The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish (1937)

aka Skazka o rybake i rybke, The Fishmonger and the Fish
Article 5313 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-3-2016
Directed by Alexander Ptushko
Voice cast unknown
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Animated fable

A poor fisherman catches a fish of gold that offers a ransom for its life, but the fisherman lets it go for free. However, when his wife hears, she berates the fisherman and demands he go back and ask the fish for a new wash tub. He does so, and the wish is granted, but the wife is still not satisfied and asks for more. Will she end up asking for too much?

The copy I found of this short had English subtitles, which I really didn’t expect, but I’m happy about it anyway. However, I’m not sure I would have really needed them; the story is familiar enough (I’m sure I saw a version in “Fractured Fairy Tales”) and is easy to follow. It’s a charming and rather sad version of the tale, and the puppet animation is quite good. It was directed by Alexander Ptushko, and to some extent, it appears that his career parallels that of George Pal’s; they both began with puppet animation, but moved on to epic feature work. Ptushko would go on to direct such films as THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON and THE DAY THE EARTH FROZE, two favorites of mine.

That Man is Pregnant! (1972)

aka The Broad Coalition
Article 5230 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-16-2016
Directed by Simon Nuchterm
Featuring William Reilly, Anita Morris, Sloane Shelton
Country: USA
What it is: Pregnant man comedy

A cop’s girlfriend becomes involved with a women’s liberation group, and it complicates his life. When he’s sent to infiltrate the home of the women’s lib group, he becomes an experimental subject for one of the residents…

This is the third comedy I’ve seen about a pregnant man for this series. Personally, I’m surprised there are so many. Sure, it does have a few comic possibilities, but I think a single episode of a thirty-minute TV sitcom would be enough to exhaust them; I don’t think the concept has enough going for it to fill a single movie, much less three. Maybe that’s why the pregnancy angle doesn’t come into play in the movie until it’s almost two-thirds over; up to that point, it’s mostly peppered with scenes with the cop and his girlfriend, the cop and his fellow cops, and the girlfriend and her friends in the feminist organization. I’m not surprised at the feminist angle in the movie; after all, the whole concept of a pregnant man seems like a feminist dream designed to cause a man to understand what a woman goes through. However, I’d hardly call this a feminist movie; the members of the women’s lib organization are portrayed to these eyes as buffoons, and the lesson they intended to teach is largely there to be exploded. I do somewhat admire (from a distance) the style of the movie, as it feels as if much of the dialogue is improvised in a Robert Altman style; unfortunately, it doesn’t do it very well and the end result is a mixture of the obvious and the merely odd. I wonder how many more of these movies I’m destined to see.

Topper (1979)

TOPPER (1979)
Article 5195 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-28-2016
Directed by Charles S. Dubin
Featuring Kate Jackson, Andrew Stevens, Jack Warden
Country: USA
What it is: Supernatural TV-Pilot comedy

Two fun-loving socialites die in an automobile accident, but they can’t go to heaven until they do a good deed. They decide to help a stuffy financial adviser to cut loose and have a good time.

The original had Cary Grant. This one has scenes in a disco. Okay, that’s a bit of a cheap shot from someone who hated the whole disco scene, but one of the lines from the movie during the disco scene is “Nobody comes here for sparkling conversation!”, and that’s an apt description for this version of the movie, though not the original. I don’t object to Jack Warden in the title role, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Roland Young; in fact, I don’t think there’s anyone in the cast I would prefer over the equivalent actor in the original. Nor is there wit in the script nor energy in the direction; this movie just seems to meander absent-mindedly through its plot. If there’s anyone here that stands out, I’d have to choose Kate Jackson; at least she seems to be trying to tap into the spirit of the original movie, and given that she’s one of the executive producers and was hoping this would make it into a series, that’s understandable. But the movie is glum and joyless. Fortunately, the original is still around, and it’s much easier to find than this forgotten remake.

Target… Earth? (1980)

Article 5167 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-26-2016
Directed by Joost van Rees
Featuring Victor Buono, Rick Overton, Isaac Asimov
Country: USA
What it is: Documentary?

A researcher aboard a space ship is tasked with understanding the Tunguska Event from 1908, its cause, and the effect it had on humanity.

This is not to be confused with the 1954 alien invasion movie from 1954 (TARGET EARTH) nor the investigation of alien presence movie from 1974 (UFO: TARGET EARTH). No, this is another example of a movie subgenre I’ve already encountered several times in this series; it’s an “aliens from outer space have visited us” documentary. If you’re not familiar with the Tunguska Event of 1908, it involves a huge explosion supposedly caused by a meteorite impact, only, since there was no impact crater, it is believed that the meteorite exploded above the ground.

I will admit to a certain fondness for this one, though not necessarily because it’s so convincing. Rather, I’m fond of the way it was so eccentrically staged. Rather than an earnest authority figure of sorts narrating for us, we get a fictionalized framing device in which a man named Homer the Archivist (played by Victor Buono) living in a spaceship is tasked with researching the event by his computer-with-an-attitude (voiced by Rick Overton). Buono waxes philosophic about human nature, banters with his computer, and talks to frogs. These scenes alternate with documentary footage, interviews, and some strange footage involving alien women aboard another spaceship. I’m not sure if it really works, but I will admit that Buono is very entertaining and has some great lines. It’s this truly strange framing device that instills what fun there is in this documentary. At any rate, I will say that this movie does earn the question mark in its title.

On a side note, you will see Isaac Asimov’s name in the cast list above; according to IMDB, he was one of the people interviewed. In truth, I did not see him; either I did not recognize him (though those sideburns are hard to miss) or he was on so briefly I missed it when I was out of the room for a second…or, he wasn’t in it at all. However, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle both appear, as well as Carl Sagan.

The Todd Killings (1971)

Article 5158 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-15-2016
Directed by Barry Shear
Featuring Robert F. Lyons, Richard Thomas, Belinda Montgomery
Country: USA
What it is: Cinematic take on a true story

A charismatic and hedonistic sociopath, very popular with the kids in town, dismisses society and its values. However, he’s murdered one girl and buried her body with the help of a few friends. How long can the secret be kept?

‘The Motion Picture Guide’ classifies this adaptation of a true story of a series of murders in Tucson in 1965 as a horror movie, but the tag really doesn’t fit; it’s definitely played more as a drama, and though the killer eventually is responsible for deaths of three people, I’m not sure he really qualifies as a “serial killer”. Therefore, this movie is extremely marginal. On its own terms, it’s a moderately interesting drama with a very good cast. However, it occasionally finds itself flirting with cliches, and (after a strong opening) the first two-thirds of the movie gets a bit dull in its painting a portrait of the main character; Robert F. Lyons is a good actor giving a solid performance, but he can’t quite make his character as charismatic and fascinating as the movie needs him to be. It does pick up towards the end, and there are some interesting scenes involving the circus-like nature of the hunt for the bodies and the teens being less concerned about the murders than they are about losing their charismatic leader. The movie is helped by what amounts to a series of cameos by name actors, included Barbara Bel Geddes, Gloria Grahame and Edward Asner. The movie has its moments, but one senses this could have been much better.

This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! (1971)

aka The Devil Wears Clodhoppers
Article 5136 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-22-2016
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Featuring Jeffrey Allen, Tim Holt, Gloria King
Country: USA
What it is: Moonshiners versus revenuers.

A moonshiner posing as a preacher has to deal with the problems of his trade.

Talk is cheap, and so is Herschell Gordon Lewis. This is just my way of saying that there’s a reason Lewis is known as the “Godfather of Gore” rather than the “Dean of Dialogue”. At least in his gore movies he has something to catch the attention; in this movie, though there are a couple of smidgens of gore (and a serial killer subplot to add what little fantastic content there is to the mix), the emphasis is mostly on long-winded talking, and when it comes to writing dialogue, Lewis has the same ability as Jerry Warren, in that he knows how to write a dialogue scene that will cause you to zone out twenty seconds after it begins because you know nothing of interest is going to be said. Furthermore, the bad sound (par for the course for Lewis) just makes it worse. It certainly doesn’t help that it’s one of those movies with only the barest thread of a plot; it just makes you realize that even if you try to follow the dialogue, it probably won’t lead you anywhere. The end result is one of Lewis’s dullest stretches of celluloid. No, it won’t kill ya, but it may just put you into a deep sleep.

The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan (1979)

Article 5133 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-19-2016
Directed by Frank De Felitta
Featuring Lindsay Wagner, Marc Singer, Alan Feinstein
Country: USA
What it is: Romantic time-travel TV-Movie

A housewife having trouble dealing with her husband’s episode of infidelity moves into an old house and discovers a dress that takes her back in time, where she falls in love with an artist that she knows to be doomed.

For those who have read my review of SOMEWHERE IN TIME, you already know that I’m not particularly keen on the “time travel romance” subgenre. Well, here’s another one, and I really don’t have much use for this one, either. It does, however, make me appreciate the elegant way that SOMEWHERE IN TIME used its fairy dust to make the story work; here the fairy dust (a magic dress that takes the heroine back in time) seems downright mundane. Still, I can’t fault the acting here, especially from Lindsay Wagner, who does an excellent job as a woman whose marriage is troubled. I find the script itself rather uneven, especially in the second half, where the action often gets mired in arguments about whether the heroine is really travelling in time or whether she’s crazy. It does appear to mine its romantic ore competently, at least based on some of the IMDB comments which show that the movie is fondly remembered. Those who do have that romantic streak will appreciate this one best.

The Tower (1985)

THE TOWER (1985)
Article 5131 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-17-2016
Directed by Jim Makichuk
Featuring George West, Ray Paisley, Jackie Wray
Country: Canada
What it is: Thriller, Canadian TV-Movie style

A skyscraper is built with a new special energy system that draws from the heat of the human beings inside. However, the computer that controls the energy decides that it can derive more energy from its sources if it consumes them completely…

I like the basic premise of this movie, and the basic story would make for a nifty little thriller. But this movie has problems, and though I’m tempted to blame them on the low-budget of the movie, I don’t think that’s the real problem. One major problem is that much of the acting is way below par; there are numerous bad line readings and examples of poor character interaction. However, the main problem is a combination of two factors; slow pacing and a poorly constructed script. These are forgivable during the first two-thirds of the movie; you expect the opening exposition to be a bit on the slow side, and the middle section of the movie does a decent job of setting up the tension necessary for the final third. However, when we get to that final third, the movie inexplicably slows to a crawl, with endless scenes of people walking around and dull conversation sequences that should have been earlier in the movie if not cut altogether. The movie runs an hour and 42 minutes, and a good half hour could have been cut easily. The end result is a movie that could have been much better.

Time Walker (1982)

Article 5121 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-29-2016
Directed by Tom Kennedy
Featuring Ben Murphy, Nina Axelrod, Kevin Brophy
Country: USA
What it is: Extraterrestrial mummy movie

A mummy is unearthed from the tomb of King Tut that turns out to be not human… and, is in fact, still alive.

Here’s another movie that is mostly known for having appeared on MST3K; it was under the title BEING FROM ANOTHER PLANET. It’s something of a cross between E.T. and a mummy movie. Personally, I think it comes off even worse in its original state. It’s one of those movies with a fairly straightforward story that ends up degenerating into confusion due to a combination of poor screenwriting, muddled editing, an overabundance of minor characters, and a tendency to fall into the doldrums at every opportunity. Even its most exciting sequence (a chase through a library) loses steam, largely due to being overlong and failing to keep the screws turning. Stupid characters (especially the authority figures) and poor acting also bring it down. It promised a sequel, but I’m not surprised it was never made.

Tiger Claws (1991)

Article 5118 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-26-2016
Directed by Kelly Makin
Featuring Cynthia Rothrock, Jalal Merhi, Bolo Yeung
Country: Canada / USA
What it is: Martial arts action flick

A female cop who wants to prove she can handle a big case teams up with a rebel cop who tends to things his own way in order to catch a serial killer who specializes in martial arts masters.

Well, I will say this; a serial killer who specializes in martial arts masters isn’t doing it the easy way. Still, that’s the sole fantastic element in the movie, and since it doesn’t play up the horror aspect of that idea at all, this movie remains really marginal. The two leads are appealing and some of the action sequences are decent, but that’s about it for the positives. The script is a compendium of cliches and the acting varies from acceptable to pretty bad. The musical soundtrack is a bit unusual for this kind of fare, but it’s not annoying or intrusive, so that’s a plus. For what it is, it’s passable but not remarkable fare.