One Wish Too Many (1956)

ONE WISH TOO MANY (1956)
Article 2536 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-7-2007
Posting Date: 1-24-2008
Directed by John Durst
Featuring Anthony Richmond, Rosalind Gourgey, John Pike

A boy finds a marble that grants whatever he wishes. He soon discovers that this is not an unmixed blessing…

Sometimes a movie gets by on its own modesty. A magic marble that can grant any wish is the type of concept that nowadays would inspire a massive special effects budget with all the wizardry that could be mustered through CGI, and the result would probably be charmless. Neither this movie nor the characters in it have any such ambitions themselves. It’s an unassuming little movie, and the boy who finds the marble initially just wishes for such small things as that his homework will be done and that he will get a toy steamroller and a doll for his friend. He harbors no great desire to change his life; he just wants to use it to ease his way through life, get a few nice items for his own and help his friends, and even early on he sees how even these small wishes can backfire. His biggest wish comes near the end of the movie, and the movie drives home its basic message (be careful what you wish for) without ever getting preachy or overbearing; it just lets the story tell itself. The budget is quite low and the acting is merely passable, but the modest charm and the short length carry the movie along. Sometimes simplicity is a real virtue.

 

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Noita palaa elamaan (1952)

NOITA PALAA ELAMAAN (1952)
aka The Witch
Article 2355 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-6-2007
Posting Date: 1-23-2008
Directed by Roland af Hallstrom
Featuring Mirja Mane, Toivo Makela, Hillevi Lagerstam

An archaeologist pulls a stake out of a grave that is believed to harbor a witch. Later, a naked woman mysteriously appears in the grave. The villagers believe she is a witch, but the archaeologist believes this is just superstition. Then strange things start happening…

Is she a witch or isn’t she? Only a Finnish translator knows for sure, and there weren’t any around for my viewing of this undubbed, unsubtitled Finnish horror movie. Most of the plot above I got from other sources after watching the movie, because it was a little difficult to piece together while watching it. However, I did enjoy it as much as I could despite the language barrier; this is the first Finnish horror movie I’ve seen, and it’s certainly different. At moments it recalls silent cinema and early talkies; certain music cues in particular gave me the feeling of the latter type of film. However, none of the early talkies would have a naked woman romping around as much as we have here; I don’t know how much nudity there was in the cinema of other countries at the time, but I was quite surprised to see this much skin in a movie from the early fifties. A lot of the details are quite vague, but I do know that the witch sows discord into the archaeologist’s marriage, she causes violent rivalry to break out among men for her charms, and the villagers like to chase her around with any handy farm implements. There are moments in the second half of the movie where I even began to wonder whether this might have been a comedy; it certainly doesn’t appear to be played for scares. At any rate, I’m glad this one finally showed up; it’s been on my hunt list for years.

 

Dr. Mabuse vs Scotland Yard (1963)

DR. MABUSE VS SCOTLAND YARD (1963)
aka Scotland Yard jagt Dr. Mabuse
Article 2534 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-5-2007
Posting Date: 1-22-2008
Directed by Paul May
Featuring Peter van Eyck, Sabine Bethmann, Dieter Borsche

Someone has stolen an invention that gives him the ability to control men’s minds. Could this be the work of that master criminal, Dr. Mabuse? But Dr. Mabuse is dead! Or is he…?

This is the first chance I’ve had to see one of the Dr. Mabuse movies made during the character’s revival in the sixties. I really didn’t know what to expect; I like the Dr. Mabuse character, but given the usual quality of the German krimi films, I expected it would largely be just another one of those; some good scenes buried in a muddled and confusing plot, possibly worth exploring further but more of a chore than a joy to watch the first time out. I was quite delighted to find that this wasn’t the case. the plot was surprisingly coherent, and the story is clever and interesting. Even the comic relief works quite well, the detective’s mother proves to be more capable of second-guessing the criminals than the detective himself. The mystery about how Dr. Mabuse can pull off these crimes when he’s dead is fairly easy to figure out, especially if you’ve seen the original THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE , and it adds a touch of horror to the mainly science-fiction oriented fantastic content of the movie. No, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Lang films of the twenties and thirties, but it works well enough in its own right, and it’s also nice to see a detective (Peter van Eyck’s character) who is a good intellectual match for Mabuse himself. Klaus Kinski has a fairly prominent role this time as an inspector who comes under the control of Mabuse. All in all, I found this one quite enjoyable, and I look forward to the other movies in this series.

 

The Monster of London City (1964)

THE MONSTER OF LONDON CITY (1964)
aka Das Ungeheuer von London City
Article 2353 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-4-2007
Posting Date: 1-21-2008
Directed by Edwin Zbonek
Featuring Hansjorg Felmy, Marianne Koch, Dietmar Schonherr

A new Jack the Ripper is loose in London, and the prime suspect for the police is an actor who is playing the role of Jack the Ripper in a stage production.

You know, I try to cut these krimi some slack; though they are often confusing and frustrating, they also usually have some good moments in them to compensate. This one is really no different; there are some good moments here, especially towards the end of the movie. However, the confusion and repetitiveness of this one really started to wear on me; I really got tired of the tiresome police investigation (where they always take the time to tell you that this new murder is just like all the others) and the unfunny comic relief couple who set out to catch the Ripper on their own. My problem a lot of the time is the editing; scenes seem to occur in random order, and you have to keep adjusting to figure out which facet of the plot they’re currently on, only to find there’s usually not much happening in this part of the story anyway. Bad dubbing and a dull music score also don’t help. In short, the movie doesn’t generate much in the way of suspense, which is a shame; there’s enough of a story here to make for an entertaining movie if only the presentation were up to par.

 

The Hunchback of the Morgue (1973)

THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (1973)
aka El Jorobado de la Morgue
Article 2352 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-3-2007
Posting Date: 1-20-2008
Directed by Javier Aguirre
Featuring Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Victor Barrera

A hunchback who supplies cadavers for doctors finds himself grief-stricken at the death of a woman who was his only friend when he was young. He puts her body in hiding and approaches a doctor whom he thinks will bring her back to life. The doctor agrees, but he has plans of his own…

I’m really beginning to see the appeal of some of these Paul Naschy movies. He obviously has a real affection for the characters he plays, and he builds the scripts around making the character both the monster and the hero. As a result, the plots go through some fascinating mutations to bring about this theme. The plots are often unpredictable; once you reach a point where you think you have an idea of how the rest of the movie is going to go, he throws in new characters and new plot developments to push the movie in a different direction, and the only thing you know for sure is, at the end of the movie, the monster Naschy has been playing will turn out to be the hero, though one who, of course, must die. It does make the movies interesting, though it can often dissolve into mere silliness. I quite like this one myself; it manages to stop short of the silliness, and it gets Naschy away from the overfamiliar combination of vampires and werewolves. Which is not to say it doesn’t have problems; the dubbing is quite bad, and there are some real logic flaws. One of the latter is that so many characters make comments about the hunchback’s ugly face that it’s surprising that Naschy uses very little face makeup, and though he’s not the most handsome man in the world, he isn’t ugly. I suspect that he doesn’t use ugly makeup because that would put the kibbosh on his love scene with Rosanna Yanni; it’s a case of Naschy trying to have it both ways. Another problem is that it’s really hard to believe at any point in the proceedings that the hunchback “wouldn’t hurt a fly”, as one character claims, but there seem to be quite a few characters here who consider him harmless. Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles, and this is one of Naschy’s most entertaining movies.

 

Peter Pan (1960)

PETER PAN (1960)
TV-Movie
Article 2351 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-2-2007
Posting Date: 1-19-2008
Directed by Vincent J. Donehue
Featuring Mary Martin, Cyril Ritchard, Maureen Bailey

Peter Pan whisks away a girl and her two brothers to Neverneverland to meet the lost boys. They do battle with Captain Hook.

The story of “Peter Pan” never really did much for me in the first place, and I’m not partial to musicals either. Therefore, about the best I can really do with this is to admire it from a distance. Make no mistake; it’s a fine adaptation of the work; Mary Martin is spirited in the title role, the songs are good, the dancing is fine, Cyril Pritchard is well cast as both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, etc. It’s just that I only occasionally feel the magic myself. Still, there are at least three things I really like in this TV-Movie adaptation of the play. The dance with Tiger Lily and the Indians is a lot of fun, and is my favorite moment in the movie. I’m truly impressed with how a whole character is created with nothing more than a flickering light and a few sound effects (Tinkerbell, in case you were wondering), and I absolutely love the Nana costume and the performance of the actor inside; it’s not that the costume was convincing (that would have been impossible), but that it’s so charming that I willingly buy into the illusion. For me, this was real magic, and it was even before Peter Pan appears on the scene. Still, the experience may have dampened for me by the simple fact that I saw just a short time ago the SCTV parody in which Peter Pan is played by Divine.

 

The Vampires (1961)

THE VAMPIRES (1961)
aka Maciste contro il vampiro, Goliath vs. the Vampire
Article 2350 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-1-2007
Posting Date: 1-18-2008
Directed by Sergio Corbucci and Giacomo Gentilomo
Featuring Gordon Scott, Leonora Ruffo, Jacques Kurtik

Goliath (or is it Maciste) swears revenge on raiders who have attacked and murdered or kidnapped all the people in his village. He goes to the raiders’ island home, and discovers that they have been forced to do the bidding of an evil vampire-like monster.

The amount of fantastic content in sword and sandal movies varies wildly with the movie. In some, the sole fantastic content is that the hero is fairly strong (HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN comes to mind), while others ratchet up the fantastic content quite a few notches, such as this one. In fact, this one belongs to that small group whose horror content is particularly heavy, such as HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD and NIGHT STAR, GODDESS OF ELECTRA ; the vampire-like creature known as Kobrak is quite effective, and he has an army of faceless zombie slaves to do his bidding. Our hero is extremely strong here, so much so that I was a bit surprised to find that it is really a Maciste movie; in most of the other Maciste movies I’ve seen, his strength is considerably less. In this one, he pulls pillars out of the center of buildings (twice) lifts a myriad of heavy things and throws them, and takes on several people all at once. As for other fantastic content, there is a race of blue men that are fighting the vampire along with our two-named hero. Overall, it’s a slightly better-than-average sword-and-sandal movie, but horror fans will want to give this one a look.