El mundo del los muertos (1970)

aka The World of the Dead
Article 4481 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-21-2014
Directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares
Featuring Santo, Pilar Pellicer, Carlos Leon
Country: Mexico
What it is: Santo vs a witch

A woman becomes possessed by the spirit of a witch that means to kill off the descendants of those who burnt her at the stake… and one of those descendants is Santo, the Silver Mask.

Like yesterday’s movie, I watched this one in Spanish with no English subtitles. However, that really isn’t much of a problem with this one; Santo movies aren’t known for their reliance on the subtlety of dialogue in the first place, and besides, the “witch seeking vengeance from beyond the grave” is hardly a new and novel storyline. So this one is actually pretty easy to parse out; the first third of the movie covers the backstory, while the rest of the movie takes place in the present. This one actually conjures up quite a bit of horror atmosphere, and for a while it looks like one of Santo’s best movies. However, it stumbles a bit as it proceeds. Several of the fight scenes are shot in fast motion, giving them an unwanted comic effect when one is not needed. It also features graphic open-heart surgery footage that really seems out of place in a Santo movie. After a while, the movie starts spinning its wheels by having Santo fight the same three guys again and again and again. The ending is pretty bizarre, though; Santo ends up in a dream world that borrows footage from HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD. Despite the flaws, this is a fairly entertaining Santo movie, though I do have to point out that Santo is a much better wrestler than a swordsman, as can be seen in one of the fight scenes here.

Mutant (1984)

MUTANT (1984)
aka Night Shadows
Article 4468 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-8-2014
Directed by John “Bud” Cardos and Mark Rosman
Featuring Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, Jody Medford
Country: USA
What it is: Toxic zombie movie

Two brothers get trapped in a small Southern town where the residents are suffering from a flu-like plague. However, the plague ends up turning them into bloodthirsty zombies with a toxic touch.

The movie has a 4.7 rating on IMDB, which is not very good, but I think I like it a little better than that. It’s made with a certain amount of competence, the characters don’t annoy me, and the music isn’t a turn-off, and, in general, I find the movie watchable enough. There’s a few script problems, to be sure, and there are times where the characters don’t always act with much in the way of intelligence. The primary problem with the movie is that it’s pretty derivative of any number of “zombies on the loose” movies, and its few original ideas don’t really lift it above the pack. I suppose I’m damning the movie with faint praise, but one of its strengths is that the moments that don’t work don’t make me hate the movie, but then, maybe that just means it caught me in a good mood, but there it is. I’ve sat through better, but I’ve sat through a lot worse.

Marta (1971)

MARTA (1971)
Article 4466 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-4-2014
Directed by Jose Antonio Nieves Conde
Featuring Marisa Mell, Stephen Boyd, George Rigaud
Country: Spain / Italy
What it is: Psycho thriller

A disturbed man who murdered his own mother takes in a murderess who bears a strong resemblance to the man’s estranged wife. This does not sound like the beginning of a healthy relationship…

This is one of those movies that I thought I had pegged early on; it’s made of so many familiar elements (a disturbed man with sexual hang-ups that involve his mother, a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the man’s first wife, sinister secrets in mansion) that I expected very little in the way of surprises in the way it would unfold. I was wrong; there are indeed surprises, things didn’t quite pan out the way I expected, and everything was just a little more complicated than I expected it would be. Yet, for all that, I can’t really say I like the movie. The characters seem to undergo too many jarring mood swings, parts of it seem very contrived, and there are other moments that strike false notes. In fact, despite some very definite horror trappings, it doesn’t feel like a horror movie, and when I look over the movie as a whole, the main point of it seems to be to reveal the precise nature of the man’s mental illness. It’s an interesting movie, there’s no doubt, but I would have liked it a lot more if it had rang true more often.

Man in Outer Space (1962)

aka Man from the First Century, Muz z prvniho stoleti
Article 4465 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-3-2014
Directed by Oldrich Lipsky
Featuring Milos Kopecky, Radovan Lukavsky, Anita Kajlichova
Country: Czechoslovakia
What it is: Science fiction comedy

A repairman accidentally launches himself into space on a rocket. He returns to Earth 500 years into the future to find a Utopian society, which he seeks to exploit with the help of a space alien who is capable of turning himself invisible.

I like Czech science fiction, and I really enjoyed Lipsky’s I KILLED EINSTEIN, GENTLEMAN when I saw it. This one isn’t quite up to that level, though I know the substandard dubbing on my copy of the movie is probably a big stumbling block in appreciating the movie. Most of the humor is quite obvious; a greedy con man tries to take advantage of his unique position as a relic from an earlier time and his secret involvement with a scientifically superior extraterrestrial entity to amass a fortune, but finds that not only is the world not designed for him to take advantage of, but that he himself is eventually considered insane. More interesting is the alien himself, who sees things only in patterns and attempts to gain an understanding of this thing the humans call love. The ideas are interesting, and there’s a lot of imagination in the set design and special effects, but (in the dubbed English version at least), the laughs aren’t there. Still, it manages to have some points of interest, and it does have a great ending line.

Man from Atlantis (1977)

Article 4464 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-2-2014
Directed by Lee H. Katzin
Featuring Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Dean Santoro
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction TV pilot

When an amphibious man is found washed up on the shore, the military takes control of him and makes his existence a national secret. He is then sent out on his first mission: to locate a submarine that has gone missing.

I’ve already seen other episodes of the “Man from Atlantis” TV series; this, the pilot episode, is easily the best of what I’ve seen so far. Part of the reason is that the script is much stronger than the ones I’ve seen in the other entries of the series, particularly during the opening scenes of the movie. The other reason is the appearance of Victor Buono as the villain in the second half of the movie. Now, I’ve seen Buono as a villain many times, but his performance of Mr. Schubert here as a man brimming with folksy affability is a brilliant move; based on this performance alone, his character has catapulted to my list of all-time favorite TV villains. My other feelings about elements of the series remain the same; Patrick Duffy is much more interesting under the water than he is on dry land, and the show in general handles the underwater scenes very well.

Madame Sin (1972)

Article 4463 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-28-2014
Directed by David Greene
Featuring Bette Davis, Robert Wagner, Denholm Elliott
Country: UK
What it is: Supervillain story

A CIA agent who has left the agency is kidnapped by a powerful supervillainess known as Madame Sin, who recruits him to help her to steal a Polaris submarine.

This movie actually has a decent rating on IMDB (at the time I write this, 7.0), but the user comments seem to be largely negative, which makes me suspect that the movie is one of those that splits its audience. I wonder if what many people don’t like about it is what I do like about it. It’s working in a very familiar genre (the supervillain/superspy story), but it jettisons many of its conventions. It’s stylishly directed, but in a totally different way than the other ones I’ve seen, though it does remind me a little bit of the Dr. Phibes movies. The movie is full of interesting and curious scenes, such as the one in which the hero, temporarily deaf, tries to get a tourist to make a phone call for him. And because it’s defying, bending and playing with conventions, it’s somewhat unpredictable; there are several plot surprises along the way. Those who love the conventions of the supervillain genre may feel put off, but I personally liked to see something really different done with the ideas. There’s plenty of gadgetry to add the fantastic content, and I like all three central performances in the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Messalina Against the Son of Hercules (1964)

aka L’ultimo gladiatore
Article 4449 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-13-2014
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Richard Harrison, Lisa Gastoni, Marilu Tolo
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Sword and Sandal

The captured Briton slave Glaucus becomes embroiled in the plans of an evil woman intent on becoming the empress of Rome.

Near the beginning of the movie, Glaucus is said to be an actual descendant of Hercules, which is a bit surprising, as most of the other “Sons of Hercules” movies tend to take the title more metaphorically than literally. There’s also a lot of talk of how Glaucus has the strength of ten men, but in action, the closest I can find to any show of super-strength is when he lifts a heavy door at one point; in all other cases, I see nothing that indicates he has super-strength. And that about does it for the fantastic content in this one, as it falls squarely into the historical camp rather than the mythological camp; it’s mostly about the political machinations of Messalina during and after the reign of Caligula. There’s lots of fighting, action, and sword-and-sandal cliches, but I found this one to be somewhat on the dull side. There’s probably a few more sword-and-sandal movies from this era that I’ll be watching, but I hope they have more fantastic content than this one does.