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.


The Fury (1978)

THE FURY (1978)
Article 2566 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-14-2008
Posting Date: 8-22-2008
Directed by Brian De Palma
Featuring Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress
Country: USA

When a government agent is set up to be killed so he won’t interfere with the kidnapping of his son (who has special psychic abilities), he manages to survive and embarks on a quest to find his son. Towards that end, he tries to make contact with a girl who also has psychic abilities. Unfortunately, she is also wanted by the same government agency that kidnapped his son.

Of the Brian De Palma movies I’ve covered so far, this is the one I like best. This has probably less to do with the movie’s strengths than with the fact that I find the annoyance factor much lower here than it is with the others I’ve seen. For one thing, I see a lot less borrowing from Hitchcock; I have no doubt that there is some, but if so, it’s not from the Hitchcock movies I’m most familiar with and doesn’t seem quite as slavish. I also find his stylistic touches to be less intrusive; only once or twice do I get annoyed with them, and the extended slow motion sequence surrounding Gillian’s escape from the institute works beautifully. I also like all of the major performances (especially from Kirk Douglas) and the John Williams score. The movie is a bit on the longish side, though it mostly holds my attention very well. And it gets extra points for not having a stupid fake-out ending.


Frankestein: El vampiro, y compania (1962)

aka Frankenstein, the Vampire and Co.
Article 2565 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-13-2008
Posting Date: 8-21-2008
Directed by Benito Alazraki
Featuring Manuel “Loco” Valdes, Marta Elena Cervantes, Nora Veryan
Country: Mexico

Two postal clerks get mixed up with the Frankenstein monster, a vampire and a werewolf.

I had no trouble following the plot of this movie, despite the fact that my copy is in undubbed Spanish; it’s practically a scene-for-scene remake of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. It is not, however, joke-for-joke, so individual gags elude me, though I do have to admit I got a chuckle when the actor playing Lou’s character slips a fish down the dress of a woman and then proceeds to dance with her while she wriggles. The characters are largely the same, though the lab assistant is jettisoned and a comic detective is added. The werewolf mask here is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Probably the most interesting change from the original story is that a brain switch does actually happen (for a while at least), so you get a scene where the monster is acting like the comic character and the comic character acts like the monster. Right now I consider it more of a curiosity than a good movie, but until I find a dubbed or subtitled version, I can’t really give it a full evaluation.


Foreplay (1975)

Article 2564 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-12-2008
Posting Date: 8-20-2008
Directed by John G. Avildsen, Bruce Malmuth, Robert McCarty
Featuring Zero Mostel, Estelle Parsons, Pat Paulsen
Country: USA

A trio of stories about sex are presented. In the first, a man buys a life-size doll for his enjoyment. In the second, a blurb writer is visited by a muse, who sets him up to re-enact some of his early sexual conquests, only this time with him victorious. In the third, the president’s daughter is kidnapped and the ransom is that the president and the first lady must perform intercourse over national TV.

Those expecting a sophisticated look at sex in the mode of Woody Allen’s EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX should take note that the DVD version of this movie comes from Troma. Those who are impressed by the fact that it comes from Troma should take note that Troma only released the DVD version, and had nothing to do with the movie’s actual production. The movie manages to be both unfunny and unerotic. The first segment features two of the better performances in the movie from Pat Paulsen and Paul Dooley, but the script is singularly undeveloped and it utterly fails to make the slim comic idea work. The second has the highest amount of fantastic content (a muse that can take people back in time), but the script is pointless and stupid. The final segment is an embarrassing idea to begin with, and Zero Mostel’s painfully bad overacting in a dual role just makes it worse; still, this segment did elicit from me the only laugh I had during the movie, and that is entirely due to the performance of Estelle Parsons who, win she discovers the contents of the ransom note, manages to let us know subtly and clearly that she finds the idea exciting. The movie features short segments featuring Irwin Corey as a professor on sex that are totally ineffective. In short, the movie is disastrously bad; don’t watch it with your girlfriend unless you’re planning on breaking up with her.


Exorcism’s Daughter (1971)

aka House of Insane Women, Las Melancolicas
Article 2563 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-11-2008
Posting Date: 8-19-2008
Directed by Rafael Moreno Alba
Featuring Analie Gade, Francisco Rabal, Espartaco Santoni
Country: Spain

A doctor joins the staff of a women’s insane asylum armed with new liberal methods of treating the residents. He tries to help one young woman of the asylum, but encounters resistance from the townspeople who think his use of hypnotism makes him a witch.

As a horror movie, this is a washout; the title has very little to do with the story and was probably slapped on after THE EXORCIST proved such a hit; this is, in fact, a drama rather than a horror movie. As a drama, it is little better; the characters aren’t particularly well-developed, and the story is weak. As a piece of exploitation, you’re best off fast forwarding to the orgy sequence, and then you can skip the rest of the movie. As a political statement, it’s pretty obvious; if even I notice the political themes (and I’m not particularly keen on looking for them), then you know the movie isn’t being subtle about them. On the whole, the movie is no fun, not very exciting, and a downer. It’s not really much in the way of bad movie fun, either; it’s competently done, and even fairly well dubbed; it’s just dull. I only recommend this one to those of you who still think it sounds enticing after reading this review.


Eaten Alive (1977)

Article 2562 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-10-2008
Posting Date: 8-18-2008
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Featuring Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones
Country: USA

A psychotic backwoods hotel owner kills his customers with a scythe and feeds them to a crocodile he keeps in his back yard.

I wonder what it must have been like for TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE director Tobe Hooper to realize that he had to come up with a follow-up to his legendary horror movie and the expectations that would go with it. This, the result, is a mixed bag at best. On the plus side, Neville Brand definitely gives a memorable performance as a psycho who lives so much in his own head that he is damn near incoherent. Hooper also makes effective use of music and sound on occasion; I’m particularly impressed by the scene where Brand’s character finds himself assaulted by the sounds of the woman he’s got tied upstairs trying to escape, the sounds of the intrusive couple having sex in the next room, and the sound of the little girl crying under the hotel, which he tries to fight by turning up a country music station to top volume. The creepy, dingy, grungy look of the area is also a plus. Unfortunately, the script is a real mess; its lack of focus keeps the horror from building up to any real effective head of steam, and, despite all the grisly nastiness of the story, it’s easy to walk away from, which is something you can’t say about TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. And because it never really grips you in the same way as that movie, you also end up realizing that the premise is more than a little bit silly. The movie is also muddied up by unnecessary subplots and scenes, and too many other characters who are perilously close to psychotic; the little girl’s father and the strange guy at the bar end up as major distractions. It is interesting to see one of Robert Englund’s early film roles, though. The movie isn’t awful; it’s just a mess that had the potential to be a lot better.


Dr. Sex (1964)

DR. SEX (1964)
Article 2561 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-9-2008
Posting Date: 8-17-2008
Directed by Ted V. Mikels
Featuring Victor Izay, Julia Calda, Max Joseph
Country: USA

Three psychiatrists discuss their most interesting patients, all of whose stories involve naked woman. One turns into a poodle; one is addicted to mannequins, one is an exhibitionist, and one lives in a house haunted by naked women.

This is a nudie.

The primary purpose of a nudie is to show as many naked people as you can on the screen, preferably well-built women.

The primary problem in making a nudie is making sure you have as many naked women as possible while still avoiding the cinematic no-no of the time of showing full frontal nudity.

In nudies, plot, humor, social relevance, creative direction and passable acting are all of no consequence; as long as you get the naked bodies on the screen, you’ve served your purpose. Which is not to say you can’t try adding those things; it’s just that those who would be interested in seeing the movie could care less.

So, did this movie achieve its high artistic goals? Well, there’s lots of naked women in it, so I’ll leave that up to you.

By the way, co-writer Wayne Rogers would gain fame as Trapper John on the TV series “M*A*S*H”, and director and co-writer Ted V. Mikels would go on to give us THE CORPSE GRINDERS, ASTRO-ZOMBIES and BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS.

Another one down. Time to move on.