The Iron Claw (1941)

THE IRON CLAW (1941)
Article 2426 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-18-2007
Posting Date: 4-3-2008
Directed by James V. Horne
Featuring Charles Quigley, Joyce Bryant, Forrest Taylor

A treasure from an old Spanish galleon is the goal of various members of the Benson family as well as a gang of thieves. One of these people doubles as a caped and masked villain (with an iron claw for a hand) called The Iron Claw. Who is it? Two reporters and a comic-relief cop try to find out.

The opening scenes of this mystery serial are so confusing that it really started off on the wrong foot for me, and, in general, I don’t care much for mystery serials, as I don’t think the form really lends itself to mysteries very well. After a while, though, this one began to win me over, largely thanks to the fact that it takes a somewhat campy, over-the-top approach to its thrills, and I found this a relief from most of the other serials I’ve seen recently, most of which have been latter-day Republic serials (after they abandoned the warehouse-wrecking fights and settled for blandness). The Iron Claw himself represents the horror content here; he’s your typical masked villain with a gimmick. The heroine screams a lot, the reporter’s photographer buddy Flash gets beat up a lot, and I’ll never understand why the police department chooses to send out its comic relief cops to solve these cases. At least they keep the bail-out cliffhanger resolutions to a minimum.

 

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It’s a Small World (1950)

IT’S A SMALL WORLD (1950)
Article 2397 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-19-2007
Posting Date: 3-5-2008
Directed by William Castle
Featuring Paul Dale, Anne Sholter, Todd Karns

A midget longs for love and acceptance in the real world, but finds it tough going.

First of all, let’s deal with the fantastic content in this movie; there is none. The only reason for its inclusion in this series is that midgets fall into the category of “freaks and deformities” that make up one of the common subjects of horror movies, and therefore nudges up against the genre close enough that one of my sources saw fit to include it. As for the movie itself, if the exploitation concept of a midget in love with a full-size woman strikes you as fascinating, you might have a use for this one. If, however, you are hoping for some new or subtle insights into what it would be like for a midget to live in this world, there is little here for you; the movie only touches on the most obvious of ideas, such as him being sensitive about being a midget. You won’t be surprised at where he ends up and how he finds love at the end of the movie. The most interesting plot development is when he joins a gang of criminals and becomes a pickpocket, though it’s not really a very convincing thing to happen. It’s not a bad movie; there’s just not much more to it than the central exploitation concept.

 

Island of Terror (1966)

ISLAND OF TERROR (1966)
Article 2385 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2007
Posting Date: 2-22-2008
Directed by Terence Fisher
Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray

When corpses without bones start appearing on an island on the coast of Ireland, two scientists from London are brought in to investigate. They discover that the cause of the deaths are the presence of bone-sucking monsters that were created in a cancer research lab on the island.

This movie doesn’t appear to be a particular favorite, and I can see why; the script is weak at points and has its share of cliches (including the woman who insists on coming along and then spending most of her time too scared to be of any use). But I’ve always had a real fondness for this one, because I find the basic premise incredibly creepy, and there’s something truly alarming to see human beings reduced to blobby hunks of flesh. Peter Cushing and Edward Judd do fine jobs as the researchers, and the monsters are certainly unique looking, though they are a little slow and I just can’t see how they could climb up trees. In some ways, the movie is similar to THE KILLER SHREWS , and I’ve always liked the idea of hordes of monsters causing havoc in an isolated place such as an island. The cast also features Niall MacGinnis, who I’ve always remembered from his role as Karswell in CURSE OF THE DEMON .

 

Idaho Transfer (1973)

IDAHO TRANSFER (1973)
Article 2384 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-5-2007
Posting Date: 2-21-2008
Directed by Peter Fonda
Featuring Kelly Bohanon, Kevin Hearst, Caroline Hildebrand

Several young people work for a project that sends them into the future, where the world is a desolate landscape. When the government tries to close the project down, several of these people stay in the future and try to find a life there.

This movie was made during the dystopian pre-STAR WARS era of science fiction in the seventies. For this reason alone, I expected a certain amount of downbeat bleakness to the story. My problem with this one is that its so unrelentingly glum from square one that after a while nothing has any impact any more. It’s not even so much the story itself that is the problem; it’s more the fact that the direction and the acting seem so lifeless; everyone talks in a rather uninvolved monotone, the characters don’t sort themselves out, and after awhile the dreariness just starts to wear. In some ways, I admire what it’s trying to do; it’s trying build its story off of the characters and get us involved in their lives. But in order for this to work, the characters have to come to life, and that rarely happens in this movie. When it does happen, it’s usually because a particular character has started to annoy you. In the process, they fail to clearly explain the story very well, and after a while, I had trouble sorting out what was happening, figuring out why it was happening, and finding a reason to care. The movie does have its advocates, but I’m not one of them.

 

L’immortelle (1963)

L’IMMORTELLE (1963)
aka The Immortal Woman, Immortal One
Article 2323 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-5-2007
Posting Date: 12-21-2007
Directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet
Featuring Francoise Brion, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Guido Celano

A man staying in Turkey meets a woman, and they have a love affair. She suddenly disappears. He searches for her, but has no luck. But then one day she reappears…

So let’s get the first question out of the way; what’s the fantastic content in this movie? Frankly, I have no idea. The title seems to imply that immortality plays a part in the proceedings, but I didn’t find any such idea in the movie itself. The trouble is that with a movie like this it’s nearly impossible to tell; it’s French avant-garde cinema, and straight answers to questions are as rare as linear storytelling in this medium. Personally, I suspect there’s no real fantastic content, and the movie was included in one of my sources purely because of the implications in the title. On its own terms, I find it hard to judge the movie, because I”m just not into French avant-garde. The first half of the movie is full of the type of dialogue you expect in movies like this, with the most common answer to any question being “I don’t know”. The second half of the movie is mostly filled with flashbacks that are slightly different to what happened when you first saw the scenes. There’s also lots of scenes of people standing still looking at things. This was the first directorial effort from Alain Robbe-Grillet, who may be best known for having written the screenplay for LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD. If this type of movie sounds like thrilling cinema to you, you’re welcome to it.

 

The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964)

THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET (1964)
Article 2282 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-23-2007
Posting Date: 11-11-2007
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Featuring Don Knotts, Carole Cook, Jack Weston

A meek bookkeeper, frustrated by the fact that he can’t get into the navy and by a wife that doesn’t understand him, gets his fondest wish when he falls off a pier at Coney Island and is transformed into a fish. Then, when World War II breaks out, he decides to help the navy by locating Nazi u-boats.

Don Knotts was one of my favorite comedy actors when I was a kid, and this is perhaps the movie for which I most remember him. Of course, this was many years ago, and I often find that when I dig up childhood favorites for rewatching for these reviews, that I emerge disappointed. And, to be truthful, I fully expected this one to lose its allure. My expectations were indeed fulfilled, though I do feel the need to exempt Don Knotts himself from that disappointment; watching his movies as an adult, I’ve grown to really admire his acting ability, his subtlety, and his command of character-oriented comedy, and if, as I suspect, he never really gave us a movie that was an undisputed classic, it was because he never really found the perfect vehicle to do so. Being that Knotts himself only supplies a voice for most of the movie, it only has the full benefit of his talents while in his human form. The movie isn’t bad; it’s mildly entertaining, but timid and mostly unimaginative in its use of the concept, but I didn’t really expect more from director Arthur Lubin, who has plenty of experience with talking animals, as he directed most of the “Francis the talking mule” series, as well as a couple of episodes of “Mister Ed”. Still, it’s fun to see Jack Weston and Andrew Duggan in action, and Paul Frees has a lot of fun as the voice of Crusty. For me, the most interesting sequences in the movie were the scenes with the Germans; it eschews both subtitling and “English with a German accent”, instead relying on real German (with emphasis on words that are understandable in both English and German), and a kind of quasi-German lingo that uses a smattering of English words. You don’t have to know German to understand these sequences, and these scenes show a real imagination to them.

 

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.