Son of Godzilla (1967)

SON OF GODZILLA (1967)
aka Kaijut no kessen: Gojira no musuko
Article 2752 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-19-2008
Posting Date: 2-24-2009
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Featuring Tadao Takashima, Akira Kubo, Bibar Maeda
Country: Japan

A group of scientists experimenting with weather control encounter difficulties when they discover the island they are working on is the home of Godzilla and his newly hatched son.

There’s only so much you can do with the concept of a giant monster, but I have to give Toho credit for trying to find as much variety as they could with the premise; all of the Godzilla movies for the first fourteen years or so were somewhat different from each other. It wasn’t until after DESTROY ALL MONSTERS that the series began resorting to formula. Some of the attempts to find something new to do with the Godzilla were pretty far out; I tend to place this movie, GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, and GODZILLA’S REVENGE in a group by themselves as ones that gave us the most radical departures from the usual giant monster mayhem. You have to have a high tolerance for cute with this one; the scenes of Godzilla trying to teach his comic-relief son could be either delightful or painful, depending on how you feel about Minya. I have to admit to having a weak spot for Minya, and I was highly amused by the fact that he originally blew smoke rings and had to be trained to use his radioactive breath. Plotwise, it’s a mess, though; between the scenes of the monsters, we have an extremely episodic and not very interesting human story about scientists experimenting with weather, and this story really has no forward momentum and only cursory interest level; they’re just there to fill in time between the monster scenes. Still, whatever its weaknesses, the final shot of Godzilla, covered with snow, cradling his son in his arms, and preparing to go into hibernation, is somehow more powerful and moving than you might think; it’s one of my favorite images from the series.

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Santo contra el cerebro diabolico (1963)

SANTO CONTRA EL CEREBRO DIABOLICO (1963)
aka Santo vs. the Diabolical Brain
Article 2744 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-10-2008
Posting Date: 2-16-2009
Directed by Federico Curiel
Featuring Santo, Fernanado Casanova, Ana Berthe Lepe
Country: Mexico

Santo and friends take on some sadistic criminals in a western town.

That’s about all I was able to figure out of the plot based on watching it, and Robert Cotter’s “The Mexican Masked Wrestler and Monster Filmography”, which I usually turn to for help in cases like this, is of little help. Apparently, this makes the third in a trilogy of films that includes SANTO VS. THE KING OF CRIME and SANTO AT THE HOTEL OF THE DEAD. I’ve seen both of the latter, and they’re sorely lacking in fantastic content, as is this one; about the only thing I could spot is that there’s a wristwatch that can be used to contact Santo, and the wrestler has some gadgetry in his lair. Other than that, this one mostly plays like a western, with horses, fistfights in saloons, etc. There’s some interesting moments; there’s a scene in which two women have a heartfelt and emotional conversation while a singer croons a sad song in the background. This scene definitely feels out of place in a Santo movie, but then, Santo himself doesn’t appear in it much either. He does have the best scene, though, in which he singlehandedly prevents a small plane from taking off. This is not to be confused with Santo’s first movie, SANTO CONTA CEREBRO DEL MAL, or SANTO VS. THE EVIL BRAIN. Incidentally, despite the title, the brain remains firmly in the head of the main villain.

Secret Agent X-9 (1937)

SECRET AGENT X-9 (1937)
Serial
Article 2743 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-9-2008
Posting Date: 2-15-2009
Directed by Ford Beebe and Clifford Smith
Featuring Scott Kolk, Jean Rogers, David Oliver
Country: USA

Secret Agent X-9 must track down a master thief who has stolen the Belgravian crown jewels.

This rather average serial was listed in the Willis guide as having fantastic elements on the strength of the title of its second chapter: THE RAY THAT BLINDS. I can understand that deduction; given the ubiquity of death rays in the era and the fact that the title of the serial implies spy action, I’d expect a weapon-ray of some sort myself. However, on inspection, the “ray that blinds” turns out to be nothing more than an ordinary light shined into the eyes of a driver; I remember it being referred to as an ‘x-ray’ of sorts, but I don’t remember whether it’s in the serial itself or some writing referring to it. Its primary use in the movie is to shine through some paintings in the hopes of finding a concealed receipt that leads to the stolen jewels. This doesn’t quite cut it as science fiction content, in my humble opinion. However, the movie may also be borderline fantasy; the existence of Belgravian crown jewels implies that there is a country called Belgravia out there, which goes under the classification of mythical kingdoms, even if the movie doesn’t spend any time there.

As I said before, this serial struck me as pretty average. The story is passable, but hardly great. Of the things I noticed most, there are moments when it has the most atrocious dubbing that I’ve ever seen in an English-language film; apparently, they tried to add voices from some of the silent stock footage they used. It also has more than its fair shares of lying-cliffhangers; for those who need to be refreshed as to the difference between cheating cliffhangers and lying cliffhangers, the former edit in new footage between the pieces of footage you saw in the previous episode, whereas the latter completely omits footage that was part of the cliffhanger, such as moments when the hero clutches his chest after a gun goes off, and falls to the ground. And seeing Lon Chaney Jr. in this one as a henchman, I can’t help but feel how fortunate he was that his career took off like it did; I’ve known a few serial heroes whose careers took them on to greater things, but I know very few serial henchmen who were that fortunate.

Spooks (1930)

SPOOKS (1930)
Animated short
Article 2727 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-24-2008
Posting Date: 1-30-2009
Directed by Walter Lantz
Featuring the voice of Pinto Colvig
Country: US

A phantom terrorizes entertainers in a music hall.

I remember Walter Lantz hosting “The Woody Woodpecker Show” from my childhood, and though I have a fond memory of him because of it, the truth is that I barely remember the cartoons themselves. This is from his pre-Woody Woodpecker days. It’s something of a parody of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. On the plus side, the animation is quite good. On the minus side, the writing is very weak. Now, I don’t really expect anything more from the writing than an assortment of funny gags, but this one only manages a couple of decent ones; one involves a skeleton living in a tombstone, and another involves a songstress performing to the music of a phonograph strapped to her back. The rest of the gags are either lame, impenetrable, or missing in action. Still, since Lantz’s shorts from this era were made for Universal, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these were actually shown at the original screenings for the early horror classics, and it might be appropriate to watch this one before one of them. Incidentally, I also had to take a quick peak at KING KLUNK (another cartoon in the collection in which I found this one), another Lantz short that took on KING KONG; I liked that one much better.

 

The Sword of Ali Baba (1965)

THE SWORD OF ALI BABA (1965)
Article 2704 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-28-2008
Posting Date: 1-7-2009
Directed by Virgil W. Vogel
Featuring Peter Mann, Jocelyn Lane, Frank McGrath
Country: USA

When Mongols invade Bagdad, the evil Cassim betrays the Caliph to the Hulagu Khan, leader of the Mongols. However, the caliph’s son escapes and joins up with a band of thieves. They plot to defeat the Mongols.

About five minutes into this movie, I saw a scene of two young children, a boy and a girl, mixing their blood in a vow. This scene set off sirens in my head, and I popped into IMDB to check the movie connections. Sure enough, the movie took the footage from the 1944 Arabian Nights epic, ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES. Then I noticed something else; this movie is in fact a remake of that one, and that scene is far from the only one that was borrowed from the earlier movie. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good forty to fifty percent of this movie is made up of footage from the earlier movie, and it looks like this movie was made exclusively to take advantage of this footage. Characters are cast by their resemblance to the characters in the earlier movie, though the acting is much weaker here. Instead of Jon Hall and Maria Montez, we have Peter Mann and Jocelyn Lane, and instead of the unforgettable Andy Devine, we have the forgettable Peter Whitney. There are a couple of interesting touches; Frank Puglia is cast in the same role he played in the earlier movie, which certainly made it easier to pillage the footage, and it is interesting to see Gavin MacLeod playing the villainous Hulagu Khan, since I’ve never seen him in a villainous role before. Still, one has to wonder what the point is in making a scene-for-scene remake of an earlier movie in which much of the footage is from that movie; I’m certain that any reason for this movie’s existence has much to do with the fact that to many film executives, movies are considered product (as in opposition to being considered works of art). Whichever way you look at it, this seems to be one of the most unnecessary movies ever made.

 

Superzan y el nino del espacio (1973)

SUPERZAN Y EL NINO DEL ESPACIO (1973)
aka Superzan and the Space Boy
Article 2689 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-7-2008
Posting Date: 12-23-2008
Directed by Rafael Lanuza
Featuring Superzan, Caro Laniesti, Claudio Lanuza
Country: Mexico

A boy from space comes to Earth to share his knowledge, but he meets an evil scientist who plans to use the knowledge to his own ends. Only Mexican superhero Superzan can save the day.

Here’s more Mexican wrestling madness for your enjoyment. Unfortunately, Superzan was not a successful wrestler, and, as a result, there is no wrestling footage here to pad out the movie. The name is a cross between Superman and Tarzan, and the character is something of a low-rent version of the former; he has the ability to fly and to survive being run over by a car. My copy of this is in undubbed unsubtitled Spanish, but it should have been easy to dub; the boy from space (and any of the other characters from space) are able to communicate telepathically, so you get lots of voices with no lips moving, and it would have been a cinch to dub. I’m just curious about just what the machine does to humans; they gain the ability to use telepathy, but have to wear the same type of silly outfit as the boy does. According to IMDB, this movie runs more than two hours long, and my copy is only 77 minutes; however, I suspect that IMDB is wrong, as I know of no other Mexican wrestling movies that ran that long. Superzan also has one of the flashiest costumes of any of the Mexican wrestlers. Still, this is the usual type of stuff you expect from the form.

 

The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle (1963)

THE STRANGLER OF BLACKMOOR CASTLE (1963)
aka Der Wurger von Schloss Blackmoor
Article 2668 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-12-2008
Posting Date: 12-2-2008
Directed by Harold Reinl
Featuring Karin Dor, Harry Riebauer, Rudolf Fernau
Country: West Germany

The tenant of Blackmoor castle finds himself terrorized by a hooded killer who strangles and decapitates his victims. The killer knows that the tenant was responsible for the death of another man and the theft of diamonds.

It’s krimi time again, and this is a good one. Like most krimis, it gets confusing during the middle section and it has too many characters, but the musical score is unique and effective, the comic relief (a Scottish landlord) is fairly decent, and it’s full of effective touches and scenes. Of the latter, I quite like the Toby-Damnit-style murder of the motorcyclist, the scene where we discover where the diamonds are hidden (it’s a wonderful hiding place), the scene where the tenant’s manic assistant threatens someone with his diamond drill, and a great climax in the swamp. Once again, it helps to know in advance that krimis are not really horror movies, but crime movies with horror elements, and I think this is one where the horror elements are quite strong. And I must admit to having been quite surprised by the identity of the murderer. For my money, this is one of the better krimis out there.