A Night of Magic (1944)

A NIGHT OF MAGIC (1944)
Article 3154 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-31-2010
Posting Date: 4-3-2010
Directed by Herbert Wynne
Featuring Robert Griffith, Marian Olive, Gordon Ray
Country: UK
What it is: Sheer horror/fluffy British musical

A man receives a sarcophagus with a three thousand year old mummy from his uncle. However, the mummy is very much alive, female, and thrilled to find a man after all those years.

This revue musical is such a piece of fluff that I probably wouldn’t much like it even if it was good. However, such is not the case; the movie is, in a word, ghastly. If anything, it made me realize just how difficult it is to whip up a piece of fluff; you need smoothness, confidence, and a show of effortlessness. Every second of this movie feels forced, static, self-conscious and awkward; every joke falls flat, every dance feels under-rehearsed, etc. The writing is truly wretched; it’s one of those movies where you can see what the writer was trying for while being made exquisitely aware that it failed to accomplish its task. What is most surprising of all is the horrible acting; usually, the one thing you can guarantee in a British film is that the acting will be solid, but not this one. The two leads in particular are awful; the leading man couldn’t project an emotion if he had one, and the leading lady’s face seems cemented in a toothy smile that conjures up images of Gwynplaine in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS. This may be one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. By the way, I’m going to give away the ending; it turns out that it is all a dream. For once, this type of ending is welcome, because not only can you then dismiss the whole thing as a nightmare, but take heart that the movie is over.

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Die Nylonschlinge (1963)

DIE NYLONSCHLINGE (1963)
aka The Nylon Noose
Article 3145 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-21-2010
Posting Date: 3-25-2010
Directed by Rudolf Zehetgruber
Featuring Dietmar Schonherr, Helga Sommerfeld, Ernst Schroder
Country: West Germany
What it is: Ersatz Edgar Wallace

A Scotland Yard inspector investigates a series of strangulation murders. It’s tied to a meeting of stockholders at a spooky mansion.

This movie almost ended up being moved from my hunt list to my not found list, but a copy popped up just in time to save it. Unfortunately, the only print I could find is in unsubtitled German, so I only got so much out of it. It’s one of those rare krimis that has nothing to do with Edgar Wallace or Dr. Mabuse, and I haven’t seen any other movies of this genre from the director. Nevertheless, it’s pretty standard issue as far as I can tell, though I do think the plot may be a little easier to follow (if it had been in English, that is). The serial killer provides the horror content, though a “mad scientist” type character seems to play a role in it as well, and Ady Berber is always good for a glowering scare or two.

The Night Nurse (1978)

THE NIGHT NURSE (1978)
TV-Movie
Article 3064 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-27-2009
Posting Date: 1-3-2010
Directed by Igor Auzins
Featuring Gary Day, Kate Fitzpatrick, Kay Taylor
Country: Australia
What it is: Oddball horror thriller

A woman gets a job as a night nurse for a reclusive former opera singer known as “The Diva”. The recluse’s daughter (who has been selling her mother’s art collection and replacing them with prints) attempts to drive the new nurse away, but the recluse has taken to her. However, there are more skeletons in the closet here than she suspects…

Though I don’t think the user ratings necessarily give an accurate idea of the critical worth of a movie, they do manage to give a little snapshot on how people feel about a movie. This one has a rating of 4.6, which means it’s not highly regarded, and I can see why; as a horror movie, this is pretty mild stuff, and the big horrific finale is clumsy. Still, I think it’s the overly talky script that is the main culprit. I myself didn’t have that much of a problem with it; the talk is there to establish character, and this is a very character-driven story. It seems to be a variation on one of the subplots of THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE; we have a wheelchair-bound recluse, a jealous daughter, and an intruder who threatens to steal the affection of the mother that belongs to the daughter. What I like about this movie is that it is quite unpredictable; the opening set-up (when the daughter kills an art dealer) makes us think we’ve got a handle on where the story will go and who the villain is, but the movie has some surprises in store for us before it comes to its conclusion. I have respect for a movie that can consistently surprise me, especially if the story still holds together with each revelation. Even the very final moment is a surprise, albeit one in which the movie simply refuses to take the expected ending. Due to some clumsiness and slowness, it’s not a great movie by any means, but it is something different for those who like their horror to be a little unpredictable.

Night Warning (1983)

NIGHT WARNING (1983)
aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker
Article 3024 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-18-2009
Posting Date: 11-24-2009
Directed by William Asher
Featuring Jimmy McNichol, Susan Tyrrell, Bo Svenson
Country: USA

When his parents die in a freak car accident, a boy is raised by his aunt to the age of seventeen. Unfortunately, the aunt is demented, and when she murders a TV repairman who rejects her sexual advances, a homophobic policeman believes the boy is responsible for the murder. To complicate things, the aunt begins scheming of a way to keep the boy from leaving home for college…

I went into this one expecting the usual slasher film, but it really belongs to an earlier era when the psychos were given real motivations and weren’t just supernatural killing machines. The movie has two big pluses. One is that Susan Tyrrell is fascinating as one of the most seriously twisted psychos in screen history, and her character gets worse and worse as the movie proceeds. Also, the surrounding story is much better than usual, with the focus on an investigation of the murder that is itself twisted by one man’s homophobia; Bo Svenson’s bullying character is truly repellent. The movie does falter a bit in the latter half, and I was really disappointed when the movie started falling back on certain slasher movie cliches that don’t really belong here. Nevertheless, the movie is very good, and it’s nice to see a movie that handles the theme of homophobia and features a sympathetic non-stereotyped gay character.

The Night Child (1975)

THE NIGHT CHILD (1975)
aka Il medaglione insanguinato
Article 3020 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-14-2009
Posting Date: 11-20-2009
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Featuring Richard Johnson, Joanna Cassidy, Ida Galli
Country: Italy / UK

A documentary maker gives his daughter a medallion that once belonged to his deceased wife. Is the medallion making the girl a murderer who is intent on killing the other women in her father’s life?

Director Massimo Dallamano started his career as a cinematographer, and you can tell; the movie seems to exist for its beautiful cinematography, and there are sections of it that feel more like a travelogue than a horror movie. It’s been described as a knock-off of THE EXORCIST, and it is, to some extent, but it prefers to borrow from the quieter aspects of that movie rather than the more spectacular ones usually emphasized in knock-offs. It’s an uneven movie; there are some eerie moments (especially in a castle where a rare painting is found), some dull moments (the travelogue sequences), and the odd music is sometimes effective, sometimes tiresome. It’s almost too quiet in some ways, but I can understand this; the movie is most likely to stumble or come across as silly when it gets louder or more blatantly horrific. And I’m not quite sure at this point whether I like the ending or not, though there is a certain queasy logic to it.

The Name of the Game is Kill (1968)

THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL (1968)
Article 3019 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-13-2009
Posting Date: 11-19-2009
Directed by Gunnar Hellstrom
Featuring Jack Lord, Tisha Sterling, Colin Wilcox Paxton
Country: USA

A Hungarian immigrant is picked up by a woman who lives with her two sisters and their mother in a filling station. After an attempt to run him over sends the immigrant to the hospital, he returns to the filling station. There he attempts to win the youngest daughter and seeks to discover the hidden mystery of the family; what happened to the long-missing father?

One of the reasons this odd little psychothriller works is that the mystery element is very strong; all three of the daughters and the mother seem off, and all of them come across as if they might be responsible for the death of the missing father. Furthermore, we are given three contradictory stories about the death of the father. Even at that, the movie has at least one truly memorable twist near the end that I didn’t see coming, though it is a twist that has popped up before in other movies. There are good performances all around; I liked Jack Lord’s performance, as I primarily remember him as McGarrett in “Hawaii Five-O”, and it was great to see him in a totally different type of role here, but it’s the performance of T.C. Jones that really makes the movie work at certain crucial moments. Furthermore, I can’t help but have a bit of affection for any movie that prominently features music by The Electric Prunes.

Night of the Big Heat (1967)

NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT (1967)
aka Island of the Burning Doomed
Article 2994 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-19-2009
Posting Date: 10-25-2009
Directed by Terence Fisher
Featuring Christopher Lee, Patrick Allen, Peter Cushing
Country: UK

An island near England is having unseasonably warm weather. A scientist on the island discovers that the weather is not a meteorological fluke, but a symptom of something far more ominous…

I’d heard about this movie for years, and I always thought it would prove to be a variation on THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE. Instead, I find it’s a lot more similar to ISLAND OF TERROR, another movie from the same production company. It starts out as an intriguing mystery of sort, but, unfortunately, it’s one of those mysteries that loses its allure once it’s been solved. Several things disappoint me here; the revelation about the cause of the heat, the special effects surrounding this revelation, and the fact that the story ends up getting badly mired in an irritating romantic triangle subplot. It’s also one of those movies where the day-for-night photography is particularly distracting. Peter Cushing does his usual fine job, but his role is too small, and Christopher Lee tries his best with a role that isn’t particularly well-written. All in all, this was a disappointment.