Village of Eight Gravestones (1977)

aka Yatsuhaka-mura
Article 3288 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-26-2010
Posting Date: 8-15-2010
Directed by Yoshitaro Nomura
Featuring Kenichi Hagiwara, Mayumi Ogawa, Tsutomu Yamazakie
Country: Japan
What it is: Supernatural revenge mystery

When an orphan discovers he is the heir to a rich family in a small village, he goes to the village to meet the family. But family members start dying one by one, and he discovers that the village lives under a curse; years ago, eight fugitive warriors were betrayed and slaughtered by the villagers for money, and one of the warriors cursed the village previous to his death. The curse has manifested itself several times over the years… and may be returning again.

Due to events I won’t go into here, I was unable to watch this movie in one sitting, and there was a gap of about a month between my watching the first half of the movie and the second half. Perhaps this was a plus for me; had I watched it all at once, its two-and-a-half-hour running time might well have worn me out, and I notice on IMDB that some of the negative reaction to it is tied to its length. As it is, I found that when I watched the second part, I was still able to recall enough of the first part to keep me from getting lost, and it was still strong enough in my memory that I was able to appreciate the way one of the final scenes in the movie matched one of the first scenes in the movie. I found it a successful merging of mystery and supernatural horror, which doesn’t happen very often; usually, the addition of a mystery element has the effect of negating the fantastic elements of a movie, but that’s not the case here. The fantastic elements revolve around the curse, while the mystery surrounds the manifestation of the curse; there must be a human element in the cause of the deaths, and though the villagers blame the newcomer, we soon learn that there is a real question about his true parentage. It’s a complex, fascinating movie that manages to satisfy as both genres; I was quite impressed by it all. Still, that length may well prove daunting for a single sitting, so I’d recommend taking a break after the first hour or so.


Visions of Evil (1975)

aka So Sad About Gloria
Article 3201 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-22-2010
Posting Date: 5-20-2010
Directed by Harry Thomason
Featuring Lori Saunders, Dean Jagger, Robert Ginnaven
Country: USA
What it is: Disturbed woman in a scary house movie

An heiress is released from a mental hospital and tries to rebuild her life. She meets a man and marries him, despite her uncle’s misgivings. They move into a house that was the setting of an axe murder. Soon she’s hearing sounds and having strange visions…

For what it’s worth, this movie manages to take a storyline that usually annoys the hell out of me and keeps it from bothering me, which is something of an accomplishment. Nevertheless, the movie has a whole other set of problems. The dialogue is clumsy, often belaboring cliches, tossing in odd literary references (to Tolkien and Shakespeare, for instance), or breaking into a semi-poetic mode that just sounds odd. The pace is painfully slow at times; though the axe murder scene during the first twenty minutes is bit on the gratuitous side, it may be the only thing during the first hour of the movie that will make you stick with it till the end. One big problem is that director Harry Thomason has too much of an affection for the romantic montage, a problem that afflicted the previous movie I’ve seen of his, ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNKNOWN. Dean Jagger is also saddled with a character who ultimately becomes unworkable; you won’t buy his last scene. Still, when it works, it works, and the woman’s recurring dream about a man trying to open a crate with an axe at a railway station actually does come to an interesting conclusion. Still, once the movie shows its hand, you’ll probably be able to anticipate its very final twist.

Voodoo in Harlem (1938)

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.

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)

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)

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)

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.