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.

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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.

The Flight that Disappeared (1961)

THE FLIGHT THAT DISAPPEARED (1961)
Article 2972 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-27-2009
Posting Date: 10-3-2009
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Featuring Craig Hill, Paula Raymond, Dayton Lummis
Country: USA

A flight carrying several scientists who are slated to work together developing the ultimate weapon finds itself lifted into the stratosphere and vanishing.

This could have made a half-hour episode of “The Twilight Zone”, but not one of the better ones. Furthermore, it could have easily been reduced to the length of an episode simply by removing the padding, cutting the unnecessary scenes, and streamlining the events that are necessary. Even at that, I’d opt for someone with a sense of dialogue to rewrite what was left. If I don’t sound impressed by the script of this one, then you’re hearing me right; what can you say about a movie that takes ten minutes at the end to deliver its final twist when it could have been neatly handled in one-fifth of that time? Certainly, Reginald Le Borg’s flat direction doesn’t help much, but I’m not sure that even an inspired, creative director could have done much to salvage this one, so maybe Le Borg was the best choice for it. If you do decide to watch, brace yourself for some tiresome preaching as well. This one is not recommended.

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (1962)

FIRE MONSTERS AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1962)
aka Maciste contro i mostri
Article 2971 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-26-2009
Posting Date: 10-2-2009
Directed by Guido Malatesta
Featuring Reg Lewis, Margaret Lee, Luciano Marin
Country: Italy

The son of Hercules named Maxus comes to the aid of a primitive tribe of sun worshipers who are beset by evil moon worshipers.

Cool! Who wouldn’t want to see one of the sons of Hercules take on the dreaded fire monsters? What a great idea for a sword-and-sandal movie! But wait a second – where are the swords? Where are the sandals? It looks more like one of those club-and-loincloth movies to me! So what’s one of the sons of Hercules (and I know he’s one of them because he said so) doing in the prehistoric era, a time which predates Hercules? I was guessing that the son of Hercules here (named Maxus) must have borrowed Maciste’s tardis, but a quick look at the original Italian title of this one indicates that this Maxus personality is just a sham; this is the time-travelling Maciste himself.

Well, this is all secondary, of course – what we’re really waiting for is seeing this guy take on those fire monsters! So let’s see – he takes on a sea monster who doesn’t seem to have much of anything to do with fire. He battles hordes of cavemen who wear underwear underneath their loincloths (and believe me, you’ll be glad that they did), but I can’t really call these guys fire monsters. He looks at a slurpasaur for a few seconds, but we don’t hang around long enough to see if he breathes fire or anything, and they never fight anyway. He battles a prehistoric creature in a cave who has big teeth but seems noticeably lacking in fire. And then he… well, that’s about it really. If the truth be told, there are no fire monsters in this movie. I’m beginning to think someone just made up the title.

Oh, and there’s no evil queen, either, for those who are keeping score on such things.

The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980)

THE FIENDISH PLOT OF DR. FU MANCHU (1980)
Article 2970 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-25-2009
Posting Date: 10-1-2009
Directed by Piers Haggard, Richard Quine and Peter Sellers
Featuring Peter Sellers, Helen Mirren, David Tomlinson

Dr. Fu Manchu seeks the ingredients for a secret potion that has kept him alive to the age of 168. However, Nayland Smith has come out of retirement to stop him.

Reportedly, Peter Sellers’s doctor warned him against making this movie due to his weak heart. Not only did Sellers make the movie (playing two roles and doing his own stunts), but he took over directorial reins after dismissing original director Piers Haggard. I can’t help but admire the man’s dedication; I just wish it had been at the service of a better movie than this one. Rather than a straightforward parody of the Fu Manchu stories (which wouldn’t have been a bad idea in itself), it instead attempts to be a quirky variation on the stories; unfortunately, the end result is strange, muddled and unfunny. I also feel uncomfortable watching Sellers’s’ performance on occasion here; there are times where his characters seem tired and ailing, and I’m not sure if I’m watching an actor’s choice, or Sellers’s own illness showing through. This would indeed prove to be Sellers’s last movie, and when one considers that his last movie would have been BEING THERE if this one had not been made, it makes it all that much sadder. The surprisingly good cast (which also features Sid Caesar) is sadly wasted.

Fear in the Night (1972)

FEAR IN THE NIGHT (1972)
Article 2969 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-24-2009
Posting Date: 9-30-2009
Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Featuring Judy Geeson, Joan Collins, Ralph Bates
Country: UK

A woman finds no one believes her when she is assaulted by someone with an artificial arm. When she moves into a cottage at a boys’ school with her husband, she is assaulted again, and once again she is not believed. Could someone at the school be responsible?

The acting is quite good from everyone here; Judy Geeson and Joan Collins do fine, fourth-billed Peter Cushing is excellent as usual, and Ralph Bates gives the best performance of his that I’ve seen so far. Unfortunately, it’s at the service of one of the most predictable scripts I’ve encountered in some time, and this is one of those stories that should be anything but predictable. For a while, I thought it was walking the well-trodden GASLIGHT path, but after a while it became apparent that the also over-traveled road of DIABOLIQUE was its real route. The less familiar you are with that movie (or its many imitations), the more likely it is you’ll like this one. Still, I must say I do like a few of the side touches, such as the backstories about the headmaster and the school; I only wish they had been put to the service of a less tired storyline.

Fangs (1974)

FANGS (1974)
aka Snakes, Holy Wednesday
Article 2967 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-22-2009
Posting Date: 9-28-2009
Directed by Art Names
Featuring Les Tremayne, Janet Wood, Bebe Kelly
Country: USA

When the local snake fanatic Snakey Bender finds his Wednesday routine messed up by a series of individuals (including a preacher, a teacher, the proprietors of a general store and a gold digger), he vows revenge, and intends to use his slithery friends for help.

So what separates this snake movie from the likes of RATTLERS and STANLEY? I’d have to say it’s its sense of humor. Not that its sense of humor is particularly sophisticated, mind you – most of the laughs come from the bizarre rustic small-town types that inhabit the movie, with Snakey himself (played with perhaps too much gusto by Les Tremayne) one of the oddest of the lot, what with his snake obsession coupled with his love of Sousa marches. I suppose the movie is quite bad, but I was laughing too consistently to make that matter much to me. My favorite scenes include the opening, where we encounter perhaps the worst marching band in history, the scene where a three-way music battle ensues between a church choir, a country music radio station and a phonograph of marching music, the scenes where Snakey disposes of the bodies of his victims, and the hilarious final scene of revenge. It gets pretty kinky at times as well; wait until you discover the nature of the schoolteacher’s real relationship with Snakey. Chalk it up as a guilty pleasure.