Myra Breckinridge (1970)

MYRA BRECKINRIDGE (1970)
Article 3523 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-13-2011
Posting Date: 4-7-2011
Directed by Michael Sarne
Featuring Mae West, John Huston, Raquel Welch
Country: USA
What it is: Campy cinematic disaster

A man gets a sex change operation, and then she joins an acting academy owned by her uncle, with the dual purpose of claiming her half of the business and destroying the traditional man/woman relationship.

Gore Vidal wrote the source novel, and he called this movie the second worst he’d ever seen. I take this to mean that, at the very least, the movie didn’t do the book justice. I will say a couple of things about this movie; for what is essentially a “hip” self-indulgent late sixties/early seventies movie (you know the type), it is relatively short (only about ninety minutes) and it’s fairly easy to scope out; to me, it largely seems to be a sort of gay fantasy. In some ways, I find it similar to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW; think of Myra as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and Rusty and Mary Anne as Brad and Janet, and you’ll see what I mean. The worst problems I have with the movie is that it’s all pretty obvious in some ways, and it’s really rather creepy seeing Mae West performing the same type of shtick as she used to while wearing layers and layers of makeup that just can’t really cover up the fact that she was in her late seventies. The movie went way over budget due to the quirks of the director, who would sometimes leave the cast waiting while he went in the corner to “think” for several hours. The fantastic element seems to be that, after the sex change operation, Myra sometimes appears as her alter ego of Myron and even has conversations with him. I didn’t find the movie near as awful as its reputation would have it, but it’s not good, and even if it had been, I highly doubt if it would have been a financial success.

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Modesty Blaise (1968)

MODESTY BLAISE (1968)
Article 3518 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-9-2011
Posting Date: 4-2-2011
Directed by Joseph Losey
Featuring Monica Vitti, Terence Stamp, Dirk Bogarde
Country: UK
What it is: Swinging sixties superspy/supervillain movie

British Intelligence hires a female secret agent to prevent the theft of a large shipment of diamonds. However, neither side trusts the other, and the female secret agent may want the diamonds for herself…

I’ve encountered Joseph Losey enough in this series to have considered him a rather odd choice to helm this variation on the superspy/supervillain trend so popular during the sixties. Upon having seen the movie now, I’ll extend that to saying that he was definitely the wrong choice for this type of movie. Though I’m a little impressed with the cast, the movie seems distracted, arty, and self-indulgent; there are times where it seems to be trying for humor and only succeeds in making me wonder what he was trying to do. Having the lead characters break into a badly-warbled romantic song while they’re being shot at doesn’t make sense on any level. It occasionally shows some flashes of wit, mostly thanks to Harry Andrews, whose clearly-delineated spy character is the only one who is consistently funny. Most surprisingly, the action sequences are singularly lame, which seems almost unforgivable in this type of movie. From what I read, the movie bombed at the box office, playing to nearly empty houses, but a novelization of the original version of the screenplay (not the one used) sold so well that it spawned a whole series of sequels.

The Mighty Jungle (1964)

THE MIGHTY JUNGLE (1964)
Article 3517 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-7-2011
Posting Date: 4-1-2011
Directed by Arnold Belgard, David DaLie and Ismael Rodriguez
Featuring Marshall Thompson, David DaLie and Antonio Gutierrez
Country: USA / Mexico
What it is: Don’t ask

Two explorers go on safaris, one in Africa, the other in South America.

They’ve done it! They’ve finally gone and done it! They’ve crossed a Double-Stuffed Safari-O with…. another Double-Stuffed Safari-O and created a… Quadruple-Stuffed Double Safari-O! This is known as inbreeding, and it produces monsters! Furthermore, it borrows the same technique of storytelling used by THE CREEPING TERROR and THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS, and you know what that means – Narration, and plenty of it. There’s a modicum of plot about a search for a missing party, but don’t think it leads anywhere and don’t count on a resolution. If there’s any fantastic content, it’s in the hallucination the one explorer undergoes after he imbibes some peyote-like substances and imagines himself among ancient peoples performing human sacrifices. One safari goes smoothly and uneventfully; the other one goes wrong spectacularly, which is not to say that it ever approaches being spectacular. So let’s rename this movie GOOFUS AND GALLANT ON SAFARI and be done with it, and let’s add this one to that ever growing list of unbelievably bad jungle movies, a genre that seems to have had more than its share of stinkers.

The Meateater (1979)

THE MEATEATER (1979)
Article 3516 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-6-2011
Posting Date: 3-31-2011
Directed by Derek Savage
Featuring Arch Joboulian, Dianne Davis, Peter Spitzer
Country: USA
What it is: Regional horror film

A disgruntled shoe salesman buys a movie theater in a small town in the hope of making a living on it. However, there’s a secret resident in the theater – a badly burned former employee who eats rats and kills intruders.

This zero-budget regional horror has title theme music that sounds like a cross between “The Funeral March of the Marionettes” and the theme from “The Addams Family”, and this just made me wonder if the movie was intended as a comedy. In truth, it’s a little hard to tell. It’s never made clear, but the psycho may also be a cannibal. That might explain the movie’s obsession with food; it seems that a good seventy-five percent of the movie is obsessed with food, with cops chowing down while investigating murders, lots of scenes at the concession stand, talk about Jimmy Dean sausages and a family sing-along of the Oscar Mayer Wiener jingle. Not to mention that the movie they’re watching (GRIZZLY SAFARI, which is described on the marquee as “wholesome” and is supposed to be G-rated as the new owner promises the real estate agent) is mostly about animals killing and eating each other. The killer has an obsession with Jean Harlow; he runs silent films of the star during the theater’s off hours, and if you notice that the theater owner’s teenage daughter has a resemblance to Harlow, you’ll guess at least one plot development along the way. It’s certainly hard to take a movie seriously when one of the names of the characters is Lieutenant Wombat. The movie is bad, but weirdly engaging nonetheless, if for no other reason that the moments of weirdness make it a little hard to get one’s mind around it.

Mark of the Witch (1970)

MARK OF THE WITCH (1970)
Article 3515 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-5-2011
Posting Date: 3-30-2011
Directed by Tom Moore
Featuring Robert Elston, Anitra Walsh, Darryl Wells
Country: USA
What it is: Resurrected witch tale

A group of students studying superstitious rites performs a ritual to resurrect a witch; though it appears not to have worked, one of them has in fact been possessed by a witch. The witch intends to revitalize her coven and take vengeance on the descendant of the man who betrayed her.

For about the first twenty minutes, the movie is little more than a predictable set of cliches, including the pre-credits sequence where the witch, just prior to being hanged, places a curse on her betrayer. It’s not until the witch is resurrected that the movie starts showing a bit of imagination by incorporating some interesting details in the story; I particularly like the fact that the witch doesn’t come into the present with the knowledge of how the modern world works. The movie also works itself up to an interesting and slightly different ending. It does have moments of silliness, but that’s no real surprise; the movie’s biggest problem is that its pace is just too leisurely to work up much in the way of suspense, and you never really get caught up in the story. That being said, the movie is better than I expected it would be.

The Man from 1997 (1956)

THE MAN FROM 1997 (1956)
TV-Episode of “Conflict”
Article 3511 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2011
Posting Date: 3-26-2011
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Featuring Jacques Sernas, Gloria Talbott, Charles Ruggles
Country: USA
What it is: Fifties science fiction, TV style

An immigrant janitor stumbles upon an almanac from the year 1997 in a book shop, and believes he can win the woman of his dreams if he uses the information to make himself rich. However, there’s another man searching for the book, and he’s from the future…

I’m not quite sure if this TV episode really qualifies as a movie per se; it runs about fifty minutes without commercials. Nevertheless, it’s listed as one in the Willis guide, and so I’m covering it. Personally, I’m just glad I was able to find it. What caught my eye from the very start was seeing that it was based on a short story by Alfred Bester, one of my favorite science fiction authors and one who has rarely been adapted for the movies. I’d recently read a collection of his short stories, but I didn’t recognize the story until the twist near the end involving a dollar bill. The story is basically a fairly gentle science fiction fable, despite a subplot involving gangsters who are after the almanac; the main thrust of the story involves the man from the future trying to convince the immigrant to sell the almanac to him for a dollar in the hopes that he won’t try to use the information to make his fortune, a situation which doesn’t sit well the the immigrant’s prospective girlfriend. It’s a fun little story, and the cast also features James Garner in an early role. Incidentally, there may be an error in the IMDB listing for this episode; the character of “Man” is listed as having been played by an actor named Johnny Vlakoz, who has no other acting credits to his name, which doesn’t surprise me, since Johnny Vlakoz is actually the character name of the immigrant in the movie.

Un Matrimonio Interplanetario (1909)

UN MATRIMONIO INTERPLANETARIO (1909)
aka Interplanetary Wedding
Article 3491 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-31-2011
Posting Date: 3-6-2011
Directed by Enrico Novelli
Cast unknown
Country: Italy
What it is: Lighthearted early science fiction

With his new telescope, a man finds his true love on the planet Mars.

I’m guessing a little bit on the plot of this one insofar as the planets in question, but I think the woman he loves is on Mars, and they meet and marry on the moon. I managed to find a copy of this one when some members of CHFB pointed me in the direction of a YouTube video that consists of several musicians performing music to fantastically-themed silent shorts. Granted, this isn’t a clean viewing of the movie; the footage from the film is interspersed with footage of the musicians, but I saw enough of it that I don’t think I missed a whole lot. The short has some fun visuals; I especially like when the man sends a telegram to his love on Mars, and you see the letters flying through space. It does make me want to go through the whole video concert and see what other movies they cover.

P.S. I have since been given a copy of this with English translations of some of the hard-to-read sections, and I turned out to be correct on my plot interpretation.