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)

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.

You’ll Find Out (1940)

Article #310 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-19-2002
Posting date: 6-5-2002

A band leader and his musicians agree to perform at a birthday party in an isolated mansion, where they encounter a series of suspicious characters.

Kay Kyser’s band was energetic and spirited, and the musical numbers in this movie are actually some of the high points (and I can’t tell you how rare it is when I make that comment), but his schtick was a matter of taste, and he really wasn’t much of a comic actor (Ish Kabibble was better). Of course, the reason to watch this movie for horror buffs is the presence of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Peter Lorre, each of which is given a memorable introductory scene. They really don’t have a whole lot of screen time, but the seance sequence is actually pretty good for this type of movie, and all three seem to be having fun. By the way, does anybody else out there think that Ish Kabibble looks like a cross between Jim Carrey and Moe Howard?