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.

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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.

 

Exorcism at Midnight (1966)

EXORCISM AT MIDNIGHT (1966)
aka Naked Evil
Article 2618 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-5-2008
Posting Date: 10-13-2008
Directed by Stanley Goulder
Featuring Basil Dignam, Anthony Ainley, Suzanne Neve
Country: UK

An Obeah-man is terrorizing students and staff at a hostel.

So, it’s 1973, and you want to cash in on THE EXORCIST, and you found a 1966 British movie that features an exorcism at one point in the proceedings. There’s only one problem; the movie you found is in black-and-white, which means that it probably won’t go over very well to an audience expecting color. So, what do you do? You take a tip from Al Adamson, who did the same thing when he edited footage from a black-and-white movie into VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET; you invent a process called “Spectrum X”, and you tint all the black-and-white scenes various colors. Then, you shoot extra color footage to bookend the old footage. With this kind of history, you can understand why I went into this one with the idea that I was about to see a stinker of the first order. Well, it’s nowhere near that bad. Oh, the movie is muddled enough, but the presence of several Jamaican characters and the presentation of the details of Jamaican voodoo (called Obeah) give the movie a unique flavor and an undeniable atmosphere, even seen through the tinting. The new footage doesn’t really add anything to the proceedings, but it’s competently acted and not an embarrassment. It’s also strangely old-fashioned; despite the drug and exorcism subplots, it sometimes feels a bit like an old dark house mystery, and I ended up not being surprised that the movie was based on a stage play. Still, I should point out that, given that this is the second movie in a row in which the alternate title includes the word “naked”, that this one has no nudity whatsoever.

 

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS (1977)
aka Trap Them and Kill Them, Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali
Article 2608 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-26-2008
Posting Date: 10-3-2008
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Featuring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Nieves Navarro
Country: Italy

When Emanuelle uncovers a case of cannibalism in an insane asylum, she follows the trail to a tribe of cannibals who live along the Amazon that were believed to have been extinct.

Hey, you’ve got you’re soft-core porn in my gross-out cannibal movie! Hey, you’ve got your gross-out cannibal movie in my soft-core porn! Two items of questionable taste that are even more questionable put together. I’m going to point out to begin with that I’m not interested in reviewing porn and am only covering movies of this sort for the sake of completeness, and that my taste in horror doesn’t run into the “gross-out-show-all-the-guts” category, as I much prefer subtler forms of scaring. Therefore, unless this movie adds something else to the mix that lifts it up out of its chosen subgenres, I have little use for it. Well, it doesn’t; the plot is cursory, the acting is weak, and it’s pretty much exactly the movie I thought it would be. This is for those who like their exploitation movies mixed.