Condorman (1981)

Article 4963 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-20-2015
Directed by Charles Jarrott
Featuring Michael Crawford, Oliver Reed, Barbara Carrera
Country: UK
What it is: Superspy parody, “Shopping Cart Movie” division

A comic book writer is mistaken for a secret agent and is assigned to help a beautiful female Russian spy to defect.

It starts out as a lame superhero parody but quickly mutates into a lame superspy parody; you’ll notice that the switch in genre does not change the leading adjective in each description. As a parody, the movie is dreadfully unfunny, and as a superspy action flick, it’s dull and uninspired; the script is particularly weak. You’d think that, this being from Disney, at least the special effects would be impressive, but it doesn’t look like they bothered to expend much effort or pay any attention to this one at all. There’s a few good stunts, a couple of fun gadgets, and one oasis in the acting department with the presence of Oliver Reed as the villain; beyond that, this one is pretty depressing. It sets itself up for a sequel at the end, but understandably, it didn’t come about.

Angel on my Shoulder (1980)

Article 4962 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-19-2015
Directed by John Berry
Featuring Peter Strauss, Richard Kiley, Barbara Hershey
Country: USA
What it is: TV-Movie remake of forties classic

The devil recruits the soul of a gangster being punished in hell to possess the body of a look-alike incorruptible D.A. and ruin his reputation. However, things do not go as planned…

Two minutes into this movie I was ready to consign it to the dustbin. Why? Because the character of the gangster in the opening scene seemed to be such a compendium of old-movie gangster cliches (ESPECIALLY the lingo) that I found it impossible to take him or the movie seriously. The fact that the movie then manages to flub my favorite line from the original version certainly didn’t help matters either. It’s not until the gangster is in possession of the D.A. and begins to develop a conscience that the movie starts to right itself and begins to win me over. It never succeeds completely; though I don’t object to them updating the movie to the present, I’d rather they did so with the beginning of the movie as well rather than setting it in the past and then piling on a series of ineffective jokes about a man from the past trying to adjust to the technologies and mores of the present. Peter Strauss’s performance is fine once the movie starts to work, and though Richard Kiley is certainly no Claude Rains, he does well enough as Mephistopheles. No, this remake doesn’t hold a candle to the original, but it’s not totally worthless, either. I do, however, find myself wondering if one of the main characters ends up in heaven or Metaluna, though; you have to see the movie to know why I wonder this.

Coma (1978)

COMA (1978)
Article 4961 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-18-2015
Directed by Michael Crichton
Featuring Michael Douglas, Rip Torn, Genevieve Bujold
Country: USA
What it is: Medical conspiracy thriller

When her best friend goes into a coma after a routine medical procedure, a female doctor discovers that an unusually large number of young people have suffered the same fate. However, she finds her life in danger when she investigates further.

This movie does not feature Crichton’s favorite theme about technology gone awry; though it does involve technology, the evil here is distinctly human. But then, it’s not based on one of his own works, but rather on a novel by Robin Cook. It does feature the associated theme of an evil conspiracy, though, and it does bear a certain resemblance to PARTS: THE CLONUS HORROR. Though he does know how to build up the suspense, I have trouble with Crichton’s pacing; it takes way too long to get the story moving, and there are certain other scenes that drag on a bit too long. Nevertheless, the acting is good, and it works itself up to a good climax. The fantastic content is mostly found in the way the coma patients are treated at the Jefferson Institute. All in all, this is a decent thriller.

If…. (1968)

IF…. (1968)
Article 4960 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-17-2015
Directed by Lindsay Anderson
Featuring Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Richard Warwick
Country: UK
What it is: Political allegory

Rebellion brews in a dictatorial boys’ school in England.

I’ve encountered Lindsay Anderson’s work before when I saw O LUCKY MAN!, so I was somewhat prepared for what to expect in terms of the cinematic style and the potential fantastic content. That being said, this one is more focused and less sprawling than the other movie, and though it takes a certain amount of time for the shape of the movie to manifest itself, it has quite a lot of power when it does. The cast is broken out into five groups; the rebellious “Crusaders”, the privileged class that serves as disciplinarians and policemen, the “Whips”, the “Staff” of the school, and the “Juniors” and “Seniors”, the younger boys and older boys of the school. As the head of the “Crusaders”, Malcolm McDowell practically steals the movie, but after reading his bio on IMDB, I gather that he had plenty of personal experience to rely on for help in shaping his role. The fantastic content includes the various surreal touches that lend an air of unreality to the film. Still, it remains primarily a drama and is only marginally a fantasy.

Space Raiders (1983)

Article 4959 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-16-2015
Directed by Howard R. Cohen
Featuring Vince Edwards, David Mendenhall, Patsy Pease
Country: USA
What it is: Space opera

A young boy hides away on a spaceship that is stolen by space pirates, but he wins the heart of the leader, who tries to return him home.

There were two things I noticed at the top of this movie. One was that the background announcements during the opening scene were pretty amusing. Another was that the insect the young boy was hunting was stop-motion animated. These two details gave me hope that the movie would have a sly sense of humor and have other charms as well. Unfortunately, that sly sense of humor pops up only sporadically during the rest of the movie, and one of its potentially best moments (involving a house of cards) is ruined by a editing gaffe, and any other charms the movie might have had are too well hidden to be appreciated. It also doesn’t help that the child actor (who is supposed to be cute as can be and wins over everyone’s heart) is dull and unappealing; all he really has to go for him is his big puppy-dog eyes. The rest of the movie is tired STAR WARS-style space opera, and most of its space battle footage is lifted from the superior BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. It’s one of those movies that made me care so little about the characters and their situations that it was like sitting through nothing at all. Not recommended.

The Killing Hour (1982)

aka The Clairvoyant
Article 4958 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-15-2015
Directed by Armand Mastroianni
Featuring Perry King, Norman Parker, Elizabeth Kemp
Country: USA
What it is: Mystery thriller

A cop who moonlights as a stand-up comic gets involved in a case of a serial killer who uses handcuffs on his victims. A woman artist with psychic powers begins drawing pictures involved with the murders. Will she be a target of the killer?

Personally, I’m a little tired of the psychic/serial killer combination; it’s popped up a few times in this series, and it’s to the point now where I’m beginning to find the idea a little hackneyed. That being said, I rather enjoyed this take on the subject, largely due to the fact that the characters and their relationships to each other are rather interesting. As a horror movie, it’s perhaps too restrained; in fact, it’s almost bloodless. As a mystery, it’s too easy; I zeroed in on the killer before it was even half over. Also, I have to admit that if I enjoyed watching the movie, it starts to fall apart when I start sorting through the plot points and asking questions. So, I’d have to say that overall, the movie isn’t really very good, but it does have a few good points.

Aladdin and the Magic Lamp (1970)

aka Aladin et la lampe merveilleuse
Article 4957 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-14-2015
Directed by Jean Image
Voice cast unknown
What it is: Animated Arabian Nights tale

An evil magician from Egypt attempts to get his hands on an incredible magic lamp, and he uses an innocent young boy as his tool to get it. However, he leaves the boy trapped in a cave with the lamp. The boy figures out what makes the lamp magical…

If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that if Disney decides to do an animated version of a famous story, budget video companies will scour the archives for any earlier animated versions of the story and put them out in the market, perhaps even hoping that it will be mistaken for the Disney version and purchased. I have no doubt that this French version of the Arabian Nights tale became generally available after the release of the Disney version. I didn’t list a voice cast above despite the fact that IMDB does list one; however, the one they list is for the French version, and I’m pretty sure the English version featured a different set of voices, and one should bear in mind that my comments refer to the English version. This one is not impressive; the animation, though it isn’t quite in the realm of limited animation, is not very smooth. The character design is rather dull, and the songs featured throughout will not linger in the memory. There are some interesting plot elements at play here; I don’t know whether it’s this way in the original story, but I found it interesting that the evil magician and the sultan’s Grand Vizier are two distinctly different characters. And for those who’ve followed this series for a while, you may remember my rule about how talking birds are never funny; well, this movie gives us two of them, and they’re both annoying. This one is for uncritical kiddies.

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.