The Centerfold Girls (1974)

Article 3471 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-9-2011
Posting Date: 2-14-2011
Directed by John Peyser
Featuring Andrew Prine, Jaime Lyn Bauer, Tiffany Bolling
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher / anthology film

A psycho is on the loose killing a year’s worth of centerfold girls in a men’s magazine.

The central plot element here is hardly the stuff of novelty; given how many movie psychos have sexual hangups, the idea of one knocking off centerfolds comes across as pretty obvious. I do have to give the movie points for its odd structure, though; it splits the action into three stories, each concerning one of the centerfolds and their adventures that proceed the psycho’s attack. Still, the concept is better in conception than it is in execution; the stories are mostly exercises in sleaze and unpleasantness, and two of the stories (the first and the last one) seem mostly concerned with just how thoroughly they can humiliate and degrade the centerfold girl before she meets the psycho. The second story has the biggest surprise plotwise by varying the formula, but in the end, it really does little more than not stop at one killing. Andrew Prine plays the psycho, but I’m a little disappointed by his performance; outside of giving his character horrible clothes sense, he does little to make his psycho stand out from the pack. The movie is mostly a compendium of pandering, sleaze, unpleasant characters, and nudity, and it proudly wears its grindhouse roots on its sleeve. Still, by doing so, it targets its audience well, and you probably already know whether you’d want to bother with this one.


Catacombs (1965)

aka The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die
Article 3462 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-28-2010
Posting Date: 2-5-2011
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Featuring Gary Merrill, Georgina Cookson, Jane Merrow
Country: UK
What it is: Thriller

A man is stuck in an unhappy marriage with a rich but dominating woman. He hatches a plot with one of his wife’s business associates to kill her for the money. However, complications arise…

One of these days I’m tempted to make a list of the most imitated movies of all time, and on that list will appear a French thriller from the fifties that inspired a whole slew of imitations. Here’s another one of them, and once you recognize the pattern, there will be very little to surprise you plotwise here. However, it does get some points for interesting characters and the avoidance of stereotypes; Gary Merrill gives a strong performance that makes you feel just what it must be like to have to make love to a woman who repulses you, and Georgina Cookson’s domineering wife character has some really fascinating ways of wielding her power. This was also Gordon Hessler’s first movie as a director, and overall it holds up pretty well; it’s certainly easier to follow than some of his more famous movies. Not bad.

Casino Royale (1966)

Article 3445 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-11-2010
Posting Date: 1-19-2011
Directed by Val Guest, Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Richard Talmadge
Featuring Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven
Country: UK / USA
What it is: James Bond parody

The original Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take over investigation of the disappearance of secret agents from all over the world.

Yes, you saw right; there are six directors on this movie. You should also be aware that there are twice as many writers credited on IMDB. This is almost a sure sign that the resulting movie is a mess, and this is no exception. Actually, it doesn’t start off too bad; the opening scenes establish an interesting premise, in that the current James Bond actually got his name from a respected old-school spy who finds the woman-chasing gadget-ridden style of spydom to be ridiculous, and had the movie kept its focus on the theme of the conflict between the two styles, it might have worked. Unfortunately, the movie descends into a confusing quagmire shortly after this and never recovers. It ends up being neither exciting or funny; several people seem to be playing below their abilities (I was particularly disappointed with Orson Welles and Peter Sellers here), and only two actors managed to get a laugh out of me – Woody Allen (who probably wrote most of his own dialogue) and George Raft in a cameo. I’m almost tempted to to say the end of the movie shows enormous desperation, but I don’t think that really describes it; my impression is that the whole movie seems blithely unaware of how badly it’s failing. I don’t have a problem with the Burt Bacharach score; he seems an odd choice for a James Bond movie (even a parody), but he does give the music an authentic sixties flavor. The real stars of this movie are those responsible for the art and set design; quite frankly, the movie is stunning to look at throughout, and I’m especially taken with the Caligari-like design of the sets in the Berlin sequence. It’s a pity they didn’t have a solid movie to film on those sets.

Capricorn One (1977)

Article 3443 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-9-2010
Posting Date: 1-17-2011
Directed by Peter Hyams
Featuring Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro
Country: USA / UK
What it is: Space travel conspiracy movie

Three astronauts discover that their planned trip to Mars is actually being faked by NASA, but are forced to go along with the sham because their families are threatened. Meanwhile, a reporter stumbles across a key to the conspiracy, but will he live long enough to follow it up?

Because I give no credence to the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was faked, I didn’t exactly go into this movie with a positive mind set. However, since this movie makes no such claim about the moon landing and sticks to a hypothetical Mars mission, I found it a little easier to give the movie a chance. As such, I found the movie a so-so thriller; the story doesn’t really hold up under close scrutiny (we have a conspiracy elaborate enough to completely eradicate any trace of the existence of one human being but find themselves unable to kill one lousy reporter) and much of what happens is far-fetched (especially the final chase scene). The script is occasionally very clumsy, and certain characters really strike false notes. On the plus side, I’m at least glad that the movie doesn’t bow down to every conspiracy movie cliche. Still, I really don’t have much use for this one.

Cinderella (1977)

Article 3383 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2010
Posting Date: 11-18-2010
Directed by Michael Pataki
Featuring Cheryl Smith, Yana Nirvana, Marilyn Corwin
Country: USA
What it is: Soft-core comedy musical fairy tale

When her ugly stepmother and evil stepsisters don’t let Cinderella go to the royal ball, she receives the help of her fairy godmother to help her meet the handsome prince.

I’d say the idea of a soft-core comedy musical version of the classic fairy tale is stupid, but I really can’t; compared to some of the other fairy tales I’ve seen given this treatment, at least this one has a story arc that lends itself to the sex. And, for what it’s worth, this one has enough bizarre and freaky touches (the grotesque makeup on Cinderella’s relatives, the bizarre dream sequence, and the casting of Sy Richardson as the Fairy Godmother) that it actual has a certain appeal beyond the obvious. The songs aren’t really memorable, but at least they’re not painful. All in all, this is one of the better movies of its type.

Concerto per pistola solista (1970)

aka The Weekend Murders
Article 3377 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-30-2010
Posting Date: 11-12-2010
Directed by Michele Lupo
Featuring Anna Moffo, Ida Galli, Gastone Moschin
Country: Italy
What it is: Giallo comedy

A group of heirs gather for the reading of a will. Afterwards, someone begins knocking them off one by one.

My copy of this movie was in unsubtitled Italian, but the odd thing is that, despite it being an Italian movie in its native language, it looks dubbed; the words and the lips don’t quite sync up. Nevertheless, the point is that, since I don’t understand Italian, I can’t give any real analysis of the story here. However, I can say this much; for a movie I watched in a language I don’t understand, I was able to follow the gist of many of the scenes. Partly this is because it’s made out of some familiar elements; it is essentially an “old dark house” giallo. Another reason it’s easier to follow is that much of the action is told visually; this is especially true when the movie emphasizes the comedy. Actually, this may be the first comic giallo I’ve seen, and it’s rather unexpected; I didn’t think the giallo form would really lend itself to the humor. I think it works because it’s shot with a sense of style that dovetails nicely with the humor; certain arty shots and editing emphasize the comedy rather than undermine it. So, despite the fact that I had trouble following it, I did find myself consistently amused, and ended up enjoying the movie. I also have to admit that I like the admittedly over-the-top score, especially the use of a Tchaikovsky piece; the last time I heard gunshots used in a piece of classical music was when it was being performed by Spike Jones.

P.S. Shortly after I watched this one, I discovered that it had been released in this country, most likely with English dubbing or subtitles. Talk about bad timing. Still, I may pick it up, and if I do, I’ll re-review it.

Chariots of the Gods (1970)

aka Erinnerungen an die Zukunft
Article 3369 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-22-2010
Posting Date: 11-4-2010
Directed by Harald Reinl
Featuring the voices of Heinz-Detlev Bock, Klaus Kindler, Christian Marschall
Country: West Germany
What it is: Ancient astronaut speculative documentary

We travel the world looking for evidence that astronauts visited our planet in ancient times.

Near the end of the movie, the narrator says “We may doubt our conclusions…”, which is a rather odd statement coming from him, as he seems absolutely convinced of his conclusions throughout the rest of the movie. Well, whether you accept or reject the premise, at the very least the movie can be enjoyed as an exotic travelogue of an assortment of truly mysterious wonders of the world. It does get tiresome at times, so you’re grateful for some of the digressions. I do have favorite moments; one of the early scenes deals with a primitive tribe which, after having been visited by men in an airplane, have now built a fetish of the airplane and wait longingly for its return with the gods within. This scene has a certain power until you realize that one of these gods is probably standing nearby with a camera filming all this, and the feeling that it’s all been posed starts to manifest itself. I also like the story of the archaeologist who discovered the ruins of Troy; though I’ve heard the tale several times, it always makes for an engaging story. The evidence is usually one of three different types; we hear of an ancient story which may be interpreted as a visit by extraterrestrials, we see strange looking characters in ancient works of art that may be astronauts, or we see architectural wonders that appear to be impossible for the men of their time to build without the help of extraterrestrials. The earlier two approaches get old quickly, but the architectural wonders hold the interest. Overall, this is a fairly decent example of this type of movie.