Fairy Tales (1978)

FAIRY TALES (1978)
Article 5076 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-10-2016
Directed by Harry Hurwitz
Featuring Don Sparks, Sy Richardson, Irwin Corey
Country: USA
What it is: Fantasy musical comedy nudie

The prince has reached the age of 21, but he must prove he can sire an heir or lose his kingdom. Unfortunately, the only woman who excites him is a princess who has been missing for years.

I knew going into this that it was a nudity-filmed comedy on fairy tale themes; it was only after I started watching the movie that I found it was a musical, too. However, that last discovery is neither here nor there as far as the very low expectations with which I went into this one. And… it didn’t even live up to those. Even for this type of genre, this is a dim-witted and dismal affair; about the only element I found the least bit clever in this one was the fact that one of the musical numbers is made to sound like the Andrews Sisters. There’s a few interesting names and faces in the cast, though. Sy Richardson, Linnea Quigley and Angelo Rossitto all make appearances. The most jarring and unexpected appearance, though, is from Motown artist Martha Reeves, who had no idea what type of movie this was, and I couldn’t help but notice that her only scene (she rises from a witch’s cauldron to sing a song) has no nudity, and she only shares the frame with two other members of the cast; she only discovered the truth when she brought some members of her church to see it (according to IMDB). There’s lots of nudity, though there’s very little sex for this type of thing, which is why I’m more inclined to classify this one as a late-period nudie.

Flashman (1967)

FLASHMAN (1967)
Article 5063 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-28-2016
Directed by Mino Loy
Featuring Paolo Gozlino, Claudie Lange, Ivano Staccioli
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Camp superhero pastiche

Flashman takes on a criminal who has stolen an invisibility formula.

If the Flashman theme song sounds pretty reminiscent of the theme song of a certain American superhero who had a campy hit TV series in the mid-sixties, it’s no coincidence. This is basically an Italian take on Batman, with a hero who is a tycoon who fights crime in a mask, and this movie tries to work in the same campy vein as the TV series. It’s a little difficult to say how well it works; not a lot of care went into the English dubbing, and as is often the case when you’re dealing with dubbed comedy, much of the humor can be lost in translation. Certainly, the humor in the English language version falls flat as a pancake; nor am I impressed with the invisibility effects or the action sequences. The stupid comic-relief policemen are a particular annoyance. There’s not much to recommend here.

Feet Foremost (1983)

FEET FOREMOST (1983)
Article 5006 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-1-2015
Directed by Gordon Flemyng
Featuring Joanna Van Gyseghem, Lesley Bennett, Heather Chasen
Country: UK
What it is: Episode of British horror series “Shades of Darkness”

An industrialist buys a mansion which is haunted by a ghost who enters the site by asking to be carried over the threshold, and then only leaves after taking possession of someone and destroying them from the inside out.

This one is listed in the John Stanley guide. It isn’t quite the length of a movie; the print I saw ran just over fifty minutes. It’s a ghost story that works mostly through suggestion rather than shock; in fact, there’s only one scene of outright horror in the film. It’s well acted, and the script is quite literate; in fact, it gets a little dull on occasion, especially if you’re not into British drama. Still, the story ends up hinging on an interesting dilemma, and it has a satisfying ending.

Full Moon High (1981)

FULL MOON HIGH (1981)
Article 4986 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-12-2015
Directed by Larry Cohen
Featuring Adam Arkin, Roz Kelly, Ed McMahon
Country: USA
What it is: Werewolf comedy

When a high school football player contracts lycanthropy on a trip to Romania, he drops out of school and travels around the world right before the big game. Twenty years later he returns and goes back to school, hoping to break the curse by making a touchdown in the big game.

Larry Cohen is a very interesting writer and director, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has a flair for comedy. I will admit there are some fun lines and entertaining moments in this werewolf comedy, and the movie actually starts strongly enough that I thought I was going to enjoy this one. Alas, when it doesn’t work (which sadly is most of the time), it feels forced and awkward, and occasionally even desperate. I gather that Cohen was also intending to make some observations about how times and people change, and I can see some attempts being made in that direction, but the movie is a little too silly to make it stick and it gets lost. It’s also rather disappointing that the werewolf makeup is extremely lame. For me, the best thing about the movie was a surprise appearance by Adam Arkin’s father Alan as a psychiatrist that treats his patients by insulting them; he’s the only thing in the movie that is consistently funny. The movie may also have the single weirdest variation I’ve seen on the shower attack scene from PSYCHO, and though it feels out of place, it’s far from the only thing in the movie that does. All in all, I thought this one was a bit of a mess.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)
Article 4985 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-11-2015
Directed by Joseph Zito
Featuring Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Peter Barton
Country: USA
What it is: Story problem illustrating subtraction

Teens…Crystal Lake… Jason… fewer teens… still fewer teens…

From the user comments on IMDB, I gather that fans of the series consider this one one of the better sequels. Maybe it is; not being a fan of the series, I don’t find a real appreciable difference to set this one apart from the others. The killings come pretty much at the points I suspect they will, and the methods of dispatch aren’t noticeably more clever than the ones before. In fact, I’d have to say the only surprises here are the surprises that you’d expect, which is to say they really aren’t surprises. There’s a couple of names in the cast who have become familiar enough (Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman), and I suppose that adds a hair of novelty. I will give the movie credit on one point, though; Jason’s fate here is one of the more memorable moments of the series. Still, the movie pretty much follows the formula I’ve come to expect. Oh, and the title is a lie, but everyone already knows that.

Firefox (1982)

FIREFOX (1982)
Article 4983 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-9-2015
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Featuring Clint Eastwood, Freddie Jones, David Huffman
Country: USA
What it is: Spy thriller

When the U.S.S.R. develops a powerful new military aircraft, American intelligence recruits a veteran pilot from Vietnam to take part in a mission to steal the aircraft and bring it to American.

For some reason, I always thought this was an odd choice for Clint Eastwood; a high-tech special effects thriller just didn’t strike me as the sort of thing he’d be interested in. Having seen it now, it strikes me that the movie feels like two different movies. The first two thirds is a serious (as in non-James Bond style) spy thriller that gains its depth by having Eastwood’s character trying to come to terms with the extent to which is associates are willing to risk their own or other’s lives in the pursuit of their mission. It’s only the final third of the movie that it turns into the high-tech special effects thriller I had been expecting. This section almost feels like a lift out of STAR WARS, and though I don’t necessarily mean that disparagingly, it seems to lose its human touch in the face of all the special effects pyrotechnics. Maybe that’s why I don’t emerge from the movie quite satisfied with it all; the two sections of the movie don’t fit well together, and it’s lengthy running time (two hours and sixteen minutes) starts to wear on me as well. Reportedly, the movie was popular, but Eastwood has done much more interesting things.

Los fantasmas burlones (1965)

LOS FANTASMAS BURLONES (1965)
aka The Ghost Jesters
Article 4978 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-4-2015
Directed by Rafael Baledon
Featuring Antonio Espino, German Valdes, Adalberto Martinez
Country: Mexico
What it is: Demented ghost comedy

Two carnival hucksters with a mysticism racket accidentally conjure forth two real ghosts.

I was only able to find this in Spanish without English subtitles, so I can’t really go into plot details. However, much of what is going on is visually oriented, and I can attest to the fact that it appears to me to be one of the most demented and energetic Mexican comedies that I’ve ever seen. It has two groups of comedians; Antonio Espino (“Clavillazo”) and Adalberto Martinez (“Resortes”) play the hucksters, while the Valdes brothers (German “Tin-Tan” and Manuel “Loco”) play the ghosts. The movie is packed with sight gags and musical numbers, including a few jaw-dropping (if politically incorrect) ones featuring the ghosts appearing in various guises. It’s consistently amusing and positively surreal on occasion. It even features stock footage from ONE MILLION B.C., including part of the fight between Ignatz and Rumsford, so if anyone out there is keeping track of which movies use that footage, here’s another one for you. I can honestly say I was never bored with this one, and for a movie that has no English dubbing or subtitles, that’s saying a lot. Still, it helps if you have a taste for broad comedy.

Frankenstein (1984)

FRANKENSTEIN (1984)
TV-Movie
Article 4899 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-13-2015
Directed by James Ormerod
Featuring Robert Powell, David Warner, Carrie Fisher
Country: UK / USA
What it is: You know the story.

Dr. Frankenstein creates a creature, which then escapes, but returns to haunt him.

It’s getting so that I rather dread covering movies like this; the story of Frankenstein has been done so many times that I sometimes wonder if it’s possible to come up with a fresh way of approaching the material. Furthermore, this one is a TV-Movie that looks like a TV-Movie; it feels flat and is largely devoid of atmosphere. It has a decent cast, but a weak script; it borrows some of its story from the original novel, other parts are borrowed from earlier cinematic versions of the story, and for the most part, what original touches it adds to the mix are quite bad. About the only new touch that I really liked was that the monster finds himself confusing his creator with God, but the script as written makes very clumsy use of this concept. Much as I like David Warner as an actor, I wouldn’t have cast him as the Creature; he has a good face for it, but the role requires touches of pathos that don’t really play to the actor’s strengths. The acting is mostly acceptable, but gives in to melodramatic scene-chewing on occasion. The end result is a forgettable take on the classic tale.

Fig Leaves (1926)

FIG LEAVES (1926)
Article 4889 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-3-2015
Directed by Howard Hawks
Featuring George O’Brien, Olive Borden, Phyllis Haver
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy

A plumber’s wife’s desire for new clothes inadvertently leads to a rift in the marriage, especially when a scheming neighbor and a narcissistic fashion designer come upon the scene.

This certainly doesn’t sound anything like the usual fare I cover, but fans of fantastic cinema will want to tune in for the first twelve minutes of the movie. This section takes place in prehistoric/garden of Eden times, and before we’re through, we’re treated to a giant chimpanzee, two dinosaurs (one providing bus transportation) and a talking snake; it’s a bit like an early version of “The Flintstones”. As for the rest of the movie, the efficient direction of Howard Hawks and the genuinely witty script make it an enjoyable affair. Still, I wouldn’t blame anyone for getting a little bored during a lengthy “fashion show” sequence which was originally shot in color, but only exists nowadays in black and white. The dinosaurs aren’t really convincing, but they are fun, especially a full-size prop triceratops. This one was quite entertaining.

Filmstudie (1926)

FILMSTUDIE (1926)
aka Film Study
Article 4793 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-5-2015
Directed by Hans Richter
Featuring Stella F. Simon
Country: Germany
What it is: Abstract short

Various shapes and images appear.

This is another in of the many experimental/abstract shorts made during the twenties and thirties, some of which have begun to appear in this series due to their inclusion in the Walt Lee guide. This one is considered an experiment in Dadaism, a sort of “anti-art” movement that arose during the first half of the last century. The main difference between this one and most of the others I’ve seen is that, rather than solely incorporating abstract images, it also uses more concrete images, such as floating eyeballs and a woman’s face, as well as shots of seagulls and a man swinging a sledgehammer. These images do give some variety to the proceedings, though I did find myself wondering how well these shorts would have worked during the silent era. The print I found had an obviously more modern soundtrack attached to it, and I wonder if there was specific music attached to it when it was first made. I would imagine that the musical score would be an important element for this type of film, and that a bad or badly chosen score could have a big impact on the reaction to watching the film. As it is, I found it interesting enough, though I was glad that it was pretty short.