The Prey (1984)

THE PREY (1984)
Article 3530 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-20-2011
Posting Date: 4-14-2011
Directed by Edwin Brown
Featuring Debbie Thureson, Steve Bond, Lori Lethin
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher film

Teens go out to woods. Maniacal killer lives there. Teens meet maniacal killer. Carnage ensues.

Let’s see… poor acting… threadbare plot… rotten script… token name actor Jackie Coogan in cameo that opens with him flushing the toilet… plot mostly involves teens having sex… movie gets hijacked by a thirty-minute backstory that mostly involves gypsies having sex… movie sets itself up for a sequel that never happened… director’s other films mostly have titles like A THOUSAND AND ONE EROTIC NIGHTS and HOTTEST PARTIES… tagline was “It’s not human, and it’s got an axe!”… tagline not particularly accurate, as it is human and only uses an axe once…

Conclusion: This is one of those movies that amply demonstrates why slasher films don’t get that much respect.

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La Police en l’an 2000 (1910)

LA POLICE EN L’AN 2000 (1910)
aka Police of the Future
Article 3506 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-24-2011
Posting Date: 3-21-2011
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Science fiction comedy

IN the year 2000, policemen nab criminals with the help of their flying machine.

This one is pretty amusing. In order to nab the criminals, the police observe them from their flying craft with telescopes and binoculars, and then use long poles with hooks on the end to grab the criminals, haul them up to the flying craft, and dump them in a cell. They even do some dog-catching on the side, as they grab a stray dog eating sausages. Or maybe this was to prevent him from becoming a cannibal, considering how many dogs-into sausages movies were made in the early silent era. It looks like the real world has yet to catch up with this idea.

The Phantom Thief (1946)

THE PHANTOM THIEF (1946)
Article 3470 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-8-2011
Posting Date: 2-13-2011
Directed by D. Ross Lederman
Featuring Chester Morris, Jeff Donnell, Richard Lane
Country: USA
What it is: Boston Blackie mystery

Boston Blackie’s sidekick, the Runt, gets caught up in a jewel thievery while helping out an old friend. In attempting to sort out the problem, Blackie encounters a phony spiritualist, and then gets caught up in a murder.

I haven’t encountered Boston Blackie yet for this series, despite the fact that the character appeared in quite a number of movies; I’m assuming that most of them are utterly devoid of fantastic touches, with this one being an exception. This one features a couple of seances, with all of the usual accoutrements you’ve come to expect from them; the final scenes involve calling back someone from the dead to finger her murderer. It’s an entertaining and efficient B-Movie, though the comic relief is definitely a matter of taste; the cowardly antics of Blackie’s sidekick become particularly tiresome. I don’t know if and when I’ll be encountering Boston Blackie again, but if I do, I’ll probably get a better feel for the whole series.

Prey (1978)

PREY (1978)
aka Alien Prey
Article 3422 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-17-2010
Posting Date: 12-27-2010
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Featuring Barry Stokes, Sally Faulkner, Glory Annen
Country: UK
What it is: Science fiction and exploitation

Two lesbians allow a wandering stranger to spend a few days at their isolated country home unaware that he is actually a murderous alien humanoid.

If the IMDB ratings are to be given any credence, this is Norman J. Warren’s best movie. Maybe it is; it’s better than the pointless OUTER TOUCH and the mostly dull SATAN’S SLAVE, the only other two movies of his I’ve seen. On the plus side, it has a pretty bizarre premise, it does more with the lesbian angle than just throw in some softcore sex (though it’s not above that by any means), and at least it doesn’t feel like a rehash of something else. It does feel contrived, however; the lesbian soap opera of the two women (one of whom is domineering and possibly insane) and the alien’s mission to study humanity to discover if they’re suitable (you’ll find out for what at the end, but you won’t be surprised) never really combine into a whole, and the movie feels forced. Furthermore, there are some really tiresome scenes (the endless slow-motion sequence where the women try to rescue the alien from drowning in a muddy lake comes to mind), and the characters, not very pleasant to begin with, just get worse as the movie continues. I suspect the movie was originally conceived as straight exploitation with the science fiction angle tossed in at the last minute. Just because it’s Warren’s best movie doesn’t mean it’s good.

Possession (1973)

POSSESSION (1973)
Episode of British TV show “Thriller”
Article 3414 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-7-2010
Posting Date: 12-19-2010
Directed by John Cooper
Featuring John Carson, Joanna Dunham, Hilary Hardiman
Country: UK
What it is: Supernatural possesseion thriller…or is it?

A couple moves into a house that was the site of a murder twenty years earlier. The husband begins exhibiting behavior like that of the killer from that time. Could he be possessed…?

I do have to admire the efficiency with which this movie establishes its premise; before five minutes are up, you have a good grasp of the basic situation, a handle on the main characters, and a strong sense of where the story is going. On the down side, it’s also quite apparent that the story is made of some very familiar concepts indeed; I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve run into the premise of a couple moving into a house that was the site of a murder, the husband overjoyed, the woman nervous and apprehensive. The title gives you a further hint of the direction of the story, and the addition of a spiritual medium further adds to the familiarity of it all. Nevertheless, the movie does have an interesting twist or two up its sleeve, and I have to admit that I more or less like this one. Also, despite the fact that this is one of those movies where you suspect the supernatural elements will be explained away, the ending does leave some of them squarely in place. Not a bad entry in this series.

Point of Terror (1971)

POINT OF TERROR (1971)
Article 3412 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-5-2010
Posting Date: 12-17-2010
Directed by Alex Nicol
Featuring Peter Carpenter, Dyanne Thorne, Lory Hansen
Country: USA
What it is: Overheated Soap Opera

A sexy male lounge singer hooks up with the wife of a record company owner in the hope of using the connection to land a record contract. However, he soon finds himself entangled in murder and intrigue.

I found this movie on a set called “Horrible Horror”, which, given this movie, is a slightly inaccurate title. Not that the movie isn’t horrible; quite frankly, it’s atrocious. It is, however, not really a horror movie. Apparently, the advertising emphasized a masked madman killing a woman with a butcher knife. Make no mistake; the scene appears in the movie, but unless it’s a metaphor for something that escapes me at the moment, it has precisely nothing to do with anything else in the movie, and may just be a figment of someone’s imagination. That scene provides a smidgen of horror content, and the end of the movie has a twist that also adds a little more, but with the first scene being arbitrarily gratuitous and the other being the height of cliched stupidity, I’m ready to disqualify the movie on bad script choices alone. Still, this is one of those movies where the dialogue is so silly, the action sequences so ridiculous, the music so awful, and the plot so overheated that the movie nets a fair share of laughs during its running time. You’ll get the most mileage out of it if you watch it as an inadvertent comedy.

Phase IV (1974)

PHASE IV (1974)
Article 3411 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-4-2010
Posting Date: 12-16-2010
Directed by Saul Bass
Featuring Michael Murphy, Nigel Davenport, Lynne Frederick
Country: USA
What it is: Mystical science fiction war thriller

Two scientists go to Arizona to study ants whose behavior has begun exhibiting very unusual signs. However, they soon find themselves fighting for their survival against a deadly and intelligent foe…

How do you stage an epic war thriller when your cast only consists of six people? Well, if one of the sides consists of a non-human species, you’re on the right track. And if this movie works as a war thriller at all, credit must go to Ken Middleham, the man who shot the ant sequences here (as well as the insect sequences in BUG and THE HELLSTROM CHRONICLE); these sequences are chillingly effective, at least partially because you feel you can see the ants thinking, working out strategies, and waging a complex campaign against their human adversaries. After a while, the ants feel like the heroes; when you see a succession of ants on a suicide mission to drag a lump of poison to their queen so she can use it to develop ants who will be resistant to it, or the scene where an ant tries to take out an air conditioner guarded by a preying mantis, the effect is indeed like an epic war thriller. Still, as stunning as these scenes are, the movie does have a problem; it tries to delve into a mysticism (especially towards the end of the movie) that doesn’t quite work. One senses that the movie is missing something, and if director Saul Bass is to be believed, there was some studio tampering going on. Nevertheless, I’m willing to forgive its failings because its strengths are are so great; the movie is chilling, fascinating, and highly recommended.