L’Odissea (1911)

L’ODISSEA (1911)
aka Homer’s Odyssey
Article 4801 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-16-2015
Directed by Francesco Bertolini, Giuseppe de Liguoro, Adolfo Padovan
Featuring Giuseppe de Liguoro, Eugenia Tettoni Fior, Ubaldo Maria Del Colle
Country: Italy
What it is: Epic Greek poem

Ulysses encounters many perils on his voyage home from the Trojan war.

The Italians were the first to take their hands at truly epic cinema, and they produced some amazing work during the early days of the movies. This one, though it has some nice special effects and impressive moments, is a little bit disappointing however. The problem is that they use what I think of as the “Classics Illustrated” approach to the story. By this I mean that, instead of trying to make the story flow in a cinematic fashion, they use the title cards to describe which famous scene you’re going to see, and then you see it. The effect is somewhat like flipping through an illustrated book, and rather than capturing the excitement of the story, it just makes it feel distant and stodgy. The print I saw ran about 45 minutes, but I’ve heard it’s incomplete. Still, given the episodic quality of the story, it’s hard to tell; the only major thing I noticed missing is the encounter with Circe. Nevertheless, the somewhat mechanical presentation makes this one a bit dull.

Orphan’s Benefit (1934)

ORPHAN’S BENEFIT (1934)
Article 4782 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-15-2015
Date: Burt Gillett
Featuring the voices of Pinto Colvig, Walt Disney, Florence Gill
Country: USA
What it is: Mickey Mouse cartoon

Mickey Mouse hosts a benefit for orphans.

My last encounter with Mickey Mouse also featured orphans, but this isn’t a sequel to MICKEY’S ORPHANS; the orphans this time are all mice rather than cats. Still, they’re as rambunctious as the orphans in the earlier short, and since this is a revue-style animated short that features several different characters, it gives them the exact foil I’d suggested in my review of the earlier cartoon; they take on an early version of Donald Duck, and from what I gather, this was the first cartoon where he loses his temper. The revue numbers including recitations from Donald, a ballet featuring Goofy, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar, and an aria by Clara Cluck. The gags are somewhat more creative this time, and this is much funnier than the early short; my favorite moment is the orphan’s final attack on Donald. This short would be remade seven years later with the characters redrawn; these early versions look somewhat different than their later incarnations.

The Oracle of Delphi (1903)

THE ORACLE OF DELPHI (1903)
aka L’oracle de Delphes
Article 4780 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-13-2015
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Supernatural retribution

A cask is stored in the tomb of the Oracle of Delphi. A thief attempts to steal it, but must then contend with the ghost of the Oracle.

I always thought the Oracle of Delphi was someone who made ambiguous pronouncements about the future; here he’s just a ghost who curses would-be thieves. Maybe that’s what he does in his spare time. Unlike Melies’s magic shorts, this one actually has a story of sorts, though with a running time of a minute and a half, you can’t expect a complex story. Basically, a treasure is put in the tomb, a thief breaks in to steal it, the ghost appears and makes the thief return the treasure, and then the thief must endure a curse which transforms his head. There’s really not much here, but it’s efficiently told and fairly entertaining. Still, it’s pretty minor Melies.

Odor-able Kitty (1944)

ODOR-ABLE KITTY (1944)
Article 4777 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-9-2015
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Warner Brothers Cartoon

A put-upon cat hits upon a scheme to keep his nemeses from tormenting him; he disguises himself as a skunk to scare them off. However, complications arrive when he ends up attracting the amorous attentions of a real skunk…

This marks the cartoon debut Pepe Le Pew, and even though his name is Henry here and he’s given a backstory that would be abandoned in later entries (he’s already married with children), it’s pretty much the same character. He’s also a secondary character here; the main character is the cat who disguises himself as a skunk. Unlike the other Pepe Le Pew cartoons, the cat disguised as a skunk also emulates the smell of a skunk by rubbing himself with limburger cheese, and it is that smell that ends up attracting the skunk. Actually, the attraction by smell may explain one of the odder aspects of this cartoon; whereas the cats in the other cartoons of the series are clearly female, the protagonist in this one is definitely male, and it doesn’t say much for Pepe’s ability to discriminate that he mistakes him for a female, perhaps the smell threw him off. At any rate, it’s a pretty amusing cartoon, though I think some of the later cartoons in the series would nail down the routine better. Keep your eyes open for a fake cameo from Bugs Bunny in this one.

Overlords of the UFO (1976)

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)

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)

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)

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.