The Henpecked Duck (1941)

The Henpecked Duck (1941)
Article 5484 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-27-2017
Directed by Robert Clampett
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc and Sara Berner
Country: USA
What it is: Daffy Duck cartoon

Daffy is taken to divorce court by his wife when he loses her egg.

I’m setting down a ground rule for my coverage of cartoons for this series. The rule is that when it comes to discussing the fantastic content of the cartoon, it has to have something beyond the two common cartoon traditions of talking/anthropomorphic animals and comic exaggeration. This being a Daffy Duck cartoon, it has both of those elements, but the reason I decided to review it is because it has one extra element, in that the loss of the egg was the result of Daffy performing magic tricks on it and then proving unable to retrieve the egg from the magic ether to which it vanished. This cartoon is about average for the series; it falls a little too conveniently into the overly common comic situation of the nagging wife and the henpecked husband, but it has a few good gags in it. My favorite of the latter involves a funny comment from a chicken near the end of the short. Perhaps the best thing about it is the animation; the animation of Mrs. Duck when she’s screaming for a divorce is pretty sharp.

Hunter of the Unknown (1966)

aka Agent 3S3: Massacre of the Sun; Agente 3S3, massacro al sole
Article 5429 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-19-2017
Directed by Sergio Sollima
Featuring George Ardisson, Frank Wolff, Evi Marandi
Country: Italy / Spain / France
What it is: Spyghetti

An American secret agent is sent to the island of San Felipe, the site of a revolution, to find and bring back a scientist who may be working for the Russians.

Here’s another swallow from the bottomless well of Italian spy movies made in the wake of the popularity of the James Bond movies. Outside of the fact that the climax of the movie features several people using infrared glasses to see people in the dark (I can’t think of an earlier movie that uses this gimmick), this one is pretty standard issue and doesn’t really stand out from the pack. As for the fantastic content, you’ll notice that there’s a scientist involved in the storyline, and he’s working on a new type of weapon, so that adds a touch of science fiction to the proceedings, although it remains in the realms of marginalia. It’s business as usual, though I do wonder in the long run which type of movie I’m going to see most often – these spyghetti films or the sword and sandal films.

Haunted Range (1926)

Article 5407 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-28-2017
Directed by Paul Hurst
Featuring Ken Maynard, Alma Rayford, Harry Moody
Country: USA
What it is: Weird Western, silent style

A new cowboy owns the Baldwin ranch, but he discovers there’s a gang in town run by a man named Foster that doesn’t like him. Furthermore, the ranch seems to be haunted by a night-riding ghost.

It took me quite a while to hunt down a copy of this one, and the print I found doesn’t appear to be anywhere near complete; the opening is missing, there are jump cuts, and altogether the movie runs about thirty minutes. There is, however, enough here to get a good idea of what it’s about; the crucial final reel is mostly there. It looks like a fairly decent entry in the genre, though it does have the requisite scared black character whenever the ghost shows up. My favorite scene features a chase up a steep cliff. And there is one bizarre scene that I’d really like an explanation for; at one point. several cowboys get distracted by a bevy of bathing beauties that appear out of nowhere. Why? I don’t know, but maybe that’s why they’re called weird westerns.

Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

aka Night of the Zombies, Virus
Article 5403 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-24-2017
Directed by Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso
Featuring Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Selan Karay
Country: Italy / Spain
What it is: Italian zombie flick

A chemical plant in New Guinea begins leaking a chemical that causes the dead to turn into cannibalistic zombies. Four commandos team up with two reporters to reach the plant.

A commando carrying two guns is searching the cellar of a house that may be infested with cannibalistic zombies that can only be dispatched by a shot through the head. He finds a wardrobe full of clothes. What does he do? He puts down both of his guns, puts on a tutu and top hat, and does an impromptu song and dance throughout the cellar. It was at this point of the movie that I took a quantum leap in my loss of any desire for the survival of the human race (or, at least of the human race as portrayed in this movie).

For Italian zombie gore fans, this movie must seem like a treat; it starts the zombie action early and keeps a steady stream of it going throughout the whole of it, getting a little ghastlier each time. It’s almost as relentless in its having characters act with jaw-dropping stupidity; outside of the example listed above, the commandos (who find out early on that the zombies can only be defeated by a bullet through the head) insist on taking endless body shots at the rampaging zombies, and while waiting for an elevator to descend and the door to open, they all turn away from it so the zombies inside can take them by surprise. The movie throws in a bit of the jungle cannibal genre and peppers itself with stock footage of animals to fill the running time. I’m not a gorehound, so I spent most of the movie just shaking my head in disbelief. And with as much gore as it has, I have no doubt this film probably has a cult following.

Hercules (1983)

Article 5398 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-18-2017
Directed by Luigi Cozzi
Featuring Lou Ferrigno, Brad Harris, Sybil Danning
Country: Italy / USA
What it is: Sham Sword and Sandal

Hercules must save Cassiopea from being sacrificed in the kingdom of Thera.

Lou (Incredible Hulk) Ferrigno may have been the draw in this movie, Sybil Danning may have provided the cheesecake, but my attention was drawn to the name of Brad Harris, whose presence was the movie’s nod to the sword and sandal movies of the sixties; Harris played Hercules in THE FURY OF HERCULES. I was initially excited about seeing this, especially when I realized that it was directed by an Italian film director under an anglicized name (Luigi Cozzi as Lewis Coates); it seemed to me that it would be a revival of those movies from twenty years earlier. So how had twenty years treated the genre? The first thing I noticed is that it was goofier and cornier. The special effects were more modern, though not necessarily any less cheesy. There’s more female flesh on display. Then, during a scene in which we see a classic sword-and-sandal battle, it occurred to me that it was stock footage from one of those earlier movies. This was when the depression began to hit me, and it only grew as the movie went on. Where were the crowds of extras? The battle scenes? Those wonderful locations? This movie felt puny, claustrophobic, setbound, and lacking in the human element that pervaded those earlier movies. There’s some campy fun to be had; I was especially amused by the sequence where we learn how the constellation of Ursa Major came about. But overall, I felt the magic was gone. This wasn’t a revival of the sword and sandal genre; it was a death knell. No, those older movies weren’t classics, but they had more soul than this.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Article 5397 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-17-2017
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Featuring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy
Country: USA
What it is: Something different

When a terrified man is brutally murdered in a hospital, a doctor and the victim’s daughter try to find out what led up to the murder. There investigation takes them to the town of Santa Mira, where a Halloween mask company named Silver Shamrock has a dreadful secret…

Original director Joe Dante wanted to do something different for the series, and hired Nigel Kneale to write the script. When Tommy Lee Wallace took over as director, he and producer John Carpenter rewrote the script to simplify the story and add more violence and gore. When Nigel Kneale saw the movie, he was appalled and sued to have his name removed from the credits. I don’t blame him. In its completed form, you can still find elements that remind one of Kneale’s other work, but the murder scenes often seem gratuitous and unnecessarily brutal, and they bring the real story to a dead halt. Personally, I’d like to see an adaptation of the original script (which was reportedly comic in tone), but given that this movie didn’t do well at the box office, it’s probably not going to happen. Yet, from what I gather, the novelization of the movie did marvelously well; I wonder if it was based on the original Nigel Kneale screenplay. In its present form, I found it interesting at times, but badly flawed and sometimes rather stupid. However, if there’s one thing I’ll really remember about this movie, it’s the Silver Shamrock commercials; these may be some of the most annoying ads ever made.

Hamlet (1913)

HAMLET (1913)
Article 5392 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-12-2017
Directed by Hay Plumb
Featuring Walter Ringham, Johnston Forbes-Robertson, S.A. Cookson
Country: UK
What it was: Shakespeare without the words

A Danish prince is told by the ghost of his father to avenge his death by killing his murderer… his uncle who is now married to his mother and King of Denmark.

I’ve heard tell that a full production of the uncut text of “Hamlet” can run more than four hours. Therefore, I’d imagine a silent version of the play (which would have to eliminate a good percentage of the play’s prime ingredient – its words) could comfortably be told in fifty-three minutes, the running time of the version I watched. In fact, this version does tell the whole story at an effective pace. In fact, if the inter-titles had been a little more frequent, it might have passed muster as a version of the story that could have been viewed and enjoyed by someone who went into it without previous knowledge of the original play. However, as it is, it’s another example of a silent adaptation that is best enjoyed by someone already familiar with the original; if you do, you’ll know what’s going on (and its significance) in certain scenes which would leave the more casual viewer in the dust. My guess is that it’s based on a specific stage production of the work; it’s only real concessions to the fact that it’s a movie is that it uses real exterior locations and features a ghost who is indeed translucent. It is well acted, however, and I can say I enjoyed it, but then, I’m one of those who is quite familiar with the work in question. It does point out one phenomenon, though, The role of Hamlet is such a great, enticing part that it often attracts actors who are skilled and experienced enough to handle it but do not fit the role physically, which is my way of saying that Johnston Forbes- Robertson as Hamlet looks older than the cast members playing his putative parents, and indeed, he was – he was sixty whereas his parents were 37 and 41.

Human Beasts (1980)

Article 5385 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-5-2017
aka The Beasts’ Carnival, El carnaval de las bestias
Directed by Paul Naschy
Featuring Paul Naschy, Elko Nagashima, Lautaro Murua
Country: Spain / Japan
What it is: Horror action hodgepodge

A professional criminal is on the run from a Japanese criminal organization after making off with diamonds that he agreed to steal for them. The criminal is badly injured, but is saved by a doctor and his two daughters in their isolated country home. However, this house has some skeletons in its closet…

For a while, the only clue that we have that this is going to turn out to be a horror movie is the prominence of Paul Naschy’s name in the credits; the first third of the movie primarily plays out like an action flick. Then it plays out like a combination of one of those old “house with a dreadful secret” Gothics and THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN, with a smidgen of DADDY’S DEADLY DARLING thrown in for good measure. I’m not going to blatantly give away the main horror content here (though everyone else does), though the emphasis on how good the doctor’s famous “stew” is should clue you in. And since this is a Naschy film, he sleeps with most of the beautiful women in the cast. It’s a bit of a mess, though I’m not going to complain about the dangling plot points because they’re obviously there to distract us from the “surprise” ending. At least this one is a little bit different for Naschy, so that counts for something.

House Hunting Mice (1947)

Article 5281 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-24-2016
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc and Stan Freberg
Country: USA
What it is: Warner Brothers cartoon

Hubie and Bertie check out a fully automated house, but run afoul of the building’s automatic sweeper.

Here’s another cartoon that doesn’t rely solely on anthropomorphic animals for its fantastic content. Which is not to say it doesn’t have them; Hubie and Bertie are anthropomorphic mice with characters that could be described as being like Abbott and Costello filtered through the Bowery Boys. But on top of that, we have the fully-automated house, full of robots and gadgets that push it into the realm of science fiction. Warner Brothers used the automated house a few times in its cartoons, but I like some of the clever variations here, particularly the automatic phonograph. Usually Hubie and Bertie cartoons had them terrorizing a neurotic cat named Claude; here, they get there comeuppance at the hand of a robot sweeper who mistakes them for garbage. I liked this one.

Hell’s Bells (1929)

Article 5278 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-21-2016
Directed by Ub Iwerks
No voice cast
Country: USA
What it is: Demonic Disney Silly Symphony

Demons play music and dance for Satan in the bowels of hell, but when he starts feeding his minions to Cerberus, he finds one who puts up a resistance.

Well, you can’t fault this one on not having enough fantastic content; the setting is hell, and all sorts of demons and monsters are on hand here. There’s only the barest smidgen of a plot, and that’s pretty much saved for the last minute of cartoon; most of it what you’d expect from cartoons of this era – characters gyrating musically. Which is not to say that it’s not fun in a Halloween sort of way; it is. It’s not the best of the various horror-oriented cartoons out there, but it’s entertaining enough, and among the various musical pieces is a version of “Funeral March of a Marionette”, remembered as Alfred Hitchcock’s theme music.