Sweet Sugar (1972)

Article 3930 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-8-2012
Posting Date: 5-18-2012
Directed by Michel Levesque
Featuring Phyllis Davis, Ella Edwards, Timothy Brown
Country: USA
What it is: Women in Prison movie

A prostitute is set up for drug possession, but agrees to work at a sugar cane farm instead. But the work farm is brutally run, and the doctor there is an insane maniac who likes to experiment on the workers…

Okay, it’s not strictly a “women in prison” movie, but it’s pretty much working along the same lines and is meant to appeal to the same crowd. In short, this is heavy on the exploitation elements. These movies usually don’t have any fantastic content to them, but this one has a couple of elements. Some of the doctor’s “experiments” may put it into the realm of science fiction, and the appearance of a voodoo priest whose magic does seem to work (he locates the corpses of some of the doctor’s subjects by using his powers) adds a bit of fantasy/horror. I found the whole thing to be pretty silly, but then, I’ve never been a big fan of this particular genre, so I don’t have a whole lot of examples to which I can compare it. Still, I think it’s particularly stupid for the management of the farm to allow the captive women to all have their own machetes handy.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Article 3928 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-6-2012
Posting Date: 5-16-2012
Directed by Robert Hiltzik
Featuring Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher film

A painfully shy young girl, the sole survivor of a boating accident that killed the rest of her family, finds herself tormented by cruel people when she goes off to summer camp. Pretty soon, her tormentors start dying in horrible ways…

I’ll give the movie some credit; the final revelation isn’t half bad. The movie even gives a clue to the twist in what seems at the time to be an impenetrable flashback. Unfortunately, to get to the ending, you have to sit through the rest of the movie, which is populated with one-dimensional characters, has a bad case of Tourette syndrome, and features some of the worst overacting I’ve seen in years. The only reason you don’t spend most of the movie trying to figure out which performance is the worst is because that performance comes before we even reach the campground. Still, I’m not surprised this one has a bit of a cult reputation; the ending alone would guarantee that, as well as certain truly weird sequences. But I’m also not surprised that director Hiltzik has only one other directorial credit; a direct-to-video sequel made a quarter of a century later.

Secret Agent Super Dragon (1966)

aka New York chiama Superdrago
Article 3925 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-3-2012
Posting Date: 5-13-2012
Directed by Giorgio Ferroni
Country: Ray Danton, Marisa Mell, Margaret Lee
Country: France / Italy / West Germany
What it is: Eurospy

Secret agent Super Dragon comes out of retirement to investigate a plot to poison the world with a new drug.

This movie has a rating of 1.9 on IMDB, and part of that low rating is no doubt due to the fact that it was featured on MST3K. However, I suspect that even without that factor, the movie wouldn’t have much of a reputation; it’s one of the most tepid and lifeless Eurospy movies I’ve seen for this series. The movie seems particularly short of action; it’s mostly walking around, dull conversations, tired attempts at humor, etc. The drug is the fantastic content in the movie, as well as a couple of minor gadgets. All in all, this was a particularly joyless experience.

Shadow of the Hawk (1976)

Article 3923 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-1-2012
Posting Date: 5-11-2012
Directed by George McCowan and Daryl Duke
Featuring Jan-Michael Vincent, Marilyn Hassett, Chief Dan George
Country: Canada / USA
What it is: Supernatural fantasy

An old Indian medicine man comes to the city to find his grandson with the intent of getting him to be his successor… and to help fight an evil sorceress who means to destroy him.

John Stanley’s guide describes this movie as a supernatural fantasy rather than a horror movie, and I do rather agree with his assessment; despite the horror elements on display, the atmosphere is more like a fantasy. The movie is deliberately paced, and most of the running time is dedicated to the long trip from the city back to the reservation, an ordeal intended to put to rest the skepticism of the grandson and to test his mettle. The special effects don’t always live up to the ambitions of the movie, and the ending was a little disappointing, but overall I quite liked it, and I think Chief Dan George steals the movie, at least partially because he lends authority and simple conviction to the mysticism and magic. There are some nice character moments; I like the scene where the medicine man encounters his grandson’s future love in the hospital, where he simply looks up at here from his gurney, and she begins to wipe his brow.

Scanners (1981)

Article 3922 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-30-2012
Posting Date: 5-10-2012
Directed by David Cronenberg
Featuring Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan
Country: Canada
What it is: Science fiction thriller

When a group of mutant telepaths (whose powers can do physical damage to their victims) known as scanners band together in an organization bent on world conquest, a security group recruits an unattached one to track down and destroy the leader of the organization.

I was one of those people who managed to catch the notorious trailer for this one in the theater, and I will admit that it had a way of grabbing the attention. I thought I’d actually seen this one years ago, but having watched it now, I’m not so sure; outside of the segment used in the trailer and a few scenes I recognized from stills, nothing else in the movie jarred any memories. As I usually do with Cronenberg’s films, I find it very interesting, though the plot takes a while to sort itself out. One of the most common accusations leveled against this one is that the script is muddled, and, though I do think the plot eventually works itself out, some of the character moments don’t really ring true, and at times it feels rushed and oddly paced. Nevertheless, Cronenberg’s ideas make it worth the watching.

The Strangers Gundown (1969)

aka Django il bastardo
Article 3885 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-25-2012
Posting Date: 4-3-2012
Directed by Sergio Garrone
Featuring Anthony Steffen, Paolo Gozlino, Luciano Rossi
Country: Italy
What it is: Spooky spaghetti western

A man is gunning down three former confederate officers who betrayed their regiment. He is recognized as one of the soldiers of the regiment who was believed to be dead. Has he returned from the grave…?

One of these days, I’m going to go through all of my Mill Creek fifty movie sets to see just how many of them contain movies that I’ve covered in my series. I expect quite a few from those with fantastic themes, but there are a few that seem less likely to yield any. However, thanks to this entry, I was able to dip into my Spaghetti Western set. The fantastic content of this one centers around the possibility of the avenger (named Django) being a vengeful spirit from the grave. Is he? The movie does more or less answer the question before it’s all over, though I think the fact that this is the only Django movie I’ve covered so far should give you a bit of hint as to that. The movie certainly plays up the supernatural angle, especially with his ability to seemingly appear out of nowhere. Still, this seems to be pretty standard spaghetti western fare; it’s moody enough, but it gets fairly confusing in the middle of the movie, and of course, there’s plenty of gunplay. You wouldn’t think so, what with only three officers as targets, but there’s more henchmen than you can shake a stick at, and they’re always good for upping the body count. By the way, I didn’t forget the apostrophe; the people who came up with the opening credits did.

Static (1985)

STATIC (1985)
Article 3884 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-24-2012
Posting Date: 4-2-2012
Directed by Mark Romanek
Featuring Keith Gordon, Amanda Plummer, Bob Gunton
Country: USA
What it is: Indie comedy drama

A young eccentric in a small town is working on an amazing invention; a television set that can see into heaven. But does it really work… and will anyone believe him?

I rarely go to movie theaters anymore, I’m ashamed to admit. Unless a movie really hits the right notes with me, or if it gives me expectations of seeing something truly unique or original, I’ll probably wait until it pops up on video. One of my weaknesses is for the truly oddball comic indie film, but my movie review series rarely points me in that direction because most of them just aren’t genre. I’m not sure this one is, either; a lot depends on how you interpret certain events in the movie, but between the science fiction concept of a new invention, the fantasy element of mysticism, and even a certain touch of horror in the fact that we may be dealing with a character whose sanity is in question. It is, however, that rare movie that would have drawn me into a theater, and I would have loved it.

Granted, the movie is quirky, and some people just don’t like quirky. However, I’m not one of them, and for me, this odd comedy, filled with offbeat characters and strange situations, actually made me laugh out loud more than I have in years, as well as providing a truly interesting set of characters for me to take in. Even the doom-talking survivalist Vietnam vet comes across as amusing rather than creepy. In the end, I was so taken in by the various characters and fascinated by the tragic and sad undercurrent to the movie that I simply fell in love with the movie. And I’ll probably never forget the ending. This one is recommended, but only if you share my interest in quirky independent movies.