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)

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)

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)

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.

The Vanishing Shadow (1934)

Article #1716 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-25-2005
Posting Date: 4-24-2006
Directed by Lew Landers
Featuring Onslow Stevens, Ada Ince, James Durkin

An unscrupulous businessman attempts to get hold of shares in a newspaper firm that are in the possession of a young man who has no intention of giving them up to him. The young man has hooked up with an eccentric inventor to help him.

With all of the inventions on display in this movie, the fantastic content is assured. There’s a machine (known as the Vanishing Ray) that renders its wearer invisible, a gun that shoots a ray deadly to organic objects, a gun that shoots a ray that allows you to cut through anything, any number of bizarre booby-traps, and a robot. I’m almost surprised that the crooks aren’t primarily trying to get their hands on these, but it seems as if the newspaper stocks are the big prize in this one. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining early serial, with somewhat more complex character motivations than usual; the hero’s girlfriend is the villain’s daughter, and since neither of them want to lose her affection, they both have to exercise a greater amount of caution than usually shown. The villain has to deal with a henchman who dislikes at having his hands tied in dealing with these matters, and the hero has to deal with his inventor sidekick, who is something of a loose cannon. The latter character is one of those I love to see in a serial but rarely do; he’s almost gleefully paranoid, places booby-traps all over the place (which, more often than not, put our heroes in peril rather than preventing attacks by the villains), and loves toting his destructive weapons around with him. Some of the cliffhangers are just strange, but for the most part they’re fairly decent. All in all, a fun little serial.

Vulcan, Son of Jupiter (1961)

Article #1626 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-27-2005
Posting Date: 1-24-2006
Directed by Emimmo Salve
Featuring Richard Lloyd, Gordon Mitchell, Bella Cortez

When Mars and Vulcan, rivals for the hand of Venus, have their powers taken away by an angry Jupiter over their squabbling, they go to Earth. Mars attempts to stage an uprising against Jupiter, while Vulcan attempts to save his people who are captured by lizard men and then made slaves by the minions of Mars.

Even by sword-and-sandal standards, this is pretty silly stuff. Usually, the gods keep somewhat in the background in these movies; here they’re front and center, with a tired and cranky Jupiter, an effeminate and fawning Mercury, a sarcastic Pluto, and a slatternly Venus (among others) romping around Olympus, home of the Gods and land of choral music and ground fog. The lizard men have long fangs and wear lizard costumes. The prisoners use a brilliant strategy to escape from them; they toss a musical dwarf into the sea. We also get to see Vulcan tote that dwarf around like a six-pack at one point. Still, I will admit that the dwarf is pretty handy with a club, even if he uses it primarily to hit people that are already down. Supposedly, the plan to attack Olympus involves building a tower tall enough to reach it, but even by the end of the movie they haven’t made much in the way of progress on it. It’s bizarrely plotted, full of howler lines, and ends with Jupiter laughing manically. This is a strange one.