The Christmas Martian (1971)

THE CHRISTMAS MARTIAN (1971)
aka Le martien de Noel
Article 2930 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-16-2009
Posting Date: 8-22-2009
Directed by Bernard Gosselin
Featuring Marcel Sabourin, Catherine Leduc, Francois Gosselin
Country: Canada

A Martian comes to a small town in Quebec. Children encounter him. Adults are flabbergasted. Hilarity ensues.

Yesterday’s movie was a children’s movie. Today’s is also. Yesterday’s movie had a rating of 8.0 on IMDB. This one has a rating of 3.5 on IMDB. The user comments on yesterday’s movie were full of glowing comments on how much the viewers remembered and loved the movie as a kid. The user comments on today’s movie are… also full of glowing comments on how much viewers remembered and loved the movie as a kid, albeit ones in which there is a knowing sense that a rewatching will prove disappointing. But the affection is there nonetheless.

Now, by any regular standards, this movie is atrocious; in fact, it’s probably the worst Christmas movie I’ve seen for this series (though I do know of at least one movie that I haven’t covered yet that is even worse). It has no plot; it’s just a set of comic setpieces, mostly with the alien (who looks for all the world like a homeless person in a bizarre mask) either flabbergasting adults or playing with children. The special effects may be a hair better than those of SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, but the other movie is better; you can at least sing along with the theme song, which is more than you can do with the horrid number that closes this movie. Yet, still, I’m impressed that even a movie like this can win the hearts and affections of those who remember seeing it in their youth. So what does that tell us? I think it says something about the power of movies and the way it can play with the imagination of our youth; even something like this can tap into our childlike view of the world and bring joy to our lives. Somehow, it just makes me glad that movies exist – even the bad ones. So let’s let this movie stand as a tribute to that power.

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Child of Glass (1978)

CHILD OF GLASS (1978)
TV-Movie
Article 2929 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-15-2009
Posting Date: 8-21-2009
Directed by John Erman
Featuring Barbara Barrie, Biff McGuire, Anthony Zerbe
Country: USA

A young boy is visited by a ghost and given a task; he’s supposed to unravel the secret of a riddle or be haunted for the rest of his life.

This movie has a rating of 8.0 on IMDB, and this prompted me to check out the user comments. Practically every glowing review of this TV-Movie tells the same story; the viewer saw it as a child and it made a lasting impression on them. I can definitely see this happening; in fact, it would probably prove particularly effective on girls of a certain age. Watching it for the first time as an adult male approaching his fifties, I’m less impressed; I could care less about all the fooferaw about the authentic antebellum party the mother wants to put on (and would advise them that they’d actually want to capture the feel of plantation life “before” the civil war than “at the time of”) and I find something annoying about the ghost having the hero try to figure out an impenetrable poem instead of just telling him she wants to be reunited with her doll. My worst problem, though, is with the movie’s attempt at a southern atmosphere; though the locations are authentic enough, the accents used by most of the cast sound forced and unconvincing; only Anthony Zerbe really sounds natural to my ears. Still, these problems wouldn’t bother a child one whit, and, though it may be a little dated for today’s children, they’d be the ones who would appreciate it most

Curse of Bigfoot (1978)

CURSE OF BIGFOOT (1978)
TV-Movie
Article 2920 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-6-2009
Posting Date: 8-11-2009
Directed by Don Fields
Featuring Bob Clymire, Jan Swihart, Bill Simonsen
Country: USA

A teacher recounts his encounter with a monster to his students.

I first encountered this movie in an unusual way. One day I was browsing in a local video store, and spotted a VHS tape advertising a lost film of the fifties called TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING. The blurbs proudly announced that it was from the producer of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, and, for the record, the producer listed on the credits was indeed one of the producers of the Ed Wood classic. I was intrigued; here was an obscurity that I’d never heard of. So I bought the tape.

The movie was a snoozefest of the first order, but I was still fascinated by its obscurity. No listing of it existed on IMDB at that time, so I looked up individual credits. I eventually discovered that the director of the movie, Don Fields, did have a credit on IMDB for a movie called CURSE OF BIGFOOT. Curious, I found a site that offered the movie, and bought a copy.

Upon receiving it, I watched the movie. Some of the earlier footage looked a bit familiar, but I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until thirty minutes in the movie where the sense of deja vu really hit; the last two-thirds of CURSE OF BIGFOOT consists of the movie TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING in its entirety, with one difference; whereas the footage of the earlier movie had been in black-and-white, the footage in this one was in color. I still wonder about the history of the original movie, and whether it ever had an official release as such.

As for the movie itself, CURSE OF BIGFOOT is in the running for the worst Bigfoot movie ever. It opens with a woman being stalked by a monster, which turns out to be footage from some unnamed (but very bad) movie being shown to a class of students who seem to be studying monsters (why didn’t they ever offer that class in my school?). The teacher then tells them about Bigfoot and recounts stories of earlier encounters with them. Then a guest teacher shows up and tells them about his encounter with Bigfoot, which consists of the footage of TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING. The problem is… the monster in that movie was an ancient Indian mummy, not Bigfoot.

So how’s the more recent version reviewed here? It’s still a snoozefest, but at least there’s a bit of campiness to be had in the new footage. Otherwise, it’s a complete waste of time, and features a monster costume so bad Larry Buchanan would be embarrassed to use it.

Creatures the World Forgot (1971)

CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT (1971)
Article 2918 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-4-2009
Posting Date: 8-9-1009
Directed by Don Chaffey
Featuring Julie Ege, Brian O’Shaughnessy, Tony Bonner
Country: UK

Cavemen grunt, kill, wrestle and fill out ninety minutes worth of celluloid.

I always swore that I would never stoop to a dismissive one-line review of a movie no matter how bad it was. However, this one inspired me to come up with ten one-line reviews instead. Just pick your favorite, and move on.

1) If this is the story the creatures wanted to be remembered by, no wonder.

2) In short, no dinosaurs; we’d remember them.

3) The only thing smaller than their wardrobes are their vocabularies.

4) I would choose this movie as the one least likely to ever have a memorable quote page on IMDB.

5) What I learned from this movie: Caveman made up for their dearth of clothing by an overabundance of accessories.

6) This is the caveman movie the other caveman movies don’t talk about.

7) The locations are nice and the dialogue doesn’t suck; what’s not to like?

8) If you thought that a movie without any dialogue wouldn’t make any sense… you’d be right.

9) Alternate Title: When Loincloths Ruled the Earth

10) If these creatures were really forgotten, than this movie gives us a rare opportunity to forget them all over again.

P.S. I promise that this is the only review I ever write that uses the word “suck” in that context.

Circle of Iron (1978)

CIRCLE OF IRON (1978)
Article 2916 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-2-2009
Posting Date: 8-7-2009
Directed by Richard Moore
Featuring David Carradine, Jeff Cooper, Christopher Lee
Country: USA

A martial artist seeks for the right to go on a quest for a book of knowledge belonging to a wizard named Setan. When he loses the tournament, he decides that he will embark on the quest anyway. However, he has much to learn…

This Zen Martial Arts fantasy was originally a project of Bruce Lee’s, in which he intended to combine his martial arts prowess and his Zen philosophy into one movie. The movie suffered several setbacks, and at one point or another Steve McQueen and James Coburn were intended to star in it. It was not made until after Lee’s death. David Carradine was originally offered the role of Cord, the martial artist seeking the book, but chose instead to take the four-person role that Bruce Lee himself had intended to play, and the role of the seeker went to Jeff Cooper, a friend of Carradine’s.

Now, I’m no expert on Zen philosophy, so I usually handle movies like this by trying to let the mysticism seep through me and see what sticks and what doesn’t. That being said, there are snippets of conversation and certain plot elements that hit home, such as the moment where the seeker’s teacher (Carradine as the Blind Man) performs a series of actions with impenetrable motives (he destroys a boat that was loaned to him for his quest, he stops to rebuild a wall despite being under attack by several horsemen, and he breaks the nose of a young boy) that get questioned by the seeker, and reveals his motives for these actions. There are also moments that fall flat, and this is because I feel that Jeff Cooper was miscast; this actor fails to display that mystical sense needed to make the character come alive, whereas I can sense how practically every other actor originally intended for the part (McQueen, Coburn and Carradine) would have delivered in this regard. At any rate, when it falls flat, it’s usually due to a moment with Cooper that doesn’t work for me; on the other hand, Carradine is consistently good, and Christopher Lee is wonderful in the role of Setan the wizard, who is not what he seems. In the final analysis, the movie is simply inconsistent, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it has a strong cult following.

The China Syndrome (1979)

THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979)
Article 2915 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-1-2009
Posting Date: 8-6-2009
Directed by James Bridges
Featuring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas
Country: USA

A potentially disastrous accident takes place at a nuclear power plant while a TV reporter and cameraman are present. The cameraman manages to surreptitiously film footage of the control room during the crisis. When the reporter and the cameraman find their scoop stifled, they go out on their own to seek the truth. Meanwhile, the plant supervisor on shift during the crisis becomes suspicious when the investigation of the crisis is rushed, and uncovers evidence that means the plant is still dangerous.

I saw this one in theaters when it first came out, and I thought it made for a great thriller, though I was less taken with it as a political statement. Having watched it again, I still feel the same way. Granted, I’m always suspicious of movies that are political statements; after all, you can argue any point when your writers have the ability to stack the deck and place the good guys and bad guys where they want. Often, the elements that add to the thriller aspects will take away from the sense that you’re seeing a real-life scenario, the only really valid context for a political statement.

Still, the movie does make a dandy thriller. The movie generally follows the events from two directions. The first (involving the investigative reporting of the cameraman and the female reporter) are standard, though well done. The second is what really makes the movie; Jack Lemmon’s performance as the plant supervisor is one of his greatest performances, and it is his conflicts that really drive the drama forward. He’s torn between his loyalty to the company (which comes out when he has to deal with outsiders) and his knowledge that something is wrong that needs to be addressed, but is being swept under the carpet. He rightly got an Academy Award nomination for his work here, as did Jane Fonda for her role as the reporter. The movie was aided tremendously at the box office by its timeliness, only a few days after its release, a disaster occurred at a power plant on Three Mile Island. Incidentally, a musical score was written for the film, but was scrapped when the director and producers didn’t like it; as a result, this one of those rare movies that has no music over the closing credit crawl, which actually adds to the overall tension.

Charley and the Angel (1973)

CHARLEY AND THE ANGEL (1973)
Article 2914 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-30-2009
Posting Date: 8-5-2009
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Featuring Fred MacMurray, Cloris Leachman, Harry Morgan
Country: USA

The owner of a hardware store gets a visitation from an angel announcing to him that his time is nearly up, but he may be spared his fate if he learns to spend more time with his neglected wife and kids.

Given the fact that this movie takes place during the depression and deals with the theme of impending death (rather than, say, flubber), one might expect that this movie doesn’t really qualify as one of Disney’s “shopping cart” movies. However, once we realize that Harry Morgan’s angel is primarily a comic character (he has a funny name and only Charley can see him, supplying us with the usual supply of “who are you talking to?/You’re going crazy!” jokes), that the plot features Disney-style gangsters, and that the centerpiece of the picture is a big chase scene, you’ll realize that the “shopping cart” spirit is alive and well here. Unfortunately, the movie tries to have it both ways and ends up having it neither; it’s too fluffy to have much emotional impact, and it’s too somber to be a comic delight. I wish they had chosen to keep the tone more serious and the comedy less silly; there are moments in Cloris Leachman’s performance in which she manages to wordlessly express some fairly deep feelings that give hints on how this movie might have been as a whole. As it is, it’s definitely one of Disney’s weaker efforts, despite a cast that also features Kurt Russell and Ed Begley Jr.