Foreplay (1975)

Article 2564 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-12-2008
Posting Date: 8-20-2008
Directed by John G. Avildsen, Bruce Malmuth, Robert McCarty
Featuring Zero Mostel, Estelle Parsons, Pat Paulsen
Country: USA

A trio of stories about sex are presented. In the first, a man buys a life-size doll for his enjoyment. In the second, a blurb writer is visited by a muse, who sets him up to re-enact some of his early sexual conquests, only this time with him victorious. In the third, the president’s daughter is kidnapped and the ransom is that the president and the first lady must perform intercourse over national TV.

Those expecting a sophisticated look at sex in the mode of Woody Allen’s EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX should take note that the DVD version of this movie comes from Troma. Those who are impressed by the fact that it comes from Troma should take note that Troma only released the DVD version, and had nothing to do with the movie’s actual production. The movie manages to be both unfunny and unerotic. The first segment features two of the better performances in the movie from Pat Paulsen and Paul Dooley, but the script is singularly undeveloped and it utterly fails to make the slim comic idea work. The second has the highest amount of fantastic content (a muse that can take people back in time), but the script is pointless and stupid. The final segment is an embarrassing idea to begin with, and Zero Mostel’s painfully bad overacting in a dual role just makes it worse; still, this segment did elicit from me the only laugh I had during the movie, and that is entirely due to the performance of Estelle Parsons who, win she discovers the contents of the ransom note, manages to let us know subtly and clearly that she finds the idea exciting. The movie features short segments featuring Irwin Corey as a professor on sex that are totally ineffective. In short, the movie is disastrously bad; don’t watch it with your girlfriend unless you’re planning on breaking up with her.



Faust and Marguerite (1904)

aka Faust et Marguerite
Article 2546 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-25-2008
Posting Date: 8-1-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France

Faust is restored to youth by Mephistopheles and attempts to court Marguerite.

For those who enjoy the hellish antics in FAUST AUX ENFERS and wonder how Faust got himself into that position, here is the prequel. The Melies set claims this is a fragment, though it’s difficult to tell what’s missing. It’s a straightforward rendition of the story, and it also features narration, which is good, because it would have been difficult to figure out if you weren’t familiar with the story already. This is an interesting take on the Faust story, but I still prefer the terrifying ladies and their mops in FAUST AUX ENFERS.


Final Exam (1981)

Article 2507 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-14-2008
Posting Date: 6-23-2008
Directed by Jimmy Huston
Featuring Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, Ralph Brown
Country: USA

Students study, take final exams, make out, flirt, play fraternity pranks, talk. Psycho kills them all.

Movie kicks off with a murder. Then movie breaks neatly into two parts. First part engages in combination of rudimentary character development (easy to do with one-dimensional characters), fraternity pranks (like ANIMAL HOUSE only without iota of humor), and fake scares. Second part has characters killed by psycho with long knife. No explanations tendered, no suspense maintained. Soulless, joyless, and as much fun as taking a final exam. Will test your patience. By-the-numbers slasher movie.


Fantasy Island (1977)

Article 2506 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-13-2008
Posting Date: 6-22-2008
Directed by Richard Lang
Featuring Ricardo Montalban, Bill Bixby, Sandra Dee
Country: USA

Three visitors pay $50,000 apiece to have their individual fantasies played out on a resort called Fantasy Island. A former World War II reporter wishes to relive a romance he had during the war, a big game hunter wants to be the hunted, and a female executive wants to know who she can trust among her family and associates and wishes to fake her own funeral.

I avoided the TV show (for which this was the pilot) like the plague when it was popular during the late seventies and early eighties; there was something about the concept that struck me as silly. Now, having watched the original TV-Movie on which it was based, I can at least understand the appeal. The show actually does a fairly decent job of playing on and confounding expectations; for example, the story which initially seems the most insipid (the old love affair) turns out to be the darkest of the bunch. It is also, sadly, the least convincing; I can’t for the life of me figure out why Bill Bixby’s character would pay this much money to relive this part of his life. The story about the woman attending her own funeral is marred by a scenery-chewing performance by Carol Lynley, and you’ll probably be able to spot the twist a mile away as the story winds down. I like the story of the big game hunter the best, and this story, similar in some ways to THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, does add a little bit of horror to the proceedings. The show’s strength is simple; Ricardo Montalban is excellent as Mr. Roarke. He adds just the right touches to his line deliveries to make the events seem compelling and even a little profound. He also embodies the fantastic content of the movie; we never learn precisely what he is, but one of his opening lines in which he talks about his guests being “mortal” should give you a clue, as well as explaining how one character does not die. Still, I suspect that the real appeal of the show to TV viewers was the constant parade of familiar guest stars on the show, which I also suspect was the same appeal of “The Love Boat”, another show I avoided like the plague.


El fantasma del convento (1934)

aka Phantom of the Convent
Article 2484 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-22-2008
Posting Date: 5-31-2008
Directed by Fernando de Fuentes
Featuring Enrique del Campo, Marta Roel, Carlos Villatoro
Country: Mexico

Two men and a woman lost in the woods are taken to a convent by a monk with his dog. There they encounter a group of mysterious monks and eerie happenings.

If it hasn’t already happened, I hope someday someone gets it into their head to restore some of the older Mexican horror films and give them subtitles. When they do, I hope this one is at the top of their list. Yes, I have trouble figuring out what’s going on because of the language problem, but the movie is full of so many interesting and strange touches (including a room with a large cross nailed across the door, a bat’s shadow on the wall, and a tilted cabinet) that I found myself intrigued and caught up in it anyway. It makes excellent use of silence and sound throughout, and I think this one may be one of the best of the Mexican horror movies. However, a lot hinges on the dialogue and explanations, which I can’t follow. One of these days, I may just set out to learn Spanish…


Francis in the Navy (1955)

Article 2483 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-21-2008
Posting Date: 5-30-2008
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Featuring Donald O’Connor, Martha Hyer, Richard Erdman
Country: USA

Peter Stirling has to rescue Francis the Talking Mule from being sold as surplus by the Navy. Unfortunately, he looks exactly like a sailor who steals his identity. The Navy mistakes Stirling for his lookalike, and he has to convince them they have the wrong man.

Once more into the breach! To its credit, this movie tries to avoid regurgitating the same Francis plot that most of the other movies followed. However, the creation of an identical lookalike doesn’t really give us a lot of variety to the humor; just how many laughs can you get having one person mistaken for another? Once again, it’s the actors who show up in the supporting cast that are the real novelty; there’s Jim Backus, Martin Milner, David Janssen and (hold onto your hats) Clint Eastwood. Somehow, I have visions of one of the movie companies putting out a Clint Eastwood DVD set and including this one. Make no mistake; if the movie was in public domain, we’d be seeing copies of this all over the place with Eastwood’s face on the cover.

This was almost the end of the line for the series. By the time the next one rolled around, Arthur Lubin, Donold O’Connor and Chill Wills had departed.


The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958)

aka Vynalez zkazy
Article 2402 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-24-2007
Posting Date: 3-10-2008
Directed by Karel Zeman
Featuring Lubor Tokos, Jana Zatloukalova, Miroslav Holub

A scientist is kidnapped by pirates who pretend to be protecting him from those who would prevent him from working on his new invention, a super-powerful bomb. His assistant is also kidnapped, but is kept away from the scientist because he knows the truth of the situation. The assistant vows to escape, contact the scientist, and save the world from the pirates.

Here’s another movie by Karel Zeman, and it’s a sumptuous visual feast. Zeman combines special effects, animation, live action and set design to create a movie and a world totally unlike any other; much of it is intended to emulate the woodcut illustrations of the original Jules Verne novels, and shot after shot in this movie is stunning. The story is based (rather freely) from a Jules Verne novel called “Face au Drapeau”, and this version seems to combine several elements from other Verne stories, most notably the ones about Captain Nemo. The story gets a little dull on occasion, but there’s always something fascinating to look at, and it has fun touches of humor on occasion, and sometimes I sense a Chaplinesque air to the proceedings. It even has a scene involving an early movie projector that plays some rather strange movies, including one with roller-skating camels. Like all of the Karel Zeman movies I’ve seen, highly recommended.