The Invisible Monster (1950)

THE INVISIBLE MONSTER (1950)
Serial
Article 2923 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-9-2009
Posting Date: 8-14-2009
Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Featuring Richard Webb, Aline Towne, Lane Bradford
Country: USA

A criminal mastermind who can turn invisible is attempting to form an invisible army. However, he has to contend with an insurance investigator who is on his trail.

Back when I covered the feature version of this serial (SLAVES OF THE INVISIBLE MONSTER), I had a grand old time poking fun at the severe limitations of the criminal’s power of invisibility; he could only turn invisible while wearing an outfit soaked in a special solution while a bright light was shining on him. Of course, these limitations exist to keep him from using invisibility all the time, which would have driven up the special effects budget for a serial that couldn’t afford it. The invisibility gimmick is really the most interesting thing about it; the rest of the serial is a tired regurgitation of all the usual cliffhangers we’ve seen hundreds of times already (just how many times can you bail out of a car?). At least the fantastic content is much stronger than it usually is for a serial of this ilk. This one is routine.

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The Witches (1966)

THE WITCHES (1966)
Article 2922 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-8-2009
Posting Date: 8-13-2009
Directed by Cyril Frankel
Featuring Joan Fontaine, Kay Walsh, Alec McCowen
Country: UK

A schoolteacher, haunted by memories of an attack by voodoo worshipers in Africa, ends up taking a job in a small English town. However, she discovers that the town has a mysterious secret and that witchcraft may be at work.

According to IMDB, it was Joan Fontaine who acquired the rights of the Norah Lofts novel and brought it to Hammer for production; its commercial failure prompted her retirement from acting. It’s an odd, but often interesting movie; it reminds me on occasion of THE WICKER MAN, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, and any of several movies where an unbalanced woman is terrorized, though it really remains its own movie. It’s graced by a script from Nigel Kneale, and this helps somewhat. Most of the movie is quite talky, but the talk is interesting enough, and certain other scenes (like the one where Fontaine’s character finds herself caught in a sheep stampede that destroys evidence of foul play in the death of a local man) are very striking. Still, you won’t be surprised by the identity of the head witch, and when we hit the witches’ ritual at the end of the movie, it stumbles badly. Though I admire that the movie tries to do something different with the idea of the meeting of a coven, the spastic dancing by the worshipers is more comic than horrific; it looks like something out of a really bad avant-garde musical. Ultimately, it’s one of those movies that works better when it’s mining its sense of mystery and dread, but loses its way when it shows its hand.

Death Machines (1976)

DEATH MACHINES (1976)
Article 2921 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-7-2009
Posting Date: 8-12-2009
Directed by Paul Kyriazi
Featuring Ronald L. Marchini, Michael Chong, Joshua Johnson
Country: USA

An evil Oriental lady injects three martial artists with a drug that turns them into nearly indestructible assassins. Carnage ensues.

This movie starts out a martial arts / gangster flick with the killers knocking off rival hit men in order to force a gangster to use their services. It then turns into a “cop-who-doesn’t-play-by-the-rule” movies when one of the killers is captured by the police. It then turns into a BILLY JACK-style movie when one of the killers tries to defend an old couple when their restaurant is terrorized by a biker gang. Then it turns into love story when the only survivor of an attack on a karate school by the assassins falls in love with the nurse who tended him at the hospital. Then it remembers it’s an action flick with a final chase scene, a confrontation, and a twist ending. My piece of advice is this – don’t try to figure out the movie, it will only give you a headache. Final analysis – this is the type of movie that keeps fight choreographers busy when they’re not involved with real movies. And as for the actress playing the evil Oriental – if her talent was as big as her hair, she’d be Meryl Streep, and if her hair was as big as her talent, she’d be Sinead O’Connor.

Curse of Bigfoot (1978)

CURSE OF BIGFOOT (1978)
TV-Movie
Article 2920 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-6-2009
Posting Date: 8-11-2009
Directed by Don Fields
Featuring Bob Clymire, Jan Swihart, Bill Simonsen
Country: USA

A teacher recounts his encounter with a monster to his students.

I first encountered this movie in an unusual way. One day I was browsing in a local video store, and spotted a VHS tape advertising a lost film of the fifties called TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING. The blurbs proudly announced that it was from the producer of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, and, for the record, the producer listed on the credits was indeed one of the producers of the Ed Wood classic. I was intrigued; here was an obscurity that I’d never heard of. So I bought the tape.

The movie was a snoozefest of the first order, but I was still fascinated by its obscurity. No listing of it existed on IMDB at that time, so I looked up individual credits. I eventually discovered that the director of the movie, Don Fields, did have a credit on IMDB for a movie called CURSE OF BIGFOOT. Curious, I found a site that offered the movie, and bought a copy.

Upon receiving it, I watched the movie. Some of the earlier footage looked a bit familiar, but I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until thirty minutes in the movie where the sense of deja vu really hit; the last two-thirds of CURSE OF BIGFOOT consists of the movie TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING in its entirety, with one difference; whereas the footage of the earlier movie had been in black-and-white, the footage in this one was in color. I still wonder about the history of the original movie, and whether it ever had an official release as such.

As for the movie itself, CURSE OF BIGFOOT is in the running for the worst Bigfoot movie ever. It opens with a woman being stalked by a monster, which turns out to be footage from some unnamed (but very bad) movie being shown to a class of students who seem to be studying monsters (why didn’t they ever offer that class in my school?). The teacher then tells them about Bigfoot and recounts stories of earlier encounters with them. Then a guest teacher shows up and tells them about his encounter with Bigfoot, which consists of the footage of TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING. The problem is… the monster in that movie was an ancient Indian mummy, not Bigfoot.

So how’s the more recent version reviewed here? It’s still a snoozefest, but at least there’s a bit of campiness to be had in the new footage. Otherwise, it’s a complete waste of time, and features a monster costume so bad Larry Buchanan would be embarrassed to use it.

The Exquisite Cadaver (1969)

THE EXQUISITE CADAVER (1969)
aka Las crueles, The Cruel Ones
Article 2919 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-5-2009
Posting Date: 8-10-2009
Directed by Vicente Aranda
Featuring Capucine, Andre Argaud, Judy Matheson
Country: Spain

A book publisher receives a package containing a hand. He receives a telegram in which he is told he will receive a forearm. He lies to his wife on the significance of these events. He and his wife take up separate investigations to learn the reason why.

With a title like THE EXQUISITE CADAVER, I was definitely expecting something out of the ordinary. When I saw the director was Vicente Aranda (who directed FATA/MORGANA and THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE), that feeling increased. The trailer (which appears at the end of my copy of this movie) paints it all as a shock-a-moment horror thriller. Anyone who watches this movie on the strength of that trailer will come away disappointed; though the plot does revolve around the dismemberment of a corpse and the sending of body parts in the mail, it’s only marginally a horror movie. It’s arty rather than bloody (which, given the director, is no surprise), and basically it tells a story of how three women are affected by the man’s affair with a suicidal girl. The three women are the girl herself, the girl’s female friend (and possibly lover), and the man’s wife. I’ve seen it described as a soap opera, and that fits well enough in some ways, though it shows more insight than the usual soap opera. Overall, it works for me, but mileage may vary for you, and you should be aware that it’s slow-moving and quite bloodless.

Creatures the World Forgot (1971)

CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT (1971)
Article 2918 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-4-2009
Posting Date: 8-9-1009
Directed by Don Chaffey
Featuring Julie Ege, Brian O’Shaughnessy, Tony Bonner
Country: UK

Cavemen grunt, kill, wrestle and fill out ninety minutes worth of celluloid.

I always swore that I would never stoop to a dismissive one-line review of a movie no matter how bad it was. However, this one inspired me to come up with ten one-line reviews instead. Just pick your favorite, and move on.

1) If this is the story the creatures wanted to be remembered by, no wonder.

2) In short, no dinosaurs; we’d remember them.

3) The only thing smaller than their wardrobes are their vocabularies.

4) I would choose this movie as the one least likely to ever have a memorable quote page on IMDB.

5) What I learned from this movie: Caveman made up for their dearth of clothing by an overabundance of accessories.

6) This is the caveman movie the other caveman movies don’t talk about.

7) The locations are nice and the dialogue doesn’t suck; what’s not to like?

8) If you thought that a movie without any dialogue wouldn’t make any sense… you’d be right.

9) Alternate Title: When Loincloths Ruled the Earth

10) If these creatures were really forgotten, than this movie gives us a rare opportunity to forget them all over again.

P.S. I promise that this is the only review I ever write that uses the word “suck” in that context.

The Loves of Count Iorga: Vampire (1970)

THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA: VAMPIRE (1970)
aka Count Yorga, Vampire
Article 2917 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-3-2009
Posting Date: 8-8-2009
Directed by Bob Kelljan
Featuring Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy
Country: USA

When a woman who took part in a seance begins to show symptoms of vampire attack, suspicion falls on a Count from Yugoslavia who lives in a spooky old castle and is never seen during the daytime.

The trivia section for this movie on IMDB has two entries that contradict each other. One claims that the movie was originally intended to be a soft-core porno movie called THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA, VAMPIRE that turned out better than expected and was then changed to a straight horror movie. The other claims that it was never intended as a porno movie and was called COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE from the outset. All I know is this; my copy of the movie has the title THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA, VAMPIRE, and there are definite moments here that look like the movie could well have been intended for porn. For example, there’s a moment during the seance where a man grabs his girlfriend’s breast, there’s the introduction of a sexy nurse who later turns up in bed with the doctor, and, most strikingly, there’s a moment which looks like the beginning of a lesbian love scene being watched by Count Iorga (or Yorga). Though none of these scenes ever develop into anything explicit, they certainly look like they were intended for such a purpose at one time. At any rate, if the first story is true, than we can thank an excellent performance by Robert Quarry for the movie making the switch to straight horror.

According to one of my sources, this movie was shot for $64,000. If so, then my hat is off to Bob Kelljan, who makes it look a lot more expensive than it was. The script itself is uneven and a little too conventional to redeem the movie completely, but Quarry’s performance lifts it tremendously; he presents us with a unique vampire, one who looks like he could easily pass as an ordinary human being, thus making him more deadly. The rest of the cast is not as inspired, but they manage to hold their own; there are no actors embarrassing themselves here. All in all, it’s not bad, especially for its extreme low budget.