L’Abeille et la rose (1908)

L’ABEILLE ET LA ROSE (1908)
aka The Bee and the Rose

Article 3564 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-25-2011
Posting Date: 5-18-2011
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Early silent fantasy

A bee wanders away from the hive and is threatened by a spider.

I really should have covered this one when I had my Chomon-a-thon some time back, as it was on my hunt list at that time, but sometimes it takes a while for me to reconcile recent acquisitions with my hunt list, especially when the titles I find are only in foreign languages. There’s really not a lot to this one; the bees are played by ballerinas, and most of the emphasis is on the dancing, and it’s a bit of shame my copy of the movie has no music on it. The spider attack scene is short, and the foe is easily dispensed. It does have some enjoyable special effects, however.

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Pursuit (1972)

PURSUIT (1972)
TV-Movie

Article 3563 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-24-2011
Posting Date: 5-17-2011
Directed by Michael Crichton
Featuring Ben Gazzara, E.G. Marshall, William Windom
Country: USA
What it is: Suspense thriller

A government agent is on the trail of an extremist whose recent activities have made him an object of suspicion. The agent discovers that the extremist has managed to acquire information about a military secret weapon, and has also acquired information about the agent’s personality profile, which means the extremist knows he’s being watched and plans to use what he knows about the agent to further his plans.

For the second day in a row I’m watching a movie that features as one of its plot elements an attempted assassination of a president, but the two movies couldn’t be further apart. Whereas yesterday’s movie was a dark and subversive satire with a definite political agenda, this one is more of a conventional thriller and keeps political views out of the mix; in fact, the extremist makes it clear early on that he considers both political parties to be equally evil, and we never learn precisely what policies he objects to. The emphasis here is clearly on the cat-and-mouse game between the agent and the extremist. The most interesting aspect of this one is that the extremist has access to the psychological profile of the agent, and builds his plot around trying to predict what the agent is going to do to prevent it and using it as a tool to further his ends. Though the movie could have gone further with this, it does make for an interesting idea. Some of the plot revolves around a nerve gas which I assume is a science fiction aspect rather than a real entity. Overall, it’s not a bad little thriller and it has a good cast. It was also Michael Crichton’s directorial debut.

Hail (1973)

HAIL (1973)
aka Hail to the Chief

Article 3562 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-23-2011
Posting Date: 5-16-2011
Directed by Fred Levinson
Featuring Dan Resin, Richard B. Shull, Dick O’Neill
Country: USA
What it is: Political satire

The Secretary of Health becomes concerned when his close friend, the President, starts having paranoid delusions and creates a private army to suppress dissenters.

This political satire suffers somewhat from self-aggrandizement (the opening crawl) and heavy-handedness (the Christ-walking-on-water sequence comes to mind). It’s also, thanks to an emphasis on hippies, more than a little dated. It does, however, manage to be one of the darkest of satirical comedies, and the fact that the movie does eventually promote the assassination of the President as a solution, there’s no doubt it was subversive enough that it had to sit on the shelf for a few years before any distributor would touch it. Nevertheless, it does have effective moments and occasionally seems relevant, and the ending is quite memorable. And it does leave one wondering what would happen if the paranoia of being in high office were to spiral out of control. All in all, it’s flawed and one-sided, but interesting, and it’s best to remember that it IS a satire.

The Formula (1980)

THE FORMULA (1980)
Article 3561 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-22-2011
Posting Date: 5-15-2011
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Featuring George C. Scott, Marlon Brando, Marthe Keller
Country: USA / West Germany
What it is: Gizmo Maguffic-style crime thriller

A police detective investigates the murder of a friend, and the investigation leads him to Germany and a secret formula for synthetic fuel. But is he acting as a free agent, or is he a pawn in a game…?

As stated above, the synthetic fuel is a Gizmo Maguffin – that is, a science fiction concept that is rarely used for itself but rather as something to drive the plot of a movie that is really about something else. The cast is impressive and the director was an Oscar winner, but the movie was a flop and doesn’t have much of a reputation. I think the reason may be the very nature of the story; it’s difficult to make movies about business corruption, cartels and finances gripping to the general public, and the movie doesn’t pull it off. There’s also the simple problem that the movie is often rambling and unfocused; all too often the characters will break into “meaningful” conversations that have little to do with the matters at hand. The performances are quite good, though Brando’s combination of eccentricity and slurred speech is a little on the annoying side; you’ll be glad he has only a handful of scenes. The movie got nominated for an Oscar for its cinematography, and for several Razzies. The movie isn’t very good, but it isn’t that bad; it does, however, take quite a bit of patience to appreciate it.

Munster, Go Home! (1966)

MUNSTER, GO HOME! (1966)
Article 3560 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-21-2011
Posting Date: 5-14-2011
Directed by Earl Bellamy
Featuring Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis
Country: USA
What it is: TV sitcom makes it to the big screen

Herman becomes the heir to an English estate and the title of Lord. He brings his family to England, but finds that the current residents are hiding a secret.. and want the newcomers out of the way.

Let’s get this on record first; on the big “The Addams Family” or “The Munsters” question, I’ve always gone with “The Munsters”. Not that there was anything wrong with the other show; in fact, it may have been the better sitcom. But I’ve always had a soft spot for this one, at least partially because of the excellent casting of Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and because of the show’s central premise that the Munsters thought of themselves as a typical family. The movie is exactly what you’d expect; it’s like an episode of the show stretched to feature length with the addition of color and a racing sequence that was probably a little too expensive for a sitcom. It’s only so-so, but it hits the right nostalgia buttons for me, and the supporting cast (which includes Terry-Thomas, Hermione Gingold, Richard Dawson and John Carradine) is a lot of fun. In fact, I was a little surprised to realize Carradine was in it; I didn’t remember his presence when I saw it as a kid. However, watching it again, I know why; his makeup is so elaborate that he’s almost unrecognizable, and only his voice gives him away. On a side note, I finally realized something about Gwynne’s performance that I really liked; given how the original Frankenstein monster was played by Boris Karloff with a certain child-like innocence, I found it quite amusing that Gwynne also gave his character a child-like spin, what with his gleeful joy at everything around him and his temper tantrums.

Matilda (1978)

MATILDA (1978)
Article 3559 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-20-2011
Posting Date: 5-13-2011
Directed by Daniel Mann
Featuring Elliott Gould, Clive Revill, Harry Guardino
Country: USA
What it is: A movie where you can be confident that no animals were hurt during its making

A down-and-out show business agent gets his chance to hit the big time when he discovers the world’s best boxing kangaroo.

So why am I covering this comedy that seems fairly light on fantastic content? It’s listed in John Stanley’s “Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again” with the explanation that once you see the man-in-a-kangaroo suit hopping down the street, you’ll realize the movie is pure fantasy. That’s a bit of a stretch, but I do see what he’s getting at; Matilda’s first appearance simply destroys any credibility this movie could have garnered. I’m not sure why this is; I’ve seen so many men-in-gorilla-suits and in other monster costumes that it seems odd that a man in a kangaroo suit should be so fatally unbelievable, but it is. It doesn’t help that the movie has the soul of a not very good Disney shopping cart movie (albeit one that is slightly more adult) and that its attempts to be meaningful towards the end only make the movie seem that much more ridiculous. Yet, for all this, it would simply be a not very good movie had not the man-in-a-kangaroo-costume made it seem even worse. On the plus side, the movie has Robert Mitchum, who seems to be able to come out of anything with his dignity intact.

The Monster and the Stripper (1968)

THE MONSTER AND THE STRIPPER (1968)
aka The Exotic Ones

Article 3558 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-19-2011
Posting Date: 5-12-2011
Directed by Ron Ormond
Featuring Ron Ormond, Tim Ormond, Sleepy LaBeef
Country: USA
What it is: Regional exploitation horror

The owner of a strip joint believes he can make more money if he captures a monster in the nearby swamp and uses him as a gimmick during his shows.

Here’s a companion movie to ORGY OF THE DEAD, another movie that combined horror with strip routines. I can’t really say I was disappointed by this one; that would imply I expected it to be better than I found it to be. Instead, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a regional horror movie with this title. It opens with travelogue footage of New Orleans, and then throws in a cursory monster attack to let us know there’s a monster in the story. It’s a good thing, too; the next forty-five minutes is stripper audition footage, with occasional mentions of the monster, reactions from comic relief characters, and occasional hints of plot. Then some characters go to the swamps to catch the monster, and the monster attack footage is a little gorier than I expected, including a scene where the monster pulls a man’s arm off and beats him to death with it. The next few scenes repeat the first forty-five minutes with the monster in a cage thrown into the mix. Finally, the monster escapes and kills whoever is convenient. Perhaps the most unexpected element to the movie is that it actually has three plots going on without ever becoming a plot-oriented movie; there’s a detective trying to establish the club owner’s possible mob connections, a new stripper who finds herself at odds with the club owner’s girlfriend, and the monster plot, thus paying a greater amount of obeisance to the plot god than is usually found in a movie of this ilk. The monster is played by Sleepy LaBeef, who is apparently a rockabilly performer with a cult following. Still, the most interesting name in the cast may be a coincidence; the swamper is listed as Luther Perkins, and though I have my doubts, IMDB claims that it’s the same Luther Perkins who backed up Johnny Cash in The Tennessee Three; Cash’s song “Luther’s Boogie” is about his guitar style.