Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948)

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948)
Article 1943 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-10-2006
Posting Date: 12-7-2006
Directed by John Farrow
Featuring Edward G.Robinson, Gail Russell, John Lund

A man with a mind reading act discovers he has the ability to see into the future. When he has a vision of the death of the daughter of a former lover, he tries to use his knowledge to save her.

The director of this movie, John Farrow, was responsible for ALIAS NICK BEAL, another dark drama with strong fantastic elements. This, along with the presence of one of my very favorite actors, Edward G. Robinson, made me hope for something special with this one, but I’m afraid I found myself a little disappointed by the results. Robinson does a fine job with his role, and I do like the movie’s serious approach to the story, even to the point of making sure that a potential comic relief character (Wiliam Demarest’s detective) is played straight. However, the story feels just a bit too familiar and predictable, and after a while I found myself merely waiting for the someone to knock over the line of dominoes the movie had spent setting up. This wouldn’t really have been a problem had the movie effectively ratcheted up the suspense quotient, but it fails to do so; in fact, I found much of the movie to be turgidly paced. In some ways, it’s similar to THE CLAIRVOYANT from the previous decade, but I found the earlier movie to be a little more creative. Incidentally, this wasn’t Robinson’s first cinematic encounter with mind readers and precognition; the same themes popped up in his earlier movie THE HOLE IN THE WALL. The cast also features Onslow Stevens (billed as Onslow Stevenson, which I assume was a mistake) and Douglas (THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD) Spencer.

 

Nasty Rabbit (1964)

NASTY RABBIT (1964)
aka SPIES-A-GO-GO
Article 1941 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-8-2006
Posting Date: 12-5-2006
Directed by James Landis
Featuring Michael Terr, Arch Hall Jr., Liz Renay

A Russian spy bearing a rabbit with a vial of deadly bacteria arrives at a dude ranch with the intent of destroying America by releasing the rabbit on the continental divide. He must contend with a cadre of intercontinental counter-espionage agents and a rock-and-roll singer who is really a secret agent as well.

You know, it’s a bit of a shame that Arch Hall Jr.’s best known movie is EEGAH; as far as I can tell from having seen that movie, THE SADIST, and this one, he got better as he went along. Not that his performance was better here than it was in THE SADIST (his previous movie), but then, THE SADIST gave him both a better character and a better script. Here he manages to rise above the material somewhat (something he failed to do in EEGAH), and he comes across as cool and confident, and though he’s mostly a straight man, he manages his few comic bits with a greater degree of skill than the other performers in the movie. Granted, it doesn’t save the movie itself; this compendium of frenetic subpar slapstick and broad ethnic caricatures is desperately unfunny. The cast does have some interesting names, though; this is the sole acting credit for Michael Terr (alias Mischa Terr), who worked behind the scenes in a musical capacity on a number of genre features. Richard Kiel pops up as a ranch foreman who makes sure that dwarf Jack Little does not shirk his calf-roping duties. Award-winning cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs appears as an idiot who intends to make the rabbit his meal. It’s interesting that the cinematography was handled by another award-winning cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond. Out of curiosity, I looked up joint ventures between these two men, and found that they had worked together in some capacity on an interesting assortment of films, including THE TIME TRAVELERS, THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES!!? and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.

 

Neutron the Atomic Super-Man and the Black Mask (1962)

NEUTRON THE ATOMIC SUPER-MAN AND THE BLACK MASK (1962)
aka Neutron and the Black Mask, Neutron el enmascarado negro
Article 1906 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-3-2006
Posting Date: 10-31-2006
Directed by Federico Curiel
Featuring Wolf Ruvinskis, Armando Silvestre, Rosa Arenas

When a new weapon called the Neutron Bomb is created, an ambitious assistant tries to steal the formula, an act that results in his mutilation and the deaths of two men. In order to get the formula, he hooks up with an evil supergenius named Dr. Caronte. However, both villains are opposed by that non-wrestling masked hero, Neutron.

Title-parsing time again. As far as I can tell, the correct translation of the Spanish title is NEUTRON, THE BLACK MASK. This is correct, as Neutron does wear a black mask. However, most of the English titles (such as the one on my copy) imply that the black mask is a different character; I’ve even seen the movie titled NEUTRON VS. THE BLACK MASK. These titles are confusing, as the mask-wearing villain Dr. Caronte wears a white mask. And as far as that “Atomic Super-Man” moniker goes, we’ve been there before and don’t get me started.

Now is a good time to recap the whole Neutron series. There were six Neutron movies made, and I’ve covered five of them. This may well end my exploration of this series, as NEUTRON VS. THE INVISIBLE KILLERS seems to have vanished off the face of the earth. Three of the movies seem to make a trilogy about Dr. Caronte; this is the first one, as it seems to predate NEUTRON AND THE KILLER ROBOTS or NEUTRON VS. THE AMAZING DR. CARONTE . For those who need to be reminded what Neutron is all about, he’s that masked hero who doesn’t wrestle on the side, so instead of padding out the movie with wrestling scenes, they pad it out with musical numbers. This one is fairly lean in that regard; there’s only one musical number. Yes, it’s really silly, but if you like this kind of thing (and I must confess that I do), it’s rather fun.

La nuit fantastique (1942)

LA NUIT FANTASTIQUE (1942)
aka Fantastic Night
Article 1882 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-10-2006
Posting Date: 10-7-2006
Directed by Marcel L’Herbier
Featuring Fernand Gravey, Micheline Presle, Saturnin Fabre

A student of philosophy is haunted by dreams of a beautiful woman. One night he is awoken by the image in his dreams and follows her in the belief that he is still dreaming.

This charming romantic comedy is somewhat similar to the silent movie I covered some time ago, LAUGHING AT DANGER. Like that one, our character here shows a courage and a forwardness that he usually doesn’t display because he’s under a delusion; in LAUGHING, it was the belief that he was merely being the victim of a practical joke, and here it is the belief that he is dreaming. The fantastic content is elusive; the dream sequences do have a element of fantasy about them, there is a magician central to the plot, and though he is obviously a stage magician, some of his tricks are beyond the scope of stage illusions. There is also the theme of madness, which is one of the common horror themes, but here it is played for comedy, with the heroine feigning madness to avoid a forced marriage and a scene in an insane asylum that is also largely comic. It’s biggest fantastic element, though, is the presence of a blind psychic whose abilities are very much real in the context of the story. It’s a charming and entertaining movie, nonetheless, with good performances by all, and the whole thing feels like a Rene Clair movie.

The Nitwits (1935)

THE NITWITS (1935)
Article 1844 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-2-2006
Posting Date: 8-30-2006
Directed by George Stevens
Featuring Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Fred Keating

When a music publisher is murdered by a mysterious phantom known as The Black Widow, two nitwits try to use a new truth-telling invention to trap the man they suspect is the real murderer.

I’ve only had the opportunity to see one other Wheeler and Woolsey movie to date, and that one (the totally forgettable MUMMY’S BOYS ) certainly didn’t give me a desire to pursue their oeuvre. Fortunately, this movie is much better; it not only has a decent amount of energy (especially in the climax), but it has some clever set pieces to boot. My favorite sequences involve Woolsey (the bespectacled man with the cigar) believing that Wheeler killed a man and trying to save him from being arrested by the police (and Wheeler, having committed no murder, being blissfully unaware of Woolsey’s intentions), and a rather surreal sequence where they put on stilts to try to visit a woman in prison who has been accused of the murder. Solid direction by George Stevens (who would go on to a distinguished career with such movies as GUNGA DIN, I REMEMBER MAMA and SHANE) no doubt helped. Willie Best is on hand, but his gags are largely the expected ones; acting scared and playing dice. Though I certainly don’t put Wheeler and Woolsey in the front rank of film comedians, at least this movie helps me to understand their appeal somewhat. The truth-telling machine adds a touch of science fiction, and the mysterious Black Widow (who dresses up as a skeleton at one point) adds some touches of horror to the proceedings.

No Holds Barred (1952)

NO HOLDS BARRED (1952)
Article 1839 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-28-2006
Posting Date: 8-25-2006
Directed by William Beaudine
Featuring Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Marjorie Reynolds

Whan Sach develops an abnormally thick skull that makes him impervious to blows to the head, Slip decides to profit off of it by getting Sach to take up wrestling. Unfortunately, Sach’s thick skull is only temporary, and the boys have to adjust to the fact that the part of Sach’ s body that becomes powerful keeps changing.

Yes, it’s the Bowery Boys again, and you know the drill; Slip schemes and shoots out malaprops and Sach mugs and handles slapstick duties. Still, the more I watch them, the more I like them; somehow, they managed to find just the right touch they needed to make silly premises like this one work for the length of a movie, albeit a rather short one. Huntz Hall’s mugging didn’t even bother me much this time, partly because he keeps it well focused and partly because he manages to find other things to do as well; the bit where he disguises himself as a waiter who keeps changing his accent every time he opens his mouth is pretty clever. Leo and Bernard Gorcey are fun as always, and so is Henry Kulky as Sach’s bespectacled trainer; he also appeared in THE 5.000 FINGERS OF DR. T , as one of Dr. Terwilliger’s goons.

All I can say is that it’s really good I like this series; I have a slew of them coming up in the next week or so!

The Neptune Factor (1973)

THE NEPTUNE FACTOR (1973)
Article 1820 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-9-2006
Posting Date: 8-6-2006
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Featuring Ben Gazzara, Walter Pidgeon, Ernest Borgnine

When an earthquake causes an underwater lab to drop into an abyss, a small submarine sets out to rescue the people inside.

Those who have seen my MOTDs for VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA may well conclude that I just don’t like underwater submarine epics. And they may well be right. However, I must say that both of the above movies look awfully good in comparison with this one; at least those movies aspired to have interesting things happen, whereas this one seemed merely content to fill running time. At any rate, this movie has inspired me to speculate on what possibly might have been the most and least frequently used quotes on the set of the making of this movie would be. Remember, this is all purely speculative.

THE 5 MOST FREQUENT COMMENTS MADE ON THE SET OF THIS MOVIE.

1) “I need another shot of you standing there, saying nothing, and looking concerned.”

2) “I think we need another scene involving coffee.”

3) “My, that diving suit takes almost fifty pounds off of you, Mr. Borgnine.”

4) “Remember, don’t overfeed the monsters, or else they’ll end up belly-up at the top of the tank.”

5) “Sure, I can make an underwater movie. Just give me a toy submarine and a fishtank…”

THE 5 LEAST FREQUENT COMMENTS MADE ON THE SET OF THIS MOVIE.

1) “Let’s try for some suspense in this scene!”

2) “I want you all to do this next scene with feeling!”

3) “Hey, let’s lighten the proceedings with a little bit of humor here!”

4) “This is the movie I’ve been waiting to make for years!”

5) “A sequel? Count me in!”

And for those still interested, the fantastic content is that the movie has some really big fish.