Search for the Evil One (1967)

SEARCH FOR THE EVIL ONE (1967)
Article 3576 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-10-2011
Posting Date: 5-30-2011
Directed by Joseph Kane
Featuring Lee Patterson, Lisa Pera, Henry Brandon
Country: USA
What it is: Hitler-is-still-alive action flick

A German Jew living in Argentina (who has kept his true identity and heritage a secret) is recruited to infiltrate a castle in the Andes that is believed to harbor Adolf Hitler.

Unless you’re a subscriber to certain conspiracy theories, movies about Hitler being alive and planning a fourth Reich would go under the heading of alternate universes, or at least speculative fiction, which is no doubt why this movie is included here. Unless you’re partial to either low-budget drive-in action fare or really want to see Pitt Herbert chew the scenery as Hitler, there’s probably little reason to catch this piece of nonsense; the movie is utterly predictable and has no real surprises. The movie also features H.M. Wynant, who had a long career in television and recently appeared in a few movies helmed by Larry Blamire.

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School that Couldn’t Scream (1972)

SCHOOL THAT COULDN’T SCREAM (1972)
aka Cosa avete fatto a Solange?, What Have You Done to Solange

Article 3556 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-17-2011
Posting Date: 5-10-2011
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Featuring Fabio Testi, Cristina Galbo, Karin Baal
Country: Italy / West Germany
What it is: Krimi giallo

A teacher at a Catholic girl’s school is having an affair with one of his students. When a brutal murder is committed, it turns out his lover is having psychic visions that may lead to the identity of the killer. But the killer knows, and will not be stopped…

I went into this expecting the usual Italian giallo experience, but was surprised to see krimi regular Joachin Fuchsberger in the cast. Shortly after this I discovered that the story was based on a novel by Edgar Wallace, making this indeed a cross between the krimi and giallo forms. Stylistically, it’s a lot more similar to a giallo, though it’s actually pretty light on the gore and keeps the heavy stylistic touches in check. Truth to tell, it doesn’t need them; as a mystery, I found it very exciting and gripping. It’s one of those movies that holds up very well when you go back to earlier moments in the story with the knowledge you gain at the end; I particularly liked how the final explanation of the murders dovetails nicely with an early character moment in which the teacher’s lover resists a seduction by him. The movie is full of little telling details like this; in fact, I can’t think of another giallo that did as good a job at keeping me focused on the story as this one did. It’s definitely not for children; the murders, though not explicit, are nasty, and the revelations are very adult. This is an extremely effective merging of genres.

Scalpel (1977)

SCALPEL (1977)
aka False Face
Article 3546 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-5-2011
Posting Date: 4-30-2011
Directed by John Grissmer
Featuring Robert Lansing, Judith Chapman, Arlen Dean Snyder
Country: USA
What it is: Southern melodrama

A plastic surgeon rescues a mutilated stripper with the intent of changing her face to that of his daughter’s, who disappeared some time ago. The purpose: to get his hands on a fortune inherited by his daughter. However, complications arise…

The plastic surgery doppelganger plot doesn’t really make this a horror movie, but the fact that the plastic surgeon isn’t just unscrupulous but downright insane does add some horror touches to the plot. It has its fair share of twists; I thought I had anticipated one twist, but it turns out I was dead wrong, and I like a movie that can surprise me. The performances are solid, and the story is interesting, but things do get a little dull at times, and I did get a little annoyed with a couple of the fake-out scenes thrown in on occasion. Nevertheless, this is a mildly engaging little melodrama.

Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977)

SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS (1977)
Article 3545 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-4-2011
Posting Date: 4-29-2011
Directed by Greydon Clark
Featuring John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jack Kruschen
Country: USA
What it is: Really silly

A group of cheerleaders aren’t aware that their school’s janitor is a member of a Satanic cult, and soon they find themselves in danger.

To its credit, this movie isn’t quite as stupid as its title, but it’s not for lack of trying. The first half of the movie is mostly concerned with the antics of the cheerleaders, and they are as vapid as you might fear. The Satanists really come into play during the second half, and though this section is not really a great improvement over the first half, it does have at least one plot complication to add to the interest factor. That, in a nutshell, is the reason I give the movie a few extra points; based on its title, I didn’t expect any plot complications to break up this movie at all. I suppose the movie does deserve a point or two for not taking itself too seriously, even during the second half. And, despite a couple of small pluses, the movie is really only for those who are impressed by the title.

Starik Khottabych (1956)

STARIK KHOTTABYCH (1956)
aka Old Hottabych, The Flying Carpet
Article 3497 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-11-2011
Posting Date: 3-12-2011
Directed by Gennadi Kazansky
Featuring Nikolai Volkov, Aleksei Litvinov, Gennadi Khudyakov
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Children’s fantasy

A child discovers an urn which contains a genie who has been sealed up for 1000 years for being obstinate. The genie wishes to serve his new master and make him happy, but his willful nature causes the boy more problems than it solves.

This being a Russian movie, it has a tendency to get a little propagandistic at times; the children in particular seem a little unnatural in their unswerving dedication to the communist cause. That aside, the story takes an interesting tack in that it is really not a story about the possibilities that the genie opens up for the boy (the usual approach). Instead, it is a fish out of water story; the genie’s detachment from the world during his confinement has left him ill-suited to understanding the modern world, and his knowledge is antiquated. To this mixture is added a genuine warmth and affection (the genie and the child truly care about each other), and when the genie’s magic causes things to go awry, he is honestly upset and confused. Nikolai Volkov’s sly performance as the genie is the glue that holds it together, and this turns out to be an interesting and entertaining children’s fantasy. One of the alternate titles is THE FLYING CARPET, but that item plays a part in only a short segment of the proceedings.

The Spaceman and King Arthur (1979)

THE SPACEMAN AND KING ARTHUR (1979)
aka The Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court, Unidentified Flying Oddball
Article 3492 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-1-2011
Posting Date: 3-7-2011
Directed by Russ Mayberry
Featuring Dennis Dugan, Jim Dale, Ron Moody
Country: UK
What it is: Shopping cart movie, British style

A young inventor gets caught inside an experimental rocket, and ends up being hurtled through time to end up in the days of King Arthur.

This doesn’t feel like your typical Disney “shopping cart” movie, but I’ve noticed that their British movies do have a different feel about them. I find a copy of this one on YouTube, but I must admit that the copy is pretty wretched. This may have affected my feeling that the movie itself is one of the weakest ones of its type; it feels tired, forced and obvious, and, were it not for some curious historical humor from a certain Sir Winston and a sight gag inspired by falling dominoes, I wouldn’t have laughed once. The presence of Ron Moody as Merlin and Kenneth More as King Arthur adds a bit of fun, but Dennis Dugan is one of the least memorable of Disney’s comic leads. This wasn’t the last of the shopping cart movies (at least one of the Herbie movies came after it), but it was awfully close to the end of that cycle, which had kicked off in the late fifties, hit its peak in the early sixties, and then went into a long decline. And if you want a King Arthur comedy, I’d suggest you hunt for one that came from Monty Python.

Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters (1970)

SANTO AND BLUE DEMON VS. THE MONSTERS (1970)
aka Santo el enmascarado de plata y Blue Demon contra los monstruos
Article 3490 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-29-2011
Posting Date: 3-5-2011
Directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares
Featuring Santo, Blue Demon, Jorge Rado
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican wrestling monster mash

An evil scientist is resurrected from the dead, and gathers together an army of monsters to do his bidding. He also creates an evil duplicate of Blue Demon. Can Santo defeat the monster army and rescue the real Blue Demon from the scientist’s clutches?

I was fully expecting to be watching another Spanish language movie without subtitles, so I was delighted to find English subtitles popping up when I put this one into my DVD player. In the final analysis, though, I don’t think it matters. The movie doesn’t really have a plot; it has a premise, a resolution to that premise, and it fills the rest with typical Mexican wrestler movie scenes (there’s two wrestling scenes and a nightclub scene) and stuffs it to the gills with monster attack mayhem. The movie is a tribute to demented excess; the first clue I had to this was when I realized that the scientist’s assistant was both a midget and a hunchback. We have a vampire, a set of female vampire minions, a mummy, a werewolf, the Frankenstein (excuse me, Franquestain) monster, a bizarre furry cyclops, a short little monster with an exposed brain (this one seems to be for atmosphere; he does little but stand around), and a set of zombie hordes whose green makeup doesn’t quite go up to the actors’ hairlines. The opening credits sure make it look like this is the Santo movie to end all Santo movies. Questions abound. Why does Raul Martinez Solares, a child actor with no previous movie acting credits, get fifth billing when he does little more than run away when his parents are attacked by the werewolf? Does the Frankenstein (excuse me again; Franquestain) monster have a valid driver’s license? Why does the movie stop the action dead in its tracks so we can visit a nightclub where they’re putting on what looks for all the world like a Mexican version of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS? Did they have to keep changing the batteries for the Cyclops’s eye? Don’t worry; the movie moves so fast you’ll barely have time to think about these things. It seems to me that this is the movie that ASSIGNMENT TERROR and Al Adamson’s DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN could only wish to be. I can’t really call it “good” per se, but as an example of insane overkill, it’s hard to beat.