The Human Duplicators (1965)

Article 1902 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-30-2006
Posting Date: 10-27-2006
Directed by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce
Featuring George Nader, Dolores Faith, Richard Kiel

Noted scientists are going crazy and robbing vital parts from government institutions, and then they turn up dead. Meanwhile, a brilliant scientist has been visited by an alien and is now acting strangely. A government agent investigates.

You know, this is the kind of bad movie I dread covering. Bad movies usually give me ample material for writing these MOTDs; even directors such as Jerry Warren can fascinate me enough that I feel a little inspired when I write about them, and even a movie that is mind-crushingly boring gives me a good starting point.

This movie, however, is one of those that I watch without ever having any real recognizable emotion come to the fore. It’s never so awful as to inspire me to have some fun with it, but it never really engages my attention in any way. It’s one of those movies where event blandly follows event, affecting the lives of characters that never really interest me, and by the time it’s all over, I don’t feel like I’ve really watched anything. Probably the weakest thing about the movie is Richard Kiel’s performance; at this point in his career, he was most effective as a menacing physical manifestation, but this movie gives him a character that was too complex for his abilities and lots of dialogue, and the only good thing I can say about his delivery of the latter is that he’s better at it than Tor Johnson. This is a shame; Kiel has a strong screen presence, and I hate to see him miscast. Even the usually reliable George Macready doesn’t help, though he’s certainly competent in his role. All in all, this is one utterly forgettable movie. On a side note, this would be the last movie role for TV dad Hugh Beaumont.

Der Hund von Baskerville (1936)

aka The Hound of the Baskervilles
Article 1891 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2006
Posting Date: 10-16-2006
Directed by Carl Lamac
Featuring Peter Voss, Friedrich Kayssler, Alice Brandt

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson investigate reports of the return of a monstrous hound that has killed Lord Charles Baskerville and threatens the life of Lord Henry Baskerville.

This particular Sherlock Holmes novel must have been extraordinarily popular in Germany; I have several German versions of the movie on my hunt list, though this is the only one of them to become available to me. The movie also has a bit notoriety as being one of two films found by the Allies in Adolf Hitler’s bunker, a circumstance which may play into the fact that the movie has a lowly 1.6 rating on IMDB, a fate that the movie really doesn’t deserve, as it seems to be a fairly competent stab at the story. Granted, I can only tell so much; my version is in unsubtitled German, and it is largely my familiarity with the story (having read the book a few times and seen a couple of other screen versions of the story) that helped me to follow along. Holmes and Watson are played by Bruno Guttner and Fritz Odemar respectively, and it’s a little odd they don’t get top billing. Of course, the story does present a bit of a problem for Holmes fans anyway in that Holmes is absent from the action for a good half of the story, and that problem is compounded here by the fact that the first third of the movie is focused almost entirely on the birth of the legend (with the hound’s attack on Lord Hugo), the death of Lord Charles, and the secret of the Barrymores. The latter details would definitely have been better had it been incorporated into the main story, as it loses some of the mystery by revealing the details this early in the proceedings. Still, this appears to be a decent version of the story.

***NOTE*** Since I first wrote this review, the average rating for this movie on IMDB has risen to 3.8. Better, but still, hardly a respectable rating.

Haunted Gold (1932)

Article 1838 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-27-2006
Posting Date: 8-24-2006
Directed by Mack V. Wright
Featuring John Wayne, Sheila Terry, Harry Woods

A man returns to a ghost town to lay claim to his share of an abandoned mine. A woman is also there to make the same claim, but they have to contend with a gang that is also after the gold in the mine, as well as a mysterious phantom.

Just as I was getting ready to post this, I discovered that my original review had vanished and I had to knock this one together from scratch. Unfortunately, since it’s been a good five months since I’ve seen the movie, my memory is a bit sketchy. It’s a shame; horror westerns are a bit of a rarity, and one starring John Wayne in his b-movie days is certainly a novelty. I recall that the movie was amusing enough for the most part, though fairly predictable at times. I also recall thinking that the scared black comic-relief character was particularly hard to put up with. The actor, Blue Washington, would appear in 42 movies after this, but, if IMDB is correct, this is the last time he would receive a screen credit. Sadly, that’s all I can remember about this one, but If I get a chance to rewatch it in the near future, I’ll rewrite this one.

ADDENDUM: Having rewatched the movie, I can now add some fresh commentary.

Overall, the movie is a mixed bag. It’s remarkably good at times; at least two of the action sequences (one involving a suspended mine cart and the other a chase scene) are excellent, there’s more horror mood to the horror sequences than I’ve seen in the other horror westerns from the period, and John Wayne’s horse Duke (I wonder if John Wayne’s nickname was derived from this horse) is one of the best animal performers I’ve ever seen. On the downside, as mentioned above, is Blue Washington’s comic stereotype character, and I think he gets more screen time than Wayne does. The plot is also pretty weak, as it largely uses coincidence to wander from set piece to set piece. Still, the high points make it worth a viewing.

The Horrors of Burke and Hare (1972)

aka Burke and Hare
Article 1793 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-10-2006
Posting Date: 7-10-2006
Directed by Vernon Sewell
Featuring Derren Nesbitt, Harry Andrews, Glynn Edwards

Two lower class men decide to augment their incomes by selling a dead body to a medical doctor. Deciding that this is a profitable enterprise, they continue to do so, only taking the extra step of using murder to create the supply.

This movie opens with a rock group called the Scaffold singing a somewhat comic song about Burke and Hare; I would love to know who’s in this group, because one of the background vocalists sounds an awful lot like Vivian Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Band. The song should clue you into the way this movie is going to approach the Burke and Hare story – as a bawdy comedy! And when I say bawdy, I mean bawdy; much of the story dwells on the goings-on in a nearby brothel, where we see many naked women cavorting with their customers. This alone pushes the movie into exploitation territory; but somehow, I like it well enough, largely due to some interesting dialogue and energetic direction from Vernon Sewell, whose credits include THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR and CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR; this would be his last directorial effort. The performances are also fun; in particular, Harry Andrews gives a memorable performance as Dr. Knox, who wears an eyepatch and regales his friends with off-color jokes. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, as I wasn’t expecting much.

NOTE: I have tracked down that at least one member of the Scaffold worked with Vivian Stanshall on occasion.

The House That Vanished (1973)

(a.k.a. SCREAM…AND DIE!)
Article #1756 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-4-2006
Posting Date: 6-3-2006
Directed by Jose Ramon Larraz
Featuring Andrea Allan, Karl Lanchbury, Maggie Walker

When a model follows her burglar boyfriend into an old house in the country, she inadvertently becomes a witness to a murder by a psycho killer. Though she escapes from the killer (whose face she doesn’t see), her boyfriend vanishes, and when she discovers a photo of herself missing from the portfolio she left in the car abandoned near the property, she knows that the killer knows who she is.

Who is the killer? Is it the creepy new boyfriend with the incestuous relationship with his aunt whose theme song is “Fur Elise”? Is it the weird man who has moved into the same building as her who raises pigeons? Is it – er – is it – hmm, we seem to have run out of suspects. Hint: the one who is not the psycho killer is an undercover cop.

Chances are, you’ll have no trouble figuring out who the killer is. For that matter, you’ll have no trouble figuring out what’s going to happen for the length of this utterly predictable movie. There’s gratuitous nudity and sex to spice up the proceedings, but I certainly didn’t see any houses vanishing (and the model’s inability to find the house isn’t the same thing). And for those interested in logical errors, try figuring out (given an approximate timeline of events), just what kind of condition a human killed at the beginning of this movie would be at the end of it.

The Haunting of Julia (1977)

(a.k.a. FULL CIRCLE)
Article #1755 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-3-2006
Posting Date: 6-2-2006
Directed by Richard Loncraine
Featuring Mia Farrow, Keir Dullea, Tom Conti

A woman who feels guilty about the death of her daughter leaves her husband and moves into an old house. However, the house seems to be haunted by a the spirit of a malevolent little girl.

This movie is based on a novel by Peter Straub, and if anything, the movie makes me interested in the novel. This is not to say that I found the movie itself satisfactory; it’s more to say that it hints at a more complete and intriguing story than the movie itself delivers. Though I can appreciate the attempt of the movie to take a leisurely, thoughtful pace in telling its eerie story, all too often in this case there are scenes which just drag out the running time without really adding much to character development or plot. For example, we know the mother is grieving about the death of her daughter; we don’t need to have her break into tears three times to establish this. There are also scenes that just seem to pad out the running time; the scene of Julia building a house of cards and the one where she traces designs in the carpet don’t really help me to connect with her psyche as much as make me check my watch to see how long it will be before we get back to the story. The second half of the movie is better, largely because the plot finally starts moving at this point. In short, this movie is just too slow-moving to be really effective.

Holocaust 2000 (1977)

HOLOCAUST 2000 (1977)
(a.k.a. THE CHOSEN)
Article #1751 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-30-2005
Posting Date: 5-29-2006
Directed by Alberto De Martino
Featuring Kirk Douglas, Simon Ward, Agostina Belli

An executive begins work on building a new type of nuclear power plant in the Middle East despite huge resistance to his plan. However, opponents of his project start dying in bizarre ways. He then discovers that there are clues in the situation that point to Biblical legends about the Antichrist…

This is one of those movies that is so clearly modeled off of a more successful and famous movie (namely, THE OMEN), that it’s hard not to miss the obvious duplication. This one tries to be a little bit mysterious about the identity of the Antichrist, but you should be able to see easily through the artifice and pick out the real Antichrist, especially after the first death. And like THE OMEN, we have another big-name star (Kirk Douglas) as the father of the “problem child”. Given its obvious pedigree and its almost total lack of surprises in the story, I still found this one a decent watch; in particular, I liked the moment where he discovers how the seven-headed demon of legend manifests itself in real life. Still, I would have liked the moment a lot better had the movie not dwelt on the discovery for far longer than was necessary; furthermore, the movie felt necessary to trot it out again and again later on in the movie. That is perhaps the movie’s worst problem – it’s tendency to keep repeating key moments and discoveries several times. It’s almost as if they didn’t think the viewer would get it. Some of the scenes are rather strange, but some of the moments are rather clever, such as the moment where the new head of the company decides to change the number of board members from 12 to 21. Still, if you’ve seen THE OMEN, there won’t really be much here to surprise you.