Gojira (1954)

GOJIRA (1954)
Article 3587 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-23-2011
Posting Date: 6-10-2011
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata
Country: Japan
What it is: Kaiju – the beginning

A wave of shipping disasters is brought about by a giant radioactive prehistoric creature let loose upon the world by the A-bomb tests.

I’ve already covered the Raymond Burr version of the movie, but since IMDB (which I use as a guide to help me) will occasionally create separate listings for two versions of the same movie when they diverge sufficiently, I now have the opportunity to review the original, undiluted Japanese version. In truth, the American version doesn’t do a bad job of adapting the movie, but it just doesn’t have the emotional punch of the original, especially in the ways it develops Takashi Shimura’s scientist character and fleshes out the love triangle that proves significant in the way it dovetails with the final efforts to destroy Godzilla. I also found the post-destruction sequence to be much more powerful as well. Outside of that, I found myself enjoying some of my favorite moments and images from this movie; I love the shot of Godzilla behind the aviary at one point, and though I always find Akira Ifukube’s score gripping, I’m particularly taken by subdued and sublime music used during the final underwater sequences. Looking over the cast list, I can’t help but notice a few cool cameos; two of the actors who play Godzilla appear as an editor and a power station worker at one point, and the hand that flips the switch on the electric fence is that of Ishiro Honda’s.

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Genuine (1920)

GENUINE (1920)
Article 3549 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-10-2011
Posting Date: 5-3-2011
Directed by Robert Wiene
Featuring Fern Andro, Hans Heinrich von Twardwoski, Ernst Gronau
Country: Germany

A Lord keeps a dangerous wild woman locked up because of her destructive seductive powers over men. However, she escapes, and….

Robert Wiene is known primarily as the director of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. This movie is done in roughly the same style, which makes it at least visually of interest. However, I’m a little reticent at judging the movie based on the print I’ve seen, seeing as it is the 43-minute condensation of the movie; there are obviously scenes missing. Those expecting a conventional vampire will be disappointed; the title character is more of a vamp/femme fatale, which were commonly called vampires in that era. The story is muddled; why does the ring keep the servant in line? How did the barber’s son get away from Genuine? Just what powers does she have? The movie is never really clear about these, and overall it’s just not a very satisfying movie. Still, I think the skeleton clock is a nice piece of decor.

Grandfather’s Pills (1908)

GRANDFATHER’S PILLS (1908)
aka Les dragees du grand-pere
Article 3541 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-31-2011
Posting Date: 4-25-2011
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Early trick film

A grandfather buys some pep pills to give him vim and vigor, but when a boy tries the pills, it gives him super-powers and he terrorizes the neighborhood.

This one is pretty amusing; the antics of the boy (including throwing cops around like rag dolls and lifting barbells with ease) are rather funny; it’s rather like a slapstick cross between a supervillain and THE BAD SEED. I wonder if this was the first movie about juvenile delinquency. Well, at any rate, this is another movie rescued from the ashes of my “ones that got away” list.

Les generations comiques (1909)

LES GENERATIONS COMIQUES (1909)
aka Generation spontanee, Magic Cartoons
Article 3510 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-28-2011
Posting Date: 3-25-2011
Directed by Emile Cohl
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Abstract cartoon

There’s really no plot to this one; it’s basic a concept brought to life in which portraits are made of various eccentric characters, with animated shapes mutating and changing until they turn into the various people. In a sense, this may be the most representative of the movies I’ve seen in catching that peculiar charm that marked the work of Emile Cohl.

This marks the end of this run of short silents, but I’ll probably be revisiting them in the future.

Ghost Valley (1932)

GHOST VALLEY (1932)
Article 3495 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-8-2011
Posting Date: 3-11-2011
Directed by Fred Allen
Featuring Tom Keene, Merna Kennedy, Kate Campbell
Country: USA
What it is: Weird western, comic style

A judge hires a young drifter to portray one of two heirs to an abandoned ghost town in the hopes that he can talk the other heir (a beautiful woman) into selling; the judge knows there is a fortune in gold there. What the judge does not know is that the drifter is indeed the other heir for real, and has decided to thwart the judge’s scheme.

This weird western concentrates on the comedy for the first part, then has a few spooky sequences involving a masked rider during the middle section (these scenes are actually quite atmospheric), and then concentrates on western thrills for the climax. It’s not bad and fairly entertaining, though the story becomes a bit confusing in the middle section. Still, I do have to admire some of the stunt work in this western, particularly the scenes where horses are ridden down fairly steep inclines. Tom Keene had a long career in B westerns, but his last movie role would be in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Gigantes Planetarios (1965)

GIGANTES PLANETARIOS (1965)
aka Planetary Giants
Article 3489 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-28-2011
Posting Date: 3-4-3011
Directed by Alfredo B. Cravenna
Featuring Guillermo Murray, Adriana Roel, Rogelio Guerrra
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican space opera

In an effort to put an end to alien espionage, astronauts take a trip to a giant planet.

I’m guessing a bit on the plot, since my copy is in unsubtitled Spanish. It’s a pretty ambitious effort considering the limited resources of Mexican cinema, and though the special effects are weak, I’ve seen worse. Still, it’s no surprise that about half of the movie remains earthbound, with the usual office, nightclub and sports arena settings so common to movies from this country (though I will admit to being a bit surprised that the arena scene was for a boxing rather than a wrestling match). The story appears to be nothing special; it’s largely a “go to the evil planet and defeat the bad guys” plot. Still, there are some odd moments you only find in Mexican cinema; my favorite is seeing someone pack for a trip and including a space helmet in their luggage. Apparently, this movie spawned a sequel which, if you can believe the ratings on IMDB, is not very good but better than this one.

The Gnome-Mobile (1967)

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.