Gulliver’s Travels (1977)

GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (1977)
Article 3880 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-20-2012
Posting Date: 3-29-2012
Directed by Peter R. Hunt
Featuring Richard Harris, Catherine Schell, Norman Shelley
Country: UK / Belgium
What it is: Another take on the Swift satire

Gulliver becomes a ship’s surgeon, but after a storm, he is stranded in the land of Lilliput, where everyone is tiny and he’s a giant.

To its credit, this take on Jonathan Swift’s famous book doesn’t completely eliminate the satire, but given the fact that it’s still seen as primarily a children’s story, it does soft-pedal it quite a bit. As expected, it sticks to the first book of the novel, though it does end on a note that at least addresses the second voyage to Brobdingnag (perhaps a sequel was hoped for). It’s a combination of live action and animation; the latter is serviceable but uninspired. I could do without the songs myself, and though Richard Harris does all right with the title character, it’s hardly a challenge the way it’s written. Oddly enough, there’s a glimpse of totally gratuitous animated nudity as well; why, I don’t know. It’s not awful, but it’s probably the weakest take on the tale that I’ve seen for the series.

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Garden of the Dead (1974)

GARDEN OF THE DEAD (1974)
Article 3878 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-18-2012
Posting Date: 3-27-2012
Directed by John Hayes
Featuring Phillip Kenneally, Duncan McLeod, John Dullaghan
Country: USA
What it is: Low-budget zombie mayhem

Convicts forced to work in a camp manufacturing formaldehyde plan a breakout which then goes awry, and they all die and are buried in unmarked graves. But some of the formaldehyde spills onto the graves, and they rise to take revenge!

I’ll give the movie a little credit for not being a slavish imitation of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD; the zombies here are intelligent (which is to say that they’re as intelligent as they were when they were alive), able to talk, and can move fast. But that doesn’t keep this one from going off the goofy meter; for one thing, despite the fact that they’re intelligent, they still like to walk around saying “Urrrr… Urrrr….Urrrr” (Is that all they can think of to say, or does that just come with the territory?) And instead of going after human flesh, they’re after … hold on, I can barely believe it myself… FORMALDEHYDE!! which they sniff, pour over their bodies, rub on their faces…I guess it must be like zombie catnip. Oh, they have their weaknesses; bright light is fatal to them, they can be killed by close-range shotgun blasts, and they’re hypnotized by… and once again, I can barely believe it myself…. CLEAVAGE! Yes, they can be stopped in their tracks by the sight of a low-cut blouse. No wonder Troma’s logo opens the movie. Can’t you just see the inevitable sequel being made, BIKINI BIMBOS VS. FORMALDEHYDE ZOMBIES. Oh, I certainly hope I don’t give anybody ideas out there. Awful, but irresistible.

Gemini Man (1976)

GEMINI MAN (1976)
TV show pilot
aka Code Name: Minus One
Article 3872 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2012
Posting Date: 3-21-2012
Directed by Alan J. Levi
Featuring Ben Murphy, Katharine Crawford, Richard Dysart
Country: USA
What it is: Invisible man TV series

A government agent is exposed to an explosion by a radioactive mine, and it gives him the ability to turn invisible. He uses his ability to uncover a Soviet spy ring that is trying to take over a munitions industry.

Here’s another pilot for a TV series, but this is one of them that actually made it. I can see why; it’s got a workable premise and is competently made. It isn’t particularly inspired, though, and I know I would have found the semi-romantic bantering between Ben Murphy and Katharine Crawford to tire very quickly. The first half of the movie is concerned with working the fairy dust so that we get some clearly delineated limits to his abilities; he can only remain invisible for fifteen minutes a day, his clothes are able to disappear with him due to his proximity to them (though I notice the movie is conveniently selective on how this works; there’s one point where they have him completely swaddled in bandages which for some reason do not disappear), and he has to control his abilities with the help of an atomic wrist watch. In truth, the science behind it seems rather silly, and the plot is pretty run of the mill, and I gather from the swift cancellation that the stories didn’t get much better. In truth, I didn’t see anything really special about this one.

Die Gansehirtin am Brunnen (1979)

DIE GANSEHIRTIN AM BRUNNEN (1979)
aka The Wishmaker
Article 3856 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-25-2012
Posting Date: 3-5-2012
Directed by Ursula Schmanger
Featuring Jaroslava Schallerova, David Schneider, Gunter Naumann
Country: East Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

A young man is aided by a witch in his hunt for an unhappy princess.

Here we have another German fairy tale, though this one is from the seventies and comes from East Germany rather than West Germany. Like the others that I’ve seen, this is a rather slow affair, but, even despite the fact that it was in German without dubbing or subtitles, I felt it more or less worked. Just on a visual sense, I felt it managed to capture a sense of gentle lyricism that makes it rather likable, and it keeps the special effects to a minimum, only using them when it was most effective. According to one of my sources, it was based on “The Goose Girl” by the Brothers Grimm, but upon reading a summary of that fairy tale, I find little relation between it and this; the short plot description in John Stanley’s “Creature Feature Movie Guide Strikes Again” is closer to what seems to be happening. The movie has a very low rating on IMDB, yet I don’t think it deserves it; however, I could see how its low action quotient might alienate some, while the very real possibility that it may have been badly dubbed would further damage it. If that’s the case, I may have been better off watching the undubbed version, despite the language barrier.

Der gestiefelte Kater (1955)

DER GESTIEFELTE KATER (1955)
aka Puss ‘n Boots
Article 3855 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-23-2012
Posting Date: 3-4-2012
Directed by Herbert B. Fredersorf
Featuring Margitte Sonke, Harry Wustenhagen, Christa Oenicke
Country: West Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

A talking cat helps his down-and-out owner by helping him to win the love of a beautiful princess and to defeat an evil magician.

If I prefer the Mexican version of this fairy tale, at least one of the reasons is because that version was dubbed into English, whereas this one isn’t; the copy I found was in unsubtitled German, and though the story itself is familiar enough that I didn’t have a lot of problems following it, it is fairly talky. Which, come to think of it, is another thing I like better about the Mexican version; its wild, hyper-energetic and surreal take on it is more fun than this stodgy, slow gabfest. I suppose I should also point out that the cat costume in that movie is better than the one here; I wasn’t sure that furry thing hanging around was a cat until it went ‘meow’. Of course, there is the chance I might like this one more if it had been dubbed into English, but as of this point, I consider it another example of just how dull some of these German fairy tales of the fifties were.

Der Geisterzug (1927)

DER GEISTERZUG (1927)
aka The Ghost Train
Article 3795 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-25-2011
Posting Date: 1-4-2012
Directed by Geza von Bolvary
Featuring Guy Newall, Ilse Bois, Louis Ralph
Country: Germany / UK
What it is: Horror comedy

Several people get stranded at a train station that is haunted by a phantom train.

Here’s another one I managed to save from the “ones-that-got-away” list. My copy had German title cards, but due to the facts that German is the foreign language I’m most familiar with, I’ve already seen the 1941 version of the same story, and the movie relies heavily on visuals, I didn’t have much of a problem figuring it out. I think I actually enjoyed it more than the 1941 version, due to the fact that it’s packed with moody and surreal imagery; for example, even thought they’re obviously using toy trains during the title sequence, the clouds of smoke coming out of the tunnels are so eerie that it works anyway. Furthermore, the comic relief that marred the later movie is a lot more palatable here, with Guy Newall as an eccentric with a little secret, and Ilse Bois as a somewhat prim and proper woman who is also not quite what she seems doing a fine job. The only thing I’m not quite sure about is the exact nature of the villains; in the 1941 version, I believe they were Nazi spies, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case here.

Greaser’s Palace (1972)

GREASER’S PALACE (1972)
Article 3786 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-14-2011
Posting Date: 12-26-2011
Directed by Robert Downey Sr.
Featuring Allan Arbus, Albert Henderson, Michael Sullivan
Country: USA
What it is: Comic western Biblical allegory

A man parachutes down into the old west so he can go to Jerusalem and become a singer/dancer/actor. On the way he heals the sick, raises the dead, and walks on water. However, he discovers that his most popular method of entertainment is very different…

Once again we have an art movie that becomes a de facto fantasy because there’s no other real place to put it. Some of the reviews and comments I read on it compare it to one of the works by Alexandro Jodorowsky, and it’s easy to see why; it pretty much is mining the same surreal demented vision of the old west as EL TOPO. It’s an allegory on the Christ story, with the character of Jessy being Jesus, and several other characters are clearly stand-ins for other characters from the Gospels; I’ll give you one guess who the guy in the white sheet is supposed to be. It’s a bit tempting to want to dismiss it as a self-indulgent mess, but I can’t do that; some of the metaphors work well enough to make me wonder if I’m not just getting some of the others, and there are moments where it’s just sincere enough that I can’t quite see it as a complete joke. I’m not familiar with most of the cast by name, but there are a few that I recognize, such as Luana Anders, Toni Basil, and Herve Villechaize; the scene where the last of these actors flirts with Allan Arbus is probably one that will forever stick in my memory (albeit unwillingly). For me, the most amazing moment in the movie came when I finally figured out the metaphor of the woman who spends most of the movie dying horribly. Strange, strange, strange, and despite the religious themes, it’s probably not going to play in any church basements anytime soon.