Skullduggery (1970)

Article 4044 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-29-2012
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Featuring Burt Reynolds, Susan Clark, Roger C. Carmel
Country: USA
What it is: Meditation on humanity

A pair of fortune seekers finagle their way into an anthropological expedition in the hope of using it as a cover in their search for rare minerals. However, the situation becomes complicated when a race of missing links is discovered… and the possibility of their being exploited to serve the purpose of mining the minerals.

This movie has a fairly low rating on IMDB, and in some ways, it deserves it; the direction isn’t particularly strong, the script, as interesting as it in some ways, is muddled in others, and there’s something of a dull, hangdog feel to the proceedings. If it didn’t touch on what I consider a very interesting issue, I wouldn’t find much to recommend here. But the issue of the humanity of the missing links (which impacts on whether they would be considered employees or pack animals by their exploiters, as well as how they should be treated in other crucial ways) is fascinating, and the best part of the movie is in the final third, when one of the fortune seekers claims to have killed one of the missing links in order to force a court of law to decide on the humanity of the species. I’m not surprised that the movie ends as it does, though it is a little too abrupt about getting to the end credits; even though it was dramatically effective to leave certain issues unresolved, there are other issues that did need some sort of resolution. All in all, it’s a mediocre movie with a good idea.

Rollerbabies (1976)

Article 4043 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-28-2012
Directed by Carter Stevens
Featuring Susan McBain, Alan Marlow, Terri Hall
Country: USA
What it is: Adults only

In the future, sex is prohibited to all but licensed exhibitionists who perform on television. A TV show producer must find a new gimmick if he wants to stay in the business.

Once again my cinematic journeys take me into the realm of the adult film, and probably not for the last time. Like a lot of movies in the adult realm, its title is a take on a well-known popular movie of the time, in this case, ROLLERBALL. It has two things in common with that movie – it takes place in the future, and something is done on roller-skates (and it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out what). When it’s not engaging in the type of spectacle that is de riguer for the form, the movie appears to be a comedy, and like most adult comedies I’ve seen, it’s atrocious on that level. As for the level on which the movie is intended to be enjoyed…. well, this is neither the time or place for that. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen it and can now cross it off my list.

The Possessed! (1976)

aka Help Me… I’m Possessed
Article 4042 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-27-2012
Directed by Charles Nizet
Featuring Bill Greer, Deedy Peters, Lynne Marta
Country: USA
What it is: A big question mark

A mad psychiatrist deals out cruel punishment to the patients in his sanitarium while a hideous monster runs loose and horribly mutilates people. Could these events be connected?

Well, whaddayaknow… it’s a good old-fashioned piece of bad seventies schlock horror. I haven’t tried too hard to think about this one; I suspect it would only make my head hurt to try. Let’s just say that with all of the gore and sadism on display, the movie nonetheless projects a certain amount of innocence that renders it pretty harmless. What can you say about a movie whose monster looks like a bunch of cherry licorice whips… at least, what you can see of it? Or about a movie whose title conjures up visions of THE EXORCIST while having nothing whatsoever to do with that movie? Don’t sit through the movie hoping to get a really good view of the monster – you’ll just be disappointed. When you get right down to it, the movie does have a little dumb campy charm to it, but when you’re not scratching your head, you’ll be shaking it. It’s just one of those movies.

The Blasphemer (1921)

Article 4041 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-26-2012
Directed by O.E. Goebel
Featuring George Howard, Augusta Anderson, Irving Cummings
Country: USA
What it is: Christian morality tale

A stock market tycoon, intoxicated by his financial success, rejects God and claims that he himself is the agent of his own fate. However, he soon finds out that he is not quite as much the master of his fate as he thought…

I went into this Christian movie (produced by the Catholic Art Association) under the assumption that the fantastic content would involve some overt Christian miracles, but, as it turns out, the hand of God here mostly seems to work in the realm of melodramatic and unlikely plot twists; it would have been possible to tell the same basic story with all of overt Christianity removed, and it would have fit just fine into the “fall and reformation of a scoundrel” genre. The movie might have moved along quicker as well; the copy on Amazon Instant Video runs an hour and 48 minutes, and at least part of the reason it gets boring on occasion is that it will bring the action to a screeching halt so that it can deliver some messages. Hardly anything happens during the first half of the movie, and the flat, dull direction does little to hold the interest. However, the worst problem I had with the copy I saw wasn’t the fault of the original filmmakers at all; the musical soundtrack is one of those that feels as if it was carelessly slapped on without care or appropriateness, so you end up (for example) with sprightly happy music during a scene where a woman is being kidnapped by an Oriental white slavery racket. Even a weak silent movie deserves better care than that.

Still, since the movie lacks the overt miracles I was expecting, the question becomes whether it really qualifies for this project in terms of its fantastic content. It depends somewhat on how you interpret one scene; the tycoon-turned-derelict sees the martyrdom of a saint reenacted in a painting that comes to life. Is he imagining it or actually seeing it? The movie isn’t quite clear in that regard, so I suspect that this movie is at best only marginally fantastic. It’s probably best classified as a drama.

The Black Imp (1905)

aka Le diable noir
Article 4040 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-25-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Tumbling imps in haunted hotel rooms

A traveler tries to settle in for the night in a room at the inn, unaware that the place is already home to a mischievous black demon who doesn’t care to share.

This short combines a couple of Melies’s favorite subjects; namely, that rooms at inns are hotbeds of paranormal activity and that all the troubles in our lives can be attributed to evil tumbling imps. There’s some fun to be had with this one, especially when the traveler finds himself being chased around the room by multiplying chairs. This is probably one of Melies’s funniest shorts.

The Big Swallow (1901)

Article 4039 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-23-2012
Directed by James Williamson
Featuring Sam Dalton
Country: UK
What it is: Shocking!

A passerby takes drastic measures to keep from being filmed.

Is it the birth of the cannibal film? Is it a suggested strategy for people who want to know how to deal with paparazzi? Or is it just a pretty silly idea for a silent short? I will say this much for it; it does use one of the most interesting close-ups in film history. And even if the movie does deal with the subject of cannibalism, the big question on my mind is whether the main character will be able to digest the camera with ease. This one is pretty surreal when all is said is done.

Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions (1933)

Article 4038 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-22-2012
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Featuring the voice of Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Animated comedy

Betty Boop serves as a hostess in a tentful of new inventions. All goes well until a self-threading sewing machine goes on a rampage.

Except in her very early incarnations (where she was a dog), the presence of Betty Boop in a cartoon does not necessarily make it fantastically themed; she is, after all, a human being, albeit one with a rather odd shape. However, the cartoon also features anthropomorphic dog Bimbo, as well as several other non-human animated characters. Furthermore, the inventions move it into the realm of science fiction. This isn’t the series at its most inspired, but it works well enough to get by, with most of the humor involving the ways the various inventions work, such as the stain-removing machine that works by leaving a big hole in the fabric where the stain occurred.