Sexy Cat (1973)

SEXY CAT (1973)
Article 3624 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-2-2011
Posting Date: 7-17-2011
Directed by Julio Perez Tabernero
Featuring German Cobos, Lone Fleming, Monika Kolpek
Country: Spain
What it is: Serial killer movie

“Sexy Cat” is a popular comic strip about a woman who takes sadistic pleasure in murdering her enemies. An artist claiming to be the true creator of the strip hires a detective to find the necessary proof. The artist then becomes the first in a series of killings of people involved with the strip or with a TV show adaptation, and the detective must help the police to find the killer, who is using the same methods of murder as the character in the comic strip.

I really wasn’t expecting much from this one going into it, but it turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining horror mystery. The murders are rather gruesome and bloody (and the on-screen killing of a snake with a machete won’t endear it to animal lovers), and the mystery aspect is rather fun. It also has a sense of humor, especially in the scenes where the detective has to deal with a somewhat befuddled police inspector. Giallo fans may be disappointed, as the movie has little in the way of stylistic touches, but once I picked out the person who I suspected was guilty of the crimes, I found the movie really held my interest if for no other reason than to see if I was right. All in all, this was not bad for a cheap little Spanish production.

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The Screaming Woman (1972)

THE SCREAMING WOMAN (1972)
TV-Movie

Article 3603 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-11-2011
Posting Date: 6-26-2011
Directed by Jack Smight
Featuring Olivia de Havilland, Ed Nelson, Laraine Stephens
Country: USA
What it is: Thriller

A rich but possibly mentally unstable old woman discovers that a woman has been buried alive in the ruins of an old smokehouse on her property. Her attempts to get help to save the woman are met with disbelief in her mental capacities, and time is running out for the buried woman…

It’s been years since I read the Ray Bradbury short story on which this movie was based, but the entry in John Stanley’s “Creature Feature Movie Guide Strikes Again” reminded me that in the original story, the person who discovered the burial was not an old woman but a child. It would have been more interesting had the movie retained this approach; after all, I think the fear of not being believed because you were just a kid is more universal than not being believed because you’re a mentally unstable rich woman, but I suspect the latter route lent itself to more standard TV-Movie dramatic approaches, which was no doubt a factor. Still, that doesn’t mean that the movie doesn’t more or less work; it does, in fact, work well enough. Still, it could have been better. There’s a few false moments here and there; in particular, the old woman’s reaction to her discovery of the burial (she runs through the woods screaming nonstop) is way too overwrought and melodramatic to be convincing. I would also have liked the movie better if it had featured less of either the old woman’s daughter-in-law and the buried woman’s husband’s lover (two pushy and unlikable characters who add little to the story) and spent some time developing the character of the buried woman; after all, it’s her life that is really on the line here, and she’s treated as little more than a plot device. It’s not near as suspenseful as it could have been.

Someone Behind the Door (1971)

SOMEONE BEHIND THE DOOR (1971)
aka Quelqu’un derriere la porte

Article 3582 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-16-2011
Posting Date: 6-5-2011
Directed by Nicolas Gessner
Featuring Charles Bronson, Anthony Perkins, Jill Ireland
Country: France
What it is: Thriller

A neurosurgeon takes in an amnesiac patient with schizophrenic tendencies. However, the doctor has ulterior motives; he plans to implant artificial memories into the patient with the intent of getting him to murder the lover of the doctor’s philandering wife.

The opening scenes in the hospital really do a nice job of building up a good sense of tension, and it uses nothing more than clever editing and sound, and this is even before the story gets started. It’s a good thing, too; it buoys you through the deliberate setup of the plot that occupies the next hour or so of the movie. For the most part, the movie works fairly well, and when it finally swings into action, things don’t go quite as planned and you’ll really not be sure as to how this will all pan out. Unfortunately, the movie does strike a few false notes on occasion, and though some like the ending, I find it somewhat unsatisfying and even a little annoying, especially when it gets all arty during the closing credits. All three principals give interesting performances, but I give the edge to Charles Bronson, who is playing somewhat against type. Though not strictly a horror movie, we do have one insane killer in the mix, and I found it quite odd that he turns out to be the most sympathetic character in the movie. All in all, I found this one an interesting oddity.

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.

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.