Queen of the Amazons (1947)

QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS (1947)
Article #1588 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-20-2005
Posting Date: 12-17-2005
Directed by Edward Finney
Featuring Robert Lowery, Patricia Morison, J. Edward Bromberg

A woman hires a party to go into the wilds of Africa to find her lost husband. She hires a guide who considers women a nuisance who is also searching for ivory poachers.

I was going to dismiss this one as a Double-Stuffed Safari-O, but frankly, that classification is too good for it. Rather, this is an example of what I think of as Stock Footage Clearing House Cinema. Now, I can understand the use of stock footage to flesh out and add atmosphere to a movie in a cost-effective way. However, when a movie seems to only exist to make use of stock footage, you have the cart ahead of the horse. Yet, that seems to be the case here; the movie is filled with bits that seem designed to set up the use of stock footage. Certainly, the scenes of exposition and plot development are shot in such an uninvolving way (characters stand still and talk to each other) that I never felt that anyone cared about the story, and this is only enhanced by the fact that there’s very little in this hackneyed compendium of cliches to care about. As a result, the best part of the movie is, unsurprisingly, the stock footage. The fantastic aspect is little more than the mild fantasy value of having a tribe of Amazons on the loose.

The Queen of Spades (1949)

THE QUEEN OF SPADES (1949)
Article #1393 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-6-2005
Posting Date: 2-5-2005
Directed by Thorold Dickinson
Featuring Anton Walbrook, Edith Evans, Yvonne Mitchell

A captain in the army has become obsessed with a card game called Faro, but refuses to play unless he is sure of winning. He stumbles across the story of a woman who sold her soul to the devil for the three-card winning combination that guarantees success, and he resolves to find the secret for himself.

This opulent production of an Alexander Pushkin story takes some getting used to. It’s beautifully directed and stylistically rich, and has some of the most interesting-looking people this side of a Fellini film, but the editing is jarring at times, and it’s a little hard to warm up to the movie. However, this jarring sense also increases the eeriness and the sense of dread, and this pays off very well by the time the final scenes roll around. The first third of the story sets up the mood and the situation. The middle third becomes something of a soap opera, as we follow the captain’s attempted seduction of the beautiful ward of a countess, and for a while the movie feels as if it’s lost its way. However, once the captain confronts the countess in an attempt to wring the secret from her, the movie never lets up, and the ending is startling, powerful and memorable. It’s a beautiful movie to look at, and features fine performances from all, especially Anton Walbrook as the obsessed captain and Edith Evans as the ancient countess. The scene where the captain finally learns the secret is truly terrifying.

Quest for Love (1971)

QUEST FOR LOVE (1971)
Article #1043 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-22-2004
Posting Date: 6-20-2004
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Featuring Joan Collins, Tom Bell, Denholm Elliott

A physicist finds himself thrust in an alternate universe when an experiment goes haywire. There he meets and falls in love with the wife of his doppelganger.

The opening third of this movie is fairly intriguing, in that we find ourselves watching a man trying to come to terms with a world that is not only different in subtle ways from his own, but must also deal with wending his way through the life of his alter ego. Then it turns into a love story with all the trimmings; an initially hostile companion to be won over, a world of bliss, a mysterious disease, and a second chance to succeed against the odds are all here. It’s at this point that I realized that the science fiction angle is merely there to serve the purpose of the love story, and if any one moment in the movie convinces me of this, it’s when our hero locates the one person who he can convince of the truth of his story of being from a parallel world, and ends up getting advice on his love life from him. Though I could hardly say this turn in the story took me by surprise (the title of the movie leaves little doubt of what you’re getting into here), I still must admit that I’m not really into romantic movies of this ilk; they always seems so baldly manipulative and fake. Nonetheless, there is a lot of intelligence here, and you do get caught up in our hero’s attempts to deal with his situations. Incidentally, the movie is based on a story by John Wyndham, author of “The Day of the Triffids” and “The Midwich Cuckoos”.

Queen of the Jungle (1935)

QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE (1935)
Article #752 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-6-2003
Posting Date: 9-3-2003
Directed by Robert Hill
Featuring Reed Howes, Mary Korman, Dickie Jones

A little girl gets lost in the jungle as the result of a tragic hide-and-seek accident, and becomes the leader of a primitive tribe. Years later, her childhood friend sets out to find her.

One of the first things you notice about this old serial is how loudly it creaks. Then you notice a curious phenomenon; some of the scenes appear to be shot at a different speed than the others. You then notice that the scenes that are in fast motion have no dialogue. It was here a quick check on IMDB confirmed my suspicions; a goodly portion of this movie is made up of footage from an old silent serial called JUNGLE GODDESS. This isn’t the only time a talkie used a goodly amount of silent footage; a horrible little movie called THE WHITE GORILLA tried it a decade later, and did a very bad job of it. This one is somewhat more successful; it actually looks like they took the trouble to cast actors and actresses that resembled the characters in the silent footage, so that only the speed of the footage really gives it away. It manages to pull off its trick for a while, but as the serial progresses, the story deteriorates; there’s at least one cliffhanger where the follow-up episode appeared to actually omit the escape footage, so I don’t know how they got out of the peril. The final episode looks largely like a bunch of cliffhangers edited together to finish up the movie. It ends up all having a bit of charm to it, but don’t expect much; it’s largely just a curio.

Queen of Outer Space (1958)

QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE (1958)
Article #114 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 7-8-2001
Posting date: 11-21-2001

Whan a space station is destroyed by a mysterious ray, several astronauts in a rocket ship investigate. They are pulled onto the planet Venus where they discover a race of miniskirt-wearing, man-hungry women and their queen with a mutilated face. From then on, you’re too distracted to pay attention to the story.

Ben Hecht was responsible for the story idea. It was written by “Twilight Zone” regular Charles Beaumont. William Beaudine, Jr., the son of William “One-Shot” Beaudine, was assistant director. I mention him because I originally mistook him for his father, who is the only one of these people I’d suspect would be involved with a project like this. There have been several movies where space-farers have encountered mini-skirt wearing all female societies on other planets, and they’re all pretty dumb; this is no exception, but at least it feels as if it was intended to be a comedy. The special effects are pretty cheesy, especially the spider in the cave that always seems to appear in movies of this ilk. And then there’s Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Actually, pointing out flaws in movies like this is like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s also like trying to play the role of Hamlet in a production that also features Pamela Anderson in the role of Ophelia; you can do your damnedest, but you’ll eventually realize that no one is paying any attention to YOU. I have a word for movies like this—they’re “centipede” movies. I call them this because the second you hear the word “centipede,” all you can think about are the legs.

Queen of Blood (1966)

QUEEN OF BLOOD (1966)
Article #113 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 7-7-2001
Posting date: 11-20-2001

The earth receives a message from an alien race informing them they will be sending them an emissary. When the aliens’ craft becomes stranded on Mars, the earth sends an expedition to rescue survivors. The lone survivor turns out to be a strange mute woman who has a special diet…

Several movies were made during the sixties that were built around Russian science fiction footage; this is probably the best of them. Granted, it would have probably been best if they had just tried to do a straighforward dubbing of the Russian movie, but I’d rather that they did what they did do (build a whole new movie around the special effects footage) than to try to incorporate part of the plot of the original movie with cut-ins of American actors that never interreact with the cast of the original (the Jerry Warren approach). It has a few familiar faces in it; Basil Rathbone, John Saxon, and Dennis Hopper are all there, as well as Forrest J Ackerman as an assistant to Rathbone. I quite like Hopper in this film; I found him distracting in Curtis Harrington’s earlier NIGHT TIDE, but here he adds some very nice human touches to his character. And Florence Marly, who plays the alien queen, really does leave you with that creepy feeling that despite her human form, she is totally alien on the inside.

Overall, I quite like the movie. I think it’s one of those that may have had an influence on ALIEN. I also find the ending quite intriguing in its way, despite the fact that it is an example of what I think of as the “typical seventies downbeat ending” only in a movie from the sixties. Nonetheless, I really wonder what is going to happen next, and this is one movie to which I would have liked to see a sequel.