Night of the Zombies II (1981)

aka Night of the Zombies
Article 4953 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-10-2015
Directed by Joel M. Reed
Featuring Jamie Gillis, Ryan Hilliard, Ron Armstrong
Country: USA
What it is: Zombie thriller

A spy joins forces with a doctor to find a group of World War II deserters believed to be holed up in Bavaria as well as canisters of a poisoned gas rumored to have been used in a battle there. What they find are zombies.

Reed was responsible for the notorious BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, but it doesn’t appear that his follow-up movies (this and BLOOD BATH) made any attempt to be as offensive as that one was. For a movie featuring cannibalistic zombies, this is pretty mild stuff, but then, the copy I saw on YouTube does not appear to be the full movie, as it runs about ten minutes short. It was originally titled without the number, but since an Italian movie from 1980 also used the NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES title, Reed slapped a II on the back of his; the movies are not otherwise related. There are a couple of points of interest to the story, and there’s an occasional nice piece of dialogue. Unfortunately, to get to these, you have to wade through an extremely muddled script, indifferent acting, a criminally low budget, and uninspired direction. The zombies sometimes look quite human, are rather chatty, and do a fair amount of chortling. It’s odd, and not really all that effective.

Necropolis (1970)

Article 4952 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-9-2015
Directed by Franco Brocani
Featuring Nicoletta Machiavelli, Tina Aumont, Pierre Clementi
Country: Italy / UK
What it is: Art film

Famous, non-famous and fictional people talk or do not talk, as the case may be.

There’s a scene in this movie which more or less consists of what feels like a fifteen-minute monologue from a woman complaining about her husband. This is the type of scene that would be the worst scene in any number of movies; here it’s the best scene. It’s not because the scene is particularly good, mind you. It’s because it’s one of the only scenes in the movie that feels focused enough to hold my attention for at least a third of its length. It’s certainly better than the scene where the Frankenstein monster (a guy with some face make-up on) wanders around in an environment filled with what looks like red-shower curtains for about ten minutes, or when the same character gives a five-minute monologue one syllable at a time while wandering back and forth across a room, or the scene where Attila the Hun strips naked, is dressed by his helpers, and then rides around on a horse while reciting a monologue (just to name a few examples). What it’s all about escapes me; the closest I can get to an explanation is from the plot description on IMDB that it’s a “statement about life”, and this is so vague as to be of no help at all. Any one of these scenes might be effective if they ran no more than a minute or two, but the most maddening thing about this movie is that almost every scene runs at least three times longer than it should. This may rank as one of the most tedious art films I’ve seen to date.

Night of the Demon (1980)

Article 4880 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-24-2015
Directed by James C. Wasson
Featuring Michael Cutt, Joy Allen, Bob Collins
Country: USA
What it is: Bigfoot movie

A professor and five students undertake an expedition to locate a murderous Bigfoot.

The worst Bigfoot movie? Probably not; the competition is way too stiff, and as long as CURSE OF BIGFOOT is still floating around, I don’t think this one has to worry. It is, however, the sleaziest and goriest one I’ve seen so far. Lots of blood flows in this movie, though none of it is really convincing, and when it’s not being gory, it’s usually being fairly dull. It does have a few oddball plot elements to add to the mix, especially those involving the Bigfoot’s relationship with a young girl, her religious fanatic father, and a coven of townspeople who worship the creature as a deity. It does have its fans among those who love no-budget sleazy drive-in fare, but with the bad acting and poor cinematography, I can’t really recommend this one to anyone else.

Number 5: Circular Tensions: Homage to Oskar Fischinger (1949)

Article 4833 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-26-2015
Directed by Harry Smith
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Abstract animation

No plot.

If you’ve been following this series lately, you probably recognize the name of Oskar Fischinger and know the type of movie with which he’s associated. So it should be no surprise that a homage to him would be more of the same; what we have here is abstract images set to music. The latter in this case sounds like African tribal music, what with its pulsing drumbeat and general sound. The animation is mostly circles and squares in various configurations. It runs about five minutes long. As far as I could tell, there was nothing about this one to really set it apart from the others of its ilk.

Nix on Hypnotricks (1941)

Article 4831 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-24-2015
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Featuring the voices of Margie Hines and Jack Mercer
Country: USA
What it is: Popeye cartoon

Olive Oyl is placed under a hypnotic trance over the phone, and begins wandering the streets of the city. Popeye desperately tries to save her from harm.

The hypnotist here isn’t Bluto, but he does look like a short, skinny version of Popeye’s regular nemesis. Still, outside of setting the plot into motion and being present at the end, he doesn’t play a big part in the action; most of the cartoon involves Popeye’s attempts to keep Olive Oyl from coming to harm while wandering across streets, roofs, and construction sites. The trouble for Popeye is that in this cartoon, his real nemesis isn’t the hypnotist; it’s the fact that he seems to be laboring under the same curse that plagues Wile E. Coyote in that everyone, everything, bad luck, and the laws of physics all try to thwart him. In the end, it’s his run of bad luck that makes the cartoon one of the funniest ones for this character. The cartoon even references one of the Fleischer’s newer franchises; after eating the spinach, the ‘s’ comes off the can and plasters itself on Popeye’s chest, and he gains the ability to fly. Still, I do think it interesting that his greatest feat of power here (he shifts a skyscraper several feet) happens before he takes the spinach.

Nursery Favorites (1913)

Article 4775 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-7-2015
Directed by Allen Ramsey
Featuring Edna Flugrath
Country: USA
What it is: Early experiment with sound

Various characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales appear, sing and dance.

THE JAZZ SINGER wasn’t really the first sound movie; it was the first one that used a technology that could be widely adapted. There were several early experiments with sound, but I think this is the only one that has anything in the way of fantastic content. There’s no plot to speak of; all that happens is several characters appear and sing songs tied to a variety of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. The giant from “Jack and the Beanstalk” appears (played by a really tall guy), as well as the Queen of the Fairies; there’s also a fairly large spider for the Little Miss Muffet song. The action is shot in one long single take with a static camera, and the stage gets rather crowded before it’s all over. It’s mostly interesting as a curio, and some of the sound is rather inaudible, but I rather expected that

The Night Before Christmas (1941)

Article 4774 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-5-2015
Directed by Joseph Barbera and William Hanna
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Tom and Jerry holiday cartoon

Jerry explores the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve, but crosses paths with Tom when he mistakes the latter for a stuffed animal.

Given that this is a Tom and Jerry cartoon, there is a certain amount of knockabout humor to the proceedings here. However, since it’s also a Christmas-themed cartoon, it gravitates more in the direction of whimsy, especially in the opening scene where Jerry does his exploration. Fans of the series like to point out that despite the violence, Tom and Jerry are friends; though that may not come through on certain individual cartoons. It does on this one, since the last part of the cartoon deals with Tom’s feelings of guilt when he locks Jerry out in the freezing storm, and the friendship drives the rest of the events in the cartoon. As a result, I end up liking this one somewhat more than the last Tom and Jerry cartoon I saw; it captures one of the more endearing aspects of the series, because that friendship offers a good counterpoint to the violence.

Night Child (1972)

aka Diabolica malicia, What the Peeper Saw
Article 4735 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by James Kelley and Andrea Bianchi
Featuring Mark Lester, Britt Ekland, Hardy Kruger
Country: Spain / UK / Italy / West Germany

A woman marries a man whose previous wife died two years before. Upon meeting the man’s son, she becomes convinced that there is something disturbing going on in the householdā€¦ or is she the one who is disturbed?

My DVD gave me the option of watching either the U.S. theatrical version of the movie (which runs 72 minutes) or the uncut original version (which runs 95 minutes). I opted for the latter, of course, but I would like to point out that the shortened version of the movie is missing nearly a quarter of the footage. Though I don’t care for censorship, I do understand why it happens, and when your movie has unambiguously as its central plot element the sexual relationship between a precocious 12 year old boy and his 22-year old stepmother, you know someone’s going to take some scissors to it somewhere. I also wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the shorter version is a confusing mess, though I can’t say so for sure at this time. Overall, the movie is a variation on THE BAD SEED, though it does attempt to be more psychologically penetrating than that one was; the boy is indeed disturbed, but neither the father nor the stepmother are well-adjusted either, and the stepmother takes so many questionable actions during the course of the movie that she hardly ends up coming across as the heroine. Fortunately, the movie is more interesting than exploitative, though I did get a little worried towards the end of the movie when it starts trotting out surreal fantasy sequences reflecting one character’s thoughts; fortunately, it gets back on track. Still, this is pretty edgy subject matter, and the passage of time has probably only made it moreso.

Nuits rouges (1974)

aka Shadowman
Article 4682 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-15-2014
Directed by Georges Franju
Featuring Gayle Hunnicutt, Jacques Champreux, Josephine Chaplin
Country: France / Italy
What it is: Supervillain serial pastiche

The police match wits with a supervillain for possession of the secret to the treasure of the Templar Knights. However, there is a third party who is also interested in the treasureā€¦

I have to admit that I brighten up when I see Georges Franju’s name in the credits of a movie; I share his love for Louis Feuillade’s French supervillain serials of the silent era, and I find them apt models for imitation. That’s why I quite enjoyed this movie, even if I’m aware that Franju is covering ground he’s visited before with his remake of JUDEX. Granted, this story is a little closer to FANTOMAS or LES VAMPIRES than it is to JUDEX, but the stylistic feel is the same. However, the problem with this one is that it feels like a retread, and not a particularly strong one. The characters remain somewhat one-dimensional; we aren’t as intrigued by the supervillain (who has no name but is referred to as The Man With No Face) or with police detective Sorbier (whose main appeal is that he’s played by Gert Frobe) as we were by the characters in the original Feuillade serials. Maybe that’s why things get a little tiresome towards the end of this one, and it starts to feel a little creaky. It does have some marked fantastic elements, particularly with the fact that the villain employs resurrected dead people as assassins. All in all, this one is entertaining enough, but suffers from being a little too familiar and uninspired.

Nightstalker (1979)

aka Don’t Go Near the Park
Article 4675 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-8-2014
Directed by Lawrence David Foldes
Featuring Aldo Ray, Meeno Peluce, Tammy Taylor
Country: USA
What it is: You got me.

Two prehistoric people, condemned to perpetually die without becoming dead, survive into the modern age by acts of cannibalism on runaways. They attempt to gain eternal life by having the male mate with a human to create a child that can be sacrificed towards that end. Then it gets confusing.

You know, there’s something to be said for a movie that simply can’t be scoped out, and this is one of them. I never knew where it was going or what was going to happen next. The trouble is, I’m not sure whether the creative powers-that-be on this one knew that either, or whether they simply couldn’t be bothered or figured out how to tell the story in any coherent fashion. This is one of those movies that is packed with “Huh?” scenes – you know, those scenes where you have no idea why what is happening is happening. How did the girl get out of the burning van? Why did the woman decide to marry the strange man who she first meets after he sneaks into her house while she’s showering? How is the man able to perform cannibalism on a young child while managing not to get a drop of blood on his nice Sunday suit? And why does everyone scream at everything? Actually, I think I know the answer to the latter; movies often have lots of screaming in scenes where they’re trying to convince us that it’s really scary when it it really isn’t. That is probably, in a nutshell, the main reason the movie doesn’t work; as weird and sick as it is in spots, it’s never scary. On the other hand, those on the hunt for a really strange bad movie may have something worth checking out here.