Agency (1980)

AGENCY (1980)
Article 1964 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-31-2006
Posting Date: 12-28-2006
Directed by George Kaczender
Featuring Robert Mitchum, Lee Majors, Valerie Perrine

An executive at an ad agency is puzzled when a bunch of people are fired and a new crew is hired. He doesn’t really become suspicious until a paranoid co-worker, convinced that a conspiracy is underfoot, turns up dead. He decides to uncover the secret.

The fantastic content of this movie involves subliminal advertising, and this may be a bit of a spoiler, but almost every other plot description I’ve seen gives it away, so I guess I can’t be held solely accountable. The movie is interesting enough; it has a slightly surreal edge to it, an unexpected sense of humor (much of which is due to Saul Rubinek, who leaves the story much too early), and it features Robert Mitchum. Now the presence of Robert Mitchum doesn’t guarantee a good movie, but it does mean that there’s at least one pro on the job who will go a long ways towards holding your attention. These pluses are a very good thing for this movie, because, despite an interesting premise, it has a predictable story and is lifelessly directed. It’s also oddly dated at times; some of the artwork and ad campaigns look as if they’re out of the late sixties rather than from the late seventies / early eighties; in particular, check out the graphics of the opening title, the manipulative political ad, and the glimpses of the commercials for “Chocolate Planet”. It’s watchable, but it could have been a lot better. For those into movie in-jokes, pay close attention to the names in the political ad, and then keep your eyes peeled during the final credits.

 

Gammera the Invincible (1966)

GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE (1966)
Article 1963 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-30-2006
Posting Date: 12-27-2006
Directed by Sandy Howard and Noriaki Yuasa
Featuring Albert Dekker, Brian Donlevy, Diane Findlay

An atomic bomb in a Russian airplane goes off when it is downed, and the explosion releases a giant turtle (known as Gammera) from his icy tomb.

Long-time followers of this series may be asking why I’m covering this movie again; after all, my review of GAMERA was done more than four years ago. The reason is that sometimes it can be a little difficult to say how much a movie has changed before it can be called a different movie. The movie I covered several years ago, GAMERA, was the Sandy Frank dub of the original Japanese movie. When the movie first came to the states, it had lots of new American footage edited in; this is the version I am now covering. As far as the question whether it is the same movie or two different movies goes, I let IMDB make the call for me, and they do indeed list the two versions as separate entities.

So how does this version compare with the Sandy Frank version? It’s the better of the two. The dubbing is better, for one thing, though it’s still far from good. The dubbed script is also better written; it does a better job of setting up plot points. The new American footage is, however, quite bad. Some of the acting is way over the top; in particular, a scene involving two scientists on a talk show (which looks like it was shot in a broom closet) having a loud, obnoxious argument about the existence of Gammera is unbelievable. One of the other segments features an actor giving the worst oriental accent I’ve ever heard. However, the saddest sequences involve Brian Donlevy. He was a heavy drinker, and I suspect that he was far from sober when he shot his scenes for this, as he seems just barely able to deliver his lines.

Overall, though the quality is slightly better than the Sandy Frank version, I still find this to be a fairly dull kaiju. Part of the reason is that this movie tries to have it both ways; Gammera is supposed to be both terrifying and sympathetic, but the movie just comes off as muddled. He’d fare a little better in the sequels, and much better in his revival during the late nineties.

 

La Bruja (1954)

LA BRUJA (1954)
aka THE WITCH
Article 1962 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-29-2006
Posting Date: 12-26-2006
Directed by Chano Urueta
Featuring Lilia del Valle, Ramon Gay, Julio Villarreal

The daughter of a scientist is killed when hoodlums break into his laboratory to steal a formula. The scientist then devises a formula to turn an incredibly ugly woman beautiful, and then uses the woman in a scheme to get revenge on those responsible for his daughter’s death.

My copy of this Mexican horror movie is unsubtitled and undubbed, but I was able to figure out the plot with the help of some plot descriptions elsewhere. Not that this one was particularly difficult to sort out; it’s a fairly common horror-type story, and, except for a few details, it manages to come through in the visuals. One advantage of watching a movie like this in a language you can’t understand is that it puts you in a position to concentrate on the visuals, and that plays to this movie’s strengths. It’s full of wonderfully moody horror images; for example, there are several memorable shots of the scientist as seen through or around his lab equipment that are quite fun. In fact, this whole movie feels like one of the better Mexican efforts, and it really leaves me wondering just how much damage bad dubbing has done to these movies. Had this one been poorly dubbed (as most of the Mexican horror movies were), would I have dismissed it because the dubbing would have made the movie seem cheap and stupid? I don’t really know. I am glad, however, that I’ve taken the chance on watching some of these movies even when saddled with the difficulty of not understanding the dialogue; it makes you appreciate how much can be lost in translation.

 

OSS 117 – From Tokyo With Love (1966)

OSS 117 – FROM TOKYO WITH LOVE (1966)
aka ATOUT COEUR A TOKYO POUR O.S.S. 117,
HEART TRUMP IN TOKYO FOR O.S.S. 117,
O.S.S. 117 – TERROR IN TOKYO, etc. etc.
Article 1961 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-28-2006
Posting Date: 12-25-2006
Directed by Michel Boisrond
Featuring Frederick Stafford, Marina Vlady, Henri Serre

A secret agent disguises himself as the husband of a woman who was blackmailed into revealing military secrets. This is done in an attempt to thwart a blackmail plot involving bombs delivered by miniature airplanes.

At this point of time, the most difficult movies to deal with that pop up on my list are these Italian superspy movies (and the fact that this one is more French than Italian doesn’t really make a difference). Unlike Sword-and Sandal movies, these James Bond clones don’t appear to really have had much success here. Sword-and-Sandal movies are also relatively easy to find; in fact, there’s a company which puts out DVD packages that has put out one consisting of fifty Sword-and-Sandal movies for about sixty cents apiece, and I don’t see them doing the same for these Eurospy features. Furthermore, trying to locate these spy features can be really difficult, as they exist under a bewildering array of alternate titles (actually, Sword-and-Sandal movies have the same problem, but at least IMDB has done a better job of keeping track of these titles). If you do manage to find a copy of one of these Eurospy movies, there’s a good chance that it won’t be either dubbed or subtitled in English, either. And, after all this, it probably won’t be a very good movie anyway; it will be just what it sounds like, a lame James Bond rip-off.

However, I ended up quite surprised by this one. Sure, I had to go through some contortions to match the title under which I bought it with the title under which it was listed in my reference book and the title under which it is listed in IMDB. And yes, the print is pretty lousy, and it’s cluttered with subtitles in some Germanic language (I think it might be Dutch). But it is not only dubbed into English, but well dubbed as well. Furthermore, it’s actually a fairly decent movie, with witty dialogue and a fun plot. No, it doesn’t have the stunts of a real James Bond movie, but I was quite happy with this one. My favorite scene has the hero doing battle with one of those big brutes who seem indestructible, only to find out eventually that the character was an ally. The movie is also loaded with gadgets; these, as well as the miniature airplane device, push the movie into the realm of borderline science fiction.

 

Eve (1968)

EVE (1968)
aka THE FACE OF EVE
Article 1960 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-27-2006
Posting Date: 12-24-2006
Directed by Robert Lynn and Jeremy Summers
Featuring Celeste Yarnall, Robert Walker Jr., Herbert Lom

When an adventurer encounters a wild jungle woman while searching for information on a missing business partner, he uncovers a plot to defraud a rich Colonel and learns about a missing Inca treasure.

When this movie first popped up on my list, I almost discarded it under the belief that it was just an alternate title for KING OF KONG ISLAND, another movie from roughly the same period about a wild jungle girl named Eve; one of the alternate titles of that one is EVE, THE SAVAGE VENUS. As it turns out, they’re two different movies, though neither one of them is particularly worth looking for. At least the other one, with its plot about a mad scientist using surgery to make slaves out of gorillas, has some marked fantastic content; this one has nothing, outside of the mild fantasy element of the wild jungle girl. At least one plot description I’ve encountered mentions the girl as possessing psychic powers, but I see none of that in the actual movie. It’s a dull affair, especially during the long middle section where the hero returns to civilization, and any interest it does generate is more due to the presence of several familiar faces (Herbert Lom, Chrisoopher Lee, Fred Clark) than anything that actually happens. At least it doesn’t take itself too seriously, though it does resort to stereotypes (in the form of Jose Maria Caffarel’s comic character) to do so. One fun thing to do in the movie is to keep track of how many characters die as a result of their own monumental stupidity; I count at least three.

 

About this project…

For those of you trying to reach scifilm.org and found yourself here, or clicked on a link from IMDB, be aware that this is my new archive site for my reviews.  The old site isn’t working and may not be back, and many of the reviews on that site haven’t as of yet made it to this site, but I’m working on it.  I ask for your patience and understanding.

This is the archive site for what used to be called my Movie of the Day project, though I no longer write new reviews daily.

Dave Sindelar

 

Agente X 1-7 Operacion Oceano (1965)

AGENTE X 1-7 OPERACION OCEANO (1965)
Article 1959 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-26-2006
Posting Date: 12-23-2006
Directed by Tanio Boccia
Featuring Lang Jeffries, Aurora de Alba, Rafael Bardem

A superspy acts cool, beats up villains, and beds women to help protect the free world from evildoers (generic spy thriller description #1).

Why did I leave the title of this movie in a foreign language? And why is my plot description so vague? If you’re thinking that this movie wasn’t dubbed into English, you’re on the right track, so let me give you the full lowdown. It’s an nth-generation dupe of a TV transmission of a badly panned-and-scanned copy of a low-budget Italian James Bond-style-superspy movie dubbed into Spanish for maximum incomprehensibility. Most of the movie consists of action sequences, the hero driving around to bad soundtrack music, beautiful women, and scenes that explain the plot, none of which I could understand. Don’t ask me about the fantastic content; there’s some gadgets and machines in here, so I’m assuming it’s borderline science fiction. The only parts of this movie that are English are the lyrics to a couple of the songs, and they stink. And we’re in the middle of a heat wave, and my foot hurts, and my digestion is acting up, and I get way too much spam from companies that want to sell me medications, and…all right, so I’m going on. But if I can’t give this movie a proper review, I need to put something in this write-up!