Africa Screams (1949)

AFRICA SCREAMS (1949)
Article 2821 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-27-2009
Posting Date: 5-4-2009
Directed by Charles Barton
Featuring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Clyde Beatty
Country: USA

Two book store clerks pass themselves off as big game hunters in order to get themselves added to a safari. The safari is purportedly in pursuit of a giant ape, but in reality, it is searching for a fortune in diamonds.

This was one of the few Abbott and Costello films made outside of Universal or MGM, and the low budget shows; it opens with Costello in a jungle set in a bookstore that looks about as convincing as the jungle sets that pass for the real jungle. It’s not one of their best comedies, but it is fun to see them take on the jungle genre. Furthermore, it has a great array of other duos to play off. To begin with, we have a pair of real-life lion-tamers turned movie stars, Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck. We also have two heavyweight fighters who happen to be brothers with Max and Buddy Baer; one of the highlights has them engaging in a spirited fistfight with each other near the end of the movie (“I’ll hit you harder that Louis ever did!”). Then, to top it off, we have two third Stooges; Joe Besser plays a butler, and Shemp Howard plays a near-sighted hunter; other than in retrospectives about the Stooges that use archive footage, this is the only time these two men appeared together in a movie. Furthermore, we get Charley Gemora in a dual role (as a gorilla and a gorilla, and yes, they are two different characters); personally, I’ve always thought Gemora was the man-in-a-gorilla-suit who had the best knack for comedy. For the most part, the movie remains in the marginal category as far as fantastic content goes (like many jungle movies), but it does deliver a clear qualifying moment towards the end. And for anyone who ever wanted to see the greedy, self-serving Bud Abbott character really get his comeuppance, this is one that really delivers. All in all, this one is good fun.

Advertisements

The Airship Destroyer (1909)

THE AIRSHIP DESTROYER (1909)
Article 2816 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-22-2009
Posting Date: 4-29-2009
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast Unknown
Country: UK

An inventor is denied the hand of his true love by her father. However, he comes to the rescue when the country is invaded by attackers who drop bombs from zeppelins.

The special effects in this early silent aren’t convincing, but they are ambitious and fun. I especially love a sequence in which a biplane takes on the zeppelin in a dogfight, which features some very odd camera tricks. The story itself is pretty standard, but that hardly matters; it’s the special effects that really make this one a treat. It’s another movie I found on YouTube, which is proving to be a great place to find some of these old silent shorts.

Anti-Cats (1950)

ANTI-CATS (1950)
Animated Short
Article 2764 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-1-2008
Posting Date: 3-8-2009
Directed by Mannie Davis
No voices
Country: USA

Mighty Mouse comes to the aid of three mice who are stranded outside during winter by taking on the cat that won’t let them in the house.

Curiouser and curiouser. The three Mighty Mouse cartoons I’ve seen have all been quite different from each other; I’ve certainly not seen a standard plot. This one plays something like a Tom and Jerry cartoon; Mighty Mouse comes in the house dressed in a disguising trench coat and proceeds to torment the cat in typical cartoon fashion; in fact, he barely uses his superpowers in it. Furthermore, the singing is dropped here; in fact, not a word is spoken (or sung) during the length of the cartoon. Still, it’s a fairly average cartoon. And I’m becoming more curious about seeing more of the rest of the series, if for no other reason than to figure out if there is a standard plot, and if so, which cartoons are the anomalies.

Aimez-vous les femmes (1964)

AIMEZ-VOUS LES FEMMES (1964)
aka Do You Like Women?
Article 2732 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-29-2008
Posting Date: 2-4-2009
Directed by Jean Leon
Featuring Sophie Daumier, Guy Bedos, Gergoire Aslan
Country: France / Italy

A man discovers a dead body in the bathroom of a restaurant, but by the time he notifies the police, the body has vanished. He then finds himself the target of dart blowing assassins, and gets caught up in a battle between opium smugglers and cannibals.

This black comedy starts out well enough; the discovery and disappearance of the body, followed by the early assassination attempts on the man are quite amusing. However, it’s then that the fact that I’m watching an unsubtitled French language version of the movie causes me to lose my way, and I had to flesh out my plot summary above with info from “The Motion Picture Guide” (a source that is not necessarily dependable). The fantastic content is, of course, the cannibalism, and that becomes a fairly clear element in the latter part of the movie. The screenplay was written by Roman Polanski, which will go a long ways towards preparing you for some of the weirdness to come; in particular, a face-off between the hero and the cannibals comes off like something from a cheap samurai movie. It’s 4.9 rating on IMDB indicates that the movie really isn’t very good, but until I catch a version I can understand, I’ll withhold judgment; it does look rather amusing, though.

Alone in the Dark (1982)

ALONE IN THE DARK (1982)
Article 2725 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-22-2008
Posting Date: 1-28-2009
Directed by Jack Sholder
Featuring Jack Palance, Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau
Country: USA

A psychiatrist with a very unusual therapeutic approach runs an asylum in which electrically-run safeguards keep the more violent prisoners from escaping. When a power blackout results in the escape of several homicidal maniacs, they band together to terrorize the home of the new assistant doctor, who they believe is responsible for the death of the man he replaced.

This is a rather oddball entry in the slasher cycle of the era. For one thing, it has a surprising amount of star power for this kind of movie. It also gives us several psychos in place of the traditional single killer usually seen in the genre, and they aren’t superhuman; when they die, they die. It also has a message, though it isn’t really an original one; it has something to do with those on the outside of the asylum being no less crazy and violent than those on the inside. The movie is a little too dark (visually) some of the time (I don’t know if it’s the print or the movie itself), but there are some tense and scary moments, especially the scene where the babysitter discovers that there is something under the bed. I also like the way the movie gets around the “unkillable maniac” cliche of the genre by giving us multiple psychos instead of one. Unfortunately, characters act with unusual stupidity at times, and the movie often doesn’t make much sense. Still, it has a quirky charm; I especially like the ending, where the last remaining psycho discovers an environment where his psychotic tendencies seem not only natural, but cool, and much of the reason it works is due to a strong performance from Jack Palance. This is definitely one of the odder entries in the slasher genre.

 

Atom Age Vampire (1960)

ATOM AGE VAMPIRE (1960)
aka Seddok, l’erede di Satana
Article 2702 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-25-2008
Posting Date: 1-5-2009
Directed by Anton Giulio Majano
Featuring Alberto Lupo, Susanne Loret, Sergio Fantoni
Country: Italy

A scientist believes he has found a serum that will revive dead tissue and he tries it on a disfigured woman. He falls in love with the woman, but then discovers that the effects of the serum are temporary. He can restore her looks with the glands of young women, so he takes a drug that makes him look like a monster and begins stalking and killing women.

There is something to be said for the efficiency with which this movie gets started; it manages to get the plot moving with very few lines of dialogue, and you’re quite a ways into the story in just a few minutes. However, I’m less impressed with the story itself, which is a rehash of EYES WITHOUT A FACE without the style, and the dubbed American version is confusing, badly acted, and (I suspect) cut to ribbons; there are plot points that are never explained, and much of the action seems to take place in random order. Nor is the movie helped by the fact that the putative heroine of the story is whiny, self-pitying, and consistently annoying; I found myself wondering why the mad scientist even wanted to keep her around. The flat direction is also a minus; it’s one of those rare Italian horror movies that has no sense of style. Ultimately, the most sympathetic character is the scientist’s faithful mute assistant; his scene at the end of the movie is actually a bit touching. All in all, this is one of the lesser Italian horror movies.

 

The Astro-Zombies (1968)

THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES (1968)
Article 2701 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-24-2008
Posting Date: 1-4-2009
Directed by Ted V. Mikels
Featuring Wendell Corey, John Carradine, Tom Pace
Country: USA

A bizarre creature is running around loose murdering and mutilating women. The police try to investigate. Meanwhile, a mad scientist tries to explain his work to his mute assistant, who is intent on experiments of his own on a bikini-clad girl tied to a table. Meanwhile, spies led by Tura Satana’s breasts (followed closely by Tura Satana) look for the scientist to get his secrets.

Though it has something of a cult reputation, let’s face it; this one is wretched. This is not to say there’s not a certain appeal to the movie. Tura Satana has a presence that is not soon forgotten, and there’s some fun to be had with John Carradine and his assistant. The opening murder made a huge impression on me when the movie popped up on a my local Creature Feature, and the scene where an astro-zombie makes his getaway while holding a flashlight to his forehead is good for some laughs. Unfortunately, the plot is a mess, most of the scenes are talky and dull (the scene where they set a trap for an astro-zombie by having a woman keep busy in a lab is one of the most tedious stretches of non-activity ever committed to celluloid), and the movie mostly just lurches from one scene to the next with no real point. The script was written by director T.V. Mikels along with Wayne Rogers of “M*A*S*H” fame. Amazingly enough, Mikels would eventually pen and direct a sequel which, if the IMDB ratings are any indication, is superior to this.