Davey Jones’ Locker (1900)

DAVEY JONES’ LOCKER (1900)
Article 2102 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-17-2006
Posting Date: 5-15-2007
Director Unknown
No cast

No plot.

This very short short features a vision of a dancing skeleton superimposed on a sailing ship. Because the skeleton doesn’t remain in one piece, it ends up being an amusing enough early short for all that. And it there is anything you can say about all of these very early cinematic forays, it is that, with running lengths of about one to three minutes, they can never be accused of outstaying their welcome.

 

The Damnation of Faust (1903)

THE DAMNATION OF FAUST (1903)
aka FAUST, LA DAMNATION DE FAUST, FAUST AUX ENFERS
Article 2060 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-4-2006
Posting Date: 4-3-2007
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast Unknown (though I’m betting that’s Melies himself as Mephistopheles)

Faust goes to hell. Faust goes directly to hell. He does not pass go. He does not collect $200.

Do you get tired with the endless philosophizing in the Goethe’s Faust story and just wish they would get to the point where he’s dragged into hell? If so, this is the version of the story for you. Unlike yesterday’s scam, here’s a movie that earns its place in the canon of Fantastic cinema. Faust encounters all sorts of horrors on his trip, including a multi-tentacled creature, a gaggle of devils in their underwear (hey, it’s hot down there), and, worst of all, a bunch of ballerinas and marching women with mops; I don’t know about you, but I’m quaking in my boots. Jonathan Edwards (author of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”), eat your heart out; these are horrors even you couldn’t imagine. And it only runs about four minutes.

Postscript -Thanks to Doctor Kiss for the clarification on the exact year on this one.

 

Dog Factory (1904)

DOG FACTORY (1904)
Article 2056 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-31-2006
Posting Date: 3-30-2007
Director Unknown
Cast Unknown

Enterprising businessmen maintain a thriving business turning dogs into sausages – and back again.

The concept of a machine that would turn dogs into sausages actually pops up a few times in early cinema. Apparently, this was a common theme in vaudeville at the time as well. Apparently, turning a dog into sausages doesn’t hurt him, and if you want him back, just pop the sausages back in and voila! Instant Dog. This movie stretches the idea to four minutes and pretty much exhausts the premise. My favorite touch – the sausages are hung on several hooks in the shop, each marked with the breed of dog the sausage came from.

Ahh, the joys of early movie-making…

 

Doctor Dolittle (1967)

DOCTOR DOLITTLE (1967)
Article 2052 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-27-2006
Posting Date: 3-26-2007
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Featuring Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley

A veterinarian who can talk to animals sets out on a quest to find a giant pink sea snail.

A big-budget musical version of a children’s classic? I went into this one expecting an exercise in excess on the level of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, but such is definitely not the case. This movie projects an air of genteel whimsy, and it never once lets excess destroy this air. Yet therein lies the problem; genteel whimsy is not compelling or exciting, and if a movie is going to maintain interest level over a two-and-a-half-hour running time, it needs something compelling and exciting. But the songs (which aren’t particularly strong in the first place) are underplayed and muted, the dancing is virtually nonexistent (I think the pushme-pullyu has a few steps), the plot is extremely slight, the animals are surprisingly dull (Chee-Chee the chimp doesn’t engage in a single animal antic throughout the movie, and does Gip the dog do anything?), and the crowd scenes mostly have people standing around or doing uninteresting things). The only scene that really tries to instill any energy into the proceedings is an early scene that illustrates why the doctor abandoned his practice on humans, and, unless you really think a series of gags that mostly involve people stepping on the foot of a man with gout to be the height of hilarity, the scene is awful. The end result is that the movie pays the price of avoiding energy and excitement; it becomes terribly dull for much of its running time, despite the fact that it maintains its genteel whimsy. Still, I suspect that, whatever the flaws of this movie, I’d still prefer it to the 1998 Eddie Murphy remake.

 

Donkey Skin (1970)

DONKEY SKIN (1970)
aka PEAU D’ANE
Article 2051 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-26-2006
Posting Date: 3-25-2007
Directed by Jacques Demy
Featuring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais, Jacques Perrin

A king vows to his dying queen that he will marry again when he finds a woman lovelier than her. The only woman he finds to match this description is his own daughter, the princess. He vows to marry her, but she disguises herself in a donkey skin, escapes with the help of her fairy godmother, and poses as a scullion in a local village.

This lovely French fairy tale would serve as a perfect companion to Cocteau’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Cocteau’s name appears in the credits, though I don’t know enough French to say what his contribution was, though I suspect it was of an inspirational nature, as he was seven years dead when this was made). It may lack the bizarre surrealism of the aforementioned Cocteau movie, but it’s elegant, delightful, beautifully photographed with lovely sets, and makes stunning use of color throughout. It is also laced with a fine sense of humor, and there are touches of weirdness to the proceedings; there’s a donkey that produces precious jewels out of its -well, I’ll leave you to find this out for yourself-, the households of the two royal families are color-coded (right down to the skin color of the servants), there is an ugly old woman who spits up toads on occasion, and the king uses a decidedly modern form of transportation (a helicopter) in the final scenes. It’s also a fairy tale I was not familiar with, so the story did come as a surprise, though you’ll probably figure out that its writer (Charles Perrault) is the same one who gave us “Cinderella”, as there are some very marked similarities between the tales. Wonderful work from Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais and Delphine Seyrig (as the fairy godmother who has her own agenda).

 

Disciple of Death (1972)

DISCIPLE OF DEATH (1972)
Article 2050 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-25-2006
Posting Date: 3-24-2007
Directed by Tom Parkinson
Featuring Mike Raven, Ronald Lacey, Stephen Bradley

Two lovers make a blood vow near the grave of a suicide, and accidentally resurrect him. He is now a vampire and a Satanist.

All the best moments of this movie come in the last thirty minutes; it is here that the movie shows a modicum of wit, displays a certain creativity in coming up with a new monster mythology, actually gives a hint of the fairy-tale feel that the opening of the movie seems to promise, and it manages to dredge up a bit of energy. If this sounds like damning with faint praise, it is; when it comes right down to it, the last thirty minutes of the movie are really not that good. However, it’s worlds better than the first hour of the movie, which may be the single dullest cinematic stretch I’ve encountered this side of a Jerry Warren film; it could be more accurately renamed DISCIPLE OF SNORES. About the only point of interest I found in in this part of the movie was the presence of Louise Jameson, who would become known for playing Leela on “Doctor Who”. For the most part, it’s just an uninteresting variation on “Dracula”, and even if it does have a handful of nice touches near the end, that’s hardly enough to recommend it. The perfect insomnia cure.

 

Demon Seed (1977)

DEMON SEED (1977)
Article 2049 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-24-2006
Posting Date: 3-23-2007
Directed by Donald Cammell
Featuring Julie Christie, Fritz Weaver, Gerrit Graham

A super-computer takes over the house of the estranged wife of its creator, with the intention of fertilizing her and creating a child for itself.

When I first heard of the concept of this movie, I thought it was an absurd idea, and had the script been any less well-written than it was, I’d still think so. Still, despite overcoming this obstacle, this cross between COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT and a certain type of exploitation horror movie (THE PSYCHO LOVER is an example) doesn’t quite work. It’s certainly scary enough, and it’s downright brutal at times (Proteus is more adept at terrorizing people than is strictly necessary), and the fact that it doesn’t aspire to crude exploitation doesn’t make the movie any less queasy. At times it even aspires to a 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY type of mysticism, and you might find some interesting parallels between the two movies. My biggest problem is with the ending, and I’m not even quite sure why; there seems to be something missing, and the movie seems a little incomplete. The special effects are extremely good, and I especially like that bizarre metallic structure that Proteus creates; it looks somewhat like a three-dimensional puzzle that was popular for a while several years back. I’ve always wondered as to whether a sequel might have been planned; I, for one, am quite curious as to what would happen next.