Mr. Superinvisible (1970)

MR. SUPERINVISIBLE (1970)
aka L’inafferrabile invincibile Mr. Invisibile
Article 4337 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-15-2013
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Featuring Dean Jones, Philippe Leroy, Gastone Moschin
Country: Italy / Monaco / Spain / West Germany
What it is: Shopping Eurocart Movie

When an experimental virus is stolen by enemy spies, one of the scientists embarks on a mission to stop them. Fortunately, he’s stumbled across an invisibility potion to help him.

You could always leave it to the Italian film industry to jump on any cinematic bandwagon they thought would make a profit, so we’ve had James Bond imitations, rip-offs of THE EXORCIST, rip-offs of JAWS, etc. And from the looks of this, they even took a shot at the Disney “shopping cart” movies, and to help pull it off, they turned to an alumnus of the form; namely, Dean Jones of THE LOVE BUG fame. I even remember the ads for this one on TV, where they were trying their damnedest to make it look like a real Disney film. The ads didn’t fool me back then, and the movie itself is desperate, loud, clogged with badly-timed slapstick, and quite embarrassing. In fact, the only thing I liked about the movie was a comic idea that would have been pretty amusing had it been done well, and that was the concept of having the invisible man show up at a seance. I’m assuming the movie must have been something of a failure, as it didn’t seem to lead to a whole slew of imitations; no, we were spared a spate of “spaghetti cart” movies. Two of my favorite aspects of the Disney movies are definitely lacking here; the special effects are singularly lame, and the movie is badly lacking in star power that made the Disney movies more fun … and having the English dubbing feature a man doing a Peter Lorre impression doesn’t quite compensate for it.

Let’s Do It Again (1975)

LET’S DO IT AGAIN (1975)
Article 4336 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-14-2013
Directed by Sidney Poitier
Featuring Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Calvin Lockhart
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy

When they discover that their fraternal order will be evicted from their current location, two members hatch a scheme to raise the money by going to New Orleans and fixing a fight.

This is the middle of a loose trilogy of movies made during the seventies that starred Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier; the two actors appear to be playing different characters in each movie, so they really aren’t sequels in anything but spirit. This one takes a basic updating of the “Amos and Andy” concept and mixes it with a plot that one might expect from a Bowery Boys movie. No, it doesn’t really sound promising, but the chemistry between the two stars is palpable, Poitier’s direction is sound, all the acting is solid (including the performance of Jimmie Walker), and everyone seems to be having fun. The fantastic content involves the use of hypnotism as the method of making the fighters act out of character; I don’t think that element exists in the other movies of the trilogy, so I most likely won’t be covering them. The movie could have used a little pruning here and there; at 110 minutes, it’s too long to really support the slightness of the plot. Nevertheless, it’s a solid and entertaining mid-seventies comedy, with nice character touches to add to the mix.

Le petit soldat (1947)

LE PETIT SOLDAT (1947)
aka The Little Soldier
Article 4335 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-13-2013
Directed by Paul Grimault
No cast
Country: France
What it is: Animated fairy tale

A wind-up toy acrobat is in love with a toy ballerina, but when war comes along, he is forced to join the troops, leaving her at the mercy of an evil jack-in-the-box.

I don’t know a lot about Paul Grimault, but it appears he was a highly-respected French animator with only a handful of films to his credit. This lyrical and touching adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen story shows how effective he could be, both as an animator as well as a storyteller. I couldn’t find a copy of this in English, but that’s no matter; outside of the credits and a poster that is placed on the window of the toy shop, there’s nothing that needs translating. The ending is quite exciting, and owes a bit to one of the most memorable moments from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”; I don’t know if it’s that way in the original story. I look forward to seeing more of this man’s work.

Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977)
Article 4334 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-12-2013
Directed by John ‘Bud’ Cardos
Featuring William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode
Country: USA
What it is: Nature run amok

A small Arizona town finds itself threatened by an invasion of deadly tarantulas who have organized themselves into an army.

“Nature Run Amok” stories were a pretty standard subgenre of the seventies, and if you’re familiar with the form, then, in terms of the plot, there’s not much in the way of surprises in this particular example of it. And, when you get down to it, I really wasn’t expecting any. Still, that’s not to say that the movie doesn’t have its small pleasures. For one thing, I like the authentic-feeling Arizona small town atmosphere that pervades the movie. I like the moment when the female lead first encounters a tarantula in a drawer in her cabin; rather than screaming (as the cliche would be), she picks it up, talks to it, pets it, and then takes it outside and sets it free, which, given that she’s an entomologist, makes a lot more sense. I like that the pest exterminator draws pictures of his victims on the side of his airplane. And I also like how the woman who rents out the cabin goes through a period of grieving when she believes the man that she loves has died; many movies of this sort don’t take the time to realize that grief comes with death, and it’s nice to see it on display. It’s also well acted throughout, and the movie certainly doesn’t cut corners in creating a believable spider infestation. So even if the story itself is pretty ordinary, it’s well enacted, and that’s always a plus.

Horror Hospital (1973)

HORROR HOSPITAL (1973)
Article 4333 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-11-2013
Directed by Antony Balch
Featuring Michael Gough, Robin Askwith, Vanessa Shaw
Country: UK
What it is: How do I begin…?

A pop song writer and a woman looking for her aunt find themselves trapped on the estate of a mad doctor who intends to experiment with their brains.

I have a friend who really admires British actors; he likes to say that no matter what kind of crap they’re given in the scripts, they always end up treating it like Shakespeare. Well, I don’t think he’s seen this movie; here the actors treat it like the silly piece of idiocy that it is. Now usually a comment like that is how I’d begin a pan of a movie, but I don’t really have the heart with this one. I think it’s because the opening scene of the movie (where the doctor deals with two runaway patients from his estate) was, in its own demented way, nearly perfect; I immediately knew that the movie was going to be bloody, sleazy, campy and (most importantly) not to be taken seriously on any level. And that’s just how the rest of the movie is. I’ve never seen a movie before where every character consistently makes the most monumentally stupid decisions at every opportunity, and after a while you just sort of roll with it. Michael Gough (who can sometimes annoy me when he overacts) manages to hit just the right note with this one, but the movie is stolen by Skip Martin as the dwarf manservant of the estate; his comic tone is spot on. No, this is not what I would call a “good” movie, but if you’re in the mood for a certain type of bloody goofiness, this one will fill the bill.

The Last Shark (1981)

THE LAST SHARK (1981)
aka Great White, L’ultimo squalo
Article 4332 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-10-2013
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Featuring James Franciscus, Vic Morrow, Micaela Pignatelli
Country: Italy
What it is: Recycled JAWS

A coastal community is threatened by a shark. Several people try to kill it.

You know, it seems to me that if you’re going to try to tempt a 28 foot long great white shark with a big chunk of meat hanging from a helicopter, you’d better have it set up so you can detach it quickly if the shark proves too much for you. And that’s the main lesson I learned from this, one of the most notorious rip-offs of Spielberg’s original movie; this one steals so much from the original story that it lost a suit from Universal, forcing it to be yanked from theaters. James Franciscus plays Roy Scheider, and Vic Morrow plays Robert Shaw. In all honesty, it doesn’t completely lift everything from its model; the movie does come up with at least one subplot involving two movie men trying to cash in on the shark’s presence by shooting as much footage as they can. Personally, I think a movie that had made that aspect the center of the story could have made some interesting comments about sensationalism and the media. Beyond that and the fact that the movie provides a few campy moments, there’s little to recommend here.

The Invisible Dr. Mabuse (1962)

THE INVISIBLE DR. MABUSE (1962)
aka Die unsichtbaren Krallen des Dr. Mabuse
Article 4331 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-9-2013
Directed by Harald Reinl
Featuring Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Siegfried Lowitz
Country: West Germany
What it is: Dr. Mabuse thriller

A gang of criminals is after something known as Operation X, and an FBI agent is sent abroad to stop them. He comes to the conclusion that the mastermind is none other than Dr. Mabuse, who was believed to be dead.

I’ve never been quite sure just what defines the “krimi” films from Germany in the sixties, so I’m not quite sure whether the Dr. Mabuse films were actually part of that genre or not, since they’re not based on the works of Edgar Wallace. They are, however, pretty much in the same style as the krimis, and often shared the same casts and directors. In general, the Dr. Mabuse films were better than the usual run of the krimis; they were much easier to follow, and Mabuse himself was a fascinating villain. This isn’t one of the stronger of the Mabuse films, as Mabuse doesn’t come across as quite as much of a clever threat as he does in some of the others. It is, however, much heavier on the fantastic content, as invisibility plays a major role in the storyline of this one. The plot also involves an operetta of the French revolution, an evil Clown (yeah, I know, that’s redundant), a nasty torture sequence, and a badly mutilated scientist to add to the mix. It’s fairly light on the humor this time round, with no painfully obvious comic relief character. All in all, this one is moderately entertaining, though I will point out that the English title is inaccurate, as Dr. Mabuse himself never really becomes invisible.