Schlock (1973)

SCHLOCK (1973)
Article 2291 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-3-2007
Posting Date: 11-20-2007
Directed by John Landis
Featuring John Landis, Saul Kahan, Joseph Piantadosi

A missing link is on a homicidal rampage in a small community. The monster falls for a beautiful woman who mistook him for a dog when she was blind.

I quite like this, the first movie by director John Landis. It’s a parody of any number of monster-on-the-loose films, and there are several likable qualities to it. First of all, Landis himself gives a good performance in the title role; he manages to give some priceless reactions despite being buried in a Rick Baker missing link costume, and he shows some good comic timing. I also like the casual, laid-back feel of the movie; instead of putting forth its slapstick with a Three Stooges-like mayhem style, he adopts the quieter, more deliberate slapstick stylings of Laurel and Hardy; a scene in which Schlock takes revenge on a reckless driver by taking his car to pieces feels as if it belongs in one of those Stan-and-Ollie tit-for-tat confrontations. There are also some fun ideas (I love the TV newsman who hosts a “guess the body count” contest), and its heart is certainly in the right place. On the down side, the movie is unfocused; it has the bare minimum of a plot, and many of the scenes feel like random events placed in a random order. Also, Landis lets some of the sequences drag on too long, which is especially problematic when the gag doesn’t work in the first place; the scene where the blind girl keeps making Schlock play fetch is unfunny and unending. Still, Landis obviously loves the genre, and Forry Ackerman and Donald F. Glut pop up as movie patrons (watching THE BLOB , DINOSAURUS , and DAUGHTER OF HORROR , which is a movie within a movie within a movie). It’s a pity we didn’t get to see any of SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY. Always listen to the background music and pay attention to any posters you see. Though this is hardly a great movie, it’s easy to see how Landis would go on to a successful career as a director of comedies.

 

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Return of Daimajin (1966)

RETURN OF DAIMAJIN (1966)
aka Daimajin ikaru
Article 2290 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-2-2007
Posting Date: 11-19-2007
Directed by Kenji Misumi
Featuring Kojiro Hongo, Shiho Fujimura, Taro Marui

A warlord takes over a village, and four children escape to find the statue of Majin to help them drive off the invaders.

Is my head swimming! After watching this movie, I became convinced that I actually watched the wrong movie on my hunt list. Now I’m convinced that I have watched the right movie on my hunt list, but that there’s a bit of confusion out there as to which of the two sequels to DAIMAJIN is the first and which is the second. At any rate, it may make little difference; from what I’ve heard, all three of the Daimajin movies tell virtually the same story with only the details different. Me, I’m throwing up my hands and just saying “This is the one I saw!” If you’ve seen one Daimajin movie, you’ve seen them all.

Nonetheless, having seen two of them, I’m quite willing and eager to see the third, because Daimajin is such an impressive monster. I was somewhat hampered by the fact that my copy of this was in unsubtitled Japanese, but once I got the gist of what was going on, it was quite easy to follow. For the most part, the movie plays like an epic fantasy, with four children on the run from three hunters, who they manage to outwit almost till the end. Daimajin seems to have some spiritual relationship with a hawk in this one, but his rampage doesn’t come until the last fifteen minutes of the movie. And, like the first movie, it’s breathtaking; Daimajin may be the most terrifying of the kaiju; he is implacable and merciless, and one feels the tension and the fear with each earth-shaking step he makes. The special effects are excellent, but I’m sure discerning fans will note that Akira Ifukube’s score here bears more than a passing resemblance to his work for the Godzilla films, especially in the similarity between the themes for Daimajin and Godzilla. Still, it’s very effective, and this chapter in the Daimajin saga is definitely worth catching.

 

Der Herr der Welt (1934)

DER HERR DER WELT (1934)
aka Master of the World
Article 2289 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-1-2007
Posting Date: 11-18-2007
Directed by Harry Piel
Featuring Walter Janssen, Sybille Schmitz, Walter Franck

A mad scientist creates an army of robots.

This movie was rescued from my list of unfindable movies when a copy managed to manifest itself. It’s one of several science fiction movies made in Germany during the early thirties, and given that the entire film is in unsubtitled German, I don’t have a strong grasp of what actually is going on in detail, and had to rely on some short plot descriptions for help. I will say this much; some of the scenes are incredibly striking; the two scenes in the mine (one in which workers flee in terror from some unseen force spitting fire, another in which a worker maintains a set of robot miners) are very impressive, and all the scenes involving the mad scientist in his lab are moody and exciting. It would be great to see a subtitled version of this one. Because of the language problem, I have trouble attaching actors to characters, but I definitely recognized Otto Wernicke (Lohmann in M and THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE ) in a small role.

 

Macumba Love (1960)

MACUMBA LOVE (1960)
Article 2288 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-30-2007
Posting Date: 11-17-2007
Directed by Douglas Fowley
Featuring Walter Reed, Ziva Rodann, William Wellman Jr.

A researcher investigates a voodoo cult, and finds himself and those around him threatened by the local voodoo priestess.

Actually, this is probably one of the better voodoo movies out there from the era, but it really wasn’t a great time for voodoo movies. On the plus side, its shock moments certainly work well enough. It also feels quite unlike the other voodoo movies I’ve seen, at least partially because it was shot in Brazil (they apparently wanted to shoot in Haiti but couldn’t due to lack of cooperation). The voodoo sequences are effective enough, and there’s some lively calypso music to enliven things, including “Dance Kalinda”, a song in which two people perform a dance together under the tails of parrots (must be a funky Brazilian version of Russian Roulette). The story is okay, but the acting is pretty uneven throughout. The worst problem I had with the movie may be a problem only with my print; though shot in Eastman color, everything has a strong yellowish tint to it which makes everything look more than a little unpleasant (especially the swimming scenes). This was the sole directorial effort of Douglas Fowley, who mostly worked as an actor.

 

Streamline Express (1935)

STREAMLINE EXPRESS (1935)
Article 2287 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-29-2007
Posting Date: 11-15-2007
Directed by Leonard Fields
Featuring Evelyn Venable, Victor Jory, Sidney Blackmer

A theatre director manages to sneak aboard a new superspeed train destined for California in order to convince his leading actress not to run away and get married.

The first ten minutes of this movie is so full of hokey dialogue and bad writing that it’s a little amazing that it eventually won me back, but it did. For one thing, the writing does get better. For another thing, Victor Jory is having so much fun in a comic role that I started to have fun, too. it also helps that there is some snappy comic banter that netted a few laughs for me, particularly during the conversation where he convinces a steward to allow him to take over his position on the train. The plot is pretty silly, but it makes do. The fantastic content is the superspeed train; it’s somewhat similar to the super airplane in NON-STOP NEW YORK (a much better movie, by the way), but you only see the train from the outside during some static shots near the beginning of the film, so you never actually see it on the move, which is a real disappointment. This is supposedly a low-budget remake of the previous year’s TWENTIETH CENTURY, though that movie has no fantastic elements; I haven’t seen that movie, but knowing that it was directed by Howard Hawks makes me understand why a remake would try to capture his gift for fast-moving dialogue. My favorite moment; the passengers are being searched for a missing gem, the person who has it hides it in his drink, and while he’s being searched, the nonstop drinker comes along, sees the unattended glass, and… well, it just gets more complicated from there.

 

Les Portes de la nuit (1946)

LES PORTES DE LA NUIT (1946)
Article 2286 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-28-2007
Posting Date: 11-15-2007
Directed by Marcel Carne
Featuring Pierre Brasseur, Serge Reggiani, Yves Montaud

In post-war France, a mysterious tramp who claims to be Destiny predicts that one man (Jean Diego) will meet and fall in love with a beautiful women, and predicts another man (Guy Senechal) will die a horrible death. As it turns out, their paths are intertwined; the beautiful woman is married and also a sister to Guy, and Guy turned over Jean’s best friend to the Gestapo during the war. From there, the presence of the tramp guides them to their respective fates.

I knew full well that I wasn’t going to be seeing a subtitled version of the movie when I got this one from a French website, so I took a little time to find some simple plot descriptions to help me along. Along with one I found, I discovered the sad history of the movie itself; it was an incredibly expensive one for France in its time, it was originally supposed to star Jean Gabin and Marlene Dietrich and was written for them, but Dietrich backed out and Gabin proved so demanding that he was replaced by the then unknown Yves Montaud. The movie was a critical and commercial flop, as it touched on certain subjects that were highly sensitive to Frenchmen in that era. That time is now gone, and the movie is ready for reevaluation.

Nevertheless, since I don’t understand French, I certainly can’t be the one to do so here. Nevertheless, there were some things that I really liked. One is the presence of Jean Vilar as the tramp, who does more than predict; he reappears in scene after scene, subtly guiding the characters to their respective fates; he has a nice intense presence. Certain scenes stand out; the scene where Jean Diego first discovers that the woman he loves is married, the fight between Guy and Jean in the chicken coop, and the rest of the movie from the moment that Guy hands the gun to the husband in the hope that he will kill Jean. I can only hope they subtitle it and release it here so I can get the full impact of it.

 

Seven Keys to Baldpate (1917)

SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE (1917)
Article 2285 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-27-2007
Posting Date: 11-14-2007
Directed by Hugh Ford
Featuring George M. Cohan, Anna Q. Nilsson, Hedda Hopper

A writer of melodramatic novels takes a bet that he can write a novel in 24 hours, and is allowed to use Baldpate Inn as his place to do this as it is closed and he is unlikely to be interrupted. However, (as is obvious from the title), he doesn’t have the only key to Baldpate inn…

This is the third version of this popular melodrama that I’ve seen to date, as well as the earliest. I don’t know how close it is to the Earl Derr Biggers novel, but I’m willing to bet it’s fairly close to George M. Cohan’s play version, seeing how Cohan himself appears in the lead role. This was his first of only a handful of screen appearances, and he does a fine job. It’s still fairly short on fantastic content; outside of the possibility of it falling into the “old dark house” genre, the only other element is that the character of the misogynistic hermit (perhaps the most entertaining “guest” at Baldpate inn) occasionally pretends to be a ghost. The plot is far-fetched and sometimes confusing, and the fact that some sections of the plot are replaced by title cards doesn’t help, but I like the backstory, and there’s definitely an air of parody to the proceedings. At this point of time, I’d have to say it’s my favorite version of the story. My favorite moment; the reaction of the police chief when he’s handed two hundred thousand dollars.