Conquistador de la luna (1960)

CONQUISTADOR DE LA LUNA (1960)
aka Conquest of the Moon
Article 2825 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-31-2009
Posting Date: 5-8-2009
Directed by Rogelio A. Gonzalez
Featuring Antonio Espino, Ana Luisa Peluffo, Adres Soler
Country: Mexico

An eccentric inventor and his girlfriend accidentally take off in a rocket and land on the moon. There they meet Martians intent on attacking the earth.

Since my copy of this movie is in unsubtitled Spanish, I’m guessing a little on the above plot; I do know that I hear some references to “Martians” when we meet the creatures on the moon, so I’m assuming that’s where they’re from. For what is essentially a comedy, it’s pretty ambitious on a special effects level; it has two rockets, a device that drills up from beneath the moon’s crust, moon interiors and exteriors, four-armed extraterrestrials, a giant disembodied brain with a floating eye and a sprinkler system installed on top (yes, you heard me right), and other science-fictional touches. Granted, it relies on footage lifted from other movies; I recognize footage from ROCKETSHIP X-M, DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS and WARNING FROM SPACE; given that these movies are American, British and Japanese respectively, it appears that they weren’t too fussy about where they stole the footage from. Still, much of the footage is original, and they actually make some attempt to have all four arms of the Martians to be usable. My favorite moment is the opening, in which an elaborate Rube-Goldberg style device wakes the inventor from his slumber, but I’m a sucker for things like that. Perhaps the most amazing thing to me is that it manages to include a rocket trip to the moon without any meteor showers.

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Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum (1940)

CHARLIE CHAN AT THE WAX MUSEUM (1940)
Article 2824 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-30-2009
Posting Date: 5-7-2009
Directed by Lynn Shores
Featuring Sidney Toler, Victor Sen Yung, C. Henry Gordon
Country: USA

Charlie Chan is invited to appear on a radio show broadcast from a wax museum to solve an old murder case; however, the show is a trap designed to give an escaped criminal the chance to get revenge on Chan, on whose evidence he was convicted. However, there’s more than one criminal at this gathering…

No, it’s not a horror movie; it’s a mystery. Still, horror movie fans might well like this one; the wax museum setting adds a lot of atmosphere, and the presence of a criminal plastic surgeon and a killer whose face is swathed in bandages certainly add more horror touches to the proceedings. If you’re a Charlie Chan fan, this one is quite enjoyable, and it has a lot of fun with the use of wax dummies (include one that is a duplicate of Chan himself). There’s also a chess-playing machine (a la THE CHESS PLAYER) to add to the mix of interesting elements.

Calling Paul Temple (1948)

CALLING PAUL TEMPLE (1948)
Article 2823 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-29-2009
Posting Date: 5-6-2009
Directed by Maclean Rogers
Featuring John Bentley, Dinah Sheridan, Margaretta Scott
Country: UK

A writer is called in by detectives to help figure out the identity of a serial killer who leaves the name of “Rex” at the site of his killings.

This was part of a series of British whodunits featuring the character of Paul Temple. The fantastic content is slight; there’s the serial killer angle and the use of hypnotism, though neither element is used in ways that suggest horror. The story is pretty confusing, but it’s offset by the fact that the characters of Paul Temple and his wife Steve have a bit of a “Nick and Nora” quality to them, and there’s a nice sense of surprise to some of the scenes; my favorite has a character dropping dead during a musical number that I would ordinarily have considered filler. All in all, it’s passably entertaining, but it’s definitely more of a mystery than it is a horror movie.

Charms (1973)

CHARMS (1973)
aka Hex
Article 2772 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-9-2008
Posting Date: 3-16-2009
Directed by Leo Garen
Featuring Keith Carradine, Scott Glenn, Hilary Thompson
Country: USA

Sometime after the first World War, a motorcycle gang, chased by a posse from a small Nebraska town, takes refuge on a farm inhabited by two sisters. However, one of the sisters seems to have special powers, and those that cross her must feel her wrath…

In its way, this odd period horror piece is as eccentric and unique as yesterday’s movie, DARK FORCES; however, unlike yesterday’s movie, I emerge annoyed rather than fascinated. I don’t think this movie knows what it wants to be. Is it a horror movie? A mystic love story? A comedy? A slice of life character movie? All of the above? None of the above? I just don’t know, but I do know it doesn’t succeed on any of those levels. I have several particular problems with it. First of all, the characters seem unbelievable and in the wrong time period. Also, every time the characters break into regional dialects, the end result sounds forced and awkward rather than quaint and authentic. And then there’s the simple fact that I find it impossible to take seriously any movie that prominently features a mouth harp on the score. None of the characters seem to react realistically to the strange events that go on around them; when one of the characters finally says that there’s “something strange going on”, it’s so late in the movie that it became the biggest laugh line in it for me (and a lot funnier than the intentional comedy). In the end, it feels like a somewhat arty mess. Recommended only to the extremely curious.

The Children (1980)

THE CHILDREN (1980)
Article 2756 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-23-2008
Posting Date: 2-28-2009
Directed by Max Kalmanowicz
Featuring Martin Shakar, Gil Rogers, Gale Garnett
Country: USA

A leak at a nuclear power plant causes children to become zombies with the abiliy to kill with a touch.

I like the first twenty minutes of this variation of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD best. At this point, the sense of mystery is quite strong (a school bus is left running on the side of the road with the driver and children nowhere in sight) and the movie introduces several interesting small-town characters, and these two things caught my attention. Unfortunately, the first actual attack struck me as more comic than scary, and from this moment onward the movie’s effectiveness went down the tubes. For me, the worst problem was that no one seemed to put any thought in the inner reality of the monsters; they just kill because they’re monsters (whereas Romero’s zombies killed out of hunger, for example), and when they stand around with their arms outstretched, it just seems like the director told them to “act like monsters”. No explanation is given why only children are affected, why it takes one child a while to turn into a zombie whereas for the others it must have been almost instantaneous, etc. – quite frankly, it looks like it was being made up while it was written. Oh, it has its moments before it’s all over, but I didn’t find it anywhere near as scary as it wanted to be. And the protracted final twist after the rest of the movie is over both obvious and tiresome.

Castle of the Creeping Flesh (1968)

CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH (1968)
aka Im Schloss der blutigen Begierde
Article 2755 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-22-2008
Posting Date: 2-27-2009
Directed by Adrian Hoven
Featuring Janine Reynaud, Howard Vernon, Michel Lemoine
Country: West Germany

Several guests of Baron Brack find themselves in the castle of the Earl of Saxon, a madman intent on reviving his daughter and finding her rapist/murderer.

Ten thoughts on CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH.

1) Advance warning on this movie had me prepared for a certain degree of nastiness. However, no advance warning prepared for me for just how silly it was. Caveat emptor.

2) There’s really not much creeping flesh in this castle (though, admittedly, I’m not sure just what “creeping flesh” is supposed to be”). The more accurate alternate title, CASTLE OF BLOODY LUST, is, however, quite accurate.

3) Let’s handle the lust first. This movie features two rape scenes, one consenting sex scene, and some of the stupidest erotic flirting I’ve ever seen; the scene where the woman tries to tempt the Baron by erotically nibbling a chicken leg and lusciously licking the bone while the rest of the cast looks at each other is enough to have you doubled over in pain or in giggles.

4) Speaking of “looking at each other”, I suspect Adrian Hoven has a weakness for actors that can act with their eyes; the movie is full of scenes of people giving meaningful glares and eye-shifting. Unfortunately, the utter lack of subtlety in these scenes (as well as everywhere else in the movie) undercuts whatever effectiveness they might have had.

5) Now, let’s get to the blood. Let me just sum this up by concocting a quote that I imagine may have been said by the director during the making of this movie – “Look, I bought all this stock footage of open-heart surgery, and I’m damn well going to use it all!”

6) You know, I would try to cut this movie some slack since it’s dubbed, because the incredibly bad poetic dialogue about life, love and death could be just bad translation. But there’s something about it all that makes me suspect that it’s not much better in its original language, and, given the exploitation nature of the rest of the movie, it’s incredibly out of place. But then, the story is supposedly inspired by King Lear and came from Jesus Franco.

7) Director Adrian Hoven is mostly known as an actor. The only other movie he’s directed that I’ve seen is the softcore MAIDENQUEST, aka THE LONG SWIFT SWORD OF SIEGFRIED. Why am I not surprised?

8) Note to the man responsible for the score – Symphonic or Jazz – make up your mind.

9) Note to director – modern day or period piece – make up your mind.

10) Oh, by the way, I like the knocker. No, I don’t mean Janine Reynaud’s (she’s got two of them, anyway), but the one on the door.

Creature of Destruction (1967)

CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION (1967)
TV-Movie
Article 2710 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-4-2008
Posting Date: 1-13-2009
Directed by Larry Buchanan
Featuring Les Tremayne, Pat Delaney, Aron Kincaid
Country: USA

A hypnotist takes his assistant back into a former life and predicts murders by a monster from the beginning of time.

Of the four AIP scripts that were sent to Larry Buchanan to be remade in the late sixties, I would pick THE SHE CREATURE as the weakest of the bunch; I considered the script muddled and unconvincing, and, if I liked anything about the movie, it was Paul Blaisdell’s monster suit. The other scripts had their moments, and since Buchanan’s remakes left goodly portions of the original scripts intact, there still remained a few good (if recycled) elements in his other remakes. This does not bode well for this one; I doubted that anything would be done to fix the problems with the script (and they weren’t), and I was confident that whatever monster suit was devised was going to be much less interesting than the Blaisdell suit (and such was the case). Still, I think this movie does have one improvement over the original; I like Les Tremayne a lot more in the role of the hypnotist than I liked Chester Morris, and he’s easily one of the best actors Larry Buchanan had to work with in any of these movies. Still, he’s fighting a lonely battle; the rest of the cast is third-rate, the pacing and the camerawork are both atrocious, and I think this may be the weakest of Buchanan’s AIP remakes.