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.



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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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.


The Intruder Within (1981)

Article 2573 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-21-2008
Posting Date: 8-29-2008
Directed by Peter Carter
Featuring Chad Everett, Joseph Bottoms, Jennifer Warren
Country: USA

When an offshore oil rig digs up some prehistoric eggs from the ocean floor, it turns out they are from an ancient alien race intent on destroying humans. Before long, people have been infected with the alien cells and terror reigns.

After having railed against TV-Movies yesterday, I suppose it’s only fitting that I be subjected to another one today. To its credit, this rip-off of ALIEN doesn’t slavishly feel like a TV-Movie; in fact, certain individual scenes work quite well. However, the script is very weak, almost wretched at times; any movie that tries to build suspense by having a character dream that they’re all going to die is suffering from lazy writing, and any movie that uses that same hokey trick twice shows that there is no hope for recovery. The aliens are, of course, modeled off of the ones in ALIEN, with the final incarnation looking as close as it can to the final creature in ALIEN while still being clearly a man in a rubber suit. The movie also has more than its fair share of dead spots to contend with as well. This one is not likely to give anyone nightmares.


The House that Would Not Die (1970)

Article 2572 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-20-2008
Posting Date: 8-28-28
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Egan, Michael Anderson Jr.
Country: USA

Two women move into an old house. They discover it is haunted, and the younger of the women is possessed by a spirit from the past.

If you like TV-Movies, then this haunted house movie may suit you just fine. If, like me, you find them mostly bland, uninspired and cliche-ridden, this one will not make you a convert. There are some great TV-Movies out there in the horror mode (take FEAR NO EVIL and THE NIGHT STALKER, for example), but they usually avoid that cookie-cutter by-the-numbers approach of conventional scares that most of them worked with. The script is one cliche after another, the acting is uninspired (Richard Egan probably comes off best), the use of music and sound is standard-issue, and the movie just wanders from scene to scene without building up much in the way of suspense; about the only thing I really liked was the way it used an open cellar door to good effect. I suspect that more effort went into Barbara Stanwyck’s wardrobe than anything else in the movie. Oh, it’s not awful; as I said before, how much you like it may really depend on your affinity for TV-Movies in general. But, for me, it’s the Movie That Would Not Come to Life.


Home Sweet Home (1981)

aka Slasher in the House
Article 2571 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-19-2008
Posting Date: 8-27-2008
Directed by Netie Pena
Featuring Jake Steinfeld, Vinessa Shaw, Peter De Paula
Country: USA

A drug-crazed bodybuilding homicidal maniac is on the loose. He begins killing off members of a family getting together for Thanksgiving.

I used to wonder why the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise was so popular. After having seen some of the other slasher movies of the period, I now know why. If you accept the fact that the time had come for the slasher film and that they would be wildly popular, then it’s simply because the FRIDAY THE 13TH films were better than the others. This one is particularly lame. Our psycho here wears no mask, is treated with no sense of mystery, and cackles maniacally after he kills someone; this is, quite frankly, the lamest slasher villain I’ve ever seen. The guests at the Thanksgiving get-together manage to accomplish only one thing; they manage to make you hope for their demises within seconds of meeting them, and this goes triple for the mime/magician with the portable electric guitar. The dialogue is horrendous and the acting is on par with the dialogue. Director Netie Pena has only one other major credit (that is, if you can call this one major) in her IMDB listing, and that was as producer for DRACULA SUCKS. Amazingly enough, the actor playing the psycho here would end up doing a voice of a lab rat in RATATOUILLE.