Dressed to Kill (1980)

DRESSED TO KILL (1980)
Article 2456 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-23-2007
Posting Date: 5-3-2008
Directed by Brian De Palma
Featuring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen
Country: USA

A housewife gets picked up by another man, and is then murdered in the elevator while leaving his apartment building. The housewife’s son and the hooker who witnessed the killing combine forces to find the killer.

In a sense, it’s really unfair to compare De Palma’s movies to Hitchcock’s, but De Palma seems to demand it. So let me say this; I’ve seen PSYCHO several times, and I thoroughly enjoy it each time, whereas this is the second time I’ve seen DRESSED TO KILL, and I care for it less than I did the first time. But then, I’ve never warmed up to De Palma; when Hitchcock gets stylistic, he does so with a natural sense that doesn’t detract from the movie as a whole, whereas De Palma’s forays into style often leave me with the sense of someone showing off. Which is not to say that it doesn’t often work; the sequence that begins in the art museum and ends in the elevator works brilliantly, and I admire how not a word is uttered during long chunks of this. But the stylistic trappings of the rest of the movie leave me cold. The split-screen sequence here is nowhere near as effective as the one in SISTERS, and when he goes into stylistic overdrive during the last ten minutes of the movie (after the story is ostensibly over), you know what he’s up to (especially if you’ve seen CARRIE), and you know it’s going on far too long. Borrowings from PSYCHO include a lead actress vanishing early in the story and the presence of two (count ’em, two) shower sequences, two initially minor characters teaming up for an investigation in the second half of the movie, and a lengthy explanation of the murderer’s particular form of madness. Still, he does have a shrewd ear for music; Pino Donaggio’s score adds a lot to the proceedings.

 

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The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978)

THE DARK SECRET OF HARVEST HOME (1978)
TV miniseries
Article 2455 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-22-2007
Posting Date: 5-2-2008
Directed by Leo Penn
Featuring Bette Davis, David Ackroyd, Rosanna Arquette

Upon inheriting a lot of money, a couple moves to a remote New England village with a quaint, unusual atmosphere that makes it feel as if it comes from another time. They begin to discover that the seemingly quaint rituals they perform have a secret, dark side to them that climax in a celebration known as Harvest Home.

According to IMDB, this miniseries clocked in at a good five hours. I only saw a two-hour condensation of it, and it does seem as if certain things are missing, but not so much that it became confusing; I’ve never seen the full version, but I had no problem following this. In fact, I’d say it was one of the best TV Horror movies ever. It’s something like THE WICKER MAN filtered through THE STEPFORD WIVES and CROWHAVEN FARM; in particular, it would make a great companion to the first of those movies. What really makes this movie work is how the presence of one grave in an unhallowed part of the cemetery leads us into an investigation on the mysterious suicide of a former Harvest Maiden; the mystery has some truly amazing twists and turns, especially when we discover why we get two vastly different descriptions of the woman. This movie fascinated me enough that I hope to seek out the complete version one of these days, though I do wonder if it can really sustain a five hour length. Great work from Bette Davis as the town’s matriarch, and I also really like Rene Auberjonois as a nosy peddler, and Norman Lloyd as a town resident who helps somewhat with the investigation. Donald Pleasence’s voice is heard narrating novels during the movie.

 

Dr. Cook’s Garden (1971)

DR. COOK’S GARDEN (1971)
TV-Movie
Article 2413 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-4-2007
Posting Date: 3-21-2008
Directed by Ted Post
Featuring Bing Crosby, Frank Converse, Blythe Danner

A young doctor returns to his home town in the hopes of taking up practice with the town doctor who he’s known for years. The town seems blessed; all of the evil people die at an early age. The young doctor begins to think this is more than coincidence, so he begins to investigate the files of the town doctor…

Bing Crosby is the unlikeliest serial killer since Charlie Chaplin in MONSIEUR VERDOUX , and, like Chaplin’s character in that movie, he has a justification for his actions; whereas Verdoux’s was political, Dr. Cook’s is moral – he believes that by weeding out the evil people (note the garden metaphor), he helps the rest to grow happier and healthier. For some reason, the concept of a seemingly perfect town with a dreadful secret in its center made me recall THE STEPFORD WIVES , and I don’t think that’s a coincidence; both movies are based on works by Ira Levin. Though I’m not really too impressed with the directing or production of this movie, the story is truly interesting, the performances are good (especially from Crosby), and the moral dilemma that pops up at the end of the movie is fascinating, in that, as much as we can say that we shouldn’t “play God” in deciding who lives and who dies, we nonetheless do have opinions on who is good, who is evil, and who should die and who should live. All in all, this is one of the more interesting TV-Movies out there.

 

The Dark Tower (1943)

THE DARK TOWER (1943)
Article 2412 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-3-2007
Posting Date: 3-20-2008
Directed by John Harlow
Featuring Ben Lyon, Anne Crawford, David Farrar

A struggling circus hits paydirt when they stumble across a man who has extraordinary hypnotic abilities. He is used in a high wire act, where he hypnotizes a woman to do dangerous feats on the high wire. However, he is not satisfied with the fame he acquires…

The plot is really nothing to write home about here; it’s basically a variation on the Svengali story, and there are very few surprises along the way. However, the film is well-directed, has a nice pace, and even the filler circus acts are fun. Especially of note here is the presence of the fourth-billed Herbert Lom as the hypnotist in question; it’s one of his very early roles, and he is wonderful in it. It’s also interesting to see William Hartnell, looking much younger than “Doctor Who” fans are used to, as a press agent who serves to promote the new hypnotist. My biggest question about the movie is the significance of the title; there really is no tower here as far as I can tell.

 

Dangers of the Canadian Mounted (1948)

DANGERS OF THE CANADIAN MOUNTED (1948)
Serial
Article 2411 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-2-2007
Posting Date: 3-19-2008
Directed by Fred C. Brannon and Yakima Canutt
Featuring Jim Bannon, Virginia Belmont, Anthony Warde

Sergeant Royal of the Mounties patrols the town of Alcana, on the border between Alaska and Canada. He is hunting criminals who are after the lost treasure of Genghis Khan.

I’ll have to brush up on my history; I don’t recall Genghis Khan having spent a great deal of time in either Alaska or Canada, but then, I don’t have any record of him encountering Maciste, either. At any rate, he appears to have left a treasure in the area, and our dull hero spends most of his time trying to track down a henchman who is working for an unnamed boss (if you sit back and spend about ten seconds thinking about it, you should figure out who that is without having to sit through all twelve episodes) to locate the treasure, which of course, requires that he terrorize highway builders and try to procure books for their kidnapped expert on translating old languages. As a result, we get a lot of fairly ordinary fistfights (this was after the warehouse-wrecking battle royales of Republic’s better days) and lots of tepid cliffhangers; if scenes of people baling out of vehicles is your idea of fun, you’ll be in heaven with this one. There isn’t much fantastic content; mostly, it’s some slight horror/fantasy content having to do with some spooky caves. The most striking fantastic element occurs in the final episode, and has to do with the nature of the treasure that is found, but I won’t give that away, because it’s one of the few satisfying surprises in this one.

Gee, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a serial. I hope some of the remaining ones I have yet to see are better than this one.

 

Death Cruise (1974)

DEATH CRUISE (1974)
TV-Movie
Article 2409 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-31-2007
Posting Date: 3-17-2008
Directed by Ralph Senensky
Featuring Richard Long, Polly Bergen, Edward Albert

Three couples win an ocean cruise in a contest, but they discover that the contest was a trick; actually, they have all been targeted by an unknown person who wants to kill them all.

What you have here is something of a cross between TEN LITTLE INDIANS and an inverse episode of “The Love Boat” (all of the couples have troubled and unhappy marriages). The notion of characters being picked off one by one like this is a concept that pops up in horror quite a bit, so that appears to be the fantastic content here. As for the movie itself – well, I really don’t know what I think of this one. It’s fairly clever at points, but at others, it’s obvious, annoying, dull, and banal. There is little joy to be had in watching the endless scenes of the various married couples being unpleasant to each other, none of which add to the plot or the suspense. The movie does manage to generate a bit of suspense at times, and the central mystery (what do all of these people have in common that made them targets for the murderer) is fairly intriguing. Yet, in the final analysis, I’m not sure whether I like the explanations at the end of the movie, though I can see the cleverness; there’s something plain unsatisfying about it all. The cast also features Kate Jackson, Celeste Holm and Tom Bosley.

 

Dracula in Istanbul (1953)

DRACULA IN ISTANBUL (1953)
aka Drakula Istanbul’da
Article 2400 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-22-2007
Posting Date: 3-8-2008
Directed by Mehmet Muhtar
Featuring Atif Kaptan, Annie Ball, Bulent Oran

Dracula leaves his castle in Romania to seek new blood in Istanbul.

This being the first horror movie from Turkey that I’ve seen, it has an enormous amount of novelty value. As a result, several aspects of the movie that might ordinarily be turn-offs ended up adding to the ambiance of the whole experience, such as a general creakiness to the proceedings, sloppy and bizarre use of music, and the fact that I’m watching it both undubbed and unsubtitled. Fortunately, the story more or less follows the Bram Stoker novel, so a working familiarity with the latter will help you along. Some of the differences between the movie and the novel are striking; it takes place in the present, so we often get motor cars and trains in place of stagecoaches. For me, the oddest difference is the omission of Renfield; however, in its place, we have lots of exotic dancing and a bath scene. My print is far from the best, but the ambiance puts this over, though the lack of subtitles did make things a little dull on occasion. Still, it does make for an interesting variation on the story.