The Invisible Monster (1950)

THE INVISIBLE MONSTER (1950)
Serial
Article 2923 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-9-2009
Posting Date: 8-14-2009
Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Featuring Richard Webb, Aline Towne, Lane Bradford
Country: USA

A criminal mastermind who can turn invisible is attempting to form an invisible army. However, he has to contend with an insurance investigator who is on his trail.

Back when I covered the feature version of this serial (SLAVES OF THE INVISIBLE MONSTER), I had a grand old time poking fun at the severe limitations of the criminal’s power of invisibility; he could only turn invisible while wearing an outfit soaked in a special solution while a bright light was shining on him. Of course, these limitations exist to keep him from using invisibility all the time, which would have driven up the special effects budget for a serial that couldn’t afford it. The invisibility gimmick is really the most interesting thing about it; the rest of the serial is a tired regurgitation of all the usual cliffhangers we’ve seen hundreds of times already (just how many times can you bail out of a car?). At least the fantastic content is much stronger than it usually is for a serial of this ilk. This one is routine.

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Das Indische Tuch (1963)

DAS INDISCHE TUCH (1963)
aka The Indian Scarf
Article 2858 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-5-2009
Posting Date: 6-10-2009
Directed by Alfred Vohrer
Featuring Heinz Drache, Corny Collins, Klaus Kinski
Country: West Germany

Several heirs gather at the castle of Lord Lebanon for the reading of the will. They discover they must spend a week in the castle before they discover the terms of the inheritance. However, someone is strangling the heirs one by one using Indian scarves as weapons…

I have to admit that this krimi (based on a work by Edgar Wallace, the greatest writer of the century, but don’t take my word on it) really caught me off guard; I’ve seen enough of these that I thought I’d know what to expect, but this one surprised me. First of all, despite the fact that I listed the German title above, my copy of the movie was not in German; it was dubbed into English, but retained the original German credits. Furthermore, the print was excellent, and letterboxed as well. But the biggest surprise is the plot itself; rather than the usually hard-to-follow labyrinthine stories that I’ve come to expect from the genre, this is nothing more nor less than an ‘old dark house’ mystery. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say, it’s a parody of the ‘old dark house’ mystery, and, for my money, one of the funniest takes I’ve seen on that hoary old chestnut. The dialogue is sharp and witty, the characters are well-defined, and the butler (who is followed around by a serving cart that seems to move of its own accord and who has to undertake the thankless task of removing the table settings of each guest who dies during the length of the movie) is a scream. The trappings are all there; secret passages, red herrings, murders, people stranded with no way to get home due to a storm, etc). It even has a fairly outrageous variation on the old “painting with removable eyes so the killer can spy on people through them” trick that makes for one of the high points of the film. Throw in a couple of self-referential jokes, and you have perhaps the most light-hearted and fun Edgar Wallace romp of the era. And it’s nice to see Klaus Kinski get a decent part in one of these as well.

L’inferno (1911)

L’INFERNO (1911)
aka Dante’s Inferno
Article 2829 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-4-2009
Posting Date: 5-12-2009
Directed by Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan, Giuseppe de Liguoro
Featuring Salvatore Papa, Arturo Pirovano, Giuseppe de Liguoro
Country: Italy / UK

Dante seeks to make his way to paradise, but must pass through the bowels of hell first. He is given the poet Virgil as his guide.

Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” is considered a classic, but I found it one of the least enjoyable reads in my life. For one thing, a decent translation of an Italian poem into English is a rarity, and most of the historical characters we meet are obscure Italians who were probably very well known in Dante’s time and place, but are totally forgotten nowadays; it’s rather difficult to appreciate their punishments and/or rewards when you have no idea who they are. Still, the idea of a filmed version of the first book (“Inferno”) isn’t a bad idea, as it allows the filmmakers to come up with a number of visions of hell, and this movie takes full advantage of the idea. Therefore, this movie is primarily entertaining on the level of spectacle; we get to see the damned (almost all of them naked or near-naked) suffering the various tortures of the devils of hell. Of course, it’s very much a “Christian” hell; I’m certain Muslims wouldn’t be too happy with the fate of Mohammed in the movie, nor would they tolerate his appearance as a character. I do have to admire the ambition of the effort; it took three years to make, and, unless I’ve forgotten something, this is now the earliest feature-length movie that I’ve covered for this series. One problem I had with my copy, though, is the soundtrack by Tangerine Dream; I don’t mind it in terms of its music, but I don’t think scores for silent pictures should have lyrics, as they distract from the action.

The Invasion of the Vampires (1963)

THE INVASION OF THE VAMPIRES (1963)
aka La Invasion de los vampiros
Article 2760 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-27-2008
Posting Date: 3-4-2009
Directed by Miguel Morayta
Featuring Ema Martha Bauman, Rafael del Rio, Tito Junco
Country: Mexico

Residents of a hacienda are being terrorized by a vampire called Count Frankenhausen. A student of the occult arrives to take care of the problem.

Like its predecessor, THE BLOODY VAMPIRE, this Mexican horror movie is pretty uneven. On the plus side, it is extremely atmospheric at times, and occasionally makes very effective use of sound. On the minus side, the plot is hard to follow, the dubbing is atrocious, and the bat is pretty silly-looking. Still, it does some interesting things with vampire lore; my favorite touch is that the vampire’s victims don’t rise from the dead and become vampires themselves until the Count’s death, and the result is something like a scenario from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. In the final analysis, I think it’s superior to THE BLOODY VAMPIRE, since it does a better job of sustaining its atmosphere; the scenes of the newly-risen vampires wandering around with stakes in their hearts (a failed attempt to destroy them when the local priest doesn’t allow them to burn the bodies) are quite eerie.

Interplanetary Revolution (1924)

INTERPLANETARY REVOLUTION (1924)
aka Mezhplanetnaya revolyutsiya

Animated short
Article 2737 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-3-2008
Posting Date: 2-9-2009
Directed by Nikolai Khodataev, Zenon Komissarenko, Youry Merkulov
No cast
Country: Soviet Union

A Soviet hero goes to Mars to save the Martians from evil capitalists.

The Don Willis guide describes this short animated film from the Soviet Union as a parody of AELITA, and maybe it is. However, I can’t really find anything parodistic in its tone, and, given the fact that Soviet filmmakers were not allowed freedom of expression, you’re not going to find much in the way of a different message here. Animation-wise, it’s reminiscent of Terry Gilliam, only without the humor; it’s mostly grotesque portrayals of certain capitalistic stereotypes doing their evil capitalist things, such as sucking the blood of the workers. Plotwise, I found it nearly impossible to follow; I guess telling a coherent story wasn’t really high on the priorities of this one. Nonetheless, the bizarre animation and imagery do make it watchable, and it is interesting from a historical perspective. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russian people would really have rather watched a Felix the Cat cartoon.

The Immortal (1969)

THE IMMORTAL (1969)
TV-Movie
Article 2679 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-28-2008
Posting Date: 12-13-2008
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Featuring Christopher George, Ralph Bellamy, Don Knight
Country: USA

A test car driver’s blood is given in a transfusion to a dying tycoon, who makes an amazing recovery. When it is discovered that the driver’s blood is immune to all known diseases and has amazing curative properties, the tycoon decides to fake the driver’s death and kidnap him so he can rejuvenate himself whenever he wants to.

As a TV-Movie movie doing double time as a pilot for a TV series, this one is pretty good; it’s well-acted, exciting, and quite entertaining. Still, I’m not sure I would have allowed it to go on as a series; I suspect that this pilot pretty much exhausted the possibilities of what we could do with the central fantastic gimmick, which means that from here on out, the immortality theme would serve as little more than a Gizmo Maguffin for what seems to be another variation on “The Fugitive”. As it is, the show lasted about half a season before coming to an end. There are a couple of things I didn’t care for in the movie. One is Barry Sullivan’s make-up as the dying tycoon; it looks like old age makeup rather than making him look like he’s old (if you know what I mean). The other is Carol Lynley. I’m not sure why, but as I continue with this series, I’ve discovered that there’s something about her performances that I don’t like; to me, they feel artificial, and there’s a cuteness about them that feels contrived. And at heart, I would have enjoyed this movie more if it had featured a complete story arc rather than having served as a setup for a series.

 

Illusion of Blood (1966)

ILLUSION OF BLOOD (1966)
aka Yotsuya kaidan
Article 2676 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-25-2008
Posting Date: 12-10-2008
Directed by Shiro Toyoda
Featuring Tatsuya Nakadai, Marko Okada, Junko Ikeuchi
Country: Japan

A samurai poisons his wife, and then finds himself haunted by her spirit.

This is the second version I’ve seen of this particular story; the other is THE GHOST OF YOTSUYA. I have to admit to being a little disappointed by this one; though it’s quite well made and has some very effective and eerie moments, it also gets a little dull on occasion. Furthermore, there’s something a little distracting about the comic relief in the movie; it’s another case where the comedy element detracts from the power of the story. Still, I do have to wonder what I’m missing; the running time of the Japanese version of this movie goes over three hours, which means the movie was virtually cut in half for the print I’ve seen, and apparently huge amounts of the violence and nudity was removed. Still, there’s something compelling about the story, and I like the concept that ghosts can create illusions that can cause the characters to perform acts against their own best wishes.