Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952)

ZOMBIES OF THE STRATOSPHERE (1952)
Article 1801 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-18-2006
Posting Date: 7-18-2006
Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Featuring Judd Holdren, Aline Towne, Wilson Wood

Martians hatch a plot to save their dying world by blowing the earth out of its orbit and having Mars take its place. They will have to contend with Larry Martin and his rocket suit.

There are some movies that have made such a strong initial impression on me that I can’t watch them again without having those original feelings rush back. This is not necessarily a good thing, especially if that initial impression was bad. This serial is one of those unfortunates. For years, I’d heard about serials and they sounded like so much fun, I couldn’t wait to see one, and this one came along, and almost singlehandedly turned me away from the whole serial genre permanently. Usually, the first episode of a serial is one of the strongest, but not in this one; it’s merely the longest episode, and it feels no different than the rest of them. What does it say about this one that its first two cliffhangers largely consist of footage from other serials? And that when it comes time for the inevitable recap episode (Chapter 10, for those who want to be forewarned) that most of the footage here is from those first two cliffhangers? This is a tired, lazy, and uninspired serial, and with Republic’s trademark fights long gone by this time, the footage that doesn’t look like it was borrowed from other sources mostly consists of dull heroes and villains standing around talking. There are a few good moments; the robot is fun, and the final episode has a bit of life to it. Other than that, there’s little to recommend here, unless you really have to see every serial with the rocket man outfit in it or you really have to see Leonard Nimoy in a Martian outfit.

The Zodiac Killer (1971)

THE ZODIAC KILLER (1971)
Article #1632 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-2-2005
Posting Date: 1-30-2006
Directed by Tom Hanson
Featuring Hal Reed, Bob Jones, Ray Lynch

A homicidal maniac known as The Zodiac Killer is on the loose in San Francisco.

The opening of this movie takes pains to point out that it is a true story, and that if some of the dialogue sounds strange, the viewer should remember that it all really happened. I don’t know the actual details of the case, so I can’t say how accurate this movie is, but as for our psycho, he’s apparently a rabbit-loving, woman-fearing ex-postman who believes that all his victims will be his slaves in the afterlife, which also has something to do with the rising of Atlantis. There’s an interesting user comment on IMDB about this movie from someone who claims to know the makers of the movie; he says that the purpose of the movie was to catch the killer himself, who would of course have found a movie about himself to be irresistible. Since the killer was never caught, I’m assuming that it didn’t work. If the movie has any message, it’s probably that we should all be scared to death that some psycho will knock us off at any moment and that the world is full of such psychos just waiting for their chance; both the beginning and the end of the movie deliver this message. Unfortunately, some of the murders come off as more comic than terrifying, the movie itself is pretty muddled (for example, a scene with a psychic goes precisely nowhere), and the overall effect it had on me was one of indifference. Certainly, anybody seeing the movie in the hopes of gaining any real insight into the psyches of serial killers will probably come up short.

Z.P.G. (Zero Population Growth) (1972)

Z.P.G. (ZERO POPULATION GROWTH) (1972)
Article #1303 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-8-2004
Posting Date: 3-7-2005
Directed by Michael Campus
Featuring Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin, Don Gordon

To stem the rise of overpopulation, the government makes a new law forbidding child-bearing. A couple decides to break the law and have a baby.

You want dystopia? You got dystopia! First of all, you have a totalitarian government similar to something you might find in 1984 or FAHRENHEIT 451. They’re so totalitarian that they even booby-trap their libraries (the scene where Oliver Reed is whisked off to an interrogation chamber after watching part of a tape on “premature birth” is one of the most energetic scenes in the slow-moving movie; it’s just a shame that the scene is unintentionally comic). The world is also heavily polluted; unfortunately, the pollution is represented by having all of the outdoors sequence take place in a thick rolling fog that a) obscures the action (this is the foggiest movie since THE SLIME PEOPLE) and b) looks entirely too clean to be pollution. All of the animals are dead, people eat from tubes, etc. etc; the movie is quite relentless with how depressing this world is. Then there’s the central premise, which seems a little extreme; even given the totalitarian government, the decision to ban all child-bearing seems extreme, but then I’m not a politician, so what do I know? The movie is slow moving, arty, and has a musical soundtrack that makes me wish that it had no musical soundtrack. Everyone is also acting in that detached style borrowed from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY; I guess some film-makers thought science fiction was supposed to be like that. However, it’s theme can’t help but have a little power, and there’s a sequence about two-thirds of the way through the movie where the couple with the baby is discovered by another couple, who, instead of turning them in, begin blackmailing them so that they themselves can have time with the baby, and this easily marks the best sequence in the movie, as you can really feel the strong desires of all concerned. The ending is inconclusive and unsatisfying. You have to really like dystopias to like this movie.

Zoo in Budapest (1933)

ZOO IN BUDAPEST (1933)
Article #1108 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-27-2004
Posting Date: 8-24-2004
Directed by Rowland V. Lee
Featuring Loretta Young, Gene Raymond, O.P. Heggie

Three refugees find themselves trapped in a zoo overnight. One is an orphan girl trying to escape the orphanage before she is bonded out to someone, the second an employee whose habit of stealing and burning fur coats from the visitors has gotten him in trouble with the law, and the third a young boy who escapes from his mother so he can ride the elephant at the zoo.

The title certainly doesn’t make this sound like a movie with fantastic elements; for that matter, neither does the plot description. Having seen it, I myself am not so sure whether it has or not; other than the fact that the zoo employee has an unusually high rapport with animals, I don’t think it does, and I’m not so sure that the rapport is enough to make it qualify. It is charming, however, with Gene Raymond’s athletic and spirited performance a particular highlight. And if the movie doesn’t really have fantastic elements, nonetheless it has certain spectacular elements; in particular, the last twenty minutes of the movie involves the escape of several wild animals (tigers, lions, leopards, elephants and the anomalous porcupines) and a daring rescue operation. In summary, if the slight fantastic elements don’t appeal to you, you still might find this one a good watch, particularly if you’re an animal lover or a fan of love stories.

Zamba (1949)

ZAMBA (1949)
(a.k.a. ZAMBA THE GORILLA)
Article #1053 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-1-2004
Posting Date: 6-30-2004
Directed by William A. Berke
Featuring Jon Hall, June Vincent, Jane Nigh

A mother and her son are separated after bailing out of a malfunctioning airplane. The son develops amnesia, but is befriended by a gorilla who watches after him.

What kind of movie is this? It’s the kind of movie in which there is a lot of fretting about the fates of the mother and the son, but no one sheds a single tear over the death of the father. Maybe spending some time to do so would have cut into the comic relief footage of the cowardly file clerk. We must have priorities.

This is the type of the movie where the credits say that Zamba is played by N’Bonga. This, of course, implies that Zamba is played by a real gorilla rather than an actor in a gorilla suit. I don’t know if Ray “Crash” Corrigan should see that as an insult or a compliment.

This is the type of movie where a person falls from a great height, hits his head, and gets amnesia. He then falls from a rock, hits his head, and recovers his memory.

This is the type of movie where people spend a lot of time treed by wild animals (usually a lion, once a hyena) and spend what feels like hours calling out someone’s name. (“Tommy! Tommy! Tommy!” or “Zamba! Zamba! Zamba!”)

This is the type of movie where the potential romantic couple spends the whole movie insulting and yelling at each other until you-know-what happens in the final reel.

This is the type of movie where I’m tempted to do my review by coming up with a ditty to the tune of the old Oscar Meyer commercial theme, but I give it up after coming up with only a couple of lines, viz.

“My gorilla has a first name; It’s Z-A-M-B-A….”

On the other hand, I do have to give the movie one thing; for a jungle movie, it keeps the safari scenes from taking over. The cast also features a young Beau Bridges (as the amnesiac child) and Darby Jones (as Keega, one of the natives on the safari).

Zeta One (1969)

ZETA ONE (1969)
(a.k.a. THE LOVE FACTOR)
Article #675 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 1-19-2003
Posting date: 6-18-2003

Spies investigate a man who is trying to destroy a planet of women.

There are many naked and topless women in this movie. I’m getting this comment out of the way because I highly suspect that this is most likely the movie’s primary appeal. It’s certainly not the story, which sits there idly for almost twenty minutes at the beginning while the spy flirts with a female visitor and ends up playing strip poker with her; it’s obvious in this case that the plot is the filler, not the strip poker. Despite the superspy approach, there’s really not much in the way of action or violence; even the scene where the bad guys torture one of the women for information seems rather toothless in this regard. Even the alien women who attack in the last part of the movie defeat their enemies by gesturing at them, which causes them to fall down. To sum up, it’s better than ORGY OF THE DEAD (though not as funny), classier than DRACULA: THE DIRTY OLD MAN, and less pretentious than RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE, though it’s probably as stupid as any one of them. The most noteworthy moments in this movie (that don’t involve nudity) are the world’s fastest revolving door and the world’s rudest elevator.

Zombies of Mora Tau (1957)

ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU (1957)
Article #634 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 12-9-2002
Posting date: 5-4-2003

Adventurers attempt to lay their hands on diamonds in an underwater ship that is under guard by zombies.

This is perhaps the first movie with underwater zombies, a fairly small subgenre, to be sure. Somehow, this is fitting; the movie has the languid, lethargic pace of zombies walking underwater. It is produced by Sam Katzman, directed by Edward L. Cahn, and features Gregg Palmer, Alison Hayes, Gene Roth and Morris Ankrum. Though these names hardly portend great star power, they do give the movie a strong B-Movie appeal, which is a good thing. This appeal may explain why I never quite found myself bored, despite the slowness of the pace and the fairly mundane plot; seeing all these familiar faces and names kept me relaxed and in a good frame of mind for the movie’s seventy minutes of running time. Sometimes, it just helps to like this type of movie.