Wolf Blood (1925)

Article 3998 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-5-2012
Directed by George Chesebro and Bruce M. Mitchell
Featuring George Chesebro, Roy Watson, Milburn Morante
Country: USA
What it is: Lumberjack lycanthropy

When the head of a logging camp is injured in a fight with rival loggers, an emergency transfusion is given to him of blood from a wolf. The rumor begins to go around that he is now a loup-garou.

The movie is nearly half-way through before we even get to the fight that mentioned in the above plot description; most of the movie to that point has been a romance/melodrama involving rival logging camps and a love triangle between the foreman, the doctor and the female owner of the logging camp. Pretty much nothing in the movie earlier than that hints at any turn into horror. Still, once it does take the final turn into horror territory, it has its moments; there are some scenes of the foreman being tortured by the thoughts of what he might have done, and there is a nice sequence of him following a ghost pack of wolves into the forest. Incidentally, the ghost pack is all in the foreman’s mind, and that’s not the only product of an over-active imagination at work here, either, and if you’ve seen enough horror movies that emphasize people fretting over what they don’t remember doing but thing they might have done, you won’t be surprised at the final revelations. Overall, it’s not bad, but not quite satisfying for the full-blooded horror fan.

Wild Thing (1987)

Article 3996 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-3-2012
Directed by Max Reid
Featuring Robert Knepper, Kathleen Quinlan, Robert Davi
Country: USA
What it is: Tarzan in the city

A young boy, after having witnessed the murder of his parents by a drug lord and a corrupt cop, is brought up in the streets of the city by a mad woman. When the woman dies, the kid grows into a legendary figure known as the Wild Thing, who does battle with the forces of evil in the city.

I’ve covered quite a few Tarzan movies for my series here, but I’ve always considered the Tarzan series to really belong to the marginalia of fantastic cinema. Transplanting the Tarzan stories to an urban setting (the “asphalt jungle”) is, to my mind, another half-step away from the realm of the fantastic, and despite the fact that the legends say that Wild Thing can turn into a cat, there’s really nothing in the movie to back up anything other than the fact that he keeps a cat as a pet. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that the original story came from John Sayles, and I suspect that he’s responsible for some of the touches of wit and bizarre, offbeat characters in the movie; because of this, the movie is often a lot more fun than it might otherwise be, and there’s even a reference to ALLIGATOR before it’s all over. Still, the movie is somewhat doomed to succumb to the cliches of the urban action movie, and it does that indeed, especially in the Wild Thing’s final standoff with the drug lord. Still, this isn’t too bad for what amounts to an odd little curio.

Watership Down (1978)

Article 3994 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-30-2012
Directed by Martin Rosen
Featuring the voices of John Hurt, Richard Briers, Michael Graham Cox
Country: UK
What it is: Epic animated rabbit fantasy

When his rabbit warren is threatened by a human housing development, a rabbit named Hazel leads a small group of escapees on a quest to find a new warren, encountering perils along the way.

I’ve read the novel by Richard Adams, but it was many years ago; nevertheless, I was impressed that it managed to turn an unlikely subject into what amounts to an epic fantasy quest. Whatever flaws this animated adaptation of the work has, reducing the basically serious tone to one of whimsy and cuteness is NOT one of them; the movie remains serious, and even downright grim at times. The closest it comes to whimsicality is the names of some of the rabbits (Pipkin, Dandelion, Cowslip, etc.), and even the song warbled by Art Garfunkel manages to have those tinges of darkness around the edges. The movie does have a few problems; because most of the rabbits look the same, it’s sometimes hard to tell one character from another, and because the movie is forced to condense the book somewhat, certain characters never get fleshed out as well as I’d like. Still, the movie works very well; the fact that the bittersweet ending nearly brought a tear to my eye convinced me of that. The movie, however, is nearly stolen by Zero Mostel’s performance as Keharr, a lost and injured seabird who befriends the rabbits; his fractured syntax and cranky demeanor provide a welcome dose of humor, but manages also to avoid cuteness.

White Goddess (1953)

aka Ramar of the Jungle
Article 3991 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-26-2012
Directed by Wallace Fox
Featuring Jon Hall, Ray Montgomery, M’liss McClure
Country: USA
What it is: Jungle TV-movie cobbled together from TV episodes

Two doctors explore the jungle in search of a white goddess in the hopes of discovering her secret of eternal youth.

This movie almost ended up on my “ones that got away” list, and therein lies a tale. The movie first entered my hunt list with the title RAMAR OF THE JUNGLE, which matches the name of the TV series from which episodes were culled to produce it. Yet, IMDB did not list a movie with the same title, and though I found ample evidence that several movies were culled from the series, none of the lists I found made any mention of one of them having the same title of the series. It wasn’t until I was preparing to move it to my “ones that got away” list that I found the clue I needed; a check against CITWF indicated that RAMAR OF THE JUNGLE was a rarely used alternate title to a movie called WHITE GODDESS. A listing of that movie did exist in IMDB, and the cast and the plot description indicated I was on the right track.

However, it quickly became clear that the movie itself wouldn’t be easy to find; I found no sources for it. Still, I’ve had this problem before with movies culled from TV series; if I could find the individual episodes that made up the movie, I could watch those. After a bit of searching, I discovered the names of the episodes; they were “Evil Trek”, “Tribal Feud” and “White Savages”. All of these episodes were conveniently located on YouTube.

So I’m cheating a little once again, but I’ve made a habit of it in these cases, so why stop now? At any rate, I get the impression that the series, though not badly done, largely existed to regurgitate all the usual jungle movie cliches. Some of the movies culled from the series didn’t have any fantastic content, but this one features the youth-preserving drug that centers around two of the episodes. All in all, it was okay, but little more than that. Still, the fact that I was able to solve the mystery surrounding it and keep it from falling into my “ones that got away” list does give me a certain sense of victory.

The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)

Article 3985 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-20-2012
Directed by Matt Cimber
Featuring Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown
Country: USA
What it is: Exploitation horror art movie character study, some or all of the above

A woman, a victim of incest and out of touch with reality, begins slicing up men with razors.

Every once in a while I run into a movie that makes me want to check the summary of user ratings on IMDB, largely to see if I’m right in my guess as to the reactions various people might have had to the movie. Sure enough, this is one of those movies where the reactions are all over the board, and I can fully understand that. The subject matter that drives the story (incest) is not for the faint of heart, and nor are the murders. And, given the subject matter, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that so many characters in this movie seem to be crazy. However, I’m still not sure that the actors in this movie are playing like they’re crazy, or simply come across that way because the dialogue is so bizarrely overwritten that they don’t quite know how to deliver it. The movie is consistently off-putting, and it gets to the point where nothing seems real at all. There are times where the movie seems insightful; at other times, it seems pretentious, and there are moments where it just feels plain bad. In the final analysis, I have to admit that I really don’t know how I feel about this movie, but I will say this much; the movie stakes out its own unique piece of ground, and there aren’t very many movies that can make that claim.

The Wacky World of Mother Goose (1967)

Article 3984 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-19-2012
Directed by Jules Bass
Featuring the voices of Margaret Rutherford, Bob McFadden, Susan Melvin
Country: USA
What it is: Animated fairy tale

When Mother Goose leaves for a visit to her sister, the evil Count Warptwist takes over the kingdom and enslaves the subjects. Two children embark on a quest to find Mother Goose and save the land.

There are some children’s movies that you will watch with your kids, and some that you’ll leave your kids to watch alone. This is one of the latter. With the exception of Margaret Rutherford, the voice acting leaves much to be desired, the animation is limited and dull, the songs are quite awful, and the story largely consists of seeing how many different Mother Goose poems they can shoehorn into the mix. And as for it’s being wacky, I didn’t find a single decent laugh in the movie. This may be the weakest Rankin/Bass production I’ve seen for this series.

What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971)

Article 3980 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-15-2012
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Debbie Reynolds, Shelley Winters, Dennis Weaver
Country: USA
What is it: Horror hag picture

Two women whose sons have been convicted of a notorious murder change their names, move to Hollywood, and open a dance studio for children intent on breaking into the movies. One of them tries to return to a life of normalcy, while the other, fearing the possible wrath of a vengeance-driven stalker, deteriorates mentally.

This movie came near the end of the “horror hag” cycle that began with WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, and is written by Henry Farell, who provided the stories and/or screenplays for both that earlier movie and for HUSH HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE. You can kind of tell that’s the case; there’s definitely a similar vibe that some of the other “horror hag” entries don’t share. In fact, it may be a little too similar; some of the touches feel a little forced; I don’t think there’s any real reason for the Hollywood backdrop, and the Victor Buono character (albeit not played by Buono), though an interesting character in himself, does little more plotwise than scare one of the women every time he appears; it almost seems like the writer is trying to borrow from BABY JANE but to no real purpose. On the plus side, Shelley Winters gives a great performance; she’s careful to underplay whenever she can so that it can contrast with the histrionics when she goes over the edge, and this gives her character an interesting vibe. However, I emerge from the movie not quite satisfied; I’m never quite sure why these two women are hanging around together, and the movie rings a false note in that regard. And the ending doesn’t quite deliver the jolt to make it really effective.