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.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

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.