Ursus in the Land of Fire (1963)

aka Son of Hercules in the Land of Fire, Ursus nella terra di fuoco
Article 2862 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-9-2009
Posting Date: 6-14-2009
Directed by Giorgio Simonelli
Featuring Ed Fury, Claudia Mila, Adriano Micantoni
Country: Italy

Ursus must defeat an evil general who usurps the throne and tries to force the princess into marrying him.

If THE SIEGE OF SYRACUSE was an example of the type of Sword-and-Sandal movie rarely covered in this series, here’s one that sticks to the same formula that makes up most of the others that I’ve covered. Evil queen, evil general, oppressed plebians, feats of strength, super-strong hero who undergoes brutal tortures… you know the routine. It’s a hair more brutal than some of the others, and Ed Fury adds some slightly offbeat touches to his performance of Ursus, but the movie never strays too far from familiar territory. Now if only my print didn’t have some of the worst pan-and-scanning I’ve seen in recent memory…


The Unknown Terror (1957)

Article 2811 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-17-2009
Posting Date: 4-24-2009
Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Featuring John Howard, Mala Powers, Paul Richards
Country: USA

An expedition goes out on a search for a missing explorer who is believed to have disappeared in a cave near a jungle village. The expedition members encounter restless natives, a secretive scientist, and killer fungus.

Since it’s the science fiction films of the fifties that really drew me back to fantastic films in my adult life to begin with, I’m always glad when another one of them pops up on my hunt list; I just wish this one was more rewarding. It’s not a double-stuffed Safari-O (it actually spends very little time on the safari), but that doesn’t mean it’s not mired in routine. We get the standard issue romantic triangle coupled with “the-natives-have-a-secret-and-are-restless” setup and enhanced by the “scientist-with-a-secret” plotline. Throw in a particularly disappointing monster that is only scary if the Scrubbing Bubbles terrify you, and you have an exercise in utterly routine science fiction/horror. For years, I would confuse this one with SPACE MASTER X-7, but not anymore; that one at least generates a decent amount of suspense and throws in Moe Howard to remember it by. Still, this one has former Bulldog Drummond John Howard, and features a performance from Sir Lancelot, singing another calypso song which provides clues for the whereabouts of the missing explorer.

Unearthly Stranger (1963)

Article 2810 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-16-2009
Posting Date: 4-23-2009
Directed by John Krish
Featuring John Neville, Gabriella Licudi, Philip Stone
Country: UK

Scientists on a secret space project (involving travel through space using thought projection) are mysteriously dying one by one by unusual methods. The man in security believes they may have been murdered by Russians, and he suspects the wife of the new director, especially after it is discovered that there is no record of her existence. However, the wife is from somewhere else entirely…

This is a fairly obscure British science fiction thriller that has developed a reputation as a sleeper, and is slowly becoming better known. It definitely deserves more attention; though it does have a fair amount of flaws (such as occasional lapses into hokey melodrama), it’s also unique and suspenseful. It’s very well acted by all concerned, and there are some great moments of sharp direction and clever editing; I particularly like the sequence where the new director tells his boss about how he met his new wife because of its clever blending of present day action and flashback. In some ways, it reminds me of the Quatermass movies, though it doesn’t quite have the same sense of scope. The ending is curious and even a little ambiguous, but it’s quite effective. This one is well worth searching out.

Up in Smoke (1957)

UP IN SMOKE (1957)
Article 2697 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-19-2008
Posting Date: 12-31-2008
Directed by William Beaudine
Featuring Huntz Hall, Stanley Clements, David Gorcey
Country: USA

Sach loses money collected for a charitable cause to some unscrupulous horse race bookies. He sells his soul to the devil in order to get revenge on the bookies. He is awarded information on one winning horse every day for seven days.

It’s a Bowery Boys movie in which the only Gorcey present is named David, and that’s pretty dispiriting. As a matter of fact, everyone involved in the movie seems dispirited as well; Huntz Hall in particular seems to be tired and short of energy. Granted, I wasn’t a fan of him when he did have high energy, but even high energy bad comedy is better than depressed bad comedy. To his credit, he doesn’t try to hog the movie, but everyone else in the cast is bland and forgettable, and most of the jokes just fall to the floor and die. The series itself was near its end; only one more movie would be made for the series, and that one (IN THE MONEY) doesn’t have any fantastic content. It was definitely time to retire the Boys.

This, of course, doesn’t mean this series is finished with them. I believe one more movie is destined to be covered, and fortunately, that one will feature both Leo Gorcey and Bernard Gorcey, so it will be nice to see the Boys one last time with the stronger lineup still intact.


Uncle Josh’s Nightmare (1900)

Article 2665 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-6-2008
Posting Date: 11-29-2008
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
Featuring Charles Manley
Country: USA

Uncle Josh’s sleep is interrupted by a teleporting devil and vanishing furniture.

Poor Uncle Josh! If it’s not ghost practical jokers (in UNCLE JOSH IN A SPOOKY HOTEL), it’s teleporting devils! Uncle Josh was one of the first franchise characters in cinema; he appeared in three shorts, and was played by seventy-year old Charles Manley in all three. I covered the first one several years ago, but won’t be covering the last, as it has no fantastic content. This is a fairly standard early cinema trick film. On a historical note, Charles Manley was a member of the Ford Theatre at the time of Lincoln’s assassination.


Unholy Terror (1971)

aka Crucible of Terror
Article 2466 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-2-2008
Posting Date: 5-13-2008
Directed by Ted Hooker
Featuring Mike Raven, Mary Maude, James Bolam
Country: UK

The organizer of an art show is offered a large sum of money for a sculpture that was stolen from a reclusive artist. In order to make ends meet, he decides to visit the artist in question, who was not aware of the theft and sale of his piece. The manager does not know that the artist has a secret; he makes the sculptures from the dead bodies of his models.

To its credit, the movie has a twist ending that attempts to alleviate somewhat the fact that you’re watching just another variation on the psycho artist theme; if you’ve seen movies like A BUCKET OF BLOOD, TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE, PLAYGIRL KILLER, COLOR ME BLOOD RED, etc., you know the genre. Still, when you come right down to it, the twist ending isn’t that good, and for the rest of the movie – well, let’s just say that with the uninspired acting, limp direction, poor editing and leaden pace you’ll encounter with this one, you’re better off watching dust settle on the screen of your TV set. Some oddball characters and Mike Raven’s sonorous voice try to enliven the proceedings, and it’s not near enough. Ultimately, it’s one of those movies that is watched only to be forgotten. I bet you when I post this several months from this writing, I won’t remember a thing about it.

P.S. It is now several months since I first wrote this, and it’s true; I don’t remember a thing about this movie.


Ultraman (1967)

aka Chohen kaiju eiga: Urutoraman
Article 2451 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-18-2007
Posting Date: 4-28-2008
Directed by Hajime Tsuburaya
Featuring Akiji Kobayashi, Susumu Kurobe, Susumu Fujita
Country: Japan
A member of the Science Patrol gains the ability to turn into a galactic superhero when monsters threaten the earth.

All right, I don’t know if I’ve really seen this movie or not, and I haven’t been able to find enough information to help sort it out. I’ve heard the movie consists of episodes of the TV series edited together into a feature, and my source for this claims this is it, but it looks for all the world like a compilation of various episodes of the series, right down to the opening credits for each episode (though no ending credits, but that’s no surprise – my copy of the series itself didn’t have any). So, should I be covering this or not? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you this much; if it isn’t, than I’m willing to bet that this is probably pretty close to what the movie was like. So we get Ultraman fighting four monsters; one from a lake, the next a space alien that can make duplicates of himself and turn into a giant, then an electricity-eating monster with the ability to turn invisible, and finally, a sea monster with a nuclear bomb attached to him. The direct attempts at comedy are abysmal, though that may be just the dubbing, and the latter is inconsistent; some scenes are in their original Japanese, as are the credits. It’s the inadvertent comedy that’s the knee-slapper here, particularly during the last segment when they try to calm the excitable sea monster with music, but the rinky-dink piano music they play for him just makes him angrier, with the punch line being the explanation tendered for why the monster didn’t like the music. Basically, the show was a cross between a superhero series and a kaiju, with every episode telling practically the same story with minor variations. Still, if you have a soft spot for this kind of thing, you could do worse.

P.S. It has since come to my attention that this is not the movie in question, but indeed just a collection of several of the expisodes. In the words of Emily Latella, Never Mind.