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.

Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave (1982)

aka Yin Ji
Article 4459 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-24-2014
Directed by Chiu Lee
Featuring Billy Chong, Lieh Lo, Chin-Lai Sung
Country: Hong Kong
What it is: Martial arts of the macabre

A Kung Fu expert is called on by the ghost of his father to find his bones and take revenge on the man who killed him. However, the target for his revenge has the help of black magic on his side.

I’ve covered a lot of movies with outrageous titles over the years, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if the movie comes from the supernatural side of martial arts movies, they’re going to be even more outrageous and wilder than the title. The weirdness never lets up in this one, what with the ghosts, zombies, vampires (Dracula himself!) and black magicians all engaging in martial arts mayhem, which consists of (as usual) a frenetic combination of gymnastics, dance choreography and sound-enhanced gesturing. I suppose I could complain about the lack of coherence, but then, I never really expected it going in. As usual, all I can do is sit there and try to take it all in, and though I’m sometimes not sure whether I’m being entertained or just being overwhelmed, at least I’m not bored, and there’s plenty of laughs along the way. Still, I’m glad that these types of movies only come along sporadically in the series; things would get very tiresome if I watched too many of them at once.

Keep My Grave Open (1976)

Article 4458 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-22-2014
Directed by S.F. Brownrigg
Featuring Camilla Carr, Gene Ross, Stephen Tobolowsky
Country: USA
What it is: Mad psycho thriller

A woman lives on an isolated farm with Kevin, who may be her brother and/or lover, and who may also be responsible for the deaths by sword of trespassers on the property.

I’ve seen only a handful of S.F. Brownrigg’s low-budget movies, but then, he only directed a handful. He’s definitely one of the more interesting directors I’ve encountered who works on such a low budget, largely because he manages to throw in unexpected twists and odd touches that are rather intriguing. It’s anchored by a strong performance from Camilla Carr as the disturbed woman who obsesses about her brother, and much of the mystery and suspense in this one hinges on the nature of Kevin; it’s not so much a matter of who he is, but it is a matter of whether he is actually present. Parts of the movie are quite predictable, but not entirely, and I found the ending very intriguing indeed. It is as much a character piece as a horror thriller, though, and there’s a chance that some people might find this one a little dull; nevertheless, I liked it. The movie also features Larry Buchanan regular Bill Thurman as a hitchhiker.

Kisses for My President (1964)

Article 4377 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-25-2013
Directed by Curtis Bernhardt
Featuring Fred MacMurray, Polly Bergen, Eli Wallach
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy

When a woman is elected President of the United States, her husband has trouble adjusting to the role of First Lady.

The fantastic content is obvious here; the movie hinges on the fact that a woman is elected to the office of President of the U.S., and though some might disagree, there are those that would say that it puts it in the realm of social science fiction. However, as such, it is a disappointment that the movie does not seriously address the repercussions of such an event; it may hint at on occasion, but it’s far more interested in the discomfiture felt by the husband at having to take on the role of “first lady”. And, truth to tell, sometimes it’s not even very interested in that, as some of the humorous situations seem to have little to do with that subject matter. There is the wisp of a plot involving a corrupt South American country and an antagonistic senator, but most of the movie feels rather formless. Fred MacMurray is trying his best here, but the long-winded and often contrived script doesn’t give him much help. There are a handful of funny moments; my favorites include the daughter’s boyfriend picking her up at the White House, and the scene where everybody tries to help MacMurray deal with his jitters over appearing in front of a camera and end up leaving him intoxicated. My favorite surprise in the movie was when I recognized that a Russian ambassador was being played by an uncredited John Banner (Sgt. Schultz on “Hogan’s Heroes”). The ending scene especially feels convenient and forced. Though I wouldn’t say the movie is bad, I do feel it is a disappointment and a missed opportunity.