Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (1968)

aka Yokai hyaku monogatari
Article 4397 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-20-2013
Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Featuring Shinobu Araki, Jun Fujimaki, Ryutaro Gomi
Country: Japan
What it is: Monster mayhem

A corrupt magistrate plans to tear down a shrine and some tenements to build a brothel, much to the anger of the residents of a village. However, when the magistrate refuses to take part in a curse eliminating ritual, he opens himself up to supernatural revenge…

This is the second of a loose trilogy of movies known as Yokai Monsters; I’ve already seen the last one, ALONG WITH GHOSTS. The title is a bit of a cheat; though it does have quite an assortment of monsters (most prominently a two-armed one-legged umbrella monster), I think it falls quite a ways short of a hundred. Even more to the point, the vast majority of the monsters only take part in a short melee scene and a final march sequence. In fact, most of the movie seems to be about the machinations of the magistrate which are intended to show just how corrupt and evil he is. When you get down to it, the main thrust of the plot is very ordinary, and though we get two ghost stories, a couple of attack sequences, a scene where the village idiot encounters the umbrella monster, and the aforementioned march, the movie seems somewhat short on monster action. So you can count me as being somewhat disappointed by this one; the monsters (when they show up) are weird and fun, and I’d just like to see a lot more of them and less of the humans. After all, with a title like this, the movie should be able to conjure up a new monster every minute or so.

Yolanda and the Thief (1945)

Article 4327 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-5-2013
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Featuring Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan
Country: USA
What it is: Musical

An American con man hiding out in a fictional South American country decides to swindle an heiress by pretending to be her guardian angel. But he doesn’t reckon with love showing up…

Let’s talk plot logic for a minute. You have a girl who is going to be the heiress of a large fortune and the head of the biggest business in the country. In preparation for this responsibility, she is raised in a convent away from the world for twelve years, and the only business advice she is given is to trust in her guardian angel. All I can say is that whoever came up with that plan fully deserves to have the fortune lost to the first con man that comes along.

I could go on in this vein, but let me just sum up now by saying that the story is silly, trite and unbelievable. Still, that’s not necessarily a fatal problem; after all, this is a musical, and one of the specialties of the musical form is to take pieces of fluff like this and bring them to life. And I will say this about the movie; it certainly does that; in fact, it not only brings it to life, it jolts it with so much sugar and caffeine that the resulting rush is almost hallucinatory at times. This is one weird movie, especially during a dream sequence in which Fred Astaire has to deal with such things as being held prisoner by a gang of washerwomen, lighting the eight cigarettes of an eight-armed man, and watching a horseless horse race. This is one of those movies where I’m often enthralled and appalled at the same time; there are times where I’m blown away by the beautiful Technicolor spectacle of the costumes and the sets while being horrified at the way they’re used in such excess. In a similar way, I find it hard to reconcile the way it juxtaposes incredibly naivete with strong sexual undercurrents, particularly during Yolanda’s bath sequence. I can see why the movie was a box-office failure; it was probably too much for the audiences of the time. However, I am willing to bet that this one has a cult following of some sort.

As for the fantastic content, on top of having a mythical country of Patria where the action takes place, there’s the whole plot involving the con man pretending to be a guardian angel. Given the type of movie it is, I’m not surprised ultimately that before it’s all over, the heiress’s real guardian angel shows up. Still, I might have classified it as a fantasy even without these elements; one of the first impressions I got from the visuals in the opening scenes is that wherever this movie took place, it was certainly nowhere in the real world.

For me, the movie has at least one huge flaw; it’s a musical featuring Fred Astaire and you have to wait at least forty minutes before he does his first dance. That is a crime in itself.

Yo dormi con un fantasma (1949)

aka I Slept with a Ghost
Article 4142 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-29-2013
Directed by Jaime Salvador
Featuring Adalberto Martinez, Maria Luisa Zea, Mercedes Gisbert
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican “old dark house” variation

An aspiring private detective attends the reading of a will in a spooky old mansion and stumbles upon a mystery.

Given that this movie is in unsubtitled Spanish, and that I was unable to find a decent plot description of the movie, I’m hardly in the position to give a truly insightful review of it, but I can give my impressions. It seems to be an “old dark house” movie of the sort that are vehicles for a comic actor (as in opposition to those ones in which the comic character is in a supporting position). The house has some spooky atmosphere, but the overt fantastic elements (the ghosts) seem to only exist in a flashback of the history of the house; I saw no overt ghosts (much less anyone sleeping with them) in the present-day footage. IMDB describes it as a comedy/horror/mystery. I can’t comment on the mystery angle, but from what I can tell, the comedy is tepid and the horror extremely mild. Yes, this is one of those that doesn’t look particularly inspired or promising, though I should point out that almost all of the humor seems to verbal rather than visual, so there’s a chance I may be wrong. At any rate, I wasn’t particularly impressed with what I saw here.

You’ll Like My Mother (1972)

Article 3904 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-12-2012
Posting Date: 4-22-2012
Directed by Lamont Johnson
Featuring Patty Duke, Rosemary Murphy, Richard Thomas
Country: USA
What it is: Thriller

A pregnant widow visits the home of her mother-in-law for the first time and gets a frosty reception. She decides to leave, but a blizzard strands her in the house, forcing her to stay. Then she begins to uncover some of the sinister secrets of the household…

I found this to be an enjoyable, tense and effective little thriller. One thing I like is that our heroine uses her brains; as she uncovers the family secrets, she’s smart enough to know that if the others in the household knows that she knows, her life will be in great peril, and she tries her best to keep her knowledge a secret from them. The fact that she’s pregnant ups the ante a little, especially considering that her baby is born while she’s at the house, and both of their lives are at stake. It’s also interesting to see Richard Thomas in a pre-WALTONS role; anyone who is only familiar with his work on that show will be surprised to see the scary psycho he plays here. There’s also a real warmth here; you end up caring about the heroine, and the dim-witted family sister who she befriends. The story itself isn’t particularly original, but it’s handled well and quite effective.

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.