Toto all’inferno (1954)

aka Toto in Hell
Article 2486 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-24-2008
Posting Date: 6-2-2008
Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque
Featuring Toto, Maria Frau, Fulvia Franco
Country: Italy

Toto has an accident while trying to commit suicide, goes to hell, visits beatniks, marries a Siamese twin, and has other misadventures.

I’ve only encountered the Italian comedian Toto once before, and that was in TOTO NELLA LUNA. I had trouble appreciating that one because it was in unsubtitled Italian; this one has the same obstacle. I’ve heard tell that he’s a fine comic actor, and I have no reason to doubt it; the scenes here that don’t rely on dialogue for humor (especially the opening sequence, during which not a single word is spoken) are very amusing. Nevertheless, I really wish I could follow the plot; I’d love to see how the movie ties together the various threads. The scenes in hell are a lot of visual fun, and they’re in color while the rest of the movie is in black and white, much like THE WIZARD OF OZ (which also features a Toto; in fact, I wonder if that may not be a coincidence). I look forward to seeing a subtitled version some day; this one looks very entertaining.



Terror in the Wax Museum (1973)

Article 2427 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-19-2007
Posting Date: 4-4-2008
Directed by Georg Fenady
Featuring Ray Milland, Elsa Lanchester, Maurice Evans

The curator of a wax museum is murdered, and the primary suspect is… the wax figure of Jack the Ripper. Does the figure come to life? Or is there some other explanation…

It’s nice to see an old-fashioned horror-mystery full of familiar old-timers. The cast features Ray Milland, Elsa Lanchester, Maurice Evans, John Carradine, Louis Hayward, Patric Knowles, and Broderick Crawford, all of whom have noteworthy credits in the annals of fantastic cinema. It’s a pity the movie is bore; the horror is tepid and the mystery isn’t much better, and the only real pleasure is seeing the familiar faces. Director Georg Fenady would go on to direct ARNOLD, a better movie with a sense of humor and something of a cult following, and which would also feature a wealth of familiar faces, but then he would return exclusively to TV and TV-Movie work. Somehow, this is no surprise; this movie felt more like a TV-Movie than a theatrical release.


To Trap a Spy (1964)

TO TRAP A SPY (1964)
Article 2425 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-16-2007
Posting Date: 4-2-2008
Directed by Don Medford
Featuring Robert Vaughn, Luciana Paluzzi, Pat Crowley

Napoleon Solo investigates the partial report of a now-deceased agent who indicated that an assassination would take place when several representatives from the newly-formed government of an African nation tour a plant.

This is one of the classiest of the movies derived from the TV series, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”. I also found it one of the most interesting, as it was expanded from the pilot episode of the series (“The Vulcan Affair”), and it gave me a chance to see how the series was originally conceived. It’s the most overtly Bondian of the series, with a lot of footage dealing with Solo’s flirtation with various beautiful women. It also answered a question I’ve long had about the series – why it was called “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” rather than “The Men from U.N.C.L.E.” Here, Napoleon Solo largely works alone; David McCallum’s appearances as Illya Kuryakin are minimal and confined to the opening half hour of the movie. The villain is a group called WASP (not THRUSH), and Leo G. Carroll’s Mr. Waverly does not exist; instead, a Mr. Allison (played by Will Kuluva) is the head of U.N.C.L.E. As usual with this type of genre, the fantastic content is marginal, confined to the slight science fiction elements having to do with the technology that is used by the spies and villains.


The Touch of Satan (1971)

Article 2424 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-15-2007
Posting Date: 4-1-2008
Directed by Don Henderson
Featuring Michael Berry, Emby Mellay, Lee Amber

A wandering young man encounters a beautiful woman in the country. He doesn’t know that she is a witch, and that the ancient woman who lives with her is a) her sister, and b) a homicidal maniac.

This movie has occasional interesting visual and story touches, and it could have made for a decent thriller. Unfortunately, the script is pretty weak with several awful lines of dialogue, and the turgid pace and poor acting turn the movie into a dreary, dismal experience. The cast is mostly made up of unknowns who would remain that way, but the director (here working under the nom de plume of Don Henderson) would go on to a certain degree of fame as the star and director of the “Billy Jack” movies.

**NOTE** The Tom Laughlin mention is in error; the movie was actually directed by someone named Don Henderson and not Laughlin at all.


Tower of Evil (1972)

aka Horror on Snape Island
Article 2399 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-21-2007
Posting Date: 3-7-2008
Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Featuring Bryant Haliday, Jill Haworth, Mark Edwards

A team of researchers go to Snape Island to find a Phoenician treasure. However, the island has a bad history of multiple murders having been committed on it, and soon the researchers discover they’re not alone on the island…

This movie starts out strong with a pair of sailors making their way to the island in question and finding it littered with bloody corpses and a madwoman. Unfortunately, it goes somewhat downhill from there for various reasons; the nudity and sex is gratuitous, the character development seems more interested in the characters’ sex lives than anything else, there are occasional attempts to shock that fall flat (I can understand having one of the woman drop a plate of food by being startled, but when what startles her is the sound what sounds like someone playing the recorder in the distance, you really feel the movie is overplaying its hand), and the revelations just aren’t all that great. Still, it has its moments, and is quite moody at times. I have to admit I have a fondness for the alternate title, HORROR ON SNAPE ISLAND, but I keep confusing with these other movies –

HORROR ON SNOOP ISLAND – Researchers arrive on an island haunted by Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick.

HORROR ON SNIPE ISLAND – Researchers arrive on an island and are terrorized by a group of men who have been waiting there forever with their bags

HORROR ON SNIP ISLAND – Researchers arrive on an island inhabited by demented barbers

HORROR ON SPANK ISLAND – Researchers arrive on an island to find – believe me, you don’t want to know.


The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960)

aka Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse
Article 2365 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-16-2007
Posting Date: 2-2-2008
Directed by Fritz Lang
Featuring Dawn Addams, Peter van Eyck, Wolfgang Preiss

Though believed to have died in 1932, it appears that Dr. Mabuse is still alive and plotting evil. Police suspect that the center of operations is the Luxor Hotel, where many of the murder victims were known to have stayed before their deaths.

Lest we forget, the whole sixties cycle of Dr. Mabuse movies was kicked off by Fritz Lang himself, who directed this, his last movie, and cowrote the script. No, it’s not up to his earlier Dr. Mabuse movies, but it’s more subtle and sophisticated than the follow-ups made without Lang, though that doesn’t mean the sequels to this one are bad. This itself is a sequel to the THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE from 1932, which is referred to in the script and in the plot itself; the opening murder is a reprise of a murder sequence from that film. There’s a mystery element to this one; as you meet the residents of the hotel and the various interested parties, you know one of them is Mabuse himself, and that another is a secret detective assigned to the case. On top of the police commissioner played by Gert Frobe (not the same policeman he plays in the remake of the 1932 movie a few years later), we have a suicidal young woman, her doctor, a rich industrialist, a hotel detective, an insurance salesman, a blind spiritualist, and a jealous husband. The mystery element isn’t particularly puzzling; I rightly figured out who was who, though I was surprised by the fact that two of these people are one and the same. Dawn Addams is lovely, Gert Frobe and Peter Van Eyck both do fine work, and Wolfgang Preiss is excellent. The movie also features Howard Vernon as one of Mabuse’s hit men. The psychic provides some of the fantastic content, as does the implication that there’s something supernatural about Mabuse in the first place. The dubbing does detract a little from the proceedings, but overall, it is a worthwhile follow-up to the original Mabuse films.


The Terror of Dr. Mabuse (1962)

aka Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
Article 2364 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-15-2007
Posting Date: 2-1-2008
Directed by Werner Klingler
Featuring Gert Frobe, Senta Berger, Helmut Schmid

A series of crimes are being committed, and they point to the brilliant criminal mind of Dr. Mabuse. But Dr. Mabuse is committed to an insane asylum and has not been allowed to leave it. Could it be that he has developed a form of mind control…?

This was the fourth movie of the sixties revival of the Dr. Mabuse character, and also a remake of the 1933 Fritz Lang movie, THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE . Its lowly 5.4 rating on IMDB indicates that these movies aren’t highly regarded, and if you judge them in comparison with the Lang movies, I can understand that. I tend to look at them in comparison with the krimis, those semi-horrific German crime movies of the early sixties that are often based on works by Edgar Wallace, and to which these movies somewhat belong. Based on what I’ve seen of the Dr. Mabuse movies so far, they’re a cut above the other krimis; they’re coherent and quite exciting. I like this one even more than SCOTLAND YARD VS. DR. MABUSE ; Gert Frobe was an excellent choice to play the role of Inspector Lohmann, Wolfgang Preiss plays an intense and memorable Dr. Mabuse, and whoever plays the elegant main henchman (I think it may be Charles Regnier) practically steals the movie. I love some of the humor in this one; in particular, I like the moment when the henchman provides bus fare to some stranded guards. The henchman are actually well-differentiated rather than being faceless thugs, and this adds to the fun when the various criminal activities are committed. You should be able to recognize the actor who plays the disgraced policemen turned informer; it’s none other than Leon Askin, most famous for having played General Burkhalter on “Hogan’s Heroes”.

Personally, I find the sixties Dr. Mabuse movies to be a lot of fun.