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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!


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Terror Is A Man (1959)

Starring Francis Lederer, Greta Thyssen, Richard Derr, Oscar Keesee, Lilia Duran
Directed by Gerry de Leon
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A shipwreck survivor lands on an island where a doctor is engaged in experiments on a panther, but he soon discovers the doctor has made the panther into something almost human.

A small-scale version of H.G. Wells' The Island Of Dr. Moreau, with only one "manimal," the picture doesn't break new ground, but is well-directed by de Leon, who makes good use of the black and white photography and its jungle like setting on a Philippine island to create some genuine terror and suspense.  Ariston Avelino's score, with its bold and dramatic themes, and Flory Carlos' savage performance as the panther-man, are also strong attributes.  Thyssen, surely cast for her va-va-va-voom figure, showcased in tight outfits and ever-present gleaming lipstick, nonetheless impresses with some intelligent dialogue well delivered.  I found the screenplay's love triangle between her, Lederer, and Derr, the weakest part of the film, and was more intrigued by the echoes of Frankenstein in the story.  The movie is perhaps best known today for a marketing gimmick in which a bell sounds to warn the audience to shield their eyes during a gruesome scene.  The opening titles identify the film's location as "Blood Island," a locale producer Eddie Romero as well as director de Leon would return multiple times to for a series of horror shockers in the late 1960s.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Unearthly (1957)

Starring John Carradine, Myron Healey, Allison Hayes, Marilyn Buferd, Arthur Batanides
Directed by Brooke L. Peters
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young woman suffering from fright and an escaped convict arrive at the sanitarium of Dr. Charles Conway, who is planning to use his patients as guinea pigs in experiments to prolong youth.

This independent offering has limited sets and a bad reputation, but I think it's really a lot of fun.  The crisp photography, strong cast, and very spooky music score give the film a look and feel which is much more polished than you would expect, and Carradine and Healey in particular give excellent performances, at least in my opinion.  Tor Johnson, credited by IMDB as "Lobo II," perhaps a reference to his performance as "Lobo" in Bride Of The Monster, definitely makes a visual impact as one of the failed experiments who lugs a heavy coffin on his back in a memorable scene.  Harry Thomas turns in some grotesque makeups for this horror/exploitation combo from director Boris Petroff (credited as Peters), who would go on to make a few more of them.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939)

Starring Richard Greene, Basil Rathbone, Wendy Barrie, Nigel Bruce, Lionel Atwill
Directed by Sidney Lanfield
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Sherlock Holmes is engaged to protect the life of Sir Henry Baskerville, whose estate is said to be haunted by a ghostly hound, blamed for the deaths of his predecessors.

The initial Holmes film that commenced the long partnership of Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson is a handsomely shot picture with many memorable characterizations.  Rathbone is excellent as Holmes, showcasing the great detective's cool intellect in a classic performance, and Atwill, Morton Lowry, John Carradine, Barlowe Borland, and Nigel de Brulier all make for colorful suspects, especially Borland, whose threats to sue his neighbors makes for an amusing embellishment to Conan Doyle's original story.  Bruce's Watson is yet to evolve into the doddering but lovable character that would inhabit the Universal Holmes series, but despite some overblown histrionics at one point, has some excellent scenes investigating the moors of Baskerville Hall.  Peverell Marley's tightly-focused photography plays to the strength of the cast by letting the actors and their reactions tell the story while adding shadow at key moments.  In an interesting choice, the music underscore all but vanishes when we arrive at Baskerville Hall, allowing the silence on the soundtrack to contribute eerie suspense for the bulk of the film as Holmes, Watson, and Baskerville meander across the moor.  The picture remains to this day my favorite of the Rathbone and Bruce films, and in my opinion, one of the great movie mysteries.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

12 To The Moon (1960)

Starring Ken Clark, Michi Kobi, Tom Conway, Tony Dexter, John Wengraf
Directed by David Bradley
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An international crew of scientists take off on a rocket ship to land on and investigate the moon, which they discover is a dangerous world with a hidden civilization.

Writer/producer Fred Gebhardt offers a science fiction tale with low-grade special effects, but the quality of the actors and some excitement in the script made this an enjoyable programmer for me.  Starring Ken Clark as the American commander, Tom Conway as a Russian geologist, John Wengraf as the German designer of the spacecraft, and Michi Kobi and Anna-Lisa as the ladies aboard, there's a number of interesting personalities to pay attention to.  Cory Devlin, as the Nigerian navigator, was especially interesting to me, allowed to showcase his intelligence and spirituality, without a sign of stereotype, and treated by his shipmates and the screenplay with respect.  A subplot involving Wengraf's shame of his father, and Richard Weber's hatred of that man, seems unnecessary but makes up what little conflict there is among the crew.  As our crew traipses out upon the moon, the perils are low-tech but believable enough, and Michael Andersen's score brings some eeriness and tension to those scenes.  The film is far from a great science fiction entry, and may not even be as good as Gebhardt's followup, The Phantom Planet, which reuses some of the costumes and opticals.  I found it to be enjoyable enough however, and worth my time.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Atom Man Vs. Superman (1950)

Starring Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill, Lyle Talbot, Tommy Bond, Pierre Watkin
Directed by Spencer Bennet
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Superman returns in his second movie serial, this time to battle the scientific weapons of criminal genius Luthor, who employs a masked figure named The Atom Man as his partner.

Fans of the original Superman serial from 1948 will be glad to see all the returning players from the first one, as Alyn again plays Superman & Clark Kent, Neill once again is Lois Lane, Bond is Jimmy Olsen, and Watkin returns as Daily Planet managing editor Perry White.  There's also plenty of returning crew behind the camera, including the original co-director Bennet, and the filmmakers again have Superman change into an animated cartoon when flying through the sky.  Lyle Talbot as the comic book villain Luthor is the chief new addition, and he is most welcome, turning in a strong and faithful characterization of Superman's arch enemy.  To the best of my knowledge, the Atom Man never appeared in the comics but was the focal point of a memorable storyline on the Superman radio series, and on film comparatively he's disappointing, with his black cloak and glittery iron mask looking very low budget.  The budget again shows with the stock footage of the fire, earthquake, and flooding disasters Superman faces, which looks at least twenty years older than the rest of the film stock, and it doesn't take an eagle eye to spot use of footage from the first Superman serial.  Despite all that, the results are still entertaining.  It's not a great serial, but if you liked the first one, you ought to like the second.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

Starring Cedric Hardwicke, Vincent Price, Nan Grey, John Sutton, Cecil Kellaway
Directed by Joe May
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The brother of the original Invisible Man uses his formula to help a wrongly convicted man escape the police, while he tries to find a cure before the madness that accompanies the invisibility can overtake him.

A sequel to Universal's excellent The Invisible Man carries on without director James Whale or most of the principal cast, instead casting Price as the new transparent one, whose vocal characterization foreshadows his future horror roles.  Written by German emigres Kurt Siodmak & Joe May (with Lester Cole), and directed by May, it's more serious in tone, without Whale's wry touches of humor, but still a worthwhile film, enhanced by the excellent special effects of John P. Fulton and crew. Frank Skinner and Hans J. Salter's score is fronted by a lovely theme underscoring Price's romance with Grey, and later a touching scene where he borrows the clothing of a scarecrow.  Unfortunately the background setting of a coal processing plant doesn't allow for the atmospheric advantages of the first film, but the picture is still arguably the best of the many sequels to the original.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Medusa Vs. The Son Of Hercules (1963)

Starring Richard Harrison, Anna Ranalli, Arturo Dominici, Leo Anchoriz, Antonio Molino Rojo
Directed by Alberto De Martino
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The cruel rulers of Argos use a savage dragon and the Medusa, whose gaze turns men to stone, to cut off the city of Serifo's trade routes, but the young hero Perseus leads a challenge against them. 

This Italian film, originally titled Perseo l'invincibile was one of several films dubbed and repackaged for American television in The Sons Of Hercules series, which is the source I was able to see this from.  Ironically, according to Wikipedia, Perseus was actually a half-brother of Hercules, but that's hardly worth quibbling about, when the film is only a very loose adaptation of his mythic adventures.  Harrison, although per IMDB starred in a number of sword & sandal films, is an interesting choice here.  He's far from the musclebound hero of other films of this type, and in fact never takes his tunic off.  The film's entertaining enough but focuses more on the conflict between the cities than the monsters or the mythology.  As for the monsters, they're portrayed by men in suits and are very distinctive looking, with the toothy dragon rising from the sea to attack its victims, and Medusa resembling a giant walking plant with a single glowing eye.  They might not pass muster by today's standards, but I certainly found them fearsome and unique.  There's also a number of interesting names in the cast and crew, according to IMDB, with Black Sunday's Arturo Dominici playing the villainous King Acrisius, The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly's Antonio Molino Rojo playing Tarpete, Carlo Rambaldi (who later worked on Alien and E.T.) providing the special effects, and Amando de Ossorio (a writer & director of several Spanish horror films) credited with visual effects.