Dr. Mabuse vs Scotland Yard (1963)

DR. MABUSE VS SCOTLAND YARD (1963)
aka Scotland Yard jagt Dr. Mabuse
Article 2534 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-5-2007
Posting Date: 1-22-2008
Directed by Paul May
Featuring Peter van Eyck, Sabine Bethmann, Dieter Borsche

Someone has stolen an invention that gives him the ability to control men’s minds. Could this be the work of that master criminal, Dr. Mabuse? But Dr. Mabuse is dead! Or is he…?

This is the first chance I’ve had to see one of the Dr. Mabuse movies made during the character’s revival in the sixties. I really didn’t know what to expect; I like the Dr. Mabuse character, but given the usual quality of the German krimi films, I expected it would largely be just another one of those; some good scenes buried in a muddled and confusing plot, possibly worth exploring further but more of a chore than a joy to watch the first time out. I was quite delighted to find that this wasn’t the case. the plot was surprisingly coherent, and the story is clever and interesting. Even the comic relief works quite well, the detective’s mother proves to be more capable of second-guessing the criminals than the detective himself. The mystery about how Dr. Mabuse can pull off these crimes when he’s dead is fairly easy to figure out, especially if you’ve seen the original THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE , and it adds a touch of horror to the mainly science-fiction oriented fantastic content of the movie. No, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Lang films of the twenties and thirties, but it works well enough in its own right, and it’s also nice to see a detective (Peter van Eyck’s character) who is a good intellectual match for Mabuse himself. Klaus Kinski has a fairly prominent role this time as an inspector who comes under the control of Mabuse. All in all, I found this one quite enjoyable, and I look forward to the other movies in this series.

 

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Demons (1971)

DEMONS (1971)
aka Shura
Article 2347 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2007
Posting Date: 1-15-2008
Directed by Toshio Matsumoto
Featuring Katsuo Nakamura, Yasuko Sanjo, Juro Kara

A samurai is cheated out of his money by a scheming geisha and her husband. His anger leads him down a path of bloody revenge.

I’m not sure to just what extent this movie falls into the area of the fantastic. An opening dream sequence turns out to be prophetic; the movie plays with time, occasionally going back to replay certain scenes so that they unfold differently (though these may be comparisons between the character’s vision of the events and the way they actually happen), and the revenge becomes bloody and extremely horrific, which certainly pushes it into the realm of horror. One character also finds himself haunted by those he has killed for a short sequence. At any rate, this is a stark, intense, shocking and brutal exploration of vengeance and the metaphorical descent into hell that comes with it. It’s definitely powerful moviemaking, It’s so powerful and effective for most of its running time that I feel a little bit disappointed that it falls short of perfect; my problem is that the violence ends up being so bloody that it goes into the realm of excess, and even becomes slightly comic towards the end, especially the scenes that involve the severed head. Still, this may not bother others, and if you’re in the mood for a dark, violent and bloody period drama, this one is recommended, though it’s definitely not for the squeamish or the faint of heart.

 

Don’t Look Now (1973)

DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)
Article 2344 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-26-2007
Posting Date: 1-12-2008
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Featuring Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason

An architect is in Venice to renovate an old church. While there, his wife meets a pair of elderly sisters, one of which is a psychic who claims that she can see their deceased daughter with them. She warns them that the architect is in danger while he stays in Venice. Meanwhile, the architect, who may have psychic abilities of his own, finds himself seeing visions of a figure in a red raincoat, which is what his daughter was wearing when she drowned.

There’s no way to really describe this odd but fascinating horror movie about premonitions. It’s fairly arty, but effectively so; the masterful editing makes us feel at moments that all time is happening at once, or that we can sense the rush of memories of one person or another. It was also a brilliant idea to set the film in Venice, which is definitely an ironic place to be for the couple, given that their daughter died by drowning. The music is also brilliant and beautiful. It’s done in a very detached style, but it’s appropriate for this movie, where we can sit back and wonder how much the architect is really seeing and how much are psychic visions of the future. It’s a little opaque at times, and the movie runs a little too long, but there’s really nothing else like it out there.

 

Die Sister, Die! (1972)

DIE SISTER, DIE! (1972)
Article 2342 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-24-2007
Posting Date: 1-10-2008
Directed by Randall Hood
Featuring Jack Ging, Edith Atwater, Antoinette Bower

A woman (the heiress to a large estate) has had two unsuccessful suicide attempts. Her brother decides to hire a nurse with a shady background ostensibly to take care of the woman, but in reality to make sure that the next suicide attempt is successful so that he can inherit the estate.

Despite the fact that the movie was apparently marketed as horror, it’s really more of a skeletons-in-the-closet type murder mystery. The horror is mostly around the edges; a bizarre dream sequence involving a bloody head, the fate of Jethro the bird, and the final revelation in the wine cellar give it some horror sense. Still, it’s mainly a mystery, and I’m sure those expecting something more horrific were very disappointed, which no doubt leads to its low 4.2 rating on IMDB. I myself liked it a little better than that, though I do consider the movie mediocre overall; the writing is a bit clumsy, the acting is merely adequate, it has quite a bit of dead space, and certain plot elements just don’t make much sense; for example, there really is no good reason for the brother to try to prevent the earlier suicide attempts, despite his justification for it. The story itself is basically decent, and the occasional odd touch (such as the scene in the church, where the sister ends up confessing to someone other than a priest) make it more interesting. Director Randall Hood has only three directorial credits, and they make for an interesting combination; he also directed the odd fantasy THE TWO LITTLE BEARS , and an episode of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’.

There also seems to be a bit of controversy about whether the movie is a TV-Movie; IMDB does not list it as such, but claims it was released in this country in 1978 (which implies that it sat on the shelf for quite a while), but there are some people who insist that it must be a TV-Movie. My sources are inconsistent on this as well.

 

Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (1972)

DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972)
aka Dracula contra Frankenstein, Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Dracula Against Frankenstein, Dracula vs. Dr. Frankenstein, Screaming Dead, Sleeping Viewer
Article 2306 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-19-2007
Posting Date: 12-5-2007
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Howard Vernon, Dennis Price, Fernando Bilbao

Dracula is dispatched by Dr. Seward, but resurrected by Dr. Frankenstein who wants to create an army of terror.

When I’m in a good mood, I can admire this movie’s attempt to keep the dialogue to an absolute minimum, as I’m sure it must have been a big help in making it easy to dub for each country. But beyond that, I’m afraid I found very little of interest in this entry from the Jess Franco oeuvre, and the fact that many of the scenes just involve people standing around and saying nothing just makes it that much duller. Howard Vernon has precious little to do as Dracula; in fact, he spends most of the movie with the same expression locked on his face, and he could have easily been replaced by a wax figure for many of the scenes. I did get a bit of a laugh out of Dr. Seward’s attempt to drive a stake through Dracula’s heart with the tiniest hammer I’ve ever seen, but, for the most part, I reacted very little to what I saw going on. And that’s the primary problem I have with Franco as a director; I so rarely have an idea of just what reaction he’s trying to get from me with each scene that I end up having no reaction at all, and I watch his films in a state of glum ennui. At least Al Adamson’s DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN has a bit of life to it.

 

Devils of Darkness (1965)

DEVILS OF DARKNESS (1965)
Article 2302 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-15-2007
Posting Date: 12-1-2007
Directed by Lance Comfort
Featuring William Sylvester, Hubert Noel, Diane Decker

An Englishman visits a foreign village and encounters some strange deaths. He returns to England in possession of a talisman he found, not knowing that it belongs to a vampire cult. The cult follows him to England and begin their unholy practices there.

William Sylvester is mostly known for playing Dr. Heywood Floyd in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY; I noticed his name in the cast because I had seen the same name only a couple of days ago. As it turns out, he was the lead in BEAST OF MOROCCO , a low-budget and rather dull vampire flick that was made a little more interesting by some interesting themes and an exotic location. This one is more of the same, minus the interesting themes and the exotic location; it’s an uninteresting combination of vampires and Satanists, and the only times the movie comes alive are during a dance scene in the pre-credits sequence and a lab scene in the middle of the movie where all the lab animals start going wild. At least one source of mine considers it one of the first vampire movies to take place in the present, but I’m willing to bet you can find some that predate this movie. At any rate, I find very little to recommend here.

NOTE: On double-checking the source, I noticed for the first time that it said that it was one of the first BRITISH vampire movies to take place in the present.

 

Down in the Deep (1904)

DOWN IN THE DEEP (1904)
aka Le Pecheur de perles, The Pearl Fisher
Article 2284 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-26-2007
Posting Date: 11-13-2007
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
Cast unknown

A vision of beautiful women causes a man to dive into the ocean in search of pearls. There he encounters a variety of sea beasties, and hunts for his treasure in a giant clam.

This early silent fantasy may lack the wit of a film by Melies, but it does have a charming fairy-tale quality somewhat similar to that of THE GOLDEN BEETLE. Still, there are a few laughs, usually from his encounters with some of the ocean beasties (including a big-eyed octopus, a shark, and giant lobster). I don’t know who played the fisherman, but he does a nice job of pantomiming a walk on the ocean floor, and the gentle sense of fantasy is what really brings this one to life. This is one of the more interesting early fantastically-themed silents that was not brought to us by Melies.