Der Kongress Amusiert Sich (1966)

aka The Congress of Love
Article 4976 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-2-2015
Directed by Geza von Radvanyi
Featuring Lilli Palmer, Curd Jurgens, Paul Meurisse
Country: West Germany / Austria / France
What it is: Historical comedy

After the Napoleonic Wars, a congress is convened by the various nations to restore the balance of power. The various members of the congress engage in political manipulation and interact with their lovers.

The fantastic content in this movie manifests itself early in the movie; the action opens in a modern-day wax museum where the figure of Prince Metternich comes to life and then walks into the past where most of the action of the movie takes place. The end of the movie also takes place in the present, and there is a fleeting moment in the middle which also bridges the past and the present; this one almost got by me until it hit me that automobiles weren’t period. Whether this time transition is a cinematic trick or is inherent to the story thematically is a question I can’t answer; the only copy of the movie I’ve been able to find is in German without English subtitles. Given the subject matter, I’m not sure whether the subtitles would have helped or not; I suspect that it would be necessary to have a solid grounding in the historical place, time and characters of the action to appreciate it. It seems to be well produced; the sets and costumes are quite impressive, and there’s a lot of music to the story (including one of the more obvious comic touches involving a badly played string bass). But I found it impossible to follow the story, and its 5.0 rating on IMDB doesn’t exactly make it sound that it’s really worth the effort to sort it out. It was a remake of a movie called THE CONGRESS DANCES, of which there were two versions. However, it does not appear that these earlier movie had any fantastic content to speak of.

The Killing Hour (1982)

aka The Clairvoyant
Article 4958 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-15-2015
Directed by Armand Mastroianni
Featuring Perry King, Norman Parker, Elizabeth Kemp
Country: USA
What it is: Mystery thriller

A cop who moonlights as a stand-up comic gets involved in a case of a serial killer who uses handcuffs on his victims. A woman artist with psychic powers begins drawing pictures involved with the murders. Will she be a target of the killer?

Personally, I’m a little tired of the psychic/serial killer combination; it’s popped up a few times in this series, and it’s to the point now where I’m beginning to find the idea a little hackneyed. That being said, I rather enjoyed this take on the subject, largely due to the fact that the characters and their relationships to each other are rather interesting. As a horror movie, it’s perhaps too restrained; in fact, it’s almost bloodless. As a mystery, it’s too easy; I zeroed in on the killer before it was even half over. Also, I have to admit that if I enjoyed watching the movie, it starts to fall apart when I start sorting through the plot points and asking questions. So, I’d have to say that overall, the movie isn’t really very good, but it does have a few good points.

The King of Kings (1927)

Article 4888 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-1-2015
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Featuring H.B. Warner, Dorothy Cumming, Ernest Torrence
Country: USA
What it is: The Christ story

The story of Jesus Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem, miracles, arrest, crucifixion and resurrection is told.

Of the various versions of the Christ story I’ve seen so far, this one is easily the best. Why? For one thing, it makes no attempt to tell the whole story; the movie omits the birth of Christ, the early years and picks and chooses which episodes to cover. Various events are taken out of order and juxtaposed together, and new details are added that, as far as I remember, were not in the gospels. The end result is a streamlined version of the story with the emphasis on maximum dramatic effect. There are some brilliant sequences here. One of my favorite moments is the first appearance of Christ. He does not appear until about twenty minutes into the movie; our first view coincides with the miracle of the sight being restored to a blind boy, and it’s a very effective entrance. The sequence where the seven deadly sins are cast out of Mary Magdalene is also quite memorable. Much emphasis is given to the surrounding characters; Judas, Simon Peter, Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate are all given memorable characters and moments. There are some wonderful touches here; one of my favorite moments is when Simon of Cyrene first tries to help Jesus carry the cross. A good deal of credit must also go to the performance of H.B. Warner; in his hands, Christ does much more than solemnly gesture, but is given a natural and quite moving personality. Furthermore, the movie even relaxes enough to have a sense of humor on occasion, such as the scene where the Roman soldiers go fishing. Yes, at two and a half hours, it is a long movie, but it would have felt a lot longer if the various elements hadn’t gelled. As it is, this one is very effective.

Kaidan ‘Chidori-ga-fuchi’ (1956)

aka The Ghost of Chidori-ga-fuchi
Article 4778 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-10-2015
Directed by Elichi Koishi
Featuring Harue Akagi, Ushio Akashi, Ryutaro Aoyagi
Country: Japan
What it is: Ghost story

A man’s wife dies in a swamp. Her ghost returns to haunt him.

This is another movie that was rescued from my “ones that got away” list when I discovered I could order a used VHS of the film; unfortunately, the tape was from Japan, so of course there’s no English dubbing or subtitles. As a result, I can’t really give a comprehensive review of it. However, I have heard that it’s not really very good, and based on what I did see, it seems slow, talky and uneventful. The ghost doesn’t really come into play until near the end of the movie, and even then, not a whole lot happens. It’s a fairly short film (66 minutes), but the draggy pace makes it feel a lot longer. Unless there’s some really interesting dialogue, there’s not much to recommend here.

A Kiss for Cinderella (1925)

Article 4752 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-7-2015
Directed by Herbert Brenon
Featuring Betty Bronson, Esther Ralston, Henry Vibart
Country: USA
What it is: Romance with fantastic touches

During World War I, a policeman investigates a young woman whom he suspects of being a German spy. What he finds instead is a good-hearted but poverty-stricken girl who has a mad obsession with the Cinderella story.

Early on in this movie I found myself wondering whether there would actually be any real fantastic content to the movie at all; it had the air of being one of those more-or-less “realistic” movies that were inspired by stories with more fantastic content. Not that this really interfered with my enjoyment of the movie; the distinct eccentric charm of the proceedings and the loveliness of Betty Branson in the title role did a wonderful job of keeping me interested. It does, however, make the shift to fantastic content at about the halfway point, and the fact that it takes place in a character’s dream does nothing to change the fact that the entire ball sequence is truly whimsical and charming. There’s a great special effect when the pumpkin and mice are transformed, and bizarre touches abound; the royal family sit on rocking thrones, and you’ll have to see the movie yourself to figure out why the marriage ceremony is presided over by a penguin. Nevertheless, there is a certain tension during the dream sequence, because we know the dream is being had under the same circumstances as those of “The Little Match Girl”, and we don’t really want our main character to suffer the same fate. I have to admit to having been thoroughly delighted by this odd and strange romance, probably precisely because it is so odd and strange. And there is something to be said about a movie that can make a foot fetish seem charming.

The Kid (1921)

THE KID (1921)
Article 4732 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-8-2015
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Featuring Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Jackie Coogan
Country: USA
What it is: Heartwarming comedy

A single mother abandons her child in a limousine in a moment of desperation, but the limo is stolen by thieves and the baby is left out in the street. A wandering tramp discovers the child, and eventually decides to raise it as his own. However, later in life, the woman becomes a successful actress, and she begins to long for the child she abandoned…

No, this movie is in essence not a genre movie, but the Walt Lee guide includes the film for a single sequence; late in the movie, the tramp falls asleep in a doorway and dreams that he is in heaven, which is a wonderful place until some devils show up to make mischief. Though it’s a fun sequence, it feels a bit out of place with the rest of the movie, and its purpose is to serve as a transition scene that eventually leads to the final ending. Still, I’m really glad for the opportunity to cover one of Chaplin’s major early works, where he turned away from pure slapstick and started adding an emotional resonance to his work that made it a deeper cinematic experience. Yes, Chaplin does have some great comic moments in this one (I love how he can sometimes with a single look or action reveal what is going through his mind), but the core of the movie is his relationship with the child, who was played by a 7-year old Jackie Coogan, who gives an excellent performance as well. We end up caring for all of the major characters, and this includes the mother, who almost immediately regrets her abandonment of the child and returns to the place she left him, only to find the child gone. This is a wonderful movie, and it’s a good example of the maturity of Chaplin’s craft; it’s one of the reasons he became one of the most respected comedians of this era.

Kotetsu no kyojin (1957)

aka Supa jaiantsu, Super Giant 1
Article 4696 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-29-2014
Directed by Teruo Ishii
Featuring Ken Utsui, Junko Ikeuchi, Minoru Takada
Country: Japan
What it is: Japanese superhero

Super Giant takes on a gang of terrorists planning nuclear destruction for Japan.

There were nine short movies made about this superhero in Japan. He is known as Starman in the United States, and the nine episodes were edited into four features there. It looks like I’m going to be eventually covering all nine of the original shorts as well as all four of the features. This is the first of the nine shorts, and though I was able to get a copy of it, it has no English subtitles. That’s not a huge problem, though; the action is relatively straightforward with an emphasis on visuals rather than talk, and I do have my memories of the English versions to help. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this version is easier to follow than the rather confusing English version; the latter versions were somewhat incoherent due to several relatively unconnected episodes being strung together, where the action in this one is of a piece. I can honestly say I enjoyed this one quite a bit, though the silliness is still there, especially during the outlandish fight sequences. I can only hope someday that someone decides to attach English subtitles to the original shorts and make them readily available here. However, this one does end in a cliffhanger that is resolved in the next episode of the series.

Kadoyng (1972)

KADOYNG (1972)
Article 4641 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-30-2014
Directed by Ian Shand
Featuring Leo Maguire, Teresa Codling, Adrian Hall
Country: UK
What it is: Children’s movie

The small village of Byway is in danger of having its landscape wiped out by a bypass that is going to be built through it. However, an alien from outer space shows up to fix things.

This is an example of what I’ve come to call the “Fix-It Stranger” story. These are stories in which certain characters have problems until a stranger shows up to fix them. It’s not necessarily a bad story foundation; if you think about it, some excellent movies such as SHANE and THE ROAD WARRIOR have that plot. When it’s done badly, however, you end up with movies like this one. Granted, that’s not the worst problem here; the movie isn’t really taking the plot that seriously to begin with. It is, however, not all that funny, at least partly because it takes that condescending “kids will laugh at anything” approach. The alien looks human except for an appendage at the top of his head; the title is derived from the noise the appendage makes when the alien takes off his hat, and that should give you an idea of the level of the humor. It’s another title from the Children’s Film Foundation, and it’s also another title I couldn’t find for years until it showed up on a British DVD. It’s silly and inconsequential.

Kill and Kill Again (1981)

Article 4599 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-5-2014
Directed by Ivan Hall
Featuring James Ryan, Anneline Kriel, Michael Mayer
Country: South Africa / USA
What it is: Martial arts comic action movie

A scientist who has invented a mind-control drug is kidnapped by a super-criminal who plans to use it to take over the world A martial arts expert is hired to rescue him, and he assembles a band of friends to help him on his mission.

I don’t take this movie very seriously, but then, neither did the ones who made it. It’s something of a cross between THE SEVEN SAMURAI and ENTER THE DRAGON done in a comic mode, but I suspect it would have been a little funnier if it had taken itself seriously. The mind-control serum is more than just a maguffin here; the villain (who wears one of the worst fake beards in motion picture history) uses it to control his minions; furthermore, some of the martial artists have mystical abilities that allow them to levitate, though this doesn’t really come into play during the action sequences. James Ryan was a South African action star, and though he’s certainly no Bruce Lee, he does all right. Overall, the movie is entertaining in that “turn off your mind and let it wash over you” way, but it’s certainly no classic.

Krazy Magic (1938)

aka Krazy’s Magic
Article 4584 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-20-2014
Directed by Manny Gould and Ben Harrison
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Krazy Kat cartoon

Krazy Kat and his girl Kitty take refuge from a storm in a creepy house where they are subjected to tricks by an invisible magician.

The original Krazy Kat was the central character of one of the most significant comic strips of the first half of the last century, but in the Columbia cartoons based on the character, he is little more than a Mickey Mouse clone. Furthermore, Columbia was a little slower than some of the other studios at making its cartoon input more sophisticated, so this one feels like one from the first half of the thirties rather than the later half. It’s mostly just a set of surreal gags that aren’t particularly funny or focused; the same setup has been used more effectively by other cartoons. Still, if you’ve developed a tolerance for cartoons of this ilk, it’s watchable enough.