Superman Flies Again (1954)

SUPERMAN FLIES AGAIN (1954)
Article 3144 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-17-2010
Posting Date: 3-24-2010
Directed by George Blair and Thomas Carr
Featuring George Reeves, Noel Neill, Jack Larson
Country: USA
What it is: More “Adventures of Superman” edited into a movie

Superman has more problems to contend with. He must save a kidnapped jet pilot from spies. Then he must deal with the fact that a dog he saves is able to identify his alter ego. Lastly, he must catch a criminal impersonating a clown who means to steal the money from a telethon.

Once again, I’ve taken the approach of watching the three episodes of the series that made up this movie; they are “Jet Ace”, “The Dog Who Knew Superman”, and “The Clown Who Cried”. One disadvantage this compilation has is that it lacks a single epic story like SUPERMAN OF SCOTLAND YARD’s “Panic in the Sky”, and the meanest of the criminals (the spy in “Jet Ace”) is in the least interesting story. The story about the clown has an interesting premise, but the real winner here is the middle story, which, though the basic premise is the slightest of the bunch, still manages to be clever and charming, and even has a touch of heart to it. As for the series itself, I’ve begun to notice the sometimes witty ways they use Superman’s powers; for example, during the first story, Lois catches Clark Kent looking up at the ceiling and asks him if he thinks he can see the jet plane through it. Even if I’m not quite watching the real movie, I’m finding the series itself to be very enjoyable in its own right.

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Superman in Scotland Yard (1954)

SUPERMAN IN SCOTLAND YARD (1954)
Article 3142 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-14-2010
Posting Date: 3-22-2010
Directed by George Blair and Thomas Carr
Featuring George Reeves, Noel Neill, Jack Larson
Country: USA
What it is: Classic superhero TV show episodes strung together

Superman must contend with several problems. First, there are reports of the ghost of a magician appearing five years after the man’s death. Then he looks into Jimmy Olson’s story about strange sounds in an apartment. Then he must contend with a meteor that threatens to destroy the Earth.

If a movie that consists of episodes of a TV show edited together ends up on my hunt list and stays there long enough to be shuttled off to my lost list, I’ve decided to, as a last resort, try emulating the experience by watching the TV episodes involved. This is for the most part safe; in my experience, the editing of these types of movies usually consist of replacing the credits sequences and running the episodes straight, possibly with some voice-overs added. I don’t do the same with feature versions of serials because the editing there is much more extensive.

This is my way of saying, of course, that technically, I have not seen this movie, but rather, the three episodes that made it up. The three episodes all hail from the second season of “Adventures of Superman”, and the episodes are “A Ghost for Scotland Yard”, “Lady in Black”, and “Panic in the Sky”. It’s an interesting combination; the first two both feature elements of horror, in that the one involves a ghost and the other involves strange happenings in an apartment (loud noises, paintings changing, etc.), though both have non-supernatural explanations. These two episodes are rather odd ones, in that they don’t seem to really require Superman’s superpowers, though he does use them on occasion; they could have easily been adapted to a non-superhero storyline. The third is far and away the best, and, if the ratings on IMDB are any indication, it may be the best episode from the whole series; in this one, Superman’s attempt to keep a meteor from colliding with the earth results in his amnesia.

Actually, this really marks the first time I’ve seen episodes from the series, and my main impression was that the real attraction here is the easy charm of George Reeves in the Superman/Clark Kent role; he is immensely likable. There were four other movies culled from the series (all from season two episodes, incidentally), and, unless the other three manifest themselves as individual entities, I’ll probably have to take the same strategy in watching them as well. I may be cheating, but I think, under these circumstances, it’s not cheating a whole lot.

Steel Dawn (1987)

STEEL DAWN (1987)
Article 3130 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-22-2009
Posting Date: 3-10-2010
Directed by Lance Hool
Featuring Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi, Anthony Zerbe
Country: USA
What it is: Post-apocalyptic compendium of action cliches

It’s after the apocalypse. A wandering soldier witnesses the assassination of his old teacher by a hired sword. He hooks up with a farming family who were going to be under his former teacher’s protection, and seeks to save them from the machinations of an evil man intent on controlling all the water in the region.

Patrick Swayze makes a fine action hero, and Anthony Zerbe and Christopher Neame make for good villains, so I don’t really have issues with the acting here. It’s the script that is sleepwalking through the movie. It’s a rehash of THE ROAD WARRIOR, only without the motor vehicles, so we get a lot more walking. What it doesn’t borrow from THE ROAD WARRIOR, it culls from any number of western and action movies, and though the odd moment here or there may show a bit of creativity, the movie is otherwise totally lacking in surprises.

You know, you can just tell when you’re in the eighties…

The Spirit is Willing (1967)

THE SPIRIT IS WILLING (1967)
Article 3125 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-17-2009
Posting Date: 3-5-2010
Directed by William Castle
Featuring Sid Caesar, Vera Miles, Barry Gordon
Country: USA
What it is : Tepid ghost comedy

A couple moves into a haunted house with their teenage son. The ghosts play havoc with their lives.

Despite my real affection for William Castle and his horror movies, I tend to be less taken with his attempts at comedies. In a sense I find this surprising; the trailers for his movies are some of the most hilarious I’ve seen, and he himself has a wicked sense of humor. But somehow, that humor gets left behind when he directs a comedy. I was not impressed with either THE OLD DARK HOUSE (Castle’s version) or ZOTZ, and both of those are better than this one. It’s too laid back and aimless to be effective, and the mood sometimes gets shrill (such as when everyone is yelling at each other) or glum (when the wife believes that her husband is cheating on her). Furthermore, the movie misses every opportunity to add a few shudders to the mix, largely because the movie is blanketed throughout with a rinky-dink musical score that just screams “COMEDY”. It’s a bit of a shame; the cast is pretty impressive; it’s loaded with a whole slew of familiar faces, and you just wish the movie would give the actors something to do. As it is, I barely smiled, much less laughed, though one sight gag (when we finally spot Felicity at the birthday party) did raise a single chuckle. But one chuckle does not make a comedy, and I found this one fairly interminable.

Snow White (1955)

SNOW WHITE (1955)
aka Schneewittchen und die sieben Zwerge
Article 3124 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-16-2009
Posting Date: 3-4-2010
Directed by Erich Kobler
Featuring Elke Arendt, Addi Adametz, Niels Clausnitzer
Country: West Germany
What it is: Another German fairy tale

When her magic mirror informs an evil queen that her stepdaughter named Snow White is more beautiful than her, she plans to have her murdered. However, Snow White takes refuge in a cottage inhabited by seven dwarfs. However, the evil queen is not so easily thwarted…

We follow up yesterday’s movie with another German version of a classic fairy tale by the same director. Well, at least the story of Snow White has more story to begin with than “The Shoemaker and the Elves”, and if you need to figure out how to stretch it to a full-length movie, you have a handy version from Disney that can give you a few pointers. Most of the differences between the two versions seem to be a matter of this version hewing closer to the original fairy tale; in this one, for example, the wicked queen makes three visits to the dwarfs’ cottage, with a poison belt and a poison comb taking the place of the apple for the first two visits. The movie does have a certain fairy tale quality to it, but, to my eyes, it adds very little new to the tale. Sometimes you have to face the fact that a children’s movie is indeed for children, and I suspect a young child who hadn’t been introduced to the Disney version would find this one acceptable. However, it is one you would probably not bother watching with them. Well, at least this one was dubbed into English.

Savage Abduction (1973)

SAVAGE ABDUCTION (1973)
aka Cycle Psycho
Article 3122 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-14-2009
Posting Date: 3-2-2010
Directed by John Lawrence
Featuring Joe Turkel, Steve Oliver, Sean Kenney
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer flick with bikers

A lawyer hires a psycho sex fiend to kill his wife, but finds himself blackmailed by the psycho to find him more women to kill. To that end, the lawyer hires a biker gang to kidnap two young girls for the psycho’s pleasure.

Take PSYCHO, mix with a biker movie and throw in a little LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and what do you have? If you’re not sure yet, be aware that the director and writer for this one also gave us the script for THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT. There are three types of characters here; the repulsive ones, the stupid ones, and the stupid repulsive ones. Many wrong-headed decisions are made; I can understand playing biker-style music whenever the biker gang is tooling around, but whoever decided that the psycho’s theme song should be a lyrical singer-songwriter ditty has his head screwed on wrong. It even seems as if they’re trying to play the psycho with a comic spin; for example, he gleefully sharpens his cutlery in preparation for his fun and tries to comfort the two scared girls by showing the body bag he’s brought along. These moments are not only wrong-headed and offensive, they’re not really funny, either. In the end, the movie is sleazy, trashy and stupid, which I’m sure some folks will take as a recommendation; they can have it.

Sindbad Alibaba and Aladin (1965)

SINDBAD ALIBABA AND ALADIN (1965)
Article 3118 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-10-2009
Posting Date: 2-16-2010
Directed by Prem Narayan Arora
Featuring Pradeep Kumar, Agha, Baghwan
Country: India/Japan
What it is: Bollywood Arabian Nights flick

Sindbad, Alibaba and Aladin join forces to do battle with an evil ruler.

This marks my first review of a full-fledged Bollywood movie, though I’ve seen a couple prior to this. Please take the above plot description with a grain of salt; my copy is in unsubtitled Hindi, and I found the actual plot line rather difficult to follow. Basically, it seems our three heroes go on adventures to get magical items to help them defeat the evil ruler; a magic sword, lamp and carpet are all used. Based on the general tone of the movie, I’m guessing it’s a comedy; in fact, I found it frantic and shrill on quite a number of occasions. Of course, it’s also a musical, and from the few movies I’ve seen, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the musical numbers that add the real flavor to the Bollywood movie-watching experience; they seem both familiar and alien, with dance moves that seem to be unique to the culture. There’s a lot of talk, an underwater sequence (including giant squids and clams), a reenactment of Aladin’s discovery of the lamp, and a battle with a dragon that looks like an extremely cheap version of Godzilla; in fact, if my eyes aren’t deceiving me, I’m pretty sure I saw Toho special effects wizard Eija Tsuburaya listed in the credits. I don’t know when I’ll be venturing into this territory of filmdom again, but I hope to eventually have more of a feel for Bollywood movies.