The Mysterious Intruder (1946)

THE MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER (1946)
Article 2263 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-29-2007
Posting Date: 10-23-2007
Directed by William Castle
Featuring Richard Dix, Barton MacLane, Nina Vale

A private detective takes on a case to locate a woman who stands to gain a large sum of money. In the hopes of discovering the exact details of the money, the detective sends a female associate pretending to be the woman, but this ends up leading to a string of murders that places the detective under the suspicion of the police.

Though the title doesn’t reflect this, this movie was part of “The Whistler” series from Columbia, and, like most of those movies, the sole fantastic element is the presence of the Whistler himself, who serves as narrator. It’s also one of the best of the series; the plot is complex and full of surprising revelations, the story has a grim noirish feel, and our central character of focus, the detective, is a questionable person; for most of the movie, you won’t know whether his hunt for the object that will bring the money is being done to help a client, or for his own profit. This ambiguity plays a big role in making the surprisingly powerful ending work as well as it does. The movie also features some fun character actors, including Regis Toomey, Charles Lane, and the always memorable Mike Mazurki. Recommended for those who don’t mind watching a movie with only borderline fantastic elements.

 

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Monkey Business (1952)

MONKEY BUSINESS (1952)
Article 2261 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-27-2007
Posting Date: 10-21-2007
Directed by Howard Hawks
Featuring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn

A scientist is working on a revitalizing youth formula, but doesn’t succeed until a monkey mixes up the potion. He decides to test the potion on himself. Hilarity ensues (and this time, I mean it.)

One sign of a top-notch director is that he can put several actors in the same room with a monkey and not have the monkey steal the scene. Granted, it helps when the actors and actresses in question are Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, and Marilyn Monroe. it also helps that the actors are engaged in some extremely absurd behavior; the youth potion in question not only restores the body to a younger vitality, but it seems to place the user’s mind into the same psychological place that it was when they were younger and all those hormones were running wild. Hawks was also smart enough to know that the slapstick antics toward the end of the movie were something to build up to rather than something to unleash from square one; the movie starts out with more subtle humor, and gradually gets broader as the situation progresses. Things get pretty wild, especially during the sequence where Cary Grant gets together with a group of kids playing Indians and convinces them to scalp Hugh Marlowe while Ginger Rogers tries desperately to deal with the fact that she thinks her husband has literally turned into a baby. The cast and director Howard Hawks make this one a treat, and it’s great to see another Hawks movie for this series; the only other one I’ve covered is THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD , from which this movie borrows Robert Cornthwaite and Douglas Spencer from the cast.

 

The Man in the White Suit (1951)

THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT (1951)
Article 2260 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-25-2007
Posting Date: 10-20-2007
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Featuring Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker

A man invents a fabric that will never wear out and never needs cleaning. He soon finds himself the pariah of the textile industry and the labor force, as the invention will put them out of work.

This will probably be the only one of Alec Guinness’s Ealing comedies that I will watch for this series. It’s a shame; Guinness is a fine actor, and this comedy about planned obsolescence and the way society has become used to it is thoughtful, deeply satirical, quite amusing, and even quite moving towards the end. It’s extremely well acted by all, and the cast also includes MIchael Gough and Ernest Thesiger, two faces very familiar to horror fans. The movie doesn’t go for wackiness as much as it slightly exaggerates what could be a very real situation; like all good satirical comedies, it’s a little too convincing to be shrugged aside. Some of the special effects are very effective; I love the luminosity of the suit which occasionally makes it look like Guinness was shot in negative photography. Highly recommended.

 

Mad About Men (1954)

MAD ABOUT MEN (1954)
Article 2257 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-21-2007
Posting Date: 10-17-2007
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Featuring Glynis Johns, Donald Sinden, Anne Crawford

A mermaid agrees to take the place of a woman whom she resembles for two weeks, and then proceeds to break up the engagement her look-alike had in favor of a new men.

This is the sequel to MIRANDA , a movie I saw several years ago and which didn’t particularly impress me. This one doesn’t impress me either. Glynis Johns is certainly lovely, and Margaret Rutherford and whoever plays the second mermaid (I didn’t catch her character name, so I don’t know the name of the actress who played her) are quite amusing, but the movie never really explores the comic possibilities of the plot, settling for a whimsical blandness that may be charming to some, dull and insipid to others. I’m afraid I hone closer to the latter grouping, and I was mostly bored by this one. My favorite scenes are the wilder ones, especially the one where the mermaid steals Margaret Rutherford’s nightie.

 

Mision suicida (1973)

MISION SUICIDA (1973)
aka Suicide Mission
Article 2216 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-10-2007
Posting Date: 9-6-2007
Directed by Federico Curiel
Featuring Santo, Lorena Velazquez, Elsa Cardenas

Santo takes on a suicide mission involving fighting lots of villains, facial surgery, a highly-trained fighting squad of bikini clad women, and scrapbooking Nazis.

IMDB places this movie in the Science Fiction category. If there is some science fiction here, I’m afraid it’s invisible to me, as my print is undubbed and unsubtitled. Still, it’s the first Santo movie I’ve seen in color, and I must admit that he has an impressive wardrobe; he seems to have a different outfit in every scene. Fans of other Mexican wrestling movies should recognize Lorene Velazquez here, who played Gloria Venus in the wrestling women movies of the sixties. If you’re adequately entertained by endless fistfights, this might work for you; for me, the static direction and the abysmal score (you know the music’s bad when it sounds like it should belong in a Tex and Edna Boil commercial) make this a tough slog. And if anyone out there has an inkling of what the science fiction content is here, feel free to chime in at any time.

Postscript: Once again, doctor kiss has come to the rescue. According to him, the science fiction content here is that the Nazis are using a new brainwashing drug.

 

Mothra (1961)

MOTHRA (1961)
aka Mosura
Article 2205 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-30-2007
Posting Date: 8-26-2007
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa

When survivors of a shipwreck are discovered on an island used in nuclear testing, authorities are amazed to find out that they were not affected by radiation because they drank a fluid prepared by the inhabitants. When the island is investigated, two twin fairies are discovered, and they are kidnapped by a greedy and brutal businessman intent on making money off of them. However, this puts the world in peril, as the twin fairies are in telepathic contact with the god of the island, a giant insect known as Mothra.

Toho took a different tack on this kaiju; the monster Mothra is sympathetic from the outset, the twin fairies (played by Emi and Yumi Ito, a singing group known as the Peanuts) are an inspired creation (and they would pop up in most of the movies that featured Mothra), and there is a colorful fairy-tale touch to the proceedings. Though Mothra’s destructive abilities are similar to Rodan’s (the monster’s wings cause hurricane-like winds), it’s a pretty unique creation, especially in that it has two forms – the caterpillar form and the full-grown moth form. The social ill that serves as the enemy this time is entrepreneurial greed; the greedy businessman (Jerry Ito, who shares the same last name as the women playing the twins, which makes me wonder if they’re related) massacres a group of natives and manhandles a small boy during the length of the proceedings. Frankie Sakai is fun as a chubby and likeable reporter who turns out to be quite effective during a fight, and the movie features other memorable faces from kaiju movies such as Takashi Shimura and Akihiko Hirata. Mothra would next take on Godzilla himself in GODZILLA VS THE THING .

 

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

MR. SARDONICUS (1961)
Article 2202 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-27-2007
Posting Date: 8-23-2007
Directed by William Castle
Featuring Guy Rolfe, Oskar Homolka, Ronald Lewis

A doctor is called to a castle in a distant country to help cure a baron whose face has been contorted into a hideous smile as a result of a time where he dug up his father’s grave to get a lottery ticket. When the doctor refuses to try certain dangerous methods to cure him, the baron tries to force his hand by threatening to torture the baroness, who was once a lover of the doctor.

In general, this William Castle horror thriller is one the favorites of his fans, and I can see why; it has some memorable scenes, some interesting plot points, and the gimmick is great. The latter consists of allowing the audience to vote on the fate of the title character. This is not to say that the movie has more than one ending; Castle was a shrewd enough judge of human nature to figure out what the vote would be, and since the vote was only counted by a projected image of Castle himself, there was no chance of there being more than one ending to contend with. Still, I always find myself a little disappointed by this one; there are no scares here to equal the best ones from HOMICIDAL , HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL or THE TINGLER , and a number of the scares seem forced or contrived, a circumstance I attribute to the fact that there’s really not enough story to fill out the length of the movie. I also find myself noticing that the scenes between the scares are rather dull, and I don’t think Castle really manages to maintain the mood during these sequences. As a result, the movie is like the proverbial glass of water than can be seen as either half full or half empty, depending on how you look at it. I’m afraid I notice the half that’s empty too much for me to get really attached to this one. Still, the movie is helped by a good performance from Oskar Homolka as the baron’s manservant.