Pinocchio in Outer Space (1965)

PINOCCHIO IN OUTER SPACE (1965)
Article 1945 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-12-2006
Posting Date: 12-9-2006
Directed by Ray Goossens
Featuring the voices of Peter Lazer, Arnold Stang, Jess Cain

Pinocchio, having been turned back into a puppet again when he became disobedient, resolves to prove himself worthy again by capturing Astro, the space whale. To that end, he spends his lunch money on a book on hypnotism and joins forces with Nurtle the Twertle (a secret agent from outer space) to defeat Astro using hypnotism.

Some animated movies become so magically engrossing that you get caught up in them completely; take the original PINOCCHIO, for example. And some never tap into the magic, and when watching them, you remain awkwardly aware at all times that you’re watching an uninspired foray into juvenile pandering. Such is the fate of this one. One major problem is that it bends over backwards to run over some of the same ground of the original story – why else return him to his puppet status and have him prove himself all over again, and then getting duped by the fox and the cat and finally, having to face Monstro wannabe Astro, the Space Whale? At least he doesn’t turn into a space donkey. The movie might fly with children who are eager to see a follow-up to the original movie, even one not from Disney; since I have no children handy to test this on, I can’t say. Still, they’d be better off watching Disney’s version again, or, barring that, they might be more satisfied with similarly themed movies like ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS or GULLIVER’S TRAVELS BEYOND THE MOON. Still, I must admit that the child in me liked the giant space crabs.

 

Planets Against Us (1962)

PLANETS AGAINST US (1962)
aka I Pianeti conto di noi
Article 1907 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-4-2006
Posting Date: 11-1-2006
Directed by Romano Ferrara
Featuring Michel Lemoine, Maria Pia Luzi, Jany Clair

A series of missile launches are sabotaged and the same man is spotted at all the locations. However, the locations are scattered across the world, and the time between the launches were just minutes apart. Authorities identify the man as the son of a noted scientist whose body was never found after he supposedly died in a plane crash. They begin to suspect that he is part of an alien invasion.

Given the year of the movie and the fact that the main title in IMDB is in Italian, you can forgive me for suspecting that I was about to see another of Antonio Margheriti’s forays into science fiction. Such is not the case; this Italian/French/West German coproduction was directed by Romano Ferrara. It is in black and white, and remains earthbound throughout its running time. I found it much easier to follow than one of Margheriti’s SF movies, though I do find it somewhat unfocused in its story, and as a result, a little confusing at times. It’s also a little predictable at times; once the movie establishes that what is happening is part of an invasion from outer space, it will come as no surprise to find out that the other aliens also look like the scientist’s son. Still, the movie has nice touches to it, is rather atmospheric, and features a good performance by Michel Lamoine as the primary alien visitor (in fact, as all the alien visitors) who goes by the somewhat incongruous name of “Bronco”; his facial expressions are very effective. Odd scenes here and there help to hold up the interest level; a scene where the alien walks through a group of children with his hands held high in the air (he can kill with a touch) is rather striking, and so is a scene towards the end where he briefly emerges from his outer shell. I enjoyed this one somewhat more than I expected I would.

Phantom FX-18 (1965)

PHANTOM FX-18 (1965)
aka The Exterminators, Coplan FX 18, Coplan FX 18 casse tout
Article 1904 by Dave Sndelar
Viewing Date: 6-1-2006
Posting Date: 10-29-2006
Directed by Riccardo Freda
Featuring Richard Wyler, Robert Manuel, Jany Clair

Some good guy spies do battle with evildoers.

If you’re saying “What gives?” with that lame plot description, I can only say that’s the best I can do with a French/Italian Eurospy movie dubbed into German without subtitles. The fact that it seems to have been fairly well dubbed into German (for the most part) does little to console me, I’m afraid. Still, I can’t exactly say I haven’t been in this situation before.

Of course, the fact that the movie is a James Bond style spy flick does make for interesting viewing. Since action sequences are the heart of this type of movie, and since action sequences rarely demand dialogue to be understood, the action scenes work best in this format. Some of them are quite memorable; a scene where two spies find themselves threatened by a steam shovel is quite memorable, and there are some decent chase scenes. On the down side, I find some of these spy flicks hard to follow even when they’re in English, so it should be no wonder that from a plot perspective, I spent most of the movie in a fog. The fantastic content probably involves a little gadgetry here and there, and the finale does involve a nuclear missile to some extent (at least I see a missile and hear someone mention Hiroshima). Actually, it looks like one of the better Eurospy movies out there, but that’s just a shot in the dark.

Oh, and the four titles? Usually, the main title I choose for the movie is the one that actually appears on the print. The other titles usually indicate the title under which I first added the movie to my hunt list, the title under which I purchased the movie, and the primary title given the movie by IMDB. In this case, I added THE EXTERMINATORS to my hunt list, IMDB listed it as COPLAN FX 18 CASSE TOUT, I purchased it under COPLAN FX 18, and the title on my print was PHANTOM FX-18. It just goes to show you have to keep on your toes when hunting for these types of movies.

Prince of Space (1959)

PRINCE OF SPACE (1959)
aka Ysei Oji
Article 1881 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-9-2006
Posting Date: 10-6-2006
Directed by Ejiro Wakabayashi
Featuring Tatsuo Umemiya, Ushio Skashi, Joji Oka

Phantom of the planet Krankor plans to take over the Earth, but he finds opposition in the form of a superhero named Prince of Space.

If you’re looking for serious science fiction thrills – look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for a confusing but unintentionally hilarious clone of the Starman movies, here’s your cup of tea. Sure, Starman has the edge in the -uh – department of enhancements, but Prince of Space gets to mention repeatedly how guns won’t work against him; the movie is either cobbled together from episodes of a TV series, or was written for people with no short term memory. And if he doesn’t trip your trigger, there’s always Phantom of Krankor to keep you amused; his melodic laugh will no doubt linger in your memory for weeks. I do wonder if “Underdog” got any inspiration for this; the alter ego of Prince of Space is Wally the Shoeshine Boy. Then there’s the little kids with the short pants and the slow-moving giant of Krankor. I won’t tell you to forget the plot; the movie is incoherent enough that remembering the plot shouldn’t become an issue at all. Still, when it comes to this type of entertainment, give me EVIL BRAIN FROM OUTER SPACE any day; the beak-nosed cronies of Krankor simply don’t compete with atomic mimes.

Psychic Killer (1975)

PSYCHIC KILLER (1975)
Article 1821 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-10-2006
Posting Date: 8-7-2006
Directed by Ray Danton
Featuring Paul Burke, Jim Hutton, Julie Adams

A man who has been unjustly sent to a mental institution for murder discovers the secret of astral projection. When he is released, he uses the power to cause the deaths of those who wronged him.

This movie has an promising premise (murder by astral projection), an interesting cast (which features Jim Hutton, Julie Adams, Neville Brand, Rod Cameron and Whit Bissell), and poses an intriguing question; even if the police know who is guilty of the bizarre and seemingly accidental deaths that have occurred, how can they prove it? The first part of the movie at the mental institution is the best part; unfortunately, once the inmate is released and the deaths begin, the movie takes a nosedive. Its main problem is the way it handles the murders. Though I understand the reasoning behind making each of the victims an unpleasant character so that the viewer is glad to see them offed, this movie makes them so over-the-top in their unpleasantness that the movie turns inadvertently comic during the scary scenes, and since the rest of the movie is taking itself rather seriously, it undermines the movie’s impact. Some of the dialogue is quite bad as well, and the police figure out the culprit far too easily. Ultimately, it’s a failure, but not an uninteresting one.

Psychomania (1971)

PSYCHOMANIA (1971)
Article #1774 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-22-2006
Posting Date: 6-21-2006
Directed by Don Sharp
Featuring Nicky Henson, Beryl Reid, George Sanders

A young member of a motorcycle gang discovers the secret of eternal life and invincibility, and kills himself with the intent of rising from the dead. He does so, and convinces his fellow motorcyclists to do likeways. They then go on a rampage.

The opening credits of this movie roll while we see slow motion images of the motorcyclists riding through a grassy area populated with large stones. This sequence is incredibly eerie. The rest of the movie doesn’t live up to it, but that doesn’t make the movie a waste of time. The sheer strangeness of the story makes it somewhat watchable, as do the presence of Beryl Reid and George Sanders (in one of his last movie roles before he committed suicide). For a movie that features a motorcycle gang going on a violent homicidal rampage, it’s surprisingly subdued and bloodless. In fact, much of it is played as comedy, especially the sequences where the motorcycle gang members commit suicide. Somehow, it all has to do with deals with the devil, frogs, and a strange mirror locked in a room in a mansion. There are some clever scenes; in particular, I like the scene where the police set a trap for the cyclists, in which the set-up and final results are told by a roving camera that pans across the room in such a way that you get to see none of the middle action. It doesn’t quite all hold up, but it made for interesting viewing. Doctor Who fans should keep their eyes peeled for John (Sergeant Benton) Levene as a constable.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

PLANET OF THE APES (1968)
Article #1773 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-21-2006
Posting Date: 6-20-2006
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Featuring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter

When several astronauts crash-land on a planet, they find themselves in a world where apes are the dominant species.

Though I like the whole “Planet of the Apes” movie cycle, when it comes right down to it, this is the only one that really matters. It is, at heart, a satire on the faith vs. science controversy that surrounds evolution, but it drives its points home by reversing the species and putting an intelligent man in the position of the lower animal on the scale, and, as a result, also becomes about the inhuman treatment of animals. The acting is fine from all concerned, the Jerry Goldsmith score (which occasionally even mimics the sound of simians) is excellent, and the ape makeup is outstanding; they would cheapen the process in the later films of the series, and it showed. Still, there are a few problems. I’ve never quite reconciled the fact that the apes are experimenting with brain surgery and have high-powered guns while living in what seems to be a relatively primitive environment (horse, stone buildings) that would seem to contradict their ability to manufacture such items (the test footage with Edward G. Robinson indicates that the original conceptions were somewhat different), and the sense of humor is forced, in particular the “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” gag feels contrived (though it was nice to finally see the whole thing in widescreen). Still, the movie has earned its classic status and still holds up very well today. And, even if you already know the ending (and who doesn’t?), it’s still a great one.