Demonoid (1981)

aka Demonoid: Messenger of Death
Article 3478 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-16-2011
Posting Date: 2-21-2001
Directed by Alfredo Zacarias
Featuring Samantha Eggar, Stuart Whitman, Roy Jenson
Country: Mexico / USA
What it is: Crawling hand movie of sorts

A couple discovers a severed hand at the bottom of a silver mine, but it turns out the hand is evil and possesses those who touch it.

If you can imagine a cross between THE HIDDEN, THE CRAWLING HAND, and THE EXORCIST, you might just get an idea of what this demented but extremely silly horror movie is like. The possessed people gain an odd assortment of powers in their hand, but always fall prey to their desire to have it chopped off, mostly because they want to set it loose on the woman who was part of the couple who discovered it in the first place. Still, this is one of those movies whose goofiness exudes a certain silly charm, and after a while, I got myself caught up in it and was rather entertained. It’s certainly more fun than Oliver Stone’s crawling hand movie from the same year. And any movie that manages to use the “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah” musical motif on the score and to name-drop Rondo Hatton (I may be wrong, but I could swear I heard a page for that name in the casino) is doing something… well, not right, but fun anyway.

The Sadist of Notre Dame (1979)

aka L’eventreur de Notre-Dame, Demoniac
Article 3477 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-15-2011
Posting Date: 2-20-2011
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Jesus Franco, Lina Romay, Catherine Lafferiere
Country: Belgium / France / Spain
What it is: Another Jack the Ripper clone

An excommunicated priest is knocking off loose women to save their souls.

One of the problems of a movie-watching project like mine is that sooner or later you just get tired of certain types of movies. I realized after watching this one that I am sick to death of movies about serial killers with sexual hang-ups going around killing women. For every movie that actually does something interesting with the subject, there are about 20 or 30 that just use it as an opportunity to give us lots of sex, nudity and violence. The fact that movies like this can be made on extreme low budgets probably explains why there are so many of them. I will give a little credit to Jesus Franco here, though; there are a couple of touches that I find interesting, like the fact that our madman has a little more dimension than you usually find, and I’ve rarely seen a movie of this type end the way that this one does. Furthermore, it’s one of the rare times where Franco gives himself a prominent role in the cast, and he does a decent job. But the rest of it is the usual stuff; when it’s not belaboring the cliches of the genre, it’s belaboring all of the usual Franco obsessions. Apparently, there are several different versions of this movie out there with varying degrees of sex and violence; the one I saw was the one with the title I gave above, and I’m just not interested enough in Franco to hunt down all different versions for the sake of comparison.

The Darker Side of Terror (1979)

Article 3476 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-14-2011
Posting Date: 2-20-2011
Directed by Gus Trikonis
Featuring Robert Forster, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Milland
Country: USA
What it is: Cloning movie

Frustrated by his stagnating career and having his work stolen by an associate, a professor decides to hook up with a former teacher who is engaged in illegal cloning experiments … and whose test cloning subject is the professor himself.

It has an interesting title; maybe it was trying to distinguish itself from THE LIGHTER SIDE OF TERROR. On the other hand, maybe it had a reason for that; much of the dialogue is so melodramatic, forced and/or artificial that the movie occasionally comes across as an inadvertent comedy. As a commentary on the dangers of cloning, I can’t take the movie seriously, but as kind of a cross between the Frankenstein story and the doppelganger concept, it does have a moment or two. Good copies of this one are apparently hard to find; mine was an nth generation dupe that is so dark that I sometimes wonder if I’m missing important details. This is especially true towards the end of the movie, which, if I understand it correctly, ends ambiguously; after all, there’s a reason that in the confrontation between the professor and his clone, they’re both wearing the same outfits. It’s not one of the better TV-movies out there, but it’s not worthless.

Andalusian Superstition (1912)

aka Superstition andalouse
Article 3475 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-13-2011
Posting Date: 2-18-2011
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France / Spain
What it is: Drama with fantastic elements

A woman drives away a gypsy that is trying to beg coins off of her lover. She then envisions the gypsy’s revenge.

This short movie saves most of its special effects for the end, when the woman’s lover is trapped in a strange room with bottles containing various nightmarish demons. Yet there is one special effect early on that is particularly striking. When the woman begins to envision the gypsy’s revenge in her mind, it opens with the woman’s face as she ponders, and then her face moves nearer to us while the background remains static. This is not a new trick; I’m willing to bet it’s similar to the one used by Melies in THE MAN WITH THE RUBBER HEAD. What makes it striking here is that the purpose of the trick is to give us a sense of her mental state, and I don’t recall a movie from before this date that used special effects for that purpose before. The story is also pretty good, and this is another of Chomon’s shorts that is really worth seeing.

The Trip (1967)

THE TRIP (1967)
Article 3474 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-12-2011
Posting Date: 2-27-2011
Directed by Roger Corman
Featuring Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern
Country: USA
What it is: Sixties relic

A film director takes LSD to gain insight.

I’ve never taken LSD, so I can’t say whether this movie gives anything resembling an accurate portrayal of what a drug trip would be like. It is, however, interesting enough as a relic of the time, and if you’re into psychedelic imagery, the movie can be a bit of fun. There’s really no plot to speak of; the first half of the movie has the director tripping out while under the watchful eye of a drug guru, and the second half has him wandering around town while still tripping out. The movie is a borderline fantasy due to the surreal imagery; some of his visions have him encountering two black hooded horsemen and a dwarf, the latter played by Angelo Rossitto. The script was written by Jack Nicholson, who also helped with the script of HEAD, which I will no doubt see in the future. It’s not a great movie, but it’s an interesting one, especially for the use of rapid-fire editing.

The Gnome-Mobile (1967)

Article 3473 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-11-2011
Posting Date: 2-16-2011
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Featuring Walter Brennan, Matthew Garber, Karen Dotrice
Country: USA
What it is: Musical fantasy with a bit of a split personality

A lumber tycoon stumbles upon two gnomes in one of his forests; they’re fearful that they are the last of their race and the younger one wants to take a bride. The tycoon decides to help them find if there are gnomes in other forests.

In which Disney attempts to cross DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE, MARY POPPINS (the movie emphasizes that the child actors are the same two from that movie) and their shopping-cart movies. It lacks the richness and spirit of the first two, and never achieves the wildness of the latter at their best. As a result, the movie is neither fish nor fowl, and is one of Disney’s more obscure movies; I myself only remember it from a single TV ad I saw when I was a child. It’s interesting to catch Walter Brennan in a dual role, but he gets a little too annoying as Knobby the gnome. I suspect even Disney didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in this one; most of their more ambitious fantasy movies clock in at close to two hours, but his one lasts a mere 84 minutes, making it even shorter than many of the shopping cart movies. It would prove to be the last movie for veteran comic actor Ed Wynn as well as for Matthew Garber. This is not Disney’s finest hour.

Endangered Species (1982)

Article 3472 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-10-2011
Posting Date: 2-15-2011
Directed by Alan Rudolph
Featuring Robert Urich, JoBeth Williams, Paul Dooley
Country: USA
What it is: Cattle mutilation thriller

A renegade ex-cop joins forces with the female sheriff in a small Colorado town to investigate the cause of mysterious cattle mutilations occurring in the area.

Director Alan Rudolph has delved into fantastically-themed cinema before; he gave us NIGHTMARE CIRCUS, aka BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD. For what it’s worth, this movie is much better than that one. The movie actually builds a nice sense of mystery about the cause of the mutilations, which is a bit surprising, because it actually gives away the game early on in the proceedings. At one point or another, several of the more common theories for the mutilations are trotted out, some of which are obviously smokescreens and others distinct possibilities. Director Alan Rudolph has worked with Robert Altman on occasion, and there are moments where the complexity of the characters here shows a bit of that influence, but sometimes the extra character development seems extraneous and distracting. Overall, I quite like the movie, but found the ending confusing and a bit muddled, and there’s still a few unanswered questions. In short, this one is interesting, if not quite successful.