Hexen Geschandet und zu Tode Gequalt (1973)

HEXEN GESCHANDET UND ZU TODE GEQUALT (1973)
aka Mark of the Devil Part II
Article 4948 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-5-2015
Directed by Adrian Hoven
Featuring Erika Blanc, Anton Diffring, Percy Hoven
Country: West Germany / UK
What it is: Exploitation horror

When a countess tries to get justice for the murder of her husband by a witch-hunter, she finds herself targeted by the witch-hunters themselves.

The catchphrase for MARK OF THE DEVIL was “Likely to upset your stomach”. This one bragged about having “Ten scenes that you will positively not be able to stomach”. You know, it’s really difficult to warm up to movies whose stated main intention is to make you vomit. Also, when a movie’s whole avowed purpose is to show corrupt, cynical sadistic men doing horrible things to mostly naive women in a brutal, uncaring world, it becomes difficult to care about anything that happens in the movie, especially when you suspect that the movie serves no other purpose than to be repellent. I know there are people who love this sort of thing; me, I can find them as dull as a treacly children’s movie; there’s so little in the way of real surprises. This was a waste of my time.

Wynken, Blynken & Nod (1938)

WYNKEN, BLYNKEN & NOD (1938)
Article 4947 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-4-2015
Directed by Graham Heid
No voice cast listed
Country: USA
What it is: Disney Silly Symphony

Wynken, Blynken and Nod go fishing for star-fish.

I’m at the point that I pretty much know what to expect from a Disney Silly Symphony. It will be well animated, have some music, and is likely to be mildly whimsical rather than side-splittingly funny. That pretty much captures this one. The three title characters sail off into the heavens, have some tussles with star-fish, encounter the winds, and eventually return home to the dreams of a sleeping boy. There are some nice visual moments, and a few chuckles to be had, but it never quite reaches the heights of the best cartoons out there. Like so many of Disney’s Silly Symphonies, I like it well enough, but I don’t love it.

Will Power (1936)

WILL POWER (1936)
Article 4946 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-3-2015
Directed by Arthur Ripley
Featuring Edgar Kennedy, Florence Lake, Kitty McHugh
Country: USA
What it is: Comic short

A put-upon husband concocts a scheme to get his mooching brother-in-law to find a job – he fakes a heart attack and then uses mystic will power to make sure his brother gains employment.

This is pretty amusing comedy short starring slow-burn comic actor Edgar Kennedy. It’s also a bit on the bizarre side and even has a bit of atmosphere when Kennedy goes into a trance to force the issue; it’s both effectively acted and well-photographed. Granted, since this is a comedy short, you know the plot is going to backfire, but that’s part of the fun. It’s an interesting comic take on the old hypnotism plot element.

Wonderful Beehive (1905)

WONDERFUL BEEHIVE (1905)
aka Ruche merveilleuse
Article 4945 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-2-2015
Directed by Gaston Velle
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Decorative short

Women dressed as bees dance before their beehive.

Like yesterday’s movie, this is a silent short that I managed to find on YouTube. Also like yesterday’s short, it does not appear to be complete; if the sole user review on IMDB is to be trusted (it’s by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, but it does appear to be one of his legitimate entries), there’s a scene where the queen bee is threatened by a giant spider that is not in the print I saw. This is a bit of a disappointment, as this footage would have upped the fantastic content a bit; there’s really not a lot to be said about dancing ladies in bee costumes otherwise. However, I suspect the spider scene was fairly brief, as the short apparently ended as it began; with girls in bee costumes dancing. This is one of those silent shorts that seems to be largely decorative in nature; rather than telling a story or exhibiting a special effect, it seems to be content to look pretty. On this level, it succeeds; the short is quite easy on the eyes.

Willie’s Magic Wand (1907)

WILLIE’S MAGIC WAND (1907)
Article 4944 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-1-2015
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Silent trick film

A young boy absconds with a magic wand and uses it to create mischief.

I managed to locate a copy of this film on YouTube. However, based on the elaborate description of the plot on IMDB, I can only conclude that the print is not complete; it seems to be missing one or two pranks and the ending (in which the boy is punished for his mischief by being turned into a girl) is also missing. Enough of it exists, however, that I decided to let it qualify. The plot is the standard comic one for early trick films; a youngster gets hold of an invention or magical object, runs around and creates chaos by using it, and then gets his comeuppance. This one does have one of my favorite scenes of mischief in it; I find it amusing that, much to the consternation of the cook, the boy brings a big dead fish back to life, which then proceeds to wreak havoc. Since the object of use is a magic wand, there’s a bit more variety of mischief than is usually found in a short like this. The short cuts off in the middle of a stop-motion sequence where he gets some boots to clean themselves off. From what I’ve seen, this one is not bad.

Chiller (1985)

CHILLER (1985)
Article 4943 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-30-2015
Directed by Wes Craven
Featuring Michael Beck, Beatrice Straight, Laura Johnson
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction horror, TV-Movie style

A woman has her son cryogenically frozen after his death in the hopes that future technology can revive him. Ten years later, an accident at the cryogenics building causes the doctors to take a chance on reviving him, and are successful. But he isn’t quite the same as he used to be….

The concept of people being evil because they have no soul isn’t really a new cinematic idea; it popped up during the silent era quite a bit in movies like ALRAUNE. However, this attempt to revive the idea isn’t really successful enough to resurrect the concept. The main problem is a script that mostly deals in cliches, statements of the obvious, and bits of clunky dialogue. Sadly, Wes Craven’s direction here does little to add life; the movie is stodgy and slow. The actors do their best with the material (especially Michael Beck as the revived hedonist), but it’s a losing battle. There are a handful of special effects in the movie, the most notable being a scene where the comatose body of the main character goes wild in a hospital room. The end result is something like a low-budget take on THE OMEN only without the supernatural touches, and there’s something glum and joyless about the movie. This is not Wes Craven’s (or anyone’s) finest hour.

Cemetery of Terror (1985)

CEMETERY OF TERROR (1985)
aka Cementerio del terror
Article 4942 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-29-2015
Directed by Ruben Galindo Jr.
Featuring Hugo Stiglitz, Jose Gomez Parcero, Bety Robles
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican horror movie

A group of teenagers discover an evil book in an abandoned house, and they kidnap a body from the morgue in order to hold a black mass with the book to bring the body to life. However, the body they’ve stolen is that of the owner of the book, a demonic killer. What will happen to a group of trick-or-treating children when the killer runs loose?

I don’t think I’ve seen a full-blown Mexican horror movie from this late in the chronological game yet; mostly I’ve seen them from the sixties and a few from the seventies. Some things have changed; this movie is certainly gorier than anything that came earlier. But there’s one thing that apparently hasn’t changed; they still seem willing to cross-pollinate different types of horror movies to come up with bizarre head-spinning fusions. This movie crosses the zombie apocalypse movie with the slasher film; to be even more specific, it’s like a cross between HALLOWEEN and CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS. The oddest touch to this mish-mash is that during the second half of the movie, the characters most threatened by all this bloody evil is a group of children, which is certainly something you wouldn’t have seen in an American movie of that time, especially as this movie is anything but kid-friendly. It’s bloody, cheesy, silly, and in its own way, rather jaw-droppingly irresistible. I guess I haven’t seen everything yet.

A Bay of Blood (1971)

A BAY OF BLOOD (1971)
aka Reazione a catena, Carnage, Twitch of the Death Nerve
Article 4941 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-28-2015
Directed by Mario Bava
Featuring Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso
Country: Italy
What it is: The birth of the slasher film

When a count and a countess are murdered, a bloody struggle develops between potential heirs to the estate.

IMDB lists over forty alternate titles for this, the most notorious of Mario Bava’s films. I’d first heard about it as TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (my favorite of the titles), it entered my list under the rather generic but descriptive title CARNAGE, and the print I saw was titled A BAY OF BLOOD. It’s often heralded as the first true slasher film, but I also like to think of it as the missing link between the slasher film and the “old dark house” film where heirs to an estate are knocked off one by one. Granted, there’s no real “old dark house” here, but the basic plot structure makes it feel like one, while the appearance of a group of teenagers to add to the body count certainly puts it in slasher territory. I also like to think of it as Mario Bava’s PSYCHO in that to some extent, the movie is conceived as a bit of a joke; certainly, the ending of this one can be seen as a punch line. It has more of a plot than your average slasher movie, though it does get a little confusing at times and you might be tempted to keep a score card. According to the trivia section of IMDB, this was Bava’s own favorite of his movies, and though it wouldn’t be my personal choice, it is probably his most influential.

Vanishing Lady (1898)

VANISHING LADY (1898)
Article 4940 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-26-2015
Directed by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith
Featuring Albert E. Smith
Country: USA
What it is: Early trick short

A magician makes a lady vanish.

The above plot description captures what I saw in its entirety; it’s like a shorter and less interesting version of Melies’s movie of almost the exact same name (THE VANISHING LADY) from two years previously. I found it on YouTube in a set of short silents edited together, but it clearly says that the Edison movie VANISHING LADY is among them. Still, it’s always a little difficult to tell if you’ve actually netted the correct version of a movie. Just a few weeks ago, I was hunting for a movie titled THE VANISHING LADY from 1897 from the U.K. which was a attributed to Robert W. Paul. I found a site on YouTube that claimed that it was that movie, but it was actually Melies’s PYGMALION AND GALATHEA. If there’s not much to say about today’s movie, I just wanted to take this time to note how tricky and confusing it can be sometimes to know if you’ve located the right one. I do know this one is not the Melies version, so I’m going on trust that this is indeed the Edison version.

The Brood (1979)

THE BROOD (1979)
Article 4939 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-26-2015
Directed by David Cronenberg
Featuring Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle
Country: Canada
What it is: Cronenberg horror movie

A man’s wife is being held in therapeutic isolation by a doctor who practices a technique known as psychoplasmics, in which patients manifest their anger as growths on their bodies. When the husband begins to fear for the safety of his child, relatives of the couple begin dying at the hands of murderous deformed dwarfs.

I saw this one many years ago on one of those commercial cable channels, which is rather ridiculous in retrospect; Cronenberg’s imagery is both so grotesque and so essential to the essence of the story that to watch a censored version of one of his movies is pointless. I haven’t seen all of Cronenberg’s genre works yet, but with the exception of THE DEAD ZONE, this is the best of the ones I’ve seen so far. The story is certainly more focused than the ones I found in RABID or SCANNERS. It’s intense, well-acted, and on top of the Cronenberg’s usual theme of the ways our bodies can turn on us, it deals with divorce, rage and the cycles of abuse that pass from generation to generation. It’s disturbing, powerful and sad as well, and is definitely not for children. This is one I recommend, but I usually do so with Cronenberg.