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.

Ninja III: The Domination (1984)

Article 4627 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-10-2014
Directed by Sam Firstenberg
Featuring Sho Kosugi, Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett
Country: USA
What it is: Martial arts horror

A female phone company employee and aerobics instructor is on hand for the death of a black ninja; when she is given his sword, she becomes possessed by his evil spirit and sets out to kill all the policemen that killed the ninja. However, another ninja arrives from Japan to save the day.

Apparently, the first two movies in this series (ENTER THE NINJA and REVENGE OF THE NINJA) had no fantastic content, so I haven’t covered them; nor have I seen them. Why they chose to go with a horror subplot in this one is unknown to me; maybe they wanted to widen the appeal of the series from lovers of cheesy action flicks to lovers of cheesy horror movies as well. So they throw in some scenes that vaguely reminded me of similar moments from movies like THE EXORCIST or POLTERGEIST, and then had some of the fight scenes you’d expect from a Ninja movie. Is it any good? Not really, but I don’t think it’s trying to do anything more than to leave uncritical action fans believing that they haven’t wasted the two bucks they spent on the rental. There is one camp moment that I have to admit did amuse me though; during one of the sequences where the evil spirit is trying to possess the aerobics instructor, she tries to battle it by drowning it out with loud eighties music. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how successful that strategy was.

Nightmare at Shadow Woods (1987)

aka Blood Rage
Article 4574 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-8-2014
Directed by John Grissmer
Featuring Louise Lasser, Mark Soper, Marianne Kanter
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher film

At a drive-in, one of a pair of twins murders a man and frames his shocked brother for the crime. Years later, the innocent brother escapes from the asylum, which prompts the guilty brother to go on a killing spree.

This film was made in 1983 but sat on the shelf for several years before it was released. I’m not surprised; despite the fact that it has a few rather gory murders, the movie is virtually scareless. For some reason, the movie fails to conjure up an iota of suspense during its run. This is especially surprising given its premise; with identical twins running around, one sane and one mad, you’d think the movie could at least gain some mileage by making us wonder which one we’re dealing with. However, you pretty much know which brother you’re dealing with during every moment of the movie, and though some credit is due to actor Mark Soper (who plays both of them) for helping make them distinct, he fails to make the mad brother scary. In fact, there are moments where I feel that he and the movie are playing for laughs, which is an odd sort of vibe in a movie that really has no laughs. The most interesting thing about this movie is the presence of Louise Lasser, who is most famous for starring in that bizarre soap, “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”. In the end, I found the movie curious and odd, but not successful.

Ne le criez pas sur les toits (1943)

Article 4544 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-26-2014
Directed by Jacques Daniel-Norman
Featuring Fernandel, Robert Le Vigan, Meg Lemonnier
Country: France
What it is: Comedy

A professor who developed a formula to transform seawater into gasoline dies, and various parties seek out the professor’s assistant under the belief that he knows the formula as well. Unfortunately, the only formula known by the assistant involves making flowers imperishable. Misunderstandings ensue.

This is a movie I managed to rescue from my “ones that got away” list; once I posted it there, it was made available to me. When posting it there, I couldn’t help but feel the plot was very familiar, and it turns out that the movie was remade in Mexico under the title EL SUPERSABIO, which I’ve already covered. That movie was in Spanish without English subtitles; this one is in French without English subtitles. Also, like its remake, the story is much heavier on dialogue than on visual details, making it quite impossible to make any real judgment call on the movie. I will admit that Fernandel has a very interesting face, but beyond that, I don’t have anything else I can really evaluate about the movie.

The Nude Bomb (1980)

Article 4475 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-15-2014
Directed by Clive Donner
Featuring Don Adams, Andrea Howard, Sylvia Kristel
Country: USA
What it is: “Get Smart” revival

Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, is called on to prevent KAOS from blackmailing the world with its new weapon, a bomb that can destroy every shred of clothing in the world.

Let’s see, Chief has been replaced, there’s no Control, 99 is missing, there’s no Hymie, Siegfried, or Starker, the wonderful original theme music is used nowhere, and there’s no reprise of Smart walking through the endless doors. So that leaves only Don Adams and Robert Karvelas (as Larrabee) as the strong links to the original series, and, truth be told, this movie made me realize just how much I missed all the others. Sure, Don Adams still has his old catchphrases on hand and he uses them well, but he can’t carry the movie all on his own, especially with a weak story and a smirkingly exploitative premise like this one. The only other actors that seem to tap into the comic sense of the story are Bill Dana and Joey Forman (who takes on the role of Agent 13). The movie is at its worst when it’s trying to be more adult or relying on some terrible action sequences. I have a great fondness for the original series; I have little for this movie.

The Neverending Story (1984)

aka Die unendliche Geschichte
Article 4471 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-11-2014
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Featuring Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach
Country: West Germany / USA
What it is: High fantasy

A young boy leading a troubled life manages to get a book that he is told is too dangerous for him to read. He reads it and finds himself immersed in a quest to save the land of Fantasia from being consumed by nothingness, but he soon discovers that he has more invested in the story than he thinks…

I’ve not read the book on which this movie was based, but I do know that the movie only covers about half of the book, and that author Michael Ende was not happy with this adaptation of his work. Even without being familiar with the book itself, I do sense that there is something a bit incomplete about the movie, and there are some scenes that seem too pat (in particular, a revenge scene involving three bullies) while others seem anti-climatic. Still, there’s enough here to make me look forward to reading the novel someday, and there are some moments that I like very much indeed. This was apparently the most expensive movie made in West Germany at that time, and though the special effects aren’t always convincing, they are fun and atmospheric. My favorite scene is the saddest in the movie; it’s the scene where the Rock Biter talks about his hands. In a sense, it feels somewhat like a children’s version of the Thomas Covenant novels by Stephen R. Donaldson. I don’t quite rate it with the best fantasy movies I’ve seen, but I do think it is very good.

Nazi S.S. (1966)

NAZI S.S. (1966)
aka Borman
Article 4457 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-21-2014
Directed by Bruno Paolinelli
Featuring Sandro Moretti, Liana Orfei, Dominique Boschero
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Spyghetti… sort of

Escaped Nazi Martin Borman hatches a plot designed to resurrect the Third Reich, and it’s up to an American agent to find him and stop him.

It occurred to me on viewing this how rarely Nazis popped up as villains in the Superspy genre, given how ubiquitous they have been as villains over the years. I suspect there are reasons for this, not the least of which is that the source for so many of the Bond-inspired movies was Italy, which was one of Germany’s allies during WWII; as a result, I suspect there might be a bit of cultural discomfort with the idea. This is one of the rare exceptions, and I do notice that the movie wavers a bit between being a more serious spy adventure and a superspy movie, as if it’s not quite sure which way it wants to go. Storywise, the movie is passable, but between the heavy use of stock footage and the scenes of people walking from one place to another (which serves the dual purpose of padding the film and showing off the location footage), it gets pretty dull on occasion. Easily the most memorable scene involves a crash landing on an aircraft carrier, which I suspect is a cleverly used piece of stock footage, but I might be wrong. As far as the fantastic content goes, it’s very slight here; there’s some minor gadgetry, and since the action involves a historical character involved in a world-changing event, it might qualify as political science fiction, but that feels like a real stretch.

Night Games (1980)

Article 4398 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-21-2013
Directed by Roger Vadim
Featuring Cindy Pickett, Barry Primus, Joanna Cassidy
Country: France / USA
What it is: Erotic drama

A housewife, scarred by a rape, finds it impossible to consummate with her husband. When he goes on a trip and leaves her alone, she fires the help and stays in the mansion by herself. Then she begins to get erotic visits from a fantasy figure…

As for the fantastic content, the fantasy sequences (which mostly involve her lover dressing up in strange costumes) might make it marginally a fantasy, and a subplot about her being stalked by a would-be killer might give it a touch of horror, but to me, neither of these touches are enough to really push it into genre territory. As for the movie itself, all I can say is that it’s less bizarrely silly than some of the other Roger Vadim movies I’ve seen, but then, not being a fan (and this movie didn’t turn me into one), I’ve not exactly went out of my way to find them. The movie may have an interesting premise involving rape trauma, but I’d hardly say that it really does justice to the theme, and most of the movie seems to be about Cindy Pickett wandering around a mansion in revealing clothes. If you’re a Cindy Pickett fan, go for it; for me, it was mostly a waste of time.