I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941)
Article 3701 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-17-2011
Posting Date: 10-2-2011
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone
Featuring Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Carole Landis
Country: USA
What it is: Film noir

When a fashion model is murdered, the prime suspect is a sports promoter who helped lead her to fame. However, the police don’t have the evidence to convict him, although one aggressive policeman who is known never to be wrong is on the case and is convinced of his guilt. Will the promoter be able to clear himself?

One of the interesting things that happens when I add new books to my sources from which I derive my hunt lists is sometimes they will list a movie that all of the others overlook. Still, that’s a double-edged thing; often it’s just another movie that the book misclassified. I found this movie listed in “The A-Z of Horror Films”, but despite the evocative title, this is not a horror movie but a film noir (the title is inaccurate as well; no one wakes up screaming). Though film noir has a few stylistic similarities to horror, rarely do the genres intersect, and the only aspects of this movie that lend it any horror genre credentials are a) the deceptive title, b) the presence of Laird Cregar (who, though not a horror actor, has memorably brushed up against the genre), and c) a plot point in which someone pretends to be a voice from a deceased person. The latter is a momentary touch, although it does play a pivotal role in the denouement of the movie. As for the movie itself, it is a very good film noir, though the central mystery at hand turns out not be who the murderer is, but why a man is being framed for it. Laird Cregar steals the movie as the policeman intent on convicting the promoter, but there are a few other familiar faces on top of the above-named stars, such as Alan Mowbray, Elisha Cook Jr., Charles Lane and Morris Ankrum. It’s pretty entertaining, but, as I said before, it’s not a horror movie.

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The Incredible Paris Incident (1967)

THE INCREDIBLE PARIS INCIDENT (1967)
aka Come rubare la corona d’Inghilterra, Argoman Superdiobolica

Article 3673 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-20-2011
Posting Date: 9-4-2011
Directed by Sergio Grieco
Featuring Roger Browne, Dominique Boschero, Eduardo Fajardo
Country: Italy
What it is: Superspy/supervillain/superhero mishmash

When the crown of England is stolen, the authorities call on a freelance agent to help them solve the theft, unaware that the agent is also the superhero/supervillain Argoman.

Well, here’s something you don’t see everyday; a superhero movie that plays like a supervillain/superspy movie. Our hero actually does have superpowers; he may have superstrength, but he definitely has telekinesis and lightning fast reflexes. He’s not only a hero (he sets out to defeat an evil woman who is intent on taking over the world), but he’s a villain as well; he has the real copy of the Mona Lisa among other trophies of his various exploits. The big difference between the evil woman and Argoman is that he does not take human lives. The movie is on the campy side (it’s full of silly dialogue), but it manages to stay on the side of “fun” campy rather than “cloying” campy. In fact, the whole movie is a light-hearted lark, and Argoman’s costume is not too bad. I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie, but I ended up enjoying it thoroughly, and that says something.

It’s a Gift (1923)

IT’S A GIFT (1923)
Short

Article 3664 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-11-2011
Posting Date: 8-26-2011
Directed by Hugh Fay
Featuring Snub Pollard, Marie Mosquini, William Gillespie
Country: USA
What it is: Silent comedy

An inventor is invited to demonstrate his new powerful gasoline substitute.

This is an energetic and fun silent comedy. The first half mostly deals with the various gadgets Pollard uses to help him serve himself breakfast him bed; he uses a series of pull-strings that light stoves, make coffee, and coax chickens to lay eggs. The real fun begins when we discover how our inventor gets around town; he tools around in a motorless bullet-shaped vehicle that is propelled by a magnet he holds out to follow other vehicles. This is the funniest sequence in the movie, but it will leave you wondering why, if he’s invented a super fuel, why doesn’t he use it? The answer makes for the climax of the short. This one is highly amusing.

The Initiation of Sarah (1978)

THE INITIATION OF SARAH (1978)
TV-Movie
Article 3493 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-4-2011
Posting Date: 3-8-2011
Directed by Robert Day
Featuring Kay Lenz, Shelley Winters, Tony Bill
Country: USA
What it is: CARRIE clone

Two sisters, one adopted, go to college. They find themselves pledged to different sororities, and the beautiful sister ends up in the snobbish sorority which forces her to swear not to consort with members of the sorority the other sister has pledged to. However, the adopted sister has psychic powers that manifest when she is angry, and the house mother of her sorority has uses for them…

I remember my mother explaining to me why she never went out to the movies; it was because that sooner or later a TV-Movie would be made on the same subject, and she could watch that for free at home instead. Though I doubt she ever had a hankering to see CARRIE, but if she had, here’s the TV-Movie she would have settled for. Now it’s been years since I’ve seen the De Palma movie (and I’ve never read the Stephen King novel), but I don’t recall anything in that movie about a sisterly conflict of the sort that drives some of the storyline here, and when this movie concentrates on this aspect, it’s at its best. It’s also not too bad when it concentrates on the relationship that develops between Sarah and a timid violinist. I’m less impressed by the black magic angle that is thrown into the mix. Still, the movie is at its weakest when it when it blatantly steals from its model, especially in a “we’re-a-TV-movie-and-we-have-to-soft-pedal-the-horror” way (think mud instead of pig’s blood). At least it doesn’t try to throw in a silly twist ending.

Island of the Lost (1967)

ISLAND OF THE LOST (1967)
Article 3481 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-19-2011
Posting Date: 2-24-2011
Directed by Ricou Browning and John Florea
Featuring Richard Greene, Luke Halpin, Sheila Welles
Country: USA
What it is: Island Lost World story

A scientist takes a voyage to discover some theoretical lost islands. He finds one of them… and it’s inhabited by prehistoric creatures and puts him at the mercy of angry island natives.

When I was young, I associated Ivan Tors with a series of TV shows featuring animals that were popular throughout the sixties and seventies, such as “Flipper”, “Daktari” and “Gentle Ben”. It was only later that I became familiar with his science fiction movies and his interest in the sea. This movie has the novelty of combining all three; much of the action takes place in the sea (hence, the presence of Ricou Browning as one of the directors), there are plenty of animals on hand, and it has a premise somewhat similar to that of THE LOST WORLD. Granted, when I mention prehistoric creatures, I’m not talking dinosaurs; we have sabre-toothed wolves, nine-gilled sharks, strange looking alligators, and vicious prehistoric ostriches. The latter are a particularly odd choice for a threat; though ostriches can be quite dangerous, their ungainly looks tend to make them seem comic. There’s also a pet seal named Drip for animal cuteness. The movie is only so-so; the production values are low, the script is often silly, and there’s very little in the way of surprises. The script is one of the few writing forays of actor Richard Carlson, and based on this, I don’t think he had a keen ear for dialogue. The occasional good scene and some unusual camera shots are the most striking things here.

Io uccido, tu uccide (1965)

IO UCCIDO, TU UCCIDE (1965)
aka I Kill, You Kill
Article 3415 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-8-2010
Posting Date: 12-20-2010
Directed by Gianni Puccine
Featuring Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Rosalba Neri
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Italian comedy anthology

Italians find ways to kill each other.

This is a two-hour ten-minute movie starring Franco and Ciccio. Ordinarily, this comment would be a warning for you to run screaming for the hills, but it’s not as bad as it sounds; it’s an anthology movie of six different stories, only two of which feature the two comedians, and one of those is the shortest segment in the movie. Furthermore, they are used wisely, especially in the final story in which a man is warned by his doctor that he will die if he has one more cigarette; Franco’s mugging can be painful, but for him to play a man desperate for a smoke while having to suffer through the fact that his family is made up of chain smokers puts the mugging in the proper context. Granted, I’m guessing a little here; my copy of the movie is in unsubtitled Italian. Still, of the six stories here, only one is rendered incomprehensible; about all I can make out of the third story is that it’s a pastiche on Alfred Hitchcock movies. The smoking story is the final segment; the first one is the other Franco and Ciccio story, and it appears to be about cheating husbands and wives with the story eventually turning into a duel. The second story is fairly amusing; it’s about a man who comes up with a clever way to try to kill off an ailing relative. The fantastic content is largely limited to the fourth and fifth stories. The fifth is about a group of children who keep being passed from guardian to guardian because they have a way of eliminating those of them who don’t like their dog; there’s a certain spookiness to this one. The fifth story is about an ill-mannered suitor and a woman who undergoes a personality transformation during the full moon; it’s pretty unsettling to discover that she has her own personal cemetery. It’s scattershot, but the movie has its moments, even if you don’t understand Italian.

Los invisibles (1963)

LOS INVISIBLES (1963)
aka The Invisible Man
Article 3408 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-1-2010
Posting Date: 12-13-2010
Directed by Jaime Salvador
Featuring Marco Antonio Campos, Gaspar Henaine, Martha Elena Cervantes
Country: Mexico
What it is: Invisibility comedy

Two toymakers invent a liquid that renders things invisible, but run afoul of a jewel thief who wants to use the formula for his own purposes.

It’s in Spanish without English subtitles, but although many of the verbal jokes passed me by, this one was fairly easy to follow. Furthermore, the subject of invisibility lends itself to visual humor, which is always helpful when the language barrier gets in the way. Unless the verbal humor is particularly strong (which I doubt), this looks like a fairly ordinary slapstick comedy, fairly obvious in the way it uses its central concept. Still, it does get pretty weird on occasion, especially towards the end when the two comic leads sing a song while a bunch of dolls and puppets come to life and sing along.