A Gnome Named Gnorm (1990)

Article 4461 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-26-2014
Directed by Stan Winston
Featuring Anthony Michael Hall, Jerry Orbach, Claudia Christian
Country: USA
What it is: Action fantasy

When a rookie cop bungles a sting operation, he discovers that the man responsible for his failure can be identified by an unexpected witness – a gnome that has emerged from the underground to recharge a crystal.

Well, I will say this much; this action cop adventure with a fantasy twist isn’t appreciably worse than I though it would be. However, it’s not appreciably better either. It’s one of those movies where you wait for the Gnorm to start making off-color comments, because you know that’s just the sort of “cool” thing that movies like this go for, and, sure enough, once Gnorm meets the female cop, we start to learn the Gnome terms for body parts. The rest is pretty standard stuff indeed, and the only time I was really amused is when the hero uses his standing as a policeman to take over a vehicle to give pursuit, he opts for a hearse leading a funeral procession. In a sense, I’m grateful that the movie wasn’t so irritating it was painful; it’s just one of those movies that has no surprises and leaves no real impressions. And I’m also grateful that I was able to resist peppering this review with words that began with ‘N’ so I could add a ‘G’ in front of them.

The G.I. Executioner (1971)

aka Wit’s End
Article 4438 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-2-2014
Directed by Joel M. Reed
Featuring Tom Keena, Victoria Racimo, Angelique Pettyjohn
Country: USA
What it is: 86 minutes of exposed footage

Someone is trying to kill a journalist in Singapore, and it has to do with a kidnapped scientist being held for ransom.

Angelique Pettyjohn appears naked quite a lot in this movie. There you have, in a nutshell, the only reason why anyone would want to see this movie. It certainly isn’t the action; you’ll need the patience of a martyr before it shows up, and the forgiveness of a saint for the lack of competence with which it is dished out. It’s certainly not the plot, which is mostly found in the narration during the credits and then lost in the muddle of the movie itself. It’s not the acting; I didn’t see any. It is most clearly not the fantastic content, which can be summarized like this – the scientist was apparently working on something involving antimatter. Not only does the antimatter experiment play no active part in the story, you never see any of the experimentation. Nor do you ever see the scientist. In fact, if a two-second piece of footage where it was mentioned in passing in conversation were excised from the movie, you wouldn’t even know there was any fantastic content at all. I can’t even bring myself to call it a Gizmo Maguffin; it’s more like the faint outline of the rumor of one. That this one sat on the shelf for 13 years before being released is no surprise. The only two reasons I think that it was finally released by Troma is because it was directed by the man who gave us BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, and because of Pettyjohn’s lack of wardrobe. And if there is a G.I. executioner in the plot somewhere, he’s kept safely out of the existing footage of the movie. Quite frankly, this movie may be the single biggest waste of my time for my whole project.

P.S. It has come to my attention that this movie did actually get a release before Troma picked it up in 1984. It doesn’t make the movie any better, though.

Genesis II (1973)

Article 4437 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-1-2014
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Alex Cord, Mariette Hartley, Ted Cassidy
Country: USA
What it is: Failed science fiction TV pilot

A man being used to test suspended animation is sealed alive in a chamber during an earthquake and revived 150 years later. He tries to adjust to the post-apocalyptic world in which he has returned.

Gene Roddenberry made a couple of stabs at TV series during the early seventies in which a man from the present ends up in the world of the post-apocalyptic future. I rather wish one of them had made it to a series, if for no other reason than to see if it would have have flown on its strengths or foundered on its weaknesses. It’s obvious that he was trying to an earthbound version of “Star Trek” in which the hero could encounter a variety of cultures; at least, I hope this one wouldn’t have ended up being just a continuing conflict between the people of Pax and the tyrannical mutants. That being said, I am somewhat disappointed here at the choice of the mutant society here as the society he encounters, as it’s just another oppressive dystopia. What I really wonder is whether an engaging group of characters would have emerged from the series; in many ways, I think the main appeal of “Star Trek” was that we got quite attached to the characters, and based what I saw here, I didn’t see that happening. For me, the most interesting character was Lynne Marta’s character, whose belief that lust was what caused the apocalypse and whose mention of Saint Freud was one of my favorite moments of the movie. Granted, I also liked Ted Cassidy, but that’s less because of the character he was playing and more because he was Ted Cassidy. Overall, I thought this pilot was okay, and I enjoyed it well enough. I did notice one logical flaw, though. Mariette Hartley’s half-human half-mutant character had two navels, the result of the fact that the mutants had a two-heart circulatory system. This is all very well and good, but it’s also revealed that her mother was the human half of the union… and wouldn’t that mean that daughter would have only had one navel?

Goldface, the Fantastic Superman (1967)

aka Goldface, il fantastico superman
Article 4396 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-19-2013
Directed by Bitto Albertini
Featuring Espartaco Santoni, Evi Marandi, Big Matthews
Country: Italy / Spain
What it is: Wrestling hero action

Wrestling hero Goldface takes on a terrorist organization specializing in extortion that is being run by a supervillain known as the Cobra.

Hey, here’s a novelty; it’s a masked wrestler movie not from Mexico, but from Italy. For the record, they may be better at this type of movie than than the Mexicans are; the movie is faster moving and has a lot more action than the Santo movies. It also has something that is generally in short supply in the Mexican masked wrestler movies; it has a genuine and intentional sense of humor. I like that Goldface has a peanut-munching sidekick who adds to the amusement, and my favorite scene has Goldface and his sidekick in a Goldface costume causing a villain to waste his gunfire shooting at an assortment of Goldface-shaped balloons. Still, it doesn’t quite have the charm of the Santo movies, and at least Santo is usually tussling with fantastically-themed enemies (martians, vampires, ghosts, etc), whereas Goldface is here facing off against a bargain basement Bondian supervillain. This brings up the problem of fantastic content. Despite the James Bond trappings, there is no gadgetry at play in this movie (unless the inflatable Goldface balloons count for something), and the main fantastic content that my sources list is problematic; according to them, both Goldface and his sidekick have super strength. Now I will admit that they both are strong, but there’s not a point in this movie where I see any demonstration of strength that seems humanly impossible. Still, this is certainly not the first time I’ve covered a movie about a masked hero with no superpowers for this series.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

aka Godzilla vs the Smog Monster, Gojira tai Hedora
Article 4325 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-3-2013
Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno
Featuring Akira Yamauchi, Toshie Kimura, Hiroyuki Kawase
Country: Japan
What it is: Monster mash with a message

When a creature that thrives on pollution manifests itself, Godzilla sets out to destroy it.

This title from the Godzilla series is considered by many to be one of the worst of the series. Part of this, no doubt, is due to the silliness of the original American title, but part of it may also be the streaks of preachiness and pretentiousness that pervade the movie. I myself don’t consider it the worst; there are others I like far less due to their uninspired recycling of cliches, and this one at least has the novelty of having been a change of stylistic direction for the series, no doubt due to the direction of Yoshimitsu Banno. Still, it misses as often as it hits. The movie eschews the use of the famous Akira Ifukube themes, and the results are mixed. The fight scenes mostly have no music, and this is quite effective, but the music that does pop up is either forgettable or actively annoying; Godzilla’s new theme would be more appropriate for big, stupid buffoon than for the King of the Monsters, and the theme song, which I’ve never liked in the first place (especially in the English version where the lyrics are atrocious) is overused. I love the design of Hedorah, there’s some very creative editing, I like the animated segments, but the anti-pollution theme is pretty overbearing; there are far too many shots of polluted oceans. The movie is one of the most horrific in its display of human death since the original movie in the series, but it lacks the grief that makes this sort of thing poignant. The worst moment for me in the movie is the scene where Godzilla flies; it’s neither a good idea nor well done. Nevertheless, the movie has a moment near the end that I’ve always loved, and it’s when Godzilla turns his gaze on some of the humans present, who react in fear as to what he’s going to do to them. I like this moment because it’s one of the only times that I’ve seen Godzilla acknowledge the humans that he usually ignores, and one senses the accusing nature of the look as if he’s holding us responsible for Hedorah. That is perhaps why I’ve always had a fondness for this one.

Give Us the Moon (1944)

Article 4144 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-31-2013
Directed by Val Guest
Featuring Margaret Lockwood, Vic Oliver, Peter Graves
Country: UK
What it is: British comedy

The wastrel son of a hotel magnate joins a ground of idlers known as The White Elephants, where he agrees to never work for a living. However, he is in danger of losing his membership when his father forces him to take over management of the Hotel Eisenhower.

Let’s get the fantastic content out of the way first. This movie takes place in 1947, three years after the European part of World War II as well as three years after the movie was made. Why? I’m guessing it’s because the central conceit of a likable batch of idlers and wastrels would probably not go over well as a wartime phenomenon, where the idea of someone not pulling his weight for the war effort would go over like a lead balloon; therefore, setting it during peacetime would be more acceptable. It certainly doesn’t use the future setting for any futuristic touches, so I’m saying that the fantastic touches here are more of a matter of convenience than anything else.

As for the movie itself, this isn’t the first time I’ve dipped into the comedy oeuvre of Val Guest, who directed the first two Quatermass movies as well as directing and writing this one. This movie is cute and whimsical, and some of the humorous situations do work well enough. However, the cuteness and whimsicality do get rather overbearing at times, and there are times where it becomes a little too much to bear. In short, the movie is a little too aggressively comic, and the laughs don’t come quite as freely as they should. By the way, the Peter Graves in the cast is not the American actor of the same name.

Gekko Kamen (1958)

aka Moonlight Mask
Article 4135 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-20-2013
Directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi
Featuring Sen Hara, Mitsue Komiya, Hiroko Mine
Country: Japan
What it is: Masked hero hijinks

The evil Skull Mask is after the plans for a new bomb, but runs into resistance from a hero called Gekko Kamen, aka Moonlight Mask.

From what I gather, the whole “Gekko Kamen” movie series is pretty confusing, but the one I’m watching is an American welding of the first two Japanese movies into one. That’s ideally, of course; the fact of the matter is that I couldn’t find the American version, but I did get hold of the two Japanese movies that were welded together, and given that these two movies are 51 minutes each, and the American version was timed at 102 minutes, I’m guessing little was cut. And, as you might guess, the version I saw was in Japanese with no English subtitles.

So, what’s it like? Well, I’d say it’s similar to PRINCE OF SPACE, INVASION OF THE NEPTUNE MEN, or the various Starman/Super Giant movies. It certainly beats all three in terms of its production values, and, taking into account the language barrier on this one, I’d rate it better than the two movies listed above, but I would have to say it lacks some of the energy and outrageousness that makes the Starman movies work for me. It’s hard to say whether the heroes and villains have superpowers; Gekko Kamen is either bulletproof, or he’s unflappable in the face of henchmen who have the targeting ability of Imperial Stormtroopers. He does seem to be able to vanish pretty efficiently. As for the villain, he blows fire on a couple of occasions. Some of the fight scenes suffer from the pulled punch syndrome of the Starman movies (where you watch them in full confidence that no one is getting hurt), but some of the stunt work is impressive, and an extended scene where everyone is chasing after a bag is a lot of fun. The two movies edit together very well, since the first ends in a cliffhanger resolved by the second, so the movie can be easily seen as a single story. However, it is convenient to split them into two movies in one way; I realized how much more fun the first one was than the second, since all the most interesting scenes (from a visual sense) occur there. Granted, that judgment might change is I could see them with subtitles, but even with the language barrier, the action seems pretty straightforward.

Gulliver’s Travels among the Lilliputians and the Giants (1902)

aka Le voyage de Gulliver a Lilliput et chez les geants
Article 4130 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-12-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Special effects adaptation of classic novel

Gulliver spends time with the Lilliputians and the Brobdingnags.

With a running time of only four minutes, no, you’re not going to get much of the satirical thrust of the Swift novel. It does serve, however, as a nice inspiration for Melies to practice on and develop his special effects techniques, and he rises to the occasion with some at times very impressive special effects. I like the way it forces Melies to use close-ups more extensively than is his wont, and certain effects (such as the scene where the Lilliputians shoot arrows into Gulliver) are very well handled. When it’s not just showing off the effects, it goes for laughs, such as the scene where Gulliver puts out a fire with a seltzer bottle and the one where he falls into a teacup. Simply in terms of its special effects challenges, this is one of Melies’s most impressive shorts.

The Ghost of Rosy Taylor (1918)

Article 4127 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-9-2013
Directed by Edward Sloman and Henry King
Featuring Mary Miles Minter, Allan Forrest, George Periolat
Country: USA
What it is: Odd drama/mystery

A woman is startled to discover that the maid she hired to clean her house actually died several weeks ago… but the house is being tended and cleaned while she is out. She believes it may be the ghost of the maid…but there’s another explanation…

One thing I will give this movie; it throws in the fantastic content so quickly and decisively in the opening scenes that, for a few fleeting minutes, you’re hoping that this will turn out to be a real ghost story. Of course, the movie eventually shifts into the explanation of the ghostly actions of this sequence, but even when it reaches this point, I still admired the movie’s set-up of its premise. The rest of this story verges on the depressing, as it tells the tale of a young woman who, after having been taken away from American and raised in France as a child, suddenly finds herself without a family, money, stranded back in America, and with no means of survival. Things continue to deteriorate, but at least the movie alleviates some of this with touches of humor and acts of kindness from certain characters. The story ultimately relies on a some pretty outrageous coincidences, but that’s forgivable; in fact, when all is said and done, the movie is rather fun. I only wish the print I saw was in better shape, but sometimes we have to be satisfied that these movies still exist at all.

Going to Bed Under Difficulties (1900)

aka Le deshabillage impossible
Article 4124 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Comic trick film

A man’s attempt to retire for the night is hampered by the magical appearance of new pieces of clothing on him as he tries to undress.

Sometimes I get the feeling that Melies’s sense of humor was sharpest in his earlier films; this surreal piece of absurdity is perhaps his single funniest film. What makes it work is that the man becomes more frantic and desperate as new clothes constantly materialize on him; he can’t even ignore them and go to sleep because his bed vanishes as well. Perhaps it’s fitting as well that the movie has no ending; this man will be removing clothes forever. It’s not surprising that this silly little short engendered a few imitations from other directors.