Ransom Money (1970)

Ransom Money (1970)
Article 5481 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-16-2017
Directed by Dewitt Lee
Featuring Broderick Crawford, Rachel Roman, Gordan Jump
Country: USA
What it is: Crime thriller

A young boy is kidnapped and held for ransom. The distraught mother seeks the help of the police. Can they outwit the kidnapper?

This one popped up in the Mill Creek Action movie set, and is definitely on the side of marginalia, but since it kept throwing marginal content at me throughout the movie, I finally gave in and decided to give it a review. There’s a bit of marginal science fiction here; the kidnapper is an electronics expert, and he performs actions such as sending messages to the mother through the radio in her car and the television in her hotel room. He also tortures her at one point with loud electronic noise. Furthermore, there is a plot element involving an ink that disappears when exposed to light, and there’s a bit of a psychotic touch in the way that he seems to be terrorizing the mother. All of this may be marginal, but it’s there, and I chose to review it.

As for the movie itself, I will warn anyone who has the above mentioned Action set to ignore the plot description attached; Ralph Meeker is not in the movie, and other than the plot element of a boy being kidnapped, the story is different. The movie is definitely on the campy side; some of the dialogue is laughable, the plot relies on some fairly hard-to-swallow coincidences, and the production at times seems rushed. I do wonder if Broderick Crawford walked off the movie before production finished; his character is unceremoniously killed offscreen for very little reason before the climax of the movie. My favorite touch in the movie is that the kidnapper dares the mother to report the kidnapping to the police, so confident is he that he won’t be caught. My least favorite moment is the opening, which is a) a long driving scene, and b) features one of those faux singer-songwriter style ditties of the era that always seem to be so out of place in a movie of this ilk. And you should have no trouble figuring out which of the primary characters has a shady link to the kidnapper.

Revenge (1986)

REVENGE (1986)
aka Revenge: Blood Cult 2
Article 5428 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-18-2017
Directed by Christopher Lewis
Featuring Patrick Wayne, John Carradine, Bennie Lee McGowan
Country: USA
What it is: Horror movie

A man comes to an Oklahoma town to find out about the death of his brother, which was the result of a demon-dog worshipping blood cult run by the several prominent citizens of the town.

I’ve not seen the original BLOOD CULT, which is mostly famous for being the first made-for-video title exclusively. However, I don’t think seeing the original makes a whole lot of difference; this movie seems to work just as well as a stand-alone movie. Or, perhaps I should say that it fails to work just as well; most of the movie seems to consist in waiting around for people to be killed or for other events to happen. It was shot entirely in location in Oklahoma, and perhaps the most interesting thing about it is that the heroine is a middle-aged woman. For what it’s worth, the acting is competent if uninspired. It also features John Carradine in what he was given to claiming was his five hundredth film, so he should get some kind of award of quantity over quality. At 100 minutes the film is overlong, and it has a couple of twists that don’t really add or subtract from the movie, and a few unanswered questions. All in all, this is mostly just a dreary time-killer.

Raiders of the Living Dead (1986)

Article 5424 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-14-2017
Directed by Samuel M. Sherman
Featuring Scott Schwartz, Robert Deveau, Donna Asali
Country: USA
What it is: Dead is right.

A reporter encounters zombies while on a story. He teams up with a teenage boy who has built a laser gun from an old laser-disc player to defeat them.

Four things caught my attention while watching this movie. First, it was actually a bit nostalgic to watch a movie that opened with the old “Independent-International” logo; I didn’t know they were still around at this time. Second was seeing Sam Sherman’s name as the director. He’s mostly known as a producer; his only other directorial credits I’m aware of are a documentary on Chaplin and extra footage for CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND. I’m really surprised he didn’t come up with an alternate title for the movie with the word “blood” in it. Third was seeing Zita Johann’s name in the credits, returning to the silver screen after a fifty-year break; I can only imagine what lured her into this one. Finally, I was delighted to see the name of Robert Deveau in the credits; it’s his only screen credit before appearing in three Larry Blamire movies. For the record, he does the best that he can with the severely undernourished script he had to work with; in fact, the acting throughout the movie is acceptable. Unfortunately, that doesn’t save the movie from being what it is: a tedious, unfocused bore of a movie that just barely dredges up the effort to tie together the disjointed scenes during the first half. The zombies in this one seem to be old school zombies; at least, there are no scenes of them chowing down in the print I saw. And the movie should get an award for the worst title that uses the “—— of the Living Dead” format; despite the fact that the title seems designed to recall that of a certain Spielberg movie, you won’t be confusing the two. As a whole, the movie would have been better if Al Adamson had been alive and directed it, and that’s not a recommendation.

Real Genius (1985)

Article 5409 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-30-2017
Directed by Martha Coolidge
Featuring Val Kilmer, Gabriel Jarret, Michelle Meyrink
Country: USA
What it is: Eccentric teen comedy

A fifteen-year-old science prodigy is accepted at a special university and finds himself working on a super-laser, unaware that the project will be used by the military as a weapon of assassination.

I blew hot and cold on this comedy while I was watching it, largely because the things I didn’t like about were the first things trotted out of the gate; the villains of the piece are such jerks that I found it hard to both believe and endure them, and there’s a certain smugness around the edges of the movie that turns me off. For a while this made me not notice the things I like about the movie; the heroes of the story are a truly eccentric and likable bunch (though in some cases you have to get to know them to appreciate them), some of the jokes are very funny, and the movie generally tries to avoid overt slapstick and gross-out humor. Eventually, the positive aspects of the movie won out, especially since I was deeply amused by the inspired final act of revenge in the movie. This was part of a trio of comedies I tend to link together in my mind, the other two being MY SCIENCE PROJECT and WEIRD SCIENCE. I’ve not seen the latter, but I have seen the former, and this one easily beats it out.

Ramar and the Savage Challenges (1953)

aka Ramar and the Seven Challenges
Article 5396 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-16-2017
Directed by Sam Newfield and Spencer Gordon Bennet
Featuring Jon Hall, Ray Montgomery, Nick Stewart
Country: USA
What it is: Jungle antics

Ramar, white medicine man of the jungle, has to deal with an ambitious witch doctor, a conniving oil company agent, an explorer with a secret, a woman who may be a were-leopard, and the ever-encroaching danger of stock footage.

A handful of TV-movies were made out of episodes of the TV series “Ramar of the Jungle”. This one was cobbled together from the episodes “Savage Challenge”, “Thunder Over Sangoland”, “Dark Justice”, and “Lady of the Leopards”. I also have to admit at the outset here that I haven’t actually SEEN this TV-Movie; I merely tried to emulate the experience by watching the four separate TV episodes. In other words, I cheated, but it’s not the first time and won’t be the last. The whole jungle genre remains marginal for the most part in terms of fantastic content, but at least the fourth of these episodes has a fantastic premise involving a white woman who is kept in a cage in the jungle because it is believed she turns into a leopard during the full moon, which makes this belong to the genre at least as much as SHE-WOLF OF LONDON. There’s a few other touches of fantasy and science fiction here, though they’re very light. The series itself is only so-so, but it has its moments. One thing I noted is that the movie ran 87 minutes, while the four episode would have clocked in at about 104, which means seventeen minutes were trimmed. I’m guessing this could have been easily done by the removal of beginning and ending credits, as well as time-filling plot-stopping moments of stock footage, a regular feature of this series. And though the show is politically incorrect by today’s standards, it does make a stab towards making the natives human rather than merely savages.

Raskolnikow (1923)

aka Raskolnikov, Crime and Punishment
Article 5375 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-19-2017
Directed by Robert Wiene
Featuring Grigori Chmara, Elisabeta Skulskaja, Alla Tarasova
Country: Germany
What it is: Crime drama

A student, under the belief of a philosophy that certain people are above the law, murders a stockbroker and her daughter with an axe. He manages to get away with the murder, but can he get away from his own conscience…?

When I was looking for this one, I discovered there were two different versions of the film on YouTube to choose from; one with Russian subtitles that ran almost two hours long, and one in English that was very badly framed and ran only seventy minutes. Despite the fact that there was a language comprehension issue, I chose the Russian version, for several reasons; it was more complete in every regard, I have a certain familiarity with the novel, and, seeing how the novel is very well known, it wasn’t too difficult to find a summary of the plot that helped me through.

Still, the movie was a bit difficult when it came to sorting out some of the subplots, but the main thrust of the story about a man who can’t quite escape his conscience comes through very well. It helps that both the actors who play the student and the detective who suspects him give excellent performances; the scenes between them are highlights. The movie was also directed by Robert Wiene, who uses some of the same expressionistic style he used in THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI; it’s not as pervasive as in that movie, but it’s noticeably there, especially in the scenes in the building where the murder takes place. Walt Lee states the fantastic content of the movie is Wiene’s style (it’s the only version of the story listed in his book), but there’s a handful of dream/hallucination sequences which do lapse into the fantastic as well, including one in which the pawnbroker appears as a grotesque giantess. The movie is perhaps too long. but it’s effective enough of the time that it makes for a decent adaptation of the novel.

Ramper, der Tiermensch (1927)

aka The Strange Case of Captain Ramper
Article 5352 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-22-2017
Directed by Max Reichmann
Featuring Paul Wegener, Mary Johnson, Hugo Doblin
Country: Germany
What it is: Bizarre drama

A noted aviator crashes his plane while making a daring flight over the polar regions. In order to survive, he lives a brutal, beast-like existence that buries his humanity. Many years later, he is captured as a “polar ape”, and then is sold as a sideshow attraction, despite the fact that the seller has been told that he is human‚Ķ

Here’s another movie that ended up on my “ones that got away” list years ago; I had been aware that some footage existed, but I was never sure there was enough to make it worth a viewing. Then, just recently, an incomplete print practically dropped into my lap (and a hearty thanks to the man who sent this to me) and I got a chance to see it. I’m glad I did; this may be one of the most interesting of the Paul Wegener movies I’ve seen. It falls somewhat into the area of science fiction at one point with a theory about the existence of a gland that can be used to restore humanity to a debased man. From what I see, the movie explores the nature of humanity and whether a man can truly say he has a better existence than that of a beast. The movie is not complete, and much of the ending is missing, but there is enough here to enjoy the movie and to guess how things could have turned out; I’m halfway tempted to hunt down the original play and see how it panned out. I’m very glad to have seen it; if it was complete, I think it may have a chance to be judged as Wegener’s best movie.

Le remords (1906)

aka Remorse, Conscience, Comedy about a Rich Man and His Servant
Article 5338 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-7-2017
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Early horror short

A servant kills his master for his money, but finds that vengeance can come from beyond the grave.

Here’s another movie rescued from my “ones that got away” list by its appearance on YouTube; those interesting in viewing it should search by “comedy about a rich man and his servant”, which is how it is labeled, thought that’s hardly an official title for this short. In fact, I would hardly call it a comedy; at least, to these eyes, it’s played more for scares than for yuks. It’s also incredibly efficient; it tells its whole story in less than two minutes, and there’s quite a bit going on, especially towards the end. I enjoyed this one a lot, and I’m glad it finally came to light.

Le roman de Renard (1930)

aka The Story of the Fox
Article 5330 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-27-2016
Directed by Irene Starewicz and Wladyslaw Starewicz
Featuring the voices of Claude Dauphin, Romain Bouquet, Sylvain Itkine
Country: France
What it is: Animated fable

In the kingdom of the animals, complaints are lodged to the lion king about the fox, who performs pranks on all of the other animals. The king decides to have him arrested, but will he be able to find another animal that can outwit his nemesis?

Up to this point, all of the works I’ve seen from Wladyslaw Starewicz have been shorts; this one, at 65 minutes, can be called feature length. For those who wonder whether his animated magic could be translated into this longer form, there’s no need to worry; he does a wonderful job, though he enlisted the aid of his daughter in the writing and directing of the movie. It’s based on a fable by Goethe, and it’s mostly a comic series of pranks in which practically every character is sooner or later outwitted by the clever fox. The ending is unexpected but logical, and it definitely shows the imprint of someone who spent at least part of his life involved in politics (meaning Goethe). The animation is stunning as usual, and I find it interesting that even in this world of anthropomorphic animals, they still find themselves at odds with man; several of the pranks involve leaving the hapless animals at the mercy of human peasants. This one is definitely recommended.

Robinhood Makes Good (1939)

aka Robin Hood Makes Good
Article 5318 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-8-2016
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc, Bernice Hansen, Margaret Hill-Talbot
Country: USA
What it is: Warner Brothers whimsy

After reading a book on him, three squirrels decide to play Robin Hood, with the littlest forced to play the rich man who is robbed. A fox lures the other squirrels into a trap by pretending to be Maid Marian. Can the littlest squirrel rescue them?

Chuck Jones must have been a fan of Robin Hood; he also gave us RABBIT HOOD and ROBIN HOOD DAFFY. This, the earliest, is from his earliest days as a director where he still specialized in whimsy and cute characters, and if this one gets by at all, it’s largely by cuteness. Also, it’s another one of those cartoons in which the fantastic content is entirely due to the presence of anthropomorphic animals. For some reason, my print has the main title without a space between Robin and Hood. All in all, it’s pretty ordinary.