UFO Journals (1978)

Article 4103 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-11-2012
Directed by Richard Martin
No cast listed
Country: USA
What it is: UFO documentary

UFOs are discussed and speculations are made.

Back when I covered WHEN MICHAEL CALLS some years back, I quoted extensively from the blurb on the back of the DVD of the movie, compared the description with the actual movie, and came to the conclusion “Never trust a blurb writer.” Well, it’s time to trot that lesson out again, as the blurb on the DVD of this one says, “This full-length feature film takes a hard, scientific approach to the whole question of UFO existence. Combining current knowledge of space mechanics and navigation with detailed accounts of historical sightings, the producers offer their own investigation of purported landings and visits. The end result is a better understanding of these previously inexplicable phenomena.”

So what do we get? We get lots and lots of still photos of UFOs, none of which I’ve seen before and some of which look very unconvincing. We get lots of anecdotal musings by various people, all of whom are absolutely convinced of visits by extraterrestrials and some of which have “Dr.” in front of their names. We get musings on the destruction of Atlantis. We get to see an arc-like model based on dimensions of the ark in the Bible that is supposed to prove that Einstein’s theory of relativity is wrong. We get a man who is psychically connected to an alien named Zoltar. We get claims that mankind came from the planet of Moldec, which existed where the asteroid belt is now found. We get to see an expert on Kirlian photography play a harmonica solo. We get to hear the story of the man who, while in a trance, tattooed a spider onto his arm. We meet a man who can provide proof that he met an extraterrestrial because he has a crystal. And we get lots and lots of references to the Bible, which, whatever positive things you might say about the book, is not a good reference source for those seeking a “hard, scientific approach.” And you get a documentary that feels like it was thrown together randomly from whatever odd bits and pieces that were lying around that could be remotely connected to UFOs, and which simply muddies up the UFO waters rather than clarifying them. And, for all that, this may be one of the dullest documentaries of its sort.

Now I don’t know how this movie was marketed back when it was made, but I suspect it was no better back then than it is now. However, the blurb was right on one point – this was a full-length feature film.

Unusual Cooking (1908)

aka Cuisine magnetique, Cuisine abracadabrante
Article 4079 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: A bad cutlery Busby Berkeley nightmare

A bizarre dance number is performed with giant cutlery.

It starts out like a typical Melies magic short, but it rapidly evolves into something even weirder. Before long, we have cooks of all sizes and shapes dancing with giant knives, forks and spoons. We also have the cutlery becoming anthropomorphosized (which is to say, given faces, arms and legs) along with the pans. The only cooking involves one of the cooks being dismembered and thrown into a pot, which, I will admit, does qualify for the “unusual” adjective. It’s all pretty plotless, but there’s a real demented charm to this strange short, and may be on of Chomon’s best.

Up to Mars (1930)

UP TO MARS (1930)
Animated short
Article 3745 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-3-2011
Posting Date: 11-15-2011
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Bimbo cartoon

Bimbo gets into a tussle with a mouse, who outwits him and sends him rocketing to Mars on a fireworks rocket. There Bimbo encounters Martians.

Bimbo was the Fleischer’s star cartoon character in the period after Koko the Clown and before Betty Boop and Popeye. Though Bimbo was a fairly colorless character, he did have one really great cartoon in him (the classic BIMBO’S INITIATION, in which he is terrorized into joining a bizarre cult). This one ultimately promises more than it delivers; some of the gags look forward to CRAZY TOWN and PORKY IN WACKYLAND, but eventually the cartoon settles into a rather ordinary extended routine involving Bimbo being thrown into the Martian army and having to take part in a drill routine to music. Still, I do find it interesting that though Bimbo is your basic anthropomorphic dog, he ends up behaving like a real dog on a couple of occasions when his instinct in dealing with the drill sergeant is to bite him. All in all, this one is passable, but hardly one of the Fleischers’ best.

The Untameable (1923)

Article 3693 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-9-2011
Posting Date: 9-24-2011
Directed by Herbert Blache
Featuring Gladys Walton, Malcolm McGregor, John St. Polis
Country: USA
What it is: Drama with horror overtones

When an architect is injured in an auto accident, he is taken to the house of a beautiful young heiress to recuperate. He falls in love with her, but one day she undergoes a strange personality transformation and throws him out of the house. He begins to suspect she has a dual personality, and begins to wonder if her doctor is actually helping her or if he has a more sinister purpose in mind.

With hypnotism and dual personalities on hand, this has a fair amount of fantastic content, though I wouldn’t call it a horror movie. It’s quite entertaining, with much of the credit going to Gladys Walton’s performance; the first time we meet her second personality, the shift is quite alarming, and Walton plays it to the hilt. I’ve don’t think I’ve seen the split personality theme handled in quite this way before, so the story has a bit of novelty value as well. And at only 65 minutes, it moves along at a brisk pace.

The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

Article 3666 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-13-2011
Posting Date: 8-28-2011
Directed by T.L.P. Swicegood
Featuring Ray Dannis, Warrene Ott, James Westmoreland
Country: USA
What it is: Gore comedy

An undertaker and two restaurant workers combine forces to increase business. They form a biker gang that goes out and mutilates people, and then the undertaker gets the burial business while the restaurant workers use parts of the victims in their meat dishes.

According to IMDB, this movie got banned from a number of theaters until it was edited down to its present 63 minute length. In this form, it seems a little tamer than the usual Herschell Gordon Lewis movie of the period, and it’s more overtly comic. It’s bad, but it’s not quite as bad as I expected; some of the comedy works well enough to get by. Granted, it’s played a little too broad, but the undertaker’s business tricks are amusing; he charges a ridiculously low price and then ups the price with “extras”, and he also gives green stamps (seeing what his bare-bones funeral is like is a highlight). The acting is better than expected as well, though I’d hardly call it good. Yes, it’s tasteless and often stupid, but that’s no surprise. I’ve seen far worse.

The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

Article 3629 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-6-2011
Posting Date: 7-22-2011
Directed by Robert Clouse
Featuring Yul Brynner, Max von Sydow, Joanna Miles
Country: USA
What it is: After the apocalypse thriller

After a plague destroys most vegetation and animal life on Earth, the baron of a makeshift fortress in New York City recruits a fighting man ostensibly to help protect its residents from attacks by a well-organized gang of thugs. However, the baron has an ulterior motive; he wants the fighter to take a scientist’s new vegetable seed strain that is resistant to the plague out of the fortress to an island where the vegetation can thrive.

I quite like this “after the apocalypse” thriller that was made before they became fashionable, if for no other reason that it is quite different from how such movies would later turn out. Furthermore, I really like the performances of Yul Brynner, Max von Sydow and William Smith as the fighter, the baron, and the gang leader respectively. However, the movie has some problems that keep me from liking it more; it’s a little too dry and dull, the characters seem a little too well-dressed to make one feel it’s after the apocalypse, and there really aren’t very many sympathetic characters; I’m particularly disappointed at how the residents of the fortress are little better than the gang members. Still, there are good moments, and one very effective visual moment involving a reflection in a window.

Ulysses (1967)

ULYSSES (1967)
Article 3534 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-24-2011
Posting Date: 4-18-2011
Directed by Joseph Strick
Featuring Barbara Jefford, Milo O’Shea, Maurice Roeves
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Ambitious literary adaptation

The events in the lives of two men in Dublin for a single day are recounted.

Personally, I’m amazed anyone would actually aspire to adapt this James Joyce novel to the screen; it is such a singularly literary work that it may be untranslatable to any other medium. It’s no surprise that quite often the movie just takes passages from the book and adds visuals to it, especially the long nighttime musings of Molly Bloom that end the book. I read the novel many years ago, but I don’t remember it and I can’t say that I got much out of it, but I must admit that I had never prepared for this assault on such an extremely difficult work; I do plan to give the novel another try. Still, my lack of memory about the book makes me unwilling to judge this movie until I can make a decent comparison. On its own terms, the movie is sometimes interesting, sometimes quite dull, and it certainly doesn’t make the story seem easy to grasp. In fact, I’m not even sure I should be covering this one. It probably made the list for a few fantasy sequences in the imagination of Leopold Bloom, and perhaps for the fact that the novel itself somewhat parallels the story told in “The Odyssey”. For the record, my source for this one is “The Motion Picture Guide” which classifies the movie as a fantasy, as it has done for several other odd choices.