The Curse of the Crying Woman (1963)

THE CURSE OF THE CRYING WOMAN (1963)
aka La Maldicion de la Llorona
Article 2453 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date; 12-20-2007
Posting Date: 4-30-2008
Directed by Rafael Baledon
Featuring Rosa Arenas, Abel Salazar, Rita Macedo
Country: Mexico

A woman returns to the home of her aunt only to learn the horrible family secrets; they are all descendants of a witch known as the Crying Woman, and they are cursed to an immortal life of murder and blood. She finds herself falling under the sway of the curse.

If I had to pick, I would say that my favorite Mexican horrors (both straight and campy) are produced by actor Abel Salazar, and this is one of his best. This one is more in the mode of THE VAMPIRE rather than THE BRAINIAC, and it’s exciting, eerie, intense, and full of wonderful horror atmosphere. Like many Mexican horror movies, so many elements get thrown at you that you never really know which way the story is going to go, but this one holds together very well, and it features haunted mirrors, the decaying corpse of a witch, a madman locked in the attic, a sinister woman with coal-black eyes, a pack of murderous dobermanns, and a deformed killer with a clubfoot. The ending, an extended sequence in a crumbling house, is quite amazing. The movie is also packed with surreal sequences that are quite jaw-dropping at times. For anyone who wants to catch Mexican horror at its best, this one comes highly recommended.

 

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The Cage (1966)

THE CAGE (1966)
Pilot Episode for “Star Trek”
Article 2444 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-11-2007
Posting Date: 4-21-2008
Directed by Robert Butler
Featuring Jeffrey Hunter, Susan Oliver, Leonard Nimoy

Starship Captain Christopher Pike attempts to rescue survivors from a crashed expedition on a distant planet, only to find out that the survivors were an illusion and himself a prisoner of a race of beings with super mental powers.

I don’t know if this qualifies as a “movie”, but nevertheless, here it is, the first pilot for what may be the most famous science fiction TV series of them all. It was never aired as such, though ample footage of it was used to fill out the two part episode of the series, “The Menagerie”. If you’ve seen that episode, there really isn’t much in the way of surprises here. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to speculate on the differences between this and the series; Jeffrey Hunter gives the role of the captain a different flavor than William Shatner did, and I wonder if Spock would have developed the way he did; here, he shows marked emotions on occasion. It’s a little hard to gauge on some levels; since this version incorporates unaired black and white footage along with the color footage used in “The Menagerie”, you can tell that changes were made; the voice of one of the Talosians changes noticeably from one scene to the next, for example. The basic feel of the series remained intact, though only two members of this original cast remained, and one of them (Majel Barrett) would be given a decidedly different role. Perhaps the best thing about this is seeing how strongly Gene Roddenberry was willing to go against the grain to suit his vision, by allowing a multiracial crew and concocting a story that allowed him to deal with concepts a little too adult and sophisticated to be generally allowed on TV at this time. Even in its earliest stages, it’s easy to see why this series would catch the imagination of a devoted audience.

 

Charlie Chan in Reno (1939)

CHARLIE CHAN IN RENO (1939)
Article 2406 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-28-2007
Posting Date: 3-14-2008
Directed by Norman Foster
Featuring Sidney Toler, Ricardo Cortez, Phyllis Brooks

When a woman is killed in a hotel in Reno, the suspect is a friend of Charlie Chan’s. Chan comes to Reno to investigate for himself and find the real killer.

This is another very enjoyable entry in the Charlie Chan series at Fox, and Sidney Toler is great in the part, as he was in all of the Fox entries in the series. The mystery itself is quite fun, with a number of interesting suspects, and a fun role for Slim Summerville as a sheriff named Tombstone who doubts Chan’s ability to solve the case. As in most of the Chan movies, the fantastic content is light, but it is there; in this case, the plot takes us to a spooky ghost town at one point, and though no ghosts appear, it does have a decent amount of horror ambiance. The cast also features Victor Sen Yung as Jimmy Chan, Eddie Collins as a talkative cabbie, and Dick-Tracy-to-be Morgan Conway.

 

Cisaruv pekar a pekaruv cisar (1951)

CISARUV PEKAR A PEKARUV CISAR (1951)
aka The Emperor and the Golem, The Emperor’s Baker and The Baker’s Emperor
Article 2357 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-8-2007
Posting Date: 1-24-2008
Directed by Martin Fric
Featuring Jan Werich, Marie Vasova, Natasa Gollova

An emperor surrounded by corrupt courtiers ignores his starving people and invests his money in artworks, alchemy and a search for a golem. When his baker passes out bread meant for the king to the starving populace, he is thrown into a dungeon. Through a series of complications, the baker’s resemblance to the king causes him to take his place.

The above plot description is an approximation cobbled together from other plot summaries of the movie and what I was able to figure out from my viewing; my copy of the movie is in unsubtitled Czech. Nonetheless, it remains enjoyable throughout; the movie is largely a comedy, and much of the comic is visual, so even if you don’t know what the characters are talking about, you can still figure out the comic bits and piece out goodly portions of the plot. It’s an enjoyable (if lengthy) lark, with some definite fantastic content (various magicians appear, and there’s the golem, of course). The golem here is truly impressive; he’s massive, and when he comes to life, his head glows red and fire and yellow smoke issue forth from his eyes; he is such a powerful presence that it compensates somewhat for the fact that his movement is unconvincing. There are a number of great comic bits that don’t rely on the dialogue at all; my favorites include the classic mirror gag where one person apes the other’s actions, and an attempted poisoning involving a ring with a secret compartment, several glasses of wine and an astronomer. I’d love to see a subtitled version of this some time to enjoy the true experience, but it’s still very enjoyable, even in this form. Recommended.

 

Cyborg 2087 (1966)

CYBORG 2087 (1966)
Article 2343 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-25-2007
Posting Date: 1-11-2008
Directed by Franklin Adreon
Featuring Michael Rennie, Karen Steele, Wendell Corey

A cyborg from 2087 is sent to the past (1966) to prevent a professor from revealing the secrets to radio telepathy, his invention of which brought about an oppressive military dictatorship. However, two other cyborgs (known as tracers) are also sent into the past to prevent his mission.

When I saw this movie many years ago in the waning days of my local Creature Feature, I was mostly struck by the cheesiness of the movie and the silliness of some of the scenes; the tracers trotting along while looking at their wristbands struck me as more funny than threatening. I considered it quite awful back then. It looks better to me today; the cheesiness and the silliness are still there, of course, and I also notice that the dialogue is fairly weak and the music is repetitive (especially the tracers’ theme music), but the acting is mostly decent; Michael Rennie is appropriately cast and does a nice job, and Wendell Corey is a lot of fun as the sheriff. It also maintains a decent pace, and I found it quite watchable. I don’t know if it’s the first movie to deal with cyborgs or with people from the future coming into the past to change things (the comparisons that are often made between this movie and THE TERMINATOR are interesting), but they were rare enough subjects in the movies at the time that this adds to the novelty value of the movie. It’s certainly one of the more interesting scripts from Arthur C. Pierce that I’ve encountered. In short, I liked this movie more than I expected I would.

 

The Crucible (1957)

THE CRUCIBLE (1957)
aka Les Sorcieres de Salem
Article 2339 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-21-2007
Posting Date: 1-7-2008
Directed by Raymond Rouleau
Featuring Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Mylene Demongeot

In the village of Salem, an ambitious cleric joins forces with a spurned mistress to start a witch hunt in Salem. This has a devastating impact on a farming family in the community.

This adaptation of the Arthur Miller play (too controversial for American film makers due to its implied condemnation of the McCarthy “witch hunt”) with a script by Jean-Paul Sartre is only marginally of fantastical content; though we do see a witch’s ceremony at one point, there is no reason to believe in the context of the movie that they have any real power. It’s mostly about the way fear and hysteria can twist and destroy the lives of all around it. The couple who falls victim to the accusation (played excellently by Simone Signoret and Yves Montand) are not saints, but they certainly aren’t guilty of the crimes of which they are accused. I’m not sure how true this movie is to either the play or the real life events they portray; in some ways, the plot seems a little too neat to be an accurate reflection of a true story. It is, however, powerful and gripping; you’re never quite sure what the fates of any of the characters will be. It’s a truly grim culture the characters reside in here; to many of them, God is a merciless, unforgiving presence just waiting for you to sin so he can damn you. It’s no wonder the preacher who brings on the witch hunts spends more time talking about the devil than God. This one is highly recommended.

 

Child’s Play (1972)

CHILD’S PLAY (1972)
Article 2322 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-4-2007
Posting Date: 12-22-2007
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Featuring James Mason, Robert Preston, Beau Bridges

There has been an alarming increase in violent incidents at a Catholic boy’s school. At the same time, a new gym teacher finds himself caught up in a feud between two of the teachers, one who staunchly takes the side of the boys and the other, a tyrannical Latin teacher.

No, this movie has nothing to do with the Chucky the killer doll movies that came much later. In fact, it could be argued that this movie is not a horror film at all; it’s certainly not a conventional one. Nonetheless, I do think it falls into horror; there is a palpable and unsettling dread at the eruptions of violence that crop up in the movie, and many of the boys seem thoroughly dehumanized. What keeps it up in the air a bit is that the movie is a bit ambiguous as to exactly what type of evil we’re dealing with; there is definitely some evil here, but it may be distinctly human. At any rate, I found this one quite fascinating and compelling, though I do feel it is a bit flawed. It’s at least partially a mystery, and at least one of the mysteries has to do with the degree to which the Latin teacher’s paranoid fantasies are just that. Unfortunately, if your instincts for plotting are in gear, you should figure out that mystery long before the revelations at the end of the movie. The performances are strong from all concerned, but James Mason as the Latin teacher (who can say more about how his character is feeling with body language than many actors could do with pages of dialogue) is the standout. Nevertheless, the movie has a lukewarm reputation, and the movie has the real potential to alienate the viewer. The ambiguities at the end of the movie may also leave the viewer somewhat unsatisfied.