Les victimes de l’alcoholisme (1902)

aka Alcohol and Its Victims
Article 4956 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-13-2015
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Social conscience movie

A well-to-do man lives a happy life with his happy family. Then he discovers alcohol…

There’s a point in the print that I saw of this movie in which we see the alcoholic’s family reduced to living in a squalid freezing hovel. Suddenly we see the alcoholic himself lying prone on the floor; he wasn’t in the scene at all previously. It’s obviously a jump cut, and we’re missing a bit of the film. I will return to this observation shortly.

Given that I’m watching these movies for their fantastic content, I wasn’t really surprised to find a movie about alcoholism pop up; after all, the concept does lend itself to using fantastic content. In particular, if the movie deals with the alcoholic going through the D.T.s, the hallucinatory images would give us an opportunity for fantastic content. And, as luck would have it, this silent short does have a scene where the main character undergoes the D.T.s while in a padded cell. However, in terms of fantastic content, this scene is very disappointing; though it’s obvious the man is hallucinating, we, the viewing audience, do not see what he’s seeing, and to my mind, that disqualifies the movie in terms of fantastic content. However, since there is some footage missing (as mentioned above), there is a possibility there could have been in there. Still, I find that highly unlikely; if they didn’t take advantage of the D.T.s sequence for that content, they probably didn’t for a scene where the man drunkenly enters a room and falls down, which is what I imagine is in the missing footage. As a result, in terms of fantastic content, I have to classify this one as a false alarm. As an expose of alcoholism, there’s little in the way of surprises, but I wouldn’t really expect any in a five minute movie.

The Third Eye (1966)

aka Il terzo occhio
Article 4955 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-12-2015
Directed by Mino Guerrini
Featuring Franco Nero, Gioia Pascal, Erika Blanc
Country: Italy
What it is: Thriller

After both his fiancee and his mother die on the same day (both are homicides that look like accidents), a count goes crazy and begins picking up and killing women.

This effective little Italian thriller doesn’t fit in easily with the standard Italian fantastic genres of the era, though describing it as a modern-day version of a period gothic thriller crossed with a giallo gets us within the ballpark. It could also be described as a cross between PSYCHO and one of those Vincent Price movies where he’s obsessed with a dead wife. It’s certainly fairly bloody for its time, and it plays as a straightforward horror movie enough that the occasional arty touches don’t detract from it. Franco Nero gives an excellent performance, though I’m not sure if the script is consistent in the way it portrays his character’s madness; at times he seems blindly delusional, but at other times (especially at the end of the movie), we’re not sure exactly how delusional he is. Still, overall this is a very effective horror thriller, and it’s one we’re never sure exactly how it’s all going to come out in the end. It was apparently remade by Joe D’Amato as BUIO OMEGA.

The Penthouse (1967)

Article 4954 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-10-2015
Directed by Peter Collinson
Featuring Suzy Kendall, Terence Morgan, Tony Beckley
Country: UK
What it is: Thriller (?)

A couple of intruders terrorize an adulterous couple in a penthouse apartment.

The problem with a lot of practical jokes and mind games is that they’re really only funny to the person pulling them, and not funny at all to the victims of them. Watching this movie is like experiencing a practical joke from the point of view of the victim; the ride is not fun, nor are the revelations satisfying. It certainly doesn’t help that the premise itself is one of those unpleasant scenarios that occasionally pops up in cinema; I’ve never really been fond of the “talky psychos terrorizing innocent people in an environment they can’t escape”. The story can be redeemed if the psychos are particularly interesting or if the story really has somewhere good to go with the idea. Unfortunately, in this one, the psychos are mannered and unreal; they feel like literary or theatrical creations rather than living people, and by the end of the movie, nothing has happened to really change that feeling. Ultimately, the movie feels like a film-maker’s joke on the audience, with only one side really feeling the humor in the punch line. This is not my type of movie.

Night of the Zombies II (1981)

aka Night of the Zombies
Article 4953 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-10-2015
Directed by Joel M. Reed
Featuring Jamie Gillis, Ryan Hilliard, Ron Armstrong
Country: USA
What it is: Zombie thriller

A spy joins forces with a doctor to find a group of World War II deserters believed to be holed up in Bavaria as well as canisters of a poisoned gas rumored to have been used in a battle there. What they find are zombies.

Reed was responsible for the notorious BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, but it doesn’t appear that his follow-up movies (this and BLOOD BATH) made any attempt to be as offensive as that one was. For a movie featuring cannibalistic zombies, this is pretty mild stuff, but then, the copy I saw on YouTube does not appear to be the full movie, as it runs about ten minutes short. It was originally titled without the number, but since an Italian movie from 1980 also used the NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES title, Reed slapped a II on the back of his; the movies are not otherwise related. There are a couple of points of interest to the story, and there’s an occasional nice piece of dialogue. Unfortunately, to get to these, you have to wade through an extremely muddled script, indifferent acting, a criminally low budget, and uninspired direction. The zombies sometimes look quite human, are rather chatty, and do a fair amount of chortling. It’s odd, and not really all that effective.

Necropolis (1970)

Article 4952 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-9-2015
Directed by Franco Brocani
Featuring Nicoletta Machiavelli, Tina Aumont, Pierre Clementi
Country: Italy / UK
What it is: Art film

Famous, non-famous and fictional people talk or do not talk, as the case may be.

There’s a scene in this movie which more or less consists of what feels like a fifteen-minute monologue from a woman complaining about her husband. This is the type of scene that would be the worst scene in any number of movies; here it’s the best scene. It’s not because the scene is particularly good, mind you. It’s because it’s one of the only scenes in the movie that feels focused enough to hold my attention for at least a third of its length. It’s certainly better than the scene where the Frankenstein monster (a guy with some face make-up on) wanders around in an environment filled with what looks like red-shower curtains for about ten minutes, or when the same character gives a five-minute monologue one syllable at a time while wandering back and forth across a room, or the scene where Attila the Hun strips naked, is dressed by his helpers, and then rides around on a horse while reciting a monologue (just to name a few examples). What it’s all about escapes me; the closest I can get to an explanation is from the plot description on IMDB that it’s a “statement about life”, and this is so vague as to be of no help at all. Any one of these scenes might be effective if they ran no more than a minute or two, but the most maddening thing about this movie is that almost every scene runs at least three times longer than it should. This may rank as one of the most tedious art films I’ve seen to date.

Aoom (1970)

AOOM (1970)
Article 4951 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-8-2015
Directed by Gonzalo Suarez
Featuring Lex Barker, Teresa Gimpera, Luis Ciges
Country: Spain
What it is: Arty comic fantasy

An actor tries to have a mystical experience in which he takes his soul out of his body and places it in the body of a doll. When the doll and his own body get separated, he is believed to be dead by all but his lover, who visits the site of the experiment and attempts to track down the doll.

The opening scenes of this one make it look as if this is going to be one of those impenetrable art films that is designed to leave you scratching your head. However, this one is surprisingly coherent; not only is the story quite easy to follow, but the fantastic content is a necessary part of the story and not just an arty trick. Furthermore, the presentation is overtly comic and consistently amusing. Even the odd touches that come out of nowhere manage to fit into the story; a scene where a madman murders a woman and a scene where another woman is searching for a lost rubber dinghy both come to mind in this regard. This is one of those movies where I’m really grateful for the English subtitles; I wouldn’t have been able to make heads or tails out of it by the visuals alone. This is one of those movies that I really enjoyed, and the more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed it. Granted, it’s not for everybody, and you do have to have a weird sense of humor to appreciate it, but I found this one a lot of fun, and you can’t say that about many art films. Incidentally, the title is a variant spelling for the meditation sound generally written as “om”.

Superstition (1982)

aka The Witch
Article 4950 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-7-2015
Directed by James W. Roberson
Featuring James Houghton, Albert Salmi, Lynn Carlin
Country: Canada
What it is: Mishmash of horror genres

A minister and his family move into a house that has been the site of several horrible deaths. Does the evil emanate from the house itself, from the nearby pond, or from a strange little girl who unexpectedly appears?

Given that the alternate title gives away one of the plot points, I don’t think I’m giving away a whole lot when I say the cause of the horror is a curse from a witch that was executed three hundred years earlier. Still, any three-hundred-year-old witch who is savvy enough to use a microwave oven as an instrument of murder is a force to be reckoned with. Yes, there’s a fair amount of cliches in this one, but sometimes they’re assembled in odd and unexpected ways, and this leaves the movie with an odd vibe that adds a bit to the atmosphere of the movie. This somewhat compensates for the fact that the movie doesn’t seem particularly well-directed at times, the budget is quite low, and the dialogue is occasionally laughable. Some of the gory deaths are rather unusual and clearly betray a supernatural force at work. The movie has its fair share of faults, but it’s one that I actually rather enjoyed watching; even the fake scares didn’t really bother me. Maybe it just caught me on a good night, but I think this one more or less works.

A Man Called Rage (1984)

aka Rage, Rage – Fuoco incrociato
Article 4949 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-6-2015
Directed by Tonino Ricci
Featuring Bruno Minniti, Stelio Candelli, Werner Pochath
Country: Italy / Spain
What it is: After the Italian apocalypse

It’s after the apocalypse. A soldier of fortune is hired to locate a source of uranium that is the only element that can cure post-apocalyptic poisoning, Much action happens.

I have yet to see the bottom of sword-and-sandal movies, spyghetti thrillers, or gialli (if that’s the plural of giallo). I can only speculate how bottomless the well of Italian after-the-apocalypse movies of the eighties will be, as I’m still pretty early on in that subgenre. Imagine the Mad Max movies without a shred of the imagination or a grasp of how to stage an action sequence, and that will give you a good idea of what this one is like. I have no idea what the original Italian dialogue is like, but the English-dubbed dialogue here is truly atrocious, and any movie that takes a whole half-hour to set up a plot that could be summarized in two minutes isn’t exactly going to win any awards for pacing. The movie’s worst problem is how it fumbles its best idea; the concept of a chase sequence between a variety of ground vehicles and a speeding train is worth exploring, but this movie manages to make the whole sequence an exercise in dullness, at least partially due to a droning musical score that sounds like it’s trying to lull you to sleep. Oddly enough, it’s most effective moment may be its most unexpected; it tries for a somewhat lyrical and philosophical ending, and though it doesn’t succeed enough to redeem the movie, it works a lot better than might be expected. All in all, this one was pretty bad, but not totally worthless.

Hexen Geschandet und zu Tode Gequalt (1973)

aka Mark of the Devil Part II
Article 4948 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-5-2015
Directed by Adrian Hoven
Featuring Erika Blanc, Anton Diffring, Percy Hoven
Country: West Germany / UK
What it is: Exploitation horror

When a countess tries to get justice for the murder of her husband by a witch-hunter, she finds herself targeted by the witch-hunters themselves.

The catchphrase for MARK OF THE DEVIL was “Likely to upset your stomach”. This one bragged about having “Ten scenes that you will positively not be able to stomach”. You know, it’s really difficult to warm up to movies whose stated main intention is to make you vomit. Also, when a movie’s whole avowed purpose is to show corrupt, cynical sadistic men doing horrible things to mostly naive women in a brutal, uncaring world, it becomes difficult to care about anything that happens in the movie, especially when you suspect that the movie serves no other purpose than to be repellent. I know there are people who love this sort of thing; me, I can find them as dull as a treacly children’s movie; there’s so little in the way of real surprises. This was a waste of my time.

Wynken, Blynken & Nod (1938)

Article 4947 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-4-2015
Directed by Graham Heid
No voice cast listed
Country: USA
What it is: Disney Silly Symphony

Wynken, Blynken and Nod go fishing for star-fish.

I’m at the point that I pretty much know what to expect from a Disney Silly Symphony. It will be well animated, have some music, and is likely to be mildly whimsical rather than side-splittingly funny. That pretty much captures this one. The three title characters sail off into the heavens, have some tussles with star-fish, encounter the winds, and eventually return home to the dreams of a sleeping boy. There are some nice visual moments, and a few chuckles to be had, but it never quite reaches the heights of the best cartoons out there. Like so many of Disney’s Silly Symphonies, I like it well enough, but I don’t love it.