Le rituel des Musgraves (1912)

aka The Musgrave Ritual
Article 4136 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-22-2013
Directed by Georges Treville
Featuring Georges Treville and Mr. Moyse
Country: UK / France
What it is: Sherlock Holmes mystery

Sherlock Holmes is called in to investigate the disappearance of a butler and a precious jewel. The solution to the mystery is tied to a strange family ritual.

This Sherlock Holmes mystery really only falls marginally into the realms of the fantastic, and that is because the solution of the mystery involves the death of a character by a specific means; without giving away the solution for those not familiar with a story, let’s just say that it’s related to a type of death that Poe was fond of dealing with. This short is more or less faithful to the original story, though not slavishly so; it changes a few plot details, at least partially due to the fact that they would have been clumsy to deal with in a short silent movie. Treville definitely looks the part of Holmes, and does well enough in the role, given the limitations of the production. All in all, this is not a bad adaptation of the story.

The Ravager (1970)

Article 4093 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-29-2012
Directed by Charles Nizet
Featuring Pierre Agostino, Darlene Dawes, Lynn Hayes
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho exploitation

After having witnessed the torture, rape and murder of a woman, a Vietnam vet, disturbed by his experience, goes on a rampage of rape and destruction.

Those who want to find some sort of message or subtext to this one are welcome to it. To me, it seems obvious that the movie pretty much exists for its exploitation elements; sex scenes followed by bursts of violence, usually involving dynamite. Still, I will credit Pierre Agostino for at least one thing; he looks and acts the part of a disturbed serial killer, and the fact that two of his other movies are THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID ROW SLASHER and LAS VEGAS SERIAL KILLER, it seems that playing that type of character is some sort of specialty of his. I suppose the movie could be described as offensive, but, truth to tell, if the artwork on the cover of the DVD is a recreation of the poster for the movie, than the poster is even worse, not to mention a misrepresentation of the movie; it shows a handsome virile-looking young man (instead of the ugly creep in the movie) surrounded by eager and willing nude women. Anybody drawn to the movie by that poster was in for a rude surprise. This one is really for exploitation fans only.

Roboman (1973)

ROBOMAN (1973)
aka Who?
Article 4045 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-30-2012
Directed by Jack Gold
Featuring Elliott Gould, Trevor Howard, Joseph Bova
Country: UK
What it is: Spy thriller

When a brilliant American scientist in charge of a top secret scientific project is horribly injured in an accident near the East German border, he is rescued by the Communists and repaired to the best of their abilities. When he is returned to the Americans, he is unrecognizable due to the replacement of most of his body with metallic parts. An FBI agent is given the task of trying to figure out whether this man is really the scientist in question, or a ringer.

Here’s another movie with an interesting premise that suffers from an uneven production and script. It attempts to work both as a mystery and an espionage thriller. As the latter, it is least interesting; it’s slow-moving and low-key, and when the movie decides to go for thrills (a car chase at about the middle of the movie), it feels less like it’s finally taking off and more like it’s slipped the tracks. As a mystery, it does have some interest value, thanks to a interesting cinematic technique where we see the present day juxtaposition of the grilling of the scientist by FBI agents beside flashback grillings of the scientist by a Communist general, leaving us fully aware that there is very little that the scientist says that couldn’t be taught to a ringer. Yet the mystery itself remains muted, largely because the most engaging thing about the story is the plight of the scientist, and if you make a certain assumption about the identity of the man in the metal mask, the mystery becomes irrelevant but the story becomes much more engaging. So it’s as a character study that it works best; it isn’t about not knowing who the man is, it’s about a man proving who he is, and the cost of doing so. And on that level, this movie has a certain amount of power.

Rollerbabies (1976)

Article 4043 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-28-2012
Directed by Carter Stevens
Featuring Susan McBain, Alan Marlow, Terri Hall
Country: USA
What it is: Adults only

In the future, sex is prohibited to all but licensed exhibitionists who perform on television. A TV show producer must find a new gimmick if he wants to stay in the business.

Once again my cinematic journeys take me into the realm of the adult film, and probably not for the last time. Like a lot of movies in the adult realm, its title is a take on a well-known popular movie of the time, in this case, ROLLERBALL. It has two things in common with that movie – it takes place in the future, and something is done on roller-skates (and it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out what). When it’s not engaging in the type of spectacle that is de riguer for the form, the movie appears to be a comedy, and like most adult comedies I’ve seen, it’s atrocious on that level. As for the level on which the movie is intended to be enjoyed…. well, this is neither the time or place for that. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen it and can now cross it off my list.

Rhinoceros (1974)

Article 4037 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-20-2012
Directed by Tom O’Horgan
Featuring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Karen Black
Country: USA / UK / Canada
What it is: Cinematic attempt at theatrical absurdism

A boozing non-conformist finds everyone around him turning into rhinoceroses.

I haven’t read the Eugene Ionesco play on which this movie is based, though a summary of the play on Wikipedia does seem to indicate that the movie keeps fairly close to the original story. However, one of the pitfalls of trying to adapt theatrical absurdity to the screen is that it is often mistaken for and marketed as comedy, and there are moments here where the movie seems to succumb; certainly, the poster on IMDB tries to market it as such. There’s also the problem of avoiding the inherent stage-bound feel of the play, and the movie suffers from that as well; for example, those hoping for anything in the way of human-into-rhino special effects will be very disappointed, as there are none. Acting-wise, I think Wilder comes off best here, but he’s also got a somewhat easier role, in that he’s not required to transform into a rhino; Mostel, who does, gives such an eccentric, over-the-top performance that he starts to become actively obnoxious. The addition of a musical dream sequence with an inappropriate song is a further problem. Still, despite all this, I do get a sense that the original message of the play doesn’t get lost. Overall, it’s interesting, but those expecting a comedy or something more overtly cinematic will be very unhappy with this one.

Las ratas no duermen de noche (1973)

aka Crimson
Article 4018 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-30-2012
Directed by Juan Fortuny
Featuring Paul Naschy, Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot
Country: Spain / France
What it is: Scrambled brains movie

When a gangster is shot in the head during a heist, his henchmen take him to a brain specialist to fix him up. The specialist can’t help him without a brain transplant, and the henchmen decide to use the brain of the gangster’s arch enemy, another gangster known as the Sadist. However, which brain will prove the more powerful…?

Paul Naschy films usually have a classic horror point of reference to them, and this one digs into one of the lesser subgenres of the thirties and forties in which two minds end up occupying the same body, with a resulting personality clash; BLACK FRIDAY is perhaps the most famous of these movies. Usually these movies provide a plumb acting role for one actor, which is whoever is playing the recipient of the brain transplant, and, of course, it’s Naschy here. Given Naschy’s penchant for roles in which he plays both the hero and the villain, you’d think this one would give him another opportunity in that regard. However, since he’s a gangster to begin with, it’s hardly that big a change of personality for him to get another gangster’s brain. Furthermore, the script simply doesn’t give him any leeway to produce a great performance; we barely get to know him before he’s shot, and he spends almost the entire first half of the movie in a coma. In fact, he ends up with less screen time than most of the other major characters, so the acting challenges are pretty slim for him here. Granted, I’m not sure I’d be able to tell with the English language version I saw; the dubbing is particularly bad. It’s not so much the lip-syncing that is horrendous; it’s the choice of character voices that is badly done, with too many of the criminals sounding like whiny, scared children. The movie’s biggest problem, though, is simply that it takes forever to get going; the movie is tiresomely talky until things start moving in the last twenty minutes, and the talk is obvious and uninteresting. No, this is not one of Naschy’s better efforts.

Reno and the Doc (1984)

Article 4013 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-25-2012
Directed by Charles Dennis
Featuring Kenneth Welsh, Henry Ramer, Linda Griffiths
Country: Canada
What it is: Comedy

A con man hooks up with a solitary middle-aged country man who happens to be an excellent skier. He talks the man into becoming a champion skiing competitor.

The fantastic content is that the con man and the country skier have a psychic bond somewhat similar to that of the Corsican brothers. The reason I didn’t mention that detail in the plot description is that, despite the fact that it does play a bit of a role in the story that follows, it nevertheless remains less of a “plot driver” and more of an “odd touch”. There’s a few other odd touches as well, such as a woman who suffers from oral dyslexia and the skier’s ongoing feud with a group of eccentrics known as the Kukamungas. These odd touches might have gone a ways towards jazzing up the rather tired story line of an unhappy loner being pulled out of his comfort zone so he can eventually gain confidence and self-reliance. Unfortunately, the direction, the acting, the score, the editing, etc. all seem to be in the hands of people who seem only interested in pulling in the paycheck; the movie is so lacking in inspiration and spirit that it seems to evaporate right in front of your eyes. As a result, despite the feel-good ending of it all, I emerged feeling more vaguely depressed than anything else. The odd touches simply can’t redeem a movie this spiritless.