Enter the Devil (1972)

ENTER THE DEVIL (1972)
Article 2069 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-13-2006
Posting Date: 4-12-2007
Directed by Frank Q. Dobbs
Featuring Joshua Bryant, Irene Kelly, David S. Cass Sr.

A marshal is sent to investigate the disappearance of a rockhound, and comes across a religious cult that is engaging in human sacrifice.

This is one quirky, oddball, laid-back horror outing. The characters are brimming with local color, the scenery of the Mojave desert is wonderful, and the cast of unknown actors puts the viewer in the position of never knowing what the fates of the various characters will be; at least one character dies long before I expected it. The movie’s main flaw is that it is too laid-back; there are long stretches here where the languid pace drags the interest level down, and it’s a little too far between the good moments. The quirky touches are definitely interesting; despite the deceptive title, the religious cult is not of a Satanic nature, but is rather a misguided Christian sect somewhat similar to the Penitentes. I was also somewhat surprised by the ending, mainly because the main rescuer turns out to be an unexpected character, but also because the heroes are a little too bloodthirsty as well. Still, if you think about it, it makes a sort of sense, but the movie does leave you with the feeling that good and evil aren’t as sharply delineated as you might expect. I consider this one worth a watch for the patient.

 

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Ella Lola, a la Trilby (1898)

ELLA LOLA, A LA TRILBY (1898)
Article 2059 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-3-2006
Posting Date: 4-2-2007
Director Unknown
Featuring Ella Lola

Ella Lola performs a dance based on the character of Trilby. She twirls around and kicks her bare feet into the air. The movie ends.

This is officially now the earliest movie I’ve covered for this series. It is also a cheat – other than the fact that the character on which Ella Lola based her dance is from a story with certain horrific overtones, there is no fantastic content here. Which brings up an interesting point; do movies whose only fantastic content comes from association to a story that contains some qualify? I’d say not myself, but it’s easy to see why this movie got included in the list.

At least Melies would have turned her into a skeleton.

 

Experiment Alcatraz (1950)

EXPERIMENT ALCATRAZ (1950)
Article 1981 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-17-2006
Posting Date: 1-14-2007
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Featuring John Howard, Joan Dixon, Walter Kingsford

Some prison inmates volunteer to be subjects in a medical experiment in exchange for their freedom. When, during treatment, one of the inmates inexplicably kills another one, the authorities conclude that the violent act was the result of the treatment, and the experiments are abandoned. However, the doctor who developed the experiments is convinced that the fault was not in treatment, but that the killer had an ulterior motive for his action. He sets out to find the evidence.

Once again we have science fiction content whose main purpose is to serve as a side element in a crime story, though at least this time the science fiction element isn’t the prize in a struggle between good guys and bad guys. In fact, the story in this one is quite interesting; you do get caught up in trying to figure the motivation for the killing, and there is at least one doozy of a plot twist that I didn’t see coming, and which I thought was going to turn out to be a fake-out of sorts, but wasn’t. Had the presentation been as good as the story, this would have definitely been a keeper. Unfortunately, the way the story unfolds is sometimes needlessly convoluted; since there are no great plot revelations involved, I can’t think of a single good reason why the killing is reserved for a flashback sequence instead of presented in its proper linear fashion. The movie also seems as if it’s purposefully avoiding melodrama on occasion, which might be an attempt to give the movie a little noirish fatalism, but ends up only making the movie seem slower than it needs to be. The acting is quite good, though, and it features a nice little cameo from Frank Cady as an inmate whose collection of postcards provides a major clue in the proceedings. This one is not bad, but it could have been a lot better.

 

Eve (1968)

EVE (1968)
aka THE FACE OF EVE
Article 1960 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-27-2006
Posting Date: 12-24-2006
Directed by Robert Lynn and Jeremy Summers
Featuring Celeste Yarnall, Robert Walker Jr., Herbert Lom

When an adventurer encounters a wild jungle woman while searching for information on a missing business partner, he uncovers a plot to defraud a rich Colonel and learns about a missing Inca treasure.

When this movie first popped up on my list, I almost discarded it under the belief that it was just an alternate title for KING OF KONG ISLAND, another movie from roughly the same period about a wild jungle girl named Eve; one of the alternate titles of that one is EVE, THE SAVAGE VENUS. As it turns out, they’re two different movies, though neither one of them is particularly worth looking for. At least the other one, with its plot about a mad scientist using surgery to make slaves out of gorillas, has some marked fantastic content; this one has nothing, outside of the mild fantasy element of the wild jungle girl. At least one plot description I’ve encountered mentions the girl as possessing psychic powers, but I see none of that in the actual movie. It’s a dull affair, especially during the long middle section where the hero returns to civilization, and any interest it does generate is more due to the presence of several familiar faces (Herbert Lom, Chrisoopher Lee, Fred Clark) than anything that actually happens. At least it doesn’t take itself too seriously, though it does resort to stereotypes (in the form of Jose Maria Caffarel’s comic character) to do so. One fun thing to do in the movie is to keep track of how many characters die as a result of their own monumental stupidity; I count at least three.

 

Earthquake (1974)

EARTHQUAKE (1974)
Article 1955 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-22-2006
Posting Date: 12-19-2006
Directed by Mark Robson
Featuring Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, George Kennedy

A huge earthquake devastates Los Angeles, affecting the lives of all in the vicinity.

I’m not sure to what extent this movie falls into the genres I’m covering. It might be considered borderline science fiction due to the fact that disasters of this magnitude could have enough of a devastating impact on the world, or it might be the plot element about the guy who has developed a way to predict earthquakes. At any rate, it’s your typical seventies disaster movie – great special effects coupled with dumb personal stories, and the usual array of character types – heroes, people for the heroes to rescue, people to die in sundry ways, people you want to die in sundry ways – you know the routine. Of course, there are lots of well-known names in the cast; outside of those listed above, we have Lorne Greene, Genevieve Bujold, Richard Roundtree, Marjoe Gortner, Barry Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan, and Victoria Principal, and former East Side Kid Gabriel Dell. There’s also the guy who plays the drunk with really bad clothes sense; he’s just who you think he is, and that alias he uses in the final credits will fool nobody. It even had a big gimmick to go with it – SENSURROUND, in which heavy bass speakers caused the the place to vibrate in selected theaters. A sequel was planned, but never made.

 

The Evil (1976)

THE EVIL (1976)
Article 1819 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-8-2006
Posting Date: 8-5-2006
Directed by Gus Trikonis
Featuring Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet, Andrew Prine

A psychologist buys a mansion unaware that it is possessed by a malevolent force.

There are a few decent scares in this “house-possessed-by-malevolent-force” tale, and the acting is certainly acceptable. The cliche-ridden script is pretty weak, however. It’s one of those scripts where most of the dialogue consists of variations of the line “What is going on?”, and where character development only exists in little snippets that have so little bearing on the ultimate story that they feel like they’re there only to pad out the running time. And when the horrors start, they’re trotted out so mechanically that it almost becomes laughably predictable. As a result, the movie never really comes to life; it feels more like an exercise in formula than a fully realized movie; even the title is about as generic as they come. Watchable, but utterly uninspired, despite the presence of Victor Buono in the finale.

The Erotic Three (1969)

THE EROTIC THREE (1969)
aka Scratch Harry
Article 1800 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-17-2006
Posting Date: 7-17-2006
Directed by Alex Matter
Featuring Christine Kelly, Harry Walker Staff, Victoria Wilde

A rich woman catches her philandering husband in the act, and concocts a plan for vengeance. However, she is caught unprepared when he responds with a plan of his own…

The title would have you believe that this is a skin-drenched piece of erotica for late night viewing, and most of the plot descriptions I’ve seen would leave you to believe the same. Well, despite the presence of some sex scenes, that’s not what this is, and those viewing the movie with that expectation will feel cheated. The opening commentary in the movie describes itself as an “amphetamine fantasy”; well, having never taken amphetamines, I can’t attest to this one way or another, but it explains all the really arty sequences. No, what this movie really is is your basic thriller about a dysfunctional married couple whose relationship turns deadly when the husband can’t pay off a debt to the mob and is forced to go to desperate means to get money. The fantastic content is embodied by the strange bespectacled character who hangs around the house unseen by the other characters but visible to us; you’ll probably figure out who he is, and once you do, you’ll have an idea on how the movie will end. The characters are unpleasant and the movie has a plethora of dull stretches, but it’s still a little better than I thought it was going to be, largely due to some touches of humor and the occasional decent plot twist. Still, it’s not really worth the time.