The Ghost Camera (1933)

THE GHOST CAMERA (1933)
Article 2634 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-21-2008
Posting Date: 10-29-2008
Directed by Bernard Vorhaus
Featuring Henry Kendall, Ida Lupino, John Mills
Country: UK

When a traveler returns from a trip, he discovers that a camera has mysteriously appeared in his car. He develops the photos to find clues that will allow him to return the camera to its rightful owner, but he discovers proof of murder. He tries to solve the murder by using the photos as his clues. Unfortunately, the incriminating photo and the camera disappear…

It’s called a ghost camera not because it’s ghostly in any way, but because it appeared unexpectedly in the main character’s car, but disappears when a theft is attempted on the camera. Therefore, the use of the word “ghost” in the title does not yield any fantastic content. As for the rest of the movie, the horror content consists only of a couple of creepy locations. I’m filing the movie under “marginalia”.

As for the movie itself, it’s entertaining enough during the first part of the movie when the investigation of the photos takes place, but it loses steam once a suspect is arrested. It takes a somewhat comic approach to the story, and though it never really ever becomes funny, it stops short of being annoying. The most interesting thing about the movie is the appearance of a young Ida Lupino as the blonde romantic interest; she does all right, but it’s really not a very interesting role.

You know, when the fantastic content is this light, sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting my time with some of these movies, but I always end up figuring that anytime I can clarify the nature of the fantastic content in these obscurities, I’m doing a service of some sort.

 

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The Great Alaskan Mystery (1944)

THE GREAT ALASKAN MYSTERY (1944)
Article 2581 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-29-2008
Posting Date: 9-6-2008
Directed by Lewis D. Collins and Ray Taylor
Featuring Milburn Stone, Marjorie Weaver, Edgar Kennedy
Country: USA

A noted scientist is creating a ray that can transport materials across great distances. However, his assistant is a foreign spy who has plans to steal the invention. Fortunately, a war hero is on hand to thwart the villain and his cohorts.

The first couple of episodes of this serial takes place in the snowbound regions of Alaska that the title of this serial promises us, and they’re pretty great, with lots of footage of snow and icebergs. The cliffhangers are also excellent during these first few episodes, even if they mostly consist of stock footage. However, about halfway through the third episode the location converts to some decidedly snowless regions of Alaska never to return, and with the departure of the snow, so does much of the excitement, and the rest of the serial is very ordinary. At least I took some heart that the secret invention here wasn’t some type of death-ray, but even this was short-lived; about halfway through the serial, they discover that the new invention also works as one, and from that moment on, that’s all anyone cares about it. Well, at least there’s some fun to be had with the presence of a number of actors I don’t primarily associate with serials, such as Milburn Stone, Ralph Morgan and Martin Kosleck; the latter makes for a very nice villain indeed. And the comic relief is very strong this time, in large part thanks to the presence of Laurel and Hardy cohort and slow burn expert, Edgar Kennedy, who subtly underplays the humor at every step. So, despite the disappointment brought on by the change of locale, at least a solid cast kept this one afloat.

 

The Glass Slipper (1955)

THE GLASS SLIPPER (1955)
Article 2567 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-15-2008
Posting Date: 8-23-2008
Directed by Charles Walters
Featuring Leslie Caron, Michael Wilding, Keenan Wynn
Country: USA

A young girl dreams of living in the palace, but she is forced to work as a servant by her stepmother and two stepsisters. When she meets the prince under the belief he is the son of the cook of the palace, she finds herself invited to the ball, but she has nothing to wear. Then a kindly old lady comes to her rescue…

You should have been able to figure out from the above plot description (and the title, or course) that this is basically the Cinderella story. I really liked this take on the story; the characters are fleshed out and well acted by all, though special credit goes to Leslie Caron as Cinderella (who manages to make her character’s emotions very real and strong whether she’s in the musical or non-musical portions of the movie) and Estelle Winwood as Mrs. Toquet, an eccentric old lady who becomes for all story purposes our fairy godmother, and who steals the movie in the bargain. Michael Wilding is charming as the Prince, and Keenan Wynn is at his most subtle as the Prince’s friend. I find ballet sequences much easier to take as segments of non-ballets, and this one has two lovely sequences, one in which Cinderella imagines herself visiting the kitchen of the palace to meet the cook’s son, and one in which she imagines her worst fears when she believes that the Prince is going to marry an Egyptian princess instead of her. The movie is given a very non-fantastic spin on things, so much so that you’ll not be sure whether there really is any fantastic content to speak of (that is, until the final moments of the movie). I found this to be a lovely rendition of a classic fairy tale, unique and with more depth than you might imagine.

 

The Green Archer (1940)

THE GREEN ARCHER (1940)
Serial
Article 2520 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-27-2008
Posting Date: 7-6-2008
Directed by James W. Horne
Featuring Victor Jory, Iris Meredith, James Craven
Country: USA

Evil Abel Bellamy has framed and murdered his brother in order to get possession of a castle. He then uses the castle as a secret hideout to perform his criminal activities. However, insurance investigator Spike Holland is on hand to try to catch him. Abel Bellamy has one of his henchman disguise himself as the legendary Green Archer to help him with his plans. However, the real Green Archer shows up, and begins helping Spike Holland to catch the criminals.

For my money, this is one of the most enjoyable serials I’ve ever seen. The story is based on an Edgar Wallace novel, both the hero and villain are fun, it keeps the bail-out cliffhangers to a minimum (though it does have its own default cliffhanger resolution that you can set your clock by), and the secondary characters are well-defined. It also has a good sense of humor, and has one running gag in which one of the henchmen keeps getting confused between the real Green Archer and the bogus Green Archer, and keeps pummeling one of his own men. The mystery of the identity of the Green Archer is a no-brainer; despite the serial’s constant attempts to throw suspicion on a side character, I knew who he was by the end of episode one, and I saw nothing to contradict it; however, given that the Green Archer is exactly who he should be dramatically, this is no problem with me. Throw in some dumb cops, and plot elements that involve fountain pens and tiddlywinks, and you have one of the best of the genre. The Green Archer (who is supposed to be a ghost) adds some of the fantastic element, though there are some obligatory marginal science fiction elements as well.

 

Games (1967)

GAMES (1967)
Article 2508 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-15-2008
Posting Date: 6-24-2008
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Simone Signoret, James Caan, Katharine Ross
Country: USA

A young couple given to games and practical jokes takes in an older ailing foreign woman who has been reduced to selling household goods from door to door. The older woman, who has a penchant for mysticism, encourages them to take part in more daring, dangerous games. One of these backfires when the husband accidentally kills a delivery boy with a gun he thought was loaded with blanks. The couple covers up the murder, but then the wife begins to see the ghost of the delivery boy.

Sometimes casting itself can give away quite a lot of a movie. Simone Signoret is a respected actress with a long career, but she is most famous for one very specific and very popular movie, and if that should occur to you while watching this one, you’ll be well prepared for the directions this one will go. Furthermore, the title itself should give you a clue that you shouldn’t take too much at face value here. These types of movies can be fun; it’s an enjoyable diversion trying to figure out who is in charge, who is being manipulated, and who thinks they are in on the game but turn out to be only pawns. This one is quite satisfying, but you won’t be the least bit surprised at who comes out on top at the end of the movie. This is probably Harrington’s best and most effective movie as a director.

 

The Great Rupert (1950)

THE GREAT RUPERT (1950)
Article 2377 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-28-2007
Posting Date: 2-14-2008
Directed by Irving Pichel
Featuring Jimmy Durante, Terry Moore, Tom Drake

A family of down-and-out vaudevillians move into an apartment, not knowing how they will pay the rent. Then, every Thursday, fifteen hundred dollars floats down to them out of heaven. They think it is a miracle; in truth, it is a squirrel cleaning money out of his sleeping place left there by a greedy landlord.

When I think of Irving Pichel and George Pal, I think of DESTINATION MOON . However, they worked together one other time, and that’s here, in this rather harmless piece of fluff in which a talented squirrel helps a family with their personal problems. The fantastic content consists of the bogus miracle and the super-talented squirrel; the latter is animated in much the same way as George Pal’s “Puppetoons” were. The movie is all right, I suppose, for those who like gentle, feel-good comedies, but, for my purposes, there’s not near enough of the stop-motion-animated puppet squirrel to make this one really fun; once the squirrel hides himself in the house, he does little more than throw one-hundred-dollar bills through a hole. Outside of the squirrel, the most interesting character is a combination bear-skin rug and radio. Oh, and Jimmy Durante isn’t bad either, but I don’t think anyone would like to claim they were upstaged by a squirrel and a rug.

 

Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)

GODZILLA’S REVENGE (1969)
aka Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Oru kaiju daishingeki
Article 2376 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-27-2007
Posting Date: 2-13-2008
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Tomonori Yazaki, Eisei Amamoto, Sachio Sakai

A young and lonely boy, beset by bullies and missing his parents who are too busy working to spend time with him, dreams of going to Monster Island to meet Godzilla. In his dreams, he meets and befriends Godzilla’s son, Minya, who has to contend with a bully himself – the monster Gabara.

The worst of the Godzilla movies? Well, it is important to give the movie some credit; it takes a totally different approach than any of the other Godzilla movies, and some of the scenes of the boy’s life in his neighborhood are fairly well done. The movie also begs to be judged on a different level, as it is obviously aimed at a younger audience that the other Godzilla movies, and the boy’s love of monsters certainly strikes a chord in many of us. Nevertheless, the movie is not very good overall, and it doesn’t look like it was made with much respect, especially in the dubbed American version. The opening theme is a little too jokey, most of the monster fight footage is lifted from GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER and SON OF GODZILLA, Minya is given a speaking voice that sounds like Mortimer Snerd, and one of his monster calls sounds like a braying donkey. The dubbing is atrocious at times, far worse than any of the other films in the series. Still, it is important to give credit where it is due; it can be taken more seriously than the Gamera films of the period. And I’m almost surprised there aren’t any overt ecological messages to be found; we see the children playing in the industrial section of town among smoke-belching factories, and, intentional or otherwise, the movie sends a definite message. My favorite moment: the boy is unexpectedly attacked by a strange plant creature on Monster Island.