Agon, the Atomic Dragon (1968)

Agon, the Atomic Dragon (1968)
Article 5500 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-19-2017
Directed by Noria Mine and Fuminori Ohashi
Featuring Shinji Hirota, Asao Matsumoto, Nobuhiko Shima
Country: Japan
What it is: Small screen kaiju

A dinosaur mutated by radiation emerges from the sea around Japan and terrorizes the country.

From what I gather, this was filmed in 1964, but finally popped up as a TV miniseries of four episodes in 1968, and was eventually edited into a movie during the 1990s; I have no exact year for the latter. Granted, the movie looks pretty much like they did little more than edit the episodes together and remove some credit sequences. As a TV series, it must have looked a bit like “Ultra Q” with the same monster every time. The monster resembled Godzilla just enough that Japan Radio Pictures was almost sued by Toho until it came to light that the designer of the Agon suit was one of the designers of the original Godzilla suit, so they let it go. There’s very little in the first half of the movie (or the first two episodes, if you parse it that way) to set it apart from your average kaiju, but the last half (or two episodes) weave it into a subplot about two criminals holding a boy hostage to make a diver retrieve for them a suitcase that has fallen to the bottom of the sea. This complication leads to some of the sillier moments here, such as having the monster walk around for about thirty minutes with a boat in his mouth as well as a truly bizarre plan to kill the monster. It’s enjoyable enough for kaiju fans, but it’s hardly one of the better ones out there.

Assault and Flattery (1956)

Assault and Flattery (1956)
Article 5491 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-4-2017
Directed by Izzy Sparber
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Jackson Beck, Mae Questal
Country: USA
What it is: Conservation-minded Popeye cartoon … as in recycling

Bluto brings a charge of assault and battery against Popeye in court.

One of the easiest ways to make a cartoon in a hurry is to come up with an idea that allows you to use footage from other cartoons to fill out the running time, and that’s just what happened here. With the format of this episode, it was easy to do; when one of the characters gives testimony, fill it out with footage from another cartoon. This movie borrows from three cartoons, but the lion’s share of the footage is from A BALMY SWAMI from 1949, in which Bluto plays a hypnotist/magician who makes a fool of Popeye and then hypnotizes Olive Oyl. This provides the fantastic content of the cartoon, as Bluto’s magic powers seem to be real; he even hypnotizes a pile of bricks to form into a wall. Maybe someday I’ll review the original cartoon, but unlike this one, that one isn’t in public domain and is a little difficult to find. For the record, I also suspect that GREEK MIRTHOLOGY borrowed its Hercules footage from another Popeye cartoon as well. At any rate, the best laughs here are from the older footage.

Aaya Toofan (1964)

Aaya Toofan (1964)
Article 5462 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-18-2008 Posted 5-27-2017
Directed by Mohammed Hussain and Kedar Kapoor
Featuring Rajkumari Chanda, Anwar Hussain, Mallu
Country: India
What it is: Indian fantasy

An evil magician attempts to spirit away a princess with the help of genie, but the genie is defeated by a man named Deepu. However, when the King discovers that Deepu is the son of an old enemy, he holds a grudge and makes him an enemy, despite the fact that Deepu wishes to marry the princess.

There’s something about watching foreign movies that can give you a real sense of a different culture, and Bollywood movies are striking examples of that. Their movies are very long, full of songs, and quite unique. This one starts out a little like JACK THE GIANT-KILLER, turns into something of a sword-and-sandal movie, all the time with songs and dancing. The dancing is unique and very interesting, but sometimes I wonder why they bother trying to translate the lyrics of the songs in the subtitles, as they’re more confusing than illuminating. The title means something about a “stormy life”, which I gather from the lyrics of the song that continually repeats the phrase.

As I watch more Bollywood movies, I’ll have a better feel for how to critique them; this one is a little too new for me to say anything really worthwhile about it.

***NOTE This review was written years ago and held in reserve until it entered my hunt list. Since it never did, I’m posting it now. It may actually have been the first Indian movie I’d seen.

At the Earth’s Core (1976)

At the Earth’s Core (1976)
Article 5450 from Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-11-2017
Directed by Kevin Connor
Featuring Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Burroughsian adventure film

Two explorers tunnel through the Earth’s crust to end up in the land of Pellucidar. They are taken captive along with a handful of natives and enslaved by telepathic monsters and their brutish minions.

Though this is the second of the four Kevin Connor/Doug McClure old-fashioned adventure series, it’s the fourth and final one that I’ve seen. I’ve been fairly lenient with the series; I like them in spirit enough that I find myself somewhat forgiving of their technical deficiencies. This is the one, however, that most tries my patience. Part of the reason is that it tries to take a more lighthearted approach to the material that verges on camp, and I prefer the tone to be a bit more serious. Going in hand with that, I’m also disappointed with Peter Cushing’s performance here; much as I love him as an actor, I find him least interesting when he takes on the role of a dotty old eccentric (like he does in his two Dr. Who movies) because he seems to be playing beneath his real abilities. My greatest problem, however, is with the movie’s action sequences. So many of them are shot with rapid-fire editing between close-ups and medium shots with seemingly random scenes thrown in that they become confusing, and nothing makes me lose interest as quickly as a badly edited action sequence. As much as I like the attempt to bring the world of Pellucidar to life, I’m afraid I have to rate this one as the weakest of the four movies.

Angel of H.E.A.T. (1983)

Angel of H.E.A.T. (1983)

Article 5449 by Dave Sindelar

Date: 5-10-2017
Directed by Myrl A. Schreibman
Featuring Marilyn Chambers, Stephen Johnson, Mary Woronov
Country: USA
What it is: What happens when a porn star goes legit

Government agents join forces with a vigilante organization which uses martial arts to defeat an evil scientist with an army of androids.

A cheap comic exploitation action flick with lots of nudity and stupidity – yeah, that sounds like the sort of thing a porn star might appear in if she wanted to go legit. How cheap is it? It has a single big explosion in it, and that’s animated. How exploitational is it? When it brings the plot to a halt for a scene of mud wrestling, it actually marks a step up in class for the movie. How comic is it? I’d give you a standout comic moment if I could think of one. That leaves the lame action scenes and the plentiful nudity as the selling points. In short, this one was bad, and I didn’t even find it “fun” bad. Time to move on.

Android (1982)

ANDROID (1982)
Article 5448 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-9-2017
Directed by Aaron Lipstadt
Featuring Klaus Kinski, Don Keith Opper, Brie Howard
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction drama

A scientist performs illegal experiments with androids aboard a space station; his only companion is one of his own creations. When the android lets a group of criminals aboard the space station (because they have a woman and he’s never met one), their presence causes complications.

It’s not easy to describe this odd little science fiction drama; the presence of the three criminals makes you suspect that it’s going to be an action thriller of sorts, but the game it’s playing is a little more complicated than that. It’s something of a chess game in which the six major characters (the scientist, the android, the new android, and the three criminals) all jockey for the power to get what each one of them wants, and it has a few surprises up its sleeve before it’s all over. the entire cast does fine work, with Kinski and Opper (a co-writer who plays the android and went unbilled in the credits) the standouts; Opper in particular has a sort of clumsy, giddy charm. Its 5.8 rating on IMDB indicates that this one is not well liked in some quarters, and I can understand that; still, I found it interesting throughout and really liked the ending.

Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)

AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON (1987)
Article 5447 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-8-2017
Directed by Lots of Directors
Featuring Lots of Actors
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy hodgepodge

Comic vignettes are shown, most of which lampoon TV and old movies.

This movie is in the tradition of films like THE GROOVE TUBE and TUNNELVISION, and the fact that I didn’t use the phrase “grand tradition” back there is because neither of those movies impressed me, and neither does this one. The vignette style is inevitably hit or miss; for every routine that hits, you’ll have two or three that miss. The fifties science fiction movie parody of astronauts encountering matriarchal societies (think QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE) might have worked if it hadn’t settled for only the most obvious of targets, and the running jokes (including Lou Jacobi as a person who gets trapped in his TV set popping up in other sketches) are pretty lame. There are a few highlights. I like the bit which posits a theory about the identity of Jack the Ripper, the one where a funeral ceremony turns into a public roast featuring several well-known comedians, the movie parody SON OF THE INVISIBLE MAN (which has no fantastic content, which is part of the joke), and an ad for a double-album of music by a black artist who has no soul (featuring songs like “MacArthur Park”). And, if you haven’t turned it off when the credits start to roll, you’ll catch a surprise exploitation movie parody which features footage of Bela Lugosi, another of the movie’s better moments. Beyond that, a decent moment here or there doesn’t really redeem the rest of them. Still, it may be worth watching it for curiosity’s sake to simply see who all pops up at one time or another, a game that the movie doesn’t give away; the list of stars I mention above is exactly as they are introduced at the beginning of the movie.

Aliens (1986)

ALIENS (1986)
Article 5446 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-7-2017
Directed by James Cameron
Featuring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction sequel, action style

Ripley is revived from suspended animation 57 years after the events in ALIEN. She discovers the planet where the alien was discovered has been terraformed and is now the home of a colony. When the Company loses contact with the colony, Ripley accompanies a troop of space marines to discover the problem….

For the record, I saw the director’s version of the movie, which adds about seventeen minutes to the running time; I’d seen the original movie before, but it’s been long enough so that I couldn’t immediately say where the new scenes were added (though I rightly guessed that the scene involving Ripley’s daughter was not in the original). For the record, I don’t think the added scenes damaged or slowed down the movie, though it did make it a bit more exhausting of a watch. It’s still a nifty roller-coaster of a movie with the horror feel of the previous entry giving way to the action movie style of this one. Though I’m not a big action fan, there are a few directors who I really like in the genre, and James Cameron is one of them. This is one of those sequels that was really worth the effort. Still, I did have a couple of thoughts on this one that I didn’t notice the first time. The first is that, despite the fact that the first half of the movie is very different from the first half of the original, the second half of each movie follow very similar story arcs. Second is that, like the first movie, for the most part you don’t get a really good look at the aliens, but there’s one notable exception; it takes the time to give us a big, elaborate gawking look at that queen alien. Draining, but recommended.

The Adventures of the American Rabbit (1986)

THE ADVENTURES OF THE AMERICAN RABBIT (1986)
Article 5445 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-6-2017
Directed by Nobutaka Nishizawa and Fred Wolf
Featuring the voices of Bob Arbogast, Pat Fraley, Barry Gordon
Country: USA / Japan
What it is: Family cartoon

A young rabbit named Rob has the ability to turn into a superhero known as the American Rabbit. He has to deal with a gang of jackals bent on extortion and their leader, Voltar.

As far as the fantastic content goes, we have a world of anthropomorphic animals, one of which has superpowers. For those into action, be aware that the superhero is one of those that eschews violence, probably to serve as a good role model for those children for whom the movie was intended. For those looking for laughs, be aware that there is a moose and his son who make chocolate and a big ape named Ping Pong, and these are the standout jokes. For those into platitudes and blandness, you’ve hit the jackpot big time here. For those expecting lots of messages about nationalism and patriotism (after all, our hero is made up in stars and stripes), be aware there’s no overt political message of that sort. For those expecting to be fully entertained, try to catch this one before you’re seven years old. And for those into general weirdness, be aware that the villain of the movie spends most of his time talking through a necktie and that it ends with everyone having a mass hallucination. It’s probably most useful for those of you with young children who you want to keep occupied while you take a nap.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910)

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1910)
Article 5386 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-6-2017
Director unknown
Featuring Gladys Hulette
Country: USA
What it is: Another version of you-know-what

Alice falls down the rabbit hole and has adventures in Wonderland.

This version of the Alice story proved elusive enough that it ended up on my “ones that got away” list, but a copy of it has popped up on YouTube. It’s not the best copy one could hope for; it looks like it was recorded off a theatrical showing of the film, and the print is in ragged condition. Nevertheless, I’m glad for the chance to see it. Like the other short versions of I’ve seen, it’s mostly a compendium of assorted scenes from the novel with no real attempt to tell a coherent story, but it does have a scene that I’ve not encountered in the other versions; this has Alice’s short encounter with a giant puppy. For what it is, it’s not a bad version of the story; it has some fun with growing and shrinking scenes during the early part of the story. It’s not the best version I’ve seen, but it’s not the worst either.