The Emerald of Artatama (1969)

THE EMERALD OF ARTATAMA (1969)
aka The Girl of the Nile, La muchaca del Nilo
Article 3009 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-3-2009
Posting Date: 11-9-2009
Directed by Jose Maria Elorrieta
Featuring Pilar Arenas, Frank Brana, Rory Calhoun
Country: Spain

An adventurer seeks financing for an expedition to the tomb of Artatama to recover a legendary emerald.

In the first half hour of the movie, we have some voice-over narration, a fistfight, a little exposition about how the hero is planning an expedition, some dancing, some womanizing, a reunion of old buddies, and another fistfight. By the time the second fistfight came along, I was wondering when the movie was really going to get started. Which goes to show how clueless I am; all that stuff IS the movie, and the plot is strictly an excuse for the action scenes and the beautiful women. The fantastic content isn’t much; there’s some talk about a curse on Artatama’s tomb, but it comes to nothing. Does our hero reach the tomb? Does he find the emerald? Does he survive the several plots that are made against him? Does he end up with the woman who really loves him? Does the movie ever rise above the run-of-the-mill bottom-of-the-bill action flick it appears to be? One of the above questions has an answer of ‘no’, and if you follow the path of fewest surprises, you’ll know which one it is. Watchable and forgettable.

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Exorcism (1975)

EXORCISM (1975)
aka Exorcismo
Article 2988 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-13-2009
Posting Date: 10-19-2009
Directed by Juan Bosch
Featuring Paul Naschy, Maria Perschy, Maria Kosty
Country: Spain

A woman gets possessed after taking part in a Satanic ceremony. A priest tries to exorcise her.

I’ve seen enough imitations of THE EXORCIST now to know what to expect from them. And I’ve seen enough Paul Naschy movies to know what to expect from them as well. In either case, the expectations are not high. So when I say this Paul Naschy rip-off of THE EXORCIST doesn’t live up to my expectations, I’m not saying I expected it to be as good as its model, but that it didn’t even meet the low expectations I went in with. Quite frankly, the first three-quarters of the movie are a muddled bore; it’s almost as if it doesn’t even want to be a horror movie, but a mystery, and not a good one at that. Oh, it throws in some nude cavorting at the Satanic mass, but for the most part, it’s talk, and not very interesting talk. The possession only really begins in the last reel, and that pretty much unfolds as you’d expect, though that’s not to say it’s effective. I can appreciate that the movie was trying to be low-key (which is something you don’t expect in a Paul Naschy film), but it ends up merely dull.

Eaten Alive! (1980)

EATEN ALIVE! (1980)
aka Mangiati vivi!, The Emerald Jungle
Article 2965 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-20-2009
Posting Date: 9-26-2009
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Robert Kerman, Janet Agren, Ivan Rossimov
Country: Italy

A woman hires a guide to take her into the jungles of New Guinea to help her find and rescue her sister, who is part of a religious cult who has set up camp there in an area surrounded by cannibals.

What do you get when you cross the Italian cannibal genre with the Jim-Jones-suicide-cult-exploitation genre? When you get down to it, little more than your typical jungle movie, only with lots of disembowelments, gore, animal torture, decapitations, rapes, and severed limbs. Reportedly, this is one of the milder Italian cannibal movies out there, so it may disappoint fans of this sort of thing. Me, I like animals enough to find the scenes of them being disemboweled (and you know that footage is not being faked) to be incredibly offensive, especially as you know it’s just being done to satisfy the gross-out crowd. As for the rest of the movie, it’s also there primarily for the benefit of the gross-out crowd; there’s certain nothing else about this film that would attract a viewer otherwise.

The Eerie Midnight Horror Show (1974)

THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW (1974)
aka L’ossessa, The Sexorcist
Article 2938 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-24-2009
Posting Date: 8-30-2009
Directed by Mario Gariazzo
Featuring Stella Carnacina, Chris Avram, Lucretia Love
Country: Italy

An art student encounters a wooden sculpture of a crucified man that turns out to be Satan. He comes to life and takes possession of her soul. An exorcist is found to save her.

Sometimes I marvel at the shamelessness of those who market movies. Releasing this lame but slightly sexed-up Italian rip-off of THE EXORCIST as THE SEXORCIST is not only tacky, but really overstates the case (though, in truth, since my print is short by seven minutes, it may depend on what is in that missing footage); nevertheless, I can understand that tactic. However, to call it the title it has above and to release it with the image of red disembodied lips is a blatant attempt to link it to another movie (and you should be able to figure out which movie I’m talking about if you consider that the title of that one featured both “horror” and “show” in the title, was a big hit on the midnight movie circuit, and was also marketed with the image of red disembodied lips). Still, I find it hard to believe that fans of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW would find much to their taste in this non-musical, non-campy, decidedly hetero movie. As for the movie itself, other than one good scene in which the wooden statue comes to life, I found it mostly derivative and dull; in particular, endless discussions about the artistic merits of the statue (and occasionally other items) will most likely bore the hell out of anyone who isn’t an art student. The director also gave us VERY CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FOURTH KIND, if you want a hint at the level of quality here.

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.

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.