Revenge! (1971)

REVENGE! (1971)
TV-Movie
Article 2613 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-31-2008
Posting Date: 10-8-2008
Directed by Jud Taylor
Featuring Shelley Winters, Stuart Whitman, Bradford Dillman
Country: USA

A businessman is kidnapped and held captive by a woman who believes he’s responsible for the seduction and eventual suicide of her daughter. The businessman’s wife teams up with a psychic to search for him. Can they find him before the woman wreaks her terrible revenge?

Though I’m not a big fan of TV-Movies, I do try to give credit where credit is due, and any movie that can suck me into the story in the first few minutes is doing something very right. This one opens with an effective switching of briefcases that really catches the attention and raises all the necessary questions. The story basically follows two paths for most of its running time, and I prefer the mysterious first path (in which the businessman has to contend with his kidnapper and try to figure out why she considers him the guilty party) to the somewhat silly second path (wife hires psychic who tries to convince her he’s a fake, but the wife develops her own psychic powers). Nevertheless, it all adds up to an entertaining and suspenseful movie anchored by a strong performance by Shelley Winters, who is very good as a vulnerable but crazy old woman whose health may not be strong enough to see her through the revenge she’s seeking. My worst problem with the movie is that things get shrill and unpleasant whenever anyone starts yelling; both Winters and Carol Eve Rossen have grating voices when they start shrieking. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen enough to be really detrimental to the movie.

 

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The Hypnotist (1957)

THE HYPNOTIST (1957)
aka Scotland Yard Dragnet
Article 2612 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-30-2008
Posting Date: 1-7-2008
Directed by Montgomery Tully
Featuring Paul Carpenter, Patricia Roc, Roland Culver
Country: UK

A test pilot moves in with a psychiatrist for treatment after he develops psychosomatic symptoms in the aftermath of miraculously surviving a crash. Complications ensue when a murder is committed in the apartment building where they’re staying.

The most striking thing in this movie is its structure; the first two-thirds of this movie plays out more like odd little drama than a mystery/thriller, so much so, in fact, that I began wondering if that was what it was. Still, two things kept me waiting for things to shift gears; one was the failure of fourth-billed William Hartnell (the first Doctor Who) to appear as a character, and the fact that I knew the alternate title of the movie was SCOTLAND YARD DRAGNET, and that nothing had occurred yet that would require the presence of Scotland Yard. Unfortunately, once the murder occurs, you’ll know why they waited so long. You’ll know almost within seconds who the culprit is and the modus operandi, and if you wait just a couple minutes more, you’ll get the motive practically handed to you on a silver tray. In short, mystery-wise, it’s a no-brainer, and though the movie could have milked some suspense from the possibility of the wrong man being accused of the murder, the movie fails to accomplish that either; the movie doesn’t have enough running time left to milk that kind of situation, nor do the police ever let us feel that the innocent man is the primary suspect, as they seem equally suspicious of his accuser. After a certain point, the movie itself seems to figure out that it’s not accomplishing anything, as it takes the first convenient opportunity to reveal all the truths that we’ve already figured out. It’s then you look back to the first two-thirds of the movie and realize just how much of it was thumb-twiddling; in particular, a long section where the patient wanders around the city in a partial-hypnotic daze and ends up at a jazz nightclub comes across as filler that has no impact on the story. For me, the biggest mystery was wondering who thought this story was worth filming. The fantastic content here is the presence of hypnotism (which, to give the movie credit, is used more thoughtfully than it usually is in a movie, a compliment I can’t give it in its simplistic view of psychiatry) and a certain horrific quality to the revelations about a traumatic incident in the patient’s life, which would have made a great scene had the movie used it effectively in the story.

 

Rage (1972)

RAGE (1972)
Article 2611 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-29-2008
Posting Date: 10-6-2008
Directed by George C. Scott
Featuring George C. Scott, Richard Basehart, Martin Sheen
Country: USA

A sheep farmer and his son become infected with a experimental nerve gas that leaked from a military helicopter. When the boy dies, the military institutes a cover-up and leaves the dying farmer in the dark about his son’s fate. However, the farmer discovers the truth, and…

Undeniably great actor George C. Scott started out very well as a director with a fine TV-Movie called THE ANDERSONVILLE TRIAL, which won several Emmy awards. This, the first of his theatrical directorial efforts, is less successful, though not without interest. It’s basically a cross between the seventies conspiracy film and DOA. The setup is conventional enough, and it might have been a very effective thriller, but I sense that their was an attempt to give the movie a different feel than your average thriller. Unfortunately, the movie remains subdued and rather distant, and, despite a typically strong performance from Scott, it never makes the jump from interesting to compelling; I was curious as to what the farmer was going to do, but I never really became emotionally involved. The direction is mostly straightforward, but the attempts at artiness (some slow-motion sequences and disorienting transitional moments), though used sparingly, feel out of place. The ending is also somewhat unsatisfying, mostly because it feels like there should be more to it, maybe because many of the important characters in the story seem to vanish too early in the plot. Again, it’s not an awful movie by any means; it just feels incomplete.

 

The Perils of Pauline (1967)

THE PERILS OF PAULINE (1967)
Article 2610 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-28-2008
Posting Date: 10-5-2008
Directed by Herbert B. Leonard and Joshua Shelley
Featuring Pat Boone, Terry-Thomas, Pamela Austin
Country: USA

When two orphans who are in love are separated, the male promises to come back for the female after he’s made his fortune. He returns as the richest man in the world, only to find that his beloved has been sent to Africa where a ten-year old Prince plans to use her to start his harem. He then sets out to look for her, but her troubles are just starting…

All it takes is one look at the year of this movie and you’ll have a good idea of what approach it’s going to take. So it should be no surprise that this movie is a wild slapstick parody of the serial form, though, in truth, it owes a lot more to antiquated melodrama, silent slapstick comedy (at least as invisioned during a time when most silent comedy was still being run at the wrong projection speed), and cartoons. It’s extremely silly, and rather stupid, but I think it’s a monumental tribute to the movie that it never really becomes painful in the way movies like THE FAT SPY or THE NASTY RABBIT did. For one thing, the parade of familiar faces helps a little; on top of Pat Boone, we have Terry-Thomas (as one of the villains), eighty-one year old Edward Everett Horton (as the ninety-nine year old second richest man in the world), Leon (General Burkhalter) Askin, and, in uncredited cameos, Billy Barty and Angelo Rossitto (as white pygmies), William Christopher (as a doctor) and Bruno VeSota (as a Russian). June Foray’s voice also pops up as the voice of the Prince. The movie also benefits from a lightness of touch, a wealth of bizarre situations (Pauline not only has to deal with the ten-year old prince, but also pygmies, a plot to get her to marry a one-year-old, cryogenic freezing, a cynical foreign film-maker, raging hippos, a wolfish cosmonaut, an attempt to get over the Berlin wall, a gorilla, and Terry-Thomas), and the fact that the occasional line strikes home. My favorite lines include one in which Terry-Thomas proclaims the type of love he has for Pauline, the explanation of how Pat Boone’s male secretary was able to find the whereabouts of Pauline after she falls in the sewer, and a line about “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”. Believe me, this movie could have been a lot worse. The thing I would most like to know is something IMDB doesn’t tell me; namely, who’s in the gorilla suit?

 

Nightmare Classics: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde / The Turn of the Screw (1989)

NIGHTMARE CLASSICS: THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE/THE TURN OF THE SCREW (1989)
Article 2609 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-27-2008
Posting Date: 10-4-2008
Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Graeme Clifford
Featuring Anthony Andrews, Nicholas Guest, George Murdock, Amy Irving, David Hemmings, Micole Mercurio
Country: East Germany

Two stories are presented. In the first, a man uses drugs to bring out his evil nature. In the second, a governess encounters possessed children and ghosts.

No, it’s not a movie; by the time I realized I was dealing with two episodes of a TV show that had been grouped together on a videotape, I’d already added it to my hunt list, and (being too lazy to remove it), I decided to cover the two episodes anyway. I don’t know a whole lot about the Showtime TV series in question, but I assume it was an attempt by Shelley Duvall to follow up her “Faerie Tale Theatre” and “Tall Tales and Legends” series with one adapting famous horror stories. Given that the series has an overall rating of 3.1 on IMDB, I can only assume that it was a failure, and it appears only four episodes were made. In the case of the two I’ve seen here, I’m certainly not impressed; both stories have been somewhat sexed-up (no doubt due to their presence on a pay cable station), and THE TURN OF THE SCREW is stripped of its subtlety and ambiguity to leave us a conventional and over-melodramatic rendering of the story; we’re miles away from THE INNOCENTS here. The Jekyll and Hyde story fares somewhat better, largely thanks to the fact that Anthony Andrews comes up with a very interesting take on the character of Jekyll; I found it very interesting to find the character nervous, inhibited, shy and rather meek, as these character traits make us understand his desire to be Mr. Hyde all the more. His performance of Mr. Hyde is also quite different, but not near as satisfying; it doesn’t dovetail well with the Jekyll character, and he’s less creepy/scary than repellent/repulsive. All in all, neither story worked as a straight retelling of its source, nor is either one particularly scary; in fact, I’d call them both misfires.

 

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS (1977)
aka Trap Them and Kill Them, Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali
Article 2608 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-26-2008
Posting Date: 10-3-2008
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Featuring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Nieves Navarro
Country: Italy

When Emanuelle uncovers a case of cannibalism in an insane asylum, she follows the trail to a tribe of cannibals who live along the Amazon that were believed to have been extinct.

Hey, you’ve got you’re soft-core porn in my gross-out cannibal movie! Hey, you’ve got your gross-out cannibal movie in my soft-core porn! Two items of questionable taste that are even more questionable put together. I’m going to point out to begin with that I’m not interested in reviewing porn and am only covering movies of this sort for the sake of completeness, and that my taste in horror doesn’t run into the “gross-out-show-all-the-guts” category, as I much prefer subtler forms of scaring. Therefore, unless this movie adds something else to the mix that lifts it up out of its chosen subgenres, I have little use for it. Well, it doesn’t; the plot is cursory, the acting is weak, and it’s pretty much exactly the movie I thought it would be. This is for those who like their exploitation movies mixed.

 

Thunderbird 6 (1968)

THUNDERBIRD 6 (1968)
Article 2607 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-25-2008
Posting Date: 10-2-2008
Directed by David Lane
Featuring the voices of Keith Alexander, Sylvia Anderson, John Carson
Country: UK

The members of International Rescue are on the maiden voyage of a new airship with anti-gravity gyros. However, unbeknownst to them, the crew of the airship has been replaced with spies intent on setting a trap to capture the members of International Rescue and their vehicles. Meanwhile, Brains has been commissioned with developing a new vehicle for the International Research organization, but his ideas keep being rejected.

My enjoyment of the previous Thunderbird movie (THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO) was somewhat muted by the static presentation and the occasional dull stretches where the movie spent too much time watching the various vehicles move at a snail’s pace. I think this follow-up movie is much better, with a more streamlined and more exciting plot. There’s a good sense of humor here as well; I love the fact that, despite all of the fancy vehicles on display, the one that saves the day is the lowly biplane. Some of the set design is stunning; I love the look of the airship’s game room, and the gravity control room with its rotating gyros proves to be an excellent site for a shootout scene, with characters constantly falling in and out of view between the gyros. Of course, the climactic peril is more than a little absurd, what with the crippled airship balanced precariously on top of a tower; this is the kind of peril I’d expect from a Road Runner cartoon. Still, given that all of the characters are puppets, I’ll just add that to the “suspension of disbelief” pile that’s necessary from the get-go anyway. I saw the final joke coming from a mile away, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a satisfying one. All in all, this is pretty damn good for a puppet movie.