I, Monster (1971)

I, MONSTER (1971)
Article 3225 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-17-2010
Posting Date: 6-13-2010
Directed by Stephen Weeks
Featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Mike Raven
Country: UK
What it is: Jekyll and Hyde by another name

A psychiatrist develops a drug that is capable of suppressing the superego. His experiments on himself begin to turn him into an increasingly ugly psychopath.

There are some interesting changes to the Jekyll and Hyde story in this version. I do like the fact that in this one, the Jekyll character (here named Marlowe; for some reason they change the names of the title characters but leave the names of the others untouched) is an early follower of Freud, which underlines the psychological subtexts of the story. They’ve also increased and fleshed out the character of Utterson, making him more prominent and less of a literary device; in the original novel, he was telling the story. The movie is enhanced by very good performances from Christopher Lee (as Marlowe/Blake) and Peter Cushing (as Utterson), and the movie itself keeps fairly close to the original story. The biggest problem with the movie is the lifeless direction; if the performances were less accomplished, this movie would have been a major snoozefest. The movie came from Amicus, and was originally intended to be viewable in 3D through the use of the Pulfrich effect, which requires careful choreography and camera movement in order for it to work; that may explain why some of the scenes seem so oddly directed, particularly a tavern scene in which the movement really calls attention to itself.

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The Invasion of the Zombies (1962)

THE INVASION OF THE ZOMBIES (1962)
aka Santo contra los zombies
Article 3190 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2010
Posting Date: 5-9-2010
Directed by Benito Alazraki
Featuring Santo, Armando Silvestre, Jaime Fernandez
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican wrestler vs the undead

A professor vanishes after having written a book about his studies in Haiti. Meanwhile, there are reports of crimes being committed by unstoppable creatures whose fingerprints match those of dead criminals. Can Santo, the Silver Mask, solve these mysteries?

You know that the bad guys in a movie are really evil when one of their plots is to send out zombies to kidnap children from a local orphanage with the intent of using them as experimental subjects. You also know that no good-hearted Mexican wrestler is going to let them get away with that atrocity. This Santo movie is heavy on the wrestling scenes, especially towards the beginning; it’s a good ten minutes into the movie before you even get a hint of the plot starting up. This is a fun but standard entry in the Santo oeuvre, though it may be the closest he’s come to being unmasked during a movie; you actually get to see the bottom half of his face at one point. Amazingly enough, my copy had subtitles so I could easily follow the plot, though this one wouldn’t have proven a difficult challenge if it hadn’t had them. I’ve also noticed one standard scene; the bad guys try to get Santo by setting him up in a rigged wrestling match; in this case, they kill a wrestler and turn him into a zombie for the match.

In Search of the Castaways (1962)

IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1962)
Article 3132 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-24-2009
Posting Date: 3-12-2010
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Featuring Maurice Chevalier, Hayley Mills, George Sanders
Country: USA
What it is: Vernian adventure

When a Frenchman finds a message in a bottle that indicates that a captain is still alive, he, along with the captain’s two children, convinces a British lord to use his yacht to begin a search for the missing man.

Disney returns to the works of Jules Verne for this colorful adventure film, though the fantastic content of the film seems to be much fainter; THE MOTION PICTURE GUIDE describes it as a “fantasy/adventure”, but it’s only marginally a fantasy, and I can’t even point to a specific element that makes it qualify, unless the existence of a giant condor qualifies. It’s also a much more lighthearted effort; it’s even partially a musical, with Maurice Chevalier crooning a couple of songs during the movie. It’s almost impossible to take the movie seriously, especially when the adventures ride down a snow covered mountain in the Andes on a piece of cliff dislodged by an earthquake. In fact, this movie somewhat reminds me of the Indiana Jones movies in terms of the action setpieces. The cast also includes Wilfred Hyde-White as the lord, and features a cameo from Roger Delgado as a sailor held hostage.

Invisible Creature (1960)

INVISIBLE CREATURE (1960)
aka The House in Marsh Road
Article 3091 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-3-2009
Posting Date: 1-30-2010
Directed by Montgomery Tully
Featuring Tony Wright, Patricia Dainton, Sandra Dorne
Country: UK
What it is: Ghost story

A woman inherits a house haunted by a poltergeist. She accepts the existence of the poltergeist, but her drinking cad of a husband doesn’t believe and mocks its existence, thus offending it. Then, when the man gets attached to another woman, he decides to kill his wife for the money he can get selling the house…

There are moments when I really admire the efficiency and clarity of some parts of this movie; scenes will sometimes only go on long enough to establish the necessary plot point before swiftly moving on to the next scene and the next plot point. Had the movie had a complex, difficult plot, this efficiency would have done wonders for keeping the story moving and keeping the plot clear for the viewer. Alas, the plot is anything but complex; in fact, once the primary plot elements establish themselves as they do in the plot summary I supply above, what happens is utterly predictable and by-the-numbers, and the efficiency ends up making the movie feel perfunctory. With this sort of movie, a more colorful, flavorful and quirky presentation would have been helpful. Still, despite its predictability, the movie still has a couple of nice moments; my favorite sequence is when the poltergeist undertakes to warn the wife about the attempts on her life, as parts of this sequence are very cleverly handled. All in all, it’s passable, but uninspired.

The Invasion (1982)

THE INVASION (1982)
TV-Movie made from episodes of “The Starlost”
Article 3082 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-24-2009
Posting Date: 1-21-2010
Directed by George McCowan and Joseph L. Scanlon
Featuring Keir Dullea, Gay Rowan, Robin Ward
Country: Canada
What it is: Recycled “Starlost” episodes posing as a movie.

Three people attempting to save a space ark from being destroyed have adventures. In the first, one of them is injured and their only hope lies with a group of astro-medics who seem more concerned with helping a distressed alien spaceship. In the other, they encounter a culture aboard the ark in which people undergo brain implants to increase brain efficiency; in reality, the implants cause great pain and are under the control of an evil madman intent on taking over the colony.

Once again, I cover one of those rare movies that does not have a listing on IMDB, though the other “Starlost” TV-Movies are listed. This features the episodes of “Astro-Medics” and “The Implant People”. Personally, I love the central concept that underlies it, but this series is so badly done that it becomes depressing watching it when you think of what it could have been. Either one of these two episodes could have been interesting, but the bottom-of-the-barrel production values sink it at every step. The worst culprit is the writing; it’s talky, trite, corny, and amateurish. I had to laugh out loud at one comment in the trivia section of the series on IMDB, not because it’s so ridiculous but because it seems all too believable; the comment stated that it has long been a rumor that many of the episodes were actually written by Canadian high school students rather than the credited writers. At any rate, I’m not the least bit surprised that Harlan Ellison (who created the series) wished to have this series credited to his pseudonym, “Cordwainer Bird”, which he uses whenever he thinks his work has been unacceptably compromised.

In Search of Noah’s Ark (1976)

IN SEARCH OF NOAH’S ARK (1976)
Article 3003 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-28-2009
Posting Date: 11-3-2009
Directed by James L. Conway
Featuring Vern Adix, Brad Crandall, Lee Sollenberger
Country: USA

Does evidence exist of Noah’s Ark on top of Mount Ararat? This movie sets out to examine the proof…

I always feel like I’m walking on thin ice with movies whose fantastic content ties them with Biblical themes; the very fact that I’m covering them in the context of a comprehensive view of the fantastic genres (science fiction, fantasy or horror) makes me run the risk of appearing that I’m scoffing at things that many people embrace as unassailable truth. My response is twofold; firstly, any movie that deals with events that could be described as magical (in this case, consider Noah’s ability to control all of those animals) places it within the bounds of fantasy, whether or not the event is true or believed true, and secondly, I won’t cover a movie unless some other source has already classified it as belonging to the fantastic genres. With this out of the way, let me go on to the movie itself.

In some ways, movies like this are a bit useless; if you’re a devout believer, you don’t need proof, and if you’re skeptical, you’ll probably never find sufficient proof for your purposes, especially if you question the intents of the filmmakers themselves. I suspect you’ll most be impressed if you see it as a child. I’ll give it credit for addressing many of the thorny questions that can usually be asked about the possibility of such an event actually occurring. Nevertheless, the movie is only mildly interesting at best, and rather repetitive at its worst; there’s just so much you can do with footage of people climbing mountains. At any rate, I suspect most people know in advance whether this movie would have any interest for them without having to read my review.

The Ice House (1969)

THE ICE HOUSE (1969)
aka Love in Cold Blood
Article 3002 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-27-2009
Posting Date: 11-2-2009
Directed by Stuart E. McGowan
Featuring David Story, Robert Story, Jim Davis
Country: USA

An ice house worker is humiliated by a buxom blonde who hits him over the head with a beer bottle. This gives him a trauma so that he strangles any woman who raises a drink to him. Pretty soon, his twin brother, a cop, is on a case to track down disappearing women.

At first I thought this sleazy, cheap little movie was doing an amazing job in twin brother special effects, but a quick check of the credits cleared that up; instead of one actor playing two roles, we have actual twins in the leads. It’s a neat trick getting real twins to play twins a movie. It’s an even better trick if both the twins can act, but you can’t have everything. This movie is incredibly sleazy; the local dance place features lots of nude dancing to the non-hit “The Scrub”, there’s a gratuitous orgy sequence, and assorted other nude scenes. It’s also incredibly silly; from the traumatic experience that sets off the murders, the twin cop subplot, and a variety of other silly scenes (especially a freak accident where a corpse appears in an ice dispenser), the movie becomes unintentionally comic a lot of the time. But then it may not be unintentional; director Stuart McGowan went on to direct a couple of Tim Conway films. The most surprising thing about this movie is that there’s a touch of naivete in place of the mean-spiritedness I usually find in movies of this ilk; the killer is basically a big lug who can’t control what he does rather than the repellent misogynist that I’d expect from a movie like this, and it doesn’t drench itself in sadism. In short, this one is definitely bad, but far from unwatchable.