The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984)

Article 4442 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-6-2014
Directed by Wes Craven
Featuring Tamara Stafford, Kevin Spirtas, John Bloom
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Horror sequel

A group of young people go out in the desert to take part in a bike race. They get stranded and find themselves threatened by mutant maniacs.

I’m not a big fan of the original movie, but at least it generated a certain degree of dread and suspense, and it did a number of things very right. I can’t say the same about this one. For one thing, it manages to make me not care about the fates of all of the characters so quickly that it almost made my head swim. It also throws in stupid fake scares and some truly awful comic relief (the original had none of the latter). It pretty much follows the slasher playbook, and it fails to generate an iota of suspense; even Michael Berryman doesn’t do much for me here. Director and writer Wes Craven seems to be only going through the motions here, and the result is just dismal.


Mighty Mouse in the Great Space Chase (1982)

Article 4441 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-5-2014
Directed by Ed Friedman, Lou Kachivas, Marsh Lamore, Gwen Wetzler, Kay Wright, Lou Zukor
Featuring the voices of Alan Oppenheimer, Diane Pershing
Country: USA
What is it: Kiddie matinee nightmare

Evil space villain Harry the Heartless is pursuing Pearl Pureheart to find the location of a doomsday device that will make him master of the universe. Can Mighty Mouse save the day?

Reportedly, this feature film is edited together from episodes of the animated TV series “The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle”, which goes a ways toward explaining why there’s six directors. What it amounts to is about ninety minutes of limited animation full of bad jokes, strident voices, dumb storylines, broad animated slapstick and repetitive music. It might hold the imagination of an eight-year old, and I”m willing to bet that its 7.2 rating on IMDB comes from people who had fond memories of seeing it when they were about that age, but haven’t seen it in years. I found it witless and headache-inducing, and I pity the parents who had to sit through it with their kids. But then, I’ll watch anything for this series, won’t I?

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)

Article 4440 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-4-2014
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Featuring Dean Jones, Don Knotts, Julie Sommars
Country: USA
What it is: Herbie the Love Bug movie

Herbie is pulled out of retirement to try to make a comeback by winning the race at Monte Carlo. However, Herbie has fallen in love with another car also in the race. Furthermore, jewel thieves have hidden a precious gem in Herbie’s gas tank, and will stop at nothing to get it back.

I really liked the first movie in the series, THE LOVE BUG. The immediate sequel, HERBIE RIDES AGAIN, was a step down, but it had its moments. This entry in the series is a real step down; the story is uninspired, the script is weak, and there was a certain lunatic creativity at work in the first two movies that is completely missing here. The main plot gimmick here has Herbie falling in love with another car, but this concept gets tiresome very quickly. I like Don Knotts, but in order for him to shine, he needs a character with more dimension than he’s really given here; in fact, I don’t think he was particularly well used in his Disney movies. Still, I do admire the stunt work, and I do admire how sometimes there will be some good attention to detail. One particular moment of the movie gives a good illustration of this. There’s a scene where Herbie drives backwards a long way on a narrow dirt road, and I found myself wondering whether it might have been footage of the car moving forward in reverse, which I’m sure would have been easier to do. However, I noticed that the way the dust rose from the car in motion clearly showed that no such trick was used, and I do like that someone cared enough to do it the hard way. Nevertheless, this is overall a fairly disappointing movie, and if the IMDB ratings are to be trusted, the series would sink even lower with the next entry.

Heaven Can Wait (1978)

Article 4439 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-3-2013
Directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry
Featuring Warren Beatty, James Mason, Julie Christie
Country: USA
What it is: Remake about the afterlife

When the soul of a quarterback is removed from its body by an inexperienced angel, the manager of the afterlife way station has to find him a new body in which he can live out his proper span of time.

I will start out by saying that this is a solid, well written, strongly acted, and quite funny remake of HERE COMES MR. JORDAN, which itself was solid, well written, strongly acted and quite funny. I remember it was very well received at the time and was nominated for a slew of Oscars. So I was quite surprised to see it sitting on IMDB with a lowly 6.9 rating, which, though not bad, is still very low for a movie that was once so highly regarded. My main guess as to why this happened is that, though it is well done, it doesn’t really transcend its status as a remake of an already established classic, and I don’t really feel it adds a whole lot new to the mix of the original film. As such, the original film ends up feeling more authentic; just for example, even though I think Jack Warden does a fine job in the role of Max Corkle, when I think of the character, it’s James Gleason that will come to mind first. In fact, with the exceptions of Charles Grodin and Dyan Cannon (whose characters are given more comic business to do here than in the original), in all other cases, I’ll think of the actors in the original version first. So, ultimately, despite the fact that this movie is very good, it also feels a bit unnecessary, and I think that’s something that becomes more noticeable with the passage of time. This, of course, may be one of the pitfalls of doing a remake in the first place.

The G.I. Executioner (1971)

aka Wit’s End
Article 4438 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-2-2014
Directed by Joel M. Reed
Featuring Tom Keena, Victoria Racimo, Angelique Pettyjohn
Country: USA
What it is: 86 minutes of exposed footage

Someone is trying to kill a journalist in Singapore, and it has to do with a kidnapped scientist being held for ransom.

Angelique Pettyjohn appears naked quite a lot in this movie. There you have, in a nutshell, the only reason why anyone would want to see this movie. It certainly isn’t the action; you’ll need the patience of a martyr before it shows up, and the forgiveness of a saint for the lack of competence with which it is dished out. It’s certainly not the plot, which is mostly found in the narration during the credits and then lost in the muddle of the movie itself. It’s not the acting; I didn’t see any. It is most clearly not the fantastic content, which can be summarized like this – the scientist was apparently working on something involving antimatter. Not only does the antimatter experiment play no active part in the story, you never see any of the experimentation. Nor do you ever see the scientist. In fact, if a two-second piece of footage where it was mentioned in passing in conversation were excised from the movie, you wouldn’t even know there was any fantastic content at all. I can’t even bring myself to call it a Gizmo Maguffin; it’s more like the faint outline of the rumor of one. That this one sat on the shelf for 13 years before being released is no surprise. The only two reasons I think that it was finally released by Troma is because it was directed by the man who gave us BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, and because of Pettyjohn’s lack of wardrobe. And if there is a G.I. executioner in the plot somewhere, he’s kept safely out of the existing footage of the movie. Quite frankly, this movie may be the single biggest waste of my time for my whole project.

P.S. It has come to my attention that this movie did actually get a release before Troma picked it up in 1984. It doesn’t make the movie any better, though.

Genesis II (1973)

Article 4437 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-1-2014
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Alex Cord, Mariette Hartley, Ted Cassidy
Country: USA
What it is: Failed science fiction TV pilot

A man being used to test suspended animation is sealed alive in a chamber during an earthquake and revived 150 years later. He tries to adjust to the post-apocalyptic world in which he has returned.

Gene Roddenberry made a couple of stabs at TV series during the early seventies in which a man from the present ends up in the world of the post-apocalyptic future. I rather wish one of them had made it to a series, if for no other reason than to see if it would have have flown on its strengths or foundered on its weaknesses. It’s obvious that he was trying to an earthbound version of “Star Trek” in which the hero could encounter a variety of cultures; at least, I hope this one wouldn’t have ended up being just a continuing conflict between the people of Pax and the tyrannical mutants. That being said, I am somewhat disappointed here at the choice of the mutant society here as the society he encounters, as it’s just another oppressive dystopia. What I really wonder is whether an engaging group of characters would have emerged from the series; in many ways, I think the main appeal of “Star Trek” was that we got quite attached to the characters, and based what I saw here, I didn’t see that happening. For me, the most interesting character was Lynne Marta’s character, whose belief that lust was what caused the apocalypse and whose mention of Saint Freud was one of my favorite moments of the movie. Granted, I also liked Ted Cassidy, but that’s less because of the character he was playing and more because he was Ted Cassidy. Overall, I thought this pilot was okay, and I enjoyed it well enough. I did notice one logical flaw, though. Mariette Hartley’s half-human half-mutant character had two navels, the result of the fact that the mutants had a two-heart circulatory system. This is all very well and good, but it’s also revealed that her mother was the human half of the union… and wouldn’t that mean that daughter would have only had one navel?

The Funhouse (1981)

Article 4436 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-31-2014
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Featuring Elizabeth Berridge, Shawn Carson, Jeanne Austin
Country: USA
What it is: Horror movie

Four teens decide to spend the night in the funhouse at a local carnival, but when they witness a murder, they find themselves the targets of the funhouse owner and his horribly deformed son.

Sometimes certain names in the credits raise our expectations. Given that the director of this was Tobe Hooper of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE fame, I was expecting (and hoping, I suppose) for something a bit more harrowing. My first disappointment came early on; though I usually like it when a horror movie references other horror classics, I am officially tired of tributes/homages/parodies of the shower scene in PSYCHO – it’s just too easy, and that’s how the movie opens. Most of the first half of the movie tries to mine the sleazy carny atmosphere, and though this is a little effective, it becomes rather clear after a bit that the movie is spinning its wheels. The scenes in the funhouse itself are hit and miss, with once again too much time spent on mining creepy atmosphere (this time from the puppets and mannequins in use in the funhouse), while some of the scenes of outright horror are swamped by pyrotechnics. Ultimately, I though the movie was an okay time killer, but I doubt that it will stick with me. And if it had been made by another director, I probably would have expected that from the outset.

Freaky Friday (1976)

Article 4435 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-30-2014
Directed by Gary Nelson
Featuring Barbara Harris, Jodie Foster, John Astin
Country: USA
What it is: Shopping cart movie

A teenage girl and her mother, each envying the other’s lifestyle, simultaneously wish to be in the other’s place for a day. The wish is granted, but they find that neither one’s life is a bed of roses…

I have to admit that I was somewhat blindsided by this movie. I’d heard about it for years, of course, but there was something about its reputation that made me expect a …. well, not a SERIOUS movie, per se, but something significantly less slapsticky. I think it was the presence of Jodie Foster, who always struck me as one of the most serious and mature child actors of all time, and I could never quite conceive of her appearing in an honest-to-goodness Disney shopping cart movie. Yet that is exactly what this is, and it is perhaps best judged on that level. As such, it is perhaps one of Disney’s best movies of that sort from the era, but you do have to keep in mind that most of their shopping-cart movies of the era were very weak, and it can’t really hold a candle to some of their better ones from earlier eras. I do think Jodie Foster is an excellent choice for playing an older woman in the body of a young girl; she always came across as fairly mature. I do have problems with the incredibly contrived script, though; once the body shift occurs, both the mother and the daughter seem to be more stupid than they would be in their own bodies, making mistakes that have less to do with being in the wrong body and more to do with slapstick convenience. I will admit that Barbara Harris does play a decent job of playing a teenage girl in a grown woman’s body; my problem is that the teenage girl she’s playing doesn’t seem to be the same teenage girl that Jodie Foster is playing. But then, that’s taking the movie more seriously than it’s really trying to be. On a side note, I’ve never seen John Astin without his moustache before.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Article 4434 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-29-2014
Directed by John Glen
Featuring Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol
Country: UK
What it is: James Bond movie

James Bond is sent out on a mission to prevent a communication device in a sunken spy ship from falling into enemy hands.

This is the latest movie chronologically from the James Bond series that I’ve seen to date, and I have to admit that one of the biggest impressions it made on me was that it made me realize how much I missed the jazzy scores of the sixties movies from the franchise. There was a time when I didn’t care for those early scores, but after listening to the rather bland and run-of-the-mill scores to the action sequences here, I really noticed how much those jazzy early scores added flavor to the series. Another impression I had of this one is that it concentrates less on interesting and fun side characters and more on the action, and for me, that’s a minus; about the only character I enjoyed was the one played by Topol. If I were a particular fan of the franchise, I’d probably find this one to be acceptable enough, but since I’m not, I was rather bored by this one. There are a few moments I liked; my favorites were the first meeting between Bond and Milos Columbo, the sequence where Bond tries to scale the mountain, and the detente reference near the end of the movie. Beyond that, I didn’t have much use for this one. The gadgetry is the fantastic content in this one, and there’s not a whole lot of it here.

The Food of the Gods (1976)

Article 4433 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-28-2014
Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Featuring Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin, Ralph Meeker
Country: USA
What it is: Nature run amok, Bert I. Gordon style.

A strange substance is discovered on an island that causes animals to grow to enormous size. Soon the island is overrun by giant critters.

I remember seeing this one at the drive-in when I was a teenager, and the only scene I really remembered was Marjoe Gortner being attacked by a giant chicken. I think the reason this scene stuck with me was because I vividly remember NOT being impressed with it; it seemed pretty obvious that it was just some stagehand pushing a model of a chicken head at the actor, and the illusion that he was really being attacked by a giant chicken never became a reality for me. I do also remember there being lots of giant rats, and also being disappointed that the array of giant critters was pretty limited; outside of the chickens and rats, we have some worms and wasps… and that’s it. I understand why I didn’t remember the latter two; the worms are on for a very limited time, and the wasp effects are so bad (easily the worst in the movie) that I mercifully must have blocked them out. Watching it now, I must admit that some of Bert I. Gordon’s effects are fairly decent, albeit quite sloppy at times. I’m certainly not impressed with this script, which is loaded with cliches, one-dimensional characters, and people acting really stupid. There’s a whole lot of scenes of rats being bloodily blown away, and I really found myself wondering about the treatment of the animals during the making of this movie. I was amused by two touches, though; the first is that the farmhouse in which the characters take refuge actually has a print of “American Gothic” on the wall, and the second is that the credits claim that the movie is based on a “portion” of the H.G. Wells novel of the same name; now there’s truth in advertising for you. No, the movie is hardly what I’d call good, but for all of its flaws, I can’t help but look at the movie and feel a bit of affection for Mr. Gordon and his history of movies with giant creatures and people.