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Port Sinister (1953)
Minor action picture with giant crabs.
A scientist predicts that recent earthquakes will cause the sunken pirate stronghold of Port Royale (which sunk in an earthquake in the 1600's) to briefly rise to the surface again. In a sea plane an expedition arrives on the island to salvage the pirate treasure before the island sinks again. Unfortunately, a gang of crooks learn of the expedition and the treasure the risen island holds and menace the the scientists. Sea turtle sized giant crabs emerge from a cave, briefly menacing the cast and dispatching with some of the bad guys. The good guys escape the island before an earthquake again causes the island to sink once again to the bottom of the sea.
PORT SINISTER, which was released as BEAST OF PARADISE ISLAND in the U.K., is a mostly minor routine adventure picture produced solely with the intent to fill the bottom half of a double bill (the original meaning of the term "B" movie). The giant crabs which play only a minor part in the proceedings, are probably the only reason why this mostly forgotten film has surfaced on video. The sets for the sunken island are mildly interesting, with lots of mist and low lighting to hide the cheapness. Acting and direction are routine. PORT SINISTER is another one of those films that one sits through mildly entertained, but it begins to fade from memory soon after one has seen it.
Worth seeing once.
Werner Herzogs EVEN DWARVES STARTED SMALL could be described to the uniniated as TERROR OF TINY TOWN crossed with RIOT IN CELL BLOCK FOUR. In this film inmates at a prison farm (or perhaps its a mental institution, the film is unclear) revolt, hold the head of the institution captive in his villa, and go around creating havoc and mayhem around the grounds of the institution. The warden (or what ever he is supposed to be) is holding one of the inmates tied up in his office. Now this all sound fairly ordinary, except the cast consists entirely of midgets and dwarves!
AUCH ZWERGE HABEN ANGEFANGEN (or EVEN DWARVES STARTED SMALL) is one those films that is hard to figure out. Some critics have said this film is about locking away societies freaks from the rest of the normal world, but that is hardly the case. In this films world everyone is apparently a midget or a dwarf, even though the sets are are to ordinary scale. The head of the institution is a midget. So is a woman from the outside who arrives briefly asking for directions.(She drives a normal sized car) All in all it sounds like a film that was dreamed up as some ones idea of a joke.
This film is fun to watch, at least for the first quarter hour. After that the film starts to become rough going. The film really has no beginning and no real end. Its all middle. After awhile watching midgets commit endless acts of vandalism becomes tedious and boring. Half way through the film the inmates begin to commit acts of cruelty on animals, which makes the film rather unpleasant. The crucifixtion of a monkey on a cross is not my idea of good taste. This is one of those films that is unusual enough that I would recommend seeing it once, but only once at that.
La isla de la muerte (1967)
Watch out for the tree!
Back in seventies a lot of obscure European movies mostly from the sixties used turn up lot on late night television and then seemed to vanish, going back under the rocks they seemingly came out from under. However, recently many of these films have recently surfaced on small video labels. Often these film starred either European casts unknown in the U.S.A. with anglicized names in the credits and/or as in this case, American stars who had fallen on hard times. In this film Cameron Mitchell, whose voice appears to have been dubbed by another actor, plays Baron Van Wiser, an evil scientist who has been creating monstrous plant mutations. He invites an assorted group of characters to visit his island estate, where one by one the guests become meals for his creations.
The film was shown on American television as MAN EATER OF HYDRA, although the plants really don't eat anyone, they suck their victims blood like a vampire. The murderous plant, which we really never get a good look at (perhaps we can be thankful) resembles a yew tree with weeping willow like branches. At the end of the branches are flowers whose stamens do the blood sucking. The killer trees are apparently able to walk, but we never see them walking. It's unclear why the baron invited the visitors, but apparently he wanted them as food for his creations. The baron tells a botanist visitor the he wants to keep his discoveries secret. The baron seems to think having a group of visitors to his island all end up dead isn't going arouse any suspicion, even though the island would be crawling with police once word got out the hapless visitors were reported missing. Why is it these mad scientists/crazed maniacs never lure people who go un-missed like tramps, cheap hookers, homeless bums for their evil purposes?
MAN EATER OF HYDRA (or ISLAND OF THE DOOMED) is one of dozens of cheaply made 1960's shockers from Europe. This film is slightly more entertaining then most these films. The film tries to drum up some atmosphere, throws in a little sex, and provides a few good shocks, but like most of these cheap sixties European shockers, there is an air "lets get this thing over with" attitude prevailing over the film.
Dr. Renault's Secret (1942)
A good forties studio "B" horror. Note : SPOILER***
WARNING! DANGER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! I must confess that I only saw this film for the first time recently on video, having missed it when it was shown on New York T.V. in the early seventies. About all knew about this film was that it featured J. Carrol Naish and George Zucco and was a variation on "The Island Of Dr. Moreau" from a still and a brief mention in Dennis Gifford's "A Pictorial History Of Horror Movies." I had wrongly assumed this was just another cheezey "poverty row" B horror, when actually it was a Fox production (although still a "B") with decent production values in the manner of low budget big studio films. I also discovered the film has a remarkably good performance from J. Carrol Naish. I should have known the former and expected the latter. In many ways the film is surprisingly good and the reasons for its relative obscurity remains a mystery.
Most of what makes this film memorable is the performance of J. Carrol Naish as the unfortunate apeman Noel. Naish plays the apeman Noel as a sad, unhappy, and very sympathetic character. I read once where Naish said that an actor owes it to the audience to always give his best performance, even if he thinks the production is beneath him. Naish stated that an actor should always see a given role as a challenge, and Naish takes the challenge head on in this film. Naish was one of thirties and forties best character/supporting players. He always gave a good account of himself whether in prestigious films like SAHARA (1943) or dismal programmers like JUNGLE WOMAN (1944) (See my comments on that film). Most any other actor cast to play an apeman would have probably felt embarrassed, walked through the role, collected their paycheck and never looked back.
George Zucco makes the most of his limited screen time. Here he gives his usual suavely sinister-if at times over the top-performance as Dr. Renault. There is some distraction involving an ex-con handyman employed by Dr. Renault played Mike Mazurki. Early on, Noel is kind of a red herring for Mazurki's own murderous activities. The film is set in France, but some the cast, especially Arthur Shields are unconvincing as Frenchmen. Other cast members like Shepperd Strudwick who plays a non-Frenchman are adequate.
This film was the last film directed by Harry Lachman. Most of his films were routine studio films with some exceptions including DANTE'S INFERNO and OUR RELATIONS with Laurel and Hardy. He soon retired from films after this and went back to being an artist and opening up a shop in Hollywood that sold unusual antiques. In fact the last film he was connected with was a short documentary about his shop called TREASURE FROM TRASH (1946) in which he appeared as himself. There is one very interesting scene in the film when male lead Shepperd Strudwick sneaks into Dr. Renaults lab and discovers his notes. The transformation is told in narration by Zucco and a series of still photographs capturing Noels transformation from ape to man. E.A. Dupont used a similar scene told in a series of still photographs to good effect in the otherwise dismal film, THE NEANDERTHAL MAN (1953.) (See my comments on that film). The one very weak point in the film is having Noel actually kill two people which we see on screen. There is a murder early in the film (off screen) where Noel is a suspect but its obvious by the films end he didn't do it. Why have a character that ends up becoming the hero at the end commit two murders kind of bothered me.
Dr. RENAULT'S SECRET is decent forties B horror film made people who cared about what they were making. It's not an unsung classic of the horror film genre, but it is worth viewing by people who can appreciate good old fashioned horror films.
No Man's Land (2001)
A memorable film.
Two soldiers, one a Bosnian, the other a Serbian find themselves together in a trench that lies between both sides of the opposing forces lines. To complicate matters further, there is a third man first thought dead who comes to and is lying on top of a mine. An attempt to move him would instantly activate the mine and result in, well....KABOOM! Then the ineffective UN peace keepers arrive to decide what to do.
If I were a film studies teacher, the first rule I would instruct my students on how to judge a film is this; is this a film that one sits through with only mild interest and does it begin to fade from memory hours after one has seen it? Or does the film grab your interest and the next day after seeing it does one reflect on it? In the latter case it can be for a variety of reasons: a good performance(s), memorable photography or art direction, a frightening or exciting scene, or the events in the film are thought provoking. NO MANS LAND, while it has its faults, it is a thought provoking film. The film left me wondering what would I do in situation like this. The film also stands out because it is not afraid to slaughter sacred cows. The UN peace keeping force is accurately portrayed as an infective bureaucracy hindered operation more concerned about its public relations image then really doing something to bring peace to this war torn land. The film also takes a swipe at TV journalists in which a TV reporter named Jane Livingston projects an image as a crusading idealistic TV journalist but is only really interested in getting good footage to boost her networks ratings and career (much like most TV journalists in real life.)
NO MANS LAND has a few holes here and there (such as the two soldiers seem to recover from there wounds rather quickly) but is overall an effective and memorable film.
Terror on the Midway (1942)
Superman vs King Kong!
While Clark and Lois are at an amusement park, the parks main attraction Gigantic the gorilla escapes and wrecks havoc. This a job for Superman! Superman helps the police round up the escaped animals and saves Lois from the clutches of Gigantic the gorilla.
Sort of "Superman vs King Kong" except the giant ape doesn't fall in love with Lois and take her atop the tallest building in Metropolis. What can be said about this entry in the Superman cartoon series can be said about the series as a whole; superb animation and art work, fast pace and action, and beautiful vivid technicolor. These forties Superman cartoons are highly recommended to those enjoy good cartoon animation.
Tokio Jokio (1943)
A rant and a critic.
Its a shame that in these politically correct times that many of these war time cartoons are difficult to locate due to censorship and those that are available are mostly poorly transferred video tapes from often less than pristine prints. Its great to see the Loonie Tunes gang (or Merrie Melodies as they were first called) enlisted to help the war effort. While these cartoons maybe considered "insulting", they were made when America was at war with Japan, Italy and Germany for @#&*%$ sake! Now if something like this was made today, yes it would be insulting, but when cartoons like this were made, those countries were out to wipe out the free world. Some people have called these depictions cruel. So what! To those people I must ask; cruel? Gas chambers, The Bataan Death March, The Nanking Massacre, throwing Ethiopians out of airplanes, not thats cruel! If you want to see cruel depictions, see some of the films produced in the Axis countries and how they depicted Jews, Poles, Slavs, Koreans and Chinese. What irks me today is that the elitist bunch in Hollywood is so reluctant to make films depicting the very group that is out to destroy us today. We have films and TV shows about terrorists today and who are the terrorists? Serbians, Nazi's (yes bringing back villains from over half a century ago!), pro-lifers, and just about everybody else Hollywood likes to bash or feels safe to bash except Islamist-fascists.
Now that I've gotten that off my chest lets discuss the film in question here. TOKIO JOKIO pokes fun at Japan and its allies in the form of what is suppose to be a news real from Tokyo. Unlike some of the other World War Two era propaganda cartoons from Warner Brothers, TOKIO JOKIO is not really all that funny. Most of the jokes seem forced; even at times just plain stupid. However, its an interesting history lesson with its depictions of Rudolph Hess, Lord Haw Haw, Tojo and Yamamoto.
Night Comes Too Soon (1948)
Obscure item is of mild interest.
In this thriller now better known as GHOST OF RASHMON HAll, a British newly wed couple after searching in vain for a home of their own (remember this was made when there was a severe post war housing shortage in the U.K.) reluctantly buys an old mansion with a spooky history and moves in. Soon after moving in they encounter ghosts, poltergeists and other spooky goings on. A hundred years it seems the owner of the house's wife had an affair with a sailor, and when the affair was discovered, the wife and sailor were murdered. Realizing something must done, the husband brings in a doctor friend who is an expert on the the occult to rid the house of spirits.
This obscure, very low budget British item has some very creepy moments but suffers from stiff performances and crude production values. The film certainly looks as if it is a lot older than it is and seems to come from an era more remote than 1947. The film also has what is intended to be a surprise ending.
Revolt of the Zombies (1936)
Dismal, unconvincing 1930's thriller.
WARNING! DANGER! MAY CONTAIN SPOILER! I saw this film for the first time recently and for years the little I knew about REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES came from an article by the then teenage Joe Dante jr. titled "The Fifty Worst Horror Movies" in a 1960's issue of Famous Monsters Of Film Land. While I would not consider it the worst horror movie ever made, REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES is pretty bad; its dismal, confusing, and unconvincing. I was shocked to discover that this film was from the Halperin Brothers who had a few years before produced the creepy and stylish WHITE ZOMBIE with Bela Lugosi.
The film opens up with a platoon of zombie French Indo-Chinese troops fighting the Austrians in World War One. The tale of the zombie squad interests former French WW1 vet turned archaeologist Armand Louque. There is some confusing discussions about keeping the secret of creating zombies from the world and some cloak and dagger stuff involving a sneaky oriental scientist and a Cambodian mystic. When the woman Louque loves decides to marry another man, Louque searches to ruins of Angkor for the secret of creating Zombies. Discovering the secret,(the method is never really made clear) Louque turns his Cambodian servant, several of his colleagues and an entire platoon of French Indo-Chinese troops into zombies. All this happens very quickly as to make the viewer wonder if something has been left out. Anyway, creating zombies under his control is supposed to lure the woman he loves back into his arms. How creating a zombie army is supposed to help mend his love life is unclear - perhaps she goes for men with supernatural powers. Everyone seems only mildly annoyed with Louques new found skills - nobody seems to really consider the ramifications of Louque's new powers. Suddenly he gets pangs of guilt about what he is doing and releases the zombies from his control, which results in the revolt of the title wrapping things up all to quickly and neatly.
It's a shame that the Halperin brothers did not bring any of the flair or imagination they brought to WHITE ZOMBIE for REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES. The film plods along and then speeds up with everything happening so fast without explanation leaving the viewer confused and with the impression things were left out. About the only interest REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES has is its French Colonial setting and the presence of a very young Dean Jagger. His performance here is perfunctory and gives no indication of the fine actor he would later become. The best one can say about REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES is that it is undistinguished.
The Hellfire Club (1961)
Routine swashbuckling adventure.
THE HELLFIRE CLUB is often wrongly sighted as a Hammer Films production probably because the film was written by Jimmy Sangster and features Peter Cushing in the cast. (I found this film on the Hammer Films shelf at my local video store.) In this adventure set in 1700's, Jason (Keith Mitchell) is driven out of his family estate after his mother is killed and raised by a band of circus performers. When Jason returns to claim his birthright as Lord of Netherden Castle, he discovers it has been taken over by his evil cousin Thomas (Peter Arne) who is a member of the nefarious 18th century secret society The Hellfire Club. With much Errol Flynn style derring do and a capture and an escape, Jason is able to rightfully claim his birthright and expose an evil conspiracy against the crown by the French and the wicked noblemen of The Hellfire Club.
Despite The Hellfire Clubs reputation (the real life secret society, not the film) for depravity and debauchery, mostly what we see of it in the film is pretty tame, even by 1960 standards. The orgy sequence that includes several scantly clad buxom babes in harem outfits is done tongue in cheek and looks as if the films makers were spoofing a harem sequence from some Maria Montez Arabian knights epic. Keith Mitchell as Jason is a bit stiff at times but he performs the sometimes cartoonish heroics convincingly. Peter Cushing is fine as usual in a rather small role as Merryweather. The film has nice production values and moves at a good pace, but overall THE HELLFIRE CLUB is just another movie.
World Without End (1956)
Ambitious but derivative science fiction.
This fairly ambitious science fiction from minor studio Allied Artists used to be one of my favorite science fiction films when I was kid. This is an another one of those films I first saw on TV as kid and still recall with fondness and enjoy re-watching on video every now and then.The story of accidental time travel via space ship appealed to me. Although the idea of time travel was novel to films when it was first released in 1956, the story is obviously derived from the HG Wells novel "The Time Machine." The fact that the time travel is accidental instead of deliberate via a time machine, the mutants live above ground instead of below it and the normal people live underground instead on the surface didn't fool me when I was ten years when I first saw this film on TV.(I had already seen the George Pal version of THE TIME MACHINE and read the "Classics Illustrated" version of the novel.) Neither did it fool the estate of HG Wells, who filed a plagiarism suit against Allied Artists when this film was first released. I have never discovered the result of this suit however. Its somewhat ironic that both this plagiarized version of "The Time Machine" and George Pal's authorized version made a few years later, both star Rod Taylor.
While WORLD WITHOUT END is fairly entertaining film, it can not be considered one the great classic science fiction films from the 1950's. The film moves along a good pace, until director/writer Edward Bernds slows the story down and clutters up the film with scenes of "court intrigue." The names given to some of the characters shows some imagination. I thought the scenes of the rocket crashing in the snow, although obvious, looked attractive. Emile LaVinge's make up for the mutants is imaginative; no two mutants seems to have the same deformity. The Vargas designed costumes on the women are sexy. However, the mens costumes with the skull caps smacks of Flash Gorden in worst way. The giant spiders, to say the least are unconvincing. They are a gaudy blue and red color and look like pillows.
Despite the films faults, one should give credit to minor league studio Allied Artists, whom most of their previous science fiction films (and most those that came later) were low budget black and white quickies designed to fill the bottom half of a double bill, attempt to make something that would compete with the bigger budgeted science fiction movies being made by the big studios. The fact that they allowed for the added expense of shooting this film in Technicolor and Cinema Scope confirms this. Although not entirely successful, one could say that WORLD WITHOUT END was a nice try from a low rent studio.
Lost Continent (1951)
Dinosaurs, rockets and radiation.
This film features three elements commonly found in science fiction movies; rockets, dinosaurs and radiation, although the latter plays only a minor part in the proceedings. It is interesting that this Lippert production features both rockets and dinosaurs since the original treatment for Lipperts ROCKET SHIP XM, made the previous year, the Martian explorers were originally supposed to find a dinosaur inhabited Mars, not the nuclear bomb destroyed Mars found in the finished film.
I first saw this film when I was a pre-schooler in the early sixties on a weekly saturday morning show called "Super Adventure Theater". Because I saw this film at a very young age, it's probably the only reason why I recall this film with fondness. Viewed as an adult, THE LOST CONTINENT is a fairly standard science fiction movie. The film moves along a good pace, except for the overly long rock climbing sequence mentioned several times in this forum by the films detractors. The stop motion dinosaurs are only moderately interesting. The effects seem to have been done by effects men who lacked experience in employing this technique. Note how the dinosaurs in most scenes only move one limb at a time and appear not to have been anchored down tight enough. However, despite the faults in the stop motion animation in this film, I will give the films producers credit for at least employing this technique instead giving us tired looking, put upon photographically enlarged lizards.
The films cast is acceptable, but no one gives a performance that would win any major awards either. Hillary Brooke was given top billing in the films ads, but her role here is minor, so minor that her scenes are often cut from many of the TV prints I have seen. Whit Bissel, who soon become a stalwart in fifties science fiction movies, is cast in a superfluous role as a scientist who falls off the mountain (in a surprisingly effective scene where he falls into a mist) before our band of merry mountain climbers encounter the dinosaurs. John Hoyt has the best part a the Russian exile scientist who becomes the films hero, in that it is rather unusual for a fifties film to have a Russian as a hero. However, all the characters except for Hoyt's, are stereotypes, but the not kind that was typically found in fifties science fiction movies. Thats because the typical fifties science fiction movie characters had not yet been invented. Instead, THE LOST CONTINENT features the kind of stereotype characters found in war movies.
The best part of THE LOST CONTINENT is use of green tinting in the scenes when the explorers are on the dinosaur inhabited mountain top. I had to chance to see the tinted version and thought it to give the film an interesting look. Its a shame so many black and white films that included tinting or colour sequences are shown only in black and white today.
THE LOST CONTINENT isn't a bad film really, I can't really sight anything, except for the overly long rock climbing sequence, thats done all that bad that would make someone dislike it, nor does anything stand out as exceptionally well done to make this film anyones favorite either. Its simply undistinguished. It is just another film, I don't think anyone back in 1951 saw this film and raved about it to their friends, but I don't think anyone walked out on this film demanding their money back either. THE LOST CONTINENT is like a great number of movies, the kind one sits through with only mild interest and enthusiasm.
Mesa of Lost Women (1953)
Dull, outrageously bad science fiction flick.
MESA OF THE LOST WOMEN is one of those bad films that belongs on anybody's list of the worst films of all time. Everything in the film is done poorly. The acting is terrible, including Jackie Coogan, who looks like he was on sleeping pills when he made this film (then again, who could blame him.) Actor Harmon Stevens as the brain damaged scientist seems to have been instructed by director Ron Ormand to play part as if he was Elmer Fudd. The film contains some of the worst dialog ever recorded on film. Even the photography is poor; it took two cameramen to film this mess and it looks it, one of them being the very talented Karl Struss. Some shots look as though they were taken from the wrong angle. There are even a few close up scenes that look as they were filmed in long or medium shot and were optically enlarged later. It seems that one of the photographers (most certainly the gifted Karl Struss) tried to give the film some stylistic flourishes, but it doesn't help. Most likely director Ron Ormand did everything in one take, and the cameramen were not allowed to do re-takes. One scene where the spider women and dwarves creep up on our intrepid party resembles a scene Struss did for ROCKETSHIP XM. However, it was effective in ROCKETSHIP XM, but it just looks silly here. Struss was a great cameraman and was a genuine fan science fiction and fantasy. However, with Ron Ormand at the helm, there was little Struss could do to save this film.
There are times that this films ineptitude almost makes the film border on the surreal. However, unlike some other bad films of this nature, MESA OF THE LOST WOMEN has long dull periods, and the films guitar cadenza score becomes irritating. Bad films of the nature can often be very entertaining when viewed in the right frame of mind and the film is lively. But MESA OF THE LOST WOMEN just isn't lively enough to be recommended.
Space Master X-7 (1958)
Better than I expected.
When I was kid, I used to sometimes see stills or brief mentions of this film in science fiction movie books or in the pages of "monster" magazines. But for some strange reason this film never turned up on TV, even though other science fiction offerings made by Fox from the same period often did. No one I knew had seen it except for older people who saw it when it was first released in 1958 to theaters. Having seen it recently on video, I can tell you that SPACE MASTER X 7 is no "lost" classic, but its a not bad low budget drive in feature with a slightly unusual menace and director Edward Byrnes deserves credit for trying hard to make a serious (sometimes he tries to hard) adult science fiction thriller. Done in a semi-documentary style, Byrnes sometimes slows down the films pace but overall its not a bad job.
One area of interest to film buffs is the films casting. We have Paul ("man of a thousands voices") Frees in a surprisingly large on screen role as a "heel" scientist who accidently unleashes the "blood rust". Of course the person often mentioned in this film is Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, in a rare character part as a cab driver who helps the feds track down a woman who was exposed to the deadly alien fungus. This film was made when the stooges career was in limbo; between the time Columbia dropped the stooges because it was no longer interested in making shorts, and the time before they boys returned to the screen for feature films. Director Byrnes began his film career directing 3 Stooges shorts, and was good friends with the boys, so it was he who probably got Moe a part in the picture.
Female Perversions (1996)
Another film with unpleasant people we are supposed to like.
While viewing FEMALE PERVERSIONS, I began to wonder if I was losing my mind. For whom was this film made? Who put up the money to make this film? FEMALE PERVERSIONS is pretentious piece of clap trap masquerading as something deep and meaningful. Woman have it rough competing in male dominated society and men are responsible for all of woman neurosis seems to be the message. Ho Hum! Where have we heard that before?
Just about every character in this film is angry, nasty, neurotic, and unpleasant, except for teenage "Tomgirl" named Ed, who is just a little mixed up. The scenes of Eve's dreams and hidden memories are down right laughable, like the kind of stuff found in some over indulgent student film. The film has not coherent plot, just a lot of incidents. And would somebody please explain the ending?
There are some people who praise this film because it deals with characters searching for their identity, but most of the characters come across as so self absorbed that they evoke no sympathy. The film puts an emphasis on getting in touch with ones "feelings." But when one constantly dwells on his/her feelings, its leads to selfishness and hedonism, a point the films makers seem not to be aware of.
I, the Jury (1953)
Biff Elliot doesn't cut the mustard.
This 1953 film is the first screen depiction of Mickey Spillanes famous detective character Mike Hammer and the only "film noir" I know of that was filmed in 3D. Other than that and the films memorable closing and opening scenes, this film isn't much. Most the cast is good, but the problem lies with the totally mis-cast Biff Elliot as Mike Hammer. He is to young and boyish looking. Ideally, Mike Hammer should be played by someone in their mid thirties or forties; old enough to have grown jaded and world weary, but still young enough to woo the babes and take the punches. Biff Elliot looks and acts like he just got out of detective school. Parklane productions blew it by casting Elliot, who not only wasn't the right type but an actor who never had any screen presence. No wonder he mostly never got more than bit parts after this. Being the first actor to play Mike Hammer is about the only role anyone recalls when his name comes up. Parklane did right in the next Mike Hammer film by casting Ralph Meeker. Even Robert Bray (MY GUN IS QUICK) made a more convincing Mike Hammer. In fact, even Armand Asante was better.
Hammer apparently wanted to branch out from the "Grand Guignol" gothic horror thrillers they were cranking out at the time, and began turning out several psychological thrillers vaguely in the PSYCHO/DIABOLIC mode. PARANOIAC (1963) and HYSTERIA (1965) are two examples along with the film in discussion here; MANIAC. MANIAC stars Kerwin(7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD) Mathews as an unhappily American in France who gets involved with a married woman named Eve Beynat whose husband is locked away in a mental hospital for the welding torch murder of the man who tried to rape his daughter Annette. Mathews gets tricked into helping Eve's "husband" escape from the mental hospital thinking this will allow him to have Eve to himself. As can expected, not all is what it seems. I won't reveal much more cause that would be a spoiler, but the film has good twist ending.
MANIAC is not the best of Hammers psychological thrillers, but it is still interesting and worth viewing. Kerwin Mathews who was fine in films with lots of physical action is a bit out of his depth here, but over all he gives an acceptable performance. This seems to be the last film of the lovely Liliane Brousse. She seems to have disappeared from the screen after this picture.
Satellite in the Sky (1956)
Good production, but mostly dull sci fi from the UK.
This was the first 1950's British science fiction intended to be a major item. The film is in color and cinemascope, has decent special effects and production values and the film takes its subject matter seriously; space travel and nuclear testing. When this film was released in the United States by Warner Brothers in 1956, it was marketed as a major item with a big ad campaign. However, most reviews at the time were not favorable, and the film did not do as well at the box office as Warner Brothers had anticipated. The film rarely turned up on television and remains largely unknown to all but 1950's science fiction completests.
It is no wonder really. Despite good production values, a good budget, some interesting art direction and a serious attitude taken by the films makers, SATELLITE IN THE SKY is mostly too talky and static to interest most mainstream movie viewers. The film is overall not bad, but it fails to generate little more than mild interest and at best moderate enthusiasm.
Note: When this film first came out, several reviewers remarked favorably about the films color process and use of cinemascope. I missed this film when it used turn up occasionally on late night T.V. back in seventies. I only recently saw this film for the first time on video, and wouldn't you know it, all video copies are in black and white and in incorrect aspect ratio!! I would really would like to see a color and letter boxed video version.
Tarzan's Hidden Jungle (1955)
First Tarzan flick for Scott, last for RKO should have been something more.
Gordon Scott makes his debut here as the king of the jungle in this acceptable but routine Tarzan flick. TARZAN'S HIDDEN JUNGLE isn't as bad as some of this film detractors claim. As far as the RKO Tarzan flicks go, TARZAN'S HIDDEN JUNGLE is about average. What disappoints most Tarzan fans, is that one would think with RKO introducing a new actor in the role of Tarzan, they would have made this film a little something more. The film has a good supporting cast, but the production values are slightly below par. One would think the studio heads at RKO would have given this film a higher budget considering they were introducing a "new" Tarzan. I've heard that producer Sol Lesser tried to convince RKO to make this film in color, but the studio brass refused. Lesser, who owned the screen rights to Burroughs famous character, departed from RKO after twelve years of making Tarzan flicks for RKO, and moved on to make Tarzan flicks with Scott for other studios. I suspect it was RKO's refusal to allow him to shoot this film in color and the usual low budget that made Lesser part company with RKO. The next Tarzan flick (TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI) was in color and had a higher budget.
Note: this film does have one scene thats a real gem. Tarzan rescues Vera Miles from quick sand and then tries to wash the mud off her. She tells Tarzan she needs a bath, so Tarzan agrees and tosses the startled Miss Miles in the drink.
Tales of Frankenstein (1958)
Unsold Hammer TV pilot worth a look for the curious.
For years the only thing I knew about TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN was from a still I had seen in "Famous Monsters" magazine. Then a promotional trailer for this film/T.V. pilot turned up in the Zacherle video "Horrible Horror." For years I remained very curious about this film/T.V. pilot, but the damn thing was impossible to see. Then one day a copy of this film turned up on the shelves at my favorite video rental store and I was able to satisfy my curiosity.
In TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN the good Dr. Frankenstein has created a being from bits and pieces of dead bodies stolen from graves. He brings the monster to life but discovers its mind is blank. Dr. Frankenstein decides a living brain is needed and is soon met by a dying man and is told by Dr. Frankenstein he can make him immortal if agrees to allow him to be used in an experiment. The dying man gets more than he bargained for when he wakes up in the horrible disfigured body of Frankenstein's creation.
The monster's make-up in the film resembles the classic Universal monster with puffy cheeks giving the impression it is starting to develop acromegaly. The production values are not up to Hammers usual standards. The films sets look very stagey. Then again, this was a 1958 T.V. show, not a feature film. I have heard conflicting accounts on what this T.V. series was supposed to be. One states its was supposed to be a weekly series with each weeks episode telling the tale of a famous monster (i.e one week Dracula, next week The Mummy etc.) Another account claims each week would be about a different adventure in the life of Dr. Frankenstein. The latter seems unlikely. However, its doubtful either could have resulted in a long running series. The show would have ran out of plots very quickly.
O.K. rise and fall drama.
RUTHLESS seems to be Edgar G. Ulmers attempt to film a story similar to CITIZEN KANE. Like CITIZEN KANE, RUTHLESS is the story of the rise and fall of man from a humble background who rises to the top, destroying several people along the way, only to end up having his past catch up with him at the end. RUTHLESS also has CITIZEN KANE's flashback structure and both characters come from quaint small towns. Unlike Charles Kane, Horace Wooddruff Vendig is a far more ruthless character and- unlike Charles Kane- evokes little sympathy. He destroys his first love, first by stealing her from his best friend, then dumping her for another woman when he meets another girl whose family can provide him with better connections to move the economic ladder. The women he uses, with the exception of his first love Martha, evoke little sympathy. In a way they are just as ruthless as Vendig. The women are solely attracted to him by his power and wealth, and when they are discarded, the viewer can't help feel they had it coming. Don't complain when you play with vipers and then get bitten would be my advice to these women.
RUTHLESS doesn't quite deserve the praise some viewers have recently heaped upon it. The pacing is sometimes off and the film is a bit overlong. The cast is good, with Sydney Greenstreet giving as usual (if at times over the top) attention grabbing performance. Director Ulmer handles the direction with confidence and style. Overall, RUTHLESS is a not bad imitation of a much better film, but when viewing it, the viewer can't help think something is lacking.
La route de Corinthe (1967)
The avenging Jean Seberg.
Enemy agents have been jamming NATO radar signals with mysterious "black boxes" that they have planted around various locations in Greece. American agent Bob Ford (who speaks with a perfect French accent) is killed while hot on the trail of the nefarious enemy agents. His widow Shanny, despite warnings from fellow American agent Dex, vows to avenge his killing and locate the "black boxes."
Claude Chabrol claimed his LA ROUTE DE CORINTHE was homage to Alfred Hitchcock. The film does vaguely resemble Hitchcocks NOTORIOUS with the "black boxes" serving as "the McGuffin." The film is also typical of 60's spy movies in that it features cartoonish bad guys. Jean Seberg is lovely as the brave avenging widow who gets in and out of many scrapes through out the course of the film. The films Greek locations give the film much visual interest. LA ROUTE DE CORINTHE is a competent and fairly enjoyable 60's spy thiller but it is also undistinguished.
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Well, what can I say?
Most of the time when I choose films to comment on in the IMDB, I try to pick films that nobody or few people have commented on. After all, what I say about films like CITIZEN KANE, 2001, VERTIGO, CASABLANCA etc. that zillions of people have already submitted comments on here at the IMDB and gallons of ink have been put to paper about them? PLAN NINE has been dissected, probed, its parts examined under a microscope, sewn back together again and then taken apart several times over. PLAN NINE is the only film I know of that has undergone so much discussion not for being a good film, but because it considered so bad. I have seen lots of bad films and have submitted comments on many, but in most cases with films like BLONDE ON A BUM TRIP and THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD, I was in virgin territory. Such is not the case with PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE.
So! What I can I say thats new? Not much. I will say that PLAN NINE, despite containing so many technical errors that would give a high school film class student an "F", dialog written with no ear to how people really talk and sounds like it was written for a radio show, and mostly inept or indifferent acting, PLAN NINE is not the worst movie ever made. It is however one the most watchable "bad" movies ever made. Anyone watching it for the first time will stay glued to the screen. Its certainly more watchable that other notorious turkeys like FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND or recent big Hollywood flops like THE SKULLS. It certainly isn't even the worst film from Ed Wood, that would be JAIL BAIT, a film that can only be watched once. At least with PLAN NINE, Wood kept things moving. PLAN NINE merits repeated viewings, turkeys like ROCKET ATTACK USA and THE CREEPING TERROR can only be viewed more than once by viewers with high tolerance for boredom. At least Ed Wood's film badness is due to naive ineptitude, not the kind of jaded, cynical ineptitude found in bad films from the same era like THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER or KING DINOSAUR or the dozens of God awful slasher movies of recent vintage. Unlike other makers of bad films like Sam Katzman or Jerry Warren, I don't think Ed Wood had contempt for the people that went to see his movies.
Death in Small Doses (1957)
Peter Graves should have known.
Note this commentary may contain a ***SPOILER**
Another one of those "B" 1950's crime thrillers "...ripped from the pages of todays headlines." This film was inspired by a Saturday Evening Post expose about the use of amphetamines of long haul truck drivers. In this film, Peter Graves plays an FDA agent who goes undercover as a truck driver in order to get the goods on who is supplying the drivers with "bennies". Chuck Conners plays a hip talking truck driver hooked on the pills and freaks out and almost kills Peter. Mala Powers plays the widowed boarding house owner that caters to truck drivers whom Peter becomes romanticly involved. Too bad Peter never learned never to trust grieving widows who wear cocktail dresses. Robert Shayne has a small part as Peters boss. Graves gives his usual dependable performance as the determined agent. Its amazing how many of these forgotten low budget films Graves made in the 1950's. Chuck Conners however, goes way over the top as the hip talking, jazz loving amphetamine hooked truck driver. Mala Powers is attractive.
Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
Dracula and hippies.
In a fierce battle, Dr. Van Helsing has destroyed the evil count, but the battle results in wounds fatal to the good doctor. A disciple of the vampire arrives soon after and saves Dracula's ring and some of his ashes. Fast forward to the 20th century where the disciple or one of his descendants- the film is unclear about this- leads a band of swinging hippies. He convinces his hippie friends to take part in black mass that brings back the evil count. Dracula soon sets his eyes on hippie Jessica, who is the great grand daughter of Dr. Van Helsing. He plans to turn her into a vampire as an act of revenge.
Apparently the folks had Hammer felt the steam was running out of their Dracula series and felt bringing the count into the swinging London of 1972 was a groovie idea. It wasn't. The Hammer Dracula films still hold up when seen today. However, DRACULA A.D. 1972 is an exception. This film looks very dated. Take the opening scene where our happy hippies have crashed a society party. A band called Stoneground plays bad hippie music that should serve as a warning to anyone under 30 how awful music was in 1972 and as a reminder of how grateful we should be that punk rock exploded on the London music scene a few short years later. This scene goes nowhere and does little but extend the films running time and try and make the film look hip. There is a lot of music, most of it too loud and not very good. Plus there is to much hippie stuff and not enough Dracula. Dracula never leaves the ruined church where he was brought back to life. After we see him in the opening scene, its a long time before we see the count show his fangs again. Dracula is almost a side character.
Now, I don't wont to make this film sound all that bad. It does have some very creepy scenes and the presence of Peter Cushing as a descendant of the original Dr. Van Helsing. However, today its more enjoyable as a curiosity than a thrilling fright flick.