The Return of Chandu (1934)

THE RETURN OF CHANDU (1934)
Feature version of the serial THE RETURN OF CHANDU
Article 3665 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-12-2011
Posting Date: 8-27-2011
Directed by Ray Taylor
Featuring Bela Lugosi, Maria Alba, Lucien Prival
Country: USA
What it is: Mystic powers melodrama

Frank Chandler (aka Chandu) must use all of his magic powers to save an Egyptian princess from being sacrificed by the cult of Ubasti.

You can’t really judge this “feature version of a serial” along the same lines as many of the others; unlike a lot of them, the serial was actually shot so that the first four episodes could be easily edited together as a self-contained feature, which gave the distributors options on how they could market the story. As a result, the movie doesn’t have that jagged feel I’ve come to expect from the form; it flows smoothly and coherently. It is, however, a bit static and creaky. Nevertheless, I really noticed how much Lugosi’s performance in the title role makes it all work; he gives his character so much conviction that you just enjoy seeing him at work. Having seen both the serial and the two features culled from it, I’d have to say that the features are preferable in this case; the serial itself gets rather repetitive during the middle sections.

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Resurrection (1980)

RESURRECTION (1980)
Article 3656 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-3-2011
Posting Date: 8-18-2011
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Featuring Ellen Burstyn, Sam Shepard, Richard Farnsworth
Country: USA
What it is: Fantasy drama

After a car accident, a woman has an after death experience but is brought back to life. Afterwards, she discovers she has the power to heal.

Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Oscar for her role as the healer in this movie, and she well deserved it; her character is so sincere and engaging that she draws us into the drama of the story. In fact, we like her so much that we find ourselves dreading the darkness that hovers on the outskirts of the story; because she doesn’t credit any particular divine entities for her powers (she doesn’t know where the power came from), there are those who come to their own conclusions as to the source of her powers, and some of these people aren’t satisfied with her silence on the matter. The movie is deeply emotional but never cloying; the sincerity of everyone’s performance is apparent, and it fleshes out and adds dimension to the movie. The ending is lovely, and quite logical in its way. Recommended.

Revenge in the House of Usher (1982)

REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER (1982)
Article 3602 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-10-2011
Posting Date: 6-25-2011
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Howard Vernon, Antonio Mayans, Lina Romay
Country: Spain / France
What it is: Franco film

A former student visits the home of the ailing Dr. Usher, who has been trying to revive his daughter with blood transplants from unwilling female donors.

During the opening credits of this movie, I had to put the image on hold so I could write down exactly what I saw, so I could reproduce it for this review. Here is the credit as it appears in the movie

Based on the novel “The Fall of house of Usher” by Edgard Allan Poe

The utter sloppiness of this credit certainly shows that someone didn’t give a flying fudgesicle stick about this movie. But then, the movie doesn’t inspire it. Now I’ve had a fairly good time of it lately in my encounters with Jess Franco films; most of the ones I’ve seen recently have been his better efforts. This one is not; it’s Franco at his least inspired. It takes very little out of the Poe story; the only real elements in common are the name of Usher, the fact that someone comes to visit him, and that the house collapses when the main character dies; apart from that, it’s just Franco going to the Dr. Orloff well one more time, and this movie even recycles about fifteen minutes of footage from the first Orloff movie. It has those stylistic touches I associate with Franco at his worst, lots of shots of scenery, lots of shots of people standing around looking at things, etc. One thing I noticed in particular is that whenever a character is lying down, he likes to get close-ups of the character’s face from an angle that emphasizes his nostrils; this made me wonder if Franco had gotten confused about the old saying that “the eyes are the window to the soul” and had mentally substituted “nose” for “eyes”. Or maybe he just likes nostrils. At any rate, I found the experience of watching a bad Franco film no different than usual; I just let the movie wash over me until it’s over and then realize that I didn’t feel a single emotion during the whole thing, not even a twinge of fear. This one is not recommended.

Rescued in Mid-Air (1906)

RESCUED IN MID-AIR (1906)
Article 3596 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-3-2011
Posting Date: 6-19-2011
Directed by Percy Stow
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Daring rescue trick film

After a woman is stranded on a steeple as the result of a biking accident, a professor with an airship attempts to rescue her.

I never knew bikes were so dangerous; when this one hits the wagon the woman was sitting in, it tosses her up into the heavens, and she only reaches the steeple thanks to her parasol, which causes her to float like Mary Poppins. The airship is also pretty amusing; it has propellers on the bottom and flapping wings on the side. All in all, this is a fairly amusing trick film.

Rocket to Mars (1946)

ROCKET TO MARS (1946)
Animated Cartoon

Article 3584 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2011
Posting Date: 6-7-2011
Directed by Bill Tytla
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Harry Welch, and Jackson Beck
Country: USA
What it is: Popeye cartoon

Popeye is accidentally rocketed to Mars, where he discovers an impending invasion of the Earth.

This is only the second Popeye cartoon I’ve covered; the other one was POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS SINBAD THE SAILOR from a decade earlier. I didn’t expect this one to live up to that one; after all, the earlier one was designed as a special project, and this one was probably just another entry in the Popeye series. By this time, the characteristic mumbling and the three-dimensional backgrounds had gone by the wayside, and I really miss them; they both served to make the earlier cartoons a bit more special. This was made fairly soon after the war ended, and there are a few references; in outer space, one of the planets is an Eight Ball with a Japanese character behind it, and after he takes his spinach, the imagery in Popeye’s muscles are of A-bombs. The head of the Martian army serves as the Bluto character here. It has some amusing moments, but it’s just not as much fun as the earlier cartoons.

Der Rest ist Schweigen (1959)

DER REST IST SCHWEIGEN (1959)
aka The Rest is Silence

Article 3574 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-8-2011
Posting Date: 5-28-2011
Directed by Helmut Kautner
Featuring Hardy Kruger, Peter van Eyck, Ingrid Andree
Country: West Germany
What it is: Modernized Shakespeare

A young man returns home to find his father dead… and his mother married to the man he suspects is his father’s murderer.

Here’s another movie that was rescued from my “ones that got away” list, those movies that I hunted for unsuccessfully for years. And, like most foreign movies that end up on that list, if it does manifest itself, it’s usually not on a copy with English dubbing or subtitles, and such is the case here. However, I was armed with one extra piece of info; this movie is a fairly faithful modernized adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, a play I am quite familiar with. As a result, I was able to match the characters in the movie with the equivalent characters in the play, and follow the thread of the plot. It’s a good thing, too; had I not been able to follow it, the plot wouldn’t have made any sense to me, and the fantastic content would have been invisible. In fact, I’m still not sure it’s there; in the play, Hamlet is clued in to the plot of Claudius by a visit from the ghost of his dead father, and there is no recognizably equivalent scene in this movie. There is, however, a mysterious phone call in a flashback sequence which may be indicative of a call from a ghost, and there’s an interesting scene where the main character discovers a secret safe from a clue in a painting of his father. However, since I was not privy to an understanding of the dialogue surrounding these scenes, this may be nothing but conjecture. I’m actually surprised that this is the first version of “Hamlet” I’ve encountered for this series, given the directness of the fantastic content in the story, and it would be ironic if this one didn’t contain that content. At any rate, I enjoyed the movie, and it saves its biggest departure from its source script for the ending scene, which leaves many more characters alive than the original does and makes the final act of justice come from an unexpected hand. My favorite scene is when Fee (this movie’s equivalent to the character of Ophelia) descends into madness and cuts off all of the flowers in a greenhouse; for some reason, I found this scene unbelievably sad.

Rock & Rule (1983)

ROCK & RULE (1983)
Article 3566 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-27-2011
Posting Date: 5-20-2011
Directed by Clive A. Smith
Featuring the voices of Paul Le Mat, Susan Roman, Don Francks
Country: Canada
What it is: Animated Rock and Roll fantasy

In a post-apocalyptic world where animals have evolved into human-like forms, a legendary rock performer tries to circumvent his waning popularity by summoning a demon from another dimension at his next concert. To do so, he needs a special voice, which belongs to a female singer in an unknown band. He kidnaps her, but the other members of her band set out to rescue her…

The first animated feature produced entirely in Canada owes a lot more to Bakshi than it does to Disney. Still, it’s not as jagged as some of Bakshi’s work, and overall, the animation is quite good. The story is merely passable, and the movie doesn’t really make much use of either the “evolved animals” or the “post-apocalyptic world”. What it does use, and what is probably its big selling point, is the talents of the rock artists involved; the music is provided by Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed and Earth, Wind and Fire (Iggy Pop is also in there somewhere). The movie also models its characters off of some of the rock performers; the main rock group in the movie more or less resembles Cheap Trick (with Debbie Harry sharing lead vocals with Robin Zander), with characters clearly modeled off of Bun E. Carlos and Rick Nielsen, the latter being played like a certain Bowery Boy who Nielsen resembles, though it should be pointed out that the rock stars only provide the singing voices and not the talking voices. Lou Reed does the singing voice for the main villain, who looks not so much like Reed as he does a cross between Mick Jagger and the Grinch. Overall, the movie was quite entertaining, if nothing really special.