Hamlet (1913)

HAMLET (1913)
Article 5392 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-12-2017
Directed by Hay Plumb
Featuring Walter Ringham, Johnston Forbes-Robertson, S.A. Cookson
Country: UK
What it was: Shakespeare without the words

A Danish prince is told by the ghost of his father to avenge his death by killing his murderer… his uncle who is now married to his mother and King of Denmark.

I’ve heard tell that a full production of the uncut text of “Hamlet” can run more than four hours. Therefore, I’d imagine a silent version of the play (which would have to eliminate a good percentage of the play’s prime ingredient – its words) could comfortably be told in fifty-three minutes, the running time of the version I watched. In fact, this version does tell the whole story at an effective pace. In fact, if the inter-titles had been a little more frequent, it might have passed muster as a version of the story that could have been viewed and enjoyed by someone who went into it without previous knowledge of the original play. However, as it is, it’s another example of a silent adaptation that is best enjoyed by someone already familiar with the original; if you do, you’ll know what’s going on (and its significance) in certain scenes which would leave the more casual viewer in the dust. My guess is that it’s based on a specific stage production of the work; it’s only real concessions to the fact that it’s a movie is that it uses real exterior locations and features a ghost who is indeed translucent. It is well acted, however, and I can say I enjoyed it, but then, I’m one of those who is quite familiar with the work in question. It does point out one phenomenon, though, The role of Hamlet is such a great, enticing part that it often attracts actors who are skilled and experienced enough to handle it but do not fit the role physically, which is my way of saying that Johnston Forbes- Robertson as Hamlet looks older than the cast members playing his putative parents, and indeed, he was – he was sixty whereas his parents were 37 and 41.


The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973)

aka Il plenilunio delle vergini
Article 5391 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-11-2017
Directed by Luigi Batzella and Joe D’Amato
Featuring Mark Damon, Rosalba Neri, Esmeraldo Barros
Country: Italy
What it is: Vampires and virgins

A scholar hunting for the ring of the Nibelungen visits Dracula’s castle to find it. There he becomes enmeshed in the net of a vampiress.

Take the Nibelungen legend, mix well with the Dracula story and the legend of Countess Bathory, throw in a bit Edgar Allan Poe and lots of nudity and sex, edit some of the scenes in a Cuisinart and throw in some abstract footage to let people know you’ve seen 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and what do you get? Yes, I know… a mess. I only wish it was a more interesting mess, but its attempts at artiness tend to leave more annoyed than fascinated, and the muddled presentation leaves me more bored than enticingly mystified. My guess is that this one will appeal more to those who are into the exploitation elements than the story. This one just didn’t work for me.

The Car (1977)

THE CAR (1977)
Article 5390 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-10-2017
Directed by Elliot Silverstein
Featuring James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley
Country: USA
What it is: Death on four wheels

A killer car is on the loose in a small Utah community. Can the law enforcement officers stop it?

My first brush with this movie was when my wife told me that she’d seen the trailer; it apparently sent her into fits of laughter. So you can imagine that I didn’t go into this one with the highest of expectations. Fortunately, the movie was much better than I expected; the car is creepy enough to pass muster, it uses silence very effectively, and there are moments in the story that are really unexpected. Yet, at least partially because the concept itself doesn’t seem promising, it is always skirting the edge of being campy and comic. The movie also has a sense of weirdness that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t; the “taunting from the cemetery” sequence and the scene where one character is injured by being knocked aside by the car’s door suddenly swinging open were scenes I found more head-scratching than effective. Also, given the powers that the car exhibits, I find it hard to believe that anyone would really believe that the car was defeated at the end of the movie, but that may be intentional, since the movie heavily hints at a sequel that never came. I will say this much; the movie did hold my interest throughout, and there are not a lot of movies that can do that.

Zasadil dedek repu (1945)

Article 5389 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-9-2017
Directed by Jiri Trnka
No cast
Country: Czechoslovakia
What it is: East European whimsy

An old man plants a beet in his garden.

The title translates as “Grandfather Planted a Beet”. It’s an early work from animator Jiri Trnka, who here works in the realm of hand-drawn animation rather than the puppet stop-motion style with which I’m mostly familiar from him. It’s a charming bit of whimsy without a shred of dialogue, so it’s one of those shorts that doesn’t require subtitles or translations. I’m not going to give away too much of the action here; it’s best enjoyed as it unfolds at its own pace. I will say that the fantastic content turns out to be that the beet grows to massive proportions before the short is over. There’s almost a sense of mime to the way the characters move and communicate in this one. This one is cheery and pleasing.

Pest in Florenz (1919)

aka The Plague in Florence
Article 5388 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-8-2017
Directed by Otto Rippert
Featuring Theodor Becker, Karl Bernhard, Julietta Brandt
Country: Germany
What it is: Historical horror

The arrival of a beautiful seductress brings turmoil to the oppressed town of Florence. When her presence leads to the murder of the city’s ruler by his son, the town gives in to hedonism and debauchery. But there will be a price to pay…

The copy I found of this movie has German intertitles with French translations; in other words, no English. However, I didn’t have a lot of trouble following it for several reasons. One is that I managed to find a few useful plot descriptions. It also helped that with two sets of languages to choose from on the title cards, there were more clues I could follow to understand them. But an even bigger factor may be that the acting in this movie is… well, let’s just say it’s not subtle. Though this would normally count against a movie, it’s actually helpful when you’re struggling with a language problem; at the very least, you know how the characters feel about their experiences. If the horror content isn’t clear from the plot description, let me just say that the plot eventually centers around a plague in the city, and we have a skeletal female figure personifying the plague. We also get a short trip through hell as well as some mystical moments to add to the fantastic content. It’s all perhaps a bit over the top, but it is entertaining and effective. The final scene is definitely memorable. Incidentally, the script was written by Fritz Lang and is partially based on Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”.

La duquesa diabolica (1964)

aka The Diabolic Duchess
Article 5387 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-7-2017
Directed by Arturo Martinez
Featuring Sergio Barrios, Rene Cardona, Roberto Canedo
Country: Mexico
What it is: Swashbuckling drama

In days of yore, an evil duchess escapes from prison by drinking a potion that allows her to fake her own death. She teams up with the doctor who prepared the potion and poses as her twin sister. She has a plot do drive a wedge between a father and a son.

After all of the cheap-looking horror movies I’ve seen that came from Mexico, I’m a little surprised that this one, which looks like it has higher production values all around and is in color, has languished in obscurity; in fact, it doesn’t have any votes on IMDB, and it doesn’t appear to be that hard to find. The costumes are great and colorful, and the sword fights actually look pretty good. I suspect its obscurity has something to do with its failure to exploit its more fun qualities. IMDB classifies it as horror and fantasy as well as adventure and drama, but the horror is practically nonexistent, and the only fantastic content is the presence of a few potions. It also doesn’t help that there are a lot of static talking scenes to slow things down. I wish I could say more about this, but I was unable to find a copy of this with English subtitles, and that means I can’t give a real evaluation. However, I do get the feeling that overall, the movie isn’t particularly engaging overall, despite its production values.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910)

Article 5386 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-6-2017
Director unknown
Featuring Gladys Hulette
Country: USA
What it is: Another version of you-know-what

Alice falls down the rabbit hole and has adventures in Wonderland.

This version of the Alice story proved elusive enough that it ended up on my “ones that got away” list, but a copy of it has popped up on YouTube. It’s not the best copy one could hope for; it looks like it was recorded off a theatrical showing of the film, and the print is in ragged condition. Nevertheless, I’m glad for the chance to see it. Like the other short versions of I’ve seen, it’s mostly a compendium of assorted scenes from the novel with no real attempt to tell a coherent story, but it does have a scene that I’ve not encountered in the other versions; this has Alice’s short encounter with a giant puppy. For what it is, it’s not a bad version of the story; it has some fun with growing and shrinking scenes during the early part of the story. It’s not the best version I’ve seen, but it’s not the worst either.

Human Beasts (1980)

Article 5385 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-5-2017
aka The Beasts’ Carnival, El carnaval de las bestias
Directed by Paul Naschy
Featuring Paul Naschy, Elko Nagashima, Lautaro Murua
Country: Spain / Japan
What it is: Horror action hodgepodge

A professional criminal is on the run from a Japanese criminal organization after making off with diamonds that he agreed to steal for them. The criminal is badly injured, but is saved by a doctor and his two daughters in their isolated country home. However, this house has some skeletons in its closet…

For a while, the only clue that we have that this is going to turn out to be a horror movie is the prominence of Paul Naschy’s name in the credits; the first third of the movie primarily plays out like an action flick. Then it plays out like a combination of one of those old “house with a dreadful secret” Gothics and THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN, with a smidgen of DADDY’S DEADLY DARLING thrown in for good measure. I’m not going to blatantly give away the main horror content here (though everyone else does), though the emphasis on how good the doctor’s famous “stew” is should clue you in. And since this is a Naschy film, he sleeps with most of the beautiful women in the cast. It’s a bit of a mess, though I’m not going to complain about the dangling plot points because they’re obviously there to distract us from the “surprise” ending. At least this one is a little bit different for Naschy, so that counts for something.

Audrey Rose (1977)

Article 5384 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-4-2017
Directed by Robert Wise
Featuring Anthony Hopkins, Marsha Mason, John Beck
Country: USA
What it is: Drama with mystical and horror overtones

A father and mother are alarmed when a strange man takes an interest in their daughter. When the stranger reveals to them that he believes their daughter to be the reincarnation of his own daughter who died many years ago in an automobile accident, they dismiss him as a kook. However, the daughter begins to have nightmares, and the only person who can calm her down is the stranger…

This movie is something of a cross between THE EXORCIST and THE SEARCH FOR BRIDEY MURPHY. It also has something of a lukewarm reputation, and I think this may be because the movie was marketed as a horror movie and whose similarities to THE EXORCIST lead one to expect something other than what is delivered. I think it works better as a drama with mystical overtones in which the mother is the central character; it is she who finds herself torn between the competing belief systems and it is her character who undergoes the greatest change during the length of the movie. Both Marsha Mason and Anthony Hopkins (as the stranger) do excellent jobs. My biggest problem with the movie was the performance of the child actor; she’s convincing in some scenes, less so in others. Granted, she does have a tough role, but it is a role that really needs to be on the mark for the movie to work completely. I like it better than most other people do, but it is one of those movies that requires a certain degree of patience.

Amityville 3-D (1983)

Article 5383 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-3-2017
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Featuring Tony Roberts, Tess Harper, Robert Joy
Country: USA
What it is: That spooky old house again

A professional debunker decides to buy the Amityville house so he has a quiet place to write his book. It’s not as quiet as he hoped…

For legal reasons this movie couldn’t be called a sequel to the original movies, but it amounts to a marketing decision; they just make no mention of the family from the original movie. Still, it’s a sequel in spirit, though I do notice that it borrows as much from POLTERGEIST as it does from the original movie (though we don’t have a regurgitating clergyman in this one). The spooky events seem to reach beyond the house as well; there’s an elevator sequence in an apartment building and a bizarre traffic accident that don’t happen anywhere near the house. The movie was one of the entries in the short-lived 3D revival of the early eighties; reportedly, the 3D effects were more headache-inducing than effective, and the movie tanked at the box office. I’m not a fan of the Amityville series at all, but at least the first two movies managed a scare or two; this one didn’t do a thing for me, and some of the moments (bad music cues, goofy fake scares) yielded laughs. This didn’t exactly kill the Amityville franchise, but it certainly slowed it down a bit. Despite what the trivia section of IMDB claims, this wasn’t the feature film debut of Meg Ryan (she appeared in a movie two years earlier), but it’s probably one of the very few movies I’ll be covering to feature her at all.