The Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974)

aka Nosutoradamusu no daiyogen, The Last Days of Planet Earth
Article 3839 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-7-2012
Posting Date: 2-17-2012
Directed by Toshio Masuda
Featuring Tetsuro Tanba, Toshio Kurosawa, Kaoru Yumi
Country: Japan
What it is: Disaster movie

A professor believes that a recent rash of ecological disasters fits in with the prophecies of Nostradamus… and that the end of the world is at hand.

Just from the titles, I was expecting a documentary of some sort, albeit one from Japan rather than from Sunn Classics. Instead, it’s an attempt at the ultimate disaster movie. For the record, I’ve seen the full 114 minute version in Japanese with subtitles instead of the dubbed pan-and-scan version; I’ve not heard good things about the latter, and the movie’s low rating of 4.8 on IMDB is probably at least partially due to this other version. However, even uncut and letterboxed, this is no classic; it’s perhaps the preachiest movie I’ve ever seen and has its share of silly moments. Still, it has some good moments amid the sound, the fury, and the chatter. Two of the scenes take the disasters on a despairingly human level (a fisherman tries to commit suicide by walking into the sea after the fish have all been poisoned, and a prospective grandfather becomes enraged when his first grandchild is born with genetic deformities), and it’s hard not to be effected by these scenes. There’s also at least one startling special effects sequence in which the sky becomes a large mirror reflecting the surface of the earth. There’s also a memorable sequence in a cave in New Guinea that will probably stick in the memory. Other scenes are just bizarre, such as the scene where a bunch of motorcyclists drive over a cliff, and the attempts to attach these sequences to quotes from Nostradamus will often leave you scratching your head. All in all, it’s just way too heavy-handed to be truly effective, and you may want to prepare yourself for a real fake-out at the end of the movie.

A Place to Die (1972)

Feature-length episode of British TV Series “Thriller”
Article 3837 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-5-2012
Posting Date: 2-15-2012
Directed by Peter Jefferies
Featuring Bryan Marshall, Alexandra Hay, John Turner
Country: UK
What it is: Small town with a secret…

A doctor takes over a practice in a small community. His lovely wife, recovering from a foot injury, is greeted with joy by the community because she fits the description of a woman in an old superstition. Unfortunately, that means the wife is in deadly peril…

For the second day in a row, I’m watching a movie in which the heroine is saddled with a limp. In yesterday’s movie, it was there to up the suspense factor by making it difficult for her to escape from her pursuer; here, it’s the Maguffin that drives the direction of the plot. Now, I’ve seen a number of episodes from the British TV series “Thriller” for this series, and a good number of them have been very marginal in terms of their genre content. That’s not so with this one; it falls clearly into horror territory, and fits in well with any assortment of movies involving people moving to strange and hostile towns that harbor deep, dark secrets, though it’s nice in this one that the villagers react with a strange joy and generosity that is perhaps even more unsettling than simple hostility. There are some problems with story logic in this one; for example, if you were trying to get answers to questions about the town’s secrets, would you really question the town’s weirdest character who also happens to be a mute? Despite the clumsiness, this is nevertheless one of the better episodes of the series, and it does feel genuinely creepy on occasion.

Paper Man (1971)

PAPER MAN (1971)
Article 3835 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-3-2012
Posting Date: 2-13-2012
Directed by Walter Grauman
Featuring Dean Stockwell, Stefanie Powers, James Stacy
Country: USA
What it is: Thriller

Four students take advantage of a computer error that causes a credit card to be issued to a non-existent person named Henry Norman. When complications arise, they enlist the help of a computer expert to plant information about the non-existent man into a computer. But the non-existent man begins to take on a life of his own… and the deaths begin.

I remember the TV ads for this one; it looked a bit mysterious, but there was something about it that had the air that I would be disappointed by its fantastic content. Having watched it now, I know back then I would have been too young to appreciate it. However, that’s not to say that I’m totally thrilled by it now; it does have an intriguing premise, and the first two-thirds of the movie are fairly eerie, but I’m afraid I find the direction rather static and lifeless, and the script is uneven. The fantastic content has to do with the possibility of the computer actually creating a real entity from someone who only exists on paper, and though the movie eventually moves in things in a decidedly non-fantastic direction, it doesn’t quite let go of the fantastic content altogether; there’s one final twist before it’s all over. It’s interesting, if not quite successful.

Piu tardi Claire, piu tardi… (1968)

aka Run, Psycho, Run
Article 3802 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-1-2012
Posting Date: 1-11-2012
Directed by Brunello Rondi
Featuring Gary Merrill, Elga Andersen, Rossella Falk
Country: Italy
What it is: Not quite sure

A man seeks a look-alike substitute for his wife, who was murdered on a trip to Cornwall.

Knowing ahead of time that I was going to be seeing this one in Italian without English subtitles, I tried to do a little reading up on it. The John Stanley guide (from which I got the title) gave more or less the same plot description as IMDB, though where IMDB’s rating of 6.9 does seem to imply that it is fondly remembered in certain quarters, the Stanley guide dismissed the movie is a non-scary, boring talkfest. The Stanley guide was right on that one point; this is one of the talkiest movies I’ve encountered, and were it not for the plot descriptions, I wouldn’t have a clue to what is going on here. Heck, even with the plot descriptions, I’m still not sure. Only three visual moments stand out; the first is the murder scene itself (and that’s a little ambiguous), the second is a scene where a peasant girl plays with a young child while wielding a big butcher knife (which was rather suspenseful even if I didn’t know the context for the scene), and a scene near the end where a woman explores a hidden room, and it’s here I see the lone reference to PSYCHO (and which provides the clearest horror content I could find in the movie). Other than that, the English title should have been TALK, PSYCHO, TALK!. I hope the talk was interesting enough to sustain interest to those who understand Italian; for me, it was a bit of a chore to get through. And, of course, I withhold from any evaluation beyond that point.

Professor Zazul (1962)

aka The Mystery of Professor Zazul
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…