In Search of Bigfoot (1976)

Article 4749 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-4-2015
Directed by Lawrence Crowley and William F. Miller
Featuring Robert W. Morgan, Rene Dahinden, John Green
Country: USA
What it is: Bigfoot documentary

An expedition is made to the forests of the Pacific Northwest in order to locate Bigfoot.

Most of the recent documentaries that I’ve seen on the “strange creature/psychic phenomena/UFO” axis of the seventies have been muddled hodgepodges of outlandish theories that have been more likely to bring out the skeptic in me than the part of me that still has that “sense of wonder”. This one has the benefit of being at least focused; it tells the story of a single expedition to an area known for its Bigfoot sightings, and if it does manage to do one thing, it convinces me of the sincerity of the people involved. Though it does to some extent try to convince the audience of the existence of Bigfoot (the main reason given is the multitude of sightings), but it does seem more interested in the hunt for the creature than in trying to sell its existence to the audience. Granted, that doesn’t mean that the documentary is always effective; there’s a certain amount of dead time and unnecessary footage here, especially when the movie shifts focus to a skimpily-dressed female member of the expedition cavorting under waterfalls and swimming. You’ll probably figure out how the thing ends; after all, had the expedition been successful, it would probably be a much more famous documentary. As it is, believers will find the ending rather sad in that the plan to locate the creature is frustrated by an act of nature, while skeptics will find it all too convenient.

The Indian Sorcerer (1908)

aka Le fakir de Singapoure
Article 4714 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-21-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Magic film

A wizard from Singapore performs tricks with a giant egg.

Melies made so many “magic trick” shorts (and they all seemed to come up at once in my viewing system) that sometimes I’m at a loss for anything to say about them. This one, however, made me realize that he was probably the best maker of this type of short. They were certainly about the tricks, but Melies paid quite a bit of attention to the other details, such as set design, movement, touches of dance and pantomime, visual presentation, and a certain visual wit. This one mostly consists of tricks involving a giant egg, and it uses a giant scale as one of its props, and both the egg and the scale have the advantage is that they’re interesting to look at, as well as the other aspects of the production. This makes the short watchable even if the tricks themselves aren’t particularly engaging. In short, there’s really only so much interest value in a “magic trick” short, but if I wanted to watch one, I’d prefer one from Melies.

The Imperceptible Transmutations (1904)

aka Les transmutations imperceptibles
Article 4711 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-17-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Magic trick short

A princely magician performs magic with a cardboard tube, making a dancing girl and a princess appear and disappear.

I wouldn’t exactly call the transmutations on hand here imperceptible, but I imagine Melies had to work hard to come up with a real variety of titles for all of the magic trick shorts he’s done. This one is fairly minor; it mostly consists of making the characters appear and disappear in the tube or making the dancing girl and the princess appear in each other’s place. It moves quickly and is very typical of Melies’s magic shorts.

I Love to Singa (1936)

Article 4709 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-15-2014
Directed by Tex Avery
Featuring the voices of Billy Bletcher, Tommy Bond, Johnnie Davis
Country: USA
What it is: Warner Brothers cartoon

A jazz-hating music-teaching owl discovers that one of his sons has an ear for jazz. He throws the child out, much to the distress of his mother. The child decides to audition for a spot on “The Jack Bunny Show”.

During the thirties, the Warner Brothers cartoon unit was still mostly in its formative phase, and there really aren’t a lot of memorable cartoons from the studio during this time. This is one of the most noteworthy exceptions, and I’m willing to bet a lot of you out there already have the title song running through your head. I think the sheer catchiness of the song is one of the reasons it works so well, as well as the fact that it’s a perfect choice for the story of this cartoon, which is a parody of THE JAZZ SINGER (the young owl’s name is Owl Jolson). I’m also willing to bet that when the title song stops running through your mind, you’ll also find yourself remembering the painfully shrill rendition of “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes” that serves as the musical counterpoint to the main song. It’s only with this viewing that I realized that the cartoon was directed by Tex Avery, who was still developing as an animator himself; there’s a couple of gags here that hint at the later Avery style, but it’s one of his least wild cartoons. The only fantastic content is the talking/singing animals. Nonetheless, this is one of Warner Brothers’ true classics of this era.

I Haven’t Got a Hat (1935)

Article 4707 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-13-2014
Directed by Friz Freleng
Featuring the voices of Billy Bletcher, Joe Dougherty, Bernice Hansen
Country: USA
What it is: Cartoon

Several students perform for recital day in school.

The fantastic content here is the bare-bones cartoon one, in that the cartoon is full of talking and anthropomorphic animals. The cartoon was conceived as being something of an animated “Our Gang” series; as such, it only lasted a few cartoons before it was abandoned. It is, however, a watershed cartoon in the history of the Warner Brothers studio, in that it was the debut of the studio’s first real cartoon star, Porky Pig, here trying to recite “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. The other acts included a nervous kitten reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, a pair of twin puppies singing the title song, and an owl giving a piano recital that is undermined by a prank caused by Beans the Cat (the character the studio thought would be the break-out star). The cartoon isn’t bad, but it’s pretty ordinary, and it’s typical of their cartoons of the era. It’s the presence of Porky that makes it of historical interest.

The Infernal Cake-Walk (1903)

aka Le cake-walk infernal
Article 4619 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-1-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Comic dance short

In the flaming world where the demons and devils live, the cake-walk becomes the dance of the day.

It appears that I haven’t reached the end of covering the oeuvre of Georges Melies; here’s another one. The cake-walk was a dance that became very popular in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century; it’s popped up in several Melies shorts. Here it takes center stage, only in a milieu that lent itself to Melies’s love for special effect. More than any other of the shorts I’ve seen, this one seems to be intended as a comic dance short; though dances have popped up many times in those shorts, they were generally side items to the action. Fortunately, it’s a fun dance to watch; it’s energetic, somewhat weird-looking, and it looks like it’s rather difficult to do. Things get especially weird when a demon with twisted legs attempts to do the dance, though his limbs keep separating themselves from his body. It’s one of his shorts that really needs the proper musical accompaniment to appreciate; fortunately, the print on the Melies boxed set has some very appropriate music. This is fun, if minor, Melies.

I Married a Vampire (1987)

Article 4606 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-12-2014
Directed by Jay Raskin
Featuring Rachel Golden, Brendan Hickey, Ted Zalewski
Country: USA
What it is: Not what you’d think

A married couple comes to the big city to find out why their daughter has married without telling them. She tells them that she married a vampire, and then tells them the story behind it.

There’s a moment in this movie where our heroine is drawn into a movie theater after being told that the they’re showing “art films”; one of the titles is REVENGE OF THE CRAZED PSYCHO, and though I don’t remember the other one, its title is along the same lines. If it seems pretty outrageous to mistake a movie with a title like that for an art film, please bear in mind a three things. 1) Look at the title of this movie. 2) The movie was distributed by Troma. 3) As outrageous as it may seem that a movie by Troma with a title like this might be an art film, it is better to view the concept not in the light of being a joke, but rather in the light of it being a warning.

This is my roundabout way of saying that if you go into this one expecting an art film, you’ll be on much more solid ground than if you go in expecting a horror film. It is, however, not a good art film; it is badly acted, frequently dull, and, once you get to the main point of the film, fairly obvious. I will give the movie one plus; it is a rather touching moment when you realize the movie’s point, which is that hitching up with a vampire may well be an improvement to an empty, depressing reality. The first half of the movie is nothing but a succession of scenes of a woman being taken advantage of, by evil landlords, shyster lawyers, screwed-up “friends”, religious cultists…. the movie is unrelenting. My guess is that most people drawn to this movie for its promised horror output will bolt long before the vampire even shows up. It won’t even satisfy exploitation fans; there’s very little blood, nudity or violence. In fact, if it weren’t for that little moment of revelation in the middle of the movie, there is nothing to recommend about this movie, and that one little moment isn’t enough to compensate for the rest of this dreary film.

Isn’t It Shocking? (1973)

Article 4597 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-2-2014
Directed by John Badham
Featuring Alan Alda, Edmond O’Brien, Louise Lasser
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho-killer crime thriller

A stranger comes to a small village and begins knocking off senior citizens with an electric shock machine that brings on heart attacks. The local sheriff becomes suspicious of the run of heart attacks, and begins investigating.

Sometimes, a movie just does so many things right that it becomes a joy to watch. Though the premise is a bit on the grim side, it has a surprisingly witty and fun script. It’s also got an excellent cast of familiar faces (the ones mentioned above, Lloyd Nolan, Will Geer and Ruth Gordon) all working at the top of their form. It’s something of a mystery, but not in the usual sense; we may know who is committing the murders and how he’s doing them (which is established in the opening scene), but it’s the reasons for the murders that aren’t revealed until the end of the movie. The characters are likable enough so that we care what happens to them; we grow especially attached to Lloyd Nolan’s character, but both Will Geer’s crusty old coroner and Ruth Gordon’s crazy cat lady steal the movie. There are a few story flaws here and there, but I found the movie so much fun that they really didn’t matter. There are a number of TV-Movies out there that may be better than this one, but I can’t think of any that were more enjoyable to watch.

It’s Not the Size that Counts (1974)

aka Percy’s Progress
Article 4596 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-3-2014
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Featuring Leigh Lawson, Elke Sommer, Denholm Elliott
Country: UK
What it is: Sex comedy

When a military plane carrying a chemical weapon explodes, the water systems of the world are infected with a chemical that causes the entire male population of the world to become impotent. The only exception is Percy, the recipient of the first penis transplant, and he becomes the target of several people who have use for his gifts.

Apparently, PERCY was popular enough to merit a sequel, and here it is. I’ve already reviewed that movie, and though I certainly didn’t find it a good movie, it did have a couple of things going for it – it actually made an attempt to transcend its exploitative theme, and it had some decent music from the Kinks. This movie has neither one of those going for it. Oh, it does have an impressive cast in some regards; it also features Judy Geeson, Vincent Price, Julie Ege, Milo O’Shea and Bernard Lee. But it never really becomes anything more than an endless parade of double entendres and sexploitation, and that wears thin very quickly. The drug rendering the whole world impotent does add to the fantastic content, but it’s largely there to give Percy a whole new set of adventures. All in all, this is pretty bad.

Impulse (1974)

IMPULSE (1974)
Article 4595 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-1-2014
Directed by William Grefe
Featuring William Shatner, Ruth Roman, Jennifer Bishop
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer movie

A disturbed man who developed homicidal tendencies after a traumatic childhood experience hooks up with a widow. The woman’s suspicious daughter discovers his homicidal tendencies, but no one will believe her.

I’ve never been one of those people who made a habit of seeing William Shatner as a bad actor given to hammy overacting, but then, I’ve never seen this movie before, either. In fact, this movie seems to mostly remembered for Shatner’s awful performance as the murderous psycho, and I have to admit that it’s as bad as they come. Nevertheless, I can see what he’s trying to do; underneath his usual facade, the character is basically still a scared little boy in a desperate situation, and he’s trying to tap into that. Unfortunately, his failure to physicalize this character with subtlety ends up making his performance unexpectedly and inappropriately comic, and the result is truly awful. Perhaps a more skilled director than William Grefe (who gave us STING OF DEATH, DEATH CURSE OF TARTU and STANLEY) might have found a way to keep his performance in check, but maybe not; I can only speculate. Certainly, the mostly lame script doesn’t help the situation any, and some of the scenes are pretty ludicrous (such as the chase scene through a car wash). About the only thing I like about the script is the way the final scene effectively and neatly circles back to the first scene; it’s easily the best thing about this movie, which will most likely be only remembered for what’s wrong with it.