Shirley Thompson Versus the Aliens (1972)

SHIRLEY THOMPSON VERSUS THE ALIENS (1972)
Article 3803 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-2-2012
Posting Date: 1-12-2012
Directed by Jim Sharman
Featuring Jane Harders, June Collis, Tim Elliott
Country: Australia
What it is: Arty science fiction

A woman at an asylum tells her story of an encounter with space aliens and her attempt to help them spread their message.

I have to admit that I was pretty curious about this movie, as it was directed by Jim Sharman, who would become best known for having directed THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, both the movie and its stage incarnation. I’m afraid the movie didn’t impress me; it seems mostly to be an exercise in arty film tricks that get old fairly quickly, and it’s one of those movies that leaves me feeling that there’s less here than meets the eye. The movie is nearly at the halfway mark before we even encounter the aliens; up to that point, it’s mostly about her being at the asylum and having flashbacks to her life with her dysfunctional family. It jumps a lot between color and black and white, and in general the various arty touches seem forced and second-hand. Jim Sharman would go on to be a respected Australian theatre director, and maybe that was the natural medium for him; at this point, I can’t say that I’m all that impressed with his movies.

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Piu tardi Claire, piu tardi… (1968)

PIU TARDI CLAIRE, PIU TARDI… (1968)
aka Run, Psycho, Run
Article 3802 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-1-2012
Posting Date: 1-11-2012
Directed by Brunello Rondi
Featuring Gary Merrill, Elga Andersen, Rossella Falk
Country: Italy
What it is: Not quite sure

A man seeks a look-alike substitute for his wife, who was murdered on a trip to Cornwall.

Knowing ahead of time that I was going to be seeing this one in Italian without English subtitles, I tried to do a little reading up on it. The John Stanley guide (from which I got the title) gave more or less the same plot description as IMDB, though where IMDB’s rating of 6.9 does seem to imply that it is fondly remembered in certain quarters, the Stanley guide dismissed the movie is a non-scary, boring talkfest. The Stanley guide was right on that one point; this is one of the talkiest movies I’ve encountered, and were it not for the plot descriptions, I wouldn’t have a clue to what is going on here. Heck, even with the plot descriptions, I’m still not sure. Only three visual moments stand out; the first is the murder scene itself (and that’s a little ambiguous), the second is a scene where a peasant girl plays with a young child while wielding a big butcher knife (which was rather suspenseful even if I didn’t know the context for the scene), and a scene near the end where a woman explores a hidden room, and it’s here I see the lone reference to PSYCHO (and which provides the clearest horror content I could find in the movie). Other than that, the English title should have been TALK, PSYCHO, TALK!. I hope the talk was interesting enough to sustain interest to those who understand Italian; for me, it was a bit of a chore to get through. And, of course, I withhold from any evaluation beyond that point.

The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer (1974)

THE CLONING OF CLIFFORD SWIMMER (1974)
TV-Movie episode of “Wide World Mystery”
Article 3801 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2011
Posting Date: 1-10-2012
Directed by Lela Swift
Featuring Peter Haskell, Sheree North, Lance Kerwin
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction crime story

An unhappy husband is offered a chance to escape his current life by a doctor he’s seeing; the doctor has created a clone of the husband who will take his place, letting the real husband escape to a new life. However, things don’t work out as smoothly as planned…

In some ways, this episode of the TV series “Wide World Mystery” reminds me of SECONDS, in that it deals with a man who is given the opportunity to escape his life and start a fresh new existence. The similarity doesn’t last long, though; since the husband is a hateful, abusive individual who you’ll end up hating (and the clone is a nice, gentle, loving man), this movie emphasizes the more melodramatic aspects of the story, and it becomes more of an exercise in making you want to see the husband’s comeuppance. The movie is marred by some bad writing and silly situations, and though the final twist wasn’t what I expected, it’s one in which doesn’t hold up once you start thinking about it. With some rewriting and shortening, it might have worked better as a half-hour episode of “The Twilight Zone”.

Mara of the Wilderness (1965)

MARA OF THE WILDERNESS (1965)
Article 3800 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-30-2011
Posting Date: 1-9-2012
Directed by Frank McDonald
Featuring Adam West, Lori Saunders, Lelia Walsh
Country: USA
What it is: Child raised by wolves yarn

When her parents are killed by a bear in the Alaskan wilderness, a young girl is raised by wild wolves. Years later, her presence is discovered by a trapper intent on capturing here. Can a government man save her?

At one point the trapper says to his Indian guide “Friday, you’ve got an apology coming. You’d get it if you weren’t an Indian.” This is the line that really convinced that the movie was trying way too hard to make the villain villainous. On top of the racism, the trapper is irresponsible in capturing animals (he uses traps that may kill the animals he captures under the excuse that a few dead animals don’t matter), maltreats and teases the animals he does capture, fails to maintain his camp safely, and that’s even before he tries to resort to murder; he’d probably have sexual designs on the wild woman as well if the movie wasn’t trying to keep on the right side of “family friendly” entertainment. Genre-wise, this only qualifies for the admittedly marginal “human raised by animal theme”, and most of the savagery comes from the trapper, though admittedly the bear is the only one that actually kills anything. All in all, this one is of minimal interest unless you’re a fan of Lori Saunders’s legs.

Oh, and on a side note, I notice that the trapper managed to capture two raccoons on his Alaskan hunt. Seems like a long way to go to me; I could set up traps on the deck outside my apartment and probably have better luck.

The Day the Fish Came Out (1967)

THE DAY THE FISH CAME OUT (1967)
Article 3799 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-29-2011
Posting Date: 1-8-2012
Directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis
Featuring Tom Courtenay, Colin Blakely, Sam Wanamaker
Country: Greece / UK / USA
What it is: Satire

A damaged plane discards two bombs and a mysterious box on a Greek island before crashing in the hopes that they can be recovered before there is an international incident A special military team is sent to the island under the guise of being hoteliers in order to find the items, but they underestimate the native villagers, and soon things spiral out of control.

I’d first heard about this movie from the Golden Turkey Awards books; Candice Bergen had been nominated for her “awful” performance in the movie. I didn’t personally find her performance all that bad, but she does seem out of place in the movie, her character is really little more than a plot device, and her entrance does mark the point (for me anyway) where the movie really starts to lose its steam, though I don’t think that’s really her fault. Up to that point, it had been a flawed but entertaining enough to get by, and there were a few laughs to be had; my biggest came at seeing the ridiculous tourist get-up of the military team. It is interesting to watch how the situation careens out of control, but what really holds the interest is curiosity about the contents of the mysterious box; the latter also provides the primary science fiction content in the story. Nevertheless, the revelation was a massive disappointment, and that’s what probably is going to stick in my mind about the movie more than anything else. In short, it’s a nice try, but it falls flat.

Les dieux s’amusent (1935)

LES DIEUX S’AMUSENT (1935)
Article 3798 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-28-2011
Posting Date: 2-7-2012
Directed by Reinhold Schunzel and Albert Valentin
Featuring Henri Garat, Armand Bernard, Jeanne Boitel
Country: Germany
What it is: Mythological musical comedy

The god Jupiter attempts to seduce a mortal woman by disguising himself as her husband, who is off fighting the wars.

This movie entered my list at the same time as AMPHITRYON did, as they are German and French language versions of the same story made concurrently. Whereas I was able to find the German language version soon enough, this one languished on my list long enough to be consigned to the “ones-that-got-away” list, and only now am I rescuing it from there. Since the German version had no English subtitles, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but I was better prepared for it with this version (which also lacks English subtitles), and was able to appreciate it more. Armed with a bit of a plot description, I was better able to appreciate the humor, especially with the situation that not only is Jupiter disguising himself, but so is his sidekick Mercury, except the latter is forced to disguise himself as a dolt. I don’t remember how impressive the musical numbers were in the other version, but I was quite impressed with some of them here, especially a spectacular number that takes place when the men return from the wars; there’s a dance number with women in white gowns that is almost kaleidoscopic in its feel. Granted, many of the specifics still elude me, but I think I enjoyed this one a lot more this time.

Love Me Deadly (1973)

LOVE ME DEADLY (1973)
Article 3797 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-27-2011
Posting Date: 1-6-2012
Directed by Jacques Lacerte
Featuring Mary Charlotte Wilcox, Lyle Waggoner, Christopher Stone
Country: USA
What it is: A love story, I guess

Because of her infatuation with her dead father, a woman can only have intimacy with the dead. In order to break her habit, she marries a man who resembles her father. But she continues her other life with a coven at a local mortuary. Can this ever work out?

From the moment the main character plants a passionate kiss on a corpse in the pre-credits sequence of this movie, you know it’s not fooling around, and if you’re looking for a movie to add to the list of the sickest movies ever made, here’s one that qualifies. And it does get pretty sick at times, and not always in the expected ways. What really comes across as jarring, given the subject matter of this movie, is the wealth of romantic musical montage in the movie. I’ve seen this happen to many movies from the early seventies, but I can’t think of a movie where it’s more out of place. Needless to say, this one isn’t for the faint of heart, and the easily offended (and maybe even those not so easily offended) will want to stay away. If the tastelessness isn’t reason enough, the worst problem with the movie is that once you see the whole premise set up, you know there’s only one way the movie is going to end, and you’ll see it coming long before it does. It is what it is. But at least someone has a happy ending.