Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon of Death (1979)

Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon of Death (1979)

Article 6063 by Dave Sindelar

Date: 7-31-2022

Directed by James Wood

Featuring James Mathers, John F. Kearney, Dawn Carver Kelly

Country: U.S.

What it is: Much scenery was chewed during the making of this movie.

A mad descendant of the original Dr. Jekyll experiments with a version of his ancestor’s serum enhanced by Nazis.  He tries to get a sane scientist to help him out by kidnapping the latter’s daughter.
This is such a cheap and shoddy little movie that one is tempted to just point to its financial shortcomings and be done with it, but that’s a little too easy. As an example, I’ve seen the movie criticized for much of it being underlit, and though I’ve occasionally criticized some movies for that very reason, that’s not a problem here; because what you do see is sufficient for the purposes of the story. No, my problem comes down to the script in that a) the story is not well told and b) even if it were, it wouldn’t be worth telling. It’s one of those movies where you know where it’s going after the first ten minutes and that most of the time spent watching the movie is waiting for the end scene where practically everyone will die.  There are at least two performers here who are way over the top, and perhaps the most impressive sequences (the martial arts fights) are marred by the fact that they don’t look anything like the rage-filled acts of violence the plot requires them to be and instead look just like choreographed martial arts fights. Ultimately, the movie is a bore and never even begins to look like it might not be. A waste of time.

Devil Dog: The Hound From Hell (1978)

Devil Dog: The Hound from Hell (1978)
Article 6061 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-15-2022
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Richard Crenna, Yvette Mimieux, Kim Richards
Country: USA
What it is: Not a good boy

A suburban family is given a puppy as a gift, but it turns out to be an evil force that possesses the family and kills anyone who threatens it.

What this TV-Movie amounts to is a variation of THE OMEN in which the Antichrist is replaced with a demon dog. And for what it is, it’s passable at best, I suppose, but there are some annoyances; there’s some silly dialogue and the score is truly tedious. It’s biggest problem is the snail’s pace of the story; quite frankly, you could ignore it for several minutes at a time and be confident you haven’t missed anything important. For a while I thought this was going to prove to be one of those TV-movies not intended as a pilot, but check in on the last five minutes and you’ll catch them setting it up. I’m glad they didn’t bite: imagine a version of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER in which characters less interesting than Kolchak chase the same monster every week.

Dr. Strange (1978)

Dr. Strange (1978)
Article 6060 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-2-2022
Directed by Philip DeGuere Jr.
Featuring Peter Hooten, Clyde Kusatsu, Jessica Walters
Country: USA
What it is: Failed series pilot, comic book subgenre

Ancient sorceress Morgan LeFey is sent to Earth by the forces of evil to prevent a sorcerer from passing his powers to his successor, thereby making sure an origin story doesn’t take place.

If the trivia section of IMDB is correct, this was one of Stan Lee’s favorites among the comic book adaptations he worked on during the seventies. It’s definitely a failed pilot; the movie makes all the moves you’d expect from something intended to launch one. However, the movie failed to garner much attention from an audience probably watching “ROOTS” at the time. Still, I do wonder if it would have flown as a series. In my own estimation, if they found a different score and were careful with the special effects, they might have pulled it off. In my own opinion, it’s okay at best, and I personally felt it was the type of story for which it would have been better to save for an era when the special effects had reached a higher level.

The Devil’s Rain (1975)

The Devil’s Rain (1975)
Article 6059 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-13-2022
Directed by Robert Fuest
Featuring Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino
Country: Mexico / United States
What it is: A 64-pack of Crayola crayons left in the sun.

A family in possession of a book of evil do battle with a Satanic cult.

With Robert Fuest’s name in the credits, I expected there would be some interesting stylistic touches to the movie, and there are. In fact, the movie’s vibe works pretty well for me during the first third of the movie. At that point the movie starts to wander, and once we reach the sequence in which we find out about the burning of a sorcerer three hundred years ago, it shows it’s not averse to traversing the path of well-worn cliches. The movie seems mostly remembered nowadays for two things. One is the presence of John Travolta in an early role, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to his fans as anything but a curiosity. The other is the extended meltathon that ends the movie, and since we get a taste of the effect in the opening scenes of the movie, it’s a bit like enjoying a hamburger in the beginning and then having to eat the whole cow at the end. It’s a shame; I like some of the aspects of the movie so well (especially the desolate locations) that I wish a decent story had been attached to the movie.

Dutiful but Dumb (1941)

Dutiful But Dumb (1941)
Article 5805 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-5-2020
Directed by Del Lord
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard
Country: USA
What it is: Three Stooges short

The Three Stooges are sent by Whack magazine to go to Vulgaria to get a photograph of a new secret weapon. However, no photographer sent to the country has come back alive.

This short isn’t listed in any of my sources, but with the presence of the fictitious country of Vulgaria, the plot element of an invisible death ray, and a gag in which the Stooges appear as a group of headless men, I’d say there is enough fantastic content to make it qualify. As for the short itself, there seems to be a general agreement among Stooges fans that Curly was the best and funniest of the Stooges, and I suspect that the makers of this short believed that as well; perhaps more than any other short I’ve seen so far, this is primarily the Curly show, with Moe and Larry spending much of the time on the fringes. Curly gets two long sequences all to himself; in one, Curly tries to prevent his enemies from finding him hidden behind a radio by performing a one-man band routine, and in the other, he has dinner at a cafe where he tussles with a very live oyster in his soup (I’ve seen Lou Costello do a similar sequence). Even when the other Stooges are present, Curly is the center of attention, such as the scenes in the darkroom and the cigar scene. I’ve never been a big “Curly is the best” advocate, but his performance here has convinced me of one thing; he’s the only one of the many Stooges who could’ve gone on to become a comedy star on his own right without the rest of the team. And keep in mind that I said “Comedy Star”; I’m fully aware that both Joe Besser and Shemp had successful side careers as character actors, which isn’t quite the same thing.

Dumb-Hounded (1943)

Dumb-Hounded (1943)
Article 5804 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-5-2020
Directed by Tex Avery
Featuring the voices of Bill Thompson and Frank Graham
Country: USA
What it is: Droopy cartoon debut

An escaped convict finds himself at the mercy of bloodhound who is able to track him to wherever he runs.

Currently, my rules for reviewing a cartoon are that there needs to be fantastic content beyond a) anthropomorphic animals used as a cartoon convention and b) comic exaggeration. I will make exceptions if the cartoon is listed in one of my fantastic movie guides (in particular the Walt Lee guide) as this one is. Occasionally I do find myself wondering if I should make exceptions, such as anytime I see one of Tex Avery’s MGM cartoons He took comic exaggeration to such unheard-of levels that they seem fantastic even by cartoon standards; take the scene here where the wolf tries to make a sudden change of direction and ends up sliding right off the edge of the film for a second. However, I do feel the need to pick and choose, as my review series could easily be overwhelmed if I tried to review every cartoon I saw.

As mentioned above, this cartoon marks the debut of Droopy, the slow-moving dog of the laconic and depressed demeanor who constantly breaks the fourth wall to address the audience. He also appears to be omnipresent, as no matter where the convict goes, Droopy is there ahead of him. Droopy is more overtly dog-like in this one; he walks on all fours and even has an encounter with a fireplug. Still, the character is intact, save for a possible breach of etiquette in the final moments of the cartoon when he gets a reward. Most of the humor involves the juxtaposition of Droopy’s terse one-liners with the wolf’s extreme reactions and reality-bending attempts to get away. Granted, you have to be a cartoon lover to appreciate Tex Avery, but I am one, so I do. And I’m a big Droopy fan.

Dreamy Dud. He Resolves Not to Smoke (1915)

Dreamy Dud. He Resolves Not to Smoke (1915)
Article 5803 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-3-2020
Directed by Wallace A. Carlson
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Cartoon of the silent era

A young boy steals a pipe and tries smoking it, but there are repercussions…

Most of the early silent animated films I’ve covered have been from relatively well-known names, such as Winsor McCay and Emile Cohl. But there was a wealth of other stuff as well, though most of it is lost. Some of them are only barely animated; they’re more like movie comic strips than cartoons. This is one of these obscurities, and it tells the story of a boy who learns not to smoke when the spirit of smoke raises him to the heavens and leaves him stranded on the (crescent) moon. Actually, this is one of the more satisfying of these little obscurities, as it is amusing and feels complete, unlike some of the others I’ve seen. Given the title, I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say this is all happening in a dream. At any rate, it’s worth catching if you’ve got about five minutes to kill.

Draftee Daffy (1945)

Draftee Daffy (1945)
Article 5802 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-3-2020
Directed by Robert Clampett
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Looney Tunes

Enthusiastic war supporter Daffy Duck sings a different song when he discovers that he’s about to be drafted. Can he avoid the little guy from the draft board?

I wasn’t initially going to review this one since for most of its length, the only fantastic content is an anthropomorphic animal (Daffy), but the final scene of the cartoon takes place in a location that belongs in the realm of fantastic cinema, so here it is. It starts out as a satire on hypocritical patriots who give the war effort plenty of lip service until they themselves have to contend with making a sacrifice. Then it turns to wild and manic slapstick comedy (Robert Clampett’s specialty) as Daffy takes ever-more-extreme efforts to escape/destroy the little man from the draft board, one of those characters who appear to be omnipresent and indestructible. This is a solid and hilarious Daffy Duck cartoon, with the character taking at least a half-step in the direction that Chuck Jones would later take him. Apparently, the little guy from the draft board is modeled off of a character that appeared in the radio series, ‘The Great Gildersleeve’.

Do or Diet (1953)

Do or Diet (1953)
Article 5801 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-1-2020
Directed by Izzy Sparber
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Sid Raymond, Alan Shay
Country: USA
What it is: Casper cartoon

In his quest to be friendly, Casper tries to help a turkey destined for Thanksgiving dinner to lose weight so he’ll be less appealing. However, the turkey can’t stop eating…

Casper is a little less angsty this time out, but somehow I don’t think a friendship that is dependent on one member losing weight is really not going to work out in the long run, but I’ll leave that for Casper and his therapist to work out. I will admit, though, it’s nice for a change to see Casper lose his temper a bit. I also find it interesting that he is able to find a nice house to live in despite being dead. And I’m still waiting for Casper to figure out that some of his problems end up working out by being able to scare the right people at the right time. At any rate, I find Casper easier to endure when he’s being less tear-jerky as he is here.

Don’t Panic (1988)

Don’t Panic (1988)
Article 5800 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-1-2020
Directed by Ruben Galindo Jr.
Featuring Jon Michael Bischof, Gabriela Hassel, Helena Rojo
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican slasher

A group of friends buy a teenager a Ouija board on his birthday and try to use it. Afterwards, the man who had the birthday begins having visions of his friends being killed, but his attempts to save them just make him a suspect.

Given my past experience with earlier Mexican movies, I was hoping that this late eighties entry might have some of those weird little touches that make them more interesting than they would otherwise be. There are a couple; there’s a slight touch of giallo here, and I liked that some of the messages received by the hero are through the TV set. Still, at heart, it’s really just a slightly cheesier version of a slasher movie, albeit one that forgoes some of the more pervasive cliches of the form. It’s not truly awful, but it really isn’t particularly special either.