Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

Article 4334 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-12-2013
Directed by John ‘Bud’ Cardos
Featuring William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode
Country: USA
What it is: Nature run amok

A small Arizona town finds itself threatened by an invasion of deadly tarantulas who have organized themselves into an army.

“Nature Run Amok” stories were a pretty standard subgenre of the seventies, and if you’re familiar with the form, then, in terms of the plot, there’s not much in the way of surprises in this particular example of it. And, when you get down to it, I really wasn’t expecting any. Still, that’s not to say that the movie doesn’t have its small pleasures. For one thing, I like the authentic-feeling Arizona small town atmosphere that pervades the movie. I like the moment when the female lead first encounters a tarantula in a drawer in her cabin; rather than screaming (as the cliche would be), she picks it up, talks to it, pets it, and then takes it outside and sets it free, which, given that she’s an entomologist, makes a lot more sense. I like that the pest exterminator draws pictures of his victims on the side of his airplane. And I also like how the woman who rents out the cabin goes through a period of grieving when she believes the man that she loves has died; many movies of this sort don’t take the time to realize that grief comes with death, and it’s nice to see it on display. It’s also well acted throughout, and the movie certainly doesn’t cut corners in creating a believable spider infestation. So even if the story itself is pretty ordinary, it’s well enacted, and that’s always a plus.

Ko-Ko’s Hypnotism (1929)

Article 4267 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-17-2013
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Silent Ko-Ko cartoon

When Ko-Ko’s animator takes up hypnotism (with the help of inserted hypnotic eyes), the clown humiliates himself by doing his animator’s bidding. Seeking revenge, Ko-Ko consults with a witch in order to learn hypnotism himself.

When you consider that an animator has control over what his creations do in the first place, you’d think he wouldn’t have to stoop to hypnotism, but we’re in the land of cartoon logic here, and those rules don’t apply. That being said, this is one of the more amusing Ko-Ko the clown cartoons I’ve seen, with the animator (I’m assuming it’s one of the Fleischer brothers) having a lot of fun in the process. For a few moments, I found myself wondering if the cartoon was actually made partially with sound; some of the music and sound effects seems particularly apt on the copy I saw on YouTube. It threatens to get a little gruesome at one point where Ko-Ko, thinking that his dog Fitz is a nut, is about to crack him open with a nutcracker, but things stop just in time.

Kiss Me! (1904)

KISS ME! (1904)
Article 4266 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-16-2013
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Comic short

A passing man finds himself tempted by a woman in a theatrical poster who is winking at him and inviting him to kiss her.

There’s a full plot description of this one on IMDB, and if you see the same copy of this that I did (I found it on YouTube), you’re going to need it. The problem is that the impact of the short relies on our being able to see the woman in the poster winking and offering herself for a kiss, but the print is so ragged that it’s impossible to tell if she’s moving at all, and if you can’t see her moving, then the short will make very little sense. Still, even if you could see it, it really wouldn’t make the comic content here a lot greater, and if you’re curious about the special effects, there are none; what is supposed to be the poster of the woman is obviously a woman standing in front of a black background, and the whole thing is probably shot in one take. Because it involves a poster coming to life, it qualifies as fantasy, but in its present shape, it’s hardly worth checking out.

Kaidan Saga Yashiki (1953)

aka Ghost of Saga Mansion
Article 4236 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-26-2013
Directed by Ryohei Arai
Featuring Takako Irie, Yoshitaro Bando, Kikue Mouri
Country: Japan
What it is: The Ghost Cat Begins

When her son is killed as part of a conspiracy, and old woman commits suicide, giving rise to a vengeful ghost-cat.

So many ghost-cat movies were made in Japan during the fifties that there must be a reason for its popularity. I think one of the reasons may be this particular movie; it was (if I have my information correct) the first of the ghost-cat movies, and based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s easily the best. Given that my copy is once again in Japanese without subtitles, I do have problems following the story line, but once the story progresses far enough so that we can get some vengeful ghost-cat action, the movie takes off; it is genuinely eerie. The movie does a better job of incorporating the cat-like nature of the ghost into the proceedings, there are some creepy transformation sequences, and the scene here where the ghost-cat forces one of its victims to undergo a series of tumbling exercises (which usually comes off as strange but silly) is quite unsettling; I could see this time that we were dealing with tendency of a cat to play with its victims. I’ve begun to realize now how the other movies I’ve seen are essentially retreads of this one, lacking the atmosphere that makes this one work. It’s always nice to see a movie that helps you to put others you’ve seen into context.

Kaliya Mardan (1919)

aka Kalia Mardan
Article 4231 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-17-2013
Directed by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke
Featuring Neelkanth, Mandakini Phalke
Country: India
What it is: Hindu mythology

The childhood of the Hindu deity Shree Krishna is portrayed.

Shree Krishna is one of the avatars of Vishnu, and is often portrayed as a flute-playing child and a prankster. For most of this movie, that would have been the sole fantastic content I would have found, but near the end, Krishna does battle with a giant underwater snake, and that serves as definite fantastic content for one who has no idea who Shree Krishna is. Granted, I don’t have the background to fully appreciate all of this episodic movie, but I will make certain observations. One is that much of the movie’s appeal is due to the performance of Mandakini Phalke (the director’s eight-year-old daughter) as Shree Krishna; she is so expressive and energetic she is fun to watch. I was also curious to see how a Indian cinema (which is replete with music and dancing) would fare in the pre-sound era. Well, it may be a silent movie, but I suspect if any culture would definitely have had music playing during their silent movies, it would be Indian culture. And the movie is filled with opportunities to do so, as we have Krishna playing the flute during one scene, as well as quite a bit of dancing. Even when the dancing is not explicit, much of the movement has a certain rhythmic, musical quality. Again, cultural differences hamper my ability to fully appreciate the movie, but I do think this makes for interesting viewing.

Kaibyo Okazaki sodo (1954)

aka Ghost-Cat of the Okazaki Upheaval
Article 4225 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-9-2013
Directed by Bin Kado
Featuring Takako Irie, Yoshitaro Sadato, Michiko Ai
Country: Japan
What it is: Ghost-cat antics

A woman is murdered unfairly. Her ghost-cat appears to take revenge.

This is my third encounter with the ghost-cat movies of the fifties from Japan. Like the others, I once again find myself without subtitles to help me sort out the action (hence my vague plot description). Still, I do have to admit one thing; none of the three that I’ve seen have impressed me as being special in any way, and I’m beginning to get the feeling that they were churned out in much the same fashion as “old dark house” movies were during the thirties. There are no floating heads this time, but we do have the ghost-cat using her magic powers to make another woman do gymnastics, which I saw in one of the other films. Still, there’s really not much action with the ghost-cat; most of the movie seems to be a melodrama somehow involving some romantic triangles and a kidnapped child. Also, since this is a period piece (like the others), I have trouble telling a lot of the characters apart; all of the women have the same long hair piled up on their heads, and all the men have variations of male-pattern baldness with ponytails (if you’ve seem some of these movies, you know what I mean). I somehow get the feeling that if I ever develop a favorite among these movies, it’s going to be the one that actually has English subtitles; for now, I get this strong sense of sameness from these movies.

Krazy’s Race of Time (1937)

Article 4183 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-21-2013
Directed by Manny Gould and Ben Harrison
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Animated cartoon

A vision of the future is presented that culminates with Krazy Kat taking a trip to Mars.

Much as I love cartoons, they’re not all great, and this is one of those that doesn’t quite make the grade. It’s mostly an assortment of gags about the future (the year 1999, they say at one point), and with the exception of one gag involving a propeller hat, there’s no real laughs here (and even the exception is more of smile than a laugh). If Krazy Kat has a personality, this doesn’t give him any opportunity to really show it, and the whole Mars sequence is particularly disappointing. Maybe those are the reasons this one is somewhat forgotten in the annals of time.