For Love or Murder (1970)

Article 2097 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-12-2006
Posting Date: 5-10-2007
Directed by Theodore Gershuny
Featuring Alexandra Stewart, David Hedison, Mary Woronov

A man and a private detective find a woman who knows the truth about the death of the man’s ex-wife. The story involves a dead scientist, a missing wristwatch, and experimental drugs.

With an IMDB rating of 3.0 at the time of this writing, it seems quite clear to me that this movie is quite disliked in certain quarters, and I can fully understand why; the story makes it sound like it should be an exciting mystery-thriller, and the presence of cult favorite Mary Woronov seems to promise something in the way of low budget exploitation fun. Instead, it feels like some sort of arthouse film; slow-moving and ponderous with a curious soundtrack mixing Motown and modern jazz. It’s not quite as indecipherable as some people make it out to be, but it is singularly uncompelling enough to give no impetus to the viewer to try to sort it out. It’s all very detached; it plays like a character piece, but none of the characters ever really come to life as people. The fantastic aspect of the movie is in the presence of the experimental drugs, and they really don’t play much into the story line when all is said and done.


Finian’s Rainbow (1968)

Article 2073 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-17-2006
Posting Date: 4-16-2007
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Featuring Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele

An Irishman comes to the small town of Rainbow Valley to bury a pot of gold (stolen from a leprachaun) near Fort Knox, in the hope that it will produce more gold. He ends up having to contend with his nemesis, the leprechaun who wants his pot of gold back and is slowly turning mortal, and a corrupt senator who is trying to seize the land in the town.

This movie was based on a 1947 Broadway musical that took twenty years to finally make it to the silver screen; this was due to the fact that those studios who were interested in adapting it to the screen wanted to make changes to the story (the themes of racism were ahead of their time and considered too hot to handle), but the writers held out until a faithful version could be made. By the time the movie was made, the themes were no longer controversial, but time had also rendered some of it quaint and a little dated.

Nevertheless, I found the movie thoroughly enjoyable. The opening scenes in which Fred Astaire and Petula Clark are seen walking against a backdrop of beautiful landscapes and famous sites (including the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore) are a form of cinematic magic that fires the imagination and prepares one for the magical events that follow. Fred Astaire was in his late sixties at the time, and even though he keeps his dancing quite simple, he still remains light on his feet and engaging throughout. The movie is also filled with top-notch songs and people who can actually sing (two things that DOCTOR DOLITTLE could have used), with Petula Clark and Don Francks performing beautifully, but Tommy Steele (as the leprechaun) doesn’t always manage to keep on the right side of annoying. Barbara Hancock is wonderful as a deaf and dumb girl (who communicates through dance, an appropriate conceit for a musical). Keenan Wynn almost steals the movie (he would have if Fred Astaire hadn’t been present) as the racist, pompous Senator who is turned black to learn the other side of his racist ways; unfortunately, his makeup is not particularly convincing in many of the scenes. The use of language is stunning in this movie; you can hear the music of the Irish lilt, and it is loaded with memorable lines. It’s a bit too long, though, and the plot gets confused at times, but there’s a lot of real magic here, and it’s become one of my favorite movie musicals.


Future Woman (1969)

Article 2070 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-16-2006
Posting Date: 4-13-2007
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Shirley Eaton, Richard Wyler, George Sanders

A man who is believed to be in possession of a suitcase with a large amount of money in it is being pursued by both a crime boss and a cabal of women who plan to take over the world.

Anyone who has followed my reviews up to this point knows that I’m not big fan of Jesus Franco, but given that I’m destined to encounter a huge number of his movies, I’ve decided to make every effort to give him a fair shake. I’ve seen enough of his work that I know that the times I’m least impressed by his work is when he engages in action thrillers, and the last time I encountered his name in tandem with that of Sax Rohmer’s was in THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, which I found intensely dull. This is just more of the same. It is here that I find his somewhat detached style becomes positively sleep-inducing, and I get the impression that far more time was spent on the costumes of the female characters than was spent on acting, pace, story and tightening up the action sequences. Even the presence of George Sanders doesn’t do a thing to bring this one to life, probably because he looks a little embarrassed whenever he’s on the screen. The fantastic element is the presence of some lame spy-style gadgetry, particularly some ineffective torture devices in the possession of the villainess.


The Fifth Cord (1971)

Article 2065 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-9-2006
Posting Date: 4-8-2007
Directed by Luigi Bazzoni
Featuring Franco Nero, Silvia Monti, Wolfgang Preiss

An alcoholic reporter finds himself a suspect in a series of murders of people he knows. The killer leaves a glove at each killing, with a finger removed for each successive victim.

For those who like watching giallos for the gore, disappointment awaits them here, as it is a relatively (but not totally) bloodless example of the form. However, those who get into the style, the mystery and the suspense should like this one. Franco Nero gives a good performance as the alcoholic reporter, though I do think his character is a bit more unpleasant than is necessary for the story. The dubbing is pretty good here as well, and it really builds up a good deal of suspense near the end where the killer chooses a child for his next victim. All in all, this is an enjoyable giallo.


The Fabulous Joe (1947)

Article 2057 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-1-2006
Posting Date: 3-31-2007
Directed by Harve Foster
Featuring Walter Abel, Margot Grahame, Marie Wilson

A businessman is surprised to discover that a dog he inherited can talk. The dog then proceeds to help him with his personal problems.

Given the fact that yesterday’s movie was THE DOG FACTORY, it seems like we’re on a run of canine films here. This Hal Roach Jr. production mines the same sort of laughs that the “Francis, the Talking Mule” do, though, for my money, this one is funnier. There are several reasons for this. One is that the movie is less bland; in fact, it gets rather racy at times, with part of the plot revolving around a bedroom farce situation in which a married man must hide a partially clothed woman from his wife and her relatives and friends. Another is that it doesn’t belabor the obvious joke; there is only one scene here where our hapless hero finds himself having to convince other people that the dog talks. And another is that, with a running time under an hour, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s silly and dumb, but good for a few fun laughs. My favorite scene involves the mixing of a drink called “The Mystery Gardenia”.


Friday the 13th (1980)

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
Article 1956 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-23-2006
Posting Date: 12-20-2006
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Featuring Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby

After having been closed for twenty-two years after the accidental drowning of a young boy and the murder of two counselors, Camp Crystal Lake is reopened. Then, on Friday the 13th during a full moon, the murders start up again.

I’ll confess upfront that I have something of a grudge against this movie and the series it spawned. I think the grudge was due to the fact that I dearly loved the old classic monsters, and there was a point when I discovered that if you brought up the subject of monsters to members of the younger generation, they would think Jason or Freddy rather than Dracula or Frankenstein. I felt that time had movied on irrevocably, and I didn’t like it, and I blamed the movies that had spawned the change.

I knew eventually I would have to contend with this series sooner or later in my project, and sure enough, here it is. Despite my grudge, I wanted to give the movie a fair shot; after all, a series like this doesn’t become so popular for no reason at all. Having finally watched it, I’m afraid I’m still in the dark as to why this series was so popular. It’s competently made, and generates a certain degree of suspense, but as far as shock moments go, only one caught me off guard (the final fake-out); the rest were so telescoped by the music and camerawork that I was fully prepared for them. Nor did I find the murders anywhere near as creative as I was led to believe; quite frankly, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM was a lot more interesting in this regard.

Still, I did find one interesting point. I’ve always held that the slasher genre was a logical (though somewhat long-in-coming) progression from Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. If such is the case, it is interesting to note that a certain family relationship in this movie is the direct opposite of the one in PSYCHO. Some of the accusations also levelled at this movie aren’t quite fair; I’ve often heard it said that the counselors act with supreme stupidity in that, despite knowing they’re in danger, they go off alone. In truth, nobody knows that people are being picked off one by one until only two counselors are left. Still, I don’t quite understand the popularity of this series, and I hold that, as far as slasher movies go, this is a pretty ordinary movie.


The Forbidden Moon (1956)

Article 1889 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-17-2006
Posting Date: 10-14-2006
Directed by Hollingsworth Morse
Featuring Richard Crane, Vic Perrin, Dian Fauntelle

When a vague but urgent SOS arrives from a space station, Rocky Jones is sent to investigate. He discovers that the station is loaded with a deadly radiation brought on board by an evil ruler who, having developed an immunity to the radiation, now plans to use his power to conquer the universe.

Yes, it’s another Rocky Jones adventure, and, as always, I find myself more entertained than I though I would be. Maybe there’s something about the earnestness of Richard Crane’s performance that goes a long ways towards selling these stories to me; he manages to avoid campiness so deftly that it almost makes you forget how absurd the plot is this time around. I’m no scientist, but I have a strong suspicion that anyone with a good working knowledge of radiation would have conniption fits from this one, and even I find the last part of the story (in which Rocky and Professor Newton concoct a method of letting people know they’re stranded on a radioactive moon) to be utter balderdash. The usual gang is here; Rocky, Vena, Professor Newton, Bobby and Winky, but the real scene-stealer in this one is Queen Yarra’s huge earrings; you could suffer a concussion if she turned suddenly while you were standing next to her.

Somehow, I have a feeling that I haven’t seen the last of Rocky Jones…