Cape Fear (1962)

CAPE FEAR (1962)
Article 4605 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-11-2014
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Featuring Gregory Pick, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen
Country: USA
What it is: Thriller

An ex-con, released after serving eight years on an assault charge, blames the lawyer who witnessed his attack for his incarceration. He begins to subtly stalk the lawyer, using the knowledge he gained in prison about law to keep himself on the right side of it. Will the lawyer be able to defend himself and his family, and will he himself break the law in his struggle to defend them?

Given that I’ve covered such marginal thrillers as WAIT UNTIL DARK and THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER for this series, I’m not surprised that someone somewhere would consider this movie as belonging to the realm of horror. The biggest argument for its inclusion to the genre is probably the fact that Robert Mitchum plays one very scary and smart sociopath here. Nevertheless, the thematic focus of this one is on the plight of the lawyer; he wants to protect his family, but he can’t get the help of the law until after the sociopath commits a crime, which may be too late. The movie is really about his temptation to break the law by being proactive, and finding a way to remove the threat before it takes action. It’s a nail-biting thriller with substance, and it’s enhanced to two stunning performances from Peck and (especially) Mitchum. The movie was powerful enough that Martin Scorsese would remake it thirty years later; I have seen that one (though it’s been a while), and it doesn’t quite have the impact as this one. My favorite moment in this movie may be the ending; given the theme of the movie and what we know about the characters, it’s just about perfect.

Bewitched Matches (1913)

Article 4558 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-10-2014
Directed by Emile Cohl
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Animated fantasy

Three girls seeking to have their fortunes told invite a witch over. When the girls’ father offends the witch, she puts a hex on him and his matches.

Despite the semblance of a plot here, the purpose of this short is primarily to have an extended sequence of abstract animation involving the manipulation of matches. They turn into a horse, a windmill, a skeleton… you get the picture. Like Cohl’s animated shorts in general, this is fairly amusing if you’re in the mood for it.

Burned at the Stake (1981)

aka The Coming
Article 4523 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-3-2014
Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Featuring Susan Swift, Albert Salmi, Guy Stockwell
Country: USA
What it is: Weird witch possession movie

A man whose daughter is on trial for being a witch travels through time to the present day, where he encounters a girl who may be the reincarnation of the one who is accusing is daughter of witchcraft – Ann Putnam.

For the first ten minutes of the movie, I thought this was going to be another of those dramas about the Salem witch trials; it’s quite bad during this sequence (at least partially because of the very clumsy period dialogue being used), and I was glad when the movie took a left turn into the present. Still, that left turn is pretty bizarre, and the story (which is kind of a cross between THE EXORCIST and a reverse-angle version of one of those “witches returning from the dead” stories) really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. For some reason, the possession of the girl gives her witch-like powers (despite the fact that Ann Putnam was not a witch but merely accused others of witchcraft), and in order to save her the powers of a real witch are needed. The more I try to sort it out, the less sense the movie makes. Still, for a movie that is often quite bad, it has its moments; my favorite is a scene in which a real witch threatens the captain of the police department. Susan Swift (as both Ann Putnam and the girl she possesses) gives a good performance, but I did get very annoyed with her constant yelling and crying, a problem I’m more likely to attribute to bad direction than to her talent. It’s a strange entry into the oeuvre of Bert I. Gordon, and though it has some interesting ideas, it never comes together.

Blood Link (1982)

Article 4517 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-27-2014
Directed by Alberto De Martino
Featuring Michael Moriarty, Penelope Milford, Geraldine Fitzgerald
Country: Italy / USA / West Germany
What it is: Psychokiller movie

A doctor who engages in mental therapy comes to realize that he has a psychic link with his separated Siamese twin brother, who supposedly died at the age of seventeen, but is still alive and is responsible for a string of serial killings. His brother has the psychic link as well, and is planning on impersonating the doctor when he commits his murders.

This movie has a rating of 5.6 on IMDB, but I ended up quite liking it; it’s probably the best movie I’ve seen from Alberto De Martino. I think it’s the premise itself that I like best; the idea of hunter and hunted both having psychic links so that they can know each other’s actions and locations does make for an interesting way to build suspense. I also like Michael Moriarty in a dual performance as the two brothers, though I do think it his performances are just a shade too mannered to be fully effective. Cameron Mitchell also is memorable in a cameo role as an out-of-work boxer-turned-wrestler, and I think this is a good role to show his range as an actor, as it’s quite different from many of his other roles. The movie is a bit on the sleazy side, and some of the developments in the latter part of the movie seem rather far-fetched, but I really like this one overall.

Bloody Birthday (1981)

Article 4503 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-13-2014
Directed by Ed Hunt
Featuring Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell, Julie Brown
Country: USA
What it is: THE BAD SEED as a slasher

Three children, all born during a total eclipse, grow up without consciences. As their tenth birthday approaches, they engage on a murder spree.

I’ve seen several sources describe this movie as THE BAD SEED conceived as a slasher film, and that’s about as good a description as any. Of course, being a slasher film, it has none of the literary or psychological ambitions of its model, but I didn’t expect that it would. Considered as a slasher film, at least the concept is a bit novel in comparison to the usual masked killing machine. The movie itself is flatly directed, and not particularly good, and it seems more interested in nudity than bloodletting for some reason. It is interesting to consider in light of the unspoken taboo against killing children in a movie; the only people that are killed by the evil children are adults and older teenagers, and though one of their targets is a fellow child, they can never actually get around to doing so. Furthermore, the perpetrators themselves cannot be killed without breaking that taboo. Given this situation, it becomes obvious that neither good nor evil can be totally triumphant in this movie. It’s no surprise that the ending has to be a compromise of some sort. And, despite the fact that it sets itself up for one, no sequel was forthcoming.

The Bad Seed (1985)

Article 4497 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-7-2014
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Featuring Blair Brown, Lynn Redgrave, David Carradine
Country: USA
What it is: Evil child on the loose

A widow begins to suspect her young child has homicidal tendencies… and she may be right.

This movie has a lowly 5.4 rating on IMDB, and if the user comments I found are of any indication as to the reason why, it appears that a lot of people object to the 1956 version of the story being remade at all, as well as to the performance of Carrie Wells. Well, for those who have read my review of the original movie version already know, I am no fan of the original movie, and I’m rather grateful that another shot was taken at the story. For one thing, it was nice to see a version of the story in which the acting was toned down for cinematic consumption, rather than the self-conscious theatrical approach of the earlier version. Second of all, it was in this remake that I grew to appreciate that the real emotional center of the story was centered in the mother, who is desperately trying to come to terms with the reality of the situation; quite frankly, I cared a lot more for Blair Brown’s rendition of the character than I did Nancy Kelly’s. It was also nice to see that they jettisoned the silly deus ex machina ending of the earlier version; I like the ending of this one much better. Granted, this version has its problems; it’s still a bit long-winded at times, and though the setting is contemporary, there are moments where it feels a bit too trapped in its fifties mindset. No, I don’t really think this version is a classic, but at least it didn’t annoy the hell out of me like the original did.

The Bionic Woman (1975)

Article 4483 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-23-2014
Directed by Dick Moder
Featuring Lee Majors, Richard Anderson, Lindsay Wagner
Country: USA
What it is: Two-part episode of “The Six-Million Dollar Man”

Colonel Steve Austin rekindles a relationship with an old flame, but when she is badly injured in a skydiving accident, he has his bosses save her life by replacing her destroyed limbs with bionic replacements.

This was listed in “John Stanley’s Creature Feature Movie Guide Strikes Again”, but there are some ambiguities in the listing. The description makes it clear that it was the pilot for “The Bionic Woman” TV series, and it lists Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner as being in it, and, as far as I know, that means the two-part episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man” that introduced Jaime Sommers. However, it lists the director as Henry Mankiewicz and mentions an actress named Monica Randall as being in it. The first is a nom-de-plume for Spanish director Leon Klimovsky, and the other is a Spanish actress who did appear in a couple of Klimovsky’s films. Could there be a Spanish rip-off of the bionic woman concept that I don’t know about that is being confused with this? I’m not sure, but I decided to go with this one in the belief that it’s just a case of confused credits.

I remember being a fan of “The Six Million Dollar Man” for about a season and a half before I drifted away from the series; it became apparent to me after a bit that it was just a conventional action-adventure show with a gimmick that grew old quickly. I never bothered with “The Bionic Woman”; it just seemed like a variation on a series in which I’d already lost interest, though I’ve heard there are many who think it was an improvement over the original series. At any rate, these two episodes don’t appear to have been intended as a pilot per se, especially as the end of episode 2 doesn’t really seem to leave the door open for a spin-off. My guess is that the episodes proved to be quite popular, which is what gave them the idea. As a story, the two episodes are okay, but nothing really special; it seems like your typical “let’s throw in some romance but end it so it doesn’t complicate the original series” type of story.