The Amazing Captain Nemo (1978)

THE AMAZING CAPTAIN NEMO (1978)
aka The Return of Captain Nemo
TV-Movie
Article 3428 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-23-2010
Posting Date: 1-2-2011
Directed by Alex March and Paul Stader
Featuring Jose Ferrer, Burgess Meredith, Mel Ferrer
Country: USA
What it is: Underwater Sci-Fi, Irwin Allen style

Captain Nemo is revived from suspended animation, and with the aid of his submarine, the Nautilus, he helps the U.S. government to do battle with an evil super-genius named Professor Cunningham and his submarine, the Raven.

I ran into some contradictory descriptions of what this movie actually was, but it looks like it was designed as a three episode pilot for a prospective series that was then edited into a movie, and that’s pretty much how it feels and looks. I didn’t see Irwin Allen’s name on the credits, but I certainly wasn’t surprised to discover he was executive producer; between the silly melodramatics and the eye candy, he’s got his fingerprints all over it. I’ve never seen a movie before that had both Jose Ferrer and Mel Ferrer together, and I was quite surprised to discover that they were not related; nevertheless, I had a little fun watching the two actors pair off in a duel. The most interesting performance is from Burgess Meredith, who vacillates between intriguingly offbeat (his supervillain chews on his glasses and is far more rumpled than any self-respecting supervillain should be) and scenery-chewing melodramatics (especially when his dialogue calls for it). He even references one of his episodes from “The Twilight Zone” at one point. Overall, it’s fun if rather stupid, but as a TV series, it would have gotten old very quickly. IMDB credits 8 writers, including the obvious Jules Verne and the surprising Robert Bloch.

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Arzt ohne Gewissen (1959)

ARZT OHNE GEWISSEN (1959)
aka The Private Clinic of Professor Lund
Article 3421 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-15-2010
Posting Date: 12-26-2010
Directed by Falk Harnack
Featuring Ewald Balser, Wolfgang Preiss, Barbara Rutting
Country: West Germany
What it is: Nazi doctor drama

A respected professor and surgeon comes under suspicion when it is discovered his assistant is a former Nazi.

The above plot description I cobbled together from what I could make out of the movie along with a short plot description at allmovies.com. My copy is in unsubtitled German, and it was only with the help of this plot description that I was able to avoid getting totally lost. Still, I did get lost enough at times, and I do know that not only was the assistant a former Nazi, but he is still engaged in highly questionable practices; there is a kidnapping of a woman at one point, and there is a plot about a patient at the clinic trying to make a desperate escape. The scenes are engaging enough that I really hope some day to see it dubbed or subtitled, so I can get the full effect of the movie. There are touches of horror and science fiction around the edges; the clinic is in a rather spooky castle, and I think they’re planning a heart transplant at one point in the proceedings. At any rate, I’ll have to reserve judgment on this one.

Anima Persa (1977)

ANIMA PERSA (1977)
aka Forbidden Room
Article 3402 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-26-2010
Posting Date: 12-7-2010
Directed by Dino Risi
Featuring Vittorio Gassman, Catherine Deneuve, Danilo Mattei
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Drama/mystery with touches of horror

A young aspiring artist goes to Venice to study, and moves in with his aunt and uncle. He discovers a room in their dilapidated mansion, and in that room is a family secret…

This movie seemed to have an unusually high-powered cast for what seems on the surface a fairly hackneyed story of the mad-relative-in-the-attic variety. However, I don’t feel like I’m engaging in spoilers by giving away that plot element; the movie itself reveals that information early enough that it doesn’t give away the ending. Of course, by giving away that information early on, the movie clues you in that there’s more here than the familiar scenario, and sure enough, you find yourself given bits and pieces of backstory that really starts to pique your interest. You seen get caught up in the various mysteries; what drove the relative mad? What was the actual fate of the aunt’s daughter? Why is the aunt so scared of the uncle? The solution is complex and very sad. In the end, it’s more of a drama than a horror movie, but the theme of madness is prevalent. All in all, this one is fairly interesting.

Amazons (1984)

AMAZONS (1984)
TV-Movie
Article 3378 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-2-2010
Posting Date: 11-14-2010
Directed by Paul Michael Glaser
Featuring Madleine Stowe, Jennifer Warren, Tamara Dobson
Country: USA
What it is: Fantasy conspiracy thriller

A female doctor treats a senator who comes to the emergency room with appendicitis. The senator is killed when a liquid is introduced in his IV that drives him crazy and causes his death by being hit by an ambulance. When the senator’s wife demands an investigation, the female doctor finds herself framed and sued for malpractice. The doctor discovers that she’s the victim of a conspiracy caused by descendants from the ancient race of Amazons.

You know, this movie would probably have ended up better had someone taken a look at the premise and decided it would have been better to play it tongue in cheek. As it is, the silliness of the idea battles with the seriousness of the presentation every step of the way. Its worst problem may simply be that the script is nothing special; it’s full of cliches and often contrived. I also think that any conspiracy of this sort would come up with a more subtle way of recognizing its members than to have them all wear these awkward-looking bracelets with bow-and-arrow medallions. I also think they’d be more apt to stick with guns than the old bow-and-arrow as their choice of weapons, but then, I’m not an Amazon, so what do I know? One of the user reviews on IMDB couldn’t help but notice that this movie (which involves a conspiracy aimed at the presidency and features a presidential candidate who is female) was made about the same time Walter Mondale had picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, though I find the movie a little too silly to point at any meaningful political message.

Arrriva Dorellik (1967)

ARRRIVA DORELLIK (1967)
aka Dorellik, How to Kill 400 Duponts
Article 3361 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-13-2010
Posting Date: 10-27-2010
Directed by Steno
Featuring Johnny Dorelli, Margaret Lee, Terry-Thomas
Country: Italy
What it is: Supervillain spoof

Arch-criminal Dorellik undertakes a job to murder all but one heir to a vast fortune; unfortunately, this requires him to kill almost everyone in Paris with the last name of Dupont. A commissioner from Scotland Yard is called in to help in the investigation.

The idea of a spoof of the supervillain genre is a good one. I also like the thrust of the plot here; Dorellik has to kill more than 1000 people if he hopes to get paid, and the best moments in this movie involve the schemes he hatches to do away with them. Nevertheless, the movie is a disappointment; rather than trying to emulate the style of a supervillain movie, it takes on your basic comic style, and much of the movie lapses into uninspired slapstick. As a result, the movie isn’t really that funny, and even when the idea is good, the execution is often lacking. The fantastic content is also extremely light; there are comic bits involving Dorellik magically vanishing while standing between two trees, and there are a few other unreal comic touches, but at heart I don’t think this movie really qualifies. My favorite moment is the first murder, which Dorellik pulls off with one phone call and one well-placed phrase. And yes, the title does actually have three Rs in a row in it.

Alraune (1930)

ALRAUNE (1930)
Article 3355 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-7-2010
Posting Date: 10-21-2010
Directed by Richard Oswald
Featuring Brigitte Helm, Albert Bassermann, Harald Paulsen
Country: Germany
What it is: Artificial life story

A woman who was the result of an experiment in artificial insemination grows up to be amoral.

The above plot description is based on my various other encounters with the story; my copy of this one is in German with Danish subtitles, and I wouldn’t have been able to make heads or tales out of it had I not been familiar with the basic story. This was Brigitte Helm’s second stab at the title role; she had played it in the 1928 version with Paul Wegener. The story seems to diverge from that one, so I couldn’t rely on the earlier version to work out some of the plot points, though the user comment on IMDB claims that this version is closest to the original novel. There are some striking visual moments. There is a wonderfully edited speeding car sequence, and there are times when Brigitte Helm’s body language can speak volumes. Nevertheless, my lack of understanding of the plot intricacies make it impossible for me to give any meaningful evaluation of this one.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972)

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1972)
Article 3294 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-4-2010
Posting Date: 8-21-2010
Directed by William Sterling
Featuring Fiona Fullerton, Michael Jayston, Hywel Bennett
Country: UK
What it is: Classic fantasy adaptation

Alice falls down a rabbit hole into the world of Wonderland.

This movie makes a real attempt to stick to the original story; in many ways, it may be the most faithful attempt yet, with only the appearance of Tweedledum and Tweedledee as sops to the sequel. It also has a bevy of famous British actors and comedians in the cast, including Ralph Richardson, Peter Bull, Roy Kinnear, Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Dennis Price and Spike Milligan. Nevertheless, I found myself hating the movie. Part of the problem is that the movie caves in to certain kiddie movie conventions, such as having Alice sing and dance with the other characters at every opportunity. Another problem is the score which, to my mind, gives the movie the air of “knees bent before a classic” rather than the sense of comic absurdism the story needs. The acting is frantic and confused, the cinematography is often static, and the editing increases the feeling of disjointedness. In the end, the movie left me feeling rather nauseous, and the sense of fidelity towards the story started to come across as the director’s attempt to get around the fact that he didn’t really ‘get’ the story. On the plus side, the costumes and makeup are excellent, and the casting is occasionally inspired; my favorite example of the latter is Peter Bull as the Duchess, a cross-gender conceit that is surprisingly appropriate.