Unholy Terror (1971)

UNHOLY TERROR (1971)
aka Crucible of Terror
Article 2466 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-2-2008
Posting Date: 5-13-2008
Directed by Ted Hooker
Featuring Mike Raven, Mary Maude, James Bolam
Country: UK

The organizer of an art show is offered a large sum of money for a sculpture that was stolen from a reclusive artist. In order to make ends meet, he decides to visit the artist in question, who was not aware of the theft and sale of his piece. The manager does not know that the artist has a secret; he makes the sculptures from the dead bodies of his models.

To its credit, the movie has a twist ending that attempts to alleviate somewhat the fact that you’re watching just another variation on the psycho artist theme; if you’ve seen movies like A BUCKET OF BLOOD, TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE, PLAYGIRL KILLER, COLOR ME BLOOD RED, etc., you know the genre. Still, when you come right down to it, the twist ending isn’t that good, and for the rest of the movie – well, let’s just say that with the uninspired acting, limp direction, poor editing and leaden pace you’ll encounter with this one, you’re better off watching dust settle on the screen of your TV set. Some oddball characters and Mike Raven’s sonorous voice try to enliven the proceedings, and it’s not near enough. Ultimately, it’s one of those movies that is watched only to be forgotten. I bet you when I post this several months from this writing, I won’t remember a thing about it.

P.S. It is now several months since I first wrote this, and it’s true; I don’t remember a thing about this movie.

 

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La marca del muerto (1961)

LA MARCA DEL MUERTO (1961)
aka The Mark of Death
Article 2465 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-1-2008
Posting Date: 5-12-2008
Directed by Fernando Cortes
Featuring Fernando Casanova, Sonio Furio, Rosa Maria Gallardo
Country: Mexico

A mad scientist is executed because of his hideous experiments with immortality (which involve draining the blood of young women). Years later, his descendant discovers his experiments and resurrects him, thus reviving the old horrors.

It’s pretty sad. This movie is sitting on IMDB with a rating of 1.5. I get the sense that they’re not reviewing this movie per se, but the Jerry Warren re-edit known as CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD. This is understandable when the same listing serves for both movies (as it used to), but now IMDB has separate listings for both movies. To make it all the more embarrassing is that CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD is sitting with a 1.6 rating, which is even higher. I don’t care what anyone says; I find it beyond the pale to consider the possibility that Jerry Warren actually improved a movie by editing it into one of his snoozefests.

Not that this one is a classic; it’s moody, but utterly predictable. However, that very predictability is helpful when you consider that I’m watching an undubbed, unsubtitled version of this Mexican movie; with such a predictable plot, it’s easy as pie to follow. Still, the real question here is; what is the better way to watch this movie – in Jerry Warren’s edited version, or in a version in a language you can’t understand. The latter wins hand down; when you get to a scene you don’t understand, at least it doesn’t break the mood and the pace. When you get to one of Jerry Warren’s inserts, not only is the mood broken but you can’t understand what he’s talking about anyway, even if it is in English. You should only go for CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD over this one if you really want to see Bruno VeSota get a massage. Doesn’t that say it all right there?

 

Crosieres siderales (1942)

CROSIERES SIDERALES (1942)
aka Sideral Cruises
Article 2464 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2007
Posting Date: 5-11-2008
Directed by Andre Zwoboda
Featuring Madeleine Sologne, Jean Marchat, Julien Carette
Country: France

Two people ascend into the stratosphere in a capsule carried by a balloon. When the balloon bursts, it hurtles them into outer space. When they return to Earth, they find that Einstein’s theory of relativity has left them the same age, but all those they knew have aged. They are greeted as heroes, and further trips to the stratosphere are planned.

The above plot description is an approximation; the film is in unsubtitled French, and I was only able to sort out some of the plot thanks to a rather glib description from the Phil Hardy book on science fiction movies. That gave me a little to go on; without it, I would have been lost. I would have known it involved space travel, and I would probably have figured out the role of relativity. Beyond that, the movie is a question mark. Visually, the most interesting thing is a bizarre spectacle that looks it was staged by Busby Berkeley, involving lots of beautiful girls (some not entirely clothed), trapezes, merry-go-rounds, etc. There’s also someone who looks like Spike Jones’s short brother running around. Until subtitles or dubbing comes along, I’m lost on this one.

 

Way… Way Out (1966)

WAY… WAY OUT (1966)
Article 2463 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-30-2007
Posting Date: 5-10-2008
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Featuring Jerry Lewis, Connie Stevens, Robert Morley
Country: USA

In order to offset the bad press generated by reports of an attack on a female Russian cosmonaut by an American astronaut on a weather station on the moon, the idea is hatched to send a married couple to the moon so that the solitude won’t result in madness. The next astronaut in line is forced to marry a total stranger in order to make this happen.

This was one of Jerry Lewis’s weakest movies; it’s a sex comedy that tries to be both racy and coy at the same time, and ends up being just dumb. A weak script with an over-reliance on stereotypes is the main problem. It’s also simply not a good vehicle for Jerry Lewis; to his credit, he mostly avoids his usual goofy character, but he’s supposed to be both likable and somewhat caddish, and though Lewis could play either one of those traits, I don’t think it was possible for him to combine them into one character; in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, he had to do it with a Jekyll/Hyde personality change. The movie isn’t particularly believable, but that’s no great crime for a comedy; it’s just not funny, either. The cast is pretty good, though, with Connie Stevens, Robert Morley, Dennis Weaver, Brian Keith, Dick Shawn and Anita Ekberg doing what they can with the script, but it falls flat. The movie also features Linda Harrison and James Brolin.

 

Out of This World (1956)

OUT OF THIS WORLD (1956)
TV-Movie aka The Robot of Regalio
Article 2462 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-29-2008
Posting Date: 5-9-2008
Directed by Hollingsworth Morse
Featuring Richard Crane, Jimmy Lydon, Sally Mansfield
Country: USA

Rocky Jones must do battle with the evil ruler of Regalio, who has the power to pull planets from their orbits and plans to do so with Earth. Unfortunately, he also has to contend with another problem; the female ruler of Herculon who is his ally has an evil twin sister with designs of her own.

This marks my final foray into the world of Rocky Jones for this series. I must admit that I’ve been fairly loose in my coverage of the movies culled from the series; in certain cases, I’ve watched not the movie version, but the episodes of the series from which it was culled. Still, I think this is acceptable; other than the removable of beginning and ending credits and the occasional change of a credit sequence, the movies presented the episodes as is. This one features Ian Keith in a fun little role as the Nizam of Regalio. All in all, this one has a decent pace, and is one of the more enjoyable stories from the series. Granted, you have to make allowances; the show was rather stiff, the acting uneven, and certain segments are hard to swallow (there’s a lot of knock-out potions in drinks in this one), but I still think the scripts showed more sophistication than is usually to be found in kiddie space fare. Oh, and the robot gets loose and goes on a rampage (such as it is) in the final episode.

Goodbye, Rocky Jones; I initially expected to hate these movies, but I found them far more enjoyable than I expected, and I’ll miss covering them.

 

Il mio amico Jekyll (1960)

IL MIO AMICO JEKYLL (1960)
aka My Friend, Dr, Jekyll
Article 2461 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-28-2008
Posting Date: 5-8-2008
Directed by Marino Girolami
Featuring Ugo Tognazzi, Carlo Croccolo, Raimondo Vianello
Country: Italy

An ugly mad scientist (who scares women away) develops a method to transfer personalities between two creatures for a limited period of time. He uses this method to transfer his own personality to that of the popular teacher at a girl’s school in the hopes of scoring with women.

If I thought I was going to be able to use the fact that the name of Jekyll indicated that this was based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story to help me sort out another movie in unsubtitled Italian, I was out of luck; other than having a scientist named Jekyll, it doesn’t touch the story. Nevertheless, this was one of the easiest to follow for movies I’m watching in another language; from a plot perspective, it’s fairly easy to figure out what’s going on with the visual clues. The slightly comic touch to the title led me to suspect that this my be a comedy, and though it starts out looking serious enough, the minute I saw the scene where Jekyll tries to quiet a barking dog in his house, and it turns out not to be a dog, but a goose, I knew this was going for laughs. The basic premise is simple; the teacher is kidnapped by Jekyll, his body gets Jekyll’s personality, Jekyll goes out in the teacher’s body and makes passes at woman (attracting them and infuriating their husbands), and then when the Jekyll’s personality leaves the teacher’s body, the teacher has to deal with the complications that arose, including fighting an amusing duel at one point. I may not know what they’re saying, and there are a few plot points that are a little obscure, but the motivations and story arc are fairly obvious. Overall, I found it quite amusing and enjoyable. Once again, I hope I can find a dubbed or subtitled version of this one in the future.

 

Histoires extraordinaires a faire peur ou a faire rire (1949)

HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINAIRES A FAIRE PEUR OU A FAIRE RIRE (1949)
aka Unusual Tales
Article 2460 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-27-2007
Posting Date: 5-7-2008
Directed by Jean Faurez
Featuring Fernand Ledoux, Suzy Carrier, Jules Berry
Country: France

Gendarmes trade horror stories with each other.

This is another movie that I’ve only seen in an undubbed unsubtitled version, this time in French. Since this anthology features tales by Thomas De Quincey and Edgar Allan Poe, I had at least some chance of following it; I wasn’t familiar with the De Quincey story, but the Poe stories are fairly common ones – “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “A Cask of Amontillado”. I was glad to see that the old man of the former story wasn’t portrayed as a fiendish villain as he usually is, but as a pleasant old man. Unfortunately, this version of the story is fairly timid, and, in fact, the whole movie gave me the sense that it was aiming more for humor than horror. That’s all right for “Amontillado”, but it leaves “The Tell-Tale Heart” a shadow of its former self. I wasn’t able to follow the De Quincey story (“Ecce Homo”) very well, but it does have one shocker moment when a crate is opened. The framing segment with the gendarmes doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and it ends with them singing along to an organ grinder. It will probably take a dubbed or subtitled version of this one for me to really appreciate it.