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.

 

Advertisements

Alice’s Spooky Adventure (1924)

ALICE’S SPOOKY ADVENTURE (1924)
Animated Short
Article 2331 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-13-2007
Posting Date: 12-30-2007
Directed by Walt Disney
Featuring Virginia Davis, Leon Holmes, Spec O’Donnell

A little girl enters a haunted house to retrieve a baseball. When she is knocked out by falling plaster, she dreams she is in a village of ghosts, where she befriends a cat.

In Disney’s pre-Mickey Mouse days, he made a series of shorts that combined live-action with animation; the series, which centered around a spunky little girl, is known as “Alice in Cartoonland”. Though almost all cartoons have some fantastic content (i.e. talking animals), this one is even more firmly in the genre categories because of the ghosts and spooks that abound. Overall, it’s an okay little short. but most of the humor is derived from the actions of an animated cat who is really just a rip-off of Felix; Disney himself would have the same problem once Mickey Mouse became famous, as many cartoons from other companies would then include animated mice that looked quite a bit like Mickey. Some of the animated tricks are pretty neat, though; I like the moment when Alice takes hold of an animated question mark over her head and it turns into a stick. Still, this one is only mildly interesting.

 

Apache Drums (1951)

APACHE DRUMS (1951)
Article 2314 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-27-2007
Posting Date: 12-13-2007
Directed by Hugo Fregonese
Featuring Stephen McNally, Coleen Gray, Willard Parker

A small western town is threatened by an attack of Apache warriors. The citizens find themselves trapped inside a church with no way to escape.

I will state at the outset that there is no fantastic content in this western, and that I’m covering it because it is listed in John Stanley’s CREATURE FEATURES STRIKE BACK MOVIE GUIDE. So why did John Stanley include this one? Because, despite the lack of fantastic content, he thought it was an interesting movie to watch in the light of it having been the last production of famed horror producer Val Lewton, and I agree on this point. It has a feel quite unlike any other western I’ve seen, and this is partially due to the fact that Lewton uses music in much he same way as he did his horror movies; I like the use of native music, and part of the plot hinges on the drumming and singing the Apaches use when they have the church surrounded; you’ll find yourself listening closely for the music to change, as this will signal an ensuing attack. There are a number of nice touches; I like the sequence where the preacher and the gambler join forces to hold off a band of attacking Apaches, and the final moment of the movie where we discover that someone else outside of the Apaches was trying to get into the church as well. I also like that when the villagers get trapped in the church, the camera never leaves the area, so we feel like we’re trapped as well. The characters are likable, though the acting is uneven, but I found that to be true of his horror movies as well. The main characters are given individual story arcs, though they are a little more simplistic than they should be. Nevertheless, I find this quite entertaining, and I do wonder what it would have been like if Lewton had made other westerns; unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before this one was even released.

 

Attack of the Swamp Creatures (1975)

ATTACK OF THE SWAMP CREATURES (1975)
aka Zaat, Blood Waters of Dr. Z
Article 2300 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-13-2007
Posting Date: 11-29-2007
Directed by Don Barton and Arnold Stevens
Featuring Marshall Grauer, Wade Popwell, Paul Galloway

A mad scientist changes himself into a catfish monster and begins committing murders. The sheriff, a marine biologist, and several INPIT agents investigate. Meanwhile, the monster is searching for the perfect woman to help propagate his giant walking catfish race.

My version of this movie is hosted by Elvira, and though watching a movie with a horror host really isn’t the ideal way to give a movie a fair shake, I do agree with her assessment that it’s one of those movies that is so bad, it’s good. The concept is ridiculous (let’s face it – catfish just aren’t scary), the plot is primitive, the acting is very weak, and the direction isn’t good. Nonetheless, the film is full of unintentionally funny dialogue, the use of sound and music is unique (if wrongheaded), and it’s more charmingly primitive then excruciatingly dull. The mad scientist is so dumpy-looking that his looks actually improve when he turns into a catfish monster, and although he admits that he doesn’t look much like a catfish (and, for reference, we see several shots of catfish), I wouldn’t exactly say he looks beautiful. There’s also something charming about the fact that the catfish monster’s homicidal tendencies are not an unexpected side effect; the scientist actually wanted him to be a murderous creature. As for the various titles of this movie, you won’t want to confuse ATTACK OF THE SWAMP CREATURES with CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE (a movie that is just as bad without being near as much fun). Nor would you want to confuse ZAAT with ZOTZ; the latter movie gave away plastic coins as a gimmick, and I’d hate to see what this movie would have given away. And don’t confuse BLOOD WATERS OF DR. Z with THE BLACK PIT OF DR. M, just because it’s not a good idea.

 

The Aliens Are Coming (1980)

THE ALIENS ARE COMING (1980)
TV-Movie
Article 2294 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-6-2007
Posting Date: 11-23-2007
Directed by Harvey Hart
Featuring Tom Mason, Eric Braeden, Max Gail

An alien spaceship lands on earth and the aliens on board start taking possession of various people.

Was this TV-Movie an attempt to make a pilot for a new version of the Roy Thinnes series, “The Invaders”? One of the working titles for this one was THE NEW INVADERS. I can find no evidence that this actually was a pilot, but it certainly looks like it, what with its open-ended ending and the hint that the heroes plan to continue fighting the aliens. If it was a pilot, it’s just as well that it didn’t make it to a series; our lead hero is supposed to be witty and cute, but I found him dumb and annoying, and the listless direction and a weak script (co-scripted by Herschell Gordon Lewis, of all people) destroy any chance of suspense and excitement. Max Gail was a member of the cast of “Barney Miller”, but, given that his character spends most of the movie possessed by an alien that makes him emotionless, it’s hard to judge his performance here. The cast also features Ed Harris.

 

Alias John Preston (1956)

ALIAS JOHN PRESTON (1956)
Article 2281 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-21-2007
Posting Date: 11-10-2007
Directed by David MacDonald
Featuring Christopher Lee, Alexander Knox, Betta St. John

A wealthy man makes a splash in a small town where he has just arrived. However, he begins to suffer from nightmares, and calls on a psychoanalyst for help.

Madness is the fantastic element of this thriller, but it never really becomes a horror movie and remains more of a mystery/drama. The mystery is basically centered around the nature of that madness, but you’ll probably figure out the significance of John Preston’s dreams long before the movie reveals them. In fact, the whole movie goes on too long; the movie doesn’t really get going until its second half, and the first half is largely filler, with an unnecessary romantic triangle and overly elaborate coverage of Preston’s rise to prominence in the community. Quite frankly, the movie could have been condensed to a thirty-minute TV episode without losing anything important. Good performances by Christopher Lee and Alexander Knox help, but don’t really save the movie. The best moment is towards the end, after Preston relates his last dream and then sees the back of his psychoanalysts head.

 

Alabama’s Ghost (1973)

ALABAMA’S GHOST (1973)
Article 2280 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-20-2007
Posting Date: 11-9-2007
Directed by Fredric Hobbs
Featuring Christopher Brooks, Lani Freeman, Karen Ingenthron

An employee named Alabama at a music club dreams of becoming a magician. When he accidentally runs a forklift through the wall in the basement of the club, he comes by the remnants of the equipment of dead magician known as “The Great Carter”. He uses what he finds to blackmail the sister of “The Great Carter” into introducing him the Carter’s assistant, who teaches him Carter’s magic secrets. When Alabama becomes a magician, he soon finds himself tussling with vampires and ghosts.

This is one of those movies that left my jaw hanging open. Imagine, if you will, a cross between a hokey melodrama, a blaxploitation flick, and an underground art movie. Then weave into the plot the following elements; magic, psychedelic rock music, female Nazi scientists, vampires (who feed from their victims on an assembly line), black magic, robots, frogs, ghosts with beating hearts outside of their bodies, dixieland jazz, and an elephant. The end result, in this case, is pretty awful, but at least it’s awful in an interesting way, though it does get more than a little shrill on occasion. Whatever you can say about the movie, it does appear that director Fredric Hobbs had a vision of sorts, and I find myself all that much more curious now about what is perhaps his best known movie, GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS. Believe me, low-budget horror doesn’t come much stranger than this one.