Scanners (1981)

Article 3922 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-30-2012
Posting Date: 5-10-2012
Directed by David Cronenberg
Featuring Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan
Country: Canada
What it is: Science fiction thriller

When a group of mutant telepaths (whose powers can do physical damage to their victims) known as scanners band together in an organization bent on world conquest, a security group recruits an unattached one to track down and destroy the leader of the organization.

I was one of those people who managed to catch the notorious trailer for this one in the theater, and I will admit that it had a way of grabbing the attention. I thought I’d actually seen this one years ago, but having watched it now, I’m not so sure; outside of the segment used in the trailer and a few scenes I recognized from stills, nothing else in the movie jarred any memories. As I usually do with Cronenberg’s films, I find it very interesting, though the plot takes a while to sort itself out. One of the most common accusations leveled against this one is that the script is muddled, and, though I do think the plot eventually works itself out, some of the character moments don’t really ring true, and at times it feels rushed and oddly paced. Nevertheless, Cronenberg’s ideas make it worth the watching.

The Lift (1983)

THE LIFT (1983)
aka De lift
Article 3921 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-29-2012
Posting Date: 5-9-2012
Directed by Dick Maas
Featuring Huub Stapel, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Josine van Dalsum
Country: Netherlands
What it is: Technology run amuck!

When an elevator system’s erratic behavior begins causing the deaths of various people, a determined elevator repairman seeks to find the answer to the mystery…

I first encountered this movie on a video box at a store, in which the tagline “Take the stairs! Take the stairs! For God’s sake, take the stairs!” gave me the sense that this was one of the sillier horror concepts to come down the pike. It’s only if you think about it a bit that you realize the horror potential of an elevator is high, with the combination of claustrophobia and the possibility of plummeting to a painful death in the face of emotionless technology both coming into play. IMDB classifies the movie as a comedy (among other genres), but the English language dub that I saw wasn’t overtly comic; if it is a comedy, it’s done with a straight face and a lot of subtlety. The fairy dust that explains the behavior of the elevator system is a bit far-fetched, and the movie’s pace is a bit too leisurely. Nevertheless, the movie does generate a bit of quiet suspense, and though it’s no classic, it works a lot better than you think it would.

Kung Fu Zombie (1982)

aka Wu long tian shi zhao ji gui
Article 3920 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-28-2012
Posting Date: 5-8-2012
Directed by Yi-Jung Hua
Featuring Billy Chong, Kang-Yeh Cheng, Lau Chan
Country: Hong Kong
What it is: Kung Fu horror comedy

A bank robber, seeking revenge against the man who caused him to go to prison, recruits a wizard to resurrect zombies to help him with his vengeance. When the plan backfires and the bank robber ends up dead, his ghost tries to force the wizard to give him a new body…but further complications arise.

I expected a martial arts/horror movie going into this one, but I have to admit I wasn’t expecting a comedy – at least, not one that was intentional. But that’s exactly what it is, and with its manic Three Stooges energy level along with its ridiculous situations, it’s actually somewhat effective; I ended up laughing a number of times at this silly movie. In fact, it most reminded me of INFRA-MAN, and though it’s not quite up to that level, this is still a fairly entertaining movie nonetheless. The plot gets pretty farcical at times, and is full of outrageous coincidences, and you end up with a ghost, a vampire, and a passel of zombies to fill out the movie, along with the usual kung fu cliches. I was expecting a lot worse myself.

Killer’s Moon (1978)

Article 3919 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-27-2012
Posting Date: 5-7-2012
Directed by Alan Birkinshaw
Featuring Anthony Forrest, David Jackson, Tom Marshall
Country: UK
What it is: Horror movie… at least, I think it’s trying to be

A busload of schoolgirls is stranded at an isolated hotel… and find themselves at the mercy of four mental patients who have been the subject of drug experiments that have left them believing that they’re dreaming.

The first half of this movie is actually rather effective; there’s an offhand, slightly comic air to the proceedings that has the effect of leaving us with the feeling that everyone involved has no real sense of the pending horrific ordeal. I also like the central idea that the escaped inmates are under the sense that they’re dreaming, which is established before we meet them. Yet I found myself thinking that it would be extraordinarily difficult for the various members of the creative team to render that idea effectively and convincingly. As a result, I’m not totally surprised that the movie ends up stumbling at this point; once we meet the inmates and they start talking, it stops feeling like a horror movie and feels like we’ve wandered into a rather self-referential and pretentious absurdist play, with the inmates endlessly speculating on how they can be sharing the same dream, and how they don’t have to worry about what they do because it’s all a dream, etc… in short, they’re not acting like they’re actually in a dream, they act like they know they’re in a dream, and that’s not the same thing. It’s at this point that the movie stops feeling real and starts feeling mannered, and despite the rape and carnage that ensue, any suspense has gone out the window and given way to detached mental speculation. In the end, the movie ends up feeling like a dream, though not a nightmare; the latter seem a lot more real when you’re having them. I don’t know if that makes the movie “bad”, per se; a lot depends on what the filmmakers were trying to do. But the end result is more of a surreal mental exercise than a horror movie.

The Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982)

aka I cacciatori del cobra d’oro
Article 3918 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-26-2012
Posting Date: 5-6-2012
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Featuring David Warbeck, Almanta Suska, Luciano Pigozzi
Country: Italy
What it is: Exotic actioner

An American soldier is recruited to recover the Golden Cobra, an artifact that gives its possessor supernatural powers.

In case you haven’t figured it out from the title, this is one of several Italian imitations of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, which, in this case, translates as a standard period action/adventure movie shot in an exotic location involving the recovery of supernatural artifacts. Given the low-budget pedigree of this one, I didn’t expect the stunt work or special effects to match that of its model, and I kept my expectations pretty low, and I was right. For what it was, it was passable; the violence is a bit nastier than that of RAIDERS, and the script seems like it was thrown together without much care, but I rather like the British soldier who is paired with the hero. Still, this one is routine at best.

A House in Nightmare Park (1977)

Article 3917 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-25-2012
Posting Date: 5-5-2012
Directed by Peter Sykes
Featuring Frankie Howerd, Ray Milland, Hugh Berden
Country: UK
What it is: An old dark house movie

A ham actor is invited to entertain at a spooky mansion, but he’s unaware that he is actually the true heir to the estate and that the other members of the family want him out of the way…

This horror comedy is a vehicle for British comedian Frankie Howerd. I do like that the movie generally tries to use verbal wit instead of broad slapstick, that it tries to have some horror atmosphere, and that the comedian is one of those I don’t find actively annoying. However, the story is hardly original and the comedy is only fair to middling; there’s a few smiles, but not much in the way of outright laughs. Ray Milland gives his usual solid performance, and that adds a bit to the proceedings, but really, there’s not an awful lot here.

Plus moche que Frankenstein tu meurs (1975)

aka Frankenstein: Italian Style, Frankenstein all’italiana
Article 3916 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-24-2012
Posting Date: 5-4-2012
Directed by Armando Crispino
Featuring Gianrico Tedeschi, Aldo Maccione, Jenny Tamburi
Country: Italy
What it is: Frankenstein sex comedy

Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster who has an eye for the women… including the doctor’s own spouse.

My copy of this Italian movie was dubbed into French and has no English subtitles. Yet, even with these handicaps, it seemed patently obvious to me that this movie was primarily inspired by YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, only sexed up, with dumber gags, and minus the stylistic emulation of the old Universal classics that gave its model that extra needed touch. I can also say that if the verbal humor of this movie is on the same level as the visual humor, then it may well have been a blessing not to have seen it in English. Visually, the gags are painfully obvious and badly timed; the only thing that brought a smile to my face was a gag involving the monster fixing Igor’s hump. And for those drawn to this movie for the sex and nudity, I can only say that unless there’s a sexier version of it out there (or a more complete one, as my copy is short about three minutes), then you’re likely to walk away from this feeling short-changed. So it comes down to the fact that from whatever angle you may be attracted to this movie, there are lots of other better choices out there.