The Golden Mistress (1954)

THE GOLDEN MISTRESS (1954)
Article 1942 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-9-2006
Posting Date: 12-6-2006
Directed by Abner Biberman
Featuring John Agar, Rosemarie Stack, Jacques Molant

When a man makes off with an idol used in a voodoo ceremony, he tries to contact a treasure hunter to let him know of the discovery. When the man dies of a voodoo curse, the treasure hunter embarks on a journey with the daughter of the dead man to locate a missing tribe known as “The Untamed”.

This movie starts out as an exercise in voodoo horror, but shifts its focus about a third of the way in to become an adventure story. I was a bit surprised to see it with a lowly 4.0 rating on IMDB; I quite enjoyed it myself. The cast is quite likable, the color location footage (it was shot in the Caribbean) is quite beautiful, and the native dances are some of the best I’ve seen. It is, with its black tribes performing primitive ceremonies, politically incorrect nowadays, which probably accounts to some extent for its poor reputation. The director plays the role of the man who originally steals the idol, and Rosemarie Stack (who was known as Rosemarie Bowe at the time this was made) would later marry actor Robert Stack; given her beauty, I’m a bit surprised she didn’t have a much bigger career as an actress that she did.

 

The Great Gambini (1937)

THE GREAT GAMBINI (1937)
Article 1938 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-5-2006
Posting Date: 12-2-2006
Directed by Charles Vidor
Featuring Akim Tamiroff, Marian Marsh, John Trent

When a wealthy man is found murdered in his apartment, the police gather together suspects in the case, including his fiance, his fiance’s father and stepmother, a jealous rival, the butler, and a mind reader known as Gambini.

This was, for my money, one of the more entertaining mysteries from the thirties. The story itself is fairly ordinary, but the story is told with an unusual degree of clarity; it’s one of those mysteries where I can actually tell the suspects apart from each other. It’s also helped by the presence of a great collection of character actors to flesh out the proceedings, including Genevieve Tobin (doing her best impression of Billie Burke), William Demarest and Edward Brophy (as the police). The movie is really stolen by Akim Tamiroff in the title role; his antics as the smarter-than-the-police psychic adds an enormous amount of fun to the proceedings. The fantastic content is, of course, the mind-reading act, which, as is usually the case in mysteries of this sort, has its fantastic qualities short-circuited by later revelations, but the revelations are good ones here. Furthermore, the movie even has a bit of William Castle-style gimmickry, as the movie halts at the fifty-minute mark to allow the viewer to guess the identity of the murderer during the minute the clock ticks away. This one was lots of fun.

 

The Green Hornet (1940)

THE GREEN HORNET (1940)
Serial
Article 1912 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-9-2006
Posting Date: 11-6-2006
Directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor
Featuring Gordon Jones, Wade Boteler, Anne Nagel

A newspaper publisher takes on the persona of The Green Hornet, a person who seems to be a criminal but is really intent on uncovering a crime syndicate.

You know, this isn’t a bad serial, and I recall rather liking the sequel, THE GREEN HORNET STRIKES AGAIN. However, as a follow-up serial to the superior JUNGLE GIRL , I’m afraid I can only notice how ordinary it is. Outside of the hero, the most memorable characters are his Korean servant and his bodyguard, a feisty Irishman. Pretty much everyone else is pretty forgettable, including the villain, who is one of those types that keeps out of action until the last episode, and mostly barks out orders to anonymous henchmen from behind a desk. The plot is also pretty repetitive; The Green Hornet investigates a specific racket, gets in peril, escapes, threatens a crook to try to get him to reveal the leader, and the crook either gets away, knows nothing, or dies, and The Green Hornet moves on to the next racket. The science fiction elements are the same as the later serial; the Hornet’s special gun and the really fast buzzing car. I’ve also noticed that Columbia is less likely to rely on cheating cliffhangers as much as Republic; unfortunately, Columbia relies on something even less interesting, the incredibly resilient hero who just luckily happens to survive every cliffhanger. I do have one piece of advice for The Green Hornet, though; since a few of the cliffhangers have to do with him almost being killed by his own bodyguard, I think it would behoove him to tell the bodyguard about his secret identity. Just a thought…

The Gypsy Moon (1956)

THE GYPSY MOON (1956)
aka Rocky’s Odyssey
Article 1890 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-18-2006
Posting Date: 10-15-2006
Directed by Hollingsworth Morse
Featuring Richard Crane, Scotty Beckett, Sally Mansfield

Rocky Jones encounter a pair of wandering moons which share the same atmosphere, Posita and Negata. He is taken prisoner on Posita, where an attempt is made by the ruler to force him to destroy the moon of Negata, which is inhabited by siren-like creatures.

For the second day in a row we are being mooned by Rocky Jones. Actually, it’s possible to watch five of these Rocky Jones movies with moon in the title; besides this one and THE FORBIDDEN MOON , we also have THE MAGNETIC MOON, BEYOND THE MOON and CRASH OF MOONS . Fans of the latter story may find this one interesting, as it introduces the moon of Posita and the character of Bovaro, played by John Banner of “Hogan’s Heroes” fame. This is one of the strangest of the Rocky Jones series; it is consciously modeled off of Homer’s “The Odyssey” (though, in truth, the Trojan horse story which comes into play at one point does not appear in that work). The sequence on Negata is particularly surreal, and once again I admire the special effects work that went into this series; it wasn’t necessarily convincing, but it was interesting to look at. It’s also one of the more exciting episodes, though it is also quite confusing at times. Oddly enough, this is the first movie I’ve covered that does not have a listing on IMDB, and I thought it would turn out to be that this was one of those Rocky Jones episodes that wasn’t converted to movie form. Having seen it, though, I can say otherwise; the original Rocky Jones episodes for this one were titled “Rocky’s Odyssey”.

Ghosts on the Loose (1943)

GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE (1943)
Article 1857 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-15-2006
Posting Date: 9-12-2006
Directed by William Beaudine
Featuring Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan

The East Side Kids decide to help clean up a house for Glimpy’s newly married sister and her husband, and end up at the house next door, a supposedly haunted house actually peopled by Nazi propagandists.

This is the last of Bela Lugosi’s nine Monogram movies that I’ve gotten around to cover for this series, and among Lugosi fans, it is often considered his least interesting. And indeed it is; Bela Lugosi is barely in it and is given little to do; his most memorable moment involves the utterance of what surely sounds like a four-letter word during a sneeze. Nor do Frank Moran or Minerva Urecal (who both appeared with Lugosi in THE CORPSE VANISHES ) have much to do, either. Furthermore, the title is a cheat; there are no ghosts to be found, and the sequence of the movie involving the Kids being frightenend in a haunted house is short, mild, and scareless. It’s no surprise that SPOOKS RUN WILD is the more popular Bela Lugosi / East Side Kids collaboration.

As an East Side Kids movie, though, it passes muster. I like the scene where some of the boys manage to get hold of a flower display without “stealing” it, there’s an amusing little reference to producer Sam Katzman, and I do find it highly amusing that a pre-stardom Ava Gardner is here playing Huntz Hall’s sister. Leo Gorcey is flirting a little with malaprops here as well. Serial fans will recognize Wheeler Oakman as one of Lugosi’s henchmen; in fact, he might have ended up with more dialogue than Lugosi did.

Grizzly (1976)

GRIZZLY (1976)
Article 1848 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-6-2006
Posting Date: 9-3-2006
Directed by William Girdler
Featuring Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel

A killer grizzly is on the loose at a state park, and it is a park ranger’s job to apprehend it.

Director William Girdler is perhaps best known for ABBY, a rip-off of THE EXORCIST that was blatant enough to bring down the wrath of Warner Brothers, who sued American-International over the movie and kept it out of circulation for years. Who better to film this one, a rip-off of JAWS with a killer bear instead of a killer shark. Not that the movie is particularly good; the acting is quite uneven, the dialogue is embarrassing at times, and the music is a far cry from the classic John Williams score for JAWS. Still, it’s watchable enough, largely due to the appeal of the three leads, who manage to be likable and interesting even when struggling with some very bad dialogue. Nonetheless, the movie doesn’t really end up being very convincing. The worst problem is that we never get a good comparison shot between the bear and the humans; most of the good shots of the bear are of him alone, and his scenes with the humans usually only feature his claw or a close-up of his furry hide. As a result, we never get the sense of real danger, and the generous amounts of gore don’t quite compensate for it. Still, the movie is efficient, and has a few scares; for this sort of thing, it could have been a lot worse.

Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon (1965)

GULLIVER’S TRAVELS BEYOND THE MOON (1965)
aka Gariba no uchu ryoko
Article 1810 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-27-2006
Posting Date: 7-27-2006
Directed by Masao Kuroda and Sanae Yamamoto
Featuring the voices of Herb Duncan, Robert Harter, Chiyoko Honma

A young boy meets Gulliver, who has built a rocket ship for his next set of travels. They go to the Star of Hope, where they encounter a civilization menaced by robots.

Fans of the exuberant melodies of composer Milton Delugg (most famous for “Hooray for Santa Claus” from SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS ) will have a great time with the English dub of this movie, as he supplies the music and the songs. Those not taken with his particular muse will find this Japanese science fiction/fantasy tougher going. Still, both groups will have to contend with the song where they give the talking crow a few verses to warble. It’s not so much that he’s a bad singer (“Hooray for Santa Claus” didn’t exactly have the finest vocalists ever produced by kiddom); it’s just that when he demonstrates this inability to sing, he does so in the aggressive raucous spirit of Ethel Merman, and the results are almost painful. Still, singing crows notwithstanding, this isn’t a bad children’s movie; it takes a little while to get going, but the sequences on the Star of Hope are actually rather interesting. Granted, I’m no real judge of children’s movies, though I do admit to having a little fondness for those that get rather weird and silly. This one was interesting enough that I may well watch it again sometime. Just excuse me if I turn down the sound at a crucial moment…