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.

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.