Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)

TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 (1985)
Article 5079 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-13-2016
Directed by Rudy De Luca
Featuring Jeff Goldblum, Joseph Bologna, Ed Begley Jr.
Country: USA
What it is: Monster comedy

Two tabloid reporters are sent to Transylvania to investigate a video that claims that Frankenstein is on the loose in the area.

Well, I like the familiar faces in the cast; outside of those listed above, it features Carol Kane, Jeffrey Jones, John Byner, Geena Davis, Michael Richards and Norman Fell. I also like the way the movie reverses one old monster movie cliche by having the people at the inn, upon hearing the name of Frankenstein, break out in laughter. And I also like the concept that Transylvanians might try making money by developing a theme hotel based on their horror reputation. But that’s about it for what is mostly a depressing and ineffectual horror comedy that often spins its wheels with bad one-liners, bizarre running jokes and only the thinnest wisp of a story. The actors are in there giving it their best shot, but their comic ammunition is a series of blanks. The only thing that steals the movie is Geena Davis’s costume, and that’s probably all you’ll remember about it.

The Fourth Man (1983)

THE FOURTH MAN (1983)
aka De vierde man
Article 5078 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-12-2016
Directed by Paul Vehoeven
Featuring Jeroen Krabbe, Renee Soutendijk, Thom Hoffman
Country: Netherlands
What it is: Ambiguous thriller

A bisexual Catholic writer who is a recovering alcoholic is having nightmarish visions of doom and death. He ends up having an affair with a woman who may have a skeleton in her closet…or possibly, even more than one…

Every plot description I’ve seen of this one gives away a revelation that does not reveal itself until fairly late in the plot, so I won’t give it away here. However, since I was aware of it, I was able to figure out the meaning of some of the strange and disturbing visions during the first third of the movie; however, there are still some surprises to be had. I went into this one not really knowing what to expect or whether I’d like it, but the first third of the movie is so stylishly unsettling that I was drawn in. The movie ended up being also a lot more ambiguous than I thought it would be; in the end, I’m not sure how much is true and how much is the result of the overactive imagination of the writer, and interestingly enough, that last facet of the story makes it dovetail in an odd way with the movie I saw yesterday, THE FANTASTIC WORLD OF D.C. COLLINS, in which a child’s imagination causes him to fall out of reality occasionally. As for the fantastic content, it doesn’t matter that much if the presence of a serial killer and/or a witch is ambiguous or not; the writer’s visions are clearly prophetic and possibly mystical. Ultimately, I found this a fascinating and complex movie, and I really enjoyed it.

The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins (1984)

THE FANTASTIC WORLD OF D.C. COLLINS (1984)
Article 5077 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-10-2016
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Featuring Gary Coleman, Bernie Casey, Shelley Smith
Country: USA
What it is: Walter Mitty, Gary Coleman TV-Movie style

A young boy with an overactive imagination becomes the target of spies when he unknowingly comes into possession of a secret cartridge, but given his imagination, no one believes him…

What we have here is THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY tailored to the talents of popular child actor Gary Coleman, who become something of a phenomenon when he appeared on the TV series “Diff’rent Strokes”. He was sixteen at the time he made this, but, due to a medical condition that stunted his growth, he looks much younger. He was a skilled comic actor, and if this TV-Movie works at all, it is because of his talent and appeal. Unfortunately, the script really doesn’t give him much help; it’s obvious, it’s not particularly funny, and the fantasy sequences (which reference STAR WARS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, James Bond, Superman, the TV series MAS*H and others) are pretty tepid. My guess is that how much you like this will depend on your fondness for Coleman; it’s pretty much his vehicle.

Fairy Tales (1978)

FAIRY TALES (1978)
Article 5076 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-10-2016
Directed by Harry Hurwitz
Featuring Don Sparks, Sy Richardson, Irwin Corey
Country: USA
What it is: Fantasy musical comedy nudie

The prince has reached the age of 21, but he must prove he can sire an heir or lose his kingdom. Unfortunately, the only woman who excites him is a princess who has been missing for years.

I knew going into this that it was a nudity-filmed comedy on fairy tale themes; it was only after I started watching the movie that I found it was a musical, too. However, that last discovery is neither here nor there as far as the very low expectations with which I went into this one. And… it didn’t even live up to those. Even for this type of genre, this is a dim-witted and dismal affair; about the only element I found the least bit clever in this one was the fact that one of the musical numbers is made to sound like the Andrews Sisters. There’s a few interesting names and faces in the cast, though. Sy Richardson, Linnea Quigley and Angelo Rossitto all make appearances. The most jarring and unexpected appearance, though, is from Motown artist Martha Reeves, who had no idea what type of movie this was, and I couldn’t help but notice that her only scene (she rises from a witch’s cauldron to sing a song) has no nudity, and she only shares the frame with two other members of the cast; she only discovered the truth when she brought some members of her church to see it (according to IMDB). There’s lots of nudity, though there’s very little sex for this type of thing, which is why I’m more inclined to classify this one as a late-period nudie.

Tightrope (1984)

TIGHTROPE (1984)
Article 5075 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-9-2016
Directed by Richard Tuggle
Featuring Clint Eastwood, Genevieve Bujold, Dan Hedaya
Country: USA
What it is: Crime thriller

A New Orleans cop, divorced with two children, finds himself investigating killings caused by a serial killer with a taste for kinky sex…a taste that the cop shares, and which the killer knows about…

This is an interesting movie that hovers somewhere between a slasher film, a crime movie, and a character study. Oddly enough, the first half of the movie mostly emphasizes the last of those genres, drawing parallels between the serial killer and the cop and giving Clint Eastwood a chance to forge a complex and interesting character as he dabbles in the world of kinky sex. This half of the movie is pretty intriguing, and it left me wondering just where it was going to go with this theme. In truth, I ended up being a little disappointed that the second half reminds itself that it is a crime movie, and it starts going exactly where you’d expect a crime movie of this sort to go; with two children and a new girlfriend as characters, to whom do you expect the serial killer is eventually going to turn his attentions? It even begins dabbling in slasher cliches before it’s all over. So I have to admit to being a bit disappointed by the movie as a whole, but it is still redeemed by an excellent performance by Eastwood as well as a good one by Bujold, and, taken as a crime film, it is fairly exciting and suspenseful, and I have to admit I enjoyed it.

Terror (1978)

TERROR (1978)
Article 5074 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-8-2016
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Featuring John Nolan, Carolyn Courage, James Aubrey
Country: UK
What it is: A witch’s very confusing curse

People associated with a film crew that made a movie about the burning of a witch are dying off in horrible ways. Is it the witch’s curse or something else?

I’ve encountered the work of Norman J. Warren before, and I can honestly say that nothing I’ve seen of his work up to this point has done much to impress me. Here, however, I get a few hints of creativity and cleverness; I was especially impressed with a sequence in which a scene of car lights in the distance recalls an earlier scenes of villagers with torches in the distance. However, I must confess that the screenplay here is really a mixed bag. Though I like the way it does some interesting things in the opening “villagers burning the witch” sequence, once the action opens into the present day, the movie seems to go off half-cocked in several directions at once. The movie features several horrible deaths, many of which simply don’t make any sense within the given plot. From what I gather from a user comment on IMDB, this movie was heavily influenced by SUSPIRIA, but that movie (confusing as it is) seems quite focused in comparison to this one, and whatever talents or style Warren possesses, he’s definitely no Dario Argento. The end result is a bloody and confusing head-scratcher. Still, I do have to say of the Warren films I’ve seen to date, this is the one I like the best.

Once Upon a Midnight Scary (1979)

ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT SCARY (1979)
aka Once Upon a Midnight Dreary
Article 5073 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-7-2016
Directed by Nell Cox
Featuring Vincent Price, Rene Auberjonois, Severn Darden
Country: USA
What it is: Biblio-propaganda

Vincent Price serves as host and narrator to a trio of horror stories based on famous books – “The Ghost Belonged to Me”, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “The House With a Clock in Its Walls”.

This was originally an episode of a TV series called “CBS Library”, the purpose of which was to foster interest among the young to read. Given this as its intended purpose, it should be no surprise that the adaptations of the three stories are rather threadbare; they were never meant to be full-blown adaptations of the stories and shouldn’t be judged as such. However, all three of the stories do feel complete within their own respective arcs, and as far as the only one I’m familiar with (“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”), what is mostly missing is background and setup, while the climactic scene is on display. Incidentally, “Hollow” is my favorite of the bunch, largely because I like the way the segment mounts the chase between Ichabod and the Headless Horseman; it’s low budget but fun. Vincent Price adds some flavor as host and narrator, and the other stories (or what there is of them) are passable. However, it is important to keep the expectations within the limits of what was intended by the show.

A Distant Scream (1984)

A DISTANT SCREAM (1984)
aka Dying Truth
Article 5072 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-6-2016
Directed by John Hough
Featuring David Carradine, Stephanie Beacham, Stephen Greif
Country: UK
What it is: Time travel/ghost story movie length episode of “Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense”

An old man, in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, is on his deathbed and is hovering in the realm between life and death. He returns to the time of the murder in the hopes of finding the truth.

This is an odd but rather engaging story that exists in a realm between time travel and ghost movies. David Carradine has been described as having two roles here, but if you think about it, that’s not the case; he’s playing the same character at two different ages. The main characters are very well drawn, especially Stephanie Beacham’s as the woman who trying to come to terms with a conflict between returning to her husband or leaving him for her lover. Some of the dialogue is a bit clumsy, and some of the minor characters never quite gel, but these are minor problems; the rather original story compensates for them. And it deserves credit for pulling off a neat trick; it manages to use a “revenge from beyond the grave” subplot in which the character seeking the revenge is technically not dead yet. This one is pretty good, and I’ll probably be catching some of the other episodes from this series.

Telefon (1977)

TELEFON (1977)
Article 5071 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-4-2016
Directed by Don Siegel
Featuring Charles Bronson, Lee Remick, Donald Pleasence
Country: USA
What it is: Spy thriller

A Russian provocateur seeking to start a war between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. comes to America and begins activating sleeper agents (people unaware that they are under post-hypnotic suggestion) to attack military installations. The KGB send their own agent to stop the provocateur before an international incident erupts.

One of the things I’ve discovered over the years I’ve worked on this project is that I’m a sucker for a spy movie, though I should specify that my affection is much more for the more serious, straightforward examples rather than the fanciful superspy antics attached to James Bond movies and their imitators. I noticed that I even tend to like the ones that don’t have much of a reputation, such as this one. The use of hypnosis is the main fantastic content here (the sleepers are activated to perform their sabotage via coded telephone messages), though the CIA’s use of a computer that can respond to a human voice (a very minor story element) pushes it into science fiction territory. Charles Bronson gives a stolid performance as the KGB agent sent to catch the villain (played by Donald Pleasence), but Lee Remick’s perky fellow agent is so jarring in this context that she seems to be in a different movie. The movie takes a while to really get going, and some of the plot elements don’t make a lot of sense, but I have to admit that I enjoyed it.

Splatter University (1984)

SPLATTER UNIVERSITY (1984)
Article 5070 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-4-2016
Directed by Richard W. Haines
Featuring Forbes Riley, Ric Randig, Dick Biel
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher film

A paranoid schizophrenic escapes from a mental hospital. Three years later, students and teachers at a university are being knocked off by a serial killer. Who could it be?

Sometimes a title will tell you all you need to know. Just looking at the title of this one, I figured it would be a not-very-good slasher movie. And, sure enough, that’s what I got – a not-very-good slasher movie. I had the killer picked out ten seconds into the character’s first scene, and that was before the movie began bending over backwards to try to convince me it was someone else. To give you an idea of the sloppiness of the production, there’s a scene where two women are having a conversation on a park bench, and it keeps cutting back and forth between two camera angles, one of which has a purple filter and the other of which does not. The movie is loaded with tiresome, uninteresting characters, especially when it comes to the students. I’ll give the movie credit for having one surprise up its sleeve; unfortunately, it’s so late in the game that it can’t compensate for the dullness and predictability of the rest of it. Don’t enroll.