Samson and the Slave Queen (1963)

Article 1958 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-25-2006
Posting Date: 12-22-2006
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Pierre Brice, Sergio Ciani, Moira Orfei

When a Spanish King dies, he leaves behind two daughters, one of which will become queen. Both daughters want to see the King’s will; the good daughter wants to know whether she will be queen, but the evil daughter wants to suppress it and make sure that she gets the crown. Each one sends a hero to get the will for her; the good daughter sends Zorro, the bad daughter sends Samson, who isn’t aware of that daughter’s evil ways.

Do you want to like Sword-and-Sandal films, but always find yourself disappointed by the lack of caped-and-masked expert swordsmen and fencers battling evil? Do you want to enjoy Zorro movies, but find yourself frustrated by the lack of bare-chested musclemen throwing big rocks? If so, this movie is the answer to your prayers, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of sword-and-sandal/masked swordsman movies. The only problem is – how do you get one of these musclemen from ancient history and a swordsman from Spain from a time period almost two millenia later together in the same movie? The answer – get Maciste! We’ve already established that he can travel in time, and even if he’s called Samson in this movie, that won’t fool you. And so another one of those improbable out-of-time sword-and-sandal epics are upon us, and the fantastic content is once again Maciste’s great strength. At least this one has a bit of a sense of humor; there’s something genuinely amusing at the antics Zorro and Maciste take in procuring the dead king’s will from each other. I don’t know who the “Slave Queen” of the title is, but after all the effort the movie-makers took to get Maciste and Zorro together in the same movie, I don’t think it’s really fair to ask them to come up with a title that makes sense as well.


Son of Ali Baba (1952)

Article 1947 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-14-2006
Posting Date: 12-11-2006
Directed by Kurt Neumann
Featuring Tony Curtis, Piper Laurie, Susan Cabot

When a slave girl of the Caliph seeks sanctuary from Kashma Baba (the son of Ali Baba), the wrath of the Caliph is incurred and Kashma Baba is forced to flee to the castle of his father. He then discovers that the slave girl is actually the Caliph’s daughter, and that it was all part of a plot by the Caliph to acquire Ali Baba’s treasure and to ruin his reputation in the eyes of the Shah. Kashma sets out to amend these wrongs.

If the trailer of this movie is to be believed, this movie was made because of the outpouring of fan letters requesting that the romantic leads in THE PRINCE WHO WAS A THIEF be reunited in another picture. Maybe that’s so; I wish they had asked for a decent script as well. Actually, I’m being a little unfair; the story isn’t just a rehash of the usual Arabian Nights tales that I’ve seen, and when you consider that I went into this movie with a certain glum weariness at the thought of enduring another entry in a genre I had quite tired of but then emerged from it having been somewhat entertained, that’s to be taken in its favor. But the heightened artificial Arabian Nights style dialogue is quite bad, and the actors struggle with it with varying success. Some of them emerge from it fairly unscathed; Victor Jory, Morris Ankrum, Gerald Mohr, Hugh O’Brian and Susan Cabot manage all right. The two leads are somewhat hit and miss in this regard. Those who fare the worst are the actor playing Kashma Baba’s guardian Babu, and the two bimbo man-hungry girls, but I don’t really blame them, because they’ve been given the worst roles; I can only feel sorry for Leon Belasco (as Babu) anytime he is called on to deliver the line “Aieeee!”, a line I hope I never encounter in my own experience as an actor. I also find it necessary to point out that the fantastic aspects of this movie (which are supposedly the main reason I covered this one in the first place) do not exist; there are no magic carpets, magic lamps, genies or anything of that nature. I guess it’s time to move on to the next one.


Supersonic Saucer (1956)

Article 1933 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-30-2006
Posting Date: 11-27-2006
Directed by S. G. Ferguson
Featuring Fella Edmonds, Donald Gray, Gillian Harrison

Some children, forced to spend the holidays at their boarding school when they can’t afford to go home, encounter an alien from Venus who travels by turning himself into a flying saucer.

The only user comment for this movie on IMDB at the time of this writing made notice of the same thing I did while watching it, and that is that the movie bears a certain resemblance to a Spielberg movie made a quarter of a century later called E.T.. I suspect it’s just coincidence myself, but some of the resemblances are striking, and there’s no doubt that the alien (a creature swathed in a white robe with no mouth, and big woeful eyes that can cry, move and spin around) is as unique-looking as E.T. was. On its own terms, the movie has a message, and that message is – Be Careful What You Wish For – because if you’re not, you’ll end up encouraging helpful but naive extraterrestrials to ever increasing levels of inadvertent criminal behavior (from petty larceny to arson to grand larceny), which will attract the attention of desperate but bumbling criminals who will kidnap the alien to try to encourage him in his criminal pursuits (for their own profit, of course), and you’ll just have to follow his telepathic signals (and get him to use his ability to make people go backwards in fast motion) to rescue him. All in all, this is a pretty silly children’s movie, but I have to admit that one of the gags is pretty good: it involves one of the alien’s powers and a long staircase. Believe it or not, I found myself oddly entertained by this one.


Sombra, the Spider Woman (1966)

Feature Film Version of the serial THE BLACK WIDOW
Article 1932 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2006
Posting Date: 11-26-2006
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Fred C. Brannon
Featuring Carol Forman, Bruce Edwards, Virginia Lee

An evil woman who is actually an alien from another planet is trying to get the plans for a gyro rocket with which her people can attack the earth.

These feature-film versions of serials made in the mid-sixties were intended for TV viewing, and I suspect that’s the best way to enjoy them. Watching them straight through, all I’m really aware of is the lack of story flow and the abrupt editing as the editors do their best to jump to the next action sequence by cutting as much exposition as they possibly can. If you imagine commercials popping up between these jumps, they seem less annoying. It actually might be fun to take some of these feature versions, and edit in commercials (from Ronco or K-Tel) or TV spots for movies or maybe some dialing-for-dollars footage. I’d enjoy them more that way, anyway.

Biggest non-surprise: Anthony Warde plays the main henchman.

Biggest surprise: Gene Roth plays a good guy.


The Savage Curse (1974)

Article 1931 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-28-2006
Posting Date: 11-25-2006
Directed by John Sichel
Featuring Jenny Agutter, George Chakiris, Anton Diffring

An American detective tries to figure out what happened to his brother who disappeared right after having been invited to a party at an English manor. The head of the manor is a possessive father with a fascination for the works of Poe.

This movie was apparently part of a British series known as “Thriller”. From its rating of 9.0 on IMDB at the time of this writing, I can only conclude that the movie has something of a strong following, and I’m sure that part of this is due to the presence of Jenny Agutter, an actress with a strong cult following. She does a fine job here, but it’s Anton Diffring’s performance as the possessive father that catches my attention the most. In fact, the whole cast does quite well; however, I’m less impressed with the story as a whole, which I think is slow-moving, talky, and a little too obvious. Once you meet the father, hear about his fascination with Poe, and learn that his daughter’s boyfriends have all disappeared mysteriously, there’s not much in the way of surprises to help hold the interest. Granted, it’s also a TV-Movie, which is a form I usually only warm up to if the production is exceptionally good, and this one is just a bit too ordinary for my taste. Most of the fun is due to the acting and the Poe references, but a more interesting story would have helped immensely.


Sakima and the Masked Marvel (1966)

Feature version of the Serial THE MASKED MARVEL
Article 1930 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-27-2006
Posting Date: 11-24-2006
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet
Featuring Johhny Arthur, Tom Steele, Louise Currie

The Masked Marvel does battle with an evil Japanese saboteur named Sakima.

During the mid-sixties, several Republic serials were edited into features, and this is one of them. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the serial version of this one, so I didn’t find it overly familiar. For those who need a refresher course, the Masked Marvel was a slender, athletic and sharply dressed hero who is one of four insurance detectives, all four of which were slender, athletic and shared a tailor between them. They were also fairly bland and forgettable as characters, so it really doesn’t matter which one is the Masked Marvel, no matter how many times the movie tries to make it sound like it’s really important to know. It’s pretty ordinary as these things go; each episode is reduced to a five-to-ten minute sequence and strung together for non-stop but fairly repetitive action. In particular, prepare yourself for seeing lots of scenes of dolls falling from great heights. The most familiar face in the cast to me was Anthony Warde, who plays (as he usually does in this type of thing) the main henchman. I didn’t recognize him, but Professor Macrae was played by an uncredited Edward Van Sloan.


Spaceflight IC-1 (1965)

Article 1929 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-26-2006
Posting Date: 7-23-2006
Directed by Bernard Knowles
Featuring Bill Williams, Norma West, John Cairney

When a woman commits suicide as a result of a meeting with the dictatorial commander of an interstellar colonization vehicle, her husband, the ship’s doctor, inadvertently takes part in a mutiny.

This is one of those movie I quite admire. It’s a real attempt at a science fiction drama, one in which the characters are allowed to be real people in the way they react to the various situations they encounter; even the dictatorial commander is played with a strong sense of humanity. It avoids the usual cliches of space travel; there isn’t an encounter with a meteor cluster to be found, and it actually tells a fairly complex story in a very short running time of 65 minutes. However, it’s so intent on not stooping to melodrama that it never really comes alive; despite the interesting story and characters, there’s a dullish cast to the proceedings. I also dislike the beginning, but then, I’ve never liked movies where a narrator introduces the characters to you rather than allowing you to meet them on their own; it’s a bit like going to a party and immediately being introduced to twenty people you’ve never met and then be expected to remember them all as you encounter them again. They also have a potentially interesting character in the man who has been converted into a cyborg, if an immobile one. Unfortunately, they never give this character anything significant to do during the proceedings. In short, it’s a movie I like more for what it attempted than for how well it pulled it off.