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.

 

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Uncle Josh’s Nightmare (1900)

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)

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)

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.

 

The Unearthly (1957)

THE UNEARTHLY (1957)
Article 2224 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-18-2007
Posting Date: 9-14-2007
Directed by Boris Petroff
Featuring John Carradine, Allison Hayes, Myron Healey

A doctor is experimenting with a gland that can give eternal life, but the people on whom he experiments all turn into monstrous freaks.

This rather cheap, plodding horror film doesn’t have much of a reputation, and, other than the memorable ending, it is pretty forgettable. The performances are uneven. On the plus side, John Carradine is rather restrained, the secondary characters are decently done, and Tor Johnson does a good job (for Tor, that is). Tor even has what may be his most memorable screen line, “Time for go to bed!”. I’m less taken with some of the other performances; Myron Healey would have been acceptable if he’d actually acted like the dangerous murderer that people are supposed to believe he is, and Allison Hayes does little more than fill out her costumes; she seems bored here, and for a woman who is supposed to be dealing with issues of fear, she never comes across as anything but bland. The movie mostly feels like a weak imitation of THE BLACK SLEEP , a movie which shares two of its cast members (Carradine and Johnson) with this one. A couple of creepy moments do help things, and Harry Fleer’s twitchy zombie is somewhat reminiscent of Herk Harvey’s character in CARNIVAL OF SOULS .

 

Utopia (1951)

UTOPIA (1951)
aka ATOLL K
Article 2024 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2006
Posting Date: 2-26-2007
Directed by Leo Joannon, John Berry, Alfred J. Goulding and Tim Whelan
Featuring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Suzy Delair

Laurel and Hardy inherit an island and a boat. On the way to the island, they get stranded with their cook and a stowaway on an atoll that rises out of the sea during a storm. They manage to survive, and grow to enjoy their privacy. Then, when it is discovered that Uranium exists on the island and several countries try to claim it as their own, they are forced to form their own government to keep hold of it.

The fantastic element in this, Laurel and Hardy’s final movie, is probably the fantasy element of a fictional country, which is what the island becomes once Ollie pens a constitution for it. It’s a strange entry in the Laurel and Hardy oeuvre, and I would love to read about the making of this movie. I suspect that the original story didn’t feature Stan and Ollie at all, and that it was rewritten afterwards to take advantage of their involvement; certainly, the political satire isn’t an element of standard Laurel and Hardy cinema, though it is common to the cinema of France, which is where the movie was made. It’s not as bad as its reputation would have you believe; Stan and Ollie still retain their sense of comic timing, and there are some laughs, but there are some real problems. The English dubbing is particularly noticeable, partially due to the fact that Stan and Ollie aren’t dubbed, but all the other characters are, and when the conversation goes back and forth, the sudden change (in mouth movements and ambient noise) is jarring. Furthermore, Ollie appears to have gained a lot of weight, and Stan looks deathly ill at times; he was ill, in fact, and the movie had to be delayed while he had an operation. It’s rather difficult to enjoy them in this condition. Also, I found myself a little disappointed to hear the boys take a few physical potshots at each other, with Stan making a comment about Ollie’s weight and Ollie making one about Stan’s ears; I don’t recall them having engaged in that type of humor before, and I really didn’t like it.

 

UFO: Target Earth (1974)

UFO: TARGET EARTH (1974)
Article 1935 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-2-2006
Posting Date: 11-29-2006
Directed by Michael A. DeGaetano
Featuring Nick Plakias, Cynthia Cline, Tom Arcuragi

When he accidentally intercepts a military call about UFO sightings and meets a psychic woman with a mental connection to alien presences, an electronics expert decides to investigate UFO sightings near a lake.

One of my sources claims this movie was made for $70,000 dollars, and to me, it looks it. Still, for a movie that’s made this cheaply, it certainly doesn’t lack ambition. It’s one that tries to tap in to the mystical qualities of certain aspects of UFOlogy. I can’t really say the movie is successful; there’s something about the eccentric use of music, the oddball pacing and characters, and the confused plotting that is more likely to get you scratching your head than anything else. Still, there’s a quality to this movie that I find quite unique, and as a result, I can’t quite bring myself to just dismiss the movie. Maybe it’s just because the movie took me somewhere that I’ve never been before, and given how many movies I’ve seen that seem like rehashes of other movies, I’ve learned to value that. And even though I found the computer-generated abstract special effects to be somewhat cheesy, they were rather hypnotic all the same. Action and thriller fans will definitely be disappointed, but those looking for something a little different with a mystical edge, there’s something to be appreciated here.