I Marziani hanno dodici mani (1964)

aka The Martians Arrived, The 12-Handed Men from Mars
Article 2850 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-25-2009
Posting Date: 6-2-2009
Directed by Franco Castellano and Giuseppe Moccia
Featuring Paolo Panelli, Carlo Croccolo, Enzo Garinei
Country: Italy

Martians arrive on Earth to plan an invasion. However, they find themselves seduced by the residents of the planet…

This movie has a rating of 4.5 on IMDB. It also gets a good review in ‘The Motion Picture Guide’. Given the fact that my print is in unsubtitled Italian, I can’t really make a call, especially as it seems that much of the humor seems to be verbal in nature. I do know that the Martians’ initial appearance on Earth in Nazi garb doesn’t go well. I also know that three of the Martians find themselves seduced by women, while the other is seduced by a jukebox. I also know that one of the Martians has an encounter with Italian comedians Franco and Ciccio (actually, my recognizing them from the photograph given to the Martian sent on the mission gave me the biggest laugh I had). There’s also a Martian dance craze, and the requisite number of jokes concerning the Martians’ interaction with inanimate objects. I have to admit it looks amusing enough, but only understanding the dialogue will tell me for sure.

Locura de terror (1961)

aka Madness from Terror
Article 2849 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-24-2009
Posting Date: 6-1-2009
Directed by Julian Soler
Featuring German Valdes, Manuel ‘Loco’ Valdes, Sonio Furio
Country: Mexico

Driven insane by his mother-in-law, a man is committed to a sanitarium and is helped by a doctor who is as crazy as he is. However, the sanitarium is also the home to a mad scientist engaged in experiments with dead bodies.

The opening credit sequence, in which ominous music plays while we see a shadowy figure approaching us in the streets, certainly tries to make this look like it’s going to be a scary movie. However, the mood is broken in seconds by dint of seeing who is in the cast; when the first two credits are for German (‘Tin-Tan’) Valdes and his brother, Manuel ‘Loco’ Valdes, you immediately know it’s a comedy. Well, maybe so, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad comedy. Nor does it mean that it doesn’t give us some fun scares along the way. Sure, my viewing is somewhat compromised by the fact that my copy is in unsubtitled Spanish, but this one is pretty easy to figure out, and many of the gags are visual. It starts out as an extended mother-in-law gag, turns into a politically incorrect view of insanity, and finally turns into a mad scientist flick. During the course of this movie, you will see Tin-Tan walk on the walls and the ceiling, Tin-Tan and Loco Valdes sing a Spanish version of ‘Lucille’ to a pretty nurse, the flesh melted off a body to leave a skeleton, the flesh melting back on (thanks to the use of backwards photography) to create a monster, Tin-Tan and ‘Loco’ Valdes doing ‘Othello’ playing Othello and Desdemona respectively, and Tin-Tan doing a full-frontal flashing of his mother-in-law without running the risk of giving the movie anything worse than a PG rating. The mad scientist is so evil he even throws his pet cat into an acid bath and kidnaps paperboys. Somehow, commentary seems pointless in the face of all this.

The Destructors (1968)

Article 2848 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-23-2009
Posting Date: 5-31-2009
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Featuring Richard Egan, Patricia Owens, John Ericson
Country: USA

A shipment of “laser rubies” is stolen. These are used in a new secret weapon being developed by the government. Agents suspect the culprits are spies who now plan to get a hold of the weapon.

The weapon is a kind of death ray. Combine this with the presence of spies, and it shouldn’t take you more than a few seconds to figure out that what we’ve got here is another Gizmo Maguffin plot. And sure enough, that’s what it turns out to be, and it’s one of those that looks flat, routine, and uninspired from square one. A couple of moments here and there are a hair better than you might expect, but only a hair, and once the plot starts to revolve around the spy’s relationship with his ex-wife, we get lots of boring character stuff to pad out the running time. This is one of those movies where everyone seems to be sweating a lot, especially our tanned hero, who engages in fist fights with characters half his age, but somehow wins. It even tries to add a little touch of James Bond to the proceedings by having him flirt with the women at the office, but to no avail. It’s standard and forgettable at best.

I Cannibali (1970)

aka The Year of the Cannibal
Article 2847 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-22-2009
Posting Date: 5-30-2009
Directed by Liliana Cavani
Featuring Pierre Clementi, Britt Ekland, Tomas Milian
Country: Italy

During World War III, the tyrannical government in Milan passes a law making it a crime to bury the bodies of dead insurgents lying in the streets. A woman defies the law with the help of a Christ-like figure she meets.

Hey, it’s an Italian movie with the word “cannibal” in the title; it must be an Italian cannibal movie, right? I pity anyone who goes into this one with that hope; they will emerge frustrated and disappointed. “Cannibal” must be a metaphorical term; this is an art movie, a political allegory modeled off of the story of Antigone. At least you won’t feel critically pressured to like it; the movie was not a critical success, and its current rating of 4.5 on IMDB indicates that it’s not well loved; to some extent, I think the implausibility of the central concept (i.e. that any government would leave the streets littered with thousands of corpses and not worrying about the fact that this is a sanitary disaster in the making) is the problem here. I myself have to reserve judgment, since I’ve only seen the movie in Italian without subtitles, and even the plot description above is highly suspect, as I culled it from several sources and am not entirely sure it’s an accurate reflection of what happens in the movie. At this point, all I can say is I found some of the scenes obvious, and others bizarre. A working knowledge of the Antigone story is helpful.

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

Article 2846 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-21-2009
Posting Date: 5-29-2009
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Featuring Ingrid Pitt, George Cole, Kate O’Mara
Country: UK

A mysterious woman worms her way into households which have beautiful young women in them. When the women begin turning up dead, it is believed that the vampiric Karnsteins, which were once believed to have been destroyed, have come back to plague the village.

After having read “English Gothic”, the history of the British horror movie, I’m not surprised that Hammer turned to nudity (which appears here for the first time in a Hammer horror) to spice up their offerings; since they lacked the financial wherewithal of their American counterparts, they needed to add cost-effective and marketable elements to their movies that the American filmmakers were reluctant to add to theirs. Furthermore, Ingrid Pitt certainly has the body for this type of thing, though I must admit I’m less impressed with her as an actress. At least they found a vehicle that effectively incorporates these exploitable elements into the story; the sex and lesbian overtones here are essential to the story rather than having been layered on without reason. Many of the performances are very good, with fourth-billed Peter Cushing doing a fine job as usual in a part that emphasizes his work with an ensemble; though he’s easily the biggest star here, he never steals focus from anyone. It’s a very good movie. Some of the scenes of the vampires walking in the misty cemetery are very eerie, and I like the way the movie works out the details by which Carmilla/Mircalla/Marcilla insinuates herself into the various families to gain access to their beautiful daughters. Hammer’s product was on a downhill slide at this point of time, but this one is still quite strong; it’s certainly superior to its immediate sequel, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, though I can’t as of yet compare it to TWINS OF EVIL, the third movie in the Karnstein trilogy.

Revenge of the Zombies (1976)

Article 2845 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-21-2009
Posting Date: 5-28-2009
Directed by Meng Hua Ho
Featuring Lung Ti, Ni Tien, Lily Li
Country: Hong Kong/Indonesia/Singapore

Medical doctors begin to suspect that a series of baffling illnesses are the work of a warlock at loose in the city.

This is the first horror movie I’ve seen to hail from the Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong; I can’t quite count THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEET DRACULA, because that was at least half a Hammer movie. I’ve heard some of the Shaw Brothers movies can be pretty wild, and having seen this one, I can attest to that. It’s definitely not for the squeamish; the fact that my print is a little too dark to make out some of the details doesn’t change the fact that you know what you’re supposed to be seeing. Perhaps the best way to describe this movie is to give you a quick rundown of some of the more memorable images and concepts.

1) You see a crocodile killed and eviscerated.

2) You see an autopsy performed on a worm-eaten corpse in a grave.

3) The evil magician keeps himself young by drinking human milk.

4) The zombies are animated by having metal spikes driven into their skulls. They are destroyed by having those spikes removed.

5) Some of the zombies hop. I’ve heard that some of these movies feature hopping vampires, but I didn’t know they had hopping zombies as well.

6) A good magician comes to the aid of the doctor who is battling the evil magician. Unfortunately, the good magician is mortally wounded, and he passes his powers on to the doctor by giving him a magic amulet and telling him he has to eat the magician’s eyes.

The end result of this is an almost jaw-droppingly bizarre horror movie. It’s certainly not dull, and the story is fairly coherent, even if some of the heroes act with consummate stupidity at times; really, shouldn’t there be a better way of convincing the skeptical doctor that black magic exists other than putting themselves at the mercy of the evil warlock? At this point, I can’t really come up with a critical assessment of this one; I still can hardly take in what I’ve seen. Perhaps after I’ve seen a few more of these types of movies, I’ll have the ability to make a better assessment.

S.O.S. Invasion (1969)

S.O.S. INVASION (1969)
Article 2844 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-20-2009
Posting Date: 5-27-2009
Directed by Silvio F. Balbuena
Featuring Jack Taylor, Mara Cruz, Diana Sorel
Country: Spain

Earth is invaded by blonde female robots who raise the dead, or so they say.

Reportedly, this movie has some priceless hilarious dialogue in it. Since my print is in unsubtitled Spanish, I can’t confirm this. Nor can I really confirm the plot details listed above, except for the fact that there are lots of blonde women wandering about science-fiction-type hardware during several of the scenes. The Mediterranean locations and the beautiful women do add some visual enjoyment to the movie, but the plot is buried in the dialogue somewhere. All I can say is this, if there is an invasion going on (as the title seems to promise), then the laid-back acting and music, the dearth of action, and the lack of visual suspense make me suspect it’s not one the more urgent invasions on record. It does get a little exciting one minute before the end of the movie; at least it’s the first time that the characters really seem to act like something important is happening, but it only leads to one of those “The End?” endings. Ultimately, I have to withhold any real judgment on this one until I can view a subtitled or dubbed copy.