Don’t Look Now (1973)

DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)
Article 2344 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-26-2007
Posting Date: 1-12-2008
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Featuring Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason

An architect is in Venice to renovate an old church. While there, his wife meets a pair of elderly sisters, one of which is a psychic who claims that she can see their deceased daughter with them. She warns them that the architect is in danger while he stays in Venice. Meanwhile, the architect, who may have psychic abilities of his own, finds himself seeing visions of a figure in a red raincoat, which is what his daughter was wearing when she drowned.

There’s no way to really describe this odd but fascinating horror movie about premonitions. It’s fairly arty, but effectively so; the masterful editing makes us feel at moments that all time is happening at once, or that we can sense the rush of memories of one person or another. It was also a brilliant idea to set the film in Venice, which is definitely an ironic place to be for the couple, given that their daughter died by drowning. The music is also brilliant and beautiful. It’s done in a very detached style, but it’s appropriate for this movie, where we can sit back and wonder how much the architect is really seeing and how much are psychic visions of the future. It’s a little opaque at times, and the movie runs a little too long, but there’s really nothing else like it out there.

 

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Cyborg 2087 (1966)

CYBORG 2087 (1966)
Article 2343 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-25-2007
Posting Date: 1-11-2008
Directed by Franklin Adreon
Featuring Michael Rennie, Karen Steele, Wendell Corey

A cyborg from 2087 is sent to the past (1966) to prevent a professor from revealing the secrets to radio telepathy, his invention of which brought about an oppressive military dictatorship. However, two other cyborgs (known as tracers) are also sent into the past to prevent his mission.

When I saw this movie many years ago in the waning days of my local Creature Feature, I was mostly struck by the cheesiness of the movie and the silliness of some of the scenes; the tracers trotting along while looking at their wristbands struck me as more funny than threatening. I considered it quite awful back then. It looks better to me today; the cheesiness and the silliness are still there, of course, and I also notice that the dialogue is fairly weak and the music is repetitive (especially the tracers’ theme music), but the acting is mostly decent; Michael Rennie is appropriately cast and does a nice job, and Wendell Corey is a lot of fun as the sheriff. It also maintains a decent pace, and I found it quite watchable. I don’t know if it’s the first movie to deal with cyborgs or with people from the future coming into the past to change things (the comparisons that are often made between this movie and THE TERMINATOR are interesting), but they were rare enough subjects in the movies at the time that this adds to the novelty value of the movie. It’s certainly one of the more interesting scripts from Arthur C. Pierce that I’ve encountered. In short, I liked this movie more than I expected I would.

 

Die Sister, Die! (1972)

DIE SISTER, DIE! (1972)
Article 2342 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-24-2007
Posting Date: 1-10-2008
Directed by Randall Hood
Featuring Jack Ging, Edith Atwater, Antoinette Bower

A woman (the heiress to a large estate) has had two unsuccessful suicide attempts. Her brother decides to hire a nurse with a shady background ostensibly to take care of the woman, but in reality to make sure that the next suicide attempt is successful so that he can inherit the estate.

Despite the fact that the movie was apparently marketed as horror, it’s really more of a skeletons-in-the-closet type murder mystery. The horror is mostly around the edges; a bizarre dream sequence involving a bloody head, the fate of Jethro the bird, and the final revelation in the wine cellar give it some horror sense. Still, it’s mainly a mystery, and I’m sure those expecting something more horrific were very disappointed, which no doubt leads to its low 4.2 rating on IMDB. I myself liked it a little better than that, though I do consider the movie mediocre overall; the writing is a bit clumsy, the acting is merely adequate, it has quite a bit of dead space, and certain plot elements just don’t make much sense; for example, there really is no good reason for the brother to try to prevent the earlier suicide attempts, despite his justification for it. The story itself is basically decent, and the occasional odd touch (such as the scene in the church, where the sister ends up confessing to someone other than a priest) make it more interesting. Director Randall Hood has only three directorial credits, and they make for an interesting combination; he also directed the odd fantasy THE TWO LITTLE BEARS , and an episode of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’.

There also seems to be a bit of controversy about whether the movie is a TV-Movie; IMDB does not list it as such, but claims it was released in this country in 1978 (which implies that it sat on the shelf for quite a while), but there are some people who insist that it must be a TV-Movie. My sources are inconsistent on this as well.

 

Lizzie (1957)

LIZZIE (1957)
Article 2341 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-23-2007
Posting Date: 1-9-2008
Directed by Hugo Haas
Featuring Eleanor Parker, Richard Boone, Joan Blondell

A troubled young woman is receiving threatening notes from a woman named Lizzie. What she doesn’t know is that Lizzie is actually one of three personalities that she has. She sees a psychiatrist for help.

Having seen SYBIL just a short while ago, I was bound to find this exploration into multiple personalities (based on a Shirley Jackson novel) rather simplistic. It’s also dismissed as campy by some viewers, and I can see certain reasons why; I found both Joan Blondell (as Elizabeth’s/Beth’s/Lizzie’s drunken aunt) and Eleanor Parker (in her Lizzie incarnation) to be rather over the top. Nevertheless, I quite like the movie; it makes a real attempt to be realistic and insightful, it avoids some of the pitfalls that plague other movies about psychiatry, and we grow to care about many of the characters. Richard Boone is excellent (and definitely non-campy) as the psychiatrist. The use of hypnotism here is fairly realistic, and I give the movie credit for never mistakenly using the word “schizophrenia” to describe Elizabeth’s condition and for also eschewing a romantic relationship between Elizabeth and the psychiatrist. It’s only marginally fantastic, with Elizabeth’s madness and the presence of hypnotism being common horror elements, though they are not used for horror here at all. This movie was actually released previous to the similarly-themed THE THREE FACES OF EVE, though in the same year.

 

The Ghost Goes Wild (1947)

THE GHOST GOES WILD (1947)
Article 2340 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-22-2007
Posting Date: 1-8-2007
Directed by George Blair
Featuring James Ellison, Anne Gwynne, Edward Everett Horton

An artist, threatened by a lawsuit and a jealous husband, hides from the world. When the cabin where he was staying burns down with a thief inside, he is believed dead. When he returns to his home at a farm on Haunted Hill, everyone thinks he is a ghost. He decides to use his status to end the lawsuit and drive off the jealous husband,

Well, the ghost doesn’t go too wild here; this comedy is only mildly amusing, though Edward Everett Horton is fun as always as the artist’s butler. At least a real ghost shows up at a couple of points in the proceedings; the above plot description certainly makes it sound as if there is no real ghost here. Ruth Donnelly is quite fun as the dowager who sues over a caricature she sat for, and you’ll probably recognize Charles Halton as her attorney. I’ll also give it a few points for being one of the only movies I’ve seen that has a character named Murgatroyd.

 

The Crucible (1957)

THE CRUCIBLE (1957)
aka Les Sorcieres de Salem
Article 2339 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-21-2007
Posting Date: 1-7-2008
Directed by Raymond Rouleau
Featuring Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Mylene Demongeot

In the village of Salem, an ambitious cleric joins forces with a spurned mistress to start a witch hunt in Salem. This has a devastating impact on a farming family in the community.

This adaptation of the Arthur Miller play (too controversial for American film makers due to its implied condemnation of the McCarthy “witch hunt”) with a script by Jean-Paul Sartre is only marginally of fantastical content; though we do see a witch’s ceremony at one point, there is no reason to believe in the context of the movie that they have any real power. It’s mostly about the way fear and hysteria can twist and destroy the lives of all around it. The couple who falls victim to the accusation (played excellently by Simone Signoret and Yves Montand) are not saints, but they certainly aren’t guilty of the crimes of which they are accused. I’m not sure how true this movie is to either the play or the real life events they portray; in some ways, the plot seems a little too neat to be an accurate reflection of a true story. It is, however, powerful and gripping; you’re never quite sure what the fates of any of the characters will be. It’s a truly grim culture the characters reside in here; to many of them, God is a merciless, unforgiving presence just waiting for you to sin so he can damn you. It’s no wonder the preacher who brings on the witch hunts spends more time talking about the devil than God. This one is highly recommended.

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973)

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1973)
TV-Movie
Article 2338 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-20-2007
Posting Date: 1-6-2008
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Featuring Shane Briant, Nigel Davenport, Charles Aidman

A young man wishes that a portrait made of him would age instead of him. When he embarks on a life of cruelty, sin and debauchery, he finds out that his wish has come true; the picture ages while he remains youthful.

Dan Curtis’s TV adaptations of horror classics were all quite well done, and this one is no exception; it’s literate, well-acted from all concerned, and manages to show a class and a sense of period that is often missing from TV-Movies from the period. Nigel Davenport steals the movie as the cynical but witty Lord Harry Wotton, but that’s to be expected; as the primary exponent of Oscar Wilde’s wit as well as the character who lures Dorian Gray into temptation, it’s the type of character that’s destined to steal the movie. Still, I do feel a bit in the way of disappointment for this one. One reason is over-familiarity with the story; though the story is certainly very good, it’s not one that I find really grows with repeated viewings, and when I watch a version of it anyway, I find myself more enticed with Lord Harry’s bon mots than with the story details and revelations itself. As a result, the movie seemed overlong to me, especially during the second half when Lord Harry rarely appears. I almost found myself wishing that the movie would stray enough from the familiar story just for the sake of variety. As it is, I hope that there will be a fairly large gap between my viewing of this version and my viewing of whatever new version comes along. simply in the hopes that the story will seem a little fresher.