In Search of Noah’s Ark (1976)

Article 3003 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-28-2009
Posting Date: 11-3-2009
Directed by James L. Conway
Featuring Vern Adix, Brad Crandall, Lee Sollenberger
Country: USA

Does evidence exist of Noah’s Ark on top of Mount Ararat? This movie sets out to examine the proof…

I always feel like I’m walking on thin ice with movies whose fantastic content ties them with Biblical themes; the very fact that I’m covering them in the context of a comprehensive view of the fantastic genres (science fiction, fantasy or horror) makes me run the risk of appearing that I’m scoffing at things that many people embrace as unassailable truth. My response is twofold; firstly, any movie that deals with events that could be described as magical (in this case, consider Noah’s ability to control all of those animals) places it within the bounds of fantasy, whether or not the event is true or believed true, and secondly, I won’t cover a movie unless some other source has already classified it as belonging to the fantastic genres. With this out of the way, let me go on to the movie itself.

In some ways, movies like this are a bit useless; if you’re a devout believer, you don’t need proof, and if you’re skeptical, you’ll probably never find sufficient proof for your purposes, especially if you question the intents of the filmmakers themselves. I suspect you’ll most be impressed if you see it as a child. I’ll give it credit for addressing many of the thorny questions that can usually be asked about the possibility of such an event actually occurring. Nevertheless, the movie is only mildly interesting at best, and rather repetitive at its worst; there’s just so much you can do with footage of people climbing mountains. At any rate, I suspect most people know in advance whether this movie would have any interest for them without having to read my review.


The Ice House (1969)

aka Love in Cold Blood
Article 3002 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-27-2009
Posting Date: 11-2-2009
Directed by Stuart E. McGowan
Featuring David Story, Robert Story, Jim Davis
Country: USA

An ice house worker is humiliated by a buxom blonde who hits him over the head with a beer bottle. This gives him a trauma so that he strangles any woman who raises a drink to him. Pretty soon, his twin brother, a cop, is on a case to track down disappearing women.

At first I thought this sleazy, cheap little movie was doing an amazing job in twin brother special effects, but a quick check of the credits cleared that up; instead of one actor playing two roles, we have actual twins in the leads. It’s a neat trick getting real twins to play twins a movie. It’s an even better trick if both the twins can act, but you can’t have everything. This movie is incredibly sleazy; the local dance place features lots of nude dancing to the non-hit “The Scrub”, there’s a gratuitous orgy sequence, and assorted other nude scenes. It’s also incredibly silly; from the traumatic experience that sets off the murders, the twin cop subplot, and a variety of other silly scenes (especially a freak accident where a corpse appears in an ice dispenser), the movie becomes unintentionally comic a lot of the time. But then it may not be unintentional; director Stuart McGowan went on to direct a couple of Tim Conway films. The most surprising thing about this movie is that there’s a touch of naivete in place of the mean-spiritedness I usually find in movies of this ilk; the killer is basically a big lug who can’t control what he does rather than the repellent misogynist that I’d expect from a movie like this, and it doesn’t drench itself in sadism. In short, this one is definitely bad, but far from unwatchable.

Past Midnight (1991)

Article 3001 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-26-2009
Posting Date: 11-1-2009
Directed by Jan Eliasberg
Featuring Rutger Hauer, Natasha Richardson, Clancy Brown
Country: USA

A social worker takes on a case of finding a job for a parolee who was in prison for killing his wife and unborn child. She begins to suspect that he was framed for the murder, and she investigates on her own while falling in love with him. However, she may be in greater danger than she thinks…

Yesterday I mentioned Quentin Tarantino in passing; today I find myself unexpectedly encountering him. He’s listed as associate producer on this movie, though, according to IMDB, he got the credit from having done an uncredited rewrite on the script. I have yet to see any of Tarantino’s other movies, so I’m not going to make any judgments or generalizations, and I don’t know just how much was rewritten here. The movie is only fair; Rutger Hauer is well cast, but he’s in exactly the sort of role I’d expect him to be in. The story itself is standard, and I think it mostly falters towards the end when too many characters make stupid decisions. A serial killer aspect of the story is the primary horror element, though touches of PEEPING TOM also creep in. Incidentally, this movie predates Tarantino’s breakthrough movie RESERVOIR DOGS.

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (1966)

aka Se tutte le donne del mondo
Article 3000 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-25-2009
Posting Date: 10-31-2009
Directed by Henry Levin and Arduino Miauri
Featuring Mike Connors, Dorothy Provine, Raf Vallone
Country: Italy

An American CIA agent investigates the dealings of a man in Rio de Janeiro who is suspected of being a white slaver. He discovers a plot to render the entire population of the world sterile.

For an Italian James Bond ripoff it’s surprisingly well done, and since most of the main characters are played by English-speaking actors, there’s not a lot of dubbing problems to contend with. Nonetheless, there are problems here. The music and pacing are very laid back, too much so for an exercise in superspydom; though it gives the whole movie a surprisingly amiable quality, it also makes the proceedings rather lethargic on occasion. It works best when it plays up the comedy, which is to say that Terry-Thomas steals the movie every time he appears in either of his two roles. There’s plenty of science fiction gadgetry to add to the fantastic content as well, what with the rocket, the secret underground site, the use of suspended animation, etcetera, etcetera. Mike Connors is pleasant enough as the banana-eating Bond substitute here, and Dorothy Provine wears some of the most bizarre costumes I’ve seen in a movie of this ilk. It would have been nice if they had picked up the pace and gone clearly in the direction of comedy. Incidentally, this is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movies.

The Killer Spores (1977)

TV-Movie for the series “Man from Atlantis”
Article 2999 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-24-2009
Posting Date: 10-30-2009
Directed by Raza Badiyi
Featuring Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Kenneth Tigar
Country: USA

An Oceanic science team is sent out to retrieve a space probe that landed in their vicinity. However, the space probe has brought back a surprise; a bizarre life form that can only be seen in the daylight by Mark Harris, the Man from Atlantis. These life forms can take over other life forms and bend them to their wills, and Mark Harris is the first to be attacked…

I wish to reiterate that these “Man from Atlantis” movies are not episodes of the TV series grafted together to make bogus features, but actual feature-length episodes made before it was reduced to a regular-length series. The title isn’t promising, the story, when reduced to its fundamentals, is nothing new, and it eventually gives in to the trendy cynical view of mankind so prevalent during the seventies. However, this shows a marked improvement over the only other episode I’ve seen, THE DEATH SCOUTS; it’s much better written, the acting is consistently good, and the direction and use of sound is very creative. In fact, it’s the details that really sell this episode; the life form from outer space feels genuinely alien, as does Mark Harris himself; one really senses a strong clash of cultures here. Furthermore, when the aliens possess people, their behavior doesn’t merely become violent and antisocial; they end up acting very strange in a variety of unsettling ways. I have to admit that I really liked this episode, and if the IMDB ratings are any indication, it may be the best one of the whole series. At any rate, I have two more movies from this series to cover at some later time.

Killer Bees (1974)

Article 2998 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-23-2009
Posting Date: 10-29-2009
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Edward Albert, Kate Jackson, Gloria Swanson
Country: USA

A young man brings his pregnant girlfriend to his ancestral home, much to the consternation of his family and his domineering grandmother. The girlfriend tries to gain acceptance to the family, but she is troubled by a series of local accidents… and the grandmother’s uncanny relationship with the swarms of bees in the orchard…

I’ve seen a number of killer bee movies already, but I must admit that this modest little take on the theme is perhaps my favorite. It’s less muddled than THE DEADLY BEES, more offbeat than THE SAVAGE BEES or TERROR OUT OF THE SKY, and certainly less silly than THE SWARM. Much of the credit goes to effective performances by Kate Jackson and (especially) Gloria Swanson, who took the role of the family matriarch after Bette Davis was forced to turn it down after being warned by her doctor. I also like the way the movie sets you up for one ending, but has another more effective and less predictable (albeit logical one in its own way) up its sleeve. It’s a bit on the slow side, and, with a rating of 4.4 on IMDB, I know I’m in the minority, but I found this one to be an eerie little winner.

Jungle Moon Men (1955)

Article 2997 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-22-2009
Posting Date: 10-28-2009
Directed by Charles S. Gould
Featuring Johnny Weissmuller, Jean Byron, Helene Stanton
Country: USA

Jungle Jim – er, pardon me, Johnny Weissmuller, that is, helps guide a woman writer to the realm of a tribe of pygmies known as moon men.

This is one of those Jungle Jim movies where the Jungle Jim references were dropped; Johnny Weissmuller plays Johnny Weissmuller, and the chimp is named Kimba. Not much has changed; it’s still plotted with all the tender loving care as the other Jungle Jim movies (i.e. randomly). The moon men aren’t from the moon, nor do they get their name because they drop their loincloths in battle. Instead, they worship a woman who is an acolyte of the Egyptian Moon Goddess, and who possesses immortal life as long as she avoids the sun (making this jungle flick something of a cross between SHE and THE MOLE PEOPLE). Myron Healey plays a character named Santo, but he doesn’t wear a mask or wrestle Mexicans. Billy Curtis gives about as good a performance as anyone could as the head of the moon men, but he has to endure one embarrassing sequence in which he is tied to a tree and tormented by Kimba. Ben Chapman appears as a native who dies early on. Angelo Rossitto plays the Littlest Moon Man, which will no doubt one day be the title of a really bad children’s movie. Heck, I’m having more fun writing my review than I did watching the movie.

Journey to Midnight (1968)

Article 2996 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2009
Posting Date: 10-27-2009
Directed by Roy Ward Baker and Alan Gibson
Featuring Sebastian Cabot, Chad Everett, Bernard Lee
Country: UK

Two stories of the supernatural are presented. In the first, an American is invited to a costume party at a provincial English manor despite not knowing anyone there. There he discovers a dark secret. In the second, a woman seeks to communicate to her dead husband, and towards that end, she hires a private detective to spot fake mediums so she won’t be bilked. What she doesn’t know is that he detective himself is part of a scam…

Here’s another movie created by editing two TV episodes together, in this case from “Journey to the Unknown”, an anthology series. It’s definitely a mixed bag. The first story is one of those standard plots in which you’ll see the final twist fairly early in the proceedings. Had the episode been sharply directed and crisply paced, it wouldn’t have mattered, but it’s stodgy, dull and overlong; you’ll wait forever to find out what you already know. The second story is much better; by taking the old concept of phony spiritualists and giving it a fresh new twist, it manages to hold the interest quite well, even if you can figure out how it’s going to come out. The story itself is from Robert Bloch, and Roy Ward Baker manages to give it a genuinely eerie feel. The linking segments are narrated by Sebastian Cabot, and they feel a bit tacked on. Incidentally, the two episodes of the series were originally called “Poor Butterfly” and “The Indian Spirit Guide”.

It! (1965)

IT! (1965)
Article 2995 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-20-2009
Posting Date: 10-26-2009
Directed by Herbert J. Leder
Featuring Roddy McDowall, Jill Haworth, Paul Maxwell
Country: UK / USA

When a museum’s warehouse burns down, the only surviving piece is an ominous-looking statue. When people begin dying mysteriously in its proximity, the assistant to the curator begins to suspect that the statue is the Golem of legend. Now, if he can only find the scroll that will bring it to life…

An update of the legend of the Golem isn’t a bad idea. Crossing it with PSYCHO (the assistant keeps his dead mother in his house) is merely bizarre, even if Roddy McDowell does make for an effective ersatz Anthony Perkins. Giving the assistant psychic powers with which to communicate with the Golem is piling it on a bit thick. Having the assistant hallucinate that his dead, mummified mother is the naked body of the woman he loves is just plain silly. And having the military and the police decide that the best way to defeat the Golem is to use the atomic bomb on it takes the movie to levels of absurdity that boggle the mind. In case you’re missing the point, I can only summarize by telling you that the script of this movie is an overblown, silly mess, which doesn’t mean that it’s not fun in its own way. And at least McDowell keeps the entertainment level running pretty high. And there’s one thing I have to admit – that Golem statue is pretty creepy.

Night of the Big Heat (1967)

aka Island of the Burning Doomed
Article 2994 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-19-2009
Posting Date: 10-25-2009
Directed by Terence Fisher
Featuring Christopher Lee, Patrick Allen, Peter Cushing
Country: UK

An island near England is having unseasonably warm weather. A scientist on the island discovers that the weather is not a meteorological fluke, but a symptom of something far more ominous…

I’d heard about this movie for years, and I always thought it would prove to be a variation on THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE. Instead, I find it’s a lot more similar to ISLAND OF TERROR, another movie from the same production company. It starts out as an intriguing mystery of sort, but, unfortunately, it’s one of those mysteries that loses its allure once it’s been solved. Several things disappoint me here; the revelation about the cause of the heat, the special effects surrounding this revelation, and the fact that the story ends up getting badly mired in an irritating romantic triangle subplot. It’s also one of those movies where the day-for-night photography is particularly distracting. Peter Cushing does his usual fine job, but his role is too small, and Christopher Lee tries his best with a role that isn’t particularly well-written. All in all, this was a disappointment.