Fantomas Strikes Back (1965)

aka Fantomas se dechaine

Article 3685 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-1-2011
Posting Date: 9-16-2011
Directed by Andre Hunebelle
Featuring Jean Marais, Louis de Funes, Mylene Demongeot
Country: France / Italy
What it is: Supervillain parody

Fantomas hatches a scheme to kidnap scientists who are on the verge of creating a method of long-distance hypnosis which could be used for world conquest. Can policeman Juve and reporter Fandor prevent him from accomplishing his evil scheme?

I was blindsided by the first movie in this series in that I didn’t expect a comedy; it was the first Fantomas movie I’d been able to see with English subtitles, and all of the others were played more or less straight. I felt a bit of resentment then (especially at the reduction of Juve to a buffoon), but I’ve gotten over it enough to enjoy this sequel for what it is, which is really more of the same. There are some fun moments here; my favorite has Fantomas and Fandor disguising themselves as the same scientist, and the confusion that results when all three of them end up in the same place. Of course, the humor is enhanced by the fact that Fantomas, Fandor and the scientist are all played by Jean Marais, who seems to be enjoying himself here. I still think Louis de Funes plays Juve a little too broadly, but at least the movie makes good use of his excitable over-the-top character in scenes where he is mistaken for a lunatic and one in which he exhorts other policemen to keep relaxed. There’s a fair amount of gadgetry in this one, including a car that converts to an airplane, a cigar gun, and a coat with a fake arm whereby the wearer can get the drop on an opponent by having a third hand. All in all, this was pretty amusing.


The Fantastic Journey (1977)

aka Vortex

Article 3623 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-1-2011
Posting Date: 7-16-2011
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Featuring Jared Martin, Carl Franklin, Ike Eisenmann
Country: USA
What it is: Pilot episode of the TV series of the same name

When a boat passes into the Bermuda Triangle, its passengers find themselves stranded in a strange world in which they can pass through different time continuums.

I was a little confused by the listing of this in John Stanley’s “Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again”; I was unable to establish whether it was indeed a movie and not just an episode of a TV series. Finally, I decided check out the series pilot. Despite having the episode name listed on IMDB as “Vortex”, it’s longer than the sixty minute running time that it’s listed as having, and the credit sequence looks a lot more like a movie than a TV series; furthermore, it never uses the title “Vortex”, and just calls itself by the title I have listed above. I remember having seen an episode of the short-lived series, and the biggest question I had during the credits of this was “Where is Roddy McDowall’s name?” It turns out McDowall did not become a member of the series until it actually became a series; he is absent in the pilot. In fact, it looks like quite a few changes were made from the pilot to the series. The movie ends on a cliffhanger, and I suspect these sequences were added after the rest of it was made; it looks like they were preparing to get rid of about half of the cast. It’s just as well as far as I concerned; there’s no one in the pilot that has the star power of Roddy, and the hysterical screaming woman is taken out of the mix.

All in all, I found the pilot fairly so-so, though I do like the central idea; most of the plot involves some rather uninteresting sixteenth-century pirates. My guess is that the series was bought with the idea of making a few changes to make it more viable. Since I had to buy the whole series to get the pilot, I’ll probably check them out, though I won’t be covering them here. Since the series was so short-lived, I suspect it never really developed into anything special.

Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Article 3621 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-29-2011
Posting Date: 7-14-2011
Directed by Steve Miner
Featuring Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Tracie Savage
Country: USA
What it is: A FRIDAY THE 13TH movie

Teens enter Jason’s domain and die.

Before I started this project, if anyone had told me I would end up willingly watching all of the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies, I would have thought they were crazy. I’m even more surprised that I have something nice to say about them, which is that in their own bare-bones way, they probably delivered what fans of this type of movie expected, and I’ve seen enough slasher films now to know that a lot of them don’t even accomplish that. What sets this one apart? Well, it was filmed in 3-D, and this is the one where Jason finally dons his trademark hockey mask. Beyond that, I don’t have anything more to say than that one really feels the malaise starting to set in here. And for all the gore, once it’s over, it’s over, and if anything keeps you awake during the night, it’s more likely to be from eating too much popcorn. And now it’s only a matter of time before I hit the next in the series, which I believe is the one they pretended was going to be the last one.

Fricot a bu le remede du cheval (1910)

aka Friscot Drinks a Bottle of Horse Embrocation, Fricot beve la medicina

Article 3592 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-29-2011
Posting Date: 6-15-2011
Director unknown
Featuring Ernesto Vaser
Country: Italy
What it is: Man-acts-like-animal early comedy

Fricot is sent out to buy a bottle of horse medicine. Fricot drinks it himself, and begins acting like a horse. Hilarity ensues.

I pretty much had an idea of what this was going to be like at the outset. My only question was – How would the plot set it up so Fricot would accidentally drink this bottle of horse medicine? The answer is simple; Fricot drinks it on purpose. Conclusion: Fricot is an idiot, but I suppose that’s why it’s a comedy. On top of acting like a horse, it also seems to give him the ability to jump between metal bars, though I don’t think I would have tried it. It all ends with a chase scene. Here’s another early silent to cross of the list.

The Formula (1980)

Article 3561 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-22-2011
Posting Date: 5-15-2011
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Featuring George C. Scott, Marlon Brando, Marthe Keller
Country: USA / West Germany
What it is: Gizmo Maguffic-style crime thriller

A police detective investigates the murder of a friend, and the investigation leads him to Germany and a secret formula for synthetic fuel. But is he acting as a free agent, or is he a pawn in a game…?

As stated above, the synthetic fuel is a Gizmo Maguffin – that is, a science fiction concept that is rarely used for itself but rather as something to drive the plot of a movie that is really about something else. The cast is impressive and the director was an Oscar winner, but the movie was a flop and doesn’t have much of a reputation. I think the reason may be the very nature of the story; it’s difficult to make movies about business corruption, cartels and finances gripping to the general public, and the movie doesn’t pull it off. There’s also the simple problem that the movie is often rambling and unfocused; all too often the characters will break into “meaningful” conversations that have little to do with the matters at hand. The performances are quite good, though Brando’s combination of eccentricity and slurred speech is a little on the annoying side; you’ll be glad he has only a handful of scenes. The movie got nominated for an Oscar for its cinematography, and for several Razzies. The movie isn’t very good, but it isn’t that bad; it does, however, take quite a bit of patience to appreciate it.

The Feast of Satan (1971)

aka Las amantes del diablo, Feast of the Devil
Article 3553 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-14-2011
Posting Date: 5-7-2011
Directed by Jose Maria Elorrieta
Featuring Espartaco Santoni, Krista Nell, Teresa Gimpera
Country: Spain / Italy
What it is: Mild devil worship movie

A woman is discovered in a state of near shock and with her hair turned white overnight. The woman is taken to a hospital, but disappears shortly afterwards. The woman’s sister decides to investigate her fate, and links her with a doctor who seems to have supernatural powers.

I have to admit that I found the first half of this movie rather confusing because several of the female characters had the same hair color and little in the way of differentiating physical traits to help me tell them apart; it’s a bit similar to the problems I have with a lot of B movies where all the males where identical suits and hats, and I always swore that if I ever directed a film, I would take special care to make sure that each member of my cast looked different enough from each other so that I wouldn’t cause viewers the same problem. Nevertheless, there were things about this movie that I quite liked; despite the fact that it was dealing with very similar and familiar situations (I don’t know how many movies I’ve seen where someone strikes out on their own to find out what happened to a relative only to run the risk of suffering the same fate), there was some quite interesting character touches that made me hope the movie would really go somewhere different. Unfortunately, the movie never really picks up a good head of steam, and the climax is surprisingly dull. In the end, it’s a movie that promises a lot more horror than it ever delivers.

Firebird 2015 A.D. (1981)

FIREBIRD 2015 A.D. (1981)
Article 3540 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-30-2011
Posting Date: 4-24-2011
Directed by David M. Robertson
Featuring Darren McGavin, Doug McClure, George Touliatos
Country: Canada
What it is: Lighthearted political science fiction

The president passes a law that forbids the use of gasoline and motor vehicles by private citizens, and organizes a group called DVC to enforce the law. A group of renegade car-lovers and mechanics do battle with DVC to fight the unjust law.

Based on the short description I found of this one, I was expecting something along the lines of THE ROAD WARRIOR, a movie that has had more than its fair share of imitators. To this movie’s credit, it goes off in its own direction, and I’d say it owes more to the various car-crazy movies of the seventies along the lines of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT than it does to the Mad Max movies. Truth to tell, the movie does find its own voice, though admittedly it is a pretty slight movie (most of the movie involves people tooling around in their vehicles) and probably deserves it’s lowly 3.9 rating on IMDB. But I kind of like the movie; Darren McGavin is always fun to watch, the political cant is kept light-hearted and fun, and the movie does have on really interesting character in the mad brother of a DVC operative; he dresses like an American Indian and hunts down and destroys car drivers (known as burners). There’s a bit of suspense, but it’s one of those movies that is so harmlessly good-natured that you’ll feel pretty confident it will have a happy ending. It’s far from great, but it’s got some charm and is pretty harmless.