Beyond the Bermuda Triangle (1975)

Article 4452 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-16-2014
Directed by William A. Graham
Featuring Fred MacMurray, Sam Groom, Donna Mills
Country: USA
What it is: Supernatural… uh, thriller

When some friends disappear inside the Bermuda Triangle, a retired businessman investigates.

Fred MacMurray projects such an amiable warmth that you can’t help but like him, and that comes through even when he’s saddled with poor dialogue and a dull story as he is here. In short, he’s the only real reason to bother to tune in to this lethargic exploitation of the Bermuda Triangle legend; everything else here feels like made-for-TV cliches and filler. And don’t expect much in the way of special effects; the theory put forth this time around is only talked about and never shown, and I greeted the end of the movie with a kind of glum dejection at the realization that that was all I was going to get. In short, this one is talky and dull, with only MacMurray’s performance to lift it out of the doldrums.


The Treasure of the Petrified Forest (1965)

aka Il tesoro della foresta pietrificata
Article 4451 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-15-2014
Directed by Emimmo Salvi
Featuring Gordon Mitchell, Ivica Pajer, Eleanora Bianchi
Country: Italy
What it is: Norse epic

Evil viking Hunding seeks the Sword of the Nibelungen, which is hidden in the petrified forest. It is up to Siegmund, son of Wotan and leader of the Nibelungen, to prevent him from getting it.

Though I can’t quite think of this one as a sword-and-sandal movie, it’s pretty much in the same mode. It takes place in the same fantasy world as the Nibelungen myth, but I think those seeking it for its fantastic content will be disappointed; Siegmund may be the son of Wotan, but he has no superpowers; the Valkyries (who decide who will live and die in battle and take the dead to Valhalla) mostly ride around on horses and shoot bows and arrows in battles that they are not supposed to be involved in, and if the sought-after sword has any powers at all, all that manifested itself in the movie is that you can run someone through with it, a power that it seems any sword might have. In fact, outside of the presence of a soothsayer who makes some predictions, almost all of the fantastic content is merely talked about rather than shown. As for the movie itself, it seems to be mostly an endless series of battle scenes fleshing out a story of little consequence. However, I will say that this movie convinced me that Gordon Mitchell is probably better cast as a villain as he is here than he is as a hero; he has the ability to project an effective streak of cruelty that is on display here. There’s lots of carnage, the usual betrayals, a comic-relief dwarf, and very little in the way of surprises.

The Strange World of Coffin Joe (1968)

aka O Estranho Mundo de Ze do Caixao
Article 4450 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-14-2014
Directed by Jose Mojica Marins
Featuring Luis Sergio Person, Vany Miller, Mario Lima
Country: Brazil
What it is: Bizarre horror

Three stories are told. In the first, a gang of ruffians decide to rob a dollmaker and have their way with his daughters. In the second, a balloon seller is obsessed with a beautiful woman, and his passion does not end with her death. In the third, a reporter and his wife visit the home of a professor with strange ideas about the true nature of love… and he won’t allow them to leave until he demonstrates his theories on them.

If there’s one thing you can say about Coffin Joe, it’s that he certainly doesn’t have any sentimental views about the nature of man. Each of these tales is awash in perversity, sickness and cruelty, and you find yourself thankful that the weird and jarring use of sound makes for a strong distancing technique; otherwise, this might have proved unwatchable. The first story is the most conventional, in that it follows a familiar horror theme of evil men having the tables turned on them. The second is a tale of necrophilia, and though I do admire that the whole sequence is told with no dialogue, it’s still the weakest of the lot. The third is obviously the centerpiece of the movie, and it features Marins himself as the professor. Its basic theme is that civilization is a pretty thin veneer which can be stripped away from someone, turning them into little more than a beast that will do anything to survive. I’ve seen this theme trotted out several times, but Marins has a strong sense of the political nature of his message, and that adds some power to his statement. For all of the sickness and perversity, the movie isn’t quite as harrowing as it means to be, but it’s still pretty strong stuff.

Messalina Against the Son of Hercules (1964)

aka L’ultimo gladiatore
Article 4449 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-13-2014
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Richard Harrison, Lisa Gastoni, Marilu Tolo
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Sword and Sandal

The captured Briton slave Glaucus becomes embroiled in the plans of an evil woman intent on becoming the empress of Rome.

Near the beginning of the movie, Glaucus is said to be an actual descendant of Hercules, which is a bit surprising, as most of the other “Sons of Hercules” movies tend to take the title more metaphorically than literally. There’s also a lot of talk of how Glaucus has the strength of ten men, but in action, the closest I can find to any show of super-strength is when he lifts a heavy door at one point; in all other cases, I see nothing that indicates he has super-strength. And that about does it for the fantastic content in this one, as it falls squarely into the historical camp rather than the mythological camp; it’s mostly about the political machinations of Messalina during and after the reign of Caligula. There’s lots of fighting, action, and sword-and-sandal cliches, but I found this one to be somewhat on the dull side. There’s probably a few more sword-and-sandal movies from this era that I’ll be watching, but I hope they have more fantastic content than this one does.

Shree Krishna Janma (1918)

aka Shri Krishna Janma
Article 4448 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-12-2014
Directed by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke
Featuring Bhagirathibai, D.D. Dabke, Neelkanth
Country: India
What it is: Indian legend

The invocation of the child god Krishna takes place.

IMDB lists the length of this movie as 12 minutes, and that is the approximate length of the footage I have. However, I was informed that the actual length of the movie was much longer; it was about forty minutes long. Furthermore, not all of the footage I have has been necessarily established to be from that movie, though the first section is. This means that I’m really only covering a fragment of the movie, which is cheating a bit, but I’ve done it before. There are approximately three sections to this footage. The first has worshiping villagers calling from Krishna to come out of the river, which he does in the coils of a great snake. We than have a few encounters with him, including one where he harasses an enemy by appearing to him in duplicate forms. The second section has people paying obeisance to several devotees, which involves people leaving gifts to people standing on pedestals. The last section of the footage feels like it may be from a different film, but it is interesting in itself, and it seems to have its own storyline; a prince seems to be in the throes of religious ecstasy, and he is condemned to be executed by several methods, all of which he seems to miraculously survive. The footage ends abruptly at this point, so we don’t see the result of the last attempt. All in all, the footage was worth seeing, even if some of it may be from the wrong movie.

El extrano caso del Doctor Fausto (1969)

aka The Strange Case of Doctor Fausto
Article 4447 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-11-2014
Directed by Gonzalo Suarez
Featuring Gonzalo Suarez, Alberto Puig, Olga Vidali
Country: Spain
What it is: Art film

A narrator tells the story of the strange case of Dr. Fausto.

My copy of this movie is in Spanish without English subtitles, and I really couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. Usually, when this happens, it’s because the movie mostly tells itself through conversation and dialogue, and generally the movies are light on the visuals. However, that’s not the case here. This movie is primarily visual; almost all of the dialogue takes place in the form of narration by the actor who also plays Mephistopheles; the rest of the scenes have no dialogue at all. No, the problem is that it’s more of an art film than anything else, and the visual scenes do not appear to be telling any sort of story that I could make out. Individually, some of them are compelling and interesting to look at, but their significance and their relationships to the Faust story are obscure to me. That it’s inspired by the Faust story is obvious; the cast list on IMDB has characters for Faust, Mephistopheles, Helen of Troy and Marguerite. I’m not even sure if the movie would make much sense to me if I understood the narration. As a result, I can’t really say much about this one, though I will say that it was often interesting to look at.

Dr. Satan y la magia negra (1968)

aka Dr. Satan and Black Magic
Article 4446 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-10-2014
Directed by Rogelio A. Gonzalez
Featuring Joaquin Cordero, Sonia Furio, Noe Murayama
Country: Mexico
What it is: Weird fantasy-horror

The Devil King revives his human acolyte, Dr. Satan, and gives him the mission to defeat a vampiric black magician named Yei Lin, who is trying to usurp his throne by stealing a formula that can convert base metals into gold. Dr. Satan creates mini-skirted female zombie minions to help him out. Who will win the battle of wits, and will Interpol catch the winner?

I have to admit that I have a weakness for movies with truly bizarre plots, and I’ve noticed that Mexico seems to be a good source for them. The main battle in this movie isn’t between good and evil; it’s between two different evil factions, and since the Interpol subplot mostly remains in the background, you really don’t have a good guy to root for. Nonetheless, you may end up rooting for Dr. Satan, if for no other reason that he seems the more vulnerable of the two antagonists, and his own situation is sad enough that he generates a certain amount of sympathy. It also helps that he is very well acted by Joaquin Cordero, who underplays nicely. Still, the whole movie is freaky and bizarre enough that I found it all rather engaging, and it has some great moments; my favorite shows us Yei Lin’s reaction when he tries to but the vampire bite on Dr. Satan’s minions. This is a sequel to DR. SATAN, which I’ve also seen, but fortunately, this one has English subtitles so I could understand it better.

House of Blood (1973)

aka House of Terror
Article 4445 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-9-2014
Directed by Sergei Goncharoff
Featuring Jennifer Bishop, Arell Blanton, Mitchell Gregg
Country: USA
What it is: Twisty thriller wannabe

A nurse takes on a job of caring for a rich man’s bad-tempered wife. She is talked by her ex-con boyfriend into taking part in a plot to get the man’s fortune.

There’s a few horrific moments here (the pre-credits murders, a bloody suicide, etc.) and a pointless subplot that hints at the existence of a ghost that add the blood and terror to this one, and if they’re the highlights of the movie, that’s mostly because the rest of the movie isn’t giving it much competition. I suspect that this movie was trying for a DIABOLIQUE-style thriller; if so, then it makes a huge mistake by giving us all of the character and relationship alignments ahead of time so that no real plot twists ever take place; all you’re really watching for is to see if the various plans of the characters work out. To give an example of the bad plotting, the scene that is supposed to imply that the ghost of a dead person has appeared occurs after the movie has established that there is another character that looks almost identical to the dead person on the premises. At heart, the only thing that remains a mystery throughout the movie is who was responsible for the opening murders, and that’s hardly a challenging mystery to figure out. Most of the cast seems to have a fair amount of acting experience, but the performances are uniformly weak and awkward throughout the movie as well. Throw in the lethargic pace, and you have a movie that really cannot be recommended to anyone.

A-008 Operation Exterminate (1965)

aka A 008, operazione Sterminio
Article 4444 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-8-2014
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Ingrid Schoeller, Alberto Lupo, Dina De Santis
Country: Italy / Egypt
What it is: Spyghetti

British and American secret agents are sent out on a mission to keep an anti-radar invention from falling into the wrong hands.

The Gizmo Maguffin here (which is to say the anti-radar device) does get a certain amount of use in the plot, so the science fiction content of this helping of Spyghetti is more pronounced than usual. That being said, the movie as a whole is a mixed bag. Like so many others of its ilk, it’s less interested in the intricacies of the plot than it is with having the good guys constantly falling into and escaping traps, a pattern that I’ve really began to notice in the last few I’ve seen. The movie actually seems to lose steam as it goes along, and the closer it gets to the climax, the slower it seems to move. The movie also had what I thought of at the time were bizarre little story quirks. Yet I have to really give credit to the movie for having effectively faked me out; there’s one humdinger of a plot twist towards the end, and if I hadn’t dismissed the odd plot moments as mere quirks, I would have seen it coming. For those who want a few hints, all I can say to help them is to pay attention to the numbers, the title, and the order of the credits, and watch what you assume. Or maybe you’d prefer to just ride with it; for me, the plot twist was the best moment of the movie.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972)

Article 4443 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-7-2014
Directed by Barry Crane
Featuring Stewart Granger, Bernard Fox, William Shatner
Country: USA
What it is: Sherlock Holmes story

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are called in to investigate the mysterious death of the former owner of Baskerville hall, and threats being made against the new Sir Baskerville moving in.

This is an average but fairly entertaining version of the Doyle novel, and though it does take some liberties with the story, it is more or less faithful to the source. According to IMDB, it was an unsold TV pilot, and I am rather curious as to what the series would have been like if it had sold; given that the pilot used one of Doyle’s original works, I wonder if the series would have followed suit or tried to come up with stories on their own. From the user comments on IMDB, a lot of people really dislike this version, and I will admit that Stewart Granger doesn’t quite seem the right choice for Holmes. Bernard Fox fares somewhat better as Watson, though he does channel a little bit of Nigel Bruce in his portrayal. Some of the sets are very unconvincing, especially the ones that take place on the moor. Nevertheless, I found myself adequately entertained by this one, though it’s certainly far from the best version of the story.