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.


A Roadside Inn (1906)

aka L’hotel des voyageurs de commerce
Article 3547 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-6-2011
Posting Date: 5-1-2011
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Minor Melies

Three pranksters invite a drunkard to spend a night in a room in a hotel so they can play jokes on him.

The primary joke involves a dummy dressed up to look like a ghost and run by strings; this is to frighten the drunkard. For a Melies film, this is singularly unambitious, though it does have a sort of split-screen effect with half of the screen in the bedroom and the other half out in the hall. Though the fantastic content involving the ghost is faked, the ending has a twist that moves it into the realm of fantasy, although I’m not sure of exactly what happened. As stated above, this is fairly minor entry in Melies’s oeuvre.

Robinson Crusoe of Mystery Island (1966)

Article 3542 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-1-2011
Posting Date: 4-26-2011
Directed by Ray Taylor and Mack V. Wright
Featuring Mala, Mamo Clark, John Picorri
Country: USA
What it is: Serial thrills in convenient feature form

A federal agent is sent to Clipper Island to investigate the possibility of sabotage being performed on a dirigible company. It turns out the island is the hideout of a gang of international spies who are manipulating the natives by controlling the volcano.

It seems like eons since I’ve covered a feature version of a serial. Not that I really missed them, mind you; I always thought that serials crammed into features generally come off as repetitive; what works in twenty minute spurts doesn’t necessarily work in a 100 minute chunk, especially if you feel compelled to edit out plot points to make room for more action. This one is pretty typical; jagged editing leaves the storyline a confused mess. Nowadays, the original serials are easier to find than these condensations, so there’s no real reason to hunt for these, unless you’re a completist like me.

Rentadick (1972)

Article 3531 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-21-2011
Posting Date: 4-15-2011
Directed by Jim Clark
Featuring James Booth, Richard Briers, Julie Ege
Country: UK
What it is: British comedy

A detective agency is hired to guard a secret paralysis gas. However, some of the detectives at the same agency have been hired to steal the formula for the gas. Hilarity ensues.

When I heard that the movie was co-written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman, my expectations went up in the hopes of enjoying some Python-style humor. My first clue that all was not well should have been the opening credits, where the names of Cleese and Chapman do not appear; in fact, the only writing credits are for “additional dialogue”. It turns out that upon seeing the movie (based on a script of theirs with the less racy title RENTASLEUTH), the pair asked that their names be removed. I don’t blame them; this is a desperately unfunny farce, confusing, unfocused and messy. The only gag that even approached being funny was having one of the detectives become trapped inside a mansion and being thwarted in his every attempt to escape. The fantastic content is a nerve gas that paralyzes people from the waist down, but it’s used mostly as a Gizmo Maguffin, and given the bawdy title, I was surprised that the concept wasn’t used once for a suggestive joke; in fact, outside of a couple of near-naked shots of Julie Ege, the movie is surprisingly tame. The basic premise could have resulted in an interesting and fun comedy, but I’m afraid this one is a disaster.

Le retapeur de cervelles (1911)

aka The Brain Inspector
Article 3508 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-26-2011
Posting Date: 3-23-2011
Directed by Emile Cohl
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Partially animated medical movie

A man goes to a noted brain inspector for help. After observing the goings-on inside the man’s head, the inspector concludes that an operation is necessary.

This short is a combination of live action and animation. The animated segments occur when the inspector uses a megaphone-like tube to inspect the man’s brain and sees various surreal visions, and again during the operation when the inspector removes a long rope from the man’s head. The rope then goes into a animated transformations, indicating that this is the cause of the man’s ailment. The animated transformations are very entertaining, almost Freudian at times, and it has a stream-of-consciousness flow to it. This makes for an interesting viewing experience, and makes me long for a rediscovery of Emile Cohl and his work.

Reborn (1981)

REBORN (1981)
Article 3458 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-24-2010
Posting Date: 2-1-2011
Directed by Bigas Luna
Featuring Dennis Hopper, Michael Moriarty, Antonella Murgia
Country: Spain / USA / Italy
What it is: Religious fantasy

A TV preacher / faith healer finds himself paired up with an Italian woman to make a countrywide tour. The woman’s healing powers are real, however, and when the man who brings her to America leaves her pregnant, complications arise.

This was one of those movies that, for most of its running time, had me wondering what the point of it was going to be. I didn’t get the gist of it until late in the movie, when the woman in question goes into labor and gives birth in a gas station; a decoration in the door of the station gave me the clue I needed, and though I haven’t sorted everything out with absolute clarity, I can say at the very least that this satire on faith healing is not the work of a skeptic, but of a believer. It was this clue, for example, that made me understand what the purpose of the mysterious helicopter was, and I’m actually quite taken by the realization of what it symbolized. My print runs only about 92 minutes, and the whole movie runs 105 minutes, so I’m probably missing something. The movie is often confusing, but it’s anchored by three fine performances; both Dennis Hopper and Antonella Murgia are very good, but Michael Moriarty really steals the movie with an unusual and offbeat role. One final note: since I don’t gear my watching system towards the holidays, it’s rare when I actually watch a movie that’s fitting for a holiday. This may be an exception; once you know what it’s about, it’s a fitting choice for Christmas Eve.

Raise the Titanic (1980)

Article 3425 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-20-2010
Posting Date: 12-30-2010
Directed by Jerry Jameson
Featuring Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Adventure thriller

A new defensive device requires a very rare radioactive element that was only known to exist in a mine that has been stripped dry. The element is traced to a box that was in the hold of the Titanic on its maiden voyage. An expedition is sent out to raise the sunken ship.

If this movie works at all, I place the credit on the premise itself; the idea of finding and raising the Titanic is novel enough to hold the interest. The special effects aren’t bad; I especially like the moment when the ship actually does come to the ocean surface. Sadly, almost everything else falls flat; the international espionage is uninvolving, the characters are dull, the human conflict is trite, and the overall direction fails to add any suspense or excitement to the story. The best performance comes from an all-too-short appearance by Alec Guinness as a survivor of the original sinking.