Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Short Film: A Short Vision (1956)

Written & directed by Joan Foldes and Peter Foldes; narrated by James McKechnie.
To quote the BFI National Archive: "A Short Vision became one of the most influential British animated films ever made when it was screened on US television as part of the popular Ed Sullivan Show [on May 27, 1956]. Although children were advised to leave the room while it played, it still caused outrage and alarm with its graphic representation of the horrors of nuclear war. [...] That said, there is no explicit reference to atomic warfare in A Short Vision. The narration is calculatedly allegorical, even quasi-Biblical, talking about a mysterious 'it' appearing in the sky, terrifying animals but ignored by most humans. Not that this makes any difference, as 'their leaders and wise men', though aware of the situation, are powerless to do anything about it — since every living creature, regardless of species or age, is subsequently annihilated. The sequences of human faces disintegrating into skulls, their eyeballs popping and flesh peeling back from muscle and bone, are what gave the film its primary notoriety, as did its utter extinguishing of any hope at the end (the final images show a moth flitting around a dying flame)."
Over at the blogspot Conelrad Adjacent, they tell this urban-legend-sounding tale relating to this short's television premiere in the US, when Ed Sullivan "threw more than just a curveball: he broadcast an animated short film about the end of the world that still reverberates within the memories of an untold number of baby boomers": "[...] I met a man from Canada who had shoulder-length dark hair, but in the center of his head was a small spot where his hair grew out a silvery white color. I asked him about it, and he told me that he was a medically-documented case of a person whose hair had turned white from fright. As a child, he had seen A Short Vision while alone in a house, and he experienced extreme panic and terror for some time, and one result was that his hair began to grow out white from that one spot on his head." [Michael Mode, "Sense of Panic," March 22, 2009,, "A Short Vision Legacy Project"]
In any event, we aren't a baby boomer so we never saw the short, but when we stumbled upon A Short Vision while wasting our time on YouTube, we knew that one day we had to make it our Short Film of the Month.  And here it is.

Hungarian-born  Peter Foldes (1924 — 29 March 1977), by the way, went on to make a number of other shorts of varying interest, including Hunger (1974), our Short Film of the Month for March 2014.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Misc. Film Fun: Three Dance Scenes

Another Thin Man 
(1939, dir. W.S. Van Dyke)
Trailer. The third of the six Thin Man movies, which were based on the writings of Dashiell Hammett and star William Powell and Myrna Loy as the eternally tipsy sleuthing couple, Nick and Nora Charles. This time around, the Hammett story used was The Farewell Murder.
Here, in the midst of their investigations, Nick finds himself at the West Indies Club enjoying his companions more than the dance performance of René y Estela (otherwise known in real life as René y Estela la Hermana de Arsenio Rodríguez). Stella does all the work, but the dance is smooth.

(1941, dir. H.C. Potter)
A Faux Trailer. According to imdb, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin cited this movie as the main inspiration for the style of their comedy show, Laugh-In (1967) — completely believable, if you've ever seen either the long-gone TV series or this underrated and mostly forgotten movie.
Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings explains the film: "Any movie this wild is bound to slip over into fantastic cinema territory a few times before it's all through [...]. Try to imagine Busby Berkeley, Spike Jones and Tex Avery all pooling their talents to put together a live-action movie, and you might have an idea of the mayhem in store. Once again, there are so many gags that the bad ones don’t count [...]"
There are also some pretty wild dance scenes, like this one here (beginning at around 2:45) — which, though the music is very much of its time, seems extremely contemporary in its physicalness. Breakdance Swing, anyone? 

Cien muchachas
(1957, dir. Jaime Salvador, writ. Fernando Méndez)
Director Jaime Salvador (4 Nov 1901 — 18 Oct 1976) went on to do the John Carradine cheapies La señora Muerte (1969 / full, subtitled film) and Pacto diabólico (1969 / scene), not to mention the yet-to-be-rediscovered slice of Mexican psychotronica, The Terrible Giant of the Snow (1963 / scene). Scriptwriter Fernando Méndez (20 July 1908 — 17 Oct 1966) went on to direct a number of notable Mexican horror films: The Vampire (1957 / trailer) and its sequel The Vampire's Coffin (1958 / trailer), The Black Pit of Dr. M (1959 / Trailer from Hell), Ladrón de cadáveres (1957 / full film while it lasts) and The Cry of Death (1959 / trailer).
Cien muchachas is obviously not a horror movie, but we know absolutely nothing about it. Nevertheless, we love this dance scene featuring — we think — Alfonso Arau and Sergio Corona. We also love the music, too. But then, we're major fans of mambo... and cumbia, for that matter. And of the tango, bolero and vallenato, too, actually, though our true love remians milango...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen (Germany/Great Britain, 1961)

(Spoilers.) Based on the original Edgar Wallace novel The Daffodil Mystery, producer Horst Wendlandt made this film as a joint production with the British production firm Omnia in London. As a result, aside from the extraordinary amount of exterior scenes for a Wallace film (which usually tend to be studio-bound), two versions of the movie were filmed simultaneously, one in English and the other in German. Although both versions utilised the same crew and most of the same secondary and background actors, the lead roles were filled by different "stars", depending on the language. In the English-language version, entitled The Devil's Daffodil, William Lucas (of Vampire Cop [1990 / trailer], The Shadow of the Cat [1961 / full film] and Tower of Evil [1972 / trailer]) starred as Jack Tarling instead of Joachim Fuchsburger, Penelope Horner was Anne Rider instead of Sabine Sesselman and, unbelievably enough, Klaus Kinski was replaced by Colin Jeavons as Peter Keene. In truth, however, no matter which version of the movie one sees,* Akos Ràthonyi's unbelievably lifeless direction remains the same. Thus, of course, the final cinematic experience also remains the same: Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen is a dull sleeping pill, a snoozer that in no way requires re-evaluation, rediscovery, or even your attention when nothing else is on the tube.
* We watched the German version.
Not that it had to be so. The convoluted script, generally attributed to Basil Dawson and Trygve Larsen (real name: Egon Eis), had a lot of potential and features — amongst other aspects — a sleazy club, drug smuggling, addicted showgirls, a nameless killer, a mysterious Chinese man (an always fun to watch Christopher Lee, practicing for his future starring role in the Fu Manchu movies), a duplicitous Scotland Yard detective, a torture scene, and a bevy of dead babes (and other victims). That the final cinematic result is such a drag can indeed only be blamed on the director, who obviously had no interest at all in the project. That Ràthonyi had some 25 years experience as a director — he began making films in his native land of Hungry in 1936 — is not anywhere evident in plodding and dull direction found in Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen.*
* While it is probably impossible to ever find out if his earlier, Hungarian projects were any better, he did make an entertainingly pleasant if not overly innocent and extremely dated vampire film in 1964 entitled Der Fluch der grünen Augen, a.k.a. Cave of the Living Dead or Night of the Vampires (full film). Ràthonyi died five years later in 1969, a year after ending his unspectacular career with the ultra-trashy and unfunny "sex comedy" Zieh dich aus, Puppe (opening 8 minutes). which translates literally into "Get Undressed, Doll."
The German title Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen, if literally translated into English, would be "The Secret of the Yellow Daffodils." To talk of any mystery or secret about yellow daffodils is a bit aside from the point, however, for the "secret" is revealed within the first few minutes of the film, when Jack Tarling (Joachim Fuchsburger), the security officer of Global Airways reveals how hollowed out plastic daffodils are being used to smuggle drugs into England. Tarling is convinced that the drug are somehow tied to a series of murders in which the female victims are always found with daffodils, but Scotland Yard seems convinced that the dead girls are all victims of a sex murderer. Tarling barely escapes a bomb attack that destroys the intercepted shipment (and kills a few cops), but with the help of his inscrutable Chinese assistant Ling Chu (Christopher Lee) he traces the shipment back to the China Export & Import firm, run by Raymond Lyne (Albert Lieven). Interestingly enough, Lyne also owns the infamous Cosmos Club, where many of the dead girls had worked. Lyne, however, cannot be held accountable for anything and firm co-worker who originally placed the order is soon fished out of the Themes. Bad girl Gloria (Ingrid van Bergen, who in real life served 5 years for manslaughter after shooting her 12-years-younger lover Klaus Knaths in a fit of jealousy on February 3rd, 1977) gets to do a truly entertaining "bawdy" stage number, heroine Anne Rider (Sabine Sesselmann) is continually sexually harassed by her boss Lyne, Ling Chu eventually tortures the answer to everything from bar manager Jan Putek (Peter Illing), a lot of people die, and Peter Keene (Klaus Kinski) wanders around a lot before he finally flips his wig and kidnaps Anne, intent on killing her in a cemetery...
All this happens to an exceptionally competent and jazzy score by the unjustly unknown and forgotten Keith Papworth. Sound good, doesn't it? Well, as said before, thanks to the director, it ain't.
Not from the Movie —
Keith Papworth - Hard Hitter:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Trailers of Promise – Films We Haven't Seen: Honeymoon of Terror (USA, 1961)

"Oh Frank, I don’t think I should get pregnant right away."
Marion (Dwan Marlow)

Written & Directed by Pete Perry, a.k.a. Ecstasy on Lovers Island — not to be confused with Irwin Meyer's Honeymoon of Horror (1964 / trailer), which doesn't look so bad itself. Honeymoon of Terror was made in the days when couples split the pajamas: the man got the pants, the woman the shirt.
Plot description from TCM: "Marion (Dwan Marlow) and Frank (Doug Leith) are disappointed with Las Vegas and its nightclubs on the first night of their honeymoon and decide to spend the rest of their vacation on Thunder Island. Upon arriving on the island the following day, Frank has to return to the mainland to pick up fuel for the portable stove. Marion remains behind to enjoy the swimming and sunbathing. Although a stranger attacks her, she is able to escape the would-be rapist, who has a club foot. In town, Frank hears tales of a logger known as the 'Ridge Runner' (Anton von Stralen), who went mad, raped two women, killed a third, and has not been seen for 8 years. Frank hears some hunters tell of finding tracks on Thunder Island that might belong to the lumberjack, and he rushes back to the island, arriving to find Marion in the fiend's grasp..."
Bleeding Skull says: "Baffled by the snapshot appeal of quaint monster-nudies? Don't start here. However, if selected early 1960s works from Barry Mahon, Dale Berry, and yes, Peter Perry, already light up your nights, Honeymoon of Terror won't disappoint. It's more horror, much less nudie, and all ignorant fun."

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