End of the World (1977)

END OF THE WORLD (1977)
Article 2370 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-21-2007
Posting Date: 2-7-2008
Directed by John Hayes
Featuring Christopher Lee, Sue Lyon, Kirk Scott
A scientist investigates messages from outer space that coincide with recent natural disasters. He tracks the messages to a seemingly peaceful convent, which he investigates. The convent is not what it seems…

Given that disaster movies were at their most popular in the seventies, I can easily envision people being drawn into this one by the title expecting the ultimate in that genre. If they did, they most likely walked away disgusted. If you go in expecting more of what it really is (a rather cheesy low-budget late-seventies science fiction movie), it has its moments. The opening scene pretty much steals the movie; it catches your attention and draws you in enough that you find yourself being patient with the unfocused, muddled and slow-moving script for a little while, but only for a little while. Most of the title action consists of stock footage. The movie seems to promise a certain degree of star power, what with Christopher Lee, Dean Jagger and Lew Ayres in the cast, but only Lee has a significant role; the others only appear in cameos, with the scene featuring Ayres being especially gratuitous, as it introduces a character who has played no role in the proceeding up to that time, and will proceed to play no role in the succeeding scenes. The movie contains one of my least favorite recurring plot elements of science fiction movies; namely, the aliens who have mastered interstellar travel needing the help of Earth scientists to get something done. You’ll probably shake your head in disbelief when the head alien tells the scientist that, were he to come with him to his Utopian alien society, they would use his scientific knowledge for good rather than for destructive purposes as he does on Earth; this is especially hard-to-swallow given that the purpose of the alien’s visit to Earth is nothing if not destructive. On the plus side, at least the score is appropriate to the action of the movie.

 

The Black Abbot (1963)

THE BLACK ABBOT (1963)
aka Der Schwarze Abt
Article 2369 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-20-2007
Posting Date: 2-6-2008
Directed by Franz Josef Gottlieb
Featuring Joachim Fuchsberger, Grit Bottcher, Dieter Borsche

A man is killed in a deserted abbey by a hooded being known as the Black Abbot. Detectives come to investigate, and find themselves caught up in a web that involves a hidden cache of gold.

The print I managed to get of this movie was in extremely good condition, the dubbing was better than usual, it was letterboxed, and the credits were in color (the rest of the movie is in black and white). All of these elements made me initially excited about viewing this entry in Germany’s series of Edgar Wallace movies; it was really shaping up to be something special. Unfortunately, disappointment set in fairly early; the story involves a bewildering array of characters, and trying to sort them out in the first part of the movie turned out to be a real chore, and a rather tiresome one. Throw in a singularly unfunny comic relief character, and things just get worse. Still, once the plot gets moving again and they start thinning out the cast with a series of murders, things pick up considerably. I suspect that the plot is pretty good, and I think about this one as I do about so many of the other movies in the series, in that I’m willing to bet it’s one of those movies that really repays on a second watching. Still, I do feel a little disappointed with this one, especially in comparison to some of the coherently plotted Dr. Mabuse movies I’ve seen lately.

 

A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973)

A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD (1973)
aka Christina, princesse de l’erotisme, Among the Living Dead
Article 2368 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-19-2007
Posting Date: 2-5-2008
Directed by Jesus Franco, Jean Rollin, and Pierre Querut
Featuring Christina von Blanc, Britt Nichols, Rosa Palomar

A woman who has been separated from her family ever since she was a child visits them for the reading of her father’s will. However, she finds the family exceedingly strange and dreams she is being attacked by zombies.

I wavered back and forth on this one quite a bit while I was watching it, but I’ve decided that finally that it’s one of the better Jess Franco movies I’ve seen. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this review and checked on IMDB that I found out that the movie was also directed by Jean Rollin. At first, I thought that this went a long way towards explaining why I found some of the dream sequences of this movie quite compelling, especially one where the heroine follows the hanged body of her father through the forest; however, this was also Franco’s work, as all Rollin did was add some poor zombie footage for a re-release of the movie. There are also other moments that caught my attention; the translation and dubbing of this movie is better than usual for a Franco movie, and there are moments where the dialogue achieves real lyricism. There’s also a great sequence in which the lawyer reads the will of the father. The movie also actually tries to be scary on occasion, and this isn’t always something that happens in a Franco horror movie. These pluses compensate somewhat for some of Franco’s more annoying habits; I’ve never liked those scenes where the camera jumps from one person to another and then zooms in or pulls away while the plot goes nowhere. I also found the lack of character continuity to be bothersome, though the end of the movie explains this somewhat. Nevertheless, I think the movie somewhat achieves its balance of horror movie and art film, and it is one of those films of his that I’d be willing to watch again. It’s times like these where I realize that Franco has real talent; if he were more consistent about it, I’d like his movies better in general. As it is, I consider this one one of his high points.

Special thanks to doctor kiss for explaining the nature of Jean Rollin’s contribution to the movie.

 

The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972)

THE AMAZING MR. BLUNDEN (1972)
Article 2367 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-18-2007
Posting Date: 2-4-2008
Directed by Lionel Jeffries
Featuring Laurence Naismith, Lynne Frederick, Garry Miller

A widow and her three children become caretakers of a dilapidated mansion that is believed to be haunted. When two of her children encounter the ghosts of the mansion (also children), they are drawn into a plan to return to the past and save the children from the fire that killed them one hundred years ago.

In case you didn’t know it, I’m a sucker for stories about redemption, and that’s what this one is. In this case, the redemption is for Mr. Blunden, the solicitor who failed to save the children on the night of the fire, and whose ghost now arranges to rewrite the past with the help of children from the present. It’s an interesting combination of ghosts, Dickensian drama, and time travel, and it makes for an enticing, memorable, and sometimes unpredictable movie. Laurence Naismith does an excellent job in the title role, and the rest of the cast is fine as well. It’s interesting that both pairs of children get to be ghosts, depending on which time period they’re in; the movie starts in the present, goes back to the past, and returns to the present. Former sex symbol Diana Dors is unrecognizable as the ugly and sinister Mrs. Wickens, the main villainess of the piece. This one is highly recommended for anyone interested in seeing something different in a ghost story.

 

Kiss Me, Monster (1969)

KISS ME, MONSTER (1969)
aka Kuss mich, Monster
Article 2366 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-17-2007
Posting Date: 2-3-2008
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Janice Reynaud, Rosanna Yanni, Adrian Hoven

Two girl detectives embark on a mission to find the secret formula of a doctor that can be used to create life.

I don’t think I’ve run into any comedies so far in my inadvertent exploration of the oeuvre of Jess Franco, but that’s what this movie appears to be. I also don’t think I can make any judgment on how effective Franco is at handling comedy; the print I have of this movie suffers from horrendous dubbing compounded by what appears to be a perfectly awful translation; every line sounds forced, awkward and unnatural, and the overall feel I had from watching this movie was that of having to follow a string of rather dull non sequiturs. Still, the odd joke comes through, and I do like the clever bit in which a windmill is used like a combination lock. Outside of that, the movie largely seems to demonstrate to me that Franco and I are on thoroughly different wavelengths as to what movies should be like, but I’ve suspected that for some time.

 

The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960)

THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR. MABUSE (1960)
aka Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse
Article 2365 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-16-2007
Posting Date: 2-2-2008
Directed by Fritz Lang
Featuring Dawn Addams, Peter van Eyck, Wolfgang Preiss

Though believed to have died in 1932, it appears that Dr. Mabuse is still alive and plotting evil. Police suspect that the center of operations is the Luxor Hotel, where many of the murder victims were known to have stayed before their deaths.

Lest we forget, the whole sixties cycle of Dr. Mabuse movies was kicked off by Fritz Lang himself, who directed this, his last movie, and cowrote the script. No, it’s not up to his earlier Dr. Mabuse movies, but it’s more subtle and sophisticated than the follow-ups made without Lang, though that doesn’t mean the sequels to this one are bad. This itself is a sequel to the THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE from 1932, which is referred to in the script and in the plot itself; the opening murder is a reprise of a murder sequence from that film. There’s a mystery element to this one; as you meet the residents of the hotel and the various interested parties, you know one of them is Mabuse himself, and that another is a secret detective assigned to the case. On top of the police commissioner played by Gert Frobe (not the same policeman he plays in the remake of the 1932 movie a few years later), we have a suicidal young woman, her doctor, a rich industrialist, a hotel detective, an insurance salesman, a blind spiritualist, and a jealous husband. The mystery element isn’t particularly puzzling; I rightly figured out who was who, though I was surprised by the fact that two of these people are one and the same. Dawn Addams is lovely, Gert Frobe and Peter Van Eyck both do fine work, and Wolfgang Preiss is excellent. The movie also features Howard Vernon as one of Mabuse’s hit men. The psychic provides some of the fantastic content, as does the implication that there’s something supernatural about Mabuse in the first place. The dubbing does detract a little from the proceedings, but overall, it is a worthwhile follow-up to the original Mabuse films.

 

The Terror of Dr. Mabuse (1962)

THE TERROR OF DR. MABUSE (1962)
aka Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
Article 2364 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-15-2007
Posting Date: 2-1-2008
Directed by Werner Klingler
Featuring Gert Frobe, Senta Berger, Helmut Schmid

A series of crimes are being committed, and they point to the brilliant criminal mind of Dr. Mabuse. But Dr. Mabuse is committed to an insane asylum and has not been allowed to leave it. Could it be that he has developed a form of mind control…?

This was the fourth movie of the sixties revival of the Dr. Mabuse character, and also a remake of the 1933 Fritz Lang movie, THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE . Its lowly 5.4 rating on IMDB indicates that these movies aren’t highly regarded, and if you judge them in comparison with the Lang movies, I can understand that. I tend to look at them in comparison with the krimis, those semi-horrific German crime movies of the early sixties that are often based on works by Edgar Wallace, and to which these movies somewhat belong. Based on what I’ve seen of the Dr. Mabuse movies so far, they’re a cut above the other krimis; they’re coherent and quite exciting. I like this one even more than SCOTLAND YARD VS. DR. MABUSE ; Gert Frobe was an excellent choice to play the role of Inspector Lohmann, Wolfgang Preiss plays an intense and memorable Dr. Mabuse, and whoever plays the elegant main henchman (I think it may be Charles Regnier) practically steals the movie. I love some of the humor in this one; in particular, I like the moment when the henchman provides bus fare to some stranded guards. The henchman are actually well-differentiated rather than being faceless thugs, and this adds to the fun when the various criminal activities are committed. You should be able to recognize the actor who plays the disgraced policemen turned informer; it’s none other than Leon Askin, most famous for having played General Burkhalter on “Hogan’s Heroes”.

Personally, I find the sixties Dr. Mabuse movies to be a lot of fun.

 

The Magic Fountain (1961)

THE MAGIC FOUNTAIN (1961)
Article 2363 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-14-2007
Posting Date: 1-31-2008
Directed by Allan David
Featuring Peter Nestler, Helmo Kindermann, Joseph Marz

Three brothers set out on a quest to find a magic fountain whose water can heal their ailing father, the king. Two of the brothers are selfish and evil, and when the good brother manages to find the fountain, they plot to frame him, and take the water from the magic fountain for themselves.

This fairy tale is based on a story from the Brothers Grimm. IMDB claims that the movie is from the United States, but despite the narration by Cedric Hardwicke and voices by Hans Conried (as an owl) and Buddy Baer, this looks like a dubbed foreign movie. It’s probably German, as it was filmed in the Black Forest of Germany. It has its charms; the story makes for a decent fairy tale, and the presence of the above listed stars adds a bit of appeal, but the movie is rather tepid and static. In particular, a fight scene where the good prince defeats the army of a tyrant is incredibly unconvincing. It helped a little that this story was unfamiliar to me, rather than a rehash of an overly familiar one. Oddly enough, one of the alternate titles of this is SANTA’S MAGIC FOUNTAIN, and though there are two major characters that have long beards (the king and the dwarf), there’s no Santa to be found; perhaps there is another version with bumpers added featuring Santa Claus telling the story, which is something I’ve seen before. At any rate, this is fairly minor children’s fantasy.

 

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.

 

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.