Way… Way Out (1966)

WAY… WAY OUT (1966)
Article 2463 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-30-2007
Posting Date: 5-10-2008
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Featuring Jerry Lewis, Connie Stevens, Robert Morley
Country: USA

In order to offset the bad press generated by reports of an attack on a female Russian cosmonaut by an American astronaut on a weather station on the moon, the idea is hatched to send a married couple to the moon so that the solitude won’t result in madness. The next astronaut in line is forced to marry a total stranger in order to make this happen.

This was one of Jerry Lewis’s weakest movies; it’s a sex comedy that tries to be both racy and coy at the same time, and ends up being just dumb. A weak script with an over-reliance on stereotypes is the main problem. It’s also simply not a good vehicle for Jerry Lewis; to his credit, he mostly avoids his usual goofy character, but he’s supposed to be both likable and somewhat caddish, and though Lewis could play either one of those traits, I don’t think it was possible for him to combine them into one character; in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, he had to do it with a Jekyll/Hyde personality change. The movie isn’t particularly believable, but that’s no great crime for a comedy; it’s just not funny, either. The cast is pretty good, though, with Connie Stevens, Robert Morley, Dennis Weaver, Brian Keith, Dick Shawn and Anita Ekberg doing what they can with the script, but it falls flat. The movie also features Linda Harrison and James Brolin.



Whistling in Dixie (1942)

Article 2448 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-15-2007
Posting Date: 4-25-2008
Directed by S. Sylvan Simon
Featuring Red Skelton, Ann Rutherford, George Bancroft

A radio personality known as “The Fox” goes to Georgia to help solve a real-life crime in which a man was murdered, but the body then disappeared.

This was the second of three comedies in which Red Skelton played radio detective Wally Benton; I’ve already covered WHISTLING IN THE DARK , but I will most likely not be covering the third (WHISTLING IN BROOKLYN), as it apparently has no fantastic content. In fact, this one doesn’t have much either outside of a little spooky atmosphere on occasion. The movie is moderately funny, though it’s not quite up to the level of the previous one. Still, it does have one wonderful moment of comic suspense when Red places himself in chopping distance of a guillotine, unaware that he has just set his cigarette down in a place that is slowly burning the rope that holds the blade up. Ann Rutherford also returns from the previous movie, as does Rags Ragland, who not only reprises his tough guy role from the earlier movie, but also plays his twin brother. The movie gets a fair amount of comic mileage out of the confusion between the two brothers. All in all, a good, but not great, comedy.


The Wicker Man (1973)

Article 2442 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-8-2007
Posting Date: 4-19-2008
Directed by Robin Hardy
Featuring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento

A policeman arrives on Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a girl. He finds the residents are extremely uncooperative and given to pagan rituals. He begins to suspect that the girl is being held as a human sacrifice in their upcoming May Day rituals.

There are many who consider this cult horror movie to be an absolute classic, but there are also quite a few out there who consider it highly overrated. Me, I’m captivated by it. Part of it is the plot itself; it’s written by Anthony Shaffer, who also gave us the script for SLEUTH, and this has at least one great plot twist that recalls that movie. Part of it is the interesting characters and the fine acting; this is certainly one of Christopher Lee’s best performances. But I think what I like best is the use of music, dance and nudity to establish the settings, situations and atmosphere. In many movies, these elements come across as gratuitous; in this one, they transport us to a different world, one which Edward Woodward’s Sergeant Howie is singularly ill-suited to deal with. The cast also features Britt Ekland (whose nude scene is especially effective) and Ingrid Pitt. The jarring images and the great dialogue linger in the memory. In short, I align myself with those who consider it a classic. I’ve not seen the 2006 remake of the movie, but from what I’ve heard, the less said about that one, the better.


While I Live (1947)

Article 2441 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-7-2007
Posting Date: 4-18-2008
Directed by John Harlow
Featuring Sonia Dresdel, Carol Raye, Tom Walls

An old woman believes that an amnesiac who appears unexpectedly at her house is really the reincarnation of her dead sister.

My print of this movie runs just less than an hour. The time listed on IMDB is eighty-five minutes. This may explain why I found the movie somewhat confusing, so I can’t really criticize it for that. However, I wasn’t particularly impressed with what I did see; the dialogue and the script just didn’t do much for me, the acting felt indifferent to me, and I never found the story engrossing enough to really hold my attention. Still, I do feel compelled to give this one another try sometime, especially if I can find a complete version of it, though I doubt that I’ll feel much different about it.


When Women Had Tails (1970)

aka Quando le donne avevano la coda
Article 2439 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-5-2007
Posting Date: 4-16-2008
Directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile
Featuring Senta Berger, Giuliano Gemma, Frank Wolff

Seven caveman are orphaned on an island when their mother is carried off. They grow up without women. When they are forced to leave the island, they return to the mainland. There they meet a woman for the first time. She has a tail. Hilarity ensues.

Ten thoughts on WHEN WOMEN HAD TAILS

1) This is the best Italian caveman sex comedy with a score by Ennio Morricone that I’ve ever seen. I hope that evaluation changes with the next one I see; I’d really hate to see one that was worse.

2) This movie would be improved if the Ritz Brothers were in it. And I never thought I’d say that.

3) Yes, you read right; the score is by Ennio Morricone, the legendary composer who gave us the score to THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. Whenever I hear snippets of Morricone’s score from that movie, they conjure up all the atmosphere of that classic western. Whenever I hear snippets of the score from this movie, I get a sense of bleak despair. How appropriate.

4) By the way, I’m putting you on. I’ve never heard snippets of this score anywhere.

5) This movie would really be improved if it was directed by Ray Dennis Steckler and featured the Lemon Grove Kids, and I never thought I’d say that.

6) There are no dinosaurs in this movie. I would hate to see someone sit through this one in the hope that one will show up. There is a camel and a man in a bear suit even worse than the one used in SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS .

7) This movie made me appreciate the Noel-Coward-like sophistication and the Rene-Clair-like airy lightness of the Three Stooges. Really.

8) The first female director ever to be nominated for an Oscar was Lina Wertmuller. She cowrote the screenplay for this movie as well. She hasn’t offered me any bribe money, so I’m making this fact public.

9) This movie would have been better if it featured Franco and Ciccio, and I never, never, never thought I would say that.

10) This movie spawned two sequels. Two. Someone should tell Ripley.

Why did I bother with ten thoughts on this movie? That’s at least nine more thoughts than were in the movie itself.


The War of the Robots (1978)

aka La Guerra dei robot
Article 2438 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-4-2007
Posting Date: 4-15-2008
Directed by Alfonso Brescia
Featuring Antonio Sabato, Yanti Somer, Malisa Longo
Aliens kidnap scientists. Spacemen set out to rescue scientists, battle robots with Prince Valiant haircuts. Scientists turn bad. Bald alien helps. Viewer scratches head.

Wait a second – Alfonso Brescia, Yanti Somer, Malisa Longo, robots with Prince Valiant haircuts – it sounds like STAR ODYSSEY all over again. Throw in cheesy ten-cent soundtrack, glowing swords, and group of people standing around in a control room making comments while letting everybody else do the work, and you’ll know you’re watching a movie just as bad as that one; the only thing really missing is the pair of suicidal robots that edged that other movie into the stratosphere of goofiness. This one is more coherent, the soundtrack is a tiny bit less wretched, and in its own low-budget way it looks rather ambitious. Still, it’s not as much fun as STAR ODYSSEY, if only because it generally lacks that movies ludicrous dialogue.

The girls are pretty, though. You find what joy you can in movies like this.


The War Game (1965)

Article 2437 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-3-2007
Posting Date: 4-14-2008
Directed by Peter Watkins
Featuring Michael Aspel, Peter Graham, Kathy Staff

This was not the first of Peter Watkins “documentaries” – that is to say, fictional works shot in a documentary style – but it is his best known work, and it’s the first one that’s genre enough to be covered in this series. I’ve seen two others of his, PUNISHMENT PARK and PRIVILEGE , and though both are good, they feel somewhat contrived and lose some of their power as a result. Not so this one. Here he takes an unflinching look at the preparations for and the aftermath of a nuclear attack on England. It’s utterly convincing, shocking and devastating, while at the same time, it avoids being hysterical or preachy. This was produced for the BBC but not telecast due to its graphic nature (or its refusal to kowtow the somewhat rosier official view of the survivability of nuclear war by the authorities, depending on who you talk to). Nevertheless, it managed to get official theatrical release, and won the Oscar for best documentary (despite not being a real documentary, a circumstance which caused the Academy to change its rules regarding documentaries). It doesn’t just dwell on the physical aspects of such an attack, but on the psychological and social ones as well, and this extra level gives the movie its power. Though it doesn’t preach, the message comes through loud and clear; there will be very little we can do afterwards, so our best hope is to prevent it from ever coming about. Still, even there one is left in doubt, as the movie recognizes that human nature is what it is. This is one you won’t soon forget.