The Exquisite Cadaver (1969)

THE EXQUISITE CADAVER (1969)
aka Las crueles, The Cruel Ones
Article 2919 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-5-2009
Posting Date: 8-10-2009
Directed by Vicente Aranda
Featuring Capucine, Andre Argaud, Judy Matheson
Country: Spain

A book publisher receives a package containing a hand. He receives a telegram in which he is told he will receive a forearm. He lies to his wife on the significance of these events. He and his wife take up separate investigations to learn the reason why.

With a title like THE EXQUISITE CADAVER, I was definitely expecting something out of the ordinary. When I saw the director was Vicente Aranda (who directed FATA/MORGANA and THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE), that feeling increased. The trailer (which appears at the end of my copy of this movie) paints it all as a shock-a-moment horror thriller. Anyone who watches this movie on the strength of that trailer will come away disappointed; though the plot does revolve around the dismemberment of a corpse and the sending of body parts in the mail, it’s only marginally a horror movie. It’s arty rather than bloody (which, given the director, is no surprise), and basically it tells a story of how three women are affected by the man’s affair with a suicidal girl. The three women are the girl herself, the girl’s female friend (and possibly lover), and the man’s wife. I’ve seen it described as a soap opera, and that fits well enough in some ways, though it shows more insight than the usual soap opera. Overall, it works for me, but mileage may vary for you, and you should be aware that it’s slow-moving and quite bloodless.

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Enchanting Shadow (1960)

ENCHANTING SHADOW (1960)
aka Ching nu yu hun
Article 2864 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-11-2009
Posting Date: 6-16-2009
Directed by Han Hsiang Li
Featuring Betty Loh Ti, Ngai Fung, LI Jen Ho
Country: Hong Kong

A traveler stays for a few nights at a haunted temple. At night he encounters a beautiful ghost who attempts to seduce him. He resists, but finds himself under the wrath of the ghost of the woman’s bloodthirsty grandmother.

The only other horror movie from Hong Kong that I’ve seen is REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES, but these two movies couldn’t be further apart. This is from a much earlier era, and it is an evocative film, as much a fairy tale as a ghost story. As always, it’s interesting to see movies from other countries; the color photography here is breathtaking, though the camerawork is a hair shaky on occasion, and the use of sound is exotic and truly strange. The atmosphere is quite thick, especially during the scene when the traveler awaits the arrival of the grandmother’s ghost in the room of a swordsman, and the final encounter in a forest. In some ways, the experience of watching this one can’t be adequately described, though the movie it most reminds me of is KWAIDAN. It’s a difficult movie to find, but is worth digging up.

L’ecrin du rajah (1906)

L’ECRIN DU RAJAH (1906)
aka The Rajah’s Casket
Article 2820 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-26-2009
Posting Date: 5-3-2009
Directed by Gaston Velle
Cast unknown
Country: France

A rajah’s casket is stolen by an evil wizard on a dragon.

Here’s another silent short from Gaston Velle; once again, the influence of Melies is clearly visible. It does manage to have an outdoor shot at one point, though, which is something Melies rarely did. My copy of it opens with a comment about the excellent hand-coloring (which is true) and mentions that it was one of the earliest examples of censorship; since no other explanation is given, I assume he means the various colors that are used to obscure much of the skin of the dancing ladies. The best scene has people looking from a balcony at the wizard flying by on his dragon. It’s fun enough, but the dancing goes on far too long, and the interest level starts to flag.

Evocation spirite (1899)

EVOCATION SPIRITE (1899)
aka Summoning the Spirits
Article 2813 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-19-2009
Posting Date: 4-26-2009
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France

A magician summons up people (and demons) in a magic wreath.

I found this one lurking around on YouTube, as it is one of those that was not included in the recent Melies set. It’s a pretty standard Melies short; he hangs up a wreath and makes spirits appear, beginning with a demon which he quickly banishes. Of course, the final twist is that he makes himself appear in the wreath. All in all, a fairly standard entry in his oeuvre.

Estigma (1980)

ESTIGMA (1980)
aka Stigma
Article 2794 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2008
Posting Date: 4-7-2009
Directed by Jose Ramon Larraz
Featuring Christian Borromeo, Alexandra Bastedo, Emilio Gutierrez Caba
Country: Spain / Italy

An adolescent boy has the power to kill with his mind. He also bleeds from his lip on occasion.

This is the third movie I’ve seen of Jose Ramon Larraz’s, and, other than a couple of nice touches in SYMPTOMS, I’ve just not been very impressed. Still, it is a bit dodgy trying to review a movie that you’ve only seen in a language you can’t understand (with no subtitles to help), but, given his track record so far and with what I’ve been able to get visually from this one, I suspect that I wouldn’t care for it even if I could follow it. Oh, it’s pretty strange in its way, what with the dream sequences and the fact that it all seems to be tied to an experience he had in a previous life, but there was no event in this movie that really jumped out and grabbed my attention or nibbled at my curiosity. The dream sequences look like typical horror movie dream sequences, and all the usual Eurohorror trappings (nudity, a hint of lesbianism, incest, and sexual perversions) are trotted out mechanically. Unless there’s something fascinating going on in the dialogue, I don’t anticipate gaining much from seeing it subtitled.

The Electric Hotel (1908)

THE ELECTRIC HOTEL (1908)
aka El Hotel electrico
Article 2667 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-8-2008
Posting Date: 12-1-2008
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Featuring Segundo de Chomon, Julienne Mathieu
Country: Spain/France

A pair of travelers visit a hotel with modern electrical conveniences.

I caught this movie on YouTube, and, quite frankly, it looks in wretched shape. Nevertheless, I saw enough so that I was quite impressed with the vast amount of stop-motion animation that must have gone into this one, as we see extensive footage of suitcases unpacking themselves, letters writing themselves, and boots being polished automatically by brushes. Granted, it all looks more like magic than science, but I’m reminded of a comment I once heard that if you encounter a culture whose science is well beyond your own, you might mistake what you see from them as magic. Still, despite the fact that I’m impressed, I’m also a little bored; some of the sequences go on too long, and you start to lose interest. Still, this is one early fantastically-themed short that doesn’t look like a lift from the work of Melies.

 

Escape (1971)

ESCAPE (1971)
TV-Movie
Article 2664 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-5-2008
Posting Date: 11-28-2008
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Christopher George, William Windom, Marlyn Mason
Country: USA

A former escape artist turned private eye agrees to help a scientist who is on the run from the law for a murder he didn’t commit. However, when the scientist is kidnapped along with the scientist’s daughter, he must undertake to discover their whereabouts and rescue them.

It may be just my imagination, but it seems that most of the TV-Movies I’ve seen from the seventies have the look and feel of potential series pilots; the credit sequence here clearly demonstrates that this was intended to be that way. It might well have made a decent series; all it really would have needed to do is pick up the somewhat sluggish pace of this TV-Movie, and find some way to transcend what could have ended up as a tiresome gimmick. The gimmick is that the private eye is constantly placed in traps whereby he must use his abilities to, as the title puts it, escape; in some ways, it hearkens back to the Harry Houdini silent serial, THE MASTER MYSTERY. The fantastic elements here are a Gizmo-Maguffinish plot involving a new virus that can enslave the world, a hideously scarred man, and a scene in a house of horrors. The movie also features William Schallert and Gloria Grahame, though both of them appear so slightly that you might forget they’re there. It also features two straight performances by two actors who are better known for their comic turns; namely, Huntz Hall and Avery Schreiber; the latter would have most likely been a regular on the series had it sold. It’s entertaining enough, especially during the final chase that makes good and interesting use of its amusement park setting. It’s not great, but I’ve seen a lot worse.