Tarzanova smrt (1962)

aka The Death of the Ape Man
Article 2947 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-2-2009
Posting Date: 9-8-2009
Directed by Jaroslav Balik
Featuring Rudolf Hrusinsky, Jana Stepankova, Martin Ruzek
Country: Czechoslovakia

A noble, lost in the jungle as a kid and raised by apes, returns to civilization and must adjust. He finds himself torn between two factions of people who want to use him for their own ends.

Because my copy of this movie is in unsubtitled Czech, the above plot description may not be completely accurate, though given the references to Tarzan, I think my assumption about the man having been raised by apes is correct, even if we have no scenes of him in the jungle. The language barrier did make the movie more difficult to appreciate, but the spirit of the whole affair does seem to come through. IMDB classifies it as a comedy, and indeed it is, but the comedy is tempered with a dark, tragic edge. Visually, it’s quite good at times, with a scene in which two groups of people, both plotting to get our hero to marry a specific woman, have a free-for-all in the foyer of a mansion while decked out in formal attire. This scene is particularly fascinating; visually, it’s the funniest scene in the movie, but it’s also the one where we see the dark threads of the tale coming together as our hero ends up learning about guns and what they can do, and though much of the fighting is comic, the deaths are real. It’s an intriguing movie, and I find myself really hoping that someone takes the time to add English subtitles at some time so I can appreciate it better. And I find it rather fitting that a movie this comic and tragic would open and close with a singing clown.


Tarzan’s Peril (1951)

Article 2943 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-29-2009
Posting Date: 9-4-2009
Directed by Byron Haskin
Featuring Lex Barker, Virginia Huston, George Macready
Country: USA

Tarzan must hunt down an escaped gun runner loose in Africa.

This was the first Tarzan movie to be shot in Africa (though only partially), and it shows; there is an air of authenticity to this one that is missing from most of the other Tarzan movies I’ve seen. This sense of authenticity adds a lot to the proceedings, as does a stronger-than-usual cast (George Macready is great as the villainous Radijeck) and occasional moments that are extremely good; in particular, I love the scene where Tarzan does not find the bodies of the commissioners, but is able to piece together what happened by observing the lions and hyenas in the area. Still, the story is very standard stuff, the moments when they switch from the African footage to the non-African footage are rather obvious, and some of the editing decisions are bad; really, couldn’t they have found a better moment in the movie to perform the gag where Cheeta eats the commissioner’s watch? It also features a moment where Tarzan battles a puppet snake so unconvincing I kept expecting Kukla and Fran to show up as well. The slight fantastic content that comes automatically with the Tarzan movies is augmented a little by the appearance of man-eating plants at one point. The movie was originally intended to be in color, but much of the footage was ruined on location, so it was converted to black and white.

Toto sceicco (1950)

aka Toto the Shiek
Article 2936 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-22-2009
Posting Date: 8-28-2009
Directed by Mario Mattoli
Featuring Toto, Tamara Lees, Laura Gore
Country: Italy

When his master leaves to join the foreign legion, a majordomo is sent by a marquesse to fetch him back. Complications arise, however, when the majordomo is mistaken for the son of a shiek.

In terms of Italian comedy, I would choose Toto over Franco and Ciccio any day. However, one must bear in mind that this choice is based upon viewings of their movies without the benefit of English dubbing or subtitles, so I can’t say I can fully appreciate them. In the purely visual sense, I know that Toto appeals to me more; his facial expressions don’t seem to resort to the shameless mugging of the Franco and Ciccio movies, and his movies just seem to be more creative. I’d love to know what’s going on in some of the scenes towards the beginning, especially one in a restaurant involving a kissing sound and lots of sausages. Things becomes a little easier to follow in the second half of the movie when Toto stumbles across the lost world of Atlantis; this part is essentially a parody of L’ATLANTIDE, which I’ve seen. It seems fairly amusing, though not as memorable as TOTO IN HELL, though there does seem to be an inordinate amount of joking about mirages in this one.

Tintin et les oranges bleues (1964)

aka Tintin and the Blue Oranges
Article 2906 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-22-2009
Posting Date: 7-28-2009
Directed by Philippe Condroyer
Featuring Jean Bouise, Jean-Pierre Talbot, Felix Fernandez
Country: Spain / France

The mysterious appearance of blue oranges causes Tintin and the Captain to travel to Spain, where they must rescue a kidnapped professor.

Tintin is an incredibly popular comic book character in Europe whose popularity never crossed the ocean to the United States, though that may change if Spielberg manages to get a movie based on the character made. I know very little about the character, and though this movie probably helps by introducing some of the regular characters, it probably won’t serve as a effective introduction; not only does a 4.7 rating on IMDB suggest that the movie isn’t very good, but the fact that the only copy I could find was in unsubtitled French (and for the record, I’m not really surprised by this) means that I’m not going to get much from the movie anyway. It’s got some action and some comedy; the most amusing scene for me was a split screen moment in which two nearly identical men settle in to their respective rooms. Since two professors are kidnapped and appear to be working on some scientific research, I’m assuming that the movie has some science fiction touches surrounding the title fruits, but exactly what their significance is is lost to me. I do know that Tintin has a dog and strange hair, and the captain loves his liquor; the rest may have to wait until I can experience Tintin in a different context.

Trilby (1915)

TRILBY (1915)
Article 2880 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-27-2009
Posting Date: 7-2-2009
Directed by Maurice Tourneur
Featuring Wilton Lackaye, Clara Kimball Young, Paul McAllister
Country: USA

A musician named Svengali decides to make his fortune by using his hypnotic powers to turn a Paris model into a singer.

IMDB lists eleven versions of the Du Maurier story, seven of which feature Trilby’s name in the title and five of which feature Svengali’s name in the title; the reason it adds up to twelve rather than eleven is that one version is called TRILBY AND SVENGALI. It’s not surprising that the use of Trilby’s name is more common, as that is the title of the original novel, but I’ve always felt Svengali was the more interesting character, and I’m not surprised that the most interesting movie version of the story is the one with the most striking performance of that character; namely, John Barrymore’s version from 1931. This version is quite good, but I don’t find Wilton Lackaye’s performance to be near as memorable as Barrymore’s, and I suspect that I’ll find this true about any of the other versions of the story I encounter. This marks either the third or fourth version of the story I’ve seen; it depends on whether you count ELLA LOLA A LA TRILBY, which, personally, I don’t.

The Tale of Osaka Castle (1961)

aka Daredevil in the Castle, Osaka jo monogatari
Article 2876 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-23-2009
Posting Date: 6-28-2009
Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
Featuring Toshiro Mifune, Kyoko Kagawa, Yuriko Hoshi
Country: Japan

A mountain Samurai comes to Osaka to get a job at the castle, but becomes embroiled in a political struggle that is threatening to turn into a war.

The fantastic content is pretty light here; there’s a short sequence in a scary underground cave with bats and snakes, and I’m not familiar enough with Japanese history to know if this is based on a real historical event or if it’s a borderline fantasy. Like the other Toshiro Mifune movies I’ve seen that were not directed by Kurasawa, it’s not up to the level of the movies he acted in for that great director, but Mifune is still a charismatic and appealing actor. Here he’s a lot of fun as a brawling loose cannon who just wants to keep out of the war, but finds himself drawn into it when he falls in love with a woman at the castle. He uses humor and body language exquisitely, and he’s particularly good in the action sequences. The story gets a bit confusing at times, but the final battle sequence is quite exciting as Mifune must find a way to light a wagon full of gunpowder on a bridge as the enemy rapidly approaches. The cast also features Akikhiko Hirata and Takashi Shimura.

The Thirteenth Hour (1947)

Article 2875 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-22-2009
Posting Date: 6-27-2009
Directed by William Clemens
Featuring Richard Dix, Karen Morley, John Kellogg
Country: USA

The boss of a small trucking firm ends up at odds with a police officer who is his rival for the affection of the woman who runs the local diner. The rivalry intensifies when the policeman tickets the trucker for drunk driving and causes him to lose his license. The trucker is then forced to take it on the lam when he is framed for the murder of the policeman.

Though it isn’t apparent from the title, this is another entry in “The Whistler” series of movies, and, like many of the others, the shadowy figure of the Whistler (who serves as our narrator) is the sole fantastic element in the movie. Still, this is one dandy little B movie, with Richard Dix capturing our sympathy as an everyman who gets caught up in a situation that is over his head, and which eventually leads to a diamond smuggling operation. The script is quite strong. I like that the characters here act with intelligence; when our hero is forced to write a note to his fiancee, he manages to find a way to clue her in to the true nature of his situation by writing a comment that seems quite innocent on the surface, for example. One really gets the sense of paranoia and oppression of being on the lam as well. “The Whistler” was one of the better B-Movie series out there, and this entry in the series is one of the reasons why.