Rashomon (1950)

Article 2132 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-16-2007
Posting Date: 6-14-2007
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Featuring Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori

Three men gather at the Rashomon gate during a rainstorm and relate the conflicting testimonies of the participants of the murder of a Samurai and the rape of his wife which occurred in the nearby woods.

I am a huge fan of the work of Akira Kurosawa, who I consider one of the finest directors of all time. I find it highly regrettable that I will be covering only a smidgen of his work for this series, as he rarely ventured into the cinema of the fantastic, and of the only three that I anticipate covering, two are quite marginal indeed. I’m also a little disappointed that one of those three is this one; not that I feel it doesn’t deserve its acclaim (it would merit it just by telling this incredibly complex story in the first place), but because I don’t fondly dote on it in the same way that I do on THE SEVEN SAMURAI, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS or YOJIMBO, just to name a few of his other classics. The basic concept is brilliant; we hear four substantially different tellings of what happens in the aftermath of the capture of the samurai and the rape of his wife. One is from the bandit’s point of view, another is from the wife’s point of view, the third is from the point of view of the dead samurai (who tells his story through a medium, which provides the fantastic content to the story), and the fourth from a witness who never testified and whose story is, as far as it goes, probably the most accurate. It is the vast differences between the stories that makes it fascinating; for example, the samurai dies at the hands of three different people in the course of the four stories. It’s the performances that stick in my mind the most from this one, particularly from Toshiro Mifune (whose character is quite different depending on whose story is being told) and Takashi Shimura as the woodsman who discovers the body of the samurai and has secrets of his own. It’s a profound story, and the movie is definitely a triumph, but I think one of the reasons it isn’t one of my favorites is that I had more enjoyment performing in a stage version of the play. I played the character known in the movie as the Commoner, though in the play he is called the Wigmaker, who makes his living by selling wigs he made from the hair of the dead around the Rashomon gate. When I think of this story, it is for that version that my fondness lies.


Retik, the Moon Menace (1966)

Feature Version of Serial RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON
Article 2118 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-2-2007
Posting Date: 5-31-2007
Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Featuring George Wallace, Aline Towne, Roy Barcroft

Commando Cody takes on moon men intent on invading the earth.

Yes, it’s another feature version of a serial, this time RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON. As far as these things go, they do an average job of it – it flows well enough in some scenes and jumps abruptly in others. Beyond that, I’ve pretty much exhausted what I have to say about these feature versions of serials, so I have nothing more to add.


Radar Men from the Moon (1952)

Article 2039 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-14-2006
Posting Date: 3-13-2007
Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Featuring George Wallace, Aline Towne, Roy Barcroft

Commando Cody has to deal with saboteurs from the moon intent on softening up our defenses for an upcoming invasion.

Though it doesn’t hold a candle to their best serials from the forties, this is perhaps the best serial from Republic during the fifties that I’ve seen so far. Chalk it up to a fairly decent pace and the fact that it takes the time to shift locations to the moon every once in a while. At any rate, it’s certainly a better rocket man serial than ZOMBIES OF THE STRATOSPHERE. At any rate, a few comments…

1) The rocket man popularly known as Commando Cody is known here as…Commando Cody! Cody even has a cool logo on the wall near the entrance to his building.

2) Based on a few comments here and there, I’ve come to the conclusion that Cody’s first name is actually Commando. This, of course, makes me wonder about the state of mind of Cody’s parents.

3) Sure, the rocket suit is cool and all, but let’s face it; the real test of a hero is how well they handle themselves in a good, solid fistfight. Unfortunately, almost every time Cody and his assistant Ted get involved in one, they get the crap kicked out of them. Maybe they shouldn’t have been tussling with Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger himself.

4) Retik can brag all he wants about the superiority of moon weapons to earth weapons, but watching him fumble clumsily with his hand ray-gun (which can only fire a single shot before having to reload) while Cody proceeds to mop the floor with Retik’s associates (in one of the few fights where he proves his mettle) and then consistently missing when he does fire – well, let’s just say I’m not quaking in my boots about the fate of the world in the hands of these moon men.

5) I think somebody should take a look at the shocks on those moon tanks.

6) Any saboteur organization that spends an inordinate amount of time trying to get finances for their diabolical plans doesn’t strike me as effective. And any such organization that hits upon the idea of getting money by kidnapping their most prominent foe and holding him for ransom doesn’t strike me as particularly intelligent.

7) As for the cliffhangers, let’s just say this – there’s a lot of bailing out going on.


Road to Bali (1952)

Article 2016 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-21-2006
Posting Date: 2-18-2007
Directed by Hal Walker
Featuring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour

Two entertainers get involved with natives who are after a box of jewels.

Yes, it’s another Hope/Crosby road movie, and if you’ve seen one of them, you know the basic routine. In this one, the fantastic aspects are a little more prominent; in particular, there is a giant squid that threatens Bob Hope when he’s deep sea diving. There’s also a magic flute that causes women to appear out of baskets (including Jane Russell at one point), a couple of men-in-gorilla-suits (one of which, playing a female gorilla, takes a bit of a liking to both Hope and Crosby) and a native tribe of headhunters who worship a volcano. Other cameos include Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Humphrey Bogart (who appears in a clip from THE AFRICAN QUEEN) and Bing’s brother Bob Crosby, who gets a shot in the movie. Like the other Road movies, this is amusing fun.


Rostro infernal (1963)

Article 1997 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-2-2006
Posting Date: 1-30-2007
Directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna
Featuring Eric del Castillo, Rosa Carmina, Jaime Fernandez

Count Brankovan can gain immortality by drinking liquids drained from the brains of his victims. The police are trying to catch him.

Here’s another useless review of Mexican horror movie which I’ve only been able to find in unsubtitled Spanish. I wouldn’t even have that much of the plot to give you if the blurb on the back cover of my DVD didn’t explain it. As usual, the parts I best appreciate are those that are purely visual; as a result, I find myself enjoying the musical numbers more than I would in other movies, and this movie features a combo which plays jazzy versions of familiar melodies, two of which I recognize though I don’t know their titles; all I can say is that one number always reminds me of Hawaii and the other of undertakers. I do know that the evil scientist (who hides his ugly face behind a mask) has an assistant named Kunto who looks quite familiar, though the only other credit I can find for him is in TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD, which I’ve never seen. The scientist also keeps four white-haired androids (I think that may be the proper word) to do his bidding, though they do get confused on occasion, especially towards the end when they take off their suits so they can go bare-chested while interrupting a musical number but end up attacking each other when clever policeman shine big flashlights on them (I’m betting this scene makes a lot more sense if I understood the language, but who knows?) This is one movie where the subtitles or dubbing would really have come in handy, though I’d sum it up by saying it’s a more horror oriented take on THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET.


Radio Patrol (1937)

Article 1957 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-24-2006
Posting Date: 12-21-2006
Directed by Ford Beebe and Clifford Smith
Featuring Grant Withers, Kay Hughes, Mickey Rentschler

A cop finds himself investigating the murder of noted scientist and the theft of his secret, the formula for a new flexible bulletproof steel.

If my theory that serials put their best foot forward in the opening episode holds any water, what does it say about this one that within ten hours of having seen the first episode of this one, I had totally forgotten the storyline? The prognosis is not good, I’m afraid, and this one turned out to be a rather listless and dull affair. Which is not to say that there aren’t points of interest here. The story is fairly elaborate; instead of your basic good guy versus villain plot, we have our good guy, two sets of bad guys (one headed by a company executive, the other an international crime syndicate headed by a man with hypnotic powers), and two wild cards, a brother (who was the johnny-on-the-spot when the inventor was killed) and sister (who works under an alias as the secretary to the executive) who could go either way. Naturally, it falls into the hands of two cops to solve the problem. No, make that one cop; his partner may be good in a fight, but he’s so busy solving crossword puzzles that he’s totally useless as a lookout. Is it any wonder that the cop recruits the help of associates any policeman would find essential; namely, a ten-year-old boy who lives in a junkyard and his dog (who steals the movie and isn’t in it near enough). He even lets the kid drive in a pinch, which wouldn’t seem so bad an idea if there hadn’t already been a full-grown woman also available to take the wheel. I will admit that the cliffhanger in episode eleven is pretty good, but, for the most part, I found it hard to believe that this one would actually keep the wide-eyed attention of that little boy reading a “Radio Patrol” comic book who appears after the opening credits; my wife theorized that he must actually be perusing a Bettie Page centerfold.


The Return of the Whistler (1948)

Article 1870 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-28-2006
Posting Date: 9-25-2006
Directed by D. Ross Lederman
Featuring Michael Duane, Lenore Aubert, Richard Lane

When his prospective bride disappears from a hotel in a small town, a man hooks up with a private detective in an attempt to locate her.

This was the last of the eight films based on the radio character, The Whistler. It’s not bad, mostly because the story (by Cornell Woolrich) is fairly decent, it’s efficiently directed, and fairly well acted. It is, however, devoid of the fantastic content that makes me cover these movies; other than the Whistler himself (who, since he exists more as a narrative device than a character, is extremely marginal to begin with), there is nothing here that puts it in the realm of the fantastic, and there really is no horror mood to speak of. I do somewhat miss the presence of Richard Dix, who appeared in all of the other seven movies in the series, but he had retired from acting by this time, and since he wasn’t playing a continuing character, his presence really wasn’t necessary. The Whistler is used a little clumsily in this one; I don’t mind him appearing at the beginning, and adding his voice to the proceedings at certain points, but having him reappear on the wall each time is just a little corny. Fans of THE BLOB may want to keep their eyes open for Olin Howlin, who appears here as a caretaker of an estate and adds a bit of comic relief to the proceedings.