Time Bandits (1981)

Article 3890 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-30-2012
Posting Date: 4-8-2012
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Featuring John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall
Country: UK
What it is: Comic epic fantasy

A young boy finds himself trapped on a journey through time with six little men who have stolen a map of Creation which shows where all the time holes are, and they plan to use it to make a fortune as robbers. However, the Evil One knows that they have the map, and plans to steal it so that he can escape the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness and prepare a conquest of Creation.

I can’t really review this movie. I love it too much. I saw it at the time when my love of all things associated with Monty Python was at its height, and when I had become utterly bored with everything else that was playing at the movies, and when my thirst for something unusual and different was very strong. Even the artwork made this one look like something special, and I ended up returning to the theater to catch it several times during its run. It isn’t the string of well-known actors that appear in it; almost all of them are playing cameos, with only David Warner (perfectly cast as an amusing source of all evil) in a sizable role. The main characters are the little boy played by Craig Warnock, and the set of six dwarf actors who portray the bandits, with David Rappaport, Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis as the most memorable, though they all do a fine job. Warner gives another of my favorite performances, and, among the cameos, Ralph Richardson (as the human manifestation of the Supreme Being), John Cleese (as an unctuously condescending Robin Hood) and Ian Holm (as Napoleon) are my favorites. It was the first of a rough trilogy for Terry Gilliam; with BRAZIL and THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHHAUSEN, he’d made a set of movies about youth, adulthood, and old age respectively. Oh, it has its flaws, but it still held my attention from beginning to end, and it was wonderful to watch it again after not having seen it for years. And I suppose that if I could apply the phrase “my movie” to any one movie I’ve seen, this would be the one.

A Taste of Evil (1971)

Article 3888 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-28-2012
Posting Date: 4-6-2012
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Barbara Perkins, Roddy McDowell
Country: USA
What it is: Mystery thriller

A young woman, recovering from a traumatic rape from when she was 13, returns to her home after years of recovery. However, she begins seeing strange sights and starts to believe that her attacker is still in the area…

Despite the plethora of famous names in the opening credits (Barbara Stanwyck, William Windom, Arthur O’Connell, Roddy McDowall), the name that most struck me was that of screenwriter Jimmy Sangster. And, about five minutes into the movie, I started getting an overwhelming sense of deja vu; there was something just way too familiar about the events I was seeing. Why did the movie SCREAM OF FEAR come to mind while I was watching this? Then I remembered that that movie had also been written by Jimmy Sangster… and that its original British title was TASTE OF FEAR. Coincidence? Not by a long shot. Oh, the details are different, but this movie is following the playbook of that one very closely. Which is probably why I found very few surprises here; it’s recycled material. Well, at least the acting and the direction are solid, since it redeems the movie enough that I can say that, if I wasn’t surprised, I wasn’t bored, either. Sometimes, professionalism is enough.

The Tribe (1974)

THE TRIBE (1974)
aka Cro-Magnon
Article 3794 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-24-2011
Posting Date: 1-3-2012
Directed by Richard A. Colla
Featuring Victor French, Warren Vanders, Henry Wilcoxon
Country: USA
What it is: Prehistoric drama

When their leader is seriously injured in a hunting accident, a tribe of Cro-Magnons has to decide whether to leave him behind or stay with him and face starvation.

Whenever I watch a TV movie anymore, the question that is always gnawing at the back of my mind is – was this an intended pilot for a TV series? If IMDB is correct, that’s exactly what this was. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think the idea of a TV series bent on following the exploits of a tribe of Cro-Magnons is inherently unworkable; it would, however, require some real creative strategies to make it work. Under the circumstances, it was probably wise that the makers of this one jettisoned the idea of trying to give the tribe its own language and just let them speak in English. Still, one of the pitfalls here is that they can’t give them much in the way of interesting dialogue, and they felt compelled to keep the dialogue to a minimum. Unfortunately, they failed to take the next logical step, which was to realize that the story would have to rely on action to hold the attention, and that is just what this movie lacked. Instead, we have endless scenes of Cro-Magnons walking around, and that’s simply not interesting. No wonder the TV series didn’t sell; the movie pilot was an utter bore. And though it’s nice that I managed to save this from my “ones-that-got-away” list, I wouldn’t recommend anyone else go through the effort.

Le trefle rouge (1965)

aka Nick Carter and the Red Club, Nick Carter et le trefle rouge
Article 3793 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-23-2011
Posting Date: 1-2-2012
Directed by Jean-Paul Savignac
Featuring Eddie Constantine, Nicole Courcel, Joseph Dassin
Country: France / Italy
What it is: Spy flick

Terrorists have stolen biological weapons, and Nick Carter has only four days to track them down.

For a fleeting moment, I though I had managed to get a copy of this movie in English; unfortunately, it’s one of those movies that uses whatever language is native to its location, and only the first dialogue scene in Washington is in English; the rest of the movie takes place in Belgium, and is in French. Fortunately, the major exposition is in English, and that’s how I know the weapons were of a biological nature rather than nuclear missiles, which the only user comment on IMDB claims. Unfortunately, despite knowing the set-up, almost all of the later plot developments are made in the French dialogue, so I found it hard to follow, and the action sequences aren’t particularly well done. It doesn’t quite belong to the Spyghetti genre, as it doesn’t make any attempt to emulate the style or feel of the James Bond movies; it’s in black and white, has more of a smoky, noirish feel to it, and though it has a few concessions to the swinging sixties feel, they’re not a major part of the style. I’m glad this one was saved from my “ones-that-got-away” list, but I’m afraid the language barrier keeps me from giving any real good evaluation of this one.

Trunk Crime (1939)

Articel 3746 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-4-2011
Posting Date: 11-16-2011
Directed by Ray Boulting
Featuring Manning Whiley, Barbara Everest, Michael Drake
Country: UK
What it is: Crime thriller

A chemistry student reaches the end of his rope when his room is wrecked by his tormentor with the help of drunken friends. The student hatches a scheme to get his revenge; he give his tormentor a drink that paralyzes him, and then locks him in a trunk with the intention of disposing it in a marshy area, thus burying his tormentor alive. However, things don’t go as smoothly as he hopes…

The notion of being buried alive is the horror element here, though the paralyzing drink may be in the realm of science fiction as well. Nonetheless, this is more of a crime thriller than a horror movie. It’s efficiently told (the movie runs about fifty minutes) and it has a nice sense of paranoid intensity, though the main character is played perhaps a touch too broadly. Some of the angled camerawork is quite striking, and there is some real suspense in the final moments when we’re not sure how it’s going to play out. However, the movie is marred by a certain awkwardness, and it has an ending that, though interesting, seems very unlikely and stretches the credibility. All in all, this one has its moments, but it doesn’t quite work.

This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse (1967)

aka Tonight I Will Enter Your Corpse, Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadaver
Article 3714 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-30-2011
Posting Date: 10-15-2011
Directed by Jose Mojica Marins
Featuring Jose Mojica Marins, Tina Wohlers, Nadia Freitas
Country: Brazil
What it is: Bizarre philosophical horror

Coffin Joe, cleared of his crimes, moves to another town to continue his search for the superior woman to bear his child, and embarks on a campaign of terror and murder to achieve his goal.

This is my first encounter with Jose Mojica Marins and his most famous character Ze do Caixao, or as he is better known in this country, Coffin Joe, though he’s never referred to as such (even in the subtitles) of my copy of the movie. As luck would have it, I watched the sequel first, but it seems self-contained enough that I don’t think I need to have seen the first movie to follow the second. Coffin Joe is a sadistic murderer, but what really makes him interesting as a character is that he has a philosophy behind his actions (which is not to say that his philosophy is necessarily right, even within the context of his movies) which occasionally results in him doing something heroically good; one of his first acts in this movie (once it really gets started) is to save a child from an accident. He is also fatally flawed, in that he is given occasionally to mistakes that compromise him, and is subject to hallucinatory nightmares. If there’s one thing I can say about the character, he’s a fascinating talker. The movie itself has a real sense of surreal and jarring horror, but its main problem may be its lack of subtlety; the themes come across as blatantly obvious and a little too self-consciously articulated. Furthermore, since Coffin Joe’s philosophy isn’t really that complex, you can really only listen to his talk for so long before it starts to get tiresome. Still, there is something compellingly unique about this movie, and I’m looking forward to comparing it to some of his other work.

This Is Not a Test (1962)

Article 3711 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-27-2011
Posting Date: 10-12-2011
Directed by Fredric Gadette
Featuring Seamon Glass, Thayer Roberts, Aubrey Martin
Country: USA
What it is: End of the world movie

A policeman sets up a roadblock in the middle of the night and imposes martial law on the small group of people who are stopped. The reason – World War III has broken out, and it’s his job to keep the roads from being blocked and to find a plan of survival.

This low-budget end of the world flick is unevenly acted and written, but the basic premise is interesting, and it’s interesting to see how some of the characters react to the pressure of the situation. I like the canny old man who eventually finds his own destiny (as well as hitting upon a chance of survival that seems more practical than the policeman’s), the not entirely sane criminal on the run, and the policeman himself, whose mental deterioration is most striking because, for the most part, he’s not allowed to show how he’s feeling. For the most part, the other characters are not developed well or are caught in cliche situations; the slang-talking hipster is the most annoying and least convincing. There’s some nice attention to detail at points, but the movie has a number of dull sequences in the middle. All in all, it’s not quite successful, but it has moments that are truly effective.