Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

aka Valerie a tyden divu
Article 3992 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-28-2012
Directed by Jaromil Jires
Featuring Jaroslava Schallerova, Helena Anyzova, Petr Kopriva
Country: Czechoslovakia
What it is: Arty free-form vampire flick, among other things

A thirteen year old girl named Valerie, just coming into adulthood, must contend with strange events in her life, including the arrival of potential lover and the appearance of a vampire-like creature known as Weasel.

Is this the artiest vampire flick since VAMPYR? I’m not really sure, but I will say this much; it’s the most compellingly arty vampire flick since that one, and on a simply visual level, it’s stunning. Storywise, it doesn’t make a lot of linear sense, though the central theme seems to be the perils of the girl’s budding sexuality. The story, such as it is, centers around a pair of earrings and the power they give her to resist the perils of the vampire, a lusty parish priest, and the knowledge of her own parentage. The movie is decidedly non-realistic; everything feels as if it comes out of a stream-of-consciousness Freudian fairy tale, and this tends to render some of its taboo subject matter (there’s lots of touches of incest, for example) bearable. There’s no way to adequately describe this one, but anyone demanding linear storytelling will want to stay away. Those willing to undergo more abstract movies may well find this one quite fascinating, as I did.

The Vanishing Riders (1935)

Article 3968 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-3-2012
Directed by Robert F. Hill
Featuring Bill Cody, Bill Cody Jr., Ethel Jackson
Country: USA
What it is: Weird Western

A former lawman who has adopted the child of a criminal takes up work with a lady cattle rancher. The other workers turn out to be members of an outlaw gang headed by Wolf Lawson. The criminals have an Achilles heel, however; they’re superstitious and scared of the ghosts in a nearby abandoned silver mining town town. Can the former lawman use this against them?

The fantastic content in this B western include the concept that the old silver mining town is haunted, and the scheme which the lawman and adopted son use to defeat the outlaws; they dress up as skeletons (and they dress up their horses the same way) and frighten them into submission. It’s a silly idea, and should have made for a fun B western, and the skeleton outfits are actually fairly scary looking. However, there’s something rather dull and lethargic about this western, especially during the first half; it takes forever for things to get moving. Budd Buster adds a bit of fun as western-style comic relief, but overall, this is one of the weaker weird westerns out there.

Visiting Hours (1982)

Article 3895 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-4-2012
Posting Date: 4-13-2012
Directed by Jean-Claude Lord
Featuring Michael Ironside, Lee Grant, Linda Purl
Country: Canada
What it is: Psycho-killer movie

A psychopathic misogynist becomes obsessed with killing a crusading female journalist, but when his first attack fails to kill her, he takes to trying to stalk her in the hospital where she’s staying.

In some ways, this is a very interesting psycho-killer movie, largely due to elements in the script and the direction. It tries very hard to make the psycho an interesting character; he’s given a backstory and a world to live in inhabited by various characters, and the script keeps the character from lapsing into the type of hystrionic monologues that often lend themselves to over-acting. It also uses some very interesting cinematic techniques; I like the way that a scene will sometimes be left unresolved only to have another scene later reveal the outcome of the unresolved one. You can see the strings being pulled at times, but they’re usually being pulled in creative ways. Unfortunately, the movie has problems. One is that it’s just way too long; at an hour and forty-five minutes, I found myself really getting tired of the movie’s attempt to keep me on the edge of my seat, and it stopped being fun and started being wearying. Furthermore, the psycho, interesting as he is, isn’t quite interesting enough to sustain the amount of time the movie spends on him; when you get around to it, his motivations are pretty simple. Furthermore, the movie often gets distracted by side issues. Combine that with a plot that often relies on some pretty wild coincidences, and an attempt to make a statement about violence that seems a little forced, and you have a movie that wears out its welcome a ways before it’s over. There are good performances from Michael Ironside and Lee Grant, but William Shatner is wasted as one of those characters who really doesn’t have anything to do.

The Vengeance of the Zombies (1973)

aka La rebelion de las muertas
Article 3894 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-3-2012
Posting Date: 4-12-2012
Directed by Leon Klimovsky
Featuring Paul Naschy, Romy, Mirta Miller
Country: Spain
What it is: Zombies, voodoo style

A woman, distraught at the death of her family, takes residence at the home of an Indian mystic for healing. However, the home has an evil history… and the mystic has a few skeletons in his closet as well.

We’re talking zombies of the voodoo variety here, rather than of the flesh-eating type. It’s also another encounter with director Leon Klimovsky, who gave us THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY, which I covered a couple of days ago. This time he has Paul Naschy along, who not only plays three roles in the movie but wrote it as well, though none of his three roles ends up being the hero (although one makes a game effort of it). However, the script is pretty confusing, and I’m not sure it ever really sorts itself out; it might take a few viewings to decide whether it hangs together or not. Once again, the music is flat out strange, sounding peppy and upbeat at the oddest of times; it certainly destroys any mood of horror when it comes on. As is often the case in Paul Naschy films, Naschy is the best thing about it, if for no other reason that he has a certain degree of charisma going for him.

The Vampires Night Orgy (1974)

aka La orgia nocturna de los vampiros
Article 3892 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-1-2012
Posting Date: 4-10-2012
Directed by Leon Klimovsky
Featuring Jack Taylor, Dyanik Zurakowska, Jose Guardiola
Country: Spain
What it is: Vampire movie

A group of travelers find themselves stranded in an isolated European town when their bus driver dies of a heart attack. However, the inhabitants of the town are really vampires!

Oh, there’s plenty of vampires in this one, and there’s lots of night scenes. But if you’re drawn to this movie by the fourth word of the title, you’re going to be sorely disappointed; unless the minute and a half that is missing from my print is chock full of eroticism, you’re going to have to content yourself with a brief topless scene and a love scene where you’ll end up seeing a skinny guy in his underwear. The rest of the movie is mostly typical vampire antics with a few odd side trips, including one into cannibalism. It’s actually pretty dull for the most part, and the musical score (which sounds as if it was lifted from a travelogue somewhere) is mostly inappropriate. I’ve also heard some complaints about the twist ending, and had the rest of the movie worked for me, I might have an opinion on it myself; as it is, all I’ll say is that it’s one I’ve seen before in one capacity or another. The director is also responsible for a number of Paul Naschy’s movies, and I can honestly say that Naschy’s presence might have brightened this one a little. As it is, this one isn’t really worth the viewing time.

*NOTE* – I have been informed that there is another version of this movie that is more properly orgiastic. I guess it depends which copy you have…

The Virgin President (1969)

Article 3823 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-22-2012
Posting Date: 2-1-2012
Directed by Graeme Ferguson
Featuring Severn Darden, Richard Neuweiler, Andrew Duncan
Country: USA
What it is: Political satire

A cabal of political advisers decides to assassinate the president, and then to use their powers of persuasion to control his successor, the president’s son who has been locked away in a bunker since he was four.

This movie takes place in the future, thus giving it a certain amount of science fiction content. It also features a ghost and a seance, thus giving the movie some horror content as well. Overall, it’s a comic political satire in black and white and what seems to be an incredibly low budget. The most striking credit in the movie is that the writing is credited to the actors, implying that the movie is improvisational in nature, but I can’t help but notice that IMDB credits only director Graeme Ferguson and star Severn Darden in that capacity, implying that it isn’t quite as improvisational as it seems. Still, it does feel improvised at times; the opening sequence makes you feel that you’re catching the film in the process that it’s being made, and there’s at least one on-camera crack-up to be seen. It’s a pretty amusing movie, but it’s perhaps played a little too broadly for its satire to work, though I can’t help but admire that the premise that this president’s destruction of the USA ends up having a very different definition of “destruction” than is usually thought, and it ultimately becomes the punch line of the movie. Outside of Darden, the only actors I recognized from elsewhere were Paul Benedict and Peter Boyle. Director Ferguson mostly works in the documentary field with an emphasis on movies about space exploration.

The Vengeance of the Vampire Women (1970)

aka La venganza de las mujeres vampiro
Article 3808 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-7-2012
Posting Date: 1-17-2012
Directed by Federico Curiel
Featuring Santo, Norma Lazareno, Gina Romand
Country: Mexico
What it is: More wrestlers and vampires

A mad scientist revives an ancient female vampire in the hopes that he can use her blood to help make his own monster immortal. She agrees to this with one provision; he must help her defeat the descendant of the man who staked her: Santo, the masked wrestler.

Yes, it’s Santo fighting vampires again, just like yesterday. I think this the fifth time in my experience with the series that Santo has taken on this particular type of monster, a fact that I assume arises from either the extreme popularity of that type of monster or from lack of imagination on the part of Santo’s screenwriters. Despite the title, this isn’t a sequel to SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN (perhaps the most well-known Santo movie in the states). This one is from the seventies, so it’s in color and the females show off more skin.

You know, it’s sometimes tempting to think of the whole Santo series as of one piece, but there is a certain variety in the quality of the movies. Some of them figured that the presence of Santo was all that was necessary, and no more effort was put into them than that. Some made real attempts to come up with novel variations of the standard Santo plots, and some also tried to add some real atmosphere to the proceedings. The plot in this one is by the numbers, but it does come up with a few atmospheric touches here and there. Still, we’re on very familiar territory here, and the monster created by the scientist is a real disappointment; he’s a tall guy with a bandage that covers about one quarter of his face. Still, there are worse ways to spend your time than with this movie.