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.

Isabel (1968)

ISABEL (1968)
Article 3404 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-28-2010
Posting Date: 12-9-2010
Directed by Paul Almond
Featuring Genevieve Bujold, Marc Strange, Gerard Parkes
Country: Canada
What it is: Drama with some fantastic touches

A young woman returns home for the funeral of her mother. She then reluctantly finds herself roped into staying and caring for her ailing uncle. She eventually starts to learn more about her family, her history, and herself.

If the plot description doesn’t sound genre to you, that’s because it isn’t; the fantastic content is that the woman occasionally sees strange visions, and there is occasionally a sense of dread to the proceedings. However, those scenes don’t make up a significant part of the movie. It’s an interesting enough drama in some ways, but it’s overlong and a bit of a trial to sit through. Genevieve Bujold gives an interesting and curious performance; the trouble is that the movie becomes overreliant on it at the expense of the story. Most of its big scenes are towards the end, but it’s just too long a ride to get to those scenes. All in all, this is just too much of a mixed bag to recommend.

In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973)

Article 3387 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-10-2010
Posting Date: 11-22-2010
Directed by Harold Reinl
Featuring the voice of Rod Serling
Country: USA / West Germany
What it is: Speculative documentary

The movie examines evidence of the possibility of visitation by extraterrestrials in ancient history.

Why does this movie leave me with such a vivid sense of deja vu? Is it possible it may have tapped into ancestral memories of the visits of ancient astronauts? Or is it more likely that I just saw CHARIOTS OF THE GODS about a month ago, from which this movie pillages most of its footage. The differences are 1) it only includes about half of the original movie, 2) the narration was replaced by new narration by Rod Serling, and 3) a handful of interviews was added to the mix. As a result, the movie is shorter and isn’t quite as insistent as the original movie; the additional interviews really add little to the mix, except perhaps the final one by Carl Sagan, who ends the movie telling us that there is not a “smidgen of compelling evidence” for the visitation of space aliens in ancient times. Still, I can’t help but comment on the fact in that last month, there has been a surprising number of articles by military men talking about UFO encounters, and the UN has named a Malaysian astrophysicist to be the first ambassador to space aliens, and these reports are being taken seriously by the press. Somehow, it made the documentary seem just a bit more relevant.

I, Desire (1982)

I, DESIRE (1982)
aka Desire, the Vampire
Article 3386 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-9-2010
Posting Date: 11-21-2010
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring David Naughton, Dorian Harewood, Marilyn Jones
Country: USA
What it is: TV-Movie vampire tale

A morgue attendant is drawn into a crime investigation about bodies that have been drained of their blood. He becomes convinced that a vampire posing as a hooker is on the loose.

This was not John Llewellyn Moxey’s first cinematic venture into vampirism; he directed THE NIGHT STALKER. This movie does bear some resemblance to that earlier work, though it is not a remake; once again, we have a lone man who finds himself at odds with the authorities when he becomes convinced that a vampire is on the loose. What sets it apart is that it really delves into the emotional issues raised by believing in creatures that are dismissed by the rest of the world as imaginary; the morgue attendant’s belief isolates him, makes him the butt of jokes, alienates him from his girlfriend and the police officer investigating the case, and makes him a bit of a pariah. The curse of having to deal with these beliefs is best vocalized by the character of Paul when he says that he has “lost his innocence” with his knowledge; Paul is played by Brad Dourif, whose excellence performance steals the movie. The movie also shows some sympathy for the detective on the case; though he to suspects the truth, he can’t afford to embrace the knowledge because he knows that he has to answer to higher authorities. I also like the touches it adds to vampire mythology; if one wishes to stand up to a vampire, they must be righteous, and this fits in well with the sexual subtexts to the vampire myth, though it could be argued that the movie takes it out of subtext into text; after all, check out the name of the vampiress. I’m not quite as impressed with the vampire attack scenes; the fact that our vampiress makes jaguar sounds when she attacks is rather silly. I also notice she has several mirrors in her penthouse apartment. The ending is not quite satisfying, but this is a worthy vampire movie.

An Inspector Calls (1954)

Article 3376 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2010
Posting Date: 11-11-2010
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Featuring Alastair Sim, Jane Wenham, Brian Worth
Country: UK
What it is: Mystery/drama

In 1912, the evening of a well-to-do family is interrupted by the appearance of a police inspector who informs them of the death of a girl by poison, and that he wishes to interview the various members of the family concerning her death. They discover that, unbeknownst to each other, they knew her… and had each engaged in an act of cruelty towards her.

This was based on a popular stage play, but because the story involves the various members of the family having interactions with the girl in question, it keeps from being stagebound by merely re-enacting the various encounters rather than just having the characters talk about it. It’s a powerful, sad story, full of substance, and very well acted by all (but especially by Alastair Sim as the police inspector), and there’s a definite tinge of eeriness about the proceedings as we discover the series of coincidences that led to each member of the family meeting with the girl. Still, that sense of eeriness isn’t the fantastic content here, but I’m not going to elaborate on the latter; the movie is saving it all for the final twist, and it’s best to discover that twist on your own. This one is highly recommended.

I Killed Rasputin (1967)

aka J’ai tue Raspoutine
Article 3364 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-17-2010
Posting Date: 10-30-2010
Directed by Robert Hossein
Featuring Gert Frobe, Peter McEnery, Robert Hossein
Country: France / Italy
What it is: Another take on the Rasputin story

Prince Felix Yusupov recounts the tale of his meeting with and subsequent assassination of Grigori Rasputin, the faith healer that held great sway over the royal family in Russia prior to the revolution.

I’m rather surprised that I’ve seen so many versions of the Rasputin tale, largely because I didn’t know so many were made. This one takes an interesting approach; it tells the story from the point of view of Prince Yusupov and deals with his relationship with Rasputin, and his plan to have the man assassinated. As such, many of the scenes usually associated with the Rasputin story are omitted, as the focus is more on the Prince. It’s based on the book co-written by the Prince himself, and the opening of the movie features an interview with him and his wife; unfortunately, my print seems to be missing this scene. Considering the involvement of the Prince himself, it’s no real surprise to discover that (according to some user comments on IMDB) his character has been somewhat whitewashed; apparently, the Prince considered some of the other versions of the story to be slanderous. The movie is a little slow and dull on occasion, though it does give a clearer picture of why Rasputin was a threat to the country than some of the other versions, and Gert Frobe gives a good underplayed spin on Rasputin. As usual with this story, the fantastic aspects include the use of hypnotism, faith healing, and the near indestructibility of Rasputin in the final scenes. It’s not my favorite version of the story, but it has its uses.

The Invisible Fluid (1908)

Article 3254 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-17-2010
Posting Date: 7-12-2010
Directed by Wallace McCutcheon
Featuring Edward Dillon,D.W. Griffith, Anthony O’Sullivan
Country: USA
What it is: A comic trick film

A messenger boy delivers a fluid that causes people and things to vanish. He decides to use it for his own amusement, eventually turning to crime.

This movie has been described as one of the first to use the concept of invisibility. I may be splitting hairs here, but it’s not, because it’s not about invisibility at all. Those doused with the fluid vanish, which isn’t the same thing as becoming invisible; if something is rendered invisible, it’s still there but not visible, and in this movie, the doused people and items vanish completely; i.e., they’re not there. It’s played for laughs; its best moment is towards the end when the messenger boy finds himself being chased by a mob of angry people, and, tired of running, he makes the only defense he can. It’s mildly amusing, but let’s face it; the tricks here are pretty simple in comparison to some of the things Melies was doing at the time.