You Only Live Twice (1967)

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)
Article 2236 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-30-2007
Posting Date: 9-26-2007
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Featuring Sean Connery, Akiki Wakabayashi, Mie Hama

James Bond is assigned to discover the culprits behind the kidnapping of astronauts in flight before the United States and the U.S.S.R. go to war. His investigation takes him to an island near Japan.

Though I’m not a particular James Bond fan, I do have a sense as to which of the movies work better than the others. This was the fifth in the series, and Sean Connery would depart the series after this one only to return with DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, and later in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (though the latter is strictly not part of the series). It’s entertaining enough, but I can tell it’s not up to the others I’ve seen in the series. Part of the problem is that the array of heroes and villains he meets in this one are simply not a memorable lot; even Blofeld disappoints somewhat, despite the fact that he’s played by the great Donald Pleasence. The other problem is that this is the first one I’ve seen that really feels like it was made to a formula; all of the other ones I’ve seen had their special strengths and unique touches, but this one feels somewhat routine. This is a bit of shame; after having seen FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, I was finding myself warming up a bit more to the whole series. At any rate, it really makes me appreciate the freshness of the other ones I’ve seen. Still, the series would definitely have weaker entries than this one.

 

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Yambao (1957)

YAMBAO (1957)
aka CRY OF THE BEWITCHED
Article 2008 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-13-2006
Posting Date: 2-10-2007
Directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna
Featuring Ninon Sevilla, Ramon Gay, Rosa Elena Durgel

A young native woman in Cuba in 1850 finds herself attracted to a the owner of a sugar plantation, and she is tempted into using voodoo to win him from his wife.

The plot above is a bit of an approximation, as this is another Mexican movie, undubbed and unsubtitled. This one is somewhat reminiscent of those all-black horror movies of the thirties, such as THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER. It’s a compendium of voodoo and soap opera, and horror fans may be disappointed that the soap opera seems to dominate for most of the movie. However, the movie is also a musical, and it is here that the movie really gains its power; the native music, singing and dancing is simply enthralling, and it permeates the movie in much the same way that music drives BLACK ORPHEUS. It was the music that finally won me over here, and I was somewhat surprised to see the movie sitting with a lowly 1.8 rating on IMDB, but that’s with only six votes, and two of those gave it the highest rating. This makes me wonder if there is a dubbed version around, and if in the dubbed version, the music was redubbed as well; if so, such an act most likely would have destroyed the movie’s greatest appeal. I’m glad I saw this one in its original language, and it makes me glad that we’re just starting to see some of these Mexican movies released subtitled and dubbed; the more I see of them, the more I’m convinced that some very strong movies came from there.

 

Yongary Monster of the Deep (1967)

YONGARY MONSTER OF THE DEEP (1967)
(a.k.a. TAEKOESU YONGGARY)
Article #1655 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-25-2005
Posting Date: 2-22-2006
Directed by Ki-duk Kim
Featuring Yeong-il Oh, Jeong-im Nam, Sun-jea Lee

Korea is threatened by a giant monster that drinks gasoline.

When people complain how the Godzilla movies have bad special effects, I point them to the Gamera movies (of the sixties, that is). When they complain that the Gamera movies have bad special effects, I point them to the Korean giant monster movies. When they complain that the Korean giant monster movies have bad special effects, I agree.

So here we have a Korean attempt at a kaiju, and it looks like they threw a number of giant monster movies into a blender, and then assembled what came out into a movie. Yongary is characterless clone of Godzilla with a few touches of Gamera thrown into the mix. The dubbing is awful, the miniatures are frightfully bad, and the soundtrack is ineffective. Somehow, it manages to have this dreamlike, surreal quality that detaches you from the action, and though this does give the movie a little bit of flavor, it also threatens to lull you into a deep slumber. Still, the movie is in better shape when it tries to copy other movies than when it makes attempts toward originality; the scenes where the monster boogies to a rock and roll tune and where he goes into a big scratching fit rank with some of the most ridiculous scenes I’ve ever seen.

I will say this, though; it’s better than A*P*E.

The Yellow Cab Man (1950)

THE YELLOW CAB MAN (1950)
Article #1586 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-18-2005
Posting Date: 12-15-2005
Directed by Jack Donohue
Featuring Red Skelton, Gloria DeHaven, Walter Slezak

An accident-prone inventor tries to demonstrate his new unbreakable elastiglass to a cab company, but finds himself beset by industrial spies who want the formula for themselves.

Red Skelton is often referred to as a great clown, and I have no trouble with this assessment as long as the word “clown” is understood to refer to a practitioner of a very specific type of comic discipline. Red Skelton’s use of comic pratfalls and expressions is very much the stuff of clowns, but I find clowns only mildly amusing, and as a result, despite the fact that I have a certain nostalgia for him (his TV show was a mainstay in my house when I was young), I don’t quite put him in the front row of the great comedians as I would W. C. Fields. Still, I really liked this movie a lot, largely because it aspires to a certain type of Fieldsian lunacy and surrealism at time, and also because Skelton shares the screen with a number of truly enjoyable character actors. James Gleason, Jay C. Flippen, Edward Arnold and Walter Slezak are all on hand here, and they all have wonderful parts and great moments. At least one sequence is truly great; an attempt by novice cabbie Skelton to pick up his first cab fare results in a twisted series of events that leads to perceptions of both a bomb scare and a kidnapping. And some of the dream sequences are really strange; in one he finds himself at the North Pole talking to Walter Slezak in a walrus costume, and in another he has nightmare visions of all sorts of motor vehicles and pedestrians warped out of proportion (thanks to trick photography). In fact, the set pieces show a real inventiveness throughout this movie, and this adds a lot to the proceedings. I haven’t seen a lot of Skelton’s cinematic work so far, but from what I’ve seen so far, this is the best.

You’re Telling Me (1934)

YOU’RE TELLING ME (1934)
Article #1325 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-30-2004
Posting Date: 3-29-2005
Directed by Erle C. Kenton
Featuring W.C. Fields, Joan Marsh, Buster Crabbe

An inventor attempts to help his daughter to marry the rich kid in town by selling his new invention; a puncture-proof tire.

I’ve always been a little disappointed by this W. C. Fields comedy. It’s one of those where he places his character in a thoroughly domestic situation, which is actually a very interesting thing to do from a character perspective. The persona of W. C. Fields as a somewhat misanthropic low-life is challenged when he plays a married man; he mainly wants to drink with his friends and to tinker with his inventions, but he’s compromised by having to squelch his own personality so that he can get along with his wife and to help his daughter (who he truly loves) to win the man of her dreams. It’s a fairly sophisticated type of character comedy, and even though he never plays for sympathy, you care for him. Nevertheless, I find this one a little short on laughs (unlike IT’S A GIFT), and I think this is due to the fact that he’s not given enough annoying characters to contend with. There are moments, though; the movie builds up to the classic scene of him trying to tee off at a golf course only to have all sorts of obstacles get in his way (including an incompetent caddy), and certain other moments also work beautifully. There’s a scene of him rolling his tire down the street with a stick that is both funny (he’s a grown man) and touching (there’s a part of him that’s still quite childlike). For me, the biggest laugh revolves around a bottle of roach exterminator, and the most surreal moment deals with his attempt to placate his wife by buying her a pet; namely, the biggest bird in the pet store.

Oh, and the fantastic aspect of the movie is the puncture-proof tire, which is even able to resist bullets.

The Yesterday Machine (1963)

THE YESTERDAY MACHINE (1963)
Article #673 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-17-2003
Posting date: 6-16-2003

When a modern-day teenager is shot by civil war soldiers and his girlfriend disappears into thin air, the police and a reporter investigate.

The first half of this cheaply-made Southern science fiction thriller is a little better than you might expect; it’s talky and static, but the talk was interesting enough that it held my attention. The acting during this half hovers somewhere between wooden and subtle; it’s certainly a lot more low-key than you might expect. The second half is another matter; all the female characters start becoming hysterical at every opportunity, and we meet a Nazi mad scientist who wavers back and forth between endless pseudo-science blather about relativity, time and space, and maniacal speeches defending Hitler; for those looking for a camp experience, this is where it can be found. Yes, it’s pretty bad, but not as bad as it could have been, and it does hold my attention. What I like most about it, though, is that it’s still around; this is one of those Southern movies that is all but forgotten nowadays, but has somehow survived the passage of time to remain with us. It was definitely forgotten at one point; the Walt Lee book doesn’t mention it at all. Take it as a curio and you might just enjoy it.

You Never Can Tell (1951)

YOU NEVER CAN TELL (1951)
Article #633 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 12-8-2002
Posting date: 5-3-2003

A dog inherits a fortune, and then is poisoned. He comes back from the dead as a private detective in order to solve his own murder.

There’s something about the above description that sets warning lights off in my head telling me that this could end up being insufferably cute or insufferably stupid. Actually, it ends up as neither, and part of the reason is that the private detective and his assistant (who used to be a horse) at least behave with a certain realization that they will call too much attention to themselves if they behave overly much like the animals they are; when the detective gets into a cab at one point, I was afraid we were going to have a shot of him sticking his head out the window with his tongue flapping in the wind. Instead, it’s just this kind of slapstick overkill the movie avoids. Make no mistake; the movie does depend on the central premise for a lot of its gag (the detective eats kibble, and the assistant likes to go the races), but it does so with a touch of wry wit rather than with a bludgeon. It’s a good thing it handles itself with a light touch; the story itself is pretty weak, with an ending that relies overly on coincidence rather than any sort of logic. Nonetheless, this is one of those movies that, though it is no classic by any means, is a lot better than it could have been. Dick Powell is the detective. It was remade in reverse years later by with Chevy Chase. Incidentally, the movie features a sequence in a world of the afterlife called “Beastatory” that is easily the bizarrest scene in the movie.