Les douze travaux d’Hercule (1910)

LES DOUZE TRAVAUX D’HERCULE (1910)
aka Hercules and the Big Stick
Article 3509 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-27-2011
Posting Date: 3-24-2011
Directed by Emile Cohl
Featuring Maurice Vinot, Alice Tissot (?)
Country: France
What it is: Animated mythological epic

Hercules performs his twelve labors with the help of his big stick and whatever else he can get a hold of.

Most of the other Emile Cohl movies I’ve seen have been combinations of live action and animation; this one is entirely animated, which made me rather surprised to see a cast listed on IMDB. Maybe they served as models for the animated characters. Despite given prominent mention in the English title, truth to tell, Hercules’s big stick isn’t particularly effective; though it helps him in wiping out an army, it’s pretty useless against non-human foes. In fact, when he tries to use it on a lion during the first task, the lion eats his big stick and then spits it out him; Hercules has to defeat him by sitting on him and squashing him, which is pretty easy, given the fact the Hercules’s stomach in this one is… well, I’ll be nice and describe it as Herculean. Most of the tasks involve killing beasties, though some of them rely on Hercules calling in some favors from buddies. It’s fairly amusing, though I think it might have been a bit easier for me to follow if I had familiarized myself with his twelve tasks, as the title cards are in French on this one.

And just so you don’t get the wrong idea, I think I ought to tell you that the big stick is a club.

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Tracks (1977)

TRACKS (1977)
Article 3499 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-15-2011
Posting Date: 3-14-2011
Directed by Henry Jaglom
Featuring Dennis Hopper, Taryn Power, Dean Stockwell
Country: USA
What it is: Postwar Vietnam drama

A soldier returns from Nam with the body of his friend and accompanies it on a train across the country to where he believes his friend will receive a hero’s welcome. However, the experience at Nam has left the soldier rather disturbed.

According to John Stanley’s CREATURE FEATURE MOVIE GUIDE STRIKES AGAIN, this movie qualifies due to the fantasy nature of the hallucinations of the soldier. Still, I’m not sure whether these sequences really take us into the realm of fantasy, though he is obviously imagining things that aren’t happening. Of course, there’s the theme of madness to contend with, but it’s obvious that the main brunt of the movie is about a man who fought in a war that no one cares about; except for the moments where the soldier brings it up himself, nobody talks about the war. The movie is about the great distance between the soldier’s perceptions about what war should be (it’s fitting that all the music in the movie is from World War II, perhaps the most romanticized war of the twentieth century) and what it turned out to be in this case.

I recall having seen a Henry Jaglom movie years ago, but I don’t remember it much. If you like bizarre snatches of conversation, he will probably appeal to you, but I do find that over the length of a movie, it does wear thin. Dennis Hopper is excellent as an extremely neurotic man having trouble adjusting, but that gets a little old after a while as well. It’s an intermittently interesting watch, but those wishing to view it for its fantastic content should go elsewhere.

The Trip (1967)

THE TRIP (1967)
Article 3474 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-12-2011
Posting Date: 2-27-2011
Directed by Roger Corman
Featuring Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern
Country: USA
What it is: Sixties relic

A film director takes LSD to gain insight.

I’ve never taken LSD, so I can’t say whether this movie gives anything resembling an accurate portrayal of what a drug trip would be like. It is, however, interesting enough as a relic of the time, and if you’re into psychedelic imagery, the movie can be a bit of fun. There’s really no plot to speak of; the first half of the movie has the director tripping out while under the watchful eye of a drug guru, and the second half has him wandering around town while still tripping out. The movie is a borderline fantasy due to the surreal imagery; some of his visions have him encountering two black hooded horsemen and a dwarf, the latter played by Angelo Rossitto. The script was written by Jack Nicholson, who also helped with the script of HEAD, which I will no doubt see in the future. It’s not a great movie, but it’s an interesting one, especially for the use of rapid-fire editing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
Article 3446 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-12-2010
Posting Date: 1-20-2010
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Featuring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Landmark science fiction movie

The discover of an alien artifact on the moon prompts a space mission to the moons of Jupiter.

This is one of those films that I dreaded covering for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s one of those movies that has been endlessly discussed elsewhere, making it highly improbable that I will find anything new to say about it. Furthermore, since I’ve already seen it several times, I found myself wondering whether I’d be able to see anything new myself. For the record, the movie is considered a masterpiece by some, and highly overrated by others; I am of the former group. If I could sum up the main reason for my admiration of this film, it is that it tackled a science fiction story as sophisticated as much of the written work of the time, and does so without sacrificing the visual aspect of cinema instead of descending into a series of long stretches of dialogue trying to explain the concepts. This does render the movie difficult to understand, but it’s far from impossible. That being said, I must admit that some sequences do tend to get dull on the umpteenth viewing; the trippy passage through the star gate comes to mind, and certain other scenes rely quite a bit on your affection for the classical music to keep your attention. But my favorite sequences are still intact, most of which occur in the third section of the movie; there’s the chilling moment when you realize that HAL can read lips, the ominous movement of the pod right before the death of Poole, and the shutting down of the computer. Of the things I noticed for the first time on this viewing, I observed that the structure is quite interesting in that the second and third sections of the movie don’t reveal their connections with the early sections of the movie until the end of that section. And perhaps my favorite observation this time was that Frank Poole and Heywood Floyd have conversations with family members about birthdays, and, given the ending of this movie, I now recognize these scenes as being subtle hints about the movie’s end.

Terror at Red Wolf Inn (1972)

TERROR AT RED WOLF INN (1972)
aka Terror House, The Folks at Red Wolf Inn
Article 3438 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-4-2010
Posting Date: 1-12-2011
Directed by Bud Townsend
Featuring Linda Gillen, John Neilson, Arthur Space
Country: USA
What it is: Inn with a dreadful secret movie

A college student wins a free vacation at the quaint Red Wolf Inn. However, the inn holds a dreadful secret…

… And I’m not going to give away that secret here out of respect for those who go into this one knowing nothing about it, but practically every review and plot description gives the game away. Not that it’s any great mystery; though the movie doesn’t explicitly let us know the situation until a long ways into it, anyone familiar with the subgenre of this type of movie will pick up the early hints, particularly in an early extended scene where we see several of the prize-winners chow down with their hosts. My major problem with the movie is that nobody acts with much intelligence; the hosts don’t do a particularly strong job of hiding their secrets from their prizewinners, nor do they show much real initiative when the prizewinners do discover the truth. If it weren’t for the fact that the prizewinners show even less intelligence when they do discover the truth, the hosts’ game would have been up long ago. The movie has a twist ending that is fairly predictable for this sort of movie, and then throws another last second twist that can only be interpreted as showing that the movie can’t be taken seriously. This may well be why the movie is considered a comedy by some, though it doesn’t play that way for most of its length. Still, there are some interesting moments that brighten this very uneven movie.

Tender Dracula (1974)

TENDER DRACULA (1974)
aka Tendre Dracula
Article 3437 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-3-2010
Posting Date: 1-11-2011
Directed by Pierre Grunstein
Featuring Peter Cushing, Alida Valli, Bernard Menez
Country: France
What it is: French horror comedy

A noted horror actor wants to stop making horror movies and play romantic leads. Two screenwriters and two actresses are sent to his castle to convince him to move back into horror.

There’s something about the offbeat premise of this movie that makes me want to like it. However, the movie fights me at every step of the way. Some of it may not be the movie’s fault; my copy is in fairly dismal shape, the running time is short about 14 minutes, and the English dubbing isn’t very good. But I think the real culprit lies in the fact that the movie is edited in this rather herky-jerky style which is immensely disorientating, and it leaves me feeling queasy rather than amused. It’s somewhat similar to being on a carnival ride which you can’t enjoy because the attendant has put your safety straps on too tightly and all you notice is the discomfort. Though the movie has a clear center (the horror vs. romance theme), it’s sometimes nearly impossible to tell what many of the surrounding scenes have to do with this theme, and for a comedy, I found it laughless. I think Cushing is giving a good performance, but in this mess it’s hard to appreciate. This movie is pretty obscure, and from what I can tell, it is deservedly so.

A Trip to Mars (1910)

A TRIP TO MARS (1910)
Article 3373 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-26-2010
Posting Date: 11-8-2010
Directed by Ashley Miller
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Melies-like science fiction

After inventing an anti-gravity powder, a man uses it on himself to propel himself to Mars.

This movie was an early addition to my hunt list, and for the longest time not only could I not find it, but it didn’t even have a listing on IMDB. They added one just about the time I gave up on it and consigned it to my Lost list, but a copy finally became available. This is one that didn’t turn out to be a disappointment; it’s actually quite cleverly done, and works well enough on its own that it transcends being just mock Melies. Some of the special effects are quite impressive, particularly when the traveler interacts with some of Mars’s giant denizens. The movie runs just under five minutes.