Ghost Valley (1932)

Article 3495 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-8-2011
Posting Date: 3-11-2011
Directed by Fred Allen
Featuring Tom Keene, Merna Kennedy, Kate Campbell
Country: USA
What it is: Weird western, comic style

A judge hires a young drifter to portray one of two heirs to an abandoned ghost town in the hopes that he can talk the other heir (a beautiful woman) into selling; the judge knows there is a fortune in gold there. What the judge does not know is that the drifter is indeed the other heir for real, and has decided to thwart the judge’s scheme.

This weird western concentrates on the comedy for the first part, then has a few spooky sequences involving a masked rider during the middle section (these scenes are actually quite atmospheric), and then concentrates on western thrills for the climax. It’s not bad and fairly entertaining, though the story becomes a bit confusing in the middle section. Still, I do have to admire some of the stunt work in this western, particularly the scenes where horses are ridden down fairly steep inclines. Tom Keene had a long career in B westerns, but his last movie role would be in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.


Gigantes Planetarios (1965)

aka Planetary Giants
Article 3489 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-28-2011
Posting Date: 3-4-3011
Directed by Alfredo B. Cravenna
Featuring Guillermo Murray, Adriana Roel, Rogelio Guerrra
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican space opera

In an effort to put an end to alien espionage, astronauts take a trip to a giant planet.

I’m guessing a bit on the plot, since my copy is in unsubtitled Spanish. It’s a pretty ambitious effort considering the limited resources of Mexican cinema, and though the special effects are weak, I’ve seen worse. Still, it’s no surprise that about half of the movie remains earthbound, with the usual office, nightclub and sports arena settings so common to movies from this country (though I will admit to being a bit surprised that the arena scene was for a boxing rather than a wrestling match). The story appears to be nothing special; it’s largely a “go to the evil planet and defeat the bad guys” plot. Still, there are some odd moments you only find in Mexican cinema; my favorite is seeing someone pack for a trip and including a space helmet in their luggage. Apparently, this movie spawned a sequel which, if you can believe the ratings on IMDB, is not very good but better than this one.

The Gnome-Mobile (1967)

Article 3473 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-11-2011
Posting Date: 2-16-2011
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Featuring Walter Brennan, Matthew Garber, Karen Dotrice
Country: USA
What it is: Musical fantasy with a bit of a split personality

A lumber tycoon stumbles upon two gnomes in one of his forests; they’re fearful that they are the last of their race and the younger one wants to take a bride. The tycoon decides to help them find if there are gnomes in other forests.

In which Disney attempts to cross DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE, MARY POPPINS (the movie emphasizes that the child actors are the same two from that movie) and their shopping-cart movies. It lacks the richness and spirit of the first two, and never achieves the wildness of the latter at their best. As a result, the movie is neither fish nor fowl, and is one of Disney’s more obscure movies; I myself only remember it from a single TV ad I saw when I was a child. It’s interesting to catch Walter Brennan in a dual role, but he gets a little too annoying as Knobby the gnome. I suspect even Disney didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in this one; most of their more ambitious fantasy movies clock in at close to two hours, but his one lasts a mere 84 minutes, making it even shorter than many of the shopping cart movies. It would prove to be the last movie for veteran comic actor Ed Wynn as well as for Matthew Garber. This is not Disney’s finest hour.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

Article 3464 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2010
Posting Date: 2-7-2011
Directed by Alan Rafkin
Featuring Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Liam Redmond
Country: USA
What it is: Haunted house comedy

A timid typesetter, aspiring to become a reporter, agrees to spend the night in a mansion that was the site of murders several years ago, and is now believed to be haunted.

The idea of a comedy star appearing in a haunted house comedy was certainly nothing new at the time, and this could have easily ended up being just another in a long tradition. Fortunately, the movie foregoes the usual plot mechanisms of that type of movie and gears the story to take advantage of Don Knotts’s strengths. When his character makes an embarrassing mistake, it’s not for the sole purpose of getting a laugh, because the movie shows the repercussions of that embarrassment, and we feel his pain and frustration at his self-awareness, and this gets us emotionally attached to his character. The haunted house scene that is the centerpiece of the movie is fairly short; most of the movie deals with the fallout of the story of his stay, and the eventual need to prove to all concerned that what he experienced wasn’t merely the result of an overactive imagination. Overall, the story doesn’t really hold up, but when you get down to it, the story is merely a springboard to use the talents of Don Knotts, and he does his usual very good job.

Girl in Room 2a (1973)

GIRL IN ROOM 2A (1973)
aka La casa della paura
Article 3403 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-27-2010
Posting Date: 12-8-2010
Directed by William Rose
Featuring Daniela Giordano, Raf Vallone, John Scanlon
Country: Italy
What it is: Horror / mystery

A woman is released from prison to spend her parole in a boarding house. She soon discovers that horrible things have been happening to other women who have stayed at the house… and it involves a mysterious masked figure.

This chintzy and somewhat mean-spirited horror movie is supposed to have been shot in Italian, but it looks to me like most of the cast members are speaking English; the voices don’t look dubbed. It’s somewhat reminiscent of BLOODY PIT OF HORROR, only it’s not quite as much fun; it’s muddled and somewhat static, and there’s a hangdog air to the proceedings that leaves the movie feeling dull, and because of that some of the potentially nasty violence loses its power. If the movie avoids awfulness at all, it’s because it occasionally shakes itself out of its doldrums and catches the attention, mostly when it’s trying to work as a mystery rather than a horror movie. All in all, this one was pretty dreary.

Das Geheimnis der Gelben Narzissen (1961)

aka The Devil’s Daffodil
Article 3374 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-27-2010
Posting Date: 11-9-2010
Directed by Akos Rathonyi
Featuring Joachim Fuchsberger, Sabine Sesselmann, Klaus Kinski
Country: West Germany / UK
What it is: krimi

Scotland Yard enlists the help of a Chinese detective in solving a case of drug smugglers who hide their goods in the stems of daffodils, and to find the identity of a killer associated with the smuggling.

This movie was apparently one of the first coproductions between Britain and Germany since World War II. It was the first krimi shot entirely in Britain, and not only does it have a markedly different look than many of the others I’ve seen, it also features a British star; Christopher Lee plays the part of the Chinese detective Ling Chu. It appears that there are two different versions of the movie, one in English and one in German. And, wouldn’t you know it, I found the one in German, and it has no subtitles, and given that krimis can be hard to figure out even when they’re in English, it should be no surprise that I got lost in this one, and I had to go to to get what little plot description I could find. Lee appears to be actually speaking in German in this version; at least there are no telltale signs of his mouth not moving in sync to the German dialogue. Still, I’m not sure that’s his voice I’m hearing; his voice is lacking that deep sonority, though he may just be talking in a higher pitch. I’d really love to know what’s going on, especially in a scene where Lee appears to be torturing a man for some curious reason. Klaus Kinski is also on hand, acting bizarre and twitchy. Some of the murders are quite effectively staged. Now, if only I can find the English version one of these days.

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.