169 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Port Sinister (1953)
Minor action picture with giant crabs.
1 March 2003
A scientist predicts that recent earthquakes will cause the sunken pirate stronghold of Port Royale (which sunk in an earthquake in the 1600's) to briefly rise to the surface again. In a sea plane an expedition arrives on the island to salvage the pirate treasure before the island sinks again. Unfortunately, a gang of crooks learn of the expedition and the treasure the risen island holds and menace the the scientists. Sea turtle sized giant crabs emerge from a cave, briefly menacing the cast and dispatching with some of the bad guys. The good guys escape the island before an earthquake again causes the island to sink once again to the bottom of the sea.

PORT SINISTER, which was released as BEAST OF PARADISE ISLAND in the U.K., is a mostly minor routine adventure picture produced solely with the intent to fill the bottom half of a double bill (the original meaning of the term "B" movie). The giant crabs which play only a minor part in the proceedings, are probably the only reason why this mostly forgotten film has surfaced on video. The sets for the sunken island are mildly interesting, with lots of mist and low lighting to hide the cheapness. Acting and direction are routine. PORT SINISTER is another one of those films that one sits through mildly entertained, but it begins to fade from memory soon after one has seen it.
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Worth seeing once.
26 February 2003
Werner Herzogs EVEN DWARVES STARTED SMALL could be described to the uniniated as TERROR OF TINY TOWN crossed with RIOT IN CELL BLOCK FOUR. In this film inmates at a prison farm (or perhaps its a mental institution, the film is unclear) revolt, hold the head of the institution captive in his villa, and go around creating havoc and mayhem around the grounds of the institution. The warden (or what ever he is supposed to be) is holding one of the inmates tied up in his office. Now this all sound fairly ordinary, except the cast consists entirely of midgets and dwarves!

AUCH ZWERGE HABEN ANGEFANGEN (or EVEN DWARVES STARTED SMALL) is one those films that is hard to figure out. Some critics have said this film is about locking away societies freaks from the rest of the normal world, but that is hardly the case. In this films world everyone is apparently a midget or a dwarf, even though the sets are are to ordinary scale. The head of the institution is a midget. So is a woman from the outside who arrives briefly asking for directions.(She drives a normal sized car) All in all it sounds like a film that was dreamed up as some ones idea of a joke.

This film is fun to watch, at least for the first quarter hour. After that the film starts to become rough going. The film really has no beginning and no real end. Its all middle. After awhile watching midgets commit endless acts of vandalism becomes tedious and boring. Half way through the film the inmates begin to commit acts of cruelty on animals, which makes the film rather unpleasant. The crucifixtion of a monkey on a cross is not my idea of good taste. This is one of those films that is unusual enough that I would recommend seeing it once, but only once at that.
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Watch out for the tree!
26 February 2003
Back in seventies a lot of obscure European movies mostly from the sixties used turn up lot on late night television and then seemed to vanish, going back under the rocks they seemingly came out from under. However, recently many of these films have recently surfaced on small video labels. Often these film starred either European casts unknown in the U.S.A. with anglicized names in the credits and/or as in this case, American stars who had fallen on hard times. In this film Cameron Mitchell, whose voice appears to have been dubbed by another actor, plays Baron Van Wiser, an evil scientist who has been creating monstrous plant mutations. He invites an assorted group of characters to visit his island estate, where one by one the guests become meals for his creations.

The film was shown on American television as MAN EATER OF HYDRA, although the plants really don't eat anyone, they suck their victims blood like a vampire. The murderous plant, which we really never get a good look at (perhaps we can be thankful) resembles a yew tree with weeping willow like branches. At the end of the branches are flowers whose stamens do the blood sucking. The killer trees are apparently able to walk, but we never see them walking. It's unclear why the baron invited the visitors, but apparently he wanted them as food for his creations. The baron tells a botanist visitor the he wants to keep his discoveries secret. The baron seems to think having a group of visitors to his island all end up dead isn't going arouse any suspicion, even though the island would be crawling with police once word got out the hapless visitors were reported missing. Why is it these mad scientists/crazed maniacs never lure people who go un-missed like tramps, cheap hookers, homeless bums for their evil purposes?

MAN EATER OF HYDRA (or ISLAND OF THE DOOMED) is one of dozens of cheaply made 1960's shockers from Europe. This film is slightly more entertaining then most these films. The film tries to drum up some atmosphere, throws in a little sex, and provides a few good shocks, but like most of these cheap sixties European shockers, there is an air "lets get this thing over with" attitude prevailing over the film.
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A good forties studio "B" horror. Note : SPOILER***
23 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING! DANGER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! I must confess that I only saw this film for the first time recently on video, having missed it when it was shown on New York T.V. in the early seventies. About all knew about this film was that it featured J. Carrol Naish and George Zucco and was a variation on "The Island Of Dr. Moreau" from a still and a brief mention in Dennis Gifford's "A Pictorial History Of Horror Movies." I had wrongly assumed this was just another cheezey "poverty row" B horror, when actually it was a Fox production (although still a "B") with decent production values in the manner of low budget big studio films. I also discovered the film has a remarkably good performance from J. Carrol Naish. I should have known the former and expected the latter. In many ways the film is surprisingly good and the reasons for its relative obscurity remains a mystery.

Most of what makes this film memorable is the performance of J. Carrol Naish as the unfortunate apeman Noel. Naish plays the apeman Noel as a sad, unhappy, and very sympathetic character. I read once where Naish said that an actor owes it to the audience to always give his best performance, even if he thinks the production is beneath him. Naish stated that an actor should always see a given role as a challenge, and Naish takes the challenge head on in this film. Naish was one of thirties and forties best character/supporting players. He always gave a good account of himself whether in prestigious films like SAHARA (1943) or dismal programmers like JUNGLE WOMAN (1944) (See my comments on that film). Most any other actor cast to play an apeman would have probably felt embarrassed, walked through the role, collected their paycheck and never looked back.

George Zucco makes the most of his limited screen time. Here he gives his usual suavely sinister-if at times over the top-performance as Dr. Renault. There is some distraction involving an ex-con handyman employed by Dr. Renault played Mike Mazurki. Early on, Noel is kind of a red herring for Mazurki's own murderous activities. The film is set in France, but some the cast, especially Arthur Shields are unconvincing as Frenchmen. Other cast members like Shepperd Strudwick who plays a non-Frenchman are adequate.

This film was the last film directed by Harry Lachman. Most of his films were routine studio films with some exceptions including DANTE'S INFERNO and OUR RELATIONS with Laurel and Hardy. He soon retired from films after this and went back to being an artist and opening up a shop in Hollywood that sold unusual antiques. In fact the last film he was connected with was a short documentary about his shop called TREASURE FROM TRASH (1946) in which he appeared as himself. There is one very interesting scene in the film when male lead Shepperd Strudwick sneaks into Dr. Renaults lab and discovers his notes. The transformation is told in narration by Zucco and a series of still photographs capturing Noels transformation from ape to man. E.A. Dupont used a similar scene told in a series of still photographs to good effect in the otherwise dismal film, THE NEANDERTHAL MAN (1953.) (See my comments on that film). The one very weak point in the film is having Noel actually kill two people which we see on screen. There is a murder early in the film (off screen) where Noel is a suspect but its obvious by the films end he didn't do it. Why have a character that ends up becoming the hero at the end commit two murders kind of bothered me.

Dr. RENAULT'S SECRET is decent forties B horror film made people who cared about what they were making. It's not an unsung classic of the horror film genre, but it is worth viewing by people who can appreciate good old fashioned horror films.
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No Man's Land (I) (2001)
A memorable film.
20 February 2003
Two soldiers, one a Bosnian, the other a Serbian find themselves together in a trench that lies between both sides of the opposing forces lines. To complicate matters further, there is a third man first thought dead who comes to and is lying on top of a mine. An attempt to move him would instantly activate the mine and result in, well....KABOOM! Then the ineffective UN peace keepers arrive to decide what to do.

If I were a film studies teacher, the first rule I would instruct my students on how to judge a film is this; is this a film that one sits through with only mild interest and does it begin to fade from memory hours after one has seen it? Or does the film grab your interest and the next day after seeing it does one reflect on it? In the latter case it can be for a variety of reasons: a good performance(s), memorable photography or art direction, a frightening or exciting scene, or the events in the film are thought provoking. NO MANS LAND, while it has its faults, it is a thought provoking film. The film left me wondering what would I do in situation like this. The film also stands out because it is not afraid to slaughter sacred cows. The UN peace keeping force is accurately portrayed as an infective bureaucracy hindered operation more concerned about its public relations image then really doing something to bring peace to this war torn land. The film also takes a swipe at TV journalists in which a TV reporter named Jane Livingston projects an image as a crusading idealistic TV journalist but is only really interested in getting good footage to boost her networks ratings and career (much like most TV journalists in real life.)

NO MANS LAND has a few holes here and there (such as the two soldiers seem to recover from there wounds rather quickly) but is overall an effective and memorable film.
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Superman vs King Kong!
19 February 2003
While Clark and Lois are at an amusement park, the parks main attraction Gigantic the gorilla escapes and wrecks havoc. This a job for Superman! Superman helps the police round up the escaped animals and saves Lois from the clutches of Gigantic the gorilla.

Sort of "Superman vs King Kong" except the giant ape doesn't fall in love with Lois and take her atop the tallest building in Metropolis. What can be said about this entry in the Superman cartoon series can be said about the series as a whole; superb animation and art work, fast pace and action, and beautiful vivid technicolor. These forties Superman cartoons are highly recommended to those enjoy good cartoon animation.
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Tokio Jokio (1943)
A rant and a critic.
16 February 2003
Its a shame that in these politically correct times that many of these war time cartoons are difficult to locate due to censorship and those that are available are mostly poorly transferred video tapes from often less than pristine prints. Its great to see the Loonie Tunes gang (or Merrie Melodies as they were first called) enlisted to help the war effort. While these cartoons maybe considered "insulting", they were made when America was at war with Japan, Italy and Germany for @#&*%$ sake! Now if something like this was made today, yes it would be insulting, but when cartoons like this were made, those countries were out to wipe out the free world. Some people have called these depictions cruel. So what! To those people I must ask; cruel? Gas chambers, The Bataan Death March, The Nanking Massacre, throwing Ethiopians out of airplanes, not thats cruel! If you want to see cruel depictions, see some of the films produced in the Axis countries and how they depicted Jews, Poles, Slavs, Koreans and Chinese. What irks me today is that the elitist bunch in Hollywood is so reluctant to make films depicting the very group that is out to destroy us today. We have films and TV shows about terrorists today and who are the terrorists? Serbians, Nazi's (yes bringing back villains from over half a century ago!), pro-lifers, and just about everybody else Hollywood likes to bash or feels safe to bash except Islamist-fascists.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest lets discuss the film in question here. TOKIO JOKIO pokes fun at Japan and its allies in the form of what is suppose to be a news real from Tokyo. Unlike some of the other World War Two era propaganda cartoons from Warner Brothers, TOKIO JOKIO is not really all that funny. Most of the jokes seem forced; even at times just plain stupid. However, its an interesting history lesson with its depictions of Rudolph Hess, Lord Haw Haw, Tojo and Yamamoto.
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Obscure item is of mild interest.
14 February 2003
In this thriller now better known as GHOST OF RASHMON HAll, a British newly wed couple after searching in vain for a home of their own (remember this was made when there was a severe post war housing shortage in the U.K.) reluctantly buys an old mansion with a spooky history and moves in. Soon after moving in they encounter ghosts, poltergeists and other spooky goings on. A hundred years it seems the owner of the house's wife had an affair with a sailor, and when the affair was discovered, the wife and sailor were murdered. Realizing something must done, the husband brings in a doctor friend who is an expert on the the occult to rid the house of spirits.

This obscure, very low budget British item has some very creepy moments but suffers from stiff performances and crude production values. The film certainly looks as if it is a lot older than it is and seems to come from an era more remote than 1947. The film also has what is intended to be a surprise ending.
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Dismal, unconvincing 1930's thriller.
8 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING! DANGER! MAY CONTAIN SPOILER! I saw this film for the first time recently and for years the little I knew about REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES came from an article by the then teenage Joe Dante jr. titled "The Fifty Worst Horror Movies" in a 1960's issue of Famous Monsters Of Film Land. While I would not consider it the worst horror movie ever made, REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES is pretty bad; its dismal, confusing, and unconvincing. I was shocked to discover that this film was from the Halperin Brothers who had a few years before produced the creepy and stylish WHITE ZOMBIE with Bela Lugosi.

The film opens up with a platoon of zombie French Indo-Chinese troops fighting the Austrians in World War One. The tale of the zombie squad interests former French WW1 vet turned archaeologist Armand Louque. There is some confusing discussions about keeping the secret of creating zombies from the world and some cloak and dagger stuff involving a sneaky oriental scientist and a Cambodian mystic. When the woman Louque loves decides to marry another man, Louque searches to ruins of Angkor for the secret of creating Zombies. Discovering the secret,(the method is never really made clear) Louque turns his Cambodian servant, several of his colleagues and an entire platoon of French Indo-Chinese troops into zombies. All this happens very quickly as to make the viewer wonder if something has been left out. Anyway, creating zombies under his control is supposed to lure the woman he loves back into his arms. How creating a zombie army is supposed to help mend his love life is unclear - perhaps she goes for men with supernatural powers. Everyone seems only mildly annoyed with Louques new found skills - nobody seems to really consider the ramifications of Louque's new powers. Suddenly he gets pangs of guilt about what he is doing and releases the zombies from his control, which results in the revolt of the title wrapping things up all to quickly and neatly.

It's a shame that the Halperin brothers did not bring any of the flair or imagination they brought to WHITE ZOMBIE for REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES. The film plods along and then speeds up with everything happening so fast without explanation leaving the viewer confused and with the impression things were left out. About the only interest REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES has is its French Colonial setting and the presence of a very young Dean Jagger. His performance here is perfunctory and gives no indication of the fine actor he would later become. The best one can say about REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES is that it is undistinguished.
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Routine swashbuckling adventure.
5 February 2003
THE HELLFIRE CLUB is often wrongly sighted as a Hammer Films production probably because the film was written by Jimmy Sangster and features Peter Cushing in the cast. (I found this film on the Hammer Films shelf at my local video store.) In this adventure set in 1700's, Jason (Keith Mitchell) is driven out of his family estate after his mother is killed and raised by a band of circus performers. When Jason returns to claim his birthright as Lord of Netherden Castle, he discovers it has been taken over by his evil cousin Thomas (Peter Arne) who is a member of the nefarious 18th century secret society The Hellfire Club. With much Errol Flynn style derring do and a capture and an escape, Jason is able to rightfully claim his birthright and expose an evil conspiracy against the crown by the French and the wicked noblemen of The Hellfire Club.

Despite The Hellfire Clubs reputation (the real life secret society, not the film) for depravity and debauchery, mostly what we see of it in the film is pretty tame, even by 1960 standards. The orgy sequence that includes several scantly clad buxom babes in harem outfits is done tongue in cheek and looks as if the films makers were spoofing a harem sequence from some Maria Montez Arabian knights epic. Keith Mitchell as Jason is a bit stiff at times but he performs the sometimes cartoonish heroics convincingly. Peter Cushing is fine as usual in a rather small role as Merryweather. The film has nice production values and moves at a good pace, but overall THE HELLFIRE CLUB is just another movie.
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