Scrooge: or, Marley’s Ghost (1901)

SCROOGE: OR MARLEY’S GHOST (1901)
Article 2828 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-3-2009
Posting Date: 5-11-2009
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast Unknown

Scrooge is visited by Marley’s Ghost, who tries to change his feelings about Christmas.

Supposedly this early version of the perennial Christmas classic lasted about eleven minutes, which makes it an epic for its day. Only about five minutes still exist in my copy; it cuts off abruptly during the scenes of the Christmas yet to come. Of course, it cuts corners; Marley’s ghost does all of the work, sparing us the need to handle the three other spirits who pop up. On its own terms, it doesn’t make much sense, but I’m pretty sure the makers were counting on the viewer being already familiar with the story. As expected, this bare bones treatment can do little more than hit story highlights, though it does show how movies were starting to get a little more ambitious at the time.

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The Magic Sword (1901)

THE MAGIC SWORD (1901)
Article 2827 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-2-2009
Posting Date: 5-10-2009
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast unknown
Country: UK

A knight’s girl is kidnapped by a witch who uses magic. The knight acquires a magic sword which will help him to rescue his love.

Or does it? Unlike yesterday’s movie, this one purports to have a plot, but once he starts using the sword… well, I’m not sure if it’s actually helping him much or just serving as a springboard for more special effects. Which is not to say that the special effects don’t have a charm; they do. I especially like the giant who appears and performs the actual kidnapping. The effects do come fast and furious, though, and it remains quite entertaining.

The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901)

THE HAUNTED CURIOSITY SHOP (1901)
Article 2826 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-1-2009
Posting Date: 5-9-2009
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast unknown
Country: UK

The proprietor of a curiosity shop is startled by a visitation from a skull that changes into several different creatures.

Robert W. Paul was a producer during the very early years of cinema; he is apparently a big enough name in Britain that they released a DVD of all of his extant work. His most famous movie is probably THE ? MOTORIST, a clever special-effects film that manages to not come across as a Melies imitation, and the most famous image from that film (a car driving around on the rings of Saturn) supplies the cover picture for the DVD. He produced several other shorts with fantastic themes, some of which have been on my hunt list for some time, and which I will now be laying to rest during the next few days.

This one is very reminiscent of Melies; there’s no plot, just a series of camera tricks, some of which are quite amusing. The most striking image has a woman appearing in halves; first her top half appears, and then the bottom half walks on and takes its place under her top half. The skull also turns into a full skeleton at one point, as well as several dwarfs.

Conquistador de la luna (1960)

CONQUISTADOR DE LA LUNA (1960)
aka Conquest of the Moon
Article 2825 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-31-2009
Posting Date: 5-8-2009
Directed by Rogelio A. Gonzalez
Featuring Antonio Espino, Ana Luisa Peluffo, Adres Soler
Country: Mexico

An eccentric inventor and his girlfriend accidentally take off in a rocket and land on the moon. There they meet Martians intent on attacking the earth.

Since my copy of this movie is in unsubtitled Spanish, I’m guessing a little on the above plot; I do know that I hear some references to “Martians” when we meet the creatures on the moon, so I’m assuming that’s where they’re from. For what is essentially a comedy, it’s pretty ambitious on a special effects level; it has two rockets, a device that drills up from beneath the moon’s crust, moon interiors and exteriors, four-armed extraterrestrials, a giant disembodied brain with a floating eye and a sprinkler system installed on top (yes, you heard me right), and other science-fictional touches. Granted, it relies on footage lifted from other movies; I recognize footage from ROCKETSHIP X-M, DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS and WARNING FROM SPACE; given that these movies are American, British and Japanese respectively, it appears that they weren’t too fussy about where they stole the footage from. Still, much of the footage is original, and they actually make some attempt to have all four arms of the Martians to be usable. My favorite moment is the opening, in which an elaborate Rube-Goldberg style device wakes the inventor from his slumber, but I’m a sucker for things like that. Perhaps the most amazing thing to me is that it manages to include a rocket trip to the moon without any meteor showers.

Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum (1940)

CHARLIE CHAN AT THE WAX MUSEUM (1940)
Article 2824 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-30-2009
Posting Date: 5-7-2009
Directed by Lynn Shores
Featuring Sidney Toler, Victor Sen Yung, C. Henry Gordon
Country: USA

Charlie Chan is invited to appear on a radio show broadcast from a wax museum to solve an old murder case; however, the show is a trap designed to give an escaped criminal the chance to get revenge on Chan, on whose evidence he was convicted. However, there’s more than one criminal at this gathering…

No, it’s not a horror movie; it’s a mystery. Still, horror movie fans might well like this one; the wax museum setting adds a lot of atmosphere, and the presence of a criminal plastic surgeon and a killer whose face is swathed in bandages certainly add more horror touches to the proceedings. If you’re a Charlie Chan fan, this one is quite enjoyable, and it has a lot of fun with the use of wax dummies (include one that is a duplicate of Chan himself). There’s also a chess-playing machine (a la THE CHESS PLAYER) to add to the mix of interesting elements.

Calling Paul Temple (1948)

CALLING PAUL TEMPLE (1948)
Article 2823 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-29-2009
Posting Date: 5-6-2009
Directed by Maclean Rogers
Featuring John Bentley, Dinah Sheridan, Margaretta Scott
Country: UK

A writer is called in by detectives to help figure out the identity of a serial killer who leaves the name of “Rex” at the site of his killings.

This was part of a series of British whodunits featuring the character of Paul Temple. The fantastic content is slight; there’s the serial killer angle and the use of hypnotism, though neither element is used in ways that suggest horror. The story is pretty confusing, but it’s offset by the fact that the characters of Paul Temple and his wife Steve have a bit of a “Nick and Nora” quality to them, and there’s a nice sense of surprise to some of the scenes; my favorite has a character dropping dead during a musical number that I would ordinarily have considered filler. All in all, it’s passably entertaining, but it’s definitely more of a mystery than it is a horror movie.

Blue Demon vs el poder satanico (1966)

BLUE DEMON VS EL PODER SATANICO (1966)
aka Blue Demon vs. the Satanical Power
Article 2822 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-28-2009
Posting Date: 5-5-2009
Directed by Chano Urueta
Featuring Alejandro Munoz Moreno, Marta Elena Cervantes, Jaime Fernandez
Country: Mexico

A man with Satanical powers avoids execution by putting himself into a cataleptic state. Fifty years later he is resurrected, and returns to his evil ways by using his mystical powers to seduce and murder women. However, he must deal with the powers of a heroic Mexican wrestler…

For a movie which I’ve seen only in an unsubtitled Spanish-language version, this one is fairly easy to follow. This isn’t necessarily a compliment; the reason it’s so easy to follow is because there’s so little to it. The opening scenes are the best, but once the villain begins his seductive reign of terror, the movie begins padding itself excessively. The movie runs about 75 minutes, but we have four (count ’em, four) wrestling sequences, one of which doesn’t even feature Blue Demon, but his friend (and already established movie star) Santo. We have three sequences where the villain seduces women. We have scenes of Blue Demon pursuing his career as a crimefighter; unfortunately, these mostly consist of him sitting around reading books. In fact, Blue Demon doesn’t lift a finger to battle the villain until the villain decides to use his Satanic powers to try to force Blue Demon to commit suicide. Only then does Blue Demon swing into action, but even this is a disappointment, because… well, I won’t give away the ending, but let me just say that if it weren’t for the wrestling sequences, there wouldn’t be any action scenes in the movie. This one is bad even by Mexican wrestler movie standards.