Die Jungen Jakobiter (1960)

aka The Young Jacobites
Article 4638 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-25-2014
Directed by John Reeve
Featuring Francesca Annis, Jeremy Bulloch, Frazer Hines
Country: UK
What it is: Children’s adventure tale

In the eighteenth century, the Bonnie Prince Charlie, on the run from the British army, takes refuge in a castle on the Isle of Sky. A group of children on the island become the Young Jacobites, who plan to aid and protect the prince until a ship arrives that will take him to France.

This movie from the Children’s Film Foundation eluded me when it was first on my hunt list, and eventually made it to my “ones that got away” list. Fortunately, it came to light on a German DVD that (also fortunately) featured the English soundtrack. It appears that the movie originally was serialized in nine parts, but it appears to have been edited into three parts on the DVD. I’ve seen quite a few CFF movies now, and this is easily the best of the bunch, as well as one of the earliest; it has action, comedy, generally fine acting and, except for some bad sword-fighting here and there, it generally avoids cheesiness. The original ran about 139 minutes, while this copy runs under two hours, though the missing footage may include repeated credits and overlap scenes; there does not appear to be anything significant missing.

However, there is the issue of the fantastic content yet to deal with, as you’ll notice I give no mention of it in the description. That’s because the fantastic content consists of what amounts to little more than a framing device. Two of the children are from modern times, and they stumble across a threshold stone that takes them back into history, where they apparently existed in previous lives; while in the past, they make no mention of the present, nor do they seem to be surprised they have gone back in time. In fact, with a slight change at the beginning and ending, it could have easily been shot without the fantastic content, so in this case, it seems little more than a gimmick.

Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969)

aka Doppelganger
Article 4625 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-8-2014
Directed by Robert Parrish
Featuring Roy Thinnes, Ian Hendry, Patrick Wymark
Country: UK
What it is: Science fiction

When it is discovered that there is a planet on the other side of the sun directly opposite the Earth in the Earth’s orbit, an expedition is sent out to investigate it.

I saw this movie many years ago, so this viewing is in essence a return to it. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases that a re-viewing is bound to be a very different experience from the first viewing. If you’ve seen the movie already, than you know that the movie builds up to one humdinger of a revelation, and I’m willing to bet that if anything sticks in your memory about this movie, it will be that revelation. My problem is that it’s one of those revelations that, if you stop to think about it, raises more questions and issues than it answers, and while I watched this movie this time, those questions and issues were always foremost in my mind and colored the movie considerably, whereas they simply didn’t exist on my first viewing. I won’t go into more detail here except to say that the revelation involves a “coincidence” that seems to go beyond all scientific explanation in favor of poetical or mystical explanation, and that the movie never quite addresses the “why” of the revelation. Still, despite this problem, the movie is an enjoyable watch, at least partially because the solid acting from everyone involved, the appeal of the special effects and scene design (which is something I’d expect from the work of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson), and some of the details of the story. There are things that don’t work, though; there’s an espionage subplot that is brought up only to be summarily dropped, the movie indulges in trippy sequences similar to those in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY for no good reason, and once the big revelation is made, the movie doesn’t really have anywhere good to go with it. It is worth catching at least once, if for no other reason that it might make a subject for interesting discussion afterwards.

Jaws of Satan (1981)

Article 4598 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-4-2014
Directed by Bob Claver
Featuring Fritz Weaver, Gretchen Corbett, Jon Korkes
Country: USA
What it is: A mess

A druid curse results in Satan taking the form of a giant cobra with the intent on killing a priest who is descended from an ancient enemy. When other people are also killed, doctors try to investigate while authorities try to hush it up for fear it will interfere with the opening of a new dog track.

This movie attempts to be a rip-off of JAWS, a “nature on the loose” animal attack flick, and an “ancient curse coming down on the offspring” movie all at one time, with a few touches of THE OMEN and THE EXORCIST thrown into the mix. If this sounds like an awkward and unwieldy mix of fantastic subgenres in theory, it’s even worse in practice. Part of the problem is that the types of horror involved are incompatible; the ancient curse premise implies a specific individual is to be tied to the horror, but the other premises imply that the horror would strike anyone. The movie makes no sense because it never even tries to resolve this contradiction; it tries to have it both ways. It’s almost painful watching how badly this movie tries to tie in the government cover-up/dog track subplot with the main story, and you know the only reason the movie is doing this is to make the story more similar to JAWS; a good screenwriter wouldn’t have strained himself to work it out, but would have dropped the subplot altogether. The movie is badly edited (there are moments where it’s impossible to tell just what happened), has unnecessary scenes (such as the attempted rape), and is just not scary. There are worse movies out there, but not very many that are even more ill-conceived than this one.

Jack the Ripper (1976)

Article 4456 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-20-2014
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Klaus Kinski, Josephine Chaplin, Herbert Fux
Country: Switzerland / West Germany
What it is: Jack the Ripper movie

A doctor who specializes in charity cases is murdering and mutilating prostitutes. The police try to catch him.

The movie is focused and coherent, which is something I can’t always say about a Jesus Franco film. The acting is generally good, though it is sometimes difficult to tell through a dubbing job that isn’t particularly good. It’s also nice that the sex scenes are actually relevant to the story, and that’s usually a sign that it’s one of Franco’s better films. It is also a bit on the obvious side, not particularly original, and though it does generate a bit of suspense on occasion, it has some dull stretches. Still, it is one of Franco’s films that can be enjoyed by people who aren’t particular fans of the director, and it does look like he took a little more care with this one.

Jubilee (1978)

JUBILEE (1978)
Article 4387 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-8-2013
Directed by Derek Jarman
Featuring Jenny Runacre, Nell Campbell, Toyah Wilcox
Country: UK
What it is: Postpunk art film

Queen Elizabeth is transported by her astrologer into England 400 years in the future to witness a punkish, post-apocalyptic vision of the future.

This is an art film, and though I don’t object to giving them a try, I must confess that I’m no expert on them. So instead of trying to analyze what the movie is trying to do and how it’s trying to do it, all I can do is try to give a vague sense of whether the movie speaks to me in any way. It was quite a ways into the movie before I began to sense that there was a point to it all, and that was only when the movie showed a few hints of having some sort of a story; up to that point, the movie seemed to me to be a pretentious exercise in stylistic overkill on the theme of nihilistic meaninglessness. It might be more meaningful to someone who was part of the English punk scene in the late seventies, but I wasn’t there, and though I do enjoy some of the music of that era, I have little use for its attitude and fashion statements, and those are the aspects that get most of the attention here. There’s lots of sex, lots of violence, some music, and lots of dialogue that, if you don’t find it utterly fascinating, is more likely to make your eyes glaze over. In the end, I can’t say that I got much out of this one.

Jupiter’s Thunderballs (1903)

aka Le tonnerre de Jupiter
Article 4169 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-1-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies

The fearsome god Jupiter prepares to wield his terrible thunderbolts… that is, if he can get them to work and not hurt himself in the process.

Quite frankly, this is one of Georges Melies’s stranger shorts, a circumstance that is only made even more prominent by the fact that the soundtrack on my copy substitutes sound effects for music. There seems to be a bit of a story involving him trying to recharge his thunderbolts and to try to get it to rain so he can use them, but the actions is more than a little confusing at times. Melies plays Jupiter as a rotund buffoon who is his own worst enemy. It’s interesting, but I don’t think he quite pulls this one off.

Joan of Arc (1900)

JOAN OF ARC (1900)
aka Jeanne d’Arc
Article 4165 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-24-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Bleuette Barnon, Georges Melies, Jeanne d’Alcy
Country: France
What it is: Biography of a saint

Joan of Arc is called on by visions of saints to help France defeat their English conquerors.

It might be interesting some time to make a list of real-life people whose life stories have qualified in one way or another for this series. This adds another one to the list, as the appearances of the saints to Joan does qualify as fantastic content, and the movie does include that scene, as well as a sequence at the end where we see Joan in heaven. This appears to have been a very ambitious project for its time; it runs over ten minutes. The movie is also hand-tinted, and has a narrator. One of the more interesting things about the latter is his tendency to go off on tangents about the movie itself, commenting on the appearance of Georges Melies in several different roles, as well as pointing out how the parade sequence used the same extras again and again (having them run around the back of the scenery to reappear), and even pointing out the Melies logo in the corner in one scene for copyright reasons. It’s more historically interesting than it is fun to watch, but it has its moments.

Jack Jaggs and Dum Dum (1903)

aka Tom Tight et Dum-Dum
Article 4163 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-21-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Comic trick short

A magician tries to do his trick, but is interrupted by an intrusive dancing fool.

It’s Melies engaged in his usual tricks here, only with the addition of a comic subplot in which his act is interrupted by a clownish dancer. I’m assuming the magician is Jack Jaggs or Tom Tight, and that the dancer is Dum-Dum, but I can’t guarantee that. If this one were a little tighter and livelier, it would work better, but, as it is, it’s one of Melies’s duller shorts from the period. It does build up to a nice final comic moment, though. As for the tricks, you’ve seen them before in other Melies shorts.

Jack and the Beanstalk (1912)

Article 4150 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-6-2013
Directed by J. Searle Dawley
Featuring Gladys Hulette, Miriam Nesbitt, Harry Eytinge
Country: USA
What it is: Fairy tale

Jack sells the family cow for a hatful of beans, from which grows a beanstalk that takes him to a giant’s castle.

This is a fairly straightforward version of the story with one quirk; an opening scene establishes that Jack and his mother had previously been residents of the castle, but were thrown out by the giant. About the only reason I could think of for this odd plot change was to take away the questionable moral taint of a story about a man who breaks into another man’s abode, steals his belongings, and then kills him. At least the movie does one thing right; the giant is handled with special effects rather than by casting a really tall guy in the role (I’ve seen that happen several times, and I’ve always hated that.). Overall, this is a fairly standard take at the story, and it’s nothing really special.

Jesus of Nazareth (1912)

aka From the Manger to the Cross
Article 4115 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-25-2012
Directed by Sidney Olcott
Featuring Robert Henderson-Bland, Percy Dyer, Gene Gauntier
Country: USA
What it is: The tale of Jesus Christ

The life of Jesus Christ is told from the angel’s visit to Mary to Jesus’s ascension into heaven.

I do not gear my series toward the holidays, but this one came up spontaneously as my title for Christmas Day, which, though it can’t be called strictly a Christmas movie, is closer than I’ve ever gotten before. It’s listed in the Walt Lee reference guide for fantastic films due to the fact that many of the events (the angelic visitations, the miracles, the resurrection, etc.) qualify as fantastic content, and that is why I’m covering it. It is pretty much what I would expect of a silent treatment of the life of Christ; the movie forgoes Christ’s teachings for the obvious reason that this would swamp the movie with words, and emphasizes the highlights of Christ’s life story. I’m not surprised it’s very faithful; I doubt that the audiences for which it was intended would have tolerated anything else. The movie originally ended with the crucifixion of Christ, but a rerelease several years later added the Resurrection and Ascension sequences that were on the version I saw. This explains one thing I was curious about; throughout the movie, every title card consists of a direct Biblical quote (by verse and chapter) until after the crucifixion, when the technique is abandoned. All in all, it’s an acceptable adaptation for its era.