A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Article 4341 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-19-2013
Directed by Wes Craven
Featuring John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp
Country: USA
What it is: Dreamworld serial killer

Several teenagers begin having nightmares about a stripe-shirted razor-fingered mutilated man trying to kill them. When one of them ends up dying horribly, it becomes apparent that the death at the hands of the killer means death in real life.

It looks like I’m having a bit of a run of child-murderer movies here. Actually, I’ve long been curious about this one. The basic concept is brilliant; having a killer that can stalk his victims in their dreams really opens the door to all sorts of possibilities in terms of spooky, non-realistic imagery. It also means that during the dream sequences, normal standards of logic and smart behavior are not relevant; when confronting a killer in a dream, there may be no such thing as a good choice. Still, a certain degree of internal logic makes for a more intriguing story, and when the script starts addressing the issue of how the dream world interfaces with the real world, opening up the possibilities that Freddy Krueger is indeed a defeatable entity, it’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the script as a whole isn’t quite up to the concept or its best moments; clumsy moments abound, and the script ultimately turns its back on its own internal logic. As a result, I can understand why the concept was interesting enough to lead to a whole slew of sequels, but I can also see why the series would get quite tiresome after a bit. The movie also features the movie acting debut of Johnny Depp, and Robert Englund would actually achieve a certain level of horror movie stardom as Freddy Krueger. All in all, it’s a good horror movie; a better script might have made it a real classic.

Si muero antes de despertar (1952)

aka The Lurking Vampire, El vampiro acecha
Article 4340 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-18-2013
Directed by Carlos Hugo Christensen
Featuring Nestor Zavarce, Blanca del Prado, Floren Delbene
Country: Argentina
What it is: Thriller

A child believes he has a clue to the identity of a man who killed one of his classmates, but he is either unable to tell or unable to convince the authorities. Can he prevent another child from being the next victim?

This movie entered my list under the title THE LURKING VAMPIRE, and for several years, I was unable to match it to any title on IMDB; searches on the given alternate title and on some of the cast members also proved fruitless. It’s only recently that IMDB matched the alternate title (EL VAMPIRO ACECHA) to the correct movie, and I realized that part of the problem was that my other sources claimed that certain actors listed (specifically, German Robles and Abel Salazar) were not, in fact, in the cast. The above plot description is a bit of a guess, as my copy of the movie is in Spanish without subtitles, but I did know a few facts to help me along; I knew the story involved a child murderer and a boy had to battle him. The Walt Lee guide says there are a few touches that make the killer potentially supernatural, and some of the scenes look spooky enough to back that up. I really wish I could have followed this one better; it looks like a tense little thriller, and there’s a memorable nightmare sequence in the middle of the movie. It’s apparently based on a story by Cornell Woolrich. This is one I really hope shows up for me someday with English subtitles and a good print.

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

aka Day of the Woman
Article 4339 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-17-2013
Directed by Meir Zarchi
Featuring Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace
Country: USA
What it is: Revenge thriller

A woman writer goes to a cabin in the woods in a small town to finish her novel. When she is attacked and raped by four of the residents, she decides to exact a bloody revenge.

If I weren’t committed to be as comprehensive as possible for my movie-watching project, there are a few movies I would skip. This is one of them; I’d heard about it for years, and I never had the slightest desire to see it. To me, it sounded like the ultimate in pandering revenge dramas, a movie where the first half consists of a group of people doing horrible things to someone for the sole purpose of making you want to see horrible acts of vengeance performed on them in the second half. Having watched it now, I can say that I’m right; that’s pretty much what the movie is all about. If there was anything that surprised me about the movie, it was that it was as competently directed and produced as it was. Oddly enough, that may have made the manipulation of the first half less effective; had the movie been cheaper and more amateurish, the violence might have had the effect of seeming grittier and more real. The same effect might have been accomplished had the direction and editing been sharper and more intense. As it is, the movie’s worst problem is that the rape sequence is just interminable, encompassing as it does three separate attacks; it runs almost thirty minutes, and after a while you start to resent the filmmakers for trying to stretch it out as long as they could. Still, despite the fact that I would love to reject the movie completely, it’s not totally worthless; in some ways, it gives insight into the nature of “rape culture”, a subject that has been in the news lately. Still, those observations could have been made in a much less exploitative movie, so I really can’t bring myself to recommend this one to anybody.

The Mummy’s Revenge (1973)

aka La venganza de la momia
Article 4338 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-16-2013
Directed by Carlos Aured
Featuring Paul Naschy, Jack Taylor, Maria Silva
Country: Spain
What it is: Mummy movie

When the mummy of a sadistic ancient Egyptian is discovered, a high priest steals it and sets out to revive it. For that, he is going to need the blood of virgins…

I’m going to point out immediately that I saw a dubbed, pan-and-scanned copy of this movie. I feel the need to point this out because I couldn’t help but notice that on IMDB, this is one of Naschy’s more highly rated horror movies, and given the fact I thought it was one of his weaker films, I find myself wondering if there is a superior subtitled version out there that might change my mind. The print that I saw was atrociously dubbed, to be sure; some of the acting in this regard is quite awful. The pace is also very lethargic at times. I also found the score to be pretty maddening; occasionally it was effective, but often it’s missing in scenes that really need some music, and it seems to come and go randomly in other scenes. However, I did find the plot to be relatively focused for a Paul Naschy film, and I do like a few touches here and there; in particular, I appreciate that it was perceptive enough to realize that not every woman in the street that you find for use in your arcane rituals is going to prove a virgin. Some of the attack scenes are also well done. One interesting touch this time is that Naschy does not play the hero here; he usually sets it up that he plays both the monster and the hero, but here, he’s the monster and a secondary villain. All in all, it makes for a very mixed bag.

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)

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)

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.