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.

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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.

The New Original Wonder Woman (1975)

THE NEW ORIGINAL WONDER WOMAN (1975)
TV-Movie
Article 3399 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-23-2010
Posting Date: 12-4-2010
Directed by Leonard Horn
Featuring Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner, John Randolph
Country: USA
What it is: Super hero TV pilot

During World War II, when an American pilot ends up on Paradise Island (the home of a race of Amazons) after having been badly injured, he is escorted back to the states by the queen’s daughter. The woman, who is immortal and has special powers, decides to stay and battle the Nazi threat.

I’ve never seen the TV series that was spawned from this pilot, so I’m coming to it fresh. Right off the bat, I noticed two things I like about this pilot (and I know what you’re thinking, so get your mind out of the gutter). First of all, I like the touch that they decided to opt for the period setting. Second, I like that they decided to go the route of light-hearted action adventure, walking a thin line between outright comedy while avoiding being overly serious. Any movie in which the Nazis are played by Stella Stevens, Red Buttons and Kenneth Mars is bound to be on the lighter side, and the addition of Henry Gibson (as a double agent) and Cloris Leachman (as the queen of the Amazons) adds to the fun. On the down side, Wonder Woman’s powers don’t seem particularly impressive; she doesn’t even twirl that silver lariat of hers, and though her reflexes are fast enough to deflect bullets, they don’t really seem all that impressive during the flimsy fight scenes here. Nevertheless, this was quite fun, and Lynda Carter plays the title role with the right amount of aplomb. Oh, and there are two other things I do like about this one (and you’re free to let your mind go anywhere it wants at this point).

Nightmares (1983)

NIGHTMARES (1983)
Article 3315 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-26-2010
Posting Date: 9-11-10
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Featuring Cristina Raines, Emilio Estevez, Lance Henriksen
Country: USA
What it is: Horror anthology

Four tales of terror are presented. In the first, a woman decides to go out for cigarettes despite the fact that a serial killer is loose in the area. In the second, a boy becomes obsessed with reaching the possibly non-existent thirteenth level of a video game. In the third, a priest suffers a crisis of faith and then finds himself terrorized by a big black truck. In the fourth, a family’s rat problems turn out to be bigger than they think.

This anthology was culled from stories originally intended for the anthology series “Darkroom” that were considered too intense for TV. The first story is fairly standard, but it does have at least one very good twist near the end, and it has a moral – smoking is bad for your health. The second is the weakest, at least partially because it’s far too long (the first ten minutes should have been trimmed down especially), but also because its very existence in this sort of anthology tells you a lot about just where it’s going; there’s no surprises here. The ending of the third story isn’t particularly surprising either, but it has the best performance in the movie by Lance Henriksen as the priest suffering a crisis of faith, and it is somewhat interesting as a variation of DUEL with religious overtones. The final story is the monster story which is something of a cross between POLTERGEIST and the “Devil in the Dark” episode of “Star Trek”; it’s a little silly at times, a little shrill at others, but acceptable. As a whole, I found the movie entertaining enough, though I suspect that only the third story will really stick with me.

New Year’s Evil (1980)

NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)
Article 3247 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-10-2010
Posting Date: 7-5-2010
Directed by Emmett Alston
Featuring Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Chris Wallace
Country: USA
What it is: Anemic slasher flick

A female DJ hosting a punk/new wave radio show on New Year’s Eve gets calls from a psycho named Evil who claims he’s going to kill someone at midnight for every time zone. The police believe that he intends the DJ to be the final victim.

How authentically punk/new wave is this movie? Well, at one point, we see a punkish musician stick his tongue out to the camera while the music the band is playing sounds like a guitar jam from the Allman Brothers. Later on, when a policeman addresses a crowd of angry punkers on a dance floor, one of the infuriated punks yells “Shut up!” Conclusion: if this was what punk was all about, it was a pretty feeble movement. Fortunately, I’m familiar enough with punk music to know it wasn’t feeble; it’s this movie that’s feeble. Gorehounds in particular will be disappointed; the movie actually gets less and less bloody as it goes along, and ends up feeling more like a police/crime movie than a horror thriller in the final reels. There’s a couple of interesting moments, but a plethora of stupid ones as well, and you’ll see the final twist coming a mile away. This is not one of the high points of the slasher genre.