An Angel Comes to Brooklyn (1945)

AN ANGEL COMES TO BROOKLYN (1945)
Article 2468 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-4-2008
Posting Date: 5-15-2008
Directed by Leslie Goodwins
Featuring Kay Dowd, Robert Duke, David Street
Country: USA

An angel from actors’ heaven comes down to Earth to help a struggling actress get a break. He decides to help by becoming a producer for a musical revue to show off her talents. Pain ensues.

As a self-professed fan of Olsen and Johnson’s HELLZAPOPPIN’, I should be the last person to throw stones at this surreal anything-goes musical. But there are profound differences. For one thing, HELLZAPOPPIN’ undercut every moment of hokey sentimentality with de-sweetening humor; this one wallows in it shamelessly, what with its treacly “ain’t imagination great” message and “spritely feel-good music” that just makes me feel kind of sick. Personally, I’d rather spend eternity in the jolly fun of HELLZAPOPPIN’s hell, where devils store sinners in barrels and poke them with pitchforks than to have to endure ten minutes of Actors’ Heaven from this one, where bad actors sing ditties and speak in rhyme. As far as I’m concerned, we’re in DOWN TO EARTH territory here, and that’s not good; it doesn’t even boast the star power of that one. And I don’t care how many times they talk about Actors’ heaven in this one; I know real Hell when I see it.

 

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Angel on Wheels (1959)

ANGEL ON WHEELS (1959)
aka Angel on Earth, Ein Engel auf Erden
Article 2449 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-16-2007
Posting Date: 4-26-2008
Directed by Geza von Radvanyi
Featuring Romy Schneider, Henri Vidal, Michele Mercier
A race car driver encounters a woman who claims to be his guardian angel. The angel, trying to prevent his marriage to a self-serving socialite, takes the form of an airline hostess who is in love with the race car driver.

ANGEL ON WHEELS? I don’t know where they concocted that title for this slight romantic comedy; the race car driver isn’t the angel, and though the angel does ride in wheeled vehicles on occasion, it’s hardly a significant plot element. As for the movie itself, it’s cute but rather dull, and the most interesting thing about it is the presence of Jean-Paul Belmondo one year before BREATHLESS was a hit of the French New Wave. He plays the hero’s sidekick, and he’s really not given much to do. Easily stealing the movie is Margarete Haagen as the chief angel; dressed as one of those nuns that you don’t want to mess with, she has the best parts of the movie, such as when she takes over the other angel’s duties at an auto race. Other than that, this is a fairly forgettable angel-on-earth story.

 

Una aventura en la noche (1948)

UNA AVENTURA EN LA NOCHE (1948)
aka An Adventure in the Night
Article 2445 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-12-2007
Posting Date: 4-22-2008
Directed by Rolando Aguilar
Featuring Luis Aguilar, Miroslava Stern, Carlos Villarias

Two men pick up two female hitchhikers and take them home. They begin to suspect that the women are ghosts. Their investigation leads them to a creepy old mansion.

I managed to get the above plot description from IMDB; otherwise, it would be a shot in the dark as to what the storyline is, as my copy of this one is in unsubtitled Spanish. Still, I knew the plot line had something to do with ghosts in advance, as one of other sources mentioned the presence of ghosts, and as soon as I saw the scene with the two hitchhikers, I suspected I was watching a variation on an old urban legend, the same one that inspired RETURN TO GLENNESCAUL . This one looks pretty good, and there’s an eerie seance at one point, an interesting scene with a record player, and an attempt to shoot test footage of one of the ghosts. There may also be a touch of science fiction to the proceedings; there’s a science lab in the spooky old house, and one man has a pair of glasses that burns things. Still, there’s not much I can say about this one until a dubbed or subtitled copy comes along, as most of the plot is handled verbally.

 

Alien Massacre (1965)

ALIEN MASSACRE (1965)
aka The Wizard of Mars
Article 2443 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-10-2007
Posting Date: 4-20-2008
Directed by David L. Hewitt
Featuring John Carradine, Roger Gentry, Vic McGee

Four astronauts get stranded on Mars. They wander around. There’s more plot, but I don’t like to give away the last twenty minutes of the movie.

One thing you’re guaranteed of when you see the name of David L. Hewitt heavily featured on the opening credits of a movie is that the budget just might be big enough to allow you to purchase new shoelaces. And I will give him some credit; every once in a while, there is a moment that shows some imagination or captures a little of that sense of wonder. But, those moments aside, this movie mostly consists of the astronauts wandering around in caves or in the desert. When they’re not doing that, they’re either engaged in pseudo-scientific gobbledygook or having their ears bent by the disembodied head of John Carradine. If you’re lucky, you’ll wake up to enjoy the scene where they discover a Martian encased in a wall, easily the best scene in the movie. If you want to, you can speculate on the similarities between this movie and THE WIZARD OF OZ ; there’s a girl named Dorothy with three companions (unfortunately, instead of a scarecrow, a tin woodsman, and a cowardly lion, she only has three bores), a yellow-brick road, and a disembodied head, and that should engage your attention for all of thirty seconds. And since we’re on the subject of time, let’s talk about that. The movie is seventy-eight minutes long, and it purportedly takes place over a four-day period which turns out to be only two minutes long. Those times are significant; there is about two minutes of plot here, but the movie certainly feels like four days.

And, on a side note, the original title of this movie is THE WIZARD OF MARS. My copy is called ALIEN MASSACRE. This change was accomplished by replacing the main title of the movie. Unfortunately, right before this is the credit “John Carradine as”. Hence, it reads like “John Carradine as Alien Massacre”, which, unlike “John Carradine as The Wizard of Mars”, makes no sense. Someone obviously didn’t care.

 

Allegro Non Troppo (1977)

ALLEGRO NON TROPPO (1977)
Article 2382 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-3-2007
Posting Date: 2-19-2008
Directed by Bruno Bozzetto
Featuring Marialuisa Giovannini, Nestor Garay, Maurizio Micheli

And now, presenting, a totally original idea – classical music pieces set to animation. And those guys from Hollywood are lying when they say some guy named Prisney already did this.

FANTASIA was supposed to be the first of a series of similar movies from Disney, but its commercial failure kept it from happening. A sequel only appeared six decades later, after the movie became a critical and cult favorite and achieved classic status. To fill in the gap, we have this tasty little treat, a parody/tribute to the Disney film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It opens with a presenter trying to convince us that this is a totally original idea, only to be interrupted by an angry call from Hollywood when he uses the word “fantasia”. The orchestra consists of little old ladies, the conductor is a cigar-smoking bully, and the animator was convinced into cooperating by being chained to a wall in his cell. We then see six renditions of classical pieces interspersed with live action sequences, the best of which includes a Laurel-and-Hardy inspired tit for tat sequence between the conductor and the animator. Despite the overt comic tone of the movie, not all the animated sequences are comic – “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” is a melancholy tale of an aging satyr, “Bolero” is an ambitious segment which shows the evolution of life on a distant planet that grows from what was left over in an abandoned pop battle, and “Valse Triste” is a wonderful piece about a cat in an abandoned and decrepit building dreaming of the people who used to inhabit it. The other three pieces are more comic – “Slavian Dance” is about a man seeking revenge on his neighbors because they imitate his every act, “The Firebird” shows the travails of a bee trying to sit down to a meal but having to contend with amorous picnickers, and “Concert in C-Major” shows what happens when the serpent from the garden of Eden decides to eat the apple himself. I’m assuming that if the serpent hadn’t scared off the old ladies, we would have gotten a seventh piece, but fortunately, an animated hunchback is on hand to pick out a finale for us. The movie is consistently amusing, and only runs about seventy five minutes in the US version (the original ran ten minutes longer). Recommended.

 

The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972)

THE AMAZING MR. BLUNDEN (1972)
Article 2367 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-18-2007
Posting Date: 2-4-2008
Directed by Lionel Jeffries
Featuring Laurence Naismith, Lynne Frederick, Garry Miller

A widow and her three children become caretakers of a dilapidated mansion that is believed to be haunted. When two of her children encounter the ghosts of the mansion (also children), they are drawn into a plan to return to the past and save the children from the fire that killed them one hundred years ago.

In case you didn’t know it, I’m a sucker for stories about redemption, and that’s what this one is. In this case, the redemption is for Mr. Blunden, the solicitor who failed to save the children on the night of the fire, and whose ghost now arranges to rewrite the past with the help of children from the present. It’s an interesting combination of ghosts, Dickensian drama, and time travel, and it makes for an enticing, memorable, and sometimes unpredictable movie. Laurence Naismith does an excellent job in the title role, and the rest of the cast is fine as well. It’s interesting that both pairs of children get to be ghosts, depending on which time period they’re in; the movie starts in the present, goes back to the past, and returns to the present. Former sex symbol Diana Dors is unrecognizable as the ugly and sinister Mrs. Wickens, the main villainess of the piece. This one is highly recommended for anyone interested in seeing something different in a ghost story.

 

Adventure in Kigan Castle (1966)

ADVENTURE IN KIGAN CASTLE (1966)
aka Kiganjo no boken
Article 2348 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-30-2007
Posting Date: 1-16-2008
Directed by Senkichi Taniguchi
Featuring Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Mihashi, Makoto Sato

A slave is rescued from bondage by a monk searching for relics of Buddha with which he hopes to found a temple in Japan, The former slave becomes the friend of the monk, and search for the relics together. Their friendship is put to the test when they enter a town being terrorized by its own mistrustful king.

The fantastic aspects of this Japanese adventure tale are the same as those of THE LOST WORLD OF SINBAD ; namely, the presence of an elderly wizard with limited powers who helps the good guys, and the presence of an evil witch with bad dental hygiene who helps the bad guys. As a matter of fact, this movie bears more than a strong resemblance to the other movie listed above; once again, we have Toshiro Mifune as the hero, and a seemingly evil king who may well be the victim of his own courtiers. Granted, I was a good thirty minutes into this movie before the resemblance started manifesting itself. This one is a little better, but that may well be due to the fact that I was watching a subtitled, nicely letterboxed version of the movie instead of the dubbed pan-and-scan print I saw of THE LOST WORLD OF SINBAD. It has its moments; the first appearance of the wizard (who is sleeping underwater) is memorable, and the scene where the king rediscovers the goodness of man is moving even if you could see it coming miles away. Still, because of the similarities, I couldn’t quite escape that sense of staleness that comes from recycled plots, and though Mifune remains a great actor, he’s even better when he’s supported by great scripts and direction (by someone like, say, Kurosawa). This one is just a little too ordinary.