The Gnome-Mobile (1967)

Article 3473 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-11-2011
Posting Date: 2-16-2011
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Featuring Walter Brennan, Matthew Garber, Karen Dotrice
Country: USA
What it is: Musical fantasy with a bit of a split personality

A lumber tycoon stumbles upon two gnomes in one of his forests; they’re fearful that they are the last of their race and the younger one wants to take a bride. The tycoon decides to help them find if there are gnomes in other forests.

In which Disney attempts to cross DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE, MARY POPPINS (the movie emphasizes that the child actors are the same two from that movie) and their shopping-cart movies. It lacks the richness and spirit of the first two, and never achieves the wildness of the latter at their best. As a result, the movie is neither fish nor fowl, and is one of Disney’s more obscure movies; I myself only remember it from a single TV ad I saw when I was a child. It’s interesting to catch Walter Brennan in a dual role, but he gets a little too annoying as Knobby the gnome. I suspect even Disney didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in this one; most of their more ambitious fantasy movies clock in at close to two hours, but his one lasts a mere 84 minutes, making it even shorter than many of the shopping cart movies. It would prove to be the last movie for veteran comic actor Ed Wynn as well as for Matthew Garber. This is not Disney’s finest hour.


The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

Article 3464 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2010
Posting Date: 2-7-2011
Directed by Alan Rafkin
Featuring Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Liam Redmond
Country: USA
What it is: Haunted house comedy

A timid typesetter, aspiring to become a reporter, agrees to spend the night in a mansion that was the site of murders several years ago, and is now believed to be haunted.

The idea of a comedy star appearing in a haunted house comedy was certainly nothing new at the time, and this could have easily ended up being just another in a long tradition. Fortunately, the movie foregoes the usual plot mechanisms of that type of movie and gears the story to take advantage of Don Knotts’s strengths. When his character makes an embarrassing mistake, it’s not for the sole purpose of getting a laugh, because the movie shows the repercussions of that embarrassment, and we feel his pain and frustration at his self-awareness, and this gets us emotionally attached to his character. The haunted house scene that is the centerpiece of the movie is fairly short; most of the movie deals with the fallout of the story of his stay, and the eventual need to prove to all concerned that what he experienced wasn’t merely the result of an overactive imagination. Overall, the story doesn’t really hold up, but when you get down to it, the story is merely a springboard to use the talents of Don Knotts, and he does his usual very good job.

Girl in Room 2a (1973)

GIRL IN ROOM 2A (1973)
aka La casa della paura
Article 3403 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-27-2010
Posting Date: 12-8-2010
Directed by William Rose
Featuring Daniela Giordano, Raf Vallone, John Scanlon
Country: Italy
What it is: Horror / mystery

A woman is released from prison to spend her parole in a boarding house. She soon discovers that horrible things have been happening to other women who have stayed at the house… and it involves a mysterious masked figure.

This chintzy and somewhat mean-spirited horror movie is supposed to have been shot in Italian, but it looks to me like most of the cast members are speaking English; the voices don’t look dubbed. It’s somewhat reminiscent of BLOODY PIT OF HORROR, only it’s not quite as much fun; it’s muddled and somewhat static, and there’s a hangdog air to the proceedings that leaves the movie feeling dull, and because of that some of the potentially nasty violence loses its power. If the movie avoids awfulness at all, it’s because it occasionally shakes itself out of its doldrums and catches the attention, mostly when it’s trying to work as a mystery rather than a horror movie. All in all, this one was pretty dreary.

Das Geheimnis der Gelben Narzissen (1961)

aka The Devil’s Daffodil
Article 3374 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-27-2010
Posting Date: 11-9-2010
Directed by Akos Rathonyi
Featuring Joachim Fuchsberger, Sabine Sesselmann, Klaus Kinski
Country: West Germany / UK
What it is: krimi

Scotland Yard enlists the help of a Chinese detective in solving a case of drug smugglers who hide their goods in the stems of daffodils, and to find the identity of a killer associated with the smuggling.

This movie was apparently one of the first coproductions between Britain and Germany since World War II. It was the first krimi shot entirely in Britain, and not only does it have a markedly different look than many of the others I’ve seen, it also features a British star; Christopher Lee plays the part of the Chinese detective Ling Chu. It appears that there are two different versions of the movie, one in English and one in German. And, wouldn’t you know it, I found the one in German, and it has no subtitles, and given that krimis can be hard to figure out even when they’re in English, it should be no surprise that I got lost in this one, and I had to go to to get what little plot description I could find. Lee appears to be actually speaking in German in this version; at least there are no telltale signs of his mouth not moving in sync to the German dialogue. Still, I’m not sure that’s his voice I’m hearing; his voice is lacking that deep sonority, though he may just be talking in a higher pitch. I’d really love to know what’s going on, especially in a scene where Lee appears to be torturing a man for some curious reason. Klaus Kinski is also on hand, acting bizarre and twitchy. Some of the murders are quite effectively staged. Now, if only I can find the English version one of these days.

Un golpe de mil millones (1966)

aka A Stroke of a Thousand Millions, Un colpo da mille milliardi
Article 3367 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-20-2010
Posting Date: 11-2-2010
Directed by Paolo Heusch
Featuring Rik Van Nutter, Marilu Tolo, Eduardo Fajardo
Country: Italy / Spain / France
What it is: Spyghetti

A spy must foil a plot to turn the Suez canal radioactive.

I was intrigued enough by the English title of this one that I was severely disappointed to discover that the only copy I could find was in unsubtitled Spanish. The plot description came from the back of my DVD case for the movie, and it’s about the only plot description I can find. Spy movies can be difficult to follow even when they’re in English, so I have to admit being completely lost in this one. It does look like it’s a bit heavier on the science fiction gadgetry, though. I didn’t see much to make this one special, but since I didn’t see it in my native language, I’ll have to reserve judgment on it.

Goldfinger (1964)

Article 3354 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-6-2010
Posting Date: 10-20-2010
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Featuring Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe
Country: UK
What it is: James Bond movie

James Bond is assigned to investigate a clever gold smuggler, but uncovers a plan to destroy the economy of the United States that would also make the smuggler the richest man on Earth.

Though FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is my choice for the best of the Bonds, it’s also the one that feels least typical for the series. This one is quintessential; it’s smoothly directed, exciting, full of fun moments, and features not only one of the best villains in the series (Gert Frobe’s performance is exceptional) but also one of the most memorable minions with Oddjob and his decapitating hat. As usual, the fantastic content is the assortment of gadgetry that is on display here. I’ve seen this one a couple of other times, and I notice how well it holds up to repeated viewings; there are a lot of interesting things happening out on the edges, especially when Bond visits with Q.

Gargoyles (1972)

Article 3352 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-3-2010
Posting Date: 10-18-2010
Directed by Bill L. Norton
Featuring Cornel Wilde, Jennifer Salt, Grayson Hall
Country: USA
What it is: Monster movie

A skeptical writer and his daughter encounter a race of gargoyles, evil minions of the devil who want to take over the world.

I remember seeing the promos for this one on TV as a kid, and thinking how cool it was that a TV-Movie was going to be full of monsters. Of course, not having any control over the TV in my house, I missed the movie, and it’s only now, almost forty years later that I’ve gotten to see it. I would have loved it without reservations had I seen it back then; the monsters are great, you see them quite a lot, and even the somewhat arty jerky-slow-motion photography they use in the action sequences manages to keep from being annoying. As an adult, I still think the monsters are cool, but I have reservations on the movie as a whole. I found the script, direction and acting all rather weak; the scene where the writer and his daughter meet the desert rat is in particular badly written and awkwardly paced. My guess is that most of the budget on this movie went into the monsters, and the rest of the movie was given short shrift. I think it’s a bit of shame they couldn’t come up with a story that was worthy of the monster costumes. Oddly enough, it’s one of those genre TV-Movies that doesn’t feel like it was designed to launch a TV-Series. Overall, though, the great monster costumes and makeup still make this one fairly enjoyable.