The Switch (1974)

aka The Switch or How to Alter Your Ego, Oversexed
Article 2390 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-12-2007
Posting Date: 2-27-2008
Directed by Joseph W. Sarno
Featuring Rebecca Brooke, Eric Edwards, Sonny Landham

A mousy woman scientist develops a formula that turns her into a nymphomaniac that exudes a scent that attracts partners.

If the above plot description doesn’t clue you in, this is a softcore sex comedy derived from the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, and the movie mostly consists of orgies of one sort or another. Usually, there wouldn’t be much more to say about a movie like this, but it was directed by Joe Sarno, who is considered one of the pioneers of the sexploitation genre, and occasionally he shows touches of depth; for example, the movie spends a little time dwelling on how the use of the formula is similar to drug addiction or alcoholism. He seems to have a decent sense of humor as well, and this helps to make the movie more worthwhile. The movie also features a scene in hell, placing it in the fantasy as well as the science fiction genre as well.



Midnight Manhunt (1945)

Article 2389 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2007
Posting Date: 2-26-2008
Directed by William C. Thomas
Featuring William Gargan, Ann Savage, Leo Gorcey

When a corpse shows up outside of a wax museum, two reporters compete to get a story about it. However, they have a problem; the corpse keeps disappearing and reappearing in other places.

Well, it takes place at midnight, and everyone’s hunting for a man, so the title is appropriate. The twist is that the man is dead. Though it isn’t strictly a horror movie, it has one of those premises that has it nudging the genre, and the presence of both a wax museum and George Zucco only make it hone a little bit closer. Like most movies with vanishing and reappearing bodies, it’s played mostly for laughs, and the presence of Leo Gorcey (taking a break from East Side Kids movies) adds to the fun, and yes, his malaprops come with him. It’s a low-budget programmer, but it’s a lot of fun if you’re in a light-hearted mood. The movie also features Charles Halton as the twittery Wax Museum owner, and Ann Savage, who would appear in DETOUR later that year. By the way, Leo Gorcey’s character’s name is Clutch Tracy, and this got me imagining what a cross between Clutch Cargo and Dick Tracy would look like. I’m still not sure, but I bet the chin would be something else…


The Spiral Staircase (1945)

Article 2388 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-10-2007
Posting Date: 2-25-2008
Directed by Robert Siodmak
Featuring Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore

A young mute woman finds herself in danger when a serial killer who targets women with afflictions is on the loose.

It will be no surprise to anyone who has followed this series for some time to learn that I have a fairly large movie collection; in fact, sometimes I don’t always know everything I have. This movie sat on my hunt list for several months before I discovered that I had a copy of it waiting to be watched. As a mystery, it’s not very challenging; if you know a few of the basic movie-mystery-solving rules, you should be able to figure out who the culprit is. However, it scores extremely high in suspense and atmosphere, with the opening murder especially memorable and quite scary. An excellent cast helps as well, with Dorothy McGuire strong in a role with virtually no dialogue. Ethel Barrymore is wonderful as the family matriarch, and deserved her Oscar nomination for the role. I also liked Elsa Lanchester and Rhys Williams as a servant couple, and Sara Allgood as a nurse that gets very little respect. It’s more of a suspense/mystery than a horror movie, but nevertheless, it’s highly recommended.


Frankenstein (1973)

Article 2387 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-9-2007
Posting Date: 2-24-2008
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Featuring Robert Foxworth, Susan Strasberg, Bo Svenson

A scientist creates a giant man in his laboratory, but finds himself regretting his action when the giant man inadvertently kills one of his assistants and escapes into the world.

I’ve quite enjoyed Dan Curtis’s seventies TV forays into classic horror that I’ve seen so far; I liked both THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE and THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY . However, his attempt at Mary Shelley’s classic here falls flat. There are several reasons; the script is often clumsy and unwieldy, the acting is inconsistent, it lacks the wonderful ambiance of the other Curtis movies I’ve seen, and it’s overlong. It still might have worked had both of the central performances been strong enough , but only Bo Svenson manages to make his character of the giant (read: monster) memorable; Robert Foxworth is merely passable as the title character. As a result, the sections of the movie that deal primarily with the life of Dr. Frankenstein just aren’t very interesting; during the middle section of the movie when the giant is away learning to speak, the parts featuring the doctor mostly consist of scenes where people try to get him to talk about his experiments or wondering why he’s acting so strange, and this gets old very fast. The ending is especially weak; the endless talk about forgiveness makes me feel like I’m watching a preachy After School Special rather than a horror movie. In the end, it’s really only Svenson that makes this one work at all; he manages to imbue his character with a real childlike innocence, and it is his fate that catches our attention. One of these days I’ll probably be covering the other TV version of this story from the era, FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY.


J.D.’s Revenge (1976)

J.D.’S REVENGE (1976)
Article 2386 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-7-2007
Posting Date: 2-23-2008
Directed by Arthur Marks
Featuring Glynn Turman, Louis Gossett Jr., Joan Pringle

A law student becomes possessed by the spirit of a gangster who died in 1942 when he was mistaken for the murderer of his sister. He proceeds to exact revenge on the real murderer and the man who killed him.

This is the best of the blaxploitation horror movies I’ve seen for this series, but before you read too much into that statement, you should take note that only means I think it’s better than the silly SUGAR HILL and the confusing ALABAMA’S GHOST . The movie has its share of problems; once we realize that the student is being possessed, there’s nothing to keep the revenge from being acted upon than the need to fill out the running time of the movie, so we largely end up with our main character acting meaner and meaner between being confused and seeing the same assortment of flashbacks repeatedly. The movie has some moments that really strain credibility, especially at the end where the police more or less buy the possession story at face value. The movie also makes the mistake of making J.D. such a heel that it’s hard to work up any sympathy for him; quite frankly, the putative bad guys end up winning a greater amount of our sympathy. Nonetheless, the acting is solid, there are some very clever moments, and Lou Gossett steals the movie as the gangster-turned-evangelist. It’s certainly not one of The Fifty Worst Movies Ever Made, despite its inclusion in a DVD of the same title.


Island of Terror (1966)

Article 2385 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2007
Posting Date: 2-22-2008
Directed by Terence Fisher
Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray

When corpses without bones start appearing on an island on the coast of Ireland, two scientists from London are brought in to investigate. They discover that the cause of the deaths are the presence of bone-sucking monsters that were created in a cancer research lab on the island.

This movie doesn’t appear to be a particular favorite, and I can see why; the script is weak at points and has its share of cliches (including the woman who insists on coming along and then spending most of her time too scared to be of any use). But I’ve always had a real fondness for this one, because I find the basic premise incredibly creepy, and there’s something truly alarming to see human beings reduced to blobby hunks of flesh. Peter Cushing and Edward Judd do fine jobs as the researchers, and the monsters are certainly unique looking, though they are a little slow and I just can’t see how they could climb up trees. In some ways, the movie is similar to THE KILLER SHREWS , and I’ve always liked the idea of hordes of monsters causing havoc in an isolated place such as an island. The cast also features Niall MacGinnis, who I’ve always remembered from his role as Karswell in CURSE OF THE DEMON .


Idaho Transfer (1973)

Article 2384 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-5-2007
Posting Date: 2-21-2008
Directed by Peter Fonda
Featuring Kelly Bohanon, Kevin Hearst, Caroline Hildebrand

Several young people work for a project that sends them into the future, where the world is a desolate landscape. When the government tries to close the project down, several of these people stay in the future and try to find a life there.

This movie was made during the dystopian pre-STAR WARS era of science fiction in the seventies. For this reason alone, I expected a certain amount of downbeat bleakness to the story. My problem with this one is that its so unrelentingly glum from square one that after a while nothing has any impact any more. It’s not even so much the story itself that is the problem; it’s more the fact that the direction and the acting seem so lifeless; everyone talks in a rather uninvolved monotone, the characters don’t sort themselves out, and after awhile the dreariness just starts to wear. In some ways, I admire what it’s trying to do; it’s trying build its story off of the characters and get us involved in their lives. But in order for this to work, the characters have to come to life, and that rarely happens in this movie. When it does happen, it’s usually because a particular character has started to annoy you. In the process, they fail to clearly explain the story very well, and after a while, I had trouble sorting out what was happening, figuring out why it was happening, and finding a reason to care. The movie does have its advocates, but I’m not one of them.


Sette note in nero (1977)

aka Seven Notes in Black, The Psychic
Article 2383 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-4-2007
Posting Date: 2-20-2008
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Featuring Jennifer O’Neill, Gabriele Ferzetti, Marc Porel

A woman with psychic powers has a vision of a murder that took place in a room in a house owned by her husband. She breaks open a section of the wall where she believes the body was hidden, and discovers a skeleton. When the police arrest her husband for the crime, she uses the memory of her vision to help find evidence to clear his name and get him released. However, she begins to notice strange inconsistencies in the details about the murder and her vision…

Lucio Fulci is one of the more familiar names in Italian horror cinema, and I usually find him mentioned in conjunction with Mario Bava and Dario Argento. I’m quite unfamiliar with his oeuvre at this point, but this is supposed to be one of his better movies, and if it is, then I don’t quite put him up to the level of the other two. Still, this one is quite good; the story is interesting, and there are some very strong moments here, especially when our heroine is having her psychic visions near the beginning of the movie. I also like the way that she uses her visions to find harder evidence to get her husband freed, as she knows that merely having a vision doesn’t constitute proof. The midsection of the movie get a bit slow, and Fulci overuses certain techniques (we get too many close-ups of Jennifer O’Neill’s eyes), but the story and its details are strong enough to help you through these problems. It should prove interesting to see more of his movies.


Allegro Non Troppo (1977)

Article 2382 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-3-2007
Posting Date: 2-19-2008
Directed by Bruno Bozzetto
Featuring Marialuisa Giovannini, Nestor Garay, Maurizio Micheli

And now, presenting, a totally original idea – classical music pieces set to animation. And those guys from Hollywood are lying when they say some guy named Prisney already did this.

FANTASIA was supposed to be the first of a series of similar movies from Disney, but its commercial failure kept it from happening. A sequel only appeared six decades later, after the movie became a critical and cult favorite and achieved classic status. To fill in the gap, we have this tasty little treat, a parody/tribute to the Disney film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It opens with a presenter trying to convince us that this is a totally original idea, only to be interrupted by an angry call from Hollywood when he uses the word “fantasia”. The orchestra consists of little old ladies, the conductor is a cigar-smoking bully, and the animator was convinced into cooperating by being chained to a wall in his cell. We then see six renditions of classical pieces interspersed with live action sequences, the best of which includes a Laurel-and-Hardy inspired tit for tat sequence between the conductor and the animator. Despite the overt comic tone of the movie, not all the animated sequences are comic – “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” is a melancholy tale of an aging satyr, “Bolero” is an ambitious segment which shows the evolution of life on a distant planet that grows from what was left over in an abandoned pop battle, and “Valse Triste” is a wonderful piece about a cat in an abandoned and decrepit building dreaming of the people who used to inhabit it. The other three pieces are more comic – “Slavian Dance” is about a man seeking revenge on his neighbors because they imitate his every act, “The Firebird” shows the travails of a bee trying to sit down to a meal but having to contend with amorous picnickers, and “Concert in C-Major” shows what happens when the serpent from the garden of Eden decides to eat the apple himself. I’m assuming that if the serpent hadn’t scared off the old ladies, we would have gotten a seventh piece, but fortunately, an animated hunchback is on hand to pick out a finale for us. The movie is consistently amusing, and only runs about seventy five minutes in the US version (the original ran ten minutes longer). Recommended.


Dance of Death (1968)

aka House of Evil
Article 2381 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-2-2007
Posting Date: 2-18-2008
Directed by Jack Hill and Juan Ibanez
Featuring Boris Karloff, Julissa, Andres Garcia

Relatives visit the mansion of a wealthy man who is near death. However, the wealthy man is convinced that one of his relatives has inherited an illness from a dead family member who went crazy and killed people by digging out their eyes. Sure enough, people start dying…

I first saw the four Karloff Mexican movies some time ago when I got a complete set of them, and I mentally disposed of this one as simply the dullest of the lot. Watching it a second time, I’m now willing to give it credit for being the most accessible of the lot; it’s certainly less weirdly incoherent than the others. Not that it’s good; like the others, it’s quite bad. It is, however, easier to follow. This is probably because it works in very familiar territory; it’s a rehash of the “old dark house” movies where relatives gather for the reading of the will and are then picked off one by one. You won’t be watching this one too long before you realize this fact, but once you do, you will realize with horror that Boris Karloff (the only reason to watch this one) is playing the part of the man whose will is to be read, which means he’s going to die early in the proceedings. And, sure enough, he does. Naturally, this leaves you in a quandary; either the movie has just killed the goose that laid the golden eggs, or it’s setting up a twist that is so patently obvious that there will be no surprise when it happens. In a sense, it hardly matters; when he dies, you know it’s going to be a long stretch of time before you see Karloff again in the movie, if at all. In fact, there is precious little in the way of surprises at all in this movie.

I’ve got one more of Karloff’s Mexican movies to cover, and I then I can finally be done with them.