A Knife for the Ladies (1974)

Article #1608 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-9-2005
Posting Date: 1-6-2006
Directed by Larry G. Spangler
Featuring Jack Elam, Ruth Roman, Jeff Cooper

Against the wishes of the local Sheriff, a city detective is called in to a western town to investigate a series of knife murders.

I don’t know if it ever actually went under this title, but one of the alternate titles listed for this one at IMDB is JACK THE RIPPER GOES WEST, and that gives you a clue to what this movie is like. One thing IMDB fails to include is a running length for the movie, and this I would like to know, since my print runs about one hour and looks as if it were edited somewhat; I’d just like to know how much is missing. It’s an odd one, all right; it’s part horror movie (especially the ending), part western, and part detective/cop story. It seems to have a pretty low reputation based on its rating on IMDB, but though I certainly don’t consider it a great movie, I found myself enjoying it well enough. For one thing, it’s certainly unpredictable, though it does have the problem that there aren’t many suspects to choose from after a bit because they keep dying off. Besides, there’s something I’ve always found likable about Jack Elam’s ugly mug wherever it appears, and he adds a good deal of fun to the movie. In this state, it’s rushed, but doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Kiss Me Quick! (1964)

Article #1554 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-16-2005
Posting Date: 11-13-2005
Directed by Peter Perry
Featuring Frank A. Coe, Max Gardens, Althea Currier

An emissary named Sterilox from the Buttless Galaxy arrives at the laboratory of Dr. Breedlove to find the perfect female specimen to take back with him.

Yes, it’s another nudie. It’s filled with repetitive scenes of women undressing or lolling around in states of undress, and it also features bad jokes and double entendres. The odd thing is that the bad jokes and double entendres are actually pretty good this time around, and the movie is stuffed so full of them that it manages to hold the interest. There’s also a Frankenstein monster, a vampire and a mummy in the mix (plus a reference to a wolfman as well). The character of Sterilox is played as a movie-long imitation of Stan Laurel, while Dr. Breedlove is performed vocally as an imitation of Bela Lugosi with a Peter Lorre laugh. A talking skull is given the voice of Peter Lorre himself. If more nudies were this amusing, they might actually be worth watching.

The Killing Kind (1973)

Article #1553 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-15-2005
Posting Date: 11-12-2005
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Ann Sothern, John Savage, Ruth Roman

A disturbed young man is released from prison after having served time for taking part in a gang rape. He returns home to his possessive mother and finds himself haunted by the desire for revenge and his own repressed sexuality.

Director Curtis Harrington’s output is variable, but there’s always a little more dimension to his movies than you might expect. This one is no exception. Sexually repressed psychos were nothing new at this point, but the characters here are so well-developed and the relationships are so striking that it holds the attention. In particular, Ann Sothern gives a wonderful performance as the mother, whose possessive and improper behavior play a big role in driving her son around the bend, but whose love for him is very real indeed. Luana Anders and Peter Brocco are also excellent as a repressed librarian and her dictatorial father; these characters were so memorable that the writers recycled them when they wrote the script for THE ATTIC. John Savage also does well as the psychotic son. Some of the scenes fall flat, especially a dream sequence involving a crib that is so totally lacking in psychological subtlety that it ends up laughable and embarrassing. Nonetheless, these scenes are in the minority, and overall the movie is very good, with a strong, memorable ending.

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966)

Article #1552 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-14-2005
Posting Date: 11-11-2005
Directed by Mario Bava
Featuring Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Erika Blanc, Fabienne Dali

A coroner is called to a small town to perform an autopsy on a woman who died an unusual death. He discovers a coin buried in her heart, and finds out that her death is tied to strange visions of a little girl.

This movie has a variable reputation. Some people consider it Bava’s best movie, while others feel disappointed. I can understand both reactions. The movie is enticingly mysterious, effectively moody, and uses color wonderfully. It is also full of very striking scenes; in particular, I like a sequence where the hero chases someone through the same room several times in succession only to catch him and discover—well, I won’t give it away. Yet that scene also points to the movie’s problem; ultimately, there’s no satisfactory explanation for it. It’s a case where the mystery element is a lot more compelling than the disappointing and incomplete explanations, and the climax of the movie doesn’t quite deliver the necessary scares. Certainly, the title doesn’t help; it makes it sound for all the world like it’s about a serial killer, and that doesn’t capture it. Still, I think the movie is worth catching for the mood and certain individual moments; only the disappointing ending really holds it back.

King of the Wild (1931)

Article #1513 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-6-2005
Posting Date: 10-3-2005
Directed by B. Reeves Eason and Richard Thorpe
Featuring Walter Miller, Nora Lane, Tom Santschi

An American salesman who just happens to be the spitting image of the Rajah of Rampur takes on the Rajah’s role after a tiger attack fatally wounds the Rajah. This is done to give the Rajah’s brother time to receive a note that explains the situation that is intended to call the brother in to take over the reigns of the government rather than letting it fall into the hands of the scheming cousin named Dakka. However, the salesman’s associate sells the note to Dakka, not knowing that Dakka has written the agreement on the back of the note in disappearing ink, but since the brother arrives just in time, Dakka’s plans are foiled, but since the ink has disappeared, the associate fails to get paid and takes hold of the note in order to get the ink to reappear so he can collect his money. The salesman is framed for the murder of the Rajah, but escapes a year later to find his associate and recover the note which will prove his innocence, but the associate has teamed up with an Arab named Mustapha and a wild ape man in an attempt to find the location of a diamond mine discovered by a man whose sister is framed for the murder of a woman who was trying to force from the brother the location of the said diamond mine, but she escapes the shipwreck along with an old woman who is actually a secret service agent and a Swedish animal hunter with a secret mission. However, there’s also a mysterious man in dark glasses running around and….okay, the plot is just really complicated, got it?

You know, with most serials, I can sum up the plot in two lines, and in some ways, I find it refreshing to run into one with a setup this elaborate. Yes, I know that serials aren’t supposed to have plots this complicated because it gets in the way of the action sequences, but, truth be told, I’m not a big action fan. In short, I like this one, not so much for its complicated plot, but more for its assortment of well-delineated characters, each with their set of motivations and goals, and for many of them, you don’t know on which side of the struggle they’ll eventually turn out to be. The ape man makeup is also quite fun, and it’s one of Karloff’s better serial roles (he plays Mustapha), even if he doesn’t really pull off the accent he’s trying to do. You should also be able to figure out the identity of the mysterious man in the black glasses early on, so don’t pay any attention to certain deceptive scenes that lead you to believe you’re wrong. The cliffhangers are often quite good, with most episodes ending with double cliffhangers with two different people in separate perilous situations. I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting this one.

Krakatit (1947)

Article #1428 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-10-2005
Posting Date: 7-10-2005
Directed by Otakar Vavra
Featuring Karel Hoger, Florence Marly, Eduard Linkers

An ill man has a fever dream in which he creates an explosive powder called Krakatit, which becomes an eagerly sought substance by foreign powers.

Once again I find myself watching a foreign movie in its native language (Czech) without subtitles; however, I was also given a document which translated the dialogue for me, so by following the script while watching the movie, I was able (albeit awkwardly) to follow the story. This is good, as the story is complex enough that if I had had to rely on the visuals alone, I would have been lost. It’s a powerful story by Karel Capek, the Czech writer responsible for the birth of the word ‘robot’ (from the play “R.U.R.”) about the illusion that the ultimate weapon will be the ultimate peacemaker. There are some haunting moments here, particularly in scenes with an old mailman and with a mysterious character called D’Hemon (pronounced “Daimon”, and if you know a word that sounds very close to that, you’ll have a clue to his real identity). Since the movie is framed by sequences in which a doctor and a nurse try to care for the ill main character, you’re left wondering whether the events are being dreamed or remembered. At any rate, this is a powerful movie, and it’s a shame that it’s not better known or more widely available.

King Solomon’s Mines (1937)

Article #1366 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-10-2004
Posting Date: 5-9-2005
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Featuring Paul Robeson, Cedric Hardwicke, Roland Young

When a determined Irish girl shanghais his wagon in order to find her father, Allan Quatermain decides to follow her and help her in her quest.

Fantastic content: The whole story is driven by the search and discovery of the legendary mines of King Solomon, putting the movie somewhat into the realm of fantasy.

Despite the fact that “She” seems to be the more popular choice over the years for cinematic adaptations of H. Rider Haggard’s adventure novels, I would opt for this adaptation of one of his other works over any of the ones I’ve seen of “She”. Part of the reason is the efficient, well-paced production and a witty and fun script, but the real selling point of this one is its excellent cast. John Loder and Anna Lee play the likable romantic leads, and Cedric Hardwicke does a fine job as the noble but somewhat reluctant Allan Quatermain who gets drawn into the adventure despite his better judgment. However, the other two leads are the true stars of this production. Roland Young has never been funnier; every time he opened his mouth, I found myself giggling at his comment. Twice he gets caught without his pants during the movie, eventually prompting my favorite line in the movie, “Would it do any good if I whipped off my pants?” And then there’s Paul Robeson as Umbopa, who deports himself with an impressive dignity (he was one of the few black actors of the era not consigned to secondary/comic relief roles), and when he sings (which is quite often), it enhances and adds color to the story rather than bringing it to a halt. Considering just how much of the movie consists of people taking long walks from one place to another, it’s amazing how it never gets dull, thanks to sharp editing and colorful dialogue. The final scenes of the movie are also pretty spectacular, with an epic native war and a dangerous pit of lava coming into play.