Voodoo in Harlem (1938)

VOODOO IN HARLEM (1938)
Cartoon
Article 3194 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-6-2010
Posting Date: 5-6-2010
Directed by Rudy Zamora
Featuring Walter Lantz
Country: USA
What it is: Musical cartoon

During a stormy night, an inkwell is tipped over, leaving a big black blot on a piece of paper. Out of the blot emerge several black natives, who sing “Voodoo in Harlem”.

I found this cartoon on a set of banned cartoons – those cartoons which can’t be shown on television anymore because of the racial stereotypes they perpetrated. In this cartoon, it is the black caricatures that consign this cartoon to its current state. There are some great cartoons out there that can’t be shown for similar reasons; however, this one is fairly forgettable. Outside of a beginning and end that feature some live action footage (a cartoonist drawing a character and then a cleaning lady cleaning up afterwards), there’s little novelty to this one. It primarily consists of animated characters singing and dancing to the title song, and though the song isn’t bad, it doesn’t really make for an interesting cartoon. It doesn’t even try for comedy, but maybe that’s just as well, given that the comedy would probably have resorted to jokes involving watermelons and dice. And, unless the characters arising out of the inkwell count, no voodoo is in use during the cartoon.

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Le voyage imaginaire (1925)

LE VOYAGE IMAGINAIRE (1925)
aka The Imaginary Voyage
Article 3176 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-23-2010
Posting Date: 4-25-2010
Directed by Rene Clair
Featuring Dolly Davis, Jean Borlin, Albert Prejean
Country: France
What it is: Surreal fantasy/comedy

A timid bank clerk tries to win the heart of a female co-worker, but finds himself at odds with two other co-workers who also try to win her attention. He enters into a dream world where he must learn to overcome his timidity to win her.

Some of the above plot description may be a little inaccurate, since my copy of this silent movie only had Italian title cards, but I don’t think I’m far off the mark. The fantasy sequence that makes up most of the film, with the sequences in which our hero enters the underworld and transforms some old crones into beautiful women and the one in the wax museum where the figures come to life being the high points of the movie. This being a Rene Clair movie, it has that lightness that keeps the fantasy sequences from getting heavy handed; I find it rather fitting that one of the heroes of the wax museum sequence is a Charlie Chaplin figure come to life. There’s a bizarre alligator creature that eats clothes, a man in a cat costume, the transformation of a woman into a mouse and a man into a dog. It’s all very indescribable, but likable in its own way.

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)

VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET (1965)
Article 3073 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2009
Posting Date: 1-12-2009
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Faith Domergue, John Bix
Country: USA / Soviet Union
What it is: Russian science fiction movie given an AIP makeover

Astronauts land on Venus and try to survive while searching for intelligent life.

I’ve already covered PLANETA BUR, the Russian science fiction movie from which this movie has culled most of its footage. I’ve also covered VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN, another AIP movie that also culled extensive footage from PLANETA BUR. The main difference between this movie and that last one is that the new American footage is different; whereas that one featured Mamie Van Doren and her tribe of seashell-bikini-wearing women, this one features Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue mostly talking to each other over an intercom. The new footage here is less intrusive but less fun; in any case, it’s still the PLANETA BUR footage that wins out. If you’ve seen any of these movies, you’ll probably remember the scene of the robot carrying the two astronauts through the lava (my favorite scene) and the final revelation that shows that human life does indeed exist on Venus. Really, when you get down to it, you only need one of these movies, and I’d opt for PLANETA BUR.

Voyage Into Space (1970)

VOYAGE INTO SPACE (1970)
TV-Movie
Article 3072 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-5-2009
Posting Date: 1-11-2010
Directed by Minoru Yamada
Featuring Jerry Berke, Toshiyuki Tsuchiyama, Hirohiko Sato
Country: Japan
What it is: Several episodes of a Japanese children’s science fiction show edited together to masquerade as a feature film.

A young boy hooks up with a secret agent and gains control of a giant robot (known as Giant Robot). He joins the agents organization known as Unicorn, and helps battle an invasion from outer space by the evil Emperor Guillotine, his minions (the Gargoyle Gang), and a variety of giant monsters.

First of all, who concocted that title? I suspect it was thrown onto the movie by someone who watched the opening thirty seconds and noticed a spaceship going through space; hence, the title. However, that’s just the flying saucer arriving on earth, and beyond a short sequence into the movie where the Giant Robot goes into outer space, there is nothing in the way of real space voyaging here. Still, that’s a side issue.

As said above, this movie consists of several episodes of a TV series edited together. The series is “Jonny Sokko and his Giant Robot”, and the five (not four, as some sources state) episodes are “Dracolon, the Great Sea Monster”, “Nucleon, the Magic Globe”, “Destroy the Dam”, “Transformed Humans”, and “The Last Emperor Guillotine”. It’s basically a variation of Ultraman with a more prominent kid’s role and continuing invasion from outer space theme. It’s pretty silly, but fun. Some of the monsters that show up include a bizarre plant monster, a giant bowling ball, a giant eye, and a giant version of the evil space emperor, who can blow up mountains with his fingernail. The Giant Robot looks like a metallic Lou Reed wearing an Egyptian headdress. The episodes encompass the first one which sets up the plot, and the last one (which finished the storyline), so it at least feels a bit more unified than some other attempts at this sort of thing. For this sort of thing, recommendations are irrelevant; I suspect that if you’ve read this far, you’ll know whether it’s your cup of tea or not. Me, I find it irresistible.

Vampire Men of the Lost Planet (1970)

VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET (1970)
aka Horror of the Blood Monsters
Article 3071 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-4-2009
Posting Date: 1-10-2010
Directed by Al Adamson
Featuring John Carradine, Robert Dix, Vicki Volante
Country: USA
What it is: Black-and-white Filipino caveman movie doctored to look like color American science fiction/horror epic

Spacemen are forced to land on a planet in which chromatic radiation has caused mutations. They must find a way to get fuel or die.

Al Adamson does a Jerry Warren-style adaptation of a forgotten (and possibly uncompleted) Filipino movie called TAGANI. Since the original movie was in black-and-white, the scenes were tinted to make it look like it was in color, and new footage was added, much of which seems focused on trying to explain the monochromatic color schemes of the Filipino footage. It’s all a pretty awful mess, but, for the record, Adamson does a better job than Warren ever did trying this sort of thing; at least Adamson’s new footage isn’t utterly without interest value. The silly opening footage (with low budget vampires wreaking havoc on a badly lit soundstage somewhere) is amusingly campy, but it’s also been obviously tacked on. The new footage includes John Carradine (an old hand at this sort of thing), and Adamson regulars Robert Dix and Vicki Volante. When dubbing does take place in the Filipino movie, you’ll be hearing an awful lot of Paul Frees, often talking to himself. Let’s not forget the footage from WIZARD OF MARS and ONE MILLION B.C. either, and, yes, Rumsford and Ignatz reappear for a short reprise of their fight scene. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one sat on the bottom of double bills for years confusing people under a variety of different titles.

La valse du gorille (1959)

LA VALSE DU GORILLE (1959)
aka Operation Top Secret
Article 3065 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-28-2009
Posting Date: 1-4-2010
Directed by Bernard Borderie
Featuring Roger Hanin, Charles Vanel, Jess Hahn
Country: France
What it is: Probably a Gizmo Maguffin spy thriller

Plans for a method of returning space rockets to earth become the prize in a battle of wits between spies.

The title above translates into THE GORILLA’S WALTZ, which is an interesting title; I wouldn’t have an idea what the movie was about from that one. However, the title under which it first entered my list isn’t that ambiguous; I’d expect a movie called OPERATION TOP SECRET to be a spy movie of sorts. My copy is in French with no subtitles, and a good deal of the plot description above is from John Stanley’s “Revenge of the Creature Features Movie Guide”, and that is pretty sparse. It was apparently based on a novel that was part of a series of spy novels by one Antoine-Louis Dominique (a former secret agent), and the Gorilla is apparently the nickname of the main character here. The movie has a low rating on IMDB, so I’m assuming the story is fairly weak, but it has some odd little touches, such as the spy with the magnetic hook for a hand. Still, the movie was largely impenetrable to me, so I’m going to have to reserve any judgment.

Valley of the Dragons (1961)

VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS (1961)
Article 3063 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-26-2009
Posting Date: 1-2-2009
Directed by Edward Bernds
Featuring Cesare Danova, Sean McClory, Joan Staley
Country: USA
What it is: Low-budget caveman antics masquerading as Jules Verne epic

Two duellists are whisked up by a comet, where they find themselves in a prehistoric world that had been whisked up on the comet’s previous journey to earth.

I’ve been curious about this movie ever since it was mentioned in a quiz in Cracked Mazagine (and I’m sure some of you see no spelling mistakes there). In the quiz, they showed a series of stills from horror/science fiction movies, and you were supposed to pick out the name of the movie from a multiple-choice list. This was pretty easy, as the other titles were obvious fakes (I remember one called THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME WEARS BELL-BOTTOMS). This movie was one of the answers that was supposed to be correct, and the photo showed a real cool-looking dragon. However, as I was to discover a few years later, the dragon on display was actually the one from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. This raised a question to me; did the mazagine get the wrong photo, or did VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS cop footage from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD? As I’d never seen VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS, I didn’t know.

Well, now I’ve finally seen it, and I can say that no Harryhausen footage (new or borrowed) appears in this movie at all. Which is not to say that this movie was above borrowing stuff from other movies; the prop spider from CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON appears at one point, as does footage from RODAN and (especially) ONE MILLION B.C. Yes, this means we have Ignatz and Rumsford going through their battle once again, and we get the volcano destruction footage as well (just how many times have I seen that woman fall under the advancing lava?). It did make me wonder if ONE MILLION B.C. and all its footage vanished from the face of the earth, how many other movies would be swept up in the wake. Well, that’s a side issue. As far as this movie goes, despite the outlandish premise, it’s pretty much standard caveman escapades, with the addition of a couple of semi-modern (that is to say, nineteenth century) Engish-speakers to add to the comprehensibility and to teach the two tribes of caveman about cooperation (if the modern men had been named Ernie and Bert, I could make a good Sesame Street joke here). To its credit, the volcano footage doesn’t destroy this world in its entirety. It also has a bit of a sense of humor, which, given that the movie was directed by Edward Bernds (who helmed a lot of the Three Stooges shorts), is no real surprise. Overall, it’s no better than it sounds, but at least it isn’t a whole lot worse.