Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973)

Article 3964 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-27-2012
Directed by Peter Medak and Spike Milligan
Featuring Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Anthony Franciosa
Country: UK
What it is: Pirate comedy

A cook on a pirate ship is taken on an excursion to bury treasure; he kills the captain and the other crew members on the excursion, and returns to the ship to take over the captain’s place, as he is the only one who knows where the treasure is buried. However, the map, written in disappearing ink, vanishes, and he ends up kidnapping a young boy who he believes can see ghosts in the hope that he can use him to locate the ghost of the dead captain and recover the treasure.

Reportedly, Peter Sellers suffered from heart problems, a streak of egotism and erratic behavior. He also wasn’t careful in his choice of material, and during the first half of the seventies, his career was at a low point for all of these reasons. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this movie, especially when I heard it sat on the shelf for almost ten years before being released. Watching it, I realized its greatest problem was a simple one; it just wasn’t funny. The attempted jokes are dead on arrival, and though the movie makes some stylistic attempts to add to the humor (such as framing the first five minutes as a silent comedy), it does so unsuccessfully. In truth, the best thing I can say about this movie is that it managed to keep from annoying me, and I’d say the main reason for this is that Sellers was a sharp enough actor to keep the lack of laughs from causing him to engage in the type of desperate shtick that would make this kind of movie painful; he remains on an even keel throughout. In fact, truth to tell, none of the actors embarrass themselves here. As a result, the movie never becomes unwatchable. However, there is one thing that really did disappoint me, though I should have suspected it; the fantastic content that the movie promises is painfully slight, and the movie is sure to disappoint anyone hoping for something more.

The Ghost Train (1931)

Article 3955 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-17-2012
Directed by Walter Forde
Featuring Jack Hulbert, Cicely Courtneidge, Ann Todd
Country: UK
What it is: Another ghost train movie

Several people get stranded in a remote train station during a storm. The station seems to be haunted by a ghost train as well.

I’m stretching things a bit to include this one; this early talkie only partially exists, and most of the reels that still exist lack the soundtrack. Fortunately, since I’ve seen two other versions of this particular story, I wasn’t exactly baffled by what I saw, but I do suspect that anyone who wasn’t familiar with the story would have trouble sorting it out. Still, with what little sound I did have to go on, I’ve come to the conclusion that one definite flaw of the story itself is it makes a rather annoying comic character the center of the action; even if the actor playing him is decent, his actions make him more irritating than funny. Fortunately, the final reel is one of the surviving reels, and it’s also one of the only two that has sound, so the climax of the story (which is pretty good) is intact. Nonetheless, I don’t think it holds a candle to the 1927 version of the movie, which for me is the most impressive of the lot.

Gulliver’s Travels (1977)

Article 3880 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-20-2012
Posting Date: 3-29-2012
Directed by Peter R. Hunt
Featuring Richard Harris, Catherine Schell, Norman Shelley
Country: UK / Belgium
What it is: Another take on the Swift satire

Gulliver becomes a ship’s surgeon, but after a storm, he is stranded in the land of Lilliput, where everyone is tiny and he’s a giant.

To its credit, this take on Jonathan Swift’s famous book doesn’t completely eliminate the satire, but given the fact that it’s still seen as primarily a children’s story, it does soft-pedal it quite a bit. As expected, it sticks to the first book of the novel, though it does end on a note that at least addresses the second voyage to Brobdingnag (perhaps a sequel was hoped for). It’s a combination of live action and animation; the latter is serviceable but uninspired. I could do without the songs myself, and though Richard Harris does all right with the title character, it’s hardly a challenge the way it’s written. Oddly enough, there’s a glimpse of totally gratuitous animated nudity as well; why, I don’t know. It’s not awful, but it’s probably the weakest take on the tale that I’ve seen for the series.

Garden of the Dead (1974)

Article 3878 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-18-2012
Posting Date: 3-27-2012
Directed by John Hayes
Featuring Phillip Kenneally, Duncan McLeod, John Dullaghan
Country: USA
What it is: Low-budget zombie mayhem

Convicts forced to work in a camp manufacturing formaldehyde plan a breakout which then goes awry, and they all die and are buried in unmarked graves. But some of the formaldehyde spills onto the graves, and they rise to take revenge!

I’ll give the movie a little credit for not being a slavish imitation of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD; the zombies here are intelligent (which is to say that they’re as intelligent as they were when they were alive), able to talk, and can move fast. But that doesn’t keep this one from going off the goofy meter; for one thing, despite the fact that they’re intelligent, they still like to walk around saying “Urrrr… Urrrr….Urrrr” (Is that all they can think of to say, or does that just come with the territory?) And instead of going after human flesh, they’re after … hold on, I can barely believe it myself… FORMALDEHYDE!! which they sniff, pour over their bodies, rub on their faces…I guess it must be like zombie catnip. Oh, they have their weaknesses; bright light is fatal to them, they can be killed by close-range shotgun blasts, and they’re hypnotized by… and once again, I can barely believe it myself…. CLEAVAGE! Yes, they can be stopped in their tracks by the sight of a low-cut blouse. No wonder Troma’s logo opens the movie. Can’t you just see the inevitable sequel being made, BIKINI BIMBOS VS. FORMALDEHYDE ZOMBIES. Oh, I certainly hope I don’t give anybody ideas out there. Awful, but irresistible.

Gemini Man (1976)

TV show pilot
aka Code Name: Minus One
Article 3872 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2012
Posting Date: 3-21-2012
Directed by Alan J. Levi
Featuring Ben Murphy, Katharine Crawford, Richard Dysart
Country: USA
What it is: Invisible man TV series

A government agent is exposed to an explosion by a radioactive mine, and it gives him the ability to turn invisible. He uses his ability to uncover a Soviet spy ring that is trying to take over a munitions industry.

Here’s another pilot for a TV series, but this is one of them that actually made it. I can see why; it’s got a workable premise and is competently made. It isn’t particularly inspired, though, and I know I would have found the semi-romantic bantering between Ben Murphy and Katharine Crawford to tire very quickly. The first half of the movie is concerned with working the fairy dust so that we get some clearly delineated limits to his abilities; he can only remain invisible for fifteen minutes a day, his clothes are able to disappear with him due to his proximity to them (though I notice the movie is conveniently selective on how this works; there’s one point where they have him completely swaddled in bandages which for some reason do not disappear), and he has to control his abilities with the help of an atomic wrist watch. In truth, the science behind it seems rather silly, and the plot is pretty run of the mill, and I gather from the swift cancellation that the stories didn’t get much better. In truth, I didn’t see anything really special about this one.

Die Gansehirtin am Brunnen (1979)

aka The Wishmaker
Article 3856 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-25-2012
Posting Date: 3-5-2012
Directed by Ursula Schmanger
Featuring Jaroslava Schallerova, David Schneider, Gunter Naumann
Country: East Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

A young man is aided by a witch in his hunt for an unhappy princess.

Here we have another German fairy tale, though this one is from the seventies and comes from East Germany rather than West Germany. Like the others that I’ve seen, this is a rather slow affair, but, even despite the fact that it was in German without dubbing or subtitles, I felt it more or less worked. Just on a visual sense, I felt it managed to capture a sense of gentle lyricism that makes it rather likable, and it keeps the special effects to a minimum, only using them when it was most effective. According to one of my sources, it was based on “The Goose Girl” by the Brothers Grimm, but upon reading a summary of that fairy tale, I find little relation between it and this; the short plot description in John Stanley’s “Creature Feature Movie Guide Strikes Again” is closer to what seems to be happening. The movie has a very low rating on IMDB, yet I don’t think it deserves it; however, I could see how its low action quotient might alienate some, while the very real possibility that it may have been badly dubbed would further damage it. If that’s the case, I may have been better off watching the undubbed version, despite the language barrier.

Der gestiefelte Kater (1955)

aka Puss ‘n Boots
Article 3855 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-23-2012
Posting Date: 3-4-2012
Directed by Herbert B. Fredersorf
Featuring Margitte Sonke, Harry Wustenhagen, Christa Oenicke
Country: West Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

A talking cat helps his down-and-out owner by helping him to win the love of a beautiful princess and to defeat an evil magician.

If I prefer the Mexican version of this fairy tale, at least one of the reasons is because that version was dubbed into English, whereas this one isn’t; the copy I found was in unsubtitled German, and though the story itself is familiar enough that I didn’t have a lot of problems following it, it is fairly talky. Which, come to think of it, is another thing I like better about the Mexican version; its wild, hyper-energetic and surreal take on it is more fun than this stodgy, slow gabfest. I suppose I should also point out that the cat costume in that movie is better than the one here; I wasn’t sure that furry thing hanging around was a cat until it went ‘meow’. Of course, there is the chance I might like this one more if it had been dubbed into English, but as of this point, I consider it another example of just how dull some of these German fairy tales of the fifties were.