Overlords of the UFO (1976)

Article 4637 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-24-2014
Directed by G. Brook Stanford
Featuring W. Gorden Allen, Trevor James Constable, Juan Fava
Country: USA
What it is: UFO documentary

Who are the overlords of the U.F.O.s? Could they be beings from another dimension which our science cannot comprehend? Have the governments of the world engaged in a massive cover-up of the truth? Can they bend keys like Uri Gellar?

I found this on YouTube with the big claim that the movie was “banned” and “suppressed”. My own gut feeling is that the word “ignored” would probably be a more accurate assessment of the movie’s fate. All I know is that if I wanted to make a convincing documentary about UFOs, I’d try to keep things focused, ordered, and somewhat realistic. I wouldn’t engage in wild speculation as they do here; nor would I plaster headlines from “The National Enquirer” across the screen as part of my evidence. Yet, perhaps it’s fair to say that the wild speculation heightens the entertainment value of this one somewhat, though it gets boring when the speculation descends into mystical gobbledygook as it does on occasion. The movie feels like it’s several films edited into one at times, with the “Space Voyage from Ummo” sequence in the middle as the part that feels most tacked onto the movie. As for it being in any way convincing? Well…let’s just say that its theory for the cause of cattle mutilations is that it was done by invisible flying predatory critters. If that seems like a convincing theory to you, you’ll find the movie revelatory; the rest of us are more apt to see it as a comedy, especially when you realize that the movie sounds like it was written by Ed Wood and the narrator is as convincing as Criswell.

Olivia (1983)

OLIVIA (1983)
aka Taste of Sin
Article 4636 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-23-2014
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Featuring Suzanna Love, Robert Walker Jr., Jeff Winchester
Country: USA / West Germany
What it is: Erotic thriller

As a child, a woman saw her prostitute mother being killed by a john. Now she’s married to a mean-spirited husband and is haunted by the voice of her mother; under her influence she takes up prostitution and kills a customer. Then she meets a man she really loves, but neither her husband nor her mother would approve…

As far as the story goes, I will give Ulli Lommel some credit with the story, which has some truly unexpected plot twists; it’s a bit of a shame that the biggest plot twist is tied to the most ridiculous murder in the movie. Still, that’s not the worst problem I have with Lommel in this movie. My issue with the movie is that Lommel seems unable to help us connect with his characters; they all remain somewhat distant and unreal, and most of the scenes strike false notes or fail to convince. It can still be enjoyed somewhat from a distance, but it really fails to generate much suspense, and for someone who is trying to borrow a bit from the Alfred Hitchcock playbook, that’s a big problem. Nor do I feel that the movie really gels; the various plot elements never quite come together in a satisfying way. I do sense that Lommel is trying here, but I also sense that he’s just not a very good director, and the movie suffers.

An Optical Poem (1937)

aka Color Poem
Article 4631 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-15-2014
Directed by Oskar Fischinger
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Abstract animation

Shapes dance while Liszt’s “Second Hungarian Rhapsody” plays.

I’ve encountered Fischinger before, and will most likely encounter him again before I’m all through. This exercise in experimental animation was actually commissioned by a major studio, namely MGM. In it, he did an abstract illustration of the above musical piece using paper shapes hanging on wires and shot in stop-motion fashion. Most of it is fairly abstract, but there are a few sequences which make it look as if we’re watching planets and stars dancing through outer space, and there’s one sequence that looks like a rocket passing through the cosmos, so on top of the abstract fantasy content, it might be possible to look at this one as having some science fiction content as well. Abstract animation is a matter of taste, but I did find certain sequences in this short to be quite hypnotic, and it feels like one of the more solid examples from this genre. Incidentally, the title entered my hunt list as COLOR POEM, but no IMDB search yielded that title; however, a little research on the credits pointed me to its proper title.

The Orgy Machine (1972)

aka The Incredible Sex-Ray Machine
Article 4613 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-26-2014
Director unknown
Featuring Jan Davis, Pete Dawson, Uschi Digard
Country: USA
What it is: 62 minutes long

An ex-Nazi mad scientist creates a machine that will help him take over the world. When the ray is turned towards people it makes them too distracted by other things to do anything but engage in the things they’re distracted by.

Let me be honest; I’m a little on the repressed side, so I’m more than a little self-conscious (in fact, I’m quite embarrassed) to admit to even watching movies of this ilk (which leave nothing to the imagination), much less reviewing them. Unfortunately, I’m also obsessive enough about the comprehensiveness of my movie watching project that I will still seek out these films if they have any fantastic content, even knowing what I’m getting into when I find them. So you can make what psychological hay you want to out of this; my own reaction to the experience is to make my review as G-rated as possible. You see, this ray makes people do stuff. The scientist tests it about seven or eight times, so we get lots of footage of people doing stuff. Ironically, none of the footage of people doing stuff is original to this movie; IMDB lists that all of the actors other than the scientist appear in archive footage. As for the scientist, he never actually does stuff himself; he just enjoys watching others do stuff, until he goes a bit loony and the machine blows up. Oops, did I give away the ending? That would be a spoiler if anyone was watching this one for the plot, which I don’t see happening. All I can say is that you’re never going to take over the world if you’re too lazy to shoot your own footage of people doing stuff for your movie.

Outer Space Visitor (1959)

Article 4587 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-23-2014
Directed by Dave Tendlar
Featuring the voices of Bern Bennett and Tom Morrison
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

The residents of Mouseville are terrified by an outer space visitor who turns out to be just a baby. However, when they take him to a scientist to translate his words, they discover that his dad is on the way to Earth… and he’s big and angry.

By this time, it appears that Terrytoons fully embraced the limited animation style of television cartoons of the era, a move that made the cartoons more cost-effective, but sadly, it often left them looking a lot cheaper as well. That’s the most glaringly obvious difference that distinguishes today’s Mighty Mouse cartoon from yesterday’s; on a purely visual level, it’s not near as much fun to watch. On the plus side, the script is at least a bit funnier than yesterday’s; there’s a few mildly funny moments that did amuse me. Still, it’s quite a ways lower on the ladder than your average Warner Brother’s cartoon.

The Other (1972)

THE OTHER (1972)
Article 4548 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-30-2014
Directed by Robert Mulligan
Featuring Uta Hagen, Diana Muldaur, Chris Udvarnoky
Country: USA
What it is: Unsettling horror

A boy named Niles, his twin brother Holland, and his emotionally-delicate mother live with relatives on a farm. However, there are secrets and mysteries involved with the boys, and people will die before they are sorted out…

One thing that becomes readily apparent during the opening scenes of this movie is that the story is not going to be laid out for you in clear detail on a silver platter. Though there is at least one definite mystery that is clearly revealed (and which you’ll probably figure out in advance if you take note of the vast difference in how people interact with each of the two boys), it opens up further questions, and after a while, I began to doubt whether it would all ever be fully explained. In some movies this would bother me; in this one, it is highly intriguing, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a movie that fascinated me on so many levels; the movie is psychologically rich, very well acted and directed, and positively haunting. It’s interesting to speculate on the various aspects of the movie – What is the game, and why is it significant? Is the ring an active or passive force in the movie? Can Nile’s memories be fully trusted? Are we dealing with ghosts, multiple personalities, and/or psychic powers? I wouldn’t be surprised if different people came up with different theories as to what is actually happening, and that’s part of what I loved about this one. This one is highly recommended. Incidentally, writer (of both the screenplay and the novel on which it is based) Tom Tryon is remembered to fans of fantastic cinema for having appeared in I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE.

OSS 117 – Murder for Sale (1968)

aka Niente rose per OSS 117, OSS 117: Double Agent
Article 4477 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-17-2014
Directed by Renzo Cerrato, Jean-Pierre Desegnat, Andre Hunebelle
Featuring John Gavin, Margaret Lee, Curd Jurgens
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Spyghetti

OSS 117 goes undercover as an assassin in the hopes of catching the interest of a secret organization that arranges political assassinations, so that he can destroy that organization.

The presence of three directors makes me suspect that this movie had a bit of a troubled production history, and its 5.1 rating on IMDB as of this writing is an indication that this foray into Eurospy territory isn’t highly regarded. Yet I have to admit to quite liking this one; the story is clear and easy to follow, the humor is effective, it mostly takes itself fairly seriously, and John Gavin (who was originally pegged to play James Bond himself in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, but lost the opportunity when Connery returned to the role) is quite appealing. Curd Jurgens makes for an entertaining heavy, and I recognize George Eastman from any number of other movies I’ve seen. However, this movie is quite stingy with the fantastic content; there’s some minor gadgetry, but I’m not sure there’s quite enough to make it truly genre. Still, this one was entertaining enough to pass muster.

Oh, God! Book II (1980)

OH, GOD! BOOK II (1980)
Article 4476 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-16-2014
Directed by Gilbert Cates
Featuring George Burns, Suzanne Pleshette, David Birney
Country: USA
What it is: Spirituality sequel

God picks a little girl to perform a mission for him; spread the word of his existence by writing a slogan for him and then spreading it around.

I quite liked the original movie; it had a quiet, gentle, modest and low-key air about it that made it very likable. It was also one of those movies that felt (to me, anyway) that it would have been better as a stand-alone effort rather than as part of a franchise. As a result, I didn’t have the slightest interest in this sequel when it came out. Oh, it still has George Burns, and he still has that same appeal he had in the earlier movie. But the script is a repeat of the original, with a few details jiggled around here and there, and by choosing a little girl as the protagonist this time around, it’s also a little more manipulative. It even inexplicably repeats one of the oddest touches in the original movie; it casts a well-known character actor (Donald Pleasence in the original, Hans Conried here), and gives them one single line in the whole movie. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the laugh lines are nowhere near as sharp as they were in the earlier movie. The movie is not awful (George Burns is just too likable here for that to happen), but it is unnecessary; at least he next one in the series would try to take it in a different direction.

Out of the Darkness (1978)

aka Night Creature
Article 4470 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-10-2014
Directed by Lee Madden
Featuring Donald Pleasence, Nancy Kwan, Ross Hagen
Country: USA
What it is: Wild animal on the loose saga

A famous big-game hunter, shamed by having become frightened during a hunt for a dangerous leopard, has the beast captured and taken to his island. He dismisses all his servant, and then releases the animal so he can have one final showdown with it. Then members of his family unexpectedly show up…

You know, when you’re engaged on a project like mine, you find yourself encountering the same stories over and over again so often that you find yourself welcoming any one that is different enough to provide some variety. This one has a premise novel enough to qualify, and therefore I found myself liking this one more than I probably should. That’s not to say that I don’t see problems with it. The script and direction often misfire, with certain themes left underdeveloped, other themes handled with total lack of subtlety (we only really need to see the hunter’s and leopard’s face in double exposure ONCE, thank you), a little too much padding here and there, overused effects (they use what I suspect is the same shot of the leopard’s face in the darkness at least ten times), and an inability to really tap into the suspense inherent in the premise. I am glad that it works occasionally, and much of this has to do with Pleasence’s performance. Of course, there’s also the issue as to whether this is strictly genre or not. The leopard might be considered a monster of sorts, but I’m not sure the movie does anything with the hint that the beast might be supernatural, nor do I know whether the hints of a psychic link between the hunter and the leopard is enough to make it qualify. Still, it did lend a little variety to my recent viewing schedule.

One Too-Exciting Night (1922)

Article 4358 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-5-2013
Directed by Gaston Quiribet
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Haunted house short

A man decides to sleep in a house he has recently bought. He is warned by a tramp that the house is believed to be haunted. Then, that night….

Here’s a rare occurrence; I’m reviewing a movie that doesn’t have a listing on IMDB. Furthermore, it’s one of those movies that originally ended up on my “ones-that-got-away” list, so I’m glad it actually saw the light of day. Back when I consigned it to that list, I speculated from what little I knew about it that the hauntings were not real. Having watched it now, I can say this; technically, that’s true. However, the movie takes an approach that makes the fantastic content much greater than it might be otherwise; it actually shows what the sleeper is imagining is happening, and so we actually do get a ghost, as well as inanimate objects moving of their own accord. This makes this six-minute short far more entertaining than it might otherwise be, and I have to say that I really enjoyed this one.