Monday, November 30, 2009

Sinbad the Sailor (1947)

Directed by Richard Wallace
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Douglas Fairbanks is obviously having a good time in this kiddie matinee feature. It's difficult to take seriously,what with Fairbanks' exaggerated overacting, the fake fighting, the even more fake Arabian settings, but it sure is a lot of fun. There is a plot in there somewhere, a search for treasure on a forgotten island and a romantic feud between Sinbad and the evil Emir Anthony Quinn. Don't worry it all turns out alright in this, the eighth voyage of Sinbad.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Apartment for Peggy (1948)

Directed by George Seaton
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Fox Movie Channel)

Post-war film dealing with young GI struggling to make ends meet and start a family while going to school. Edmund Gwenn is perfectly cast as the retired professor looking for a reason to live. Jeanne Crain is the slightly ditsy but wise beyond her years young wife. Due to a housing shortage they all end up living in the same house. The academic setting allows for some philosophy to make its way into the story. It's a well-written, well-directed and well-acted old-fashioned movie with no pretensions. Highly recommended on a cold winter night by the fire.

The Outriders (1950)

Directed by Roy Rowland
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

In the waning days of the Civil War, Joel McCrae is ordered to escort a Yankee gold shipment across the west under the guise of "outriders". Most of the film takes place on that long journey. There is a tense square dance scene when the drunk men force the lone female to join them. Luckily McCrae is there to keep things in hand. Another good scene involves crossing a raging river by raft. In the end, though, McCrae simply lacks the necessary charisma to make this more than a passing western.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950)

Directed by Lee Sholem
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

A lively Tarzan jungle adventure. Tarzan leads a jungle safari to rescue Jane from a tribe who wants to use her and other slaves to repopulate their dying race. Tarzan actually shows some bow and arrow skills when he knocks off heavily camouflaged "tree people". When the safari finally reaches the tribe, the action shifts from the jungle to an ancient stone temple, complete with sealed tombs and trick doors. Indiana Jones would be right at home in this Tarzan flick.

The Cape Town Affair (1967)

Directed by Robert D. Webb
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Fox Movie Channel)

Dull remake of Pickup on South Street with a young Jacqueline Bisset and James Brolin. The setting this time is South Africa, which really doesn't add anything to the movie. Brolin is a pickpocket who gets more than he bargained for when he picks Bisset's purse on a bus. The police are soon on the trail of a group of Communists, and the Commies just want their film back. Surprisingly little chemistry between Bisset and Brolin.

The Savage Seven (1968)

Directed by Richard Rush
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Encore Action)

A microcosm of the late 60s social revolution against the establishment. This biker flick takes place in an Indian shanty town in the middle of the desert. Bikers show up and get drunk in the local bar. There is a long brawl. Meanwhile, the local Indians are being underpaid and overworked by "the man". The leader of the bikers becomes involved with an Indian girl, and sympathizes with the Indian situation. He takes over the grocery store and lets them take whatever they need. "The man" rapes and kills an Indian, putting the blame on a biker, which sets off a riot. Most of the shanty town burns down. Music is by Iron Butterfly and Cream.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949)

Directed by Lee Sholem
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Lex Barker takes over the Tarzan role from Weissmuller. He's got long blond locks and speaks in monosyllables, sort of like a California surfer dude. Only Tarzan knows the way to the Blue Valley, whose residents are eternally young. It's entrance is guarded by bowman accessorized in matching leopard prints. The magic fountain is only briefly glimpsed, resembling a Las Vegas attraction with underwater lights. There is a high quota of anthropomorphic Cheeta antics.

Scott Joplin (1977)

Directed by Jeremy Kagan
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Encore Drama)

This biopic on ragtime pianist Scott Joplin starts strongly. An early scene in a brothel with a "piano duel" is particularly good. However, the second half unwinds as a "disease of the week" made-for-TV movie. The music is consistently good, by Richard Hyman. Watch fast for the Commodores!

Slaughter Trail (1951)

Directed by Irving Allen
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

This fun, lighthearted western is the product of a bygone age. You know you are in for something different when the opening theme song describes the plot of the movie, the characters and even what we are seeing on the screen. The songs are plentiful throughout, and I can just see a theater full of matinee kids in 1951 singing along. In fact, the songs are by Terry Gilkyson, and his character is "Singalong". The plot is strictly routine: stagecoach is held up, bad guys go on the lam, cavalry searches for them, some Indians get involved, the bad guys get caught. It's in Cinecolor.

Serpent of the Nile (1953)

Directed by William Castle
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Sam Katzman and William Castle team up to present their version of the familiar Anthony and Cleopatra story. The male leads Raymond Burr and William Lundigan are totally out of their element here, coming off as Laurence Olivier on a bad day. Only Rhonda Fleming makes it watchable, with some gorgeous costumes and her fabulous eyes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Wrath of God (1972)

Directed by Ralph Nelson
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Robert Mitchum is well cast in this action yarn. He plays a machine gun toting, hard drinking priest in a central American country. He is paired with an Irish terrorist and a gun runner when saved at the last minute from a firing squad. Together they must assassinate the leader of the local revolution. Mitchum plays the renegade priest role to the hilt, with numerous one liners. The film almost veers into comedy at times. However, it seems too long, mainly due to a subplot involving the Irishman and his Indian lover.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Zaat (1975)

Directed by Don Barton
My rating: 1.5 star out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Alone among walking catfish movies, Zaat is where it's at. A narrator channeling Ed Wood tells us the inner life of Dr. Leopold, whose quest to "conquer the universe" leads him to discover a way to turn man into fish. He promptly does so to himself, and the results are a cross between the Creature from the Black Lagoon and ALF. He spends the rest of the film in his monster rubber suit, terrorizing the residents of Cypress Grove, Florida. A good ole boy sheriff, college graduate researcher and a couple of employees in red jumpsuits from "INPIT" try to stop him. The film comes to a complete halt when a group of long-haired Jesus freaks are escorted to jail for their own protection, strumming an acoustic guitar and playing a flute along the way. Well, old Doc Leopold eventually decides he needs a mate to start his own walking catfish species, so he goes after the pretty girls in the cast. He accidentally kills one of them while trying to turn her into a fish. He almost gets the other one. There is actually some good underwater photography of fish on display, and a bubbly/eerie electronic soundtrack.



Monday, November 23, 2009

The Choirboys (1977)


Directed by Robert Aldrich
My rating: BOMB
IMDb
(Encore Mystery)

Obnoxious, vulgar, juvenile police "comedy" with virtually no redeeming value. These cops harass gays in the park, take cheap shots at the minorities in the housing projects, visit prostitutes while on duty and are constantly drunk. One of them has a Vietnam flashback while in a drunken stupor and kills a young gay man. The group of cops decides to cover it up, and then harass their superior when he tries to expose them. It's mostly played as a comedy, but is never funny.

The Power (1968)

Directed by Byron Haskin
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

George Hamilton works at a research facility on human pain, connected to the space program. One of the scientists has superhuman telekinetic powers, but we don't know which one. When "the power" is used, electrical gadgets go haywire, a loud heartbeat is heard and someone dies. Hamilton and friend Suzanne Pleshette leave the research facility, to avoid becoming victims and to find out who has "the power". A series of misadventures follow, often unintentionally hilarious. They eventually discover who has "the power", but it's so confusing that I still don't know who it was even after just watching the film. Terrible.



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Riders to the Stars (1954)

Directed by Richard Carlson
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

At a remote desert laboratory scientists are attempting to win the space race. They need human volunteers to capture an asteroid, seeking to discover why they don't completely burn up in the atmosphere. Then, they can use its mysterious properties to prevent rockets from doing the same. A huge gap in logic here...since they don't yet have the technology, they are going to send up not one, but four rockets, all doomed to burn up on re-entry?! Anyway, much time is spent on the training of the astronauts, the most interesting part being the 12g tests in a spinning centrifuge. Finally, they are off to space to scoop up some asteroids. One rocket is destroyed by an asteroid that is too big. Another astronaut cracks up and goes off course. His mummified face is glimpsed in a space suit. A third succeeds in grabbing an asteroid, but he spends most of his fuel in the process. Will he get back to Earth? And what about that fourth rocket??

Aliens from Another Planet (1982)

Directed by Irwin Allen, Sobey Martin
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Fox Movie Channel)

The date is misleading, as it is a re-edited TV movie from 3 episodes of the 1966 series The Time Tunnel. Naturally the result is episodic, with little or no connecting storyline between the episodes other than the same characters. It's strictly routine 60s sci-fi, and rather silly at times. There are aliens (from another planet, as opposed to aliens from Earth) in tin foil suits and matching make up. Lizards and iguanas substitute for dinosaurs. The set up reminded me of Star Trek, but the characters are travelling through time rather than space. Instead of a "bridge" there is a central control facility, where scientists watch what happens on a big screen. People teleport, much as they do on Star Trek. However, the writing is not even close to Star Trek quality (discounting season 3, which this resembles).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wild Wheels (1969)

Directed by Ken Osborne
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(VHS, Video Gems)

This amateur film from southern California pits the local "dune buggy boys" against a rogue "cycle gang". Reb Smith leads the dune dudes, and he also happens to play guitar and sing like Elvis. The leader of the cycle gang is King. Trouble starts when Reb and King each get a girl from the opposing group. The cycle bums steal beer from a store, smoke pot and generally party hard on the beach. The dune guys have some kind of talent show at the local club. Much of the film is dedicated to lip synched performances by groups at the show. The soundtrack was released on RCA Victor Records, and is a combination of twangy beach rock by Reb and southern California soft psych by the 13th Committee, Saturday Revue and Three of August. The film ends with an inevitable brawl between the two "gangs".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twilight of Honor (1963)


Directed by Boris Sagal
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Courtroom drama seems overly familiar and is populated with unlikable characters, but is ultimately well made with a genuinely gripping ending. Richard Chamberlain is the young, idealistic lawyer who has a seemingly close and shut murder case thrust upon him. It soon becomes apparent, however, that the local good ole boys have complete control over the police, lawyers and courtroom. Chamberlain seeks the advice and guidance of a well respected and retired lawyer played by Claude Rains. During the trial that takes up most of the film, we learn the sordid story of the murder in flashback. However, it is the slimy tactics of the prosecution that comes out looking guilty.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Dandy in Aspic (1968)

Directed by Anthony Mann
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Laurence Harvey is a double agent, working for both the UK and the USSR. In London, the British assign him to assassinate a Russian in Berlin, but it turns out he is assigned to assassinate himself. The Russians know this, and so, apparently, do the British. Most of the film takes place in Berlin and the location shooting is good. However, almost nothing happens. Mia Farrow follows him there, but she is a bored photographer and her character brings nothing to the film. Spies meet and talk, phone calls are made, messages intercepted, but really, nothing happens until the final anticlimactic scene.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scandal Sheet (1952)

Directed by Phil Karlson
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Excellent drama based on a Samuel Fuller novel. Broderick Crawford is the unlikable editor of a New York tabloid. His crack reporter, perfectly played by John Derek, gets the scoop on the latest murder. We are in on the killer and it is none other than Crawford himself. When he is forced to kill someone else to cover his tracks, the reporter, and friend Donna Reed, will stop at nothing to find out his identity. As they draw closer to the truth, the tension mounts, until a rousing finale.

Leonor (1975)


Directed by Juan Luis Buñuel
My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(VHS, Magnetic Video Corporation)

Brooding, philosophical film on the nature of love and death set in medieval Spain. Liv Ullmann is Leonor, who is on her death bed after a horse accident. She is walled up in a tomb after she dies by her husband Richard, played by Michel Piccoli. The same day, he goes out and marries a young Ornella Muti. Ten years pass, when one day Richard sees Leonor on a riverbank. He re-opens her tomb, where he meets a Christ-like figure who resurrects her. He murders his young wife and begins living with Leonor. She slowly regains her memory and senses. When children in the village begin turning up dead, she is suspected of killing them and hunted. Is she a vampire or is it the Black Death? Moody soundtrack by Ennio Morricone perfectly complements this haunting film.

Genghis Khan (1965)


Directed by Henry Levin
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Omar Sharif is good in the title role of Genghis Khan. The beginning of the story takes place during his youth in Mongolia. He is an outcast but dreams of uniting the warring tribes. Once grown, he heads east to China to find the source of its wealth and power. He meets James Mason near the Great Wall, doing his worst Charlie Chan imitation with an English accent. Once in the Chinese city, he meets the emperor played by Robert Morley, who is just awful in the role. We spend far too much time in China, but eventually Sharif and company break out to conquer the world. He meets one more bad actor, and it's none other than Eli Wallach trying to pass off a Persian accent.



Monday, November 16, 2009

13 Frightened Girls! (1963)

Directed by William Castle
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Innocuous William Castle nonsense about a 16-year-old diplomat's daughter who thinks "spying is fun". When she is not stealing secrets from Red China, she is stealing other diplomat's daughters' boyfriends. It tries to work in some cheap scares, like a cat jumping into a moving elevator. The foreign girls, who apparently won their roles after a worldwide search by Castle, have thick accents and are hard to understand.



Jack the Ripper (1988)

Directed by David Wickes
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Michael Caine is police inspector Abberline, who has the unenviable task of solving the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888 London. This is a long, made-for-TV movie from British Thames Television. It is a handsome production with authentic sets and locales. Numerous suspects are given screen time, with which we can weigh their guilt or innocence. Caine is relatively restrained, though he does occasionally resort to his trademark screaming of lines when he needs added emotion. The identity of Jack the Ripper is eventually revealed, and a statement by the filmmakers at the end backs it up with the claim of exhaustive research and deduction.

Clive of India (1935)

Directed by Richard Boleslawski
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Fox Movie Channel)

Ronald Colman and Loretta Young star in this historical drama/romance set in colonial India. It paints its story with large brushstrokes, telling the story of Robert Clive, who rises from ordinary servant to military genius in the blink of an eye. His wife stays home and worries if he cares more about India than her and the children. Other than some impressive battle elephants who stomp and eat people, it's pretty mushy and routine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Razorback (1984)

Directed by Russell Mulcahy
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

An animal activist travels to the Australian outback to do a story on kangaroos, but ends up being killed by a giant boar. Her husband, Gregory Harrison, tries to figure out what happened. He tangles with the local weirdos at the pet packing plant. He makes friends with a young researcher and her friend a hunter, both of whom are after the giant pig. The film often resembles a mix of Mad Max and Jaws. There is some fantastic widescreen cinematography of the desolate Australian landscape by Mad Max photographer Dean Semler. One scene has Harrison hallucinating as he crosses a surreal desert, obviously inspired by famous Salvador Dali paintings.



Billy the Kid (1930)

Directed by King Vidor
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Excruciatingly slow early talkie with good location shooting in New Mexico. Johnny Mack Brown plays Billy as a goofy Robin Hood of the west, vowing vengeance on the gang who shot his friend Tunston. The townspeople seem divided, some want him dead and others see him as a hero. Pat Garrett, the local sheriff, is also divided in his loyalties. An occasionally good vignette, but the story is confused and it was difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Singing Guns (1950)




Academy Awards, USA 1951

Nominated
Oscar
Best Music, Original Song
Fred Glickman
Hy Heath
Johnny Lange
For the song "Mule Train"

Republic Pictures
Directed by R.G. Springsteen
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Encore Westerns)

One of the best Republic Pictures westerns in Trucolor. Vaughn Monroe is the outlaw with a velvety voice, hoarding gold in a cave behind a waterfall. He saves the local sheriff after a shootout by bringing him to the town Doc, played wonderfully by Walter Brennan. He's made temporary sheriff and soon tangles with vixen and saloon owner Ella Raines. They have numerous entertaining exchanges loaded with double entendre. Vaughn begins to have second thoughts about his outlaw ways, but when his true identity is uncovered it seems everyone is after the reward money for his head or his gold stash.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The White Tower (1950)

Directed by Ted Tetzlaff
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

A group of six attempt to climb a Swiss mountain that has never been conquered. The expedition is led by a woman, played by "Valli", whose father died on the mountain. The first part of the film is about her attempt to find members for the group, but most of it takes place on the mountain. It is filmed as a mixture of location shots featuring doubles doing the actual climbing and studio sets for dialogue and close-ups of the stars. The group of climbers are of mixed nationalities, which results in a political subtext involving former German soldier Lloyd Bridges. They frequently bicker and there is a budding romance.




Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bridge to the Sun (1961)

Directed by Etienne Périer
My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4
IMDB
(Turner Classic Movies)

WWII is examined from the perspective of a Japanese-American marriage. Tennessee girl Carroll Baker meets diplomat James Shigeta at a Washington party pre-WWII. They eventually marry, despite objections from parents and friends. Pearl Harbor forces them to leave the country, but not before facing increasing threats to their safety. In Japan, things aren't much better. They face not only xenophobia, but Baker has a difficult time adapting to the repressed role of women in Japanese culture. Years of war strains their marriage to the breaking point. A poignant personalization of the tragedy of war.




Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Canadian Pacific (1949)

Directed by Edwin L. Marin
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Randolph Scott is a surveyor trying to get a railroad across the Canadian Rockies. He gets resistance from the locals, who stoop to murder to stop him. Along the way, he finds romance with doctor Jane Wyatt and the younger Nancy Olson. Character actor J. Carroll Naish is excellent as Dynamite Dawson. The Cinecolor print aired on TCM was a washed out, brown muck.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"...All the Marbles" (1981)

Directed by Robert Aldrich
My rating; 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Peter Falk is well cast as the manager of a women's wrestling tag team. His quirky dialogue, which quotes everyone from Will Rogers to Toulouse-Lautrec, makes the film eminently watchable. Some of the location shooting early in the film features a dreary landscape of factories in Ohio, a nice contrast to the traveling threesome. However, it can't decide if it wants to be a serious movie about the working class or a wrestling comedy. Things really drag in an extended wrestling match at the end, one that runs close to 30 minutes, with no comic relief.



The End of the River (1947)

Directed by Derek Twist
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Sabu is a South American Indian who is taken from his native village and civilized by the white man. At first things seem better, he is fed, works and meets a girl whom he marries. They soon learn that not all white men are the same, and fall into a life of servitude. They escape to the big city, but his naivety makes him prey to hustlers and he is soon back in hard labor to make a living. The ending is perplexing, as he seemingly gets away with murder with no more than a slap on the wrist. The film often resembles an Amazon travelogue, with numerous song interludes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Song of India (1949)

Directed by Albert S. Rogell
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Sabu is Ramdar, a sort of Indian version of Tarzan. An Indian prince hunts and traps animals in the forbidden jungle. Ramdar takes a princess hostage to force them to stop. A memorable showdown takes place atop a desolate, windswept mountaintop in the ruins of an ancient temple.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Three Hours to Kill (1954)

Directed by Alfred L. Werker
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Dana Andrews escapes a lynch mob after him for a murder he did not commit. Three years later, he returns to find the real killer. Andrews turns in a typically low key performance. Donna Reed is the girl in love with two men. Filmed on the Columbia back lot in Technicolor, some of the framing suggests it was intended for 3D, but I could not find any references to that fact.

The Impossible Years (1968)

Directed by Michael Gordon
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Imagine if Disney made a teen sex comedy. It's even got Schuyler from the Disney Dexter Reilly series. However, unlike Disney there is implied underage sex and plenty of young girls in bikinis. David Niven is the hapless psychiatrist trying to keep it all under control. It ends with a wacky chase, again straight out of a Disney film, horrible back projection and all.



Nowhere to Go (1958)

Directed by Seth Holt
My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Excellent crime drama from the British Ealing Studios. George Nader is the suave American who has the perfect plan to steal a fortune in rare coins from a naive older woman. His plan includes doing time, but when he is sentenced to 10 years instead of 5 he decides to break out. Only problem is he has to rely on his outside partner, who has other ideas. The fast thinking Nader gets himself out of a number of seemingly impossible situations. Maggie Smith is the girl who gives him sympathy and a place to hide...but will it be enough?



Saturday, November 7, 2009

No Questions Asked (1951)

Directed by Harold F. Kress
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Fast paced noir with some classic dialogue. Barry Sullivan is a lawyer for an insurance firm. He learns he can make easy money recovering stolen items from crooks. His greed gets the best of him as the police and the mob are both after him. You can't trust anyone, especially women and cab drivers.

The Naked and the Dead (1958)

Directed by Raoul Walsh
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

WWII war film based on a Norman Mailer novel. The first part resembled "MASH in the Pacific". Enlisted men get drunk and complain about the officers. A General is having problems motivating his aide, and resorts to cruel measures to make his point. He appoints the aide leader of a small platoon that goes on a dangerous mission. The real meat of the story takes place on the mission, with many of the characters we were introduced to earlier. Aldo Ray is excellent as the maniacal Sgt. Croft, as is Cliff Robertson as the humanist Lt. Hearn.

Joy in the Morning (1965)

Directed by Alex Segal
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Richard Chamberlain and Yvette Mimieux are a young, impulsive and immature couple. They elope and move into a small campus cottage where he has a job as a groundskeeper. The pressures of school, jobs, parents and money mount. A subtext examines the small town attitudes towards Yvette's gay friend and her unmarried employer who lives with his mistress. It's not always a pleasant movie, and at times you just want to yell out loud at their stupidity, but it is an interesting slice of life in a smalltown circa 1965.



Friday, November 6, 2009

Oh, Susanna! (1936)

Directed by Joseph Kane
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Encore Westerns)

Standard Gene Autry programmer with a mistaken identity plot. Plenty of singing and Gene does a bit of trick riding. Frog spends a little too much time in drag for my liking.

The Video Dead (1987)

Directed by Robert Scott
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(MGMHD)

An entertaining if derivative zombie/comedy flick from the 80s. It borrows heavily from its influences, Poltergeist, Phantasm, Texas Chainsaw (the leading character even mentions this one in the movie), Night of the Living Dead, but if you catch it in the right mood it's quite a bit of fun. I liked the zombie meal towards the end. Apparently if you don't show fear the zombies won't hurt you, so keeping a straight face at the dinner table was classic. This would make an excellent double feature with 1985's Return of the Living Dead.



Dial 1119 (1950)

Directed by Gerald Mayer
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Marshall Thompson is the stereotypical killer: mostly quiet, doesn't like people, ex-military. He ends up in Terminal City after escaping from a mental hospital. He takes several people hostage at the Oasis Bar. Police negotiations ensue, some people live and some are killed. The role of the media is examined, which is unusual for 1950. There is a big screen TV in the bar, and thanks to news coverage the killer watches the police outside as they decide what to do next. One of the hostages is a newspaper reporter, and they also play a role. Interesting angles, though I felt it could have been more tense.

Vampire Circus (1972)

Directed by Robert Young
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(MGMHD)

Sex and vampires, Hammer style. A vampire is killed in the opening scenes by villagers, but places a curse on them and their children. Flash forward 15 years, and a circus arrives in the same village. Performers seem to be able to change back and forth between human and animal, there is a Mirror of Life that shows them the future and to top it off they are vampires. Well, the villagers are dying again and eventually take matters into their own hands. Some shoddy make up and special effects mar an otherwise interesting story.



Thursday, November 5, 2009

Park Row (1952)

Directed by Samuel Fuller
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Turner Classic Movies)

Early Samuel Fuller explores the world of the cut throat newspaper business in 1880s New York. Gene Evans is the idealistic editor of an upstart competitor to a long running paper. When his circulation takes off, the other launches a violent street war. Studio recreation of the New York Bowery adds atmosphere.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Twins of Evil (1971)

Directed by John Hough
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(MGMHD)

Another sex-and-vampires movie from Hammer. Peter Cushing is excellent as a Puritan witch hunter. When his two nieces, played by Playmate twins Madeleine and Mary Collinson, move in with him, they rebel against his puritanical ways. One of them is particularly taken by Count Karnstein who lives in the castle on the hill. Only problem is that he is really a vampire and likes to conduct satanic rites. Well, Cushing eventually is placed in the position to kill his niece, but naturally with twins it's hard to tell who is who, with one now a vampire. However, I was left with the impression that the real "twins of evil" were not the girls, but Cushing and the Count, only Cushing was posing as a Puritan.



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grave of the Vampire (1974)

Directed by John Hayes
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(MGMHD)

The opening scene of this film is one of the best in all of horror: a slow, lingering shot of a tomb at night with wisps of fog. After what seems an eternity, the tomb opens to reveal an old, shriveled man in his burial suit, covered with bugs. He opens his eyes, as if confused by a long sleep. Then he bares his teeth. Is he a vampire or a zombie? He attacks a young couple making out in a car in the graveyard: killing the boy and raping the girl. She eventually has the baby, but thinks the father was her boyfriend. However, when the baby won't drink milk she accidentally discovers he really likes blood. Soon, she is preparing bottles of her own blood to feed him. And then...flash forward to 20 years or so later. The older vampire is teaching a college course on occultism. One of the students is his illegitimate son. He knows his father is a vampire but seems to be in denial about himself. There is a bad 70s seance. It gets even sillier by the end as father and son trade places. Still, that opening half hour or so is hard to forget.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hercules Against the Barbarians (1964)

Directed by Domenico Paolella
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(MGMHD)

Genghis Khan and the Mongols are invading Poland, but the Poles have a secret weapon named Hercules. So the Mongols are held at bay for awhile. A woman is branded a witch, but Hercules shows up at the last second to save her from burning at the stake. It turns out she is the Queen of Poland disguised as a peasant. She gets help from another woman who is really a Mongol. They both fall in love with Hercules. He fights a rubbery alligator in a swamp and a giant snake. He joins an acrobatic act to gain access to Genghis. One of the acrobats is a midget. Hercules fights a large black man who ends up killing Genghis. The queen gets the throne and Hercules gets a woman. Not a bad way to waste a couple of hours.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Willy McBean and His Magic Machine (1965)

Directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr.
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD bootleg)

First full-length feature in Animagic from Rankin-Bass. Willy McBean and monkey pal Pablo pursue the evil Professor Rasputin Von Rotten as he travels through time in seek of power and fortune. There are vignettes featuring Buffalo Bill, Christopher Columbus, King Arthur, King Tut and cavemen in prehistoric times. The real fun is identifying the voices and faces which appeared in the more famous Rankin Bass production Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Billie Mae Richards voiced Willy and Rudolph.