Plus moche que Frankenstein tu meurs (1975)

aka Frankenstein: Italian Style, Frankenstein all’italiana
Article 3916 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-24-2012
Posting Date: 5-4-2012
Directed by Armando Crispino
Featuring Gianrico Tedeschi, Aldo Maccione, Jenny Tamburi
Country: Italy
What it is: Frankenstein sex comedy

Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster who has an eye for the women… including the doctor’s own spouse.

My copy of this Italian movie was dubbed into French and has no English subtitles. Yet, even with these handicaps, it seemed patently obvious to me that this movie was primarily inspired by YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, only sexed up, with dumber gags, and minus the stylistic emulation of the old Universal classics that gave its model that extra needed touch. I can also say that if the verbal humor of this movie is on the same level as the visual humor, then it may well have been a blessing not to have seen it in English. Visually, the gags are painfully obvious and badly timed; the only thing that brought a smile to my face was a gag involving the monster fixing Igor’s hump. And for those drawn to this movie for the sex and nudity, I can only say that unless there’s a sexier version of it out there (or a more complete one, as my copy is short about three minutes), then you’re likely to walk away from this feeling short-changed. So it comes down to the fact that from whatever angle you may be attracted to this movie, there are lots of other better choices out there.

Philadelphia Experiment II (1993)

Article 3906 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-14-2012
Posting Date: 4-24-2012
Directed by Stephen Cornwell
Featuring Brad Johnson, Marjean Holden, Gerrit Graham
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction time travel movie

When an attempt is made to revive and enhance the original Philadelphia Experiment, the lone survivor of the first one is thrust into a parallel reality where the USA lost World War II to Hitler, due to the anomalous appearance of a stealth fighter from the future. Can the hero escape the fascist regime, go back in time, change history, and return in time to give his son the confidence he needs to win his first game in a Little League tournament?

For the second time in a row, I find myself watching a movie that deals with time travel, alternate realities, and paradoxes involving a character’s voyage back into time only to have his father killed before he was born. But instead of the witty and amusing foray into the genre that I KILLED EINSTEIN, GENTLEMEN was, this is a rather predictable, ponderous and rather dull action take on the subject, with an unbelievable plot, too much slo-mo in the action sequences, and weak dialogue. There’s a few touches I like; the people have bar codes tattooed on their arms, and I like the sequence where Gerrit Graham has the music changed on a propaganda film from classical music to country. I found Brad Johnson to be a rather dull action hero; another actor played his role in the original film (which I’ve not seen), and I’m willing to bet the original was better. At any rate, if they had any ideas of extending the whole thing into a franchise, this one killed it off.

The Phantom Baron (1943)

aka Le baron fantome
Article 3901 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-9-2012
Posting Date: 4-19-2012
Directed by Serge de Poligny
Featuring Andre Lefaur, Odette Joyeux, Jany Holt
Country: France
What it is: Gothic romantic drama

When a baron mysteriously disappears with all his worldly belongings, his heirs are left to fend for themselves. Eventually, a romantic entanglement occurs between a woman of the baron’s family, her servant, a dashing soldier, and the son of the old caretaker of the castle.

As you may gather from the above plot description, this isn’t a horror movie, despite the title. But that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of horror atmosphere; the beginning sequence, in which the scared caretaker of the castle narrates the story of the disappearance of the baron and his property is full of eerie touches, especially in a sequence where the sleepwalking baron walks off with a statue. But except for this scene and a later sequence (where we discover the fate of the baron), it’s a romantic drama of sorts. The dialogue was written by Jean Cocteau (who also plays the baron), and there are moments of poetic imagery here, especially in another sleepwalking sequence later on. The story has some odd twists and turns in it, especially in the way it becomes entwined with a fake dauphin (played memorably by Andre Lefaur), but I wouldn’t call it particularly gripping. Still, I think any horror fan would at least enjoy the first ten minutes of the movie.

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.