Boccaccio ’70 (1962)

BOCCACCIO ’70 (1962)
Article 1921 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-18-2006
Posting Date: 11-15-2006
Directed by Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli and Luchino Visconti
Featuring Anita Ekberg, Romy Schneider, Sophia Loren

Four Italian directors take on stories based on Boccaccio’s “The Decameron”. In the first, a woman employed by a book-keeper must keep her marriage a secret if she doesn’t want to lose her job. In the second, a self-appointed moral watchdog tries to censor a billboard placed outside of his apartment – one in which Anita Ekberg is advertising milk. In the third, a rich celebrity caught in a scandal about his involvement with prostitutes must turn to his wife to save him from the bad publicity. The fourth is about a woman who decides to make her fortune by raffling off her favors in a carnival.

With a running length of 208 minutes, you can understand why I was tempted to watch only the second tale (which is the one with the fantastic content) and skip the other three, but I guess that just didn’t seem right to me. Fortunately, the movie turned out good enough that I didn’t really mind the investment of the entire running time. Still, I must admit that I liked the second tale far and away the best, not so much because of its fantastic content, but because it was directed by Federico Fellini. This hilarious tale features Cupid playing a trick on the moral watchdog by having him tempted by a giant Anita Ekberg (who emerges from the billboard in the second half of the segment to torment him). This movie also features a funny scene where we witness the filming of a sword-and-sandal movie. There’s also a short sequence of the first story that takes place in a movie theatre where our protagonists watch part of a vampire movie. This first sequence was originally cut from the American release to bring the length of the movie down, a decision that actually caused a bit of an uproar at the time. Outside of the Fellinii sequence, my favorite was the last sequence, in which the woman who raffles off her favors must contend both with a jealous boyfriend and the exceedingly meek man who actually wins the raffle. The other two sequences are much more serious in tone, and though I didn’t like them as much as the Fellini and De Sica sections, they’re not bad. What I’d really like to see, though, is the full version of the Fellini sequence, which orginally ran over eighty minutes long and had to be cut by twenty minutes before it was incorporated into the movie.

 

Blood Mania (1970)

BLOOD MANIA (1970)
Article 1920 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-17-2006
Posting Date: 11-14-2006
Directed by Robert Vincent O’Neill
Featuring Peter Carpenter, Maria De Aragon, Vicki Peters

When a doctor finds himself at the mercy of a blackmailer, the sex-crazed daughter of one of his rich patients concocts a scheme to get the money for him if he’ll sleep with her.

“Blood” Mania, huh? Well, maybe during the last ten minutes of the movie. During the first seventy minutes the obsession is clearly with other bodily fluids. All of the female characters here have sex on their minds, and most of them spend the movie in various states of undress to emphasize this obsession. The nurse is the only one who has a sense of humor about it, and not only does she remain clothed throughout, but she also gives the best performance in the movie (maybe because she was cast for her acting ability?). It’s not much of a horror movie, but I guess all the sex and nudity give it the title of “erotic thriller”. All in all, it’s pretty bad, though I do find it amusing that the doctor ends up being blackmailed by one person for money, and the person trying to get the money for him to pay the blackmailer is blackmailing him for sex. The final twist is no fun at all. Robert Vincent O’Neill also directed THE PSYCHO LOVER .

 

Black Orpheus (1959)

BLACK ORPHEUS (1959)
aka Orfeu Negro
Article 1918 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-15-2006
Posting Date: 11-12-2006
Directed by Marcel Camus
Featuring Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn, Lourdes de Oliveiria

Set against the backdrop of the Carnaval at Rio de Janeiro, Orpheus (whose music makes the sun rise) meets and falls in love with Eurydice, not knowing that Death is on her trail.

Neither of the two versions of the Orpheus legend (the other being the Cocteau movie ) are straightforward versions of the old Greek myth; they are as different from the original story as they are from each other. This one is vigorously told, brimming with the energy of the people and the place, and, though it can’t be strictly called a musical, it is drenched in music and dance. It makes beautiful use of color, and the energy is infectious and almost exhausting at times. The story is alternately comic, exciting and moving, and there are some stunning scenes set in the hills over Rio de Janeiro. It’s one of those movies that might work just as well without the subtitles; it’s power and energy would translate without the help of literal translation. It could be argued that, despite the fantastic content of the original myth, there isn’t much in the way of fantastic content in this one, though there is a native religious ceremony that serves as the metaphoric backdrop for the descent of Orpheus into Hades to retrieve Eurydice (the dog at the gate is named Cerberus) that might qualify. At any rate, this is a memorable and unique viewing experience that really places you in another world during its running time.

 

Beware! The Blob (1972)

BEWARE! THE BLOB (1972)
aka Son of Blob
Article 1917 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-14-2006
Posting Date: 11-11-2006
Directed by Larry Hagman
Featuring Robert Walker Jr., Gwynne Gilford, Richard Stahl

When one of the workers on an Alaskan highway returns home, he brings a sample of a substance he found with him. It turns out to be part of the Blob, which gets loose and begins another rampage.

I really feel a bit sorry for the reputation of the original THE BLOB ; though it wasn’t a bad little film by any means, it somehow gained a reputation as a one of the campier of the science fiction monster movies of the fifties. I think this is probably due to the nature of the monster itself combined with the silly Burt Bacharach theme song. In some ways, this movie suffered the same reputation as I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF , which was also a decent movie but suffered from a silly title.

Maybe it was because of the unfortunate reputation of the original movie that Jack H. Harris, when it came time to film a sequel fourteen years later, decided to play it up for campy laughs. This movie is largely populated by comic characters, from the dumb sheriff to the pretentious barber and his hippie customer to the chatty boy scout leader to the hippie-hating drunks to the large, bald, naked Turk – these are a far cry from the serious characters from the original movie. And the fact of the matter is that these overtly comic scenes work better than the serious ones; the scene with the barber is particularly memorable. Its worst problem is that the young couple is nowhere near as appealing as the one from the original movie; the boyfriend is bland and forgettable, and the girl spends most of the movie in that whiny histrionic mode that I find intensely annoying. There’s also scads of familiar faces and names here; Larry Hagman (who also directs), Dick Van Patten, Burgess Meredith, Godfrey Cambridge, Carol Lynley, Cindy Williams, Gerrit Graham, Danny Goldman and Bud Cort all pop up at one point or another. Those who remember the early seventies will surely remember the toy that all the boy scouts are playing with here (though, sadly, the name of it escapes me). Fans of the original movie will certainly recognize both of the movies that Godfrey Cambridge watches at one point (though one is the audio track only). And I do find it highly amusing that Tiger Joe Marsh is first shown taking a bath in this one; he was the model for the original Mr. Clean.

The Bedford Incident (1965)

THE BEDFORD INCIDENT (1965)
Article 1916 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2006
Posting Date: 11-10-2006
Directed by James B. Harris
Featuring Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, James MacArthur

The fanatical captain of an American Destroyer discovers a Russian submarine in U.S. territorial waters, and he drives his crew to the brink in his hope of catching it.

What’s the fantastic content of this tense, cold-war thriller? Well, if you consider the time when the movie was made, and if you consider that I’ve already covered movies like FAIL-SAFE and DR. STRANGELOVE for this series, you should have a strong idea of what that content will be. Still, since I’ve covered a few movies for this series that didn’t qualify (to my mind) as belonging even marginally to the genres under discussion, I think I can leave you with enough to doubt as to what happens if you haven’t seen the movie. Suffice it to say that any fantastic content here will not manifest itself until the very end of the movie.

Still, this movie is worth catching whether you know the ending or not. It’s tense and gripping, full of fascinating characters, and exquisitely acted by everyone. The excellent cast includes Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, James MacArthur (who I mostly remember for his supporting role in “Hawaii Five-O), Martin Balsam, Wally Cox, Eric Portman, and a young Donald Sutherland. Watching the interplay of the characters is particularly interesting here, and I’m quite impressed that they were even able to squeeze a little humor into the situation as well. This one is definitely recommended.

Bombs Over London (1937)

BOMBS OVER LONDON (1937)
aka Midnight Menace
Article 1894 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-22-2006
Posting Date: 10-19-2006
Directed by Sinclair Hill
Featuring Charles Farrell, Margaret Vyner, Fritz Kortner

Whan a political reporter dies in what may or may not be an accident, the politcal cartoonist of his paper begins investigating on his own. He plants his only clue (the word SASKA) in a political cartoon, and then begins to suspect that one of the members of a Peace Conference may be up to something shady.

The fantastic content of this movie is that certain people have developed a way to remotely pilot airplanes. I’ve run into this concept before; it’s almost invariably used in the standard spy plot, where the allies develop the weapon, claim it will guarantee peace, and then the rest of the movie is about them trying to keep the secrets out of the hands of spies. That is, in fact, what I expected when I went into this. Fortunately, nothing like that is going on here. Instead, we get a fairly clever political thriller in which a man, angry at the abuses he underwent during the last war, is trying to start another one by manipulating the outcome of a peace conference and staging a bombing attack on London. It’s quite clever at times; in particular, I like the fact that our hero gets his information by planting clues in his political cartoons designed to flush out the enemies. The movie is a bit confusing at times, but it really is a unique thriller, and very enjoyable. Fritz Kortner makes for a great villain, and he even garners a bit of sympathy when he tells about the events that brought him to this pass. The remote control planes are used in the final sequence in the movie where London is bombed, and if the special effects are a little on the weak side here, it does well to remember that this was before England had access to all that stock footage from the Blitz; in this sense, the movie itself was just a little prophetic. I was quite pleased with this one.

Black Magic (1944)

BLACK MAGIC (1944)
aka Charlie Chan in Black Magic, Meeting at Midnight
Article 1871 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-29-2006
Posting Date: 9-26-2006
Directed by Phil Rosen
Featuring Sidney Toler, Mantan Moreland, Frances Chan

Authorities are baffled when a man dies from a bullet wound at a seance, but no bullet is found and none of the suspects carry guns. Charlie Chan is forced to cancel his trip to Honolulu when his daughter becomes a suspect in the case.

This is another of the Monogram Charlie Chan films, and though it’s fun enough, it pales next to the Twentieth Century Fox series that preceded it. The horror content is fairly noticeable in this one, as the mystery involves a seance, hypnotism, magicians, and Mantan Moreland being convinced that there are spooks in the house. Fans of Moreland in particular should like this one; though most of his gags involve him being scared, his timing is impeccable as usual. It’s interesting to have one of Chan’s daughters appear in this one rather than one of his sons, and, if IMBD is correct, the actress playing Frances Chan is also named Frances Chan, who appeared in only a handful of movies during the early forties. I think the mystery is a little on the weak side, but there is a nice sense of fun at times.