Orloff Against the Invisible Man (1970)

ORLOFF AGAINST THE INVISIBLE MAN (1970)
(a.k.a. LA VIE AMOUREUSE DE L’HOMME INVISIBLE / DR. ORLOFF’S INVISIBLE MONSTER / ORLOFF AND THE INVISIBLE MAN / ETC. / ETC.)
Article #1769 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-17-2006
Posting Date: 6-16-2006
Directed by Pierre Chevalier
Featuring Howard Vernon, Brigitte Carva, Fernando Sancho

A doctor is called to the castle of Dr. Orloff to help his daughter from an illness bought on by traumatic shock. Unfortunately, Orloff has an invisible monster on the loose…

I open this review with my jaw hanging open. Why? Because a perusal of the credits reveals an amazing fact – Jesus Franco had nothing to do with this movie. This blew the review I was planning to write out of the water, as it pretty much hinged on the incorrect assumption that this was a Franco movie. This is doubly amazing because this movie sure feels like a Franco movie.

So what did I like about this movie? Well, there’s a beautiful shot of a funeral procession as seen in the reflection of a lake that is simply breathtaking, and it is the type of shot I’d expect in a Franco movie. It’s all downhill from there, though. I thought at first that the movie could have been improved if they had simply omitted the scenes where nothing is happening (there are a few scenes of people just standing around doing nothing), but, truth be told, these scenes are only marginally less interesting that the ones where the invisible monster tries to rape naked women. There’s more of a plot than I’d expect from a Franco movie, but it’s not a very good one as it lurches from scene to scene without any real rhyme or reason. The worst moment is towards the end, where our young couple observe the castle’s devastating “conflagration” (which consists of a few puny fires, a smidgen of smoke, and the sound of crackling embers from a fireplace) and talk solemnly about how nobody could have survived such a thing. And once I got a glimpse of how our invisible monster really looked, I found myself missing Morpho more than ever. For fans of Pseudo-Franco only.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)

ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER (1970)
Article #1768 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-16-2006
Posting Date: 6-15-2006
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Featuring Barbra Streisand, Yves Montand, Bob Newhart

A woman visits a doctor adept at hypnotism to cure her of chain smoking. He inadvertently discovers that she has psychic powers and past lives.

How’s this for a change of pace from the bloody action of DEATH RACE 2000 and 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS – a romantic musical comedy take on the Bridey Murphy theme? Yes, I think it’s too long, but then I’m not a Barbra Streisand fan; though I have no problems with her as an actress, she rarely does movies that interest me, and since she works in a mode that has no appeal to me, I have no use for her as a songstress. Quite frankly, the names that most caught my attention in the cast were those of Jack Nicholson, Simon Oakland and Bob Newhart, and though they all do well in their respective roles, not one of them is on the screen long enough to really make a big impression. There are things I quite like in the movie; I love the time-lapse flower photography, two of the musical numbers were cute enough to catch my attention (the one where Streisand takes advantage of the fact that she’s playing more than one character to sing a duet with herself, and the one where her telepathic ability picks up a song Montand is speaking through any variety of hosts). Some of the reincarnation themes are mildly interesting, but once the we reach the point where the movie clearly becomes aware of itself as a romantic comedy, most of that goes by the wayside. I do like the ending, though; it manages to go against the grain of the romantic comedy while still retaining a satisfying emotional flavor. One personal point of contention is Streisand’s accent; whenever she kicks into high comedy with that accent of hers, I keep seeing the second coming of Huntz Hall and start looking around for Leo Gorcey to hit her over the head with his hat.

The Oblong Box (1969)

THE OBLONG BOX (1969)
Article #1758 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-6-2006
Posting Date: 6-5-2006
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Featuring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies

An aristocrat keeps his brother locked in an attic after his face is mutilated in a voodoo ritual. An attempt to release the brother from his captivity misfires when he is buried alive, but he is saved when body snatchers exhume him. He then seeks revenge on those that abandoned him to his fate.

Though I like this one better than MURDERS OF THE RUE MORGUE or CRY OF THE BANSHEE, I must admit that (with the exception of his having directed one of the best episodes of “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”) I just don’t enjoy Gordon Hessler’s forays into horror. Outside of the presence of a coffin at one point, this has precious little to do with Poe’s story, though I must admit that the original story is tame even by Poe’s standards. It starts out well enough; the voodoo ceremony is extremely effective, and the early scenes work well enough. Nonetheless, I start having problems as the movie progresses. I find the pace just a little slower than necessary, and the movie really doesn’t make very good use of his cast; in particular, most of Vincent Price’s scenes don’t really give him much to work with from an acting standpoint. I also find the big scenes in the movie singularly disappointing. For example, when a movie features two horror stars such as Price and Christopher Lee, you look forward to any scenes they have together, but the one they have here is too brief to satisfy. Furthermore, our long-awaited chance to see how the brother looks is really a letdown, and the final twist is nothing special. All in all, I find that Hessler’s horror movies lack the sense of fun I get from, say, Roger Corman.

One Night Stand (1984)

ONE NIGHT STAND (1984)
Article #1738 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-17-2005
Posting Date: 5-16-2006
Directed by John Duigan
Featuring Tyler Coppin, Cassandra Delaney, Jay Hackett

Several teens hide out in the Sydney Opera House while waiting for the onset of World War III.

Before I get started, I need to go on a little bit about the title. Not that the title is bad, mind you; it’s just that within the last thirty years, nine different movies were made that share that title, and when you’re doing movie-hunting, it makes things difficult to find the right one. Several months ago, I purchased the wrong one, and ended up watching the whole movie before I realized it wasn’t the one I was looking for, so I spent some extra time making sure the next time I bought the movie, it would be the right one.

As for the movie itself, the best way I can describe it is as a cross between ON THE BEACH and a Brat Pack movie. This may or may not be a recommendation, depending on how you feel about the Brat Pack. Granted, the teens in this movie are unknowns, but they’re pretty much working in the same mode. Fortunately, it’s like one of the better Brat Pack movies like THE BREAKFAST CLUB; despite the fact that some of the characters are cocky and annoying and that some of the scenes are of the type designed to appeal to teens, the emotional resonance is there and quite real at times. It also helps that I actually am familiar with the two songs that serve as set pieces for a couple of scenes; “Short Memory” is performed by my favorite Australian band, Midnight Oil, and the music video / dance sequence is performed to an infectious garage rocker from the sixties, “Friday on My Mind” by the Easybeats. The latter is played while we see footage from METROPOLIS, which also pops up again in during the rush to the shelters near the end of the movie. The anti-war message is obvious, but for the most part, the movie focuses on the human aspects of the story, and is quite successful in that regard.

Once Upon a Time (1944)

ONCE UPON A TIME (1944)
Article #1662 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-2-2005
Posting Date: 3-1-2006
Directed by Alexander Hall
Featuring Cary Grant, Janet Blair, James Gleason

When a show promoter is on the verge of losing his theater due to a string of flops, he hits upon a scheme to save it when he encounters a boy who has a caterpillar who dances to the tune “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby”.

The movie opens with a message about how wartime audiences needed escapist entertainment to help them cope with the difficult time. They must have needed escapist entertainment pretty badly if this idea was considered viable. Yet, it’s a tribute to Hollywood moviemaking that they almost make this one work; it’s almost jaw-dropping to see the amount of effort that went into bringing this slight premise to near-life. Certainly, the presence of Cary Grant, James Gleason and William Demarest go a long ways towards bringing this one to life, and I just marvel at the huge list of uncredited performers who appeared in this (not to mention those who had their scenes deleted). Unfortunately, the slightness and silliness of the concept undermine it at every step, and it really becomes hard to take when it gets incredibly weepy. It also fails to deliver the one thing the movie seems to promise; you can sit through the whole movie if you wish, but you will not once get to see Curly the Caterpillar boogie. And if you’re going to watch it, you’re really going to need to like “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby” a lot!

Operation Atlantis (1965)

OPERATION ATLANTIS (1965)
(a.k.a. AGENTE 003, OPERACION ATLANTIDA)
Article #1582 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-14-2005
Posting Date: 12-11-2005
Directed by Domenico Paolella
Featuring John Ericson, Bernardina Sarracco, Cristina Gaioni

Agent George Steele is hired by a scientific research agency to investigate reports of radioactive elements in the world of Atlantis in the African desert.

This is one of the many Italian pseudo-Bond spy movies of the mid-to-late sixties. At their best, they can be charming low-budget fun. They give the viewer the novelty of seeing likable heroes romance beautiful women while taking on dangerous enemies without the benefit of a the budget or stunt expertise of a Bond movie, and the bad dubbing merely adds a bit of quaint charm to the proceedings. At their worst, they are incoherent jumbles of difficult-to-follow plots, bad editing, charmless heroes, confusing characters and horrible editing; in these cases, the bad dubbing merely adds to the mounting headache the movie is giving you. Unfortunately, this is one of the latter, and the fact that the science fiction aspects are stronger than usual this time (what with the Atlantis storyline and the existence of a super-radioactive mineral from the asteroid belt) does nothing to enliven the proceedings. In fact, there’s only one thing I like about this movie, and that is that one of the assassins in this movie uses as his weapon a giant spiked claw. If this were a real James Bond movie, we would be guaranteed a big fight between the hero and the claw-wielding assassin; we’re in no such luck here. Avoid this one like the plague unless you’re a really big, uncritical fan of Italian pulchritude or just have to see that big claw.

Orpheus (1949)

ORPHEUS (1949)
(a.k.a. ORPHEE)
Article #1578 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-10-2005
Posting Date: 12-7-2005
Directed by Jean Cocteau
Featuring Jean Marais, Francois Perier, Maria Casares

A poet has a strange encounter with a woman in black known as the Princess, and then begins to hear bizarre poetry on the radio of the princess’ automobile.

There’s a moment in this movie where the poet puts on a pair of clear gloves that will help him to pass through a mirror. Instead of showing footage of the poet donning the gloves in a straightforward fashion, Jean Cocteau used footage of the poet taking off the gloves and ran it backwards. On the basis of purely practical story-telling, this use of footage is eccentric and useless, but in terms of adding that special touch of surreal lyricism and giving the sense of truly other-worldly action, it’s a brilliant moment. That is certainly one of Cocteau’s charms; he uses special effects not to give a sense of reality to fantastic events, but to give that sense of exotic unreality that underlies much of his work. The fact that some of his special effects techniques are obvious (he loves to run footage backwards and does it quite a bit during this movie) does not in any sense reduce its cinematic power.

This may be his best-known work after his masterpiece, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. It’s not the equal of that one, largely because the story itself (an update of the Orpheus story) is more obscure and difficult than the one of the earlier movie. It is also very difficult at time to fathom the motives of the main character; in particular, I’m never sure how Orpheus really feels about either the Princess or Eurydice. But the imagery has a definite staying power, and there’s something rather compelling about the vision of the world of Death and the dead as it is portrayed here. At any rate, the visions of Orpheus travelling on the other side of the mirror with the chauffeur have stayed in my memory from my first viewing of the movie years ago. It makes me rather sad that Cocteau only directed 10 movies in his life, but other than an obscure silent film and the short BLOOD OF A POET, he really didn’t start directing until he was well into his fifties. Cocteau was one of the filmmakers being emulated by Herk Harvey when that man directed CARNIVAL OF SOULS.