An Impossible Balancing Feat (1902)

aka L’equilibre impossible
Article 4155 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-12-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring the Georges Melies quartet
Country: France
What is it: Trick film

And, for my next trick, I’ll clone myself into three other people, who will balance themselves on my head and hands.

Here’s another trick film from Melies, and it’s a fairly bare-bones one in that it’s largely to illustrate the single trick of having three copies of himself balancing on top of him. It’s not quite as seamless as some of his other trick shorts, but it is rather fun to figure out how he did the trick. It’s minor Melies, and mildly amusing.

If a Body Meets a Body (1945)

Article 4000 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-9-2012
Directed by Jules White
Featuring Curly Howard, Larry Fine, Moe Howard
Country: USA
What it is: The Three Stooges in the Old Dark House

When Curly’s rich uncle dies, he goes to the mansion to claim his inheritance, only to discover that his uncle was murdered, and they’re still looking for the killer.

It’s pretty fun to see the Stooges take on the “old dark house” genre; with a running time of only about twenty minutes, they condense the plot into as little time as possible to make time for their antics, some of which are pretty funny . Fred Kelsey as the detective is a decent foil for the Stooges; he gives back as much as he gets. Curly is not at his best her, but I gather this was made shortly after he suffered a stroke, and it shows a little. Nevertheless, I do admire the way the Stooges knew how to toss off bad jokes fast enough that the work, especially when dealing with the puns surrounding the name of Link.

Immer Arger mit dem Bett (1961)

aka Nightmare
Article 3989 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-24-2012
Directed by Rudolf Schundler
Featuring Senta Berger, Gunter Pfitzmann, Trude Herr
Country: West Germany
What it is: Comedy of mistaken identities

A detective has a nightmare that his wife has been unfaithful, and when she is mistaken for a call girl, he finds his nightmare coming true.

This movie first entered my list as NIGHTMARE some time ago, but that’s not one of the alternate names on the movie in IMDB. The only clue I had was that it featured Senta Berger, and she made several movies that year, and so it remained a mystery to me. When it finally ended up on the “ones that got away” list, one of the members of CHFB was able to zero in on its original title, and also pointed me in the direction of acquiring a copy. So here I am, finally reviewing it, but, truth to tell, I’m not sure it was really worth the effort. I was only able to find a copy in German without subtitles, but even with that problem, it appeared to me that the fantastic content (the nightmare coming true) is very light; the nightmare is a short sequence at the beginning of the movie, and it hardly comes true in any literal sense. As for the movie itself, it seems well directed and makes some interesting use of music, but the comedy looks rather tepid, and I suspect the whole thing would prove to be rather forgettable. Outside of Berger, the only other performer I recognize is Leon Askin, who turns out to be the primary villain of the story.

In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro (1986)

Article 3957 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-19-2012
Directed by Raju Patel
Featuring John Rhys-Davies, Timothy Bottoms, Irene Miracle
Country: UK / Kenya
What it is: Nature runs amok

A drought causes large groups of baboons to go on a rampage of destruction and killing.

When I first heard about this movie, I thought the very idea of making baboons the menace to be pretty silly. I realize now that this was because I was reacting to the metaphorical use of the word “baboon” as a derogatory term; from what I gather, they can truly be very dangerous beasts. I think the movie does a decent job of establishing them as something to be feared, so the preconception doesn’t do a whole lot of damage. There are also some effective shots of hoards of baboons about to go on the attack, with the scene where a man is trying to change a tire while this happens being the most memorable. However, that doesn’t mean the movie is effective; a weak script, uninspired direction and bad editing all conspire to take the suspense and excitement out of movie; it ends up feeling awkward and clumsy rather than scary. Yet I think it’s biggest problems are ones brought on by failing to use the environment effectively. The areas of Kenya where the movie takes place could have been filmed to heighten the sense of fear and isolation, but the photography fails to catch any of that. And this is one of those movies that would have benefited from the use of silent and ambient sound to increase the tension; the use of a symphonic score throughout just makes the movie feel overbearing, especially when it tries to heighten the suspense in scenes where there is no reason to do so. In the final analysis, the movie fails to hit the mark.

The Intruder (1981)

Article 3850 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-18-2012
Posting Date: 2-28-2012
Directed by David F. Eustace
Featuring Tony Fletcher, Pita Oliver, Gerard Jordan
Country: Canada
What it is: Mysticism

A tall, dark stranger arrives in a small town with the intent of putting on a presentation of some kind. How will it effect the members of the town, who deal with their daily sins, temptations and crimes, large and small?

IMDB classifies the movie as “horror”, but, despite the fact that the movie acts ominous on occasion, it really isn’t. It’s more of a fantasy, and if I had to pick a movie that might have served as a model for this one, it would be 7 FACES OF DR. LAO. Unfortunately, this one is more abstract and harder to pin down; when the key term for what the stranger brings to town involves the term “self-actualization”, you know you’re in a vague area that’s more likely to be navigated by psychologists and mystics rather than the general public. The first two-thirds of the movie is primarily concerned with setting up all of the various relationships and situations; we then have the stranger’s presentation, followed by the final part of the movie, where we see what impact the presentation has on those who attended it. As far as I can tell, the stranger’s gift is that he endows the characters with the focus to “be who they are going to be”, which is probably why not everyone has their personal problems solved. It’s interesting and offbeat, but it’s also somewhat unfocused and doesn’t make much sense on occasion; I have no idea what the whole business with the tree is about. Ultimately, I don’t think the movie really works, but I’ll give it some credit for trying something different.

The Island at the Top of the World (1974)

Article 3788 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-16-2011
Posting Date: 12-28-2011
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Featuring David Hartman, Donald Sinden, Jacques Marin
Country: USA
What it is: Adventure story

A tycoon from the turn of the century sets out an expedition by airship to find his missing son, who is believed to be in a legendary island in the Arctic regions.

As entertainment, this movie works well enough. It has a nice pace, keeps the action moving, and keeps from being boring. It is, however, just what you’d expect from a Disney adventure movie from the period; it has touches of silly cuteness (such as the comic relief Eskimo character and the French poodle) and a strong degree of predictability; you know, for example, that every time one of the heroes seems to have come to a bad end, that they’re not really dead and will show up to save the day at some point in the story later on. The special effects are usually good enough to pass muster, though they’re probably at their dodgiest during the trek through a volcanic valley. And, of course, there’s that air that this is all just a movie and not to be taken too seriously. There’s a mythical island of Vikings and a whale graveyard for the fantastic content. In short, it’s entertaining, but rather devoid of surprises.

Images (1972)

IMAGES (1972)
Article 3785 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-13-2011
Posting Date: 12-25-2011
Directed by Robert Altman
Featuring Susannah York, Rene Auberjonois, Marcel Bozzuffi
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Mind games

A housewife who can’t tell reality from fantasy finds herself dealing with three men, a young girl, and herself… but how many of them are real?

I suppose it’s no surprise that Robert Altman’s foray into horror would owe a lot more to REPULSION than to any more conventional horror movie. And I’m grateful that the movie lets us understand early on that this woman isn’t sane instead of saving it as a final revelation. I’m also not surprised that the movie, though not considered one of his best, is in general well regarded. However, one’s view of a movie can sometimes be affected by the movies one has seen in close conjunction with it, and I’m afraid that I’ve encountered this theme just a bit too recently to be ready for another encounter so soon. And though I admire some of the playfulness on the edges of this movie (the story that Susannah York’s character reads from throughout the movie was written by Susannah York herself, and the movie features an actress named Susannah playing a character named Cathryn, while an actress named Cathryn plays a character named Susannah, while the first names of each male actor matches the names of one of the other actors’ character), I’m afraid I found spending so much time in a madwoman’s mind to be a bit more tedious than I cared for. It’s well acted, and very interesting at times, but you really have to be in the mood for it to enjoy it.