Crack in the World (1965)

CRACK IN THE WORLD (1965)
Article 1954 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2006
Posting Date: 12-18-2006
Directed by Andrew Marton
Featuring Dana Andrews, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore

When a scientific team uses a nuclear bomb to break through a hard crust so they can tap in to the geothermal energy of the earth, they open a crack which threatens to circle the world and destroy it.

The plus side of the movie is that it does a good job of selling its science fiction premise; I don’t know if the science is accurate, but the movie does a strong job of explaining and demonstrating the ideas, and the movie works well in this regard. I’m less impressed with the human story that attaches itself to this premise; it’s one of the most hackneyed subplots around. I wish I could come up with a pithy little phrase for it, but for now I’ll call Standard Triangle Subplot #1. The basic description is – Two men are personal and professional rivals working on the same project, but with differing views on how things should be run. They are also rivals for the affection of the same woman, who really can’t decide between them (though she may actually be married to one of them). In the end, there’s only one way to resolve this conflict – one of them must heroically sacrifice himself so that the woman is spared the agony of having to choose.

That’s pretty much the human story at play here. The only interesting variation on it here is that one of the men is also dying from cancer, and this element actually does a good job of making us understand the actions of that character, in terms of the both the subplot and the main story. However, that doesn’t change the fact that there are virtually no surprises in the subplot. Still, the main plot is strong enough to hold your attention, and the special effects are excellent, and this movie is worth viewing for these reasons alone.

 

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

THE COMPUTER WORE TENNIS SHOES (1969)
Article 1953 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-20-2006
Posting Date: 12-17-2006
Directed by Robert Butler
Featuring Kurt Russell, Cesar Romero, Joe Flynn

After he’s zapped by a computer cable, a college student develops super intelligence.

With this, I complete the Dexter Reilly shopping-cart movies Disney put out in the late sixties and going into the seventies. None of these movies are particularly strong, but at least NOW YOU SEE HIM, NOW YOU DON’T had great special effects and a good dose of energy to it, and at the very least, THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD trotted out a dazzling display of well-known actors. This one is relatively listless. Not only that, whereas shopping-cart movies are more likely to suffer from an overabundance of silliness, this one almost forgets it’s a comedy for good stretches of the story. Given the fact that the story is utterly routine (the first half is Dexter-learns-a-valuable-life-lesson, the second half is Let’s-rescue-Dexter-from-the-kidnappers-so-we-can-win-the-big-college-quiz-game), it would have been better off going for big laughs. This one was remade as a TV-movie in the mid-nineties, a trend of Disney’s that has gotten far too common.

 

The Curse of the Doll People (1961)

THE CURSE OF THE DOLL PEOPLE (1961)
aka Munecos infernales
Article 1923 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-20-2006
Posting Date: 11-17-2006
Directed by Benito Alazraki and Paul Nagle
Featuring Ramon Gay, Elvira Quintana, Quintin Bulnes

Several men fall under the spell of a voodoo curse when they steal an idol from a temple. The curse takes the form of murderous dolls that stalk and kill their victims.

I have to confess that I find this movie a mixed bag. On the plus side, the killer dolls are truly unnerving. They bear the faces of their previous victims, and the effect is truly eerie; quite frankly, they’re some of the scariest monsters to come out of a Mexican horror movie. They also aren’t strictly automatons, and some of them actually end up engendering a certain amount of sympathy in the process. The zombie isn’t quite as effective, but he does add to the scares a little. On the down side, the pacing is pretty awful, and the repetitive and dull soundtrack really drag the movie down quite a bit. The dubbing is none too good, either, but I’m used to this enough that it didn’t really hurt as much as the pacing. Still, those dolls are certainly memorable, and for many people this may more than compensate for the movie’s weaknesses.

 

Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960)

COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON QUEEN (1960)
aka Colossus and the Amazons, La Regina delle Amazzoni
Article 1922 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-19-2006
Posting Date: 11-16-2006
Directed by Vittorio Sala
Featuring Rod Taylor, Ed Fury, Dorian Gray

Glauco and his friend Pirro take up a job of guarding pirate treasure, only to find themselves drugged and left for the Amazons to find.

I tend to be blindsided by movies like this. It’s hard to take the Italian sword-and-sandal movies seriously when they’re done straight, so I never really find myself prepared when they actually play them for laughs, as they do here. This is the best Italian sword-and-sandal comedy I’ve seen, which is damning it with faint praise; it’s only competition is HERCULES VS. MACISTE IN THE VALE OF WOE , and that one is quite awful. This one benefits from the fact that the two leads are not only both speaking English, but have a good grasp of comedy as well; both Rod Taylor and Ed Fury are thoroughly amusing. The movie also gets a little mileage out of the reversal-of-the-sexes theme of the Amazons; the scene where we see all of the Amazons’ male menials cleaning, washing, cooking, and chattering away like housewives is pretty hilarious. The crowning touch came, though, when the ceremonial dance (practically every sword-and-sandal movie has one) opens with three scantily-clad men, and though the women soon take over the dance, I had to admit that was a brilliant touch. There’s some nonsense about a sacred girdle, our hero Ed Fury is constantly getting knocked out by any number of people, and there’s a scene where the Amazons are being attacked by invading pirates that is blocked out like a western scene where Indians attack pioneers in circled wagons. There are feats of super-strength and bear-wrestling. The only question I have is a simple one – Who’s Colossus?

 

Le Corbeau (1943)

LE CORBEAU (1943)
aka The Raven
Article 1896 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-24-2006
Posting Date: 10-21-2006
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Featuring Pierre Fresnay, Ginette Leclerc, Micheline Francey

A small town is plagued by an onslaught of poison pen letters signed by someone called The Raven, most of which target a doctor who is suspected of performing abortions.

Try as I might, I can’t really bring myself to classify this mystery / drama as belonging to any of the fantastic genres. Yes, it deals with the theme of madness, and one character is slightly crippled (deformities are often used in horror films), but neither of these aspects of the story are used in any way to suggest horror. Of the sources I have been using to compile my hunt list, only the Lentz guide lists this movie, and I suspect he may have been taken in by its translated title. After all, I’ve covered three other films also called THE RAVEN, and though all three are quite different (Universal horror Lugosi/Karloff vehicle , AIP fantasy comedy , and silent Poe biopic ), all of them do use the Poe poem as a source of inspiration. This one has nothing to do with Poe, but I can understand how someone seeing the title THE RAVEN on something would automatically assume a connection.

Nonetheless, this is a very good movie. It was made during the German occupation of France, and the film was condemned both by the Nazis and the French, as well as the Catholic church. Clouzot would be banned from the film industry for two years for making movies under the Nazi regime, though this movie is hardly pro-Nazi. In fact, one of the political interpretations of the film is that the fear caused by the poison-pen letters was very similar to the fear of being under Nazi control during this period. The movie will leave you guessing as to the identity of the title character, and I was able to notice a certain similarity to LES DIABOLIQUES , which should come as no surprise, as Clouzot also directed that movie. All in all, a sad, powerful and fascinating film.

Crashing Las Vegas (1956)

CRASHING LAS VEGAS (1956)
Article 1842 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-31-2006
Posting Date: 8-28-2006
Directed by Jean Yarbrough
Featuring Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Mary Castle

When Sach is shocked by electricity, he develops the ability to predict winning numbers on roulette wheels. Slip uses this ability to win a trip to Las Vegas, where Sach then begins to make a fortune gambling. However, some shady types believe he has a secret method for winning, and they plan to find out what it is…

A quick glimpse of the above plot description should clue you in that this is another one of those movies that follows the formula I talked about in BLUES BUSTERS . It’s a pretty amusing one, as well; I especially liked the game show sequence (in which a vagrant wins two prizes that he can’t possibly use) and the dream prison sequence (where the warden has to figure out how to electrocute four Bowery Boys when he has only three electric chairs). There are other plot elements that are quite amusing, but still things just don’t seem as they should be. One of the first things I noticed was the absence of Louie Dumbrowsky and his malt shop, and the other is that Leo Gorcey seems rather distant and unfocused here. Both of these things are the result of the same situation; Bernard Gorcey (Leo’s father and the actor who played Louie) had died of complications from an automobile accident, and Leo was overcome with grief. Maltin’s guide claims that Leo Gorcey appears inebriated in some scenes, and that’s quite possible; all I know is that Leo’s mind was obviously elsewhere during the making of this movie, and afterwards, he would depart the series, leaving Huntz Hall as the star. Knowing this adds a sad touch to the proceedings, and it becomes rather difficult to laugh at times.

I’d just like to take a minute here and dedicate this review to Leo and his dad Bernard, as thanks for the many hours of joy they brought me through their movies.

The Curse of Nostradamus (1961)

THE CURSE OF NOSTRADAMUS (1961)
aka La Maldicion de Nostradamus
Article 1834 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-23-2006
Posting Date: 8-20-2006
Directed by Federico Curiel and Stim Segar
Featuring German Robles, Domingo Soler, Julio Aleman

The son of Nostradamus, who sleeps on the ashes of his father and has become a vampire, vows to force a professor who preaches against all superstition to acknowledge the power of his father and publicly admit to the existence of the supernatural. He plans to demonstrate to the professors his abilities by predicting the deaths of several people, and then forcing the predictions to come true.

With this entry I have finished my coverage of the whole Nostradamus series, though it appears that, having started with BLOOD OF NOSTRADAMUS and ended with this one, I seem to have watched them all mostly in reverse order. I like the basic concept of the series; Nostradamus makes for an interesting vampire, and some of the stories are rather clever. My only wish is that the presentation had been stronger; even taking into account the fact that I’ve only seen the badly dubbed English prints (where Nostradamus’s ugly hunchbacked assistant sounds a little too much like Goofy), I get the feeling that the style would be static and dull in any language. This movie covers about three episodes of what was originally a serial of sorts, and makes a lame attempt at the end to make us believe that the vampire has been killed, but we know better; there were three more movies to come. Still, the way the various victims of Nostradamus meet their fates does make the movie more interesting than it could have been.