Murder by Death (1976)

Murder by Death (1976)
Article 5937 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-6-2021
Directed by Robert Moore
Featuring Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers
Country: USA
What it is: Mystery parody

Several of the world’s most famous detectives gather together in the mansion of Lionel Twain to solve a murder that hasn’t happened yet.

I think this is the only movie I’ve reviewed to come from the pen of Neil Simon, as very little of what he wrote has any fantastic content. In fact, since this movie is a bit marginal, I wasn’t sure I would even review this one. However, since I’ve covered many movies that feature Charlie Chan (one of the characters parodied in the movie) and the general approach of the story owes a lot to the “old dark house” subgenre, it’s close enough for consideration; there’s also a plot point (if any of the plot points can count for anything here) that implies that one of the characters is merely an android of sorts. It’s definitely an unusual entry from Neil Simon; it feels as if he’s channeling Mel Brooks here. The all-star cast is impressive and well-used, with Peter Falk and Peter Sellers standouts in their parodies of Sam Spade and Charlie Chan respectively. It’s consistently amusing, but it’s best not to take the story the least bit seriously.

Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit (2008)

Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit (2008)
aka Girara no gyakushu: Toya-ko Samitto kikiippatsu
Article 5936 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-3-2021
Directed by Minoru Kawasaki
Featuring Natsuki Kato, Kazuki Alex Kato, Kei Akazawa
What it is: Kaiju parody

While the G8 Summit is being held in Tokyo, Guilala arrives from outer space and goes on a rampage. Rather than scurry back to their respective countries, the leaders of the world nations at the summit offer their help to rid Japan of this menace.

While the political and military leaders discuss the giant monster situation, an eight-year old boy shows up to give his advice and names the monster. The group reacts by telling him civilians aren’t allowed at the meeting, and guards escort him out. For having the scene pan out this way, this movie manages to stake its own special place in the kaiju genre as the only intentional parody of the form from within Japan. It’s a good thing it finds its own voice; otherwise, I would have kept wondering (as I did when I purchased it years ago) why they bothered reviving one of the most pathetic kaiju in history, Guilala. The fact that it’s a parody helps me forgive the cultural stereotypes embodied by the leaders of the various nations (such as the fact that the French member is more interested in seducing his interpreter than doing anything about the matter at hand) As a whole, the movie is scattershot, but it has its moments; I like the interviews in the street where Japanese citizens react to the monster by thinking about the money they’ll make by merchandising, the pathetic attempts by the various world leaders, and the final battle scene which references both KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and the ‘Ultraman’ series. Though far from perfect, this sequel is superior to the original.

Moans and Groans (1935)

Moans and Groans (1935)
Article 5935 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-1-2021
Directed by Frank Moser and Paul Terry
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Farmer Al Falfa cartoon

Farmer Al Falfa goes to the dentist.

For a Terrytoons cartoon, this one is not too bad, partially because it taps in to the fear we have of going to the dentist and because it’s a little more creative in the dream sequence after the patient has been dosed with the gas. It’s the latter section that has the fantastic content, as the patient drifts up into outer space and has a close encounter with the man in the moon; in fact, he meets a whole gaggle of moons. There are no big laughs here, but it is consistently amusing. This is one of the studio’s more consistent offerings.

Mission for the Dragon (1979)

Mission for the Dragon (1979)
aka Maegwon
Article 5934 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-30-2021
Directed by Si-Hyeon Kim
Featuring Dragon Lee, Carter Wong, Jin-Su Ahn
Country: South Korea / Hong Kong
What it is: Lots of fight choreography

Two families are caught in a feud when their respective patriarchs go missing. This causes them to engage in sound-enhanced gesturing and extreme signing.

Martial Arts movies have their own set of conventions that strain the bounds of the possible in such a way that they might qualify as fantastic cinema; I’ve seen some scenes where these people seem capable of flying. Nevertheless, I’m going to restrict my reviews to those that have fantastic content that’s a little more concrete. In this case, there’s a subplot involving a monstrous figure in a haunted cave. I am impressed with the energy and speed of a lot of these fights, though I never quite believe that any of these people are actually hitting each other. The fights are pretty spectacular in this one, but the plot is a mess and the dubbing is laughably horrendous. Still, I doubt that any of these weaknesses would bother fans of martial arts movies.

Mighty Mouse and the Magician (1948)

Mighty Mouse and the Magician (1948)
Article 5933 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-26-2021
Directed by Eddie Donnelly
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

A mouse magician is under attack by a cat, but uses his powers to hold his own against his foe. However, the cat gets a hold of the mouse’s magic wand and turns the tables. Can Mighty Mouse save the magician and his friends?

Most of the Mighty Mouse cartoons fall into one of a handful of patterns; this is a non-operetta one in which the first half sets up a cats vs. mice situation, and ends by Mighty Mouse showing up and setting things aright. Actually, the first half (when the magician mouse is besting the cats) is a lot more fun; once the magic wand comes into play, the story is routine, though it does have a bit of novelty in Mighty Mouse having to figure out how to do battle with invisible foes. Still, the solution to that problem is precisely what you suspect it might be. Overall, this one is a bit better than the usual Mighty Mouse cartoon.

Midnight Frolics (1938)

Midnight Frolics (1938)
Article 5932 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-25-2021
Directed by Ub Iwerks
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc, The King’s Men, Harry Stanton
Country: USA
What it is: Spooky silliness

Ghosts sing, dance, play music, and take part in comic bits in a spooky house.

Given the word “midnight” in the title, I’m not the least bit surprised this one qualifies; after all, if it wasn’t ghosts, it would be some other spooky manifestation. The running gag has a door-to-door traveling ghost who keeps interrupting the party, much to the consternation of the ghosts that live in the spooky house. It’s a so-so cartoon, but it’s fun enough as a lead-in to a night of scary movies. Plus, it’s nice to see Ub Iwerks and Mel Blanc on the talent roster for this one.

Mesmerized (1985)

Mesmerized (1985)
Article 5931 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-24-2021
Directed by Michael Laughlin
Featuring Jodie Foster, John Lithgow, Michael Murphy
Country: Australia / New Zealand / UK
What it is: Drama

A woman raised in an orphanage is trapped in an arranged marriage with a repellant man. She falls for the man’s younger brother, but she becomes a victim of circumstances when she is told that she is responsible for the younger brother’s death, and only her husband can save her from the noose. To what desperation will this drive her?

Initially I didn’t think this was going to have anything in the way of fantastic content and the title was a metaphor rather than an indication that mesmerism played any part in the plot. However, mesmerism does pop up in the second half of the movie, and I also found the movie listed in John Stanley’s Creature Features guide, though the plot summary in that guide is entirely incorrect. The use of mesmerism ends up playing a crucial role in setting up a single plot point in the movie. Furthermore, I can’t really say whether its use goes beyond the bounds of realistic use of mesmerism. At any rate, the fantastic content does feel marginal in this case.

This movie has a low rating on IMDB, and though I don’t think it’s awful, it does have a fair amount of problems; it’s slow as hell, rather unpleasant, has a distant feel to it, and by the end of the movie, leaves you feeling that it is less than the sum of its parts. Jodie Foster was a co-producer, but from one of the user notes on IMDB I gather that she herself thought very little of the film. In the end, I found the movie neither enjoyable nor satisfying.

Merry Mavericks (1951)

Merry Mavericks (1951)
Article 5930 by Dave Sindelar
Date; 1-24-2021
Directed by Edward Bernds
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard
Country: USA
What it is: Three Stooges short

The Three Stooges are mistaken for lawmen when they visit the town of Peaceful Gulch.

The first half of this short has the Stooges in the wild west. The fantastic content doesn’t rev up until the second half, where they guard some money in a house that is supposedly haunted. The plot is set up so that you won’t be surprised that the scares are just bad guys in costumes, but you still end up with an assortment of horrors, including a headless Indian. It’s a pretty average Stooges short, though there are moments when the Stooges show some surprising cleverness in dealing with their adversaries.

The Merry Cafe (1936)

The Merry Cafe (1936)
Article 5929 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-24-2021
Directed by Manny Gould, Ben Harrison and Allen Rose
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Krazy Kat cartoon

Krazy Kat is penniless, but he tries to somehow find something to eat in an Eato-Mat cafe.

There’s not much in the way of real fantastic content (other than the anthropomorphic animals) during the first half of the cartoon, but during the second half Krazy Kat dreams that all the food comes to life and starts singing and dancing, which brings us closer, and when the devil’s food cake causes the appearance of little devils, that cements it. It’s a typical cartoon of the era, with several gags and musical numbers, and there are a few fun gags, such as finding out how the hard-boiled eggs dance and what’s in the ham sandwich. By this time, of course, Krazy was little more than a Mickey Mouse clone with little connection to the original comic strip character on which he was based.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Article 5928 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-15-2021
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Featuring David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark
Country: UK
What it is: Arty science fiction

A stranger who claims to be from England appears in the United States and forms a corporation with the help of a variety of patents. However, he has an ulterior motive for his actions other than just amassing a fortune. Who is he, what are his plans, and will the world allow him to bring them to fruition?

I’ve encountered Nicolas Roeg before in this series (DON’T LOOK NOW and EUREKA), and I’m familiar enough with his work to not expect anything linear or easily grasped. Though the movie doesn’t make it explicit until about the half-way point, it gives enough hints early on that it isn’t a major spoiler to reveal that the stranger is from another planet. David Bowie is well cast in the main role here, not necessarily because of his acting chops but because his own persona already projected a sense of a thoroughly alien sexuality. Roeg has a strong visual sense, and there’s a lot of brilliant imagery to the story. I’m not all that taken with the story, however, and the movie runs on too long; once the main character’s fortune takes on a downward trajectory, it becomes a tiresome slog because you just know their is no real chance of it reversing itself. So, despite the visual highlights, I find this one of Roeg’s less satisfying films.