Doctor Dracula (1978)

DOCTOR DRACULA (1978)
aka Svengali, Lucifer’s Women
Article 3005 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-30-2009
Posting Date: 11-6-2009
Directed by Paul Aratow and Al Adamson
Featuring John Carradine, Don ‘Red’ Barry, Larry Hankin
Country: USA

Svengali has been reincarnated into a college professor by Satanists who want him to deliver Trilby to them. Meanwhile, Dracula is killing women and plotting against the Satanic cult. John Carradine looks on.

In which Al Adamson follows in the footsteps of Jerry Warren and edits his own footage into another movie (in this case, a 1975 movie called SVENGALI / LUCIFER’S WOMEN) to produce a new movie. He actually does a nice job of making his footage match that of the original movie; I suspect he helped things by getting the same actor who played the college professor in the original movie to reprise the role in the new footage. I suspect all of the Dracula footage is Adamson’s, as well as any scene with John Carradine. No, Adamson’s footage isn’t any good (it has some truly atrocious acting), but neither was the footage from the original film. The result is an unsatisfying mishmash that never makes sense, and which is often talky and boring. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why they didn’t call it DRACULA VS SVENGALI, or why producer Sam Sherman didn’t come up with an alternate title that had the word “blood” in it, as was his wont. At any rate, this is pretty much the bottom of the barrel for everyone concerned.

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The Deadly Dust (1978)

THE DEADLY DUST (1978)
aka Spider-Man Strikes Back TV-Movie
Article 2985 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-10-2009
Posting Date: 10-16-2009
Directed by Ron Satlof
Featuring Nicholas Hammond, Robert F. Simon, Chip Fields
Country: USA

When some plutonium is stolen from a college lab by some college students, Spider-Man becomes a suspect of the robbery. However, when the students build an atomic bomb from the plutonium, it falls into the hands of a criminal organization. Can Spider-Man prove his innocence and retrieve the plutonium?

It’s nice to be able to follow up the pilot of “The Amazing Spider-Man” with the movie culled from the first two episodes of the series. I see they made a few changes to improve things a little; the character of Captain Barbera has been toned down considerably, and the actor playing J. Jonah Jameson has been replaced by Robert F. Simon, who plays it a lot closer to the Jameson I remember. It throws in a female reporter who is trying to get an interview with Spider-Man, but this does little more than give Peter Parker a few more complications and a hint of romance, neither of which really helps matters much. The story is rather weak, but it does get away a little from the rather tiresome wall-crawling that filled up much of the running time of the pilot. It looks like Robert Alda’s character was being primed to be a regular villain (especially as he escapes at the end of the movie), but it looks as if it was his only appearance in the series. At any rate, this is probably the last time I will touch upon the series, as I appear to have seen all of the episodes that were converted into movies from it.

Demon Seed (1982)

DEMON SEED (1982)
aka Satan’s Mistress, Dark Eyes
Article 2966 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-21-2009
Posting Date: 9-27-2009
Directed by James Polakof
Featuring Lana Wood, John Carradine, Tom Hallick
Country: USA

A woman whose marriage is on the rocks moves into a separate room from her husband and begins fantasizing about a ghost making love to her. However, it may not be a fantasy…

Lana Wood appears naked for several sections of this movie. I’m sure that’s enough to get some people running off to find copies of the movie; for those of us who don’t automatically think that makes for a great movie, this one bites. Oh, the soundtrack thinks it’s scary enough; the loud, annoying “scary” musical score is overbearing and non-stop. The story is practically impossible to follow, and much of the action is obscured by tiresome camera tricks that manage to utterly cloud what it is you think you might be seeing. Somewhere in this mess is an interesting idea about a lonely spirit making a deal with Satan for possession of a woman, but muddled story-telling, lousy direction and horrible editing destroy any chances of this one working. Those who might want to watch this one for John Carradine should be aware that he has about one minute of screen time. Still, I couldn’t help but think about Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” while watching this one; not the whole play, mind you, but the parts about “sound and fury signifying nothing” and “a tale told by an idiot” did come to mind.

Demon Pond (1979)

DEMON POND (1979)
aka Yasha-ga-ike
Article 2964 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-19-2009
Posting Date: 9-25-2009
Directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Featuring Tamasaburo Bando, Go Kato, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Country: Japan

A teacher on vacation comes upon a village near a pond with a dragon in it; in order to keep the dragon from inundating the village with water, a bell must be rung three times daily to remind the dragon of its pact not to do so. However, it’s been many years since the pact, and the villagers have begun to believe that the story is just superstition…

Watching fantasy movies from other countries is a rich experience, and this one is truly enjoyable. It’s based on a stage play, and you can tell; the action takes place in three distinct phases. In the first, we follow the story of the teacher as he finds an old friend who has married the most beautiful woman in the village and has taken over the ringing of the bell. This section is rather long-winded, but the second section is a marvel; we meet personifications of the dragon and her many associates, many of which are portrayed as half man and half animal. These two first sections work together to establish one clear fact, and that is that there really is only one person standing in the way of the destruction of the village. The third section follows the plans of the drought-stricken villagers, and how their plans put them all in peril. My print of this is none too good, but even I can tell that it’s visually enthralling, and some of the special effects are wonderful. Its worst problem is that it gets a little too talky at times, and I suspect a good twenty minutes could have been pruned off of this movie, which runs just over two hours long. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable and highly recommended movie.

Drums of the Congo (1942)

DRUMS OF THE CONGO (1942)
Article 2958 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2009
Posting Date: 9-19-2009
Directed by Christy Cabanne
Featuring Ona Munson, Stuart Erwin, Peggy Moran
Country: USA

An American agent is sent to Africa to find the location of a newly-discovered radioactive mineral. Unfortunately, foreign spies are also after the mineral.

What happens when you cross the Gizmo Maguffin plot with the Double-Stuffed Safari-O? If your answer was “not a hell of a lot”, you’d be right. About the only novelty in this forgettable jungle adventure is that the search for a woman’s missing father is just a ruse by the spies; other than that, it’s the same old safari adventure, chock-full of story-stopping stock footage. The cast also features Turhan Bey (as a quick-to-die villain) and Dorothy Dandridge.

The Death Train (1978)

THE DEATH TRAIN (1978)
TV-Movie
Article 2953 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-8-2009
Posting Date: 9-14-2009
Directed by Igor Auzins
Featuring Hugh Keays-Byrne, Max Meldrum, Ralph Cotterill
Country: Australia

An insurance investigator comes to a small town to investigate the death of a man insured by his company. The local residents believe his death was caused by his being run over by a ghost train. However, the investigator is sure there is a more rational explanation…

If there were limits to the amount of quirkiness allowed in a movie, this one assuredly would have passed that limit, and those who are allergic to quirkiness should steer clear. Those with a weakness for that sort of thing (such as me) are in for a treat; between the bizarre mystery, the supernatural overtones, the array of offbeat characters, and the surreal comic air of several of the scenes, I was delighted and charmed. Among the strange characters that inhabit this movie are the policeman who uses the hunt-and-peck method to fill out the reports, the carrot-juice swilling long-time companion of the deceased, the overly-descriptive doctor who performed the autopsy on the deceased, and the woman in the Sandman station wagon who picks up stray men. We also have key scenes in which the investigator searches for a pair of glasses in a chicken coop, a scene where the reporter tries to evade a rampaging piece of machinery while dressed in his underwear, and the scenes where he encounters the unhelpful residents of the town, including the barmaid who won’t help him because he’s sitting at the wrong end of the counter. Then there’s the reporter himself, who constantly has a cigarette in his mouth but refuses to light it and constantly lets his suspected murderer know that he’s hunting for the evidence to put him away. Then there’s the tiny hotel room with the spacious bathroom, which may be my favorite gag in the movie. Of course, the big question is whether the final revelation will prove supernatural or merely bizarre, and I won’t give that away except to say that I left the movie smiling.

Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting (1969)

DADDY’S GONE A-HUNTING (1969)
Article 2952 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-7-2009
Posting Date: 9-13-2009
Directed by Mark Robson
Featuring Carol White, Scott Hylands, Paul Burke
Country: USA

When a woman breaks up with her psychotic boyfriend and aborts their baby, the boyfriend plots an insidious revenge; once the woman marries and has a child, he plans to force her into killing that one as well.

Had I only watched the first half of this movie, I would have dismissed it as a misfired attempt at a Hitchcockian thriller marred by stridency and occasionally poor acting. However, once you know the boyfriend’s plot, the story starts the click, the screws start turning, and the movie becomes very suspenseful, even if you never do warm up to the female lead, who, to my mind, never really becomes a convincing character. Still, Scott Hylands proves to be quite effective as the psychotic boyfriend, and director Mark Robson does manage to tap into some Lewtonian ambiguity in the first half when you’re not quite sure whether the woman is being stalked or suffering from an overactive imagination. For those into sly references, take note of the theatrical offering that the woman tries to buy a ticket for. The story and script are from Larry Cohen, who would gain fame for another movie about a baby – namely, IT’S ALIVE.