Greetings!


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!


Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Amphibian Man (1962)

Starring Vladimir Korenev, Anastasiya Vertinskaya, Mikhail Kosakov, Anatoliy Smiranin, Nikolai Simonov
Directed by Vladimir Chebotaryov & Gennadiy Kazanskiy
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young man who was given the gills of a shark by his father in a life-saving operation falls in love with a woman he rescues from a shark, but she becomes betrothed to a cruel and wealthy fisherman.

The then-Soviet Union brings us this touching love story with a sci-fi twist, which despite the scientific trappings is very reminiscent of a modern fairy tale, and is well-acted and directed.  Costumed in a creature suit when underwater to disguise him as a man size fish, complete with fin and a fish eye-mask, Korenev stars as the well-named Ichtyander, who is branded a devil fish by the sailors who encounter him.  Vertinskaya is Gutiere, the beauty with a luminous face and haunting blue eyes that he pursues, but her father is an old man with terrible debts, and he is eager to marry her off to the wealthy Don Pedro, who wants to capture the devil fish to increase his own fortune.  While all this is going on, Ichtyander's father, after his success with his son's surgery, wants to create a new life for the common people under the sea, where there nor longer need be rich nor poor.  Although there is tragedy as well as romance, it's a beautiful picture, which also gives us a glimpse into the arts and culture of the time, featuring some wonderful songs that underscore Ichtyander's search for Gutiere and an ebullient scene where the lovers get to dance.  According to Wikipedia, this was one of the highest grossing Soviet films for a period of time.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944)

Starring Jon Hall, Leon Errol, John Carradine, Alan Curtis, Evelyn Ankers
Directed by Ford Beebe
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After recovering his memory and escaping from an asylum, a criminal plans to extort money from his former partners, and finds a way by becoming a subject in a scientist's experiments with invisibility.

John P. Fulton's special effects again highlight another Invisible Man sequel, although the prior series is all but forgotten.  Hall, who played a heroic invisible man in the previous picture, is now a villainous one, playing a different character, but with the same surname of Griffin, the only reference to H.G. Wells' original novel remaining.  The formula is now the concoction of a scientist played by John Carradine in a welcome appearance, although too brief, who utilizes Hall as his first human subject.  There's still an element of fun in the film, as well as Fulton's special effects wizardry, although the DVD age has exposed the wires and black velvet mask that film more convincingly hid. However, the story never quite came together for me, with Griffin's status of being wanted for murder seemingly forgotten after the first ten minutes of the movie, and Ankers' character being wasted in an almost cameo appearance.  It's still enjoyable in its own regard, but a far cry from the original classic, and a step down from the previous sequels.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Once In A New Moon (1934)

Starring Eliot Makeham, Rene Ray, Morton Selten, Wally Patch, Derrick De Marney
Directed by Anthony Kimmins
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A dead star pulls a small British island off the Earth and sends it into orbit, and after discovering they've been cut off, a political struggle ensues between a lord and lady and those opposing them.

This is an interesting science fiction effort from England, although it plays more like a fantasy, with no scenes of destruction or violence, and something of a whimsical tone.  Many of the characters are stereotypes, from the old doddering lord, to his cruel class-centered wife, to their idealistic young son who's fallen for a girl beneath his class, and his sneering rival who pushes for a violent raid on the lord's property.  At the center of the story is Makeham, playing the wizened postmaster of the community, who tries to warn the village's leaders of their plight but is dismissed by the pompous and wealthy.  Although the story ventures into dark territory at its climax with an army being formed to unseat the lord and steal his arms, Kimmins keeps things light through the inclusion of training scenes in which none of the soldiers can hit a simple target.  I wouldn't call this a great film, but it's a rare example of science fiction in the 1930s, and definitely worth checking out for familiar character actors in the cast such as Morton Selten, Derrick De Marney, and Thorley Walters.

Monday, February 11, 2019

War Of The Satellites (1958)

Starring Dick Miller, Susan Cabot, Richard Devon, Eric Sinclair, Michael Fox
Directed by Roger Corman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist sending manned satellites into space witnesses their destruction by a cosmic barrier, and after ignoring an alien warning to stop, he's replaced by a duplicate ready to sabotage the missions.

Roger Corman tackles an outer space adventure, with a story and special effects by the team that were everywhere in low-budget sci-fi in the 1950s, Jack Rabin and Irving Block.  The story's however a little more ambitious than the production design and effects on this production can keep pace with.  The chairs the space travelers strap themselves into to survive takeoff are clearly Barcaloungers from a furniture showroom, a message from space arrives in a tiny model rocket, and wires suspending spaceships and planets are clearly visible.  Still, the picture's a lot of a fun, with plenty of action on Earth and aboard ship, including a rare heroic lead for character actor Miller, and spotlights for plenty of other Corman regulars in the cast, from Cabot, to Devon, to Beach Dickerson, Bruno Vesota, and Corman himself playing a mission control operator.  Roger keeps things tightly paced, Walter Greene's bold music score sustains excitement, and a few well-staged camera tricks and effects allow us to suspend our disbelief, even when the cheapness shows through.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Lake Of Dracula (1971)

Starring Midori Fujita, Choei Takahashi, Sanae Emi, Shin Kishida, Kaku Takashina
Directed by Michio Yamamoto
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young woman, haunted by a dream in which she encountered a vampire as a five year old, is shaken when that same vampire comes to her city seeking her for his bride. 

The second entry in Toho Studios' "Bloodthirsty Trilogy" is a more straightforward vampire tale, and without the twists and turns of the previous entry (The Vampire Doll), I enjoyed this one a little less.  It is still a beautiful film to look at, with gorgeous color cinematography, highlighting the beautiful Japanese scenery, and making the pasty-faced makeups of the vampire's victims stand out.  Fujita is convincing as the haunted Akiko, who has been clearly traumatized and has a strangely aloof relationship with her boyfriend, and is nicely offset by her more free-spirited and joyful sister, well played by Emi.  Kishida as the vampire himself is certainly frightening, armed with golden contact lenses and yellowish fangs, showcased well in shadow and lunging forward in devastatingly quick attacks.  However, while the production is finely directed and suspensefully builds to a gory climax, it doesn't add much to the vampire mythos, content in duplicating the beats of western films, rather than bringing us anything really new and different.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Night Of The Demon (1957)

Starring Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis, Maurice Denham, Athene Seyler
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An American psychologist travels to England to debunk the powers of a satanic cult, only to find the cult leader's abilities very real in contrast to what he's believed all his life. 

In my opinion, and many others, this is one of the finest horror films of the 1950s, with superb efforts in many areas, including writing, direction, acting, photography, music, and production design.  From what I've heard, it was originally planned to leave the demon of the title unseen, as in the films Tourneur made for producer Val Lewton over a decade before.  However, an on screen monster was created and the quality of the creature and the way it is integrated in the film add even more tension and suspense to the storyline, because we know what's coming for Andrews in the final reel.  MacGinnis shines as the film's villain, Carswell, hiding a sinister agenda beneath an affable personality, and Andrews is solid as John Holden, the determined psychologist suddenly confronted with manifestations he can't explain away, as is Cummins as the woman Holden wants to romance while she wants only to save his life. Production designer Ken Adam (to be acclaimed later for his unique contributions to the James Bond films), and composer Clifton Parker come up with a number of creepy settings, both visual and musical, to enhance the film's atmosphere, and Ted Scaife's photography makes clever use of dark imagery and mise en scene, particularly in a visit to Carswell's house by Andrews in the middle of the night.  The screenplay by Charles Bennett and Hal E. Chester, based on Montague James' story, along with Tourneur's direction, takes us on a well-paced ride into a supernatural tale we won't soon forget.    

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Invisible Avenger (1958)

Starring Richard Derr, Mark Daniels, Helen Westcott, Jack Doner, Jeanne Neher
Directed by James Wong Howe & John Sledge
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Lamont Cranston, who can cloud men's minds so they can only see his shadow, and his mystic trainer Jogendra, travel to New Orleans where they discover an exiled Latin American leader is in danger. 

The film is of course based on The Shadow, the popular character of the pulps and radio, and according to Wikipedia, it's actually a theatrical repackaging of a two part television pilot.  Those expecting to see the character in his familiar slouch hat and crimson scarf will be disappointed, as Derr (playing the Shadow's alter ego Lamont Cranston) never dons that garb, and I'm not sure if he even does The Shadow's voice or laugh.  Derr is all right in the role but lacks the hard edge of the pulp hero, as well as the smoothness in vocal delivery that highlighted the Shadow's portrayers on radio.  He's also missing the character's familiar supporting cast with Daniels' Jogendra an apparently new character replacing Margo Lane, Moe Shrevnitz, et al.  The story and screenplay are okay, but for the most part lack enough excitement or suspense, although the sequences in which Derr vanishes when clouding men's minds are well-done, perhaps due to the presence of James Wong Howe as director of one of the episodes, who of course had a long and distinguished career as an innovative cinematographer.