A Delusion (1902)

Article 5082 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-16-2016
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Very short trick film

A photographer becomes frustrated when the beautiful woman he is trying to photograph keeps turning into a rather dumpy man.

Here’s another “one that got away” that finally made itself available to me. This one is less than half a minute long. and usually I don’t expect much from something that short. However, in its own modest way, it’s well acted (I like the photographer’s reactions to the situation) and even has something of what might be called a “plot”. It’s rather amusing as well, at least partially because the “dumpy man” is particularly unappetizing. For its brevity, this one works extremely well.

A Distant Scream (1984)

aka Dying Truth
Article 5072 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-6-2016
Directed by John Hough
Featuring David Carradine, Stephanie Beacham, Stephen Greif
Country: UK
What it is: Time travel/ghost story movie length episode of “Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense”

An old man, in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, is on his deathbed and is hovering in the realm between life and death. He returns to the time of the murder in the hopes of finding the truth.

This is an odd but rather engaging story that exists in a realm between time travel and ghost movies. David Carradine has been described as having two roles here, but if you think about it, that’s not the case; he’s playing the same character at two different ages. The main characters are very well drawn, especially Stephanie Beacham’s as the woman who trying to come to terms with a conflict between returning to her husband or leaving him for her lover. Some of the dialogue is a bit clumsy, and some of the minor characters never quite gel, but these are minor problems; the rather original story compensates for them. And it deserves credit for pulling off a neat trick; it manages to use a “revenge from beyond the grave” subplot in which the character seeking the revenge is technically not dead yet. This one is pretty good, and I’ll probably be catching some of the other episodes from this series.

Death Weekend (1976)

aka The House by the Lake
Article 5064 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-29-2016
Directed by William Fruet
Featuring Brenda Vaccaro, Don Stroud, Chuck Shamata
Country: Canada
What it is: Gang of psychos thriller

A dentist picks up a model to take to an isolated house for the weekend, but the couple ends up crossing swords with a carful of psychos, who track them down and terrorize them.

I’ve probably said this before, but if so, I’m going ahead and saying it again anyway; one of my least favorite subgenres of horror is the one in which the movie consists of a small group of people in an isolated area being terrorized by a gang of psychos. For one thing, they usually don’t have much of a story; once the psychos start their reign of terror, what you usually get is a string of atrocities performed by the psychos followed by a string of atrocities performed by their victims in self-defense or revenge, with the subtext usually turning out to be about how thin the veneer of civilization is. They’re manipulative, unpleasant, and rather obvious once you’ve seen enough of them. Well, here’s another one, and though it’s adequately mounted and decently acted, it still doesn’t add anything really new to the mix to make it stand out from the others other than the fact that the female victim is a well-known actress. If you’re partial to this type of movie, I suppose it’s not too bad; if not, it’s just another one to avoid.

Dr. Butcher, M.D. (Medical Deviate) (1980)

aka Zombi Holocaust
Article 5062 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-27-2016
Directed by Marino Girolami
Featuring Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli, Sherry Buchanan
Country: Italy
What it is: Gore mishmash

The culprit of a series of body parts thefts at a city hospital turns out to be a man with connections to a cannibal cult on a distant island, so a voyage is made to the area. There the investigators encounter cannibals, zombies and a mad scientist.

“He’s a depraved homicidal killer… and he makes house calls!” screamed the ads for this much-ballyhooed gore picture, but you needn’t worry; unless you live in the East Indies, he’s probably not going to be dropping by any time soon. Actually, the English title is probably a bit more accurate than the original Italian title, or for that matter, most of the alternate titles of the movie (most of which contain the word “zombie” or a variation thereof). This is not to say that there are no zombies; there are zombies. But they’re not the flesh-eating murderous fiends so common to this era; they rack up a body count of zero, and ultimately come across more as minions, which makes them more similar to the zombies of WHITE ZOMBIE than those of DAWN OF THE DEAD. The mad doctor fills his share of the gory duties, but it’s really the cannibals that do most of the bloody mayhem here. Yet, for all that, this isn’t quite an Italian cannibal movie as we understand them; it lacks the nihilistic attitude or the sense of verisimilitude that is usually associated with that genre, and as far as I could tell, not a single animal was killed in this one (which I’m sure a lot of us would consider a plus). So if it’s not really an Italian zombie movie or an Italian cannibal movie, what is it? I’d describe it as an Italian version of the Eddie Romero/John Ashley Blood Island movies from the Philippines; that’s what the movie mostly feels like. Gorehounds will probably be satisfied with this one; those looking for more subtle scares will want to go elsewhere. However, I do have to comment on how ill-chosen some of the music seems to be; when cannibals are intent on their bloody mayhem, the music shouldn’t be conjuring up visions of skating rinks.

The Devonsville Terror (1983)

Article 5060 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-25-2016
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Featuring Suzanna Love, Robert Walker Jr., Donald Pleasence
Country: USA
What it is: Witch’s curse movie

300 years ago, the citizens of Devonsville formed their own inquisition and executed three women who were believed to be witches, bringing down the curse of one of them. Today, three women from outside have arrived in town. Could this be the curse finally coming to light?

Not only do I see Ulli Lommel’s name prominently in the credits, but I also see two other familiar names as well; one of the associate producers was Bill Rebane, and David L. Hewitt was in charge of the visual effects. I think you can understand a bit why I went into this one expecting the worst. The fact that the movie opens with one of the most hackneyed horror plotlines certainly wasn’t encouraging, but I do have to give Lommel some credit here; he zeroes in on the misogynist partriarchy subtext early on and keeps squarely focused on it. He also opts for a low key approach (after the opening of the movie, that is) that is a bit refreshing, though people who like their horror bloody and loud won’t care much for it. Still, low-key isn’t the same as subtle, and there are times where the movie becomes so obvious in what it’s doing (such as underlining the parallels between the witches of 300 years ago with the women of the present) that it becomes annoying. It’s also pretty threadbare; other than one rather nasty family, a handful of kids, a doctor, and the newcomers, one wonders if Devonsville has any other residents at all. The weirdest touch is having Donald Pleasence on hand plucking worms out of a hole in his arm as a rather bizarre side effect of the curse. It’s sometimes dull and sometimes silly, but, all in all, I found this one of the more watchable Ulli Lommel movies I’ve seen for this series.

Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

Article 4993 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-19-2015
Directed by James Bryan
Featuring Jack McLelland, Mary Gail Artz, James P. Hayden
Country: USA
What it is: Budget slasher

People go in the woods… and die.

According to the trivia section in IMDB, director James Bryan intended for the movie to have a “tongue in cheek” quality. I was rather surprised by this, not necessarily because I found the movie to be more serious than comic, but rather because I was surprised that there was a vision at all. The movie struck me as a low-budget attempt at a slasher film that’s main intention seemed to be as crude as possible. Yes, I did notice the overt comic moments (such as a tasteless scene of a man struggling with a wheelchair and a scene involving two middle-aged lovers), but I found these to be the most tiresome parts of the movie. Given the fact that the two (decidedly unattractive) middle-aged lovers were named Cherry and Dick, I should have figured out that the director spent much of his career dabbling in porn. There does seem to be the hint of a plot here, but most of the movie is just people in the woods being killed. It isn’t really scary, and the editing looks like it was done at random; the sound is pretty crummy also. Those interested in crude low-budget exploitation might appreciate this one best; the rest of us will probably want to look elsewhere.

Destination Moonbase-Alpha (1978)

Article 4984 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-10-2015
Directed by Tom Clegg
Featuring Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Catherine Schell
Country: UK
What it is: TV-Movie of two episodes of “Space 1999”

Moonbase Alpha is visited by a spaceship from Earth, which has developed faster-than-light travel and is offering to take them all back home. However, all is not what it seems, and Commander Koenig is the only one who sees the truth about the visitors…

Yes, it’s another TV-Movie edited from two episodes of a TV series, but at least the two episodes in this case are of a two-part story, so it’s not plagued with the lack of focus that often happens when they try this sort of thing. The episodes are “The Bringers of Wonder”, part one and two. The two episodes are from towards the end of the second season, so it doesn’t suffer near as much from the stodginess that plagued its first season. Still, I’m not impressed with the writing in these episodes; some of the exchanges of dialogue are embarrassingly awkward, some of the behavior of the characters doesn’t make any sense, and it’s become pretty obvious by this point that the character of Maya the Metamorph (who only came on board during the second season) had become an all purpose plot convenience. The opening crawl kicks the action about 100 years down the line to the year 2100; probably somebody figured out that the technology seemed too advanced for 1999. The copy I found was on YouTube, but it’s a little suspect; it runs for two hours and thirty minutes and looks like it has another episode tagged on (which I didn’t watch, as all my references only mention the two episodes I did watch), and I suspect that I may not be watching the movie version, but the opening credits attached to the two episodes. At any rate, it’s not a very impressive affair, and though the second season seems to have addressed some of the problems with the first season, it still comes across as pretty weak.

Deadly Lessons (1983)

Article 4982 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-8-2015
Directed by William Wiard
Featuring Donna Reed, Larry Wilcox, David Ackroyd
Country: USA
What it is: TV-Movie Mystery thriller

A serial killer is knocking off girls at an exclusive school. Is it the school’s headmistress? The new student? Someone else on the staff? One of the other girls?

The presence of a serial killer is the horror element here, but despite that, this one doesn’t quite make the leap into horror territory. That’s because it doesn’t use the serial killer like a horror creation; there are hardly any stalking scenes, the murders take place off the screen, and in some cases you don’t even get a chance to see the dead body. In fact, it’s treated more as a mystery; the movie spends a lot of its running time on the police investigation or the attempts of the girls to figure out the killer’s identity. As a mystery, it’s not too bad; trying to figure whodunit is fun, and the characters actually become a bit more likable as the story continues, but that last phenomenon may be due to the fact that it’s the unpleasant characters that get knocked off. I rather liked the film, but that’s because I warmed to its mystery approach; those expecting a full-blown horror movie will be bored quickly by this one.

Deadly Intruder (1988)

Article 4981 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-7-2015
Directed by John McCauley
Featuring Chris Holder, Molly Cheek, Tony Crupi
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer on the loose

A serial killer is on the loose. Will a woman living alone in a country house be safe?

To its credit, this movie has one real surprise up its sleeve, and it plays it well; though I was able to guess half of it, the other half caught me off guard. The question is: how many people are going to make it far enough into the movie to reach the surprise? Up to that point, the movie had done such a good job of convincing me that nothing new or interesting was going to happen that if I weren’t dedicated to sitting through all of these movies, I might well have given up on this one after the first thirty minutes or so. For that matter, the movie doesn’t do much else that is interesting after the surprise, either. Other than that, the only other interesting thing about the movie is that it features one-time child star Danny Bonaduce in the cast. It’s mostly just a tired serial-killer movie of which there are better examples out there.

Dark Mansions (1986)

Article 4980 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-6-2015
Directed by Jerry London
Featuring Joan Fontaine, Michael York, Paul Shenar
Country: USA
What it is: TV-Movie Gothic thriller

A writer stays on the estate of the Drake family to write a family history, but she ends up resembling the wife of one of the men of the family… who died under mysterious circumstances.

I suppose this is a Gothic thriller of sorts; there’s a couple of eerie events, a hint of precognition in one of the characters, and possibly a ghost (or at least, disembodied laughter). However, it seems to me that the focus is really on the internal power struggles of a family of rich and beautiful people, and I suspect that the movie is best appreciated by people who love that sort of thing; in other words, it’s a lot more for the soap opera crowd than the horror crowd. Since I’m not part of that crowd, I found the movie tiresome; I was especially annoyed by the hair-trigger musical score that goes off every time it wants to underline how important or significant a moment is (such as pointing out that a two-person encounter has been observed by a third person), which would have been more effective if it didn’t go off every two minutes or so. I think it would have worked better if its crowning dramatic moment had actually been included in the movie rather than having been consigned to a “killed in Vietnam” style final freeze frame revelation, but I suppose they would have had to cut one of the scenes of the beautiful people in bed with each other in order to fit it in; after all, there must be priorities. As a horror movie, it falls flat; as a drama, it’s too soapy. This one didn’t work for me.