A Name for Evil (1973)

A NAME FOR EVIL (1973)
Article 3524 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-14-2011
Posting Date: 4-8-2011
Directed by Bernard Girard
Starring Robert Culp, Samantha Eggar, Sheila Sullivan
Country: USA
What it is: Figure it out yourself

An architect with marital problems leaves his dead-end job and goes to live at the home of his great-great-grandfather, known as the Major. However, the Major’s spirit may still exist on the premises, and he doesn’t like intruders…

The DVD package in which this came says the movie is “not for children or adults who scare easily”. I’ll definitely agree with the “not for children”, given the fact that it is full of nudity and sex and has a plot element involving masturbation as well as an orgy sequence. As for it not being for “adults who scare easily”, I’d say it’s actually not for “adults who confuse easily”, because, even though the DVD box tries to make the movie sound like it’s scary as hell, I have to agree with John Stanley’s evaluation of the movie in his “Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again” book where he makes it sound as pretentious as hell. Basically, it’s one of those “fantasy vs. reality” movies where we’re not sure how much of what we’re seeing is really happening and how much is all in the architect’s fevered imagination. I can find things to admire about the movie if I take it from a distance and squint really hard, but when I’m in close proximity to it, I find the self-conscious dialogue, the lack of subtlety, and the pompous score (which acts as if every scene is fraught with portent) conspire together to annoy the hell out of me. This movie sat on the shelf for several years before it was released, for obvious reasons. This, like yesterday’s movie, is one of those where you suspect that the story behind the making of the movie is a lot more interesting than the movie itself. By the way, if you ever wanted to see a full-frontal nude shot of Robert Culp, here’s your chance.

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Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR (1984)
Article 3521 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2011
Posting Date: 4-5-2011
Directed by Michael Radford
Featuring John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton
Country: UK
What it is: Dystopia

In an oppressive society, a man attempts to have an affair with a female party member, despite the rules against it.

Watching an adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian classic is like watching a sword and sandal flick; you know just what you’re going to get. You know the movie is going to be depressing, joyless, brutal, and whatever other word you can think of to capture the bleakness of this dystopia. So maybe that’s why I went into this with a glum acceptance of the ordeal, and why, after a while, you don’t really feel much of anything at all. This is just as well; it gives you a chance to concentrate on the philosophies and the ideas in the movie, which are probably the real meat of the matter. You can also admire the performances of the three principals. Hurt and Hamilton are excellent, but the real victory goes to Burton, whose matter-of-fact steeliness captures him at his very best. On a side note, I occasionally run into political hyperbole of the type in which the present world is just like that of NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. Though certain of the concepts of this book have incorporated themselves into our world (and, to be honest, these concepts probably originated in the world as well rather than in the novel; the book just laid them out), I believe we’re nowhere near that reality. After all, you certainly wouldn’t be allowed to watch this movie in that world.

The Night of the Strangler (1972)

THE NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER (1972)
Article 3520 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-10-2011
Posting Date: 4-4-2011
Directed by Jay N. Houck Jr.
Featuring Micky Dolenz, James Ralston, Michael Anthony
Country: USA
What it is: Offbeat crime drama

A woman announces to her two brothers, one of whom is racist, that she intends to marry a black man. Shortly after that, the woman’s prospective suitor is murdered. The woman is also killed shortly afterwards, and the killer makes it look like a suicide. A year later, more murders start taking place, all of them tied to the two remaining brothers. Who is the killer and what is his motivation?

The John Stanley guide describes the plot of this one as involving women dreaming they’re being attacked by a strangler, only to wake up and find themselves actually being attacked by a strangler. He’s either been misinformed or has it confused with another movie. In truth, this really isn’t a horror movie, though the deceptive title certainly doesn’t alleviate that confusion. It’s more of a crime drama/mystery, and actually not a bad one; I was genuinely curious as to who the murderer was and what his motivation would be. I was also curious as to whether the police would figure things out, which is something you won’t know until the last moment. Some plot points are made fairly clear and are handled quite cleverly; for instance, I like the way the movie establishes that the man and the woman at the beginning of the movie are killed by different people. The movie did keep me guessing till the end, especially as far as the motives for the murders. For those who want a couple of slight hints to help them figure it out, here they are. First, take note of the fact that in all of the investigations of the murders, the first murder is never addressed after it occurs. And secondly, you’ll notice that they avoid showing the face of the primary murderer, but there’s another character whose face is not shown.

Incidentally, I thought the presence of Micky Dolenz, former Monkee, in the cast would prove to be gimmick casting, but, truth to tell, he does quite a decent job as the younger brother. The fantastic content is provided by some of the bizarre murder methods.

The Night God Screamed (1971)

THE NIGHT GOD SCREAMED (1971)
Article 3519 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-10-2011
Posting Date: 4-3-2011
Directed by Lee Madden
Featuring Jeanne Crain, Alex Nicol, Dan Spelling
Country: USA
What it is: Not quite what you’d expect

When her preacher husband is robbed and crucified by a bizarre cult of Jesus freaks, a woman fingers three of the killers, who are tried and sentenced to death. The fourth killer was unidentified because he was wearing a hood. A year later, she returns to the area where the crime was committed to look after the teenage children of the judge, who is leaving town with his wife for the weekend. But have the cultists forgotten the woman who identified their leader…?

You know, there is something to be said about a movie that you can’t quite second guess. In some ways, the movie is a very familiar type of horror movie, but it gets away with it because it seems like a different familiar type of horror movie. There is a certain novelty value to the fact that cultists are not Satanists, as one of my sources misinformed me; they’re actually a Christian cult that considers all other practitioners to be phonies. The script is very clumsy around the edges, and characters frequently act with utter stupidity, but there’s even an explanation for that. It all ends with a double twist; I was half-right about the first twist, but once I realized I was halfway wrong, I immediately figured what the second twist was going to be. I’m not sure how I feel about the twists; part of me feels they were stupid, but another part admires the way they changed my interpretations of the earlier scenes. In fact, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the whole film; it doesn’t quite work and it doesn’t quite fail. I will say this however; this is easily the best movie of the last five or so that I’ve seen.

The Norliss Tapes (1973)

THE NORLISS TAPES (1973)
TV-Movie
Article 3485 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-23-2011
Posting Date: 2-28-2011
Directed by Dan Curtis
Featuring Roy Thinnes, Don Porter, Angie Dickinson
Country: USA
What it is: Horror TV pilot

In order to find out why a writer of his (who has been working on a book debunking the supernatural) has disappeared, an editor begins listening to a series of cassette tapes that chronicle the writer’s investigations. The first tape deals with a dead man who has returned to life… but for what purpose?

When you get right down to it, this TV-Movie pilot is a slight reworking of the basic Kolchak scenario. Still, I wouldn’t have minded if this one had been made into a series, but I somehow doubt that both this one and “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” would have made the cut, and if I’d had a choice, I’d go with the series that got made. The main advantage this one would have had is that it had a framing story that would have lent itself to repeated forays into the supernatural whereas in “Kolchak”, it was mostly driven by coincidence. The biggest disadvantage would have been that writer David Norliss simply isn’t as much fun a character as Carl Kolchak, and though this movie is actually pretty good, it lacks the wit that enlivened “Kolchak”. I do wonder if the series would have had an overriding arc that would investigate the writer’s disappearance, but we can only speculate. Nevertheless, this is a solid and exciting TV-Movie that does leave you wishing for more, and it’s quite enjoyable on its own.

The Night We Got the Bird (1961)

THE NIGHT WE GOT THE BIRD (1961)
Article 3467 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-5-2011
Posting Date: 2-10-2011
Directed by Darcy Conyers
Featuring Brian Rix, Dora Bryan, Ronald Shiner
Country: UK
What it is: Reincarnation comedy

When a crooked antique dealer dies, his employee marries the widow. As a wedding present they receive the gift of a parrot, not knowing that the parrot is the reincarnation of the former husband.

This is one that fell off my hunt list into my “ones that got away” list, but I finally managed to find a copy. It’s a silly comedy, mostly relying on broad slapstick and ridiculous situations for its laughs. Fortunately, there’s enough good laughs to make it a fun watch; I particularly like the jokes surrounding a fake antique mirror made from a toilet seat. There’s also an amusing sequence where a fake antique bed and a real one have to be switched. A lively pace and a strong supporting cast add to the fun.

The Nightmare Never Ends (1980)

THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS (1980)
aka Cataclysm
Article 3406 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-30-2010
Posting Date: 12-10-2010
Directed by Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan and Gregg C. Tallas
Featuring Cameron Mitchell, Marc Lawrence, Faith Clift
Country: USA
What it is: The devil in the flesh

A policeman investigates the murder of an old Nazi hunter who thinks he found the man who killed his family. Meanwhile, a woman worries about the fate of her husband, who has written an atheistic book; she’s been having dreams of devils and demons for a warning. These have something to do with an arrogant young man living in a mansion nearby… who may not be as young as he looks.

With a title like THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS, I had two thoughts. The first was that it might make a handy self-review if the movie is really bad and really long. The second was that it probably had a downbeat ending; otherwise, the nightmare would end. Well, the movie isn’t really that long, but it is pretty bad; the central idea is workable, but the script is silly and muddled, and the acting is pretty weak throughout. Even the usually reliable Cameron Mitchell isn’t very good. It’s basically a variation on THE OMEN, albeit one that isn’t a clone. In the final analysis, the movie consists mostly of endless philosophizing about God and the devil interspersed with people getting killed. And though I won’t tell you how it ends, let’s just say that I wasn’t surprised.