Old Mother Riley’s Jungle Treasure (1951)

OLD MOTHER RILEY’S JUNGLE TREASURE (1951)
Article 2116 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2006
Posting Date: 5-29-2007
Directed by Maclean Rogers
Featuring Arthur Lucan, Kitty McShane, Robert Adams

Old Mother Riley is visited by the ghost of Captain Morgan, who directs her to the map showing where his hidden treasure is buried on a wild tropical island.

When I saw OLD MOTHER RILEY MEETS THE VAMPIRE, I thought it was better than it had any right to be. When I saw OLD MOTHER RILEY’S GHOSTS, I became convinced that it was Lugosi who made OMTRMTV entertaining; it certainly wasn’t Old Mother Riley, who came off in that movie as shrill and annoying. This one is a little better than GHOSTS, but I’m still convinced that the biggest problem with Old Mother Riley movies is Old Mother Riley himself; Arthur Lucan’s distaff alter ego never succeeds in getting a laugh from me. This is not to say that the movie is totally useless; some of the side jokes by other characters hit the mark, and there are a number of laughs in the sequence where several passengers enjoy a flight on what may be the single chintziest airline in existence. It’s also kind of fun seeing Sebastian Cabot as a pirate, and Hammer fans will enjoy the presence of Michael Ripper while Carry On fans will enjoy the presence of Peter Butterworth. Still, I do think if they had managed to make an Old Mother Riley movie without Old Mother Riley, they would have been on to something.

 

Operation Abduction (1958)

OPERATION ABDUCTION (1958)
aka RAPT AU DEUXIEME BUREAU
Article 2087 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-2-2006
Posting Date: 4-30-2007
Directed by Jean Stelli
Featuring Frank Villard, Danielle Godet, Dalida

A secret government bureau decides to protect a rocket scientist from abduction by faking his own kidnapping. They then send out an agent to locate a criminal organization known to be after the scientist.

The fantastic content in this spy thriller is that the scientist was working on technology to make interplanetary travel a reality. That’s it. When the fantastic content in a movie exists solely to provide a reason for various parties to fight over it, I refer to that content as the Gizmo Maguffin; movies with these elements usually are of little interest to science fiction fans, and are very marginal. This one is especially marginal, as we never see the scientist working on anything (in fact, he barely appears in the movie) and it’s totally focused on the criminals, the secret service agents, and various involved parties. On its own terms, I found it passable but confusing, and badly dubbed (and panned-and-scanned) to boot. This one is not essential viewing.

 

Omoo-Omoo The Shark God (1949)

OMOO-OMOO THE SHARK GOD (1949)
Article 2075 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-19-2006
Posting Date: 4-18-2007
Directed by Leon Leonard
Featuring Ron Randell, Devera Burton, Richard Benedict

A captain, having hidden two black pearls that were used as the eyes of Omoo-Omoo the Shark God, finds himself under a curse as a result.

I’m not sure how true this story is to the Herman Melville novel from which it was derived, but it feels like a pretty conventional south seas flick to me. It’s mildly entertaining, I suppose, but it’s also thoroughly run-of-the-mill. Still, a few items of notice.

1) There are no sharks in this movie. Now I know that it’s not supposed to be about sharks (just a shark god), but I don’t think it’s asking too much that a movie about a shark god should have sharks as well. There are also no cows, despite the fact that you can hear “moo” twice in the title, but, to be honest, I didn’t really expect any.

2) I find it hard to believe that Omoo-Omoo would curse people; he has such a big smile on his face, it’s kind of like getting hexed by Santa Claus. Granted, I don’t think a curse that seems to make its sufferers less likely to return the black pearls (among other symptoms, sufferers seem to get greedier and more selfish) is particularly effective.

3) I suppose stock footage of a fight between a moray eel and an octopus is appropriate for a south seas epic. However, I couldn’t help but notice that during the fight (which is witnessed by two people on a ship looking down into the water), the octopus constantly puts his suckers on the side of the aquarium where the real battle took place. So much for the illusion.

 

One Body Too Many (1944)

ONE BODY TOO MANY (1944)
Article 1994 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-30-2006
Posting Date: 1-27-2007
Directed by Frank McDonald
Featuring Jack Haley, Carol Dunlap, Bela Lugosi

An insurance salesman arrives at a mansion in the hope of selling a policy to the eccentric old man who lives there, only to discover that the man is dead and his relatives are gathered together for a reading of the will. He finds himself volunteering to guard the body against abduction.

I always thought it a bit odd that, despite their having played some of the most memorable roles of all time, the three actors who played Dorothy’s companions in THE WIZARD OF OZ (Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley) rarely pop up in my movie-watching travels. Other than THE WIZARD OF OZ iself, I think this is only the second time I’ve encountered one of them for this series (Ray Bolger popped up in BABES IN TOYLAND). This is basically an “old dark house” movie, and Jack Haley has what amounts to the Wallace Ford role. He’s only mildly amusing, but then, the comic dialogue is fairly weak to begin with, and I’m not sure anyone could have really done much with it to begin with. His best line involves the word “drip”. Bela Lugosi plays, once again, the butler, and though I still think it’s a bit of a shame that he was consistently given the same type of role in movies like this, at least this time he gets to be in charge of the best running gag in the movie (it involves rat poison and coffee), and, as in THE GORILLA, he gives the funniest performance in the movie. The dialogue is pretty weak, and the direction is none too impressive in this one (Frank McDonald mostly churned out B westerns), but I do like the concept that the will is set up so that the money awards will be reversed if the dead man is not buried as requested; with this situation, it makes sense that people might make off with the dead body. I also like the sequences involving the observatory atop the mansion; it makes for an interesting setting for some of the action. One note: Leo is a constellation, not a star. This is the type of mistake I’d expect in a dubbed movie from Japan, not one in which English is the native language.

 

OSS 117 – From Tokyo With Love (1966)

OSS 117 – FROM TOKYO WITH LOVE (1966)
aka ATOUT COEUR A TOKYO POUR O.S.S. 117,
HEART TRUMP IN TOKYO FOR O.S.S. 117,
O.S.S. 117 – TERROR IN TOKYO, etc. etc.
Article 1961 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-28-2006
Posting Date: 12-25-2006
Directed by Michel Boisrond
Featuring Frederick Stafford, Marina Vlady, Henri Serre

A secret agent disguises himself as the husband of a woman who was blackmailed into revealing military secrets. This is done in an attempt to thwart a blackmail plot involving bombs delivered by miniature airplanes.

At this point of time, the most difficult movies to deal with that pop up on my list are these Italian superspy movies (and the fact that this one is more French than Italian doesn’t really make a difference). Unlike Sword-and Sandal movies, these James Bond clones don’t appear to really have had much success here. Sword-and-Sandal movies are also relatively easy to find; in fact, there’s a company which puts out DVD packages that has put out one consisting of fifty Sword-and-Sandal movies for about sixty cents apiece, and I don’t see them doing the same for these Eurospy features. Furthermore, trying to locate these spy features can be really difficult, as they exist under a bewildering array of alternate titles (actually, Sword-and-Sandal movies have the same problem, but at least IMDB has done a better job of keeping track of these titles). If you do manage to find a copy of one of these Eurospy movies, there’s a good chance that it won’t be either dubbed or subtitled in English, either. And, after all this, it probably won’t be a very good movie anyway; it will be just what it sounds like, a lame James Bond rip-off.

However, I ended up quite surprised by this one. Sure, I had to go through some contortions to match the title under which I bought it with the title under which it was listed in my reference book and the title under which it is listed in IMDB. And yes, the print is pretty lousy, and it’s cluttered with subtitles in some Germanic language (I think it might be Dutch). But it is not only dubbed into English, but well dubbed as well. Furthermore, it’s actually a fairly decent movie, with witty dialogue and a fun plot. No, it doesn’t have the stunts of a real James Bond movie, but I was quite happy with this one. My favorite scene has the hero doing battle with one of those big brutes who seem indestructible, only to find out eventually that the character was an ally. The movie is also loaded with gadgets; these, as well as the miniature airplane device, push the movie into the realm of borderline science fiction.

 

Oh, Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Bad (1967)

OH DAD, POOR DAD, MAMA’S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I’M FEELING SO SAD (1967)
Article 1944 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-11-2006
Posting Date: 12-8-2006
Directed by Richard Quine and Alexander Mackendrick
Featuring Rosalind Russell, Robert Morse, Barbara Harris

An overbearing mother takes her repressed son on vacation to Jamaica. She takes along two venus fly-traps, a fishtank of piranhas, and her former husband, whose corpse has been stuffed and which she keeps in the closet. She tries to net a rich Commodore while protecting her son from the wiles of a lusty young woman.

Let’s get the fantastic content out of the way first. The movie is narrated by Jonathan Winters, who appears as an angel in heaven during the opening sequence. Outside of this, its main fantastic content might be that the movie feels something like a black comic version of the early years of Norman Bates; I found myself thinking of the movie PSYCHO several times during this viewing.

The movie is based on a stage play by Arthur L. Kopit, and I can actually see how this might have worked fairly well on stage. As a movie, though, it falls rather flat. I haven’t read the stage play on which this was based, but I suspect that there was quite a bit of tampering with the script; certainly, Jonathan Winters’s narration feels out of sync with the rest of the movie, and the fact that each of these one-liners is punctuated by still pictures of Winters in the action makes me suspect that this was all added after the fact to make the movie more overtly comic and more commercial. Unfortunately, the commentary isn’t particularly funny, and it undercuts the natural weirdness that is actually the movie’s strength; I find some of the bizarre touches (like Robert Morse’s sickly complexion and Rosalind Russell’s costume-and-wig collection) to be the most interesting thing about this movie. The cast is rather interesting; on top of the people mentioned earlier, it also features Hugh Griffith as the smitten Commodore, Lionel Jeffries as an officious airport commander, whose face I’ve definitely seen somewhere else before, even if I can’t say where. It’s a failure, but not an uninteresting one, and my curiosity about the original stage play has certainly been piqued.

 

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.