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 .

 

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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.

 

Unknown World (1951)

UNKNOWN WORLD (1951)
Article 1812 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2006
Posting Date: 7-29-2006
Directed by Terry O. Morse
Featuring Victor Kilian, Bruce Kellogg, Otto Waldis

A group of scientists intent on saving civilization design a machine to travel deep into the earth to find a new place for people to live.

I’ve heard this movie described as DESTINATION MOON , only going the other direction – deep into the earth rather than into outer space. It’s a good description up to a point, but I think it’s really a lot more similar to ROCKETSHIP X-M , the movie that was made to cash in on the publicity surrounding DESTINATION MOON that managed to beat it to the theaters. Like that movie, it’s more concerned with its message of nuclear destruction (though most of the preaching in this one comes near the beginning of the movie) and the relationships between the various characters than with the scientific problem solving that was the soul of DESTINATION MOON. Sadly, the movie isn’t really up to the level of either of these potential models for its story; the script is weak, and the acting is uneven. It’s fairly dull for the most part, despite the fact that plenty of people are brought along on the trip so we can have several of them die on the way. It doesn’t really come to life until they finally reach their destination, a huge well-lit underground cavern with massive waterfalls. Still, the ending is certainly more upbeat than that of ROCKETSHIP X-M.

Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules (1961)

ULYSSES AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1961)
aka Ulisse contro Ercole
Article 1811 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-28-2006
Posting Date: 7-28-2006
Directed by Mario Caiano
Featuring Georges Marchal, Mike Lane, Alessandra Panaro

Jupiter sends Heracles on a mission to capture Ulysses as a punishment for the latter’s blinding of Polyphemus.

It’s sword-and-sandal time again, folks! And not only that, it’s another “Son of Hercules” movie as well. So, who’s the son of Hercules this time? It’s some guy named Heracles! But wait a minute – isn’t Heracles just another name for Hercules? Why, yes it is! So, the son of Hercules is Hercules himself? Uh-huh.

Okay, now the big question – How can Hercules be his own son? Well, I’m not sure, but I’m willing to bet it has something to do with the fact that Maciste has a time machine. I think it also has something to do with the song “I’m My Own Grandpa”. Beyond that, I think I’ll let this little conundrum go by the wayside.

Actually, this is a rather unusual peplum; the basic story arc doesn’t really cover the same ground as is usually tread by these movies. It’s more of a buddy movie of sorts. But then, what do you expect of a movie which puts two characters that are normally thought of as heroes in their own right against each other? Yes, it does have some silliness; neither the bird people nor the troglodytes are very impressive, for example. Nonetheless, I liked that one of our heroes is one who uses his brain instead of brawn, and I like the sequence where the evil king quizzes Ulysses to find out if he really is the famous conqueror of Troy. As such, this isn’t bad for this type of movie; it’s certainly less cheesy than most of the other entries in the Sons of Hercules series.

The Unknown (1946)

THE UNKNOWN (1946)
Article #1698 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-7-2005
Posting Date: 4-6-2006
Directed by Henry Levin
Featuring Karen Morley, Jim Bannon, Jeff Donnell

Two detectives accompany a young woman to the reading of a will. They discover that there is a streak of madness in the family and that someone is plotting to murder them all.

This was the last of the short-lived “I Love a Mystery” movie series based on the popular radio drama. I’ve covered the other two of the series, and like them, I found this one quite enjoyable. On the surface, it looks like your basic Old Dark House movie (creepy mansion, shadowy figures, secret passages, murders), but it actually is playing a slightly different game. I would say this movie is actually a bit closer to gothic melodrama than Old Dark House style mystery; the southern setting, the generally serious tone, the characters that are somewhat more complex than the usual Old Dark House standbys – most Old Dark House movies don’t bother with this kind of thing. It’s closer to JANE EYRE or WUTHERING HEIGHTS than THE CAT AND THE CANARY, and it points toward later developments of the form, such as SUNSET BLVD, and though it seems odd to compare this movie with that last one, bear in mind that this movie also opens with narration by a dead person. Also take into account that the black servant who appears in this movie is not intended nor used as comic relief; in fact, the story takes him seriously enough that he is a legitimate suspect in the story; this sort of thing never happened with Willie Best or Mantan Moreland playing the role. The movie is far from perfect; the beginning flashback is drawn out too long, for example. But it’s one of those movies where the characters of the individuals matter, and that is rare for this type of movie. It’s a shame that this whole series only lasted for three movies, and is now mostly forgotten; movie for movie, it was a highly entertaining series.

UFO (1956)

UFO (1956)
(a.k.a. UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS: THE TRUE STORY OF FLYING SAUCERS)
Article #1650 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-20-2005
Posting Date: 2-17-2006
Directed by Winston Jones
Featuring Tom Towers, Nicholas Mariana, Delbert Newhouse

A reporter finds himself in the middle of a rash of flying saucer sightings.

This movie is a pseudodocumentary, which is to say that it largely consists of reenactments of flying saucer sightings. An actor plays the role of reporter Albert M. Chop, while most of the rest of the cast is playing themselves. And I do mean playing themselves rather than being themselves; at all times, it feels like they’re reading from a script rather than telling of events off of the top of their heads, and seeing how none of them feel like natural actors, it all feels rather wooden rather than vividly real.

For the record, I tend to hover somewhere between skepticism and “Maybe…” on issues like this. The movie doesn’t really do a bad job; the attention to detail is a plus, and the unsensational way in which everything is presented allows the viewer to come to their own conclusions. It might change some people’s minds on the matter, but it really didn’t have an effect on mine, and its biggest selling point (it has actually filmed footage of sightings) isn’t anything I haven’t seen before. As entertainment, though, the wooden presentation does make viewing the movie a rather joyless and dull experience for much of its running time. You probably know whether you’d be interested in this one or not without any commentary by me, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s merely a curio.