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.

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Mighty Mouse Meets Jekyll and Hyde Cat (1944)

MIGHTY MOUSE MEETS JEKYLL AND HYDE CAT (1944)
Article 3581 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-15-2011
Posting Date: 6-4-2011
Directed by Mannie Davis
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

A group of mice are lured into the empty house of Dr. Jekyll. A cat stalks them, but when he is frustrated, he recreates Dr. Jekyll’s potion to become a monster cat. Can no one save the mice?

One of the things I discovered when I first started watching these Mighty Mouse shorts is that there are different types of them, and how good they are is often dependent on which type you encounter. This is the series at its most boring; weak creatures encounter evil predator, Mighty Mouse saves them. The only voice acting is a single narrator, and there’s very little in the way of humor here; it’s played for action. For horror fans, it has the Jekyll and Hyde plot, but it eschews the good-turning-into-evil approach in favor of the already-evil-becoming-a-monster approach. It’s the series at its most predictable.

Marianne de ma jeunesse (1955)

MARIANNE DE MA JEUNESSE (1955)
aka Marianne of my Youth

Article 3571 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-5-2011
Posting Date: 5-25-2011
Directed by Julien Duvivier
Featuring Marianne Hold, Pierre Vaneck, Gil Vidal
Country: France / West Germany
What it is: Ghost fantasy

A young man who grew up in Argentina comes to stay at a French boy’s school. He becomes enamored with a beauty who is staying in a mansion across the lake… a mansion that is supposed to empty and haunted.

This movie doesn’t have a great reputation, and if you consider the basic plot, it’s very familiar indeed. However, the movie is more than just the basic plot; there are so many romantic, evocative and fairy-tale touches around the edges of the story that it transcends its main story. The boy from Argentina is a romantic figure, a man with music in his soul who has a magnetic charisma with people and with animals. Other touches include an ugly unibrowed valet (played by Ady Berber, who popped up in a few krimi, most notably in DEAD EYES OF LONDON), a gang of brigands, and one of the strangest evil women in the history of cinema; her revenge on being spurned by the Argentine is shocking enough that I found myself not as shocked by the beating she gets from him in return. These various elements are handled with a sense of magic and lyrical fantasy that you find yourself emotionally drawn into the tale. Despite the familiarity of the main tale, the movie it most seemed to evoke was PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, and I think this would make a great companion piece for a double feature.

Munster, Go Home! (1966)

MUNSTER, GO HOME! (1966)
Article 3560 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-21-2011
Posting Date: 5-14-2011
Directed by Earl Bellamy
Featuring Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis
Country: USA
What it is: TV sitcom makes it to the big screen

Herman becomes the heir to an English estate and the title of Lord. He brings his family to England, but finds that the current residents are hiding a secret.. and want the newcomers out of the way.

Let’s get this on record first; on the big “The Addams Family” or “The Munsters” question, I’ve always gone with “The Munsters”. Not that there was anything wrong with the other show; in fact, it may have been the better sitcom. But I’ve always had a soft spot for this one, at least partially because of the excellent casting of Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and because of the show’s central premise that the Munsters thought of themselves as a typical family. The movie is exactly what you’d expect; it’s like an episode of the show stretched to feature length with the addition of color and a racing sequence that was probably a little too expensive for a sitcom. It’s only so-so, but it hits the right nostalgia buttons for me, and the supporting cast (which includes Terry-Thomas, Hermione Gingold, Richard Dawson and John Carradine) is a lot of fun. In fact, I was a little surprised to realize Carradine was in it; I didn’t remember his presence when I saw it as a kid. However, watching it again, I know why; his makeup is so elaborate that he’s almost unrecognizable, and only his voice gives him away. On a side note, I finally realized something about Gwynne’s performance that I really liked; given how the original Frankenstein monster was played by Boris Karloff with a certain child-like innocence, I found it quite amusing that Gwynne also gave his character a child-like spin, what with his gleeful joy at everything around him and his temper tantrums.

Matilda (1978)

MATILDA (1978)
Article 3559 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-20-2011
Posting Date: 5-13-2011
Directed by Daniel Mann
Featuring Elliott Gould, Clive Revill, Harry Guardino
Country: USA
What it is: A movie where you can be confident that no animals were hurt during its making

A down-and-out show business agent gets his chance to hit the big time when he discovers the world’s best boxing kangaroo.

So why am I covering this comedy that seems fairly light on fantastic content? It’s listed in John Stanley’s “Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again” with the explanation that once you see the man-in-a-kangaroo suit hopping down the street, you’ll realize the movie is pure fantasy. That’s a bit of a stretch, but I do see what he’s getting at; Matilda’s first appearance simply destroys any credibility this movie could have garnered. I’m not sure why this is; I’ve seen so many men-in-gorilla-suits and in other monster costumes that it seems odd that a man in a kangaroo suit should be so fatally unbelievable, but it is. It doesn’t help that the movie has the soul of a not very good Disney shopping cart movie (albeit one that is slightly more adult) and that its attempts to be meaningful towards the end only make the movie seem that much more ridiculous. Yet, for all this, it would simply be a not very good movie had not the man-in-a-kangaroo-costume made it seem even worse. On the plus side, the movie has Robert Mitchum, who seems to be able to come out of anything with his dignity intact.

The Monster and the Stripper (1968)

THE MONSTER AND THE STRIPPER (1968)
aka The Exotic Ones

Article 3558 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-19-2011
Posting Date: 5-12-2011
Directed by Ron Ormond
Featuring Ron Ormond, Tim Ormond, Sleepy LaBeef
Country: USA
What it is: Regional exploitation horror

The owner of a strip joint believes he can make more money if he captures a monster in the nearby swamp and uses him as a gimmick during his shows.

Here’s a companion movie to ORGY OF THE DEAD, another movie that combined horror with strip routines. I can’t really say I was disappointed by this one; that would imply I expected it to be better than I found it to be. Instead, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a regional horror movie with this title. It opens with travelogue footage of New Orleans, and then throws in a cursory monster attack to let us know there’s a monster in the story. It’s a good thing, too; the next forty-five minutes is stripper audition footage, with occasional mentions of the monster, reactions from comic relief characters, and occasional hints of plot. Then some characters go to the swamps to catch the monster, and the monster attack footage is a little gorier than I expected, including a scene where the monster pulls a man’s arm off and beats him to death with it. The next few scenes repeat the first forty-five minutes with the monster in a cage thrown into the mix. Finally, the monster escapes and kills whoever is convenient. Perhaps the most unexpected element to the movie is that it actually has three plots going on without ever becoming a plot-oriented movie; there’s a detective trying to establish the club owner’s possible mob connections, a new stripper who finds herself at odds with the club owner’s girlfriend, and the monster plot, thus paying a greater amount of obeisance to the plot god than is usually found in a movie of this ilk. The monster is played by Sleepy LaBeef, who is apparently a rockabilly performer with a cult following. Still, the most interesting name in the cast may be a coincidence; the swamper is listed as Luther Perkins, and though I have my doubts, IMDB claims that it’s the same Luther Perkins who backed up Johnny Cash in The Tennessee Three; Cash’s song “Luther’s Boogie” is about his guitar style.

Moonchild (1974)

MOONCHILD (1974)
Article 3555 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-16-2011
Posting Date: 5-9-2011
Directed by Alan Gadney
Featuring Victor Buono, John Carradine, Mark Travis
Country: USA
What it is: Bizarre horror allegory

An art student finds himself at a mission-converted-into-hotel populated by strange people who seem to know his mind. He soon finds he has been drawn into the events of a previous life, where he is on trial for his life from the Inquisition.

I’ve finally found a suitable companion piece to match with MALPERTUIS if I ever wanted to watch a double-feature of pretentious allegorical fantasies masquerading as horror movies (though, to be truthful, I was never really looking for one). The opening credits feature shots of running down a narrow brick corridor as shot by a hand-held camera while a Gregorian chant is intoned over seventies action-movie music, which is as weird as it sounds and actually gives a good idea as to the what is to follow. The movie is addicted to editing, usually at the expense of clarity, and there’s just too many nano-second flashbacks to the previous lifetime. The movie has a rating of 2.0 on IMDB, and director Alan Gadney never made another film, and neither of these facts surprise me; after all, that’s what happens when you try to masquerade art films as horror movies.

Yet, as awful as it is on certain levels, I’m not dismissing it. One rule of thumb I like to use on art movies of this sort is to ask whether it has a sense of humor, and in truth, I did find myself laughing several times, not due to its incompetence but in actual reaction to certain comic ironies. I emerged with the sense that it actual was about something, and that it actually might be worth the effort of digging it out and finding what it is. It’s helped by the fact that the acting is mostly quite good, especially from Victor Buono, who has a way of projecting meaning with everything he says and whose facial reactions can speak volumes. John Carradine has a surprisingly substantial role in this one, and he too is quite good. In fact, the only performance I didn’t like was that of Mark Travis, who plays the student, but, to be perfectly honest, he’s got a near-impossible and awkwardly written role here. In the end, despite all the pretentiousness, I found this a worthwhile movie, and perhaps it even might be more appropriately be paired with THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS, another movie I find worthwhile despite its awful reputation.