Gunnar Hedes Saga (1923)

aka The Story of Gunnar Hede
Article 4811 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-2-2015
Directed by Mauritz Stiller
Featuring Gustav Aronson, Stina Berg, Hugo Bjorne
Country: Sweden
What it is: Drama

A young man is enamored with the story of his grandfather (who began life as a wandering violinist and then made his fortune in a reindeer migration scheme) much to the chagrin of his somewhat dictatorial mother. The young man rebels and leaves home with a juggling troupe, but then decides to invest his money in a reindeer migration scheme similar to his grandfather’s. However, things go horribly wrong…

Technically, this movie is a drama with a few fantastic touches, but to my mind, the fantastic touches are impressive and bizarre enough to warrant mentioning. There’s a sequence where a portrait of the hero’s grandfather seems to come to life, there are a few moments of precognition (especially when the hero’s girlfriend has a dream involving a sleigh being pulled by what look like bears to me), and there’s a hallucinatory moment or two when the hero goes mad after a truly freaky accident involving a reindeer. As for the movie itself, it’s well worth watching; it’s the story of how a mother and her son both go through their own personal hells in order to come to terms with one another, and it’s partly very familiar and partly like nothing else I’ve seen before. The scenes involving the reindeer migration are in particular quite spectacular. Sadly, the movie does not exist in its entirety; my print only runs half the length of the original, but though there are a few gaps, it does tell a coherent story. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who can find a copy.

Ghost Guns (1944)

Article 4765 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-22-2015
Directed by Lambert Hillyer
Featuring Johnny Mack Brown, Raymond Hatton, Evelyn Finley
Country: USA
What it is: Weird Western

A U.S. Marshall investigates a series of murders and cattle rustlings in a small western town. He discovers a gang that, with the help of a phony judge, plans to steal the land in the surrounding area.

With a B western, I don’t expect a lot; if it’s efficiently directed and has a fair amount of action, it’s probably done all that it’s set out to do. Furthermore, if it’s a so-called “weird western”, I really don’t expect a lot from the fantastic content; too much of that is likely to throw the western elements off balance. This one is efficient enough; Johnny Mack Brown is likable, Raymond Hatton is amusing enough as his sidekick, and there’s enough action to fill its hour running time. The fantastic content is pretty slight, as well; in this case, a man who is believed dead poses as a ghost to scare a confession out of one of the bad guys. You also get a song (“Red River Valley”), some trick horse riding, and a demonstration of Johnny Mack Brown’s gun-twirling technique. So this one passes the test; it’s certainly no classic, but it’s a pleasant enough way to kill an hour.

A Grandmother’s Story (1908)

aka Conte de la grand-mere et reve de l’enfant
Articler 4690 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-23-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Andre Melies
Country: France
What it is: Whimsy

A child is told a bed-time story by his grandmother. He then goes to sleep and dreams of the fantasy places in the story.

This is basically a whimsical mood piece; there’s no story. It’s one of those shorts where you’re most likely to notice Melies’s creative scene design, and on that level it’s entertaining enough. Nevertheless, the lack of any story makes it a little dull, and there’s nothing particularly new or novel in the special effects in this one. In short, this one is pretty to look at, but there’s not much beyond that.

The Gloves of Ptames (1914)

Article 4687 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-20-2014
Directed by David Aylott
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Comic trick short

A family receives a gift of ancient Egyptian gloves with strange properties; in short, anything they touch while wearing the gloves vanishes. They throw the gloves away, but the gloves are picked up by a succession of passers-by, until one of them figures a way to turn them to his own profit.

At first it looked like the gloves would give the wearer the ability to make Melies-style trick shorts, but it soon became apparent that only one trick was used – that of making things disappear. At first I thought the short would do nothing but repeat that effect, but once somebody figures out how to use them for constructively (for himself, that is to say), the short takes on a story of some sort. Unfortunately, the copy I saw is missing its ending, in which the man profiting from the gloves gets his comeuppance, but there is enough there to give you an idea of what probably happened. All in all, this is a fairly amusing short.

Good Glue Sticks (1907)

aka La colle universelle
Article 4686 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-19-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Comic short

A street vendor selling a super form of glue is closed down by two policemen. The street vendor seeks revenge, and you can do some mischief with super glue.

The fantastic content is the super-glue. That being said, this seems to be one of Melies’s shorts that is more interested in comic mischief than special effects; there’s a couple of minor trick moments in this one, but that’s about all. The comic content is pretty obvious; we get scenes of people getting stuck to things due to the super-glue, which is mildly amusing but hardly inspired. This is not essential Melies.

The Genii of Fire (1908)

aka La genie du feu
Article 4671 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-3-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Special effects horror short

A pair of tourists explores an ancient temple despite the warnings of a guard.

Around this time, Melies seems to have been concentrating on the story-telling aspect of his craft, and he wasn’t always successful. On that level, this is one of his better efforts in that, from a story perspective, it’s fairly easy to follow. Granted, with a running time of about four minutes, it isn’t exactly a very complex story, and the special effects attached to the story are pretty much standard Melies fare; they’re well done, but they’re also nothing new. It’s also one of his more serious outings; at any rate, it’s about as serious as he can make it despite the ubiquitous tumbling imps and contortionists he likes to use in his shorts. Still, it is one of his lesser shorts.

Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z (1956)

GEE WHIZ-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z (1956)
Article 4670 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-2-2014
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voice of Paul Julian
Country: USA
What it is: Road Runner cartoon

A coyote continues with his hapless attempts to catch a road runner.

I can’t exactly say the fantastic content in this cartoon involves talking animals; outside of the innocuous “beep beep” sound the road runner makes, the animals don’t talk. However, the characters (the coyote in particular) can be considered anthropomorphic, and he does communicate in English via hand-held signs. Furthermore, the cartoon qualifies as a fantasy in that the laws of physics don’t get a lot of respect here; the only law that seems to apply is that whatever disaster happens, it will happen in the funniest way possible. There’s a bit of super-hero shtick in this one with a Batman costume and even a touch of science fiction with a jet motor with handlebars attached; Wile E. Coyote was quite an inventor, though that never compensated for the fact that the character was one of the most cursed creations in cinema history. The Road Runner cartoons rarely had plots; they were mostly a series of black-out gags, and you tend to remember individual gags more than whole cartoons. This one featured a gag with a stick of dynamite attached to a long-range hand extender, a gag with an outrun bullet, a gag with a large painting of a bridge being out, and the final classic moment where the coyote, falling once more from a height, makes a request of the animators that is mercifully granted. No, they’re not the best work from Chuck Jones, but I love his Road Runner cartoons anyway.

Goodness, a Ghost (1940)

Article 4604 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-10-2014
Directed by Harry D’Arcy
Featuring Harry Langdon
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy short

A sound effects man gets an acting break to play a cop while wearing his grandfather’s police uniform. However, the ghost of his grandfather shows up and insists that if he’s going to wear the uniform, he has live up to the standards of a real cop, and won’t let him back out when he’s confronted by dangerous criminals.

I’m going to start out by saying that I’m not familiar with Harry Langdon’s work from the silent era; reportedly, he was at his peak during that era and his sound work doesn’t live up to it. Therefore, I don’t really have that benchmark with which to compare this one. I say this because I get the sense that fans of the comic are appalled by this one, and though I don’t find the short particularly good (it’s passable at best), I don’t find it awful. It does seem to go for easy and obvious slapstick gags, and the poker game is perhaps the sequence that I found the most amusing. Still, I find if I imagine someone like Buster Keaton being stuck in this role, I can sense the disappointment fans of Langdon might feel at this one.

The Gory Murder (1978)

aka Can ku da fen shi
Article 4585 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-21-2014
Directed by Yi-Jung Hua
Featuring Chiang-neng Chen, Yi-hsing Chen, Yung-Li Chen
Country: Hong Kong
What it is: Crime thriller

The police discover the dismembered corpse of a women. They must try to discover her identity, and find out who was responsible for her death.

Some movies are hard to watch. In this case, it’s not so much the unpleasant subject matter (which involves a serial rapist), but rather the presentation of the movie that is the culprit. The movie was originally in Cantonese, but it’s been very badly post-dubbed, and I’m not sure whether it’s been dubbed into its own language or into another. Fortunately, it has English subtitles, but they don’t show up well on the print (they vanish against a white background, for example), and since I seem to be watching a panned-and-scanned version, some of the text is missing. Furthermore, the movie is full of bad sound and has a jarring musical score. Combined altogether, these make watching the movie a difficult, sometimes headache-inducing experience. Still, from what I can make out, it’s not really a horror movie; most of it plays out like a police procedural. Still, the murder details are horrific, and a scene where the murderer undergoes guilt hallucinations (body parts jumping out in front of him, hands coming through the walls) does offer some horror content. It’s often incoherent, and I suspect chunks of the story are missing. I don’t think the movie itself is worthless, but it certainly doesn’t transcend the painful process of watching it.

Gladiatorerna (1969)

aka The Gladiators, The Peace Game
Article 4485 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-25-2014
Directed by Peter Watkins
Featuring Arthur Pentelow, Frederick Danner, Hans Bendrik
Country: Sweden
What it is: Futuristic drama

In the near future, the governments of the world have abandoned wars in favor of a televised competition known as the Peace Game, in which various teams compete to make their way through a booby-trapped maze.

The idea of replacing war with an organized competition of this sort isn’t really a new concept; what makes this one compelling is the usual documentary-like style that Peter Watkins brings to the story. Which is not to say that the movie is easy to follow; parts of this movie are very difficult to follow, and though it may be a quirk of my print, the fact that goodly portions of the movie are not in English (IMDB lists four other languages) and have no English subtitles make it even more difficult. I do get the sense that the movie takes a very cynical look at the military mindset on hand here, where a compassionate ally is considered a more disgusting threat than the enemy army itself. As a result, despite the complexity of much that is going on, the movie occasionally lapses into being simplistic; I think I’ve encountered this problem with some of Watkin’s movies before, in particular with PUNISHMENT PARK. Still, there is a power to Watkin’s style, and I found the movie compelling, though not up to the level of THE WAR GAME.