Faust (1960)

FAUST (1960)
Article 3129 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2009
Posting Date: 3-9-2010
Directed by Peter Gorski and Gustaf Grundgens
Featuring Will Quadflieg, Gustaf Grundgens, Ella Buchi
Country: West Germany
What it is: Classic sell-your-soul-to-the-devil drama

Faust sells his soul to the devil.

This movie is for all practical reasons a photographed stage play of the first part of Goethe’s classic story of Faust that runs for over two hours long and is in unsubtitled German. If that’s enough for you to throw in the towel before you’ve even gotten wet… well, I can appreciate that; if I weren’t a committed fool to this project, I’d probably do the same. Those who persist will find some incredibly good acting, especially from Gustaf Grundgens, who had been essaying the role of Mephisto for three decades; as always, I maintain that good acting can be spotted even if you don’t understand the language. It also makes some real effort to keep the “photographed stage play” approach from getting too stodgy; changes in camera angles, close-ups, and occasional cinematic special effects enliven the production. As for not understanding the movie, that can be easily solved by grabbing a translation of Goethe’s work and reading it in preparation for the viewing, as I suspect this version is quite faithful to it. I didn’t quite have the time to prepare, and though I’ve read the original play many years ago, I barely remember it and recall it being a difficult read. There’s also a mind-blowing sequence that pops in about fifteen minutes before the movie is over, and it makes some rather creative use of atomic bomb stock footage. It’s quite interesting, albeit intimidating, but I’ll make sure I’m more prepared when I watch a second time.

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Faust and Marguerite (1900)

FAUST AND MARGUERITE (1900)
Article 3093 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-6-2009
Posting Date: 2-1-2010
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Melies-style trick film

Mephistopheles tries to get Faust to decapitate Marguerite, but Faust refuses. When Mephistopheles decides to do it himself, complications ensue.

Basically, the complications have to do with people magically switching places, vanishing or turning into skeletons. It’s not the stuff of great tragedy by any means, but then, were any of these very early adaptations of Faust little more than trick films? It’s okay, but it lacks the verve of a real Melies short.

Frozen Scream (1975)

FROZEN SCREAM (1975)
Article 2980 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-5-2009
Posting Date: 10-11-2009
Directed by Frank Roach
Featuring Renee Harmon, Lynne Kocol, Wolf Muser
Country: USA

Doctors are working on a process for immortality that involves lowering the body temperature and injecting them with a fluid that increases the healing process. Unfortunately, the subjects turn into soulless zombies who occasionally go wild.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie of such startling ineptitude. First of all, there’s the acting – yes, I know some of the characters are soulless zombies, but that’s no reason for almost everyone in the cast to act that way, and two of the more energetic performances are from the “soulless zombies”. Then there’s the direction and editing; the story makes no sense, the scenes seem edited at random, and the voiceover narration that’s supposed to clear things up comes up at all the wrong moments and mostly concentrates on the least relevant plot issue – the narrator’s love life. Lil Stanhope may be attractive, but she has one of the thickest accents I’ve ever heard and it’s compounded by lack of articulation. And could someone please explain to me why the rock group that performs “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Rock Around the Clock” see fit to change the lyrics? They’re not fooling anybody. Throw in some bad gore effects, horrible dialogue and incompetently staged fight scenes, and you know you’ve got a candidate for one of the worst films of all time. Only one thing works; I got one honest intentional laugh out of a wino’s comment upon being assaulted by a zombie.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)
Article 2979 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-4-2009
Posting Date: 10-10-2009
Directed by Steve Miner
Featuring Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King
Country: USA

Camp counselors arrive at the camp across from the now-closed Camp Crystal Lake, the site of a series of murders from five years ago. Legend has it that the supposedly drowned son of the murderess from five years ago is still alive and stalking victims. It’s considered just a legend… until people begin showing up murdered.

I see the slasher film as basically a cross between one of the old “Old Dark House” stories (in which people in an old dark house are knocked off one by one by a murderer) minus the mystery elements and the old dark house, crossed with the homicidal psychopath trend that started with PSYCHO, minus the psychological underpinnings for the murders. In a way, they’re stripped-down bare-bones horror movies; they’re out to deliver the scares and the blood, and everything else is just window dressing. I suspect that the reason this series lasted as long as it did was because it more or less delivered on the expectations of those who came to see them. Though as a movie, it’s not very good, it’s markedly better than a lot of other slasher movies I’ve seen, and maybe that’s the best way to look at it. This is the movie in which Jason takes over the killing, though it’s still before he wore his trademark mask, so we get lots of shots of his boots. For the record, I don’t think this one is as good as the original, but since I’m not a particular fan of this subgenre, that may not mean anything to those who are fans. I do find myself wondering just how many more of these I’m going to see, though.

Frankenstein ’80 (1972)

FRANKENSTEIN ’80 (1972)
Article 2978 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-3-2009
Posting Date: 10-9-2009
Directed by Mario Mancini
Featuring John Richardson, Gordon Mitchell, Renato Romano
Country: Italy

Someone is killing, raping and mutilating people in the vicinity. Meanwhile, a doctor’s serum intended to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs is stolen. Could these crimes both have something to do with Dr. Frankenstein and his experiments in a secret lab?

Well, I like the presence of the familiar face of Gordon Mitchell here. I also like the name for the monster – Mosaic. As for the rest of the movie, this cheap, bloody, and exploitative update of the Frankenstein story goes a long way towards making FRANKENSTEIN 1970 look really good. Fans of sleazy exploitation might like this one best, though I suspect it might have its attractions for devotees of laughably bad dubbed dialogue or fans of special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi. The rest of us may want to be excused from having to watch this stinker.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)

FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1971)
aka 4 mosche di velluto grigio
Article 2977 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-2-2009
Posting Date: 10-8-2009
Directed by Dario Argento
Featuring Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Jena-Pierre Marielle
Country: Italy / France

A musician corners a stalker in an attempt to find what he wants, but ends up killing him when the man pulls a switchblade. The killing is captured on camera by a masked figure, who proceeds to terrorize the musician with the pictures. The musician seeks to find the identity of the masked figure.

Dario Argento’s movies can be a great deal of fun. This movie is filled with offbeat moments and amusing characters, such as the gay detective who is hoping to break his string of 84 failures by solving the case, the beleaguered mailman, and the encounter at the convention of coffin salesmen. Of course, any movie which features Bud Spencer as a character named God has gone a long ways towards charming me already. I was able to finger the culprit early on, but that didn’t destroy my enjoyment of this one; the stylistic touches add to the fun, Argento knows how to ratchet up the suspense at the right moments, and the confusing moments all eventually do clear themselves up and show their relevance to the story. The dubbing is not great, but it’s acceptable, so much of the humor still comes through. It’s not up to his best work, but I found this one quite entertaining.

Force of Evil (1977)

FORCE OF EVIL (1977)
TV-Movie
Article 2973 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-28-2009
Posting Date: 10-4-2009
Directed by Richard Lang
Featuring Lloyd Bridges, Pat Crowley, Eve Plumb
Country: USA

A doctor who refused to provide an alibi for a rapist/murderer finds himself and his family in danger when the murderer is released from prison and plots revenge.

I don’t really have a good grasp on exactly what I’m watching here. It was originally an episode of “Tales of the Unexpected”, but I don’t know if it was a special two-hour episode of the series (which usually ran sixty minutes), a two-part episode, a full-length remake of the episode, or an expansion of the original episode to full length. Well, whatever it is, it’s pretty good. Some user comments on IMDB speak of it as a remake of CAPE FEAR, but there appears to be no credit to John McDonald for the original story, so I suspect it’s not an official remake. There’s a very strong similarity in the basic premise, though the details differ substantially. I notice that the book that I use for my hunt list from which I culled this title does not also list CAPE FEAR as genre, but that’s understandable once you’ve seen this one; there’s a bit of an implication of “revenge from beyond the grave” to this one that wasn’t in the earlier movie. Sadly, I think some of these supernatural hints actually detract a little from the movie’s effectiveness, but it’s still a nail-biter nonetheless, with William Watson giving a truly scary performance as the murderer. It’s definitely one of the better Lloyd Bridges TV-Movies out there, and fans of “The Brady Bunch” will recognize Eve Plumb as the family’s daughter.