Mermaids of Tiburon (1962)

Article 1807 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-24-2006
Posting Date: 7-24-2006
Directed by John Lamb
Featuring Diane Webber, George Rowe, Timothy Carey

An oceanographer investigates reports of strange mammal life around the island of Tiburon, and discovers that mermaids live on the spot. He also must contend with a greedy and homicidal adversary who is after pearls.

If this movie had been described to me before I ever watched it, I wouldn’t have expected much from it. Somehow, the idea of a movie that takes place mostly underwater and requires extensive use of narration sounds like a bit of a bore. And to a certain extent, it is; there were times where my patience was strained. The startling thing is that this happened far less than could have been the case. For most of the movie, the underwater scenes and the narration achieve a simple elegance that makes the movie rather engaging. I like the visions of the mermaids swimming underwater, and I was startled by a sequence in which a shark appears and we see the actors interact with it in the same frame; there’s even an amazing sequence where the shark and one of the mermaids swim together. One thing I found rather interesting is that our two leads (Diane Webber and George Rowe) never say a singe word onscreen; whereas the former is a mermaid, the latter communicates entirely through the voice-over narration. Almost all of the dialogue is reserved for either Timothy Carey (who makes a memorable villain) and Jose Gonzales-Gonzales (whose likeable character is badly compromised by the fact that there’s something a little offensive about the use of Mexican stereotypes). The movie is also nicely edited and not confusing, as it might well have been, and director John Lamb had the knack for effective visual moments; there’s an unexpectedly moving scene with a floating guitar and a bird. This one was much better than expected.

Mission Stardust (1967)

aka …4 …3 …2 …1 …morte, Perry Rhodan – SOS aus dem Weltall
Article 1798 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-15-2006
Posting Date: 7-15-2006
Directed by Primo Zeglio
Featuring Lang Jeffries, Essy Persson, Luis Davila

Perry Rhodan leads a team of astronauts that goes to the moon. There they discover a spaceship from another planet and its inhabitants; an ancient civilization that is dying.

I remember seeing quite a few Perry Rhodan novels at a local book store when I was a kid, and I was toying with the idea of picking one up some day, but I never did. As such, this is my first encounter with Perry Rhodan, and if the user comments on IMDB are any indication, this is hardly true to the original stories. In this movie, he’s your basic hero with a sense of humor and a way with women, but that’s a pretty standard character. The movie is on the cheesy side, but it’s enjoyable in a light-hearted way, and I have to admit that I’m a sucker for that hairstyle sported by Essy Persson, which compensates somewhat for the fact that her snotty attitude gets old fairly quickly. Most of the action takes place in Africa, and this adds a little exotic feel to the proceedings. I’m betting that this was supposed to kick off a series that never followed.

Meet Mr. Lucifer (1953)

Article #1740 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-19-2005
Posting Date: 5-18-2006
Directed by Anthony Pelissier
Featuring Stanley Holloway, Peggy Cummins, Jack Watling

The devil enlists the help of a drunken actor to help him to destroy the lives of various people with the help of his new invention – Television.

Yes, here’s another cinematic attack (in the grand tradition of MURDER BY TELEVISION, TRAPPED BY TELEVISION and THE TWONKY) on that most insidious of evils, the cathode ray tube. At least this one knows it’s a comedy from the outset. It shows how television destroys the lives of all whom it touches; it drains the money away from a elderly retiree, destroys the marriage of a young couple, and turns a respected pharmacist into a madman and a thief. Good heavens, it’s worse than alcohol or drugs! No, the movie is hardly convincing, but I don’t think it’s trying to be. Still, the third story (about the effect that an anonymous lonely hearts singer has on the imagination of an unhappy young man) actually has a touch of poignancy to it amid the laughs. Ernest Thesiger has a small but memorable role as a cantankerous pharmacist who refuses to dispense drugs to handle any ailments which he deems to be the result of divine punishment. All in all, it’s a fun if inconsequential comedy. And it even takes a potshot at the 3-D craze before it’s all over.

The Man Who Lived Twice (1936)

Article #1739 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-18-2005
Posting Date: 5-17-2006
Directed by Harry Lachman
Featuring Ralph Bellamy, Marian Marsh, Thurston Hall

A criminal on the run from the police allows a surgeon who has experimented with surgical methods in controlling sociopathic behavior to perform a brain operation on him to remove his criminal tendencies. The operation is successful, but the criminal now has amnesia and can’t remember his former life. He then becomes a respected doctor, only to find that his past is catching up to him.

The middle section of this movie drags a bit, but outside of that, I found this an enjoyable if somewhat far-fetched little B-movie. It’s the performances that really make this work. Ralph Bellamy is very good in the opening scenes as the criminal; it’s such a break from his usual type of character that it’s a little disappointing when he emerges from the operation in a far more conventional role for him, though he does a fine job throughout. However, my favorite performance goes to Ward Bond, who plays an old crony of the criminal who discovers the truth of the matter, but who is so won over by the change that he takes on the job of Bellamy’s chauffeur and vows to go straight; his final scene with Isabel Jewell is great. All in all, an enjoyable combination of the crime and science fiction genres.

Manhunt in the African Jungles (1943)

Article #1732 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-11-2005
Posting Date: 5-10-2006
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet
Featuring Rod Cameron, Joan Marsh, Duncan Renaldo

A secret service agent tracks down Nazi spies in Casablanca.

All right, let’s get my issue with the titles out of the way. I don’t care which one you pick; both of them seem to indicate that the action will take place in the jungle areas of Africa. At least that’s what I’ve always thought of as “darkest Africa”; to me, this movie looks like it takes place in a particularly well-lit and de-jungled part of Africa. In fact, it looks like it takes place in California, but I suppose there’s a reason for that.

But once you get past the title, this is Republic in their prime. The fantastic aspects are minor (a death ray pops up at one point) and I find neither the hero nor the villain particularly fun, but the furniture-busting warehouse-destroying fights are top-notch, and the cliffhangers are pretty darn good for the most part. I’m surprised it took the hero as long as it did to suspect that the tall blond Aryan-looking servant to the shiek who badmouths the United Nations and the hero at every opportunity is a Nazi spy, but otherwise, they wouldn’t have had fifteen episodes. Still, this is one of the better serials out there.

Mysterious Island (1961)

Article #1726 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-5-2005
Posting Date: 5-4-2006
Directed by Cy Endfield
Featuring Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan

Several Union soldiers escape from a Confederate prison camp in a balloon. They are swept out to sea by a storm and land on a deserted island populated by strange vegetation and giant creatures.

I’ve always preferred Ray Harryhausen’s color movies from the late fifties and early sixties to his black and white movies from the fifites. This was because I found that in his earlier films, my interest level went way down when the Harryhausen creations weren’t on the rampage, and I never had these problems with his later color films. Still, there’s another factor involved, and that was that my local Creature Feature never showed any Harryhausen movies, and the only ones that popped up in my regular viewing elsewhere were his color movies on prime time. As a result, I just don’t quite have the same nostalgic fondness for EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS or IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA that I do for JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, and this one.

If anything, this is the one I remember best from my childhood. Four of the scenes have stayed with me for years; the battle with the giant crab, the somewhat humorous encounter with the giant chicken (my favorite scene), two of the castaways being sealed up in a honeycomb by a giant bee (which was pretty merciful if you consider just what other thing a giant bee could have done to them), and the scene where Captain Nemo rises out of the sea in his shell-shaped diving gear. This was my real first encounter with the character of Nemo, and, despite James Mason’s excellent portrayal of the character in 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, I retain a strong fondness for Herbert Lom in the role. The movie actually sticks a little closer to the book than it might have; outside of the addition of the giant beasties (which is more of a touch I’d expect from H.G. Wells than Jules Verne) and the addition of two women to the plot, it retains the basic story of the Verne novel. I was glad to see that it still held my interest even when the monsters aren’t on the loose; in particular, I like the exciting escape sequence in the balloon at the beginning of the movie. There are a few problems; in particular, I don’t see any woman from nineteenth century England feeling quite at ease with a skirt of as short a length as the one worn by Beth Rogan in the second half of this movie (and it certainly doesn’t look like it or her visible panties were made with goat skin). Still, this will always be a welcome favorite, and I could watch that chicken sequence a hundred times and not get tired of it.

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)

Article #1725 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-4-2005
Posting Date: 5-3-2006
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Featuring Jason Robards, Herbert Lom, Christine Kaufmann

A masked madman is killing members of a theatre troupe situated in the Rue Morgue.

I believe I once complained about the liberties that the 1932 movie THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE took with the original Poe story. Well, compared to this one, that earlier version was downright faithful. This one jettisons Dupin and the Orangutan altogether, and though it could be argued that the actor in the hairy costume qualifies as the latter role, to me it just looks like they decided to recycle the mask from TROG. For the most part, the movie seems content to recycle THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – scarred masked guy terrorizes members of an acting troupe. There are some other elements. One woman is having dreams about a man falling to his death and of being chased by a man with an axe, but these dream sequencecs are more silly than scary. There’s also a sinister dwarf, and as far as I’m concerned, the presence of Michael Dunn in the role is the best thing about the movie. Herbert Lom (who had already played the Phantom of the Opera in the Hammer version of the movie) is on hand as the masked villain, and it was entertaining to see one-time Bond villain Adolfo Celi as a detective on the case. All in all, I found the movie dull, unfocused and confusing, yet oddly predicatable nonetheless; certainly the revelation about who was responsible for the scarring of the villain was no surprise.