Girly (1970)

GIRLY (1970)
aka Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly
Article 3773 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-1-2011
Posting Date: 12-13-2011
Directed by Freddie Francis
Featuring Michael Bryant, Ursula Howells, Pat Heywood
Country: UK
What it is: Black comedy

A family of psychos lure strangers into their home, where they play twisted games with them, and then murder them when they get bored with their new playmates. One man who has been drawn in, realizing his precarious situation, decides not to try escaping but sees if he can play the various members of the family against each other. Will he be able to succeed before they decide to send him to the angels?

I don’t know if this is Freddie Francis’s best movie, but I will say that it is his most interesting. It’s somewhat reminiscent of SPIDER BABY in that it mines the same vein of queasy sleaziness. The movie is definitely rather unpleasant at times, but it becomes fascinating to watch how the various members of the family deal with having the tables being turned on them in various ways. You end up being really curious as to whether the “new friend” will outwit them; even when he’s making progress, you can tell he’s rather appalled at the degree of psychotic sickness in the family. Despite the fact that there’s virtually no explicit gore in the movie, this is definitely not for the faint of heart. And if anybody asks you about someone named Tony Chestnut, make sure to be on your guard.

The Giant of Metropolis (1961)

aka Il gigante di Metropolis
Article 3772 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-30-2011
Posting Date: 12-12-2011
Directed by Umberto Scarpelli
Featuring Gordon Mitchell, Bella Cortez, Roldano Lupi
Country: Italy
What it is: Sci-fi sword and sandal

Muscular hero Obro comes to the city of Metropolis in Atlantis to defeat an evil king who is dabbling in science that is not meant for man.

I’m surprised it took me so long to get to this particular sword-and-sandal title; it’s perhaps the one that can most easily be classified as science fiction as well, given that it takes place in the super-scientific town of Metropolis. And, to its credit, the offbeat setting seems to inspire a plot that doesn’t blindly follow the well-worn tracks of most movies of its ilk; there are some unusual plot developments here. However, that’s not an unmixed blessing. One problem is that it’s a movie with a message, which is that nature shall take vengeance on those that try to subvert it through science; the movie is so self-consciously aware of its theme that it gets very preachy at times. As a result, it’s one of the duller, talkier sword and sandal movies out there. You’d also think that this super-scientific city would come up with something in the way of useful projectile weapons; instead, we have standard-issue clubs, weapons that seem to be nothing more than glorified pointed sticks with thyroid problems, and faux lobster claws. I also can’t help but notice that, despite the science, they still practice astrology, like to spend a lot of time hanging around caves, and still have an addiction to liturgical dance; the scene involving the latter convinces me that the choreographers of Metropolis work overtime while their composers are asleep at the wheel. Overall, I’m very disappointed with this one; I’d like to like it, but it’s way too talky and preachy to be much fun. And the scene where the hero has a battle with a ray of light may be one of the most embarrassing moments in the whole genre.

The Green Archer (1961)

aka Der grune Bogenschutze
Article 3770 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-28-2011
Posting Date: 12-10-2011
Directed by Jurgen Roland
Featuring Klausjurgen Wussow, Karin Dor, Eddi Arent
Country: West Germany
What it is: Krimi

A phantom known as the Green Archer is on the loose, knocking off people with his green arrows. But is he fighting against an American businessman in England, or for him…?

Some krimis I enjoy; they can be fun and atmospheric at their best. However, some, like this one, can be frustrating. The problem here is that there are just too many characters, many of which aren’t established strongly enough to stick in the memory from scene to scene. There are also a wealth of subplots to further complicate things. Finally, there’s the fact that the story threads are usually kept a secret until the end of the movie. Here we have a businessman (played by Gert Frobe) who is keeping a woman locked in a secret room in his house, whose son is believed to be dead and whose daughter the businessman is trying to dispose of. Not knowing why this is all happening wouldn’t be quite as maddening if the plot wasn’t wandering all over the place; after a while you don’t know which characters are really important, even if you can remember them from one scene to the next. Furthermore, the title character appears so rarely during the first two-thirds of the movie that it’s rather jarring in the last third that he’s all over the place. But, I’ve seen enough krimis now to know that some of them end up like this.

Galaxina (1980)

Article 3769 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-27-2011
Posting Date: 12-9-2011
Directed by William Sachs
Featuring Stephen Macht, Avery Schreiber, J.D. Hinton
Country: USA
What it is: Not sure, but it thinks it’s a comedy

A police ship is sent to a distant planet to retrieve the Blue Crystal, a gem of incredible power.

Before this movie premiered, actress Dorothy Stratten (who, despite being fourth-billed, plays the title character) was shockingly murdered by her husband, a story that is told in the movie STAR 80. I mention this fact because that seems to be the fact for which this movie is most famous. And, having seen the movie itself, that’s perhaps as it should be. Stratten wears a handful of sexy costumes, which I’m sure will be considered a plus by some people. The only other plus I can think of for this movie is that it has lots of alien creatures in it. It’s certainly not going to be remembered for its plot, which, if summarized, would have trouble filling out an index card. It’s not going to be remembered for its jokes; the ones that aren’t a hundred years old are stillborn, and the comic timing is so horrid that even those jokes that might have potentially worked die a horrible death. If you’re trapped into watching it, you might amuse yourself at spotting the subtle and not-so-subtle references to other science fiction movies and TV shows. The “R” rating seems to be mostly the result of an unnecessary plethora of badly-integrated cussing. By the way, that’s Angelo Rossitto in the costume of the monster from the egg. This one is truly awful.

Graduation Day (1981)

Article 3724 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2011
Posting Date: 10-25-2011
Directed by Herb Freed
Featuring Christopher George, Patch MacKenzie, E. Danny Murphy
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher film

A high school student dies upon the completion of a race at a track meet. Shortly after that, the other members of her track team begin to be killed off one by one. Who is the killer? Is it the deceased student’s strange sister? The bad-tempered coach? The harried principal? The father of the deceased girl? The stupid pot-smoking cop? One of the students?

Right before I watched this movie, I read a couple of blurbs about it from some of my sources, plus I recalled a short review that I’d read about it some time ago that purported to give away the end of the movie. After having actually watched the movie, I found myself a little amused by the fact that each of the blurbs had been inaccurate. The ending given away by the one source turned out to be wrong, though I’m willing to entertain the idea that it may have been purposefully inaccurate in order to throw off the reader. One emphasized the use of field and track equipment as murder weapons, but I’m not aware of any track and field events that use boards of spikes, switchblades or swords. And one review magically concocts an elaborate backstory (involving a “Dear John” letter, some pitchfork murders, and a the revival of a traditional Graduation dance as the event that sets off the murders) that simply doesn’t exist in any way, shape or form in the movie I saw. Maybe they weren’t from faulty memories; after all, many of these slasher movies come off as clones of each other, and I bet it’s hard to keep them straight at times. As for the movie itself, it’s pretty bad. The murder scenes are singularly devoid of suspense, some of the murders are pretty silly, there are too many unnecessary characters, and its handling of some of the slasher film cliches is pretty clumsy (especially the cliche about the discovery of the dead bodies at various times and locations being used for shock effect). There’s a few interesting tricks in editing that would have been effective had the rest of the movie worked, but I’m particularly disappointed on how the movie fails to use the killer’s gimmick (he carries a stopwatch to time out the murders) in any way to increase the tension. At least it doesn’t hint at a sequel, and none was forthcoming.

Goodbye Charlie (1964)

Article 3690 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-6-2011
Posting Date: 9-21-2011
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Featuring Tony Curtis, Debbie Reynolds, Pat Boone
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy, adapted stage play style

A philandering screenwriter is shot by a jealous movie producer, but returns to life as a beautiful woman, much to the frustration of the writer’s best friend.

This is one of those movies that is an adaptation of a stage play, and feels like it for most of the length of the movie, and considering that the movie runs just under two hours, that’s a lot of time to watch two people talking endlessly in mostly the same location. I think the biggest missed opportunity here is Debbie Reynold’s performance; she never once gives me the feeling that she actually is a man in a woman’s body because she plays the character as just too much of a woman, and without that sense of the maleness of the character, the movie never comes across as convincing. Tony Curtis does what he can, but the story is a little too muddled to give him a real and consistent personality. In the end, the only performance that consistently amused me during the movie was Walter Matthau’s as the movie producer; he’s the only one who seems to have the energy and timing to really make his scenes speed along. Unfortunately, he’s a secondary character and is not present for long stretches of the running time, so I’m afraid that I found the movie a real bore.

Ganja & Hess (1973)

GANJA & HESS (1973)
aka Blood Couple

Article 3676 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-23-2011
Posting Date: 9-7-2011
Directed by Bill Gunn
Featuring Marlene Clark, Duane Jones, Bill Gunn
Country: USA
What it is: Art movie masquerading as blaxploitation horror

An archaeologist becomes a vampire after having been stabbed with a ceremonial knife. He tries to cope with his affliction and finds himself involved with the wife of his now-dead assailant.

It features the lead actor from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and is a movie about a black vampire made in the same era as BLACULA. But anyone walking into this one expecting the usual blaxploitation horror vibe will be severely disappointed. Granted, I can’t speak about the 78-minute edit, which reportedly comes across as almost a completely different movie; I opted to watch the complete 110 minute version. There is much to admire here; the acting is strong, the use of sound and music is truly creative, and it adds some interesting wrinkles to vampire mythology (incidentally, the word “vampire” is never used once during the movie). Yet, it remains an art film, and a fairly long one; there is a lot of talk, and not all of it is interesting enough to hold the attention. There are scenes that are confusing, and other scenes that go on too long; despite the positive qualities of this movie, I often found myself quite bored. It is also a movie steeped in black culture, and as such, I may simply not be one of its intended audience. Some people consider it a masterpiece; others think it’s awful. Me, I find it unique, but not quite satisfying overall, though it may be one of those movies that requires more than a single viewing.