Dracula Sucks (1980)

DRACULA SUCKS (1980)
Article 3694 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-10-2011
Posting Date: 9-25-2011
Directed by Phillip Marshak
Featuring Jamie Gillis, Annette Haven, John Leslie
Country: USA
What it is: Porno Dracula

Dracula moves into Carfax Abbey and terrorizes the residents of Dr. Seward’s sanitarium.

After suffering through THE CASE OF THE SMILING STIFFS and PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER, I was expecting the worst from another porn horror movie, but I will give the movie some credit. It manages to at least dredge up some horror atmosphere, and it takes itself seriously enough (up to a point) that it actually ends up not being totally a joke when it actually credits Bram Stoker and his novel at the beginning. Still, just because it takes itself a bit more seriously doesn’t make it a good movie; it feels thrown together at random, especially in the way it picks key lines from the novel and throws them in just so they can be in there some place. There’s also something particularly crude and unappealing about this one; having Dracula assault Lucy when she’s on the toilet is incredibly tacky, for example. And when it does try for humor, it’s painful; most of the humor seems to come from bits of stupid dialogue added in post-processing that either have nothing to do with the action, or has people engage in pointless cussing and insulting. The worst bit of humor here is when the movie decides to include a throwback; the sole black character is one of those scared manservants that popped up constantly in the thirties, though he also serves as the resident voyeur. Richard Bulik actually does a neat imitation of Dwight Frye, and Reggie Nalder (who is listed under a pseudonym and plays the role of Van Helsing) does what he can, but it’s really a waste of time unless you’re into the porn angle.

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Duel of the Titans (1961)

DUEL OF THE TITANS (1961)
aka Romolo e Remo

Article 3683 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-30-2011
Posting Date: 9-14-2011
Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Featuring Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, Virna Lisi
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Historical epic

Two brothers, destined to found the city of Rome, are separated from their mother and grow up as thieves. They discover their destiny, but will it be possible for them to share the rule of their new city…?

It’s easy to forget sometimes, but quite a few of the Italian Sword and Sandal movies are not fantasies but historical epics. That’s largely the case with this one; this telling of the story of Romulus and Remus keeps the fantastic content in the background. There’s some light prophecy and talk about the brothers being the sons of a god, but these touches are so slight that they hardly count. It’s one of the better and more ambitious movies of its ilk, but that’s usually the case when Steve Reeves is on hand; furthermore, the dubbing is much more careful than usual. Still, it’s a bit on the dull side, especially during the first part before the movie finds a clear direction to go. It’s mildly entertaining, and occasionally very good, but the lack of fantastic content will probably make it one I probably won’t revisit.

Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949)

DICK BARTON STRIKES BACK (1949)
Article 3680 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-27-2011
Posting Date: 9-11-2011
Directed by Godfrey Grayson
Featuring Don Stannard, Sebastian Cabot, Jean Lodge
Country: UK
What it is: Science fiction espionage

When all life in some small villages is wiped out by an unknown power, Dick Barton is sent out to investigate. He believes it is some fearful new weapon developed by a foreign power.

Immediately after watching this movie, I went back and read my review of the first movie in the Dick Barton series, DICK BARTON , SPECIAL AGENT. I remember thinking that movie was quite awful, but I also remember being told that the sequels were much better. Having now seen one of them, I can attest to the fact that at least this one was a massive improvement. Most of the flaws that plagued the first movie are gone; in fact, the main problems I had with this movie was the occasionally clumsy use of background music, and the fact that some of the characters (both heroes and villains) act with amazing stupidity at times. Nevertheless, the movie has an interesting weapon, and its use at several times during the movie moves it into science fiction territory. It also builds up a fairly decent amount of suspense. It was also fun to see Sebastian Cabot sans beard in a villainous role here. Being an early Hammer film, it also has a certain similar feel to the Quatermass movies, though I wouldn’t put this one on their level; nevertheless, this is a solid and entertaining entry in the series. I also find myself wondering what the third movie in the series will be like.

Damnation Alley (1977)

DAMNATION ALLEY (1977)
Article 3671 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-18-2011
Posting Date: 9-2-2011
Directed by Jack Smight
Featuring Jan-Michael Vincent, George Peppard, Dominique Sanda
Country: USA
What it is: After-the-apocalypse road movie

It’s after the apocalypse. A group of survivors from a military installation cross the country in a special tank-like vehicle to see if there are survivors in Albany.

I saw this movie years ago, and I could only remember two things about it; one was the cool three-tire arrangement on the large motor vehicle, and the other was the color orange. Watching it again, I can see why; there’s something in the general tone of this movie that is so muted and suspenseless that even the apocalypse at the beginning of the movie comes across as only mildly interesting. The movie is based on a novel by Roger Zelazny, and I certainly hope the source novel is more inventive than this movie is; I found the movie singularly lacking in surprises. The movie does struggle out of the doldrums a little for the killer cockroach scene, and the special sky effects are pretty to look at. Probably the thing I will most remember from this viewing is that the movie also features Jackie Earle Haley, who would go on to give an excellent performance as Rorschach in THE WATCHMEN. Outside of that, this is a fairly tired and tiresome outing.

Dr. Satan (1966)

DR. SATAN (1966)
Article 3667 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-14-2011
Posting Date: 8-29-2011
Directed by Miguel Morayta
Featuring Joaquin Cordero, Alma Delia Fuentes, Jose Galvez
Country: Mexico
What it is: Supernatural crime story

Interpol is on the trail of a criminal who uses zombies to help him in his crimes.

My copy of this movie is in unsubtitled Spanish, so my review is based on what I was able to get out of its visual qualities and whatever else I could pick up. One thing I will say; when the movie goes for horror atmosphere, it works very well indeed, especially in the foggy opening sequence where a man on the street is attacked by Dr. Satan and his zombie minions. And for those who have only experienced how Mexico handles devils through the appearance of one in the silly SANTA CLAUS, it’s worth checking out how effectively the appearances of the devil work in this one, with the character having large clear wings and a face hidden by darkness. I can also tell that Joaquin Cordero, who plays the title character, is doing an excellent job, underplaying to nice effect. The subtleties of the story escape me, but it seems mostly centered on the attempts of Interpol to track him down and catch him. Overall, the movie looks quite entertaining, and its rating of 8.1 on IMDB seems to indicate that it is well regarded among Mexican horror fans. I hope to see it with subtitles someday.

The Diamond (1954)

THE DIAMOND (1954)
aka The Diamond Wizard

Article 3635 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-13-2011
Posting Date: 7-28-2011
Directed by Dennis O’Keefe and Montgomery Tully
Featuring Dennis O’Keefe, Margaret Sheridan, Philip Friend
Country: UK
What it is: Crime movie

The robbery of one million dollars from the US Treasury causes a Treasury agent to pair up with an inspector from Scotland Yard. The crime leads them into a mystery about a missing scientist and a plot to create artificial diamonds.

The concept of artificial diamonds was very common during the silent era, and several movies have entered my list that use that very idea. However, unless my memory is faulty, I’ve not been able to find any of those movies, so this may be my first encounter with it in a movie I’ve actually seen. Actually, I don’t consider that a great loss; there’s something about this concept that just screams “Gizmo Maguffin” to me, and sure enough, this movie uses the idea as such for what is mostly a rather dry police procedural. The movies low rating of 3.8 on IMDB made me expect the worst, but I think it’s a little better than that; it’s well acted, works itself up to a good climax, and has at least one very interesting scene involving an escalator. The movie was filmed in 3-D, and though there are a few scenes that look like they make use of the gimmick, it doesn’t look like it really does much with it overall. In the end, the movie is merely passable.

Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment (1954)

DR. HEIDEGGER’S EXPERIMENT (1954)
Article 3618 by Dave Sindelar

Viewing Date: 6-26-2011

Posting Date: 7-11-2011

Directed by Nathan Zucker

Featuring Monty Woolley, Anne Burr, Leon Janney

Country: USA

What it is: TV adaptation of Hawthorne story

A doctor invites three elderly friends to take part in an experiment involving an elixir of youth.

Here’s another episode from “On Stage with Monty Woolley”. I’ve not read the original Hawthorne story, and am only familiar with it through the adaptation of it in TWICE-TOLD TALES. This version and that one depart radically from each other, so I suspect that this one, a simple lesson on the illusion of youth, is probably much closer to the original work. There’s some simple special effects involving the regeneration of the rose, and I couldn’t help but notice that when the three subjects regain their youth, we only see them in that state as reflections in a mirror; this is a very nice touch. Once again, it’s a bare-bones treatment, but it has a certain elegance to it.