Yokai Monsters: Along With Ghosts (1969)

aka Tokaido obaka dochu
Article 3268 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-31-2010
Posting Date: 7-26-2010
Directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda and Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Featuring Kojiro Hongo, Pepe Hozumi, Masami Burukido
Country: Japan
What it is: Japanese ghost story

A gang of thugs ambushes a lord who carries an incriminating document; however, they kill the warlord on sacred ground, thus bringing a curse down on themselves. When the document escapes their grasp, it is seen in the possession of a young girl, who ends up under the protection of the samurai who followed the dead warlord. Between the samurai and the curse, the thugs have a difficult time of it…

This movie was apparently the third and last of a series called “Yokai monsters”; I’ve not seen the others, though I gather they had an assortment of monsters and ghosts that were pretty wild-looking. This is a fairly enjoyable Japanese ghost story; it’s somewhat milder than some of the others I’ve seen, though it does have a certain amount of violence and blood. The score is a little obnoxious at times, particularly in the opening scenes, but the scenes with the ghosts and monsters are fun, there’s a sequence involving magic dice that is quite effective, and it’s fairly moving when the little girl finally meets her father. Kojiro Hongo (who plays the samurai here) is a familiar face; he was in several Gamera movies as well as one of the Majin movies. All in all, this one was an enjoyable experience.


Young Frankenstein (1974)

Article 3267 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-30-2010
Posting Date: 7-25-2010
Directed by Mel Brooks
Featuring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman
Country: USA
What it is: Frankenstein parody

The grandson of Frankenstein, initially skeptical about his grandfather’s experiments, comes into his inheritance, and, on discovery of his grandfather’s private notes, decides to follow in his footsteps.

After seeing this movie, I became a major fan of Mel Brooks, but drifted away after his THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1. What I eventually realized is that he was never quite able to really follow up on this one, his masterpiece. What really impresses me about it is that it nails the style; from the crisp black-and-white photography to the acting style to the score to the set design, it looks right out of one of the Universal Frankenstein movies from the thirties. The sense of authenticity makes the comedy much sharper, especially when the movie chooses to parody specific moments from the original movies (the brain stealing scene, the digging up of the body in the graveyard, the dart game, etc). The performances are universally excellent; the only reason no single actor steals the movie (though Marty Feldman comes close) is that all of them are fully capable of doing so. Favorite moments abound; I practically fell out of my chair the first time I encountered the “newly dead” head on the shelf, and I also love the game of charades, the performance of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, the running jokes about Frau Blucher’s name and Igor’s shifting hump, anything involving Kenneth Mars’s arm, and the name “Abby Normal”. And then, of course, there’s the monster’s encounter with the blind hermit, a cameo by Gene Hackman; if the original version of the scene in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN wasn’t already indelible, I’d have trouble watching it without thinking of this parody version. One thing is sure; there were people in this production who loved the old Universal horror movies, and that shines through in every frame of this movie. It’s one of the best horror parodies of all time.

Yog, Monster from Space (1970)

aka Gezora, Ganime, Kameba: Kessen! Nankia no daikaju
Article 3266 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-29-2010
Posting Date: 7-24-2010
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Akiro Kubo, Atsuko Takahashi, Yukiko Kobayashi
Country: Japan
What it is: More giant Japanese monsters

A space probe to Jupiter is hijacked by a strange light from space, and taken back to Earth. There, the light possesses animals, makes giants of them, and uses them to terrorize an island.

The cover of my VHS shows the giant octopus monster from the movie covering the whole earth while spaceships blast at it; you can see small versions of the other monster peering out from behind it. I think this may be similar to the ad I remembered in the newspaper from when I was a kid. Had I seen it back then, I would probably be disappointed that very little of the action takes place in outer space, but I would have liked the giant monsters nonetheless. I like the central idea, as it deals with an alien force that could have manifested itself as any number of giant monsters; had the movie been made earlier in Toho’s history,it might have spawned a few sequels. I don’t mind the monsters looking a bit silly, but I’m disappointed that the action is confined to the island, and the movie makes the mistake of putting its best monster (the octopus one) out of the action after the first half of the movie, leaving the less-impressive crab and turtle monsters to fill out the second half. Oddly enough, I don’t recall anyone actually calling any of the monsters Yog.

Yotsuya Kaidan Part II (1949)

aka The Ghost of Yotsuya Part II
Article 3252 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-15-2010
Posting Date: 7-10-2010
Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
Featuring Ken Uehara, Kinuyo Tanaka, Keiji Sada
Country: Japan
What it is: Almost a ghost story

Torn by guilt and hounded by a blackmailer, the man who killed his wife finds himself haunted by her ghost… or could he be going mad?

This is the part of the story where the horror manifests itself, but the movie appears to have taken the tack that the ghost is not real per se, but a reflection of the husband’s guilt. In other words, we’re dealing not with the supernatural but with the descent into madness. This might be all well and good if my copy was in English or I understood Japanese, but since neither is the case, I’m mostly stuck with trying to read between the lines of long conversations. Personally, I think horror fans will get much more satisfaction out of the 1956 version. Still, there are interesting touches here; I like the movie’s interest in doors (there are a lot of scenes involving them, enough so I did notice it), and one of the eerier moments is when a wood platform seemingly changes its direction in the water of its own accord. I did a little hunting around and found some plot descriptions that helped a little; much of the talk involves a blackmail scheme against the murderer, continued investigations on the wife’s disappearance, and the involvement of a man who was forced to help hide the bodies.

Yotsuya Kaidan (1949)

aka The Ghost of Yotsuya
Article 3251 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-14-2010
Posting Date: 7-9-2010
Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
Featuring Kinuyo Tanaka, Ken Uehara, Haruko Sugimura
Country: Japan
What it is: Part of a Japanese ghost story

A man, hoping to end his financial troubles, is tempted to have his current wife murdered so he can marry into a rich family.

I almost sat through both parts of this movie in one sitting before it occurred to me to check if IMDB split it into two movies, and, lo and behold, they did. Since I use IMDB as my guide in such matters, I decided I would review each movie separately and write separate reviews. Though this puts me in the somewhat awkward position of reviewing only half of a story, that’s not the biggest problem I have here, since it’s another case where I’m watching a movie in a foreign language without English subtitles. Still, I wasn’t totally lost; I’ve seen two other versions of this story, so I know the basic gist of the story. This first half ends with the murder of the wife, so this half really ends before the fantastic content really sets in, though the death of the wife through a deforming poison is certainly on the horrific side. There are some interesting visual touches, but since ninety percent of the movie is involved with the various plot elements that require talking, it’s really not that engaging when watched without understanding the language. It’s also much less explicit than the other versions I’ve seen; you never get a clear look at the wife’s deformity, because the moments it’s on display are pretty fleeting.

Still, I bet no one will be surprised what tomorrow’s movie will be now.

Yeti – il gigante del 20. secolo (1977)

aka Yeti: The Giant of the 20th Century
Article 3189 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-8-2010
Posting Date: 5-8-2010
Directed by Gianfranco Parolini
Featuring Antonella Interlenghi, Mimmo Craig, Jim Sullivan
Country: Italy
What it is: Italian attempt at KING KONG

A giant yeti is discovered entombed in a block of ice.

The worst Yeti movie? Not as long as prints of THE SNOW CREATURE can still be found. At least this one is endearingly goofy; some of the sillier scenes involve the Yeti combing the hair of the human woman he loves with the bones of a giant fish, his playing with an elevator like a yoyo, his strangulation of a man with his toes, his being framed for the murder of a scientist while suffering from pneumonia, and his revival scene, which for some reason requires that he be encased in his own private phone booth and suspended in the air by a helicopter. For such a big guy he seems pretty good at sneaking up on people, and at least it doesn’t slavishly follow the plot of its model, KING KONG. The movie’s most annoying element is its overbearing sentimentality, especially those involving a mute boy and his dog. The ending makes you wonder if they were planning a sequel.

Yellow Submarine (1968)

Article 3173 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-20-2010
Posting Date: 4-22-2010
Directed by George Dunning
Featuring the voices of The Beatles, Paul Angelis, John Clive
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Musical psychedelic adventure movie

When Pepperland is invaded by the music-hating Blue Meanies, one man escapes to call on the Beatles to help them rid Pepperland of the menace.

Director George Dunning had previously produced the animated TV series “The Beatles”, a show that was not a favorite of the group itself. Probably as a result, the group wasn’t initially thrilled with this project, and though they contributed four songs (none of which proved to be hits), they largely saw it as a way to fulfill their movie contract with United Artists, and didn’t even voice their own characters. However, they were so impressed with the results that they agreed to appear in a filmed epilogue in which they lead the audience in a sing-along of “All Together Now”.

When looking at the credits, I was surprised not to see the name of Peter Max, whose work was extremely similar to the visual style of this movie; it was Heinz Edelmann who was responsible for the wild psychedelic look of the movie. The plot is pretty standard stuff; the basic adventure story format is the type of thing that would work for your average sword-and-sandal movie. But then, the movie isn’t really about the plot; it’s about the music and the visuals. It’s fascinating to watch, though it does go on a bit too long. The movie is full of references, including ones to FRANKENSTEIN and KING KONG, as well as numerous ones to the Beatles themselves. The animation is on the limited side, but it would prove to be influential on the work of Terry Gilliam.