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.

Valley of the Lions (1961)

aka Ursus nella valle dei leoni, Ursus in the Valley of the Lions
Article 3715 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-1-2011
Posting Date: 10-16-2011
Directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia
Featuring Ed Fury, Moira Orfei, Alberto Lupo
Country: Italy
What it is: Peplum

When a usurper takes the throne, the surviving son of the original king manages to survive by being raised by wild lions. When his existence is discovered, he becomes embroiled in a rebellion that wants to remove the usurper… but will the usurper destroy the son before he can lead the rebellion?

This one is a little skimpy on the story, problem because the movie spends quite a bit of its footage showing Ed Fury’s stand-in playing with the lions while Ed Fury carries on a comic patter about his feline friends. It’s actually quite a ways into the movie before he is captured by the usurper (played by Alberto Lupo, who played the title character in ATOM AGE VAMPIRE) and then meets the rebels. As you might guess, Ursus has super strength, which is especially noticeable when he takes on some trained elephants; the concept of his having been raised by lions adds to the fantastic elements. There’s no evil queens in this one, though there is some intrigue among the slave girls. At least Ed Fury adds some light-heartedness to the proceedings. My copy of the movie is in black and white, though it was shot in color. It’s a minor entry into the sword-and-sandal genre, but it has its moments.

The Vampire Happening (1971)

aka Gebissen wird nur nachts

Article 3668 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-15-2011
Posting Date: 8-30-2011
Directed by Freddie Francis
Featuring Pia Degermark, Thomas Hunter, Yvor Murillo
Country: West Germany
What it is: Vampire comedy

An American actress inherits a castle and becomes baroness. While at the castle, she opens the tomb of her great-grandmother, who is not only the spitting image of the actress, but a vampire as well. Complications ensue.

This movie does have a certain amount of surreal imagery to give it flavor, and those who like lots of sex and nudity with their vampire flicks will find it more than satisfying. Me, I found it really hard to get past the fact that I found it thoroughly unfunny; with the exception of one line from Dracula (played by Ferdy Mayne) which references a well known horror actor, I didn’t laugh once, and I found the movie as a whole (a sort of psychedelic variation on THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS) to be tiresome. Granted, most of the actors have been dubbed, and sometimes humor doesn’t survive the translation, but I doubt that subtitles would have made it any funnier. This is not my favorite vampire comedy by a long shot.

Voyage a la planete Jupiter (1909)

aka Le voyage sur Jupiter, A Trip to Jupiter

Article 3594 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-31-2011
Posting Date: 6-17-2011
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Early space travel film

A king, after having spent the evening looking at the planets with an astronomer, dreams that he climbs a ladder to Jupiter.

Though it’s obvious the Segundo de Chomon was familiar with Melies’s A TRIP TO THE MOON, he doesn’t slavishly imitate it. In this case, the trip is a dream, and the method of travel (a ladder) is certainly novel. Getting there is half the fun, which is just as well; not a whole lot happens when he gets there; the king encounters some tumbling space people and meets another king who has fire in his touch, and then he is unceremoniously tossed off the planet. It’s entertaining enough, though it’s simply not up to the level of the Melies classic.

Venus in Furs (1969)

aka Paroxismus

Article 3589 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-26-2011
Posting Date: 6-12-2011
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring James Darren, Barbara McNair, Maria Rohm
Country: UK / West Germany / Italy
What it is: Ghost story

A jazz musician finds the body of a beautiful woman washed up on the shore in Istanbul, a woman who he may have seen killed during a sadistic orgy. Then, in Rio, he encounters the woman, seemingly alive, and has a love affair with her. Meanwhile, the other participants of the orgy begin dying one by one.

Jesus Franco’s masterpiece? Given the fact that I think Franco has wasted more celluloid than practically any other director I know, you would think I would be hesitant to proclaim any movie of his a masterpiece. But, truth to tell, when he’s good, he’s very good, and when he’s working on movies where his obsession with sadism dovetails well with the story, he can be very effective, and such is the case here. The movie is focused and has a story, the arty touches are fun and interesting, and even the constant music interludes serve a purpose; after all, the story is largely being told through the point of view of a jazz musician who feels more at ease communicating with his music than with words. Some of the dialogue is fairly dated, and I don’t really care for the touch that the soundtrack breaks into the “Venus in Furs” song after each death, even if it does play a role in the final twist of the movie; I think this latter problem could have been fixed by omitting the vocalist until the final sequence. Yet these are very minor problems, and I don’t think they really detract from what may well be Franco’s most fully realized work. So, yes, I will say this one is probably his masterpiece.

Virus (1980)

VIRUS (1980)
aka Fukkatsu no hi
Article 3456 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-22-2010
Posting Date: 1-30-2011
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Featuring Glenn Ford, Chuck Connors, Olivia Hussey
Country: Japan
What it is: Ambitious end of the world epic

A deadly biological weapon is unleashed that decimates the world. Soon, only a small group isolated in Antarctica is left alive to find a cure.

I’ve heard tell that the full version, which runs 156 minutes, is much better than the abbreviated 103 minute version I have. I’m willing to buy that; my version has a somewhat unfocused, rushed and confusing feel that could easily be the result of large chunks of footage having been cut. Still, the end result isn’t disastrous, and at about the halfway point a new development (involving an earthquake and an automatic missile launching system) gives the movie some much needed focus just when it needs it. I do like the international flavor of it; though it was a Japanese production, it uses actors of many countries and has a number of familiar faces; outside of those listed above, you’ll also see Henry Silva, Robert Vaughn, Sonny Chiba, Bo Svenson and Arthur Kennedy, just to name a few. Still, the movie proved to be a major flop, and given the ending, I’m not really surprised.