One Minute Before Death (1972)

aka The Oval Portrait
Article 2598 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-16-2008
Posting Date: 9-23-2008
Directed by Rogelio A. Gonzalez
Featuring Wanda Hendrix, Barry Coe, Gisele MacKenzie
Country: USA/Mexico

A woman falls down a flight of stairs after being frightened by some hooded figures. Everyone thinks she’s dead, but she isn’t and is afraid of being buried alive. In her comatose state, she discovers the infidelity of her husband and the plot against her life.

Sometimes I wonder if I can legitimately say I’ve seen a movie. With some of these rarities, I have to settle for whatever copy I can get, and the DVD for this one jumps and skips so badly that I had to watch it twice on two different machines to piece together what was going on. This is far from the best way to view a movie. Furthermore, I wonder if this movie is confused with another one. One of the alternate titles for this is THE OVAL PORTRAIT, and most of the plot descriptions I run into talk about a woman being possessed by lady in a portrait. This at least sounds like a possible way to adapt the Poe story of the same name, but this movie has nothing to do with a portrait; if anything, it owes more to “The Premature Burial”, soap operas (there’s a lot of sleeping around going on) and Old Dark House movies. Yet, the credits match, and so I do nothing but shrug my shoulders.

The movie? Well, given my description of the viewing experience, I’ve got no choice but to give the movie the benefit of the doubt until I see it as it should be seen. At least one thing I can admire; the movie has an incredible amount of flashbacks during the first half hour (before the DVD becomes difficult), yet somehow manages to avoid being totally confusing. That’s something.

In the meantime, I’m making a note to hunt around for a better copy.



O.K. Nero (1951)

O.K. NERO (1951)
aka O.K. Nerone, O.K. Neron
Article 2579 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-27-2008
Posting Date: 9-4-2008
Directed by Carlo Campanini, Walter Chiari, Silvana Pampanini
Country: Italy

Two American servicemen are hit over the head while visiting Rome, and are transported back to Roman times during the time of Nero. Hilarity ensues.

Don’t let the “American servicemen” bit above fool you; this is an Italian comedy, albeit one that makes extensive use of “Oh Susanna” and “Yankee Doodle” in the soundtrack. Fortunately, my copy of the movie is dubbed; unfortunately, it’s dubbed into French. So, what’s it like? It’s exactly what I would expect an Italian slapstick comedy dubbed into French would be like; occasionally amusing but mostly incoherent because I can’t understand the jokes. The two servicemen end up on the run from the authorities, dress up as black slave women to escape, perform the jitterbug, become gladiators, host a carnival (hit the target, win a midget), and mess around with various potions from some sorcerers. There’s no real surprises here, but it does have its moments; their disguises as female black slaves will definitely leave your jaw hanging open, and it did have one verbal gag that I caught, largely due to the fact that the French word for “cannibal” sounds a lot like the English word. It looks like Campanini and Chiari may have been a comedy team; they worked together on quite a few comedies during the early fifties.


Out of This World (1956)

TV-Movie aka The Robot of Regalio
Article 2462 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-29-2008
Posting Date: 5-9-2008
Directed by Hollingsworth Morse
Featuring Richard Crane, Jimmy Lydon, Sally Mansfield
Country: USA

Rocky Jones must do battle with the evil ruler of Regalio, who has the power to pull planets from their orbits and plans to do so with Earth. Unfortunately, he also has to contend with another problem; the female ruler of Herculon who is his ally has an evil twin sister with designs of her own.

This marks my final foray into the world of Rocky Jones for this series. I must admit that I’ve been fairly loose in my coverage of the movies culled from the series; in certain cases, I’ve watched not the movie version, but the episodes of the series from which it was culled. Still, I think this is acceptable; other than the removable of beginning and ending credits and the occasional change of a credit sequence, the movies presented the episodes as is. This one features Ian Keith in a fun little role as the Nizam of Regalio. All in all, this one has a decent pace, and is one of the more enjoyable stories from the series. Granted, you have to make allowances; the show was rather stiff, the acting uneven, and certain segments are hard to swallow (there’s a lot of knock-out potions in drinks in this one), but I still think the scripts showed more sophistication than is usually to be found in kiddie space fare. Oh, and the robot gets loose and goes on a rampage (such as it is) in the final episode.

Goodbye, Rocky Jones; I initially expected to hate these movies, but I found them far more enjoyable than I expected, and I’ll miss covering them.


Our Mother’s House (1967)

Article 2421 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-12-2007
Posting Date: 3-29-2008
Directed by Jack Clayton
Featuring Dirk Bogarde, Margaret Brooks, Pamela Franklin

When a religious invalid woman dies, her seven children, fearing that they will be sent to an orphanage, keep her death a secret and learn to fend for themselves. They have sessions (known as Mothertime) where they commune with their mother’s soul and make decisions. Then, one day, their world is turned upside down by the appearance of their estranged father…

Though it’s not really a horror film, it’s easy to see the similarity between this movie and the better-known THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE . It does have some fairly creepy moments, though; the Mothertime sessions are truly unsettling, as we see that there is some distinct unhealthiness in their obsession with their saintly mother, and the scene where the little girl is punished by having her long hair shorn is rather traumatic. Had the movie continued in this vein, it might well have turned into a full horror movie, but the arrival of the father shifts the movie in another direction, as it splits the solidarity of the group of children apart as they deal with the new presence. In the process, they learn more than they bargained for, especially in respect to their beloved mother. It’s a powerful and very sad movie. Director Jack Clayton had a very interesting career as a director and producer; he gave us both THE INNOCENTS and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, and between these three movies, it shows he had a clear affinity for working with children.


One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975)

Article 2396 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-18-2007
Posting Date: 3-4-2008
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Featuring Peter Ustinov, Helen Hayes, Clive Revill

When a man steals the secret formula for Lotus X from the Chinese government, he finds himself on the run from Chinese spies. He hides the formula in the bones of a dinosaur in the museum, and then tells his former nanny about the hidden formula. The spies capture the man, but he’s acquired amnesia and cannot tell them where he hid the formula. They then set out to find the nanny…

Despite a promising title, I’m sorry to say that there really is no fantastic content in this movie; despite what some of my sources claim, the dinosaur does not come to life at any point in the proceedings. Nor does the secret of Lotus X move it into the realm of science fiction. I’m afraid I consider this one another false lead.

As for the movie itself, the most striking thing about it is that it is a Disney comedy that doesn’t feel like a “shopping cart” movie. This may be due to the British milieu
and the fact that most of the regulars from Disney comedies are not present in this movie. It’s definitely a mixed bag; it relies too much on Chinese stereotypes and the style is rather queasy at times, but when it hits, it’s hilarious. My favorite scenes feature the Chinese spies and the British nannies getting into an argument about tea (shortly after we learn Hnup Wan’s nickname) and the scene where the nannies escape from a cell by tricking their captors into giving them a brick-breaking demonstration. The very concept of nannies vs. spies is pretty amusing in itself, especially when we learn that the head of the Chinese spy ring has a dread fear of nannies after having been brought up by one. “Doctor Who” fans may want to keep their eyes open for a cameo from Jon Pertwee as a Colonel who thinks he has found a new animal whose head he can hang on his wall.


1 April, 2000 (1952)

1 APRIL, 2000 (1952)
aka April 1, 2000
Article 2360 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-11-2007
Posting Date: 1-28-2008
Directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner
Directed by Hilde Krahl, Josef Meinrad, Waltraut Haas

In the year 2000, Austria declares its independence from the powers occupying it. A ‘World Protection Commission’ visits Austria to decide if Austria’s independence is a threat to world peace. Austria’s president argues his case by presenting the history of Austria.

I got the plot description by reading some of my books on movies and from comments on IMDB; since the movie was in unsubtitled German, I couldn’t figure out much of it from watching the movie itself. The movie reflected the situation in Austria at that time in history; it had been occupied by four other countries since World War II, and the movie was meant as its plea for independence. Still, I have a funny feeling that the movie was mostly about Austria praising itself, and that sort of thing can be quite tedious; however, not knowing what they’re saying keeps me from getting tired of the message, and I’m left to dwell on the visual aspects of this movie, which are often surreal and quite stunning. There are several memorable moments here, including a powerful sequence where a woman sees the grim reaper in her cup, followed by a full view of the reaper and a procession of what I suppose are the dead. There’s also a strange sequence where several of the characters momentarily turn into animals, and some of the costumes (especially those of certain people who I take to be reporters) are truly original (if rather silly). The high point of the movie comes early on though, and it is indelible; it is the arrival of the commission, which descends in what looks like a planet-shaped spaceship surrounded by orbiting moons, and lands amidst a flurry of what can only be described as parachuting Michelen men; this sequence is a classic. The movie is very good-natured, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the high spirits of the enterprise. Nonetheless, it’s a little too long, and I get quite bored towards the end of the movie. The movie features a performance from actor Curt Jurgens before he achieved international fame as an actor.


One Wish Too Many (1956)

Article 2536 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-7-2007
Posting Date: 1-24-2008
Directed by John Durst
Featuring Anthony Richmond, Rosalind Gourgey, John Pike

A boy finds a marble that grants whatever he wishes. He soon discovers that this is not an unmixed blessing…

Sometimes a movie gets by on its own modesty. A magic marble that can grant any wish is the type of concept that nowadays would inspire a massive special effects budget with all the wizardry that could be mustered through CGI, and the result would probably be charmless. Neither this movie nor the characters in it have any such ambitions themselves. It’s an unassuming little movie, and the boy who finds the marble initially just wishes for such small things as that his homework will be done and that he will get a toy steamroller and a doll for his friend. He harbors no great desire to change his life; he just wants to use it to ease his way through life, get a few nice items for his own and help his friends, and even early on he sees how even these small wishes can backfire. His biggest wish comes near the end of the movie, and the movie drives home its basic message (be careful what you wish for) without ever getting preachy or overbearing; it just lets the story tell itself. The budget is quite low and the acting is merely passable, but the modest charm and the short length carry the movie along. Sometimes simplicity is a real virtue.