The Reincarnation of Karma (1912)

THE REINCARNATION OF KARMA (1912)
Article 2330 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-12-2007
Posting Date: 12-29-2007
Directed by Van Dyke Brooke
Featuring Rosemary Theby, Courtenay Foote, Lillian Walker

In ancient times, a priest in India finds himself tempted by a woman named Qunitreea. He has her transformed into a snake as a punishment. In modern times, a man and a woman engaged to be married visit the ruins of the temple of the priest, and find a snake which returns to her original form every 100 years. The man sees the transformation, and…

If you’ve read the title of the movie, you should know what one of the final revelations will be. And since the title cards reveal that vengeance is part of the story, you won’t be surprised by how it turns out. All in all, it’s a middlingly entertaining early silent. Rosemary Theby is probably the most memorable character as the temptress; she dances with a certain snaky charm. Nowadays, she’s most remembered for playing W.C. Fields’ wife in his classic short, THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER; she also played a cave woman in ONE MILLION B.C .

 

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Return of Daimajin (1966)

RETURN OF DAIMAJIN (1966)
aka Daimajin ikaru
Article 2290 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-2-2007
Posting Date: 11-19-2007
Directed by Kenji Misumi
Featuring Kojiro Hongo, Shiho Fujimura, Taro Marui

A warlord takes over a village, and four children escape to find the statue of Majin to help them drive off the invaders.

Is my head swimming! After watching this movie, I became convinced that I actually watched the wrong movie on my hunt list. Now I’m convinced that I have watched the right movie on my hunt list, but that there’s a bit of confusion out there as to which of the two sequels to DAIMAJIN is the first and which is the second. At any rate, it may make little difference; from what I’ve heard, all three of the Daimajin movies tell virtually the same story with only the details different. Me, I’m throwing up my hands and just saying “This is the one I saw!” If you’ve seen one Daimajin movie, you’ve seen them all.

Nonetheless, having seen two of them, I’m quite willing and eager to see the third, because Daimajin is such an impressive monster. I was somewhat hampered by the fact that my copy of this was in unsubtitled Japanese, but once I got the gist of what was going on, it was quite easy to follow. For the most part, the movie plays like an epic fantasy, with four children on the run from three hunters, who they manage to outwit almost till the end. Daimajin seems to have some spiritual relationship with a hawk in this one, but his rampage doesn’t come until the last fifteen minutes of the movie. And, like the first movie, it’s breathtaking; Daimajin may be the most terrifying of the kaiju; he is implacable and merciless, and one feels the tension and the fear with each earth-shaking step he makes. The special effects are excellent, but I’m sure discerning fans will note that Akira Ifukube’s score here bears more than a passing resemblance to his work for the Godzilla films, especially in the similarity between the themes for Daimajin and Godzilla. Still, it’s very effective, and this chapter in the Daimajin saga is definitely worth catching.

 

Requiem for a Vampire (1971)

REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE (1971)
aka Caged Virgins, Vierges et vampires, and several others
Article 2274 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2007
Posting Date: 11-3-2007
Directed by Jean Rollin
Featuring Marie-Pierre Castel, Mireille Dargent, Philippe Gaste

Two fugitive women find themselves prisoners at a castle that turns out to be the resting place of the last vampire.

Given the choice between having to watch the whole oeuvre of either Jean Rollin or Jess Franco at one sitting, I would opt for Rollin. Of course, there’s an obvious reason for that; the Rollin oeuvre would take almost a tenth as long. But there are other reasons; though they share many of the same cinematic interests, I get a sense that Rollin really pours his heart into every moment of his movies, which is an impression I don’t get from Franco. Once again, he’s indulging in the gory, the arty and the erotic, and though there is plenty of exploitation fodder on display, I never get the feeling that exploitation is his primary interest. In fact, there is something sad and moving about this tale of a two virgins encountering a vampire who has reached the end of his existence, and that feeling permeates everything here, even the scenes of sex and sadism. Surreal imagery abounds, especially towards the beginning of the movie when the two women are dressed as clowns, a touch I’ve seen in other Rollin films. I would have to pick this one as the favorite of the movies I’ve seen of his to date.

 

Road to Utopia (1946)

ROAD TO UTOPIA (1946)
Article 2267 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-4-2007
Posting Date: 10-27-27
Directed by Hal Walker
Featuring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour

Two con men find a map to a gold mine which they steal from some desperate criminals. They pose as the criminals in the hope that they can find the treasure.

You’d think that with a title like ROAD TO UTOPIA, this would be the road movie that would be heaviest on the fantastic content. Such is not the case. By Utopia, they mean Alaska (because of all the gold they hope to find there), and the fantastic elements are singularly slight; an appearance by Santa Claus, and jokes involving talking animals are the sum total of such elements. As for the movie itself, well… let’s just say that you have to be in the right mood to enjoy one of the Hope/Crosby road movies, and there’s a distinct chance I wasn’t in the mood when I saw this one. I generally like them, and this is supposed to be one of the best, but when I’m not in the mood, I find the gags too mild, the pace too languid, and the music dull. My favorite touch isn’t used near enough; Robert Benchley serves as a narrator who appears on occasion (ostensibly to help clarify the plot), but he isn’t used near enough. Maybe it’s because there never really seems to be enough room in one of these movies for humor from anyone else but Bob, Bing and Dorothy. At any rate, I came out of this one a little disappointed. Maybe if I watch it again the next time I’m in the mood…

 

The Risk (1960)

THE RISK (1960)
aka Suspect
Article 2266 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-3-2007
Posting Date: 10-26-2007
Directed by John and Roy Boulting
Featuring Tony Britton, Virginia Maskell, Ian Bannen

A group of scientists researching plague cures is denied the chance to publish their results when their project is put under top secret security. One scientist, angered at how the inability to publish the work because of the many lives that could be saved, ends up meeting a man who offers him a chance to get it secretly published. However, things may not be what they seem…

This movie spends enough time at the beginning of the movie discussing the scientific methods used for the research that I found myself hoping it would actually emerge as a full-blown science fiction movie. But once the government makes the project top secret, the plague cure becomes the Gizmo Maguffin in another spy thriller. My disappointment was checked, however, by the fact that it is a good one, with an unusual story line and interesting character relationships. A good cast also helps; along with the ones listed above, the movie also features Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence and “Goon Show” regular Spike Milligan as a genuinely amusing comic relief lab assistant. Still, despite the star power, the movie is stolen by the most interesting characters in the movie; Ian Bannen plays the armless war veteran who turns the life of his lover (a female scientist working on the project) into a living hell, and has special plans for his rival (another scientist on the project), and Thorley Walters, who plays the special agent in charge of security on the project as an absent-minded eccentric. It’s the way the plot unfolds that really makes this movie work; we get to see how the various forces at work conspire to tempt the scientist played by Tony Britton into turning into a traitor. I really liked this movie, though the science fiction content remains marginal.

 

Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977)

RAGGEDY ANN & ANDY: A MUSICAL ADVENTURE (1977)
Article 2252 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-17-2007
Posting Date: 10-12-2007
Directed by Richard Williams
Featuring the voices of Didi Conn, Mark Baker, Mason Adams

When a young girl’s new doll from France is kidnapped by a pirate, Raggedy Ann and Andy leave the playroom and go out into the wide world to rescue her.

With just one look at that title, I sat down to prepare myself for what I was sure going to prove an hour and a half of insufferable cuteness. Having now watched, I can at least strike the word “insufferable”. Yes, it’s got major problems; it’s certainly no TOY STORY, it is cuter than I have a taste for (for example, it features a pirate singing a song about friendship to his parrot), and there are far too many songs. But the songs, mediocre as they are, are still consistently stronger than those in PUFNSTUF , and at least one of them (the poignant song of the camel) was strong enough that I actually found myself caught up in the fate of the singer. The animation is also nicely done; in particular, it retains that kind of floppy rag-doll feel that is appropriate for the title characters. Another plus is that it didn’t actively annoy me; only a pair of identical dolls got on my nerves, and they only pop up sporadically. All in all, I found it passable kiddie entertainment, though it may get a little too weird towards the end for the very young.

 

The Red Mill (1927)

THE RED MILL (1927)
Article 2215 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-9-2007
Posting Date: 9-5-2007
Directed by Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle
Featuring Marion Davies, Owen Moore, Louise Fazenda

In a Dutch village, the maid to a tyrannical burgomaster falls in love with a visiting Irishman. She tries to win him while saving the burgomaster’s daughter from entering a forced marriage with the governor. However, the burgomaster has a way of dealing with those that get in his way; he locks them up in a haunted mill.

Here’s another movie that sat on my list for some time before it finally manifested itself in a showing on TCM, and, as usual, I’m glad to finally see it. However, that doesn’t keep me from consigning it to the non-essential viewing category for fans of fantastic cinema. The haunted mill isn’t really haunted (though I can’t think of why a skeleton is stored in there), but it’s passably scary in the last ten minutes of the movie, which, outside of a couple of minutes in the middle of the movie, is the only time it gets used. The rest of the movie is a light and inconsequential romantic comedy based on an operetta, and I found it only mildly amusing at best. Most of the humor seems to come from the odd dialogue that appears on the title cards, but these get old fairly quickly, and I only found a few laughs along the way. Still, the cast is spirited enough, and those who like romantic comedies might find it their cup of tea. For me, the best moments come at the end, particularly with some of the stunt work involved in having characters climbing on the arms of a windmill. Incidentally, this was made after the scandal that destroyed Arbuckle’s career, and was directed under the nom de plume of William Goodrich.