Le temple de l’elephant blanc (1964)

aka Temple of the White Elephant, Sandok, il Maciste della giungla
Article 5053 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-17-2016
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Sean Flynn, Marie Versini, Alessandro Panaro
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Historical action movie

When the daughter of a Viceroy is captured by a dangerous Indian sect that worships a white elephant, a lancer concocts a plan to infiltrate the cult’s temple and free the daughter.

Is that Maciste’s name I see in the Italian title? Yes, it is, but in this case, it’s a descriptive word; I’ve seen the title translated as SANDOK, GIANT OF THE JUNGLE. Furthermore, Sandok, though having a great deal the strength and wearing a loincloth, isn’t quite a sword-and-sandal hero; furthermore, he’s a secondary character in the action. The copy I found of this one was in French without English subtitles, but the plot description I found on IMDB gave me enough info to scope out the plot. There are a few fantastic touches here and there; one of the characters is under hypnosis, Sandok does demonstrate a certain amount of “super-strength” in one scene (he breaks some chains and bends the bars back), and the action makes me wonder whether the white elephant being worshipped might actually have greater than average powers, though that is fairly ambiguous since I couldn’t understand the dialogue. The movie itself seems to be pretty standard action fare; I didn’t see anything that really stood out or made it special.

Twirligig (1952)

Article 5047 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-12-2016
Directed by Norman McLaren
No cast
Country: Canada
What it is: Abstract animation

A little red squiggle mutates and gyrates in front of several planes of abstract figures.

Yes, it’s more abstract animation that gets considered for this project by dint of its being non-realistic. This one was also created in 3D, but I lack the necessary equipment to watch it in such. However, even in 2D, the planes of action seems fairly cleanly delineated, so I can rather sense how it might look. This one doesn’t appear to have been drawn to fit a piece of music; rather, it appears the music was composed to complement the visuals here. There’s a light-hearted and playful spirit to this one, with the squiggle even taking on enough anthropomorphic design to tip its hat to you. At only about three and a half minutes, it doesn’t strain your patience, either. This one was rather enjoyable.

2069 A.D. (1969)

2069 A.D. (1969)
aka 2069 A.D. – A Sensation Odyssey
Article 5032 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-28-2015
Directed by Sam Kopetzky
Featuring Harvey Shain, Barbara Lynn, Sharon Matt
Country: USA
What it is: Compendium of human friction experiments

In the year 2319, a man guilty of violence is punished by being sent back into time to learn about love and violence in past ages in the hope it will cure him. He is given a time ring that will allow him to travel through the ages; it also has the power to remove extraneous clothing with the snap of a finger. He goes back in time and participates in human friction experiments.

Here’s another one that ended up on my “ones that got away” list but which I was finally able to see, though since the movie originally ran seventy-five minutes and the copy I saw ran only one hour, I’d say there’s some footage missing. The opening where the man is sentenced actually takes itself seriously enough that I found myself wondering if the movie was actually going to have something to say other than to be a string of human friction experiments (please note that this is a euphemism). Alas, when the ring inexplicably changes hands after the first experiment, it becomes clear that nothing beyond the obvious is going to be explored. After a while I found myself very annoyed at the scenes where people act confused when they’ve traveled through time instead of just going ahead and getting engaged in the next experiment.

Yes, I’ve groused before at having to watch sexploitation as part of my series (including 2069 – A SEX ODYSSEY, with which this movie shouldn’t be confused), and it’s not really because I’m prudish or above the pleasures of this type of movie. It’s more due to the fact that I rarely know how to evaluate them or what to write about them. About the only way I could think of rating them is by using the number of times it encourages the viewer to play the home version of the game, but who wants a tally of that? And, on a side note, the year of 2069 is never visited.

The Third Eye (1966)

aka Il terzo occhio
Article 4955 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-12-2015
Directed by Mino Guerrini
Featuring Franco Nero, Gioia Pascal, Erika Blanc
Country: Italy
What it is: Thriller

After both his fiancee and his mother die on the same day (both are homicides that look like accidents), a count goes crazy and begins picking up and killing women.

This effective little Italian thriller doesn’t fit in easily with the standard Italian fantastic genres of the era, though describing it as a modern-day version of a period gothic thriller crossed with a giallo gets us within the ballpark. It could also be described as a cross between PSYCHO and one of those Vincent Price movies where he’s obsessed with a dead wife. It’s certainly fairly bloody for its time, and it plays as a straightforward horror movie enough that the occasional arty touches don’t detract from it. Franco Nero gives an excellent performance, though I’m not sure if the script is consistent in the way it portrays his character’s madness; at times he seems blindly delusional, but at other times (especially at the end of the movie), we’re not sure exactly how delusional he is. Still, overall this is a very effective horror thriller, and it’s one we’re never sure exactly how it’s all going to come out in the end. It was apparently remade by Joe D’Amato as BUIO OMEGA.

Il tunnel sotto il mondo (1969)

aka Tunnel Under the World
Article 4938 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-25-2015
Directed by Luigi Cozzi
Featuring Alberto Moro, Bruno Salviero, Anna Mantovani
Country: Italy
What it is: Art film science fiction

A man finds himself living the same day three days in a row and finds the world oddly changed.

I was a little bit surprised to see a well-known science fiction author credited as the source of the original story of this one, and I wondered if the story was as strange and fractured as this movie was. A quick check at Wikipedia gave me the impression that Frederik Pohl’s original story was more or less coherent, and therefore the arty disconnected feel of the movie was more the result of director Luigi Cozzi than a part of the original story. This in itself was a surprise; I was familiar with Cozzi from such movies as STARCRASH and CONTAMINATION, and those movies are light-years away from the art-film approach of this movie. From what I can tell, the script takes key scenes from the story and presents them in a disconnected, hard-to-follow fashion; plot points and clear revelations are hidden if they’re there at all. Actually, I found myself considering the similarity of this movie to those old silent shorts that would take well-known novels and fairy tales and present selected scenes as tableaux, only I’m not sure if all of the scenes in this movie have any relation to the story. Certain individual moments of the movie work well enough; I particularly liked the opening sequences which loop back to the same events only with minor variations, and a scene involving a man having a conversation with a computer that is trying to learn about God. Most of the rest of the movie was baffling; though I can see how some of the scenes fit in with the plot description I read of the original story, others just left me scratching my head, such as the scenes involving a couple of murderous men in Santa suits. As with other movies of this sort, my evaluation is based more on feel than what I was able to understand, and at this point it appears to be a very mixed bag to me. However, it did intrigue me more than Cozzi’s other movies have.

Three on a Meathook (1973)

Article 4935 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-22-2015
Directed by William Girdler
Featuring Charles Kissinger, James Carroll Pickett, Sherry Steiner
Country: USA
What it is: Serial killer concoction

A young man living on a farm has been told by his father that he is responsible for several killings of women, though he has no memory of it. What is the truth behind it all?

Like PSYCHO, DERANGED and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, this is another cinematic stab at the Ed Gein story. I found this one on YouTube, and the copy I saw looked like a transfer from VHS that’s a little ways down the dupe line, and oddly enough, this made the viewing experience seem to be a little more effective; somehow, I think a pristine copy would have made the flaws more blatant. It’s not that the flaws aren’t already fairly apparent; most of the movie lifts its structure from PSYCHO (this is especially noticeable towards the end of the movie), and when it doesn’t lift from PSYCHO, it putters around without an idea of where to go. Two things that feel really out of place in a horror movie are to give its character an inspirational theme song and to have scenes of typical early-seventies “romantic frolicking through the fields”. Still, the movie does have a couple of surprises up its sleeve, which is more than I expected from it. It’s the weakest of the Ed Gein movies I’ve seen to date, but when you consider its competition, that’s not as damning a statement as it might seem. And I will have to give credit to actor James Carroll Pickett; he does manage to make you care about his character.

Three Orphan Kittens (1935)

Article 4934 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-21-2015
Directed by David Hand
Featuring the voice of Lillian Randolph
Country: USA
What it is: Disney Silly Symphony

Three kittens, abandoned in a snowstorm, take refuge through an open window into a house, and interact with the environment there.

Let’s take care of the fantastic content first. By dint of its use of talking and/or anthropomorphic animals, the vast majority of cartoons qualify for fantastic content on those grounds alone. This is one of the exceptions; the three kittens who are the main characters of this cartoon act like real kittens rather than anthropomorphized versions of them. Of course, that’s where the real appeal of this cartoon lies; it’s the superb animation of three kittens who are acting like kittens that gives the charm to this piece of animated whimsy. The fantastic content mostly manifests itself in the presence of certain animated exaggerations, such as the fact that when a kitten has his head stuck in a bottle, the head is somewhat shaped like the bottle, or in a scene where a kitten appears to be spanked by the hammers of a piano. Still, this is one of the more realistic of the Silly Symphonies. All in all, there’s not much of a story; outside of the uncertainty as to how the kittens will be greeted when their presence within the house is known, it’s mostly just a series of cute setpieces. This one is quite entertaining.

Those Beautiful Dames (1934)

Article 4931 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-18-2015
Directed by Friz Freleng
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Cartoon

A poor girl trudges to her poverty-stricken home on a snowy night and is unable to keep the fire lit. Then, after she falls asleep, a troupe of toys show up, redecorate the home, and throw the girl a party.

Here’s another early Warner Brothers effort; this was before they developed a solid coterie of cartoon stars. They were content to make cartoons that mostly served to highlight chosen songs for which the company had the rights. It’s certainly more whimsical than funny, though it opens poignantly by emphasizing the girl’s poverty, then engages in some mild whimsy as the toys redecorate, and then does a couple of renditions of the title song. Like many of the cartoons from the studio during this time, it’s passable but uninspired.

Thor and the Amazon Women (1963)

aka Le gladiatrici
Article 4922 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-8-2015
Directed by Antonio Leonviola
Featuring Susy Andersen, Joe Robinson, Harry Baird
Country: Italy / Yugoslavia
What it is: Sword and Sandal

Musclemen Thor takes on the Amazons and their evil queen.

There’s a conceptual problem at work in this movie. Consider these two facts: 1) Thor’s enemies are the Amazon warriors, and 2) Thor is too much of a gentleman to fight women. I’m sure you see the central problem here. Maybe that’s why Thor is used so sparingly during this movie; he barely appears in the first half of the movie at all. Maybe that’s why the evil queen, despite the fact that she is convinced of the superiority of women to men in all regards, maintains a private coterie of (male) guards for herself; after all, Thor has to fight someone. Most of the movie concentrates on the inner dealings of the female prisoners who must fight in the arena for their freedom, known as the gladiatresses (a word I didn’t even knew existed). The movie itself looks rather chintzy, and there aren’t even many familiar sword and sandal faces here. Though a great deal of talk is made about Thor’s great strength, the only two manifestations of it are in his one direct physical altercation with the Amazons, a glorified version of tug-of-war, and a flashback sequence in which a man defeats a big ape in combat, which looks like it’s stock footage from something else. The movie is also rather sexist; it takes the stance that leadership by women is utter presumption. In order to back up this stance, it even makes the unexpected move of killing off a specific character (the only real surprise in the movie) for the sole purpose of making sure that the character who ends up on the throne at the end is a male. This is not the genre’s finest hour.

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959)

Article 4921 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-7-2015
Directed by John Guillermin
Featuring Gordon Scott, Anthony Quayle, Sara Shane
Country: USA
What it is: Tarzan movie

A group of criminals have been raiding villages in Africa for supplies that will help them reach a diamond mine. Tarzan vows to bring the criminals to justice, and discovers that their leader is an old enemy of his.

I’m not quite sure if I’d call this his “Greatest Adventure”, but if I were to make a list of the best ones I’ve seen, this one would be in the running. It’s an impressive entry in the series. There are only seven significant characters in the story, but they’re all uncommonly well-developed and well acted. Tarzan’s savagery is on display here; in fact, one of the themes of the movie is that Tarzan may be as motivated by personal revenge as he is by justice in his obsession with facing off with the main villain of the piece. The cast is excellent, and also includes Niall MacGinnis and a pre-Bond Sean Connery. The movie is filmed on location in Kenya, and this adds a great deal of flavor to the production. It’s one of the more adult entries in the Tarzan canon, but it’s also one of the most problematic for this series, as it’s one of the slimmest in terms of fantastic content; outside of the marginal fantasy content of Tarzan’s existence, there’s nothing. Still, this one is intense and gripping, and a short “Tarzan takes a swim” sequence is its sole nod to cuteness. This one is recommended.