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Greetings, and welcome to VIEWING THE CLASSICS. Here you'll find capsule reviews of vintage movies from the early days of cinema through the 1970s, with a special emphasis on sci-fi, horror, and mystery movies. Be sure to check out the Pages links, where you can find a Film Index of all my reviews, links to the reviews organized by cast members, directors, and other contributors, and links to my reviews of the films of talented young director Joshua Kennedy.

I also cover vintage television at my sister site, CLASSICS ON THE TUBE , so please feel free to check that out as well.

Thanks for visiting!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Attack Of The Monsters (1969)

Starring Nobuhiro Kajima, Miyuki Akiyama, Christopher Murphy, Yuko Hamada, Eiji Funakoshi
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa

Two young boys enter a flying saucer that's landed on Earth, and are transported to another planet, whose residents have sinister plans for them, but Gamera comes to the rescue.

Gamera the flying turtle monster returns in this especially kid-centric installment in the series, also known as Gamera Vs. Guiron, with one of the boys played by Caucasian actor Murphy, perhaps with an eye on increasing grosses for this one in the U.S. film market.  The film also returns prior Gamera foe Gaos, in a different color to avoid explaining his resurrection, but Gamera's primary foe this time is Guiron, whose head is shaped like a giant sharp edged knife, and is able to eject throwing stars from its body.  However the bulk of the film is focused on the boys, who easily trust the female aliens they meet, before discovering the beautiful ladies have ulterior motives.  I thought this was a refreshing change from some of the more monster-battle heavy entries in Gamera history, and although the special effects are not among the best in the series, there's some interesting ones on display.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Horrors Of Spider Island (1960)

Starring Temple Foster, Helga Franck, Alexander D'Arcy, Helga Neuner, Rainer Brandt
Directed by Jaime Nolan
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A dance troupe survives a plane crash and make their way to a nearby island, only to find it's home to a deadly mutated spider that infects their manager and turns him into a monster.

This German film from director Fritz Bottger, credited as Nolan, has its limitations, but also some creative photography, a jazzy music score that I enjoyed, and a decent creature makeup.  The exhibitionism of the dancing girls, which includes plenty of bare skin although nothing R-rated, culminates in some exploitative scenes involving catfights and a nude swimming sequence.  This still seems rather tame compared to more recent efforts, and there is at least some effort by the screenwriters to flesh out a few of the girls' characters, rather than just put their bodies on display.  I found it interesting how Bottger and his crew framed several closeups against black backgrounds to get by budget constraints, a practice which does add a certain amount of shock value to certain sequences within the film.  It's not a great movie, but I found it entertaining.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

She Gods Of Shark Reef (1958)

Starring Bill Cord, Don Durant, Lisa Montell, Jeanne Gerson, Carol Lindsay
Directed by Roger Corman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Two brothers, one of them running from the law, are shipwrecked on a tropical island with all female inhabitants, who dive for pearls and worship a shark god.

Per Wikipedia, this was filmed by Corman back-to-back with Naked Paradise in Hawaii, and it makes for an authentic and exotic setting.  The picture's competently filmed and more than watchable, but those expecting any fantasy elements from the shark god will be disappointed.  Although filmed in color, the public domain print I viewed was pretty faded out, and it would be interesting to see a restored version in more vibrant color.  The story is a pretty much by the numbers island drama, but the performances are decent, and for those looking for escapism, you could do far worse.  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Moon Of The Wolf (1972)

Starring David Janssen, Barbara Rush, Bradford Dillman, John Beradino, Geoffrey Lewis
Directed by Daniel Petrie
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A Louisiana sheriff investigates the death of a young woman thought to be mauled by wild dogs, but discovers not only was she murdered, but her assailant may have been a werewolf.

This movie was made for television and features an interesting cast, including The Fugitive's Janssen as the sheriff and prolific actors Dillman and Rush as the wealthy brother and sister who clash with the town's more backwater residents.  Janssen and Rush engage in some cute flirting which I found refreshing as opposed to the more usual young couple romance in these types of pictures.  As a werewolf film, the film doesn't compare favorably with classics of the genre, with little attention paid to creating atmosphere, and a rather limited makeup for the beast which is kept shrouded in shadows most of the time.  However, it is a progressive film for the time, allowing Rush's heroine to exercise some common sense and save herself from jeopardy instead of waiting for Janssen to show up.  The story and screenplay also kept me engaged, presenting a worthy mystery with a number of suspects, allowing the audience some time to guess the culprit while following Janssen through his investigation.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Queen Of The Amazons (1947)

Starring Robert Lowery, Patricia Morison, J. Edward Bromberg, John Miljan, Amira Moustafa
Directed by Edward F. Finney
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young woman journeys to Africa in search of her fiancee, who disappeared on a jungle safari while investigating reports of contraband ivory being sold.

As dated jungle dramas mixing footage of white actors with stock footage of wild animals and native tribesmen go, this isn't the worst, and there's some care taken to incorporate some actual trained animals into scenes with the principal actors.  There's not much exciting going on however, and attempts to mine humor from a crow and a mischievous monkey are pretty weak.  Lowery, Morison, and Bromberg are capable enough actors, but the script doesn't give them enough to do, particularly Morison whose character shows off sharp shooting skills, but then stereotypically stands by helpless when Lowery is attacked.  Bromberg is given a memorable quirk of quoting verse, and displays some charm playing a talkative safari cook, but is hardly heard from again until the climax.  The film's still watchable and isn't as racist as other jungle pictures, but it's not worth recommending.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dementia 13 (1963)

Starring William Campbell, Luana Anders, Bart Patton, Mary Mitchel, Patrick Magee
Directed by Francis Coppola
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After her husband dies of a heart attack, a greedy woman conceals his death and schemes to convince his mother to write her into her will, while an axe murderer is getting ready to strike.

Francis (Ford) Coppola makes his debut as writer and director on this distinctive horror film, courtesy of producer Roger Corman, who shepherded a number of similar talents into future Hollywood players.  Set in Ireland and filmed there, this dark film doesn't really take advantage of the beautiful scenery, but it's certainly grim and suspenseful with an eerie score from Ronald Stein.  Luana Anders has a memorable part as the scheming widow in one of her best and most unique showcases.  I don't think Coppola is successful enough in keeping the killer's identity a mystery until the climax, but the movie is an efficient low-budget thriller that has some haunting images, particularly in the opening credit sequence.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Last Man On Earth (1964)

Starring Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Umberto Raho
Directed by Sidney Salkow
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After a deadly plague decimates the Earth, a scientist becomes the lone human survivor, forced to battle vampires for his survival.

The first film adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel, I Am Legend, features American star Price, but in an Italian production, filmed overseas and with Italians making out the rest of the cast.  I felt the cinematography didn't take good advantage of the dark elements within the story, with little emphasis on shadow or tight shots to heighten the suspense.  Nevertheless there are many memorable images, from the stark abandoned streets to the ramshackle house Price's character, Robert Morgan, makes his base of operations, to Morgan dumping bodies in a fiery pit.  Troy Howarth told me he feels Price was miscast, and this is indeed a departure from his typical suave image, making scenes where he has to grab Danieli forcefully seem out of character.  The film is something of a landmark in undead cinema with the zombie-like vampires in decayed makeup easy to see as influential to later frightfests.  It's not all it could be, but it remains a dark and nihilistic tale, and to the filmmakers' credit, they don't sacrifice Matheson's bleak ending.