Dreams Come True (1984)

Article 4974 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-31-2015
Directed by Max Kalmanowicz
Featuring Michael Sanville, Stephanie Shuford, Ken Charlton
Country: USA
What it is: Independent fantasy drama

A young man discovers that he can undergo astral projection. He meets a woman who can share his talent, and they embark together on a series of adventures. However, there is a risk, and there may be a price to pay…

I’ve encountered this director once before; the only other movie he directed was THE CHILDREN, which I felt was pretty silly but did have some good points to it. That movie is referenced here when the two main characters go and see that movie at their local theater, and then they undergo an astral projection where they find themselves attacked by the children in a cave. What makes this sequence interesting is that they also encounter the girl’s abusive uncle in the same cave, juxtaposing the make-believe horrors with a real life horror. It’s touches like this which ultimately made me like this movie overall. It would be very easy to savage this movie; it’s littered with dramatic and romantic cliches, the acting isn’t particularly impressive, the music is weak, the shifts of mood (especially into comedy) are clumsy, and the general air of cheapness drags it down a bit. What redeems it is that there are enough real-life touches to the story that it achieves a certain amount of resonance despite its other problems. And when your two main characters can undergo experiences through astral projection, at least the romantic cliches have an understandable context to them.

Doomsday Chronicles (1979)

Article 4971 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-28-2015
Directed by James Thornton
Featuring William Schallert, Linus Pauling, Daniel Ellsburg
Country: USA
What it is: Depressing doomsday documentary

This movie presents all the various ways that mankind can destroy itself in the near future.

Though the movie does discuss various apocalyptic visions that are natural (the death of the sun) and metaphysical (religious and prophetical predictions), these are pretty much side issues to its main theme; most of its running time is dedicated to destruction scenarios in which it is man himself who is responsible, including nuclear annihilation, pollution of all sorts, overpopulation, etc. It’s in the same basic style as all of those documentaries I’ve seen over the years involving cryptozoology, psychic phenomena and alien visitations, a circumstance that may make it seem a little less serious than it is. As can be expected, there is a lot of vagueness and an overuse of stock footage. The only time the movie really comes to life is when it goes into detailed coverage of a meltdown of a small nuclear power plant on an army base, emphasizing the relatively massive effort it took to deal with the crisis once it happened; it works because it’s not vague. After an hour and a half of this, it’s hard not to get a little depressed, and though it does try to instill some hope in the final minutes of the film, it’s assurances seem even vaguer than the rest of the movie. Quite frankly, I think the problem with the movie is it bites off more than it can chew; instead of trying to cover every scenario it could think of, it would have been better to address a specific problem in detail, both in terms of its dangers and its solutions. Perhaps the most comforting thing is that the movie picks the year of 1999 as the time when disaster will occur; the fact that this year passed sixteen years ago is the more encouraging than anything you’ll find in the movie.

The Demon (1981)

THE DEMON (1981)
Article 4969 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-26-2016
Directed by Percival Rubens
Featuring Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell, Craig Gardner
Country: South Africa / Netherlands
What it is: Slasher film

A killer with a clawed glove who likes to strangle people with plastic bags is on the loose.

Usually when I see Cameron Mitchell’s name in the credits, I suspect two things. One is that the movie is not going to be very good. The other is that Mitchell will probably be the best thing about it. That’s how I feel about this one. The fact that he is a psychic who is hired to track down the killer made me suspect this was another of the many “serial killer versus psychic” movies I’ve encountered. Unfortunately (though I may be supplying a spoiler here), that particular plot thread ends so abruptly that I rather suspect that it only exists to pad out what is in most other respects only an imitation of HALLOWEEN. As far as I can tell, the most famous thing about this movie is that during the climactic chase scene, the heroine of the movie is topless. Those impressed by that detail are welcome to hunt up the movie; the rest of you need to be aware that most of the movie seems more concerned with the uninteresting love lives of a pair of schoolteachers. It generates little in the way of suspense. This was a singularly dull way for me to spend a Sunday afternoon.

DEFCON-4 (1985)

DEFCON-4 (1985)
aka Def-Con 4
Article 4968 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-25-2015
Directed by Paul Donovan, Digby Cook and Tony Randel
Featuring Lenore Zann, Maury Chaykin, Kate Lynch
Country: Canada
What it is: After-the-Apocalypse action

A trio of astronauts on a secret NORAD defense satellite witness nuclear holocaust, but are forced to land back on the earth. They become prisoners of a gang of punks who are after their food and trying to find a haven of safety.

Well, I will give the movie this much; at least it just doesn’t come off like an imitation of the Mad Max movies or other post-apocalyptic movies of the period. That’s not to say that there isn’t some influences to be found; for example, having the main villain wear an earring is at least a mild nod in that direction. The trouble is that the movie never really develops much of a real identity of its own; it’s not directed with much flair, and it’s only adequately acted. There’s some interesting ideas in the script; I liked the idea of one of the astronauts seeing a one-way transmission from his wife in which she confides with him that her way of coping with his absence is to believe that he’s already dead, and this could have been a powerful scene if the movie were better. As it is, it’s not much fun as either an action movie or in any real visual sense. At least part of the problem is that our “heroic” main character is actually a bit of a worm; it’s rather hard to root for him. Still, I think the movie is a little bit better than its reputation would have you believe.

Death Car on the Freeway (1979)

Article 4967 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-25-2015
Directed by Hal Needham
Featuring Shelley Hack, Frank Gorshin, Peter Graves
Country: USA
What it is: TV-Movie thriller

A maniac is loose on the freeway, forcing cars being driven by beautiful women into having accidents. An ambitious female reporter tries to get to the bottom of it.

Hal Needham was a stunt man turned director who specialized in light-hearted action fare with lots of stunts and car crashes and usually starring Burt Reynolds. As a director, I’ve only encountered him once before in this series with the dismal MEGAFORCE; if this movie is better than that one, bear in mind that it didn’t take much to be so. Actually, it’s interesting to see him try for a straightforward thriller rather than a comic one, and if there’s one thing the movie does well, it’s the car-driving stunt work on display here. Most of the rest of the movie is pretty bad; there’s a lot of name stars in forgettable cameos and a lot of tiresome time is spent on the reporter’s relationship with her sexist ex-lover/husband (I’m not sure which) played by George Hamilton. He’s so obnoxious that I found myself wondering whether he would end up to be the killer; as it is, you never see the latter’s face. Technically, the movie should be called DEATH VAN ON THE FREEWAY, but then, I would have had real trouble identifying the killer’s trademark music as “bluegrass” or even that it was being played on a fiddle; it almost sounds like avant-garde electronic garble. Nevertheless, the movie does hold the interest and is fairly exciting, and it also features a memorable cameo from Sid Haig. Actually, it’s not too bad for a TV-Movie. The movie’s fantastic content is that it is, of course, a variation on the serial killer theme.

Dawn of the Mummy (1981)

Article 4966 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-23-2015
Directed by Frank Agrama
Featuring Brenda Siemer Scheider, Barry Sattels, George Peck
Country: USA / Egypt / Italy
What it is: Mummy / zombie movie

A group of gold-seekers desecrate a mummy’s tomb. A mummy appears to fulfill the curse, and he brings with him a gaggle of flesh-eating zombies.

If the plot description of the horror movie you’re watching includes the following development – “Then a gang of models and photographers show up and decide this is a great place for an exotic photo shoot” -, then you most likely have a stinker on your hands. But then, what do you really expect of a “curse of the mummy” movie that thinks it’s being clever by throwing in a bunch of fashionable flesh-eating zombies into the mix? Unlike yesterday’s movie, this one looks like it at least had the help of professionals in the making of the movie. But that doesn’t change the fact the script is a confused mess, and that it tries to get most of its scares out of having half the dialogue being shrieked. There’s plenty of gore in the final reel, but there’s little in the way of real tension and it’s too shrill to be much fun. The best thing about this one is the Egyptian locations; beyond that, it’s just tiresome.

Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon (1973)

aka The Mansion of Madness
Article 4867 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-10-2015
Directed by Juan Lopez Moctezuma
Featuring Claudio Brook, Arthur Hansel, Ellen Sherman
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican Poe adaptation

A journalist visits a French asylum in order to write an article on the advanced techniques being used there. However, things are not quite right in the asylum…

I could probably go on about how the mystery at the center of this story is a bit of a no-brainer, but I think that would imply that the director was interested in that revelation being a surprise. I don’t believe that was Moctezuma’s intent. Rather, I think he saw the story as a springboard for what really interested him, which was the bizarre dialogue, weird behavior, and surreal imagery in which the central concept allowed him to indulge, and, to be honest, Moctezuma does have a flair for these things. A DVD cover on display at IMDB has a quote that name-drops Bunuel, Fellini and Ken Russell as people whose work bears similarities to that of Moctezuma’s in this movie, though I think a more apt and more relevant comparison could be made to the works Alejandro Jodorowsky; after all, Moctezuma served as an associate producer on EL TOPO. Still, all of those other film-makers are more audacious than Moctezuma, and nothing I’ve seen of his at this point is of the level of the works of the others. Still, it has its uses. One of the odd things about this movie is its attempts at humor, an aspect I probably wouldn’t have noticed if the music on the soundtrack didn’t get goofy during those moments. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, since Poe’s source story (to which the movie is more or less faithful) was one of his more humorous ones, but in this movie, the humorous moments are not only out of place, but they don’t really work very well. Still, if you take into account that this is Moctezuma’s first directorial effort, it’s not all that bad.

Le destin execrable de Guillemette Babin (1948)

aka Guillemette Babin
Article 4813 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-4-2015
Directed by Guillaume Radot
Featuring Helena Bossis, Michel Barbey, Germain Kerjean
Country: France
What it is: Witch drama

A young woman’s mother is caught and executed for witchcraft. The woman herself finds, as she grows older, that the call of witchcraft is in her blood as well.

My copy of this movie is in French without English subtitles, so I am no doubt missing certain subtleties in the movie. However, much of the movie is told visually, and if you go in armed with a certain amount of info about the subject matter, it isn’t really all that difficult to follow. Granted, the story is familiar enough; I’ve seen a few other movies that tell similar stories. The most surprising thing about this one is that the witchcraft seems real; there are sequences in which a woman disappears into mid air, a man is turned into a donkey, and a woman’s scars magically heal themselves. There’s also a black mass sequence that made the movie rather controversial for its time, as it was far more explicit than audiences of the time were used to seeing. All in all, I found the movie interesting enough, but mostly rather ordinary, but the fact that I don’t understand French means that this evaluation should be taken with a grain of salt.

Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend: The Pet (1921)

Article 4785 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-19-2015
Directed by Winsor McCay
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Animated short

In a dream, a woman adopts a strange pet with an insatiable appetite and a tendency to grow at a rapid rate.

As far as movies go, Winsor McCay is primarily famous as the director of GERTIE THE DINOSAUR; outside of movies, he was known as the artist and writer responsible for the comic strips LITTLE NEMO and DREAM OF THE RAREBIT FIEND. He adapted the latter comic strip to a series of animated shorts, and this one is perhaps his most striking animated short after GERTIE. Though it starts out as comic in tone, it takes on a horrific turn as the story progresses, and in some ways, it can be seen as a forerunner to KING KONG and to the science fiction monster movies of the fifties. There’s a lot of impressive detail work as the gigantic pet makes its way through a modern city. Of course, it’s all a dream, but it’s a very striking one, and this is a very enjoyable silent short.

Les des magiques (1908)

aka Magic Dice
Article 4745 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-29-2015
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

Dice of various sizes are used in a series of magic acts and dance numbers.

At his best, Chomon manages to stake out an identity that sets him apart from his primary inspiration, Georges Melies. Unfortunately, he’s not at his best with this one. Its biggest problem is a certain lack of variety. The short has a fixed format; first, a trick involving the dice is performed, then a dancer or acrobat (or group of dancers or acrobats) appears and dances or performs acrobatics, then another trick, then more performers, etc. until the short finishes. Unfortunately, the short runs on long enough that you have enough time to spot and get tired of this pattern. The tricks aren’t particularly novel, and though Chomon makes more extensive use of running the film backwards than Melies does, here he overuses it. It’s pretty enough to look at, but the lack of surprises eventually takes its toll.