Un Martien a Paris (1961)

UN MARTIEN A PARIS (1961)
aka A Martian in Paris
Article 3712 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-28-2011
Posting Date: 10-13-2011
Directed by Jean-Daniel Daninos
Featuring Darry Cowl, Nicole Mirel, Henri Vilbert
Country: France
What it is: Science fiction comedy

A Martian is sent to Earth to research the disease known as love, but becomes infected himself.

Here’s another one rescued from my “Ones that got away” list thanks to the fact that it got an official release on DVD in France. Unfortunately, that means the movie has no English dubbing or subtitles, and given the above premise, I wasn’t really surprised that most of the comedy was verbal rather than visual. There’s a handful of sight gags, my favorite of which is a little bit where the lead actor does a bit of synchronized “looking” with a viewer on a spaceship. One of the sources I have dismisses the movie and says that Darry Cowl is doing a Jerry Lewis imitation, but I certainly didn’t get a sense of that happening at all; Jerry Lewis’s comedy would have been far more strident and visual. Because of the language barrier, I really have to reserve any judgment on this one.

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Il monaco di Monza (1962)

IL MONACO DI MONZA (1962)
aka The Monk of Monza
Article 3703 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-19-2011
Posting Date: 10-4-2011
Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Featuring Toto, Nino Taranto, Erminio Macario
Country: Italy
What it is: Italian comedy

A put-upon shoemaker decides to disguise himself as a monk in order to get the charity he needs to feed his twelve children. However, he ends up in the castle of an evil Marquis who is trying to force a woman to marry him.

Be aware that the above plot description may have mistakes in it; I was only able to find an unsubtitled copy of this movie, and though I was able to find a few hints of the plot, the actual storyline is a muddle to me. Still, I more or less enjoyed the movie, but then, I always enjoy seeing Toto in action; as to Italian comedians, I would easily choose him over Franco and Ciccio. Even if I can’t understand what’s going on, his body language and facial expressions are very effective, and though he can do some strange things with his face, he doesn’t rely on mugging. A few of the gags to come through; there’s a prayer sequence that involves several well-known international actresses, and the hilarious final sequence in the movie features the most unlikely group of people riding to the rescue. As for the fantastic content, I got most of the hints from the Walt Lee guide. Apparently, there’s something involving a love potion, but these scenes are vague enough that I’m not sure what the potion is supposed to be, and I would have guessed it was a poison of some sort. As for fantastic elements in the movie, there are scenes involving a torture chamber, and one sequence where a dead man seems to come to life (he’s actually not dead, but certain people think he is). I enjoyed it as much as I could, but without subtitles, it’s impossible for me to give it any real evaluation.

The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)

THE MADMEN OF MANDORAS (1963)
Article 3697 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-13-2011
Posting Date: 9-28-2011
Directed by David Bradley
Featuring Walter Stocker, Audrey Caire, Carlos Rivas
Country: USA
What it is: Stupid Nazi tricks

A scientist who has developed the antidote to a deadly G-Gas is kidnapped and taken to the country of Mandoras, where Nazis hoping to revive the Third Reich have kept Hitler’s head alive. A federal agent goes to Mandoras to rescue the scientist and stop the Nazis.

This movie is mostly remembered for having had new footage added to it and then released as THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN. In my opinion, you’re better off with that version. It’s not that one version is necessarily better than the other; they both stink. But at least the other version’s mismatched footage (it’s painfully obvious it was shot with completely different actors at a different time) gives it a rather surreal edge that adds an extra jolt of unintended humor into the proceedings. In other words, it’s a bit more interesting; this original version is mostly just deadly dull. There are several reasons for the dullness (too many characters, a muddled story, static direction), but I think the main problem is that the story’s hero hardly does anything but be swept up in the events surrounding him; he doesn’t drive the plot or investigate anything; everything jumps in his lap, and this just doesn’t make for compelling viewing. There’s a few laughs (usually in the scenes involving Hitler’s head), but not near enough. Not recommended.

The Monitors (1969)

THE MONITORS (1969)
Article 3695 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-11-2011
Posting Date: 9-26-2011
Directed by Jack Shea
Featuring Guy Stockwell, Susan Oliver, Larry Storch
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction satire

Aliens come to Earth and take over as a worldwide police force, keeping the people in line using love, peace, courtesy and catchy jingles. A pilot gets caught up in a struggle between the aliens and a military resistance group bent on destroying the aliens.

Somehow, the idea of an unfailingly polite police force that eschews any form of violence serving as a central concept of a satirical science fiction movie sounds really interesting to me, and there are moments where this movie hints at what could be done with the idea, especially when it gives us the feeling that this could result in a 1984-style type of dystopia. How I’d like to see a movie that took this idea and cleverly developed it. Instead, I’m stuck with this one, which doesn’t know what comic tone to try for; it’s too stuck in sixties cinematic tricks to cohere at all. It overuses two of the gimmicks (an irritatingly catchy little ditty about the Monitors and a series of public service ads in which people describe how the Monitors have made everything wonderful), and it gets mired in bizarre slapstick-style comedy, especially in the scenes with Larry Storch. The movie does eventually get itself back in focus for the ending, but this ended up being the most disappointing part of all, as its messages are trite and predictable. It’s a movie that raised my hopes in the beginning and dashed them by the end of the movie. There’s a better movie to be made with the idea, and maybe someday that will happen.

A Man Called Dagger (1968)

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)

THE MUMMY STRIKES (1943)
Cartoon

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)

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.