The Baron’s African War (1966)

THE BARON’S AFRICAN WAR (1966)
Feature version of MANHUNT IN THE AFRICAN JUNGLE (1943)
Article 2316 by Dave Sindelar
Vewing Date: 7-29-2007
Posting Date: 12-15-2007
Directed by Spencer Bennet
Featuring Rod Cameron, Joan Marsh, Lionel Royce

Yesterday I covered a bogus TV-movie culled together from episodes of a TV series. Today, for a change of pace, I’m covering a bogus TV-movie culled together from episodes of an old serial. In comparing the experiences, I have to admit I prefer covering the ones culled from TV series; at least I haven’t already covered the originals as part of this series. For the record, this probably does as decent a job as any of converting a serial to a feature, but, like most of the others, it only manages to convert it to a fairly dull feature. As usual, touches of science fiction give it its fantastic content, including the ubiquitous death ray. Nothing new here.

 

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Back to the Planet of the Apes (1981)

BACK TO THE PLANET OF THE APES (1981)
TV-Movie
Article 2315 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-28-2007
Posting Date: 12-14-2007
Directed by Arnold Laven and Don Weis
Featuring Roddy McDowall, Ron Harper, James Naughton
Two astronauts end up stranded in Earth’s future, where apes are the ruling species. They go on the run with a fugitive chimpanzee named Galen.

Hey, didja know that the “Planet of the Apes” movies were so popular they spawned a TV series in the mid-seventies?

And didja know that the series lasted only half a season before being axed?

And didja know that a TV-series that got axed after only half a season had little or no chance to thrive in syndication at the time, even if they did garner a certain cult following?

And didja know that the powers that be got around this problem by editing episodes of the series together into bogus TV-movies that they could sell as part of packages?

And didja know they culled about six TV-movies out of this series, usually with unwieldy titles like LIFE, LIBERTY AND PURSUIT ON THE PLANET OF THE APES and KUMQUATS AND YAMS ON THE PLANET OF THE APES? Okay, I made up that last one, but the first one was a real title, and I’m sure whoever though it up must have thought they were real clever until they sobered up.

And didja know several of these bogus TV-Movies are on my hunt list, and I’ll be covering them in the next week or so?

Well, I’m sure you knew some of that already. This one joins together the first and third episodes of the series, “Escape from Tomorrow” and “The Trap”. The former is just what you’d expect from the first episode of the series; it goes through the motions of regurgitating the themes of the movies while setting up the situation that would drive the series; there isn’t much in the way of surprises here. The second has one of the humans trapped in an underground subway station with the gorilla who is chasing them, and they must learn cooperation and trust in order to survive and escape (which all falls apart at the end of the episode so they can return to the status quo and keep the series going). Based on this collection, I have to come to the conclusion that the reason the series didn’t last long was that it simply wasn’t very good; I found it fairly predictable and repetitive. And it looks like I’ll be seeing a goodly portion of this series during the next few days…

 

The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)

THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU (1966)
Article 2305 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-18-2007
Posting Date: 12-4-2007
Directed by Don Sharp
Featuring Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Heinz Drache

Fu Manchu devises a scheme to bring the world under his power by the use of a long-distance death ray. Towards that end, he kidnaps the daughters of scientists in order to force the scientists to work for him.

This is the sequel to the first of the Christoper Lee Fu Manchu movies. I’ve heard it’s a bit of a disappointment after THE FACE OF FU MANCHU, but I haven’t seen that one in ages. I can compare it to THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU , though, and, though Don Sharp is not really a great director, at least I appreciated his respect for telling a coherent story. Still, the story itself is only middling to begin with, and Christopher Lee does seem to lack that evil spark that really brings the character of Fu Manchu to life; the movie doesn’t even really take advantage of his height to create menace. The footage towards the end of the movie looks very familiar; it looks like THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU copped quite a bit of footage for the beginning of that movie from the end of this one. At this point, I must admit I’m not impressed with the Lee Fu Manchu movies, but I still have to see the first one again.

 

Ben (1972)

BEN (1972)
Article 2304 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-17-2007
Posting Date: 12-3-2007
Directed by Phil Karlson
Featuring Lee Montgomery, Joseph Campanella, Arthur O’Connell

A child befriends a rat who is the ringleader of a killer pack of rats. He tries to save him from a citywide effort to clear out the rat infestation.

Ten thoughts on BEN

1) Whatever the merits of this movie, you have to admit it’s a fitting follow-up to yesterday’s EYE OF THE CAT . Now if only we could get a dual sequel to both movies, where the cats in the earlier movie take on the rats in this one. For some reason, this reminds me of a scene from Dwain Esper’s MANIAC , which is not a good movie to be hearkening back to this early in the review.

2) This is the sequel to WILLARD. I remember when that movie was in release; it was quite a sensation in its day. Oddly enough, the movie seems somewhat forgotten now, even though a remake was made just a few years ago; I very rarely hear it talked about.

3) Here’s an idea for a movie festival – SEWERFEST – run a whole string of movies that have extensive sewer footage. If you run them in order of quality, you can start out with the likes of THEM and THE THIRD MAN. In that case, this one would be near the bottom snuggling up to INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN .

4) This movie has my all-time favorite newspaper headline, though you have to keep your eyes open to catch it. To quote, “RATS! RATS! RATS!” They don’t even try to make a pun out of it.

5) This movie tries its damnedest to work up some sympathy for the little boy who befriends the rat. Not only is he an outcast picked on by the meaner kids, but he has a bad heart and has to have dangerous operations just to stay alive. Unfortunately, it’s a losing battle; he has a huge playroom all to his own that includes a train set and a marionette theatre with a specially designed light-up display. He also composes some of the most godawful ditties I’ve ever heard. And finally, he’s played by Lee Harcourt Montgomery, who had to be one of the least appealing child actors I’ve ever seen. Oh, how you’ll be wishing the rats would turn on him like they did their previous mentor in WILLARD.

6) At one point, the boy entertains Ben the rat with a newly designed rat marionette. If the movie really wanted a moment when it could unleash the rats on the boy, this would have been it.

7) This movie has a wealth of product placement in it, especially during a scene where the rats wreak havoc in the cereal aisle of a grocery store. We see Ben poised right over the “Kelloggs” logo on a box of corn flakes, and we also see the rats ravaging packages of Cheerios, a product of General Mills. I’ve come to the conclusion that the product placement must have been done by Post; let’s face it, would you really want YOUR cereal company to have the image of rat hanging over your logo?

8) There’s a moment here where the rats case a cheese shop for their next hit. Somehow, the utter logic of this moment gave me the biggest laugh in the movie.

9) There’s a running motif here with a policeman breaking his cigarette every time someone tries to light it. If there’s an explanation for this, I’m not sure I care to hear it.

10) .. and finally, my hat is off to a young Michael Jackson; I’ve always had a sneaking affection for his rendition of the theme song to this movie, which he makes sound heartfelt and moving. This impresses me especially now after having seen the movie, because the scene where the boy composes the tune (the worst moment in the movie) makes it sound like the most hideous piece of tripe ever.

By the way, this movie did not spawn another sequel. Somebody came to their senses. And, as a side note, the movie was co-produced by Bing Crosby.

 

Beast of Morocco (1966)

BEAST OF MOROCCO (1966)
aka The Hand of Night
Article 2299 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-12-2007
Posting Date: 11-28-2007
Directed by Frederic Goode
Featuring William Sylvester, Diane Clare, Aliza Gur

An architect, haunted by the guilt of the death of his family, goes to Morocco, where he meets a dark-haired woman who may be a vampire.

The movie opens with a dream sequence which is a bit of goofy fun, and I quite like some of the surreal and dream-like touches that pervade this movie. Some of the themes are also rather intriguing, and the ending is quite memorable. Nevertheless, this movie is a real slog; the acting is uneven, the score is terribly repetitive, and the direction is very flat. The script is also a little too obvious in its handling of its themes; it harps upon its darkness/light dichotomy so endlessly that it gets tiresome, so much so that even the fairly benign symbolism of making the good woman a blonde (for the forces of light) and the evil woman a brunette (for the forces of darkness) comes across as pushy. It’s a bit of a shame; the movie has a unique feel, and the Moroccan settings make it quite exotic. As it is, it’s a weak vampire movie that had the potential to be a lot better.

 

The Borrowers (1973)

THE BORROWERS (1973)
Article 2296 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-8-2007
Posting Date: 11-25-2007
Directed by Walter C. Miller
Featuring Eddie Albert, Tammy Grimes, Judith Anderson

A family of tiny people who live under the floorboards of a Victorian mansion find their home in danger when their existence is discovered by a little boy.

This TV movie was based on a children’s book by Mary Norton. I’ve not read the book, so I can’t say how true it is to the story, but I’m afraid that this movie didn’t really do much for me. Part of the problem is that the TV-Movie budget didn’t really allow for the special effects to really effectively tell the story. It certainly doesn’t help that the movie features cutesy songs by Rod McKuen. Still, there are some nice touches here and there; I like the relationship between Pod (the father of the tiny family) and Aunt Sophy (the matriarch of the human family); he visits her when she’s had a bit too much to drink, so nobody believes her story of a little man. It also has a fairly exciting ending when a ferret is sent loose under the floorboards to catch the small family. Judith Anderson is a lot of fun as Aunt Sophy, but Eddie Albert plays his father character a little too broadly for my tastes. Overall, I wasn’t too impressed with either the script or the acting. It’s watchable, but could have been a lot better.

 

Blood (1974)

BLOOD (1974)
Article 2295 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-7-2007
Posting Date: 11-24-2007
Directed by Andy Milligan
Featuring Allan Berendt, Hope Stansbury, Patricial Gaul

The son of the Wolf Man and the daughter of Dracula rent a house and terrorize the neighbors with the help of a room of carnivorous plants.

This is the third of the Andy Milligan films I’ve seen, and with it, I’m beginning to get a feel for the Andy Milligan viewing experience. It starts out leaving the impression that it’s going to be a bit better than it is, thanks to the fairly quick pace. But then you start to notice the problems; the acting seems rushed (most likely because Milligan has more story than can easily fit on the amount of footage he had to play with), which results in the inability to establish anything in the way of mood or atmosphere. The acting is highly variable, from the competent to the gratingly bad. The sound is terrible; during many of the scenes of this movie, the dialogue is upstaged by a sound like someone rubbing their body against a squeaky vinyl chair. The period costumes only underline the fact that there is simply no period feel to the proceedings, and one gets the feeling all the characters are playing some kind of game of dress-up. The makeup is often queasily bad. His treatment of animals is abominable; this time, a mouse in a trap is dismembered with a cleaver before your eyes, and there’s little doubt that a real mouse was killed for the scene. Once again, the overall experience is unpleasant and headache-inducing; it’s the antithesis of fun. IMDB lists the running time at 74 minutes, but my print seems short of about fifteen of them, but I highly doubt the presence of them would improve the movie much. That’s Andy Milligan for you.