A Christmas Carol (1984)

A Christmas Carol (1984)
Article 6078 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-7-2022
Directed by Clive Donner
Featuring George C. Scott, Frank Finlay, Angela Pleasence
Country: UK / USA
What it is: You know the story

Ebenezer Scrooge finds himself haunted by spirits intent on making him understand the greatness of Christmas and to abandon his miserly ways before it’s too late…

This version of the Dickens favorite came highly recommended to me from several people, most of them stressing the excellent performance of George C. Scott. And though I have no issue with Scott’s grounded and nuanced take on the Scrooge character, it isn’t the main attraction for me here. Rather, it’s the well-constructed script which keeps a razor-sharp focus on the story it’s telling. It’s clear that this version’s goal is to emphasize just what needs to happen to Scrooge for him to make the necessary changes to his character to emerge as he does in the final moments. That is not an easy task; the story is so famous that it’s easy to get lost in the little traps, such as turning Scrooge into a icon of miserliness or turning the whole show into one big Christmas party. And, like the Alastair Sim version, by keeping its focus, it helps me to appreciate and understand the roles that certain characters play in Dickens’ story; for example, it’s the first movie version where I really felt Fezziwig was a necessary character. The movie has a few very minor flaws, but it is one of the best versions out there, and I’m always glad to see David Warner cast against type, here playing Bob Cratchit.

Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)

Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)
Article 6072 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-5-2022
Directed by Ivan Nagy
Featuring Reb Brown, Connie Sellecca, Len Birman
Country: USA
What it is: Made for TV superhero

Captain America takes on a terrorist who plans to ransom the country to keep him from using an aging drug on an American city.

Watching and reviewing a movie while trying to deal with Covid is not a favorite experience for me, but given what we have here is another made-for-TV superhero pilot from the seventies, a pretty common type of genre item. There’s a plethora of plot holes for those who want to pick away at them. Me, I’m more annoyed at the movie’s attempt to stretch out most of its action sequences; the opening driving scene, the hang-gliding scene, and any chase scene go on long past the point of patience At least the hero has noticeable superpowers, which is something I don’t often encounter in Captain America adaptations. The movie has an abysmal 3.9 rating, though it does have its array of supporters. To me, it’s just another forgettable made-for-tv superhero flick.

Dracula Blows his Cool (1979)

Dracula Blows his Cool (1979)
aka Graf Dracula in Oberbayern
Article 6065 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-24-2022
Directed by Carl Schenkel
Featuring Gianni Garko, Betty Virges, Bea Fiedler
Country: West Germany / Italy
What it is: Dracula disco sexploitation comedy

A photographer who specializes in girlie magazines inherits a castle with the intent on turning it into a sexy disco hotel, unaware that his ancestors in the family crypt are vampires.

Let’s see, a Dracula disco sexploitation comedy? If you’re me, this sounds abysmal, and if I say I found it better than I expected it would be, it might simply be because my expectations were extremely low. So why did this one feel better than I expected. For one thing, some of the jokes worked; I was amused by the confusion between a giant phallus sculpture and a garden gnome at one point in particular. Secondly, though the movie is pretty bad, it doesn’t come off as desperate. Thirdly, the music didn’t annoy the hell out of me, a nice feat for a movie with “disco” in the title. Fourth, Dracula is not portrayed as a hapless buffoon, and his presence and situation adds a little depth to the proceedings. And finally, the plot in its second half veers the movie in the direction of satire when the presence of a vampire in the castle becomes a marketing tool for the hotel owners. No, the movie never really becomes good, but it does keep from being overly painful, and actually gave me some food for thought.

Crocodile (1979)

Crocodile (1979)
aka Chorakhe
Article 6064 by Dave Sindelar
8-21-2022
Directed by Sompote Sands
Featuring Nard Poowanai, Ni Tien, Angela Wells
Country: Thailand
What it is: Another JAWS variant

Two men lose their families to a giant mutant crocodile, and they vow to destroy it.

No, it doesn’t follow the JAWS playbook religiously, but any movie about a man-killing aquatic animal whose second half consists of an extending sequence of a single boat in the middle of the sea doing battle with the title beastie is playing pretty close to the formula. And yes, this part of the movie works up a smidgeon of suspense, but only a smidgeon, and the fact that the movie seems intent on keeping the dialogue to a minimum only makes us feel that all of the characters are woefully undeveloped; JAWS got away with its final half by relying a great deal on well-developed characters. Most of the movie feels like filler; many of the scenes are unnecessary, and even the ones that are are stretched out too long. Special effects are also substandard. Another waste of time.

The Cat from Outer Space (1978)

The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
Article 6054 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-29-2022
Directed by Ted Key
Featuring Ken Barry, Sandy Duncan, Harry Morgan
Country: USA
What it is: Shopping Cart movie

A space alien who looks like a cat makes an emergency landing on Earth, but his saucer is carried off by the military. The alien befriends some scientists to help him regain his saucer and return to space.

First, a little personal history. I’d been hearing about and seeing the ads for the various Disney shopping cart movies for years before this one came out, and frankly, they looked like they’d be tremendous fun. However, I’d never found the time or opportunity to see any until this one showed up at my local drive-in when I was 19 and had access to the family car. And…. I was underwhelmed. The hilarious humor I expected turned out to be tepid and forced, and the sense of wonder was also left empty-handed. I left the drive-in crestfallen and a little depressed.

That was forty-four years ago, and since then I started this movie-watching project and found the time to see many of the earlier Disney movies of this ilk (some of which I found delightful) and revisiting this one after all that time makes me feel like I’m closing the circle on the genre. Since then this movie has gained a certain amount of fame due partly to the fact there are a few striking similarities between it and Spielberg’s E.T.: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL. Me, I was interested in seeing if I felt any differently about it than when I saw it the first time. Well, I will admit to liking it a hair better this time, largely because I’ve come to appreciate the comfort of seeing a bunch of familiar faces, and there are plenty here. But the laughs still aren’t there; I rarely cracked a smile in watching this, and that’s especially true for the final third of the movie. Where other shopping cart movies would go for the big wild laughs at this point, this one just tries to be a thriller, but just falls flat.

As far as I know, this one marks the end of the era of the original run of Disney shopping cart movies; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Still, I will say this in the movie’s defense; as disappointing as it was, it was still far better than an ersatz Disney shopping cart movie from 1981 called EARTHBOUND. The less said about that one, the better.

Cupid Gets His Man (1936)

Cupid Gets His Man (1936)
Article 6028 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-14-2021
Directed by Tom Palmer 
Featuring the voice of Walter Tetley
Country: USA
What it is: Van Beuren cartoon.

Cupid mounties take their jobs very seriously, but they may have to call out all their forces to make a match between a cranky old man and a spinster.

The two old people are caricatures of W.C. Fields and Edna May Oliver, and though they disagree and argue on everything, on one front they are united, and that is to frustrate the army of Cupids sent out to unite them.  And that is probably the most interesting thing about this Van Beuren cartoon, though there are a few nice moments in the factory of the Cupids.  Actually, I have to admit being on the sides of the cranky humans here, but you know how this cartoon is going to end up.  All in all, this one is pretty ordinary.

Comin’ Round the Mountain (1949)

Comin’ Round the Mountain (1949)
Article 6027 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-14-2021
Directed by Izzy Sparber and Thomas Johnson
Featuring the voice of Jack Mercer
Country: USA
What it is: Watch some gags and follow the bouncing ball

Catfields and McHounds gags followed by a song.

You’ve got it – it’s another screen song cartoon with the song being the one of the title.  Three minutes of cat and dog feud gags (including a fire hydrant gag, and a “cat has nine lives” gag which provides the fantastic content (nine ghosts)).  If anything, this one feels a bit lazier than the others I’ve seen from the series.  Onward.

Cruel Ghost Legend (1968)

Cruel Ghost Legend (1968)
aka Kaidan zankoku monogatari
Article 5896 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-3-2020
Directed by Kazuo Hase
Featuring Masumi Harukawa, Nobue Kaneko, Saeda Kawaguchi
Country: Japan
What it is: Bloody curse story

When a down-on-his-luck samurai kills a blind man for his money, a curse is set upon him and his family.

Despite a title which promises a ghost, that isn’t quite what we get here; at least I don’t recall the blind man’s ghost taking any active role in the proceedings. However, the curse is very much real, as each of the members of the family suffers for the crime committed in the opening reels. It is, however, one of those movies that unfolds in a very confusing manner, and until the final reel it feels more like an exercise in exploitation than a horror movie per se; there is a lot of sex, a lot of disgusting behavior, and a lot of grotesque blood-letting. It’s also not very much fun; I don’t think there’s a single likable character in the whole movie. The ending does clarify a number of plot points, but I’m glad I saw the 88 minute version rather than the one that ran two hours; I suspect that one has an extra half-hour of confusion. All in all, I think the good points of this one slightly outweigh the bad, but it is one of those movies that I don’t feel motivated to give a second try.

Curse of the Witch (1927)

Curse of the Witch (1927)
aka Noidan kirot
Article 5784 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-31-2020
Directed by Teuvo Puro
Featuring Einar Rinne, Heidi Blafield, Irmeli Viherjuuri
Country: Finland
What it is: Drama

The bride of a farmer in Utuniemi is raped by a lumberjack during the husband’s absence. The woman is too ashamed to tell of it to her husband, but their first child bears a resemblance to the lumberjack… and her husband is beginning to notice it…

This movie apparently has the reputation of being the first Finnish horror film, but I’m not sure I would make that call. However, a witch’s curse does play into the story, but it’s up to the viewer to decide if the curse is real or just a metaphor for the burdens the couple must carry. At any rate, I found this a very entertaining and suspenseful story. Granted, I will openly admit that I have a weak spot for any movie that takes place in the snow-covered realm of Finland, and there’s plenty of footage from the area to enjoy. It is primarily a drama about a man who is full of anger and vengeance, but we’re never quite sure who will be hurt if he lets those feelings consume him. I was a little surprised by the ending, but I do like it. This one is worthwhile.

Curse of the Mummy (1970)

Curse of the Mummy (1970)
Article 5783 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-31-2020
Directed by Guy Verney
Featuring Isobel Black, Patrick Mower, Donald Churchill
Country: UK
What it is: Episode of “Mystery and Imagination”

An Egyptologist is found unconscious by his daughter; a doctor and a policeman are called in to investigate. But it’s not until a stranger shows up looking for the Egyptologist that the truth begins to unfold, in which it is discovered that the Egyptologist meant to undertake a bizarre experiment with a mummy.

I’ve covered other episodes of this British TV series, so I might as well cover this one as well. It’s based on Bram Stoker’s novel “The Jewel of the Seven Stars”, and I’ve seen at least three other versions of this story, (including a reading of a stage version of the story). This version appears to be a fairly faithful version of the novel (based on a summary I found on Wikipedia), albeit one that omits a few details to accommodate the short running time. It is also a little cramped and claustrophobic, as the action is confined to a handful of rooms in the same house, and apart from an opening dream sequence, it’s mostly a lot of talk until the final ten minutes, and ends with what I think is supposed to be a twist, though anyone who has been paying even cursory attention to the talk will not be surprised. It’s passable but nothing special.