Les victimes de l’alcoholisme (1902)

LES VICTIMES DE L’ALCOHOLISME (1902)
aka Alcohol and Its Victims
Article 4956 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-13-2015
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Social conscience movie

A well-to-do man lives a happy life with his happy family. Then he discovers alcohol…

There’s a point in the print that I saw of this movie in which we see the alcoholic’s family reduced to living in a squalid freezing hovel. Suddenly we see the alcoholic himself lying prone on the floor; he wasn’t in the scene at all previously. It’s obviously a jump cut, and we’re missing a bit of the film. I will return to this observation shortly.

Given that I’m watching these movies for their fantastic content, I wasn’t really surprised to find a movie about alcoholism pop up; after all, the concept does lend itself to using fantastic content. In particular, if the movie deals with the alcoholic going through the D.T.s, the hallucinatory images would give us an opportunity for fantastic content. And, as luck would have it, this silent short does have a scene where the main character undergoes the D.T.s while in a padded cell. However, in terms of fantastic content, this scene is very disappointing; though it’s obvious the man is hallucinating, we, the viewing audience, do not see what he’s seeing, and to my mind, that disqualifies the movie in terms of fantastic content. However, since there is some footage missing (as mentioned above), there is a possibility there could have been in there. Still, I find that highly unlikely; if they didn’t take advantage of the D.T.s sequence for that content, they probably didn’t for a scene where the man drunkenly enters a room and falls down, which is what I imagine is in the missing footage. As a result, in terms of fantastic content, I have to classify this one as a false alarm. As an expose of alcoholism, there’s little in the way of surprises, but I wouldn’t really expect any in a five minute movie.

Vanishing Lady (1898)

VANISHING LADY (1898)
Article 4940 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-26-2015
Directed by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith
Featuring Albert E. Smith
Country: USA
What it is: Early trick short

A magician makes a lady vanish.

The above plot description captures what I saw in its entirety; it’s like a shorter and less interesting version of Melies’s movie of almost the exact same name (THE VANISHING LADY) from two years previously. I found it on YouTube in a set of short silents edited together, but it clearly says that the Edison movie VANISHING LADY is among them. Still, it’s always a little difficult to tell if you’ve actually netted the correct version of a movie. Just a few weeks ago, I was hunting for a movie titled THE VANISHING LADY from 1897 from the U.K. which was a attributed to Robert W. Paul. I found a site on YouTube that claimed that it was that movie, but it was actually Melies’s PYGMALION AND GALATHEA. If there’s not much to say about today’s movie, I just wanted to take this time to note how tricky and confusing it can be sometimes to know if you’ve located the right one. I do know this one is not the Melies version, so I’m going on trust that this is indeed the Edison version.

Vampyros lesbos (1971)

VAMPYROS LESBOS (1971)
aka The Heiress of Dracula
Article 4907 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-22-2015
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Soledad Miranda, Dennis Price, Paul Muller
Country: West Germany / Spain
What it is: Franco vampire movie

A female lawyer becomes entwined with a vampiric Countess who is the heir of Dracula.

I always feel a little bit self-conscious about reviewing Jesus Franco movies; there are a number of people I respect who consider him brilliant and a number of others who I also respect who consider his work a waste of time. As for me, I’ve decided that dealing with his work is a voyage of discovery of sorts, and I’m not sure ultimately on which side of the fence I’ll end up, that is if I ever get off the fence at all. I’ve seen quite a few of his movies that are indeed a waste of time, but I’ve also seen a few that are quite striking and do indicate a real talent at work. However, even at his best, he does take some getting used to; I have to acclimate myself to the slow, languorous pace of his work, and he’ll never probably be a favorite of mine simply because I don’t share his obsessions with lesbian sex and the Marquis de Sade. That being said, this is one of his better movies; it’s directed with a good sense of style, the musical score is effective and unusual, and I like the way it hovers around and parallels the story of Dracula without being an imitation of it. He references himself with another incarnation of Morpho (from the Dr. Orloff movies), and the movie feels like an organic whole with one exception; the sadistic character played by Franco himself seems to belong to a different movie. Still, I am left with a question; are there really nightclubs in Europe that specialize in these pretentious erotic dances that pop up so often in his movies? But then, I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that one.

Von Einem, der Auszog, as Gruseln zu lernen (1935)

VON EINEM, DER AUSZOG, AS GRUSELN ZU LERNEN (1935)
aka The Boy Who Wanted to Learn Fear

Article 4852 by Dave Sindelar

Date: 6-20-2015
Directed by Ferdinand Diehl
No cast
Country: Germany
What it is: Puppet animated short

A seemingly fearless boy spends several nights in a haunted castle.

This obscure animated puppet short just recently fell off my hunt list and went to my “ones that got away” list, but someone quickly pointed me in the right direction. As you might expect, the boy does turn out to be afraid of something, but that revelation is saved for the end of the short. In the meantime, there’s quite a bit of horror atmosphere as he encounters a variety of ghosts and spooky figures, and even spends a night camping out and sleeping underneath a gallows populated by three bodies. It’s quite entertaining, though the title cards are unreadable by me and the spoken translation of them (in German) didn’t help me much, so certain plot elements were lost to me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and the puppet animation is top notch. This one was worth taking the time to find.

The Voyage of the Bourrichon Family (1913)

THE VOYAGE OF THE BOURRICHON FAMILY (1913)
aka The Haunted Hotel, Le voyage de la famille Bourrichon
Article 4763 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-20-2015
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Comic mayhem

A family goes on vacation to escape creditors. The creditors conspire with the servants to follow the family and torment them.

This was the last film of Georges Melies, and though it does have a smattering of special effects, the emphasis is not on elements of the fantastic but rather on comic lunacy. That is an unfortunate choice on his part; in terms of humor, he worked best when the wit grew naturally out of the proceedings, but when he tried too overtly for comedy, the result was usually an unfocused and unfunny mess. That’s the case here; his fondness for multiple characters in long shots result in us viewers not being sure who or what to watch when the mayhem gets underway, and he never really figures out a good way to take a comical situation and transform it into workable comic bits. There are a few fantastical moments here and there, but they not only seem not particularly original, but out of place as well, considering the situation. In the end, this one just doesn’t play to Melies’s strengths, and it’s sad it would turn out to be his last work.

A Voyage to Arcturus (1970)

A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS (1970)
Article 4750 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-5-2015
Directed by William Holloway
Featuring David Eldred, Leon Holster, Tom Hastings
Country: USA
What it is: Avant-garde science fiction

A man journeys to Arcturus and undergoes a transformative quest.

When a movie enters my hunt list which has no listing on IMDB, I usually despair of actually finding a copy, but this one practically fell into my lap. I’m thinking the reason it doesn’t have a listing is that it’s more of a student film than a professional production. It’s based on a novel from 1920 by David Lindsay. The novel appears to have a cult following, and C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are counted among its admirers. I’ve not read the novel in question, but it appears to have been an allegory of various philosophical systems. I suspect it’s the type of book that would have to be read slowly and carefully to be fully appreciated. I also suspect that it’s unfilmable; though there’s some very creative direction going on here, I emerged from the movie more confused than enlightened, and I wonder if the movie is best appreciated by those who have already read the book. It is extremely ambitious for a student film, and it even has a little stop-motion animation. And I will say one thing about the movie; it’s made me very curious about the novel itself.

The Visitor (1979)

THE VISITOR (1979)
aka Stridulum
Article 4738 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-17-2015
Directed by Giulio Paradisi
Featuring Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen
Country: USA / Italy
What it is: Contortionistic tale of good vs. evil

An eight year old girl embodies an evil alien force, and evil men want her mother (who carries the genetic code) to become pregnant and give birth to a brother for the child. However, a cosmic savior from another world seeks to prevent the evil from taking hold on the Earth.

If you can somehow imagine an amalgamation of THE OMEN, THE BIRDS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND filtered through a fever dream that encompasses such elements as an exploding basketball, a creepy mechanical talking bird, a strangely choreographed fight scene in a skating rink, and lots of broken glass (especially during a house of mirrors sequence), you might have a chance of preparing yourself for this outlandish American/Italian co-production. The fact that it’s peopled with quite a few name stars (on top of those listed above, we also have John Huston, Shelley Winters and Sam Peckinpah) just makes it weirder. Still, I don’t find it quite as incoherent as some people claim; if you’re playing close attention, you have something of an idea of what’s going on. It is stylishly directed, and some of the scenes look wonderful. On the down side, some of the scenes look pretty cheesy, and given the choice, I would redo the musical score, which is sometimes way too bombastic for its own good. I don’t know how I feel about the movie yet; I’m not quite sure that I can call it a good movie, though it is a fascinating one to watch. I do, however, think that it deserves better than it’s current 4.6 rating on IMDB, and there’s enough here to make me think that it is worth a second viewing.

The Vault of Horror (1973)

THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973)
Article 4534 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-14-2014
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Featuring Terry-Thomas, Tom Baker, Daniel Massey
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Horror anthology

Five men find themselves trapped in an underground vault and tell their recurring dreams to each other. In the first, a man seeking to inherit a fortune stays too long on the wrong side of town. In the second, an annoyingly fastidious neatness freak drives his wife to distraction. In the third, a magician stoops to murder in order to get hold of a magic rope. In the fourth, a man plots a way to collect insurance on his own death, but the plan backfires. In the final story, an artist uses voodoo to exact revenge on those who have cheated him.

I’d have to double-check, but I suspect that this is the last of the Amicus horror anthologies that I’ll be covering for this series. Like TALES FROM THE CRYPT, the stories are taken from EC comic books, though it appears that none of them actually came from “The Vault of Horror”, though four of them did appear in “Tales from the Crypt”. It’s a decent enough anthology; none of the stories really stand out, but there aren’t any real clinkers, either. My favorite is perhaps the fourth story about the man faking his own death to claim the insurance; there’s a sense of humor to this one that somewhat sets it apart from the other stories. One advantage this movie has is that with five stories and only eighty-three minutes to tell them, none of them outstays its welcome; one disadvantage is that all five stories are basically variations on the same plot, which is about the comeuppance of a man who has succumbed to his evil impulses. I also rather like the framing story, which is rather charming in its simplicity.

Vampire Circus (1972)

VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972)
Article 4532 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-12-2014
Directed by Robert Young
Featuring Adrienne Corri, Thorley Walters, Anthony Higgins
Country: UK
What it is: Vampire movie

15 years after the residents of a small town stormed a castle and destroyed a vampire, they find themselves blocked off from the rest of the world due to a plague running rampant. Somehow, a circus manages to get around the roadblock, and it sets out to entertain the villagers, but one of the members of the circus is a relative of the vampire, not to mention being one himself, as are other members of the circus.

I must be nearing the end of the Hammer horror movies, so there’s a possibility that this may be the last one I cover. It’s heavier on the exploitation elements (there’s a lot of blood, nudity and sex), but it has a certain offbeat quality to it, especially during the circus sequences. This is the first directorial credit of Robert Young, and he gives the movie some interesting stylistic touches to add to the mix. I like the first two-thirds of the movie very much, but the final third gets predictable and silly; in particular, I find it hard to swallow that a vampire would be terrified of a vaguely cross-shaped metallic adornment on a crossbow. One of the more interesting aspects of this one is that it emphasizes one aspect of vampirism that is often ignored or underplayed by other vampire movies, and that is that children would be considered prime targets for vampires; if I recall correctly, that’s one of elements of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.

La valise de Barnum (1904)

LA VALISE DE BARNUM (1904)
Article 4301 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-31-2013
Directed by Gaston Velle
Featuring Gaston Velle
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A showman puts up posters showing the acts in his sideshow. After making his assistants disappear, he then goes through the posters again, only this time the images in the posters come to life.

In terms of its special effects, this short doesn’t really do anything that Melies hadn’t done (with the possible exception of a short stop-motion sequence at the end). Still, the difference in style gives the short a bit of its own identity, and the sideshow theme also adds some novelty value; the images include a bearded lady and a strong man, as well as the obligatory dancing girl. This one is passable.