Kiss of the Tarantula (1976)

KISS OF THE TARANTULA (1976)
Article 3264 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-27-2010
Posting Date: 7-22-2010
Directed by Chris Munger
Featuring Suzanna Ling, Eric Mason, Herman Wallner
Country: USA
What it is: Creepy girl and her creepy-crawly friends

A young girl with an affection for spiders discovers that her mother is having an affair with her uncle and plans to murder her father. She unleashes her pet tarantula on her mother. Years later, she discovers that her tarantula friends can be useful to deal with her other enemies.

This is what you get when you cross WILLARD with THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE. It’s low budget, the pace is a little slow, and it’s mostly pretty predictable. It’s one of those movies I could probably go either way with, but which, the truth is, I rather like. Part of the reason is that it’s just fun to see tarantulas crawling around all over the place. Another is that it’s somewhat satisfying in its rather pandering way; her victims are fairly unpleasant, hateful people (for the most part) who are pretty much getting what they deserve, and you like the people you’re supposed to like, especially the girl’s father. You’ll be waiting the whole movie for her to take care of the real villain of the piece; her uncle not only plots with her mother to kill her father, but in the later part of the story starts coming on to the girl herself, and, quite frankly, you’ll be waiting for that creep to get his, which he does in a quite satisfying sequence. Still, my favorite moment is a little one in the middle of the movie; the girl approaches the coffin with the body of one of the boys she’s killed, and places the corpse of the spider he killed in the coffin with him to keep him company throughout eternity. It’s far from a great movie, but it served its purpose quite well.

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Kyuketsu-ga (1956)

KYUKETSU-GA (1956)
aka The Vampire Moth, Bloodthirsty Moth
Article 3215 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-7-2010
Posting Date: 6-3-2010
Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa
Featuring Ryo Ikebe, Asami Kuji, Ichiro Arishima
Country: Japan
What it is: Japanese horror-mystery

Models are being killed by a werewolf-like creature. Detectives investigate.

Since my print of this is in unsubtitled Japanese, I’m not really sure what’s going on most of the time. I do know this; it’s part of a series of movies about Kosuke Kindaichi, a detective who investigates mysteries with supernatural elements which, in the end, prove to have non-supernatural explanations. Still, the horror elements are here; the killer wears a scary mask with jagged teeth, and some of the scenes have a definite eerie quality to them. There’s a number of striking scenes here; my favorites include the discovery of a corpse on a raised platform, and a dance scene in which all we see are six pairs of legs when there are only five dancers; the latter has to be seen to be believed. Apparently, part of the plot involves a blackmail scheme of some sort involving dress designs, as far as I can tell. Until I can see a version of this one with subtitles, I doubt I can say anything more about it.

Killer on the Loose (1936)

KILLER ON THE LOOSE (1936)
aka Killer at Large
Article 3182 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2010
Posting Date: 5-1-2010
Directed by David Selman
Featuring Mary Brian, Russell Hardie, George McKay
Country: USA
What it is: B-Movie crime drama with slight horror elements

When a safe is robbed in a department store and the store manager is murdered, a clerk who is engaged to the female store detective is under suspicion. The detective must find the real killer.

The killer in this case is a designer of wax figures who also specializes in impersonating them, a gimmick that actually plays into the robbery/murder. This isn’t really a spoiler; the identity of the murderer is given to us fairly early in the proceedings, and the movie is more concerned with the pursuit of the criminal. The horror elements are slight; there’s a scene in a warehouse full of wax figures and a cemetery scene that provide some slight horror content, and the killer is a madman of sorts as well. Henry Brandon plays the killer, and he’s the best thing here; he comes across as convincingly malevolent. Still, there really isn’t much to this low-budget movie, though fans of Lon Chaney Jr. will find him here in a small role as one of the killer’s henchmen. All in all, a fairly minor b-movie.

Kill or Be Killed (1967)

KILL OR BE KILLED (1967)
TV-Movie
Article 3078 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-20-2009
Posting Date: 1-17-2010
Directed by William Hale and Herschel Daugherty
Featuring James Darren, Robert Colbert, Whit Bissell
Country: USA
What it is: Time travel movie cobbled together from two episodes of “The Time Tunnel”

Tony and Doug find themselves in Hawaii on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting Tony to find out what happened to his father, who disappeared during the attack. Then they end up on an island near Iwo Jima, where they become the target of a disgraced Japanese kamikaze pilot.

All right, I cheated; I never actually saw this movie (which I couldn’t find), but rather, in lieu of that, I watched the two episodes from “The Time Tunnel” which were used for the movie, and tried to imagine how they would have been edited together. This was easy enough; they most likely came up with different opening and closing credit sequences and lopped off the end part of each episode in which the Time Tunnelers were whisked off to another time period and left in a cliffhanger situation. Rarely have I seen anything more elaborate done for this sort of movie.

The two episodes are “The Day the Sky Fell In”, and “Kill Two by Two”. I did a sort on IMDB of the episodes of “The Time Tunnel” on IMDB in ratings order, and realized that putting these two episodes together was a no-brainer; not only were they the two top-rated episodes of the series, but they both have a World War II theme. It’s easy to see why the Pearl Harbor story is a favorite; fans of a series generally like the episodes where we get personal stories woven into the action, and Tony does get to interact not only with his father, but with himself as a child as well. This episode works well enough, but clumsy writing blunts the effectiveness of the more emotional scenes. I actually like the other episode better, despite the fact that it turns into a rehash of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, with our heroes trying to escape the clutches of the mad pilot intent on hunting them down. What makes this one work is that the hunter/pilot has a more interesting backstory and motivation than is usual for this type of plot, and it was nice to see that the parts involving Whit Bissell’s character (i.e. the scientists trying to retrieve the two men lost in the Time Tunnel) amount to more than the usual hand-wringing about their frustration at their inability to rescue the men; it’s here that the backstory is fleshed out. Edited together it would have been watchable enough, though I doubt anyone would have been fooled into thinking it would have been anything more than two episodes of a TV show edited together. I do wonder if they kept the nifty theme music, though.

King of the Rocket Men (1949)

KING OF THE ROCKET MEN (1949)
Serial
Article 3016 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-10-2009
Posting Date: 11-16-2009
Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Featuring Tristram Coffin, Mae Clarke, Don Haggerty
Country: USA

A madman is knocking off members of Science Associates to get the secrets of their inventions. One scientist who has gone into hiding has invented a rocket suit, and security chief Jeff King dons it in order to find the identity of the evil Dr. Vulcan.

This is the first and best of the three “Rocket Man” serials, often thought of as the Commando Cody series because of the character’s name in the middle serial. The title is a bit of a lie; there’s really only one “Rocket Man”, and he’s not a king, but he’s named “King”, which makes me wonder if they had named him Pope, what the name of the series would be. It’s more solidly made and less cheesy than the other serials, though the fantastic content is greater in its follow-ups; though there are plenty of science fiction contraptions in this one, there are no alien invaders. The villain has one of those FFICs with OIE (for those who don’t remember, that’s a Free-Floating Inviso-Cam with Optional Instant Editing, an item which pops up in movies so that villains can watch what’s going on in areas where there is no noticeable camera). It’s a little odd to see perennial villain Tristram Coffin as the hero in this one, but he does the best he can. I suspect the whole idea came from an attempt to emulate the character of Superman, only without the invulnerability which no doubt made it a little more difficult to come up with effective cliffhangers.

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (1966)

KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE (1966)
aka Se tutte le donne del mondo
Article 3000 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-25-2009
Posting Date: 10-31-2009
Directed by Henry Levin and Arduino Miauri
Featuring Mike Connors, Dorothy Provine, Raf Vallone
Country: Italy

An American CIA agent investigates the dealings of a man in Rio de Janeiro who is suspected of being a white slaver. He discovers a plot to render the entire population of the world sterile.

For an Italian James Bond ripoff it’s surprisingly well done, and since most of the main characters are played by English-speaking actors, there’s not a lot of dubbing problems to contend with. Nonetheless, there are problems here. The music and pacing are very laid back, too much so for an exercise in superspydom; though it gives the whole movie a surprisingly amiable quality, it also makes the proceedings rather lethargic on occasion. It works best when it plays up the comedy, which is to say that Terry-Thomas steals the movie every time he appears in either of his two roles. There’s plenty of science fiction gadgetry to add to the fantastic content as well, what with the rocket, the secret underground site, the use of suspended animation, etcetera, etcetera. Mike Connors is pleasant enough as the banana-eating Bond substitute here, and Dorothy Provine wears some of the most bizarre costumes I’ve seen in a movie of this ilk. It would have been nice if they had picked up the pace and gone clearly in the direction of comedy. Incidentally, this is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movies.

The Killer Spores (1977)

THE KILLER SPORES (1977)
TV-Movie for the series “Man from Atlantis”
Article 2999 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-24-2009
Posting Date: 10-30-2009
Directed by Raza Badiyi
Featuring Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Kenneth Tigar
Country: USA

An Oceanic science team is sent out to retrieve a space probe that landed in their vicinity. However, the space probe has brought back a surprise; a bizarre life form that can only be seen in the daylight by Mark Harris, the Man from Atlantis. These life forms can take over other life forms and bend them to their wills, and Mark Harris is the first to be attacked…

I wish to reiterate that these “Man from Atlantis” movies are not episodes of the TV series grafted together to make bogus features, but actual feature-length episodes made before it was reduced to a regular-length series. The title isn’t promising, the story, when reduced to its fundamentals, is nothing new, and it eventually gives in to the trendy cynical view of mankind so prevalent during the seventies. However, this shows a marked improvement over the only other episode I’ve seen, THE DEATH SCOUTS; it’s much better written, the acting is consistently good, and the direction and use of sound is very creative. In fact, it’s the details that really sell this episode; the life form from outer space feels genuinely alien, as does Mark Harris himself; one really senses a strong clash of cultures here. Furthermore, when the aliens possess people, their behavior doesn’t merely become violent and antisocial; they end up acting very strange in a variety of unsettling ways. I have to admit that I really liked this episode, and if the IMDB ratings are any indication, it may be the best one of the whole series. At any rate, I have two more movies from this series to cover at some later time.