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.


Killer Bees (1974)

Article 2998 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-23-2009
Posting Date: 10-29-2009
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Edward Albert, Kate Jackson, Gloria Swanson
Country: USA

A young man brings his pregnant girlfriend to his ancestral home, much to the consternation of his family and his domineering grandmother. The girlfriend tries to gain acceptance to the family, but she is troubled by a series of local accidents… and the grandmother’s uncanny relationship with the swarms of bees in the orchard…

I’ve seen a number of killer bee movies already, but I must admit that this modest little take on the theme is perhaps my favorite. It’s less muddled than THE DEADLY BEES, more offbeat than THE SAVAGE BEES or TERROR OUT OF THE SKY, and certainly less silly than THE SWARM. Much of the credit goes to effective performances by Kate Jackson and (especially) Gloria Swanson, who took the role of the family matriarch after Bette Davis was forced to turn it down after being warned by her doctor. I also like the way the movie sets you up for one ending, but has another more effective and less predictable (albeit logical one in its own way) up its sleeve. It’s a bit on the slow side, and, with a rating of 4.4 on IMDB, I know I’m in the minority, but I found this one to be an eerie little winner.

Kiss Me, Kill Me (1973)

aka Baba Yaga
Article 2735 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-1-2008
Posting Date: 2-7-2009
Directed by Corrado Farina
Featuring Carroll Baker, George Eastman, Isabelle De Funes
Country: Italy / France

An erotic photographer finds herself being put under the spell of lesbian witch with a sadomasochistic streak… or is it all her imagination?

Let’s see, this movie has lesbianism, sado-masochism, bizarre erotic dreams, a camera that kills what it shoots, lots of nudity, rapid-fire flashback editing, dolls in leather outfits turning into real women in leather outfits, whippings, conversations about politics, ambiguity about whether what happens is truth or illusion, bloody needles, Nazi imagery, and is based on comics by Guido Crepax. For the first hour it thinks it’a an art film, decides it’s a horror film in the last twenty minutes, and then changes back into an art film. If there’s a message, I’ll leave it to the Eurofans to figure out, though I suspect it’s trying to say that we’re all sadomasochistic lesbians at heart and those who deny it are dishonest, which is the type of message you don’t want to bother arguing with because it comes with its own counterargument at the ready, though I could say something derogatory along the lines of those who wish to believe their own personal fetishes are really universal. Is it any good? Well, it’s not my cup of tea, but I suspect that I have enough information here to help anyone who might want to know if it’s to their own tastes.

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.