El hombre sin rostro (1950)

aka Man Without a Face
Article 2648 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-6-2008
Posting Date: 11-12-2008
Directed by Juan Bustillo Oro
Featuring Arturo de Cordova, Carmen Molina, Miguel Angel Ferriz
Country: Mexico

A detective is obsessed with catching a serial killer who goes after women. He has nightmarish dreams about the killer.

This movie opens in a strange dream-like world. The detective sits on a bench and watches a funeral procession going by with several coffins. His mother appears to him and begins talking. His attention is directed to a shadowy figure walking under some lampposts. The detective empties his gun into the figure, who, rather than falling, merely stops in his tracks. The detective attempts to look at the figure’s face, and finds that his face is blank…

This is the incredibly striking beginning of this movie, and it made me wish intensely that I was watching a version of it that had subtitles; my copy is in Spanish, and much of the detail of the movie is buried in the dialogue. I was only able to figure out that the main character was a detective by reading another plot description; I wish I’d known it at the outset, because it would have helped quite a bit in understanding what was going on; as it was, I made an assumption I don’t think I would have made had I known this fact. That’s one of the perils in watching movies in languages that you don’t understand. Nevertheless, I suspect that this is a great film; certainly, the eerie dream sequences are wonderful. The box in which I received the movie said it showed a certain resemblance to PSYCHO, though I also found it reminding me of the Canadian thriller THE MASK. At any rate, this is another one of those Mexican horror movies that convinced me that they made some truly excellent ones over the years, and I only hope a subtitled edition of this one shows up in the near future.



The Hypnotist (1957)

aka Scotland Yard Dragnet
Article 2612 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-30-2008
Posting Date: 1-7-2008
Directed by Montgomery Tully
Featuring Paul Carpenter, Patricia Roc, Roland Culver
Country: UK

A test pilot moves in with a psychiatrist for treatment after he develops psychosomatic symptoms in the aftermath of miraculously surviving a crash. Complications ensue when a murder is committed in the apartment building where they’re staying.

The most striking thing in this movie is its structure; the first two-thirds of this movie plays out more like odd little drama than a mystery/thriller, so much so, in fact, that I began wondering if that was what it was. Still, two things kept me waiting for things to shift gears; one was the failure of fourth-billed William Hartnell (the first Doctor Who) to appear as a character, and the fact that I knew the alternate title of the movie was SCOTLAND YARD DRAGNET, and that nothing had occurred yet that would require the presence of Scotland Yard. Unfortunately, once the murder occurs, you’ll know why they waited so long. You’ll know almost within seconds who the culprit is and the modus operandi, and if you wait just a couple minutes more, you’ll get the motive practically handed to you on a silver tray. In short, mystery-wise, it’s a no-brainer, and though the movie could have milked some suspense from the possibility of the wrong man being accused of the murder, the movie fails to accomplish that either; the movie doesn’t have enough running time left to milk that kind of situation, nor do the police ever let us feel that the innocent man is the primary suspect, as they seem equally suspicious of his accuser. After a certain point, the movie itself seems to figure out that it’s not accomplishing anything, as it takes the first convenient opportunity to reveal all the truths that we’ve already figured out. It’s then you look back to the first two-thirds of the movie and realize just how much of it was thumb-twiddling; in particular, a long section where the patient wanders around the city in a partial-hypnotic daze and ends up at a jazz nightclub comes across as filler that has no impact on the story. For me, the biggest mystery was wondering who thought this story was worth filming. The fantastic content here is the presence of hypnotism (which, to give the movie credit, is used more thoughtfully than it usually is in a movie, a compliment I can’t give it in its simplistic view of psychiatry) and a certain horrific quality to the revelations about a traumatic incident in the patient’s life, which would have made a great scene had the movie used it effectively in the story.


The House that Would Not Die (1970)

Article 2572 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-20-2008
Posting Date: 8-28-28
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Egan, Michael Anderson Jr.
Country: USA

Two women move into an old house. They discover it is haunted, and the younger of the women is possessed by a spirit from the past.

If you like TV-Movies, then this haunted house movie may suit you just fine. If, like me, you find them mostly bland, uninspired and cliche-ridden, this one will not make you a convert. There are some great TV-Movies out there in the horror mode (take FEAR NO EVIL and THE NIGHT STALKER, for example), but they usually avoid that cookie-cutter by-the-numbers approach of conventional scares that most of them worked with. The script is one cliche after another, the acting is uninspired (Richard Egan probably comes off best), the use of music and sound is standard-issue, and the movie just wanders from scene to scene without building up much in the way of suspense; about the only thing I really liked was the way it used an open cellar door to good effect. I suspect that more effort went into Barbara Stanwyck’s wardrobe than anything else in the movie. Oh, it’s not awful; as I said before, how much you like it may really depend on your affinity for TV-Movies in general. But, for me, it’s the Movie That Would Not Come to Life.


Home Sweet Home (1981)

aka Slasher in the House
Article 2571 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-19-2008
Posting Date: 8-27-2008
Directed by Netie Pena
Featuring Jake Steinfeld, Vinessa Shaw, Peter De Paula
Country: USA

A drug-crazed bodybuilding homicidal maniac is on the loose. He begins killing off members of a family getting together for Thanksgiving.

I used to wonder why the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise was so popular. After having seen some of the other slasher movies of the period, I now know why. If you accept the fact that the time had come for the slasher film and that they would be wildly popular, then it’s simply because the FRIDAY THE 13TH films were better than the others. This one is particularly lame. Our psycho here wears no mask, is treated with no sense of mystery, and cackles maniacally after he kills someone; this is, quite frankly, the lamest slasher villain I’ve ever seen. The guests at the Thanksgiving get-together manage to accomplish only one thing; they manage to make you hope for their demises within seconds of meeting them, and this goes triple for the mime/magician with the portable electric guitar. The dialogue is horrendous and the acting is on par with the dialogue. Director Netie Pena has only one other major credit (that is, if you can call this one major) in her IMDB listing, and that was as producer for DRACULA SUCKS. Amazingly enough, the actor playing the psycho here would end up doing a voice of a lab rat in RATATOUILLE.


The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971)

Article 2570 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-18-2008
Posting Date: 8-26-2008
Directed by Walon Green and Ed Spiegel
Featuring Lawrence Pressman
Country: USA

A scientist puts forth his own theories as to why the insects will inherit the earth, and provides the evidence to prove his theory.

Don’t worry too much about the ostracism that doctor Nils Hellstrom underwent for putting forth his fanatical theories; he is, as the closing credits clearly point out, a fictional character played by an actor. In some ways, the presence of an onscreen narrator with a personal interest in the subject reminds me of DEATH: THE ULTIMATE MYSTERY, but with the following difference; that one was dull, unconvincing, and a rehash of mostly too-familiar doctrines, and this one is gripping, absorbing, convincing and never dull. Hellstrom’s paranoia may be a little over-the-top, but the wonderful insect footage is fascinating, beautiful and repellent, sometimes all at once, and the movie does have a sense of humor, especially when it explores man’s reaction to his insect neighbors in a series of “Candid Camera”-like moments. It’s all very well written, from the opening attention-grabbing line to the final philosophical musing about who wins the race. It’s the portentous musings about who will win that race that probably provides the fantastic content of this documentary, though it should be pointed out that this movie and its main character did inspire a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. Certainly, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen for this series of movies I’ve covered. And I can’t help but make my own observation; the insects would never have made a movie like this about us humans.


Hardware Wars (1977)

Article 2569 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-17-2008
Posting Date: 8-25-2008
Directed by Ernie Fosselius
Featuring Frank Robertson, Scott Mathews, Jeff Hale
Country: USA

This is a trailer for the new outer space epic, HARDWARE WARS, where a young man hooks up with friends to rescue a princess from an evil bad guy.

If you’re going to parody STAR WARS, this is the way to go; keep it cheap, let the jokes come fast and furious, throw in some references to THE WIZARD OF OZ and “Sesame Street”, and get Paul Frees to do your narration. With a running time of less than a quarter of an hour, there’s no time to get bored. My favorite moments: the appearance of the police iron, the message from the animated electrical guy, and the chance to meet Chewchilla. Short and sweet.


The Haunted Castle (1897)

aka Le Chateau hante
Article 2556 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-4-2008
Posting Date: 8-11-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies

Country: France

A visitor to a castle is frightened by moving furniture and strange visitations.

By all rights, I should have covered this one with the Melies-a-thon. However, since I’m a little too dependent on listings from IMDB to organize my watching, I missed this one because there is no listing for it on IMDB. Usually, if a movie is not listed on IMDB, I rightfully suspect that my chances of finding and seeing the movie are next to impossible. However, I suspect that the reason this one isn’t listed is that someone at IMDB believes this is the same movie as LE MANOIR DU DIABLE, and, given that both movies use THE HAUNTED CASTLE as alternate titles and are only a year apart, I can understand the confusion.

At any rate, the movie is like THE BEWITCHED INN, except that in place of vanishing furniture, we have appearing and disappearing characters, including a ghost, a knight, and a skeleton. Plotwise, there’s little here; it’s just one character (who looks like it’s Melies himself) reacting to the various apparitions. It’s extremely short (probably around thirty seconds) and has some hand-coloring as well. Fun, but it’ll be over before you know it.

Postscript: In the interim since I first wrote this review, IMDB has indeed added a separate entry for this one