Night of the Witches (1970)

NIGHT OF THE WITCHES (1970)
Article 2580 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-28-2008
Posting Date: 9-5-2008
Directed by Keith Larsen
Featuring Keith Larsen, Ronald Taft, Anakorita
Country: Canada/USA

An itinerant preacher/rapist matches wits with a coven of witches.

If sheer strangeness was an unmixed blessing, this little horror-comedy would be an undiscovered classic. From its cockamamie plot to its freaky use of music and array of strange characters, this movie does leave you sitting back and wondering just what you’re seeing. But strangeness is not an unmixed blessing, and eventually you begin to realize that the movie is neither funny nor scary, which is a bit of a shame; the movie is, in its way, rather similar to ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, with the witches in the role of the dotty aunts (they believe that their sacrificial lambs are being saved from an even more horrible death later on, and thus, acts of charity), the young man who comes to visit is Mortimer the good son (who tries to get them to see what they’re doing is wrong and who also seeks to save them from the law), and the preacher is Jonathan, the evil son (who plans to blackmail the witches for his own evil purposes). Had this one worked, it would have been a lot of fun. As it is, I can only recommend this one to those who want to see something really strange.

 

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O.K. Nero (1951)

O.K. NERO (1951)
aka O.K. Nerone, O.K. Neron
Article 2579 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-27-2008
Posting Date: 9-4-2008
Directed by Carlo Campanini, Walter Chiari, Silvana Pampanini
Country: Italy

Two American servicemen are hit over the head while visiting Rome, and are transported back to Roman times during the time of Nero. Hilarity ensues.

Don’t let the “American servicemen” bit above fool you; this is an Italian comedy, albeit one that makes extensive use of “Oh Susanna” and “Yankee Doodle” in the soundtrack. Fortunately, my copy of the movie is dubbed; unfortunately, it’s dubbed into French. So, what’s it like? It’s exactly what I would expect an Italian slapstick comedy dubbed into French would be like; occasionally amusing but mostly incoherent because I can’t understand the jokes. The two servicemen end up on the run from the authorities, dress up as black slave women to escape, perform the jitterbug, become gladiators, host a carnival (hit the target, win a midget), and mess around with various potions from some sorcerers. There’s no real surprises here, but it does have its moments; their disguises as female black slaves will definitely leave your jaw hanging open, and it did have one verbal gag that I caught, largely due to the fact that the French word for “cannibal” sounds a lot like the English word. It looks like Campanini and Chiari may have been a comedy team; they worked together on quite a few comedies during the early fifties.

 

The Last Movie (1971)

THE LAST MOVIE (1971)
Article 2578 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-26-2008
Posting Date: 9-3-2008
Directed by Dennis Hopper
Featuring Dennis Hopper, Stella Garcia, Julie Adams
Country: USA

A stuntman stays in Peru after working on a western being filmed there. He then finds himself caught up in the villagers of the area reenacting the shooting of the movie, though they lack the understanding of film illusion, resulting in the use of real violence in place of movie violence.

After the success of EASY RIDER, actor Dennis Hopper decided to make this his next venture into directing. There’s some definite promise in the basic premise of the movie, and individual scenes here and there aren’t bad, but, as a whole, it’s a confusing mess. According to another plot description I found for the movie, an actor dies while the real movie is being shot, but it says something about the incoherence of this movie that I was unable to pick that fact out of the mix. I’m sure some people will be able to find meaning in the jumble and will be fascinated by the movie, but I suspect it isn’t really worth the effort. As for the fantastic content…well, it may be another case of when a movie gets weird enough, it turns into something of a fantasy, and it gets in on strangeness alone. There’s lots of familiar names in the cast, though; Dennis Hopper, Julie Adams, Roy Engel, Samuel Fuller (playing himself), Sylvia Miles, Toni Basil, Rod Cameron, Peter Fonda, Henry Jaglom, Kris Kristofferson, John Philip Law, Russ Tamblyn, James Mitchum, and Peter Fonda all appear, though most of the familiar names appear only as people appearing in the movie western during the beginning of the movie. The title card flashes up a good half hour into the movie. If it feels something like EL TOPO, it may be of interest to know that Alejandro Jodorowsky was a consulting editor.

 

Killdozer (1974)

KILLDOZER (1974)
TV-Movie
Article 2577 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-25-2008
Posting Date: 9-2-2008
Directed by Jerry London
Featuring Clint Walker, Carl Betz, Neville Brand
Country: USA

A construction crew on a small island off the coast of Africa runs into problems when its bulldozer is taken over by an alien force and begins killing the workers.

I don’t know about you, but to me, there’s something innately silly about mechanical vehicles being taken over by alien forces and wreaking havoc; I can’t read Stephen King’s short story “The Mangler” without giggling for that very reason. Also, despite the fact that Theodore Sturgeon wrote the screenplay from his own story, there are still a lot of cliches at work here, the character development is less than impressive, and there are a number of times in the story where characters behave with incredible stupidity. Still, I find it hard to dislike this movie, which, in its way, gives us a fair share of good old monster fun. They do manage to make the bulldozer seem alive on occasion, not so much when it uses the headlights as eyes, but moreso when the bulldozer tilts its blade back and forth at an angle. It’s also got one great laugh line which I won’t give away except to say that it involves the word “warranty”, and it has one indelible moment (that has stuck in my head after having seen portions of it many years ago) when the bulldozer slowly lifts and drops its blade while a man stands with his back to it. And, as silly as the title is, it’s got a lot of fun value you don’t often find with TV-Movies. Besides, I always like to see Neville Brand’s craggy face.

 

Le dirigeable fantastique (1906)

LE DIRIGEABLE FANTASTIQUE (1906)
aka Inventor Crazybrains and His Wonderful Airship
Article 2576 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-24-2008
Posting Date: 9-1-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France

Inventor Crazybrains invents a wonderful airship. However, he has a bad dream that makes him rethink the value of his invention…

Poor Inventor Crazybrains! He certainly doesn’t deserve to be held down by flying fairy women while tumbling imps vandalize his laboratory. Still, he does get to see his airship in action, though he’s probably as confused as I am as to why flying fairy women keep appearing in it and flying off. Sure, he’s probably distraught about the fireball that destroys his creation, but I think the real reason he abandons his calling is those damned tumbling imps; it seems any hero of Georges Melies’s has to contend with them after a while. Well, at least the cranky guy in Saturn didn’t get on his case about this one. Another strange and amusing short from Melies.

 

The Enchanted Cottage (1924)

THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE (1924)
Article 2575 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-23-2008
Posting Date: 8-31-2008
Directed by John S. Robertson
Featuring Richard Barthelmess, May McAvoy, Ida Waterman
Country: USA

A young man whose body was twisted in the war isolates himself in a cottage. When an intrusive aunt threatens to move in with him, he marries an ugly girl to keep her away. The girl, unhappy because of her looks, nevertheless begins to love the man. Then, one day, they both see each other as transformed into beautiful people. But did it really happen, or was it just an illusion…?

As happy as I was to finally net a copy of this rare silent feature, I have to admit I was less than thrilled at the prospect of having to actually watch it; the 1945 remake always seemed phony and forced to me, and I didn’t expect that this one would be much better. On viewing it, though, I must admit that this one works much better. The story is more streamlined and less cluttered, so we remain focused on the characters, their situation, and, most of all, the extreme importance of the situation to them. Certain characters in the remake that came across as cloying and overly symbolic here have the breath of humanity, especially that of the blind man befriended by the couple. The fantastic content seems to be more prominent as well; we see the various couples who previously spent their honeymoons in the cottage as ghosts wandering the premises. Best of all, this version of the story doesn’t overplay its hand, and allows you to feel the emotions without trying to blatantly manipulate you every step of the way. As a result, I found myself actually moved by this one, and caught up in the lives of the characters.

So, if I ever want to see this story again, you can guess which version I’ll opt for, don’t you?

 

7 Cadaveri per Scotland Yard (1971)

7 CADAVERI PER SCOTLAND YARD (1971)
aka Jack the Mangler, Jack el destripador de Londres
Article 2574 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-22-2008
Posting Date: 8-30-2008
Directed by Jose Luis Madrid
Featuring Paul Naschy, Patricia Loran, Renzo Marignano
Country: Italy / Spain

A Jack-the-Ripper style murderer is loose in London, and Scotland Yard is on the case. Their prime suspect is an ex-acrobat whose wife was one of the first victims. Or could it be that he’s being framed…?

I wasn’t quite sure what this Paul Naschy film was going to be like, but had I taken my cue from the title under which I watched this (7 CADAVERI PER SCOTLAND YARD, which translate as SEVEN CORPSES FOR SCOTLAND YARD), I would have suspected from the outset that this would turn out to be a giallo. And indeed it is; thought there is the gore you’d suspect from a serial killer movie, the emphasis is on the investigation with a satisfying number of twists and turns. Quite frankly, I really enjoyed the story of this one; I thought I had figured out who the murderer was, but I was just playing into the movie’s hands; like a good Hitchcock movie (which in some ways, this one resembles), it manipulated me well and I liked it. Still, giallo fans may well be disappointed by the lack of style here; it’s flatly directed and has a fairly forgettable music score, so I’m not surprised it has an uneven reputation. Still, I found it pretty good for a Paul Naschy film, and, despite other weaknesses, the movie gets by on story alone.