Monster a-Go Go (1965)

Article 3393 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-16-2010
Posting Date: 11-28-2010
Directed by Bill Rebane and Herschell Gordon Lewis
Country: USA
What it is: Seventy minutes of footage

A capsule lands. A radioactive monster who was once an astronaut comes out. People die. People investigate. People dance. A car runs out of gas. Movie is padded out to feature length.

No movie this static and lifeless should have the words “A-GO GO” in its title. This movie was originally directed by Bill Rebane in the early sixties but was abandoned when funding ran out. Several years later, Herschell Gordon Lewis bought the existing footage, and then added new footage of his own so he’d have a companion feature to MOONSHINE MOUNTAIN. My guess is that this is one of these two directors’ worst movie and the other’s second worst. For what it’s worth, Lewis does seem to make his new footage blend in with the old footage, but that’s no compliment; however, since he couldn’t get the original cast for his new scenes, the movie still comes across as disjointed and unfocused. It’s shot in a flat distant style, the sound is bad, the narration is ill-timed, intrusive, and gives away the important things that will happen in scenes before they happen, there are a wealth of pointless scenes that go nowhere, huge gaps exist between line deliveries… all these things conspire to drive viewer interest away at every moment. I’ve heard some people say the ending is clever, but I interpret it as meaning that Lewis got tired of even trying to finish the movie and came up with it as a way to get it off his plate; to me, it’s the movie thumbing its nose at the audience. I wonder how soon the drive-ins cleared out after this movie started.

The Million Dollar Duck (1971)

Article 3392 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-15-2010
Posting Date: 11-27-2010
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Featuring Dean Jones, Sandy Duncan, Joe Flynn
Country: USA
What it is: Shopping cart movie

An experimental scientist takes home a duck from the lab after it fails every experiment and becomes irradiated. They discover that the duck lays eggs with golden yolks when barked at by dogs. Will greed cause them to lose their humanity?

According to IMDB, this movie shares the dubious distinction of being one of the only three movies Gene Siskel walked out on during his movie review career. So how awful is it? It’s not near as awful as that trivia seems to imply, but it does mark a low point of the Disney shopping cart movies, as I call them. These Disney comedies always flirted with silliness, stupidity and contrived situations, but this one falls in. All of the major characters act like idiots (except the little boy, whose main function is to tug on the heartstrings), the whole setup is incredibly contrived, and most of the jokes are pretty lame. Still, I think one of the more subtle problems is that the concept itself doesn’t lend itself to clever special effects, which is one of the big attractions of these Disney comedies, thus making the movie a little disappointing from the outset. On the plus side, the cast is appealing (especially Dean Jones and Sandy Duncan), but you’re all too aware that they are playing roles that are beneath their abilities.

Maneater of Hydra (1967)

aka La isla de la muerte
Article 3391 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-14-2010
Posting Date: 11-26-2010
Directed by Mel Welles
Featuring Cameron Mitchell, George Martin, Elisa Montes
Country: Spain / West Germany
What it is: An old dark greenhouse movie

Tourists arrive on an island inhabited by a Baron who experiments with horticulture. People start dying, and their bodies are drained of blood. Who or what is the killer?

Though in some ways it’s structured like a mystery, the tagline (which I won’t mention here) pretty much gives away the revelation, but given what you find out early in the movie, you won’t be surprised. Suffice it to say that it’s not a mystery; it’s just a good old-fashioned monster movie. It’s cheesy, cheap-looking, and silly, but the presence of Cameron Mitchell adds a bit of fun, and it’s watchable enough in its low-budget way. It would make a good double feature with CASTLE OF EVIL.

A Killer in Every Corner (1974)

Movie-length TV episode
Article 3390 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-13-2010
Posting Date: 11-25-2010
Directed by Malcolm Taylor
Featuring Joanna Pettet, Patrick Magee, Max Wall
Country: UK
What it is: Psychos and mad scientists

Three students are allowed to visit the home and laboratory of the renowned behavioral psychologist Professor Marcus Carnaby. What they don’t know is that they are actually there to be subjects in Carnaby’s experiments to see if his techniques have managed to cure three of his patients of their homicidal tendencies…

This is another episode of the British TV series “Thriller”, and I’d rate it as one of the best episodes I’ve seen. Part of the reason is Patrick Magee’s excellent performance as Carnaby, but the interesting story line also is a plus, and all the performances are very good. It was entertaining enough that it kept me from anticipating a twist that I should have seen coming, but I think that’s a sign that the story is working. Its worst problem may be that the ending feels a little too rushed and abrupt; I, for one, would like to find out what the fate was of a couple of the characters, but there probably simply wasn’t time to include it.

Jungle Hell (1956)

Article 3389 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-12-2010
Posting Date: 1-24-2010
Directed by Norman A. Cerf
Featuring Sabu, K.T. Stevens, David Bruce
Country: USA
What it is: Jungle hell

There’s these flying saucers, see? And they bring these radioactive rocks and control tigers and elephants. The local shaman has a rock, but scientists are interested in it, as well as elephant hunters. And there’s these elephants, and… Ahh, let’s stop pretending that this movie has a plot.

Those of you who have followed my series for some time probably recall my discussion of the “Double-Stuffed Safari-O”; those are jungle movies that open with exposition, end with denouement, and are filled in the center with an overly generous helping of safari. Generally, the term is not used in a complimentary sense, but after seeing this aptly-named mess of a movie, I grew to appreciate at least one thing about Double-Stuffed Safari-Os; they have a structure and a story, whereas this movie seems to have neither. If you watch it, I hope you like elephants; nearly twenty percent of the footage in this movie involves these pachyderms (and I know because I timed it), and since none were used in the footage originally shot for this movie, it’s all stock footage. Furthermore, it probably only accounts for about forty percent of the stock footage in the movie; between the stock footage of other animals, airplanes, buildings from Bagdad, London and New York, etc… I’d have to say that a good half of this movie is made up of stock footage. The remaining thirty-seven minutes consist mostly of actors wandering through a backlot jungle and staring at whatever the stock footage is showing. There’s an occasional shot of a flying saucer hovering in limbo; in fact, it feels as if the whole flying saucer aspect of the movie was tacked on at the last minute to turn the movie into science fiction, as little mention is made of the saucers anywhere but in the opening and closing narrations. If there is a plot, it’s mostly about rock-hunting.

In short, this is a nearly unwatchable mess of a jungle movie. If you do choose to watch, I hope you like elephants.

Jaws 2 (1978)

JAWS 2 (1978)
Article 3388 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2010
Posting Date: 11-23-2010
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Featurng Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Country: USA
What it is: Sequel

Once again, the town of Amity is plagued by a giant shark. Once again, police chief Brody can’t convince the mayor to do anything about it. Once again, people die. Brody must fight the shark, but this time, he must do it alone.

I actually saw this one in the theater without ever having seen the original, and I thought it was an okay thriller. I still think it’s an okay thriller, but now that I’ve seen the original, I can understand a) just how derivative it is, and b) just how much it falls short. Without a director of the calibre of Steven Spielberg at the helm, the movie never rises above the ordinary, though I will give credit to Roy Scheider for really giving it his all. I really miss Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw (though I wouldn’t expect the latter to have appeared anyway), and one problem is that this movie does nothing to fill in those gaps. Furthermore, this movie largely lacks the sense of humor that helped make the original special. And watching this movie this time around, I grew to really appreciate one aspect of the original, and that was how that movie gave us a tense nail-biting climax that did not involve teenagers screaming at each other constantly.

In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973)

Article 3387 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-10-2010
Posting Date: 11-22-2010
Directed by Harold Reinl
Featuring the voice of Rod Serling
Country: USA / West Germany
What it is: Speculative documentary

The movie examines evidence of the possibility of visitation by extraterrestrials in ancient history.

Why does this movie leave me with such a vivid sense of deja vu? Is it possible it may have tapped into ancestral memories of the visits of ancient astronauts? Or is it more likely that I just saw CHARIOTS OF THE GODS about a month ago, from which this movie pillages most of its footage. The differences are 1) it only includes about half of the original movie, 2) the narration was replaced by new narration by Rod Serling, and 3) a handful of interviews was added to the mix. As a result, the movie is shorter and isn’t quite as insistent as the original movie; the additional interviews really add little to the mix, except perhaps the final one by Carl Sagan, who ends the movie telling us that there is not a “smidgen of compelling evidence” for the visitation of space aliens in ancient times. Still, I can’t help but comment on the fact in that last month, there has been a surprising number of articles by military men talking about UFO encounters, and the UN has named a Malaysian astrophysicist to be the first ambassador to space aliens, and these reports are being taken seriously by the press. Somehow, it made the documentary seem just a bit more relevant.