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.


The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971)

Article 2570 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-18-2008
Posting Date: 8-26-2008
Directed by Walon Green and Ed Spiegel
Featuring Lawrence Pressman
Country: USA

A scientist puts forth his own theories as to why the insects will inherit the earth, and provides the evidence to prove his theory.

Don’t worry too much about the ostracism that doctor Nils Hellstrom underwent for putting forth his fanatical theories; he is, as the closing credits clearly point out, a fictional character played by an actor. In some ways, the presence of an onscreen narrator with a personal interest in the subject reminds me of DEATH: THE ULTIMATE MYSTERY, but with the following difference; that one was dull, unconvincing, and a rehash of mostly too-familiar doctrines, and this one is gripping, absorbing, convincing and never dull. Hellstrom’s paranoia may be a little over-the-top, but the wonderful insect footage is fascinating, beautiful and repellent, sometimes all at once, and the movie does have a sense of humor, especially when it explores man’s reaction to his insect neighbors in a series of “Candid Camera”-like moments. It’s all very well written, from the opening attention-grabbing line to the final philosophical musing about who wins the race. It’s the portentous musings about who will win that race that probably provides the fantastic content of this documentary, though it should be pointed out that this movie and its main character did inspire a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. Certainly, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen for this series of movies I’ve covered. And I can’t help but make my own observation; the insects would never have made a movie like this about us humans.


Hardware Wars (1977)

Article 2569 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-17-2008
Posting Date: 8-25-2008
Directed by Ernie Fosselius
Featuring Frank Robertson, Scott Mathews, Jeff Hale
Country: USA

This is a trailer for the new outer space epic, HARDWARE WARS, where a young man hooks up with friends to rescue a princess from an evil bad guy.

If you’re going to parody STAR WARS, this is the way to go; keep it cheap, let the jokes come fast and furious, throw in some references to THE WIZARD OF OZ and “Sesame Street”, and get Paul Frees to do your narration. With a running time of less than a quarter of an hour, there’s no time to get bored. My favorite moments: the appearance of the police iron, the message from the animated electrical guy, and the chance to meet Chewchilla. Short and sweet.


Fear No Evil (1969)

Article 2568 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-16-2008
Posting Date: 8-24-2008
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Featuring Louis Jourdan, Carroll O’Connor, Bradford Dillman

A psychiatrist with an interest in the occult treats a young woman whose fiance died in an auto accident several days before they were slated to be married. The woman begins to see visions of her lover in an old mirror her fiance impulsively bought the day before his death, and she sees and feels her image making love to him. The psychiatrist decides to investigate.

This was part of a pair of TV-Movies which featured Louis Jourdan as an occult-investigating psychiatrist and his friend (played by Wilfred Hyde-White); the other movie was called RITUAL OF EVIL. Quite frankly, this would have made for a great TV series; the story is fascinating and takes some very interesting turns, the acting is strong, and it was quite ambitious; I suspect that the ending was inspired by the mystical trip through the monolith from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. You’ll figure out who the main human villain is if you use the “name actor in a seemingly minor role” rule. The biggest problem with the movie is that the dialogue is clumsy at times; it’s full of dialogue that looks better on paper than it sounds coming from the mouths of actual people. Nevertheless, this is a unique and and interesting TV movie that works well as both horror and mystery.


The Glass Slipper (1955)

Article 2567 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-15-2008
Posting Date: 8-23-2008
Directed by Charles Walters
Featuring Leslie Caron, Michael Wilding, Keenan Wynn
Country: USA

A young girl dreams of living in the palace, but she is forced to work as a servant by her stepmother and two stepsisters. When she meets the prince under the belief he is the son of the cook of the palace, she finds herself invited to the ball, but she has nothing to wear. Then a kindly old lady comes to her rescue…

You should have been able to figure out from the above plot description (and the title, or course) that this is basically the Cinderella story. I really liked this take on the story; the characters are fleshed out and well acted by all, though special credit goes to Leslie Caron as Cinderella (who manages to make her character’s emotions very real and strong whether she’s in the musical or non-musical portions of the movie) and Estelle Winwood as Mrs. Toquet, an eccentric old lady who becomes for all story purposes our fairy godmother, and who steals the movie in the bargain. Michael Wilding is charming as the Prince, and Keenan Wynn is at his most subtle as the Prince’s friend. I find ballet sequences much easier to take as segments of non-ballets, and this one has two lovely sequences, one in which Cinderella imagines herself visiting the kitchen of the palace to meet the cook’s son, and one in which she imagines her worst fears when she believes that the Prince is going to marry an Egyptian princess instead of her. The movie is given a very non-fantastic spin on things, so much so that you’ll not be sure whether there really is any fantastic content to speak of (that is, until the final moments of the movie). I found this to be a lovely rendition of a classic fairy tale, unique and with more depth than you might imagine.