Caged Terror (1973)

CAGED TERROR (1973)
aka Golden Apples of the Sun
Article 2962 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-17-2009
Posting Date: 9-23-2009
Directed by Barrie McLean and Kristen Weingartner
Featuring Elizabeth Suzuki, Percy Harkness, Leon Morenzie
Country: Canada

A man and a woman go out to the forest. They encounter strangers. Things happen.

Here is the tagline of this movie – “Behind these bars lies an unbridled fury. A tale of madness, infidelity and revenge.” Sounds like a thriller, right? In truth, what we have here is one of the most annoying art movies I’ve seen in years, full of annoying symbolism (the strangers are nice to rabbits while the man with the woman kills one) and pretentious dialogue (about fish and pomegranates). One review I read of this one says that most of the movie seems to consist of people walking very slowly in the distance, and that’s fairly accurate. The fantastic content consists of the strangers terrorizing the couple, and most descriptions of the movie focus on this event, but this part of the movie doesn’t even begin happening until it is eighty percent over. Potential viewers should be warned that there’s a whole lot of nothing going on in this one, and that nothing is pretty pretentious.

Advertisements

Carol for Another Christmas (1964)

CAROL FOR ANOTHER CHRISTMAS (1964)
TV-Movie
Article 2959 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-14-2009
Posting Date: 9-20-2009
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Featuring Sterling Hayden, Ben Gazzara, Steve Lawrence
Country: USA

A wealthy isolationist is bitter over the loss of his son in the war, and has chosen to politically and personally detach himself from the world. However, on Christmas Eve, he is visited by three ghosts that seek to have him re-explore his life.

Rod Serling was a great writer. He was also given to preachiness, which makes some of his work a little difficult to sit through. In this, his updated revamp of Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”, he’s got a message, and those who don’t want to hear what he has to say will find this one tough going. However, for me, he’s a good enough writer that I’m willing to listen to what he has to say, especially when the vehicle he uses to say it is impeccably directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and features an impressive cast that features Sterling Hayden, Eva Marie Saint, Ben Gazzara, Steve Lawrence, Pat Hingle and Britt Ekland, with special kudos to Robert Shaw and Peter Sellers in their respective roles. The message is quite relevant to the modern world; in the age of airplanes, radio, satellites and nuclear war, we can no longer embrace a policy of isolationism (either politically or as an individual) and hope to survive, and Serling argues the point very well through his various mouthpieces. It’s talky, all right, but the talk is intelligent and engaging, and the performances add to enjoyment here. And, lest we forget, it is relevant to Christmas as well, as it is the time for “goodwill to all men”. This is one of the better “loose” adaptations of the Dickens story out there.

The Curse of the Yellow Snake (1963)

THE CURSE OF THE YELLOW SNAKE (1963)
aka Der Fluch der gelben Schlange
Article 2951 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-6-2009
Posting Date: 9-12-2009
Directed by Franz Josef Gottlieb
Featuring Joachim Fuchsberger, Brigitte Grothum, Pnkas Braun
Country: West Germany

A secret cult wants to acquire an artifact called the Yellow Snake, as its possessor on a given date will have an invincible army.

If yesterday’s Edgar Wallace krimi was goofy but fun, this one is merely dull. Part of the problem may just be my print, which is so dark that it’s hard to make out some of the action, but I don’t know if it’s just my print or the movie itself. Still, even at that, this is rather predictable for an Edgar Wallace movie; it’s ersatz Fu Manchu, but without characters near as interesting as Fu Manchu or Nayland Smith. They attempt to throw in a lot of complications (involving planned marriages and business blackmail), but the movie never becomes as mysterious, atmospheric, or fun as the better movies of the series. As it is, the comic relief character (a chatterbox antique dealer) is the most memorable character here, and that’s never a good sign, as he’s mildly funny at best. This is far from the best of the series.

The College Girl Murders (1967)

THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS (1967)
aka Der Monch mit der Peitsche
Article 2950 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-5-2009
Posting Date: 9-11-2009
Directed by Alfred Vohrer
Featuring Joachim Fuchsberger, Uschi Glas, Grit Boettcher
Country: West Germany

Someone is killing off college girls with a special poison. There’s also a red-robed figure on the loose attacking people with a bullwhip. The police try to track down the murderer.

It’s another Edgar Wallace krimi, and this one is particularly goofy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. This one is something of a sequel to THE SINISTER MONK, though I always wonder why people consider a red KKK outfit to be a monk’s garb. The plot involves a poison gas, a whip-wielding figure in red, a competition between two detectives to see which method (psychological or traditional) will solve the case, a mysterious man who barks orders from a chair in an aquarium, and murderers who are recruited from prisons to go out and kill and then return to the prison to elude suspicion. The plot won’t hold up to close inspection, the comic relief is a matter of taste, and I wouldn’t bother trying to solve the mystery in advance because it doesn’t work that way. Nevertheless, its sense of fun will keep you going.

The Clown Murders (1976)

THE CLOWN MURDERS (1976)
Article 2949 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-4-2009
Posting Date: 9-10-2009
Directed by Martyn Burke
Featuring Stephen Young, Susan Keller, Lawrence Dane
Country: Canada / USA

Four friends hatch a scheme to dress up like clowns and kidnap a businessman’s wife to prevent him from closing a land deal. Though the scheme is intended as a prank, it takes an ugly turn when real violence is used at the kidnapping. As the kidnappers deal with the fallout from their actions, it becomes apparent that an outside party (also in a clown costume) is stalking them.

About ten minutes of this one is a horror film; the rest is a potentially interesting variant of the heist film. I say “potentially” for a reason; the movie’s concept of having each member of the group deal with the stress of having gotten in over their heads is much more interesting than its execution. One problem is that the characters aren’t quite as complex as they need to be to make the movie really compelling. Another is that parts of the movie are incredibly improbable; I find it particularly hard to believe that none of these people ever considered that their kidnapping would be considered a crime. Add to this the problem that the beginning exposition scenes are more confusing than elucidating, that it takes nearly twenty minutes before the plot starts to move, that the direction is flat and dull, and that the identity of the clown stalking the characters near the end of the movie is obvious, and you have what amounts to a missed opportunity. Of course, what the movie is most known for anymore is for giving us an early John Candy role, but I suspect that fans of the comedian will be disappointed here; though he gives a good performance, it’s a fairly humiliating role in which far too much time is spent commenting on his size and his eating habits, and the scene where he’s bound, roughed up and humiliated by the most psychotic member of the group is just unpleasant. The ending is rather unsatisfying as well. There’s a much better movie in here fighting to get out.

The Clone Master (1978)

THE CLONE MASTER (1978)
TV-Movie
Article 2946 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-1-2009
Posting Date: 9-7-2009
Directed by Don Medford
Featuring Art Hindle, Robyn Douglass, John Van Dreelen
Country: USA

A master of biochemical engineering is hired by the government to do secret research on cloning. However, when his only government contact suffers injuries that leave him a vegetable, and his assistant is kidnapped, he begins to wonder about the real situation. It soon becomes apparent that he is not being financed by the government. However, the man financing the scientist is unaware of one thing; the scientist was much farther along in his cloning experiments than anyone imagined…

About halfway through this TV-Movie, I began to suspect that we were once again dealing with a potential series pilot, and, by the end of the movie, I was convinced it was so. Still, I have to admit that this one might have made an interesting series; basically, it’s an exponentially multiplied variation on “The Fugitive”, in which one man and his twelve clones (with whom the scientist is telepathically linked) are on the run for their lives, scattered over the globe. Given that the movie established that the clones are not strictly identical and would grow more different with time, I found myself pondering the possible plot lines that could develop. Well, it never became a series, though I think it made a dandy enough thriller, albeit one with a few problems. It does make very good use of its concepts, and works itself up to a clever and satisfying ending. This is one TV-Movie I really enjoyed.

Candy (1968)

CANDY (1968)
Article 2945 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-31-2009
Posting Date: 9-6-2009
Directed by Christian Marquand
Featuring Ewa Aulin, John Astin, Marlon Brando
Country: France / Italy / USA

Candy, who may or may not be an alien from outer space, finds herself assaulted and ravished by various individuals.

This movie was based on a novel cowritten by Terry Southern, the man who gave us the screenplays for BARBARELLA and DR. STRANGELOVE. It was a satirical novel modeled off of Voltaire’s “Candide”. I’ve not read the Southern novel, so I can’t compare this movie with it. I will say this, though; this is one of those movies that really tries to blow your mind… and fails. One problem is that it’s all just too obvious; if there’s a running theme in this one, it’s just that everyone wants to seduce the title character, and that’s hardly enough to make a two-hour-plus movie intriguing. It’s biggest problem, though, is that it slathers all of its elements on so shamelessly (cast of big-name stars, psychedelic visuals, surreal weirdness, jerky hand-held-camera-style cinematography, jagged editing) that it constantly crumbles under the weight of its own excesses. If I were to describe this movie in one sentence, I would say that it’s the IT’A A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD of psychedelic art movies, and that’s no compliment. For me, the big question was this – which of the big name actors embarrassed themselves the worst here? I’d opt for Richard Burton myself, with John Huston and Walter Matthau coming across the best, and Marlon Brando giving a performance so weird as to be undefinable. Quite frankly, this movie made me appreciate the restraint and subtlety of BARBARELLA.