Peter Pan (1960)

PETER PAN (1960)
TV-Movie
Article 2351 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-2-2007
Posting Date: 1-19-2008
Directed by Vincent J. Donehue
Featuring Mary Martin, Cyril Ritchard, Maureen Bailey

Peter Pan whisks away a girl and her two brothers to Neverneverland to meet the lost boys. They do battle with Captain Hook.

The story of “Peter Pan” never really did much for me in the first place, and I’m not partial to musicals either. Therefore, about the best I can really do with this is to admire it from a distance. Make no mistake; it’s a fine adaptation of the work; Mary Martin is spirited in the title role, the songs are good, the dancing is fine, Cyril Pritchard is well cast as both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, etc. It’s just that I only occasionally feel the magic myself. Still, there are at least three things I really like in this TV-Movie adaptation of the play. The dance with Tiger Lily and the Indians is a lot of fun, and is my favorite moment in the movie. I’m truly impressed with how a whole character is created with nothing more than a flickering light and a few sound effects (Tinkerbell, in case you were wondering), and I absolutely love the Nana costume and the performance of the actor inside; it’s not that the costume was convincing (that would have been impossible), but that it’s so charming that I willingly buy into the illusion. For me, this was real magic, and it was even before Peter Pan appears on the scene. Still, the experience may have dampened for me by the simple fact that I saw just a short time ago the SCTV parody in which Peter Pan is played by Divine.

 

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The Vampires (1961)

THE VAMPIRES (1961)
aka Maciste contro il vampiro, Goliath vs. the Vampire
Article 2350 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-1-2007
Posting Date: 1-18-2008
Directed by Sergio Corbucci and Giacomo Gentilomo
Featuring Gordon Scott, Leonora Ruffo, Jacques Kurtik

Goliath (or is it Maciste) swears revenge on raiders who have attacked and murdered or kidnapped all the people in his village. He goes to the raiders’ island home, and discovers that they have been forced to do the bidding of an evil vampire-like monster.

The amount of fantastic content in sword and sandal movies varies wildly with the movie. In some, the sole fantastic content is that the hero is fairly strong (HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN comes to mind), while others ratchet up the fantastic content quite a few notches, such as this one. In fact, this one belongs to that small group whose horror content is particularly heavy, such as HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD and NIGHT STAR, GODDESS OF ELECTRA ; the vampire-like creature known as Kobrak is quite effective, and he has an army of faceless zombie slaves to do his bidding. Our hero is extremely strong here, so much so that I was a bit surprised to find that it is really a Maciste movie; in most of the other Maciste movies I’ve seen, his strength is considerably less. In this one, he pulls pillars out of the center of buildings (twice) lifts a myriad of heavy things and throws them, and takes on several people all at once. As for other fantastic content, there is a race of blue men that are fighting the vampire along with our two-named hero. Overall, it’s a slightly better-than-average sword-and-sandal movie, but horror fans will want to give this one a look.

 

The Ghosts of Yotsuya (1959)

THE GHOSTS OF YOTSUYA (1959)
aka Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan
Article 2349 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-31-2007
Posting Date: 1-17-2008
Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa
Featuring Shigeru Amachi, Noriko Kitazawa, Shinjiro Asano

A married but poor samurai is tempted into leaving his current wife to marry the daughter of a rich lord. His greedy mother forces him into a plot to kill his wife. However, the dead wife has a desire for revenge…

This movie has a 7.6 rating on IMDB at the time of this writing, which indicates that this movie has a strong following. For me, the movie has one real problem; it’s a little too slow out of the gate, largely due to the fact that the backstory is a too elaborate and involved, and you’re a good ways into the movie before the plot to murder the wife is even thought up. It’s not that the backstory is bad; it’s actually interesting enough, and it plays a role in the thoroughness of the revenge to come; it’s just that there’s too much of it. However, once the murder goes into effect, the movie really shifts into high, and the scary visuals as well as the cleverness of the ghosts’ revenge (they are able to appear before their victims in place of the people they are actually talking to) really bring this to life. Director Nobuo Nakagawa has several ghost and horror stories to his credit, though this is the only one I’ve seen so far.

 

Adventure in Kigan Castle (1966)

ADVENTURE IN KIGAN CASTLE (1966)
aka Kiganjo no boken
Article 2348 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-30-2007
Posting Date: 1-16-2008
Directed by Senkichi Taniguchi
Featuring Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Mihashi, Makoto Sato

A slave is rescued from bondage by a monk searching for relics of Buddha with which he hopes to found a temple in Japan, The former slave becomes the friend of the monk, and search for the relics together. Their friendship is put to the test when they enter a town being terrorized by its own mistrustful king.

The fantastic aspects of this Japanese adventure tale are the same as those of THE LOST WORLD OF SINBAD ; namely, the presence of an elderly wizard with limited powers who helps the good guys, and the presence of an evil witch with bad dental hygiene who helps the bad guys. As a matter of fact, this movie bears more than a strong resemblance to the other movie listed above; once again, we have Toshiro Mifune as the hero, and a seemingly evil king who may well be the victim of his own courtiers. Granted, I was a good thirty minutes into this movie before the resemblance started manifesting itself. This one is a little better, but that may well be due to the fact that I was watching a subtitled, nicely letterboxed version of the movie instead of the dubbed pan-and-scan print I saw of THE LOST WORLD OF SINBAD. It has its moments; the first appearance of the wizard (who is sleeping underwater) is memorable, and the scene where the king rediscovers the goodness of man is moving even if you could see it coming miles away. Still, because of the similarities, I couldn’t quite escape that sense of staleness that comes from recycled plots, and though Mifune remains a great actor, he’s even better when he’s supported by great scripts and direction (by someone like, say, Kurosawa). This one is just a little too ordinary.

 

Demons (1971)

DEMONS (1971)
aka Shura
Article 2347 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2007
Posting Date: 1-15-2008
Directed by Toshio Matsumoto
Featuring Katsuo Nakamura, Yasuko Sanjo, Juro Kara

A samurai is cheated out of his money by a scheming geisha and her husband. His anger leads him down a path of bloody revenge.

I’m not sure to just what extent this movie falls into the area of the fantastic. An opening dream sequence turns out to be prophetic; the movie plays with time, occasionally going back to replay certain scenes so that they unfold differently (though these may be comparisons between the character’s vision of the events and the way they actually happen), and the revenge becomes bloody and extremely horrific, which certainly pushes it into the realm of horror. One character also finds himself haunted by those he has killed for a short sequence. At any rate, this is a stark, intense, shocking and brutal exploration of vengeance and the metaphorical descent into hell that comes with it. It’s definitely powerful moviemaking, It’s so powerful and effective for most of its running time that I feel a little bit disappointed that it falls short of perfect; my problem is that the violence ends up being so bloody that it goes into the realm of excess, and even becomes slightly comic towards the end, especially the scenes that involve the severed head. Still, this may not bother others, and if you’re in the mood for a dark, violent and bloody period drama, this one is recommended, though it’s definitely not for the squeamish or the faint of heart.

 

The Princess and the Magic Frog (1965)

THE PRINCESS AND THE MAGIC FROG (1965)
aka At the End of the Rainbow
Article 2346 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-28-2007
Posting Date: 1-14-2008
Directed by Austin Green
Featuring David Alan Bailey, G. Edward Brett, Nancy DeCarl

A boy gets lost in the forest. He saves a leprechaun and gets his bag of gold coins in return. The coins are magic coins, but they can only grant wishes to help others. He must use them wisely if he wishes to return home.

You know, I bet this movie would be great entertainment for a six-year-old. It’s also very family friendly; its most violent scene has a genie hit in the face with a pie, and its most risque scene is a performance by puppet can-can dancers. Feel free to set your child in front of it and let him or her enjoy it. Whether you want to watch it yourself is another matter; it’s cute at first, but after awhile the slightly condescending air to it (plot points are fatiguingly belabored) becomes wearing, the golly-gee-whiz-gosh style dialogue is insufferable, and, for a movie with wizards, knights, gypsies, genies, leprechauns, talking signs and self-ambulatory puppets, it looks like it was made for twenty dollars and shot in the nearby park. There are many lessons to be learned along the way. As I said, fun for your six-year-old. I would have enjoyed it forty-two years ago.

 

What a Whopper (1961)

WHAT A WHOPPER (1961)
Article 2345 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-27-2007
Posting Date: 1-13-2008
Directed by Gilbert Gunn
Featuring Adam Faith, Sid James, Carole Lesley

A writer, hoping to create a market for his new book, stages a fake sighting of the Loch Ness monster.

This silly English comedy manages to hold my attention as long as it keeps the funny ideas and the strange characters coming; drawn into this bizarre plot are salmon poachers, a hearse, a musique concrete artist, a painter, a tramp, some stupid cops, and a Scotsman caught up in a feud. As a result, there are a number of amusing moments, but after a bit, things become rather repetitive; for example, the running gag in which a policeman tries to catch a drunken father isn’t particularly funny to begin with, but the movie goes on and on with it. Its biggest problem is that its funniest performances only appear near the beginning of the movie; namely, those of “Carry On” actor Charles Hawtrey as the artist, and Spike Milligan’s cameo as the tramp. A few choice moments to pop up later, but the movie definitely runs short of inspiration and starts to feel desperate. Still, I did find myself asking one question; given that this was a wacky farce about the faking of an appearance of the Loch Ness Monster, was it possible that the real Loch Ness Monster would show up? Rather than leave you in suspense, I’ll just say outright that it does, and it has the last line in the movie. For me, the most interesting credit in the movie is for the screenplay; it was written by Terry Nation, who is most famous for having created the Daleks for “Doctor Who”.