Tarzan Goes to India (1962)

Article 3709 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-25-2011
Posting Date: 10-10-2011
Directed by John Guillermin
Featuring Jock Mahoney, Jai, Leo Gordon
Country: UK / USA / Switzerland
What it is: Tarzan abroad

The completion of a dam will flood out a valley where a herd of 300 elephants resides. No attempts have been made to evacuate the beasts because they’re being lead by a dangerous rogue elephant. Tarzan arrives in India at a friend’s request, and seeks to save the elephants by killing the rogue and and placing a benevolent elephant in its place. But can he accomplish this before the only exit point from the valley is walled in?

As is often the case with Tarzan movies, the only fantastic content in this one is the marginal fantasy element of Tarzan himself; otherwise, this is straightforward jungle adventure. Its rating of 4.9 on IMDB indicates it is not well liked, but I found this fairly decent; the basic story is fairly original, the India locations give the movie a different flavor from the other Tarzan movies, and though he’s leaner than some of the other people who’ve played the role, I don’t mind Jock Mahoney as Tarzan. The biggest problem I have is that the villains of the piece seem poorly motivated; they act villainously just because they’re villains, though it’s nice that the two of them are different enough (one is redeemable, the other is irredeemable) that they give us a bit of variety. This one is definitely for elephant fans, as there are a lot of them on hand here. On a side note, I do wonder why Tarzan couldn’t afford to take a flight that was willing to actually land at his point of arrival instead of having him dive out of the plane into a body of water, but maybe that’s just Tarzan showing off. There’ll probably be more Tarzan hijinks tomorrow.

Teenage Catgirls in Heat (1997)

Article 3700 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-16-2011
Posting Date: 10-1-2011
Directed by Scott Perry
Featuring Dave Cox, Gary Graves, Esmeralda Huffhines
Country: USA
What it is: Just plain ridiculous

An Egyptian cat goddess in the form of a statue gets cats to sacrifice themselves to her so that they can be reborn as humans, which will allow them to find men, mate with them, and kill them, so that the great litter will form a race of catmen to take over the world. A hitchhiker joins forces with a crazed cat expert to defeat them.

The cleverest thing in this movie is the opening credits, which appear as shadows on any variety of surfaces; it’s actually pretty impressive. The movie that follows is just as bad as the title promises, but then, that’s exactly what I’d expect from a Troma release; after all, that’s what they seem to be aiming for. To its credit, there were a few laughs along the way (and lots and lots of topless women), but at about the thirty minute mark, I started finding the whole thing really wearing thin; the insane cat expert really started to get tedious, for example. Still, any ordinary standards don’t really apply here; if the title draws you in, you’ll probably be happy enough with it. One interesting side note – going by the year on IMDB of this movie, it ranks as the latest one I’ve seen to date. However, I wonder about the accuracy of the year; I found it listed in John Stanley’s “Creature Feature Movie Guide Strikes Back”, and not only did it give the movie a date of 1991, but the guide itself was published in 1994, three years before the IMDB date on the movie. I suppose there’s an explanation of some sort; this does seem the type of movie that would sit on the shelf for several years. I do want to suggest a sequel that takes place thirty years after the events in this one: MIDDLE-AGED CATGIRLS IN MENOPAUSE.

ADDENDUM: IMDB has since changed the date on this movie.

Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977)

Article 3682 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-29-2011
Posting Date: 9-13-2011
Directed by Stuart Hagmann
Featuring Claude Akins, Charles Frank, Deborah Winters
Country: USA
What it is: Creepy crawly TV-Movie horror

An airplane hauling coffee in from Ecuador crashes in a small community whose main source of income is from oranges. However, the coffee beans were infested with deadly spiders who now threaten the lives and industry of the town.

I thought I saw this movie many years ago, because my main memory of it was that it was so hackneyed that I wrote a short-story parody of it called ATTACK OF THE KILLER SLUGS. Watching it again, I wonder if I confused it with another movie; though I do remember certain scenes well enough, the scenes that provided fodder for the parody are not present, so I’m pretty sure my memory is faulty, which makes me glad that I go back and rewatch some of these movies. My main reaction to it this time is that it actually does a few interesting things with the idea; though it initially seems to be imitating JAWS, it ultimately takes a different direction; the mayor’s small-mindedness about the threat from the spiders eventually gives way to the realization that an over-hasty solution to the problem may destroy the town’s economy, and that every effort will be made to take care of the threat without destroying the whole town. The human villain ends up being a co-owner of the warehouse who is hoping to profit from the insurance, and he ends up doing some really stupid things before the movie is over. In fact, a lot of people act stupidly in the movie, which is one of its problems. Other problems include some really odd use of crowds at times, and there are a number of subplots that are left underdeveloped and plot points that lead nowhere. Yet it seems for every bad point, there’s a good point somewhere else, so I’ll just say the movie is very uneven and let it go at that.

They Came from Beyond Space (1967)

Article 3663 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-10-2011
Posting Date: 8-25-2011
Directed by Freddie Francis
Featuring Robert Hutton, Jennifer Jayne, Zia Mohyeddin
Country: UK
What it is: Space invaders

A researcher in life on other planets wants to take part in the investigation of a series of meteors that landed on a farm, but is told that he can’t due to the plate in his head. When he loses contact with the female assistant he sends in his place (also the woman he loves), he decides to investigate himself. He discovers that the meteors contain alien intelligences who have taken over the bodies of Earth people, but he is immune due to his plate. Can he find out what they’re up to?

When I first saw this movie years ago, the biggest impression it left with me was how thuddingly dull it was. You wouldn’t think this would be the case; the plot is sort of a cross between QUATERMASS II and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, but it lacks the intelligence or eeriness of either of these two movies. In fact, the movie feels slapdash and thrown together, as if to fill the bottom of half a double bill somewhere. The story mostly relies on coincidences and cliched situations (when will screenwriters learn that if a person goes to a certain place to find a person they met there before, and is told by the people that are there that such a person never was there, this will only make the first person more suspicious), and often the movie will be exceedingly mysterious about things it would have best to have been told at the outset while giving away other secrets it would have been best to save towards the end. It fails to build an iota of suspense or mystery, much of the story is wildly illogical, and those waiting for Michael Gough to show up and add some zest to the proceedings will not only have a very long wait, but will find he’s been given the worst dialogue in the movie. This is another one of Amicus’s non-anthology movies, and it may be their worst.

Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

aka Mekagojira no gyakushu

Article 3662 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-9-2011
Posting Date: 8-24-2011
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Katsuhiko Sasaki, Tomoko Ai, Akihiko Hirata
Country: Japan
What it is: Godzilla movie

Space aliens planning on taking over the Earth team up with an embittered Earth scientist who has the ability to control a giant dinosaur called Titanasaurus. The aliens have also reconstructed Mechagodzilla to help them in their conquest. Can Godzilla defeat these foes?

This was the last of the original run of Godzilla movies, though not the last I will cover, as I have a few earlier ones to review yet. For my money, the last couple of movies were a bit of a rebound from the previous two, but only a bit; their main advantage is that Mechagodzilla is a truly memorable creation. Unfortunately, the storyline once again involves invading space aliens; most of the Godzilla movies from DESTROY ALL MONSTERS onward used this plot. It’s nice to see the original director Ishiro Honda return, but it’s obvious that the movie was cheaply made; it’s muddled and confusing at times. Still, it’s interesting that Godzilla has no tag team partner to help him with the enemies this time (maybe they were afraid of ending up with another King Cisar), and the movie has a real somber tone to it. I suspect that the movie wasn’t planned to be the last one in the series; it just was.

Twisted Brain (1974)

aka Horror High

Article 3643 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2011
Posting Date: 8-5-2011
Directed by Larry N. Stouffer
Featuring Pat Cordi, Austin Stoker, Rosie Holotik
Country: USA
What it is: Jekyll and Hyde story

A harried but powerless chemistry student discovers a potion that can change his physical appearance… and give him the ability to take vengeance on his tormentors.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that so blatantly sets up its premise that it manages to strip practically every potential surprise away from the movie within the first ten minutes. We see the student in a literature class watching a movie adaptation of the Dr. Jekyll story, and then we see the geeky weakling being tormented by teachers, janitors and other students. During this time we learn that he’s working on the above-mentioned potion. Heck, you even know how two of the tormentors are going to be killed by dint of how heavily the murder weapons are called to our attention. Then, once he confronts each of his tormentors in his new body, we get a flashback to how they tormented him just in case we forgot they were doing so. It’s best appreciated if you’ve got the attention span of a gnat; for the rest of us, it’s like doing a connect the dot puzzle when it’s blatantly obvious what the picture is going to look like before we start. Nonetheless, I’ll give the movie a little credit for coming up with one surprise; there’s a character moment where we discover that the process of killing off his tormentors is actually making him less shy and more confident, a character touch that is actually sadly disturbing in its insight. This goes to show that in even something this routine, you can occasionally find something worthwhile, and somehow that makes the process of watching all these movies seem a little more rewarding.

Trick or Treats (1982)

Article 3628 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-6-2011
Posting Date: 7-21-2011
Directed by Gary Graver
Featuring Jacqueline Giroux, Peter Jason, Chris Graver
Country: USA
What it is: Horror comedy

On Halloween, an aspiring actress takes a babysitting job for a child hooked on magic and practical jokes. However, the former husband of the child’s mother has escaped from an insane asylum and is headed for the house intent on revenge.

On the surface, the movie seems like a rip-off of HALLOWEEN, but, to its credit, it only borrows the bare bones of that movie and comes up with its own approach to the story. It is, in fact, much more of a comedy than a horror movie. That’s not to say it works; in fact, the movie is a disaster. It’s both too broad to be taken seriously and too blandly tame to be funny, the psycho is too much of a chatterbox to be scary, the familiar names in the cast (David Carradine, Carrie Snodgress, Paul Bartel) are all wasted, the succession of practical jokes that makes up the first hour of the movie is tiresome, the pacing wouldn’t challenge a snail, and the overall effect is that of muted awkwardness. The most jaw-dropping credit is seeing the name of Orson Welles as a magic consultant; apparently, director Graver and Welles were good friends. Still, this may well be one of the worst movies Welles was ever associated with.