It’s a Dog’s Life (1955)

IT’S A DOG’S LIFE (1955)
Article 2645 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-3-2008
Posting Date: 11-9-2008
Directed by Herman Hoffman
Featuring Jeff Richards, Jarma Lewis, Edmund Gwenn
Country: USA

A bull terrier tries to survive on the streets of the city with his mother. He discovers the secret of his birth, and then his mother vanishes. He vows to find his mother so he can take care of her, and to find his father so he can kill him.

The story is a borderline fantasy because we’re told the story from the dog’s point of view. This basic premise could have been used any number of ways, but I really like the way they went. An uncredited Vic Morrow provides the voice for the streetwise bull terrier called Wildfire, and he manages to give the dog a really engaging personality. It also helps that the movie does not shy away from darkness; the dog is trained as a fighting dog, and though we don’t actually see the dogs fighting (Wildfire accurately tells us that we don’t need to see it to know what’s going on, and even name-drops the Humane Society and the ASPCA at one point), we still get to see enough of the ugliness and seediness of this world to make us really care about the the dog’s fate. The story lightens up somewhat when the dog is befriended and adopted by a kindly old man, but somehow the sense of potential darkness and tragedy never entirely dissipates. The movie even achieves an unexpected depth when the dog finally wins over the unhappy owner of the estate; their bond turns out to be that they’ve both stared death in the eye. With all that, the movie manages to retain a charm and wit that really brings it to life.

Still, I couldn’t help but ponder sadly over what would happen to this movie if it were made today. No attempt is made in this movie to make the dog look like he’s actually talking; nowadays, I’m sure they’d go the route of using the talking animal effects we see in so many movies and TV commercials, and that fragile sense of reality that this movie retains would be lost. Furthermore, the darker aspects of the movie would be traded in for a series of “dogs sniffing butts” jokes, and the whole movie would probably end up like the chaotic dog show that makes for what I felt was the weakest scene in this movie. The very thought of this saddens me somewhat.

 

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The Intruder Within (1981)

THE INTRUDER WITHIN (1981)
TV-Movie
Article 2573 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-21-2008
Posting Date: 8-29-2008
Directed by Peter Carter
Featuring Chad Everett, Joseph Bottoms, Jennifer Warren
Country: USA

When an offshore oil rig digs up some prehistoric eggs from the ocean floor, it turns out they are from an ancient alien race intent on destroying humans. Before long, people have been infected with the alien cells and terror reigns.

After having railed against TV-Movies yesterday, I suppose it’s only fitting that I be subjected to another one today. To its credit, this rip-off of ALIEN doesn’t slavishly feel like a TV-Movie; in fact, certain individual scenes work quite well. However, the script is very weak, almost wretched at times; any movie that tries to build suspense by having a character dream that they’re all going to die is suffering from lazy writing, and any movie that uses that same hokey trick twice shows that there is no hope for recovery. The aliens are, of course, modeled off of the ones in ALIEN, with the final incarnation looking as close as it can to the final creature in ALIEN while still being clearly a man in a rubber suit. The movie also has more than its fair share of dead spots to contend with as well. This one is not likely to give anyone nightmares.

 

In the Bogie Man’s Cave (1907)

IN THE BOGIE MAN’S CAVE (1907)
aka La Cuisine de l’ogre
Article 2533 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2008
Posting Date: 7-19-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast Unknown
Country: France

A bogie man (or ogre, as the case may be) makes a meal out of a captured man. However, he falls asleep, and dreams that the men that he’s eaten come back to seek revenge.

Melies gives us another argument about why you should watch your diet; what you eat may come back to haunt you. Last night I saw talking cows, pigs, carrots, and heads of lettuce, but then, I was watching “The Muppet Show”. At least they didn’t try to cook me; had they done so, I would have come back to haunt them. It’s a vicious circle, I tell you.

Sorry, I’m rambling. Me, I spell bogie man with two o’s, but that’s a propos of nothing, and I only made that last comment because I wanted to use “a propos” in a sentence. Life is full of its minor pleasures.

All right, I’ll shut up.

 

Inn of the Damned (1975)

INN OF THE DAMNED (1975)
Article 2524 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2008
Posting Date: 7-10-2008
Directed by Terry Bourke
Featuring Judith Anderson, Alex Cord, Michael Craig
Country: Australia

A trooper tries to hunt down a wanted man, and then investigates an inn with which he was associated. The inn has a history of people going missing after they’ve stayed there; in truth, the owners of the inn have been murdering the guests for their money.

Here’s something you don’t see everyday; an Australian horror western. It’s a fairly interesting movie in its way, but it isn’t really successful. Part of the reason is that the movie never really settles down into what it wants to be, and ends up trying several approaches. The first half of the movie concentrates on the chase of a criminal and the second half of the movie concentrates on the goings-on at the inn, where a madwoman and her husband murder the guests in various ways. Individual moments work well enough, but at one time or another it aspires to be a western action thriller, a mystery, a horror movie and an exploitation movie (there’s a lot of gratuitous nudity and an unnecessary lesbian subplot during one twenty minute stretch of the film). For those watching it for its horror movie elements, you’ll find most of the first half of the movie a waste of time. It does build up a good amount of suspense during the final showdown between the trooper and the innkeepers, and this is the best part of the movie. Unfortunately, it tries to end the movie with one of the most protracted explanations of “why these mad people do what they do” since PSYCHO, and it tries way too hard to make us feel sorry for them. It’s worth catching if you’re interested in something different, even if it doesn’t hang together very well.

 

Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972)

INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS (1972)
Article 2510 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-17-2008
Posting Date: 6-26-2008
Directed by Ed Adlum
Featuring Norman Kelly, Tanna Hunter, Bruce Detrick
Country: USA

Druids are attempting to revive their goddess with the blood of a person immune to a disease. Scientists try to figure things out, but soon the druids set their sights on them.

You know, the first four words of this title, INVASION OF THE BLOOD —-, is pretty good; it’s the final word, FARMERS, that starts to bring the giggles. And if the title doesn’t start you giggling, wait till you check out the acting and dialogue in this no-budget horror movie filmed in upstate New York. One interesting idea pops up; the idea of a blood disease that causes blood cells to multiply at a maddening pace is something that could make for the basis of an interesting movie (I’m sure Cronenberg could have done something with it). The idea seems out of place in the silliness of the rest of the movie, which has characters named Creton, Egon, Sontag, Ogmar, and Queen Onhorrid, and features some of the stupidest cops I’ve seen in years. This was the sole directorial effort of Ed Adlum, but not his only contribution to the genre; as an actor, writer, and producer he would contribute to bringing the world SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED, which I’ve not seen yet, but which I’m confident will probably be as silly as this one.

Here are some other unpromising words to use to end the title of this movie.

INVASION OF THE BLOOD PLUMBERS
INVASION OF THE BLOOD WAITERS
INVASION OF THE BLOOD TRUCKERS
INVASION OF THE BLOOD SNORKLERS
INVASION OF THE BLOOD ACTUARIES
INVASION OF THE BLOOD CLAIMS ADJUSTERS

Feel free to add your own.

 

Infernal Trio (1974)

INFERNAL TRIO (1974)
aka Le Trio infernal
Article 2509 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-16-2008
Posting Date: 6-25-2008
Directed by Francis Girod
Featuring Michel Piccoli, Romy Schneider, Mascha Gonska
Country: France/West Germany/Italy

A French man and two German sisters engage in a series of insurance-bilking scams.

What’s the fantastic content in this French black comedy? A goodly portion of the middle of this movie involves a rather horrific sequence where the insurance-bilkers (the trio of the title) engage in a bloody double murder and use a particularly disgusting method of body disposal; these sequences push the movie into horror territory, though the movie never really turns into outright horror. This one was very difficult to follow; I was a good fifteen minutes into this before I was able to pick up any sort of plot thread that could help me figure out what was going on, and even after having seen the entire movie, I’m still not sure about the significance of sizable chunks of the movie. It might make more sense on a second viewing, now that I have more of a sense of what’s going on, certain early scenes might sort themselves out. I had to read some of the user comments on IMDB to help me with this one; it was apparently based on true events that happened in the twenties. As usual, since this is a French movie, I saw comments talking about its political subtexts in which the word “bourgeoisie” gets used a lot. I found this one interesting enough, but overall I’m just not sure how I feel about it. Perhaps when I give it that second viewing sometime down the road…

 

The Invisible Terror (1963)

THE INVISIBLE TERROR (1963)
aka Der Unsichtbare
Article 2480 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-18-2008
Posting Date: 5-27-2008
Directed by Raphael Nussbaum
Featuring Hannes Schmidhauser, Ellen Schwiers, Herbert Stass
Country: West Germany

A scientist creates an invisibility formula. Unfortunately, he vanishes at the same time a guard is murdered during a payroll robbery.

It starts out like your basic science fiction story, but once the invisibility formula starts being used, the invisible man vanishes. Unfortunately, I don’t mean just that he becomes invisible; I mean that for a goodly portion of the story, he seems to disappear from the storyline, as the movie takes a turn into krimi territory; this is a German movie from the early sixties, you know. It even name-drops the Edgar Wallace series at one point. In short, it largely turns into a crime/mystery movie, and, like too many of the krimis, too many characters clutter the landscape, and it becomes nearly impossible to follow. There’s the occasional interesting idea (invisible men show up in photographs) and the oddball character here and there (the harmonica player named Fatso who would take advantage of invisibility by following Brigitte Bardot), but for the most part, it’s a badly-dubbed bore. It did make me want to go out and buy a guinea pig, though.