and the suspense should like this one. Franco Nero gives a good performance as the alcoholic reporter, though I do think his character is a bit more unpleasant than is necessary for the story. The dubbing is pretty good here as well, and it really builds up a good deal of suspense near the end where the killer chooses a child for his next victim. All in all, this is an enjoyable giallo.

 

Jack and the Beanstalk (1902)

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (1902)
Article 2064 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-8-2006
Posting Date: 4-7-2007
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
Featuring Thomas White

Jack trades his cow for magic beans, which grow into a giant beanstalk which he climbs to encounter a giant.

Apparently, Edwin S. Porter used to pirate Melies films for the Edison film company, and would study them closely to figure out how he pulled off his special effects techniques. Here he applies them to his own movie, and he turned out to be an excellent student. Porter’s movies avoid the clutter that occasionally makes some of Melies’ films difficult to follow, and so this one is easy to understand. It is quite amusing, with lots of cinematic tricks (and some not so cinematic – I’m looking at you, guys in the cow outfit). Once again, our giant is just a really tall guy, but he carries one of those neat spiked clubs, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I also couldn’t help but notice that when Jack climbs down the beanstalk clutching the chicken that lays the golden eggs, there’s no way he can gracefully hold that chicken so as to allow it to retain its dignity. The last scene is beautiful.

 

Invisible Thief (1909)

INVISIBLE THIEF (1909)
aka L’HOMME INVISIBLE
Article 2063 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-7-2006
Posting Date: 4-6-2007
Directed by Ferndinand Zecca
Featuring an unknown cast

A man picks up a copy of H. G. Wells’s novel, and decides that he can make himself invisible as well. He does so, and uses his power for robbery.

Adventures in Movie-Watching: The biggest problem with going through Don Willis’ first edition of “Horror and Science Fiction Films” is that it is so chock-full of unknown early silent titles (most of which are no doubt lost to the world as well) that on the day of this writing, it took me a good two hours of going through the book until I found a movie to watch that I happened to have in my collection. The trouble is – I’m not sure it’s the right movie. Let me explain – Don Willis lists a movie called INVISIBLE THIEF, a 1909 movie from Pathe that might have been directed by Ferdinand Zecca (he has a question after the name). My search on IMDB turns up two early silent movies with the title. One is a 1905 movie called LES INVISIBLES with the English title INVISIBLE THIEF directed by Gaston Velle and from Pathe. The other is a 1909 movie called L’HOMME INVISIBLE with the English title AN INVISIBLE THIEF directed by Ferdinand Zecca with no studio listed. The latter movie matches on both the year and tentative director, but the earlier movie matches exactly on title (without the word “AN”) and studio. Which movie is the one listed in the book?

The copy I have of the movie lists the title INVISIBLE THIEF (no “AN”), but lists no year, director or studio. The latter movie has no reviews on IMDB, and the earlier one has one, and the plot as described matches that of the one I saw. The question is: how do I reconcile this information?

Well, I just decided to go ahead and review what I had, and if it’s the wrong movie, I’ll let God figure it out. Once again, there’s not a whole lot of plot, but it makes some impressive use of stop-motion photography, wries, and other tricks to tell its story. And that’s about all I have to say about it; sometimes I find it really difficult to generate strong opinions about some of the very early silents.

Let’s see how long it takes me to find a movie tomorrow.

P.S. Thanks once again to Doctor Kiss for helping me out; this is the 1909 Zecca film, not the Velle film.

 

How to Steal the World (1968)

HOW TO STEAL THE WORLD (1968)
Article 2062 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-6-2006
Posting Date: 4-5-2007
Directed by Sutton Roley
Featuring Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Barry Sullivan

When a well-intentioned former UNCLE agent comes by a formula that allows total control of anyone’s will, he kidnaps several noted scientists to help him put into effect a plan to use the formula to put an end to violence and evil in the world. Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin are called upon to stop him.

This movie was culled from the final two episodes of “The Man from UNCLE” TV series, and, quite frankly, you can see that the series had gone downhill. Both Vaughn and McCallum seem to show little interest in the proceedings, and, despite the fact that the story is interesting, the direction is uninspired. Still, there are some good performances here; in particular, Leslie Nielsen gives an excellent performance in an interesting role as a General who is a firm believer in the ends justifying the means, and the conflict between him and Barry Sullivan’s character (as the former UNCLE agent who has hired him as a security expert) adds a lot of interest to the proceedings. I also really took notice of Leo G. Carroll here; his ability to express in his face thoughts that cannot be revealed through his terse dialogue, and his performance in the final moments of this one is great. On a side note, I would like to point out that helicopters play a much bigger role in the proceedings here than they did in THE HELICOPTER SPIES.

 

The Golden Beetle (1907)

THE GOLDEN BEETLE (1907)
aka LE SCARABEE D’OR
Article 2061 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-5-2006
Posting Date: 4-4-2007
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast Unknown

A magician finds a golden beetle and casts it into a cauldron. It turns into a winged woman who creates a spectacular fountain, and then has the magician cast into a cauldron.

If you get a chance to see this silent short, try to find the hand-tinted version; it is colored exquisitely, especially during the fountain sequence. Plotwise it’s pretty much the same sort of thing that Melies does, but if it lacks the wit of Melies, it does have a nice sense of poetry that Melies never attained. I suspect that this was one of the reasons that Melies eventually fell into disfavor; he was a cinema trickster rather than a full-blown movie director, and he failed to grow as new techniques for story-telling developed. This short gives just a hint of some of the directions he could have gone with his work.

 

The Damnation of Faust (1903)

THE DAMNATION OF FAUST (1903)
aka FAUST, LA DAMNATION DE FAUST, FAUST AUX ENFERS
Article 2060 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-4-2006
Posting Date: 4-3-2007
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast Unknown (though I’m betting that’s Melies himself as Mephistopheles)

Faust goes to hell. Faust goes directly to hell. He does not pass go. He does not collect $200.

Do you get tired with the endless philosophizing in the Goethe’s Faust story and just wish they would get to the point where he’s dragged into hell? If so, this is the version of the story for you. Unlike yesterday’s scam, here’s a movie that earns its place in the canon of Fantastic cinema. Faust encounters all sorts of horrors on his trip, including a multi-tentacled creature, a gaggle of devils in their underwear (hey, it’s hot down there), and, worst of all, a bunch of ballerinas and marching women with mops; I don’t know about you, but I’m quaking in my boots. Jonathan Edwards (author of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”), eat your heart out; these are horrors even you couldn’t imagine. And it only runs about four minutes.

Postscript -Thanks to Doctor Kiss for the clarification on the exact year on this one.

 

Ella Lola, a la Trilby (1898)

ELLA LOLA, A LA TRILBY (1898)
Article 2059 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-3-2006
Posting Date: 4-2-2007
Director Unknown
Featuring Ella Lola

Ella Lola performs a dance based on the character of Trilby. She twirls around and kicks her bare feet into the air. The movie ends.

This is officially now the earliest movie I’ve covered for this series. It is also a cheat – other than the fact that the character on which Ella Lola based her dance is from a story with certain horrific overtones, there is no fantastic content here. Which brings up an interesting point; do movies whose only fantastic content comes from association to a story that contains some qualify? I’d say not myself, but it’s easy to see why this movie got included in the list.

At least Melies would have turned her into a skeleton.

 

Long Distance Wireless Photography (1908)

LONG DISTANCE WIRELESS PHOTOGRAPHY (1908)
Article 2058 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-2-2006
Posting Date: 4-1-2007
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies

An elderly couple visits an innovative photographer whose larger-than-life photographs come alive. All is fine until the old man decides to have his picture taken, and then…

More special effects silliness from Melies here. I’m not sure where the “long-distance” comes into play here; all of his photographs are of people or things right in the studio. Still, the vision of the old man’s face (which looks like that of a manic monkey puppet) is pretty memorable, and it’s full of fun-looking machinery. And remember to keep your fingers out of the electrical machinery!

 

The Fabulous Joe (1947)

THE FABULOUS JOE (1947)
Article 2057 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-1-2006
Posting Date: 3-31-2007
Directed by Harve Foster
Featuring Walter Abel, Margot Grahame, Marie Wilson

A businessman is surprised to discover that a dog he inherited can talk. The dog then proceeds to help him with his personal problems.

Given the fact that yesterday’s movie was THE DOG FACTORY, it seems like we’re on a run of canine films here. This Hal Roach Jr. production mines the same sort of laughs that the “Francis, the Talking Mule” do, though, for my money, this one is funnier. There are several reasons for this. One is that the movie is less bland; in fact, it gets rather racy at times, with part of the plot revolving around a bedroom farce situation in which a married man must hide a partially clothed woman from his wife and her relatives and friends. Another is that it doesn’t belabor the obvious joke; there is only one scene here where our hapless hero finds himself having to convince other people that the dog talks. And another is that, with a running time under an hour, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s silly and dumb, but good for a few fun laughs. My favorite scene involves the mixing of a drink called “The Mystery Gardenia”.