The Horror of Party Beach (1964)

THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH (1964)
Article 2380 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-1-2007
Posting Date: 2-17-2008
Directed by Del Tenney
Featuring John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allan Laurel

Underwater radioactive waste reactivates human skeletons, turning them into bloodthirsty sea beasts who come on land and murder people. Scientist try to figure out how to destroy them. The Del-Aires swing out six big beat songs. Eulabelle swears it’s the voodoo.

With its poor cliche-ridden script, dumb characters and uneven acting, it’s tempting to dismiss the movie completely. But let’s give credit where credit is due. For a group that is largely known for their appearance in a movie, the Del-Aires aren’t bad at all as far as these things go. Some of the attack scenes also have a certain savage effectiveness. Granted, one of the reasons these scenes are effective is that they’re so dark that you can’t really see what’s going on clearly, and that means you can’t see the monsters very well, and, with their googly eyes, hot dog-filled mouths, and bad posture (they walk like they’ve all just undergone a painful wedgie), the less clearly you can see them, the better. The movie is at its worst when it’s trying to be funny; much of the early humor seems to be lifted from a bad joke book, and Eulabelle is an unfunny throwback to the black comic stereotypes from two decades previous. The humor is further enhanced by dumb blondes and drunks. The movie has its advocates, but I’m afraid that I think this is Del Tenney’s weakest movie.

 

The Barefoot Executive (1971)

THE BAREFOOT EXECUTIVE (1971)
Article 2379 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-30-2007
Posting Date: 2-16-2008
Directed by Robert Butler
Featuring Kurt Russell, Joe Flynn, Harry Morgan

An ambitious mailboy at a TV network discovers that his girlfriend’s chimp can pick the best-rated TV shows. He decides to use the chimp’s ability to help his own ambitions to move up the executive ladder.

Apparently the fantastic content of this show is that a chimp is better able to pick hit TV shows than Joe Flynn and Harry Morgan. Though I don’t mean this as a slap against either Flynn of Morgan, I see nothing fantastic about this concept; with the recent spate of popular reality TV shows, I find it quite plausible that a chimp may be in charge. At any rate, I don’t think there’s enough fantastic content to qualify this one as genre. Nevertheless, I found this one of Disney’s more enjoyable shopping-cart movies; like many of their better comedies, it has a satirical edge and (for the most part) eschews over-the-top slapstick. As usual, there’s the great cast of familiar faces; on top of those listed above, we also have Wally Cox (who steals the movie as Flynn’s nervous chauffeur), Hayden Rorke, John Ritter (in his first theatrical movie role) and one-time serial actor Tristram Coffin (as a sponsor). One of my favorite things in this movie is to listen to the names of the various programs and then try to figure which real-life programs are being referenced; you’ll find references to “Star Trek”, “Laugh-In”, “I Love Lucy”, “I Spy”, and others. And, remember, “Abe Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog” is not the same as “Abe Lincoln’s Dog’s Doctor”.

Hey, here’s an idea for a reality show – “Can your Pet Be a Big TV Executive?”. People bring in their pets and they compete to see who will be the next head of a network. Let me run that one past the chimp and see if it will fly…

 

The Brain Machine (1977)

THE BRAIN MACHINE (1977)
aka Grey Matter
Article 2378 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2007
Posting Date: 2-15-2008
Directed by Joy N. Houck Jr.
Featuring James Best, Barbara Burgess, Gil Peterson

Four volunteers are involved in a scientific experiment designed to explore the problems of overpopulation and pollution. However, unbeknownst to all, the experiment is being used as a front by secret government agency experimenting with mind-reading.

I figure that we’re all entitled to like certain movies that the rest of the world has no use for. And with a 3.3 rating on IMDB, it’s apparent that this movie doesn’t have much love coming its way. Nevertheless, I found myself entranced by this one. In some ways, it comes down to how you respond to the confused story; where I’m sure other people find annoying muddle, I found alluring mystery. I found myself caught up in the characters who volunteered for the experiment, especially James Best’s troubled reverend. I also found some of the philosophical questions about truth and mortality to be rather interesting. Still, I do agree that in the final analysis, the movie doesn’t make much sense, and I also found it rather hard to keep track of the characters not directly involved in the lab experiment. Nevertheless, I found it fascinating enough that I’d be willing to give it another viewing to try to sort things out, though I do understand why others wouldn’t bother with it. The cast also features Gerald McRaney as one of the other experimental subjects.

 

The Great Rupert (1950)

THE GREAT RUPERT (1950)
Article 2377 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-28-2007
Posting Date: 2-14-2008
Directed by Irving Pichel
Featuring Jimmy Durante, Terry Moore, Tom Drake

A family of down-and-out vaudevillians move into an apartment, not knowing how they will pay the rent. Then, every Thursday, fifteen hundred dollars floats down to them out of heaven. They think it is a miracle; in truth, it is a squirrel cleaning money out of his sleeping place left there by a greedy landlord.

When I think of Irving Pichel and George Pal, I think of DESTINATION MOON . However, they worked together one other time, and that’s here, in this rather harmless piece of fluff in which a talented squirrel helps a family with their personal problems. The fantastic content consists of the bogus miracle and the super-talented squirrel; the latter is animated in much the same way as George Pal’s “Puppetoons” were. The movie is all right, I suppose, for those who like gentle, feel-good comedies, but, for my purposes, there’s not near enough of the stop-motion-animated puppet squirrel to make this one really fun; once the squirrel hides himself in the house, he does little more than throw one-hundred-dollar bills through a hole. Outside of the squirrel, the most interesting character is a combination bear-skin rug and radio. Oh, and Jimmy Durante isn’t bad either, but I don’t think anyone would like to claim they were upstaged by a squirrel and a rug.

 

Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)

GODZILLA’S REVENGE (1969)
aka Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Oru kaiju daishingeki
Article 2376 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-27-2007
Posting Date: 2-13-2008
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Tomonori Yazaki, Eisei Amamoto, Sachio Sakai

A young and lonely boy, beset by bullies and missing his parents who are too busy working to spend time with him, dreams of going to Monster Island to meet Godzilla. In his dreams, he meets and befriends Godzilla’s son, Minya, who has to contend with a bully himself – the monster Gabara.

The worst of the Godzilla movies? Well, it is important to give the movie some credit; it takes a totally different approach than any of the other Godzilla movies, and some of the scenes of the boy’s life in his neighborhood are fairly well done. The movie also begs to be judged on a different level, as it is obviously aimed at a younger audience that the other Godzilla movies, and the boy’s love of monsters certainly strikes a chord in many of us. Nevertheless, the movie is not very good overall, and it doesn’t look like it was made with much respect, especially in the dubbed American version. The opening theme is a little too jokey, most of the monster fight footage is lifted from GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER and SON OF GODZILLA, Minya is given a speaking voice that sounds like Mortimer Snerd, and one of his monster calls sounds like a braying donkey. The dubbing is atrocious at times, far worse than any of the other films in the series. Still, it is important to give credit where it is due; it can be taken more seriously than the Gamera films of the period. And I’m almost surprised there aren’t any overt ecological messages to be found; we see the children playing in the industrial section of town among smoke-belching factories, and, intentional or otherwise, the movie sends a definite message. My favorite moment: the boy is unexpectedly attacked by a strange plant creature on Monster Island.

 

Futureworld (1976)

FUTUREWORLD (1976)
Article 2375 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-26-2007
Posting Date: 2-12-2008
Directed by Richard T. Heffron
Featuring Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner, Arthur Hill

Two reporters attend the reopening of Delos, a high tech amusement park that was closed down after a disaster occurred in the area known as Westworld a few years ago. The problems have now been fixed, but one reporter believes something strange is going on there after a contact of his is murdered. And indeed, there is something ominous going on in Delos…

I was fully expecting that this sequel to WESTWORLD was going to do little more than rehash the original movie. Thankfully, that is not the case; rather than merely regurgitating the “machinery gone haywire” theme of the original movie, this one takes the same setting and comes up with a different threat. Granted, the threat isn’t particularly novel, but once it manifests itself, it makes good use of it. Its biggest problem is that it seems to take forever to get to the new threat, so we spend an inordinate amount of time experiencing the wonders of Delos and putting up with an annoying comic relief character who won his entry to the park in a game show. The dialogue is pretty clumsy at times as well. Yul Brynner reprises his role from the original movie, but in such a bizarre context (he appears as a fantasy lover in one woman’s dreams) that it feels like the movie was bending over backwards to work him into it. Nonetheless, it plays well with the suspense sequences near the end of the movie; you really won’t know if good or evil is triumphant until the last scene of the movie, and given that this movie was made in the era of downbeat, dystopian science fiction, you’re quite aware it could go either way. Though not great, it was an acceptable sequel to WESTWORLD.

 

The Flying Saucer Mystery (1950)

THE FLYING SAUCER MYSTERY (1950)
Article 2374 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-25-2007
Posting Date: 2-11-2008
Director and Cast Unknown

A documentary on flying saucers.

This is perhaps the earliest documentary about flying saucers. It’s pretty bare bones; we see some pictures of UFOs, we hear commentary from several people, several explanations are tendered, it is pointed out that some of the sightings can’t be explained by those explanations, and it concludes that the mystery is still a mystery. More footage and photographs and fewer talking heads (many of which have aerodynamically sound ears) would have helped. The most interesting moment has a scientist recreating the phenomenon that he believes is responsible for many of the sightings. Fortunately, since the whole movie is ten minutes long, it doesn’t last long enough to get dull.

 

Raw Meat (1972)

RAW MEAT (1972)
aka Death Line
Article 2373 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-24-2007
Posting Date: 2-10-2008
Directed by Gary Sherman
Featuring Donald Pleasence, Norman Rossington, David Ladd

Police investigate disappearances in the London subway system. It is learned that a group of diggers from the nineteenth century managed to survive to modern times by resorting to cannibalism. Now the only survivor has run out of food, and he’s coming out of the tunnels to search for more.

I vividly remember seeing the trailer for this at a local drive-in theater when I was a teenager, and there was something about it that really gave me the creeps even then. I never got a chance to see it; the drive-in never got the movie for some reason, but I always found myself wondering what this movie was like. So, here I am, finally watching it some three decades later.

The movie is a bit of a mishmash. The uneven pacing, problematic plot, and odd characters detract somewhat from the movie building up much in the way of suspense. But when it works, it works quite well; the use of sound is very effective at times, there’s an extended tracking shot that introduces us to the underground dwelling of the ‘man’ (as he’s called in the final credits) that is simply stunning, there’s a great jump-out-of-your seat moment when the girlfriend gets kidnapped, and the sense of degeneracy, filth, decay and sickness in the underground lair is as strong as anything you might find in the home of the family in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Hugh Armstrong manages to make the ‘man’ equally sympathetic and repulsive, and this adds a real ambivalence to the horror. The movie also features excellent performances from Donald Pleasence and Christopher Lee, though the latter appears in only one scene and is really only connected to a side issue in the storyline; his character could have been eliminated altogether. Despite any flaws it may have, it is worth catching, and it makes for an interesting comparison with THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which it predates. And here’s a bit of trivia; THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s Tobe Hooper would go on to direct POLTERGEIST, while this movie’s Gary Sherman would direct POLTERGEIST III.

 

Purple Death from Outer Space (1966)

PURPLE DEATH FROM OUTER SPACE (1966)
Feature Version of FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE (1940)
Article 2372 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-23-2007
Posting Date: 2-9-2008
Directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor
Featuring Buster Crabbe, Carol Hughes, Charles Middleton

Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov return to the planet Mongo when it is discovered that a plague decimating the earth is the result of Emperor Ming the Merciless.

This is probably one of the smoother of the feature versions of serials that I’ve seen; only occasionally does the action shift abruptly and the music skip. I think it also helps that this is from one of the Flash Gordon serials, which, in comparison to the Republic serials, have more in the way of a story arc to sustain a feature length. It also helps that it features Buster Crabbe and Charles Middleton, perhaps the best serial hero and villain of all time. My main problems are the usual ones; overfamiliarity with the story (I’ve already seen both the individual serial and the other feature version PERIL FROM THE PLANET MONGO ) and the simple fact that, despite the fairly smooth editing, it still feels like watching several episodes of a serial at once. Still, this is about as good as this type of thing ever gets.

 

Fer-De-Lance (1974)

FER-DE-LANCE (1974)
Article 2371 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-22-2007
Posting Date: 2-8-2008
Directed by Russ Mayberry
Featuring David Janssen, Hope Lange, Ivan Dixon

Stupid sailor scores several snakes, sneaks same aboard submarine. Snakes slither and strike suddenly, surprised seamen snuff it and sub sinks. Stop, snakes, stop! Someone, save stars!

I’m surprised that someone never had the inspiration to rerelease this TV-Movie with the new title, SNAKES ON A SUB last year after all the hype about that movie that took place on a plane (you know the title). I’m sure that anyone tuning in wouldn’t have expected much. Still, this TV movie makes for a passable thriller, what with the likable cast of familiar TV faces, but the horror element is downplayed to the point that this only hovers on the edges of the horror genre. The movie ends up more concerned with the problem of the sub being stranded on the ocean floor, and the big suspense sequence (where several people have to go out in scuba gear to set explosives to dislodge rocks that threaten to keep them prisoner) is marred by the overabundance of follow-up scenes where people have to go out to rescue people who went out to rescue people etc. etc. The cast also features Frank Bonner as the stupid sailor.