The Projectionist (1971)

THE PROJECTIONIST (1971)
Article 3613 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-21-2011
Posting Date: 7-6-2011
Directed by Harry Hurwitz
Featuring Chuck McCann, Ina Balin, Rodney Dangerfield
Country: USA
What it is: Odd art film with fantasy overtones

A projectionist imagines himself as a superhero named Captain Flash as he goes through his daily activities.

In a sense, there’s no way to adequately describe this mixture of slapstick comedy, bittersweet slice-of-life, and cutting satire. In fact, I might even argue that it doesn’t work as a whole; the satire in particular seems out of place with the rest of the movie. Yet, I found myself loving this odd little film, maybe because the main character (and the movie itself) has such an endearing love for old movies that I find myself entranced by it. There’s a massive amount of footage from the classics in here, some of which our projectionist hero interacts with; just as a sampling, there a scenes from CASABLANCA, GUNGA DIN, FLASH GORDON, the Charlie Chaplin short HIS PREHISTORIC PAST, and EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS. There’s a couple of fake movie trailers for THE TERRIBLE WORLD OF TOMORROW and THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF TOMORROW, and the movie opens with GERALD MCBOING-BOING’S SYMPHONY breaking in the projector. The projectionist himself is such a likable guy that we even forgive him the fact that his story about his encounter with a beautiful woman is a lie; even though this footage works in a much more realistic mode than the super-hero footage, it too is in black and white. Rodney Dangerfield fans will probably be disappointed; he plays a straight role as the dictatorial theater manager, and though he also appears as the villain in the super-hero sequences, it’s a far cry from his usual shtick. The movie eventually turns in on itself, but anyone who notices the movie that is listed on the marquee when the projectionist leaves the theater will see that coming. The movie is certainly not for everybody, but I suspect that you won’t have to watch much of it before you know whether it’s for you or not.

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Paranoia (1969)

PARANOIA (1969)
aka Orgasmo

Article 3601 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-9-2011
Posting Date: 6-24-2011
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Carroll Baker, Lou Castel, Colette Descombes
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Giallo

A rich widow moves to Europe and gets into an affair with a down-on-his-luck man. However, the man has a sister… and the two of them are not quite sane…

For the record, I will give the movie some points for keeping under wraps just what kind of story it is, so a number of the twists in the second half of the movie do actually come as surprises. Unfortunately, for the most part it’s one of those movies that’s about an unhappy, fragile woman being tormented, which is a concept I’ve never enjoyed all that much. Furthermore, it’s one of those movies where all of the characters are unpleasant and unlikable (including the tormented woman), and so I find myself spending a lot of time just wishing the movie would finish up and be done with it. It’s not near as sexy as the alternate title would lead you to believe, but it wasn’t really until the seventies that movies like this would get really permissive. And I could really do without the deus ex machina ending. In short, it’s passable and has its moments, but I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable.

Paracelsus (1945)

PARACELSUS (1945)
Article 3595 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-1-2011
Posting Date: 6-18-2011
Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Featuring Werner Krauss, Harry Langewisch, Annelies Reinhold
Country: Germany
What it is: Biopic

A doctor who uses new methods of treatment runs into resistance from the establishment.

Though it’s nice that I was able to salvage this title from the “ones that got away” list, I have to admit that the fact that my copy is in unsubtitled German renders the movie almost unintelligible to me; what I have of the plot is based on other descriptions. As stated above, it is a biopic, but the fantastic content consists of one very striking moment when Death appears, whose scythe is deflected by the sword of Paracelsus. There are other interesting moments here, as the movie uses music and dance in very effective ways; between a bizarre dance in a tavern and a march of singing men flogging themselves, I really wish I knew what was going on enough to know the significance of the events. At least my inability to follow the story and the dialogue spares me the Nazi propaganda that no doubt is present. Nevertheless, I really wished that I could have followed this one.

The People (1972)

THE PEOPLE (1972)
TV-Movie

Article 3575 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-9-2011
Posting Date: 5-29-2011
Directed by John Korty
Featuring Kim Darby, William Shatner, Diane Varsi
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction drama

A schoolteacher goes to work at an isolated farm community where the residents are sullen and strange and children live joyless lives. As she tries to get her students to open up, she discovers that the people here have a great secret… and have powers that are definitely inhuman.

Of the many TV-Movies that served as unsold TV series pilots, this is one that I really wished had made it to a series. Of course, that is based on the hope that the scripts would retain the sensitivity and the sincerity of this TV-Movie. The story was based on a series of books by Zenna Henderson; I’ve not read any of them, but this movie has definitely piqued my interest. Pretty much every review gives away the basic premise, but I’ve decided not to give it away. Suffice it to say that the heart of the story lies in explaining the reasons for the sullenness and joylessness of the people and why they choose to live in isolation; the reasons are good ones, and the whole movie is quite moving. William Shatner is at his least hammy in this one, and though Kim Darby’s character as the teacher takes some getting used to, she ends up doing fine as well.

Pursuit (1972)

PURSUIT (1972)
TV-Movie

Article 3563 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-24-2011
Posting Date: 5-17-2011
Directed by Michael Crichton
Featuring Ben Gazzara, E.G. Marshall, William Windom
Country: USA
What it is: Suspense thriller

A government agent is on the trail of an extremist whose recent activities have made him an object of suspicion. The agent discovers that the extremist has managed to acquire information about a military secret weapon, and has also acquired information about the agent’s personality profile, which means the extremist knows he’s being watched and plans to use what he knows about the agent to further his plans.

For the second day in a row I’m watching a movie that features as one of its plot elements an attempted assassination of a president, but the two movies couldn’t be further apart. Whereas yesterday’s movie was a dark and subversive satire with a definite political agenda, this one is more of a conventional thriller and keeps political views out of the mix; in fact, the extremist makes it clear early on that he considers both political parties to be equally evil, and we never learn precisely what policies he objects to. The emphasis here is clearly on the cat-and-mouse game between the agent and the extremist. The most interesting aspect of this one is that the extremist has access to the psychological profile of the agent, and builds his plot around trying to predict what the agent is going to do to prevent it and using it as a tool to further his ends. Though the movie could have gone further with this, it does make for an interesting idea. Some of the plot revolves around a nerve gas which I assume is a science fiction aspect rather than a real entity. Overall, it’s not a bad little thriller and it has a good cast. It was also Michael Crichton’s directorial debut.

Prehistoric Poultry (1916)

PREHISTORIC POULTRY (1916)
Animated Short
Article 3537 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-27-2011
Posting Date: 4-21-2001
Directed by Willis H. O’Brien
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Early stop-motion animation

A chicken takes sides in a duel between two caveman.

The appeal here is primarily the stop-motion animation of the various characters; two cavemen, a cavewoman, a dinosaur and a dinornis, which is a prehistoric chicken. It’s certainly not the plot, but when you’re talking about a movie that’s only three minutes long, I guess that’s to be expected. All in all, a minor historical item from the oeuvre of a pioneer special effects master.

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.