Dick Smart 2.007 (1967)

Dick Smart 2.007 (1967)
Article 5795 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-21-2020
Directed by Francesco Prosperi
Featuring Richard Wyler, Margaret Lee, Rosana Topajos
Country: Italy
What it is: Spyghetti

Dick Smart investigates a woman who has discovered a means of converting carbon into diamonds via a nuclear explosion. But there’s a third party also interested in the secret…

It’s another James Bond pastiche from Italy, and the title makes me wonder if there might even have been a little inspiration from the TV series “Get Smart”. This one is heavy on the pulchritude, the humor and the gadgetry (there’s an all-purpose vehicle driven by the hero that can go and land, at sea and in the air for one thing). The main premise itself is a standard science fiction concept, though it seemed to reach its peak of popularity a good half century earlier. It’s a fairly silly affair, but that may be what it’s trying for, but it doesn’t appear to have spawned any sequels, despite some hints that it might in the movie’s final moments. I rather liked this one better than many of the others of its ilk.

Devil May Hare (1954)

Devil May Hare (1954)
Article 5794 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-19-2020
Directed by Robert McKimson
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Bugs Bunny/Tasmanian Devil cartoon

Bugs Bunny faces off against a ravenous Tasmanian devil.

Since there really is an animal known as the Tasmanian Devil, I debated whether I would review this one as on the surface it seems to just involve anthropomorphic animals. However, I decided to review it anyway, as the Devil is portrayed in these cartoons as a ravenous monster. It’s also a good choice for director Robert McKimson, as the non-loquacious nature of the character (he mostly communicates in growling and gurgling sounds) helps curb McKimson’s tendency towards talkiness. Only a handful of Tasmanian Devil cartoons were made in the fifties and sixties, and this isn’t my favorite, but it does have two memorable scenes: the opening animal stampede is hilarious, and the final sequence in which Bugs calls in a female devil to distract Taz.

Destination Space (1959)

Destination Space (1959)
Article 5793 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-17-2020
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Featuring Harry Townes, John Agar, Charles Aidman
Country: USA
What it is: Failed TV Pilot

When a meteor does damage to a space station, an attempted mission to the moon must be postponed. The head of the space station must then keep it from being defunded by a senator eager to stop the project.

As an attempt to start a serious (non-juvenile) hour-long science fiction series, my heart can’t help but go out to this one. But I’m not surprised it didn’t sell. Part of the reason is that the pilot fails to effectively milk the suspense from its two “action” sequences. It also probably wasn’t the best idea to make the primary story of this one be an Earth-bound battle for funding. Furthermore, the hint that a possible plot element being a romantic triangle certainly doesn’t bode well for where the series would go. Ultimately, this pilot is rather dull, nor did it show any promise of becoming less dull as a continuing series. There’s some interesting names and faces in the cast, but they don’t really add much to the proceedings. It’s more of an interesting footnote rather than an interesting movie.

The Demons of Ludlow (1983)

The Demons of Ludlow (1983)
Article 5792 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-15-2020
Directed by Bill Rebane
Featuring Paul von Hausen, Stephanie Cushna, Carol Perry
Country: USA
What it is: Haunting from Wisconsin

The tiny town of Ludlow is celebrating its bicentennial, and receives a piano from the estate of the original founder of the town. But the founder did not leave the town under happy circumstances, and the piano is something more sinister than a mere gift…

At the beginning of the movie, there appears to be at least two people who seem more or less happy. They are the first two to die. Yes, that’s something in the way of a minor spoiler, but the point I’m making is that most of the rest of the people in this small town are very unhappy in one way or another, and the movie largely consists of these unhappy people having horrible things happen to them. And that’s a problem I seem to consistently have with Bill Rebane’s movies; it’s not the low-budget lack of wherewithal to pull off some of the effects nor the stodgy pacing that leaves the greatest impression, but rather, the air of depression and glumness that pervades them. In short, his movies are downers, and they’re not much fun; even the dreadfully incompetent films of Jerry Warren leave me feeling (on some inconceivable level) happier. And that’s pretty depressing.

Demolition Man (1993)

Demolition Man (1993)
Article 5791 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-14-2020
Directed by Marco Brambilla
Featuring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock
Country: USA
What it is: Futuristic action thriller

In an overprotective non-violent future, a criminal from the 20th century is thawed out, escape from prison, and goes on a rampage. Unable to cope with him, the police of this era unfreeze a disgraced cop (also from the 20th century) in the hopes he will have the skills to defeat the criminal.

For some reason, this movie felt to me like something of bizarre cross between ROBOCOP, a Batman movie, and SLEEPER, and though on the surface that feels like it should be an odd place to be, in reality it still feels a little too familiar. Nevertheless, this appears to be one of Stallone’s better non-Rocky/Rambo films. At least part of the reason is that the setting allows the movie to have a certain degree of satirical edge, and there are some striking moments when that comes through. Unfortunately, I find myself rather disappointed by other aspects of the movie. I’ve read some reviews praising Wesley Snipes for his lighthearted take on the villain, but to my mind he comes across as a diluted variant on the Joker. Some of the other satirical moments come across as easy and obvious. Still, for me the main problem was that the movie, for all of its other touches, plays by the action thriller playbook, which means that much of the movie consists of loud explosions, lots of stuff breaking, non-stop gun-play, ironic comic one-liners, etc. I know some people love this kind of stuff, and this movie is for them; for me, the movie’s final third is tiresome.

Death Game (1997)

Death Game (1997)
Article 5790 by Dave Sindelar
6-12-2020
Directed by Randy Cheveldave
Featuring Timothy Bottoms, Alfonso Quijada, Vince Murdocco
Country: USA
What it is: One of those reasons stunt men have no trouble finding work.

In the future, Los Angeles is split into two parts, the island of the wealthy and the remains of the old city where the poor live. A detective is sent to find a woman who went to the poor side of town. He discovers that poor people are being kidnapped to serve as entertainment for the rich by being sent through a labyrinth where they must fight to survive.

For many years, when I went to a video store, I would find science fiction classed along with fantasy and horror when it wasn’t its own genre. Eventually, though, I noticed some places reclassified science fiction so that it was classed along with action movies. For some reason, this broke my heart; science fiction has the potential to be so much more than futuristic violence. Yet I can’t say I don’t understand why this happened; when I see a movie like this (where the future largely exists to set up a scenario where everybody is beating everybody up for most of the length of the movie), I know just why it was reclassified. We have the prototypical futuristic punk, a labyrinth that looks like the basement of a large building, an aging David McCallum (who to my mind looks like an aging Robert Vaughn in this one) as the main bad guy, a killer cyborg, and lots of Roman coliseum behavior. There’s lots of fighting and very little plot. There’s really nothing I haven’t seen before. And instead of feeling satisfied at the end, I just felt sad. Nothing to recommend here.

Dead Cert (2010)

Dead Cert (2010)
Article 5789 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-9-2020
Directed by Steven Lawson
Featuring Craig Fairbrass, Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher
Country: UK
What it is: British gangsters vs. Romanian vampires

A gangster finds himself in a struggle with a vampire for possession of a nightclub.

The low rating this movie has on IMDB (3.6 at the time I’m writing this) plus some of the user comments make me believe that many people really loathe this movie. If I don’t (and I don’t), it’s because the movie never really did anything to make me loathe it. Nor did it do anything to make me like it either. I could complain about the thickness of the accents which render certain moments of the film incomprehensible, but you get used to it after awhile. It did make me realize a couple of things. One is that I’m rather tired of vampires. Another is that I’m really tired of vampires who talk your ears off before finally getting around to attacking you. Nonetheless, these are minor quibbles to my mind, but beyond that, this compendium of gangsters attacking vampires and vampires attacking gangsters never reaches a point where I feel anything strong about anything I see. Consider this review the equivalent of a shrug.

Dark Shadows (1944)

Dark Shadows (1944)
Article 5788 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-7-2020
Directed by Walter Hart and Paul Burnford
Featuring Henry O’Neill, Morris Ankrum, Arthur Space
Country: USA
What it is: “Crime Does Not Pay” short

A police psychiatrist is called in to figure out which of a doctor’s patients is responsible for his murder.

I’ve covered one of the other shorts in MGM’s “Crime Does Not Pay” series because it nudged into the realm of horror in a story about a phony medium. This one nudges in with a story about a homicidal maniac who doesn’t know why he kills and is therefore a psycho-killer, which also puts us into the realm of horror. It’s a mildly interesting short, with its most striking element being a strange arrangement of desk drawers at the site of the murder, a touch which ends up giving a clue to the identity of the murderer. Granted, it’s a little hard to add more meat to the story with only twenty minutes to play with, but it plays out well enough.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight (2008)
Article 5787 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-7-2020
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Featuring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Country: USA
What it is: Superhero movie

The rise of an incorruptible DA in Gotham City coincides with the appearance of a chaotic madman known as the Joker who is intent on taking over the underworld and ridding the city of Batman. Is Batman willing to pay the price it will take to get rid of the Joker?

Outside of a weakness for parodies and bizarre variants, I’m not a big fan of the superhero genre. I can pinpoint the time when I realized this; it was when I emerged from a viewing of the Tim Burton BATMAN (which had been critically lauded at the time) with the same feeling that I had when I emerged from a viewing of SUPERMAN II (also lauded in its time), which was that I had been moderately entertained at best, but hardly thrilled. So when this movie was released and I found myself inundated with hype about it being the finest superhero movie ever made, I felt no obligation to run to the theater and catch it. It was only after the passage of several years that I decided to give it a try.

Now, upon my second viewing of the movie, I can say that I feel that it does mostly live up to the hype. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is one major plus; it was the first time I felt that the Joker amounted to something more than just a self-satisfied criminal prankster in clown make-up; he had a purpose, a point and a goal, and he mattered. Also a plus is the excellent, complex script in which the moral issues of the situation are well explored. The excellent direction is also a plus; the movie succeeds in holding the attention during its two-and-a-half hour running time. My complaints are very minor; there is an occasional false note to the proceedings, and there were some moments where Nolan’s stylistic flourishes get a little annoying, but these are very minor quibbles. If I loved superheroes, I might consider this one of the best movies ever made; as it is, it will have to settle for the best superhero movie that I’ve seen to date.

Dark and Stormy Night (2009)

Dark and Stormy Night (2009)
Article 5786 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-6-2020
Directed by Larry Blamire
Featuring Jim Beaver, Jennifer Blaire, Larry Blamire
Country: USA
What it is: Let the puppy go!

On a dark and stormy night, various parties gather at a mansion for the reading of Sinus Cavinder’s will. Will this reading lead to secret passages, mysterious phantoms, wise-cracking reporters, clutching hands, escaped lunatics, sinister servants, ancient curses, gorillas…and murder?

There have been several attempts over the years to parody the “old dark house” movie, which began with THE BAT and THE CAT AND THE CANARY during the twenties and a whole slew of b-movie variants during the thirties and early forties. This is easily my favorite, at least partially because I love Blamire’s non-sequitur-ridden sense of humor, and because the movie does such a fine job of defining each and every one of the twenty-some characters in the story, which is no mean feat; in many of the older ODH movies, it could be easy to get the characters confused. Most of the common “old dark house” cliches are targeted and sent up at one point or another. With so many great comic performances in this one, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but three that stand out are Susan McConnell’s “madwoman in the attic” character, Dan Conroy’s thirty-five cents obsessed cabby, and Blamire himself as a man who does not die several times during the movie. Favorite scene: the reading of the will. Recommended.