Easy Street (1917)

Article 4019 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-31-2012
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Featuring Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell
Country: USA
What it is: Comic short

When the little tramp falls for a beautiful organist at a mission, he reforms and gets a job as a cop. However, his first beat takes him into an encounter with an enormous and nearly indestructible bully.

I’ve only had the opportunity to cover two other Charlie Chaplin movies for this series, and one (MONSIEUR VERDOUX) could hardly be called representative, while the other (HIS PREHISTORIC PAST) caught him at his weakest. This one is much more representative, and does capture him with his strengths intact. However, the fantastic content is a little ambiguous; the Don Willis guide talks about a mad scientist’s formula making Chaplin super strong, but I think the Walt Lee guide, which merely says that Chaplin is injected with a hypo that makes him hyperactive, is much closer to the truth. The impression I got from watching the movie is that the man with the hypo is not a mad scientist, but some sort of drug addict, which fits the setting and the action much better. Nevertheless, this element only plays into the story momentarily near the end; one could also make the argument that the movie qualifies by the fact that the nearly indestructible bully has superpowers, as he can resist repeated hits on the head with truncheons, and is powerful enough to break out of handcuffs. Still, that’s more in line with the idea of comic exaggeration. Much of the movie is slapstick antics, but you notice Chaplin’s talent much more in the quieter, less frantic scenes. All in all, this was a lot of fun.

The Eyes of Annie Jones (1964)

Article 3954 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-12-2012
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Featuring Richard Conte, Francesca Annis, Joyce Carey
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Psychic thriller

When a woman disappears (though she has actually been murdered and her body hidden), her family enlist the help of a teenage psychic to find her whereabouts.

This movie has been on my “ones that got away” list for some time, but it’s one I expected would eventually turn up and it finally has. And though I’m always glad when a rarity manifests itself, I don’t necessarily expect it to be a hidden gem, and this one certainly isn’t. It’s one of those stories that really doesn’t have enough to it to sustain a feature length movie, even one that runs under seventy-five minutes. So, after the opening murder, the movie gets bogged down in tedious and uninteresting details, mostly emphasizing the teenage psychic girl’s attraction to the missing woman’s womanizing brother. The ending was particularly disappointing in the way it handles the fantastic elements; if it doesn’t go so far as to debunk them, it nonetheless relegates them to the realm of the inconsequential. In the end, I found the movie dull and ordinary.

En Route (1910)

EN ROUTE (1910)
aka The World’s Progress from Stone Age to Airships
Article 3953 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-11-2012
Directed by Emile Cohl
No cast
Country: France
What it is: Animated meditation on progress

The development of various modes of transportation are explored.

The English title for this one promises quite a bit for what is in essence a five minute short, but once I realized it was directed by Emile Cohl, I figured it wouldn’t prove to be a hopeless task. It restricts itself largely to the development of transportation, and takes three trips through history – for transportation on land, transportation on water, and transportation in the air. Each trip begins with a caveman speculating on how to advance, which is what gives the movie its science fiction content. Oddly enough, the caveman never invents the wheel, which is what you’d think would be the first act; instead, it deals with his idea of catching and taming horses for transportation. The movie even dabbles in a little social satire, hinting that maybe all this progress isn’t necessarily a good thing. Not bad for a five-minute short.

Electric Eskimo (1979)

aka Superkids
Article 3949 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-6-2012
Directed by Frank Godwin
Featuring Tom Chadbon, Ivor Danvers, Kris Emmerson
Country: UK
What it is: Juvenile superhero

When an Eskimo boy becomes caught up in an experiment conducted at the North Pole, he gains the ability to spontaneously generate electrical charges. He is taken to England for study, but becomes the target of spies who wish to use his talents for their own nefarious purposes.

Despite the fact that this entry from the Children’s Film Foundation is less overtly comic than yesterday’s movie, and that some of the plot details are quite different, it’s rather obvious that both movies are cut from the same piece of cloth; in fact, one of the first things I checked was whether there were any writing credits in common, and sure enough, both movies were penned by the same duo, Frank Godwin and Harry Robertson. The primary thrust of each movie is the same; it’s to show children cleverly outwitting and humiliating evil adults. If anything, this one is even more witless; when it tries for comedy, it does so in a tame slapstick mode that shows little in the way of comic timing or reaction. In fact, my reaction to both of the movies is similar; they seem homogenized and pre-chewed, as if the child audience in question would get indigestion from anything too intense. I’m sure some people do feel that way, but the movies I remember most from my childhood were the ones that weren’t afraid to frighten me or upset me; movies like this one would be nothing more than time-killers. That being said, I can’t help but notice that the Eskimo boy here focuses his power by use of the Bela Lugosi WHITE ZOMBIE hand gesture.

The Electric Grandmother (1982)

aka Ray Bradbury’s The Electric Grandmother
Article 3938 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-22-2012
Posting Date: 5-26-2012
Directed by Noel Black
Featuring Maureen Stapleton, Edward Herrmann, Paul Benedict
Country: USA
What it is: Bittersweet science fantasy

A family grieving the loss of the mother decide to take advantage of an offer to get a robot grandmother. The new grandmother wins the hearts of the father and the two boys, but will she be able to win over the inconsolable daughter?

I was a little disappointed by this adaptation of the Ray Bradbury story “I Sing the Body Electric” during the first twenty minutes; I found it lacking in that poetic verve I expect from a Bradbury adaptation. However, the movie does a quick turnaround once the grandmother arrives and the story begins to focus on her relationship with the daughter, whose grief has given way to bitterness and anger. It is the movie’s focus on grief and the fear of loss that gives it its dimension, and it effectively taps into that desire that those we love will be with us forever by giving us a parental figure who won’t go away; the final scene in which the children have become old enough to be grandparents themselves is very moving. The movie isn’t flashy, but it resonates emotionally and it keeps its magic simple. Recommended.

Endgame (1983)

ENDGAME (1983)
aka Endgame – Bronx lotta finale
Article 3876 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-16-2012
Posting Date: 3-25-2012
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Featuring Al Cliver, Laura Gemser, George Eastman
Country: Italy
What it is: After-the-apocalypse action

It’s after the apocalypse. While roving bands of the military gun down mutants, the rest of the world enjoys a violent game show called ENDGAME, where violent warriors square off against each other in hunter-vs-hunted scenarios. One of the reigning champions of the game is recruited on a mission to save a handful of telepathic mutants by leading them on a journey to a meeting place where they can be saved.

Here’s another one of the many ROAD WARRIOR clones of the eighties, though, truth be told, I’m beginning to think they owe as much to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK as they do the other movie. It’s nonstop action, loud, violent, and, if not quite stupid, I can say that it’s obvious. Still, if you take this all into consideration, then I think I can say that it’s at least not too bad for what it is; it neither takes itself too seriously or too lightly, and even though the themes are obvious, it does set them forth with a modicum of wit. I have to admit that I even liked the somewhat open-ended ending, largely because the movie manages to find just the right degree of character development to make it work. I usually hate movies like this, but at least this one left me with a little smile on my face, and that’s saying something.

Eating Raoul (1982)

Article 3875 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-15-2012
Posting Date: 3-24-2012
Directed by Paul Bartel
Featuring Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran
Country: USA
What it is: Black comedy

When a down-on-their-luck straightlaced couple (with dreams of opening a country restaurant) accidentally kill a couple of swingers, they discover that their victims had lots of money on them. They hit on the idea of financing their dream by posing as swinging prostitutes and knocking off their respective customers. All goes well until a opportunist discovers their secret and decides to horn in…

This is the third movie I’ve seen from Paul Bartel, and I marvel a bit at the way he can deal with sleazy, shocking and taboo subjects in a way that is witty and fun; I don’t feel my nose is being pushed into the slime when I watch his movies. Of the movies I’ve seen of his, this is perhaps the one that qualifies the least for genre; though it does deal with serial killing and cannibalism (among other things), this is not a horror movie. In fact, the whole style feels like a sitcom; I could actually imagine a laugh track being grafted onto this movie. Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov are excellent as the “too-square-for-words” couple; one of my favorite moments in the movie is seeing the arrangement of their bedroom. Another of my favorite moments features Billy Curtis as one of the couple’s prospective clients. I also like Susan Saiger as Doris the Dominatrix, who has a surprisingly normal home life. All in all, this is a genuinely amusing black comedy that doesn’t really feel like one.