Under the Sea (1907)

aka 20000 lieues sous les mers, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Article 3167 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-14-2010
Posting Date: 4-16-2010
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Underwater fantasy

A fisherman is made the captain of a new underwater vehicle known as a submarine. However, his first voyage in the vehicle goes awry…

Georges Melies tends to play fast and loose with his literary adaptations; this version of the Jules Verne story doesn’t even feature Captain Nemo. It starts out looking like it’s going to be one of Melies’s epic journeys like A TRIP TO THE MOON, but it stops just short of that by dint of a plot twist that you’ll probably see coming when you start wondering why a lowly fisherman would be put in charge of an amazing new machine. Still, you get a giant crab, a giant fish, a giant clam, pushy sea flowers, dancing girls and an octopus. A tad disappointing, but still entertaining.

The UFO Incident (1975)

Article 3147 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-24-2010
Posting Date: 3-27-2010
Directed by Richard A. Colla
Featuring James Earl Jones, Estelle Parsons, Barnard Hughes
Country: USA
What it is: UFO encounter reenactment drama

An interracial couple experiences dual amnesia after seeing a UFO. After keeping the subject to themselves for two years, they find the secret putting a strain on their marriage, and they see a psychiatrist. He uses hypnotism to find out what happened during the period covered by the amnesia.

Though one’s personal perceptions about the truth of the story of Barney and Betty Hill will no doubt play a role in how one accepts this drama, I think the movie is definitely worth catching. Much of the credit goes to the excellent acting of all three of the principals, especially from James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons, who portray the Hills as full realized, three-dimensional people. The writers also should be commended for producing a script that allowed that dimensionality to come through. It is because the characters are so well-developed that we grow interested in them and their plight. Solid direction by Richard A. Colla further enhances the movie. Its main problem is that the special effects are only so-so; it’s one of those movies where it would have been better if the aliens had remained shrouded in the shadows, because it’s not really satisfying when you get a clear look at them. Nevertheless, this is secondary; it’s the human story that dominates here, and in terms of dealing with the complex relationship problems between the married couple, the movie does engage us and even manages to give us a happy ending. This is definitely one of the more interesting TV-Movies I’ve seen for this series.

Ein Unsichtbarer geht durch die Stadt (1933)

aka An Invisible Man Goes Through the Town
Article 3128 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-20-2009
Posting Date: 3-8-2010
Directed by Harry Piel
Featuring Harry Piel, Fritz Odemar, Lissy Arna
Country: Germany
What it is: German invisibility drama/comedy

A cabbie discovers that a suitcase left behind by a passenger contains an outfit that turns him invisible. He uses the outfit to make his fortune at the racetrack. However, his outfit is stolen by someone planning on using it to rob banks, and he embarks on a chase of the criminal.

IMDB doesn’t classify this one as a comedy, but, despite the fact that my copy is in unsubtitled German, I do get the feeling that the first part of the movie at least is played for laughs. As is usual when I cover movies not in English, you should take the above plot description with a grain of salt. The special effects aren’t quite up to the level of the Universal’s THE INVISIBLE MAN, but they work well enough. The movie is fairly ordinary, but it does have some good moments; some of the scenes have a nice scary sense of what it might be like to face off with an unseen adversary, and the extended chase leads to an amazing sequence involving an airship. Unfortunately, the action sequence ends with a disappointing thud, so I’m afraid I can’t quite recommend the movie. Harry Piel would go on to direct a couple more science fiction movies with DIE WELTE OHNE MASKE and DER HERR DER WELT.

The Underwater City (1962)

Article 3060 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-23-2009
Posting Date: 12-30-2009
Directed by Frank McDonald
Featuring William Lundigan, Julie Adams, Roy Roberts
Country: USA
What it is: Science Fiction of the “New Frontiers” variety

A project is undertaken to build a self-sufficient underwater city.

This is an earnest, well-intentioned slice of Heinleinian science fiction; it generally eschews melodrama in favor of the step-by-step process by which the city is developed, settled, and becomes able to fend for itself. It’s rather cheesy at times, the characters are two-dimensional, and it occasionally relies too much on devices such as narration and newspaper headlines, but after a while, the sincerity does win through. There’s an eel attack, a manta ray attack, and a battle between an octopus and an eel, but they’re all side issues (in fact, the manta ray attack is dispensed with via a newspaper headline), so you can’t really call it a monster movie. The movie was shot in color, but it was released to theaters in black and white; however, television prints were in color. My favorite scene occurs near the end, where the celebration of the city’s success is undercut by an ominous revelation.

Un soir… par hasard (1963)

aka One Night… by Accident
Article 3051 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-14-2009
Posting Date: 12-21-2009
Directed by Ivan Govar
Featuring Annette Vadim, Michel Le Royer, Jean Servais
Country: France / Belgium
What it is: Mystery thriller with science fiction and possible Gizmo Maguffin overtones

An atomic scientist has a motorcycle accident. When he awakes, he finds himself in the castle of a man who claims to have brought him back from the dead. The scientist ends up falling in love with his host’s mistress. However, everything may not be what it seems.

Since my print is in unsubtitled French, I found it necessary to hunt around for some plot descriptions to help me sort this one out; the plot description above is cobbled together from what I found out. Oddly enough, I got two different plot descriptions, though they aren’t incompatible; however, I’ve mostly avoided touching on the second one I found (which reveals a much more conventional plot) because I think it’s a major spoiler. It also reveals why the movie is a bit of disappointment; the plot description above makes it all seem more mysterious and eerie than it ultimately turns out to be. I suspect that if I ever get a chance to see this one subtitled, I’ll like the first part a lot more than the last part.

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.