Wild in the Streets (1968)

WILD IN THE STREETS (1968)
Article 2030 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-5-2006
Posting Date: 3-4-2007
Directed by Barry Shear
Featuring Shelley Winters, Christopher Jones, Diane Varsi

A politician, hoping to catch the youth vote, hooks up with a pop star to perform at his rallies and help in his plan to bring the voting age to eighteen. The pop star has ideas of his own, though, and he uses this connection as a springboard to to pursue his own agenda, which includes reducing the voting age to 14 as well as making that the minimum age for members of Congress and the Presidency. The pop star manages to get himself elected, and puts into effect some radical policies.

This paranoid foray into social science fiction is definitely a product of the late sixties. The premise is outlandish, but it’s a tribute to director Barry Shear and writer Robert Thom that they manage to concoct a storyline that (for the most part) makes the premise seem possible. It’s effective enough, and it helps that the music actually does feel authentic enough to pass muster; in fact, the signature song, “The Shape of Things to Come” is included on the “Nuggets” boxed set. Some of the satire is cuttingly incisive; just for example, I can appreciate the supreme irony that the singer gets elected on the Republican ticket, and the irony is not lost on the singer and his group either. A good cast sells the story as well; as well as the ones listed above, the movie features Hal Holbrook, Richard Pryor, Ed Begley, and in cameos, Melvin Belli, Dick Clark, Walter Winchell and others. Teen idol Bobby Sherman, Monkee Peter Tork, and child actor Bill Mumy also appear. This one is definitely interesting, though its dark irony is offset by its basic naivete. And given the premise, the ending was logical and inevitable.

 

When Worlds Collide (1951)

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951)
Article 2029 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-4-2006
Posting Date: 3-3-2007
Directed by Rudolph Mate
Featuring Richard Derr, Barbara Rush, Peter Hansen

When a wandering star named Bellus is discovered to be on a collision course with the earth, a group of people decide to build a rocket that will take them to safety on the star’s sole planet, Zyra.

This doomsday movie from producer George Pal is generally well received. Certainly, the special effects are top-notch (with the exception being the shot of the Zyra landscape, an effect that Pal wanted to do as a miniature but the film got shipped out before he could). I always find the movie a bit on the disappointing side, though I like it a lot better than some of Pal’s weakest efforts (CONQUEST OF SPACE and ATLANTIS, THE LOST CONTINENT). The problem I have is that the human conflicts and stories that surround the event are pretty cliched; the use of a love triangle is particularly unimaginative, though at least none of the two rivals for Barbara Rush’s character’s hand dies heroically saving the others. Still, there are nice bits; I like the scenes where Riichard Derr’s messenger pretends to know more than he does in order to find out the nature of the message he’s delivering, and I like the scene where one of the rivals almost leaves the other stranded on the top of a flooded house. The movie also features John Hoyt, but sadly, this is one of his few performances I don’t like; his selfish millionaire is a fairly one-note affair, though in all fairness I should point out that it was written that way. Still, the scenes of the flooding of New York and the construction of the rocket ship are fun. Fans of TV sitcoms from the sixties should also recognize Hayden Rorke and Frank Cady in the cast.

 

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970)
Article 2028 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-3-2006
Posting Date: 3-2-2007
Directed by Val Guest
Featuring Victoria Vetri, Robin Hawdon, Patrick Allen

A blonde woman escapes one tribe intent on sacrificing her and joins up with another tribe, but the brunette women of that tribe are jealous of her but one caveman loves her and there are dinosaurs.

Actually, the dinosaurs don’t do a particularly good job of ruling in this one; most of them end up as petroleum-products-to-be at the hands of those annoying mammalian pests. Still, my own title for the movie (THE EARTH GETS MOONED) would probably have been rejected by the powers that be, even though it’s far more accurate; after all, the plot (such as it is) does seem to revolve around the earth acquiring the moon, and the skimpy costumes of all cast members (male and female) guarantees a generous amount of mooning. This takes place in that dim and distant time in the past where cavemen coexisted with dinosaurs, the earth had yet to acquire its satellite, and the most prominent invention was the underwired bra. A 27-word caveman lingo was devised for this movie, but I found it nearly impossible to follow; they use the word “akita” so many times that I thought it meant “hey”; actually, it means “look”. Due to the language barrier, the plot is difficult to follow, but I suspect that it’s your basic “the course of true love never did run smooth” tale. All in all, prehistoric business as usual.

 

Week End (1967)

WEEK END (1967)
Article 1950 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-17-2006
Posting Date: 12-14-2006
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Featuring Mireille Darc, Jean Yanne, Jean-Pierre Kalfon

A bourgeois couple takes a weekend trip and encounters an endless stream of traffic accidents, annoying people, and strange characters.

I suppose fantasy is as good a classification as any for this bizarre and at times (intentionally) annoying foray into surrealistic politically-themed French new wave cinema by one of the masters of the form. Unless I’m mistaken, I’ve only covered one other movie by Godard (ALPHAVILLE), and even when he’s being straightforward (relatively, anyway) as he was with that one, I have trouble with him. Still, I suspect that this one isn’t quite as difficult as it seems at first; its political themes and hatred of the bourgeois are out in the open, and once you realize that certain scenes exist primarily to yank our chains as viewers (including the description of the erotic encounter near the beginning of the movie and the endless traffic-jam sequence), it does give you a sense that you could probably sort it all out. The trouble is, I’m not sure Godard really makes me want to go through the trouble; his cinematic style doesn’t really speak to me in the way that, say, Cocteau or Fellini does. Even though I will admit that he can be quite effective here on occasion, he doesn’t make me want to watch the movie again, and once he decides to show the onscreen slaughter of a pig and a chicken to make his points, he loses a great deal of my sympathy. I think I’ll leave this one to fans of the director’s oeuvre.

 

Whom the Gods Wish to Destroy (1966)

WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY (1966)
aka Die Nibelungen, Teil 1: Siegfried
Article 1911 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-8-2006
Posting Date: 11-5-2006
Directed by Harold Reinl
Featuring Uwe Beyer, Rolf Henniger, Siegfried Wischnewski

Siegfried kills a dragon and bathes in its blood, making himself invincible. He seeks to marry the lovely Kriemhild, but the king will only allow it if he manages to help him marry the queen of Iceland, Brunhilde.

This, like the Fritz Lang silent version , is the first half of the Nibelungen story. The last time I had to deal with it was with SIGFRIDO , which, being undubbed and unsubtitled, gave me little to work with. I almost feared I’d undergo the same problem here, but it is dubbed into English (and subtitled in, I think, Russian). Though I don’t think it holds a candle to the Lang version, it’s not a bad movie, even if it doesn’t quite attain the grandeur towards which it aspires. What I most like about this version is that it includes certain plot turns that I failed to notice in the other versions; in particular, there’s a whole “sleeping beauty” plot element which goes a long ways towards establishing the relationship between Siegfried and Brunhilde, and helps to set up the motivations for the actions in the last part of the story. At first, I was afraid this version of the movie was going to exclude the fight with the dragon (as the event is brought up as something that occurred in the past), but that’s what flashbacks are for. All in all, this is a good version of the story.

I do have a question about the English title, though. “Whom the Gods wish to destroy” is traditionally followed by “they first make mad”, and, quite frankly, no one is “made mad” in this story. Maybe it refers to Kriemhilde, but that would be only in the second half of the story, which is not included here. Still, I suspect that it ended up with this title because it sounded good, and not because it made sense within the context of the story. Ah, well….

Whistling in the Dark (1941)

WHISTLING IN THE DARK (1941)
Article 1901 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-29-2006
Posting Date: 10-26-2006
Directed by S. Sylvan Simon
Featuring Red Skelton, Conrad Veidt, Ann Rutherford

Whan a moon worship cult discovers that it may lose an inheritance to an unexpected nephew of one of its members, it decides to murder the nephew. In order to avoid drawing the police to its activities, it decides that the murder must be fullproof. They kidnap a radio personality who specializes in clever crime stories to write a scenario for the perfect murder.

Fantastic content: The horror content in this mystery/comedy consists of some horror touches, particularly during a sequence when the prisoners of the cult try to make their escape via a secret passage in their room to a place filled with mummies and Egyptian artifacts.

I’ve always found Red Skelton to be likable and charming, though I rarely find myself laughing as much as I would with other comedians. This is one of his early comedies, and the first of a series of three where he plays a radio entertainer known as “The Fox”. I didn’t find it extremely funny, but it was quite spirited, and the story is very clever at times. I was surprised to see Conrad Veidt in the cast, as I usually don’t see him as someone playing the heavy in comedies, but his presence adds a sense of danger to the proceedings. Probably having the most fun with Red is former boxer Rags Ragland as the strong-arm man and chauffeur of the cult, and he has a lot of fun during the best scene in the movie, in which Red and the other prisoners try to juryrig a radio to use it in lieu of a telephone to call for help, and they convince Sylvester (Ragland’s character) that they’re just rehearsing for a new show and get him to reveal important information over the airwaves.

War-Gods of the Deep (1965)

WAR-GODS OF THE DEEP (1965)
aka The City Under the Sea
Article 1900 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-28-2006
Posting Date: 10-25-2006
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Featuring Vincent Price, Tab Hunter, Herbert the Rooster

When a woman vanishes from her room, a man and his chicken-toting friend discover a secret passage that takes them to a hidden city under the sea.

Sometimes it’s hard to say exactly why it is that a movie falls flat, but I’m afraid that’s what this one does. It’s certainly not the performances; with the exception of the dull Tab Hunter, everyone does a fine job. The special effects also aren’t bad for what was no doubt a low-budget affair. I think the real problem is a story that doesn’t know where to go once we reach the underwater city, and so we’re stuck with people talking to each other repeatedly, and it feels like we’re caught in endless exposition. The movie certainly spends more time establishing the peril of the deadly volcano than was really necessary; after a while, you’re just left twiddling your thumbs waiting for the big destruction scene that you know won’t come until the end of the movie. It also doesn’t help that most of the big chase scene takes place underwater, where it’s impossible to tell who is in what diving outfit, and where the constant cut shots of close-ups of faces in the diving helmets does absolutely nothing to help. In the end, the most memorable thing about this movie is Herbert the chicken, and outside of escaping from his owner a few times and peaking his head out of a basket, he doesn’t do anything. The end result is a disappointment; it’s not awful by any means, but it’s tired and uninspired. This is probably the least interesting of the AIP Poe movies.