The Fantastic Animation Festival (1977)

Article 2582 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-30-2008
Posting Date: 9-7-2008
Directed by Dean A. Barko and Christopher Padillo
Featuring the voices of Spike Milligan and Paul Frees
Country: USA

Fourteen award-winning animated shorts are presented.

Almost all of these animated shorts feature some fantastic content, ranging anywhere from the border fantasy element of the more abstract cartoons such as “French Windows” or “Cosmic Cartoon” to the more overt fantastic elements of “Nightbird” or “Moonshadow” (a cartoon inspired by both the Cat Stevens song of the same name and the artwork on the album that contains it, “Teaser and the Firecat”). Some of them seem to be parables or message films of a sort; an untitled clay animation piece involves a character who encounters laughter whenever he tries to evolve, and imitation when he succeeds, “Room and Board” involves a baby locked in a room trying to figure out a doorknob while quickly aging into adulthood and into old age, and the eye-popping “Mountain Music” has a definite ecological message. The more famous and familiar works are after the intermission; the ubiquitous “Bambi Meets Godzilla” is pretty hilarious the first couple of times but is now too common to have much impact; “The Mechanical Monsters” (the Dave Fleischer Superman cartoon from the forties) is the only traditional cartoon here, and, though entertaining enough, it is too anomalous in these surroundings. The high point here is at the very end; “Closed Mondays” is a famous clay animation short about a drunk who stumbles into an art gallery and finds the pieces coming to life; it’s still startling, memorable and fascinating even though I’ve seen it several times before. The surreal “Mirror People” gets quite horrific on occasion. All in all, this is an interesting animation compilation, though it does suffer a little from lack of focus.



Fear No Evil (1969)

Article 2568 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-16-2008
Posting Date: 8-24-2008
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Featuring Louis Jourdan, Carroll O’Connor, Bradford Dillman

A psychiatrist with an interest in the occult treats a young woman whose fiance died in an auto accident several days before they were slated to be married. The woman begins to see visions of her lover in an old mirror her fiance impulsively bought the day before his death, and she sees and feels her image making love to him. The psychiatrist decides to investigate.

This was part of a pair of TV-Movies which featured Louis Jourdan as an occult-investigating psychiatrist and his friend (played by Wilfred Hyde-White); the other movie was called RITUAL OF EVIL. Quite frankly, this would have made for a great TV series; the story is fascinating and takes some very interesting turns, the acting is strong, and it was quite ambitious; I suspect that the ending was inspired by the mystical trip through the monolith from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. You’ll figure out who the main human villain is if you use the “name actor in a seemingly minor role” rule. The biggest problem with the movie is that the dialogue is clumsy at times; it’s full of dialogue that looks better on paper than it sounds coming from the mouths of actual people. Nevertheless, this is a unique and and interesting TV movie that works well as both horror and mystery.


The Fury (1978)

THE FURY (1978)
Article 2566 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-14-2008
Posting Date: 8-22-2008
Directed by Brian De Palma
Featuring Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress
Country: USA

When a government agent is set up to be killed so he won’t interfere with the kidnapping of his son (who has special psychic abilities), he manages to survive and embarks on a quest to find his son. Towards that end, he tries to make contact with a girl who also has psychic abilities. Unfortunately, she is also wanted by the same government agency that kidnapped his son.

Of the Brian De Palma movies I’ve covered so far, this is the one I like best. This has probably less to do with the movie’s strengths than with the fact that I find the annoyance factor much lower here than it is with the others I’ve seen. For one thing, I see a lot less borrowing from Hitchcock; I have no doubt that there is some, but if so, it’s not from the Hitchcock movies I’m most familiar with and doesn’t seem quite as slavish. I also find his stylistic touches to be less intrusive; only once or twice do I get annoyed with them, and the extended slow motion sequence surrounding Gillian’s escape from the institute works beautifully. I also like all of the major performances (especially from Kirk Douglas) and the John Williams score. The movie is a bit on the longish side, though it mostly holds my attention very well. And it gets extra points for not having a stupid fake-out ending.


Frankestein: El vampiro, y compania (1962)

aka Frankenstein, the Vampire and Co.
Article 2565 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-13-2008
Posting Date: 8-21-2008
Directed by Benito Alazraki
Featuring Manuel “Loco” Valdes, Marta Elena Cervantes, Nora Veryan
Country: Mexico

Two postal clerks get mixed up with the Frankenstein monster, a vampire and a werewolf.

I had no trouble following the plot of this movie, despite the fact that my copy is in undubbed Spanish; it’s practically a scene-for-scene remake of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. It is not, however, joke-for-joke, so individual gags elude me, though I do have to admit I got a chuckle when the actor playing Lou’s character slips a fish down the dress of a woman and then proceeds to dance with her while she wriggles. The characters are largely the same, though the lab assistant is jettisoned and a comic detective is added. The werewolf mask here is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Probably the most interesting change from the original story is that a brain switch does actually happen (for a while at least), so you get a scene where the monster is acting like the comic character and the comic character acts like the monster. Right now I consider it more of a curiosity than a good movie, but until I find a dubbed or subtitled version, I can’t really give it a full evaluation.


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.