They (1974)

They (1974)
aka Invasion from Inner Earth
Article 5707 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-23-2020
Directed by Bill Rebane
Featuring Paul Bentzen, Debbi Pick, Nick Holt
Country: USA
What it is: Who?

Several campers hide out in their cabin in the woods when something bizarre starts happening throughout the world.

The last twenty minutes of this movie involves a long walk (or should I say incessant wandering) through snow-filled woods. The experience left me feeling tired, bored, cold, slightly nauseated and unfocused and uncertain. And, all in all, that’s an apt metaphor for the whole movie. It reminded me a little of THE DAY MARS INVADED EARTH in the sense that you’re going to get precious little in the way of invasion thrills if you watch this one. Oh, it establishes its premise early on, but then spends the rest of its length meandering around until it reaches its ending, where it degenerates into mystic impenetrability. Even for Bill Rebane this is a bad movie; I found it almost completely devoid of entertainment value. Not recommended on any level.

Time Gallops On (1952)

Time Gallops On (1952)
Article 5705 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-18-2020
Directed by Mannie Davis
Featuring the voice of Arthur Kay
Country: USA
What it is: Cartoon about technological progress

A smithy finds himself becoming obsolescent as cars replace horses, but he decides to bring his job up to the modern age by fashioning a robot horse.

It’s a Terrytoon, and that usually means that it isn’t going to be very good, and in terms of its comedy, I’d have to agree. Yet I do have to say that I liked its thematic center; it’s a cartoon that actually tries to be more than a series of gags by exploring the pitfalls of technological progress, and when the robot horse pops up, it veers into the science fiction genre. Furthermore, I stumbled across this one; as far as I can tell, none of my guides mention it as genre. But then, that’s mostly because the output of Terrytoon has fallen into obscurity. I’m glad I’m able to bring this one to light.

Der Traum des Bildhauers (1907)

Der Traum des Bildhauers (1907)
Article 5648 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-12-2019
Directed by Johann Schwarzer
Cast unknown
Country: Austria
What it is: Very early nudie

A sculptor creates three nude female statues, and then dreams they come to life.

When I stumbled across this one on IMDB, I found myself wondering who Johann Swartzer was and why I hadn’t heard of him. I quickly figured out why when I saw the short; it’s obvious that fantastic cinema wasn’t his area of expertise, but the nudie film was. The three statues are naked women standing really still, and that’s the extent of the special effects. Despite the nudity, this short is singularly dull; you know the statues are going to come to life and start moving, but it takes too much time getting around to this moment. Let’s face it; four minutes is a bit too long for the story here (or lack of it); it could have easily been reduced to a minute or less.

There’s Good Boos To-Night (1948)

There’s Good Boos To-Night (1948)
Article 5614 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-28-2018
Directed by Izzy Sparber
Featuring the voices of Frank Gallop, Jack Mercer, Sid Raymond
Country: USA
What is it: Casper again

Casper decides to recycle THE FRIENDLY GHOST.

This is only the second Casper cartoon I’ve covered, and I’m already ready to summarize the basic Casper plot. It’s night, and the other ghosts have gone out to scare people, but Casper wants to make friends rather than scare. His first encounters only result in frightening his targets, and just as he’s about to lose all hope, he encounters someone who isn’t afraid of him. Then, tragedy strikes, and Casper is in danger of losing his newfound friend, but fate steps in and every one lives happily ever after, until the next Casper cartoon and he has to go through it all again. Now that you know that, you don’t have to see another one of these. Well, I’ll throw in two observations. One: given the way this one ends, why didn’t Casper befriend a pre-existing animal ghost in the first place?, and Two: what happened to these earlier friends Casper made? Where are they? Why did they mysteriously vanish? Could they have come to some horrible end? Could Casper have been the one responsible? Could Casper really be a… ahh, nah, I doubt it, but I will admit I had more fun speculating on this than I did watching the cartoon.

A Tale of Two Kitties (1942)

A Tale of Two Kitties (1942)
Article 5611 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-27-2018
Directed by Robert Clampett
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc and Tedd Pierce
Country: USA
What it is: Tweety cartoon

Tweety must contend with two conniving cats known as Babbitt and Catstello.

Babbitt and Catstello are obvious parodies of Abbott and Costello, and though I’m fans of the original duo, I do find their cartoon counterparts here a bit annoying; they may have appeared in another cartoon, but they didn’t last. Tweety is making his first appearance here, and he would have a long career, mostly paired with Sylvester the cat; some of the best gags in this early cartoon would be recycled when Sylvester came on the scene. The best scene here has Catstello bouncing up to Tweety’s nest on springs, only to suffer a series of painful retributions. The best moment that wasn’t repeated in a later Tweety cartoon shows what happens to the landscape when an anvil falls off of a barn and hits the ground. It’s not a bad starting cartoon for Tweety, but later ones would be better. As for the fantastic content, we’re stuck with only the talking animals and comic exaggeration.

The Traveler (2006)

The Traveler (2006)
Article 5488 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-2-2017
Directed by Jonathan R. Skocik
Featuring Shawn Burke, Jonathan R. Skocik, Melanie D’Alessandro
Country: USA
What it is: Nasty low-budget independent horror

A young couple get trapped in an isolated shack known as “The Death House” with several hikers, and encounter an evil demon who plays a game of torture and murder with them.

Well, it didn’t take me long to contradict myself; I said I probably wasn’t going to cover any of the other entries in the “Tomb of Torture” collection unless I found something striking, and whatever its merits or flaws, this one is. The acting, direction and editing in this one are all competent enough that it didn’t consistently take me out of the action, like many of the other movies on the set. It also helps that there are some interesting ideas in the script. However, this review is primarily a warning; to my mind, this is one of the sickest and most mean-spirited movies I’ve ever seen. The first twenty minutes isn’t too bad; the scenes where the couple get lost driving in the woods is rather entertaining, and the early scenes in the house help build a bit of suspense. However, once the title character shows up and begins torturing the people in the house (both physically and psychologically), the movie becomes a repulsive and sadistic exercise in unpleasantness. It’s a definite example of torture porn, and I certainly can’t recommend it. The movie is also too long, and there are some moments that fall flat, such as when a character figures out the identity of the traveler by using anagrams and the “What Would You Do?” ending. Quite frankly, I felt I needed a shower after this one, though I decided I’m glad I went ahead and reviewed it; by getting it out of the way now, it spares me from having an excuse to watch it again, which I don’t care to do.

Two Guys from Texas (1948)

TWO GUYS FROM TEXAS (1948)
Article 5440 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-1-2017
Directed by David Butler
Featuring Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Dorothy Malone
Country: USA
What it is: Musical

Two song-and-dance men get stranded on a dude ranch in Texas when their car is stolen. When their car turns up after a robbery, they are arrested. Can they clear themselves?

This unmitigated musical piece of fluff is what it is; it’s probably good enough for people partial to the form, but it’s the antithesis of the type of movie that I envisioned when I started this whole project. I’ve heard it described as something of a “Road” movie, and though I can see the argument, I still think that Morgan and Carson are no Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, and no self-respecting “Road” movie would leave us stranded at the same location for as long as this one does. As for the fantastic content, I suppose I could argue that Carson’s extreme fear of animals is an example of madness, making this a marginal horror movie, but that won’t wash. I could also argue that Carson is most likely a robot, which I base on the sound effects that play anytime he encounters an animal during the first half of the movie, but you’ll see through that. No, the real reason I covered this movie is that it features an animated sequence featuring anthropomorphic lambs and a talking rabbit; specifically, this is the feature-film debut of Bugs Bunny. I do find it ironic, though, that Carson conquers his fear of animals when confronted with a kitten, which remains the only animal during the course of the movie that legitimately tries to attack him.

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959)

TARZAN, THE APE MAN (1959)
Article 5439 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-30-2017
Directed by Joseph M. Newman
Featuring Denny Miller, Cesare Danova, Joanna Barnes
Country: USA
What it is: Jungle reboot

An expedition in Africa in search of the elephant’s graveyard encounters a white man who swings through the jungle and says “oongawa”.

I think it’s fair to say that, given the generic title of this one and the fact that it features the first meeting between Tarzan and Jane, this was an attempted reboot to the 27-year old movie series. But really, if you’re going to reboot, you should put in a lot more effort than was exerted here. Any reboot that uses as much footage as this one does from the original TARZAN, THE APE MAN from 1932 (which was in black and white and is being incorporated into a color widescreen movie) as well as stealing the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan call and dubbing it into the movie is, to my mind, tacitly admitting that a reboot is pointless. This one is just weak, especially when we have the embarrassing scenes between Tarzan and Jane. And as for bad special effects, wait until you see the close-ups of the jaguar’s face during the scene where Tarzan wrestles the animal. Many of the sequels to the original series weren’t very good, but I think they were all better than this one. Depressing.

Tarzan and the Great River (1967)

TARZAN AND THE GREAT RIVER (1967)
Article 5438 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-29-2017
Directed by Robert Day
Featuring Mike Henry, Jan Murray, Manuel Padilla Jr.
Country: Switzerland / USA
What it is: Tarzan movie

Tarzan goes to Brazil to defeat a killer cult of jaguar men who have been enslaving the native tribes.

After several days of spy movies, it’s a bit of a relief to move on to a Tarzan movie, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re having a return to quality film here. By this time, the Tarzan movies were mechanical affairs, and this one mostly consists of a long voyage upriver, making it something of a Double Stuffed Safari-O. Mike Henry wasn’t a great actor, but he was likable in the role; reportedly, he was bitten in the jaw by the chimp playing Cheta and had to have twenty stitches during the making of this movie. Like most Tarzan movies, the fantastic content is pretty marginal, though the jaguar men add a touch of horror, as does a plot element where a disease epidemic is mistaken for a curse of the jaguar men. It’s passable entertainment, but hardly inspired.

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983)
Article 5417 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-7-2017
Directed by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller
Featuring Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Vic Morrow
Country: USA
What it is: Horror anthology

Four eerie tales are told. A bigot finds himself thrust back into time, a magical stranger offers youth to residents of an old folks home, a child has amazing mental powers, and a troubled man believes he sees a monster destroying the wing of a plane.

When it comes to watching movie versions of old TV series, I have a rule of thumb; if it doesn’t manage to catch that particular element that made the series memorable, then it hasn’t really succeeded. In this movie version of the Rod Serling anthology series, only the first and fourth stories manage to catch it, though the first suffers because it’s reminiscent of some of the weaker and more obvious episodes of the series (it’s basically the supernatural comeuppance of a jerk) and because it was never completed due to the accident that killed Vic Morrow. The fourth one manages to catch it largely because it’s a well-mounted cinematic version of a series episode that remains relatively faithful to the original. That leaves us the second and third episodes, both also based on episodes of the series but which make radical changes to the story. The second episode (directed by Spielberg) is overthought and overwritten; it tries a bit too much and becomes unfocused. The third story takes one of the most nightmarish episodes of the series and turns it into something of a cartoonish comedy; it feels nothing like the original series, but may be the most entertaining of the bunch because of Joe Dante’s love of fifties SF and cartoons. The cast of this segment features Dick Miller (as Walter Paisley), William Schallert, Kevin McCarthy, and Bill Mumy, who played the boy in the original episode. The cast of this segment also features Nancy Cartwright, and I find her role in the episode to be particularly prescient; she’s the sister who is condemned to spend her life in cartoonland, which is a fitting end for the woman who would become mostly famous as the voice of Bart Simpson. This segment also contains my favorite touch in the whole movie; when the TV is cracking up, I couldn’t help but notice that on the wall to the right there is one of those perfect, cartoon-style mouseholes.

In the end, this one was a real mixed bag. It could have been much better.