Invasion of the Star Creatures (1963)

INVASION OF THE STAR CREATURES (1963)
Article 2255 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2007
Posting Date: 10-15-2007
Directed by Bruno VeSota
Featuring Robert Ball, Frankie Ray, Gloria Victor

Two idiots in the army are sent on a mission to investigate a cave. There they find plantlike space aliens and beautiful women who have a plot to take over the world.

I would really like to like this movie; it’s trying so hard to be a laugh riot and ends up failing dismally at almost every turn. Part of the problem is that the comic leads (Bob Ball and Frankie Ray) simply aren’t appealing enough to keep us amused with their second-rate Leo Gorcey/Huntz Hall shtick. Part of the problem is that the clunky direction plays up every gag as a major laugh riot when some of them will only work if they are thrown away (which is to say, allowed to happen on the side while the main action continues). Another part of the problem is that on top of the fact that many of the gags should be thrown away, some of them should be thrown out altogether; that running gag about crisscrossing paths in the cave isn’t funny the first time, but is repeated ad infinitum. Still, I do manage to dredge up a certain affection for the movie due to a running gag that, cleverly handled, could make for a movie on its own, and that is the fact that many of the characters belong to a fan society for Space Commander Connors, and this society has its own inner hierarchy which can override the hierarchy in the military. This running gag is far and away the best thing in this otherwise dreary bottom-of-the-barrel comedy. Incidentally, the script was written by Corman regular Jonathan Haze.

 

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The Invisible Avenger (1958)

THE INVISIBLE AVENGER (1958)
Article 2237 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-1-2007
Posting Date: 9-27-2007
Directed by James Wong Howe, Ben Parker and John Sledge
Featuring Richard Derr, Jeanne Neher, Dan Mullin

Lamont Cranston aka The Shadow, investigates the murder of a jazz musician and becomes embroiled in a plot to kill a political refugee from a dictatorship.

In some of my reviews of other movies about the Shadow, I’ve groused about how he never displayed his vaunted ability to cloud men’s minds. I didn’t know at that time that they were based on an earlier version of the Shadow from before the radio show, back when he was a more conventional pulp action hero. This one, however, is indeed based on the radio show version, and we finally get some scenes of the Shadow clouding men’s minds, and these scenes constitute the fantastic content of the movie, as he vanished before their eyes. These scenes are the best part of the movie, and they add some spice to what otherwise would have been a fairly static, confusing and unmemorable action thriller. It’s also helped by some nice New Orleans footage and some good jazz music. It was intended as a pilot for a TV series but was released as a movie instead.

 

The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971)

THE INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT (1971)
Article 2191 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-16-2007
Posting Date: 8-12-2007
Directed by Anthony M. Lanza
Featuring Bruce Dern, Pat Priest, Casey Kasem

A scientist grafts the head of a homicidal maniac onto a very strong but brain-damaged man. The two-headed creature gets loose and…

Some thoughts on THE INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT.

1) The movie has an interesting cast, to begin with. Bruce Dern surprisingly plays the mad scientist rather than the homicidal maniac, former Marilyn Munster Pat Priest plays the mad scientist’s wife, DJ and voice actor (he was Shaggy’s voice in the various incarnations of Scooby-Doo) Casey Kasem plays the mad scientist’s best friend, and Horror Host Seymour aka Larry Vincent plays the caretaker.

2) The cast may be interesting, but the performances are uneven. Bruce Dern never really looks comfortable in his role and Albert Cole plays his homicidal maniac like a grinning, cackling, lip-smacking parody, but John Bloom does a decent job of physicalizing his role of the big but simple man whose body is being taken over by the homicidal maniac’s head grafter to it. Priest, Kasem, Vincent and Barry Kroeger are all passable.

3) I remember the ads for this one when it came to my home town when I was a kid. “One Wants to Love, One Wants to Kill”, screamed the ads. I think this ad helped me to differentiate it from the similarly-themed THE THING WITH TWO HEADS.

4) Still, the ad points up the basic split-personality of this movie, as does the line the policeman says when he sees the wrecked lab (“Gerard must have been brewing up some of the Jekyll-and-Hyde joy juice in here.”). The movie never manages to find a balance between the sadistic violence (the vicious murders and the blood) and the pathos it tries to conjure up for Bloom’s character. That godawful theme song just makes things worse.

5) Apparently, the scientist is grafting two heads on the same body in the hope that he can then graduate to head transplants. Now I’m no medical expert, but it seems to me that grafting a second head that can think and control the body it is grafted to would be a lot more difficult a job than a simple transplant, but what do I know about such things?

6) According to IMDB, this movie is a comedy. It also has “chase” as one of its plot keywords. It’s not a comedy and there’s really not much of a chase scene. However, THE THING WITH TWO HEADS is clearly a comedy and definitely features chase scenes. Did I mention that these two movies get confused?

7) On a parting note, I just read an IMDB user comment from someone who considers this movie the equal of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. Personally, that comment is the most incredible experience I’ve had with this movie.

 

Inferno in Space (1956)

INFERNO IN SPACE (1956)
aka THE MAGNETIC MOON
Article 2167 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-20-2007
Posting Date: 7-19-2007
Directed by Hollingsworth Morse
Featuring Richard Crane, Jimmy Lydon, Sally Mansfield

Explosions on a distant moon send deadly rays hurtling towards earth, and only Space Ranger Rocky Jones can save the planet. Unfortunately, he also has to contend with an escaped exile who carries a vendetta against him and plans to use the crisis to exact revenge.

There’s nothing I like better than a movie (or a set of TV episodes that go together to make up a movie, as the case may be) to kick off with a fascinating mystery, and this one does; this one opens with all items made of wood aboard Rocky Jones’ ship crumbling into dust, and this novel concept drew me in. The science is fairly far-fetched, but it’s also rather fun, and even though the direction is lackluster (like all of the Rocky Jones series), it does manage to generate a bit of suspense. Besides, they throw in Tor Johnson near the end of the movie and he has a fight with Richard Crane (as well as serving as a deus ex machina during the final scenes). They even give him a few lines to say, as well. If this one weren’t so hard to find, I’d suggest it as a good one to start with for those who wanted to try out the series.

 

The Intruder (1977)

THE INTRUDER (1977)
aka LES PASSAGERS
Article 2112 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-27-2006
Posting Date: 5-25-2007
Directed by Serge Leroy
Featuring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mireille Darc, Bernard Fresson

A man driving to Paris with his stepson finds himself being tailed by a psychopathic killer in a black van.

Before my commentary on this movie, let me begin by quoting verbatim the quotes on the back of the VHS copy of this movie that I obtained.

“…a very good suspense thriller…creditable acting, and tight direction all help to make this film a cut above most…” – Geoffrey Marks, Austin Citizen

“…a film of considerable – if not really maximum – suspense.” – Ellen Pfeifer, Boston Herald American

Now, these comments are by no means uncomplimentary. The problem is that the quotes on the back of the box for a copy of a movie are usually the ones that offer the highest praise and promise the most fun and excitement for the viewer. Both of these are rather blase – “creditable” acting isn’t “great” acting, and why would you choose a movie that offers “considerable” suspense over one that offers “maximum” suspense? These quotes almost encourage you to check out some of the other product for something better, and that’s not really the best way to sell a movie. Even cutting out the “if not really maximum” part of the quote would improve things.

As for the movie itself, I think it lives up to those quotes. It’s a decent enough movie, but it could have been a lot better. I think its main problem is that it fumbles its mystery elements. I get the impression that we’re supposed to be as puzzled by the motivations of the stranger in the van as the man and his stepson are, but I found the identity of the van driver and his reasons for pursuing the car were obvious. It would have been far better to keep the van driver out of the story until the very end, so we would puzzle over how he managed to keep on his prey’s trail the whole time. This is one of the reasons the movie never attains “maximum” suspense. Outside of that, I like the appearance of Adolfo Celi as a police inspector, and I don’t care much for the kid (who is one of those precocious sorts that get rather annoying on occasion). Still, it does strike me as a not-as-effective clone of DUEL.

 

In Search of Ancient Mysteries (1975)

IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES (1975)
Article 2084 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-29-2006
Posting Date: 4-27-2007
Directed by Fred Washofsky
Featuring narration by Rod Serling

In the ancient world there are many phenomena that have yet to be explained by modern science. Could this be proof that we have been visited by men from outer space?

This short TV documentary was one of two culled from CHARIOTS OF THE GODS; it features narration by Rod Serling as we travel the world searching for evidence that we are descendants of ancient astronauts. Other than to mention that I am a skeptic about such things, I won’t dwell much on the validity of the theories; instead, I’m going to grouse a bit about how dull and repetitive these documentaries can get. We visit a far-flung country, and the soundtrack plays vaguely exotic music reminiscent of this region. The narrator describes some curious phenomenon, and then asks some variation of “Could it be that these phenomena were the result of visitors from another world?”. Occasionally, they vary the proceedings by interviewing some noted scientist (whose name is unfamiliar to me); we see the scientist walking around while the narrator gives us his credentials, and then the scientist speculates about visitors from outer space. Even with Rod Serling as the narrator and a short running time, this wears thin very quickly, especially if you’ve seen this sort of thing before. Granted, if you buy into the theories, it probably seems exciting and mysterious. I suspect that whether you like this is dependent on how much you buy into it.

 

Invisible Thief (1909)

INVISIBLE THIEF (1909)
aka L’HOMME INVISIBLE
Article 2063 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-7-2006
Posting Date: 4-6-2007
Directed by Ferndinand Zecca
Featuring an unknown cast

A man picks up a copy of H. G. Wells’s novel, and decides that he can make himself invisible as well. He does so, and uses his power for robbery.

Adventures in Movie-Watching: The biggest problem with going through Don Willis’ first edition of “Horror and Science Fiction Films” is that it is so chock-full of unknown early silent titles (most of which are no doubt lost to the world as well) that on the day of this writing, it took me a good two hours of going through the book until I found a movie to watch that I happened to have in my collection. The trouble is – I’m not sure it’s the right movie. Let me explain – Don Willis lists a movie called INVISIBLE THIEF, a 1909 movie from Pathe that might have been directed by Ferdinand Zecca (he has a question after the name). My search on IMDB turns up two early silent movies with the title. One is a 1905 movie called LES INVISIBLES with the English title INVISIBLE THIEF directed by Gaston Velle and from Pathe. The other is a 1909 movie called L’HOMME INVISIBLE with the English title AN INVISIBLE THIEF directed by Ferdinand Zecca with no studio listed. The latter movie matches on both the year and tentative director, but the earlier movie matches exactly on title (without the word “AN”) and studio. Which movie is the one listed in the book?

The copy I have of the movie lists the title INVISIBLE THIEF (no “AN”), but lists no year, director or studio. The latter movie has no reviews on IMDB, and the earlier one has one, and the plot as described matches that of the one I saw. The question is: how do I reconcile this information?

Well, I just decided to go ahead and review what I had, and if it’s the wrong movie, I’ll let God figure it out. Once again, there’s not a whole lot of plot, but it makes some impressive use of stop-motion photography, wries, and other tricks to tell its story. And that’s about all I have to say about it; sometimes I find it really difficult to generate strong opinions about some of the very early silents.

Let’s see how long it takes me to find a movie tomorrow.

P.S. Thanks once again to Doctor Kiss for helping me out; this is the 1909 Zecca film, not the Velle film.