Mausoleum (1983)

Article 3893 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-2-2012
Posting Date: 4-11-2012
Directed by Michael Dugan
Featuring Bobbie Bressee, Marjoe Gortner, Norman Burton
Country: USA
What it is: Demonic possession movie

Traumatized by the death of her mother, a young girl ends up releasing a demon from a mausoleum. Years later she is possessed by the demon, and begins a rampage of terror.

You know, there are moments where I rather admire this movie; the concept has some original touches to it, and certain individual moments work rather effectively; I particular like the touch at the climax that the woman seems to physically revert to her ten-year-old self at times. But the movie has some touches that are really silly (the family name is Nemod, the black maid is a throwback in the worst sense, and Marjoe Gortner’s death is just too ludicrous to take seriously), and the often lifeless direction and weak acting pull it down at every step. At least the twist ending wasn’t the one I expected, but, on the other hand, it’s one that doesn’t make any real sense, either. In short, this one is a misfire, though it does have some points of interest.

Monstroid – It Came from the Lake (1980)

aka Monster, The Toxic Monster
Article 3891 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-31-2012
Posting Date: 4-9-2012
Directed by Kenneth Hartford and Herbert L. Strock
Featuring James Mitchum, John Carradine, Philip Carey
Country: USA
What it is: Bottom-of-the-fish-barrel monster movie

Pollution from a cement plant in Colombia creates a giant monster that lives in the lake.

Twice within the first five minutes of this movie, you are told that this is based on a true story. I’m guessing the true part involves there being a cement plant in Colombia; nothing else in the movie seems attached to anything resembling reality as I know it. Just to illustrate, here’s a memorable little sample of dialogue. Person A: “There’s something in the trees!” Person B: “Maybe it’s a goat!” Now I don’t pretend to be an expert on the indigenous animal life of Colombia, but I’ve never heard of the Colombian Tree Goat. But then, I’ve never heard of sharks that chew up people and then spit them out on land, so the speculation that the attacks on the bodies found on land could be shark victims also rings false. And then there’s the title. The suffix “-oid” means that it resembles a certain object, but really isn’t, so the title means that it looks, walks and smells like a monster, but isn’t one. But if it isn’t a monster, what is it? I could go on speculating, but I think I’ll just settle on the fact that the script was written with very little thought. Ultimately, this is a cheaply done, unfocused and uninvolving monster movie with little to recommend it, unless you really have to hear some silly snatches of dialogue.

The Mysterious Island of Captain Nemo (1973)

aka La isla misteriosa
Article 3882 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-22-2012
Posting Date: 3-31-2012
Directed by Juan Antonio Bardem and Henri Colpi
Featuring Omar Sharif, Ambroise Bia, Jess Hahn
Country: Spain / France /Italy / Cameroon
What it is: Verne adaptation

A group of POWs escape from the confederate army in a hot air balloon, but a storm blows them to a deserted island where they must fend for themselves. But they have an unexpected if secretive ally. Could it be Captain Nemo of the Nautilus…?

I’m cheating a little on this one. My first reaction as I started watching this that was that the movie was dwelling much longer on the civil war sequence at the beginning than was strictly necessary, and I was a good forty minutes into it before they even reached the island. It was at this point that I became curious, and checked the stats on it from IMDB. The movie clocks in at 96 minutes, but there is a two-hour Spanish version. And then I discovered that it had all been edited from a 6-episode TV series, with each episode 52 minutes long. After a while, it finally dawned on me that I had netted a version that seemed to have almost all of the TV episodes in their entirety; the beginning and ending credits are missing, but the whole thing ran about 4 1/2 hours for me. Well, seeing that I was already about ninety minutes into it at that point (and that I had no other source for it that I knew of), I decided to sit through the whole thing and review it.

This turned out to be a bit of a chore; the pacing is very deliberate, and there were a few times I just had to take a break from it. It took me two days to get through it. Now I don’t know what the 96 minute version must have been like, but I suspect that it would have been rough and rather fragmented. This version more or less follows the novel, and I think I actually liked the bits where deals with the Robinson Crusoe-like survival tactics of the castaways; despite it’s slowness, I liked the sequence where a scientist builds a makeshift lens from a couple of clock faces, a process which is shown in thorough detail. The story gives away the presence of Captain Nemo early on, most likely due to the fact that the big name here is Omar Sharif, and they probably wanted to feature him in every episode in some capacity, though he doesn’t really take a major part in the action until the final part of the story. Still, the story is sorely lacking in energy, and this is never more apparent in the disappointing climax, which is mostly talk when it should be emphasizing action. Sharif looks good in the role, but his performance lacks pizzazz (or as much of it that I could tell, given that my copy was dubbed into German with English subtitles). All in all, it was sporadically interesting, but it would probably be best enjoyed an episode at a time over a few weeks.

Moresque obiettivo allucinante (1967)

aka Coplan ouvre le feu a Mexico, Mexican Slayride, Between the Nets
Article 3863 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-3-2012
Posting Date: 3-12-2012
Directed by Riccardo Freda
Featuring Lang Jeffries, Sabine Sun, Jose Maria Caffarel
Country: Spain / France / Italy
What it is: Eurospy

Secret agent Coplan is sent on a mission to discover the reason paintings that disappeared during the Nazi occupation of France are popping up in auctions; those who try to bid on them are killed and the portraits stolen. The trail eventually leads to a bizarre plan to take over the world.

There’s apparently a fansub out there of this movie that is preferable to the English version known as MEXICAN SLAYRIDE, the latter of which was cut by about thirty minutes into a running time of less than an hour. I ended up with neither of these, but with the Italian release of the movie with the title above. With the help of a few plot descriptions, I was more or less able to follow what was going on. This one seems to lack the gadgetry that is the reason some spy movies qualify as science fiction, so I suspect that this one is fairly marginal (though the plot which involves the replacement of President Johnson with a lookalike in order to start World War III may give it a little fantastic content). The murders are a bit on the brutal side, some of the action sequences are rather silly (especially an unbelievable bailout from a crashing plane), but I will give the movie credit for going the idea of a sword hidden in a cane one better. Nevertheless, this doesn’t appear to be a particularly engrossing or fun Eurospy movie.

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)

Article 3861 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2012
Posting Date: 3-10-2012
Directed by Karel Reisz
Featuring David Warner, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Stephens
Country: UK
What it is: Swinging sixties romantic comedy

Morgan, a man obsessed with gorillas and Marxism, tries to win back his wife by any means at his disposal.

The fantastic content is mostly around the edges in this one; the title character is eccentric bordering on madness, and there are references to Tarzan movies and KING KONG before its all over. It’s a romantic comedy of sorts, but it’s hardly a conventional one, and it certainly doesn’t end as most of them do. Still, the romantic elements may be a smokescreen; I suspect that Morgan loves the woman he does because she’s the only touchstone he has with reality, and when she’s gone out of his life, his sanity goes with it. I’m a big fan of David Warner, and his character here is a loose cannon; we don’t know just how likely he is to turn towards violence before it’s all over, but the possibility that he might is always lurking under the surface. Like a lot of swinging sixties British comedies of the period, it’s not quite as funny as I hoped it would be, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Besides, I like movies which feature a man in a gorilla suit.

La mujer y la bestia (1959)

aka The Woman and the Beast
Article 3845 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-13-2012
Posting Date: 2-23-2012
Directed by Alfonso Corona Blake
Featuring Ana Luisa Peluffo, Carlos Cores, Ruben Rojo
Country: Mexico
What it is: Psycho killer thriller

A doctor and a nurse get involved with a series of knife killings. Could the murderer be the nurse’s insane sister who has recently escaped from an asylum?

I had to get the plot from another source since my copy of the movie was in unsubtitled Spanish; I wasn’t quite able to figure out certain details of the story without it. As is often the case, there is a lot of talk in the movie, but there are some interesting visual moments that help make the viewing process more interesting. The most interesting visual touch is that the murders all take place near the railroad, and the train has such a striking visual presence that it almost becomes a character in the story, with its belching forth of smoke and its whistle going off at crucial moments in the story. There’s at least one major plot twist that you should be able to get if you’re armed with the plot description above. Overall, the movie looks to be only average, though it does seem a little better produced than a lot of Mexican horror movies. Still, there are definite high points here.

Mother’s Day (1980)

Article 3843 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-11-2012
Posting Date: 2-21-2012
Directed by Charles Kaufman
Featuring Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer with touches of satire

Three female college roommates get together for a reunion/mystery weekend and camp out in the wilderness, where they are abducted by a family of psychos, whose matriarch has taught her sons to murder, rape and torture for her enjoyment.

Most horror movies of this era with holidays for titles were slasher films, but this one kind of falls somewhere between THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT with touches of satire sprinkled into the mix. I remember it was somewhat reviled in its time, and I can see why; the attempts at humor juxtaposed with the brutality and suffering on display is an uneasy mixture to swallow, and since it’s another example of the victims turning the tables on their captors and employing equally violent means in the process, it’s in a very manipulative subgenre which is both seductive and repellent. My own take on the movie is that it doesn’t really work, largely because the attempt at satire doesn’t seem to have a real point to it; for example, it fails to really establish why the pop-culture obsessions of the psychos has any real bearing on their madness. It does manage to successfully pull the manipulative strings at times, but that’s not too difficult with this type of story. The final twist is unnecessary and rather stupid.