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.

Judex (1963)

JUDEX (1963)
Article 3344 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-25-2010
Posting Date: 10-10-2010
Directed by Georges Franju
Featuring Channing Pollock, Francine Berge, Edith Scob
Country: France / Italy
What it is: Crime drama

A corrupt banker is threatened by a mysterious figure of justice named Judex; he must either give his fortune away to those he cheated or die. When Judex seems to make good on his threat, a woman who was hoping to marry the banker seeks to get hold of papers the banker had been using for blackmail so that she can make a fortune. This puts the banker’s innocent daughter at risk. Will Judex be able to save her?

Not only was Georges Franju a fine filmmaker in his own right, he was also an archivist and a lover of classic cinema. This is his tribute to classic serial-maker Louis Feuillade; it’s an adaptation of Feuillade’s own 1916 serial JUDEX. I saw the Feuillade version seven years ago, and found it nearly impossible to follow because the subtitles were in untranslated French, so this version which tells pretty much the same story is a revelation. Still, it’s no wonder I was confused; since Judex employs tricks I would be more likely to expect from a Fantomas-style criminal, and the banker’s crimes were mostly talked about rather than shown, it was very difficult to sort the good guys from the bad guys. In its own right, this is a fine and entertaining adaptation; it perhaps relies overmuch on outrageous coincidence at times (and that applies equally well to Feuillade’s original serials), but it has a real sense of fun and there’s even a touch of lyricism to it as well; I particularly like the scene with the mysterious magician at the party. Like the original serial, the only fantastic content is a closed-circuit television unit used in the banker’s prison cell, which, since this adaptation also takes place in the same time period as the original serial, is a scientific anachronism.

Jungle Moon Men (1955)

JUNGLE MOON MEN (1955)
Article 2997 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-22-2009
Posting Date: 10-28-2009
Directed by Charles S. Gould
Featuring Johnny Weissmuller, Jean Byron, Helene Stanton
Country: USA

Jungle Jim – er, pardon me, Johnny Weissmuller, that is, helps guide a woman writer to the realm of a tribe of pygmies known as moon men.

This is one of those Jungle Jim movies where the Jungle Jim references were dropped; Johnny Weissmuller plays Johnny Weissmuller, and the chimp is named Kimba. Not much has changed; it’s still plotted with all the tender loving care as the other Jungle Jim movies (i.e. randomly). The moon men aren’t from the moon, nor do they get their name because they drop their loincloths in battle. Instead, they worship a woman who is an acolyte of the Egyptian Moon Goddess, and who possesses immortal life as long as she avoids the sun (making this jungle flick something of a cross between SHE and THE MOLE PEOPLE). Myron Healey plays a character named Santo, but he doesn’t wear a mask or wrestle Mexicans. Billy Curtis gives about as good a performance as anyone could as the head of the moon men, but he has to endure one embarrassing sequence in which he is tied to a tree and tormented by Kimba. Ben Chapman appears as a native who dies early on. Angelo Rossitto plays the Littlest Moon Man, which will no doubt one day be the title of a really bad children’s movie. Heck, I’m having more fun writing my review than I did watching the movie.

Journey to Midnight (1968)

JOURNEY TO MIDNIGHT (1968)
Article 2996 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2009
Posting Date: 10-27-2009
Directed by Roy Ward Baker and Alan Gibson
Featuring Sebastian Cabot, Chad Everett, Bernard Lee
Country: UK

Two stories of the supernatural are presented. In the first, an American is invited to a costume party at a provincial English manor despite not knowing anyone there. There he discovers a dark secret. In the second, a woman seeks to communicate to her dead husband, and towards that end, she hires a private detective to spot fake mediums so she won’t be bilked. What she doesn’t know is that he detective himself is part of a scam…

Here’s another movie created by editing two TV episodes together, in this case from “Journey to the Unknown”, an anthology series. It’s definitely a mixed bag. The first story is one of those standard plots in which you’ll see the final twist fairly early in the proceedings. Had the episode been sharply directed and crisply paced, it wouldn’t have mattered, but it’s stodgy, dull and overlong; you’ll wait forever to find out what you already know. The second story is much better; by taking the old concept of phony spiritualists and giving it a fresh new twist, it manages to hold the interest quite well, even if you can figure out how it’s going to come out. The story itself is from Robert Bloch, and Roy Ward Baker manages to give it a genuinely eerie feel. The linking segments are narrated by Sebastian Cabot, and they feel a bit tacked on. Incidentally, the two episodes of the series were originally called “Poor Butterfly” and “The Indian Spirit Guide”.

Jungle Queen (1945)

JUNGLE QUEEN (1945)
Serial
Article 2910 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-26-2009
Posting Date: 8-1-2009
Directed by Lewis D. Collins and Ray Taylor
Featuring Edward Norris, Eddie Quillan, Douglas Dumbrille
Country: USA

Nazis plan to gain control of Africa by putting their own puppet on the seat of the judge of the jungle tribes. However, British and American agents are out to thwart them, as is a mysterious jungle queen known as Lothel.

It seems that by this time, Universal was putting out the least interesting serials of the three remaining serial producers, the others being Republic and Columbia. Despite some interesting touches and some fun elements, this one is curiously uninvolving. I’m beginning to understand why most serials stuck to fairly simple action/adventure scenarios; this one tries to for a more involved plot, but the end result is the story is cluttered with too many uninteresting characters, and the attempt to follow up each of the storylines in each episode ends up rather snooze-inducing. Still, to its credit, it manages to keep the fantastic content intact; the mysterious powers of the character Lothel are never explained away (she can walk through fire, disappears and reappears magically, and cannot be harmed by bullets), so we’re left with a truly supernatural creature here. Still, this is a fairly dull serial.

Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land (1952)

JUNGLE JIM IN THE FORBIDDEN LAND (1952)
Article 2843 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-18-2009
Posting Date: 5-26-2009
Directed by Lew Landers
Featuring Johnny Weissmuller, Angela Greene, Jean Willes
Country: USA

Jungle Jim joins forces with a female anthropologist to do battle with poachers intent on wiping out a herd of elephants located near the forbidden land of the giant people.

The first half of this movie is marred by muddled and tiresome exposition. It’s not until we get to meet a couple of captive giant people (the male looks like a tall relative of Universal’s Wolf Man, while the female looks like a tall version of Paula the Ape Woman) that the movie starts to get moving, and from that point on, it’s fairly entertaining in a low-budget “Jungle Jim” kind of way. The giant people add some of the spice to the movie, though their leopard voices are pretty unconvincing. I also couldn’t help noticing that Jungle Jim can be something of a jerk on occasion. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that he’s somewhat inspired by the character of Tarzan, but he occasionally exhibits a juvenile petulance which, though forgivable in a man raised by apes and unused to civilization, is rather annoying in someone who isn’t. Tamba the chimp provides the ersatz Cheeta here. All in all, pretty standard for the series.

Journey Into Darkness (1968)

JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS (1968)
Article 2511 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-18-2008
Posting Date: 6-27-2008
Directed by James Hill and Peter Sasdy
Featuring Robert Reed, Jennifer Hilary, Michael Tolan

Two tales of terror are told. The first (“Paper Dolls”) deals with a set of quadruplets, one of whom has evil powers that he can wield over the others. The other (“The New People”) is about a couple of who buy a house in the country, unaware that a suicide was committed there and that one of their neighbors may have sinister designs on them.

This is another case where two episodes of a TV series (in this case, British anthology series “Journey to the Unknown”) were edited together into a feature film. I think this sort of thing works better with an anthology series, since no one expects a single coherent story from one to begin with, and I have to admit that I liked the linking segments concocted for this movie; Patrick McGoohan projects a subtle witty irony in introducing and ending the stories. I like the first story (which hovers somewhere between VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and “It’s a GOOD Life’ in subject matter) better, though the ending is a little bit flat. The second story was written by Charles Beaumont, and it has a nice twist ending, though I do think it’s a little too slow to get going. Based on what I’ve seen here, the series itself was good but not great. It lasted for only seventeen episodes, and utilized much of the same talent that was used by Hammer. Three other movies were culled from the series, JOURNEY TO MIDNIGHT, JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN, and JOURNEY TO MURDER.

 

Jack the Giant Killer (1962)

JACK THE GIANT KILLER (1962)
Article 2472 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-8-2008
Posting Date: 5-19-2008
Directed by Nathan Juran
Featuring Kerwin Mathews, Judi Meredith, Torin Thatcher
Country: USA

A farmer saves the princess of the realm from a kidnapping by a giant. The king offers him the job of protecting her from the wiles of the evil wizard Pendragon. When Pendragon abducts the princess, he must rescue her.

This is a deliberate attempt to ape the success of the Harryhausen fantasy movies, right down to hiring Nathan Juran, Kerwin Mathews and Torin Thatcher, who all worked on THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. Jim Danforth was hired for the stop motion animation. Danforth’s animation isn’t up to the level of Harryhausen’s, and many of the other special effects look rather cartoony. However, this doesn’t necessarily make the movie bad; the special effects as they are give the movie a rather colorful, unique flavor. Storywise, it’s less mythological and more fairy-tale than the Harryhausen movies; in fact, it often reminded me more of THE MAGIC SWORD than any of Harryhausen’s movies. It’s entertaining enough, though it does suffer a little from lackluster direction and pacing, and a sense of derivitiveness. And, for the record, I watched the non-musical version of the movie; I’ve never seen the musical version, but I have a funny feeling I’d find it truly annoying. Heck, I was already annoyed enough by the rhyming leprechaun (they call him an imp, but I know a leprechaun when I see one) to want to hear him with music.

 

J.D.’s Revenge (1976)

J.D.’S REVENGE (1976)
Article 2386 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-7-2007
Posting Date: 2-23-2008
Directed by Arthur Marks
Featuring Glynn Turman, Louis Gossett Jr., Joan Pringle

A law student becomes possessed by the spirit of a gangster who died in 1942 when he was mistaken for the murderer of his sister. He proceeds to exact revenge on the real murderer and the man who killed him.

This is the best of the blaxploitation horror movies I’ve seen for this series, but before you read too much into that statement, you should take note that only means I think it’s better than the silly SUGAR HILL and the confusing ALABAMA’S GHOST . The movie has its share of problems; once we realize that the student is being possessed, there’s nothing to keep the revenge from being acted upon than the need to fill out the running time of the movie, so we largely end up with our main character acting meaner and meaner between being confused and seeing the same assortment of flashbacks repeatedly. The movie has some moments that really strain credibility, especially at the end where the police more or less buy the possession story at face value. The movie also makes the mistake of making J.D. such a heel that it’s hard to work up any sympathy for him; quite frankly, the putative bad guys end up winning a greater amount of our sympathy. Nonetheless, the acting is solid, there are some very clever moments, and Lou Gossett steals the movie as the gangster-turned-evangelist. It’s certainly not one of The Fifty Worst Movies Ever Made, despite its inclusion in a DVD of the same title.

 

Journey to the Lost City (1959)

JOURNEY TO THE LOST CITY (1959)
Article 2256 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-20-2007
Posting Date: 10-16-2007
Directed by Fritz Lang
Featuring Debra Paget, Paul Hubschmid, Walter Reyer

An architect and a prince both love a temple dancer in the lost city of Eschnapur in India. This threatens their friendship, and plays into a plot to dethrone the prince.

Back when I covered the two-part THE INDIAN TOMB from the silent era, I wondered what it would have been like if Fritz Lang had actually directed it rather than only having written it. This is at least a partial answer, though it is definitely flawed by the fact that Lang was in his waning years at this point, the print I saw was actually a condensation of the two movies that made up the remake, and the dubbing and presentation make it seem a lot cheesier than it actually is. Nevertheless, it is a good movie, and it takes itself somewhat more seriously than other similar adventure films from this period, eschewing the use of comic relief, and giving the characters more depth than they might otherwise have. It’s a bit muddled and hard to follow at first, due no doubt to it being a condensation. The story is strong enough to make it work. This was the first time Fritz Lang worked for a German film company after fleeing Germany from the Nazis in the thirties.