Have a Heart (1928)

Have a Heart (1928)
Article 5582 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-4-2018
Director unknown
Featuring Jimmy Aubrey, Bud Duncan, Fred Parker
Country: USA
What it is: Silent comedy short

A man resolves to solve the mystery of the haunted mansion in order to get a job as a reporter.

Here’s another silent short which follows the well-worn path of milking a spooky house for the laughs therein. The fact that the haunted mansion is considered a mystery to be solved should clue you in that the scares will be faked, though that alone wouldn’t disqualify this one on the grounds of lacking fantastic content. One nice thing, though, is that the motive for faking the haunting of the mansion has its own degree of fantastic content; instead of the usual band of counterfeiters, we have a mad scientist performing experiments with an artificial heart (hence the title). It’s a pretty standard silent short, but my favorite sequence occurs at the beginning when our hero has trouble just finding out the correct time.


A (1965)

A (1965)
Article 5581 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-31-2018
Directed by Jan Lenica
No cast
Country: West Germany
What it is: A painful way to learn the alphabet

A man’s life is invaded by a giant letter A which torments him.

Here’s a bizarre but amusing animated short in which a man’s daily life is threatened by an incomprehensible event; a giant letter A, seemingly indestructible and decidedly malicious appears in his room. As you might expect, this is absurdist and surreal, so it helps if you have a taste for this sort of thing. Amazingly, the short almost has a happy ending… that is, until you realize that A is just the first letter of the alphabet. I quite liked this one.

Prelude (1927)

Prelude (1927)
Article 5580 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-28-2018
Directed by Castleton Knight
Featuring Castleton Knight
Country: UK
What it is: Early music video

To the strains of Rachmoninoff’s Prelude, a man imagines he’s being buried alive.

This is, for all practical reasons, an early music video. It visually interprets Rachmoninoff’s Prelude as the story of a man who, upon reading the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Premature Burial”, falls asleep and dreams he has been buried alive. It’s a visually rich short with a few horror touches. My favorite is that we see the coffin turn partially transparent (the lines of the wood grain remain visible) and we see the trapped man struggling in terror. It’s very efficient and very well done. I have only one minor complaint; given his fame, you would have hoped they would have made sure that Poe’s name would have been spelled correctly.

The Iron Super Man (1974)

The Iron Super Man (1974)
aka Tie chao ren
Article 5579 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-24-2018
Directed by Ting Hung Kuo, Koichi Takano
Featuring Lin Lin Li, Paul Chun, Stephan Yip
Country: Japan / Hong Kong
What it is: Pretty goofy

A crack team of fighters takes on a fleet of giant killer robots that have been terrorizing the Bermuda Triangle.

So what is this freaky little movie with a title that conjures images of two different superheroes that I found on Amazon Prime? Why, it’s the perfect companion piece to INFRAMAN. Sure, it falls short of the same level of accelerated goofiness of that movie, but in its own way, it comes pretty close. We have lots of giant robot action, a villain with the most elaborate hair style in history, and a sidekick who comes to the rescue in a bicycle-driven balloon. It’s cobbled together from episodes of a TV series, and it looks it. Yes, it’s stupid, but it’s the kind of stupid I’m a bit of a sucker for.

Fearless Harry (1926)

Fearless Harry (1926)
Article 5578 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-21-2018
Directed by Albert Herman
Featuring Earl McCarthy, Charlotte Merriam, John J. Richardson
Country: USA
What it is: Slapstick silent short

Can Hairbreadth Harry rescue Beautiful Belinda from the clutches of that villain Relentless Rudolph?

This was apparently the first of 11 shorts based on a comic strip that appeared to be a parody of the mellerdrammer genre – dashing hero, beautiful girl, slimy villain. Oddly enough, the fantastic content here isn’t the secret formula the villain is after, largely because the movie doesn’t specify in any way what the secret formula is for. Instead, the fantastic content is that the villain brings the girl to his hideout, a horror house, and the hero has to contend with things like a living mummy and live skeletons. For a fleeting second, I thought the black manservant was going to be spared having to act out the usual stereotypes of the era, but that changes once he encounters the skeleton. As for the rest of the movie, the villain yells “Curses!” a lot, and is easily funnier than the bland hero. I’d have to say that as far as silent shorts go, this is about average; I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse.

Weekend of Fear (1966)

Weekend of Fear (1966)
Article 5577 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-14-2018
Directed by Joe Danford
Featuring Mikki Malone, Kenneth Washman, Tory Alburn
Country: USA
What it is: Thriller

A woman finds herself being stalked by a mysterious man.

This very obscure regional movie ended up on my “ones that got away” list, and I wasn’t sure it even existed anymore. As it turns out, it does, and if you have a chance to see it and wish to do so, I’d advise you to avoid any of the plot descriptions you find other than the vague one I have above; all the other ones I’ve seen commit two crimes, as they engage in massive spoilers and contain a specific repeated plot error. As for the movie itself, it’s listed as ‘horror’ by a few sources, but it’s one of those movies that hangs off the border separating ‘horror’ and ‘suspense’; its biggest claim to horror is that there is a character who is not sane. From what I gather, the movie was shown once many years ago, gathered several bad reviews, and vanished. And it must be said that it somewhat deserves its bad reviews, not so much for the extreme cheapness of the movie (it’s one that is shot silent and post-dubbed, and it’s readily apparent that that is the case), but that even with its short running time (63 minutes), it gets bogged down in boring repetition; the threatened woman’s internal monologue constantly goes over the same ground. Still, the movie isn’t entirely devoid of interest; I have to admit that the nature of one character’s madness is a bit on the novel side, and it takes an odd turn in the final moment that is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Still, the movie is mostly a snoozefest.

Shin Godzilla (2016)

Shin Godzilla (2016)
aka Shin Gojira
Article 5576 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-8-2018
Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi
Featuring Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara
Country: Japan
What it is: Kaiju political drama

When a rapidly mutating monster attacks Japan, the government finds itself scrambling through the red tape to take action against it.

Given my fondness for kaiju and for Godzilla in particular, I’m a little surprised it took me so long to get around to seeing this somewhat controversial reboot of the classic monster. From what I hear, the American version is quite different, so I opted for the Japanese version with English subtitles, and I’m not entirely sure I made the best choice. The main problem I had was trying to read the subtitles while trying to deal with the rapid-fire editing of the visuals; it’s not easy to read them when the background scene keeps changing. Furthermore, the movie feels very Japanese; I get the feeling that I don’t have the necessary knowledge to truly understand what is going on part of the time. However, it is audacious and gripping, and may be the most serious Godzilla movie since the original. One new twist has Godzilla as a rapidly mutating monster who only achieves the familiar form in his final incarnation. He’s also given some frightening new powers. Part of the story is standard enough, and I do like the use of motifs from the old Ifukube scores. All in all, I was very impressed with this one, though it make take a couple of rewatchings to absorb it.

The Dark Hour (1936)

The Dark Hour (1936)
Article 5575 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-6-2018
Directed by Charles Lamont
Featuring Ray Walker, Berton Churchill, Irene Ware
Country: USA
What it is: Mystery

An old tycoon who lives with his brother is found murdered. Who is responsible?

This one ended up on my suggestions list, no doubt because it was perceived as a possible addition to the “old dark house” horror subgenre. Well, it bears at least one element in common with that subgenre; we have an old man who has made a lot of enemies murdered in his room. However, beyond that, this seems to be one of those movies that bears little resemblance to that subgenre; no secret passages, no masked killers, no seances… there’s not even a wisecracking reporter. Instead, the movie focuses on the investigation of the murder by two detectives. Furthermore, the movie is brightly lit, which makes it feel even less like an “old dark house” movie. On its own terms, it’s a bit creaky, but it does manage to throw in three rather entertaining plot twists during the last five minutes, which is probably the most memorable thing about this one. It’s okay, but I think we’re pretty far from the “old dark house” here.

Scarlet Street (1945)

Scarlet Street (1945)
Article 5574 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-30-2018
Directed by Fritz Lang
Featuring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea
Country: USA
What it is: Film noir

A meek and married bank teller becomes infatuated with an attractive woman when he drives away her attacker, not knowing that the woman’s attacker was her boyfriend. To impress her, he leaves her with the impression he is a famous artist. The woman’s boyfriend talks her into milking the teller for all he’s worth…

I honestly didn’t think I’d be covering this movie when I began to watch it, but towards the end of the movie, the protagonist finds himself tormented by the voices of the dead. Though we know the voices are in his own mind, that still gave me enough in the way of fantastic content (albeit marginal) to give me an excuse to cover it. Yes, I could have just added it to my marginalia category, but I wanted to cover it, if for no other reason that it is a collaboration between one of my favorite directors (Fritz Lang) and one of my favorite actors (Edward G. Robinson). The latter seems initially to be cast against type as the bank teller, but as the story progresses, it prepares us for the violence that will ultimately erupt. Robinson, Bennett and Duryea are all excellent. I’ve loved this movie ever since I first saw it, and I find the final scene in the movie to be heartbreaking. In one regard, it reminds me of Lang’s earlier movie FURY, in that he has to do a little twisting at the end to make the movie fit in with the demands of the Hays Office, but he does it very effectively here. It’s a lesser known film noir, but one of my personal favorites.

The Harryhausen Chronicles (1998)

The Harryhausen Chronicles (1998)
Article 5573 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-29-2018
Directed by Richard Schickel
Featuring Ray Harryhausen, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Bradbury
Country: USA
What it is: Documentary

The life and career of special effects artist Ray Harryhausen are explored.

At the moment, I’m going through my DVDs and watching everything I can on them, and though I’ve seen quite a few documentary extras on them, I usually don’t review them; mostly, they’re interesting enough and tell me a few things I didn’t know, but most of them aren’t really special in any way. This one is an exception. It is both the story of and a tribute to Ray Harryhausen, and it features a lot of footage of Ray himself talking about some of his creations, as well as interviews with other special effects artists and lifelong friend Ray Bradbury. The movie clip footage is well-chosen and useful, and it features rare footage of special effects from projects that were never completed. I can honestly say my respect for the man and his work has gone up a few notches, especially when I gain an understanding of the difficulty of filming such sequences as skeleton battle from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS or the animation of the seven-headed hydra. The fact that most of his work was a one-man operation only makes the accomplishment greater. I’m really glad to have caught this one, and highly recommend it.