The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)

Article 3616 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-24-2011
Posting Date: 7-9-2011
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Featuring W.C. Fields, Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour
Country: USA
What it is: Musical comedy revue

A ship called the S.S. Gigantic has a new-fangled electrical engine. It is in a race from New York to Cherbourg against another ship called the S.S. Colossal.

The electrical apparatus aboard the Gigantic is the science fiction content to this movie, but given the musical-comedy nature of the movie, this content (and the plot) are of minimal importance. W.C. Fields gets top billing here, and he’s fine, though this is far from his best effort; he mostly sticks to very familiar shtick. The most significant role next to Fields’s is Bob Hope’s, but, as this was only his first feature-length film, he only gets sixth billing. Except for a short war-time documentary, this would be the only time these two comedy giants would work together, but anyone hoping to see how these two would interact will be disappointed; I only noticed them together in one scene, and that’s a crowd scene that gives them no real opportunity to even acknowledge each other’s existence. Bob Hope does fine, however, as does Martha Raye as Fields’s accident-prone daughter. The only other really familiar name is that of Dorothy Lamour, who here plays Hope’s girlfriend who ends up falling for the inventor of the electric apparatus. It’s a bit of fluff overall, and, of the musical numbers, my favorite features some animation of a “ripple”; I’m not sure who is responsible for this bit, but this sequence was produced by Leon Schlesinger.


Blood Freak (1972)

Article 3606 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-14-2011
Posting Date: 6-29-2011
Directed by Brad F. Ginter and Steve Hawkes
Featuring Steve Hawkes, Dana Cullivan, Heather Hughes
Country: USA
What it is: Christian anti-drug cautionary gore film

A biker takes a job as a food tester at a poultry farm where they have been using experimental drugs. This, combined with his own drug habit, causes him to turn into a blood-drinking turkey monster.

Imagine, if you will, that Herschell Gordon Lewis became a born-again Christian, and decided to use his skills as a gore movie director to make a horror-film update of REEFER MADNESS. I’d heard about this movie for years, and when I got a copy, I held off watching it until it popped up on my hunt list, so I could handle it properly. It’s cheap, amateurish, quite awful, demented, but not quite the laugh riot of some of my favorite bad movies. The only time it gets truly offensive is when it decides to slaughter a turkey onscreen for shock effect. It has one of those endings that will make you want to throw something at your TV screen, but, given the type of movie it is, I’m not surprised it ended the way it does. Still, there are a couple of side comments I want to make about this one. For one, I admire at least that the movie doesn’t restrict its drug criticism to just the illegal variety; after all, the experimental drugs used on the turkeys also shoulder part of the blame. And, if you bear the above comment in mind, then the scene where the movie’s chain-smoking narrator breaks into a coughing fit is not near as impenetrable as some of the comments I’ve heard make it out to be, especially if you’re actually paying attention to what he’s saying.

The Beast Must Die (1974)

Article 3605 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2011
Posting Date: 6-28-2011
Directed by Paul Annett
Featuring Calvin Lockhart, Peter Cushing, Marlene Clark
Country: UK
What it is: Werewolf mystery

A millionaire invites several people over to his estate for the weekend, one of which he believes to be a werewolf, though he’s not sure which one. His aim: to hunt and catch the werewolf.

For the second day in a row, I’m watching an Amicus movie featuring Peter Cushing, and, like the framing story in ASYLUM, this one also revolves around the mystery of trying to pick out a specific person from among a group of people. It’s kind of a cross between THE WOLF MAN, THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, and an old dark house mystery, with a William Castle-like gimmick thrown in for good measure. In general, Amicus’s anthologies were superior to their non-anthologies, and this one is fairly weak in spots; the pacing is a bit turgid at times, and for those of you hoping to pick out clues as to who the werewolf is, all I can say is that the movie doesn’t really give you any good clues and when the “werewolf break” comes, you’ll just have to make a wild guess. There are some decent twists at the end, and the cast (which also includes Charles Gray and Anton Diffring) give it their best shot, but for the most part, this is fairly ordinary.

The Balcony (1963)

Article 3567 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-28-2011
Posting Date: 5-21-2011
Directed by Joseph Strick
Featuring Shelley Winters, Peter Falk, Lee Grant
Country: USA
What it is: Strange drama/comedy

During a violent revolution, a brothel that caters to men wishing to role-play their erotic fantasies remains open. When the chief of police shows up as the only surviving authority figure of the revolution, he hatches a plot to restore order by using the costumes and acting skills of the residents and customers of the brothel…

This movie was listed as a fantasy by “The Motion Picture Guide”, hence its inclusion in this series. I’ve noticed that on occasion the book will classify as a fantasy a movie that deals with fantasy and illusion, even if the movie doesn’t strictly fall into the genre, and such is the case here. The movie was based on a play by Jean Genet, and I’m really not surprised that there are political subtexts here; what does surprise me is that the movie was made in the USA, which is perhaps one of the last countries where I’d expect this story to make it to film, though reportedly much of the language from the original play was cleaned up. I’m tempted to call this a “reality vs illusion” movie, but truth to tell, I think the movie is actually saying that there is no reality at all; the people essentially are acting out the roles of their costumes, even to the point that they sometimes believe they actually are in the roles they pretend to be in. Despite the serious subject matter, I found quite a bit of humor in the proceedings, especially during a pompous and ridiculous speech made by Peter Falk’s Chief of Police. The movie also features Leonard Nimoy as a rebel leader who fantasizes about being the Chief of Police, and Jeff Corey, a gasman who wants to be a bishop. I ended up enjoying this movie much more than I thought I would, but I’d suggest anyone trying it to remain patient during the first thirty minutes or so; the plot doesn’t really start moving until Peter Falk shows up. Still, genre-wise, it really doesn’t qualify.

Body Melt (1993)

BODY MELT (1993)
Article 3514 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-4-2011
Posting Date: 3-29-2011
Directed by Philip Brophy
Featuring Gerard Kennedy, Andrew Daddo, Ian Smith
Country: Australia
What it is: Gore comedy

A health spa has developed a drug with gruesome side effects that eventually results in the body self-destructing… and it’s using the residents of a suburban neighborhood as its guinea pigs.

My DVD of this movie says in its promotional blurb that it features special effects from the people who gave you DEAD ALIVE and MATRIX: RELOADED; this should give you an idea of what the movie is going to emphasize. The plot is a muddled mess, but I suspect that didn’t matter to anyone; the main goal of the movie is to have as much gross-out body-parts exploding footage as it can fit into its 80 minute running time. It’s also supposed to be a comic satire about suburbia, but I didn’t laugh once, and if it actually has something to say about the subject of suburban life, it gets lost in the gore. It’s probably a cult favorite of some kind, but I can’t help but notice that it was the last directorial effort from Philip Brophy. For gorehounds only.

The Big Bus (1976)

THE BIG BUS (1976)
Article 3454 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-20-2010
Posting Date: 1-28-2011
Directed by James Frawley
Featuring Joseph Bologna, Stockard Channing, John Beck
Country: USA
What it is: Disaster movie spoof

A new nuclear-powered bus name Cyclops makes its maiden trip, but an unscrupulous oil lobby has plans to destroy it.

Had this movie been made five years later, I’d have accused it of trying to emulate the style and success of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker comedy classic, AIRPLANE!; it does come very close to capturing the style of that movie. However, since this predates that movie by several years, the influence (if any) must have gone in the opposite direction. However, the reasons this one never really became a comedy classic are rather clear; it doesn’t quite kick the comedic style into the stratosphere like the later movie did, and the movie runs out of gas while there’s still a goodly amount of running time to go. Still, there’s some good moments here; I particularly like the bar brawl and a gag involving a milk carton. I’m also partial to the gags involving the world’s most annoying pianist. It’s worst problem may be that it doesn’t know when to let some of its running gags expire; too many of them get repeated too often.

The Boy Who Turned Yellow (1972)

Article 3453 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-19-2010
Posting Date: 1-27-2011
Directed by Michael Powell
Featuring Mark Dightam, Robert Eddison, Helen Weir
Country: UK
What it is: Children’s fantasy

A young boy loses his pet mouse named Alice on a field trip to the Tower of London. He seeks a way to get it back.

If the above plot description seems singularly lacking in fantastic elements, be aware that the plot involves our main character ending up in an area in London where everything and everybody has turned yellow, meeting an extraterrestrial who skis across electricity, and facing execution unless someone can get a television to him in time. Yet the strangest thing about this one is that it marks the final collaboration between director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger, who were responsible for THE RED SHOES, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH and THE TALES OF HOFFMANN, just to mention the movies I’ve covered of theirs for the series. Powell also gave us PEEPING TOM, which practically destroyed his career. This movie was made for the Children’s Film Foundation, and is definitely not representative of Powell’s work, but it is intriguing and downright weird. Once again, a children’s movie takes me places I’d never been before.