Till Death (1978)

Article 3052 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-15-2009
Posting Date: 12-22-2009
Directed by Walter Stocker
Featuring Keith Atkinson, Marshall Reed, Belinda Balaski
Country: USA
What it is: Love from beyond the grave

A man has a nightmare that he is locked in a crypt with a dead woman stalking him. He is awoken by a phone call from his fiancee, who he will marry that day. They marry, but she dies in a car accident on their wedding night. He survives the accident, but is torn by guilt. He decides to visit her in the crypt where she’s buried…

This earnest but cheesy horror film seems so out of place in the late seventies that I was sure that it had been shot earlier. And sure enough it was; it was made in 1974 and sat on the shelf for four years. I’m tempted to describe it as a cross between CARNIVAL OF SOULS and the second half of 100 CRIES OF TERROR, except that makes it sound more complex than it is; the plot is obvious and threadbare, and, unless you find the endless conversations about love to be heartfelt and compelling, it’s probably going to bore you. It must have been made on a tiny budget, and it remains Walter Stocker’s sole directorial credit, though he did have a career as an actor, and appeared in the infamous THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN. I’m not surprised it has its supporters, though; it has a certain low-budget charm for all its problems.


Rocket Attack U.S.A. (1961)

Article 3042 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-5-2009
Posting Date: 12-12-2009
Directed by Barry Mahon
Featuring Monica Davis, John McKay, Phillip St. George
Country: USA
What it is: Cold War Sputnik Nuclear Attack Paranoia

Spies are sent to the Soviet Union to find out whether Sputnik is transmitting critical information to the communists. They not only find that such is the case, but that a nuclear attack on New York is being planned.

The first three-quarters of this movie is thrill-an-hour spy stuff (since this sequence only takes forty-five minutes, I’m assuming the thrill would have occurred during the next fifteen minutes had it continued). The rest of the movie shows the aftermath of the result of the spy mission. I’ve dealt with director Barry Mahon before; he gave us BLOOD OF THE ZOMBIE and THE BEAST THAT KILLED WOMEN, both of which are awful and both of which are better than this one. It’s something of an update of INVASION U.S.A. with Sputnik and nuclear paranoia thrown into the mix; it’s a compendium of stock footage and extremely static and poorly-acted new footage that falls flat for practically every second of its running time. Still, even with a loser like this one, I do find a couple of things to admire. The Russians actually speak Russian, and they don’t use subtitles, which is a novel idea for the time. Furthermore, the final part of the movie spends some time with the lives of ordinary people in New York who don’t know what is about to happen, and it gives it an unexpected human touch. If the static direction wasn’t so deadly, these ideas might have given the movie a bit of a lift; unfortunately, as it is, they’re just good ideas poorly used. You’re better off with INVASION U.S.A., which has better acting and a certain amount of energy.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

aka Le charme discret de la bourgeeoisie
Article 2932 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-18-2009
Posting Date: 8-24-2009
Directed by Luis Bunuel
Featuring Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphin Seyrig
Country: France / Italy / Spain

Six friends are thwarted by circumstance in their attempts to have meals together.

Given that Luis Bunuel is one of the great surrealistic directors, I’m surprised that I haven’t covered more of his work; this is only the second movie I’ve covered of his, the first being THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL. It’s basically a plotless series of setpieces tied together by the concept of several friends trying to have a meal together, but who are constantly interrupted by any number of bizarre events; the events get stranger as things go along, and eventually any sense of linearity or reality goes out the window when the events turn out to be dreams (and even dreams within dreams). One meal is cut short when the hosting couple sneak out of the house to have sex and the other guests fear that the reason for their departure was an impending police raid (it turns out some of the characters are involved in drug smuggling); another is interrupted when the chosen restaurant is keeping a dead body in the next room. There are various distractions and side issues, such as the attempted assassination of the Mirandan ambassador and the appearance of a bishop that wants to be a gardener. Three of the distractions are ghost stories, which further adds to the fantastic content. What does it all mean? Well, I have no doubt there’s some political subtext (I’d expect that from any movie with the word “bourgeoisie” in the title), but it really doesn’t matter to me; I find the movie positively hilarious at times, and it’s a great deal of fun, albeit in an art-house film way. It’s recommended for anyone with an absurdist sense of humor.

Blood for Dracula (1974)

aka Andy Warhol’s Dracula, Dracula cerca sangue di vergine… e mori di sete!!!
Article 2733 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-30-2008
Posting Date: 2-5-2009
Directed by Paul Morissey
Featuring Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Vittorio De Sica
Country: Italy / France

Dracula must leave Romania because of the distressing lack of virgins; he can ingest only the blood of the untouched. He goes to Italy, where he’s sure the religious traditions will make a virgin bride easy to find.

When this movie played in my area during the seventies, I remember the local reviewer gave it the lowest rating I’ve ever seen; he used to rate them on a scale of 1 to 100, but he rarely gave ratings less than 80. He gave this one a 20. I don’t think the movie is anywhere near that bad, though I do think it’s so-so at best. It’s at least partially conceived as a comedy, with our Dracula here being perhaps the least intimidating version of the character I’ve seen; he’s sickly and given to vomiting, especially if he’s drunk the blood of a non-virgin (for what it’s worth, actor Udo Kier does an excellent job of vomiting, though I’m not sure it’s a talent really worth pursuing). Despite the fact that it’s an Italian/French movie, there’s no dubbing problem, as it was shot in English, and we get a fascinating cornucopia of accents, what with the Count’s Romanian accent, the Italian accents, and Joe Dallesandro’s New York accent. In the sex and gore departments, it’s out to out-Hammer Hammer, and though this may make it of some interest to horror fans, as a comedy it’s not really that funny (my favorite moment here was hearing Vittorio De Sica ruminate on Dracula’s name), and once you get the gist of where it’s all going, it’s fairly predictable. The movie features two famous directors in the cast; the aformentioned De Sica, and a cameo from Roman Polanski who plays a bar game in one of the movie’s more memorable scenes. One question I’ve always had is this; just how much artistic input did Andy Warhol really have in this one? And I’d love to hear confirmation on one curious fact; according to the “Fantastic Cinema Subject Guide”, Italian sources do not credit Paul Morrissey as the director of this movie, but Antonio Margheriti.

Escape (1971)

ESCAPE (1971)
Article 2664 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-5-2008
Posting Date: 11-28-2008
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Christopher George, William Windom, Marlyn Mason
Country: USA

A former escape artist turned private eye agrees to help a scientist who is on the run from the law for a murder he didn’t commit. However, when the scientist is kidnapped along with the scientist’s daughter, he must undertake to discover their whereabouts and rescue them.

It may be just my imagination, but it seems that most of the TV-Movies I’ve seen from the seventies have the look and feel of potential series pilots; the credit sequence here clearly demonstrates that this was intended to be that way. It might well have made a decent series; all it really would have needed to do is pick up the somewhat sluggish pace of this TV-Movie, and find some way to transcend what could have ended up as a tiresome gimmick. The gimmick is that the private eye is constantly placed in traps whereby he must use his abilities to, as the title puts it, escape; in some ways, it hearkens back to the Harry Houdini silent serial, THE MASTER MYSTERY. The fantastic elements here are a Gizmo-Maguffinish plot involving a new virus that can enslave the world, a hideously scarred man, and a scene in a house of horrors. The movie also features William Schallert and Gloria Grahame, though both of them appear so slightly that you might forget they’re there. It also features two straight performances by two actors who are better known for their comic turns; namely, Huntz Hall and Avery Schreiber; the latter would have most likely been a regular on the series had it sold. It’s entertaining enough, especially during the final chase that makes good and interesting use of its amusement park setting. It’s not great, but I’ve seen a lot worse.


Space Ship Sappy (1957)

Article 2657 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2008
Posting Date: 11-21-2008
Directed by Jules White
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Joe Besser
Country: USA

The Three Stooges apply for jobs as sailors, unaware that the ship they’ll be sailing on is a space ship bound for Venus.

I’ve not heard good things about the shorts in which Joe Besser took over as the third Stooge. I’ve not seen any of the others as of yet, but this one is passable, though hardly the Stooges at their best. It does feature a space ship, female cannibal Venusians, and a slurpasaur. Joe Besser’s twittery persona is definitely an acquired taste, and it’s said that he wouldn’t allow Moe to slap him, so Larry had to take all of the blows himself. I thought I saw Besser take a blow or two in the course of this one, but I may be mistaken. Still, one thing’s for sure; Larry’s at the receiving end of the abuse a lot more often.


Sole Survivor (1970)

Article 2650 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-8-2008
Posting Date: 11-14-2008
Directed by Paul Stanley
Featuring Vince Edwards, Richard Basehart, William Shatner
Country: USA

The wreckage of a military plane lost for seventeen years is found in the Libyan desert. The military investigates the wreckage, with the sole survivor of the plane’s last crew on site; he was rescued seven hundred miles away in the Mediterranean and is now a general. He claims that he bailed out with the rest of the crew, but, in truth, he deserted the plane against orders. However, the plane is haunted by the unseen ghosts of the former crew members who intend to prove to the investigators what really happened.

Though I’m not fond of TV-Movies in general, I’m always glad to find one with an interesting premise, an excellent script, and strong acting, and this has all three. There are a number of memorable scenes; my two favorites include the opening sequence in which the ghosts gather to play baseball, and the scene where an investigator approaches the ghosts who are standing in formation and saluting, looks toward them, lifts his hand and… adjusts his hat. The movie makes excellent use of the desert location, and Vince Edwards, Richard Basehart and William Shatner all give excellent performances. Oddly enough, it’s based on a true story. The ending is very memorable.