Missile Monsters (1958)

MISSILE MONSTERS (1958)
Feature Version of serial FLYING DISC MAN FROM MARS (1950)
Article 2362 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-13-2007
Posting Date: 1-30-2008
Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Featuring Kent Fowler, James Craven, Gregory Gaye

Martian combines forces with industrialist to take over world. Heroes try to prevent them. Fistfights.

What it is: Feature version of a serial, in this case, FLYING DISC MAN FROM MARS.

Gets a point for the fact that a copy finally manifested itself after having been on my hunt list for years.

Gets a point for keeping the running time below eighty minutes.

Loses ten points for having been edited from a fairly weak serial to begin with.

Loses ten points because it has no monsters and precious little in the way of missiles.

Loses ten points for having the Martian spend most of the movie in earthling garb.

Loses ten points for being what it is in the first place.

Gets a point for having one person credited on IMDB as “Workman Overheard Talking About Bomb in Kent’s Plane”

Loses ten points for proving that nonstop action can be as dull as dishwater.

Loses ten points out of spite.

Total: not worth the investment of your time.

Tomorrow: a movie that doesn’t consist entirely of archive footage.

 

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Girl in His Pocket (1957)

GIRL IN HIS POCKET (1957)
aka Un amour de poche
Article 2361 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-12-2007
Posting Date: 1-29-2008
Directed by Pierre Kast
Featuring Jean Marais, Genevieve Page, Jean-Claude Brialy

A scientist creates a formula that can turn any animal into a miniature figurine, and then a solution that can return them to their original form. in the process, he falls in love with a beautiful lab assistant, much to the consternation of his jealous fiance. They use the formula to cover up their activities from the fiance, but complications arise…

I have to admit that I never know quite what I’m getting into when I watch a French movie, but this was fairly easy to figure out. It’s a straightforward comedy. The gimmick that drives it is fairly amusing, and in general I quite enjoyed it, though it does get a little too obvious on occasion. I also was quite surprised to find that I was happy it was dubbed; this isn’t because I prefer dubbing to subtitles (I don’t); it’s merely because I prefer being able to understand a movie rather than having to struggle through another undubbed, unsubtitled foreign movie, an experience I’ve had too much of lately. The performances seem quite good and fairly spirited at least insofar as I can tell through the dubbing. All in all, it’s fairly innocuous, but it does have its charms.

 

1 April, 2000 (1952)

1 APRIL, 2000 (1952)
aka April 1, 2000
Article 2360 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-11-2007
Posting Date: 1-28-2008
Directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner
Directed by Hilde Krahl, Josef Meinrad, Waltraut Haas

In the year 2000, Austria declares its independence from the powers occupying it. A ‘World Protection Commission’ visits Austria to decide if Austria’s independence is a threat to world peace. Austria’s president argues his case by presenting the history of Austria.

I got the plot description by reading some of my books on movies and from comments on IMDB; since the movie was in unsubtitled German, I couldn’t figure out much of it from watching the movie itself. The movie reflected the situation in Austria at that time in history; it had been occupied by four other countries since World War II, and the movie was meant as its plea for independence. Still, I have a funny feeling that the movie was mostly about Austria praising itself, and that sort of thing can be quite tedious; however, not knowing what they’re saying keeps me from getting tired of the message, and I’m left to dwell on the visual aspects of this movie, which are often surreal and quite stunning. There are several memorable moments here, including a powerful sequence where a woman sees the grim reaper in her cup, followed by a full view of the reaper and a procession of what I suppose are the dead. There’s also a strange sequence where several of the characters momentarily turn into animals, and some of the costumes (especially those of certain people who I take to be reporters) are truly original (if rather silly). The high point of the movie comes early on though, and it is indelible; it is the arrival of the commission, which descends in what looks like a planet-shaped spaceship surrounded by orbiting moons, and lands amidst a flurry of what can only be described as parachuting Michelen men; this sequence is a classic. The movie is very good-natured, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the high spirits of the enterprise. Nonetheless, it’s a little too long, and I get quite bored towards the end of the movie. The movie features a performance from actor Curt Jurgens before he achieved international fame as an actor.

 

The Thirteenth Chair (1937)

THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR (1937)
Article 2359 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-10-2007
Posting Date: 1-27-2008
Directed by George B. Seitz
Featuring Dame May Whitty, Madge Evans, Lewis Stone

A medium and a detective compete to see who can solve the murder of a blackmailer.

This is the third version of the Bayard Veiller play. The first version was a silent movie from 1919 that is most probably lost. The second one is rather interesting, as it was directed by Tod Browning and featured Bela Lugosi; it was also an early talkie with a static presentation that almost renders it unwatchable. This one has solid performances, good direction, and is certainly the more watchable, with Dame May Whitty taking the top honors as the medium. The movie also features an early movie performance by Henry Daniell; this must have been before he was typecast as a heavy, as he is removed from the list of suspects early on (rather decisively so, I might add). The horror elements are the seance sequences and a scene involving a dead man. It’s probably one of the classier movies of its ilk (the murder/seance movie, a form that ran hand in hand with the old dark house mysteries of the time); its main problem is that the story is pretty old hat, even for its time. One small piece of trivia; Holmes Herbert appeared in both this and the 1929 versions of the story in the same role.

 

The Monkey’s Paw (1948)

THE MONKEY’S PAW (1948)
Article 2358 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-9-2007
Posting Date: 1-26-2008
Directed by Norman Lee
Featuring Milton Rosmer, Megs Jenkins, Michael Martin Harvey

A cursed monkey’s paw comes into the possession of a shop owner. Despite warnings about the curse, he wishes upon it for the money to pay off a bookie. He gets the money, but at a price…

W. W. Jacobs’s “The Monkey’s Paw” is a classic horror short story, but it’s also fairly short, so in order to expand it to a full-length movie, you have to find some way to fill up the time. Apparently, Jacobs expanded the story himself; IMDB claims that this movie was based on a play version of the story written by Jacobs. I don’t know how much of this movie comes from the play version, but in expanding it, it does the usual things; it comes up with more backstory and fleshes out the characters. All in all, it does a good job of it as well; after a while, you get attached to the various characters in the story and you care about what happens to them. The climax of the story is suitably tense and eerie as well. Still, if you’re familiar with the story, you’ll find this one fairly slow out of the gate.

 

Cisaruv pekar a pekaruv cisar (1951)

CISARUV PEKAR A PEKARUV CISAR (1951)
aka The Emperor and the Golem, The Emperor’s Baker and The Baker’s Emperor
Article 2357 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-8-2007
Posting Date: 1-24-2008
Directed by Martin Fric
Featuring Jan Werich, Marie Vasova, Natasa Gollova

An emperor surrounded by corrupt courtiers ignores his starving people and invests his money in artworks, alchemy and a search for a golem. When his baker passes out bread meant for the king to the starving populace, he is thrown into a dungeon. Through a series of complications, the baker’s resemblance to the king causes him to take his place.

The above plot description is an approximation cobbled together from other plot summaries of the movie and what I was able to figure out from my viewing; my copy of the movie is in unsubtitled Czech. Nonetheless, it remains enjoyable throughout; the movie is largely a comedy, and much of the comic is visual, so even if you don’t know what the characters are talking about, you can still figure out the comic bits and piece out goodly portions of the plot. It’s an enjoyable (if lengthy) lark, with some definite fantastic content (various magicians appear, and there’s the golem, of course). The golem here is truly impressive; he’s massive, and when he comes to life, his head glows red and fire and yellow smoke issue forth from his eyes; he is such a powerful presence that it compensates somewhat for the fact that his movement is unconvincing. There are a number of great comic bits that don’t rely on the dialogue at all; my favorites include the classic mirror gag where one person apes the other’s actions, and an attempted poisoning involving a ring with a secret compartment, several glasses of wine and an astronomer. I’d love to see a subtitled version of this some time to enjoy the true experience, but it’s still very enjoyable, even in this form. Recommended.

 

One Wish Too Many (1956)

ONE WISH TOO MANY (1956)
Article 2536 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-7-2007
Posting Date: 1-24-2008
Directed by John Durst
Featuring Anthony Richmond, Rosalind Gourgey, John Pike

A boy finds a marble that grants whatever he wishes. He soon discovers that this is not an unmixed blessing…

Sometimes a movie gets by on its own modesty. A magic marble that can grant any wish is the type of concept that nowadays would inspire a massive special effects budget with all the wizardry that could be mustered through CGI, and the result would probably be charmless. Neither this movie nor the characters in it have any such ambitions themselves. It’s an unassuming little movie, and the boy who finds the marble initially just wishes for such small things as that his homework will be done and that he will get a toy steamroller and a doll for his friend. He harbors no great desire to change his life; he just wants to use it to ease his way through life, get a few nice items for his own and help his friends, and even early on he sees how even these small wishes can backfire. His biggest wish comes near the end of the movie, and the movie drives home its basic message (be careful what you wish for) without ever getting preachy or overbearing; it just lets the story tell itself. The budget is quite low and the acting is merely passable, but the modest charm and the short length carry the movie along. Sometimes simplicity is a real virtue.