Hexen Geschandet und zu Tode Gequalt (1973)

aka Mark of the Devil Part II
Article 4948 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-5-2015
Directed by Adrian Hoven
Featuring Erika Blanc, Anton Diffring, Percy Hoven
Country: West Germany / UK
What it is: Exploitation horror

When a countess tries to get justice for the murder of her husband by a witch-hunter, she finds herself targeted by the witch-hunters themselves.

The catchphrase for MARK OF THE DEVIL was “Likely to upset your stomach”. This one bragged about having “Ten scenes that you will positively not be able to stomach”. You know, it’s really difficult to warm up to movies whose stated main intention is to make you vomit. Also, when a movie’s whole avowed purpose is to show corrupt, cynical sadistic men doing horrible things to mostly naive women in a brutal, uncaring world, it becomes difficult to care about anything that happens in the movie, especially when you suspect that the movie serves no other purpose than to be repellent. I know there are people who love this sort of thing; me, I can find them as dull as a treacly children’s movie; there’s so little in the way of real surprises. This was a waste of my time.

Haunted Cafe (1911)

aka Das verzauberte Cafe
Article 4893 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-7-2015
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: Germany
What it is: Comic trick film

A man falls asleep in a restaurant and dreams that bizarre things are happening.

By 1911, this sort of trick short was old hat. It’s basically the usual shtick; furniture disappearing and moving around, people and things appearing out of nowhere and changing into other people and things, etc. Nevertheless, there is something that sets this one apart, and that is the performance by the lead actor. Rather than just watching or being a part of the bizarre occurrences, he actually reacts to them in a comic fashion as if they’re really happening, which, given the number of trick effects, is a pretty impressive feat. His performance gives an extra lift to the concept to make this one quite enjoyable. This is another one just rescued from my “ones that got away” list.

The House that Jack Built (1900)

Article 4884 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-28-2015
Directed by George Albert Smith
Featuring Dorothy Smith and Harold Smith
Country: UK
What it is: Simple trick short

A little girl builds a house with blocks, but becomes upset when her brother knocks it down piece by piece. However, thanks to the magic of reverse motion, all is made well.

This is a very simple trick short illustrating the effect of running footage in reverse. We see the house being knocked down, and then it rebuilds itself when the footage is reversed. As such, the action is well-suited to demonstrate the technique, and the house rebuilding itself does look like magic, hence its fantastic content. The short runs about thirty seconds long. Yes, it looks primitive nowadays, but it’s fun to imagine what it must have been like in the early days of cinema to discover these tricks and techniques.

Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

Article 4875 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-18-2015
Directed by Barbara Peeters and Jimmy T. Murakami
Featuring Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow
Country: USA
What it is: Marauding monster movie

Mutant fish-men terrorize a fishing town.

I have a soft spot in my heart for marauding monster movies, but a lot of them from this era were rather ugly and glum. Furthermore, the exploitative decision to make the monsters rapists as well adds a level of unpleasantness that sucks the fun out of the movie for me. Given this subject matter, I was rather surprised to see a woman’s name on the director’s credit for the movie, but, from what I gather, the original script didn’t have all of the rape and nudity; it was only added after Roger Corman decided the movie needed it, and when the director refused to shoot the scenes, she was fired and replaced. As it is, the exploitation elements are probably the most memorable thing about the movie; the rest of it feels pretty standard-issue by-the-numbers low-budget movie-making for the era, with subplots involve prejudice, environmentalism and corporate irresponsibility all incorporated into the story, albeit in a pretty uninspired fashion. It throws in touches of JAWS and ALIEN as well. I’m actually rather surprised that there was a 1996 TV movie remake of the movie; it just doesn’t seem the type of movie to merit a remake. At any rate, this movie is mediocre at best.

Horror of the Zombies (1974)

aka El buque maldito, Zombie Flesh Eaters
Article 4873 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-16-2015
Directed by Amando de Ossorio
Featuring Maria Perschy, Jack Taylor, Barbara Rey
Country: Spain
What it is: Blind Dead movie

A publicity stunt involving two models in a boat in the middle of the ocean goes awry when it encounters a ghost ship populated by homicidal zombies.

This was the third of Amando de Ossorio’s four “Blind Dead” movies, and, as I noticed when I reviewed the fourth movie, there doesn’t appear to be any overriding story arc to the series; it just features the slow-moving, rotting Templar zombies in a variety of different locations and situations, sometimes with different abilities and weaknesses. I like the premise of having them aboard a ship so that there’s no real place for the victims to run when they attack, but sadly, the movie doesn’t really make good use of the idea. Furthermore, the movie jettisons the most interesting aspect of the zombies (being blind, they were dependent on sound to locate their victims), and, being aboard ship, they’re not allowed to present themselves at their eeriest (which is when they’re riding horses in slow motion). Furthermore, the script is very weak, full of horrible dialogue, and the acting is mostly terrible (though it’s good to bear in mind these faults may be the result of the translation and dubbing). The slow-moving zombies themselves are still pretty creepy, but they were much better used in the other three movies. For my money, this is the weakest of the series.

The Hand (1981)

THE HAND (1981)
Article 4872 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-15-2015
Directed by Oliver Stone
Featuring Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe
Country: USA
What it is: Crawling hand movie

A comic-strip writer in a troubled marriage loses his hand in a freak accident. He begins to see his disembodied hand crawling around, but is it really there? And is the hand really the one killing his enemies…?

The John Stanley guide describes this movie as “the thinking man’s BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS”, and that’s as good a place as any to start discussing this one. Still, I’d rather watch BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (which is a lot more fun) than to spend a lot of time watching the crumbling marriage which serves as the center of this one. I think my problem with this movie is that once you’ve sussed out the game the movie’s playing and the way it dovetails with the main character’s marital problems, there’s really not much in the way of surprises, either as a drama or a horror movie. I can’t help but notice that Stone wasn’t above resorting to horror cliches (such as cars not being able to start) when it serves his purpose. And though I understand that it was being done to build mood and suspense, I still find scenes where we get a hand’s view of the action while it is breathing heavily to be rather silly when dealing with a body part that has neither eyes nor lungs. Oh, and there’s a twist ending (which if you think about it, really isn’t) that some people love and some people hate, but it really doesn’t do much for me one way or the other.

Heart’s Haven (1922)

Article 4848 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-14-2015
Directed by Benjamin B. Hampton
Featuring Robert McKim, Claire Adams, Carl Gantvoort
Country: USA
What it is: Domestic melodrama

A young man with an unsatisfied wife, two kids (one wearing a brace on his leg) and a dog becomes the secretary of a tycoon with a hypochondriac butler, and moves his family into a nearby cottage. Things happen.

Let’s get the fantastic content out of the way first. The Walt Lee guide says the story involves “faith healing”. The way it manifests itself in this movie is that the young man’s saintly mother decides to pray that her grandson’s leg will heal so he can take off the brace; later, she does the same for the daughter of the tycoon, who has fallen from a tree and has to wear a back brace. There’s no laying on off hands; she just sits next to them, and they both heal. To these eyes, this is a little ambiguous, but that’s the full extent of fantastic content in the movie.

As for the rest of it, it’s one of those movies I found very difficult to describe, as you can probably tell by the clumsy plot explanation above. It’s not that what is happening is confusing in any way. It’s more that the movie seems to lack what I would call a “center”. By this, I mean I’m not sure what the MAIN storyline is. There are roughly four arcs: the wife’s dissatisfaction with her marriage, the injury of the tycoon’s daughter, the disappearance of the family dog, and the butler’s hypochondria. All the stories intersect somewhat, but I never get the feeling it gels into a complete whole. I suspect that the script largely consists of highlights of the Clara Louise Burnham novel on which it was based, which means there may be a lot missing here. Unfortunately, another side effect of this is that many of the characters never really adequately develop; only the unhappy wife and the butler really register in this regard, and they’re both partially caricatures. In the end, I found the movie odd and not quite satisfying.

Harlequin (1931)

aka Harlekin
Article 4829 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-22-2015
Directed by Lotte Reiniger
No cast
Country: Germany
What it is: Silhouette animated drama

A musician with a taste for women is thrown down from heaven, and begins seducing women. However, he meets one he falls for, but his seductive ways may make him a target for the devil.

I’m a little unsure about the plot of this one; though there’s no question in my mind that Lotte Reiniger is a fine animator, sometimes the stories are a bit on the obscure side. Apparently, for this one, she based her paper characters on commedia dell’arte stereotypes, which is probably why the plot somewhat resembles a bedroom comedy. Nevertheless, it isn’t played like a comedy; the mood is somber and elegant, as is the animation. Much of the animation this time is done to music, especially the opening dance scene. Once again, I’m impressed with just how much Reiniger is able to express in the silhouette form; with no conversation to rely on and no facial expressions to help her out, she has to rely on movement and body language, but she is quite successful at doing so. And, even if the plot is somewhat obscure here, the poetic nature of the enterprise comes through very clearly.

Herencia macabra (1940)

aka A Macabre Legacy
Article 4823 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-16-2015
Directed by Jose Bohr
Featuring Miguel Arenas, Consuelo Frank, Ramon Armengod
Country: Mexico
What it is: Melodrama

A brilliant plastic surgeon discovers his wife is having an affair with one of his assistants, and he plans a gruesome revenge.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to watch a foreign movie without English subtitles that told enough of its story visually that I could follow it. I’m afraid I had no such luck today. In fact, I’m not sure I could really elaborate much more on the description above, which is all of the plot I knew about going into the movie. There are a few visual moments that work quite well; the events that reveal the affair to the doctor are done visually. However, most of the movie is talk, and the fact that the presentation is fairly static makes it a chore to sit through. My sources talk about there being “gruesome” scenes. These occur near the very end of the movie, and they are very mild indeed. I suspect if I could understand the Spanish dialogue, I might appreciate it a little better, but I suspect even then this would prove no classic. Still, I do have to somewhat reserve judgment on the movie.

How War Came (1941)

Article 4802 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-18-2015
Directed by Paul Fennell
Featuring Raymond Gram Swing and the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Animated news short

Through the use of animation, the various events leading to the breakout of World War II are discussed.

This was the first of a very short-lived series of current events shorts produced by Columbia; in fact, I believe only one other was made. It opens with an intro by Raymond Gram Swing and then leads to animated sequences being narrated by him; Mel Blanc is used for a single line of dialogue placed into the mouth of an animated Hitler. Normally, animated movies and shorts usually fit easily into the realm of fantastic cinema, and most of them do. However, this is one that I feel does not qualify, as the style is scrupulously realistic (no animal narrators, for example). On its own terms, it has its uses; it does give a nice quick summary of the aggression from Japan, Italy and Germany that led to the war. It is a bit awkward in presentation, though; Swing is noticeably reading his lines off of a paper on his desk, and he’s a little condescending in his tone at times. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the series was short-lived.