Review of “History of the World: Part 1” (1981)

Vnemployment Insvrance from YouTube

This is our Saturday pizza and bad movie offering, one we’d both seen before but not for many years. We’d tried a new wine, something called a Malbec. To my (*cough*) discriminating palate, it tasted a lot like a cab and was quite yummy.

Plot:

This Mel Brooks farce is told in five historical vignettes centered on 1) The Stone Age, 2) The Old Testament, 3) The Roman Empire, 4) The Spanish Inquisition, and 5) The French Revolution.

The Stone Age opens with men arising at dawn to the overture of Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” After, um, exploring themselves, Stone Age man goes on to invent art—with the inevitable art critic, marriage, and music. The “Hallelujah Chorus” is apparently a lot older than you think.

The Old Testament is brief but explains why there are ten rather than fifteen commandments.

During the Roman Empire segment, Mel Brooks plays Comicus, a stand-up philosopher. He gets a gig at Caesar’s palace before Emperor Nero (Dom DeLuise). Unfortunately, he forgets where he is and tells the wrong jokes. As Comicus says, “When you die at the Palace, you really die.”

Mel Brooks plays Tomás de Torquemada (1420-1498), the first Grand Inquisitor. He is known for the use of torture against those who didn’t convert. Funnily enough, he came from a converso background. (“Torquemada this, Torquemada that. I can’t Torquemada anything.”) The segment is portrayed in a song and dance number that concludes with synchronized swimming that hints at water torture of Jewish victims. It is grandiose, absurd, bizarre, and not exactly in the best of taste.

The final main segment depicts events around the French Revolution. Mel Brooks is King Louis XVI, and the plot borrows from such works as Dumas The Man in the Iron Mask and Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.

A few unexpected “coming attractions” at the very end round out the silly movie: Hitler ice skating, a Viking funeral (you find out why those horned helmets weren’t real), and a final segment obviously influenced by Star Wars.

Thoughts:

I saw this movie way back in 1981 in something called a “theater.” I thought it was hysterical, even if parts crossed some boundaries. It has great scenes. Louis XVI declaring his love for the peasants while skeet shooting with them—as targets (“PULL!”)—is classic. So is the first art critic. These bits can still make me laugh.

Having said that, I can’t say that as a whole, this movie has aged well. For starters, its crude adolescent humor (“Do I have any openings this man might fill?”) and its ridicule of gay men don’t work for me.

While hardly a scene fails to show Mel Brooks’ face, there are many other fine actors in this. Gregory Hines is a tap-dancing, chariot-driving, very-large-joint-rolling Josephus in Rome. Cloris Leachman is a rabble-rousing Madame Defarge. Madeline Kahn as Empress Nympho makes Emperor Nero’s cringe-worthy wind-breaking funny by rolling her eyes.

I wish this film had been as good as I remembered. The high points were really high and enjoyable. Sadly, they didn’t make up for the low points.



Title: History of the World: Part 1 (1981)

Director:
Mel Brooks

Writer:
Mel Brooks

Cast:
Mel Brooks as Moses, Comicus, Torquemada, Jacques, King Louis XVI
Gregory Hines as Josephus
Dom DeLuise as Emperor Nero
Madeline Kahn as Empress Nympho
Harvey Korman as Count de Monet
Cloris Leachman as Madame Defarge
Ron Carey as Swiftus

Released: 1981
Length:  1 hour, 32 minutes

Review of “Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1953)

Trailer from YouTube

This is this week’s Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering. Silly.

Plot:

Slim (Bud Abbott) and Tubby (Lou Costello) are American police officers sent over Great Britain to learn British police methods.

Vicky Edwards (Helen Westcott) is a suffragist, leading a rally in a park. Newspaperman Bruce Adams (Craig Stevens) is curious to see the rally, although he doesn’t think much of women getting the vote—at least not until he sees Miss Edwards sing and dance—no suffragist rally is complete without at least one such number, I’m sure. Afterward, he’s happy to sign her petition, including his name and address. He’ll also volunteer his favorite color and note that he likes long moonlit nights on the beach, too, if she’d asked.

Unfortunately for all, the rally breaks into a riot when some gentlemen object to equal rights for women. The ladies are happy to slug any man within reach, including two American police officers who show up to no avail. The viewer sees a feminine foot connect with Tubby’s rear end more than once.

Failure to contain the riot costs Slim and Tubby their jobs. Slim decides the best way to get their jobs back is to solve the string of gruesome murders plaguing London.

The ladies are bailed out of jail. Miss Edwards’s guardian, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Boris Karloff), comes to fetch her. Adams finagles a ride home in Jekyll’s carriage. His paper bailed him, but he wanted to hang around and talk to Vicky. Vicky and Bruce make goo-goo eyes at each other in the carriage ride home, not caring if Dr. Jekyll, the owner of the carriage, is a little crowded.

Once home, Dr. Jekyll descends to his secret lab hidden behind the revolving bookcase. (No evil lair is complete without one.) Here, his inarticulate assistant, Batley (John Dierkes), shows him a newspaper with a headline about the mysterious murder of one of Jekyll’s colleagues. Jekyll knows about the murder. The colleague laughed at his ideas. He had to die. And now this…reporter is making a play for Vicky, but Vicky is his. (EWWW. He raised Vicky. Vicky was his ward.) He injects himself with a serum that will transform him into Mr. Hyde to take care of the young man.

Thoughts:

This is one of several movies the comedy duo Abbott and Costello made with Universal Studios monsters, all of which rely on slapstick, mistiming, and just plain silliness. They also met the Frankenstein monster, the mummy, and the invisible man.

According to IMDB, Boris Karloff did not play Mr. Hyde. That role was played by stuntman Eddie Parker. Karloff would have been about sixty-six when the movie was made, and some of the more athletic scenes—crawling up drainpipes, for example—might have been better played by a younger actor.

While chasing “the monster,” Tubby finds himself in a wax museum, between wax figures of the Frankenstein monster and Dracula, both of whom Abbott and Costello met five years earlier in 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s original, Dr. Jekyll is not menacing but seems to lack all compassion. In many traditional films, Dr. Jekyll is a warm or at least well-intentioned human being who goes astray. In this film, he is menacing and confessional. He is jealous of his ward’s lover (ICK), intolerant of a fellow doctor’s ridicule of his wacky ideas, and vengeful. When he promises to pay the unemployed Slim and Tubby five pounds to stay the night at his place as guards, the viewer just knows it won’t go well.

An hour of slapstick can get tedious for some, so know what you’re getting before you check this out. It’s unsophisticated and silly. But it’s fun.

Regrettably, I could not find this available as a free download.


Title: Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)

Directed by
Charles Lamont

Writing Credits:
Lee Loeb…(screenplay) and
John Grant…(screenplay)
Sid Fields…(stories) (as Sidney Fields) &
Grant Garett…(story) (as Grant Garrett)
Howard Dimsdale…(writer) (uncredited)
Robert Louis Stevenson…(novel) (uncredited)

Cast:
Bud Abbott as Slim
Lou Costello as Tubby
Boris Karloff as Dr. Henry Jekyll…
Craig Stevens as Bruce Adams
Helen Westcott as Vicky Edwards
Reginald Denny as Inspector


Released: 1953
Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Review of “War of the Colossal Beast” (1958)

from YouTube

This week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering is a sequel to 1957’s The Amazing Colossal Man. It’s worth a second glass of wine to dull the pain.

Plot:

The dramatic over-the-top opening score with piccolos and tympani lets the viewer know within a few frames that this movie will be chock full of melodrama. The first scene shows a young man (Robert Hernandez) speeding along a desert road in a delivery truck—a flatbed with removable sides—looking over his shoulder. What is he running from? He’s clearly terrified. He runs the truck into a pond where it gets stuck. The young man bails from the truck, but falls into the mud of the river and flounders, screaming.

The next scene opens in the fictional sleepy little pueblo of Guavos, Mexico, where the viewer sees burros loaded down with firewood (?). An American car pulls up in front of the police station. An irate American, John Swanson (George Becwar), wants to report the theft of a dark green stake bed truck, loaded with groceries, California license plates. He doesn’t know exactly where it was stolen. It was supposed to deliver supplies to his gun club back in the hills. He hired “a kid” to drive it.

When Sgt. Luis Murillo (Rico Alaniz) asks if he remembers the driver’s name, Swanson hesitates. “Miguel something or other,” he says.

Yeah, that ought to narrow the search.

“Fifteen—sixteen years old, dark, thin about so high.” Swanson holds up his hand.

“Would you know him if you saw him?” the sergeant asks.

Swanson says he would.

They go then to the hospital, which is right across the road. The same young man seen earlier is in bed, in shock. He is no help.

Now, north of the border, in the Beverly Hilton, Joyce Manning (Sally Fraser) watches a fluff piece about a guy in Mexico who can’t collect his insurance because his grocery truck can’t be found.

Joyce has an idea. Her brother, Colonel Glen Manning (Duncan “Dean” Parkin), suffered a dose of radiation from an exploded plutonium bomb some years earlier. He grew to sixty feet tall. It was believed that he died after being shot with bazookas and falling off the Hoover Dam (… a reasonable conclusion), although his body was never found. Joyce thinks he is still alive. She contacts both the Army and Swanson.

The Army sends one Maj. Mark Baird (Roger Pace) to meet with her. Later, she, Baird, and a Dr. Carmichael (Russ Bender) head to Guavos. By this time, Miguel something-or-other is able to say that he was attacked by “big man, like an ogre.”

The Major, Dr. Carmichael, and Joyce go to the place where Miguel was found. They find tire tracks that seem to end, but nothing else, until they realize a large depression in the mud is really a huge… footprint.

This leads to one of the many goofy exchanges in the movie:

Dr. Carmichael: The foot that made that print is about ten times the size of a normal man’s. That would make him about sixty feet tall.

Joyce Manning: Glenn was sixty feet tall!

Big guy, big appetite. Could he be, you know, stealing whole grocery trucks for grub?

Thoughts:

This comes from the Cold War fear of atomic radiation, and as such, the notion of a man made into a giant by exposure to radiation could have made for an entertaining movie. This does not. The dialogue is clunky and seldom believable. Toward the end, at Griffith Park Observatory outside Los Angeles, the Colossus goes on his last rampage, lifting a school bus full of children on a field trip. Outside the perimeter set by the military, one forlorn mother shrieks, realizing her daughter is on that bus. She holds her daughter’s coat.

The last few moments of the movie are in color, as if to say there’s a new world, and they all lived happily ever after.

If you saw the earlier movie, a good chunk of this one will look familiar. When Glen Manning’s story is told in flashback, they reuse footage from the first movie because of course they do.

It was like those making this movie weren’t even trying.

One bright spot was the character of Sgt. Luis Murillo, who, while remaining infinitely polite to blowhard John Swanson, lets the viewer know that he thinks he’s an idiot. Swanson is in the habit of interjecting, “Get the picture?” every thirty seconds or so.

For a newsman covering events at the big end, they use an actual newsman, Stan Chambers (1923-2015), a longtime reporter in Los Angeles.

This could have been a lot of fun, but it was a disappointment.

For the curious, this is available on YouTube here.



Title: War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

Director
Bert I. Gordon

Writers
Bert I. Gordon (story)
George Worthing Yates (screenplay)

Cast:
Sally Fraser as Joyce Manning
Roger Pace as Maj. Mark Baird
Duncan “Dean” Parkin as Col. Glenn Manning
Russ Bender as Dr. Carmichael
 Rico Alaniz as Sgt. Luis Murillo
George Becwar as John Swanson

Released: 1958
Length: 1 hour, 9 minutes
Rating: TV-PG

Review of “Dial M for Murder” (1954)

trailer from YouTube

We borrowed this from our local library, Main Library | Orange, CA (cityoforange.org) and watched it last week when Svengoolie was a rerun. I’d never seen it all the way and can now understand why it’s regarded as a classic.

Plot:

Tennis star Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) gave up the game at the behest of his wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), and now sells sports equipment. She had money. She also had an affair with an American crime fiction writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), but broke it off when he returned to the States a year earlier. She burned all his letters except one. That one disappeared from her purse when it was stolen. She’s received blackmail threats, which she later paid off. She said not a word to her husband.

Now Halliday has come to England and stops by his old friends’ place for a visit.

Telling Margot and Mark he has urgent work to take care of, Wendice sends them out to the movies and meets up with Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson), an old acquaintance from college who has gone astray. Using both leverage and the enticement of a lot of money, Wendice convinces him to murder Margot while he and Mark are at a stag party the next evening. He had Margot’s letter and was the anonymous blackmailer. He is also the beneficiary of her will.

Wendice has an elaborate plan. It seems to work—at first.

Thoughts:

The viewer is engaged throughout, but not necessarily out of sympathy for the characters. None of them is innocent. Tony Wendice, the wronged husband, is the most despicable, plotting not only the death of his wife but, when that fails, her murder conviction.

He’s convinced himself his plan is foolproof. Yep. Of course, it is. The tension—and some humor—comes from the many near misses. When he invites Halliday to the stag party, he assumes Margot will stay in. She wants to go see a movie. Tension already hangs in the air because he’s going out with the guy his wife cheated on him with. Wendice leans on her to continue to organize his old newspaper clippings from his professional life. Unspoken is the reminder that he quit playing tennis because of her—not to mention that he’s entertaining the guy she slept with.

Of course, she doesn’t mind organizing his old newspaper clippings. She wants to do it.

What a manipulative bastard.

Even when his plan goes disastrously wrong, he thinks on his feet. Will his soft shoe be enough to fool that police inspector who, Colombo-like, always has one more question?

The actors are all convincing. Their reactions are logical in illogical situations, and humor keeps the movie from becoming too weighty.

The film and actors have won several awards, including Alfred Hitchcock, who was nominated in 1955 by the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures.

Most of the action takes place in one room. This hearkens back to its origin as a play by the same name written by British playwright Frederick Knott, who also wrote the screenplay. While there is a lot of exposition—the actors talk a lot—this doesn’t get tiresome. Hitchcock employs several tricks to keep the tension high; the actors move around in the room as they’re talking, pour themselves drinks and such things. The camera also moves, so the viewer sees the actors from above, at eye level, and from below.

This is not one for the kiddies, however. The murder scene is not overly gory, but the subject matter—adultery, capital punishment, conspiracy to commit murder, emotional manipulation, etc., would probably go over their heads.

All in all, mighty fine flick.

I could not find a free downloadable copy of this.





Title: Dial M for Murder (1954)


Director:
Alfred Hitchcock

Writer:
Frederick Knott (screenplay by)

Cast:
Ray Milland as Tony Wendice
Grace Kelly as Margot Wendice
Robert Cummings as Mark Halliday
John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard
Anthony Dawson as Charles Swann
Leo Britt as The Storyteller

Released: 1954
Length:  1 hour, 45 minutes
Rated: PG

Review of “The Velocipastor” (2018)

video from YouTube

My friend Tracy thought I might enjoy this flick for our Saturday pizza and bad movie night. What she must think about my tastes! This is goofy, gory, silly, and has the redeeming quality of not taking itself seriously.

My friend Tracy is a good judge of what movies I will watch.

Plot:

Father Doug Jones (Greg Cohan) is a young priest who witnesses his parents die horrifically when their car explodes outside his church. In the crisis of faith that follows, his older fellow priest, Father Stewart (Daniel Steere), advises him to travel, to “discover how others live.”

“Go where you think God will not follow,” Father Stewart tells him. “If you find him there, you’ll know he’s real.”

Father Jones goes to… China. While hiking in the woods, he comes across a woman (Claire Hsu) with an arrow protruding from her chest and bright red blood running down the front of the white shirt. Concerned, Jones asks, “Are you hurt?”

The woman hands him what looks like the tooth of a large animal and asks him in Mandarin to destroy it, or he will be hunted.

“You want me to have this?” he asks.

She gasps in English, “The dragon warrior,” and expires.

A man dressed in black appears with a bow and arrow. Doug backs away in panic. In doing so, he cuts his palm with the tooth. He faints and wakes up back home. Father Stewart asks him, “The dream again?”

Thoughts:

At the same time, the viewer meets Carol (Alyssa Kempinski), a put-upon working girl whose pimp is the abusive and bombastic Frankie Mermaid (Fernando Pacheco De Castro). One night as she’s working in “the park,” she’s rescued from a would-be mugger by a… dinosaur.

The next morning, she and the human who was once a dinosaur have an awkward and funny conversation. Doug at first believes he’s broken his vow of chastity, only to be shocked to realize he’s killed a human being. Carol tells him this might not be such a bad thing. He saved her. She tells him, “This is the most priestly thing you’ve ever done.” By removing bad people, he’d be helping good people.

This weighty, philosophical, and emotional discussion occurs while the two of them are walking back in forth in the park, Doug wearing a borrowed bright orange dress that’s a bit short. Adding to the whole picture is the dress’s V-neck bodice, which emphasizes the breasts.

The actors utter their absurd dialogue with completely straight faces. Even Doug’s parents seem happy and proud when (in a flashback) they drop “their only son” off at “priest college.”

The lead, Greg Cohan, works perfectly in whatever the role calls for: despair, innocence, maybe being a little slow on the uptake. A surprise, though, is Alyssa Kempinski, the actress who plays the streetwalker Carol. Carol is nobody’s fool, and Kempinski is completely convincing.

In a debate between Doug and his mentor, Fr. Stewart, Doug cites two passages of scripture, Leviticus 24:24 and Matthew 32:6. Heathen that I am, neither one rang a bell for me. I tried to look them up without success—not that my laptop burst into flames as it approached a Bible website. These passages don’t exist. Joke’s on the atheist.

There’s more to this movie, however. An oddball exorcism goes bad, avenging ninjas appear, a flashback to heartbreak in Vietnam, and there’s a matter of sibling rivalry that is settled only in tragedy. The only thing missing is a toll booth.

The special effects are…special. The dinosaur is not merely goofy. It looks like a Halloween costume someone picked up at a party store. Having said that, I’d be willing to bet it was more expensive than the special effects for the car fire that took the lives of Doug’s parents, however.

My one big beef is the music. Whatever they detonated over the opening credits got the mute button from me.

All in all, I liked this movie. I realize it will not be to everyone’s liking. Its absurdity can be off-putting, and the subject matter may be a little sensitive. This is definitely not one for the kiddies. The little sex and nudity in it are abstract and obscured by the damn racket they call music. The gore is unrealistic and absurd, though there is a fair amount of it.

Thanks, Tracy, for an excellent recommendation. My dearly beloved liked it so much he sent the link to a friend of his.  See what you started?

YouTube like free w/commercials:

The Velocipastor – YouTube buy or rent; warns there is potentially inappropriate material and asks for DOB




Title: The Velocipastor (2018)

Director
Brendan Steere

Writer
Brendan Steere

Cast:
Greg Cohan as Doug Jones
George Schewnzer as Doug’s Dad
Janice Young as Doug’s Mom
Daniel Steere as Father Stewart
Claire Hsu as Chinese Villager
Nicholas M. Garofolo as Hobo(as nick Garofolo)
Alyssa Kempinski as Carol
Fernando Pacheco De Castro as Frankie Mermaid

Released: September 28, 2018
Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Word is that yes, a sequel is in the works.

Review of “The Tower Treasure” by Franklin W. Dixon

Image from goodreads.

Plot:

While on an errand for their father, Hardy brothers, dark-haired Frank, 18, and blond-haired Joe, 17, Hardy somehow carry on a conversation over the roar over their 1920s motorcycles. Their father, Fenton, is a private detective, having retired from the New York police force after a sterling career. Joe says, “I wish we could solve a mystery of our own.”

Be careful what you wish for.

A car nearly runs them off the road. They can’t see the driver’s face, but he appears to be a redhead.

They later come upon his wrecked car. There’s no sign of the redheaded man. They end up at their friend Chet Morton’s house to find someone had stolen Chet’s old car (“Queen”). They surmise the thief used it to replace the car he wrecked. But there’s a catch: this man had brown hair. Wait! Could the “speed demon” have been wearing a wig?

They recover Queen. The news comes that someone has robbed the Applegates at Tower Mansion! The boys assume the thief is the same wig-wearing Queen-stealing man because… well, why not? The Applegates, crusty brother and sister Hurd and Adelia, blame their caretaker, Mr. Robinson, and fire him. Robinson confesses to knowing to combination to the family safe and coming into a lot of money recently. He insists he came upon both honestly and is honor-bound not to disclose the source of his money. Frank and Joe know Mr. Robinson’s son, Perry, from school and don’t believe he is capable of theft. They set out to prove their friend’s father innocent.


from goodreads

Thoughts:

The series takes place in the fictional port town of Bayport in an unspecified state somewhere along the eastern coast of the United States. The main character, Frank and Joe, attend Bayport High School, but their academic endeavors seldom get in the way of their sleuthing.

While no one will confuse this with great literature, a redeeming point is that Frank and Joe, despite their almost clairvoyant ability to connect events, nevertheless have to work hard to solve this riddle. They follow a few dead ends, fully convinced they’ve got it this time. This makes the boys less godlike and engages the reader more than if they were simply following the boys to the solution.

On the downside, while Mr. Robinson is out of a job, he’s moved his family to a poor part of Bayport. The boys find his house—the neatest and tidiest on the block—amid dilapidated shacks with ill-clad children running in the yards. The Robinsons don’t belong there! Unlike all the other poor people, who—you know—apparently deserve to be there.

As is expected, all is made right in the end.

The Tower Treasure
is the first book in the original Hardy Boys Mystery Series which lasted for some fifty-eight volumes published from 1927 and 1979. Canadian journalist and filmmaker Leslie MacFarlane (1902-1977) ghostwrote some twenty-one of those volumes. Contracted authors, such as MacFarlane, followed an outline supplied by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book packager of several children’s series including Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Bobbsey Twins. As are the current Hardy Boys books, The Tower Treasure was published under the penname, Franklin W. Dixon.

In 1959, Harriet S. Adams (1892-1982), a daughter of Edward Stratemeyer, revised the text and shortened the books from twenty-five to twenty chapters. Stratemeyer had passed away in 1930. The story itself remained essentially the same. The first thirty-eight volumes in the series were revised and shortened, and outmoded words updated. Also, racial references were changed to reflect changing times. (That is, the casual racism of the 1930s was replaced by the casual racism of the 1950s…)

Overall, I found this book engaging, even with its faults. There is humor. I enjoyed it, even knowing there are better books out there.



Sources:
The Hardy Boys Original Series
Who Wrote the Hardy Boys?
_____


Title: The Tower Treasure
Author: Franklin W. Dixon
First published: 1927, rev. 1959

Review of “I Saw What You Did” (1965)

trailer from YouTube

This is this week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering. We watched it with Svengoolie and a yummy merlot.

Plot:

Dave Mannering (Leif Erickson) takes his wife Ellie (Patricia Breslin) to a business meeting out of town. At the last minute, their babysitter cancels, forcing them to leave their teenage daughter Libby (Andi Garrett) alone with their younger daughter, Tess (Sharyl Locke), for the night. Libby’s friend Kit Austin (Sara Lane) is to come over for dinner, with her father picking her up at 11:30.

The Mannerings live on a farm out in the middle of nowhere. The two sisters are in the habit of making prank phone calls and, once the adults are gone, show Kit how they do it: pick a name at random out of the phonebook*, call that person and pretend to be someone they’re not. For example, if a woman answers, Libby adopts a voluptuous voice and asks to speak with the husband. She says to tell him “Suzette” is calling.

They call several people, saying, “I know what you did, and I know who you are.”

Yeah, it’s all fun and games until they happen to tell that to a guy who’s just returned from trying to bury the body of the wife he’s murdered.

Thoughts:

The movie was based on a 1964 thriller novel Out of the Dark by New Mexico author Ursula Curtiss.

The viewer is presented with an intriguing premise: teenagers have their pranks come back to bite them in unexpected ways. Naughty girls playing with innocent people’s lives catch hell. Later, not realizing she’s already come close to being murdered twice, Libby will say, “It was all just a game!”

Most of the action seems predicated on the victims constantly put themselves in harm’s way. Told to lock up all the windows and doors, Libby leaves a kitchen window wide open. From this window, the bad guy hears her talking to Kit (who is home by now) about the news Kit heard on the radio—a woman’s body found off the side of the road.

Exercising poor judgment is not restricted to the “innocents,” however. The bad guy’s copy of How Not to Murder Your Wife for Dummies must have gotten lost in the mail.

Sharyl Locke, the actress who plays the younger sister Tess, was about ten when the film was made, though she seemed to be portraying a much younger child. She is surprisingly convincing.

An odd and creepy sexuality works its way into the film. Libby, a putative sixteen-year-old,  slips into the “Suzette” persona for the prank phone calls with remarkable ease. Kit asks her what she would do if she met the guy they’ve been prank calling. Libby becomes infatuated. She concludes, “His voice was so deep, so exciting. It was like he was running his hand down my back real slow.”

Joan Crawford plays Amy Nelson, a love-sick neighbor of the bad guy. Even after she figures out he killed his wife, she wants to marry him. EWWW. She figured the Mrs. had it coming.

The most unsettling thing about the movie was the music. It struck me as inappropriate for the subject matter, sounding at times more like the theme music of a sitcom than a thriller like this. Perhaps it was intended to lighten to mood, but it struck my ear as incongruous. I half-expected Austin Powers to jump out and cry, “Yeah, baby!”

The threat to the girls is real. Adding to the tension is that they repeatedly do foolish things that increase the likelihood of one of them ending up on the wrong end of the bad guy’s knife.

I can’t call this movie outstanding, but it was entertaining.



*Kids, ask your parents what a phonebook is.


Title: I Saw What You Did (1965)

Director
William Castle

Writers
William P. McGivern (screenplay)
Ursula Curtiss (novel)

Cast:
Joan Crawford as Amy Nelson
John Ireland as Steve Marak
Leif Erickson as Dave Mannering
Sara Lane as Kit Austin
Andi Garrett as Libby Mannering
Sharyl Locke as Tess Mannering

Released: May 15, 1965
Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes


Review of “She-Wolf of London” (1946)

trailer from YouTube

This is the latest Saturday night pizza selection. Both the pizza and the wine were enjoyable. As we often do, we watched this with Svengoolie.

Plot:

In London, near the turn of the 20th century, Scotland Yard is investigating reports of a man attacked and seriously injured in a park. The victim says it was a woman, not a man, who attacked him. Given the savage nature of the attack, Detective Latham (Lloyd Corrigan) jumps to the conclusion that a werewolf is about. Perfectly logical assumption. His boss, Inspector Pierce (Dennis Hoey), remarks that it’s a little early to be visiting “grog shops.” Together, they go inspect the site of the attack.

In the park at the same time, orphaned heiress Phyllis Allenby (a really young June Lockhart) is riding horses with her intended, Barry Lanfield (Don Porter), a barrister. Phyllis lives near the park in her ancestral home with “aunt” Martha Winthrop (Sara Haden) and her “cousin” Carol Winthrop (Jan Wiley).

Phyllis and Barry stop their smooching when they hear Pierce and Latham discuss finding a woman’s footprints at the crime scene. Phyllis admits seeing the police makes her upset. Barry says having an audience has broken the spell, and they return to the Allenby house. There, Aunt Martha wrangles two temperamental German shepherds. The dogs dislike Phyllis.

When Phyllis retires that evening, the dogs are barking and howling their heads off. She lights and hangs a lantern outside her window. Aunt Martha walks in (doesn’t anybody knock anymore?) and expresses dismay that Phyllis would believe that old superstition about hanging a lantern outside when the dogs are barking to keep evil spirits away.

Phyllis says the dogs barking and the goings-on in the park are getting on her mind.

“You really are upset,” Aunt Martha tells her. “I’ll fetch you some warm milk from downstairs. You’ll sleep so soundly, you won’t even hear the dogs.”

The next morning, Phyllis wakes up to find blood on her hands. Her slippers are muddy, and the hem of her rob is wet. Aunt Martha assures her she’s done nothing wrong. However, the morning paper has an account of the horrible murder of a child in the park. Phyllis is convinced this is the Allenby curse coming home to roost.

Thoughts:

The movie some negative reviews when it first came out. Reviewers called it too long. (Really? It’s only an hour.) and a story they’d heard before.

Current horror fans often don’t care for it either. The movie opens with horror-ish sounding music. The viewer should see a castle someplace of an ancient family estate. No, we get opening lines mentioning the Allenby curse, which has almost been forgotten. Where’s the castle or grand family estate nestled by the seashore?

This flick falls several pegs short of what one might call a masterpiece. For starters, no one ever explains what the curse of the Allenbys is. Are they really all werewolves? Are they bad dancers? Or is it that they just can’t hold their liquor?

The solution to the story was obvious to me about fifteen in. Just the same, I did not feel cheated. The main character was in the dark until nearly the end. One could feel a little sympathy for the villain’s situation, but not their actions.

The fun came from watching the main character’s enlightenment, gradual as it may be. (In the immortal words of Bug Bunny, “Now wait a minute. Could it be that I been tricked?”). It also came from watching the villain scheme and toying with their prey.

The movie further offered some comic relief with dialogue between police officers, both those walking a beat and those in offices. Inspector Pierce was moonlighting from his day job as Inspector Lestrade in the Sherlock Holmes movies.

Given most reviewers’ reactions to it, I suspect many people will dislike the movie more than I did. Again, I can’t call this a great movie, but I found it entertaining.

The movie can be watched here: She Wolf of London 1946 – YouTube  It is a free download and comes with subtitles for a language I can’t read.

Title: She-Wolf of London (1946)

Director
Jean Yarbrough

Writers
George Bricker (screenplay)
Dwight V. Babcock (original story)

Cast:
Don Porter as Barry Lanfield
June Lockhart as Phyllis Allenby
Sara Haden as Martha Winthrop
Jan Wiley as Carol Winthrop
Lloyd Corrigan as Detective Latham
Dennis Hoey as Inspector Pierce

Released: 1946
Length: 1 hour, 1 minute

Review of “Time Walker” (1982)

trailer from YouTube

This is this week’s Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering. We watched it with Svengoolie. The pizza was good.

Plot:

An earthquake strikes a modern archaeological dig at King Tut’s tomb, knocking down a wall into a previously unknown room. (Yeah, it could happen.) Inside are multiple skeletonized remains and a sarcophagus.

Never mind the poor dead guys around the room. Prof. Douglas McCadden (Ben Murphy) and his team bring the sarcophagus back to the California Institute of the Sciences. (No clearance tussle with Dr. Zahi Hawass?) There, McCadden and some students carefully remove the outer lid. They translate the revealed cartouche, Ankh Venharis, as “noble traveler.” The mummy appears to have been hastily wrapped and is covered in a fluorescent green powder. McCadden asks student Michael Goldstein (Gary Dubin) to take a sample of the green powder. As he does, Michael accidentally gets a little on his wrist above his gloves.

Student Peter Sharpe overcharges the x-ray machine. In developing the x-rays, he notices what he thinks are valuable jewels—five crystals that look like marbles— by the mummy’s head and steals them (naughty, naughty!) then retakes the x-rays to conceal his theft. When a jeweler tells him they’re worthless, he starts giving them away to girls and selling them to gullible guys.

Dr. Ken Melrose (Austin Stoker) of the pathology department thinks the green powder is a dormant fungus but not one he’s seen before. There are other oddities. Unlike other mummies, this one still has its internal organs. Its bone structure is… unusual.

Goop on the side of the sarcophagus lets the viewer know the fungus is no longer dormant. At a press conference called to unveil the mummy, Michael tries to wipe it off. He ends up screaming in pain and is rushed to the hospital.

But that’s not the most dramatic thing that happens at the press conference. When the lid is removed, the sarcophagus is empty.

The authorities and even McCadden (for a while) treat its absence as a fraternity prank. But the viewer knows better: We see the world through a green filter when the mummy walks looking for the crystals Sharpe is passing around.

Thoughts:

This could have been an interesting and unusual take on the mummy story. Several things keep that from happening, in my seldom-humble opinion. First, the pacing drags. The acting is flat and phoned it. The most convincing actor was the mummy (Jack Olson), who didn’t have any speaking parts.

Having said that, I will add that Sheri Belafonte as the school’s photographer/d.j., Linda Flores, was fun to watch.

Many story elements are potboiler pre-disaster slasher movie tripe. A creep peeps on his girlfriend’s roommate undressing. A couple making out in the park is spooked by a guy in a mummy costume from a costume party. You know, every college campus has a costume party at least once a week with maybe a break for finals. The professor is having an affair with his beautiful young assistant Susie Fuller (Nina Axelrod). And, of course, we watch a girl undress and get into the shower, where the mummy attacks her. Don’t monsters ever attack guys in the shower?

The mummy’s fatal touch/fungus is what killed King Tut. No wonder he was quickly wrapped up and shoved into a secure room.

By far the most off-putting thing, though, was the ending. It made no sense. Originally, there was a promise of a sequel that might have explained things, but it has yet to be.

Although the movie gives the viewer some (intentionally) silly moments that are fun, for the most part, this movie doesn’t deliver.






Title: Time Walker (1982)

Directed by
Tom Kennedy

Writing Credits
Jason Williams…(story) &
Tom Friedman…(story)
Tom Friedman…(screenplay) &
Karen Levitt…(screenplay)

Cast (in credits order) verified
Ben Murphy…Prof. Douglas McCadden
Nina Axelrod…Susie Fuller
Kevin Brophy…Peter Sharpe
Robert Random…Jack Parker
James Karen…Dr. Wendell J. Rossmore

Released: November 19, 1982
Length: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Review of “Curse of the Undead” (1959)

trailer from YouTube

This is this week’s pizza and bad movie, an unusual mixture of western and horror. Basil and garlic pizza didn’t seem to faze the bad guy who did wear the required black.

Plot:

In an unspecified area of the former Spanish territory of the Old West, perhaps around 1880, several young girls have come down with a mysterious illness neither Doc Carter’s (John Hoyt) medicine nor Preacher Dan’s (Eric Fleming) prayers seem to be much help against. After losing yet another young patient tragically, Doc and his daughter Dolores (Kathleen Crowley) get in his buckboard and drive home. His son Tim (Jimmy Murphy) has been beaten and starts waving a gun around. He’s embarrassed and angry. The men of neighbor and all-around bad dude, Buffer (Bruce Gordon), have illegally dammed the river, robbing them of water. When the boy tried to tear down the dam, he was beaten. His hat has four bullet holes in it. Doc decides to have a talk with Sheriff Bill (Edward Binns).

The Sheriff’s talk with Buffer in the local watering hole produces lukewarm promises.

On his way home from the Sheriff’s office, Doc is followed by a stranger dressed in black. The viewer never sees the two meet, but Doc arrives home deceased. Son Tim, already upset about his own abuse at the hands of Buffer and his men, is certain Buffer was behind his father’s death. Barely has Doc been laid to rest when a ranch hand reports that a fence has been torn down. About eighty head of cattle are missing. Hoof prints indicate ten men did the deed. Despite good advice to the contrary, Tim forces a confrontation with Buffer. He does not survive the encounter.

Convinced the law will not help her, Dolores puts up posters, asking for a gunslinger to help find a murderer. As quickly as she puts them up, the Sheriff takes them down. But the stranger in black (Michael Pate) picks one up. He takes it into the saloon to think the deal over. Buffer (who doesn’t seem to have a home despite all the land he owns) asks him whether he’s thinking about taking the job. He admits he’s the subject of the poster. In an effort to dissuade him, one henchman ends up with a bullet to his gun hand. After the stranger walks out, boss and henchmen argue about who shot first. Buffer tells the man to collect his pay and go—tough boss.

Thoughts:

This is said to be the first western/vampire mix. Interestingly, it stays reasonably true to both genres. It’s firmly within the western, depicting a dispute over water and boundaries, the lady of the ranch left alone having to fight for herself, the conflict between the bully rancher and the rancher the viewer sympathizes with, and the gunslinger in black. It even ends with the requisite gunfight in the middle of town, while townsfolk scatter—but with a twist.

The vampire lore is a little mixed. Drake cringes at the sight of a cross but can walk in daylight, though he prefers night. He can eat and drink (…wine, presumably, but much prefers whiskey). A wooden stake through the heart is fatal. He likes to sleep in coffins, even if they belong to someone else. Yeah, creepy.

The Theremin-heavy opening music lets the viewer know this isn’t a run-of-the-mill western. The Theremin seems to return when the black-clad stranger is onscreen.

Overall, I found the dialogue bland, but there were some genuine gems.

While Tim is sitting in the saloon getting drunk waiting for Buffer to show, the bartender (Jay Adler) tells him, “Boy, you poured enough out of the bottle to give you man-sized trouble.”

Preacher Dan tries to talk Dolores out of hiring a gunslinger by telling her, “All this talk about killing and revenge is as sinful as praying to the devil himself.”

“If the devil can stop some of this pain in me,” she replies, “then I’ll even pray to him.”

There’s a knock at the door. It’s the stranger in black with a copy of Dolores’s poster. He introduces himself as Drake Robey. Hmmm… yes, a likely name.

Upon learning there’s a real killer after him, Buffer goes to Sheriff Bill for protection. He and Preacher Dan come up with a plan they think will convince Dolores to call off the hired gun but decide to wait till morning. When Buffer objects, Sheriff Bill tells him, “I’ll tuck you into bed, and one of your men can hold your hand.”

At one point, Dolores offers to let Drake stay in an old caretaker’s cottage by the cemetery, unless he’d rather not.

“The dead don’t bother me,” he tells her. “It’s the living who give me trouble.”

In a heated exchange with Preacher Dan after the clergyman has learned Drake’s identity and called him evil, Drake tells him, “Without the devil, you have no profession.”

While the movie was odd in many ways, and the Theremin got on my nerves, it was also a lot of fun. In a blending of genres that tend to be overly dramatic and played straight, this left room for a chuckle or two without becoming camp. I liked it. It turned out to be a great Saturday pizza and bad movie movie.

I could not find a free streaming version of this movie.




Title: Curse of the Undead (1959)

Directed by
Edward Dein

Writing Credits
Edward Dein…(written by) and
Mildred Dein…(written by)

Cast (in credits order)
Eric Fleming…Preacher Dan
Michael Pate…Drake Robey
Kathleen Crowley…Dolores Carter
John Hoyt…Dr. Carter
Bruce Gordon…Buffer

Released: May 1959
Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes