A Man Called Dagger (1968)

Article 3600 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-8-2011
Posting Date: 6-23-2011
Directed by Richard Rush
Featuring Paul Mantee, Terry Moore, Jan Murray
Country: USA
What it is: Poverty-stricken James Bond

A secret agent investigates a Nazi scientist who has perfected a new form of brainwashing.

Heaven knows I’ve seen a lot of them by this point, but this may be the most threadbare ripoff of the James Bond concept that I have yet to encounter. Paul Mantee plays one of the least interesting secret agents in the business, Jan Murray’s wheel-chair bound Nazi scientist is too goofy to take seriously, and the action sequences are some of the lamest ever committed to celluloid. What’s going on around the edges is certainly more interesting than the main story; there’s a subplot involving cannibalism, and Richard Kiel (who would go on to appear in real James Bond movies) is on hand as the scientist’s assistant. Amazingly enough, director Richard Rush would go on to get an Oscar nomination for his direction of THE STUNT MAN; he must have learned a lot in the following decade.


The Mummy Strikes (1943)


Article 3585 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-20-2011
Posting Date: 6-8-2011
Directed by Izzy Sparber
Featuring the voices of Joan Alexander, Jackson Beck, Bud Collyer
Country: USA
What it is: Superman cartoon

While investigating the murder of a heiroglyphics expert, Superman must battle with mummies come to life.

I’m actually surprised it took me this long to get around to reviewing any of the Superman cartoons from the early forties, but that’s the luck of the draw. In many ways, these cartoons are truly superior; the animation is excellent, and the use of color is outstanding. Nevertheless, I’ve always felt a twinge of dissatisfaction from the series. This is due to the fact that they often try to tell stories that needed a greater length of time to tell correctly, and they often feel rushed. Though I can admire the efficiency, I find that the suspense never really gets a chance to build, and that they’re over before they’ve really begun. This one is further marred by pitting Superman against supernatural menaces, which is a fairly odd juxtaposition. Nevertheless, there’s always the fine animation to be enjoyed.

Mother Goose’s Birthday Party (1950)

Animated short

Article 3583 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-17-2011
Posting Date: 6-6-2011
Directed by Connie Risinski
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

The Big Bad Wolf, irate at not having been invited to Mother Goose’s birthday party, goes to the castle of Old King Cole to wreak vengeance. Can Mighty Mouse save the day?

Though this one is still somewhat shy of Mighty Mouse in full operetta mode, it’s an improvement over MIGHTY MOUSE MEETS JEKYLL AND HYDE CAT; at least it’s trying for comedy, and sometimes it succeeds. Still, in some ways it feels more like a cartoon from the thirties than from the fifties (especially with its vignette-style narrative of Mother Goose characters), but Terrytoons wasn’t really a cutting edge cartoon company anyway. At any rate, this one is kind of fun.

Mighty Mouse Meets Jekyll and Hyde Cat (1944)

Article 3581 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-15-2011
Posting Date: 6-4-2011
Directed by Mannie Davis
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

A group of mice are lured into the empty house of Dr. Jekyll. A cat stalks them, but when he is frustrated, he recreates Dr. Jekyll’s potion to become a monster cat. Can no one save the mice?

One of the things I discovered when I first started watching these Mighty Mouse shorts is that there are different types of them, and how good they are is often dependent on which type you encounter. This is the series at its most boring; weak creatures encounter evil predator, Mighty Mouse saves them. The only voice acting is a single narrator, and there’s very little in the way of humor here; it’s played for action. For horror fans, it has the Jekyll and Hyde plot, but it eschews the good-turning-into-evil approach in favor of the already-evil-becoming-a-monster approach. It’s the series at its most predictable.

Marianne de ma jeunesse (1955)

aka Marianne of my Youth

Article 3571 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-5-2011
Posting Date: 5-25-2011
Directed by Julien Duvivier
Featuring Marianne Hold, Pierre Vaneck, Gil Vidal
Country: France / West Germany
What it is: Ghost fantasy

A young man who grew up in Argentina comes to stay at a French boy’s school. He becomes enamored with a beauty who is staying in a mansion across the lake… a mansion that is supposed to empty and haunted.

This movie doesn’t have a great reputation, and if you consider the basic plot, it’s very familiar indeed. However, the movie is more than just the basic plot; there are so many romantic, evocative and fairy-tale touches around the edges of the story that it transcends its main story. The boy from Argentina is a romantic figure, a man with music in his soul who has a magnetic charisma with people and with animals. Other touches include an ugly unibrowed valet (played by Ady Berber, who popped up in a few krimi, most notably in DEAD EYES OF LONDON), a gang of brigands, and one of the strangest evil women in the history of cinema; her revenge on being spurned by the Argentine is shocking enough that I found myself not as shocked by the beating she gets from him in return. These various elements are handled with a sense of magic and lyrical fantasy that you find yourself emotionally drawn into the tale. Despite the familiarity of the main tale, the movie it most seemed to evoke was PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, and I think this would make a great companion piece for a double feature.

Munster, Go Home! (1966)

Article 3560 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-21-2011
Posting Date: 5-14-2011
Directed by Earl Bellamy
Featuring Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis
Country: USA
What it is: TV sitcom makes it to the big screen

Herman becomes the heir to an English estate and the title of Lord. He brings his family to England, but finds that the current residents are hiding a secret.. and want the newcomers out of the way.

Let’s get this on record first; on the big “The Addams Family” or “The Munsters” question, I’ve always gone with “The Munsters”. Not that there was anything wrong with the other show; in fact, it may have been the better sitcom. But I’ve always had a soft spot for this one, at least partially because of the excellent casting of Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and because of the show’s central premise that the Munsters thought of themselves as a typical family. The movie is exactly what you’d expect; it’s like an episode of the show stretched to feature length with the addition of color and a racing sequence that was probably a little too expensive for a sitcom. It’s only so-so, but it hits the right nostalgia buttons for me, and the supporting cast (which includes Terry-Thomas, Hermione Gingold, Richard Dawson and John Carradine) is a lot of fun. In fact, I was a little surprised to realize Carradine was in it; I didn’t remember his presence when I saw it as a kid. However, watching it again, I know why; his makeup is so elaborate that he’s almost unrecognizable, and only his voice gives him away. On a side note, I finally realized something about Gwynne’s performance that I really liked; given how the original Frankenstein monster was played by Boris Karloff with a certain child-like innocence, I found it quite amusing that Gwynne also gave his character a child-like spin, what with his gleeful joy at everything around him and his temper tantrums.

Matilda (1978)

MATILDA (1978)
Article 3559 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-20-2011
Posting Date: 5-13-2011
Directed by Daniel Mann
Featuring Elliott Gould, Clive Revill, Harry Guardino
Country: USA
What it is: A movie where you can be confident that no animals were hurt during its making

A down-and-out show business agent gets his chance to hit the big time when he discovers the world’s best boxing kangaroo.

So why am I covering this comedy that seems fairly light on fantastic content? It’s listed in John Stanley’s “Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again” with the explanation that once you see the man-in-a-kangaroo suit hopping down the street, you’ll realize the movie is pure fantasy. That’s a bit of a stretch, but I do see what he’s getting at; Matilda’s first appearance simply destroys any credibility this movie could have garnered. I’m not sure why this is; I’ve seen so many men-in-gorilla-suits and in other monster costumes that it seems odd that a man in a kangaroo suit should be so fatally unbelievable, but it is. It doesn’t help that the movie has the soul of a not very good Disney shopping cart movie (albeit one that is slightly more adult) and that its attempts to be meaningful towards the end only make the movie seem that much more ridiculous. Yet, for all this, it would simply be a not very good movie had not the man-in-a-kangaroo-costume made it seem even worse. On the plus side, the movie has Robert Mitchum, who seems to be able to come out of anything with his dignity intact.