The March Hare (1956)

THE MARCH HARE (1956)
Article 2968 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-23-2009
Posting Date: 9-29-2009
Directed by George More O’Ferrall
Featuring Peggy Cummins, Terence Morgan, Martita Hunt
Country: UK

A horse is capable of winning the derby if its secret word is whispered to it at the time of the race.

The magic word that makes the horse win the race comes from the leprechauns, but don’t strain your eyes waiting for them to show up; the closest we see of them is a distant glimmer of light. It’s a fairly slight premise for a movie, but then, it’s a fairly slight movie all around. It may be a little too British for me, though; some of the accents are a bit difficult to make out, and though it tries its damnedest to be cute and charming, it ends up rather bland and uninvolving. Most of the laughs center around the eccentric groom who is the only one who knows the word, and only if he’s been drinking. Most of the rest of the movie is concerned with the budding romance of the two leads. All in all, it’s a dull bit of fluff.

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Man in the Dark (1953)

MAN IN THE DARK (1953)
Aricle 2897 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-13-2009
Posting Date: 7-19-2009
Directed by Lew Landers
Featuring Edmond O’Brien, Audrey Totter, Ted de Corsia
Country: USA

A criminal who masterminded a payroll robbery is the subject of a brain operation that is designed to eliminate his criminal tendencies. It also gives him amnesia about his former life. However, he is then kidnapped by his old cronies who want to find out where he hid the money from the robbery…

According to IMDB, this is a remake of THE MAN WHO LIVED TWICE, and it certainly shares the basic premise of that movie. It does, however, take the story in a different (and much more conventional) direction. It also updates it, by giving it a noirish feel and shooting it in 3-D, and, though I saw it flat, it looks like it must have been fun if seen that way. The noir touches are less successful; all too often, the dialogue comes off as forced and phony rather than sharp and crackling. Still, the movie is watchable and quite entertaining, and with a running time of only seventy minutes, it doesn’t wear out its welcome, though its occasionally rushing to get to some plot points while taking its time to get to others ends up leaving it feeling a bit silly. There’s a great dream sequence, though, in which the criminal finds himself being chased by cops in an amusement park, even when he gets on a bumper car ride.

Mystery Mountain (1934)

MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (1934)
Serial
Article 2870 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-17-2009
Posting Date: 6-22-2009
Directed by Otto Brewer and B. Reeves Eason
Featuring Ken Maynard, Tarzan, Verna Hilie
Country: USA

Railroad detective Ken Williams is trying to discover the identity of a criminal known as the Rattler, who is trying to prevent the completion of a railroad tunnel through a mountain.

For me, the real mystery of this western serial is – what’s the fantastic content? Left to my own devices, I would have been at a loss. I might have guessed that the Rattler would have fallen under the category of “masked” killers, but usually this means the killer is wearing a hood or something that makes them look scary. In this case, the Rattler’s “primary” mask (see below) is a fake set of glasses with a nose and moustache, which makes him look like Father Guido Sarducci, who is not scary. Since I couldn’t quite accept that, I checked Don Willis’s guide to see what he had to say about it, and he mentions a plot element in which the Rattler disguises himself as various other characters through the use of very convincing “secondary” masks. I suppose this is a fantastic concept (and one I’ve always found singularly unconvincing), but I’ve seen this trick done so often in the movies that I tend to think of it as a movie convention rather than as an honest-to-goodness element of fantastic content. Unfortunately, that’s about all there is; I’ll leave it your own judgment whether this qualifies, but for me, it doesn’t.

As for the serial itself, it’s rather ordinary. Since most of the action is on horses, we don’t have the nonstop bailout cliffhangers, which is good. Ken Maynard is likable enough, Syd Saylor’s comic relief avoids being totally annoying, and the rest of the cast is forgettable, though Gene Autry appears in a small (and uncredited) role. The real scene-stealer here is Ken Maynard’s horse, Tarzan, who does some great tricks on occasion and ends up being the one to unmask the killer at the end. Otherwise, this one is run-of-the-mill.

The Magician (1958)

THE MAGICIAN (1958)
aka Ansiktet
Article 2867 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-14-2009
Posting Date: 6-29-2009
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Featuring Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand
Country: Sweden

A magician and his troupe arrive at a town where they are forced to stay under the eye of the leading townspeople who want to witness their performance with the aim of debunking the supernatural elements. However, the magician has a few more tricks up his sleeve than expected…

This is the weakest of the four Ingmar Bergman movies I’ve seen for this series, but that’s no putdown; after all, the other three (THE SEVENTH SEAL, THE VIRGIN SPRING and WILD STRAWEBERRIES) are considered some of his finest works. It is, however, the movie I’ve seen that may be the closest to a horror movie he’s made, and at least one scene (in which a coroner finds himself terrorized by the man on whom he’s just performed an autopsy) wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film. It’s basically a struggle between reason and the supernatural, with the magician and his troupe against a collection of skeptical townspeople. Max von Sydow is fascinating as the magician; he pretends to be a mute, but that’s only a front. Gunnar Bjornstrand is also fine as the doctor who performs the autopsy, as is Naima Wifstrand as a grandmother who may or may not be a witch. Bergman’s usual themes crop up here again, but that adds to the appeal. The movie also opens with a fun scene in which the troupe passes through a forest believed to be haunted.

The Man from Yesterday (1949)

THE MAN FROM YESTERDAY (1949)
Article 2856 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-3-2009
Posting Date: 6-8-2009
Directed by Oswald Mitchell
Featuring John Stuart, Henry Oscar, Gwyneth Vaughan
Country: UK

The head of an English country estate invites an old friend from India to stay with him and his family for a few weeks. The friend, who claims to be an advocate of spiritualism, exudes a baleful influence over the family. Could he be digging up a skeleton in the family closet?

Henry Oscar gives a strong performance as the odd friend from India, and he has one of those faces that is fairly brimming with character. He was the force that held my interest in this movie; I wasn’t sure if he was a force for good or a force for evil, and the movie remains purposefully vague about the extent of the man’s powers (for one thing, a seance that is central to the plot is only talked about, not shown). Unfortunately, there’s the rest of the movie to reckon with; the script has some weak points, the direction is stodgy, the revelations (when they come) are disappointing, and the movie has a twist ending that will have you reaching for a rubber brick to throw at your TV set. Furthermore, Gwyneth Vaughan gives one of those mannered, snippy performances that makes her character incredibly unlikable, and she’s supposed to be the love interest. The uneven script is by John Gilling, who certainly has an interesting track record as a writer; he’s given us THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS and THE GORGON on the plus side, and TROG and THE MUMMY’S SHROUD on the other. All in all, this one was definitely a mixed bag, but, given it’s been on my hunt list for nearly seven years and only manifested itself recently, I’m glad to have seen it.

Museo del horror (1964)

MUSEO DEL HORROR (1964)
aka Museum of Horror
Article 2852 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-27-2009
Posting Date: 6-4-2009
Directed by Rafael Baledon
Featuring Julio Aleman, Patricia Conde, Joaquin Cordero
Country: Mexico

Someone is killing women and covering them with wax. Grave robbers are also on the loose. People are also being killed by poison darts with curare. Who is the culprit?

Sometimes I rise to the challenge of enjoying a movie in its native language without the benefit of subtitles or English dubbing, and sometimes it just seems a bore to even try. I’m afraid this one falls into the latter category. It should be easy to follow, given that it’s largely a clone of HOUSE OF WAX, but there are other elements here not from the movie (grave robbers, a room of decaying corpses, the curare darts, etc.), and not only was I never able to quite figure out how they all fit into the story, I never quite worked up the ambition to really put my mind to it because of the predictability of the basic plot. It has some striking scenes; a woman has a dream of the dead coming to life that is quite effective, and there’s a scene of a policeman being buried alive, his hands reaching through the dirt, that is very striking. It’s good it has these scenes, because it omits the most striking scene from its source movie; there’s no unmasking sequence, in short. I’m afraid this one left me cold, but it also might just have been a bad day for it. Perhaps I’ll give it a try another time…

I Marziani hanno dodici mani (1964)

I MARZIANI HANNO DODICI MANI (1964)
aka The Martians Arrived, The 12-Handed Men from Mars
Article 2850 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-25-2009
Posting Date: 6-2-2009
Directed by Franco Castellano and Giuseppe Moccia
Featuring Paolo Panelli, Carlo Croccolo, Enzo Garinei
Country: Italy

Martians arrive on Earth to plan an invasion. However, they find themselves seduced by the residents of the planet…

This movie has a rating of 4.5 on IMDB. It also gets a good review in ‘The Motion Picture Guide’. Given the fact that my print is in unsubtitled Italian, I can’t really make a call, especially as it seems that much of the humor seems to be verbal in nature. I do know that the Martians’ initial appearance on Earth in Nazi garb doesn’t go well. I also know that three of the Martians find themselves seduced by women, while the other is seduced by a jukebox. I also know that one of the Martians has an encounter with Italian comedians Franco and Ciccio (actually, my recognizing them from the photograph given to the Martian sent on the mission gave me the biggest laugh I had). There’s also a Martian dance craze, and the requisite number of jokes concerning the Martians’ interaction with inanimate objects. I have to admit it looks amusing enough, but only understanding the dialogue will tell me for sure.