Prophecy (1979)

PROPHECY (1979)
Article 2749 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-15-2008
Posting Date: 2-21-2009
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Featuring Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante
Country: USA

Pollution has resulted in a giant mutant killer bear terrorizing the forests of Maine.

Had I been old enough to see and appreciate the sixties works of John Frankenheimer at the time they were made, I would have considered him one of the finest directors at work and anticipated an illustrious career. And how I would have been disappointed at how forgettable much of his later work would turn out to be. For me, the biggest disappointment of this movie was in seeing how ordinary it was in comparison with THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE; here, it seems like he is doing little more than pulling in a paycheck. It’s far from his worst movie (remember THE EXTRAORDINARY SEAMAN?), but he does little to redeem the weak script, the obvious story (which overreaches by trying to cram too much social conscience into a story that doesn’t support it) and the cliched dialogue. The movie is almost entirely lacking in surprises, and when it should be kicking into high gear, it gets listless and tired. This is the second time I’ve seen the movie, and the only scene I remembered from the first time was when one character sticks his head out a tunnel to see if the monster is still there.

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The Phantom of Soho (1964)

THE PHANTOM OF SOHO (1964)
aka Das Phantom von Soho
Article 2748 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-14-2008
Posting Date: 2-20-2009
Directed by Franz Josef Gottlieb
Featuring Dieter Borsche, Barbara Rutting, Hans Sohnker
Country: West Germany

A knife-wielding maniac is killing patrons of a sleazy nightclub. However, the victims have more in common than just they’re having frequented the place…

Though my print isn’t in the best of quality, it’s properly letterboxed, surprisingly well-dubbed, and quite coherent. Considering this is one of the Edgar Wallace krimis West Germany was churning out in the early sixties, this is all quite surprising. It even has a plus in that the comic relief character is actually quite amusing and managed to get a few laughs out of me, also rare for the form. As a mystery, it’s not particularly challenging; you’ll quickly figure out the red herring and notice the character whose sole purpose in the story is to be unmasked at the end; I certainly wasn’t surprised. Nevertheless, this is one of the more entertaining and enjoyable krimis out there, and it even has a few effective stylistic touches to add to the mix. This is another good place to start for those who want to try out the form.

Pennies from Heaven (1936)

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1936)
Article 2729 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-26-2008
Posting Date: 2-1-2009
Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Featuring Bing Crosby, Madge Evans, Edith Fellows
Country: USA

A lute-playing convict is asked by a condemned murderer to deliver a letter to the family of the man he killed. When he does, he becomes involved in the fate of a young girl who is in danger of being sent to an orphanage.

This is a predictable musical drama; you know fairly early on just what’s going to happen at the end of the movie. This is not to say it isn’t enjoyable; though Bing Crosby’s likable and warm screen persona may not have been his real self, he projected it so well that it still works its magic, even to this day. Besides that, he was a great singer with a wonderful voice, and he’s not the only singing talent of note in the movie; Louis Armstrong is also on hand, and xylophonist Lionel Hampton is also part of his band. Donald Meek is also enjoyable as the grandfather, and you may want to keep your eyes open for a cameo from Syd Saylor. The fantastic content? At one point, the convict, the daughter and the grandfather move in to a reputedly haunted house. Of course it isn’t really haunted, but they decide to turn it into a nightclub that retains the ‘haunted’ theme. This gives us the highlight of the movie – Louis Armstrong and his band doing a wonderful performance of the song “Skeleton in the Closet”, with a suitably spooky atmosphere and a dancing skeleton to boot. The horror content may be slight, but it’s satisfying and fun. As for the rest, it’s standard Hollywood hokum.

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936)

POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS SINDBAD THE SAILOR (1936)
Animated short
Article 2694 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-12-2008
Posting Date: 12-28-2008
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Lou Fleischer, Mae Questel
Country: USA

When his ship is wrecked and Olive Oyl is kidnapped by Sindbad the Sailor, Popeye must face Sindbad’s legion of monsters to reclaim her.

For me, the Popeye cartoons were at their best when they were being made by Dave Fleischer in the thirties. They reached an ambitious peak with three lengthy Arabian-Nights inspired shorts; this was the first one of them, the first Popeye cartoon in color, and arguably the best. It effectively combined humor, action, and scares. At fifteen minutes, it’s just getting started about the time most cartoons end, but it’s never dull and there’s always something fun going on. The animation is excellent, with special praise going to the breathtaking three-dimensional backgrounds. Jack Mercer’s hilarious muttering as Popeye is always a treat. A couple of monsters add to the fantastic content, with Popeye taking on a giant bird (a battle that ends with a great scene that I still remember from seeing the cartoon as a child) and a two-headed giant. This is one of the classic cartoons, and it’s wonderful to be able to cover some classic short cartoon animation for this series.

 

Puss ‘n’ Boots (1961)

PUSS ‘N’ BOOTS (1961)
aka El Gato con botas
Article 2686 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-4-2008
Posting Date: 12-20-2008
Directed by Roberto Rodriguez and Manuel San Fernando
Featuring Sananton, Antonio Raxel, Humberto Dupeyron
Country: Mexico

A lowly shepherd seeks a way to defeat an ogre that is terrorizing the kingdom in the hopes that by doing so, he will be allowed to marry the princess. When he encounters Mother Time, he is given several pieces of clothing to be worn by the hero who will save the land. They’re too small for him, but they fit his cat, who magically transforms into Puss ‘n’ Boots. And then…

It’s Mexican Moppet Movie Madness time once again. We’ve been there before with SANTA CLAUS and LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, and, like those, what we have here is a frantic fever dream with songs, overly dosed with caffeine and sugar, replete with talking trees, a whip-wielding henchman, wicked stepbrothers, evil ogres and their stupid sons, giant talking roosters, and sheep. One rule in these movies – whenever the non-human characters start singing, run for the hills. Puss ‘n’ Boots seems deliriously incompetent; he makes three disastrous attempts to find food for the starving royal family, and he only manages to defeat the ogre by thinking of his own appetite. Throw in a scene where the cat decides to solve the hunger problem by having a newly made (non-human) friend volunteer to be butchered by the king’s cooks, a subplot that leads to a plot point about cannibalism, and you’ll get an idea of what to expect. Proceed at your own risk.

 

Percy (1971)

PERCY (1971)
Article 2677 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-26-2008
Posting Date: 12-11-2008
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Featuring Hywel Bennett, Denholm Elliott, Elke Sommer
Country: UK

A man becomes the recipient of the first penis transplant in history, and becomes obsessed with finding the donor.

I have to admit that this movie surprised me. It’s not because it’s good, mind you (it’s so-so at best), but rather, it’s because it actually does aspire to be something more than an exploitation piece (which is something I can’t say about THE AMAZING TRANSPLANT, which deals with the same subject matter). I initially thought it odd that the theme song for this movie was the plaintive “God’s Children”; if I remember correctly, they wanted Ray Davies to write a funny song about transplants and instead got this gentle anti-transplant song instead. However, it almost seems that the movie takes the song’s lead; in the end, the attention, the fame, and the women does nothing for our hero, as he ends up believing in the value of a single monogamous relationship. In short, the movie has an unexpected serious side. Still, the movie is fairly weak; most of the laughs consist of repetitive double entendres, and the pace is quite sluggish at times. Still, I do have a bit of fondness for the music by the Kinks that appears on the soundtrack, and I’m sure any fan of their music will recognize the melody that is used for the background music during the sequence when the transplant is “tested” for the first time.

 

Psycho Sisters (1974)

PSYCHO SISTERS (1974)
aka So Evil, My Sister
Article 2643 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-1-2008
Posting Date: 11-7-2008
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Featuring Susan Strasberg, Faith Domergue, John Ashton
Country: USA

When her husband dies in a car accident, a woman decides to stay with her sister, who secretly spikes her coffee with pills and keeps an axe-wielding simpleton with a record of homicides as a handyman. The widow has nightmares and meets a surfer who is actually an undercover cop.

If you want to see a fifty-year old Faith Domergue take a shower, or if you want to see Susan Strasberg in a swimsuit, or if you want to see the goofiest mask of a man burned in a car wreck ever, this is the movie for you. If you want a story that makes sense and in which the plot twists seem clever and not at all contrived, this is one to avoid. Still, since this was Reginald Le Borg’s last movie, it has a little curiosity value, though it’s perhaps his weakest directorial effort (unless you count HOUSE OF THE BLACK DEATH, in which he did some uncredited direction, but when one of the other directors is Jerry Warren, I find it hard to put the blame on Le Borg). Even with this one, I put more of the blame on the script by Tony Crechales, who also gave us BLOOD MANIA; quite frankly, this movie dredges up some of the dumbest plot twists I’ve ever seen in a movie.