Full Moon High (1981)

Article 4986 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-12-2015
Directed by Larry Cohen
Featuring Adam Arkin, Roz Kelly, Ed McMahon
Country: USA
What it is: Werewolf comedy

When a high school football player contracts lycanthropy on a trip to Romania, he drops out of school and travels around the world right before the big game. Twenty years later he returns and goes back to school, hoping to break the curse by making a touchdown in the big game.

Larry Cohen is a very interesting writer and director, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has a flair for comedy. I will admit there are some fun lines and entertaining moments in this werewolf comedy, and the movie actually starts strongly enough that I thought I was going to enjoy this one. Alas, when it doesn’t work (which sadly is most of the time), it feels forced and awkward, and occasionally even desperate. I gather that Cohen was also intending to make some observations about how times and people change, and I can see some attempts being made in that direction, but the movie is a little too silly to make it stick and it gets lost. It’s also rather disappointing that the werewolf makeup is extremely lame. For me, the best thing about the movie was a surprise appearance by Adam Arkin’s father Alan as a psychiatrist that treats his patients by insulting them; he’s the only thing in the movie that is consistently funny. The movie may also have the single weirdest variation I’ve seen on the shower attack scene from PSYCHO, and though it feels out of place, it’s far from the only thing in the movie that does. All in all, I thought this one was a bit of a mess.


Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Article 4985 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-11-2015
Directed by Joseph Zito
Featuring Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Peter Barton
Country: USA
What it is: Story problem illustrating subtraction

Teens…Crystal Lake… Jason… fewer teens… still fewer teens…

From the user comments on IMDB, I gather that fans of the series consider this one one of the better sequels. Maybe it is; not being a fan of the series, I don’t find a real appreciable difference to set this one apart from the others. The killings come pretty much at the points I suspect they will, and the methods of dispatch aren’t noticeably more clever than the ones before. In fact, I’d have to say the only surprises here are the surprises that you’d expect, which is to say they really aren’t surprises. There’s a couple of names in the cast who have become familiar enough (Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman), and I suppose that adds a hair of novelty. I will give the movie credit on one point, though; Jason’s fate here is one of the more memorable moments of the series. Still, the movie pretty much follows the formula I’ve come to expect. Oh, and the title is a lie, but everyone already knows that.

Destination Moonbase-Alpha (1978)

Article 4984 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-10-2015
Directed by Tom Clegg
Featuring Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Catherine Schell
Country: UK
What it is: TV-Movie of two episodes of “Space 1999”

Moonbase Alpha is visited by a spaceship from Earth, which has developed faster-than-light travel and is offering to take them all back home. However, all is not what it seems, and Commander Koenig is the only one who sees the truth about the visitors…

Yes, it’s another TV-Movie edited from two episodes of a TV series, but at least the two episodes in this case are of a two-part story, so it’s not plagued with the lack of focus that often happens when they try this sort of thing. The episodes are “The Bringers of Wonder”, part one and two. The two episodes are from towards the end of the second season, so it doesn’t suffer near as much from the stodginess that plagued its first season. Still, I’m not impressed with the writing in these episodes; some of the exchanges of dialogue are embarrassingly awkward, some of the behavior of the characters doesn’t make any sense, and it’s become pretty obvious by this point that the character of Maya the Metamorph (who only came on board during the second season) had become an all purpose plot convenience. The opening crawl kicks the action about 100 years down the line to the year 2100; probably somebody figured out that the technology seemed too advanced for 1999. The copy I found was on YouTube, but it’s a little suspect; it runs for two hours and thirty minutes and looks like it has another episode tagged on (which I didn’t watch, as all my references only mention the two episodes I did watch), and I suspect that I may not be watching the movie version, but the opening credits attached to the two episodes. At any rate, it’s not a very impressive affair, and though the second season seems to have addressed some of the problems with the first season, it still comes across as pretty weak.

Firefox (1982)

FIREFOX (1982)
Article 4983 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-9-2015
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Featuring Clint Eastwood, Freddie Jones, David Huffman
Country: USA
What it is: Spy thriller

When the U.S.S.R. develops a powerful new military aircraft, American intelligence recruits a veteran pilot from Vietnam to take part in a mission to steal the aircraft and bring it to American.

For some reason, I always thought this was an odd choice for Clint Eastwood; a high-tech special effects thriller just didn’t strike me as the sort of thing he’d be interested in. Having seen it now, it strikes me that the movie feels like two different movies. The first two thirds is a serious (as in non-James Bond style) spy thriller that gains its depth by having Eastwood’s character trying to come to terms with the extent to which is associates are willing to risk their own or other’s lives in the pursuit of their mission. It’s only the final third of the movie that it turns into the high-tech special effects thriller I had been expecting. This section almost feels like a lift out of STAR WARS, and though I don’t necessarily mean that disparagingly, it seems to lose its human touch in the face of all the special effects pyrotechnics. Maybe that’s why I don’t emerge from the movie quite satisfied with it all; the two sections of the movie don’t fit well together, and it’s lengthy running time (two hours and sixteen minutes) starts to wear on me as well. Reportedly, the movie was popular, but Eastwood has done much more interesting things.

Deadly Lessons (1983)

Article 4982 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-8-2015
Directed by William Wiard
Featuring Donna Reed, Larry Wilcox, David Ackroyd
Country: USA
What it is: TV-Movie Mystery thriller

A serial killer is knocking off girls at an exclusive school. Is it the school’s headmistress? The new student? Someone else on the staff? One of the other girls?

The presence of a serial killer is the horror element here, but despite that, this one doesn’t quite make the leap into horror territory. That’s because it doesn’t use the serial killer like a horror creation; there are hardly any stalking scenes, the murders take place off the screen, and in some cases you don’t even get a chance to see the dead body. In fact, it’s treated more as a mystery; the movie spends a lot of its running time on the police investigation or the attempts of the girls to figure out the killer’s identity. As a mystery, it’s not too bad; trying to figure whodunit is fun, and the characters actually become a bit more likable as the story continues, but that last phenomenon may be due to the fact that it’s the unpleasant characters that get knocked off. I rather liked the film, but that’s because I warmed to its mystery approach; those expecting a full-blown horror movie will be bored quickly by this one.

Deadly Intruder (1988)

Article 4981 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-7-2015
Directed by John McCauley
Featuring Chris Holder, Molly Cheek, Tony Crupi
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer on the loose

A serial killer is on the loose. Will a woman living alone in a country house be safe?

To its credit, this movie has one real surprise up its sleeve, and it plays it well; though I was able to guess half of it, the other half caught me off guard. The question is: how many people are going to make it far enough into the movie to reach the surprise? Up to that point, the movie had done such a good job of convincing me that nothing new or interesting was going to happen that if I weren’t dedicated to sitting through all of these movies, I might well have given up on this one after the first thirty minutes or so. For that matter, the movie doesn’t do much else that is interesting after the surprise, either. Other than that, the only other interesting thing about the movie is that it features one-time child star Danny Bonaduce in the cast. It’s mostly just a tired serial-killer movie of which there are better examples out there.

Dark Mansions (1986)

Article 4980 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-6-2015
Directed by Jerry London
Featuring Joan Fontaine, Michael York, Paul Shenar
Country: USA
What it is: TV-Movie Gothic thriller

A writer stays on the estate of the Drake family to write a family history, but she ends up resembling the wife of one of the men of the family… who died under mysterious circumstances.

I suppose this is a Gothic thriller of sorts; there’s a couple of eerie events, a hint of precognition in one of the characters, and possibly a ghost (or at least, disembodied laughter). However, it seems to me that the focus is really on the internal power struggles of a family of rich and beautiful people, and I suspect that the movie is best appreciated by people who love that sort of thing; in other words, it’s a lot more for the soap opera crowd than the horror crowd. Since I’m not part of that crowd, I found the movie tiresome; I was especially annoyed by the hair-trigger musical score that goes off every time it wants to underline how important or significant a moment is (such as pointing out that a two-person encounter has been observed by a third person), which would have been more effective if it didn’t go off every two minutes or so. I think it would have worked better if its crowning dramatic moment had actually been included in the movie rather than having been consigned to a “killed in Vietnam” style final freeze frame revelation, but I suppose they would have had to cut one of the scenes of the beautiful people in bed with each other in order to fit it in; after all, there must be priorities. As a horror movie, it falls flat; as a drama, it’s too soapy. This one didn’t work for me.

Las mujeres panteras (1967)

aka The Panther Women
Article 4979 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-5-2015
Directed by Rene Cardona
Featuring Ariadna Welter, Elizabeth Campbell, Yolanda Montes
Country: Mexico
What it is: Horror wrestling movie

The wrestling women face off against a Satanic cult that features several were-panthers and a crusty zombie.

This is another of the several Mexican “wrestling women” series, though it looks like the actress who played Gloria Venus has been replaced for this one. It also throws in a substitute Santo in the person of a wrestler called “El Angel”; if my notes are correct, this was a fictional wrestler created for this movie, though he was played by a real wrestler outside of his usual persona. As usual, the wrestling women have their boyfriends in tow, including one of them played by Manuel “Loco” Valdes; he plays the comic relief, of course, but I don’t recall him having been in the other wrestling women movies either. My copy is in Spanish without English subtitles, but in these types of movies, the plot usually doesn’t matter a whole lot. This one is a little on the dull side; it has the usual amount of wrestling for these types of movies, but it’s a little thin on the monster action, and the pace is rather slow. In general, the Santo and Blue Demon movies were a lot more fun.

Los fantasmas burlones (1965)

aka The Ghost Jesters
Article 4978 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-4-2015
Directed by Rafael Baledon
Featuring Antonio Espino, German Valdes, Adalberto Martinez
Country: Mexico
What it is: Demented ghost comedy

Two carnival hucksters with a mysticism racket accidentally conjure forth two real ghosts.

I was only able to find this in Spanish without English subtitles, so I can’t really go into plot details. However, much of what is going on is visually oriented, and I can attest to the fact that it appears to me to be one of the most demented and energetic Mexican comedies that I’ve ever seen. It has two groups of comedians; Antonio Espino (“Clavillazo”) and Adalberto Martinez (“Resortes”) play the hucksters, while the Valdes brothers (German “Tin-Tan” and Manuel “Loco”) play the ghosts. The movie is packed with sight gags and musical numbers, including a few jaw-dropping (if politically incorrect) ones featuring the ghosts appearing in various guises. It’s consistently amusing and positively surreal on occasion. It even features stock footage from ONE MILLION B.C., including part of the fight between Ignatz and Rumsford, so if anyone out there is keeping track of which movies use that footage, here’s another one for you. I can honestly say I was never bored with this one, and for a movie that has no English dubbing or subtitles, that’s saying a lot. Still, it helps if you have a taste for broad comedy.

The Magic Extinguisher (1901)

Article 4977 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-3-2015
Directed by James Williamson
Featuring Sam Dalton
Country: UK
What it is: Magic trick film

A magician makes animals disappear and reappear with a large cone.

Here’s another imitation of the Melies magic trick shorts, minus Melies of course. Unfortunately, that also means it’s missing Melies’s wonderful backdrops and his exuberant theatricality, and though Sam Dalton makes a game effort at the magician here, he doesn’t quite have the charisma of his model. There is a bit of novelty in the fact that living animals are used as part of the illusions, but that’s about all that really sets this one apart.