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.

The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler (1971)

Article 3970 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-5-2012
Directed by Bob Wynn
Featuring Leslie Nielsen, Bradford Dillman, James Daly
Country: USA
What it is: Conspiracy thriller

A news reporter is on the spot when a senator is involved in a near-fatal car crash. However, he becomes suspicious when the body of the senator is spirited away from the hospital and the authorities deny that the accident took place. He resolves to discover the truth…

After a poorly-executed crash sequence and a cheesy opening credits sequence, I was expecting the worst from this low-budget thriller. True, the direction and editing remain pedestrian at best throughout this movie. However, the script itself is another matter; whatever flaws may exist in this movie, the script shows a remarkable intelligence and thoughtfulness in dealing with its central issue – the creation of clone-like duplicates for people designed to be used as organ banks. The script takes a special care in exploring the various ethical questions about the procedure itself, as well as speculating on the circumstances under which it would be used. As a result, the movie remains very relevant indeed. The movie has a rather audacious ending in that it leaves the central conflict of the story unresolved; though this could be easily be perceived as a flaw, I notice it has the effect of leaving the viewer to speculate on his own about the issues raised by the movie, rather than resorting to either of the two pat endings (happy/cynical) that it could have used, either of which could have brought an end to the viewer’s desire to actually think about the movie. For these reasons, the movie is worth catching, despite its flaws.

Rapsodia Satanica (1920)

aka Satanic Rhapsody
Article 3959 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-21-2012
Directed by Nino Oxilia
Featuring Lyda Borelli, Andrea Habay, Ugo Bazzini
Country: Italy
What it is: A deal with the devil

An old woman makes a pact with the devil to regain her youth; in return, she must not fall prey to the emotion of love. But that’s harder said than done…

I quite like this efficient little take on the deal with the devil story, at least partially because Ugo Bazzini gives a fun little performance as Mephisto, the devil who makes his offer to the old woman; I like the way he creeps around at the edges of scenes waiting for his opportunities to spread misery and unhappiness. Lyda Borelli also does a good job as the “Faust” character, though it does require quite a bit of sympathy with the silent (as in opposition to talkie) mode of acting, as she does come off as a bit too obvious at times. I like the prologue and the first act the best; the second act seems to be mostly about the main character being depressed, and that gets a bit old after a bit. Nonetheless, this is an interesting silent Italian film.

Rogues Gallery (1944)

Article 3956 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-18-2012
Directed by Albert Herman
Featuring Frank Jenks, Robin Raymond, H.B. Warner
Country: USA
What it is: A wisecracking reporter mystery

A wisecracking reporter and her photographer attempt to get an interview with an inventor who has developed an amazing new eavesdropping device. However, they stumble upon murder and intrigue when it becomes obvious someone is trying to steal the plans for the device.

The fantastic content in this one is a Gizmo Maguffin, but there are two types of Gizmo Maguffins. There’s the pure Gizmo Maguffin, in which the device isn’t used at all but merely a pawn in the melodramatic turns of the story. And then there is the self-referencing Gizmo Maguffin, in which the device is used to solve the mystery of the attempts to steal it. Given the nature of this device, I wasn’t surprised it turned out to be the latter of the two. In fact, very little surprised me here; the characters are straight out of the reporter cliche playbook, the plot turns are by-the-numbers, and even the identity of the villain is mind-numbingly obvious. On a side note, you will note that I omitted any apostrophes in the title. So did the title card in the movie, though I do note that some of the promotional materials (the image on IMDB, for example) do use an apostrophe.

Ritual of Evil (1970)

Article 3913 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-21-2012
Posting Date: 5-1-2012
Directed by Robert Day
Featuring Louis Jourdan, Anne Baxter, Diana Hyland
Country: USA
What it is: Tale of the supernatural

The suicide of a rich young woman brings about an investigation by a psychiatrist who dabbles in the supernatural. He begins to suspect that a black mass has occurred involving the sacrifice of a young man, and that a demon may have been summoned from hell…

This is the sequel to FEAR NO EVIL, and features once again psychiatrist David Sorell. When I saw the earlier movie, I thought his concept would have made for a nifty series, and I still do. I also think this movie would have made a decent first episode for that series; it would have certainly worked better had it been condensed down quite a bit, as in this current form, it takes way too long for things to get going. And that’s my primary problem with this one; it feels padded and unfocused. I also think Wilfred Hyde-White’s mentor character is used a little too sparingly, and that he’s kept too much on the outskirts of the story; I’d like it more if he was on hand for the main action. As it is, I was disappointed by this sequel, though it’s a shame that it marked the end of the series.

Radio-Mania (1922)

Article 3896 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-1-2010
Posting Date: 4-14-2012
Directed by Roy William Neill
Featuring Grant Mitchell, Margaret Irving, Gertrude Hillman
Country: USA
What it is: Contact with Mars story

An obsessed inventor creates a giant radio with which he hopes to make contact with Mars.

This movie was originally shot in an early 3D process and had a running length of 95 minutes. My copy runs only 50 minutes, but, from a story perspective, I really don’t see a whole lot missing. It’s a charming, rather fanciful science fiction comedy. Some of it is obvious; for example, we get a fairly predictable series of jokes about how much more advanced the Martians are than we are. Still, it’s rather fun; the scenes on Mars are entertaining, it has some rather creatively photographed scenes (I love the use of lightning during a storm sequence, as well as some cool use of smoke during one of the experiments), and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a relatively young Grant Mitchell before (he was 49 when this was made). On the down side, it has one of those twist endings which would have annoyed me no end if I hadn’t seen it coming, but at least the movie uses the twist ending for a touch of poignancy; the inventor’s reaction to it is rather sad. Still, it does betray a certain anti-science attitude, or, to be more blunt, the message of the movie is that science works best when it thinks small.