The Revenge of Doctor X (1970)

THE REVENGE OF DOCTOR X (1970)
aka The Double Garden, Body of the Prey
Article 2933 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2009
Posting Date: 8-25-2009
Presumably directed by Kenneth G. Crane
Actually directed by Norm Thomson
Featuring James Craig and James Yagi
Country: USA / Japan

A rocket scientist decides to engage in botanical studies while on an extended vacation. He ends up created an ambulatory venus fly-trap monster.

Well, here’s a rare treat (and I use the word “treat” loosely); it’s a movie featuring one of Ed Wood’s latter-day scripts. For me, the most striking thing about the movie is watching actor James Craig channel Lon Chaney Jr.; he looks and sounds like a slightly older version of Chaney from his Inner Sanctum movies. It’s somehow fitting that Craig is channeling one of the Universal stars; Ed Wood seems to be channeling the scripts from the Universal Frankenstein series here, with at least one quote definitely inspired by a similar one from THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. Still, Ed Wood is Ed Wood, and between his efforts and those of director Kenneth G. Crane, the movie ends up channeling LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS and especially Crane’s earlier movie THE MANSTER, with the similarities to the last one being particularly striking. Unfortunately, I don’t know who the person in charge of the music was channeling, but I hope they called an exorcist. And when it came time for those who designed the opening credits of this movie to do their stuff, they should have focused on the movie at hand rather than channeling MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND; anyone looking for John Ashley, Angelique Pettyjohn or locations from the Philippines will be sorely disappointed. Did I mention the goofy-looking venus flytrap monster? If not, there’s a goofy-looking venus flytrap monster as well. The end result is bloody awful, but really, what did you expect?

Postscript: I’ve come upon some new information on this movie thanks to doctor kiss on the Classic Horror Film Board. Because the movie was first discovered in a warehouse without any sort of credits whatsoever (which is why credits from another movie were slapped onto it), much of the production info above was based on inspired guesses rather than hard research. Recent research requires an amendment. Despite the similarities to THE MANSTER, we know now that the director is not Crane, but Norm Thomson. The movie was originally titled BODY OF THE PREY, and the script was from Thomson as well rather than Ed Wood. I’ve changed a couple of things in the beginning credits above so as not to confuse anyone who just looks at them and doesn’t read the review, but I’ve left the original review intact and added this postscript for clarification. And a special thanks to doctor kiss and his research!

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La ragazza di latta (1970)

LA RAGAZZA DI LATTA (1970)
aka The Tin Girl
Article 2925 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-11-2009
Posting Date: 8-17-2009
Directed by Marcello Aliprandi
Featuring Roberto Antonelli, Sydne Rome, Elena Persiani
Country: Italy

In the future, an eccentric executive becomes enamored with a mysterious girl.

Well, here’s a different way to watch an Italian comedy – with no subtitles and dubbed into Spanish. Furthermore, it’s one of those somewhat arty late-sixties-early-seventies features that is full of bizarre scenes that make me suspect that, even if my copy had had subtitles, I would have had trouble following it. Still, that very strangeness made it a little more watchable; despite the fact that the plot remained murky to me (I only got as much as I did from plot descriptions from various other sources), I enjoyed some of the visuals, such as a wall of photographs in which our protagonist has glued his own head in the places of the ones in the pictures, and scenes of gold knight roller-skating. It’s weird enough that I doubt that I’d agree with the assessment by the review in “The Motion Picture Guide” as a “one-joke” premise, but it will have to wait until I can say for sure. At any rate, even had I not read that it takes place in the future, the presence of androids would have made the fantastic content fairly clear to me.

The Return (1980)

THE RETURN (1980)
aka The Alien’s Return
Article 2899 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-15-2009
Posting Date: 7-21-2009
Directed by Greydon Clark
Featuring Jan-Michael Vincent, Cybill Shepherd, Martin Landau
Country: USA

Twenty-five years ago, three people in a small town had an encounter with a UFO. Today, all three people find themselves back in town. What did the encounter mean, and what is in store for them?

It starts out all right; the encounter with the UFO is intriguing enough to catch our interest. But once the action shifts to the present, the movie loses focus and steam, and, despite attempts to rekindle our interest with a cattle mutilation subplot and some tepid action sequences, it never recovers. An interesting cast (which includes, among those listed above, Raymond Burr, Neville Brand and Vincent Schiavelli) can’t save it either, largely because most of them are wasted in weak roles. At heart, the movie is heavily influenced by CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, with touches of STAR WARS and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY thrown into the mix, but it spins its wheels too badly to have much impact. This one is dull and forgettable.

Road to Rio (1947)

ROAD TO RIO (1947)
Article 2855 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2009
Posting Date: 6-7-2009
Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Featuring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour
Country: USA

Two vaudevillians stow away on a boat to Brazil, where they encounter a woman who is being forced into a marriage by a greedy female schemer.

It looks as if I’m going to be covering six of the seven Road movies for this series (the only omission – ROAD TO SINGAPORE), but I personally am under the impression that the genre limits are being stretched a bit too far on some of these; from what I’ve heard, only ROAD TO HONG KONG (which I haven’t seen) really makes sufficient use of fantastic elements. Here the main fantastic element is the use of hypnotism, mainly by the female villain to keep her ward under her control. This is supposed to be one of the better Road movies, but I’m disappointed; the less plot there is, the more I like them, and this is one which actually seems to have a story. I do like the in-jokes (and wish there were more of them), but, for the most part, I think the side performances steal the movie. Gale Sondergaard is always great as a villainess, and the musicians Hope and Crosby hook up with (The Wiere Brothers) steal the movie every time they appear. Tor Johnson appears as a strong man who intimidates Hope into doing a dangerous bicycle-on-a-high-wire stunt, Charles Middleton has a cameo as a farmer, the Andrews Sisters do a song with Crosby, and Jerry Colonna rides to a belated rescue.

Revenge of the Zombies (1976)

REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES (1976)
Article 2845 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-21-2009
Posting Date: 5-28-2009
Directed by Meng Hua Ho
Featuring Lung Ti, Ni Tien, Lily Li
Country: Hong Kong/Indonesia/Singapore

Medical doctors begin to suspect that a series of baffling illnesses are the work of a warlock at loose in the city.

This is the first horror movie I’ve seen to hail from the Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong; I can’t quite count THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEET DRACULA, because that was at least half a Hammer movie. I’ve heard some of the Shaw Brothers movies can be pretty wild, and having seen this one, I can attest to that. It’s definitely not for the squeamish; the fact that my print is a little too dark to make out some of the details doesn’t change the fact that you know what you’re supposed to be seeing. Perhaps the best way to describe this movie is to give you a quick rundown of some of the more memorable images and concepts.

1) You see a crocodile killed and eviscerated.

2) You see an autopsy performed on a worm-eaten corpse in a grave.

3) The evil magician keeps himself young by drinking human milk.

4) The zombies are animated by having metal spikes driven into their skulls. They are destroyed by having those spikes removed.

5) Some of the zombies hop. I’ve heard that some of these movies feature hopping vampires, but I didn’t know they had hopping zombies as well.

6) A good magician comes to the aid of the doctor who is battling the evil magician. Unfortunately, the good magician is mortally wounded, and he passes his powers on to the doctor by giving him a magic amulet and telling him he has to eat the magician’s eyes.

The end result of this is an almost jaw-droppingly bizarre horror movie. It’s certainly not dull, and the story is fairly coherent, even if some of the heroes act with consummate stupidity at times; really, shouldn’t there be a better way of convincing the skeptical doctor that black magic exists other than putting themselves at the mercy of the evil warlock? At this point, I can’t really come up with a critical assessment of this one; I still can hardly take in what I’ve seen. Perhaps after I’ve seen a few more of these types of movies, I’ll have the ability to make a better assessment.

Rollerball (1975)

ROLLERBALL (1975)
Article 2817 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-23-2009
Posting Date: 4-30-2009
Directed by Norman Jewison
Featuring James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams
Country: UK

In the future, the world is controlled by a cartel of corporations who sponsor a sporting event called Rollerball, a violent variation of roller derby. The reigning star of the sport, a man known as Jonathan E., is being urged to retire from the sport, and seeks to find out why.

I remember that there was quite a controversy about this movie when it came out due to the violent content and the perceived glorification of that violence. However, there is a difference between the glorification of violence and the use of it in a way that is essential to the story. The violence is necessary here, as the story has no meaning without it. Still, I can understand the concern; the hero of the movie is one of the most violent players of the game, and the movie does pander a bit when he takes revenge for the near-killing of a teammate.

Overall, I quite like the movie with a few reservations. I think it runs on a bit too long, and I’m never quite satisfied with the vagueness surrounding the corporate view of the game and their desire to force Jonathan E. to retire. But I do like the creative vision of the future. Certain sequences stand out; I love the way the opening game gives us a clear understanding of the sport and how it is played. I also love a sequence where a drunken group of partyers use a gun to decimate trees. I also love Ralph Richardson’s scene-stealing performance as a somewhat dotty librarian, even though the scene seems strangely out of place in the movie. But I remember seeing bits and pieces of this one many years ago, and the final moment has always stood out strongly in my mind. I do wonder somewhat about the choice of music; though the use of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” is interesting, it feels really weird in this context.

The Robot (1932)

THE ROBOT (1932)
Animated Cartoon
Article 2814 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-20-2009
Posting Date: 4-27-2009
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Voice cast unknown

Bimbo wants to marry his girlfriend, but she won’t accept him unless he wins a round with a boxer called One Round Mike. When it becomes obvious to him that he is outclassed by the boxer, he transforms his car into a robot to help him fight.

I found this cartoon on a Betty Boop collection, though, strictly speaking, this isn’t a Betty Boop cartoon; it’s a Bimbo cartoon. The girlfriend may be a prototype of Betty Boop, but not a close one. This one is a little disappointing, especially as it follows BIMBO’S INITIATION on the same tape, which is not only a surreal classic, but contains a much clearer early version of Betty. This one is amusing, but the gags are nowhere near as inventive as the Fleischer cartoons at their best, and the robot almost comes off as largely a piece of armor most of the time. It’s a little bit racy, too; Bimbo ends up peeking in on his girlfriend while she’s taking a bath, something that could only have flown in the precode days. All in all, a minor entry in the series.