Professor Zazul (1962)

PROFESSOR ZAZUL (1962)
aka The Mystery of Professor Zazul
Short
Article 3781 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-9-2011
Posting Date: 12-21-2011
Directed by Marek Nowicki and Jerzy Stawicki
Featuring Piotr Kurowski and Stanislaw Milski
Country: Poland
What it is: Intriguing enigma

A man wrecks his car and seeks help in the home of a mysterious professor who has a secret.

Here’s another movie I wish had English subtitles; it’s a fascinating little short that does some very interesting things with the flow of time and plays with dreams within dreams. I can’t quite figure it out, but the source where I found the movie says that robots play a part in the storyline, and that certainly seems likely at the point of a major revelation near the end of the movie. It’s based on a short story by Stanislaw Lem, and, like anything else I’ve seen that is based on his work, it makes me more and more interested in spending some time investigating his work. As it is, even though I couldn’t quite follow this short, I found it very interesting to look at throughout.

La poupee (1962)

LA POUPEE (1962)
aka The Doll
Article 3777 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-5-2011
Posting Date: 12-17-2011
Directed by Jacques Baratier
Featuring Zbigniew Cybulski, Sonne Teal, Claudio Gora
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Political satire

In a mythical South American country, a dictator is impersonated by a look-alike revolutionary while a robot/cyborg version of the dictator’s wife stirs up revolution.

Like yesterday’s movie, here’s another title that ended up on my “ones that got away” list, only to finally make its way into my hands so I could see it. And, like yesterday’s movie, there are no English titles, so I am limited in my ability to understand and discuss the movie. However, whereas yesterday’s movie left me feeling that I wouldn’t particularly be impressed even if it were in English, this one really has me yearning to know what’s going on. It’s obviously a satire, and there’s a surreal air to the proceedings, and it has a real sense of style. I’m not sure exactly how to describe the the doppelganger of the dictator’s wife; I’ve heard it described as either a robot or a cyborg, but it’s hard to make out which based on a purely visual take on the movie. One of the most interesting comparisons between yesterday’s movie and this one is this; whereas I went through most of yesterday’s movie feeling that Asta Nielsen looked like a female impersonator, I discovered that the person who plays the wife and the cyborg in this one was indeed a female impersonator… and I would have never guessed. Sometimes, this project gets very strange.

Pigs (1972)

PIGS (1972)
aka Daddy’s Deadly Darling
Article 3775 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-3-2011
Posting Date: 12-15-2011
Directed by Marc Lawrence
Featuring Toni Lawrence, Mark Lawrence, Jesse Vint
Country: USA
What it is: Psychos and hungry animals

A disturbed young woman (who killed her father after he raped her) escapes from an asylum and takes refuge in the cafe of a small town. The owner of the cafe has a secret; his pigs have become addicted to human flesh, and he has to keep them supplied with food. Can this end well?

Hey, this movie has something in common with the last four movies I’ve seen. Like NIGHT OF THE GHOUL, it has a scene where a woman keeps hunting for someone who is calling out “Help me! Help me!” (though I do need to point out that in the earlier movie, the scene had a purpose; here it’s a head-scratching question mark). Like GIRLY, it gives us multiple psychos in the same household. And like C.H.O.M.P.S, it’s an animal story, and come to think of it, C.H.O.M.P.S would be a good name for this one as well, given that it’s partially about the the dining habits of the pigs. Here’s one of the taglines for this movie – “If you go down to the woods today… you’re in for a PIG surprise!” This may be one of the silliest taglines I’ve encountered, and the movie lives up to it, what with its bizarre confusion between human bodies being eaten by pigs and human beings being turned into pigs (I think someone was taking the phrase “You are what you eat.” too literally), it’s freaky snatches of conversation (such as the sheriff who points out that “Dead people have no rights!”), and some of the most twitchily bent and hilarious conversations I’ve ever encountered. I actually remember seeing an ad for this on TV once many years ago, and then I never heard of it again until now; I don’t think it ever played in a theater anywhere near me. And, with it’s weird, deja vu-ish jump cuts that make you feel like you’re unstuck in time, this certainly must rank as one of the worst-edited films ever made. It’s awful, but hilariously so, and that’s saying something.

Oh, and I forgot to comment on what it had in common with THE GIANT OF METROPOLIS – it takes place in some super-scientific community. At least, that’s the only way I can explain why the motor vehicles in this movie have a tendency to start driving away before you hear the motor start. Or maybe that’s just more editing problems…

The Prowler (1981)

THE PROWLER (1981)
Article 3764 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-22-2011
Posting Date: 12-4-2011
Directed by Joseph Zito
Featuring Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Lawrence Tierney
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher movie

In 1945, a girl and her boyfriend are killed during a graduation dance. 35 years later, the graduation dance is revived for the first time since the murder… and the murders start up again.

Back when I covered GRADUATION DAY, I commented on how several of the reviews I’d read proved to be highly inaccurate, with the one in the John Stanley book going on about a backstory that did not exist in that movie. I hypothesized then that he was probably confusing that movie with another one. Well, the mystery is solved; he was confusing it with this one, probably due to the fact that one of the alternate titles of this one is THE GRADUATION. For the record, this is indeed one of the better slasher movies out there; in the way it actually works hard to build up suspense and in the way it eschews the use of a lot of typical slasher cliches, it actually shows up how lazily written so many movies of that genre were. Not that the movie doesn’t have its flaws; there’s a few plot holes to be reckoned with, some awkward moments, and a bit of muddiness near the end of the movie. Still, it’s probably the best one I’ve seen since MY BLOODY VALENTINE, and the fact that the acting is generally very good throughout is another plus. There’s even some fun character moments, such as a scene with a lazy desk clerk that sticks in the memory.

Poltergeist (1982)

POLTERGEIST (1982)
Article 3727 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-13-2011
Posting Date: 10-28-2011
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Featuring Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight
Country: USA
What it is: Horror, Spielberg style

A suburban family discovers that their home is the source of paranormal activity, but they really begin to panic when their youngest daughter is spirited away into another dimension.

I remember that when this movie came out, it was considered something of a companion piece to E.T. – THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL, as both movies came from the mind of Steven Spielberg and dealt with various aspects of childhood, with this movie concentrating on childhood fears. I remember there was a bit of controversy about how much of the movie was Spielberg’s work and how much was Tobe Hooper’s; after all, the movie feels a lot more like a Spielberg movie than anything from Hooper. There’s a lot I really like about the movie. The way it taps into childhood horror is quite memorable, with the creepy tree outside of the window being my favorite touch. The typical Spielbergian touches in the dialogue can be quite fun, and Zelda Rubenstein steals the movie as a diminutive psychic who intends to clean out the house. There are some great ideas as to the nature of the horror as well, though I don’t think the movie overall quite uses them as well as it could. Still, I have to admit that I find the movie more interesting than scary; there’s something about all of the special effects pyrotechnics that actually makes the movie seem less scary to me, especially during the big finale. In some ways, I feel about this movie’s horror content as I feel about Spielberg’s 1941’s comedy content; both movies end up trying too hard to be big to effectively keep focused on their primary intent. Nevertheless, that’s not a fatal flaw in this case, as the movie does remain consistently interesting.

Please Don’t Eat My Mother (1973)

PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER (1973)
Article 3679 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-26-2011
Posting Date: 9-10-2011
Directed by Carl Monson
Featuring Buck Kartalian, Lynn Lundgren, Art Hedburg
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy horror sexploitation

A middle-aged voyeur who lives with his mother buys a talking plant with a sexy voice that has an ever-increasing appetite, finally settling on human beings as its choice food.

Between the original Corman version of THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and the big-budget musical remake of the eighties, we have this uncredited remake that adds a bunch of sex and nudity into the mix. It manages to add the sex by simply making the Seymour character (here named Henry Fudd) a voyeur, so every once in a while he goes into a wooded area and watches couples having sex. Once again, I’m not going to comment on the sex scenes except to point out that besides their obvious primary purpose in the movie, they do serve at least one useful secondary purpose; they distract us from the comedy and plot, which are, in a word, abysmal. The original version is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen; this one, despite occasionally hovering near some potentially humorous ideas, doesn’t net a single laugh. Then there’s the crappy special effects; the plant looks like nothing more than a tacky puppet, and though it’s tempting to blame this on the movie’s no-doubt extreme low budget, I suspect that the budget wasn’t significantly lower than Corman’s original, and the plant passed muster there. But then, the comedy and horror were the primary elements in the Corman original; here, they’re supposed to play second fiddle to the sex scenes. This movie is truly horrid. Still, a couple of side notes. Since I do some acting on the side, I hope that I never fall so low as to play a voyeur in a movie like this, as the acting in such a role requires little more than being able to stare straight ahead and grin like a maniac. Secondly, there are some movie titles that I just feel embarrassed to mention or write out, and the tacky, tasteless title of this one is one of them.

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.

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.