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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.

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

El Monstruo Resucitado (1953)

Starring Miroslava, Carlos Navarro, Jose Maria Linares-Rivas, Fernando Wagner, Alberto Mariscal
Directed by Chano Urueta
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A brilliant plastic surgeon, tormented by the scorn of others due to his disfigured face, is on the verge of a violent revenge, but a lady reporter hopes to steer him from that dark path.

This early Mexican horror film borrows elements from past pictures, but really has a tale to tell all it's own, primarily showcasing Linares-Rivas as the mad doctor Herrmann Ling, and not the creatures he's experimented on.  The actor who appears to us with his face covered in the early going has an impressive makeup that is definitely shocking in the film's reveal, and has lengthy bits of dialogue in a refined but haunted voice that go into painting the story of his psychosis that are well scripted.  Miroslava is the catalyst for the story, and plays her part well as a bored reporter urged by her editor to look into Ling's interestingly worded personal ad for female companionship.  Urueta and his crew provide worthy dark atmosphere for the tale, from the oddly placed wax figures in the doctor's home, to Victor Herrera's shadowy photography, and Raul Lavista's misterioso music score.  I found it to be a very worthwhile film, one that is credited by authors I've read with setting the standard for the Mexican horror movies to follow.  The film can be found under many different titles- El Monstruo Resucitado, or The Resurrected Monster, was its original but it's also been called The Monstrous Dr. Crimen, and also simply just Monster, which was the title I found it under.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Man Of The World (1931)

Starring William Powell, Carole Lombard, Wynne Gibson, Lawrence Gray, Guy Kibbee
Directed by Richard Wallace
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An American con man in Paris, who extorts money from tourists to keep their names out of the scandal sheet he publishes, reconsiders his life when he falls for a beautiful young woman.

This romantic drama starring Powell and Lombard was released the year they were married, per Wikipedia, and although their union was a short one, the two have nice chemistry on screen.  A sequence in which Powell's character, Michael Trevor, indirectly confesses his love for Lombard's, Mary Kendall, to her by describing it as a novel he's working on is charming and heartfelt.  Powell rolls his lines off his tongue with a glibness and confidence that shows why he was such a bankable star, and Lombard shows off her vivacious appeal well.  Although the two never have a romantic clinch, their dialogue and rapport with each other is what sells the film, and Trevor's fear of his criminal past spoiling their future together makes the film a very bittersweet tale with an ending you wouldn't expect out of classic Hollywood.  It's a quality film that definitely held my interest.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Ikarie XB 1 (1963)

Starring Zdenek Stepanek, Frantisek Smolik, Dana Medricka, Irena Kacirkova, Radovan Lukovsky
Directed by Jindrich Polak
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A spaceship with a 40 member crew sets off on a journey to Alpha Centauri, but their lives are all threatened when they encounter a dark star during their voyage.

We have here a very impressive Czech science fiction film, with fantastic well-designed sets, good special effects, and dramatic criss-crossing human stories, presented with the utmost seriousness.  Released in this country as Voyage To The End Of The Universe, it's easy to see how it could have had quite the effect on the development of a number of science fiction films and franchises.  At times I think it's almost a little too serious, with only some brief comic moments and a joyful dancing sequence to provide relief, but even though I knew none of the cast before watching the film, I soon became engaged with their characters and relationships.  The photography is also quite accomplished, as is the electronic-tinged music score, and Polak should be lauded for his steady hand assembling and balancing all the elements.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Sin You Sinners (1963)

Starring June Colbourne, Dian Lloyd, Derek Murcott, Beverly Nazarow, Charles Clements
Directed by Anthony Farrar
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young woman wants to leave her mother and her criminal and hedonistic lifestyle, but finds she cannot, which her mother attributes to a voodoo medallion she wears around her neck.

This is a very amateur-looking production, with a loopy story and a low budget.  Some of the performances are decent, but most of the plot is waylaid by Colbourne's burlesque dance sequences and numerous makeout scenes.  The most interesting part of the film is the voodoo connection, connected to Colbourne's character's trip to Haiti, and her relating of a voodoo ritual she witnessed.  Of course, we only hear about it and don't see it, and most of the film centers around multiple women competing for Murcott's affections, whose character is a drunken gambler and not worth the trouble.  The print I viewed had a sharp picture but vertical age lines throughout the film, and was haphazardly edited with a number of jump cuts, which I wasn't able to verify was due to scenes edited out or just poor filmmaking.  Needless to say, I can't recommend this one.  

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mandrake The Magician (1939)

Starring Warren Hull, Doris Weston, Al Kikume, Rex Downing, Edward Earle
Directed by Norman Deming & Sam Nelson
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Stage magician Mandrake and his friends try to spoil a scheme of a villain known only as The Wasp, who has kidnapped a scientist and his powerful radium machine.

Fans of the Mandrake comic strip this serial is based on may be disappointed with the lack of elements from the strip included.  Many of the supporting characters are missing, and Mandrake himself is not as powerful, relying only on stage magic and sleight of hand on occasion.  Although Mandrake's partner, the African Lothar, is in the serial, he's played by actor Al Kikume, who is not black but of Hawaiian descent according to Wikipedia.  Kikume made his career playing various exotic natives in a number of different films.   However, Hull is a very pleasant and likable lead, and even though his Mandrake uses less magic and more fisticuffs to battle the Wasp's minions, I found his performance engaging.  The cliffhanger endings to each chapter don't really stand out, and the masked Wasp doesn't make an especially memorable villain, but there was enough action and adventure to entertain this serial fan.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Unearthly Stranger (1963)

Starring John Neville, Philip Stone, Gabriella Licudi, Patrick Newell, Jean Marsh
Directed by John Krish
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After a leading space research scientist dies mysteriously, his replacement tries to continue their work, but begins to notice his new wife has characteristics that make her something other than human.

This is a really well-done British science fiction thriller, very finely acted and directed, with some terrific cinematography from Reginald Wyer.  What is doesn't have is any visual effects to speak of, but it doesn't need them, and is very much in the thinking person's sci-fi milieu.  It's main subject concerns the idea that scientists across the world have hit upon a formula to allow humanity to project themselves into outer space via the power of thought, and if that seems far fetched, both cast and crew do a good job of selling its possibility within the structure of the film.  Neville is very good here and Licudi is nicely showcased as something otherworldly through her performance and through some well-designed and edited sequences where we see how others react to her.  It's intelligent entertainment and very thought provoking.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Girl In His Pocket (1957)

Starring Jean Marais, Genevieve Page, Jean-Claude Brialy, Agnes Laurent, Jean-Paul Moulinot
Directed by Pierre Kast
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist develops a formula for shrinking living creatures into tiny immobile statues, and ends up using the formula to facilitate an affair with his beautiful young assistant.

We have here a very charming and likable science fiction comedy from France, which doesn't utilize much in the way of special effects, but is well-written and well-acted by the talented cast.  Turning other shrinking movies on their head, the intent is not to explore a new giant world, but instead Marais uses the formula to shrink the beautiful Laurent and carry her in his pocket to rendezvouses for trysts, while detectives are following him at the request of his jealous and possessive fiancee.  This leads to a number of natural comic situations, and although I wouldn't say the film is uproariously funny, there's still chuckles to be had.  Marais may be best known for playing the Beast in Jean Cocteau's 1946 adaptation of Beauty And The Beast, and Fantomas in a series of films, and gives a good performance, but in my opinion Laurent is the star of this film, so appealing as the professor's student whose infatuation with the man turns into a believable love affair.