Enter the Devil (1972)

ENTER THE DEVIL (1972)
Article 2069 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-13-2006
Posting Date: 4-12-2007
Directed by Frank Q. Dobbs
Featuring Joshua Bryant, Irene Kelly, David S. Cass Sr.

A marshal is sent to investigate the disappearance of a rockhound, and comes across a religious cult that is engaging in human sacrifice.

This is one quirky, oddball, laid-back horror outing. The characters are brimming with local color, the scenery of the Mojave desert is wonderful, and the cast of unknown actors puts the viewer in the position of never knowing what the fates of the various characters will be; at least one character dies long before I expected it. The movie’s main flaw is that it is too laid-back; there are long stretches here where the languid pace drags the interest level down, and it’s a little too far between the good moments. The quirky touches are definitely interesting; despite the deceptive title, the religious cult is not of a Satanic nature, but is rather a misguided Christian sect somewhat similar to the Penitentes. I was also somewhat surprised by the ending, mainly because the main rescuer turns out to be an unexpected character, but also because the heroes are a little too bloodthirsty as well. Still, if you think about it, it makes a sort of sense, but the movie does leave you with the feeling that good and evil aren’t as sharply delineated as you might expect. I consider this one worth a watch for the patient.

 

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The Monster (1903)

THE MONSTER (1903)
Article 2068 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-12-2006
Posting Date: 4-11-2007
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies

An Egyptian watches a magician make a skeleton dance, grow and shrink. When the magician invites him to dance with the skeleton, he refuses, so the magician transforms the skeleton into a beautiful woman. But now, the woman will have nothing to do with the Egyptian.

This is another early Melies short, and a fairly entertaining one. It’s one of his shorter trick films (only two minutes long), so it’s somewhat at the opposite spectrum of his all-stops-pulled-out extravaganzas (like A TRIP TO THE MOON or THE MERRY FROLICS OF SATAN), and if you’ve seen enough of his work, there are no real special effects surprises, but it’s quite entertaining in its modest way.

 

The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906)

THE MERRY FROLICS OF SATAN (1906)
aka LES QUATRE CENTS FARCES DU DIABLE
Article 2067 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-11-2006
Posting Date: 4-10-2007
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast Unknown (but I bet that’s Melies as Satan)

Two travelers embark on a journey, but find themselves bearing the brunt of tricks by Satan along the way.

I don’t know who dreamed up the English title for this Melies fantasy, but it’s certainly one of my favorites. The movie is no slouch, either; Melies pulls practically every trick in the book in this one, and things get pretty wild. In this one, you will see a man kicked by a giant foot, a trunk that contains several other trunks of the same size, each including a couple of demons who connect all the trunks together and transform them into a passenger train, a wild carriage ride with a skeletal horse through the stars (keep your eyes pealed for one of my favorite continuing characters in the Melies oeuvre, the cranky guy in Saturn), and the final scene where one of the travelers is taken to hell where he suffers a nasty fate. Yep, Satan sure has merry frolics, doesn’t he? There isn’t much of a plot with this one, but the special effects are witty and fun.

 

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.