Off to Bloomingdale Asylum (1901)

OFF TO BLOOMINGDALE ASYLUM (1901)
aka L’omnibus des toques blancs et noirs
Article 3171 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-18-2010
Posting Date: 4-20-2010
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Bizarre little trick film

Four black men turn white when they are knocked off an omnibus by a mechanical horse. They turn themselves black again, then white again, then black, and merge into one fat black man, which then….

The black men are white men in blackface, so you know that this Melies short wouldn’t fly today. According to one source, they’re being transported to an asylum, but they probably got that from the English title; the French title doesn’t appear to have any words that reflect an asylum at all. It’s surreal, quick, and fun.

CORRECTION: According to doctor kiss at CHFB, the word ‘toques’ above more or less classifies the characters as “madmen”, and the world “Charenton” on the omnibus is a reference to a French asylum. So, I stand corrected.

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Old Scrooge (1913)

OLD SCROOGE (1913)
aka Scrooge
Article 3152 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-29-2010
Posting Date: 4-1-2010
Directed by Leedham Bantock
Featuring Seymour Hicks, William Lugg, Leedham Bantock
Country: UK
What it is: Could it be… another version of “A Christmas Carol?”

Scrooge is a skinflint who hates Christmas. But on Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his partner, who may make him change his ways…

I remember griping about the 1935 Seymour Hicks version of this story because it reduced Marley to a spoken voice who appears only momentarily. Maybe it was to balance out this version, where not only does Marley appear, but he takes the place of the other three spirits and does all the ghosting by himself. This one also features Seymour Hicks (who had made a career of playing Scrooge on stage), and he gives a good performance. The structure is pretty odd here; it only runs about forty minutes, and I found it odd that at the twenty minute mark, Scrooge was still hanging around the office and no ghost had appeared. As a result, the movie rushes through the visions of the past, present and future, and spends most of its time in the pre- and post-ghost sections of the story. It also features an introductory piece about Dickens, which gives a bit of a history of the story itself. I was a little confused by the date; IMDB lists 1913, and my print lists 1926, but the later date results from a re-release thirteen years after it was made.

Omicron (1963)

OMICRON (1963)
Article 3097 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-12-2009
Posting Date: 2-5-2010
Directed by Ugo Gregoretti
Featuring Renato Salvatori, Rosemary Dexter, Gaetano Quartararo
Country: Italy
What it is: Political science fiction comedy

The dead body of an Italian worker is brought back to life when it is possessed by an alien from outer space. The alien learns to control his new body while exploring the world around him.

I’m really glad I got a chance to see this one, even if my copy is in unsubtitled Italian. I know I’m missing much of the plot, (though I can definitely see that there’s some sort of political subtext) but it gives Renato Salvatori a chance to engage in some truly creative visual comedy, especially when his character is learning how to control his body. The plot appears to revolve around his job, in which he becomes super-competent, but he eventually ends up taking part in a strike. I’d love to figure out what’s going on in some of the scenes, but some of them are quite amusing nonetheless; my favorite has him absorbing the contents of a whole slew of books which he can read just by flipping through the pages (the only book he keeps is an illustrated biography of Brigitte Bardot). The plot becomes more complex as you get deeper into the movie, but even I can tell that it ends with a wicked twist. Let’s hope a good subtitled copy shows up sometime soon.

Outer Touch (1979)

OUTER TOUCH (1979)
Article 3083 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-25-2009
Posting Date: 1-22-2010
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Featuring Barry Stokes, Tony Maiden, Glory Annen
Country: UK
What it is: Science fiction sex comedy

Three female aliens from outer space make an emergency landing on Earth, where they pick up four people. Not having seen men before, they are surprised to discover that three of the creatures have flat chests and strange appendages. However, they soon learn the purpose of the appendages…

This movie has three female space aliens. One is in charge of the ship, and wears black leather. One is an engineer and wears a low cut blouse. The third is a scientist and has an elaborate wardrobe. The four Earthlings include an engaged couple who aren’t having sex yet (he wants to and she doesn’t), a geeky student who likes porno magazines, and a would-be stud. There’s also a talking gay computer and a mechanical psychiatrist in the form of a Wurlitzer jukebox. By the end of the movie everyone’s had a chance to be naked, the three space aliens learn to enjoy some new experiences with the geeky student, the stud gets his comeuppance, and I’ll let you guess what happens with the engaged couple. As a comedy, I found it laughless; as a sex movie, it’s a matter of personal taste, and it depends on who is on the screen at the time (for those who are curious, I’m partial to Ava Cadell myself). Outside of that, the most interesting thing about this one is that it seems at least partially modeled off of DARK STAR; in particular, there is the concept of a computer constantly reporting on hardware malfunctions that are never addressed, and the end of the movie bears a certain similarity as well. Whether this movie is your cup of tea is up to you.

100 Cries of Terror (1965)

100 CRIES OF TERROR (1965)
aka Cien gritos de terror
Article 3026 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-20-2009
Posting Date: 11-26-2009
Directed by Ramon Obon
Featuring Ariadno Welter, Joaquin Cordero, Ofelia Montesco
Country: Mexico

Two tales of terror are presented. In the first, a woman with a weak heart moves into a new house with her husband, but rumors persist that the place is haunted. In the second, a man is trapped in a crypt and rescues a woman who has been buried alive. Together they must face a long night of terror.

This is a strange one. The first story comes off initially like a GASLIGHT variant, but it dispenses with that story arc so quickly that it doesn’t allow it to become tiresome. It’s rather fun to second guess this one, because each new twist the movie leads into a new albeit familiar direction; the biggest surprise comes at the end when an event that had been set up earlier in the movie DOESN’T happen, and you’re left wondering if it’s bad plotting or if you’ve been faked out. The second one is a real humdinger; it starts out in premature burial territory, but never quite goes the way you think it will, and ends it all with a twist that shouldn’t work but does, if for no other reason than it allows you to reject it. Still, this one is a bit trying on occasion; between the endless bizarre philosophizing and the hysteria there’s a number of opportunities to get bored and/or annoyed. Nevertheless, this one sticks with you, and the weird montage scenes add to the unsettlement. I suspect K. Gordon Murray’s dubbing doesn’t help this movie put its best foot forward, and I’ve never warmed up to jazz soundtracks in horror movies, but this one is worth a look; like many of the great Mexican horror movies, it never walks the straight and obvious path.

The Omegans (1968)

THE OMEGANS (1968)
Article 3025 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-19-2009
Posting Date: 11-25-2009
Directed by W. Lee Wilder
Featuring Keith Larsen, Ingrid Pitt, Lucien Pan
Country: USA / Philippines

An artist discovers that his wife is having an affair with an adventurer. When he discovers that the water from the area where they took an expedition is radioactive and destroys those who bathe in it and drink it, he comes up with an insidious idea for his revenge.

Here’s a good example of a bad story done badly. You have the premise up above. From the point where the premise is established, the movie simply follows a straight line to its conclusion, with no twists, no surprises, and little in the way of interest level. Furthermore, W. Lee Wilder remains one of the least interesting directors to ever work in the genre; the scenes are all static and poorly staged, the energy in non-existent, and the whole production is thoroughly uninspired. The Omegans of the title refer to the tribe that lives near the water in question, but they barely play a role in the story, which is more concerned with its standard triangle plot. This one is truly a waste of time.

Old Dracula (1974)

OLD DRACULA (1974)
aka Vampira
Article 3021 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-15-2009
Posting Date: 11-21-2009
Directed by Clive Donner
Featuring David Niven, Teresa Graves, Peter Bayliss
Country: UK

Dracula has begun allowing tours of his castle, which gives him a fresh supply of blood as well as the opportunity to find a rare blood type that will revive his wife, Vampira. He does find the right blood type, but when his wife is revived, she also turns black. He then goes to England to find the donor of the original blood in the hopes that he can change her back.

I was aware that the movie had undergone a title change from VAMPIRA to cash in on the success of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, so I didn’t go in expecting that this comedy was going to attempt to emulate that one in any way; I planned to review it on its own terms. Still it’s a fairly weak comedy. The cast is game enough; all three leads put their best feet forward to make a go of it, and each one adds a little flavor to the mix. What fails them is the script; despite a couple of cute ideas here and there, it’s painfully short on laughs, and the story gets less and less interesting as it goes on. It all builds up to a twist that is a) obvious once you see the setup, and b) awful when you see the final make-up job. I’d like to see some of these touches in a better movie; I like the idea that a vampire has varying amounts of control over his victims depending on how long he bites them, and that if he keeps the time short, the victim doesn’t become a vampire. I can’t really say I was disappointed by the movie, as it was actually a little better than I expected, which wasn’t much. Teresa Graves would go on to the role of Christie Love, and then left acting shortly afterward.