Wynken, Blynken & Nod (1938)

WYNKEN, BLYNKEN & NOD (1938)
Article 4947 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-4-2015
Directed by Graham Heid
No voice cast listed
Country: USA
What it is: Disney Silly Symphony

Wynken, Blynken and Nod go fishing for star-fish.

I’m at the point that I pretty much know what to expect from a Disney Silly Symphony. It will be well animated, have some music, and is likely to be mildly whimsical rather than side-splittingly funny. That pretty much captures this one. The three title characters sail off into the heavens, have some tussles with star-fish, encounter the winds, and eventually return home to the dreams of a sleeping boy. There are some nice visual moments, and a few chuckles to be had, but it never quite reaches the heights of the best cartoons out there. Like so many of Disney’s Silly Symphonies, I like it well enough, but I don’t love it.

Will Power (1936)

WILL POWER (1936)
Article 4946 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-3-2015
Directed by Arthur Ripley
Featuring Edgar Kennedy, Florence Lake, Kitty McHugh
Country: USA
What it is: Comic short

A put-upon husband concocts a scheme to get his mooching brother-in-law to find a job – he fakes a heart attack and then uses mystic will power to make sure his brother gains employment.

This is pretty amusing comedy short starring slow-burn comic actor Edgar Kennedy. It’s also a bit on the bizarre side and even has a bit of atmosphere when Kennedy goes into a trance to force the issue; it’s both effectively acted and well-photographed. Granted, since this is a comedy short, you know the plot is going to backfire, but that’s part of the fun. It’s an interesting comic take on the old hypnotism plot element.

Wonderful Beehive (1905)

WONDERFUL BEEHIVE (1905)
aka Ruche merveilleuse
Article 4945 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-2-2015
Directed by Gaston Velle
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Decorative short

Women dressed as bees dance before their beehive.

Like yesterday’s movie, this is a silent short that I managed to find on YouTube. Also like yesterday’s short, it does not appear to be complete; if the sole user review on IMDB is to be trusted (it’s by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, but it does appear to be one of his legitimate entries), there’s a scene where the queen bee is threatened by a giant spider that is not in the print I saw. This is a bit of a disappointment, as this footage would have upped the fantastic content a bit; there’s really not a lot to be said about dancing ladies in bee costumes otherwise. However, I suspect the spider scene was fairly brief, as the short apparently ended as it began; with girls in bee costumes dancing. This is one of those silent shorts that seems to be largely decorative in nature; rather than telling a story or exhibiting a special effect, it seems to be content to look pretty. On this level, it succeeds; the short is quite easy on the eyes.

Willie’s Magic Wand (1907)

WILLIE’S MAGIC WAND (1907)
Article 4944 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-1-2015
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Silent trick film

A young boy absconds with a magic wand and uses it to create mischief.

I managed to locate a copy of this film on YouTube. However, based on the elaborate description of the plot on IMDB, I can only conclude that the print is not complete; it seems to be missing one or two pranks and the ending (in which the boy is punished for his mischief by being turned into a girl) is also missing. Enough of it exists, however, that I decided to let it qualify. The plot is the standard comic one for early trick films; a youngster gets hold of an invention or magical object, runs around and creates chaos by using it, and then gets his comeuppance. This one does have one of my favorite scenes of mischief in it; I find it amusing that, much to the consternation of the cook, the boy brings a big dead fish back to life, which then proceeds to wreak havoc. Since the object of use is a magic wand, there’s a bit more variety of mischief than is usually found in a short like this. The short cuts off in the middle of a stop-motion sequence where he gets some boots to clean themselves off. From what I’ve seen, this one is not bad.

Westworld (1973)

WESTWORLD (1973)
Article 4896 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-10-2015
Directed by Michael Crichton
Featuring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin
Country: USA
What it is: Machinery runs amok

Several vacationers visit the resort of Delos, which has a series of themed fantasy getaways (the old west, Roman times and medieval times) inhabited by lifelike robots, in which vacationers can indulge in their violent and hedonistic fantasies without fear of hurting someone or being hurt themselves. And, of course, nothing could possibly go worng….

Though I wouldn’t call it the best of the Michael Crichton movies, this is perhaps the most quintessential one in that it defines what we’ve come to expect from Michael Crichton; the catchphrase for the movie is certainly definitive. Storywise, it’s not only archetypal; it’s also fairly bare-bones, but from what I gather, the movie was edited down from a much longer cut that Crichton thought was too dull. Even at that, there are scenes here that feel like filler or padding; the barroom fight is silly and pointless, and the scene where a woman is rescued from the dungeon of the medieval world feels like a stall. Still, there are some clever touches here; I like that some of the robots are of animals as well as humans, and I do like how they at least address the possibility of guests potentially hurting each other. Nevertheless, it does seem to me the height of foolishness to have the robots packing loaded guns. For me, the best thing about the movie is Yul Brynner’s performance as the Gunslinger; it’s modeled off of the character he played in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but he does such an effective job of playing an unstoppable non-human character that he more than anything else sells the last third of the movie. Apparently, his character was the inspiration for the Michael Myers character in the HALLOWEEN movies, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance in THE TERMINATOR.

Werewolf Woman (1976)

WEREWOLF WOMAN (1976)
aka La lupa mannara, Legend of the Wolfwoman
Article 4877 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-20-2015
Directed by Rino Di Silvestro
Featuring Annik Borel, Howard Ross, Dagmar Lassander
Country: Italy
What it is: Sleazy psycho killer movie

A woman with a traumatic history becomes convinced she is a werewolf and begins tearing the throats out of her victims.

This movie was directed by Rino Di Silvestro, a film-maker who made a career out of very sleazy and sometimes offensive exploitation fare. This movie is no exception. The opening scene does feature a woman who has turned into a werewolf, but it’s only a dream sequence; the main character never undergoes a transformation of that sort. The movie is largely a compendium of scenes involving murder, rape, sex and nudity punctuated by scenes of police talking about the investigation and doctors spouting pseudo-psychiatric babble. It’s the type of movie where when a nice guy appears on the scene, you know it’s only setting you up for more brutality and nastiness down the road. Fans of exploitation might have some use for this one; as for me, movies that seem to appeal to the lowest-common denominator as this one does are more likely to depress me. Reportedly, it’s a favorite of Quentin Tarantino’s.

The Wonderful Living Fan (1904)

THE WONDERFUL LIVING FAN (1904)
aka Le merveilleux eventail vivant
Article 4859 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-30-2015
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Decorative trick short

The King of France receives a marvelous giant fan whose leaves turn into beautiful women.

Though in some ways, this is one of Melies’s “magic trick” shorts, it plays out like one of those “decorative” shorts that occasionally popped up during the early silent era. These are shorts where the primary purpose seems to be to magically produce a pretty tableaux, in this case that of a series of beautiful women appearing as the leaves of fan. The women magically change clothes as well. It’s well done, though it does take a little too long for the short to get around to the magical section. Ultimately, though, the entertainment value of these types of shorts is pretty slim, and this one is no exception.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1910)
aka The Wizard of Oz
Article 4855 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-26-2015
Directed by Otis Turner
Featuring Bebe Daniels, Hobart Bosworth, Eugenie Besserer
Country: USA
What it is: Fantasy

A young girl from Kansas is whisked away by a cyclone to the land of Oz, where she takes on a wicked witch named Momba.

I’ve never read the original L. Frank Baum novel, but I’ve always assumed that the story of the 1939 movie more or less followed the story of the novel. So I found this 1910 13-minute version of the story rather jarring, as it features some rather intrusive extra characters (a comic-relief mule and a cow, for example) and has a different order for certain events (she meets the Scarecrow before the cyclone sends her to Oz, for one). Then I discovered that this version of the story was not based directly on the book itself, but on a musical that was based on the book. That probably goes a long ways toward explaining the scrambled order, as well as the preponderance of dancing sequences, the latter of which are not very effective in the print I saw due to the fact that the music doesn’t match. There’s a couple of memorable moments, but more often than not it feels busy, confused and padded. It will be interesting to see how it compares with the 1925 movie version of the story, which I have yet to see. However, I can safely say that this version doesn’t hold a candle to the classic 1939 version.

The Wind (1986)

THE WIND (1986)
Article 4754 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-9-2015
Directed by Nico Mastorakis
Featuring Meg Foster, Wings Hauser, David McCallum
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer movie

A woman writer on an isolated island is threatened by a homicidal madman.

I love the Greek scenery that provides the backdrop for the movie. I also think the idea of a malevolent wind to be an effectively atmospheric idea. I just wish these elements weren’t tied to the tired old “woman threatened by psychopath” plot that I’ve seen umpteen times already. It’s also marred by a clunky and sometimes muddled script, a tendency to ham-handedness (both in the dialogue and the way the musical score is used) and a reiteration of many the usual psycho-killer and slasher cliches. In the end, I wish the movie had gone with a completely different storyline; the wind concept would have much more effective if the horror element wasn’t as mundane as the one we get here.

Witches’ Brew (1980)

WITCHES’ BREW (1980)
Article 4748 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-1-2015
Directed by Richard Shorr and Herbert L. Strock
Featuring Teri Garr, Richard Benjamin, Lana Turner
Country: USA
What it is: Lame comedy horror

A psychology professor is helped along in his career by his wife, who practices witchcraft. When he decides to dispose of all of the charms that have been protecting him, he finds that his luck has run out… and that the door has been opened to a great horror.

Now, let’s see here…we have witches helping their husbands further there careers in the world of academia. If that doesn’t strike a familiar chord, then you haven’t seen WEIRD WOMAN or NIGHT OF THE EAGLE, and you haven’t read the novel on which both of them were based – Fritz Lieber’s “Conjure Wife”. Regrettably, I have yet to read the Lieber novel, but I can say that the other two movies based on the book are superior to this uncredited take on the tale. I don’t blame the actors; they’re doing the best they can with what they’ve been given to work with. It’s the clumsy, laughless, muddled script that is the worst offender here, though it’s abetted by lackluster and uninspired direction as well. Reportedly, the movie had been finished two years earlier as WHICH WITCH IS WHICH?, and then was reedited with new footage; I don’t know who shot which footage, but there’s not much here worth keeping. About the best thing I can say about this one is that the last third of the movie works better than the first two-thirds, but that’s largely because the movie stops trying to be a comedy at that point. This one is forgettable.