Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (1972)

DR. JEKYLL Y EL HOMBRE LOBO (1972)
aka Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf
Article 3345 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-27-2010
Posting Date: 10-11-2010
Directed by Leon Klimovsky
Featuring Paul Naschy, Shirley Corrigan, Jack Taylor
Country: Spain
What it is: Monster mash

When an English couple visits Transylvania, the husband is killed by thugs, but the wife is saved by Waldemar Daninsky. She takes him to England to cure him of his lycanthropy… to a certain Dr. Jekyll.

It’s a good thing Paul Naschy’s sincere love of the classic monsters counts for a lot; otherwise, there wouldn’t be a lot to recommend in this somewhat stolid and muddled compendium of horror cliches mixed with bizarre plot elements and an eye towards exploitation. Some of the plot elements are real head-scratchers; if someone out there can logically explain why turning Waldemar into Mr. Hyde will cure him of his lycanthropy, I’d love to hear it. As usual, Naschy gets to play both hero and monster, with the real villains of the movie being some boorish villagers and Dr. Jekyll’s insanely jealous (and just plain insane) girlfriend. Still, some good ideas pop up; I like the concept that one of the rampages occurs because Waldemar is caught in a malfunctioning elevator for a long period of time. Still, I’m willing to bet the original language version is better than the dubbed one I’ve seen. Leon Klimovsky’s direction is pretty pedestrian, but I will have to admit having been totally blindsided by an unexpectedly arty transformation sequence near the end of the movie. This is not one of the better Waldemar Daninsky movies, but it’s not the worst either.

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Dominique (1978)

DOMINIQUE (1978)
aka Dominique is Dead
Article 3339 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-19-2010
Posting Date: 10-5-2010
Directed by Michael Anderson
Featuring Cliff Robertson, Jean Simmons, Jenny Agutter
Country: UK
What it is: Revenge from beyond the grave…or is it?

A rich woman with frayed nerves believes her husband is trying to drive her crazy. Nonetheless, her loneliness and isolation get the best of her and she commits suicide. However, the shoe is on the other foot now, and the husband begins to see visions of his dead wife come back to haunt him…

The movie opens with a GASLIGHT-style scenario, and though I usually don’t care for this type of story, I like it here, largely because Jean Simmons doesn’t play up the fear as much as the frustration of knowing she’s being manipulated and the sadness of knowing that she is alone and has no one to turn to. Still, the GASLIGHT plot points are only a setup for the rest of the movie. The movie is underplayed, going for quiet chills rather than big scares, and I like that. Unfortunately, the movie never overcomes its major problem, and that is that it’s a little too obvious what is really going on, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of brain work to figure who is responsible. Furthermore, the husband himself is particularly dim in handling his situation; if I had encountered the piano playing itself as he did, I most assuredly know what I’d investigate if I suspected someone was trying to scare me. The most unexpected plot twist comes about two-thirds of the way in after the exhumation of a grave; I became really curious why an unexpected character was flipping out, but even then it didn’t take me too long to figure out what was behind that as well. Ultimately, the movie is a mixed bag; it’s half empty and half full, and how much you enjoy it depends on which half you concentrate on.

Death at Love House (1976)

DEATH AT LOVE HOUSE (1976)
TV-Movie
Article 3337 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-17-2010
Posting Date: 10-3-2010
Directed by E.W. Swackhamer
Featuring Robert Wagner, Kate Jackson, Sylvia Sidney
Country: USA
What it is: TV-movie ghost story

A writer and his pregnant wife move into the mansion of a deceased Hollywood actress who had an affair with the writer’s father. Mysterious things begin happening. Could the actress be haunting the mansion?

There’s a couple of decent ideas in the basic story here, but a weak script, indifferent direction, and an overfamiliar approach to the story all conspire to make this one mediocre at best. I don’t know how often I’ve seen the basic scenario here; husband and wife move into new home, husband begins acting distant, detached and hostile, wife feels neglected, frightened and in danger of her life… really, you need something pretty striking to add to this mix to make this scenario compelling, and the movie never comes up with anything to do the trick. A few cameos from Joan Blondell, John Carradine and Dorothy Lamour add to the interest level a little, but the movie fails to follow up on some of its more interesting details, such as the stuffed cat that may keep reappearing as a living cat. In short, this is largely a tepid, uninspired TV-movie offering.

The Day of the Dolphin (1973)

THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN (1973)
Article 3336 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-16-2010
Posting Date: 10-2-2010
Directed by Mike Nichols
Featuring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Paul Sorvino
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction thriller/drama

A scientist has learned to teach a dolphin how to talk, and is trying to keep the discovery a secret to keep his test subject from becoming the sensation of a media circus. Unfortunately, he encounters resistance from a nosy writer who blackmails his way onto the island where the experiments are conducted, and also from the company who is financing the experiments. Little does he know that he has even more to worry about…

You know, I try to keep my plot descriptions from giving away too much of the story, but sometimes I feel that it’s a lost cause, especially when every other plot description I’ve encountered of the movie and the actual tagline used in the advertising give away a plot point that doesn’t appear until eighty percent of the movie is over. Granted, I understand the logic of giving away that plot point; the advertising people have to try to sell the movie in the way they think will bring in the most viewers, and emphasizing the thriller aspects of this movie no doubt seemed like the best way to go about it. Still, I can imagine that early viewers, drawn by he advertising, might find the movie wastes an awful lot of time before it gets down to the meat of the story, and word of mouth would probably suffice to keep the movie from being a hit; it was a box office failure. But then, the thriller aspect of the story isn’t really the heart of the matter here; what really seems to matter to the makers of the film is the emotional bond that results between the scientist and the dolphin, and the thriller aspects of the story largely exist to drive the central characters into making some very difficult decisions concerning their relationships. Watch it for the thrills and you’ll be disappointed. Watch it for the emotional resonance and you’ll find it a lot more powerful. Good performances from George C. Scott, Paul Sorvino and Fritz Weaver help the movie quite a bit.

Death to Sister Mary (1974)

DEATH TO SISTER MARY (1974)
aka Murder is a One-Act Play
Article 3312 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-23-2010
Posting Date: 9-8-2010
Directed by Robert D. Cardona
Featuring Robert Powell, Jennie Linden, George Maharis
Country: UK
What it is: “Thriller” episode with psycho killer

The actress playing Sister Mary in the TV show “Saints and Sinners” discovers that a man has organized a fan club for her character. However, this fan has trouble separating her TV persona from her real-life identity… and he’ll resort to drastic means to keep her character safe and his illusions intact.

I believe this is the fourth time I’ve covered what amounts to an episode of the British TV series “Thriller”. I don’t recall having cared for the others I’ve seen, but I quite like this one, mainly because I find the nature of the psycho’s illness here pretty interesting, and I like the performance by Robert Powell in the role, as he plays him not as a sadistic fiend, but as an almost fragile man whose illusion may be the only thing holding him together. Certain touches are particularly telling; when he almost fatally injures a cast member and then discovers that the TV show has Sister Mary distraught over the character’s disappearance, his remorse is very telling. I’m not sure I buy what the psycho’s final solution to his problem turns out to be, but the show sells it well enough that it satisfied me. In short, this makes for one of the more offbeat psycho killer movies I’ve seen to date, even if it is technically an episode of a TV show.

Dick Barton: Special Agent (1948)

DICK BARTON: SPECIAL AGENT (1948)
Article 3279 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-12-2010
Posting Date: 8-6-2010
Directed by Alfred J. Goulding
Featuring Don Stannard, George Ford, Gillian Maude
Country: UK
What it is: Uneven spy melodrama

Dick Barton investigates a smuggling operation that actually seems to have a more sinister intent up its sleeve.

This movie was based on a popular British radio series. All I can say is that this series must have been really popular if this movie managed to spout two sequels. It’s half ineffectual comedy and half campy heroics. The script is a mess, and the combination of static direction and frantic but substandard editing makes for a confusing and unpleasant viewing experience; it feels somewhat like you’re listening to a song where one of the musicians is consistently off a half-beat throughout. The low budget really shows in the use of sound; several of the scenes feel like a redubbed silent movie with the words not matching the mouths, and when the foley artists decide to add fight sounds to the fight scenes (which they don’t always see fit to do), they don’t make any attempt to match the sounds up to the action. And as for the visual aspect of the fight scenes, I haven’t seen this many missed hits since the last time I saw a “Starman” movie. The fantastic content involves vials of super-germs, which never actually get used, so the movie remains pretty marginal overall. Reportedly, the movie is a lot more fun if you’re a kid. Also, I hear tell that the sequels are vast improvements over this one. Since I’ll eventually be watching them, I’ll find out for myself.

Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971)

DR. JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE (1971)
Article 3236 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-29-2010
Posting Date: 6-24-2010
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Featuring Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick, Gerald Sim
Country: UK
What it is: Jekyll/Hyde variation

Dr. Jekyll is searching for the elixir of life and finds it in female hormones. However, the hormones have a side effect of changing the sex of the user. And his methods of acquiring materials for his experiments requires some drastic means…

This was another of Hammer’s attempts at the Jekyll and Hyde story, and is perhaps the most gimmicky film they put out. The gimmick itself is captured in the title, and the promise in the ads that “the sexual transformation of a man into a woman will actually take place before your very eyes” was destined to be disappointing when you consider the movie’s PG rating in the states. For good measure, writer Brian Clemens throws in the Burke and Hare story and the Jack the Ripper story into the mix; of course, they make hash of the original novel (Jekyll is hardly less evil than Hyde here), but we should probably be grateful that the movie doesn’t fall apart at the seams; it’s actually a fairly entertaining Hammer film. Still, this is one of the dimmer Dr. Jekylls I’ve ever encountered; he apparently can’t remember that there are simply times when one must wash ones bloody hands and lock ones door. Ralph Bates gives one of his better performances here; in fact the whole cast is fairly strong. Not the best Dr. Jekyll movie out there by a long shot, but far from an embarrassment.