The Ghost Train (1941)

THE GHOST TRAIN (1941)
Article 2109 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-24-2006
Posting Date: 5-22-2007
Directed by Walter Forde
Featuring Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch, Kathleen Harrison

A group of travelers find themselves stranded in a remote train station overnight. The station master tells them that the station is haunted by a ghost train that comes by in the middle of the night.

Now here’s something really scary – being trapped for eight hours in a train station with Arthur Askey! Not that he’s awful, mind you – it’s just that his in-your-face shtick gets on my nerves rather quickly. Consigned to a supporting comic-relief role, he’d be all right, but here he dominates almost ninety percent of the movie. In fact, it’s a good thirty minutes in the movie before you even get to the legend of the ghost train, and a good twenty minutes after that before any of the plot elements surrounding its appearance really start to manifest themselves. It’s a bit of a shame, really; the horror elements, when they do manifest themselves, are quite striking. Nonetheless, they represent a mere fraction of the running time, and with this much lollygagging and comic mayhem going on, what are the chances of the fantastic elements of the tale not turning out to be faked? Yes, we’re in real Scooby-Doo territory here. All we need is talking dog.

 

Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)

GERTIE THE DINOSAUR (1914)
Article 2101 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-16-2006
Posting Date: 5-14-2007
Directed by Winsor McCay
Winsor McCay, George McManus, Thomas A. ‘Tad’ Dorgan

A cartoonist bets that he can bring a dinosaur to life and make it walk and move. He wins the bet using an animated film about a dinosaur named Gertie.

No, this wasn’t the first animated movie – it wasn’t even the first by Winsor McCay, who had earlier made one called HOW A MOSQUITO OPERATES, but it is still tremendously entertaining after all these years. I love all the little quirks McCay gives his creation; she can’t resist taking a few seconds from following her orders to snack on a tree or tussle with a woolly mammoth or ogle a bizarre sea serpent. McCay even manages to get himself into the animation at the end when he takes a ride on Gertie’s back. The beginning and end of the movie are live action, and document the story behind the making of the film; I don’t know if the story is true or not, but if it is, it’s almost as if the movie combines its own “making of” documentary with the main action. It even throws in a little slapstick comedy in the mix. At least one imitation was made of this movie, and McCay himself worked on a sequel that was not released.

 

The Groundstar Conspiracy (1972)

THE GROUNDSTAR CONSPIRACY (1972)
Article 2081 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-26-2006
Posting Date: 4-24-2007
Directed by Lamont Johnson
Featuring George Peppard, Michael Sarrazin, Christine Belford

The only survivor of an explosion in a secret government installation is a man known to be a spy now suffering from amnesia. A government agent vows to get the truth out of him, and then decides to let him escape in order to use him for bait to catch the people behind him.

This movie put me off initially; the direction is rather uninvolving, the acting is uneven, and the dialogue is sometimes quite awful. However, there’s an excellent story in the center, and once the story gets moving, the movie’s problems take a back seat and the ride becomes quite enjoyable. The first three-quarters of the movie works in a pretty standard thriller mode, but the last quarter takes some very interesting twists and ends with a memorable showdown between the two stars, George Peppard and Michael Sarrazin. The movie starts out as borderline science fiction (we never really know what was being worked on at Groundstar), but it veers much closer once we learn the twists in the final quarter of the movie. I can’t go into detail without giving away the end of the movie, but suffice it to say that it involves medical techniques that most likely didn’t exist at the time. The movie also deals with a theme that is quite topical indeed; to what lengths should the government be allowed to go to protect itself?

 

Green Mansions (1959)

GREEN MANSIONS (1959)
Article 2080 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-25-2006
Posting Date: 4-23-2007
Directed by Mel Ferrer
Featuring Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Perkins, Lee J. Cobb

A political refugee escapes into the jungle in the hope of finding a lost city of gold with which he can finance his revenge. He encounters a primitive tribe that fears a mystical bird woman in a forbidden forest. He decides to investigate.

This is an interesting jungle melodrama in its way, but the cast is downright bizarre. I have no problem with Lee J. Cobb as an old man tortured with guilt, but I find it a little hard to buy Anthony Perkins as the courageous but vengeance-driven hero of the story, but he puts his best foot forward. It’s extremely odd to find Audrey Hepburn as a jungle woman, though she’s certainly lovely in the part. And any movie in which Henry Silva plays the son of Sessue Hayakawa is bound to give one pause. The fantastic content mostly consists of the mystical overtones of much of the action that surrounds the woman in the forbidden forest. There are biblical references to the Cain and Abel story from the Bible. It’s silly on occasion, effective on others, but it’s watchable enough.

 

The Girl from Starship Venus (1975)

THE GIRL FROM STARSHIP VENUS (1975)
aka THE SEXPLORER
Article 2078 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-23-2006
Posting Date: 4-21-2007
Directed by Derek Ford
Featuring Monika Ringwald, Mark Jones, Andrew Grant

An alien takes the form of a beautiful Earthling to investigate the customs and mores of the inhabitants of Earth.

Adventures in Movie Watching: For those of you paying attention, you’ll notice that the Viewing Date has skipped a day. There’s a reason for this. There’s a a movie from the mid-seventies which has been on my hunt list that I’ve been trying to acquire. I thought I had it and watched it yesterday, but it turns out out the movie I watched was not the movie I was hunting for. As it turns out, the movie I was looking for was a remake of a hardcore adult film of the same name made a couple of years earlier, and it was that film I viewed instead. It was only when I sat down to write my review and found that the movie didn’t match the IMDB entry that I realized what had happened.

Now, usually when this sort of thing happens, I just sit down and watch another movie and write my review of that one. However, since the movie I did see does qualify for my series (IMDB classifies it as Horror, and that is a source I will eventually use for my series), and because I didn’t want to have to watch the movie again when it does enter my hunt list (once was enough for this one, I say), I wrote a review of it and marked it as done. I won’t post it until it officially enters my hunt list.

I wouldn’t bother telling the above story except that my reaction to today’s movie hinges somewhat on my reaction of yesterday’s movie. Suffice it to say that yesterday’s movie was one of the most repugnant viewing experiences I’ve ever endured, and practically anything I watched afterwards would have been a relief. That’s why I actually kind of enjoyed this dumb British sex comedy; whereas in other circumstances I might have railed at its stupidity, in this case I found myself attracted to its shear innocuousness. Most of the humor is sexual in nature, and there is plenty of nudity on hand, but the humor is of a type that I generally find quite amusing; to wit, most of it is centered around the space aliens trying to make sense out of earth customs and coming up with seemingly logical but ludicrous explanations for the phenomena they see. As a result, I enjoyed it more than I expected I would. For me, this just demonstrates once again that your reaction to a movie may often be dependent on your reaction to what you’ve seen previously.

Still, I’ve spent the last three days watching three seriously oversexed movies. I’m really ready to move on.

 

The Golden Beetle (1907)

THE GOLDEN BEETLE (1907)
aka LE SCARABEE D’OR
Article 2061 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-5-2006
Posting Date: 4-4-2007
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast Unknown

A magician finds a golden beetle and casts it into a cauldron. It turns into a winged woman who creates a spectacular fountain, and then has the magician cast into a cauldron.

If you get a chance to see this silent short, try to find the hand-tinted version; it is colored exquisitely, especially during the fountain sequence. Plotwise it’s pretty much the same sort of thing that Melies does, but if it lacks the wit of Melies, it does have a nice sense of poetry that Melies never attained. I suspect that this was one of the reasons that Melies eventually fell into disfavor; he was a cinema trickster rather than a full-blown movie director, and he failed to grow as new techniques for story-telling developed. This short gives just a hint of some of the directions he could have gone with his work.

 

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964)
Article 2033 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-8-2006
Posting Date: 3-7-2007
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Yosuke Natsuki, Yuriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi

When a giant three-headed monster wreaks havoc across the Earth, Mothra tries to convince Godzilla and Rodan to join forces to defeat the menace.

This movie marks a turning point in the Godzilla series. Not only does it introduce the title monster, Ghidrah (probably Toho’s greatest creation since Godzilla himself), but it also marks Godzilla’s change from a menace to a hero (albeit reluctantly). It takes quite a while for the monster action to start, but the first half of the movie remains fun nonetheless because of the innumerable plot elements that get woven together, including visitors from Mars, an attempted political assassination of a princess, the investigation of a strange meteorite, and a doom-speaking prophetess. It’s difficult to say how serious to take the movie, because much of the humor may be from the dubbing. At any rate, despite the fact that he doesn’t reform until the end of the movie, Godzilla doesn’t really come across as much of a threat; Rodan certainly seems to be getting the better of him in their one-on-one fight. The funniest sequences involve the monsters, including a scene where Rodan and Godzilla bat a rock back and forth while Mothra watches as if it’s a tennis match, and the scene where the fairies translate the monster’s conference; apparently, Godzilla can cuss up a blue streak. It may be silly at times, but it’s one of the most entertaining movies of the Godzilla series.