The Bewitched Inn (1897)

aka L’Auberge ensorcelee
Article 2531 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-10-2008
Posting Date: 7-17-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown, but that sure looks like Melies himself
Country: France

A man is plagued by strange events at an inn, where inanimate objects vanish and reappear, and his own clothes take on a life of their own.

I had already consigned this to my unfound list when the long-awaited appearance of a comprehensive Melies collection finally brought it to light. It’s an amusing little short, though a bit obvious nowadays, as the effects have been repeated many times since, and only recently I saw THE BEWITCHED TRAVELER, which owes something to this one. Still, I marvel at the gusto of Melies’s acting, and the comic effectiveness and timing of the various effects; though he had many imitators, there was no early filmmaker quite as fun as Melies.

As you might guess, I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks on reviews from this set, as many of these shorts have been on my hunt list for years. Viva Melies!


Count Dracula (1970)

aka Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht, Les Nuits de Dracula
Article 2530 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-8-2008
Posting Date: 7-16-2008
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Klaus Kinski
Country: Spain/West Germany/Italy/Liechtenstein

Dracula moves from Transylvania to London, and terrorizes Londoners.

This is often trotted forth as the truest cinematic version of the Bram Stoker novel, and there’s no reason to doubt the assertion. Most of the changes make sense in terms of keeping the movie to a manageable length; the combination of two of Lucy’s suitors into one is the most noticeable. I do miss my favorite part of the story (the voyage to England aboard the ship), but I can understand why it’s gone. Franco keeps his excesses in check here and manages to deliver a moody, coherent movie. Still, I find it detached and uninvolving; Franco’s style does make me feel like I’m watching the story from a distance, and this does little to build anything in the way of suspense. The characters only come across as interesting when I find the actors themselves familiar and interesting; consequently, the three most familiar names in the three most familiar roles (Christopher Lee as Dracula, Herbert Lom as Van Helsing and Klaus Kinski as Renfield) emerge as the most memorable characters. Even at that, I’m still a little disappointed; Kinski does little more than act silently crazy in a cell, which he does well, but which is only mildly interesting, and there’s never a really good face-off between Van Helsing and Dracula; in fact, omitting Van Helsing from the final scenes of the movie is just a plain question mark to me. All in all, this is an acceptable movie (both as a Franco movie and as an adaptation of the novel), but not a particularly great one on either level.


The Clown and the Alchemist (1900)

Article 2529 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-7-2008
Posting Date: 4-15-2008
Directed Unknown
Cast Unknown
Country: USA

A clown’s antics annoy an alchemist, who tries to use his magic powers to get rid of him.

Ahh, there’s nothing like the epic struggle between good and evil, is there? The only question here is – which side is good and which side is evil? Well, let’s set out a balance sheet.


Good qualities
Projects the life-affirming qualities of humor.

Evil qualities
He’s a clown.



Evil Qualities
He delves in unholy mystical powers.

Good Qualities
He’s trying to rid the world of a clown.

You can figure up the balance any way you want to. All I know is that when the clown emerges victorious, my heart sinks and the sense of imminent doom manifests itself. I do prefer happy endings.


The Bewitched Traveller (1904)

Article 2528 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-6-2008
Posting Date: 7-14-2008
Directed by Cecil M. Hepworth
Cast unknown
Country: UK

A traveler finds his life plagued by mysterious disappearances and reappearances.

This is an early silent short that uses trick photography to tell its amusing story of a traveler who finds things vanishing around him, starting with tables, chairs and clothing, and then works itself up to coaches and trains, thereby frustrating his attempts to get anywhere. It’s quite well done, and it manages to work up to an effective ending which, in its way, is quite logical and even a little bit scary, though the movie is comic in tone. Another example of the creative early origins of cinema.


Atlas (1961)

ATLAS (1961)
Article 2527 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-5-2008
Posting Date: 7-13-2008
Directed by Roger Corman
Featuring Michael Forest, Barboura Morris, Frank Wolff
Country: USA

When a city is held in siege by an evil tyrant, the archon of the city convinces the tyrant to agree to settle their dispute by having a battle to the death between their respective champions. The tyrant chooses a wrestler named Atlas for his champion. However, Atlas isn’t sure he cares much for the tyrant or his ways…

Here’s a novelty; an American attempt at a sword-and-sandal movie. Shooting it in Greece was an excellent idea, as it gave them some good locations for their work. However, the movie falls flat overall, despite the fact that the script was written by Charles B. Griffith. Part of the problem is that the low budget kept the spectacle level below what it really needed to be to make this one work. As Atlas (not the god holding up the world, but someone of the same name), Michael Forest simply looks too thin and weedy to conjure up visions of other sword-and-sandal actors like Steve Reeves, Alan Steel, Gordon Mitchell etc. It should come as no surprise that this Atlas doesn’t even have superhuman strength, and unfortunately this strips the movie of fantastic content, unless the city under siege by Praximedes classifies as a mythical kingdom. Mostly, it’s the weak acting and the overabundance of talk that drag this one down; quite frankly, the actors who do the dubbing on Italian sword-and-sandal movies did a better job of expressing emotion and excitement. The limp battle scenes weren’t Corman’s fault; he had arranged for 500 soldiers for the scenes, but had to skimp when only fifty showed up, resulting in battles that mostly consisted of confusing close-ups. All in all, this simply fails to deliver the goods.


Hollywood Horror House (1969)

aka Savage Intruder
Article 2526 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-4-2008
Posting Date: 7-12-2008
Directed by Donald Wolfe
Featuring Miriam Hopkins, David Garfield, Gale Sondergaard
Country: USA

An aging alcoholic Hollywood actress takes on a young man as a nurse after she breaks her leg. However, the young man is a psycho killer responsible for several murders in the area…

I love it when I can easily sum up a movie; this is SUNSET BLVD. crossed with NIGHT MUST FALL sprinkled with gore, drugs and psychedelic visuals. It opens with a several close-up shots of the famous “Hollywood” sign, where we can see how deteriorated and decayed it has become, and I do have to admire how it makes a brilliant visual metaphor for the story of an aging film actress. Unfortunately, it also makes an inadvertent metaphor for how ugly and sleazy the movie itself is. There are a few good moments and interesting elements, of course, and there are certain mysteries it’s fun to work out; see if you can figure out what has happened to the egg timer before the movie shows you. Ultimately, though, it never finds anything it really wants to say about all the various elements at play here; once the psycho starts on his predictable rampage, the movie simply does nothing more than let him go on with it until he can’t anymore, and it does so with increasingly less suspense, point or purpose. In the final analysis, I found the movie vastly disappointing. Still, there is one element here that truly reminds me of old Hollywood, and that is that the great character actress Gale Sondergaard once again steals the movie, as she almost always did whenever she was cast. And for those keeping an eye out for older actors, see if you can spot Joe Besser.


Return of the Giant Majin (1966)

aka Daimajin gyakkushu
Article 2525 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-3-2008
Posting Date: 7-11-2008
Directed by Kazuo Mori
Featuring Riki Hashimoto, Shinji Hori, Shiei Iizuki
Country: Japan

A festival in a lakeside village is interrupted by an invading warlord, who blows up their god Majin. However, that doesn’t mean that Majin is dead…

There are moments during the first sixty minutes of this movie where I wondered why I was bothering; after all, I’ve seen the other two Majin movies, and all three of them follow the same plot. Basically, the first sixty minutes of the movie is an exercise at seeing how bad things can get for the villagers until Majin finally goes on his rampage. This is perhaps the weakest of the three movies in this regard; I found the story very confusing during this segment. But then, Majin rises and wreaks his vengeance, and you know why you bothered; Majin remains one of the most impressive giant monsters of all time, an invincible force of deliberate implacable vengeance, and his every reverberating footstep sends chills down your spine. Whatever flaws plague the first sixty minutes, the magnificent climax more than makes up for it. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that no one has bothered to resurrect Majin in recent years, though it may be because he is far less well known than Godzilla or Gamera. I still think Majin’s theme music has more than a passing resemblance to Godzilla’s theme, which is no doubt a deliberate move on Akira Ifukube’s part, as he composed both pieces of music. Still, if any monster has earned the right to cop the Godzilla theme, Majin has.


Inn of the Damned (1975)

Article 2524 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2008
Posting Date: 7-10-2008
Directed by Terry Bourke
Featuring Judith Anderson, Alex Cord, Michael Craig
Country: Australia

A trooper tries to hunt down a wanted man, and then investigates an inn with which he was associated. The inn has a history of people going missing after they’ve stayed there; in truth, the owners of the inn have been murdering the guests for their money.

Here’s something you don’t see everyday; an Australian horror western. It’s a fairly interesting movie in its way, but it isn’t really successful. Part of the reason is that the movie never really settles down into what it wants to be, and ends up trying several approaches. The first half of the movie concentrates on the chase of a criminal and the second half of the movie concentrates on the goings-on at the inn, where a madwoman and her husband murder the guests in various ways. Individual moments work well enough, but at one time or another it aspires to be a western action thriller, a mystery, a horror movie and an exploitation movie (there’s a lot of gratuitous nudity and an unnecessary lesbian subplot during one twenty minute stretch of the film). For those watching it for its horror movie elements, you’ll find most of the first half of the movie a waste of time. It does build up a good amount of suspense during the final showdown between the trooper and the innkeepers, and this is the best part of the movie. Unfortunately, it tries to end the movie with one of the most protracted explanations of “why these mad people do what they do” since PSYCHO, and it tries way too hard to make us feel sorry for them. It’s worth catching if you’re interested in something different, even if it doesn’t hang together very well.


Santo vs Frankenstein’s Daughter (1972)

aka Santo vs. la hija de Frankestein
Article 2523 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2008
Posting Date: 7-9-2008
Directed by Miguel M. Delgado
Featuring Santo, Gina Romand, Anel
Country: Mexico

The daughter of Frankenstein kidnaps Santo’s girlfriend in the hopes of luring the wrestler to her lair. There she plans to use his blood to improve her serum for eternal youth.

Hey, this movie reveals that Santo actually has a superpower; his blood contains a chemical that causes super healing abilities. That explains why he can take a licking and keep on ticking in the wrestling ring. It also explains why the Daughter of Frankenstein, (who has a serum that can return youth to the old, a legion of minions (all old men kept loyal by the threat of having their serum withheld), and two monsters to help battle wrestlers that show up) wants to capture him; apparently, she’s becoming immune to her own serum and needs his blood to freshen things up a bit. What emerges is the type of plot I call the “Capture-Go-Round”; almost all of the movie is about people being captured, escaping, being recaptured, escaping again, etc. etc. Obviously, this is one Santo movie that doesn’t stint on the fantastic elements. It also has a bit of obsession with gouging out visual organs, for those keeping their eyes open for movies like this. One monster here looks a lot like the one from NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES, the other is a variation on the basic Frankenstein monster. Lots of wrestling and Santo action, and it’s in color, too. You probably already know whether you’ll like this one or not.


Dark August (1976)

Article 2522 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-29-2008
Posting Date: 7-8-2008
Directed by Martin Goldman
Featuring J.J. Barry, Carole Shelyne, Kim Hunter
Country: USA

An artist accidentally kills a young girl while driving in his jeep. The girl’s grandfather places a curse on the artist, who is then haunted by a shadowy figure. The artist seeks a way out of the curse.

I think I can see what this movie was trying to do. It attempted to flesh out a fairly standard occult story by involving us in the lives and the personalities of our characters. This can be effective if the characters and their lives are strong enough to hold our interest, but, though this movie does make a valiant effort, it doesn’t happen here. After a while, the character scenes (the artist has a jokey western showdown with a friend, the artist gets an unpleasant call from his separated wife, to name just a couple) start to come across as filler, mere roadblocks in the way of getting on with the story. The movie also tries for subtlety and a certain visual poetry, but once again, it just falls a little short in accomplishing these tasks. The end result is a movie that just takes too long to get about its business. The last twenty minutes of the movie are the best, with the scene in which a local witch tries to lift the curse a highlight, but even this scene lacks the necessary energy to really make it gripping. As it is, it’s more of a nice try than a success.