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.

 

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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.

The Vampire (1957)

THE VAMPIRE (Mexican) (1957)
aka El Vampiro
Article 1813 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2006
Posting Date: 7-30-2006
Directed by Fernando Mendez and Paul Nagel
Featuring Abel Salazar, German Robles, Ariadne Welter

A vampire threatens the residents of an estate.

I must admit that the appeal to me of many Mexican horror movies has little to do with how scary or effective they are, but rather has to do with how strange and silly they look to my eyes; they’re fun, all right, but I can’t take them seriously as horror movies. Still, there are a few exceptions, and this is one of them; it attempts to tell a serious and straightforward vampire story, and except for the fact that it has a few dull stretches, it succeeds. It hearkens back to the Universal horrors of the thirties and forties, but it manages to find its own voice. I like some of the touches, especially the woman running around in secret passages doing her bit to battle the vampire. I also like the Abel Salazar character; usually, this person would be of the Van Helsing variety, but Dr. Enrique is not only a skeptic, but he’s a bit of a coward as well. All in all, the movie is very effective; it is only marred by the clumsy K. Gordon Murray dubbing. It marked the screen debut of German Robles, who would become something of a Mexican Bela Lugosi; he played vampires in the immediate sequel (THE VAMPIRE’S COFFIN ), as well as in THE CASTLE OF THE MONSTERS and all the Nostradamus movies. Salazar produced as well as starred, and he is also remembered for playing Baron Vitalius in the hilarious THE BRAINIAC , which would also feature Robles in a small role. This one is recommended for anyone wishing to experience Mexican horror at its best.

Valley of Eagles (1951)

VALLEY OF EAGLES (1951)
Article #1735 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-14-2005
Posting Date: 5-13-2006
Directed by Terence Young
Featuring Jack McCallum, Jack Warner, Anthony Dawson

A Norwegian inventor develops a method of creating electricity through sound, but his invention is stolen by his assistant and his wife. He then joins forces with a police inspector to try and catch them.

You know, nothing makes my heart sink like a movie that opens with the demonstration of some amazing invention, and then instead of exploring the impact the invention has on the world, it consigns the invention to the role of first prize in a more conventional cinematic struggle. It then becomes merely a case of whether the good guys can keep the invention from falling in the hands of the bad guys; most serials with slight science fiction elements fall into this category. That’s pretty much the direction this movie goes at the ten minute mark, and had the movie stayed at that level, I wouldn’t have liked it as well as I did. Fortunately, the movie is much better than that; not only is it made with a great deal of subtlety, suspense and wit, it also refuses to keep still. At the thirty minute mark, it shifts once more, this time from an espionage thriller to an adventure movie when the heroes join a group of reindeer herders in an attempt to keep on the trail of the thieves, and it is here that the movie starts to develop a surprising degree of emotional resonance as the scientist’s experiences with the “savages” makes him doubt the legitimacy of his own obsession with science. As a result, the movie ends up a much richer and more satisfying experience than I thought it would be. Still, I do have some reservations; there are a number of scenes of animal deaths and attacks here, and though some of them seem to clearly be stock footage, I’m still not sure about others; in particularly, scenes of eagles attacking wolves bother me. Still, I am amazed at the sequence where we encounter a tribe of men with trained eagles which they use instead of guns for fear of avalanches. Keep a sharp lookout for Christopher Lee in the small role of a police detective.