Ghost-Cat of Ouma Crossing (1954)

aka Kaibyo Omagatsuji
Article 5061 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-26-2016
Directed by Bin Kado
Featuring Michiko Ai, Kotaro Bando, Takako Irie
Country: Japan
What it is: Ghost cat movie

In order that her sister can be the leading actress, a woman forms a conspiracy to remove the current leading actress from a troupe, a plot that eventually ends in murder. But sometimes there can be revenge from beyond the grave…

So what separates this ghost cat movie from the other three I’ve seen so far? English subtitles! And what do they tell me? Only what I’ve been able to figure out from the other ones I’ve seen so far. This is to say that it confirms my deduction that your basic ghost-cat story involves a woman who is dealt a grave injustice and killed, and then returns to wreak vengeance. The biggest difference between the movies is the nature of the initial injustice. The wreaking of the vengeance is usually the same; among other standard vengeance procedures, the ghost-cat usually lures someone into killing an innocent person by appearing before it, and also, using cat-like gestures, forces an evil woman into doing acrobatic stunts. From what I gather, Takako Irie practically made a career playing ghost-cats, and she is good at it. However, my suspicion that most of these movies are interchangeable continues to bear itself out with this one; outside of having one with subtitles, it doesn’t appear particularly different from the others I’ve seen. And I have plenty more to see before it’s all over…

Le Golem (1967)

LE GOLEM (1967)
aka The Golem
Article 5046 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-11-2016
Directed by Jean Kerchbron
Featuring Andre Reybaz, Georges Douking, Francois Vibert
Country: France
What it is: French TV-Movie

No plot outline.

My copy of this one is in French without subtitles. As such, it is impenetrable to me, and I was unable to find an adequate plot description. Nor does it seem to match any other version of “The Golem” that I’ve seen, so there’s no help there. The story seems to involve an exchange of hats, and a man who appears to have been framed for murder. The golem as such appears in two scenes; in one he may have been imagined, and in the other, he is someone in disguise. I can say this much. The movie is visually interesting, makes good use of sound and music, and is very well acted and looks intriguing. There are some striking moments, such as the scene where a man produces an egg from his mouth and another speaks with the voice of a woman, but how these tie into the story is a mystery to me. Chalk this one up as one of those movies that I’ll really have to see a subtitled version to appreciate it. It does strike me, though, as one worth catching.

Ghosts That Still Walk (1977)

Article 5013 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-9-2015
Directed by James T. Flocker
Featuring Ann Nelson, Matthew Boston, Jerry Jensen
Country: USA
What it is: Ghostly possession movie

A psychiatrist/hypnotist investigates the case of a boy who is suffering from strange pains which seem to have no physical cause… and whose relatives undergo traumatic, near-fatal experiences.

Don’t let the title fool you; it may sound like it’s pseudodocumentary on parapsychology, but it’s just a straightforward horror film. Still, I’m not sure the ghost does all that much walking; he spends most of the first half of the movie tooling around in a motor home he has taken over. I’ve encountered director James T. Flocker before, and if the ratings on IMDB are any indication, this is the best movie I’ve seen from him yet. Which is not to say that he doesn’t have the usual set of problems; the script is weakly written, the acting never quite achieves competence, and he seems to have no ability to tell when his scenes have run on too long. Yet, there’s a creative spark here that can’t be obscured by these flaws; there’s something original and engaging about his ideas. And this movie does have one very effective sequence in which the motor home is attacked by big rocks that seem to be moving of their own accord, and given what must have been the miniscule budget of this movie, I’m amazed that he pulls off the special effects; I’m really at a loss to explain how he did it. Granted, it does go on too long (like the other scenes in the movie), but I’m still a bit impressed. It’s moments like these which really make me wish that Flocker was a better director than he was.

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Article 5012 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-8-2015
Directed by Bruce D. Clark
Featuring Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction horror

When a spaceship doesn’t return from a hostile planet, a rescue ship is sent out to find and rescue them. However, what’s to keep them from suffering from the same fate as their predecessors…?

This is one of those movies about which I’m not really sure what I feel. On one level, I admire how much was done with a fairly low-budget; it actually looks pretty decent. I also marvel at the number of familiar names that pop up; on top of the ones listed above, it was produced by Roger Corman, features Freddy-to-be Robert Englund and the always welcome Sid Haig; the latter has only one line of dialogue and one of the most memorable death scenes in the movie. It also features future director James Cameron in a number of different capacities. I also like that even though it was no doubt inspired by ALIEN, it isn’t a slavish imitation of that movie. Still, on its own terms, I’m not sure I really care for what it is; despite a semi-mystical ending, the movie seems little more than an excuse for lots of horrible, gory killings at the hands of various assorted beasties. On that level, the movie is the equivalent of a slasher film and is probably best enjoyed on that level. Still, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed, though I will admit that some of the attacks are memorably grotesque.

The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)

Article 4989 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-15-2015
Directed by Bill Rebane
Featuring Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale, Robert Easton
Country: USA
What it is: The bigger they are, the goofier they look

A small Wisconsin town is overrun with giant spiders when a black hole lands from space.

This is the best Bill Rebane movie I’ve seen so far. Of course, you have to bear in mind that when I say that, I only mean that it’s more engaging than the bottomless pit of nothingness that is MONSTER A-GO GO (and it’s hard to find something that isn’t) and more entertaining than the dreary THE ALPHA INCIDENT. Make no mistake – this movie is bad, but at least you can get some laughs out of it. The unconvincing spider effects are already the stuff of legend (with Volkswagens used for some of the spiders’ bodies), and the real spiders used in the movie only make the giant ones look more fake. Still, for my money, the worst special effect is the black hole itself (which looks like and probably was a big pile of dirt). The dual-personality script jumps back and forth between serious and comic, due to the fact that two different writers worked on it; still, the attempted laughs fall flat while the real laughs are in the effects. Still, I can’t help but admire the ambition shown here when you consider the budget was only $300,000. And I will credit the movie with having one good well-timed scare when you’re thinking the scare will come from one place but it comes from another; the only reason it doesn’t work is because the special effects once again aren’t up to snuff.

God Told Me To (1976)

aka Demon
Article 4905 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-19-2015
Directed by Larry Cohen
Featuring Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis
Country: USA
What it is: Religion-tinged horror

A police detective (who happens to be a devout Catholic) investigates a rash of serial killings from different people, each of whom reveals that they performed the killings because “God told them to”. He investigates a man who was seen talking to all of the killers in order to find the truth, but the truth hits closer to home than he suspects…

If there’s one thing I’ll hand to Larry Cohen, it’s that he’s not afraid to take a difficult theme and handle it in as interesting a fashion as he can. He’s also not afraid to court controversy; the concept that drives the movie will certainly upset Christians, and the various Christ parallels in the movie will only add fuel to the flames. The movie is a bit on the muddled side; there are moments where you have to read between the lines to figure out what’s going on, and it sometimes wanders off into side issues that it leaves unresolved. Still, it does make for some fascinating viewing, and there are touches here and there that make it feel a bit like the work of David Cronenberg as well. Quite frankly, I look forward to seeing some of Cohen’s other movies. The movie slips into science fiction before it’s all through, and the cast also includes Sylvia Sidney and (in his first movie role) Andy Kaufman.

Ghost Story of the Seven Wonders of Honsho (1957)

aka Kaidan Honsho nanafushigi
Article 4897 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-11-2015
Directed by Goro Kadono
Featuring Juzaburo Akechi, Namiji Matsuura, Shigeru Amachi
Country: Japan
What it is: Japanese ghost story

An evil nephew kills his uncle so he can take possession of his wife and his money. However, the uncle once spared the life of a Tunuki (a ghostly were-badger), and the Tunuki vows to help the uncle’s son get revenge.

Here’s another of the many ghost movies made in Japan during the fifties. This one runs only about fifty-five minutes and looks rather cheaply made. The story is pretty perfunctory, and it features some scenes that look pretty common for this sort of movie; once again, we have scenes of a man trying to attack the ghosts only to accidentally clear his own allies. Still, it has a fun assortment of weird-looking ghosts who manifest themselves in various ways. It also features a ghost I’ve seen in several other movies, and I hope someday to figure out if it’s a traditional Japanese ghost or the result of someone’s imagination; it looks for all the world like the “major prize” won by Darren McGavin in A CHRISTMAS STORY, which is to say, it’s a leg wearing a lampshade.

The Grapes of Death (1978)

aka Les raisins de la mort, Pesticide
Article 4881 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-25-2015
Directed by Jean Rollin
Featuring Marie-Georges Pascal, Felix Marten, Serge Marquand
Country: France
What it is: What happens when you drink the wine

A woman on vacation finds herself stranded in a village where the inhabitants are mutated and murderous, the result of poisoning due to the insecticide used in a recent crop of grapes.

It’s been a long time since I last encountered Jean Rollin in my cinematic journeys, but here he is again, and not for the last time. Most of his movies up to this point have confusing and surreal arty-erotic-gory experiments, usually with vampires. This is the closest I’ve seen him come to an ordinary movie. It is pretty gory, but he mostly keeps his artiness in check, and its ventures into eroticism are gratuitous but fleeting. It’s basically his take on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, though the murderous killers aren’t zombies but victims of poisoning; in this way, it’s similar to THE CRAZIES. Granted, since it’s a Jean Rollin movie, the feel is distinctly different. Instead of tightening the screws to a fever pitch, the movie actually becomes more distant and detached as the action progresses, and I suspect this is due to the changes undergone by the heroine of the movie, and if you’ve been paying attention to her actions throughout the movie, you’ll see what’s happening before it actually does. The musical score is eccentric and used very sparsely, and this adds to the movie’s odd flavor. Yes, there’s some surreal and flamboyant grotesquerie (especially in the middle of the movie), but it wouldn’t be a Jean Rollin movie without it. This one is actually pretty decent; it’s certainly the most approachable film of his that I’ve seen to date.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

Article 4871 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-14-2015
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Featuring John Phillip Law, Caroline Munro, Tom Baker
Country: USA
What it is: Arabian nights fantasy

Sinbad finds himself in competition with an evil black sorcerer for a wonderful treasure – a crown of untold wealth.

I know there are some who consider this the best of Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad movies, but I still lean more towards THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD; I feel the earlier movie is more efficiently mounted, and the Ray Harryhausen creations are more memorable. However, this one does have a few advantages. I think it’s the best acted of the three movies, with Law as an effective Sinbad, several solid turns from the supporting cast, and an (especially) memorable performance by Tom Baker as the black sorcerer Koura; Baker adds several nice touches that bring his character to life, and the movie proved instrumental in him being cast in DOCTOR WHO. There are some definite highlights in Harryhausen’s animation here; my favorite moments of these include the creation and the taming of the homunculus, and the scenes involving the multi-armed statue of Kali, my favorite creation in this movie. I do find myself wondering how it would have turned out if the casting had gone differently; Christopher Lee was the front-runner for the Tom Baker role, and Robert Shaw was desperate for the role of Sinbad; the latter does an uncredited performance as the voice of the Oracle. All in all, it’s a solid entry in the series, and much better than the third one, SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER.

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)

aka Gojira tai Megaro
Article 4870 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-13-2015
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Featuring Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi
Country: Japan
What it is: Godzilla movie

Nuclear testing causes an underground empire to strike back to the surface people on Earth by releasing a giant monster named Megalon. He is joined by Gigan in a fight against Godzilla and a robot named Jet Jaguar.

I have a weakness for Japanese giant monster movies, so when I saw this one popping up on my hunt list, I decided to order the new version on Blu-Ray so I could see a restored, nice-looking subtitled version (rather than the shoddy dubbed panned-and-scanned VHS one that I already had). Now, one pitfall of watching an improved edition of a movie that you’ve already seen before is that it looks so much better that you’re thinking the movie itself has improved. In a few minor ways, it has; watching it in its original screen ratio is a definite plus, and some plot points that get lost in the shuffle in the English dubbed version are clarified here. Still, it remains one of Toho’s most threadbare entries in the series; the script is one of those where most of what happens happens because that’s what happens in other movies of the series, and several of the action sequences (the fight with the military, the fight with the planes, and the destruction of the city) are made up primarily of footage from other films. Take special note during the city destruction sequence that you never actually see Megalon in the city; you see the scenes of destruction and then see Megalon’s head against an undefinable background that could be anywhere. Still, the movie does feature two special effects sequences that are rather impressive; the opening sequence involving the earthquake on the lake, and the destruction of the dam (where the monster comes riding down on the rush of water) are very good. Still, as good as my new copy looks, this remains to my eye one of the weakest of the series.