The Gold Ghost (1934)

THE GOLD GHOST (1934)
Short
Article 2904 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-2-2009
Posting Date: 7-26-2009
Directed by Buster Keaton and Charles Lamont
Featuring Buster Keaton, Warren Hymer, Dorothy Dix
Country: USA

A young socialite named Wally decides he wants to be alone, so he moves into a ghost town and makes himself sheriff. However, when gold is rediscovered in the area, he soon finds himself the sheriff of a bustling town.

I’m familiar with Buster Keaton’s years as a great silent comedian, and I’m also familiar with his appearances in TV and movies during the fifties and sixties, when he underwent a bit of a career revival. However, his early talkie career was a vast unexplored area to me. So I’m glad for the opportunity to check out one of his talkie shorts. It’s obvious that Keaton still felt more at home with visual and slapstick humor; he keeps the talking to a minimum, and the best moments here are ones that could have worked just as well during the silent era. My favorite moment has him playing cards with one of the dustiest decks ever found in a movie. It’s far from a great short, but it has its moments, and I’m glad I saw it. The fantastic content can be found in a short sequence where he encounters a gang of ghosts (possibly imaginary) and disposes of them with his gun.

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The Golden Arrow (1962)

THE GOLDEN ARROW (1962)
aka La Freccia d’oro
Article 2841 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-16-2009
Posting Date: 5-24-2009
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Featuring Tab Hunter, Rossana Podesta, Umberto Melnati
Country: Italy

A thief with royalty in his blood is able to perform a task that should have won him the hand of a sultan’s daughter. However, he becomes an outcast because of his calling, and finds himself wanted both by rival suitors and his own gang of thieves. Fortunately, he has three guardian angels who will help him in his quest to prove himself.

I’ve always felt that sword and sandal movies have a bit of an affinity with Arabian Nights movies, so it should be no surprise that one of them came out of Italy in the early sixties. It also got a much classier presentation in this country; it came to us via MGM, which made sure the dubbing was far superior than what we could get from a movie that came to us via AIP. Furthermore, the movie is well preserved; my copy is letterboxed and in beautiful Technicolor, which is better than most sword-and-sandal movies I’ve seen. Still, it’s a pretty tepid affair; it rehashes a goodly portion of the various versions of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, but it’s a bit too juvenile for my tastes, and lacks the sense of magic that permeated those earlier movies. The presence of Tab Hunter as the hero only makes the movie that much fluffier and blander. It is interesting to see Antonio Margheriti working in a different mode here, and MGM even bills him as such, without using the Anthony Dawson nom de plume that was often used to try to hide the foreign origin of his movies. I find this less confusing than his science fiction films, but rather uncompelling, and not as much fun as it would like to be.

Gibel sensatsii (1935)

GIBEL SENSATSII (1935)
aka Loss of Feeling
Article 2800 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-6-2009
Posting Date: 4-13-2009
Directed by Aleksandr Andriyevsky
Featuring Sergei Vecheslov, Vladimir Gardin, M. Volgina
Country: Soviet Union

In order to solve the problem of workers going crazy on the assembly line, an inventor creates a corps of robots to do the work.

Because my copy of this movie is in unsubtitled Russian, it was rather difficult making heads or tails out of some aspects of the plot. However, knowing that the movie was made in the Soviet Union (a country which practiced governmental control of motion pictures with the aim of spreading Soviet philosophy) and given their probable stance on machines that would take the place of the proletariat, I wasn’t really surprised at the attitude of the movie towards the robots; the key piece of information that I found out from a plot summary after watching this was that it does not take place in the Soviet Union, but in an “English-speaking capitalist land”. It’s visually inventive, and has some truly memorable scenes, including a cabaret number about robots, and a stunning scene in which a saxophonist performs a solo amidst an army of 9-foot tall robots who are waving their massive arms about. From what I can tell, it’s very well done and quite effective; the fate of the saxophonist is particularly shocking. The opening scene conjured up visions of both METROPOLIS and MODERN TIMES, and you might suspect it’s a version of R.U.R. when you see that acronym emblazoned across the robots’ chests, but it’s not based on the Capek play and has an entirely different viewpoint. Let’s hope that someone eventually gets some subtitles on this and it gets an official release; it looks to be one of the great early science fiction movies.

Ghosts – Italian Style (1968)

GHOSTS – ITALIAN STYLE (1968)
aka Questi fantasmi
Article 2788 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-25-2008
Posting Date: 4-1-2009
Directed by Renato Castellani
Featuring Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, Maria Adorf
Country: Italy / France

A couple whose marriage is suffering is offered a chance to stay at a castle rent-free. The drawback is that the castle appears to be haunted.

This movie should not be confused with FANTASMI A ROMA (GHOSTS IN ROME); that movie has a gaggle of real ghosts and an unusual plot, or at least as much as I can make out of one since I’ve only seen it in unsubtitled Italian. This one has a plot that looks quite familiar indeed; people moving into haunted houses is a setup as old as the hills. To its credit, this movie takes it in a different direction that moves it more into the area of bedroom farce, in which the wife’s prospective lover is mistaken for a ghost by the husband, a situation that results in a series of amusing complications. The movie has a lukewarm reputation, but I found it quite hilarious at times; my favorite gags revolve around the name of the orphanage and the arrival of a huge group of nuns at the castle. As you might suspect, the main plot involves no real ghost, but, like a number of comedies that revolve around hauntings that really aren’t hauntings, it can’t resist slipping in a real ghost in the final reel, which involves cameos by both Francis De Wolff and an uncredited Marcello Mastroianni. I found this one quite enjoyable.

The Ghost (1963)

THE GHOST (1963)
aka Lo Spettro
Article 2719 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-15-2008
Posting Date: 1-22-2009
Directed by Riccardo Freda
Featuring Barbara Steele, Peter Baldwin, Elio Jotta
Country: Italy

A doctor is having an affair with a rich man’s wife. She urges him to poison her husband, which he does. Afterwards, they begin to suspect the husband has come back from the grave.

One of my sources claims that director Riccardo Freda bet that he could write and film a movie in one week, and this is the result. If that story is true, then I will give him credit; he managed to come up with a coherent story, which is more than Roger Corman managed to do with THE TERROR. It’s something of a loose sequel to THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK, a movie which I quite like, but this one dispenses with the necrophilia angle, which was actually for me the best touch of that movie. Without it, this movie must rely on standard sixties Italian horror trappings and the presence of Barbara Steele to make it work. Unfortunately, I’m not a particular fan of Barbara Steele, and I usually find the standard sixties Italian horror trappings to be a little dull and predictable, so I find it only mildly entertaining. However, some of the fault must surely go to the weak dubbing on this one.

Addendum: According to Tim Lucas, this is not a movie Riccardo Freda made on a bet, though the story is true of a couple of other films of his.

 

Gamera vs. Monster X (1970)

GAMERA VS. MONSTER X (1970)
aka Gamera tai Daimaju Jaiga
Article 2718 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-14-2008
Posting Date: 1-21-2009
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Featuring Tsutomu Takakuwa, Kelly Varis, Katherine Murphy
Country: Japan

When a stone idol on Wester Island is removed so that it can be brought to
Expo 70 for display, a monster that it was keeping prisoner is resurrected. It’s up to Gamera to defeat the monster and save Expo 70.

The movies that bookend this entry of the Gamera series (GAMERA VS GUIRON and GAMERA VS ZIGRA) both go off the goofy meter a lot more than this one. Nevertheless, this is one of the more solid entries of the Gamera series; Jiger is one of the better (and better-looking) monsters Gamera faced, and he’s got an interesting array of attacks that take Gamera out of the action not just once (as is usual in a Gamera movie), but twice. It’s the second one of these that gives the movie its most memorable sequence; Jiger injects Gamera with its eggs, causing a miniature version of the monster to grow inside of him, and two children take a miniature submarine and enter Gamera’s body (a la FANTASTIC VOYAGE) to root out the problem. Yes, it’s typical Gamera silliness, but it keeps the plot moving at a brisk pace, it mostly avoids boring sequences common in other movies of the series, and not once does it fall back on lengthy clips from previous movies in the series to fill out its running time. In fact, it may be the most consistently entertaining of the sixties/seventies Gamera movies.

 

Gallery of Horror (1967)

GALLERY OF HORROR (1967)
aka Dr. Terror’s Gallery of Horrors
Article 2714 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-9-208
Posting Date: 1-17-2009
Directed by David L. Hewitt
Featuring Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Rochelle Hudson

Five tales of terror are told. In the first, a clock revives a witch’s curse. In the second,a vampire is on the loose. In the third, revenge comes from the grave. In the fourth, a dead man is revived. In the fifth, more vampires are on the loose.

For those who encounter this one under its alternate title, please don’t mistake it for the vastly superior Amicus anthology DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. Though both of them are horror anthologies, this one looks as if had a budget almost one-hundredth of the amount it cost to make the other movie (that is, if you discount the stock footage taken from some AIP movies). Even when the actors are decent, they’re still struggling with a clumsy, awkward script, and the twist endings may rank with some of the worst in history. The winner (or is it loser) in this regard is the last story; for a while, it looks as if this segment is going to tell a straightforward rendition of the Dracula story, but it goes off track after ten minutes and then reaches an ending so cockamamie that you’re liable throw something at the TV. Add some long-winded story introductions by John Carradine, and you’ve got one profoundly awful movie. Still, perhaps we should be grateful; if Hewitt hadn’t made an anthology movie, he might have tried to make features of each one of these tales. Now there’s something that will bring on nightmares…