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)

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)

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.

The Racket Buster (1948)

Animated Short
Article 2765 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-2-2008
Posting Date: 3-9-2009
Directed by Mannie Davis
Voice cast unknown

Mighty Mouse is kidnapped by gangster cats, locked in a safe, and dumped into the ocean. The gangsters then begin to terrorize the mice in the neighborhood.

This Mighty Mouse cartoon plays down the humor and ups the action; it’s more like a gangster picture (as you might expect from the title and plot description), and my favorite touch was that the head of one of the gangsters was modeled off of Edward G. Robinson. Despite the gangster angle, though, the fantastic content increases at the end of the cartoon by having the climax occur in outer space.

Well, that’ll do with Mighty Mouse for the moment.

The Return of Count Yorga (1971)

Article 2751 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-17-2008
Posting Date: 2-23-2009
Directed by Bob Kelljan
Featuring Robert Quarry, Mariette Hartley, Roger Perry
Country: USA

Count Yorga the vampire falls in love with a woman who works in an orphanage. He kidnaps her and embarks on a reign of terror.

I always used to wonder why there was even a Count Yorga to begin with; it seems to me that if you had a vampire who was a Count, you had a familiar and easy-to-market character named Dracula in the public domain that was ripe and ready for use. This movie did answer that question for me at least a little. The character of Dracula carries with it a certain amount of baggage that you can dispense with if you’re playing a different character; for one thing, you don’t have to work on the accent. This allows Robert Quarry to come up with his own character, and he does a fine job with it; he adds his own wit to the mix, feels at ease in the role, and doesn’t come across as a pale imitation of Dracula. I like the beginning of the movie best; it makes subtle but effective use of sound in the opening scenes, and the costume party in which Count Yorga appears (in which the winner of the best costume is another person dressed up as a vampire) is highly amusing. There’s also a nice low-key feel to the movie, which is underlined by the absence of background music in most of the scenes. Unfortunately, the script is undernourished, for each scene that works there’s one that falls flat, and the low-key vibes give way to aimlessness and listlessness on occasion. After a while, the attempts at humor become embarrassing, especially towards the end of the movie in which far too much time is spent with a couple of comic-relief cops. In other words, it’s a mixed bag, but memorable moments abound, including one in which we get to see Count Yorga watching a vampire movie in Spanish. This movie also features George Macready’s final screen performance; his son, Micheal Macready, was the producer.