Sunday, April 28, 2013

Seconds (1966)

Starring Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph, Frances Reid, Jeff Corey
Directed by John Frankenheimer
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A middle-aged man feeling unfulfilled in his life is offered the opportunity to start again as a completely new person by a mysterious agency.

This film offers an intriguing sci-fi spin on the concept of the mid-life crisis and those men who try to begin again by abandoning their former lives, although for me it fell short on delivering all it could have.  Although Hudson is good in the lead, and James Wong Howe's innovative cinematography makes the film fascinating to watch, there's no sense of excitement in conveying the idea of beginning again, and though director Frankenheimer would become known for the gripping suspense of his films, there's not much here, with some late breaking plot twists not coming as much of a surprise.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

Starring Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, Donald Pleasence, Arthur O'Connell
Directed by Richard Fleischer
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A secret government organization shrinks a team of experts so they can travel inside a dying man's body and perform surgery from the inside.

Something of a triumph of special effects for the time, this is certainly a unique adventure, although it's been much copied from over the years.  Director Fleischer delivers a taut white-knuckle thriller with many suspenseful scenes, but it's so single-minded in its focus to the mission at hand, it could have benefitted from some comic relief or greater character development.  Nonetheless, for what it is, it's entertaining and well-crafted, and succeeds in suspending the audience's disbelief that shrinking five human beings and a submarine is even possible.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Batman (1966)

Starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Costumed crimefighters Batman and Robin must face an alliance of their archvillains: The Catwoman, The Joker, The Penguin, and The Riddler.

A huge hit on television in the 1960s, the Batman TV series, based on the hero's comic book adventures, and featuring amusing plots and big-name guest stars as the colorful villains, also launched this feature film, with nearly all the series regulars reprising their roles, except for the role of Catwoman, played by a capable and alluring replacement in Lee Meriwether here.  It's been a favorite movie of mine for many years, with tongue in cheek humor that's not daring or groundbreaking but makes for a fun time nevertheless, and features a very good music score by composer Nelson Riddle and some nifty special effects by L.B. Abbott and his team.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Faceless Monster (1965)

Starring Barbara Steele, Paul Miller, Helga Line, Lawrence Clift, John McDouglas
Directed by Allen Grunewald
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist murders his unfaithful wife and remarries her sister in order to hold onto her family inheritance, but the sister soon begins to experience visions of her husband's crimes.

Also known as Nightmare Castle, this is another Italian horror film starring the lovely Barbara Steele, who gets to display her range in playing the dual role of the salacious murdered wife, Muriel, and her more innocent pure-hearted sister, Jenny.  In addition to the horror story which culminates in the manifestation of Muriel's ghost, out for revenge, there are sci-fi elements, with the scientist using Muriel's blood to restore the youth of the maid who betrayed her mistress to him.  Although Steele is fascinating to watch, and this is a memorable gothic horror piece, the film drags somewhat as it winds towards its climax.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The War Of The Planets (1966)

Starring Tony Russell, Lisa Gastoni, Franco Nero, Carlo Giustini, Enzo Fiermonte
Directed by Anthony Dawson
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Earth's orbiting space stations are attacked by strange cloud-like beings whose ultimate aim is the possession of every human body on Earth.

Featuring the same sci-fi settings and characters as the film The Wild, Wild Planet, Commander Mike Halstead and love interest Lieutenant Connie Gomez embark on another fantastic adventure.  The story is something of an anti-Communist Cold War parable, with the aliens stressing humanity should give in "for the good of the whole."  The special effects are more than passable this time out with effective visuals for the cloud creatures and well-done space walk scenes, but the action is largely confined to space station interiors.  I enjoyed revisiting these characters and the film is efficiently made, but The Wild, Wild Planet was a lot more fun.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The She Beast (1966)

Starring Barbara Steele, John Karlsen, Ian Ogilvy, Mel Welles, Jay Riley
Directed by Mike Reeves
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A honeymooning couple visit a village in Transylvania where an accident imprisons the bride within the body of a hideous ancient witch.

Another starring vehicle for Italian horror queen Barbara Steele, but she's hardly in this one, as the character of her husband and a descendant of the Von Helsing family are tasked with saving her and the village from the curse of the ancient witch.  Played by actor Jay Riley, the witch is truly fearsome in a very grotesque makeup and Riley effectively bursts with violent speed toward her helpless victims, but Steele's transformation into the witch is sadly left off-screen.  Attempts to balance out the horror with humor from Welles' depraved hotelier and some bumbling policemen were welcome by me and help to compensate for some weaknesses in the script.  Filmed in color, this installment does not compare favorably to Steele's black & white horror showcases, and one wishes that the filmmakers could have found more for the talented actress to do here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Psychopath (1966)

Starring Patrick Wymark, Margaret Johnston, John Standing, Alexander Knox, Judy Huxtable
Directed by Freddie Francis
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A police inspector trails a serial killer who leaves dolls behind that resemble his victims, who may all be connected to a crime that occurred twenty years earlier.

We have here an entertaining mystery/horror film from Britain's Amicus studio that opens with a memorable title sequence uniting pieces of dolls creepily presented with vacant holes for eyes, underscored with a childlike but sinister music box melody, setting the stage for what's to come.  Director Francis expertly builds suspense as each murder takes place, and although we discover the identity of the killer about midway through the film (or think we do), there's still some shocking twists to come.  It's a great film to watch on a dark and stormy night.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Destination Inner Space (1966)

Starring Scott Brady, Sheree North, Gary Merrill, Wende Wagner, Mike Road
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A Navy commander is brought in to assist an underwater laboratory's scientists after they discover an alien craft traveling under the sea.

Not a great movie, but a lot of fun regardless, this film features the familiar sci-fi conflict between scientists and the military, romance between the men and a couple of lovely ladies, and a convincing alien creature make-up, all winning elements in my book.  The budget shows in a number of sequences, notably the exterior of the lab which is a poorly produced miniature, and it's clear the filmmakers could only afford one alien creature.  Nevertheless, what they've put together works as a sort of undersea version of the classic The Thing From Another World and a fine evening's entertainment.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Blood Drinkers (1964)

Starring Ronald Remy, Amalia Fuentes, Eddie Fernandez, Eva Montes, Celia Rodriguez
Directed by Gerardo de Leon
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A vampire in love with a dying woman preys upon her family members to get the blood and organs he needs to save her life.

This vampire film from the Phillipines, although undoubtedly possessing style and some haunting visuals, was a bit too meandering for my taste, frequently shifting from black-and-white photography to color to red-tinted scenes for the vampire's attacks, and jumping between scenes that seemed almost randomly assembled together.  I understand the filmmakers were probably doing this intentionally to create an unnerving effect, but it made it difficult for me to become absorbed in the story.  Fight scenes bordering on the wacky and an unconvincing bat-creature effect also are to the film's detriment.  Still, it's not unwatchable and Remy is impressive as the vampire.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Women Of The Prehistoric Planet (1966)

Starring Wendell Corey, Keith Larsen, John Agar, Paul Gilbert, Merry Anders
Directed by Arthur C. Pierce
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A spaceship crashes on a primitive world when its alien passengers revolt against the human crew, but the planet's rotation will age the survivors 18 years before they can be rescued.

This film was released on a double bill with The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters, and like that picture, offers a low-budget sci-fi adventure, but this one fares a little better, benefitting from some interesting ideas in the script and direction from Arthur C. Pierce.  The aliens are played by Asian actors and actresses, differing from the rest of the Caucasian cast, and reinforcing the themes of integration, culture clash, and bigotry in the film.  Also, the screenplay introduces the concept that space travel at light speed could retard the aging that would take place on other worlds in a fresh and interesting take.  Attempts at humor fare less well, with Gilbert's wisecracking engineer offering many jokes that aren't that funny.  Nevertheless, it's a fun film which also offers a sweet love story for the Asian leads, a real rarity in films of this era.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters (1966)

Starring Mamie Van Doren, Anthony Eisley, Bill Gray, Bobby Van, Pamela Mason
Directed by Michael A. Hoey
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After a cargo plane carrying strange plants from the Antarctic crashes at a navy base, the lieutenant in charge learns of several mysterious disappearances among his crew.

Although this sci-fi picture has a decent premise and some appealing characters, it falls short due to very limited special effects, and an unconvincing romance between the lieutenant and an infirmary nurse, played by Mamie Van Doren, who's just window dressing here, despite being the star of the film.  There's still some goofy fun to be had, but author Murray Leinster's novel deserves a better adaptation.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Starring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer
Directed by Don Sharp
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Rasputin, the notorious monk who exerted his influence over the Russian royal family, rises to power with the aid of strange supernatural abilities.

Hammer Films, well known for their horror output by this time, tries their luck at a historical drama, but it still comes out a horror film, and it's one of my personal favorites.  Lee gives a convincing performance, portraying Rasputin as a soulless monster with hypnotic powers impossible to resist, and although historical fact is left by the wayside, the result is grand entertainment.  Don Banks' ominous score is a perfect fit for the evil practiced by Lee onscreen, and Shelley and Pasco are very good as two of the victims Rasputin manipulates.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini (1966)

Starring Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Susan Hart, Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley
Directed by Don Weis
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The ghostly lover of a recently deceased millionaire helps him perform a good deed to get into heaven by keeping his greedy lawyer from disposing of the rightful heirs to his fortune.

Another in American International Pictures' "Beach Party" series of movies, this one has the requisite partying teenagers and musical numbers but sends the teens onto the studio's horror sets as Rathbone and his cohorts try to eliminate the heirs among the group.  AIP gets mileage from a number of their properties, mixing together "Beach Party" regulars such as Kirk, Hart, Harvey Lembeck, and Jesse White, along with horror stars Karloff and Rathbone, and even pulls out a costume from The Eye Creatures. But without "Beach Party" stars Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, there's no singing star with multiple songs, despite the presence of Nancy Sinatra, even though she's ballyhooed in the film's trailer.  This all adds up to a bit of a mess, and a waste of Karloff and Rathbone's talents, but it's an entertaining mess nonetheless.