Calino courtier en paratonnerres (1912)

aka Calino’s new invention
Article 4005 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-17-2012
Directed by Jean Durand
Featuring Clement Mage, Gaston Modot
Country: France
What it is: silent comedy

Calino is out trying to peddle his new invention – a gigantic lightning rod. However, the huge size of his invention causes destruction and chaos wherever he goes… and when he does find a buyer, the invention has a slight defect…

Here’s another movie that got saved from my “ones that got away” list; it turned out that I had this one all along, but didn’t know it because I hadn’t matched up the English title with the French title. Clement Mage, who plays Calino, may be one of the first authentic comic actors of the cinema. Most of the comedies from earlier than this had a lot of comic shtick, but Mage shows a real assurance with screen comedy just from an acting perspective. The destruction scenes are actually pretty impressive, with a large amount of stunt work for a movie that runs under five minutes. This one is a lot of fun.

La caverna de la bruja (1906)

aka The Witch’s Cave, L’antre de la sorciere
Article 3946 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-3-2012
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Comic witch tale

An idiot leaves his wife when she breaks a plate over his head. He then goes to the cave of a witch to find a replacement for her.

For the most part, the plot plays little role in this silent short; most of the middle section has the idiot being tormented by various apparitions in the cave, who reappear and disappear at will. Even when the idiot tries to pick out a new wife, he’s still tormented by the fiends. It all leads to a happy ending (I suppose), but, for the life of me, I don’t understand why the wife would want the idiot back if he annoys her so much she breaks plates over his head. Still, I’m no expert on dysfunctional relationships, so we’ll just let that be. All in all, this is a fairly amusing short.

The Comeback (1978)

Article 3927 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-5-2012
Posting Date: 5-15-2012
Directed by Pete Walker
Featuring Jack Jones, Pamela Stephenson, David Doyle
Country: UK
What it is: Horror thriller

A singing star moves into an English country estate and begins work on a new album, unaware that his ex-wife has just been brutally murdered. He begins to have strange visions of her death, but are they just visions…?

Pete Walker has directed some interesting horror movies, some of which I quite like. This one has an interesting premise, a nice touch of mystery, and has a way of unfolding in unexpected ways. It is also rather contrived, especially in the ways it tries to throw suspicion on different characters at one time or another. The movie also has long dead spots in the story; it spends too much time on the “artist trying to make a comeback” storyline, and his involvement with his manager’s secretary. Still, the biggest problem I had with this movie is its ending; after setting up some interesting situations, the final revelations are distressingly ordinary, and the overall story doesn’t hold up under any close examination. I’m afraid I found this one to be particularly disappointing.

The Clones of Bruce Lee (1981)

aka Shen wei san meng long
Article 3914 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-22-2012
Posting Date: 5-2-2012
Directed by Joseph Velasco
Featuring Dragon Lee, Bruce Le, Yi Tao Chang (as Bruce Lai)
Country: Hong Kong / Philippines
What it is: Just what you think it is

Upon Bruce Lee’s death, a scientist uses his DNA to clone three new Bruce Lees, named Bruce Lee 1, Bruce Lee 2, and Bruce Lee 3. They go out and fight crime. But can the scientist who created them be trusted…?

On the level of sheer physical spectacle, it’s hard not to be a little impressed by the fighting in a martial arts film; as a combination of fighting, gymnastics, mime, dance, and sound-enhanced gesturing, it’s at least interesting to look at. But it takes more than a series of staged fight scenes to make a movie, and outside of a handful of silly moments, there’s very little else to draw you into this one. On top of the cloning concept, there’s also some fantastic content with a mad scientist who develops a formula that turns men into metal, which largely results in their being more clanging during the fight scenes with them; their defeat involves force-feeding them poison grass, certainly the comedic highlight of this film. As to how our Bruce Lee wannabes compare to the original, I can only say that I’m not familiar enough with Bruce Lee’s own work to do so, but I’m willing to bet that none of them had a movie made after their death in which someone was cloning them.

The Curious Case of the Campus Corpse (1977)

aka Campus Corpse, The Hazing
Article 3907 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-15-2012
Posting Date: 4-25-2012
Directed by Douglas Curtis
Featuring Jeff East, Kelly Moran, Sandra Vacey
Country: USA
What it is: Not what some people would have you believe…

An athlete, going to college on a scholarship, decides to join a fraternity, but as part of his initiation, a terrible accident happens that results in the death of a fellow initiate. The head of the fraternity decides to cover up the incident, and the new initiate finds himself unwillingly caught up in the plot…

First of all, a few facts. My copy of the movie is in a DVD case that shows a close-up of a bloody face of a corpse, and has the phrase “From the producer of FREDDY VS. JASON” at the bottom. The tag line on the poster on the back cover says “What begins in fun suddenly becomes one corpse with thirteen killers… Now it’s their time for terror!” Now, from these two pieces of evidence, I’m under the impression that there was a real attempt to market this movie as a horror film. Well, I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag on this one too much, but I do feel compelled to at least point out that the movie is not a horror movie, and anyone going in expecting one will be sorely disappointed.

Yet, at the same time, I can understand why it was marketed that way; it’s the type of movie that doesn’t want to give itself away. Anyone who wants to find a more accurate genre appraisal of the movie need check no farther than its classification on IMDB. However, despite its attempt to cover up its true intent, that poster does give the game away; it has one little blurb under the title of the movie, and I won’t repeat it here, but I will say that it’s the type of blurb that could have been used for movies like PSYCHO or HOMICIDAL. I saw the blurb before I saw the movie, and it was all I needed to figure out ahead of time things that the movie didn’t want me to know.

So if you’re interested enough by the plot description to see the movie, you may want to do so with as little advance knowledge as possible. Don’t expect a horror movie; go in expecting something along the lines of a crime drama inspired by a true story, and you’ll at least not go in with too many misconceptions. As for the movie itself, I though it was okay… no more, no less, though I might have liked it a little better had I not read that blurb I talked about. And there is at least one moment in the movie which does give it a twinge of horror.

Carnival of Blood (1970)

Article 3902 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-10-2012
Posting Date: 4-20-2012
Directed by Leonard Kirtman
Featuring Earle Edgerton, Judith Resnick, Martin Barolsky
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho in a carnival

Somebody is knocking off women at Coney Island. A policeman investigates, unaware that his girlfriend may turn out to be one of the victims.

Who is the killer? Is it the fortune-telling woman? The balloon barker? His hunchback assistant named Gimpy? Personally, between this batch of suspects, it’s pretty obvious. This one is pretty bottom of the barrel, with a lousy script, shaky camerawork, less-than-convincing gore effects, and a total inability to milk any suspense out of the material. Still, there are moments when this one gets by on sheer strangeness; there’s the bizarre and unexplained opening credits which have something to do with the talking but silent head of a disembodied woman (if this means anything, I don’t get it), and then there’s one of the weirdest flashback sequences I’ve ever seen near the end of the movie, just to name a couple. Still, for the most part, the movie seems obsessed with showing you just how annoying the victims are; it spends endless time wandering around the carnival with them before they finally get offed, and even that’s no relief, because the movie will just move on to another annoying character. This one does have the novelty of featuring at least one actor who became something of a name; Burt Young plays Gimpy, which is (apparently) his character’s real name.

The Chain Reaction (1980)

Article 3898 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-6-2012
Posting Date: 4-16-2012
Directed by Ian Barry
Featuring Steve Bisley, Arna-Maria Winchester, Ross Thompson
Country: Australia
What it is: Action version of THE CHINA SYNDROME

A race car driver and his nurse wife encounter a fugitive who has information about a fatal leak at a nuclear waste facility and wishes to warn the public. But the fugitive is dying and only has a few days to live… and the company that owns the facility will stop at nothing to keep the leak a secret.

I found this movie on a DVD called “Action Classics” by one of those low-budget DVD companies. It has four movies crammed onto one disc, none of which I’ve ever heard of. It lists Richard Roundtree as one of the stars of the disc (though a quick perusal of the movies and plot summaries on the back of the package fail to list his name anywhere), and the whole set has an air of being a cheap toss-off for the uncritical action fan. I’ve not seen all the movies on the set, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie is the best of the lot, despite a lack of any big name stars (with the exception of a very short cameo by Mel Gibson in a beard).

Like THE CHINA SYNDROME, I think this movie works much better as a thriller than a social commentary; the bad guys in this movie are so steeped in cinematic evil that they defy your ability to believe in them as real people, while the nature of the disaster is such that no amount of initial cover-up would keep the truth from coming out in very short time anyway. The Australian accents are a bit thick, and the action is a bit confusing at times, but the basic story is easy to follow, and the action/thriller elements are effective. The car chase scenes are especially impressive, and I was a bit surprised to find that it was Ian Barry’s first directorial effort, though he did have some previous experience with editing. Still, I suspect the chase sequences had a lot of help from associate producer and uncredited second unit director George Miller of MAD MAX fame; if anyone knows how to handle a car chase, it’s him. At any rate, despite its flaws, the movie is entertaining enough to work quite well on the action movie level.