The Monkey Talks (1927)

Article 3965 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-28-2012
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Featuring Olive Borden, Jacques Lerner, Don Alvarado
Country: USA
What it is: Circus melodrama

In order to make ends meet, members of a circus concoct an act in which one of their members will impersonate a monkey who can talk. In order to make sure the scam works, the small group keeps the secret to themselves, but when a beautiful tightrope walker joins the circus, complications arise when both the man impersonating the monkey and the man taking the role of the trainer fall in love with her.

This movie was based on a French stage play that was a big hit, but when it first came to the US, it failed to have the same commercial impact, and the movie adaptation was given a perfunctory production. Still, Jacques Lerner (who played the role of the monkey-man in both France and the U.S.) gives a great, energetic performance, and, even though the only surviving print of this is in decrepit condition, the movie is quite entertaining. Granted, it is a far-fetched premise, and the movie version apparently made a number of changes to the storyline of the play (particularly in the relationship between the monkey/man and his master). Still, even though it ends up on the melodramatic side, I found myself involved with the characters and their situations; I have to admit to being a bit of a sucker for noble sacrifice, so there you go. Still, the fantastic content is slight, though there are a few touches of horror involving a real monkey getting mixed up in the story and other touches of animal horror. All in all, I liked it despite its flaws.

Incidentally, I was able to augment much of this review by reading the entry on it in McFarland’s book, “American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films 1913-1929” by John T. Soister, Henry Nicolella, Steve Joyce and Harry H. Long, which I just received in the mail today. Consider this a plug!

The Mutilator (1985)

aka Fall Break
Article 3963 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-26-2012
Directed by Buddy Cooper
Featuring Matt Mitler, Ruth Martinez, Bill Hitchcock
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher

Years ago, a young boy accidentally kills his mother while cleaning a shotgun. In the present, the boy, now a teenager, goes to spend fall break with a bunch of friends at a seaside condo owned by his dad. But soon his friends start dying one by one…

Here we are back in slasher territory again. The script is bad, the acting is weak, the direction is tepid, the characters are annoying, the music is strangely inappropriate, and it opts for every slasher cliche that it gets near. There’s a bit of nudity, and the violence and gore are a bit on the nasty side, which is probably why the movie has its share of defenders. That’s all I really have to say about this one; those who still want to see it will probably like it well enough.

Mickey’s Ape Man (1933)

Article 3960 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-23-2012
Directed by Jesse Duffy
Featuring Mickey Rooney, Billy Barty, Kendall McComas
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy short

Mickey hopes to win a prize by doing the best imitation of an ape man as part of a movie promotion. But is one of the other members of his gang a better choice to be the ape man?

It looks like the McGuire’s Gang shorts (of which this is a member) were like The Little Rascals, albeit more in a slapstick mode; some of the gags are the type you’d expect in animated cartoons. Just on the surface, this seems pretty marginal in terms of its fantastic content; after all, Tarzan movies are generally on the marginal side, and a short about kids imitating the Tarzan movies seem even further away from the genre. However, since the kids are practicing near one of the least secure zoos in the country, they end up having to face off with an escaped gorilla, and since gorillas often substituted for monsters, I’ll give this one a pass. I wish I knew who played the gorilla; at times it looks like it might be Charley Gemora, but other times not. At any rate, Billy Barty steals the show here.

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.