Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting (1969)

DADDY’S GONE A-HUNTING (1969)
Article 2952 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-7-2009
Posting Date: 9-13-2009
Directed by Mark Robson
Featuring Carol White, Scott Hylands, Paul Burke
Country: USA

When a woman breaks up with her psychotic boyfriend and aborts their baby, the boyfriend plots an insidious revenge; once the woman marries and has a child, he plans to force her into killing that one as well.

Had I only watched the first half of this movie, I would have dismissed it as a misfired attempt at a Hitchcockian thriller marred by stridency and occasionally poor acting. However, once you know the boyfriend’s plot, the story starts the click, the screws start turning, and the movie becomes very suspenseful, even if you never do warm up to the female lead, who, to my mind, never really becomes a convincing character. Still, Scott Hylands proves to be quite effective as the psychotic boyfriend, and director Mark Robson does manage to tap into some Lewtonian ambiguity in the first half when you’re not quite sure whether the woman is being stalked or suffering from an overactive imagination. For those into sly references, take note of the theatrical offering that the woman tries to buy a ticket for. The story and script are from Larry Cohen, who would gain fame for another movie about a baby – namely, IT’S ALIVE.

Advertisements

Dodskyssen (1916)

DODSKYSSEN (1916)
aka The Death Kiss
Article 2948 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-3-2009
Posting Date: 9-9-2009
Directed by Victor Sjostrom
Featuring Victor Sjostrom, Albin Laven, Mathias Taube
Country: Sweden

A man is murdered. We find out how via flashbacks.

The lame plot description above is the result of my having seen this one with only Swedish and German intertitles to help me. There are further complications due to the fact that only parts of the movie are extant; the missing parts are filled in with stills and title cards. To be honest, I wasn’t really able to follow this one; I know there’s been a murder, the plot involves two people who look identical (Victor Sjostrom is in a dual role here), there’s a creepy guy in a gas mask, the solution to the mystery is at least partially contained in the title. There may be some touches of science fiction here (the poison gas, possibly) and some horror (the guy in the mask), but it seems pretty slight. Still, I’m glad that I had a chance to cover this obscurity.

Drive In Massacre (1977)

DRIVE IN MASSACRE (1977)
Article 2937 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-23-2009
Posting Date: 8-29-2009
Directed by Stu Segall
Featuring Bruce Kimball, Steve Vincent, Douglas Gudbye
Country: USA

A sword-wielding homicidal maniac is terrorizing a local drive-in. Is it the abusive manager who used to be a knife thrower? The dim-witted janitor (affectionately known as Germy) who used to be a sword swallower and geek? Or the voyeuristic regular customer?

Obviously designed to be played at drive-in theaters around the country, this gimmick horror film is neither scary enough on its own terms to be effective, nor inventive enough in terms of its gimmick to be much fun. Still, I’ve seen worse, and it has the advantage of being short (only 74 minutes) and of coming up with at least a couple of fun moments; the cops flip coins to decide who gets to be the good cop and the bad cop, and one murder is witnessed as a shadow on the projection screen. Still, it’s a washout; the special effects are weak, the acting is the same, and much of the cinematography is too dark to be effective, as you’ll often be staring at the screen without a clue as to what’s going on. The gimmick ending is obvious, and is more likely to produce snorts of laughter than shudders of terror. Director Stu Segall came up with the story under the pseudonym of Godfrey Daniels, which may be a W.C. Fields reference.

Dreamscape (1984)

DREAMSCAPE (1984)
Article 2935 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-21-2009
Posting Date: 8-27-2009
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Featuring Dennis Quaid, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer
Country: USA

A young psychic is drawn into experimental research that involves psychically entering people’s dreams. He stumbles upon a conspiracy intent on assassinating the president through an attack on his dreamworld.

The rise of STAR WARS and the coming of age of special effects technology led to a flood of fantastically-themed cinema during the eighties, but, despite my love for the genres, I was less than enthusiastic. One of the reasons was that far too many of these movies ended up like this one – a possibly intriguing concept that does little more than lend itself to cliches and convention. The cast is surprisingly strong and rather appealing, but they’re playing cliched, one-dimensional characters that don’t challenge them. I found much of this movie unbelievable; just for example, I found it hard to believe that a ordinary horror movie concept like a scary snake monster would be enough to cause one psychic researcher to have a complete mental breakdown. For me, though, the real disappointment is that it never delivers on one of its promises; if, as one character says, you can “do anything you want” in a dream, than the movie shows a distressing lack of imagination in giving the characters that power over the dream reality. Another problem I have is one that may be a matter of individual experience; the use of dream sequences in movies has rarely worked for me because I so seldom see ones that look like actual dreams, and this movie fares no better in that regard. Sure, it’s entertaining enough if in the “popcorn” movie tradition, where you’re supposed to turn off your mind and enjoy the ride, but I’m not a fan of that form, and it takes a fairly special movie of that kind for it to work for me, and this isn’t one of them.

I have a funny feeling that I’m slated to see a lot of movies like this in years to come.

Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls (1973)

DR. DEATH: SEEKER OF SOULS (1973)
Article 2934 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-20-2009
Posting Date: 8-26-2009
Directed by Eddie Saeta
Featuring John Considine, Barry Coe, Cheryl Miller
Country: USA

A grief-stricken widower seeks a way to bring his wife back from the dead. He encounters a sinister doctor who is capable of transferring souls to other bodies.

The basic concept here is that a man achieves immortality not by keeping his body alive but by developing ways to transfer his soul to another body when his current body runs down. He also offers his services to others. Eventually, he becomes obsessed with reanimating the body of a beautiful woman who rejects every soul he presents to it. I find this whole concept rather interesting, but the movie that is attached to it is a disappointment. At least part of it is that, despite the gore and blood, the movie ends up feeling like a TV-Movie, which, given that most of director Eddie Saeta’s work in this regard was with TV shows, is no surprise. It’s also marred by the fact that John Considine doesn’t really give us that sense that his character has lived as long as he did. I also was disappointed by the fact that, despite the novel plot elements, it tries to hone to the conventional horror movie as much as possible, so we end up being treated to constant scenes of the doctor hunting and killing victims. If there’s fun to be had with this movie, it’s the interesting assortment of actors who appear; Leon Askin plays a Tor Johnson character (called Thor), Florence (QUEEN OF BLOOD) Marly appears as a gypsy woman, Moe Howard has a cameo appearance in his last screen role, and Horror Host Larry Vincent (Seymour) appears as a strangler in a movie being watched on TV. Somewhere in this movie is a better movie longing to get out; it’s too bad it doesn’t happen.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972)
aka Le charme discret de la bourgeeoisie
Article 2932 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-18-2009
Posting Date: 8-24-2009
Directed by Luis Bunuel
Featuring Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphin Seyrig
Country: France / Italy / Spain

Six friends are thwarted by circumstance in their attempts to have meals together.

Given that Luis Bunuel is one of the great surrealistic directors, I’m surprised that I haven’t covered more of his work; this is only the second movie I’ve covered of his, the first being THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL. It’s basically a plotless series of setpieces tied together by the concept of several friends trying to have a meal together, but who are constantly interrupted by any number of bizarre events; the events get stranger as things go along, and eventually any sense of linearity or reality goes out the window when the events turn out to be dreams (and even dreams within dreams). One meal is cut short when the hosting couple sneak out of the house to have sex and the other guests fear that the reason for their departure was an impending police raid (it turns out some of the characters are involved in drug smuggling); another is interrupted when the chosen restaurant is keeping a dead body in the next room. There are various distractions and side issues, such as the attempted assassination of the Mirandan ambassador and the appearance of a bishop that wants to be a gardener. Three of the distractions are ghost stories, which further adds to the fantastic content. What does it all mean? Well, I have no doubt there’s some political subtext (I’d expect that from any movie with the word “bourgeoisie” in the title), but it really doesn’t matter to me; I find the movie positively hilarious at times, and it’s a great deal of fun, albeit in an art-house film way. It’s recommended for anyone with an absurdist sense of humor.

Dead & Buried (1981)

DEAD & BURIED (1981)
Article 2931 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-17-2009
Posting Date: 8-23-2009
Directed by Gary Sherman
Featuring James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson
Country: USA

A small-town sheriff investigates a bizarre series of murders in which strangers to the town are assaulted by large groups of people who take pictures of their victims before killing them.

According to IMDB, this was Jack Albertson’s final film, though I do see his name on films released later when I check his credits. If it was his last film, than he went out with a bang; here he plays the ultimate eccentric undertaker, and he steals every scene he’s in. The movie itself is written by the same team who came up with the script to ALIEN, and, despite some unanswered questions, it’s a worthy follow-up; the mystery behind the horrific events is strong enough to hold our attention, the dialogue is crisp and memorable, and the movie is full of memorable and offbeat characters. There are a number of great scenes, including a creepy one in which a schoolteacher instructs her class of children on voodoo and zombies. Though I expected the final revelations to be a bit of a disappointment, that isn’t the case; the reasons for the murders are truly twisted. In the end, this movie quite reminded me of DEAD PEOPLE, another offbeat and somewhat indescribable horror film.