Aranas infernales (1968)

ARANAS INFERNALES (1968)
aka Hellish Spiders
Article 2552 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-31-2008
Posting Date: 8-7-2008
Directed by Federico Curiel
Featuring Bianca Sanchez, Marta Elena Cervantes, Alejandro Munoz Moreno
Country: Mexico

Spiders from outer space threaten the world with zombie minions. However, Mexican wrestler Blue Demon is out to defeat their evil scheme.

I can understand a little the concept of borrowing footage from other movies to pad out a film; it’s useful if you want to make your movie look a little classier than you can afford or if you want to save time. However, if you go lifting footage from PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE and TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE (as this movie does copiously), it’s obvious that it’s time you’re trying to save. Other than that, it’s business as usual for the Mexican wrestler genre, at least as far as I can tell from the undubbed and unsubtitled copy in Spanish that I watched. The cheesy giant spider (smaller than the one in TARANTULA, bigger than the one in A TERRIBLE NIGHT) is laughable, but it does look better than the flying saucer footage from PLAN 9. The movie has way too much wrestling; only the match that is essential to the plot (in which Blue Demon takes on a seemingly indestructible zombie wrestler) is worth catching, as it features the moment when Blue Demon discovers his opponents Achilles heel (his right arm) and witnesses a truly memorable monster transformation.

You know, as many of the Mexican wrestler movies as I’ve done, I still have the feeling I’ve only scratched the surface…

 

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The Astronomer’s Dream (1898)

THE ASTRONOMER’S DREAM (1898)
aka La Lune a un metre
Article 2545 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-24-2008
Posting Date: 7-31-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France

An astronomer is tormented by the devil, who plays horrible tricks on him and his equipment.

The devil starts in easy on the astronomer with your basic tricks from THE BEWITCHED INN, but things really get strange from there. Fortunately, the astronomer has a guardian angel who is able to put him back together when he goes to pieces (and I do mean that literally). All in all, this is an extremely amusing short from Melies, and I rank it as one of his best pre-A TRIP TO THE MOON movies. My favorite moment: the astronomer gets to meet a heavenly body up close and personal.

 

Atlas (1961)

ATLAS (1961)
Article 2527 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-5-2008
Posting Date: 7-13-2008
Directed by Roger Corman
Featuring Michael Forest, Barboura Morris, Frank Wolff
Country: USA

When a city is held in siege by an evil tyrant, the archon of the city convinces the tyrant to agree to settle their dispute by having a battle to the death between their respective champions. The tyrant chooses a wrestler named Atlas for his champion. However, Atlas isn’t sure he cares much for the tyrant or his ways…

Here’s a novelty; an American attempt at a sword-and-sandal movie. Shooting it in Greece was an excellent idea, as it gave them some good locations for their work. However, the movie falls flat overall, despite the fact that the script was written by Charles B. Griffith. Part of the problem is that the low budget kept the spectacle level below what it really needed to be to make this one work. As Atlas (not the god holding up the world, but someone of the same name), Michael Forest simply looks too thin and weedy to conjure up visions of other sword-and-sandal actors like Steve Reeves, Alan Steel, Gordon Mitchell etc. It should come as no surprise that this Atlas doesn’t even have superhuman strength, and unfortunately this strips the movie of fantastic content, unless the city under siege by Praximedes classifies as a mythical kingdom. Mostly, it’s the weak acting and the overabundance of talk that drag this one down; quite frankly, the actors who do the dubbing on Italian sword-and-sandal movies did a better job of expressing emotion and excitement. The limp battle scenes weren’t Corman’s fault; he had arranged for 500 soldiers for the scenes, but had to skimp when only fifty showed up, resulting in battles that mostly consisted of confusing close-ups. All in all, this simply fails to deliver the goods.

 

Amazing World of Ghosts (1978)

AMAZING WORLD OF GHOSTS (1978)
Article 2521 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-28-2008
Posting Date: 7-7-2008
Directed by Wheeler Dixon
Narrated by Sidney Paul
Country: USA

Do you believe in ghosts? They’re out to scare us! They may come from outer space! See all mediums with ectoplasm coming out of their mouths – this doesn’t happen very often, but we have about a thousand pictures of it happening. Jupiter’s a big planet. What about Nessie, the Loch Ness monster? People also look for the Abominable Snowman, aka Bigfoot. This hypnotized guy can’t hear the drum music in the background! Because of the Gold Rush, many Ghost Towns were created. We’re all going to be invaded! Poltergeists throw things around and scare people. I’ll shut up now; play some electronic music to fill in the gap…

So far, I’ve seen several documentaries from the seventies about paranormal occurrences and/or extraterrestrial visitations. This one is the worst by far. Combine random stock footage with free-floating paranoia, stream of consciousness rambling and a short attention span and you end up with one of the most pointless explorations of… well, ostensibly it’s about ghosts, but with the way this thing wanders, who can tell? There are no interviews; it’s just Sidney Paul talking and the musicians filling in the gaps while photos and stock footage pass by. I’d say it’s unconvincing, except that for it to be unconvincing, it would have to at least approach coherent, and such is not the case. Really, I’m surprised it didn’t try to mix the Kennedy assassination in as well. One of my “favorite” moments; we see footage of a primitive town and its residents while the narrator intones about the town being infested by ghosts; we don’t see any, but we see plenty of goats, so maybe he was confused. Another: we see modern techniques for digging gold out of mountains, which proves that space aliens have vast underground cities on other planets just waiting for the chance to pounce on us all.

 

The Ape Creature (1968)

THE APE CREATURE (1968)
aka Der Gorilla von Soho
Article 2488 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-26-2008
Posting Date: 6-4-2008
Directed by Alfred Vohrer
Featuring Horst Tappert, Uschi Glas, Uwe Friedrichsen
Country: West Germany

Foreign millionaires are turning up drowned in London. Witnesses believe that a gorilla may be responsible for the murders, and authorities begin to suspect a charitable institute and a criminal organization known as “The Gorilla Gang”.

It’s hard to know what to make of this frenetic, rather twitchy comic Edgar Wallace krimi, especially since my print runs only 67 minutes; from what I gather, my copy is missing a lot of the sleaziness. The whole trend must have been pretty close to running its course by this time, and director Alfred Vohrer had already adapted this particular story once before in DEAD EYES OF LONDON. Its fast pace keeps things rather entertaining, though, and the fact that I’ve seen two other versions of the story (the earlier Vohrer version and THE HUMAN MONSTER) means that I can navigate the confusing plot with a minimum of effort. It’s the odd comic approach that is the most disconcerting; the (badly dubbed) dialogue is almost a non-stop barrage of clipped, snippy humor, and the character names include a Dr. Jeckyll and a Sgt. Pepper. No, it’s not very good (in fact, it may be pretty bad), but it’s more entertaining than I would have guessed.

 

Aladin ou la lampe merveilleuse (1906)

ALADIN OU LA LAMPE MERVEILLEUSE (1906)
aka Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
Article 2474 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-10-2008
Posting Date: 5-21-2008
Directed by Albert Capellani
Featuring Georges Vinter
Country: France

Aladdin discovers a lamp with a genie and uses it to win the hand of a princess.

Yes, it’s the basic Aladdin story told in twelve minutes as a silent. All the title cards are in French, but if you know the story, it’s no obstacle at all. My copy is in beautiful hand-tinted color and in very nice condition. It’s pretty straightforward, though I do wonder why the genie appears as an imp in most of the scenes but as a misshapen giant in the scene where they redecorate Aladdin’s home. Still, whatever you think of them, you have to admire these early silents for their efficiency; you reach the end of the story by the time most movies are just getting started.

 

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.