The Vampires (1961)

THE VAMPIRES (1961)
aka Maciste contro il vampiro, Goliath vs. the Vampire
Article 2350 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-1-2007
Posting Date: 1-18-2008
Directed by Sergio Corbucci and Giacomo Gentilomo
Featuring Gordon Scott, Leonora Ruffo, Jacques Kurtik

Goliath (or is it Maciste) swears revenge on raiders who have attacked and murdered or kidnapped all the people in his village. He goes to the raiders’ island home, and discovers that they have been forced to do the bidding of an evil vampire-like monster.

The amount of fantastic content in sword and sandal movies varies wildly with the movie. In some, the sole fantastic content is that the hero is fairly strong (HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN comes to mind), while others ratchet up the fantastic content quite a few notches, such as this one. In fact, this one belongs to that small group whose horror content is particularly heavy, such as HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD and NIGHT STAR, GODDESS OF ELECTRA ; the vampire-like creature known as Kobrak is quite effective, and he has an army of faceless zombie slaves to do his bidding. Our hero is extremely strong here, so much so that I was a bit surprised to find that it is really a Maciste movie; in most of the other Maciste movies I’ve seen, his strength is considerably less. In this one, he pulls pillars out of the center of buildings (twice) lifts a myriad of heavy things and throws them, and takes on several people all at once. As for other fantastic content, there is a race of blue men that are fighting the vampire along with our two-named hero. Overall, it’s a slightly better-than-average sword-and-sandal movie, but horror fans will want to give this one a look.

 

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The Venetian Affair (1967)

THE VENETIAN AFFAIR (1967)
Article 2318 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-31-2007
Posting Date: 12-17-2007
Directed by Jerry Thorpe
Featuring Robert Vaughn, Elke Sommer, Felicia Farr

A down-and-out journalist who used to be with the CIA finds himself investigating the bombing of a conference in Venice. There he encounters his former CIA boss and his ex-wife, who are also embroiled in the mystery.

I remember this movie popping up on TV a few times during my youth, but on viewing the teasers, I didn’t think it looked promising, despite the fact that Boris Karloff was in the cast; perhaps the fact that he was always mentioned fourth was a further tip-off that it really wasn’t the type of movie I liked. Having watched it now, I feel that I was right; it wouldn’t have interested me much back then. For that matter, it only interests me marginally more now. I do admire it a little; despite the fact that spy movies were in no short supply during the sixties, this largely applies to James Bond movies and their various knock-offs; serious spy movies were in much shorter supply, and I like that this one aspires to be one of the latter. Still, it’s so low key that I found it dull and difficult to follow for the first half, and it didn’t exactly inspire me to pay close attention to the plot details. Things do improve during the second half, though, but not enough. Part of the problem is that for this story to work, the main character has to be complex and interesting enough for us to get caught up in his situation; unfortunately, though I do think Robert Vaughn works just fine in certain roles, I don’t think he really gives his character sufficient depth to make me interested in him. I have no problem with many of the other familiar names in the cast, such as Karloff, Elke Sommer, Roger C. Carmel or Ed Asner, all of whom hold my attention and interest me when they’re on the screen. As it is, I find this spy thriller middling at best.

Oh, and I almost forgot – the fantastic content of the movie is one of the plot secrets that isn’t really revealed until near the end of the movie, but it thrusts the movie into the realm of science fiction. Let’s just say that a scientist has created something that is of use to the villains in the story.

 

A Voyage Around a Star (1906)

A VOYAGE AROUND A STAR (1906)
aka Voyage autour d’une etoile
Article 2259 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-24-2007
Posting Date: 10-19-2007
Directed by Gaston Valle
Cast unknown

An astronomer, smitten by heavenly bodies in the stars, decides to fly into space in a soap bubble to meet them.

In one way, I was quite impressed with this attempt to mimic a George Melies movie; it’s the one that most looks like Melies might have done it himself. Of course, one of the big factors is that it includes one of Melies’ continuing characters – namely, the cranky guy in Saturn. You know, you really don’t want to mess with the cranky guy in Saturn; he doesn’t take kindly to those flirting with his heavenly bodies, as the astronomer finds out here. Still, the most striking thing about this short is the ending, which is rather grotesque for what is for the most part a light-hearted comedy.

Incidentally, this movie was at the top of my hunt list, so I’ve been looking for it a long time.

 

Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968)

VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1968)
Article 2225 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-19-2007
Posting Date: 9-15-2007
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Featuring Mamie Van Doren, Mary Marr, Paige Lee

A group of astronauts come to Venus to explore. A group of telepathic female Venusians who worship a pterodactyl try to destroy them.

This is what amounts to Peter Bogdanovich’s first theatrical film, in which he took (or was given) the Russian science fiction epic PLANETA BUR, edited in footage of beautiful Venusians in seashell bikini tops, added a lot of dubbing and narration, and voila! instant movie. The movie isn’t totally useless, largely because PLANETA BUR has some nice moments to it; the scene with the robot in the lava is the most memorable, but I also like the killer plant and the final revelation about the rock. The new footage is pretty bad, but sometimes memorable in its own right; the scenes where they hold a funeral for their pterodactyl god (who looks pretty rubbery and may be the best competitor with the monster in THE GIANT CLAW for the goofiest cinematic flying beastie) and the one where they find a new god qualify. Still, it’s fairly easy to find copies of PLANETA BUR anymore, so this version may be unnecessary, unless you absolutely have to see Mamie Van Doren in the seashell bikini top.

Incidentally, this movie is part of a group of three from the mid -to-late sixties which I associate with each other because it’s so easy to get them confused. The other two movies are VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET, and WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET. To further complicate things, one of these movies also makes extensive use of footage from PLANETA BUR. Talk about recycling…

 

Voodoo Tiger (1952)

VOODOO TIGER (1952)
Article 1897 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-25-2006
Posting Date: 10-22-2006
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet
Featuring Johnny Weissmuller, Jean Byron, James Seay

Jungle Jim has to contend with headhunters who worship tigers, a Nazi in hiding with a large stash of art, some greedy white men, and a tiger that escaped from a crashed airplane.

Why are the natives in Africa worshiping a tiger? Well, the movie may be smart enough to ask the question, and it may be smart enough to bring in a tiger from outside, but it’s really not smart enough to answer the question. Not that it really matters that much; maybe it’s just me, but, despite the fact that the movie tries to throw everything it can at me jungle-wise, my only impression was one of enduring another routine jungle movie. It’s the kind of movie that cuts away from a potentially exciting scene (Jungle Jim fighting a lion in a cage) to show us what antics Cheeta (pardon me, Tamba) is getting into. Quite frankly, I’ve been here before, and I’ve been here under much more interesting circumstances. A few exciting scenes stand out here and there, but not enough to compensate for the overall dreariness of this one.

The Vengeance of She (1968)

THE VENGEANCE OF SHE (1968)
Article 1851 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-9-2006
Posting Date: 9-6-2006
Directed by Cliff Owen
Featuring John Richardson, Olga Schoberova, Edward Judd

A woman finds himself being called to the lost city of Kuma. She is under the power of a high-priest who is using her resemblance to Ayesha to trick the leader Killikrates into giving him immortal life.

Olga Schoberova is stunningly beautiful and the sets and scenery are quite lovely. Still, these aspects of the movie add up to little more than eye candy, and given that Schoberova wasn’t much of an actress, that the movie is noticeably short of the star power that helped the original (no Ursula Andress, no Peter Cushing, no Christopher Lee), that the script is largely just a retread of the original with a few details changed and moved around, and that the script is a bore, you really have to be an eye candy fan to make this one fly. Most of the soundtrack is built around a saxophone riff that is actually quite nice until the movie repeats it for the umpty-ninth time. Oddly enough, the movie got a ‘G” rating despite the amount of skin that Schoberova puts on display throughout the movie.

Voyage to the End of the Universe (1963)

VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE (1963)
aka Ikarie XB 1
Article 1826 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-15-2006
Posting Date: 8-12-2006
Directed by Jindrich Polak
Featuring Radovan Lukavsky, Zdenek Stepanek, Frantisek Smolik

A spaceship makes a voyage to the green planet in the next galaxy.

According to IMDB, a number of changes were made to this Czech science fiction film (IKARIE XB 1) before it came to our shores under the above title. Almost a half hour of the footage was taken out, and the ending was altered. I don’t know if there is a full version of the original available, but I’d like to see it; even in its compromised form here, I quite liked it. It does help that, amid the other tinkering, that the dubbing is actually above par; the acting level of those supplying the voices was strong enough that the movie retains some of its emotional tenor. Basically, it’s an episodic tale of a spaceship’s journey, and I liked the fact that its perils aren’t just the same ones usually trotted out for this kind of story; despite the fact that they talk about the possibility of it happening, there isn’t a single moment where the spaceship runs into a meteor shower. It was one of those movies that I wish hadn’t ended so soon; I would have liked to have gotten to know the characters better, and one suspects it could have made for an interesting TV series. It’s worst fault is the unsatisfying twist ending, but that is probably the fault of only this version of the movie.