Un golpe de mil millones (1966)

aka A Stroke of a Thousand Millions, Un colpo da mille milliardi
Article 3367 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-20-2010
Posting Date: 11-2-2010
Directed by Paolo Heusch
Featuring Rik Van Nutter, Marilu Tolo, Eduardo Fajardo
Country: Italy / Spain / France
What it is: Spyghetti

A spy must foil a plot to turn the Suez canal radioactive.

I was intrigued enough by the English title of this one that I was severely disappointed to discover that the only copy I could find was in unsubtitled Spanish. The plot description came from the back of my DVD case for the movie, and it’s about the only plot description I can find. Spy movies can be difficult to follow even when they’re in English, so I have to admit being completely lost in this one. It does look like it’s a bit heavier on the science fiction gadgetry, though. I didn’t see much to make this one special, but since I didn’t see it in my native language, I’ll have to reserve judgment on it.


Goldfinger (1964)

Article 3354 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-6-2010
Posting Date: 10-20-2010
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Featuring Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe
Country: UK
What it is: James Bond movie

James Bond is assigned to investigate a clever gold smuggler, but uncovers a plan to destroy the economy of the United States that would also make the smuggler the richest man on Earth.

Though FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is my choice for the best of the Bonds, it’s also the one that feels least typical for the series. This one is quintessential; it’s smoothly directed, exciting, full of fun moments, and features not only one of the best villains in the series (Gert Frobe’s performance is exceptional) but also one of the most memorable minions with Oddjob and his decapitating hat. As usual, the fantastic content is the assortment of gadgetry that is on display here. I’ve seen this one a couple of other times, and I notice how well it holds up to repeated viewings; there are a lot of interesting things happening out on the edges, especially when Bond visits with Q.

Gargoyles (1972)

Article 3352 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-3-2010
Posting Date: 10-18-2010
Directed by Bill L. Norton
Featuring Cornel Wilde, Jennifer Salt, Grayson Hall
Country: USA
What it is: Monster movie

A skeptical writer and his daughter encounter a race of gargoyles, evil minions of the devil who want to take over the world.

I remember seeing the promos for this one on TV as a kid, and thinking how cool it was that a TV-Movie was going to be full of monsters. Of course, not having any control over the TV in my house, I missed the movie, and it’s only now, almost forty years later that I’ve gotten to see it. I would have loved it without reservations had I seen it back then; the monsters are great, you see them quite a lot, and even the somewhat arty jerky-slow-motion photography they use in the action sequences manages to keep from being annoying. As an adult, I still think the monsters are cool, but I have reservations on the movie as a whole. I found the script, direction and acting all rather weak; the scene where the writer and his daughter meet the desert rat is in particular badly written and awkwardly paced. My guess is that most of the budget on this movie went into the monsters, and the rest of the movie was given short shrift. I think it’s a bit of shame they couldn’t come up with a story that was worthy of the monster costumes. Oddly enough, it’s one of those genre TV-Movies that doesn’t feel like it was designed to launch a TV-Series. Overall, though, the great monster costumes and makeup still make this one fairly enjoyable.

Goldstein (1965)

Article 3313 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-24-2010
Posting Date: 9-9-2010
Directed by Philip Kaufman and Benjamin Manaster
Featuring Lou Gilbert, Ellen Madison, Tom Erhart
Country: USA
What it is: Independent American art film

An old man emerges from a lake in Chicago and affects the lives of several people. When a sculptor ends up with the old man’s walking stick after having saved him from a smokehouse, the old man disappears and the sculptor begins a citywide search for him.

When dealing with an art film of this sort, I sometimes find it best to admit outright that I didn’t really get it. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it at all (it has some interesting moments), but it does say that it would be presumptuous of me to talk about its meaning. All I can say is that the various comments I read imply that the movie might be a metaphor about the artistic spirit and that the old man may be the prophet Elijah. My print runs only 80 minutes and ends abruptly; IMDB lists a running time of 85 minutes and that a version that ran at Cannes ran 115 minutes. Because no one is sure just what the nature of the old man is, the movie becomes a de facto fantasy. It was Philip Kaufman’s first movie, and it does seem to be at least better than FEARLESS FRANK, his follow-up, though I have yet to cover the movie of his that is of most interest to fans of fantastic cinema, his remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

Goliath and the Sins of Babylon (1963)

aka Maciste, l’eroe piu grande del monde
Article 3283 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-17-2010
Posting Date: 8-10-2010
Directed by Michele Lupo
Featuring Mark Forest, Jose Greci, Giuliano Gemma
Country: Italy
What it is: Sword and sandal

Goliath arrives at a kingdom whose throne has been usurped by a man who is a puppet of the king of Babylon, who is demanding a yearly tribute of 30 virgins. He helps a group of rebels defeat the usurper and the Babylonians.

This is a slightly above average sword-and-sandal movie. It emphasizes action and spectacle, and despite the fact that the tone is slightly more serious than some others of the same genre, it is laced with plenty of humor, especially during the fight scenes. It features a comic-relief midget, who also proves useful on several occasions during the story. It’s pretty light in terms of its fantastic content; other than Goliath’s super-strength, there’s nothing else. And, of course, Goliath is in actuality Maciste. Perhaps the most striking thing about this one is its relative lack of pulchritude; despite the 30 virgins plot element and the existence of a princess who must be defeated in a chariot race before she will marry, there is very little in the way of feminine flesh here, which will certainly disappoint some viewers. There isn’t even a liturgical dance scene. On the other hand, this is one of those movies that really explores the use of a gong during a fight scene.

The Glass Sphinx (1967)

aka La sfinge d’oro
Article 3281 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-15-2010
Posting Date: 8-8-2010
Directed by Luigi Scattini
Featuring Robert Taylor, Anita Ekberg, Gianna Serra
Country: Italy / Egypt / Spain
What it is: Tepid adventure story

A millionaire’s search for the tomb of a pharaoh who was rumored to have a secret elixir of life inspires violence and betrayal.

It’s plotted to maximize confusion, takes every opportunity to work in an action sequence (mostly fistfights shot with some of the shakiest camerawork I’ve seen), and scores it all with a repetitive soundtrack that makes every scene feel the same. It almost feels like one of those James Bond ripoffs from Italy that were so common at the time, only minus the charm. As far as the fantastic content, it never manifests itself to the extent that the movie ever leaves the realm of marginalia. Yes, there are two beautiful women in the cast, but, truth to tell, I’ve never been partial to women who have velcro implants in their eyelashes. All in all, an uninspired exercise in adventure.

The Gore Gore Girls (1972)

Article 3280 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2010
Posting Date: 8-7-2010
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Featuring Frank Kress, Amy Farrell, Hedda Lubin
Country: USA
What it is: More Gore from Herschell

Someone is brutally killing and mutilating strippers. A newspaper hires a private detective to solve the murders.

This movie marked the end of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s directorial career for a good thirty years. By this time, he had achieved a certain level of competence in his filmmaking, and the acting shows some improvement over his earlier movies. He even managed to land a name star – Henny Youngman. As a result, this movie just looks and sounds better than some of his earlier movies. The gore is pretty extreme, but I wouldn’t really call it convincing. Considering the misogynistic nature of Lewis’s gore movies, I’m a little surprised that I don’t find his work near as offensive as that of certain other directors, maybe because I don’t really sense any nihilistic hatred underneath; I don’t sense that Lewis really takes any of this seriously, and I find after a while that I can’t either. If there’s any one thing I really noticed, it’s that Lewis was one pretty strange filmmaker; he clearly has a sense of humor (though it is wildly uneven), and there are numerous head-scratching touches (why are all the police investigations accompanied by a bad arrangement of the “Anvil Chorus?”). Yet, somehow, it managed to hold the attention even during the non-gory sequences.