Who’s Guilty? (1945)

WHO’S GUILTY? (1945)
Serial

Article 3670 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-17-2011
Posting Date: 9-1-2011
Directed by Howard Bretherton and Wallace Grissell
Featuring Robert Kent, Amelita Ward, Tim Ryan
Country: USA
What it is: Whodunit serial

When a rich businessman is murdered in a car accident, an investigator tries to sort out the responsible party from among the businessman’s prospective heirs.

A little while ago I thought I was done with serials, but such is not the case, it looks like; this one popped up in a different source, so here I am covering it. This one, rather than being the usual action type of serial, is a whodunit, sort of like an “old dark house” serial. However, no self-respecting serial would spend its whole running time in one place, so as soon as possible, people are slipping out of the house and going to places like Mexico so that the investigator can follow them and get into cliffhangers. From a story perspective, most of the middle episodes can be safely skipped. As for the mystery itself, I’ll just say that I noticed one detail in the opening scene that gave me the clue to figure out what was really going on, and by the final episode, I knew I was correct. Overall, the serial is rather humdrum, and doesn’t really make good use of the novelty of it being a mystery serial. At least one good thing I can say about it is that the comic relief character isn’t annoying; on the down side, he’s not particularly funny either.

Advertisements

Wired to Kill (1986)

WIRED TO KILL (1986)
Article 3631 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-9-2011
Posting Date: 7-24-2011
Directed by Francis Schaeffer
Featuring Emily Longstreth, Devin Hoelscher, Merritt Butrick
Country: USA
What it is: Post-apocalyptic actioner

It’s after the apocalypse. A young man’s family is assaulted by a gang of subhuman thugs; they break his legs, and kill or cripple the rest of his family. When the law proves helpless to protect them, he takes the law into his own hands with the help of a female friend and his self-designed robot.

John Stanley’s movie guide gives the movie some points for being a post-apocalyptic movie that doesn’t play out like a clone of THE ROAD WARRIOR. But then, I don’t think it makes hardly any use of any post-apocalyptic ideas; civilization apparently hasn’t broken down (there are functioning hospitals and policemen about), no one seems to be starving, etc. The basic premise isn’t particularly original, either; it’s a typical revenge action flick at heart that sadistically panders to the lowest common denominator. With the exception of the Shakespeare-quoting leader, the thugs are subhuman, and they’re all depraved and hateful. Furthermore, despite wearing dirty ragged clothes and squatting on deserted property, they have access to high-priced lawyers who can keep them out on the streets, drugs, and huge vehicles which they can drive around on their raids of terror. They’re made this hateful so the filmmakers have an excuse to allow our “heroes” to engage in acts of revenge and self-defense that are equally sadistic, such as rigging motorcycle seats to have huge knives pop out of them. And then there’s the cute little remote-control robot that helps them out by blowing away some of the thugs. Movies that are this pandering can’t help but work a little, but they also leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth, and the fact that the world they live in seems rather unbelievable, I find it impossible to recommend this one. There is one clever little touch in this future world, though; public service announcements seem to have taken over the world, so no matter where you are, you’ll be inundated with messages about how you can sue your doctor, save money on family planning, etc.; it’s the closest this movie ever comes to having a sense of humor.

Wicked, Wicked (1973)

WICKED, WICKED (1973)
Article 3630 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-8-2011
Posting Date: 7-23-2011
Directed by Richard L. Bare
Featuring David Bailey, Tiffany Bolling, Randolph Roberts
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer movie with a gimmick

A handyman at a hotel has been killing blondes and hiding their bodies, but the hotel detective begins to suspect there is something afoot, and begins to investigate.

To some extent, I’m lumping this movie in with DEAFULA and INCUBUS, though not due to any plot similarities; rather, all three movies feature extensive movie-wide “gimmicks” that more or less take over the films. I use the quotes because in some ways I don’t like the use of that word in this context; the central concepts (a movie shot in sign language, a movie shot in Esperanto, and a movie filmed almost entirely in split-screen) go beyond mere gimmickry. The split-screen process here (known as Duo-Vision) is interesting and occasionally effective; for example, it gives us much of the psycho’s backstory without ever bringing the movie to a halt, and there are moments where it’s really fascinating to see how one character reacts to what another character is doing while being able to see both of them. But there is one drawback with the split-screen approach; it’s not really an easy technique for a viewer to appreciate, as it requires a constant shifting of attention that can be rather tiring over the length of a movie. Furthermore, there are some real script problems; the attempts to establish parallels between this story and that of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA come across as very forced, and when it tries to lighten things up a little and become a “fun” horror movie, the effect is jarring and weird, especially towards the end of the movie. In the end, you have a movie that deserves some credit for trying something different, but it doesn’t really work overall. Incidentally, the movie is not entirely in split-screen, but its full-screen moments are extremely short and usually well thought out, so they end up underscoring the action well.

Women of the Prehistoric Planet (1966)

WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET (1966)
Article 3593 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-30-2011
Posting Date: 6-16-2011
Directed by Arthur C. Pierce
Featuring Wendell Corey, Keith Larsen, John Agar
Country: USA
What it is: Space adventure

The admiral of a space fleet goes against orders by embarking on a rescue mission for a ship under his command that crash-landed on an unexplored planet.

This is one of three movies that are easy to confuse with each other, the other two being VOYAGE TO A PREHISTORIC PLANET and VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN. This is the only one of the three that didn’t pillage PLANETA BUR for footage; most of the footage was shot specifically for this movie. To its credit, the movie tries at least a little bit to be about something; the subplots involving the Centaurians does hint at some commentary about prejudice, but if the movie has anything significant to say about the subject, it gets lost in the mix. The bottom-of-the-barrel special effects I can forgive; the dull story, bad dialogue, mostly ineffectual acting, turgid pace, painful comic relief and general hangdog air are what sink this one. Even the title is a cheat; there’s only one woman, and those expecting anything in the way of dinosaur action will have to put up with one easily-killed big lizard. The other two movies may have cobbled their best footage from PLANETA BUR, but at least that footage was interesting. All in all, this one is pretty pathetic.

Warning Shadows: A Nocturnal Hallucination (1923)

WARNING SHADOWS: A NOCTURNAL HALLUCINATION (1923)
aka Schatten – Eine nachtliche Halluzination

Article 3586 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-21-2011
Posting Date: 6-9-2011
Directed by Arthur Robison
Featuring Alexander Granach, Max Gulstorff, Lilli Herder
Country: German
What it is: A shadowy warning

A count is afraid that his wife is engaging in acts of infidelity, a situation made more acute by the arrival of four male guests. Into this situation wanders an entertainer who specializes in shadow plays…

I found this one on YouTube. As originally presented, it had no intertitles, and this restoration of the film retains that quality, which means that you do have to rely on the visual cues to follow the story, which isn’t always easy. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating movie in the way that it explores how shadows can tell stories, and can equally well deceive the viewer; for example, the entertainer shows how it is possible to place candles in such a way to make it look as if two people are holding hands when they actually aren’t. Though the story is totally different, it has a plot device very similar to that of INVASION USA, though this may not be apparent until the very end of the movie. I found the movie quite engaging, if a little confusing at times, but it is one that I’d revisit to clarify some of the plot points. There are touches of magic at various points in the story; people and things occasionally disappear, and a sort of hypnotism may also be at work here. This is truly an interesting silent film to seek out.

We Shall See (1964)

WE SHALL SEE (1964)
Movie/Episode of EDGAR WALLACE THEATRE

Article 3557 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-18-2011
Posting Date: 5-11-2011
Directed by Quentin Lawrence
Featuring Maurice Kaufmann, Faith Brook, Alec Mango
Country: UK
What it is: Crime drama with horror overtones

A paranoid and possibly psychopathic woman makes life miserable for everyone around her, so much so that they might wish her dead. And it’s known she has an allergy to bee stings…

Apparently, the episodes of EDGAR WALLACE MYSTERY THEATRE were originally second feature movies made in Britain that were repackaged for the series. This is the second I’ve seen, the first being THE MALPAS MYSTERY. It’s not a mystery in the strict sense; the story is mostly focused on the way the woman makes life absolutely miserable for everyone, though it does manage to work up a little sympathy for the woman before it ends. The murder comes very late in the game, with the crime investigation being almost an afterthought near the end of the movie, though it does work up to a very curious and interesting twist. The horror elements include the murder-by-bees plot, as well as the hint of psychopathic behavior on the part of the woman. Nonetheless, it’s a stretch to classify it as horror. Still, it is a fairly entertaining and swiftly moving story.

The Wailing (1981)

THE WAILING (1981)
aka Fear, Murder obsession(Follia omicida)
Article 3552 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-13-2011
Posting Date: 5-6-2011
Directed by Riccardo Freda
Featuring Stefano Patrizi, Martine Brochard, Henri Garcin
Country: Italy / France
What it is: A bit of a hodgepodge

An actor returns home to his mother for a visit. He is believed to have killed his father when he was in a trance, but he doesn’t remember it. He brings his girlfriend with him, and other friends of is show up. And then the murders start up…

There’s a lot of what you’d expect from an Italian horror movie of the period; there’s several nude scenes, hints of an incestuous relationship, some gory murders, and a mansion full of creepy rooms. The first half is rather dull, as it largely sets up one of those “psycho killers on the loose” plots, but the second half overloads this plot with other touches, throwing psychic powers, black magic, a RASHOMON-like “what really happened when the father died” subplot, and a bit of giallo into the mix. As such, the movie has a certain curiosity value, but it’s not particularly well done, and the extraneous and unnecessary plot elements make it come across as rather silly. It’s not awful, but it’s nothing to write home about either.