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.


Tarzan’s Savage Fury (1952)

Article 3368 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-21-2010
Posting Date: 11-3-2010
Directed by Cy Endfield
Featuring Lex Barker, Dorothy Hart, Patric Knowles
Country: USA
What it is: Tarzan movie

A cousin of Tarzan’s is murdered by a spy. The spy gets an accomplice to impersonate the murdered cousin in order to fool Tarzan to lead them to the tribe of the Wazuris… and their supply of diamonds.

Nice title, huh? Still, if anyone really wants to see Tarzan’s savage fury (the emotion) rather than TARZAN’S SAVAGE FURY (the movie), they’d be better off checking out some of the precode Tarzan movies. Besides, any Tarzan movie that opens with Tarzan finding a substitute for the departed Boy is bound to be one of the more domesticated ones. Overall, it’s a so-so Tarzan movie with some good scenes (the scene where the natives kill crocodiles by using children as bait is a little shocking, and the scene where we first encounter the Wazuri is effectively handled) and some silly scenes (Cheta on the radio set with the pilots). As usual, the fantastic content is the mild fantasy element of the whole Tarzan mythos, though the Wazuri’s witch doctor appears to have some real magical powers when his magic is used to figure out the plot of the spy. There’s a fair amount of animal footage in this one as well. With this movie, I finish off the Lex Barker Tarzan movies.

To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

Article 3326 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-6-2010
Posting Date: 9-22-2010
Directed by Peter Sykes
Featuring Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Honor Blackmon
Country: UK / West Germany
What it is: Devil worship story

An occult writer takes over the care of the daughter of a repentant Satanist in the hopes that the information he learns will make for a great book. Unfortunately, he finds himself in over his head when the Satanists turn out to be very serious and very dangerous, and he must come up to speed very quickly if he hopes to save her life… and the world.

This was Hammer’s swan song, and based on its rating on IMDB, I’m guessing it isn’t a particular favorite. Nevertheless, for the most part I like it. The story is confusing for the first half of the movie, but it does come together at about the halfway point. Both Christopher Lee and Richard Widmark give excellent performances, though it takes some getting used to Widmark’s distinctly American accent in this context. Oddly enough, it doesn’t feel like a Hammer film, though it is interesting to speculate what the studio’s product would have been like if this had not been their last production. It’s biggest problem is a very weak ending, which apparently was not the original one in the script; the original ending was shot, but none of the footage survives. I find it rather hard to believe that Olivia Newton-John was also in consideration for the role played by Nastassja Kinski here. All in all, I found the movie quite interesting, and sometimes quite grotesque.

Theatre of Death (1967)

Article 3325 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-5-2010
Posting Date: 9-21-2010
Directed by Samuel Gallu
Featuring Christopher Lee, Julian Glover, Lelia Goldoni
Country: UK
What it is: Horror / Mystery

A series of vampire-style murders is plaguing Paris. The murders are somehow connected with a Grand Guignol-style theatre known as the Theatre of Death.

I watched the beginning of this movie many years ago when it popped up on late night TV, but lost interest very quickly. It was interesting to compare my memories of that attempted viewing with my observations on this viewing. Back then, I thought the movie looked cheap and chintzy, but I’m willing to bet that was more due to a poor print; this one looks very nice indeed, and I like the use in color particularly. The movie has several interesting moments, some of which are creatively photographed; there’s no doubt that some skill went into the direction, editing and cinematography here, and the acting is quite solid. The story also has some interesting twists and revelations. Yet, for some reason, the movie is mostly dull; it never really builds up much story momentum, and the events seem distant and uninvolving. As a result, my interest remained muted during the viewing. I wish I could pinpoint exactly where and how the movie loses my interest, but I didn’t sense one iota of real suspense during my viewing. It’s a pity; this one could have been much better.

Tarzak Against the Leopards Men (1964)

aka Tarzak conro gli uomini leopardo, Ape Man of the Jungle
Article 3307 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-18-2010
Posting Date: 9-3-2010
Directed by Carlo Veo
Featuring Ralph Hudson, Rita Klein, Nuccia Cardinali
Country: Italy
What it is: Italian Tarzan clone

Zoltak must save explorers from a tribe of Leopard Men, who have given up their peaceful ways and turned to war.

No, my hand didn’t slip when I was typing the title of this one; the onscreen title is indeed TARZAK AGAINST THE LEOPARDS MEN. This makes me wonder if English was not the primary language of whoever wrote the title. Furthermore, whoever came up with the title wasn’t in sync with those doing the translation for the dubbing, for these people changed the main character’s name from Tarzak to Zoltak, probably to deemphasize the obvious fact that this movie is a Tarzan clone. The movie is so-so, but I found it more interesting to compare how this movie differs from the American Tarzan movies. For one thing, Zoltak here as Hercules-style strength, which increases slightly the fantastic content of the jungle tale. The movie has little in the way of animal footage, and Zoltak is not shown having any particular rapport with them. We also have a scene of the grateful white men coming to the rescue of the beleaguered Zoltak, something that I’ve not seen before. Most striking, though, is the ending, where the heroes seem to show more coldness and brutality than we’re used to; just consider the scene where one of the villains falls into quicksand and calls to one of the heroes for help. All in all, it proved to be an interesting viewing experience.

Tarzan and the Trappers (1958)

Article 3292 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-30-2010
Posting Date: 8-19-2010
Directed by Charles F. Haas, Sandy Howard and H. Bruce Humberstone
Featuring Gordon Scott, Eve Brent, Rickie Sorensen
Country: USA
What it is: Tarzan movie

Tarzan must deal with illegal trappers, a safari for a lost city, and a hunter intent on capturing him.

I was tempted to dismiss this one as a Tarzan movie at its most uninspired, but the episodic nature of the movie began to make me suspect that it wasn’t really intended as a movie at all. And, sure enough, it was cobbled together from three episodes of an unsold TV series, though it does look as if the three episodes are at least somewhat related. It’s a pretty humdrum affair all around; the story does little new or interesting with the Tarzan idea, and it all feels rather uncompelling. What I like best is that it keeps the Cheta antics to a minimum (it even allows Cheta to heroically save Jane’s life in one of the opening scenes), and I do rather like the plot idea in which a hunter decides to track down the most dangerous animal in the world (see THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME) in the person of Tarzan, even if the movie makes little use of the idea in the final analysis. The fantastic content is little more than the marginal fantasy content of the Tarzan series. This is not essential Tarzan viewing.

The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962)

Article 3259 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-22-2010
Posting Date: 7-17-2010
Directed by Edward Bernds
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Joe DeRita
Country: USA
What it is: Sword and sandal spoof

An inventor, his girlfriend, and three employees of a pharmacy go back in time to ancient Greece, where their appearance causes Ulysses to lose a war to a usurper named Odius. They must return Ulysses to the throne and save the girlfriend, who is in the power of the usurper.

I’m not sure I can think of a comedy team that lasted in movies as long as the Stooges did. I suspect that one reason is that their slapstick knockabout humor transcended trendiness; good timing is timeless. I also suspect that another reason was that they held off on making features until the end of their careers; people are quicker to forget a short that falls flat than a feature that does. None of the features really holds a candle to their best shorts, but given how long in the tooth they were, it’s perhaps amazing that the features were as good as they were. This one gives the whole sword-and-sandal genre a good nose-tweaking, and it’s just well-produced enough so that it does a good job of it. Perhaps my favorite scene is the battle with the Siamese Cyclops, which were played by a set of twins, which is an interesting if unnecessary gimmick, since the makeup is so heavy that it wouldn’t matter if they were really twins or not.