Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)

Article 5173 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-1-2016
Directed by Tom Schiller
Featuring Zach Galligan, Apollonia van Ravenstein, Lauren Tom
Country: USA
What it is: Art film of sorts

An aspiring artist returns to New York in the hope of finding out what type of artist he should be, but when he fails the art test, he is consigned to supervising drivers entering the Holland tunnel. However, his kindness to a bum outside of Carnegie Hall has unexpected results…

Director Schiller’s writing and directing credits are mostly for “Saturday Night Live”, and the fact that the producer for this movie is Lorne Michaels and the credits include Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd would lead one to believe that it’s primarily a comedy. And, truth to tell, perhaps it is. However, that’s far from an apt description that is part art film, part cultural satire, part stylistic exercise, and part love story. It may be science fiction with the action taking place either in the future or in an alternate universe, but it would be better described as a surrealistic fantasy. The movie is shot in the style of an old-time Hollywood movie; it’s mostly in black-and-white, though color creeps in during two pivotal scenes. There’s quite a bit of stock footage and references to other classic movies; there are scenes from UN CHIEN ANDALOU, INTOLERANCE, and BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, among others. The satire is mostly aimed at pretentious conceptual art (which is a tad ironic for an art film) and consumerism. The plot involves a secret society hidden under the city and bus rides to the moon. Does it work? I’m not sure it really does; there’s a lot going on here, but I can’t say it all really hangs together. There is a definite charm to the proceedings, though, and I did find the movie modestly enjoyable. The cast also features Sam Jaffe and Eddie Fisher, the latter playing himself.

Natas: The Reflection (1986)

Article 5148 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-6-2016
Directed by Jack Dunlap
Featuring Randy Mulkey, Pat Bolt, Craig Hensley
Country: USA
What it is: One of the more questionable Ancient Indian legends

A reporter researching an ancient Indian legend is tasked with the quest of defeating the guardian of the gates of Hell and releasing the souls held prisoner within.

There are lots of bad movies out there, but I think what makes some of the most famous ones as interesting as they are is that they seem to have their own demented voice that keeps them from seeming to be mere imitations of other movies. I’d have to put this one in that group; once our hero arrives at a ghost town full of stereotypical western characters who all happen to be rotting zombies as well, I knew that it had found its own voice. Oh, it’s dumb, all right; what kind of ancient Indian legend references Satan (“Natas” reflected) and reveals its secrets in couplets that rhyme in English? The dialogue is rife with cliches, the acting is often very bad, and the special effects are not what you would call convincing. Still, there’s something engagingly silly about this nonsense, though it will require a bit of patience to get through it all. The credits claim that the woman playing Smohalla was 109 years old when this movie was made, but she probably never got to see the film; she died the year after it was made, and the movie sat on the shelf for three years before it was released.

Night Call Nurses (1972)

Article 5110 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-16-2016
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan
Featuring Patty Byrne, Alana Stewart, Mittie Lawrence
Country: USA
What it is: Nurseploitation

Three nurses who work in a psychiatric hospital deal with patients, stalkers, and their love lives.

The fantastic aspects are slight. There’s a minor subplot involving a psychotic stalker to add a bit of horror to the proceedings, and we get to experience some of the strange hallucinations of a pill-popping truck driver for a bit of fantasy content. And that’s really about it for what is mostly a rather plotless drama about women getting into situations that often involve them appearing topless. What plot there is mostly involves a hospitalized black revolutionary who is being held captive at the hospital and the attempt to free him. It’s mostly forgettable mid-seventies drive-in fare, though first-time director Kaplan shows some skill in setting up some of the scenes. Most of the cast is unfamiliar to me, though two names I recognize are Tristram Coffin and (or course) Dick Miller.

The Ninth Configuration (1980)

Article 5105 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-11-2016
Directed by William Peter Platty
Featuring Stacy Keach, Scott Wilson, Jason Miller
Country: USA
What it is: Drama

A new psychiatrist arrives at a castle where an assortment of military men suffering from psychoses are kept. He is intent on using all his power to cure them, but he may be suffering from his own problems…

William Peter Blatty directed this movie based off his own novel, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane”, and he claims that it’s the true sequel to his novel “The Exorcist”. It’s certainly not a sequel in the conventional sense; for one thing, it’s hardly a horror movie (though its exploration of madness nudges it up against the genre), and its sole real element of fantastic content (at the very end of the movie) belongs to the realm of the mystical rather than the horrific. Rather, it’s a thematic sequel; if “The Exorcist” was about evil, this is about good. One of the pitfalls of writing about good, or course, is that dramatically it’s less interesting than evil, but Blatty was wise enough to make it a story of redemption, which means it acknowledges an initial evil and keeps us aware that that evil could return. The movie itself starts out slowly as we get to know the characters and the environment, but it’s hardly uninteresting. The main thrust of the story doesn’t really become apparent until the second half of the movie, and then it becomes intense, powerful and quite sad. There are excellent performances from the whole cast, with Stacy Keach (as the psychiatrist) and Scott Wilson (as an astronaut who cracked up) giving the most memorable performances. I found the movie memorable and compelling, and I do recommend it with the warning that one should go in expecting something very different from THE EXORCIST.

Night of Horror (1981)

Article 5069 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-3-2016
Directed by Tony Malanowski
Featuring Steve Sandkuhler, Gae Schmitt, Rebecca Bach
Country: USA
What it is: How low can your budget go in Baltimore?

Four travelers get stranded. They encounter ghosts from the Civil War that ask a favor.

According to IMDB, the estimated budget for this movie was about four thousand dollars. And, if you assume that the Civil War footage that takes up about ten minutes of the screen time is stock footage (I’m guessing it’s from a Civil War reconstruction event of some kind), then, yes, I’d say that’s about how much it looks went into this movie. The movie is horrid, and it’s not necessarily due to the low budget; the opening scene of the movie is a ten-minute conversation between two men at a bar in which both of the characters spend most of the time with their backs to the viewer is a good example of a bad directorial choice that has nothing to do with budget. The script is another problem; there’s about five minutes of story here with a running time of fifteen times that, so most of the movie involves trying to pad things out. So we get fifteen minutes of framing story (the two guys talking at the bar), lots of scenes of an RV tooling around, several other static conversation scenes, the arbitrary aforementioned Civil War footage, and, by having the ghosts speaking in halting, hard-to-hear distorted voices, it manages to make them take twenty minutes to explain what could be easily managed in thirty seconds. In style, the movie reminds me of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE, but it even lacks that movie’s unsettling qualities; this one just drones on to no good effect. Quite frankly, this is one of the dullest stretches of celluloid that I’ve had the misfortune to negotiate in some time.

Night Cries (1978)

Article 5068 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-2-2016
Directed by Richard Lang
Featuring Susan Saint James, Michael Parks, Jamie Smith-Jackson
Country: USA
What is it: Psychological or psychic?

After losing her daughter at childbirth, a woman finds herself plagued by nightmares about her baby being alive, and she starts becoming distant from her husband. She finally decides to see a psychiatrist who specializes in dreams, but are the dreams merely symbolic… or is her baby still alive?

This is a strong and intriguing TV-Movie which gets a great deal of its power from a strong performance by Susan Saint James as the distraught mother. Given that my series revolves around movies with fantastic content, I’m naturally drawn to the hope that there is a psychic element to the dreams. However, James’ performance as a woman who is haunted by painful repressed memories and who is in denial is so compelling that I found myself really hoping for a psychological explanation to the dreams, at least to find out what skeletons there are in her (literal) closet. At any rate, I’m glad that the movie ends up pulling off a nice trick by recognizing that two different explanations may not necessarily be mutually exclusive. The movie also has a nice performance from William Conrad as the psychiatrist. I quite liked this one.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

Article 5026 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-22-2015
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Featuring Sean Connery, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Kim Basinger
Country: UK / USA / West Germany
What it is: Off-series James Bond film

James Bond is called back into active duty to track down the location of two nuclear bombs stolen by a SPECTRE agent.

This movie was not a part of the regular James Bond series. Kevin McClory, who produced and co-wrote THUNDERBALL for that series, won a legal battle against Ian Fleming to make his own one-off Bond movie, provided it was based on that same story, so this is a loose remake. It doesn’t appear to be a favorite of James Bond movie fans, and it lost a box office battle with the official Bond release from the same year, OCTOPUSSY. Me, I’m rather partial to this one. I like the fact that the movie uses Connery’s age as a bit of a gimmick by playing up the “middle-aged Bond” theme. I also love Klaus Maria Brandauer’s performance as Largo; he has an offhand easy charm that works against his character becoming a villain stereotype, and his duel with Connery in the “Domination” game is a highlight of the movie. Barbara Carrera is also memorable as Fatima Blush; she plays her femme fatale role with a winning glee. Unfortunately, there’s really no standout action sequence, and the movie feels a little bland stylistically. The movie also features the feature film debut of actor Rowan Atkinson, and though I really like the performer, I’m glad the movie uses his comic character sparingly. I also like the idea of Max von Sydow playing Blofeld, but he’s used so fleetingly that he can’t really make much of an impression. All in all, I quite like this one, and it has what is for me the single funniest moment of all of the Bond movies; I’m talking, of course, about the contents of a beaker of fluid that Bond uses in a battle against a powerful assassin.

Naked Girl Killed in Park (1972)

aka Ragazza tutta nuda assassinata nel parco, That Cursed House Close to the Mushroom Bed
Article 4988 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-14-2015
Directed by Alfonso Brescia
Featuring Robert Hoffmann, Irina Demick, Pilar Velazquez
Country: Italy / Spain
What it is: Giallo

When a man who recently had taken out a million dollar insurance policy is found dead in the car of a “House of Horrors” ride with a bagful of money, an insurance investigator is sent out to find the truth of the matter.

My source for this movie lists it under the title THAT CURSED HOUSE CLOSE TO THE MUSHROOM BED; I found no match to that title on IMDB. However, doing some extra research on the directing and acting credits, I was able to ascertain that this was the movie, which has the much more exploitable title under which I found it. Though giallos are often considered part of the horror genre, they’re a bit closer to mysteries for the most part; however, there is a plot point in this one where we’re led to think a man may have returned from the dead. As for the movie itself… well, maybe it’s because the copy I found was pan-and-scanned, had bad color (I’ve never seen so many people with green hair in all my life), and rotten sound. Maybe it’s because the dubbing often doesn’t match the lips of the speakers. Maybe it’s because the movie takes forever to get going, and when it finally starts moving, it isn’t even particularly engaging then. Maybe it’s because the jerky, jittery camerawork makes the viewing of the movie an annoying experience. Maybe it’s one thing or another, but whatever the culprit is, I found this one to be not engaging at all; it was one of those movies that swiftly brought me to the point where I simply didn’t care what was going on. It can’t even fall back on the stylistic flourishes usually found in the form, because they aren’t here. It’s one of those cases where the title is a lot more entertaining than the film itself.

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.