Invasion of the Mindbenders (1987)

Invasion of the Mindbenders (1987)
aka Mind Benders, Alien High
6000
Date: 8-22-2021
Directed by Genie Joseph
Featuring Diane Ager, Alexandre Aumont, Victoria Barkoff
Country: Canada
What it is: Teen comedy with fantastic elements

In order to keep the students in line, a high school principal agrees to subject his students to a mind control experiment to curb their wild behavior. When he begins fiddling with the mind control settings, there follows a rash of violent acts from the controlled teens.

Despite the plot description above, it’s definitely more of a teen comedy than a teen thriller. The first half of the movie plays like a chintzy, loud and obnoxious imitation of ANIMAL HOUSE. Once the teens are under mind control, things settle down a bit and it becomes less obnoxious, but I can’t really say things improve much. To its credit, there are moments where the comic bits work, and that keeps the movie from becoming interminable, but for the most part, this is a pretty thin affair. The big name actor here is Roy Thinnes, and though he too has his moments, mostly his performance suffers from an overly generous amount of yelling. The plot eventually incorporates a space alien as part of its story. All in all, this is definitely not Canada’s finest cinematic hour.

It’s All in the Stars (1945)

It’s All in the Stars (1945)
Article 5888 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-21-2020
Directed by Connie Rasinski
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Gandy Goose/Sourpuss dream cartoon

Gandy Goose and Sourpuss share a dream about the planets and stars, but for Sourpuss, it turns into a nightmare.

Apparently, there was a whole series of Gandy Goose/Sourpuss dream sharing cartoons; I know I’ve encountered a couple of them before. And I must admit that it is an interesting concept, and I rather like the first half of this cartoon, which mostly takes place in the vastness of the universe in outer space; it’s more like a space documentary than a cartoon. Unfortunately, the second half of the cartoon takes place on Earth, and Sourpuss’s dream turns into a nightmare when he releases a canary from his cage only to be accused of eating the canary. The rest of the cartoon consists of various characters beating the crap out of Sourpuss, and it’s just not funny to see him terrorized for having been accused of a crime he did not commit, and the cartoon becomes distinctly unpleasant. Considering how I liked the first half, this is a real disappointment.
You know, I’ve been ragging on Terrytoons quite a bit recently, and I was hoping this would turn out to be one that I liked so I wouldn’t do it again. Sadly, that is not the case.

It’s a Greek Life (1936)

It’s a Greek Life (1936)
Article 5887 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-21-2020
Directed by Dan Gordon
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Cartoon about Greek mythology

A centaur cobbler dreams of flying like Pegasus, so when Mercury leaves his winged boots at his shop for repair, the centaur can’t resist trying them out on himself.

This one really isn’t all that good, but I rather like it. Part of it is that it’s just a rather weird cartoon by any standard, but the second is that it chooses mythology for its inspiration rather than, say, fairy tales. It also gets away with a surprising amount of near nudity, especially for a cartoon that was made while the Hays office was in effect; I guess the fact that the Greek statues were nude didn’t bother them. Most of the humor is supposed to come from the centaur’s relationship with a pair of ducks who ultimately are responsible for most of the centaur’s problems. Still, this cartoon isn’t really like any other one in its era, and that’s rather refreshing.

Is My Palm Read (1933)

Is My Palm Read (1933)
Article 5886 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-20-2020
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Dave Tendlar
Featuring the voices of Billy Murray and Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Betty Boop cartoon

Betty visits a medium and has her fortune read on the crystal ball.

On top of the spiritualism inherent in the plot, the cartoon also features a gaggle of ghosts pursuing Betty and Bimbo. The cartoon itself is okay, but it’s certainly not one of the better Betty Boop cartoons. It has its share of bizarre moments, but in comparison to titles like BIMBO’S INITIATION, it’s very mild. My favorite moment involves the sinking of a ship at the beginning of the crystal ball gazing.

The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly (1957)

The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly (1957)
aka Tomei ningen to hae otoko
Article 5885 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-15-2020
Directed by Mitsuo Murayama
Featuring Ryuji Shinagawa, Yoshiro Kitahara, Junko Cano
Country: Japan
What it is: Strange Japanese Sci-fi

A rash of murders is being committed in which people are being murdered in broad daylight but no killer is seen. Could they be caused by an invisible man? And if not, will it take an invisible man to solve the case?

One of the theories that serves as a linchpin for this movie is that if a human being is reduced to the size of a fly, he will be able to fly. If you buy into this theory, you’ll have no trouble accepting the rest of the movie without being beset by logic sinkholes; me, I keep asking myself questions like: are there any other animals the size of flies that can’t fly?, or; even if a human the size of a fly could fly, would he necessarily buzz? Granted, given the title of the movie, I didn’t necessarily expect it to be believable going into it; I just wanted it to be entertaining and even a bit silly. Still, I have to admit that when a large part of the movie involves a police investigation (as it does here), I do find myself put in a more logical and skeptical state of mind, and the plot holes and logical errors are a little bit more glaring. On a side note, there are invisibility special effects here, but they’re pretty bare bones, though I don’t buy the moment where one character gets worked over by the invisible man. In the end, the movie is somewhat entertaining, but not as wild or bizarre as the title made me feel it would be.

In Possession (1984)

In Possession (1984)
Feature length episode of “Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense”
Article 5884 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-8-2020
Directed by Val Guest
Featuring Carol Lynley, Christopher Cazenove, David Healy
Country: UK
What it is: An intriguing enigma that turns irritating

A married couple find themselves having visions of an event involving an old woman, her husband, her daughter and murder.

At the heart of this story there is an intriguing enigma. Both members of a married couple are seeing visions of events that overlay the places in their current life, and unraveling the nature of why they’re seeing what they’re seeing is where most of the fun of this one should be. It even has a decent final twist. So why am I not quite satisfied with this one? It’s because the script makes what I feel is a tactical mistake; instead of making the unraveling of the enigma the center of the story, it chooses to emphasize how scary it is. And when you get right down to it, though what happens is distinctly unsettling, it’s not out and out terrifying. Yet the second half of the movie mostly consists of these two characters running back and forth all over the place, screaming, and being generally panicky. After awhile it simply gets irritating; I’m much more interested in finding out what’s going on than I am in how scared these two are. It appears this is one of the two highest-rated episodes of this uneven TV series, and I’m willing to say that it earns that distinction. Nevertheless, I feel it would be a lot better if it was focus was on other aspects of the story than the ones it does emphasize.

The Infantry Blues (1943)

The Infantry Blues (1943)
Article 5883 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-7-2020
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Private Snafu cartoon

Private Snafu tires of the life of drudgery as a common infantryman and wishes he was in one of the more glamorous military professions. However, Technical Fairy First Class is there to magically give him the experience in those professions…

The lesson here is simple; in the military, everyone has it tough, so be happy with what and where you are. Still, privately, I have to admit that the dangers and dreariness of the infantryman looks pretty realistic here, whereas the dangers of the other professions seem fairly contrived (at least, within the bounds of this cartoon). I’m pretty sure the soldiers who saw this one weren’t entirely convinced by it, but at least they got to see a cartoon about it. Once again, a Private Snafu gets covered merely due to the existence of a single mystical character – Technical Fairy First Class.

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)
Article 5882 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-6-2020
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Featuring Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty
Country: USA
What it is: painful

A woman, her system poisoned by chemicals from all the latest products, starts to shrink.

Given that I’m a big fan of the original movie adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel on which this is based, I’d probably look askance on any attempt to remake it in the first place. Now, I don’t object to the gender switch. Nor do I object to making it a comedy. I also don’t object to making rampant consumerism the villain of the movie. All of this could have worked. No, what kills this movie for me is firstly, the utter lack of subtlety, and secondly, the fact that whenever it’s trying to be really funny, it becomes loud, sloppy, and shrill. Especially shrill. In fact, I’m making that one of my absolute rules about comedy – shrill is not funny! And sadly, this movie spends a lot of time trying to be really funny and just ends up shrill. Ultimately, the only thing I liked about this movie was Rick Baker’s performance as Sidney the Gorilla.

Yet, there is one moment that especially disappointed me. This movie makes one definite nod to a moment in the original, and I was saddened that it took the one moment in the original that never worked for me. Yes, I know some people love that moment, but I always felt it was incredibly contrived. You probably know the moment – “As long as you’re wearing that ring…”

I Like Mountain Music (1933)

I Like Mountain Music (1933)
Article 5881 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-4-2020
Directed by Rudolf Ising
Featuring the voices of Sara Berner, Pinto Colvig, Jack Mercer
Country: USA
What it is: Early Warner Brothers cartoon

In a drugstore, characters in magazines come to life and have a party.

One of the odder cartoon templates that has popped up several times over the years was that of characters in books coming to life in a bookstore, with BOOK REVUE perhaps the finest of these. This appears to be the earliest template of this idea I’ve encountered; sure, they’re magazines in a drugstore rather than books in a bookstore, but those are mere details. Like those later cartoons, there are musical numbers performed, a variety of celebrity caricatures show up (including ones of Edward G. Robinson, Will Rogers and Ed Wynn), and there’s a late-cartoon plot development; in this case, a gang of criminals tries to break into the cash register. To add to the fantastic content, we even have a parody of King Kong (called Ping Pong) show up. No, it’s not up to the level of some of those later cartoons, but it’s entertaining enough in its own way and may be one of Warner’s better cartoons from the times before Porky Pig or Bugs Bunny.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Article 5708 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-24-2020
Directed by Philip Kaufman
Featuring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Michael Goldblum
Country: USA
What it is: 50s paranoia remake

People are acting strange in San Francisco. Could something be replacing them with duplicates?

As a sequel/remake of the original 1956 movie, I really don’t have a lot of problems with this one. Philip Kaufman does a good job of keeping things interesting, it’s well-acted and well-written, and it is quite effective in moving the action from a small town to a big city. It also makes sense that a remake of this one would pop up in the paranoid seventies. It’s also quite respectful of the original; both Kevin McCarthy and Don Siegel pop up in this one, with McCarthy essentially playing the same character that he did in the original. It certainly takes advantage of the progress made in special effects to add a lot of eye candy to this one as well. I do have a few small problems. The longer running time means that it takes longer to really get going, and they do overplay the paranoia a little too much. I also find the finger-pointing and shrieking to be a little bit silly. Still, I must admit that overall, it works well enough. It must doesn’t work well enough to compete with my memories of my first viewing of the original. And though I find the movie worthy enough, I’m not sure I really find it strictly necessary.