Candy (1968)

CANDY (1968)
Article 2945 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-31-2009
Posting Date: 9-6-2009
Directed by Christian Marquand
Featuring Ewa Aulin, John Astin, Marlon Brando
Country: France / Italy / USA

Candy, who may or may not be an alien from outer space, finds herself assaulted and ravished by various individuals.

This movie was based on a novel cowritten by Terry Southern, the man who gave us the screenplays for BARBARELLA and DR. STRANGELOVE. It was a satirical novel modeled off of Voltaire’s “Candide”. I’ve not read the Southern novel, so I can’t compare this movie with it. I will say this, though; this is one of those movies that really tries to blow your mind… and fails. One problem is that it’s all just too obvious; if there’s a running theme in this one, it’s just that everyone wants to seduce the title character, and that’s hardly enough to make a two-hour-plus movie intriguing. It’s biggest problem, though, is that it slathers all of its elements on so shamelessly (cast of big-name stars, psychedelic visuals, surreal weirdness, jerky hand-held-camera-style cinematography, jagged editing) that it constantly crumbles under the weight of its own excesses. If I were to describe this movie in one sentence, I would say that it’s the IT’A A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD of psychedelic art movies, and that’s no compliment. For me, the big question was this – which of the big name actors embarrassed themselves the worst here? I’d opt for Richard Burton myself, with John Huston and Walter Matthau coming across the best, and Marlon Brando giving a performance so weird as to be undefinable. Quite frankly, this movie made me appreciate the restraint and subtlety of BARBARELLA.


Blood Voyage (1976)

Article 2944 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-30-2009
Posting Date: 9-5-2009
Directed by Frank Mitchell
Featuring Warren Farlow, John Hart, Douglas Hume
Country: USA

Passengers on a yacht bound for Hawaii are being killed off one by one by an unknown assailant. Who can it be?

This is one of those movies I’ve decided to call “listclearers”, because, from my own self-referential point of view, they exist primarily so I can then remove them from my hunt list. Another way to put it is this way; in its own low-budget bottom-half-of-the-drive-in-double-bill way, it manages to adequately achieve competence. It manages to fill its 78 minute running time without ever becoming stultifying or engaging; it remains distracting (though not unpleasantly so) throughout. This is, or course, damning with faint praise, but, beyond the novelty value that it takes place on a yacht, this is by-the-numbers stuff. It’s one of those movies where you watch a scene and immediately know why it exists (“This scene is to make us suspect the cook is the murderer.” “This is one of the murder scenes.” “This scene is designed to get some nudity into the picture.”). It’s watchable, but only in the sense that it’s more interesting than watching paint dry. I bet one week from now I’ll have forgotten this movie ever existed.

Tarzan’s Peril (1951)

Article 2943 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-29-2009
Posting Date: 9-4-2009
Directed by Byron Haskin
Featuring Lex Barker, Virginia Huston, George Macready
Country: USA

Tarzan must hunt down an escaped gun runner loose in Africa.

This was the first Tarzan movie to be shot in Africa (though only partially), and it shows; there is an air of authenticity to this one that is missing from most of the other Tarzan movies I’ve seen. This sense of authenticity adds a lot to the proceedings, as does a stronger-than-usual cast (George Macready is great as the villainous Radijeck) and occasional moments that are extremely good; in particular, I love the scene where Tarzan does not find the bodies of the commissioners, but is able to piece together what happened by observing the lions and hyenas in the area. Still, the story is very standard stuff, the moments when they switch from the African footage to the non-African footage are rather obvious, and some of the editing decisions are bad; really, couldn’t they have found a better moment in the movie to perform the gag where Cheeta eats the commissioner’s watch? It also features a moment where Tarzan battles a puppet snake so unconvincing I kept expecting Kukla and Fran to show up as well. The slight fantastic content that comes automatically with the Tarzan movies is augmented a little by the appearance of man-eating plants at one point. The movie was originally intended to be in color, but much of the footage was ruined on location, so it was converted to black and white.

FX 18 (1964)

FX 18 (1964)
aka Agent secret FX 18
Article 2942 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-28-2009
Posting Date: 9-3-2009
Directed by Maurice Cloche
Featuring Ken Clark, Jany Clair, Jacques Dacqmine
Country: France / Italy / Spain

Secret agent FX 18 is sent out with his team to capture a Russian spy and find out how he’s transmitting information to the Russians.

This is one of the earliest movies in the Spyghetti genre, and though it doesn’t have much of a reputation, I found it entertaining enough in that low-budget ersatz-Bond way. The use of music in this one is rather interesting, with one fight scene underscored by a baroque classical piece that is quite amusing, and there are other moments as well where the music hints that this is not to be taken too seriously. The secret agent here, though obviously the leader, works as part of a team, which makes him come across as less of a one-man operation than James Bond does. The violence on the part of the good guys seems a bit more brutal than is usually found, with the heroes occasionally acting as you would usually expect villains to do in other movies. The structure is a bit odd; the first thirty minutes are quite confusing, as a bunch of characters are thrown our way without any chance of getting used to them; FX 18 doesn’t appear until almost a third of the movie is over, and only then are we given the real threads of the plot. The fantastic content is slight; one of the prizes in the struggle is a special satellite transmitter that gives the movie a little science fiction content. All in all, I found this one not bad for this type of movie.

La corona negra (1951)

aka The Black Crown
Article 2941 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-27-2009
Posting Date: 9-2-2009
Directed by Luis Saslavsky
Featuring Maria Felix, Rossano Brazzi, Vittorio Gassman
Country: Spain / France

A woman loses her memory after killing her husband. Her former lover shows up to try to get her to reveal where her husband kept some jewelry.

I have to thank the author of a user comment on IMDB for the above plot description; I couldn’t make heads or tails of the story from my copy, which is in unsubtitled Italian. It’s based on a story by Jean Cocteau, and had Cocteau directed, it would have been at least more visually compelling than this one is. Obviously, I can’t evaluate this one at all, so I’ll just say that the fantastic content itself is pretty slight; it’s mainly relegated to a dreamlike opening sequence and some fortune-telling that crops up at one point.

Our Man in Casablanca (1966)

aka Neustro agente en Casablanca, The Killer Lacks a Name
Article 2940 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-26-2009
Posting Date: 9-1-2009
Directed by Tulio Demicheli
Featuring Lang Jeffries, Olga Omar, Isabella Biancini
Country: Spain / Italy

A dossier capable of blackmailing the leader of a country friendly to the U.S. disappears, and an American agent is sent out to find its whereabouts before it ends up in the hands of enemies.

This Italian James Bond clone sat on my hunt list for quite a while, and I fully suspected that if it ever did show up, it would be in undubbed, unsubtitled Italian. I was quite delighted to find a copy that was not only dubbed into English, but letterboxed as well; it’s subtitled, too, but in Dutch. Furthermore, I found it more entertaining than the usual Spyghetti movie (as I’ve come to call them). It’s main plus is that it has a particularly memorable villain; he’s a killer with a mechanical hand capable of killing people with electrocution, a story element that also adds some science fiction content to make the movie qualify for this series. As usual, the movie is fairly confusing during the first half, but it works itself up to some fun story twists and double-crosses before it’s all through. All in all, I found this one acceptably entertaining.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Article 2939 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-25-2009
Posting Date: 8-31-2009
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Featuring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Country: USA

Luke Skywalker seeks to become a Jedi warrior with the help of an elusive Jedi master called Yoda, while his friends try to elude capture from Darth Vader and the empire.

Now that all three of the prequels to the original Star Wars saga have come out, one debate I often encounter concerns the best order in which to watch the whole series; there are those who advocate watching the prequels first and then watching the original series. I’m not of that group; for me, the revelations flow smoother and more satisfyingly in the original series, and it gives you the option to ignore the prequels in their entirety if you wish. Certainly, the introduction of Yoda as a character in this movie would have seemed overly coy if you already knew who he was and how he looked. This one is often considered the best of the series, and you won’t get a dissenting opinion from me in this regard; the skill with which it deepens, fleshes out and darkens the themes of the original to compensate for the fact that the concept itself is now not quite as fresh as it was in the first movie shows that the original three movies were indeed conceived as a series, albeit one that could have been truncated with the first movie should it have proved not to have been a hit. The acting from the principals shows a marked improvement, which also helps compensate somewhat for the fact that we have no new name stars to add to the mix, and the ones from the original (Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing) have either disappeared from the plot or been reduced to cameos. Of course, certain series fanatics probably like the movie because it introduces Boba Fett the bounty hunter, but I could care less about that; a cool helmet doesn’t make for a compelling character. On a side note, the original movie (STAR WARS) was one of the first movies I covered for this series, and I feel a bit of irony from the fact that it has taken me a longer gap of time before I covered the sequel than it actual took between the releases of the two movies.

The Eerie Midnight Horror Show (1974)

aka L’ossessa, The Sexorcist
Article 2938 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-24-2009
Posting Date: 8-30-2009
Directed by Mario Gariazzo
Featuring Stella Carnacina, Chris Avram, Lucretia Love
Country: Italy

An art student encounters a wooden sculpture of a crucified man that turns out to be Satan. He comes to life and takes possession of her soul. An exorcist is found to save her.

Sometimes I marvel at the shamelessness of those who market movies. Releasing this lame but slightly sexed-up Italian rip-off of THE EXORCIST as THE SEXORCIST is not only tacky, but really overstates the case (though, in truth, since my print is short by seven minutes, it may depend on what is in that missing footage); nevertheless, I can understand that tactic. However, to call it the title it has above and to release it with the image of red disembodied lips is a blatant attempt to link it to another movie (and you should be able to figure out which movie I’m talking about if you consider that the title of that one featured both “horror” and “show” in the title, was a big hit on the midnight movie circuit, and was also marketed with the image of red disembodied lips). Still, I find it hard to believe that fans of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW would find much to their taste in this non-musical, non-campy, decidedly hetero movie. As for the movie itself, other than one good scene in which the wooden statue comes to life, I found it mostly derivative and dull; in particular, endless discussions about the artistic merits of the statue (and occasionally other items) will most likely bore the hell out of anyone who isn’t an art student. The director also gave us VERY CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FOURTH KIND, if you want a hint at the level of quality here.

Drive In Massacre (1977)

Article 2937 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-23-2009
Posting Date: 8-29-2009
Directed by Stu Segall
Featuring Bruce Kimball, Steve Vincent, Douglas Gudbye
Country: USA

A sword-wielding homicidal maniac is terrorizing a local drive-in. Is it the abusive manager who used to be a knife thrower? The dim-witted janitor (affectionately known as Germy) who used to be a sword swallower and geek? Or the voyeuristic regular customer?

Obviously designed to be played at drive-in theaters around the country, this gimmick horror film is neither scary enough on its own terms to be effective, nor inventive enough in terms of its gimmick to be much fun. Still, I’ve seen worse, and it has the advantage of being short (only 74 minutes) and of coming up with at least a couple of fun moments; the cops flip coins to decide who gets to be the good cop and the bad cop, and one murder is witnessed as a shadow on the projection screen. Still, it’s a washout; the special effects are weak, the acting is the same, and much of the cinematography is too dark to be effective, as you’ll often be staring at the screen without a clue as to what’s going on. The gimmick ending is obvious, and is more likely to produce snorts of laughter than shudders of terror. Director Stu Segall came up with the story under the pseudonym of Godfrey Daniels, which may be a W.C. Fields reference.

Toto sceicco (1950)

aka Toto the Shiek
Article 2936 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-22-2009
Posting Date: 8-28-2009
Directed by Mario Mattoli
Featuring Toto, Tamara Lees, Laura Gore
Country: Italy

When his master leaves to join the foreign legion, a majordomo is sent by a marquesse to fetch him back. Complications arise, however, when the majordomo is mistaken for the son of a shiek.

In terms of Italian comedy, I would choose Toto over Franco and Ciccio any day. However, one must bear in mind that this choice is based upon viewings of their movies without the benefit of English dubbing or subtitles, so I can’t say I can fully appreciate them. In the purely visual sense, I know that Toto appeals to me more; his facial expressions don’t seem to resort to the shameless mugging of the Franco and Ciccio movies, and his movies just seem to be more creative. I’d love to know what’s going on in some of the scenes towards the beginning, especially one in a restaurant involving a kissing sound and lots of sausages. Things becomes a little easier to follow in the second half of the movie when Toto stumbles across the lost world of Atlantis; this part is essentially a parody of L’ATLANTIDE, which I’ve seen. It seems fairly amusing, though not as memorable as TOTO IN HELL, though there does seem to be an inordinate amount of joking about mirages in this one.