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.



Frankenstein (1973)

Article 2387 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-9-2007
Posting Date: 2-24-2008
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Featuring Robert Foxworth, Susan Strasberg, Bo Svenson

A scientist creates a giant man in his laboratory, but finds himself regretting his action when the giant man inadvertently kills one of his assistants and escapes into the world.

I’ve quite enjoyed Dan Curtis’s seventies TV forays into classic horror that I’ve seen so far; I liked both THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE and THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY . However, his attempt at Mary Shelley’s classic here falls flat. There are several reasons; the script is often clumsy and unwieldy, the acting is inconsistent, it lacks the wonderful ambiance of the other Curtis movies I’ve seen, and it’s overlong. It still might have worked had both of the central performances been strong enough , but only Bo Svenson manages to make his character of the giant (read: monster) memorable; Robert Foxworth is merely passable as the title character. As a result, the sections of the movie that deal primarily with the life of Dr. Frankenstein just aren’t very interesting; during the middle section of the movie when the giant is away learning to speak, the parts featuring the doctor mostly consist of scenes where people try to get him to talk about his experiments or wondering why he’s acting so strange, and this gets old very fast. The ending is especially weak; the endless talk about forgiveness makes me feel like I’m watching a preachy After School Special rather than a horror movie. In the end, it’s really only Svenson that makes this one work at all; he manages to imbue his character with a real childlike innocence, and it is his fate that catches our attention. One of these days I’ll probably be covering the other TV version of this story from the era, FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY.


Futureworld (1976)

Article 2375 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-26-2007
Posting Date: 2-12-2008
Directed by Richard T. Heffron
Featuring Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner, Arthur Hill

Two reporters attend the reopening of Delos, a high tech amusement park that was closed down after a disaster occurred in the area known as Westworld a few years ago. The problems have now been fixed, but one reporter believes something strange is going on there after a contact of his is murdered. And indeed, there is something ominous going on in Delos…

I was fully expecting that this sequel to WESTWORLD was going to do little more than rehash the original movie. Thankfully, that is not the case; rather than merely regurgitating the “machinery gone haywire” theme of the original movie, this one takes the same setting and comes up with a different threat. Granted, the threat isn’t particularly novel, but once it manifests itself, it makes good use of it. Its biggest problem is that it seems to take forever to get to the new threat, so we spend an inordinate amount of time experiencing the wonders of Delos and putting up with an annoying comic relief character who won his entry to the park in a game show. The dialogue is pretty clumsy at times as well. Yul Brynner reprises his role from the original movie, but in such a bizarre context (he appears as a fantasy lover in one woman’s dreams) that it feels like the movie was bending over backwards to work him into it. Nonetheless, it plays well with the suspense sequences near the end of the movie; you really won’t know if good or evil is triumphant until the last scene of the movie, and given that this movie was made in the era of downbeat, dystopian science fiction, you’re quite aware it could go either way. Though not great, it was an acceptable sequel to WESTWORLD.


The Flying Saucer Mystery (1950)

Article 2374 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-25-2007
Posting Date: 2-11-2008
Director and Cast Unknown

A documentary on flying saucers.

This is perhaps the earliest documentary about flying saucers. It’s pretty bare bones; we see some pictures of UFOs, we hear commentary from several people, several explanations are tendered, it is pointed out that some of the sightings can’t be explained by those explanations, and it concludes that the mystery is still a mystery. More footage and photographs and fewer talking heads (many of which have aerodynamically sound ears) would have helped. The most interesting moment has a scientist recreating the phenomenon that he believes is responsible for many of the sightings. Fortunately, since the whole movie is ten minutes long, it doesn’t last long enough to get dull.


Farewell to the Planet of the Apes (1981)

Article 2319 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-1-2007
Posting Date: 12-18-2007
Directed by Don McDougall and John Meredyth Lucas
Featuring Ron Harper, Roddy McDowall, James Naughton

Burke and Virdon set free a man from a fishing village who was being sacrificed because he was too old, and they set out to change the ways of the fisherman. Then they encounter a human who has learned the secret of flight but is in danger for his life from the apes.

This is another TV-Movie edited from episodes of the “Planet of the Apes” TV series; in this case, episode 6 (“Tomorrow’s Tide”) and episode 14 (“Up Above the World So High”, the last one of the series) are combined. Despite the title, there is no escape from the planet, since the series ended before it could resolve its plot. Actually, I liked this one a shade better than the other two I’ve seen, largely because the stories seem less formulaic, less preachy, and show a sense of humor that I found sorely lacking in the others I’ve seen so far. They still fall short of compelling, though, and I still think the series was pretty weak overall. However, it did make me appreciate the best thing about it; Roddy McDowall always put his best foot forward, and his character is far and away the most interesting one in the series. His performance helps to compensate somewhat for the other weaknesses.

With this one, I’ve seen (via TV-Movie versions) just a little under half of the episodes of the series. I’ve got one more of these to go, but it will be several days until I get to it.


The Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes (1981)

Article 2317 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-30-2007
Posting Date: 12-16-2007
Directed by Don McDougall and Bernard McEveety
Featuring Ron Harper, James Naughton, Roddy McDowall

Virdon, Burke and Galen encounter an ape city where the prefect has the humans fight as gladiators in an arena. They they visit an abandoned city, where Urko captures one of the fugitives, and an attempt is made to get him to reveal the whereabouts of his companions.

Two more episodes from the “Planet of the Apes” TV-series get the TV-movie conversion done on them, in this case, the second and the fifth episodes, “The Gladiators” and “The Legacy”. In the first, a valuable lesson is taught to a decent but misguided ape prefect. In the second, valuable lessons are taught to a young kid given to stealing and mistrust. The first one is slightly better, partially due to the presence of John Hoyt as the prefect. Still, neither one is very good, and after a while the leaden pace, uninspired direction, and lack of incidental music at key points of the story really drags it down. At least with the TV series you can watch one episode at a time.

It’s been three days in a row of bogus TV-movies edited from other sources, and I’m ready to watch a real movie now.


Faustina (1957)

Article 2311 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-24-2007
Posting Date: 12-10-2007
Directed by Jose Luis Saenz de Heredia
Featuring Maria Felix, Juan de Landa, Jose Isbert

Mephistopheles gets an old woman to sell her soul to the devil, and then tries to foil her plans for power, but finds himself outwitted by her at every turn.

I had to get this plot description from other sources than the movie itself. it’s a Mexican comedy/drama/fantasy modeled somewhat off the Faust story, and that’s about all I really got out of it. It is in unsubtitled Spanish, and it’s one of those movies where you really have to understand the dialog to follow the story. Nonetheless, there are a few sequences that can be appreciated; I like the scenes in hell, which look like a corporate office only with flames burning everywhere, and the devils swat flies and light cigars with their tails. There’s an obviously comic sequence where the somewhat inept Mephistopheles accidentally turns his client into a baby in his attempt to restore her youth, and there’s a scene with a car caught on the railroad tracks. Outside of that, I’m afraid this one is largely impenetrable unless you know Spanish. Its rating of 5.3 on IMDB seems to indicate that it is not a particularly good movie, and I must admit that I got that impression from what I did see. Still, it’s another one I can cross off my list.