Hail (1973)

HAIL (1973)
aka Hail to the Chief

Article 3562 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-23-2011
Posting Date: 5-16-2011
Directed by Fred Levinson
Featuring Dan Resin, Richard B. Shull, Dick O’Neill
Country: USA
What it is: Political satire

The Secretary of Health becomes concerned when his close friend, the President, starts having paranoid delusions and creates a private army to suppress dissenters.

This political satire suffers somewhat from self-aggrandizement (the opening crawl) and heavy-handedness (the Christ-walking-on-water sequence comes to mind). It’s also, thanks to an emphasis on hippies, more than a little dated. It does, however, manage to be one of the darkest of satirical comedies, and the fact that the movie does eventually promote the assassination of the President as a solution, there’s no doubt it was subversive enough that it had to sit on the shelf for a few years before any distributor would touch it. Nevertheless, it does have effective moments and occasionally seems relevant, and the ending is quite memorable. And it does leave one wondering what would happen if the paranoia of being in high office were to spiral out of control. All in all, it’s flawed and one-sided, but interesting, and it’s best to remember that it IS a satire.


Hansel and Gretel (1908)

Article 3554 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-15-2011
Posting Date: 5-8-2011
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

Two children get lost in the woods and encounter a witch who means to eat them.

With a running time of only three minutes, there’s really not a whole lot to say about this early short from Fita-Film. Still, I do admire sometimes how efficiently these early silents can tell familiar stories, and this one does a decent job of hitting the main points of the story and telling it clearly and concisely. It’s not a bad little silent short.

Der Hexer (1964)

DER HEXER (1964)
aka The Mysterious Magician
Article 3543 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-2-2011
Posting Date: 4-27-2011
Directed by Alfred Vohrer
Featuring Joachim Fuchsberger, Heinz Drache, Sophie Hardy
Country: West Germany
What it is: Krimi

Scotland Yard investigates the murder of a woman whose body was found in the Thames. It turns out the woman is the sister of a known vigilante known as the Ringer who now lives in Australia. When the Ringer’s wife shows up in London, they suspect the Ringer himself is in town. Scotland Yard now has a double mission; catch the murderers of the woman and also prevent them from being killed by the Ringer.

Outside of a little horror atmosphere in this one, there’s really not much in the way of fantastic content here. It is, however, one of the most entertaining of the krimis; it’s easy to follow, has an interesting premise, and the humorous content is fairly good. The movie even has a bit of William Castle-like gimmick feel to it; a card comes up near the end of the movie to ask the audience if they’ve identified who the Ringer is (for the record, I got it wrong). The version I saw was dubbed into English, but the title and writing throughout is in German, so I’m probably seeing the original print. One thing that is curious is that on IMDB, the USA version runs 13 minutes longer; I’m really curious as to what was added. At any rate, this is a very good choice for anyone out there interested in trying out a krimi.

L’Homme aimante (1907)

aka The Magnetized Man
Article 3505 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-23-2011
Posting Date: 3-20-2011
Directed by Louis Feuillade
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Comic science fiction short

A man terrorized by ruffians decides to protect himself by buying some chain mail. However, the delivery boy leaves the chain mail next to a dynamo, thus magnetizing it. When he delivers it to the man, hilarity ensues.

Here’s another silent short that ended up on my “Ones that got away” list, but I was pointed in the direction of a French film collection that contained it. In fact, the collection will supply me with several days of silent shorts. This one is quite amusing, though a little obvious; the magnetized armor attracts store signs and a manhole cover. Actually, the movie gets a little risque when the man encounters some gendarmes; the rising of their swords in attraction to the armor looks quite suggestive, and the movie plays it up for all that its worth. Minor, but fun.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Article 3466 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-4-2011
Posting Date: 2-9-2011
Directed by Wes Craven
Featuring Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Martin Speer
Country: USA
What it is: Family feud

A middle-class family gets stuck in the middle of nowhere looking for a silver mine, and find themselves the target of a family of cannibalistic mutants.

It was a good half a decade before Wes Craven returned to horror movies after his notorious THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and this is the result. It lacks that gritty sense of reality that made his earlier movie so memorable, but the production values are higher, it’s better paced, and it avoids the comic relief that badly marred the other movie. Yet, I find myself somewhat disappointed by this one. The first half of the movie works the best; with one exception, our glimpses of the mutant family are so fleeting and quick that a genuine sense of dread is built up. However, once we start seeing the mutants regularly, the dread starts to dissipate; they’re overly chatty and even a little bit cartoony. Furthermore, the concept that this middle class family will prove just as violent and brutal as the mutants (the element that is supposed to make the movie disturbing) isn’t new, even for Craven; that was one of the whole points of the last part of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT as well. Still, Michael Berryman is scary just standing there. There would be a sequel, as well as a remake.

Honeymoon (1985)

aka Lune de miel
Article 3419 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-12-2010

Posting Date: 12-24-2010
Directed by Patrick Jamain
Featuring Nathalie Baye, John Shea, Richard Berry
Country: Canada / France
What it is: Psycho killer movie

A Frenchwoman in New York is threatened with deportation when her husband is arrested on drug charges. She arranges a marriage of convenience with another man to get her American citizenship under the assumption that she will never meet the man. Then he suddenly shows up at her apartment, and she can’t get rid of him. And furthermore, he’s not quite sane…

This is a French / Canadian production shot in New York (and Montreal) that I found difficult to find, and had to settle for a print that was dubbed into Italian. Nevertheless, I found enough in the way of plot descriptions to help me sort it out. In some ways, it reminds me of PLAY MISTY FOR ME in the way it portrays how an unhealthy person can worm their way into your life, though it’s not quite as good. Though it works itself up to a decent ending, it’s one of those movies that takes quite a while to get moving; the middle of the movie is a fairly long stretch, though it might have played better for me if I could have understood the dialogue. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty minor entry in the psycho killer movie genre.

Human Feelings (1978)

Article 3385 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-8-2010
Posting Date: 11-20-2010
Directed by Ernest Pintoff
Featuring Nancy Walker, Billy Crystal, Squire Fridell
Country: USA
What it is: Angel fantasy/comedy

When God decides to destroy Las Vegas, an unhappy angel from the music department, in hopes for a promotion, asks her if she’ll spare the city if he can find six good people there. She agrees, and the angel goes to earth as a human with only seven days to perform his mission.

A couple of sources I have describe this TV-Movie as a failed pilot inspired by the theatrical success of OH, GOD!, though I would say it’s nowhere as witty as that one. Personally, I think it shows more similarity to an earlier TV-Movie called POOR DEVIL only with an angel instead of a devil (though, once again, I find it not as witty as that one). Though I do find some of the casting interesting (God is played by Nancy Walker), I find the movie suffers badly from that TV-Movie blandness that seems designed to make sure that it all goes down smoothly without a hint of indigestion. Despite the presence of Walker and Billy Crystal, I found the movie very short on laughs; the closest I found it to being funny is when Pat Morita shows up as a waiter who sees what is coming. I do wonder what the series would be like; given the end of the movie, it could either concentrate on the further adventures of God or the further adventures of the angel, though, given what I see here, I doubt either of those ideas would have resulted in a good series. Special effects are minimal; God vanishes at one point, and I think that’s about it.