Jekyll and Hyde: Pact With the Devil (1969)

JEKYLL AND HYDE: PACT WITH THE DEVIL (1969)
aka Pacto diabolico, Diabolical Pact
Article 3874 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-14-2012
Posting Date: 3-23-2012
Directed by Jaime Salvador
Featuring John Carradine, Regina Torne, Miguel Angel Alvarez
Country: Mexico
What it is: Jekyll and Hyde variation

A colleague of the late Dr. Jekyll is trying to come up with a formula for eternal youth so that he can become young again and continue his experiments. However, his younger self turns into a monstrous killer.

This Mexican horror movie adds a bit of American star power by including John Carradine in the cast. However, one of the appeals of Carradine is hearing his rich, sonorous voice, and since in this subtitled version of the movie his voice has been dubbed by someone who can speak Spanish, we’re robbed of that voice. Actually, the most fun I had out of this movie was imagining Carradine’s voice while reading the subtitles for his character; beyond that, this is a tired, static movie, Mexican horror at its least inspired. It does come up with a few twists to the basic Jekyll and Hyde story, but they’re not particular good or original, and the repetitive sound effects and score (which on occasion gives you the feeling that you’re watching a silent movie) gets tiresome quickly. I’d been curious about this one for some time, but it’s a real disappointment.

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Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again (1982)

JEKYLL AND HYDE… TOGETHER AGAIN (1982)
Article 3790 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-19-2011
Posting Date: 12-30-2011
Directed by Jerry Belson
Featuring Mark Blankfield, Bess Armstrong, Krista Erickson
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy

Brilliant surgeon Dr. Jekyll plans to give up surgery to concentrate on research in the hope of developing a drug that can increase the animal instinct of survival in human beings. He ends up addicted to a drug that turns him into a sex-starved maniac.

This parody of the Robert Louis Stevenson story is aggressive, energetic, and, with its obsession with sex, drugs and general crudeness, doesn’t allow anything like good taste stand in its way of getting a laugh. This would be all right if it actually accomplished its purpose, but, sadly, I didn’t laugh once. I’m not surprised it has a bit of a following; those who like general outrageousness, for example, will probably like this. I just wished it would pull back a little from the loud, obnoxious quality of the presentation; the movie seems to be working far too hard to get its laughs. As it is, the thing I like best about the movie is that the reason for Dr. Jekyll’s experiments seems to me to be one of the more convincing explanations for the research he’s doing, and that has little to do with the humor. The joke I found the funniest comes at the very end, and has to do with Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave, and I bet you can figure that out without seeing the movie. On a side note, the sexy nurse is none other than Elvira herself, Cassandra Peterson.

Johnny Got His Gun (1971)

JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN (1971)
Article 3503 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-21-2011
Posting Date: 3-18-2011
Directed by Dalton Trumbo
Featuring Timothy Bottoms, Kathy Fields, Marsha Hunt
Country: USA
What it is: Anti-war drama

A young soldier suffers from a shell attack that leaves him a quadriplegic who is also unable to see, hear, or speak. The doctors and the military also believe he is brain-dead, but he is aware. How can he keep sane, and will he ever be able to communicate to those around him?

Like yesterday’s movie, this is also a winner at Cannes; it won the FIPRESCI Prize as well as the Grand Prize of the Jury. It’s also interesting to compare this to TRACKS, another anti-war movie with fantasy sequences that rise from the mind of its protagonist. But whereas the other movie lost a lot of its power due to a certain self-indulgence and lack of focus, this one remains focused and powerful, especially at the end. It’s also a rare instance where the author of a novel not only writes the screenplay (with a slight assist from Luis Bunuel) but gets to direct it as well. The movie is at its weakest when it tries to make its anti-war statement explicit, but this is fortunately confined to a stray statement here or there. Most of the movie is concerned with the protagonist’s trying to hold onto his sanity by exploring his past and dwelling on fantasy repercussions of those events; incidentally, the scenes with Donald Sutherland as Jesus Christ were written by Bunuel. The most emotionally involving scenes involve the protagonist trying to communicate with those around him; two of the most powerful scenes in the movie involve breakthroughs, one in which a nurse discovers a way to wish him a “Merry Christmas”, and the other when he finally figures out how to communicate with those outside of his mind. This would prove to be Trumbo’s sole directorial credit, and it is a truly powerful movie.

A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964)

A JOLLY BAD FELLOW (1964)
aka They All Died Laughing
Article 3447 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-13-2010
Posting Date: 1-21-2011
Directed by Don Chaffey
Featuring Leo McKern, Janet Munro, Maxine Audley
Country: UK
What it is: British black comedy

A science professor at a university discovers a drug that places its victim in a euphoric state before killing them in a way that looks like natural causes. He begins using the drug to remove troublesome people in his life.

The basic concept has been used before many times. Think of how many mad scientist movies follow the same basic pattern; for me, THE DEVIL BAT came to mind. However, it’s never been quite handled in this style before. The mood is one of quiet British black comedy, with the humor mostly very subtle and with a certain amount of wit to the proceedings. I also found that there was a touch of melancholy to the mix; though he may be amoral, Leo McKern’s title character is likable enough that it’s a little sad seeing him give in so readily to temptation. Janet Munro fans will really like this one; as the professor’s assistant and lover, she is at her sexiest, and though there’s no nudity, the movie is pretty daring with how much skin she shows. I do feel a little ill at ease about one thing though; the scene of the rat going euphoric really leaves me wondering if the animal was being mistreated, though it is hard to tell. The movie is uneven, but interesting.

Jungle Raiders (1945)

JUNGLE RAIDERS (1945)
Serial
Article 3435 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-1-2010
Posting Date: 1-9-2011
Directed by Lesley Selander
Featuring Kane Richmond, Eddie Quillan, Veda Ann Borg
Country: USA
What it is: “Jungle” serial thrills

The Arzec tribe lives in an isolated valley with a secret entrance. They have a rare fungus with amazing healing properties and a cache of jewels. Scientists want to find their way to the village for the fungus; bad guys want the jewels, and think the good guys are after them as well. Complications arise.

Like several other serials I’ve encountered, this one uses a much wider definition of “jungle” than you’d expect; if you get mostly prairie settings and rock formations with only a smattering of trees, you’re hardly in a jungle. Furthermore, the comic relief is not only not funny, but his constant fat jokes about the trading post owner become extremely tiresome. Yet, when I judge a serial, my main criteria anymore is – did it manage to hold my attention during its individual episodes or did I spend most of my time wondering what was in the refrigerator? To its credit, this one managed to hold my attention. I think the reason it works for me is that it has a good assortment of different characters to pay attention to. Many serials have only two real characters (the hero and the villain), while the rest of the characters are interchangeable and merely align themselves with one side or the other. This one has a more elaborate group of people with varying motives, and at least one villain (the tribal witch doctor) must be kept alive by the heroes as he is the only one who knows the location of the fungus. So, all in all, I liked this one well enough. I just hope that my next jungle serial (if there is one) has the novelty of actually taking place in a jungle.

Jungle Hell (1956)

JUNGLE HELL (1956)
Article 3389 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-12-2010
Posting Date: 1-24-2010
Directed by Norman A. Cerf
Featuring Sabu, K.T. Stevens, David Bruce
Country: USA
What it is: Jungle hell

There’s these flying saucers, see? And they bring these radioactive rocks and control tigers and elephants. The local shaman has a rock, but scientists are interested in it, as well as elephant hunters. And there’s these elephants, and… Ahh, let’s stop pretending that this movie has a plot.

Those of you who have followed my series for some time probably recall my discussion of the “Double-Stuffed Safari-O”; those are jungle movies that open with exposition, end with denouement, and are filled in the center with an overly generous helping of safari. Generally, the term is not used in a complimentary sense, but after seeing this aptly-named mess of a movie, I grew to appreciate at least one thing about Double-Stuffed Safari-Os; they have a structure and a story, whereas this movie seems to have neither. If you watch it, I hope you like elephants; nearly twenty percent of the footage in this movie involves these pachyderms (and I know because I timed it), and since none were used in the footage originally shot for this movie, it’s all stock footage. Furthermore, it probably only accounts for about forty percent of the stock footage in the movie; between the stock footage of other animals, airplanes, buildings from Bagdad, London and New York, etc… I’d have to say that a good half of this movie is made up of stock footage. The remaining thirty-seven minutes consist mostly of actors wandering through a backlot jungle and staring at whatever the stock footage is showing. There’s an occasional shot of a flying saucer hovering in limbo; in fact, it feels as if the whole flying saucer aspect of the movie was tacked on at the last minute to turn the movie into science fiction, as little mention is made of the saucers anywhere but in the opening and closing narrations. If there is a plot, it’s mostly about rock-hunting.

In short, this is a nearly unwatchable mess of a jungle movie. If you do choose to watch, I hope you like elephants.

Jaws 2 (1978)

JAWS 2 (1978)
Article 3388 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2010
Posting Date: 11-23-2010
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Featurng Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Country: USA
What it is: Sequel

Once again, the town of Amity is plagued by a giant shark. Once again, police chief Brody can’t convince the mayor to do anything about it. Once again, people die. Brody must fight the shark, but this time, he must do it alone.

I actually saw this one in the theater without ever having seen the original, and I thought it was an okay thriller. I still think it’s an okay thriller, but now that I’ve seen the original, I can understand a) just how derivative it is, and b) just how much it falls short. Without a director of the calibre of Steven Spielberg at the helm, the movie never rises above the ordinary, though I will give credit to Roy Scheider for really giving it his all. I really miss Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw (though I wouldn’t expect the latter to have appeared anyway), and one problem is that this movie does nothing to fill in those gaps. Furthermore, this movie largely lacks the sense of humor that helped make the original special. And watching this movie this time around, I grew to really appreciate one aspect of the original, and that was how that movie gave us a tense nail-biting climax that did not involve teenagers screaming at each other constantly.