Get Along Little Zombie (1946)

GET ALONG LITTLE ZOMBIE (1946)
Short
Article 4090 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-26-2012
Directed by Edward Bernds
Featuring Hugh Herbert, Christine McIntyre, Dick Curtis
Country: USA
What it is: Haunted house comedy short

A real estate salesman accidentally kisses another man’s wife, enraging the woman’s husband. Later, he has an appointment to show a spooky house to a couple, not knowing they’re the same people he just offended. Furthermore, the creepy caretakers of the house plan to scare them all off.

The comedy stylings of Hugh Herbert are apparently an acquired taste, but fortunately, I quite like him myself, and he did give me the biggest laugh here. Still, the real strength of this short is the energetic direction from Edward Bernds, who keeps things moving quickly. There’s the obligatory scared black chauffeur of the era, but at least Dudley Dickerson helps keep the energy up. One of the nicer things in this one is that there is a real monster running around; he’s played by professional boxer Jack Roper, and he’s scary enough. This is supposed to be one of Herbert’s better shorts, and I found it quite entertaining.

Fantasmas en Buenos Aires (1942)

FANTASMAS EN BUENOS AIRES (1942)
aka Ghosts of Buenos Aires
Article 4089 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-25-2012
Directed by Enrique Santos Discepelo
Featuring Pepe Arias, Maria Esther Buschiazzo, Chelo Cordero
Country: Argentina
What it is: Ghost comedy

After a clerk has an encounter with a woman who has been dead for 25 years, he finds himself becoming something of a celebrity… and is hired by a couple who believes he may be a natural medium.

This Argentine movie is in unsubtitled Spanish, but I was armed with a short synopsis to give me an idea of the general direction of the story. I do admire one thing about it; the basic premise involves a well-known urban legend (basically the same story that inspired ORSON WELLES’ GHOST STORY) but rather than using the story for the entire length of the movie, it makes it the opening act in an extended series of events involving the repercussions of the experience. Nevertheless, the synopsis I was given was only intermittently helpful; most of the comedy in this one is verbal, and the few visual gags depend on the verbal context for them to make sense. Still, I was able to figure out enough from the ending scenes to be able to say whether there were some true supernatural events going on or whether there was another explanation. Still, this is one of those movies where the plot is secondary to the comic situations, and the latter could not be appreciated by me due to the language barrier. Therefore, I will refrain from making any sort of evaluation on the effectiveness of this one.

Tunnel Vision (1976)

TUNNEL VISION (1976)
Article 4088 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-24-2012
Directed by Neal Israel and Bradley R. Swirnoff
Featuring Phil Proctor, Howard Hesseman and Beans Morocco
Country: USA
What it is: Television satire

A congressional investigation on the damaging effects of TV programming results in a condensed viewing of one day on the schedule of the new network, Tunnel Vision.

The fantastic content of this movie is that it takes place in the future, after the first uncensored free TV network has been on the air for several months. Now, I can understand what the appeal might have been at the time for movies to lampoon television; after all, they could get away with outrageousness that TV itself couldn’t touch at the time. TV was an easy target. But just because your target is easy doesn’t mean that you should settle for lazy writing and lame jokes, and unless you find the use of sex, crudity, nudity, drug references, and racial slurs automatically funny, you’re going to be waiting a long time for any laughs to come along in this one. This is not to say that those subjects are automatically unfunny; it’s saying that it takes more than the simple use of them to conjure up laughs, and this movie miserably fails in getting laughs. Furthermore, time has not been kind to this one; given the crudeness of some of the TV shows nowadays, much of the edge of this one has been lost with the passage of time. Yes, it does have several actors who went on to be stars, like John Candy, Chevy Chase, Howard Hesseman, Larraine Newman, etc., but then, the cast is so big that I would have been more surprised if none of them had become famous. All in all, I found this one pretty pathetic.

Sugar Cookies (1973)

SUGAR COOKIES (1973)
Article 4087 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-23-2012
Directed by Theodore Gershuny
Featuring George Shannon, Mary Woronov, Lynn Lowry
Country: USA
What it is: Erotic thriller

When a pornographer kills one of his actresses during a session of erotic games, he covers up by having the actresses’s lesbian lover provide him with an alibi. However, the lover then recruits another woman to take the place of the dead actress… but to what end?

Director Theodore Gershuny directed three films, and with this one, I have now covered all three of them. The first, FOR LOVE OR MURDER, came across as a tedious art house flick. The second, SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT was a strange little horror film that had some elements of interest. This one is probably the strangest, not to mention the most ambitious, but what do you expect when two of the producers were Oliver Stone and Lloyd Kaufman (the mastermind behind Troma films)? Given this collection of talents, it may be no surprise that the movie is a combination of exploitation and art house flick; it’s full of nudity and sex (and Mary Woronov fans will not be disappointed by this one), but it’s also slow moving and somber, though very well-acted. I’m not sure why the title was chosen for this movie; it tends to make it sound saucier and more light-hearted than it is. As for the story, it’s all right, but every plot blurb I’ve seen from this movie gives away a plot point that is supposed to be a surprise near the end of the movie, and knowing this ahead of time does decrease the satisfaction of watching it somewhat. There are other problems; for example, there’s a subplot involving the pornographer’s ex-wife and overweight son that seems to be from another movie entirely. As for whether the movie is genre or not… well, it claims to be a horror movie, but it really isn’t; the closest it comes to being one is that the pornographer isn’t particularly sane. All in all, I’m not sure how I feel about this one; I admire some touches, dislike others, and ultimately see the movie as more of an odd curiosity than anything else.

She-Devils on Wheels (1968)

SHE-DEVILS ON WHEELS (1968)
Article 4086 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-22-2012
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Featuring Betty Connell, Nancy Lee Noble, Christie Wagner
Country: USA
What it is: Bikesploitation, HGL style

An all-female gang of bikers wreaks havoc and tussles with an all-male rival gang.

If you were in the mood to lay into a bad movie and wanted an easy target, you needn’t go any further than the work of Herschell Gordon Lewis; his movies usually have bad sound, atrocious acting, bad music, stupid dialogue,etc… it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s almost too easy, which is why sometimes I find myself, instead of focusing in on his shortcomings, taking a look at some of the eccentric touches in his work. In this movie, for example, I find it rather odd that one of the favorite pastimes of the motorcycle gang here is to recite poetry; granted, it’s mostly double-entendre-laden limericks, but it’s still pretty strange. Furthermore, I actually find myself rather charmed by the fake-out ending of the movie; just because you’ve reached the final credits doesn’t mean the movie is over in this case. No, it’s not a horror movie; I suspect its inclusion in at least one genre source is due to Lewis’s reputation as the Godfather of Gore, and some of the violence in this one is pretty bloody. Nevertheless, I can’t help but notice that, despite his penchant for extreme bloodletting, his taste in other exploitation elements is sometimes pretty tame; the orgy sequences here would rate no worse than a PG. And if the theme song of this movie is any indication, then Lewis is no better a song lyricist than he was as a director. At any rate, those familiar with Lewis’s oeuvre won’t be surprised by anything here, but will probably need to know that, this not being one of his horror movies, it’s far less bloody than his more famous work.

Tres citas con el destino (1954)

TRES CITAS CON EL DESTINO (1954)
aka Witchcraft, Three Dates with Destiny
Article 4085 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-21-2012
Directed by Fernando de Fuentes, Leon Klimovsky and Ray Florian
Featuring Manuel Arbo, Ricardo Argemi, Felix Briones
Country: Spain / Mexico / Argentina
What it is: Themed anthology movie

A cursed diamond travels the world, bringing bad luck to all who possess it.

This is basically an anthology movie in which three stories are told. Each segment takes place in a different country and features a different director. I’ve encountered at least two of the directors before; Fernando de Fuentes also directed EL FANTASMA DEL CONVENTO, while Leon Klimovsky has directed several Paul Naschy movies. The entire movie is in unsubtitled Spanish, so I can’t say I quite understood it. The Spanish segment was first, and seems pretty talky. The segment in Argentina is the longest and most interesting, as it involves a doctor and a criminal changing identities and places, and I think the plot revolves around an attempt by the doctor to prevent being killed by his wife, who is having an affair. This segment is sandwiched between the two halves of the Mexican segment, which seems to involve a criminal attempt to defraud a jeweler out of the diamond. Again, I can’t quite pass judgment on it because of the language difficulties, but this is another movie that had been consigned to my “ones that got away” list, and I’m glad to have finally have had a chance to see it.

Schizo (1976)

SCHIZO (1976)
Article 4084 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-20-2012
Directed by Pete Walker
Featuring Lynne Frederick, John Leyton, Stephanie Beacham
Country: UK
What it is: Psycho thriller

When a figure skater gets married, she finds herself being stalked by a sinister figure from her past. And then the murders start…

Actually, the first half of this movie works pretty well; the acting is solid, the suspense is strong, and the movie’s gruesome reputation keeps you on edge. Once the murders start, however, I found myself dealing with one of the sure signs that there’s a big plot twist up ahead; whenever a movie goes to great lengths to establish a putative killer whose face has been seen constantly, and then keeps the face of the killer hidden during the murder sequences, you know the movie’s not to be taken at face value. Once you light on the truth of the matter, though, the story flaws start becoming apparent, and, despite the graphic nature of some of the murders, the movie starts to get a bit tiresome. The fact that the movie once again confuses schizophrenia with multiple personality certainly doesn’t win it any points, either. In the final analysis, the movie is just okay, but I suspect a shorter running time might have helped this movie quite a bit.

Diabolo Nightmare (1907)

DIABOLO NIGHTMARE (1907)
Article 4083 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-19-2012
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Silent comic short

A clerk, addicted to playing the game of Diabolo, wreaks havoc when he wanders about freely playing the game with no attention paid to his surroundings.

I had been led to believe at one time that Diabolo was a popular card game of the period. Maybe it was, but in this short, Diabolo seems to be a novelty puzzle game whereby the player tries to keep a vase-like object suspended in the air using two sticks and a piece of string. This concept wouldn’t inherently push the movie into the fantastic genres, but a couple of moments make it qualify; at one point, he finds himself suspended on a hook from a passing airship, and near the end, he walks into the ocean and shows the game to some mermaids and (I’m assuming) Neptune. There’s no real story; it just wanders from setpiece to setpiece. It’s mildly amusing.

Goofy Ghosts (1928)

GOOFY GHOSTS (1928)
Article 4082 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-18-2012
Directed by Harold Beaudine
Featuring Jimmie Adams, Lorraine McLean, Billy Engle
Country: USA
What it is: Old Dark House, slapstick short style

A man, his wife, and their dog visit an uncle, who is being terrorized by a villain known as the Skull.

I’ve seen lots of “old dark house” movies, but I’ve rarely seen ones reduced to a slapstick short in this manner before. Which is not to say that I haven’t seen the idea in comic shorts before; shorts by Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd come to mind. But this one is done in the manic “Keystone Kops” style, with non-stop slapstick shtick and frantic behavior, and that makes it a little bit different. My copy is in the accelerated speed that I’ve come to recognize as usually being a sign that the projection speed hasn’t been adjusted, but it’s the type of short that actually benefits from that; since it’s working in a farcical mode, the extra energy is a plus. If you’re not a fan of slapstick, this isn’t likely to appeal to you. It does have a few fun moments; the sequence where various parties try to get a hold of a bag of money suspended on a chandelier is pretty amusing, and a sequence where the villain tries to grab the bag of money out the hand of the uncle benefits from the speedy timing. On top of the villain in the skull mask, we have some people mistaken for ghosts because sheets are thrown over them to add to the faked fantastic content. It’s disposable, of course, but I will say this much; the scared black manservant cliche present here is much less offensive when all of the characters are acting with the same manic “frightened out of our wits” behavior.

Whisky and Ghosts (1976)

WHISKY AND GHOSTS (1976)
aka Fantasma en el Oeste
Article 4081 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-27-2012
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Featuring Alberto Terracina, Fernando Bilbao, Maribel Martin
Country: Spain / Italy
What it is: Spaghetti ghost western comedy

A snake oil salesman in the old west stumbles upon the grave of Davey Crockett, who recruits him to find the location of a treasure.

The premise is on the odd side, which gives the movie some novelty value. There’s the occasional gag that raises a smile. And there are moments when the movie actually captures a certain lyrical visual sense (a scene towards the end with hats flying through the air is an example). But these don’t really change the fact that the movie is mostly a compendium of obvious and sometimes crude slapstick gags; almost all of the jokes during the first third of the movie have to do with whiskey mixed with castor oil. A few more ghosts pop up during the movie, including Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill. In the end, this is more of a genre oddity than a good movie.