Category Archives: Movies

From Istanbul with Fangs

Movie Night!

Dracula in Istanbul – a Turkish delight from 1953.

That’s about all that needs to be said isn’t it?

What can we surmise from the title alone?

  • It’s probably not gonna be good. But that’s never stopped me.
  • It’s not gonna be in English and the subtitles are probably gonna be…novel.

True on both counts.

The film’s female lead is played by Annie Ball (about the only pronounceable name in the cast). Ms. Ball’s character dances a lot for Red Cross charities (seriously) behind a stage curtain that trumpets proudly the show sponsor’s name; The Minerva Sewing Machine Company (seriously!). The Muslim background of the film is reaffirmed often, which makes you puzzle over why Ms. Ball’s performances aren’t for the Red Crescent instead of the Red Cross, especially since no crucifixes are used in the struggle against the vampire.

On the clearly positive side, had there been such an award in 1953, I’m sure this film would have won the Oscar for “Best Use of Diaphanous Costuming”. You don’t even need those high-tech eyeglasses that used to be offered for a buck on the back of 1950’s comic books.

Truth in advertising warning; Istanbul only appears in a long-distance twilight skyline shot over the strait. For this it gets a title credit? Good agent.

I liked it.

Octopi Flicks

It’s an understudied genre.

Why?

And why should we…

Make that…why should I…care now?

Well, I’m always arrested by synchronicity. I noticed and leapt on the opportunity to see the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed on successive nights by movie monsters from the sea. Both films featured a giant octopus. It got me thinking (eight to the bar, no less) about my favorite cinematic cephalopods.

Here’s a useless little list;

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009) is a classic zero on a scale of one to ten, BUT it does posit and show in a flash the perfectly implausible result from an aerial giant shark attack on an airplane, and an equally implausible performance by Debbie Gibson. On the positive side, the Golden Gate goes down, and the truly big octopus achieves a deadly draw in his death match with the titular fish…though to honor true disclosure, I should point out there are sequels. I suspect the sea creatures and the sequels should be avoided.

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1953) also destroys the Golden Gate, but this time the octopus gets the assignment and does a much better job. This flick had serious world-ending talent involved. Faith Domergue was in the midst of a great few years of weird movies. She was imperiled twice in 1955 in This Island Earth and Cult of the Cobra. Kenneth Tobey was capping off a trilogy of sci-fi adventures; The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). And of course the star of the show was the creation of Ray Harryhausen, genius of stop-action wonders. All of this talent and effort just to produce instant calamari – a San Francisco treat?

Isle of Fury (1936) is a tedious little film that allows Humphrey Bogart to shuck his impeccable South Sea Island white suit and wrestle with an octopus. I’m believin’ every minute.

Sometimes the octopus is human. Maud Adams plays the title role in Octopussy (1983). The actual octopi in the film are fairly inconsequential. Ms. Adams is most certainly not.

Two films depict the same octopus. Bride of the Monster (1955) is a truly dreadful Ed Wood-directed exercise that features a ludicrous performance by Tor Johnson and an even more ludicrous watery struggle between Bela Lugosi and a rubber octopus. Ed Wood (1994) recreates that cinematic moment in a funny and pitiful way. I loved them both.

Without hesitation, my favorite octopus film is Cannery Row (1982). There are special performances by Nick Nolte, Debra Winger, Frank McRae, and M. Emmet Walsh. John Huston’s narration, the frog hunt, Doc and Suzy thinking they could dance, and the beer milk shake are all remarkable elements, but it all revolves around those eight baby octopi and their ill-fated dangling of a misplaced hope at the edge of the end of the Western World.

What’s my takeaway from this foolish survey?

Perhaps a word of advice to San Francisco;

Yer gonna need a bigger bay.

Asta and the Octopus

Movie night!

It’s a Margaret Lindsay/Donald Woods double feature thanks to TCM.

You know, if I were forced to choose one and only one TV channel to watch forever, it would surely be TCM. Where else could you see a Margaret Lindsay/Donald Woods (whoever they are) double feature? Actually, Ms. Lindsay is lovely and bland, and Mr. Woods is earnest and bland. Nuff said ‘bout dat.

Fog Over Frisco (1934) is one more flick that demonstrates that any film shot in San Francisco ought to open the cast list with “starring San Francisco”. The city invariably steals the show. It prompts an addition to the old warning to actors; “Never do a scene with children, dogs, (or San Francisco.)” Bette Davis, Alan Hale Sr. (the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island’s dad), and Asta (the Thin Man’s precocious and less than brave pup) are also in the film but who cares? It’s San Francisco.

Isle of Fury (1936), besides showcasing Lindsay and Woods (ZZZZZZZZ), also features Humphrey Bogart being cruelly assaulted by an octopus in the pearl-infested waters around a South Sea island nobody’s ever heard of (but looks suspiciously like Catalina). Every non-native character trots around the island in impeccable and crisp white clothes. The local laundry must be world-class. Also lurking around the isle is Frank Lackteen, a bit actor who amassed over 200 credits with his skulking, murderous ways. I spotted him recently in The Mask of Dimitrios, The Mummy’s Hand, The Sea Hawk, and The Law of the Tong. None of Mr. Lackteen’s efforts were nominated for Oscars. They apparently don’t give Oscars for Best Persistent Felon.

God bless TCM.

What’s Better than a Zombie Film?

TWO!!

Movie Night!

Geezer that I am, I HEAR about trends more often than I experience them.

So sue me.

I understand that “walking dead” films have been hot for several years now.

I’m puzzled by the term itself. “Walking dead film” could encompass a lot of things; zombies, vampires, mummies, diseased shopping mall attackers, or any of the old Dragnet TV episodes.

But for tonight, “walking dead” means zombies (of varying kinds).

Horror of the Zombies (1974) is a Spanish cutie directed by Armando d’Ossorio. It features a 16th-century Spanish galleon carrying 18th-century Templar ex-communicates, drifting in a mist that doesn’t exist (say that out loud – it’s practically a poem), and Maria Perschy, Barbara Rey, and several other female models on an inexplicable photo shoot who consistently fail to button their tops.

Hey, if you don’t think about it, what’s not to like? If you do think about it…what’s not to like?!

Thank you, sir. May I please have another?

Oasis of the Zombies (1983) is another Spanish maybe-not-so-cutie directed by the prolific and baffling Jess Franco. This flick is right down there with Franco’s Zombie Lake, but that’s for another time…or…hopefully not. It features Nazi zombies (one actually played by Franco himself) from thirty years before (skin wrecked, but hair and clothes vigorous and intact), an incoherent plot, and heedless young ladies in heedless short shorts who die heedlessly young. Makes about as much sense as a Rudy Giuliani press conference (…seriously, folks).

I loved ‘em.

MMGA – Make Movies Great Again

Movie night!

Goliath and the Dragon (1960).

They just don’t make films like this anymore and I don’t for the life of me know why.

We’re talkin’ giant puppet monsters and Mark Forest’s giant pec’s (the inspiration perhaps, for current Old Spice commercials).

We’re talkin’ Cerberus as a three-headed, fire-breathing bobble-head.

We’re talkin’ one – count ‘em – ONE flying monkey, and ONE giant egg. I don’t for the life of me know why.

We’re talkin’ ‘bout a truly cheesy centaur and a snake pit infested with at least five or six serpents. Hey, any number of snakes over one is overkill for me.

And finally, there’s our titular dragon. Did they even have auditions? This terror looks like a cross between the Geico gecko and a Chinese New Year’s street puppet. Was I petrified? …well, not so much. Was I amused? …well, maybe a little.

All the ladies in the flick are damn cute in their perfectly tailored and indestructible skirtlets in solid pastels and their perfectly coiffed and indestructible hair sculptures.

There was even a giant bear, lovingly portrayed by someone (uncredited) in a bear suit…of sorts.

The only thing missing in this film was Godzilla.

I loved it.

Did I mention there was a bear?

Mr. Moto’s Last Warning

Movie night!

The year; 1939.

The challenge; can you take a cast consisting of Peter Lorre, George Sanders, Ricardo Cortez, John Carradine, and Robert E. Lee’s cousin (Virginia Field) and prevent World War II?

Well yes you can……at least for a year or two.

It’s exotic, it’s silly, it’s Mr. Moto’s Last Warning.

Points of interest for this Z-movie freak;

  • Virginia Field made a mini career of working with Asian detectives played by non-Asian actors. She appeared in three Mr. Moto flicks and a Charlie Chan.
  • Ricardo Cortez is always a charming villain; always. As an actor…Ricardo Cortez is always a charming villain.
  • In this epic, Mr. Cortez pumps air to an underwater diver with one hand while watching the French fleet though binoculars with the other and all the while his double-Windsor-knotted cravat and his Panama are never compromised. What style!
  • But that’s lollygaggin’ compared Mr. Moto, our persistently bespectacled hero. Mr. Moto dives underwater (in his eyeglasses), KO’s George Sanders underwater (still in his eyeglasses), blows up the enemy land mines underwater (yes, still in his eyeglasses), climbs out of the water onto the dock (you guessed it, still…), beats up Ricardo Cortez, disarrays his Panama and double-Windsor, and flings him into the Mediterranean (IN HIS EYEGLASSES!) It’s an astounding spectacle (see what I did there?).

I loved it.

They Can’t Have Gotten Far!

A movie night musing.

I hear it said there are no absolutes.

Maybe that’s why I love movies so. In the flicks there are immutable truths. A couple came immediately to mind as I reveled in The Legend of Spider Forest. I’m sure you’ve seen this treasure of a film countless times and cherish it as I do.

I josh.

Roger’s Immutable Film Truth (RIFT) #1 – Within five seconds after the words; “Get them!” have been uttered, a chase/fight/melee will ensue.

RIFT #2 – Be assured that as soon as you hear the statement; “They can’t have gotten far.” – they have.

It’s good to have these moral landmarks to guide us.

RIFT #2 is particularly important to understand these days. Mastering this concept makes our current president decipherable. It’s the primary law of the alternate dimension in which he lives.

He says “Hoax.” It’s not.

He says “We’ve turned the corner.” We haven’t.

He says “It will disappear.” I still see it.

He says “Hydroxy-snake-oil will cure it.” Nope.

He says voting by mail is bad and fraudulent as he posts his vote.

He says Biden probably plays more golf than he does…

He says he pays millions in federal tax…

He says he’s rich…

You get the idea? He points the way to truth by pointing unerringly in the opposite direction. Once we learn the language, he is the most transparent politician in history. Clearly, he’s living by the rules of terrible old movies like The Legend of Spider Forest.

It’s an odd political concept.

2020…….spider forest……it’s plausible.

Democracy, fairness, grace, civility – disappearing?

That’s OK.

They can’t have gotten far.

Oh, by the way, I voted today.

Gold

Movie Night!

I have never heard of tonight’s treasure, Gold, but the Oracle of Medford, Greg Luce, spoke glowingly of it.

Gold is a 1934 sci-fi film from Germany. It’s just fine.

It features;

  • The lovely Brigitte Helm of Metropolis fame.
  • Great, massive, electronic laboratory equipment that beeps and buzzes and flashes and flickers in quite intimidating fashion.
  • Not one, but two, count ‘em, two mighty and plausible laboratory explosions.

But most charming of all is the intense struggle between our protagonist, played by Hans Albers who looks a bit like the Amazing Kreskin (Plan 9 From Outer Space and Orgy of the Dead) and our antagonist played by Michael Bohnen who looks like Mr. Whipple in the old Charmin Tissue commercials. (“PLEASE don’t squeeze the Charmin!)

I found myself pondering whether the film might have sold more tickets in its United States release (assuming there was one) if it had been billed as Mister Whipple Vs. the Amazing Kreskin. I suppose not…1934 movie-goers hadn’t yet heard of the pair. Besides, that title wouldn’t have fit on the posters as well as; Gold.

I liked it.

The Well-Dressed Bulldog

Movie Night!

Monocles, tuxedos, feathered boas (are there any other kinds?), three-piece tweeds, hats & scarves (on the guys!), pencil-thin mustaches (on the guys), pin curls (NOT on the guys), thirty-foot-high interior doors, whiskey ‘n’ soda’s, evil doctors, femme fatales, tie bars (open bars, hotel bars, and prison bars, for that matter), private libraries with gothic doorways and fireplaces you could walk into upright, pubs as big as the General’s dining room at the end of White Christmas

What style! What total foolishness!!

The action is implausible and non-stop.

The plot is implausible and non-decipherable.

The repartee is brittle, the accents are vaguely British, and all the upper lips are stiff.

It’s the 1929 version of Bulldog Drummond with Ronald Colman and Joan Bennett.

I’m loving it!

Four Ways Out

Movie night!

So many odd delights on tonight’s bill.

First up; a preview of Eegah!

Yes, the legendary Eegah! – one of the 50 worst films of all time.

I’m sure we all share warm and fuzzy feelings of Richard Kiel’s poignant and teeth-flashing portrayal of “Jaws” in several James Bond films. It’s always been intriguing to me that while he played Jaws the character, he wasn’t the title character in Jaws the movie. Well, he had already accomplished that feat years earlier in Eegah!. Mr. Kiel was perfectly cast as Eegah, the last of the Incan cave men (who knew the Incans even had cave men?), which admittedly, is not as noble an accomplishment as the being the last of the Mohicans.

There is even some doubt in the film as to who IS the most credible cave man.

Arch Hall, Jr. makes his teen idol ala Ricky Nelson debut in this film. He actually rivals Richard Kiel in coarseness. Our buxom damsel in distress, Marilyn Manning, has a tough choice.

If I were her, I’d punt.

Dune buggies, sappy and soulful songs on a guitar (where’s John Belushi when ya need ‘im), cacti, and a low budget swimming party, struggle to replace surf boards, Annette and Frankie, and the Pacific Ocean…and sappy and soulful songs on a guitar.

I almost found myself rooting for Eegah.

This cinematic lagniappe is followed by Four Ways Out, an Italian film from 1951.

By the way, this double-feature beats my previous champion for weird movie combos. I believe Charles Edward Pogue was with me one afternoon at the Opera House (back when it was a dollar-matinee second-run movie house) for a double-feature of the Barbra Streisand musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever with the historical battle-flick Waterloo. That was a jolt to the senses but this exceeds that experience.

Four Ways Out features a script co-written by Federico Fellini. The man is a god to me, but remember; this is 1951. Amarcord was still 20+ years in the future.

This is a criminous tale of the heist of a big soccer game’s receipts and the ultimate destruction of the four thieves that pull it off.

The film has several interesting things to recommend it; a thief named Guido (you can’t go wrong with a thief named Guido), a crude devouring of pasta (you can’t go wrong…), and a scene wading in a fountain (always a winner in Italian film, though frankly, Anita Ekberg did it so much better).

That’s all nice. But the reason to watch the film is much simpler; beautiful Italian women acting their hearts out. A very young Gina Lollabrigida smolders as she dials up the police to obliterate her boyfriend and a zaftig Cosetta Greco (I don’t know who she is – nor do I know the Italian for “zaftig”) giving a performance like a cross between Lauren Bacall in Key Largo and Joy Page in Casablanca.

You can probably guess…I liked it.