The Castle (1968)

THE CASTLE (1968)
aka Das Schloss
Article 3864 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-4-2012
Posting Date: 3-13-2012
Directed by Rudolf Noelte
Featuring Maximilian Schell, Cordula Trantow, Trudik Daniel
Country: West Germany
What it is: Kafkaesque frustration

A land surveyor arrives in a small village only to discover he is not wanted or needed, and that his presence disrupts the routine of the village. He becomes obsessed with speaking to an elusive official of the castle that presides over the town.

I think part of the trick to enjoying Kafka is to know that you’re dealing with Kafka, which is to say, that you’re dealing with mysteries with no solutions and labyrinths with no exits. The movie is a fantasy because it can’t be anything else, though it could also be seen as a horror movie in the sense that it presents a very specific type of nightmare, one in which we are trapped in a world in which we don’t know the rules and our efforts to understand them just makes them seem more impenetrable. Personally, I’ve always suspected there’s something profoundly comic about his work, in much the same way that the work of Chekhov is, and like Chekhov, he is often played more for heavy drama. I also suspect that being a protagonist in a Kafka drama was not unlike being trapped into a game of fizzbin and never realizing it. Maybe that’s the reason I think the main flaw of this movie is that it’s just too glum; I think that the makers of the movie had about as much of a sense of humor as the character of the land surveyor. But then, if the land surveyor had had a sense of humor, he wouldn’t have been a Kafka protagonist, would he? Actually, I find Kafka fascinating, but he is an acquired taste.

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The Corruption of Chris Miller (1973)

THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER (1973)
aka La corrupcion de Chris Miller, Sisters of Corruption
Article 3859 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-28-2012
Posting Date: 3-8-2012
Directed by Juan Antonio Bardem
Featuring Jean Seberg, Marisol, Barry Stokes
Country: Spain
What it is: Psycho and psychological horror

A drifter moves in with a pair of women who have a bizarre relationship with each other. The drifter becomes sexually entwined with the two women, but is there a possibility he could be the serial killer who’s been in the news lately?

This movie ended up with one strike against it early on when I realized that the basic premise was way too familiar; the story of the psychotic drifter becoming intertwined with the lives of two dysfunctional females is actually a pretty common theme, and it has its roots all the way back to NIGHT MUST FALL. Still, you can’t always judge a movie about what it seems to be about initially, and the movie has one little fairly common director’s trick that made me expect that the movie had something up its sleeve; whenever a movie makes you peg someone as a serial killer while taking the effort to hide the serial killer’s face during all the attack scenes, you’d better be prepared for a twist. In the case of this particular movie, the end result is that you’re not quite sure which of the two plot threads (the serial killer one and the dysfunctional relationship one) will ultimately prove to be the major one. In the end, I found this movie had enough interesting touches and plot twists to win me over, despite that initial strike against it. I’m always glad when a movie can surprise me in a dramatically satisfying way.

Cruise Into Terror (1978)

CRUISE INTO TERROR (1978)
TV-Movie
Article 3847 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-15-2012
Posting Date: 2-25-2012
Directed by Bruce Kessler
Featuring Dirk Benedict, Frank Converse, John Forsythe
Country: USA
What it is: Evil incarnate at work

A ship finds itself stranded in the Gulf of Mexico near an underwater tomb built by the Egyptians many years ago… and containing a sarcophagus of terrible evil.

Well, the premise is pretty far-fetched, but that hasn’t necessarily been a stumbling block for movies of this ilk before. However, the script suffers from an appalling lack of subtlety. It’s one of those scripts where you feel the author had some interesting ideas about the various character relationships, but had no idea how to express those relationships in other than the most ham-handed ways possible. Problems like this don’t seem fatal at first, but when it persists throughout a whole movie, it does make the affair very tiresome, and the movie wears out its welcome long before it’s over. In the end, the movie is stolen by Stella Stevens, if for no other reason than that she’s very easy on the eyes. Still, this is one movie that could have been better than it is.

Class of 1999 II: The Substitute (1994)

CLASS OF 1999 II: THE SUBSTITUTE (1994)
Article 3844 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-12-2012
Posting Date: 2-22-2012
Directed by Spiro Razatos
Featuring Sasha Mitchell, Caitlin Dulany, Nick Cassavetes
Country: USA
What it is: Carnage

A substitute teacher turns out to be the last remaining android of a line designed to teach in schools… and who see the students as the enemy and will stop at nothing to destroy them.

Here I take another unexpected leap into the nineties with a sequel to a movie I have yet to see. In fact, if IMDB is correct, the original (CLASS OF 1999) was a sequel to CLASS OF 1984, which I also haven’t seen. At any rate, it’s one of those movies that primarily feature three types of character; victims, people who threaten them, and the people who kill the ones that threaten the victims. There’s lots of explosions, lots of gunplay, the occasional post-kill one-liner, people who should be dead still wandering around so we can see them killed again, lots of people doing stupid things so that we can maximize the carnage, and a stupid twist ending. It’s the type of movie that makes me understand why science fiction movies are now lumped in with action movies in the stores where you can buy DVDs. I hope the earlier movies in the series have more substance than this one does.

Child’s Play (1984)

CHILD’S PLAY (1984)
Feature Length episode of “Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense”
Article 3842 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-9-2012
Posting Date: 2-19-2012
Directed by Val Guest
Featuring Mary Crosby, Nicholas Clay, Debbie Chasan
Country: UK
What it is: Lateral thinking movie

A family wakes up to discover that their house is surrounded by an impenetrable wall.

I’ve taken to calling them “lateral thinking stories”. Basically, they’re stories that set up a totally inexplicable situation that is almost impossible to figure out, and the answer, hidden until the very end of the movie, hinges upon being made privy to the truth by looking at it from a perspective that is hidden to the main characters of the story. As a good example, think of “Six Characters in Search of an Exit” from THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and you’ll know the type of story I mean. The trouble is that once you’ve got it pegged that this is the type of story you’re watching, you’ll know when the explanation will come and you’ll know that you’ll just have to sit it out until then, so the burden really falls on the writers/actors/directors to do enough to hold your interest until then. That’s not too difficult when you’re watching an episode of a half-hour TV-series, but when your episode is feature length… well, to keep things short, let’s just say that I got pretty annoyed with the characters (especially with the obnoxious kid and the always-on-the-edge-of-hysteria wife) to make the wait much fun. And truth to tell, given the title of the story, I can’t say I was all that surprised by the final revelation. For the record, this episode has characters discovering logos on all sorts of things, and there’s slime dripping down the chimney; these might give you a hint if you’ve seen it before and can’t remember its name. It has a rating of 7.0 on IMDB, which leads me to believe that it has its fans, but for me, it was just a little too familiar.

Cinderella 2000 (1977)

CINDERELLA 2000 (1977)
Article 3841 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-10-2012
Posting Date: 2-20-2012
Directed by Al Adamson
Featuring Catharine Burgess, Jay B. Larson, Vaughn Armstrong
Country: USA
What it is: Sexploitation Sci-Fi Musical

In the future, sex is allowed only by those chosen by computer to mate. A young woman with an evil stepmother and two evil stepsisters hopes to meet the man of her dreams and have the laws changed.

I found a version of this movie free on YouTube, though its 78 minute running time indicates that it has been cut by about 11 minutes, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what has gone by the wayside, especially since the movie originally had an X rating, while this version was rated R. Therefore, I’m really in no position to describe how well Al Adamson does as a director of softcore sex scenes, but given that the movie has a 2.4 rating on IMDB, I’m guessing he didn’t turn out to be a master of the form. For the rest, we have bad acting, stupid songs, threadbare production, and lame comedy. It wasn’t even the best softcore musical version of the story from that year, which you’d think might have been a small enough universe to have at least accomplished that.

The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer (1974)

THE CLONING OF CLIFFORD SWIMMER (1974)
TV-Movie episode of “Wide World Mystery”
Article 3801 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2011
Posting Date: 1-10-2012
Directed by Lela Swift
Featuring Peter Haskell, Sheree North, Lance Kerwin
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction crime story

An unhappy husband is offered a chance to escape his current life by a doctor he’s seeing; the doctor has created a clone of the husband who will take his place, letting the real husband escape to a new life. However, things don’t work out as smoothly as planned…

In some ways, this episode of the TV series “Wide World Mystery” reminds me of SECONDS, in that it deals with a man who is given the opportunity to escape his life and start a fresh new existence. The similarity doesn’t last long, though; since the husband is a hateful, abusive individual who you’ll end up hating (and the clone is a nice, gentle, loving man), this movie emphasizes the more melodramatic aspects of the story, and it becomes more of an exercise in making you want to see the husband’s comeuppance. The movie is marred by some bad writing and silly situations, and though the final twist wasn’t what I expected, it’s one in which doesn’t hold up once you start thinking about it. With some rewriting and shortening, it might have worked better as a half-hour episode of “The Twilight Zone”.