Die, Monster, Die! (1965)

DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965)
Article 2924 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-10-2009
Posting Date: 8-16-2009
Directed by Daniel Haller
Featuring Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Freda Jackson
Country: UK / USA

An American finds himself coldly received when he arrives at a small English town to visit his girlfriend. He discovers that her family has some dreadful secrets that involve a meteorite that landed in the area.

This was another early attempt at adapting H.P. Lovecraft to the big screen (in this case, the story “The Colour Out of Space”), and though it is far better than THE DUNWICH HORROR, it’s a lot weaker than THE HAUNTED PALACE. It’s biggest problem is a very weak script, which mostly consists of a recycling of cliches, mostly from the Corman Poe movies. On the plus side, it does have two strong actors in the center, with Boris Karloff and Nick Adams both doing what they can to salvage the weaknesses. It especially fails at giving us a sense of Lovecraftian horror; its best moment here is when Adams finds an assortment of mutated creatures in the back of a greenhouse, but the scene is too brief to make a lasting impression, and suffers from weak special effects. Poor pacing and lots of dead spots also harm the movie. This was Daniel Haller’s first directorial effort; he was involved in some capacity with practically every cinematic Lovecraft adaptation of the era.

Advertisements

Death Machines (1976)

DEATH MACHINES (1976)
Article 2921 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-7-2009
Posting Date: 8-12-2009
Directed by Paul Kyriazi
Featuring Ronald L. Marchini, Michael Chong, Joshua Johnson
Country: USA

An evil Oriental lady injects three martial artists with a drug that turns them into nearly indestructible assassins. Carnage ensues.

This movie starts out a martial arts / gangster flick with the killers knocking off rival hit men in order to force a gangster to use their services. It then turns into a “cop-who-doesn’t-play-by-the-rule” movies when one of the killers is captured by the police. It then turns into a BILLY JACK-style movie when one of the killers tries to defend an old couple when their restaurant is terrorized by a biker gang. Then it turns into love story when the only survivor of an attack on a karate school by the assassins falls in love with the nurse who tended him at the hospital. Then it remembers it’s an action flick with a final chase scene, a confrontation, and a twist ending. My piece of advice is this – don’t try to figure out the movie, it will only give you a headache. Final analysis – this is the type of movie that keeps fight choreographers busy when they’re not involved with real movies. And as for the actress playing the evil Oriental – if her talent was as big as her hair, she’d be Meryl Streep, and if her hair was as big as her talent, she’d be Sinead O’Connor.

The Devil’s Eye (1960)

THE DEVIL’S EYE (1960)
aka Djavulens oga
Article 2896 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-12-2009
Posting Date: 7-18-2009
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Featuring Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson, Stig Jarrel
Country: Sweden

The devil is plagued by a sty in his eye, the result of a woman who has so far remained a virgin before marriage. To fix the situation, he sends up Don Juan to seduce her. Will evil triumph, or will good save the day?

Comedies are not Ingmar Bergman’s specialty, and he knows it, so, through the use of some distancing techniques (the movie is narrated by Gunnar Bjornstrand, who makes sure we understand what Bergman’s intentions are), he makes sure we get the point. It is a comedy, and an amusing one, but Bergman being Bergman, it’s certainly not an empty-headed one; he uses it as a springboard to explore good and evil and the subtleties with which these two forces play off of each other. We have three different temptations here; Don Juan tempts the virtuous young woman, Don Juan’s servant tempts the wife of the vicar (against Satan’s wishes), and a troublemaking demon (sent along to keep Don Juan on his task and to make sure Don Juan’s servant doesn’t get what he wants) tempts a naive vicar. The third of these conflicts is perhaps the most amusing, and its resolution ends up impacting the success of the other temptations. In the battle there does emerge a clear winner, but things are never that simple in Bergman’s universe, and the other side does have some success. The performances are all wonderful, though Bibi Andersson, Nils Poppe and Sture Lagerwall stand out the best.

I hope I get to see some more of Bergman’s work as part of this series; he is rapidly becoming one of my favorite directors.

The Dracula Saga (1972)

THE DRACULA SAGA (1972)
aka La Saga de los Dracula
Article 2857 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-4-2009
Posting Date: 6-9-2009
Directed by Leon Klimovsky
Featuring Tina Sainz, Tony Isbert, Helga Line
Country: Spain

A pregnant woman arrives with her husband to the estate of her family. The husband is unaware that the woman he has married is the granddaughter of Dracula, who has been sent abroad to bring new life to a bloodline damaged by inbreeding.

I like movies that take an offbeat look at certain horror standards, and this cross between ROSEMARY’S BABY and a vampire movie fits the bill. It doesn’t quite work, though, and I think one reason is I’m never quite sure to what extent the granddaughter is aware of her lineage, and the ambiguity becomes a little maddening; at one point, I was wondering if I was getting the plot wrong and that the husband was Dracula’s grandson, because he seems to take everything that happens in stride. The movie is full of odd touches; the woman has a nightmare where she sees a monster with the face of a bat, and one of the most startling scenes in the movie happens when we discover that the woman’s unborn child is not the only descendant of Dracula who may have a claim to his throne. The movie is also surprisingly well dubbed into English, and most of the music is from Bach. The movie is probably at its weakest when it occasionally strays into a more conventional story (with suspicious villagers and the like). Still, for anyone who wants to see an unusual take on the Dracula legend, this one is worth checking out.

The Destructors (1968)

THE DESTRUCTORS (1968)
Article 2848 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-23-2009
Posting Date: 5-31-2009
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Featuring Richard Egan, Patricia Owens, John Ericson
Country: USA

A shipment of “laser rubies” is stolen. These are used in a new secret weapon being developed by the government. Agents suspect the culprits are spies who now plan to get a hold of the weapon.

The weapon is a kind of death ray. Combine this with the presence of spies, and it shouldn’t take you more than a few seconds to figure out that what we’ve got here is another Gizmo Maguffin plot. And sure enough, that’s what it turns out to be, and it’s one of those that looks flat, routine, and uninspired from square one. A couple of moments here and there are a hair better than you might expect, but only a hair, and once the plot starts to revolve around the spy’s relationship with his ex-wife, we get lots of boring character stuff to pad out the running time. This is one of those movies where everyone seems to be sweating a lot, especially our tanned hero, who engages in fist fights with characters half his age, but somehow wins. It even tries to add a little touch of James Bond to the proceedings by having him flirt with the women at the office, but to no avail. It’s standard and forgettable at best.

Dick Tracy’s Dilemma (1947)

DICK TRACY’S DILEMMA (1947)
Article 2838 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-13-2009
Posting Date: 5-21-2009
Directed by John Rawlins
Featuring Ralph Byrd, Lyle Latell, Kay Christopher
Country: USA

Dick Tracy investigates a fur theft. He discovers that one of the people involved is a hulking brute with a hook for a hand.

There’s not really much new here, but since this is a series I like, that’s all right by me. The horror element is provided by this movie’s “ugly face”, a hulking brute with a limp, a hook hand, and an affection for cats; he’s known as “The Claw”. Ian Keith steals the movie once again as the aging actor Vitamin Flintheart. The violence is once again a bit nastier than you might expect from a B movie. And, also once again, the character names occasional acknowledge the comic roots of the series. With this review, I have not completed the whole Dick Tracy series from the forties.

Dead Ringer (1964)

DEAD RINGER (1964)
Article 2837 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-13-2009
Posting Date: 5-20-2009
Directed by Paul Henreid
Featuring Bette Davis, Karl Malden, Peter Lawford
Country: USA

Angered by the revelations she discovers at her twin sister’s husband’s funeral, a woman decides to kill her sister and take her place. She rapidly finds out that this will not be an easy task…

If I were using my own judgment as to whether a movie was genre or not rather than the judgment of my various sources for my hunt lists, I would not be covering this movie. Though the “good and evil” twins concept has been used in horror before (see Karloff’s THE BLACK ROOM, for example), it isn’t by nature necessarily a horror theme. Furthermore, the “good and evil” theme doesn’t really apply here; it is the supposedly “good” twin that commits the murder and substitutes herself for the “evil” twin, a reverse of what happened in the previously mentioned Karloff movie. Furthermore, the previous movie had a curse and a secret room that added some other touches of horror that this movie does not have. I suspect that if this movie is horror at all, it’s more in its ad campaign; I see a lot of images of Bette Davis juxtaposed with that of a skull, and that’s more horror than anything in the movie. I suspect this was done as a result of the success of the previous year’s WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?

That being said, I found myself initially disappointed by Bette Davis’s performance in this movie; during the first half of the movie, she comes off as somewhat awkward and uncomfortable, even in scenes where it’s not appropriate. This is especially true of the scenes where she appears as both of her roles together; I suspect that Davis didn’t really feel at ease with the concept, and these scenes especially feel unnatural. However, once Davis has to worry about playing only one of the characters, she’s extremely good; any awkwardness feels natural and entirely understandable, and I love the way she plays the scene where she figures out she can’t imitate her sister’s handwriting and comes up with a drastic solution to the problem. The movie also features a number of familiar faces in other roles; Karl Malden does a good job as a police Sergeant loved by one of the sisters, Peter Lawford is fine as the other sister’s lover, and Estelle Winwood is excellent in a small role as the dominatingly religious Dona Anna. George Macready is always a welcome face, but he’s really stuck in an unmemorable role. The performer I’ll probably most remember, though, is Cyril Delavanti as the butler; he’s one of those character actors with an instantly recognizable face, and he takes part in what for me is the most memorable scene of the movie, in which the beleaguered impostor sister discovers she has one real friend in the household.