Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Target: Harry (1969)


ABC Pictures International
Directed by Roger Corman
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Pilot Vic Morrow flies a rich London banker from Monaco to Istanbul, little realizing he is carrying plates from a UK mint for a counterfeiting deal. After the banker ends up dead, the crooks, led by Victor Buono, come after him for the plates. Meanwhile, Suzanne Pleshette romances him and Morrow realizes that she too might be involved. Despite a cast of cult favorites and talent behind the camera, including Monte Hellman as editor, this is a disappointing effort. Morrow is practically emotionless and has no chemistry with costar Pleshette. The European locales are poorly utilized, taking place in the most obvious tourist locations, with the finale appropriately enough a shoot out in a tourist group on a Greek island.

Nightmare in the Sun (1965)


Zodiac Films
Directed by Marc Lawrence
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

After spending the night with town siren Ursula Andress, married to a tempestuous drunk and the mistress of the sheriff, hitchhiker John Derek is framed for her murder. He gets handcuffed by the sheriff but escapes in his patrol car. He tries to find help from a series of strangers but the cuffs give him away. Robert Duvall is a deranged biker who joins in the search. Keenan Wynn has fun as a junk dealer. Sammy Davis Jr. has a cameo as a truck driver. Simple if effective drama that benefits from desert locale and moody soundtrack by Paul Glass.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Heatwave! (1974)


ABC
Directed by Jerry Jameson
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

A man and his pregnant wife flee L.A. when a heatwave results in power outages, water shortages and hot tempers. On the way to their mountain cabin their car is stolen but they manage to walk the last few miles. The town is mostly abandoned except for a friendly doctor and some hikers who see her through her pregnancy. The biggest drama involves building an incubator from scrap for the premature baby. Much like the big budget hit from the same year, Earthquake, this is more soap and less disaster.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Code Name: Jaguar (1965)


Directed by Maurice Labro
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

"Superspy" Ray Danton is sent to a military base in Spain to uncover Russians who are secretly transmitting images. He gets help and a little romance from sexy sidekick Pascale Petit and local siren Helga Sommerfeld. It tries hard to imitate James Bond, even throwing in an overt reference to From Russia with Love, but gets bogged down somewhere in the middle with an overly complicated plot. Colorful if predictable thriller in the crowded 60s spy film genre started by the success of James Bond.

Hammerhead (1968)


Columbia Pictures
Directed by David Miller
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

American spy Vince Edwards tangles with British bad guy Peter Vaughan who deals in erotic art. Judy Geeson is along for the ride as a kooky and sexy girl who believes art should be lived not just created. Dated but still fun, with plenty of breaks for dancing girls in colorful late 60s clothing.

The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver (1977)


NBC
Directed by Gordon Hessler
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Karen Black, the bored housewife of rich playboy George Hamilton, has recurring nightmares of her own death. She impulsively buys clothing and a blonde wig at the local mall and begins to question her identity. The mystery of the "other woman" is revealed in the big twist ending. Occasionally moody made-for-tv film from the great Richard Matheson, but fails to generate much more than a passing interest for fans of the writer or star Black.

Accident (1967)


London Independent Producers (UK)
Directed by Joseph Loosey
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Philosophy professor Dirk Bogarde considers an affair with his young student Jacqueline Sassard. However, his friend and fellow teacher Stanley Baker gets to her first. So it goes in this brooding drama from director Loosey. It's extremely well filmed and well acted, but ultimately no more than melodramatic tripe of bad people doing bad things.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Beyond Reason (1970)


Columbia Pictures
Directed by Giorgio Mangiamele
My rating: BOMB
IMDb
(YouTube)

A ward of mental patients and their doctors are evacuated to a sealed basement when nuclear war breaks out in Australia. For some reason, only a patient knows the combination to the massive door and she forgets it, so they are trapped inside for a few weeks. As the patients get restless, the doctors lose control and they desperately seek to escape. Poor nuclear war drama with no characterizations, no plot and mental patients acting out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Gates to Paradise (1968)


Avala Film
Directed by Andrzej Wajda
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

A self-proclaimed prophet-teenager leads a large group of children on a march from Europe to Jerusalem in the so-called "Children's Crusade". They are joined by a former crusader turned monk who hears confessions of various characters along the way. We learn in flashbacks that these teens are being manipulated by a homosexual count for his own desires. The result is an uneven mixture of teenage sexual melodrama and historical fiction.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Three Men in a Boat (1956)


Independent Film Distributors (UK)
Directed by Ken Annakin
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Bored husband David Tomlinson decides to spend his vacation paddling down the Thames with a couple of college buddies. Instead of a colorful journey, we get endless slapstick and juvenile flirtation with a trio of ladies, including a very young Jill Ireland in one of her earliest roles.

Bullwhip (1958)


Allied Artists
Directed by Harmon Jones
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Recently widowed Rhonda Fleming needs a husband to keep her profitable trading company. She pays a judge to frame a cowboy for murder, forcing him to marry Fleming in order to save him from the hangman. The plan backfires when the cowboy decides to take over  the company from Fleming and run it his own way. She still manages to fall in love with him. Uneven mixture of romance and action, with red-head Fleming unconvincing as a half-breed and her sidekick Indian servant equally so. Guy Madison gives it his best as the whipped cowboy.

The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963)


British Lion (UK)
Directed by Cliff Owen
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Peter Sellers is the leader of a small gang of crooks whose latest heists are being foiled by another gang impersonating police officers. He calls together a meeting of the London syndicate bosses and they concoct a plan to nab the impersonators by setting up a fake robbery. The police are in on the plan as well, but the decision to use real money proves too much to resist for Sellers. The syndicate meeting is a truly absurd scene, and Sellers and Lionel Jeffries as the police officer in charge have great chemistry together, but still fails to generate any real laughs.

Gun for a Coward (1957)


Universal-International Pictures
Directed by Abner Biberman
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Fred MacMurray is the oldest of three brothers working an old west ranch. The youngest brother is a carefree, wisecracking cowboy played by a very young Dean Stockwell, while the middle brother is quiet and sensitive, which others misinterpret as cowardice. Well, the middle brother falls in love with the older's fiance, but he doesn't have the courage to tell anybody, leading to many complications. He is also an easy target for the rough cowboy crowd. Tensions build until he must prove himself in a fight and shootout. Too much melodrama, not enough action, in this sub-par western.

The Mystery in Dracula's Castle (1973)


Buena Vista Pictures
Directed by Robert Totten
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Aspiring teenage filmmaker Johnny Whitaker and his young brother move to a sleepy California seaside town with mom Mariette Hartley so she can work on her new book. The two kids adopt a stray dog, and they roam around town filming their home "Dracula" movie. A lighthouse proves to be the perfect "castle", but it's also inhabited by a couple of bungling thieves who have their eye on an expensive necklace in the town jewelry store. Innocuous Disney entertainment with familiar TV faces and obvious back lot setting.

Three Into Two Won't Go (1969)


Universal Pictures
Directed by Peter Hall
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Middle-aged salesman Rod Steiger picks up teenage hitchhiker Judy Geeson and they begin an affair. When she unexpectedly shows up at his house one day and asks to move in with Steiger and his wife, things get more complicated. Blistering expose of the power of sex, with Steiger giving another commanding performance as the cheating husband and Geeson never better as a girl who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it, no matter the cost.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dimension 5 (1966)


Feature Film Corp.
Directed by Franklin Adreon
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

American spy Jeffrey Hunter is assigned to take down Asian political activists threatening to destroy LA with a hydrogen bomb. He gets help from pretty France Nuyen who may or may not be working for the other side. They are provided with all sorts of Bond-ish gadgets to help them, including a belt which lets them travel up to 8 weeks in the past or future with a touch of a button! Slow, talky entry in the post-Bond spy genre, with the time travel angle under utilized. 

The Strange and Deadly Occurrence (1974)


NBC
Directed by John Llewllyn Moxey
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Robert Stack and family move into their dream home in the country. Before long, his teenage daughter is being harassed by unknown forces and loud banging noises keep them up at night. They suspect a stranger who wants to buy the house is trying to scare them, but when he turns up dead they begin to believe stories about the previous owner's untimely demise. Typical 70s made-for-tv thriller with an anticlimactic ending. 

The Clones of Bruce Lee (1980)


Spectacular Films
Directed by Joseph Kong Hung
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
(VHS, Media Home Entertainment)

A scientist working for the government harvests cells from the dead body of Bruce Lee and creates three clones. They fight like Bruce Lee, they dress like Bruce Lee, but most importantly they have the same haircut as Bruce Lee. After receiving training, they are sent on various missions to take down criminals. One of the more ingenious "Bruceploitation" films that came out of Hong Kong after the death of its biggest film star: complete with an over-the-top movie producer and random scenes of beach nudity. The real Bruce Lee, who makes an appearance early in the film in still photos, would have been aghast. 

The Constant Gardener (2005)


Focus Features
Directed by Fernando Meirelles
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(Blu-ray, Alliance/ Focus Features)

Activist Rachel Wiesz starts an unlikely relationship with British diplomat Ralph Fiennes, who tows the government line in Kenya. When she turns up murdered, Fiennes' search for her killer leads him to uncover a vast conspiracy involving a large pharmaceutical company. Well-intentioned thriller marred by excessive shaky cam, filters and others devices of modern cinematography designed to make it look like it was shot on the fly but actually having the opposite effect: it looks contrived and every little detail planned in advance. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

High Velocity (1976)


Astral Films (Canada)
Directed by Remi Kramer
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(VHS, Media Home Entertainment)

Vietnam vet Ben Gazzara is blackmailed by corporate slime Alejandro Rey into rescuing kidnapped CEO Keenan Wynn. He recruits fellow Vietnam vet Paul Winfield, and with a supply of arms and ammunition they head up the river to do the dirty work. Grim, post-Vietnam War depiction of a corrupt southeast Asia set in the Philippines. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Devil Within Her (1975)


American International Pictures
Directed by Peter Sadsy
My rating: BOMB
IMDb
(YouTube)

Stripper Joan Collins is cursed by her dwarf assistant when she resists his advances. She later gives birth to an oversized baby boy with a propensity towards violence. He kills a babysitter by pushing her into a river from his stroller. A visiting aunt from Italy, who happens to be a nun, performs an exorcism to end the madness. Dancing dwarfs and evil babies do not a good movie make. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Three in the Attic (1968)


American International Pictures
Directed by Richard Wilson
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Undergrad Christopher Jones gets into a relationship with pretty Yvette Mimieux, but can't resist the advances of seductress Judy Pace or new age hippie Maggie Thrett. When the girls discover what's going on, they lock him upstairs in the sorority attic and tire him out with endless sex. Period flavor, including a catchy theme song by Chad and Jeremy is an asset, but ludicrous premise and monosyllabic performance by Jones are not. 

The Dark (1979)


Film Ventures International
Directed by John Bud Cardos
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Author William Devane teams up with disgruntled newscaster Cathy Lee Crosby to track down the killer of his teenage daughter. The police are clueless as to who, or what, is tearing off heads and faces every night in L.A. Eventually they corner a very tall alien in torn clothing who shoots lasers out of his eyes. Slickly directed (originally by Tober Hooper, with a zombie instead of an alien) but ruined by ridiculous sci fi angle and flashy effects. They should have stuck with Hooper's version. 

Wheeler (1975)


Feazell / Limited Pictures
Directed by Jim Feazell
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(VHS, Paragon Video)

A drifter from "Maine" (the main part of Texas) takes part in a kidnapping scheme with some redneck pool hall hangouts. They take the victim to a remote house where he promptly escapes. There is a long chase sequence through backwoods Texas swamps and mud. Meanwhile the bored drifter sets his eyes on various pretty girls in town, including 18-year-old barmaid Linnea Quigley, whom he orders to strip while he pours beer over her. The local sheriff quickly gets justice in the brutal ending. John King III as the drifter "Wheeler" walks a fine line between caricature and genuine sociopath. The result is less than perfect: the film doesn't know if it wants to be a comedy or depraved shocker in the vein of Texas Chainsaw Massacre which is also set in Texas and has a long chase scene. Released on video as Psycho from Texas on the Paragon label, this one has yet to find its audience. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Paranoia (1970)


Medusa Distribuzione (Italy)
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Race car driver Carroll Baker accepts an invitation to stay at the mansion of her ex-husband, little realizing it was his wife who sent it. The two women eventually bond over the man's playboy lifestyle and plot to murder him. Set in the swinging late 60s of Italy, Baker was never more attractive, but it's all style in this predictable if entertaining giallo.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Case of Charles Peace (1949)


Monarch Film  Corporation (UK)
Directed by Norman Lee
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Story of famous British criminal who lead a respectable family life by day but was a thief and murderer at night. The police eventually catch up with him and he is put on trial, which provides the wraparound framework for his exploits. Unfortunately Michael Martin Harvey overplays his role as the nasty Peace. It becomes almost comical when he follows one of his victims around, even popping up unexpectedly when she moves to a new city. The plot also incorporates non-linear shifts in time, which when combined with the unnecessary court room wraparound scenes becomes too confusing, leading to an unsatisfying experience. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Crimes of Petiot (1973)


Dicinsa (Spain)
Directed by Jose Luis Madrid
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

A series of murders baffle the local police and catches the attention of a local reporter. Together with her husband Paul Naschy, she tries to lure the killer to a remote house, but the plan backfires. A black and white flashback to Nazi Germany unconvincingly explains the killer's motives, whose identity will be no surprise. A particularly grating soundtrack of guitar feedback accompanies most of the murders. 

The Million Eyes of Su-Muru (1967)


American International Pictures
Directed by Lindsay Shonteff
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

An all-girl organization with hopes of taking over the world tangles with a couple of inept American spies. They kidnap and torture one of them by hanging him in a dungeon and whipping him, poor guy. Meanwhile his sidekick, a miscast Frankie Avalon, goes to Hong Kong to find the organization's hideout with the help of the local police. Klaus Kinski makes an appearance as the demented president of an eastern country and Maria Rohm is one of the killer beauties.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)


Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Wes Anderson
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Fox)

Three brothers reunite for a train journey across India to visit their mother who is living in a mission in the Himalayas. Owen Wilson plays the domineering brother who provides a minute-by-minute itinerary of their day. Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman reluctantly go along with him. They occasionally stop for visits at local temples to bond with the locals, but it is not until they try to rescue some boys from drowning that they find any kind of meaning to this trip. Another quirky Wes Anderson film, perhaps more irritating than usual with vapid characters, wasted India locations and distracting camerawork that takes the viewer right out of the story. 

Two Graves to Kung Fu (1974)


Goldig Films (Hong Kong)
Directed by Chen Hung-Lieh
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
HKMDb
(VHS, Video Gems)

A corrupt police official pins a murder on the student of a local kung fu master. When he later has the master himself killed, the student seeks revenge on the police commissioner and the leader of a gambling gang who is controlling him. Undistinguished kung fu flick with threadbare plot stringing together a series of fights. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

End of the World (1977)


The Irwin Yablans Company
Directed by John Hayes
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(VHS, Media Home Entertainment)

A NASA scientist discovers transmissions to and from outer space. Along with is wife, they track down the source to a convent headed by priest Christopher Lee. The nuns and Lee turn out to be aliens who need a crystal from NASA to get back to their home planet. They blackmail the scientist to steal it for them, but they have more sinister plans. This combination of horror, sci-fi and 70s disaster flick works best as the first genre, mainly because of the presence of Lee; the other genres are hampered by the low budget. Sue Lyon, the original Lolita in Kubrick's film, plays the wife, in one of many appearances in bottom-of-the-barrel 70s film towards the end of her career. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Death is a Woman (1966)


American International Pictures
Directed by Frederic Goode
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Trisha Noble is a ruthless killer operating an underground drug smuggling operation in scenic Malta. An English agent is accused of murder when he becomes circumstantially involved with her. The police let him go when they can't prove how he put on the chain lock to the door from the inside. He spends the rest of the film chasing the real killer and also figures out how she locked the door. 

Killers Are Challenged (1966)


American International Pictures
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Richard Harrison steps out of his usual sword and sandal role to play a CIA agent tangling with Russian spies (mostly women) in scenic European locations over a new energy technology. Derivative of all things Bond, with the usual gadgets, bikinis and chases. A slapstick bar brawl tops it off at the end. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Cleopatra (1970)


Nippon Herald (Japan)
Directed by Osamu Tazuka and Eiichi Yamamoto
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Time travelers from the future are sent back in time to ancient Egypt, well their "souls" are at least, when threatened by invading aliens using the code name "Cleopatra". One of them actually becomes the queen after an interesting transformation, another becomes her horny cat and the last her slave. Cleopatra falls in love with ulius Caesar, follows him to Rome, only to be tricked into killing him. Marcus Antonius and Octavius soon follow a similar path. Audacious anime from directors Tezuka and Yamamoto, filled with nudity and sex, but alsofrequent breaks for psychedelic excursions influenced strongly by art history. Ralph Bakshi would explore similar territory a couple of years later with Fritz the Cat.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)


American International Pictures
Directed by Pavel Klushantsev (original Russian) and Curtis Harrington (American scenes)
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Re-edited version of the Soviet film Planet of Storms, in which cosmonauts land on Venus to rescue another crew which has crashed there. They encounter a man-eating plant, are attacked by man-sized dinosaurs that look like Godzilla and hear a girl's voice singing wherever they go. They have a hover cruiser that takes them over hot rocks and even underwater. The lost crew has a robot which they use to escape a lava flow by riding on its back. Unfortunately the inserted American scenes add little or nothing to the much superior Russian ones, with Basil Rathbone never having it so easy: he dons a white coat to pass as a scientist and barks a few lines into a microphone. 

Space Probe - Taurus (1965)


American International Pictures
Directed by Leonard Katzman
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Astronauts en route to another planet encounter an alien spaceship, They board it only to be attacked by a humanoid alien who sticks out his tongue a lot then attacks them. They continue on their voyage only to crash and end up underwater where giant crabs lurk outside their spaceship. Low budget special effects and cliche-ridden characters and plot sink this AIP television production.