Jack the Ripper (1959)

Article 1795 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-12-2006
Posting Date: 7-12-2006
Directed by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman
Featuring Lee Patterson, Eddie Byrne, Betty McDowall

A serial killer called Jack the Ripper is loose in London, and the police try to discover the identity of the killer.

The trailer for this movie tries to make it sound like it was going to be an accurate account of the Jack the Ripper story; still, even the trailer made it look as if the movie was more fictional fabrication than fact. This feeling was backed up by the fact that the movie is based on a story rather than true events. Those looking for a reenactment of the Ripper events had best turn elsewhere. As a fictionalized version of true events, it is entertaining enough, though, Apparently, the movie was considered somewhat controversial, and I think that is because there is a certain degree of savagery that comes through even when the movie isn’t explicit. As for the killer, there are a number of suspects to wonder about, from the troublemaker who wants to torture anyone he suspects is the Ripper to the mute hunchback to the doctor who performs the post-mortems on the victims. There is about one second of color footage towards the end of the movie. Oddly enough, the movie did poorly in the US, despite the fact that it was given heavy promotion and saturation booking.

Johnny the Giant Killer (1950)

Article #1721 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-30-2005
Posting Date: 4-29-2006
Directed by Jean Image and Charles Frank
No voice credits

A young boy sets out with a bunch of friends to defeat an evil giant, but they are all trapped and reduced to a tiny size.

Uh-oh, here’s another one where my original review seems to have vanished; I may have to make it a point to start saving copies of these to another place as well just to be on the safe side. Still, this one made enough of an impression on me that it still lingers in my memory. It’s a truly strange animated feature; the first half of the movie is incredibly surreal, with the improbable traps in the giant’s castle being a distinct highlight. The second half of the movie largely deals with Johnny’s encounter with a civilization of bees, whom he must win over if he has any hope of getting their help to save his friends still trapped in the castle. The animation is utterly unlike anything you might see in a Disney film, and I have to admit that I found this one to be rather intriguing.

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)

Article #1712 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-21-2005
Posting Date: 4-20-2006
Directed by Sidney W. Pink
Featuring John Agar, Carl Ottosen, Peter Monch

A group of astronauts on a mission to explore the planet Uranus discover a startling Earth-like paradise, the creation of an alien brain with sinister intentions.

There is something about the movies that came from Sidney Pink and Ib Melchior that makes me wish that they had been better directors and writers. There’s the occasional neat idea, the colorful photography and the sometimes surprising storylines that make me wish they were better presented, but there’s always something to be enjoyed. Here, the concept of an alien that can create complex illusions is a novel touch, even if owes quite a bit to Ray Bradbury’s story “Mars is Heaven!”. There’s also a startling scene where a man starts to recount a memory of an old village, and we see the village appear in the background as he describes; this scene is the high point of the movie. Unfortunately, the story is a muddle (though the alien makes it clear at one point that he means to take over the Earth, I haven’t a clue as to how this whole set-up will help him accomplish this goal), the dialogue is laughable (especially whenever the men start talking about or flirting with women), and the pacing is terrible; there are so many gaps of dead air between the lines of dialogue that I bet you could cut ten minutes out of the movie just by editing them out. Yet, because of the good moments, the movie never becomes unwatchable. And I will give credit to the director for one thing; he has the cast pronounce the name of the planet so that it rhymes with the phrase “You’re honest.” rather than using the more common pronunciation (the one used in HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN, for example). At least he kept the movie from turning into an inadvertent series of sphincter jokes.

Journey to the Center of Time (1967)

Article #1711 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-20-2005
Posting Date: 4-19-2006
Directed by David L. Hewitt
Featuring Scott Brady, Anthony Eisley, Gigi Perreau

A group of scientists are thrust into the future and then into the past when they experiment with time travel.

A perusal of David L. Hewitt’s credits on IMDB shows that he had an interesting career; he’s worked on special and visual effects, and as a producer, director, writer and occasionally actor (he played the title role in THE MIGHTY GORGA, for example). For this movie, he rewrote his story for THE TIME TRAVELERS and shot his own version of it on what looks like a mere fraction of the original’s budget. Though I admire his spirit, he should have left well enough alone; for the most part, this movie is a bore. I think a good seventy percent of this movie consists of either a) stock footage (especially the long travel back through time) or b) people standing at consoles spouting jargon. The middle of the story has been changed completely, but not in any positive way – there is a sequence involving blue aliens in the future that starts to set up a plot, but this whole situation is resolved so quickly that you wondered why the bothered. The only change I liked involved the ironic death of the villain, one of those stupid, boorish non-scientist types who puts everyone else in peril when he does something idiotic. The real problem with the movie is pace; Hewitt doesn’t know when a scene has gone on too long, and this is especially noticeable near the end when he borrows the time loop sequence from the original version of the movie and then makes each sequence in the loop go on too long to attain any of the sense of dramatic urgency. Still, for all that, there is something likable about the movie; I find his movies easier to enjoy than ones by Larry Buchanan or Andy Milligan, for example. Carol Burnett fans might be surprised to see Lyle Waggoner in a small role in this one.

Jalopy (1953)

JALOPY (1953)
Article #1641 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-11-2005
Posting Date: 2-8-2006
Directed by William Beaudine
Featuring Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bernard Gorcey

Slip is having little success in his new career as a race car driver until Sach invents a super fuel.

What I like the most about the Bowery Boys are the fun they have occasionally with fantastic genre conventions and Leo Gorcey’s malaprops (I’m a sucker for wordplay like this). What I like least is Huntz Hall’s clowning and mugging, which is why I had no fondness for the series once Gorcey left and they became Huntz Hall movies. This is pretty typical fare for them. There’s a bit of genre fun, and I enjoy Gorcey as always, but this is one where Hall is at his most annoying, and I didn’t enjoy it quite as well as some of the others in the series. As usual, none of the other Bowery Boys are given much to do. There’s some interesting names in the cast, though; one-time Batman Robert Lowery plays the villain, and perennial gorilla George Barrows and Ed Wood regular Conrad Brooks appear respectively as a race car driver and a party guest.

Jonathan (1970)

Article #1551 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2005
Posting Date: 11-10-2005
Directed by Hans W. Geissendorfer
Featuring Jurgen Jung, Hans-Dieter Jendreyko, Paul Albert Krumm

A group of villagers plan an assault on the castle of a vampire, and send a man named Jonathan as an advance scout.

This movie has a rating of 4.9 on IMDB at the time of this writing, so I suspect that its reputation is not good. Me, I found it fascinating. It’s not really a version of “Dracula”, but it takes certain key scenes in the first part of the Stoker novel (Jonathan being warned not to enter any locked room, Jonathan being approached by the three female vampires which are then driven away by the Count and then given a baby to satisfy their desires, etc.) that are used as a jumping off point to tell a different story. It’s not an easy story to follow; it’s full of scenes that seem to have little to do with the main story line, and it’s a pretty arty affair. Still, even if I don’t know where individual scenes fit in, I find each scene interesting as separate entities. According to IMDB, this movie is in color, and I suspect I have a faded copy, as only the color red can be seen in many scenes; other than that, it looks as if it’s in black and white. Still, this in itself makes it interesting watching. Political and religious interpretations abound in this one. All in all, I recommend this one, but I suspect you’ll have little use for it if you don’t care for movies like VAMPYR.

The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (1972)

Article #1550 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-12-2005
Posting Date: 11-9-2005
Directed by Eric Jeffrey Haims
Featuring Sebastian Brook, Mady Maguire, Donn Greer

The police investigate a gruesome murder at a nurse’s institute. Other murders start occurring, with each of the bodies mutilated with a V-shaped symbol.

Who is the murderer? The mysterious Dr. Cabala, head of the institute, who has a sword hidden in his cane? The disturbed head nurse who was traumatized by the death of her daughter and seeks to “protect” women from the invasions of men? The horny mute in the basement? The doctor who dissects live frogs because a) it’s fun, and b) it impresses the girls? The bitter and scarred cook who calls herself the “Chicken Chopper”? The really big question is: Will you really care? This confusing mishmash of gore (some of it gratuitous; I don’t think frogs have that much blood in them, though I do suspect real frogs gave up their lives for this one), sex (lesbian and hetero), bad narration, shaky camerawork and horrendous acting certainly didn’t trip my trigger. If I were a serial killer, I hope they would give me a cooler theme song than a calliope version of “The Man on the Flying Trapeze”. And if I were a man of science, I wouldn’t deliver the movie’s funniest line, “I’m a man of science. I don’t call a thing a thing until I know it’s a thing.” And one more question: if the movie takes place in the nineteenth century, why do all of the naked women have bikini tan lines?