The Devil and the Statue (1901)

aka Le diable geant ou Le miracle de la madonne
Article 4068 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-1-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Trick film

A woman is terrorized by a devil who appears out of nowhere and grows to enormous size.

With a two-minute running time, it’s no surprise that the movie has a bare-bones plot; the devil terrorizes a woman, but a statue of the Madonna comes to life and saves her. It’s got one very nice special effect of the devil growing to a huge size. It’s also got a decidedly less special special effect with the statue; it’s basically someone standing very still until the plot requires them to come to life and move, a trick that rarely works. Considering that a substitution camera trick was easily among Melies’s abilities at this point, it’s hard to understand why he chose the approach he did. At any rate, this is an okay short from Melies.

Delirium in a Studio (1907)

aka Ali Barbouyou et Ali Bouf a l’huile
Article 4067 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-31-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Comic trick short

An assistant to a painter drinks some varnish by mistake and hallucinates that his master’s painting comes to life.

For the record, only a two minute fragment of this Melies short still exists, but it looks to be the last two minutes of the short, and it opens with a short intro explaining the opening action. I’d say the remaining footage is the main part of the short; we see the woman in the painting moving around before she settles back into the painting, and we see the horrible revenge that the painter exacts on his assistant. Eventually, the shot moves from fantasy into horror territory involving a decapitated man rising from the dead and carrying his head around. What’s left of this one is fairly amusing.

The Dancing Midget (1902)

aka La danseuse microscopique
Article 4064 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-27-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Melies magic short

A magician uses his comic relief servant to produce several eggs, from which he produces a tiny dancer.

I’m beginning to think that many of Melies’s shorts can easily be pigeonholed into several types. On top of his epics, there’s his dream movies and his magic shorts, this being one of the latter. These always feature a magician coming on and doing a handful of cinema-enhanced magic tricks. This is a fairly typical example; it’s entertaining, but nothing special.

Death Ray 2000 (1981)

DEATH RAY 2000 (1981)
aka T.R. Sloane
Article 4017 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-29-2012
Directed by Lee H. Katzin
Featuring Robert Logan, Dan O’Herlihy, Penelope Windust
Country: USA
What it is: Bond TV show pilot, Quinn Martin style

When a super-dehydrator is stolen (a virtual death ray), a special agent named T.R. Sloane is called out to find the culprit.

There was a resurgence of popularity in the James Bond movies in the late seventies/early eighties, resulting in an assortment of rip-offs. This pilot for the TV series “A Man Called Sloane” is one of them, though a few changes were made for the TV series; the rather uninteresting Robert Logan was replaced by Robert Conrad (who, having played James West in “The Wild, Wild West”, already had his James Bond imitation credentials in order), and the henchman villain of this movie (Ji-Tu Cumbuka) would be resurrected as one of the good guys, both of which probably helped the series, albeit not enough to make the series last for more than half a season. The movie pilot itself isn’t particularly impressive; in fact, much of it feels silly and forced. Dan O’Herlihy probably steals the movie performance-wise, and Clive Revill and Cumbuka aren’t bad as the villains, but the hero is dull and the pacing is poor. All in all, this one is pretty forgettable.

The Dying Detective (1921)

Silent short
Article 4003 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-13-2012
Directed by Maurice Elvey
Featuring Ellie Norwood, Hubert Willis, Cecil Humphreys
Country: UK
What it is: Episode of movie series “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”

Sherlock Holmes must contend with a clever specialist in Asiatic diseases who may be guilty of a murder. Can he outwit the man?

In Walt Lee’s “Reference Guide to Fantastic Films”, he includes the Ellie Norwood Sherlock Holmes series as a single entity, and, since certain episodes of that series do have fantastic content, that’s acceptable. However, IMDB lists all fifteen episodes as distinct movies, so those that haven’t already done so will now be making their way to my hunt list. But that doesn’t mean that every episode will have fantastic content, and, unless the Asiatic disease in question here is in the realm of science fiction, there’s no real fantastic content to this one. Still, the story is entertaining enough, though I do think that the plot actually relying on the villain to tell all of his secrets to someone he thinks is going to die is a bit of a stretch. I haven’t quite settled on whether I care for Norwood as Holmes yet, but this may have more to do with the fact that I prefer to hear the voice of the actors playing the character, and this being a silent movie, I don’t have that opportunity. I’ve already covered one of the movies in the series, and there are a few others on my hunt list already that I’ve not been able to find, but I’ll probably be covering the rest of them that I do have in the near future.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse (1947)

Animated short
Article 3986 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-21-2012
Directed by Joseph Barbera and William Hanna
No voice actors
Country: USA
What it is: Cat vs mouse

Tom, tired of Jerry constantly drinking his milk, decides to do him away with a poisoned dish of it. However, the poison has an unexpected side effect; it turns Jerry into giant mouse with super strength.

Ah, there’s nothing like a little classic animation to brighten things up for a bit. This one is typical Tom & Jerry with a fantastically themed twist. As expected, all of the gags are visual, there’s quite a bit of violence (though it’s not as violent as the team can be in their most extreme), and it is very amusing. And sometimes, I find the littlest touches amusing; my favorite example here is when Tom discovers that Jerry has a mouse door to the wall safe, the mouse door itself looks like a vault door. To be truthful, I like Hanna and Barbera much better before they discovered limited animation.

Le dernier homme (1969)

aka The Last Man
Article 3982 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-17-2012
Directed by Charles L. Bitsch
Featuring Jean-Claude Bouillon, Sofia Torkeli, Corinne Brill
Country: France
What it is: End of the world drama

A man, his wife, and a female friend emerge from a cave exploring expedition to find that the rest of the world has died from a nuclear disaster. Complications arrive when the man begins to neglect his wife and fall in love with the other woman.

Here’s another that’s finally been retrieved from my “ones that got away” list. My copy is in French without English subtitles, so I’m sure that I missed some subtleties in the dialogue, but the basic premise is pretty clear, and the story isn’t particularly difficult to follow. A few of the critiques of the movie say that it isn’t particularly well acted, and, truth to tell, I often get the sense that the actors seem a little bored with it all; given the situation, everyone seems a little too blase. If there is something about this one that makes it special, then it’s hidden in the dialogue; on the surface, everything seems a little obvious and even a bit shallow. There’s a couple of arty touches here and there, but it mostly feels pretty straightforward.