Per amore… per magia… (1967)

aka For Love… For Magic
Article 3858 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-27-2012
Posting Date: 3-7-2012
Directed by Duccio Tessari
Featuring Gianni Morandi, Rosemary Dexter, Mischa Auer
Country: Italy
What it is: Arabian Nights musical comedy

A young thief named Aladino comes by a magic lamp with a genie, and it changes his fortunes so he can meet a beautiful princess.

If I had known ahead of time I was about to watch an undubbed, unsubtitled Italian musical comedy version of the story of Aladdin with a rating of 4.9 on IMDB, I would have braced myself for the worst. Yet, oddly enough, the various elements actually seemed to make it balance out for me; because the movie was based on a familiar story, I was able to more or less follow it, and because it was a musical, it emphasized energy, movement, choreography, and singing, all of which can be enjoyed whether you understand the language of the movie or not. However, the best thing about it for me was how often it managed to find creative and witty ways to stage the various scenes; it was really nice to see a version of this story that did something different with the various plot points in the story (my favorite moment has Aladdin discovering the power of the lamp by trying to use it to scratch an itch on his back). There’s also some very odd touches here; it’s probably the only Arabian Nights story that features a talking penguin as a central character. So, despite that very weak rating on IMDB, I really found myself charmed and intrigued by the movie. Besides, I like Mischa Auer as well.


Private Parts (1972)

Article 3854 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-22-2012
Posting Date: 3-3-2012
Directed by Paul Bartel
Featuring Ayn Ruymen, Lucille Benson, John Ventantonio
Country: USA
What it is: Very black comedy

A runaway teenage girl takes refuge in a hotel run by her aunt. Some of the residents of the hotel are very eccentric, and some have even deeper problems… including a photographer with some very strange sexual hangups. Unfortunately, the girl is a little too curious about sex herself. And there’s also a murderer on the premises…

This is definitely one of the sicker movies I’ve encountered for this series, but I find its sickness more along the lines of “weirdly fascinating” rather than “repellent”. I think what makes it work is that it gradually works up to some of its more outrageous revelations; the movie has a bizarre surprise around every corner. It’s directed by cult figure Paul Bartel, who is perhaps best known for giving us EATING RAOUL and DEATH RACE 2000. It’s definitely not for the kiddies and will probably best appeal to those with a taste for the twisted. My biggest problem with the movie is the final twist; it’s out of left field, and I’m still not sure whether the movie adequately prepares you for it. Perhaps the most curious detail in the movie is that one character blurts out the title of a Scorsese film two years before it was made, a fact that becomes even more curious when I discovered that the same title was also that of a an episode of “The Brady Bunch”. Sometimes I’m a little amazed at the directions some of these movies take me.

Play It Again, Sam (1972)

Article 3852 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-20-2012
Posting Date: 3-1-2012
Directed by Herbert Ross
Featuring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy

A neurotic, devastated by his recent divorce, tries to recover by with the help of his best friend and the ghost of Humphrey Bogart. However, he soon discovers that the woman he really loves is his best friend’s wife.

In some ways, I find the fantastic content pretty iffy in this movie; I don’t think it’s really the ghost of Humphrey Bogart that appears, but rather the main character’s projection of Bogart’s image. That being said, this is a fairly solid Woody Allen movie, not directed by him, but starring and having been written by him. I saw it many years ago when I was young, but I couldn’t appreciate it then; nowadays, it works a lot better for me because I can understand the appeal of his neurotic obsessions. Jerry Lacy does a nifty impersonation of Bogart, and Diane Keaton is quite appealing as the object of Allan’s affections (and I just realized when writing this that it was a handy for Allen to be playing a character named Allan, because I didn’t have to worry about the spelling). It’s not my favorite of Allen’s pre-ANNIE HALL movies (that would be LOVE AND DEATH), but it’s very good, and somewhat more focused than some of his more slapstick-oriented movies.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Article 3846 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-14-2012
Posting Date: 2-24-2012
Directed by Peter Weir
Featuring Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse
Country: Australia
What it is: A puzzle and a tragedy

During a picnic to a natural landmark called Hanging Rock, several girls and a governess vanish without a trace.

Is it a horror movie? If you’re expecting monsters, gore, and violence, then no, it isn’t. But if you’re expecting encounters with the inexplicable, then it is. I’ll tell you at the outset that no explanation is ever found for the disappearance of the girls and the governess, but I don’t see that as a spoiler; the movie isn’t really about the solving of a mystery, but rather it’s about how the lack of any solution impacts all those connected with the girls and the disappearance. There are hints that something unearthly has happened to them, and even if the movie doesn’t make clear exactly what has happened, there is a sense of real dread that grows out of the sexual repression of the era. That repression plays a big role in the proceedings; there are two characters who potentially might know what actually happened, but if they did, they wouldn’t be able to find a way to express it in this repressive world. It’s an art film in many ways, and it prefers subtlety and silence, but if you can respond to it, it’s a gripping and fascinating movie. It’s one of my very favorites.

The Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974)

aka Nosutoradamusu no daiyogen, The Last Days of Planet Earth
Article 3839 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-7-2012
Posting Date: 2-17-2012
Directed by Toshio Masuda
Featuring Tetsuro Tanba, Toshio Kurosawa, Kaoru Yumi
Country: Japan
What it is: Disaster movie

A professor believes that a recent rash of ecological disasters fits in with the prophecies of Nostradamus… and that the end of the world is at hand.

Just from the titles, I was expecting a documentary of some sort, albeit one from Japan rather than from Sunn Classics. Instead, it’s an attempt at the ultimate disaster movie. For the record, I’ve seen the full 114 minute version in Japanese with subtitles instead of the dubbed pan-and-scan version; I’ve not heard good things about the latter, and the movie’s low rating of 4.8 on IMDB is probably at least partially due to this other version. However, even uncut and letterboxed, this is no classic; it’s perhaps the preachiest movie I’ve ever seen and has its share of silly moments. Still, it has some good moments amid the sound, the fury, and the chatter. Two of the scenes take the disasters on a despairingly human level (a fisherman tries to commit suicide by walking into the sea after the fish have all been poisoned, and a prospective grandfather becomes enraged when his first grandchild is born with genetic deformities), and it’s hard not to be effected by these scenes. There’s also at least one startling special effects sequence in which the sky becomes a large mirror reflecting the surface of the earth. There’s also a memorable sequence in a cave in New Guinea that will probably stick in the memory. Other scenes are just bizarre, such as the scene where a bunch of motorcyclists drive over a cliff, and the attempts to attach these sequences to quotes from Nostradamus will often leave you scratching your head. All in all, it’s just way too heavy-handed to be truly effective, and you may want to prepare yourself for a real fake-out at the end of the movie.

A Place to Die (1972)

Feature-length episode of British TV Series “Thriller”
Article 3837 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-5-2012
Posting Date: 2-15-2012
Directed by Peter Jefferies
Featuring Bryan Marshall, Alexandra Hay, John Turner
Country: UK
What it is: Small town with a secret…

A doctor takes over a practice in a small community. His lovely wife, recovering from a foot injury, is greeted with joy by the community because she fits the description of a woman in an old superstition. Unfortunately, that means the wife is in deadly peril…

For the second day in a row, I’m watching a movie in which the heroine is saddled with a limp. In yesterday’s movie, it was there to up the suspense factor by making it difficult for her to escape from her pursuer; here, it’s the Maguffin that drives the direction of the plot. Now, I’ve seen a number of episodes from the British TV series “Thriller” for this series, and a good number of them have been very marginal in terms of their genre content. That’s not so with this one; it falls clearly into horror territory, and fits in well with any assortment of movies involving people moving to strange and hostile towns that harbor deep, dark secrets, though it’s nice in this one that the villagers react with a strange joy and generosity that is perhaps even more unsettling than simple hostility. There are some problems with story logic in this one; for example, if you were trying to get answers to questions about the town’s secrets, would you really question the town’s weirdest character who also happens to be a mute? Despite the clumsiness, this is nevertheless one of the better episodes of the series, and it does feel genuinely creepy on occasion.

Paper Man (1971)

PAPER MAN (1971)
Article 3835 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-3-2012
Posting Date: 2-13-2012
Directed by Walter Grauman
Featuring Dean Stockwell, Stefanie Powers, James Stacy
Country: USA
What it is: Thriller

Four students take advantage of a computer error that causes a credit card to be issued to a non-existent person named Henry Norman. When complications arise, they enlist the help of a computer expert to plant information about the non-existent man into a computer. But the non-existent man begins to take on a life of his own… and the deaths begin.

I remember the TV ads for this one; it looked a bit mysterious, but there was something about it that had the air that I would be disappointed by its fantastic content. Having watched it now, I know back then I would have been too young to appreciate it. However, that’s not to say that I’m totally thrilled by it now; it does have an intriguing premise, and the first two-thirds of the movie are fairly eerie, but I’m afraid I find the direction rather static and lifeless, and the script is uneven. The fantastic content has to do with the possibility of the computer actually creating a real entity from someone who only exists on paper, and though the movie eventually moves in things in a decidedly non-fantastic direction, it doesn’t quite let go of the fantastic content altogether; there’s one final twist before it’s all over. It’s interesting, if not quite successful.