Kismet (1955)

KISMET (1955)
Article 2708 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-2-2008
Posting Date: 1-11-2009
Directed by Vincente Minnelli and Stanley Donen
Featuring Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray
Country: USA

A poet is mistaken for a great magician by the Wazir, who plans to use his abilities to keep the Caliph from marrying.

I thought the 1944 version of this movie was basically a piece of fluff with only the mildest of fantastic elements (the main character did some magic tricks). Here it is, transformed into a truly ordinary musical, even fluffier and with even less fantastic content; the main character is a poet who is mistaken for a magician, though he does no overt magic. Yes, it has “Stranger in Paradise”, but so does FIRE MAIDENS FROM OUTER SPACE. A few character actors brighten things up a little; Sebastian Cabot plays the Wazir, Monty Woolley is Omar, Jack Elam plays Hassan-Ben, and Mike Mazurki plays a guard; incidentally, none of these people do any of the singing. At least Dolores Gray doesn’t seem as out of place as Marlene Dietrich seemed in the earlier version.



The Knight of the Snows (1912)

aka Le Chevalier des neiges
Article 2635 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-22-2008
Posting Date: 10-30-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France

Two men vie for the hand of a princess. The evil one conjures forth demons to help him kidnap her, and the good one calls on angels to help rescue her.

There’s not a whole lot of difference between the movies Georges Melies made for his own production company and those like this he made for Pathe in the latter part of his career. Still, having watched this one just a few days after having watched ATLANTIS (which was made one year later), I can’t help but feel just how old-fashioned his fare must have seemed at this point; there isn’t really any change of style here from when he made A TRIP TO THE MOON a decade earlier. Still, if you’re a Melies fan, this has its good moments; the sequence where the evil man conjures forth the devils is a fairly fun sequence, especially when we see that beastie the devil uses to pull his sleigh; it looks like a cross between the Jabberwock and that creature Daffy Duck turns into in DUCK AMUCK. It’s your basic fairy tale sifted through Melies’s cinematic sensibility.


Killdozer (1974)

Article 2577 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-25-2008
Posting Date: 9-2-2008
Directed by Jerry London
Featuring Clint Walker, Carl Betz, Neville Brand
Country: USA

A construction crew on a small island off the coast of Africa runs into problems when its bulldozer is taken over by an alien force and begins killing the workers.

I don’t know about you, but to me, there’s something innately silly about mechanical vehicles being taken over by alien forces and wreaking havoc; I can’t read Stephen King’s short story “The Mangler” without giggling for that very reason. Also, despite the fact that Theodore Sturgeon wrote the screenplay from his own story, there are still a lot of cliches at work here, the character development is less than impressive, and there are a number of times in the story where characters behave with incredible stupidity. Still, I find it hard to dislike this movie, which, in its way, gives us a fair share of good old monster fun. They do manage to make the bulldozer seem alive on occasion, not so much when it uses the headlights as eyes, but moreso when the bulldozer tilts its blade back and forth at an angle. It’s also got one great laugh line which I won’t give away except to say that it involves the word “warranty”, and it has one indelible moment (that has stuck in my head after having seen portions of it many years ago) when the bulldozer slowly lifts and drops its blade while a man stands with his back to it. And, as silly as the title is, it’s got a lot of fun value you don’t often find with TV-Movies. Besides, I always like to see Neville Brand’s craggy face.


The Killers Are Challenged (1966)

aka A 077, sfida ai killers
Article 2543 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-22-2008
Posting Date: 7-29-2008
Directed by Antonio Margheritti
Featuring Richard Harrison, Susy Andersen, Wandisa Guida
Country: Italy/France

A group of noted scientists are working on a new source of energy that will make petroleum obsolete. However, someone is killing them off one by one. CIA agent Bob Fleming assumes the identity of the only living scientist in an attempt to protect him, and to track down the murderers.

We’re taking a little break from our Melies-a-thon for an Italian James Bond ripoff, and, fortunately, it’s one of the more entertaining ones. The plot is relatively easy to follow in this one and the basic setup is rather interesting. There’s an assortment of odd characters; my favorite is a cab driver who used to work for Scotland Yard and drives a vehicle full of protective devices. The fantastic content is mostly of the Gizmo Maguffin variety, with the new source of energy the prize in this one, though a gadget ring that can test drinks for poison is also fun. The best scene is a barroom brawl involving (among others) the secret agent, his mysterious female helper, several drunken sailors, a big guy with a stool stuck on his head, and a feisty dwarf; guess which one is left explaining the brawl to the police when they arrive.


Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill (1966)

aka Kommissar X – Jagd auf Unbekannt
Article 2512 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-19-2008
Posting Date: 6-28-2008
Directed by Gianfranco Parolini
Featuring Tony Kendall, Brad Harris, Maria Perschy
Country: West Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia

Jo Walker and Captain Tom Rowland investigate a series of deaths that were part of a business deal; apparently, one of the four partners in the deal wants the money all to himself. They discover that the murderer is planning on gathering the largest amount of gold in the world.

This is another of the European James Bond rip-offs that were common during the late sixties, and, for my money, it’s one of the better ones. In fact, it was popular enough that it spawned a series of its own; there were at least six “Kommissar X” sequels with Brad Kendall in the role. It has a good sense of humor to add to the proceedings, and I really like the relationship between Jo Walker and his boss (played by Brad Harris, who popped up in a few sword-and-sandal movies as well as the 1959 LI’L ABNER). The movie also has a good villain in the character of an industrialist who manages to keep one step ahead of Jo Walker for most of the movie. No, those expecting Bond-type thrills will be a little disappointed, but those with a tolerance for these low-budget rip-offs will find this one quite entertaining.


King of the Congo (1952)

Article 2505 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-12-2008
Posting Date: 6-21-2008
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Wallace Grissell
Featuring Buster Crabbe, Gloria Dea, Leonard Penn
Country: USA

An Air Force captain goes undercover in Africa to discover why communist agents are at work there. He gains the name “Thunda” from a tribe of cave people when he rings a gong. He discovers the communists are after a radioactive element more powerful than uranium.

Quite frankly, I felt sorry for whichever serial I’d watch next after having viewed the excellent DRUMS OF FU MANCHU; I knew it would look limp and uninteresting next to that one. For the first several episodes of this serial, it did live down to my expectations; the plot and conflicts seemed confusing and ill-defined, and, despite the fact that our main character is supposedly the hero of the cave people, they actively put him in peril. However, it improves once Thunda stops pretending to be on the side of the communists, and though it’s hardly a great serial, this one from Columbia is stronger than the ones from Republic in the early fifties. The radioactive element is a Gizmo Maguffin, and the rest of the fantastic content are of the typical jungle sort; scary animals, a gorilla on the loose, the marginal fantasy view of Africa. You do have to admire the good shape 45-year old Buster Crabbe was in, since he spends most of the movie in a loincloth.


King Arthur, the Young Warlord (1975)

Article 2479 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-17-2008
Posting Date: 5-26-2008
Directed by Sidney Hayers, Pat Jackson, Peter Sasdy
Featuring Oliver Tobias, John Watson, Michael Gothard
Country: UK

The adventures of a young Arthur, before he became king, are recounted.

My source for this one claimed it was a British TV Movie. Maybe so, but on viewing, I began to detect that unmistakable odor of episodes of a TV series edited together to form a movie. You know the sense; that feeling that you’re watching a series of disconnected stories without any real overriding arc. And, sure enough, that’s just what this is; it was edited from several episodes of a series called “Arthur and the Britons”. It doesn’t appear to be a bad series; the whole thing kept me well entertained, and the performances are all very good, with Jack Watson (as Arthur’s iron-armed sidekick Llud) and Brian Blessed (as rival warlord Mark of Cornwall) particularly memorable; the latter (who, to my mind, is notoriously given to overacting) is only over-the-top during the opening story. Then there’s the issue of the fantastic content to deal with. The basic legend of King Arthur has ample fantastic content, what with the Excalibur story and Merlin the magician coming to mind. However, the only character from Arthurian legends here is Arthur himself, and everything is done in a realistic mode; in other words, no magic or other fantastic elements. If the whole King Arthur story qualifies, this movie might qualify as borderline fantasy; as it is, it’s more historical fiction. Still, I much prefer the look and feel of this take on the character than I do in either KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE or THE SWORD IN THE STONE.