L’horloge magique ou La petite fille qui voulait ete prinesse (1928)

L’horloge magique ou La petite fille qui voulait etre princesse (1928)
Article 5911 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-26-2020
Directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz
Featuring Nina Star, Bogdan Zoubowitch
Country: France
What it is: Astounding fantasy

A clock-maker creates a clock that tells the story of a princess’s love for a man who must battle an evil black knight. When the story is about to end in tragedy, the clock-maker’s little girl breaks the clock, and then falls into a fever dream where she becomes a princess and may herself need a prince to rescue her…

Here’s another stunning work from animator Wladyslaw Starewicz. I am in awe of the breadth of imagination of this man; between the live-action segments he manages to create two whole elaborate fantasy worlds full of outrageous and bizarre creatures, all fascinating and lovingly animated. Granted, the story is a bit hard to make out (the narration is in French), but I think the story is secondary; it’s the creation of these amazing worlds and characters that brings things to life. I’m probably repeating myself, but I find his work breath-taking.

Hypnotized (1952)

Hypnotized (1952)
Article 5880 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-1-2020
Directed by Mannie Davis
Featuring the voice of Tom Morrison
Country: USA
What it is: Terrytoon Tom and Jerry take

The cat that chases Little Roquefort the mouse learns hypnotism, and uses it to humiliate the mouse. Can Little Roquefort turn the tables?

Of course he can; in these cartoons, the mouse is the hero and generally prevails. During a scene where the mouse is hypnotized into thinking he’s a bird and attracting the attention of an amorous parrot, the cartoon also taps into the Pepe Le Pew genre a little, though that may not be an imitation so much as the fact that both cartoons tap into the French lover stereotype. Of course, this being a Terrytoon cartoon, the animation is less fluid (the characters move jerkier than those of any of the other studios), the timing and music are ordinary at best, and one senses that these are second-hand imitations. In my opinion, Terrytoon does better when their cartoons don’t feel like imitations of those from the other studios.

Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star (1986)

Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star (1986)
Article 5879 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-1-2020
Directed by Peter R. Hunt
Featuring Dennis Holahan, Sydney Penny, Rosie Marcel
Country: Canada / USA
What it is: Family-friendly Sci-Fi

When a colony of humanoid aliens hidden on the moon decide not to let the people of Earth know of their existence, two children from the colony disagree and stow away to Earth to prove their point. Complications arise.

This family-friendly science fiction film doesn’t have much of a reputation (a 4.7 rating on IMDB at the time of this writing), but I rather like it. Not that the movie doesn’t have its share of problems; it’s slow-moving and has several awkward touches (not least of which is the distracting big hair of the alien children). But I rather like the gentleness and sincerity of the movie. I also am impressed with the children’s pet Kirbi, a truly alien-looking being with three legs and three eyes brought to life through animatronics. I also love Keenan Wynn’s performance as the eccentric grandfather who develops a friendship for the pet; it was his last role, and handles it well, especially in a long monologue directed at the creature. These touches helped me to forgive somewhat some of the movie’s weaknesses.

Hunger (1974)

Hunger (1974)
Article 5878 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-31-2020
Directed by Peter Foldes
No cast
Country: Canada
What it is: Nightmarish experimental animation

A man has an insatiable appetite.

This is a very striking experiment in computer animation. It does tell a story and has recognizable characters, so it’s not really in the realm of abstract animation. But the animation style is truly nightmarish; the characters mutate into other characters; for example, the main character doesn’t get into a car to drive somewhere; he mutates into a car. At one point he becomes a truly hideous eating machine with four arms and seven or eight mouths, all of which are being stuffed with food. It all ends in a literal nightmare that is very effective. It was nominated for an Oscar, but did not win; nevertheless, this is a very striking short, and I recommend it.

Hundra (1983)

Hundra (1983)
Article 5877 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-31-2020
Directed by Matt Cimber
Featuring Laurene Landon, Cihangir Gaffari, Maria Casal
Country: Spain / USA
What it is: Feminist Sword and Sorcery movie

The only survivor of an all-female tribe which was slaughtered by a gang of men vows vengeance on that gender… until she finds the man she can fall in love with.

This is fairly easy to categorize; it’s a feminist sword and sorcery movie. I’m no expert on feminism, and the term can mean vastly different things to different people, so I’ll not comment on that aspect of the movie other than to say that there is always a little satisfaction to be gained from seeing jerks get their bloody comeuppance. However, I do have some opinions on sword and sorcery I’ll share. The first is that I’m not a big fan of the form, since I’m not a big fan of brutal and savage violence. However, my interest level goes down even farther when I encounter sword and sorcery that is devoid of sorcery; without the magic, the form turns primarily into an action/adventure form that takes place in a semi-medieval setting. And that’s the case here; without the magic, we get mostly bloody mayhem; in fact, I’d pretty much had my fill of it even before the opening credits rolled, and I knew there was even more to come. The movie improves a bit during the second half when the title character actually does manage to find someone she can love, and the movie takes a left turn into a somewhat comic “can our barbarian learn manners” theme, but you know that’s just a respite; there’s more slaughter to come. All in all, I had very limited use for this one.

Humanoid Woman (1981)

Humanoid Woman (1981)
Article 5875 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-30-2020
Directed by Richard Viktorov and Nikolay Viktorov
Featuring Yelena Metyolkina, Vadim Ledogorov, Uldis Lieldidzs
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Arty outer space adventure

The only survivor found on a derelict spaceship is brought to Earth and stays with a family. She has lost her memory, but she’s a clone with strange powers. What is her story and what will be her fate?

The English version of this movie is difficult and confusing, and has a fragmented story-telling style. It also runs only ninety minutes, where according to IMDB, it’s original running time is closer to two and a half hours. This means a good hour of the movie is missing, and perhaps that is why it feels so fragmented. Still, the movie gets away with it during the first half on the strength of Yelena Metyolina’s performance as Niyya, the title character; she imbues her character with a fascinating alienness that is gripping. However, once the action shifts to her home planet, the story mostly involves political intrigues, and here the fragmented style becomes a major annoyance. Reportedly, there’s a restored version out there somewhere, and perhaps that’s an improvement. Based on the print I saw, though, I feel it’s more an interesting failure rather than a success.

Howdy Doody’s Christmas (1951)

Howdy Doody’s Christmas (1951)
Article 5874 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-28-2020
Director unknown
Featuring Dayton Allen, Robert Keeshan, Bob Smith
Country: USA
What it is: A puppet Christmas

When Santa fails to show up for Christmas, Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob Smith and Clarabelle the Clown take the rocket doodle to the North Pole, where Santa is being kept hostage by Ugly Sam who has mistaken Santa for a burglar.

I have this one on a collection of cartoons, but it barely qualifies as one; outside of about 15 seconds of Santa taking off in his sleigh, it’s all live action. Other than that, it’s a not particularly memorable piece of whimsy with Clarabelle’s antics the highlight. The presence of Santa as well as the fact that the Rocket Doodle appears to be the flying machine from the Flash Gordon serials provides the fantastic content. It’s holiday filler, and there’s lots of that out there.

Howard the Duck (1986)

Howard the Duck (1986)
Article 5873 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-26-2020
Directed by Willard Huyck
Featuring Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins
Country: USA
What it is: … no, I’m not going to make duck pun

An anthropomorphic duck is brought to this world from another universe. He seeks a way to return home, but complications arise when an evil force from outer space plots an invasion of Earth.

I’ve never read any Howard the Duck comic books, so I really don’t know what they were like. I did, however, see images of him, and the one thing that always bothered me was that I felt the design of the character of the movie looked less like the duck from the comic book and more like Yakky Doodle. Today, though, marks the first time I actually saw the movie. After sitting through an hour and a half of half-baked duck jokes, frenetic action sequences, special effects, lame slapstick, and cuteness, I found myself sitting there and thinking that there hasn’t been a single moment of this movie that didn’t feel forced and contrived. If there’s any philosophy around the making of this movie, I suspect it was that if they threw enough money at it, it would compensate for the appallingly dismal script. It wasn’t fun or funny; it was just loud and annoying. I don’t know if it’s in the running for the worst film ever made, but I do know that it feels like one of the most saddening wastes of money I’ve ever seen.

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)
Article 5872 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-26-2020
Directed by Kevin Connor
Featuring Edward Albert, Susan George, Doug McClure
Country: Japan / USA
What it is: Haunted house in Japan

An American family moves into a haunted Japanese house that was the site of bloody mayhem 140 years earlier. Will the ghosts use the new residents to recreate the slaughter?

Of course they will, and they do. And you’ll see the end coming very early in the movie, and watching this movie is merely an exercise in fighting out how long it takes to get down to what it sets up early on. Unfortunately, most of the movie is just filler: a few nude scenes, scary happenings happening just because the movie is supposed to have scary happenings, some truly silly moments (those giant spiders muttering in Japanese), etc. You’ve seen most of this before in other movies, and what you haven’t seen before isn’t really worth seeing. Forgettable.

The House at the Edge of the Park (1980)

The House at the Edge of the Park (1980)
aka La casa sperduta nel parco
Article 5871 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-25-2020
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Featuring David Hess, Annie Belle, Christian Borromeo
Country: Italy
What it is: You can figure it out

A sadistic rapist is invited to a party of upper-class people, and begins terrorizing them.

If when combining the title of this movie with the fact that the lead is played by David Hess, you find yourself thinking of a similarly-titled movie from several years earlier, you’re on the right track. If you recognize the director’s name and know what type of movie he’s most famous for, you’ll have an idea of the pleasantness level of the movie. The description of this movie on the movie set on which I found it says it has partial nudity and mild violence; the person who wrote that either did not see the movie or has a very different definition of the terms “mild” and “partial”. Yes, the movie has its supporters, but I’m not one of them; I found it to be a grueling stretch of predictable unpleasantness, neither entertaining nor instructive. Exploitation fans might find some use for this one; me, I’ll be quite happy if I never see it again.