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Psycho Pike (1992)
"Them fish are getting stranger and stranger"
This is tongue-in-cheek horror with some decent comically sinister characters. Four young people descend on a lakeside community for a romp and a bit of fishing. One of them is there to test the water for contamination. There is some creeping menace about the lake as people are going missing. My favorite character is a one-eyed gas station man called Willy. He reminds me of the type of character John Carradine used to play. Willy drawls out lines like "Them fish are getting stranger and stranger" as reports of ferocious pike attacks have been reported. I think this movie just about gets away with it as family entertainment. Parents might like to note that the profanities are of scatological-type only. There is some sexual innuendo and brief sounds of sexual activity and brief nudity which is not full on.
Planetary healer or monster?
This reality mystery tells of a Nessie-type sea creature that people have claimed to have seen emerging from Seattle's Elliot Bay. Chief Clamintile of the Wonkatilla people pays homage to this creature they call Willatuk. The Wonkatilla (Those who will swim with whales) see Willatuk as a god and a saviour and a healer rather than a monster to be feared. As with other mysterious cryptids some people see this creature as a symbol of planetary healing so the subject of dumping rubbish into the seas crops up in this movie. There are some pleasing pieces of native myth in it. Then we see a wild-eyed individual called Grip out to hunt down Seattle's sea monster to kill it. There are some great shots of Jake the Snake coiled about Grip and his father. They admire snakes because snakes are killers. Grip agrees to meet up with Chief Clamintile who we see whisper some secret wisdom in Grip's ear. Some of the reality-drama pieces are poor but I found this movie interesting all the same. Even though tempers rise at times no profanities are blurted out so it's family-friendly viewing.
Just Dusty (2009)
British singer with a natural American sound
This well-told documentary of British singer Dusty Springfield alternatively made smile and then made me sad. Her heyday was the 1960s when she made the majority of her famed music. There are funny details of how she was acutely short-sighted but still insisted on doing her own make-up. We see the unflattering image of how she was originally and then the glamor of the often just one-named persona known as Dusty. We hear how she felt disassociated with that image but of course many artists create an image that isn't really them. British pop artists of the 1960s tried to sound American but her singing seemed to naturally sound that way. She recorded a big hit 'Son Of A Preacher Man' in Memphis after Aretha Franklin had turned it down. When she tried to make her career in the US at the end of the 1960s it failed because a ready-made category couldn't be found for her varied style of music. She ranged from the Motown across-the-beat singing to a soft breathy lounge style that has been likened to Peggy Lee. She became broke after her career failed and she was stalked by the media to openly declare her sexuality. The closing part of the documentary is very sad as we hear about her illness and the ironic story of the day of her death.
Ghosts of Tennessee (2011)
"You'd better believe it!"
This is an entertaining tour of Tennessee and it's history and it's ghosts written and directed by Jim O'Rear. Included is the Bell Witch (An American Haunting) and Green Eyes (monster with a billowing cape) and he battlefields of the Civil War. There is the Orpheum Theater in Memphis where a production of 'Fiddler On The Roof' held a seance after being haunted by a little girl in white. And the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville which is believed to be haunted by music legend Hank Williams and other country singers from the past. Country star Lorrie Morgan tells of a mysterious figure which appears and disappears that is known as the Phantom of the Oprey there. Another haunted Nashville venue is Tootsie's Orchard Lounge where old departed country singers also hang out. And when Lorrie Morgan stabs a finger at the camera and tells us "You'd better believe it!" what else can we do but believe? This documentary deserves a poster and what better than the two presenters slinkily posing on a graveyard memorial as the poster for it? I thought it was a bit irreverent but the image of Debbie Rochon and Sebrina Siegel/Scott lounging on and around the monument stayed with me. Tennessee has got such a wealth of hauntings that this movie has no time to linger too long on any of it's ghostly sites. But chances are you will want to pursue these stories more fully if ghost legends are your thing.
Sensitive variation on the monster movie theme
A baby sea creature of a unknown giant species is captured to be used as a lucrative exhibit. The only one who really seems to care for the creature is a boy named Sean. The mercenary attitude of the lead character played by Bill Travers is one I found unsettling. Perhaps this is because I've always seen Travers in totally sympathetic roles until now. He must have been considered late in the planning for this movie I would think as Britain was probably fourth choice for the film's setting. I've heard somewhere that Japan and Australia and France had been considered before Britain. Bill Travers' character does have a somewhat redemptive turn at the end in a nice resolve. I must say this turns out to be a sensitive variation on the monster movie theme which had perhaps never been seen before. There are some good special effects at the climax of the movie and the atmosphere is generally pleasing throughout. There is a lack of love interest which some people might find lacking. Certainly the tie-in paperback book published at the time of the movie's release sought to remedy this by introducing a sister for Sean and thus a romantic outlet for one of the male characters.
Boogeymen: Hodag (2015)
Mystique of a Wisconsin critter
The 'Boogeymen' TV series comes across as a tourism plug for the local Chamber of Commerce for the particular location featured in each episode. However I find them an approachable introduction for anybody who wants to start out on folklore and cryptid speculation studies. This episode introduce me to the Hodag of Wisconsin and the town of Rhinelander in particular. The Hodag is a prehistoric-looking fierce creature with glowing red eyes and huge claws. There is some tongue-in-cheek and a bit of showman delivery on the part of the contributors and yet I felt drawn into the Hodag mystique as well as being entertained. I liked the art of Rod Umlauf who claims to have seen a group of Hodags among some dead trees. Another self-confessed believer is author Michael J. Skubal who adds his own fictional detail to the legend. Even though there is still fear of walking into the woods and swamp areas of Wisonsin at night the Hodag is now being mellowed down to a cute mascot with a less fierce image. The community of Rhinelander are shown to be consolidating together through the propagation of interest in the Hodag. There is some footage of an old carnival as being typical of the side shows where Rhinelander citizen Gene Shepherd used to exhibit the 'hodag' he claims to have captured. And there's some atmospheric photography and some campfire-type stories that I found fascinating.
Atmospheric second half thrilled me
After 33 minutes I really started to enjoy this low budget science fiction oddity. It is then when the action moves to the atmospheric seashore scenes with nine pagan sisters lying on the rocks. Here there is the sea spray and the sea mist and the howling wind that has the voice of a witch in it. The Venusian women are led by the magnificent screen presence of Mamie Van Doren. They're not sirens who lead men to their doom or amazons who physically take alien visitors into custody. Instead they pray to their pterodactyl god for revenge. There is a good scene of a pterodactyl with it's 20 foot wingspan emerging through the murky clouds to threaten the space travellers. But I couldn't resist a huge chuckle at the dead pterodactyl scene. The Venusian women seem to communicate telepathically as their speech is eerily voiced over. Their thoughts echoing to each other adds to the weirdness of the film. Also there is an echo to the narration by Peter Bogdanovich which augments a dreamlike quality to the action. Even though this film has the hallmarks of low budget I think there is enough atmosphere to be soaked up by followers of quirky cinema for their enjoyment.
Aliens vs. Bigfoot (2021)
I vote for Bigfoot
People can be attracted to subjects like Bigfoot and UFOs without being able to explain why. The speakers in this documentary are used to giving explanations in their research so they way they verbalize them can be a help if you find yourself mysteriously drawn to subjects like these. I've watched a lot of Bigfoot documentaries lately so I'm gradually learning what drives the Sasquatch-tracking community. I find these films visually pleasing being able to see the beautiful stretches of wilderness I shall never experience first-hand. As Nick Redfern points out in 'Aliens vs. Bigfoot' Sasquatch-hunting is a picturesque field trip. Whereas UFO research is mostly an indoor fusty pore-over of mounds of recorded material with a load of dates. I like Alan B. Smith's love of the playful when he says "the paranormal world is a playground." This comment he made in the film appeals to me because I liked to be entertained as well as informed while watching documentaries. I think he does go a little bit overboard when he is more or less suggesting that a search for Bigfoot is a search for love. However I liked it when he said that Bigfoot hunters shouldn't take a gun with them. I'd rather never know if the Bigfoot species exists for certain if killing a Bigfoot is the only way to satisfy our curiosity.
Star: K9 for a warrior
I usually like to look at movies for fun but occasionally I'll choose what I think is an important documentary for me to watch. This film is certainly sobering as it tells of lonely and troubled individuals who society can sometimes fear. They are veterans suffering from PTSD who have undergone bad things they've experienced on war fronts. Captain Louie (Louis Belluomini) gives an account of the problems that PTSD veterans have to live through. Such things as nightmarish flashbacks and suicidal thoughts and sleepwalking can hamper the lives of these people. K9s For Warriors in Florida have trained dogs to give much needed friendship and support for them. Captain Louie gives a lecture with his K9 friend Star in this film. We see vested Star going through her positions in order to protect her owner. It's amazing how a dog's scent detection training can help the dog to prevent one of the many accidents that can happen to PTSD veterans. One of the important lessons for others to learn is not to immediately make a fuss of the dog and distract it from doing it's job as we learn in the film. I'm glad I spared an hour to watch this documentary and reflect for a while.
The Darklings (1999)
Suburban front window teen thriller
Chris is confined to his bedroom with a nasty infection. He is convinced he has witnessed a murder in the house across the road after he struggles to sleep one night. He can't persuade his grandma (Tippi Hedren) and a detective (Martin Sheen) to believe him so he has to try and solve the crime himself. He enlists aid from his early teen/pre-teen friends Jessie and Josh. Slinky Clara Hagen who Chris believes he saw murdered starts to display a change in personality that convinces the young sleuths that something is wrong. With a few twists this is reminiscent of 'Rear Window' (1954) and perhaps even more to 'Disturbia' (2007). 'The Darklings' has gained some popularity on Fox Family and ABC Family TV over the years. It's main market is early teens but I think some older fans of thrillers will enjoy the 'Rear Window' identification in this. The couple across the road are played with psychotic menace in just the right amount of chill fashion for a family thriller. The atmospherics include whistling wind and thunderstorm scenes and neat mysterioso music from Ferocious Fish. The mystery builds up to a lively finale with some decent nail-biting moments.
Dreamlike slow-burn western rarity
Jedediah is thrown from his horse after his mount has been surprised by a rattlesnake. He is left to die but he continues to crawl like a desert creature across a wilderness. Crow Dog has escaped prison. Is his vision of his daughter being accidently killed a memory or a dream? This film takes place in a dreamlike limbo-land where we're not too sure whether we are watching ghosts or if people have been resurrected for revenge. This is the third and last film from Dewitt Lee who wrote and directed and played Jedediah. I think this one has gone under the radar because there is no well-known actor featured as in his first two films. This may be the same Dewitt Lee who made a chain-gang record called 'Poor Man' in 1960 as the vocal style on that is similar to the 'Listen To The Wild Wind Blow' song that is featured in this movie. There are musical homages to Sergio Leon's spaghetti westerns with harmonica and flute and a musical time piece. The typical action western fan will probably lose patience with the slowness of this movie so this is more likely to appeal to followers of film curiosities. If you like nice photography and the haunted atmosphere of wild places you may get the same slow-burn enjoyment of watching this rarity as I did.
Son of Ingagi (1940)
Interesting characterization from Laura Bowman
The first half of this movie belongs to Laura Bowman. I was interested in her reclusive Dr Helen Jackson character who lives in a house of secrets. On the one hand she is a severe grim-faced Judith Furse type who begrudges the humanity she is hiding from. On discovering a formula to benefit humanity she mutters to herself "Why should I worry about humanity?" But then there is the glimmer of the maternal Jane Darwell type in her character at times. If you like indomitable old ladies and creepy old houses then this could be your type of film. Dr Jackson is able to summon an ape man from a hidden room by striking a gong behind her desk. I reckon this would make a good 1940s horror double bill with 'The Ape Man' from 1943 on a horror hosted show. 'The Ape Man' has Bela Lugosi and Minerva Urecal in it. The second half of 'Son of Ingagi' is more humorous as the ape man and a detective go into a lengthy comic routine involving disappearing sandwiches etc. The story also involves a stash of gold from Africa and a newly-wedded couple who Dr Jackson takes a shine to.
The Landlord (2017)
A surveillance snooper's paradise
I have just re-watched this and upgraded my rating of it to 7/10. 'The Landlord' AKA 'Fatherly Obsession' tells of Alyssa who is continually stalked by phone despite the fact that she keeps changing her cell number. She is a stand up comic who can handle hecklers but understandably she is nervous of the unseen menace in her life. Older man Robert gives her access to an apartment which he guarantees will be a safe place for her to stay. Initially Alyssa is a bit disturbed by Robert's special interest in her until he claims that she reminds him of his daughter. She accepts that and despite being warned of Robert's past life she feels comfortable with the fatherly protectiveness that her landlord is offering. Good portrayals of these two characters by Molly McCook and Ted McGinley. I was fascinated by the surveillance devices which are a big part of the plot. Every character is snoopy including Alyssa towards the end. There's quite a bit going on economically fitted into the running time so you shouldn't get bored. I recommend this as one of the better TV movie thrillers.
Look Again (2011)
A reasonable stalking thriller
Allison Brown is a property selling agent who has had a traumatic experience. She's been the victim of a dangerous intruder who she fears is still on the loose to stalk her. She uncovers a conviction that has been kept secret concerning her friend's intended marriage partner. As the story unfolds two other men prove to have dubious past lives as well. Suspicion wavers between these three men as to who is the stalker. This is a reasonable stalking thriller with an atmosphere of suspense and nice photography. Morena Baccanin is so watchable as Allison. She has lovely and pleasant features and sports an attractive 1960s urchin style haircut in this. You may find this under an alternative title of 'Psycho Neighbor.' Lifetime Movies have a habit of giving two or three different titles to their films that requires a bit of detective work to find them on IMDb. Their messed up cast list at the end doesn't help either.
The Ghosting (2019)
The red house and the headless doll
This is a Phillipino ghost thriller that queries the truthfulness of a young man called Ken. He insists that he has lost two friends through the sinister machinations of the quaint red house which everybody else thinks is a myth. His friend Grace had been haunted by a little girl who had led her to this mythical place. There are some good ghostly scenes in this that doesn't resort to repetitive jump-scares like this type of film frequently does. Some of the scenes are darkly-lit but not to the extent where you can't see what's going on. It starts slow and then draws you in through a good early middle section. Particularly fascinating is when Grace envisions the red house behind a door in the school corridor. I think this film will appeal to older teens and others who like films about ghosts and curses. I enjoyed it and would say that it just edges into the 7/10 rating for my taste. The ending is good as it leaves you wondering. Also there is a good revelation why the little girl's doll is headless.
Krona 3 the Froggy Case (2018)
If you like weird films.....
This is my introduction to the films of Argentinian writer and director Frederico Tarantola and his campy and trippy and surreal universe. It's the story of seedy private eye Henry Chandler who is commissioned to investigate the Froggys. It seems they plan to invade the town of Tammerlane by Rubik's Cube. Chandler meets an array of freaky characters and the imprisoned Krona girls in a dungeon. I don't know if there clever meaning and metaphors to this film waiting to be discovered but I'll leave that to others. All I can say is that I enjoyed every moment of this film and long for more of it's ilk. If you like weird films and 1960s pop art style and perhaps Monty Python you will probably go for this. Flickering images and atmospheric streetscapes appear before your eyes at times which I found attractive. References to a vortex in certain places that allow for travel through portals was also fascinating for me. The film is free of sex and profanity unless you count the reference to 'mummy's pussy' in the animated advert sequence. It could be that Frederico Tarantola is too individualistic in his film-making to become widely popular but I hope he finds some newly-found fans like myself to appreciate him.
Unusual entry into the haunted horror genre
This looks to be a one-off project by the film-makers executed on a hand-held camera. It has an atmospheric Egyptian setting filmed at a forbidden palace. A film crew sneak into the palace by night while the security guard is asleep because they're not legally allowed to film there. One of the movie's participators gets increasingly troubled by the haunting aura that permeates the palace. The empty relic of a place has been owned by The Baron who had dabbled in witchcraft. Tragedy had befallen his daughter. The palace has now become a target for young devil-worshippers at night. I enjoyed this speculative effort because of it's immediacy of creepy horror. It reminds me of the projects of opportunistic low-budget directors who shot their hurried films on the hoof. Some of the atmospheric scenes in this include the ominous curse of a dying bat and a pentagram dance to summon up an entity. I recommend this to those who look for something unusual in the haunted site horror genre.
Nave #527 (2008)
A neat study of amnesia and panic and pain
A confused teenager finds himself in an empty disused warehouse. He is in pain and feeling nausea. He gets interrogated by a mysterious man in black. An androgynous individual wearing dreadlocks also appears as the young man tries to sleep on a mattress in a corner of the warehouse. This was the debut short film by Spanish director and writer Ivan Castell. It has class. The acting is of a better standard than most low budget films. The photography is good. Especially beautifully lit is a mysterious sequence under a huge fake full moon. The music is reminiscent of X-Files at times. When you have just 19 minutes to kill I recommend you give this a try. Be prepared for a neat little study of amnesia and panic and pain.
Jaws 19 (2015)
Novel and experimental effort
Within minutes you should know if you have the right sense of humor to watch this film. It's amateur You Tube meets 1950s exploitation. It's co-directed by Ivi Crap so you know immediately by that type of name which market it's going to appeal to. A killer shark meets her end and returns as a ghost to continue her killing. Her spirit can turn up anywhere. In the middle of the woods or out of a disposal unit or out of a toilet pan. This is a novel and experimental effort that some will find entertaining for it's 63 minutes. The English subtitles come across strange at times because the sentences are quirky when translated. And they ask us to vote on IMDB at the end. This is a serious mistake as IMDb has actually got a little b in it's title. I must say I enjoyed this little b film.
The Crosby Case (1934)
I like these shady characters
There are some likeable characters in this even though they're not quite of the straight and narrow kind. There's Lynn Ashton (Wynne Gibson) who is on her way to Bermuda before a Dr Crosby starts squawking about some jewels she might be taking with her. There's the cab driver Sam Collins (Warren Hymer) who is prepared to do a hit-and-run when he accidentally knocks down the same Dr Crosby on a kerbside. And there's nervous crook and squealer Willie McGuire (John Wray) who wants to be locked up by the police for his own safety. The story begins with the death of a shady doctor called Crosby. At first it seems as though he has been killed accidentally by a cab. Then a bullet wound is found in him. Professor Lubeck and a doorman both witness Lynn's ex-boyfriend on the spot at the time which makes him the chief suspect. Lynn is taken off the boat bound for Bermuda with some jewels and is under suspicion also. The plot includes mobsters and drug dealing and frame-ups. Edward Van Sloan plays a more feeble character than usual. He's Professor Lubeck who has a secret guilt and a disability that he tries to hide from others. My favorite funny moment is when Lynn is asked to open up her jewel box and she finds a switcheroo has been done on her by a tearful friend. There's nothing really outstanding about this Universal mystery but I enjoyed some of it's shady characters.
The Catman of Paris (1946)
Good horse and carriage chase
Charles Regnier is the author of 'Fraudulent Justice' which looks to become a bestseller. But it is potentially an embarrassment to the French Government. A man is carrying some secrets documents from the Archives of the Ministry of Justice when he is killed. His body has been clawed to ribbons as though he had been attacked by a powerful cat. The documents he was carrying go missing so it would seem that the murderer didn't want those papers scrutinized for some reason.
Suspicion falls upon Regnier as he was unaccountably out all night at the time of the murder. He is in the habit of leaving social gatherings on his own complaining of a headache. He sees visions of a storm and then the sight of a black cat appears. He seems to be suffering from amnesia brought on by a tropical fever he had contracted on his travels. He is accused of learning secret rituals he has discovered in India and Tibet.
A favorite of a number of 1940s B-mystery fans Douglass Dumbrille portrays the friend of Charles Regnier. There is a very good horse and carriage chase sequence but a confusing fight scene earlier in a cafe had been poorly executed. This is a reasonable mystery involving transmutation that has number of atmospheric moments. And the reproduction poster for this film with the killer's blue hand threatening the neck of a beautiful female victim has become collectible among horror film poster fans.
Didn't see that revelation coming
I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I'm not usually a fan of courtroom dramas but I found myself growing more and more engrossed in the story the longer the movie continued. As each witness gives their evidence we are taken back to the night of a murder as individually viewed by each witness. The person murdered is a wealthy curmudgeon who was about to change his will. This grouchy man of wealth intends to disinherit everybody in his family and staff.
David Wells is accused of murdering his father and is brought to trial. His Defense Attorney is well played by H. B. Warner who later portrayed Colonel Nielson in some of the Bulldog Drummond mysteries. There is also a good performance by Sarah Padden as a surprise witness while William V. Mong looks good visually as the old curmudgeon who gets murdered. The respectability of the court is countered for a time by an amusing character called Varney who is in between jobs as a bootlegger and a revenue officer.
The story is told at a steady pace that slowly drew me into it's mystery. The characters speak in slow deliberate tones that is suitable for the seriousness of the situation in which David Wells finds himself. This is in contrast to the quickfire dialogue of many of the films of the 1930s and 1940s. The ending is very touching and there is a reveal that I didn't see coming. I recommend you search out this little known mystery.
Charlie Chan in Panama (1940)
Charlie Chan's humble hat shop
Charlie Chan takes on the guise of a hat shop owner in Panama City. He dons that subterfuge to try and catch a spy called Reiner who he has intelligence on but doesn't known the identity of by sight. This mysterious Reiner would seem to be intent on causing disruption to the American Fleets who need to pass through the Panama Canal. The film opens with a seaplane full of suspects who are heading for a stop-off in Panama City. The watch a pauper fisherman being chased into the sea by police officers.
Among the suspects the most villainous-looking is the Viennese scientist Dr Grosser who deals in tropical diseases. He's experimenting with bubonic-infected rats. Then there's the cafe owner Manolo who is pressurizing his floor singer Kathi who is forced to go along with his demands because she is a refugee. She seems inquisitive about the movements of American ships passing through the Panama Canal. Also there's the fez-wearing Halide who sells exotic cigarettes opposite Charlie's hat shop.
I'm a little disappointed with Lionel Atwill's role in this as his Clivedon Compton doesn't feature in the story as much as I would have liked. And I have to say I guessed the murderer. There is a fair bit of suspense towards the end as Chan tricks the killer to show themselves seemingly putting everyone in danger. And there's a great shot of Jimmy Chan falling backwards through a concealed door that unexpectedly opens as he leans against it.
Dangerous Corner (1934)
"Let Sleeping Dogs Lie"
A bond goes missing from the finances of Chatfield Publishers. One of the Chatfield brothers isn't present for most of the film. He is the one who would seem to get the blame especially after he is supposed to have committed suicide. But then there is a torrent of revelations and accusations from other characters concerned with the publishing business. Suspicions of theft and murder pass from one suspect to another.
A potentially interesting character is novelist Maude Mockridge. I felt she should have been in it more especially with her book title of 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.' This phrase takes on significance with the younger characters and their secret longings and unhappy marriages. And what exactly was their feelings towards the dead man and why does everybody seem to be lying?
A good reason to watch this film is to see the natural performance of Melvyn Douglas who plays Charles Stanton. His is the only 100% natural performance throughout the film. You may find the complications irritating at times and it is certainly an atypical murder mystery. Be prepared to retrace your steps through the story towards the end. Although I have to admit this is not really my type of mystery I will probably re-watch this at some point to try and unpick the confusing thread of feelings running between the characters.
Missing persons and false heirs
This Drummond mystery depicts such a contemporary problem for a 1947 film. World War Two had just finished and there must have been missing persons who needed to come to light at that time. Blitzed England would have caused peoples' identities to be questioned if their local registration records had been destroyed by the bombing. So here we have a solicitor who is telling Inspector Sanderson of Scotland Yard about the difficulty of false heirs claiming fortunes they were not entitled to. And immediately we are confronted with an intrigue of two women claiming to be Ellen Curtiss. Both of them seem genuine. Both of them claim that the other one is a fake so one of them is a brazen liar.
Bulldog Drummond is a friend to Inspector Sanderson who is trying to sort out which woman is the true heir to their aunt's estate. Sanderson is found dead with one of the Ellens hiding in his closet. After Drummond takes on the case it's really intriguing how he seems to be playing off the two women one against the other. It's difficult to fathom how his mind is working. And although we can be persuaded that one Ellen is telling the truth there are continual stumbling blocks set in our way of our certainty about that truth.
This is the second and last of the two mysteries with Ron Randell as Drummond for Columbia Pictures. Then unless I've missed someone out the Drummond character left Columbia and went onto Reliance Pictures/Fox with two Tom Conway portrayals of him in 1948.