Gibel sensatsii (1935)

aka Loss of Feeling
Article 2800 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-6-2009
Posting Date: 4-13-2009
Directed by Aleksandr Andriyevsky
Featuring Sergei Vecheslov, Vladimir Gardin, M. Volgina
Country: Soviet Union

In order to solve the problem of workers going crazy on the assembly line, an inventor creates a corps of robots to do the work.

Because my copy of this movie is in unsubtitled Russian, it was rather difficult making heads or tails out of some aspects of the plot. However, knowing that the movie was made in the Soviet Union (a country which practiced governmental control of motion pictures with the aim of spreading Soviet philosophy) and given their probable stance on machines that would take the place of the proletariat, I wasn’t really surprised at the attitude of the movie towards the robots; the key piece of information that I found out from a plot summary after watching this was that it does not take place in the Soviet Union, but in an “English-speaking capitalist land”. It’s visually inventive, and has some truly memorable scenes, including a cabaret number about robots, and a stunning scene in which a saxophonist performs a solo amidst an army of 9-foot tall robots who are waving their massive arms about. From what I can tell, it’s very well done and quite effective; the fate of the saxophonist is particularly shocking. The opening scene conjured up visions of both METROPOLIS and MODERN TIMES, and you might suspect it’s a version of R.U.R. when you see that acronym emblazoned across the robots’ chests, but it’s not based on the Capek play and has an entirely different viewpoint. Let’s hope that someone eventually gets some subtitles on this and it gets an official release; it looks to be one of the great early science fiction movies.


Ghosts – Italian Style (1968)

aka Questi fantasmi
Article 2788 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-25-2008
Posting Date: 4-1-2009
Directed by Renato Castellani
Featuring Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, Maria Adorf
Country: Italy / France

A couple whose marriage is suffering is offered a chance to stay at a castle rent-free. The drawback is that the castle appears to be haunted.

This movie should not be confused with FANTASMI A ROMA (GHOSTS IN ROME); that movie has a gaggle of real ghosts and an unusual plot, or at least as much as I can make out of one since I’ve only seen it in unsubtitled Italian. This one has a plot that looks quite familiar indeed; people moving into haunted houses is a setup as old as the hills. To its credit, this movie takes it in a different direction that moves it more into the area of bedroom farce, in which the wife’s prospective lover is mistaken for a ghost by the husband, a situation that results in a series of amusing complications. The movie has a lukewarm reputation, but I found it quite hilarious at times; my favorite gags revolve around the name of the orphanage and the arrival of a huge group of nuns at the castle. As you might suspect, the main plot involves no real ghost, but, like a number of comedies that revolve around hauntings that really aren’t hauntings, it can’t resist slipping in a real ghost in the final reel, which involves cameos by both Francis De Wolff and an uncredited Marcello Mastroianni. I found this one quite enjoyable.

The Ghost (1963)

THE GHOST (1963)
aka Lo Spettro
Article 2719 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-15-2008
Posting Date: 1-22-2009
Directed by Riccardo Freda
Featuring Barbara Steele, Peter Baldwin, Elio Jotta
Country: Italy

A doctor is having an affair with a rich man’s wife. She urges him to poison her husband, which he does. Afterwards, they begin to suspect the husband has come back from the grave.

One of my sources claims that director Riccardo Freda bet that he could write and film a movie in one week, and this is the result. If that story is true, then I will give him credit; he managed to come up with a coherent story, which is more than Roger Corman managed to do with THE TERROR. It’s something of a loose sequel to THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK, a movie which I quite like, but this one dispenses with the necrophilia angle, which was actually for me the best touch of that movie. Without it, this movie must rely on standard sixties Italian horror trappings and the presence of Barbara Steele to make it work. Unfortunately, I’m not a particular fan of Barbara Steele, and I usually find the standard sixties Italian horror trappings to be a little dull and predictable, so I find it only mildly entertaining. However, some of the fault must surely go to the weak dubbing on this one.

Addendum: According to Tim Lucas, this is not a movie Riccardo Freda made on a bet, though the story is true of a couple of other films of his.


Gamera vs. Monster X (1970)

aka Gamera tai Daimaju Jaiga
Article 2718 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-14-2008
Posting Date: 1-21-2009
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Featuring Tsutomu Takakuwa, Kelly Varis, Katherine Murphy
Country: Japan

When a stone idol on Wester Island is removed so that it can be brought to
Expo 70 for display, a monster that it was keeping prisoner is resurrected. It’s up to Gamera to defeat the monster and save Expo 70.

The movies that bookend this entry of the Gamera series (GAMERA VS GUIRON and GAMERA VS ZIGRA) both go off the goofy meter a lot more than this one. Nevertheless, this is one of the more solid entries of the Gamera series; Jiger is one of the better (and better-looking) monsters Gamera faced, and he’s got an interesting array of attacks that take Gamera out of the action not just once (as is usual in a Gamera movie), but twice. It’s the second one of these that gives the movie its most memorable sequence; Jiger injects Gamera with its eggs, causing a miniature version of the monster to grow inside of him, and two children take a miniature submarine and enter Gamera’s body (a la FANTASTIC VOYAGE) to root out the problem. Yes, it’s typical Gamera silliness, but it keeps the plot moving at a brisk pace, it mostly avoids boring sequences common in other movies of the series, and not once does it fall back on lengthy clips from previous movies in the series to fill out its running time. In fact, it may be the most consistently entertaining of the sixties/seventies Gamera movies.


Gallery of Horror (1967)

aka Dr. Terror’s Gallery of Horrors
Article 2714 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-9-208
Posting Date: 1-17-2009
Directed by David L. Hewitt
Featuring Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Rochelle Hudson

Five tales of terror are told. In the first, a clock revives a witch’s curse. In the second,a vampire is on the loose. In the third, revenge comes from the grave. In the fourth, a dead man is revived. In the fifth, more vampires are on the loose.

For those who encounter this one under its alternate title, please don’t mistake it for the vastly superior Amicus anthology DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. Though both of them are horror anthologies, this one looks as if had a budget almost one-hundredth of the amount it cost to make the other movie (that is, if you discount the stock footage taken from some AIP movies). Even when the actors are decent, they’re still struggling with a clumsy, awkward script, and the twist endings may rank with some of the worst in history. The winner (or is it loser) in this regard is the last story; for a while, it looks as if this segment is going to tell a straightforward rendition of the Dracula story, but it goes off track after ten minutes and then reaches an ending so cockamamie that you’re liable throw something at the TV. Add some long-winded story introductions by John Carradine, and you’ve got one profoundly awful movie. Still, perhaps we should be grateful; if Hewitt hadn’t made an anthology movie, he might have tried to make features of each one of these tales. Now there’s something that will bring on nightmares…


The Girl in the Kremlin (1957)

Article 2674 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-23-2008
Posting Date: 12-8-2008
Directed by Russell Birdwell
Featuring Lex Barker, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jeffrey Stone
Country: USA

While on a case in which he is trying to locate a woman’s twin sister, a detective stumbles across an amazing story; Josef Stalin did not die in 1953, but, through the use of plastic surgery, is now living abroad under a fake identity.

We’ve seen this type of plot with Hitler quite a few times; why not one with Stalin as well? As you might expect, it’s a sensationalistic piece of exploitation propaganda, in which the most interesting element is the revelation that Stalin had a fetish for women with shaved heads. The opening sequence in which actress Natalie Daryll’s hair is shorn is easily the most memorable scene here; after that, the movie becomes a snoozefest of the first order, despite the fact that it gives us a one-armed man, William Schallert as Stalin’s estranged son, and Zsa Zsa Gabor having a fight scene with herself (and I’m willing to bet neither of the fighters is Zsa Zsa). Outside of that, the most interesting thing about this is noticing that the writing credits include both Val Lewton writer DeWitt Bodeen and “Star Trek” writer/producer Gene L. Coon in his first writing assignment. All in all, this is little more than an obscure curiosity piece.


The Ghost Camera (1933)

Article 2634 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-21-2008
Posting Date: 10-29-2008
Directed by Bernard Vorhaus
Featuring Henry Kendall, Ida Lupino, John Mills
Country: UK

When a traveler returns from a trip, he discovers that a camera has mysteriously appeared in his car. He develops the photos to find clues that will allow him to return the camera to its rightful owner, but he discovers proof of murder. He tries to solve the murder by using the photos as his clues. Unfortunately, the incriminating photo and the camera disappear…

It’s called a ghost camera not because it’s ghostly in any way, but because it appeared unexpectedly in the main character’s car, but disappears when a theft is attempted on the camera. Therefore, the use of the word “ghost” in the title does not yield any fantastic content. As for the rest of the movie, the horror content consists only of a couple of creepy locations. I’m filing the movie under “marginalia”.

As for the movie itself, it’s entertaining enough during the first part of the movie when the investigation of the photos takes place, but it loses steam once a suspect is arrested. It takes a somewhat comic approach to the story, and though it never really ever becomes funny, it stops short of being annoying. The most interesting thing about the movie is the appearance of a young Ida Lupino as the blonde romantic interest; she does all right, but it’s really not a very interesting role.

You know, when the fantastic content is this light, sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting my time with some of these movies, but I always end up figuring that anytime I can clarify the nature of the fantastic content in these obscurities, I’m doing a service of some sort.