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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
THE DANCE OF REALITY (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 2013) ***, 26 July 2014

Anyone interested in cult movies must have heard of Chilean artist Alejandro Jodorowsky – even if, during his 57 year association with the cinema so far, he has only delivered two shorts and seven feature films. With my open-air viewing of his latest effort, I have now watched all of them…having just caught up with the quirky LA CRAVATE (1957), the irritating TEATRO SIN FIN (1965), the exotic adventure TUSK (1980) and even the engrossing feature-length documentary JODOROWSKY'S DUNE (2013). As things stand now, I can divide Jodorowosky's filmography into three symmetrical groups: admirable (EL TOPO {1970}, SANTA SANGRE {1989} and, happily, THE DANCE OF REALITY), enjoyable (LA CRAVATE, TUSK, THE RAINBOW THIEF {1990}) and loathsome (TEATRO SIN FIN, FANDO AND LIS {1968}, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN {1973})…

It is not an unknown occurrence in movies that a respected artist takes an inordinately long hiatus from the medium: David Lean, Sergio Leone and Stanley Kubrick are perhaps the most egregious examples…but Jodorowsky's 23 years is probably the lengthiest sabbatical yet! Although he had been threatening to make a sequel to EL TOPO for the last decade – his screenplay of THE SONS OF EL TOPO was even glimpsed sitting on the man's shelves in the aforementioned "Dune" documentary! – it is perhaps unsurprising that it took the now-85-year-old Jodorowsky's most personal project, an adaptation of his own autobiography, to lure him back to the cinema (even if that only came about as a result of a reteaming with his DUNE producer Michel Seydoux). Equally plausible is the fact that, for a man with such a long and varied career, one film would not be enough to tell his whole life-story and, as his young son Adan said in the Q&A which followed the film's screening, Alejandro is currently working on the second installment! I, for one, am looking forward to it…

In keeping with the autobiographical nature of the film, his oldest son Brontis (who played the child in EL TOPO) has the lead role here of Jodorowsky's strict businessman father, Cristobal plays a Buddhist mystic who runs around practically naked, Adan plays a long-haired, bespectacled anarchist and Alejandro himself appears as the ruminating guardian angel of his put-upon younger self! Although I would be the first one to admit that I much prefer the Luis Buñuel brand of Surrealism rather than the self-indulgent obscurantist style propagated by the likes of Federico Fellini, Fernando Arrabal (Jodorowsky's own partner in his "Panic" movement days) and David Lynch (the director who ultimately brought DUNE to the big-screen, albeit disastrously, in 1984!), I have to say that sitting through the not unsubstantial 130-minute duration of THE DANCE OF REALITY made me realize that even Jodorowsky's most outre' ideas in his previous films might well have had their seeds in his troubled childhood in the desert Chilean village of Tocopilla.

The film can be roughly divided into three segments: the first part concentrates on the boy's physical and mental abuse at the hands of his Ukranian-Jewish father (including vignettes involving red shoes and the fire brigade); the second on the father's ineffectual political activities (including an amusing failed assassination attempt at a best-dressed dog contest and a lengthy episode as the Chilean dictator's horse groomer); and, finally, the prodigal father's return homeward (after suffering from a bout of amnesia following much torture at the hands of the tyrannical regime). The father (incidentally, Brontis' appearance here turns him into a virtual dead ringer for Hollywood actor Peter Sarsgaard!) had been a circus performer and is portrayed as a staunch atheistic Communist, the mother only communicates in operatic arias and the young boy is seen sporting a blonde wig at the latter's insistence (in emulation of her own father's mane) and the former's chagrin. While berating his son for looking effeminate and mingling with the local mystics and mutilated soldiers-turned-paupers, Jodorowsky Sr. is shown consorting with whores, transvestites and political subversives in his weekly night-time trysts to the local tavern.

As can be gleaned from a cursory glance at the storyline and as was to be expected from this director, despite the reflective and occasionally even pastoral mood that permeates the proceedings, the film cannot fail but include a surfeit of full-frontal nudity which result in a couple of strong scenes: both father and mother get to shed their clothes but, instead of using it during scenes of sexual activity, the elder Jodorowsky shows his father being humiliated and tortured, himself as a young boy being comforted by his stark-naked, big-breasted mum and the latter miraculously healing her leprosy–stricken husband by urinating on him!! In such a godless environment (where religious relics are dumped into the toilet bowl), even horses can become objects of desire as the Chilean leader is depicted metaphorically having a virtual orgasm while astride his white-maned Bucephalus and, consequently, it is the latter who gets poisoned instead of its owner who is in turn devastated by the loss! The director's typically skewed sense of humour, then, is evident in the recurring presence of a midget barker, forever donning outlandish costumes, in an attempt to draw crowds to Jodorowsky's lingerie shop - but which are mostly unappreciated by his irascible employer!

While the occasional longueur does make itself felt (particularly during the second half), the film moves at a surprisingly breezy pace thanks to a compelling narrative and one is certainly thankful for it – especially considering the feature film started screening at around 10:00 p.m.! Jodorowsky's visual artistry is as sharp as ever and one barely realizes that the movie was shot on digital. Adan Jodorowsky's score is definitely an asset and, when asked about what inspired him to write it during the following Q&A session, he mentioned not just his father's self-penned music for EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN but also the works of legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann!

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
THE VOICE THIEF {Short} (Adan Jodorowsky, 2013) **1/2, 26 July 2014

This year's "Kinemastik Short Film Festival" – a yearly event organized over here in Malta now in its tenth edition – screened this second directorial effort from Alejandro Jodorowsky's youngest son Adan (actually the frontman of a band named Adanowsky) at an open-air venue. A local film-buff friend of mine – whom I knew to be a much bigger fan of the elder Chilean artist than myself – proposed that I attend with my twin brother and we readily accepted…especially in view of the fact that the 35-year old director would be in attendance and the event was being followed by the screening of his father's latest opus, THE DANCE OF REALITY (2013)!

As it happens, Alejandro wrote the story (adapted by Adan himself) that inspired the 22-minute short under review and his influence – both visually and thematically – is all over THE VOICE THIEF. The simple plot focuses on a failed opera singer (Asia Argento) who loses her voice following an attempted strangulation by her husband (Cristobal Jodorowsky) and the latter's efforts to rekindle the former's career by stealing the vocal chords of a disparate array of singers he meets during his nightly Parisian strolls. Apart from SANTA SANGRE (1989; unsurprising due to the Argento connection), the narrative reminds one of Georges Franju's masterpiece EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960; which itself spawned countless imitations over the years) and, in two early sequences – where Cristobal (surrounded by a clutch of naked blonde critics animatedly scribbling their reviews!) is the only one applauding at his wife's disastrous debut and the openly hostile couple are seated at the opposite ends of a long dinner-table – even Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE (1941)!

I guess it would not be a Jodorowsky film without midgets, transvestites and mystics and, indeed, the three victims picked up by Cristobal during the course of the film come in those very varieties. Likewise, the assorted grotesqueries on display here are par for the course: the husband sodomizes a male dwarf while in the guise of a little girl and asks 'her' to sing for him as he does so in the presence of the latter's blind grandmother!; a burly, cross-dressing baritone singer is first introduced taking a massive urinary leak in public!!; finally, Cristobal comes across a sweaty crowd leering at a saintly young female singer dressed up in the Madonna's garb who repays their admiration by offering her holy urine to drink!!! The twist in the tale is that Asia also takes on the appearance of her victims after inhaling their vocal chords from the jar her husband carries around with him. At the end of the film, we see a crowd of people kneeling in adoration inside a church dedicated to the embalmed forms of Argento and Jodorowsky! As if what was actually happening in the story was not weird enough, we are also regaled with Symbolism in the form of images showing Asia giving birth to a slithering snake and a sheep (standing-in for Argento, as Adan helpfully explained in the subsequent Q&A session) mounting a man!!

Actually, in the build-up to the main event, I had just watched Adan's previous short film ECHEK (2000) – an amusing 4-minute piece about a macho man's efforts to impress a female casual acquaintance by trying to topple the Eiffel tower down and the opposition he encounters from the local cognoscenti! – on "You Tube" (it is also included in the Anchor Bay UK of SANTA SANGRE, which I do not own).

THE ROAD TO FORT ALAMO (Mario Bava, 1964) **1/2, 19 July 2014

This is my second time watching the first of Bava's infrequent (and most atypical) ventures into Western territory. Coming at the start of the genre's idiosyncratic "Euro" (and, in the long run, highly influential) overhaul, it obviously feels the least like your typical "Spaghetti" Western – even if, truth be told, MINNESOTA CLAY from the same year (on which Bava is reputed to have worked but which is credited to one of the formula's undisputed masters i.e. Sergio Corbucci) is more successful in this regard!

Anyway, the movie under review is considered among Bava's minor efforts – and rightly so; yet, it is nowhere near as bad as some make it out to be and, to my mind, preferable to his comedy-oriented last entry in the field, namely ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK (1970; with which, as it happens, I will be re-acquainting myself presently). As I said, the film mainly looks to the American model – albeit following its more routine examples – for inspiration, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Interestingly, Bava starts off proceedings with an inconsequential 'prologue' (featuring favourite "Euro-Cult" villain Gerard Herter) involving a crooked card game and an amusingly sleepy bartender. Rugged (and immensely hirsute) hero Ken Clark – who would return for the recently rewatched SAVAGE GRINGO (1966), which Bava helmed albeit without credit – is a Southern landowner who lost everything to a Northern onslaught during the Civil War, and whom he now plans to get back at by posing as a Union officer and 'withdraw' a cache of money from the bank destined to the enemy forces! Unluckily for him, the associates he picks up for the job – led by another familiar face, Michel Lemoine – prove greedy and leave him and his closest ally for dead…or, more precisely, at the mercy of the marauding Osage Indians!

Eventually, the two men are saved by a Southern Army wagon train bound for the titular outpost so that they are forced to keep up the military disguise; ironically, they are soon joined by Lemoine himself, the sole survivor of the renegade gang who also had a brush with the redskins but is still in possession of half the stolen sum. Clark, whose uniform bears the higher rank, now delights in rubbing his treacherous ex-partner the wrong way – but, in fact, neither has given up on the loot and each intends making off separately with it at some point. However, the Osage come down en masse on the small unit (which includes a by-the-book Colonel, a wily Second-in-Command soon in on Clark's ruse but willing to keep it to himself, the priggish wife of the Colonel at the fort and even a female prisoner – earthy redhead Jany Clair naturally comes to fall for the brawny charms of, and senses a misfit kinship with, our protagonist – being escorted there for trial) and they have to stay on and fight it out! A nice touch has the Indians make flower arrangements via the 'confiscated' paper money (which to them is useless) and send them floating down river in order to lure avaricious soldiers out into the open and slay them; this idea then comes into play again at the inevitable showdown between Clark and Lemoine.

While Bava was clearly ill-at-ease within this particular genre (unflatteringly billed in this instance as John Old), here at least he incorporates his recognizable colour palette to effective use; Carlo Savina's score, then, includes the token ballad warbled over the opening credits and, surprisingly, cues which bear an uncanny resemblance to those composed for the soundtrack of the 1957 Mexi-Horror classic THE VAMPIRE!

LAST OF THE VIKINGS (Giacomo Gentilomo and, uncredited, Mario Bava, 1961) **1/2, 10 July 2014

With this, I start a clutch of reviews in honour of Mario Bava's centenary; I plan to watch a comprehensive marathon of his vast (and often uncredited) body of work – incidentally, virtually the only title I will be missing out on is the similar ATTACK OF THE NORMANS (1962), which I own solely on VHS recorded off Italian TV but whose tape I have been unable to track down in time! As it happens, I have a comparable copy of the film under review (with which it shares leading man Cameron Mitchell) – but, for this second viewing, I opted to check out the English-dubbed version off "You Tube"…which was not so bad as these things go, despite having to make do with washed-out colours and rampant panning-and-scanning!

Anyway, the movie was not only Mitchell's debut European venture (which, among others, led to as many as six collaborations with Bava) but the first of several "Norse operas" to emerge from Italy, clearly in the wake of the classic Hollywood spectacle THE VIKINGS (1958) – belying the film's very title, which generally implies (but is seldom the case, if ever) that a definitive statement was intended! Among those that came after it were two by Bava and with Mitchell himself, namely ERIK THE CONQUEROR (from the same year) and KNIVES OF THE AVENGER (1966). Interestingly, another offshoot "series" of THE VIKINGS dealt with various fighting people (such as Mongols and Tartars) that included not only the above-mentioned ATTACK OF THE NORMANS but THE COSSACKS (1960) as well – which had Edmund Purdom for villain and who reprises the same duties here, albeit in far more caricatured (read: scenery-chewing) terms! Indeed, the script seems to suffer from undigested gobs of Shakespeare – as Purdom's evil Scandinavian king was clearly modeled on Richard III, while a supporting character is egged on by his ambitious wife towards laying claim to the Viking throne a' la "Macbeth" and Mitchell himself displays a Hamlet-like tendency towards dragging of feet in exacting his vengeance! Plotting is otherwise quite routine (a revenge-seeking hero, impersonation, a romance that runs less than smoothly, betrayal, torture, the inevitable righting of wrongs, and what have you) but this type of crowd-pleasing fare is hardly expected to be anything more.

That said, the movie is certainly enjoyable thanks as much to the always welcome genre trappings (in the form of the vivid medieval atmosphere, a handful of violent skirmishes, the Vikings' rowdy behavior and lusty disposition, etc.) as the inferred histrionic approach (with even Mitchell – prone to calling Purdom's royal "Schven" – and younger sibling Giorgio Ardisson – the two would play unknowing twins in the subsequent ERIK THE CONQUEROR – tending to ham it up!). I would imagine that the latter picture, over which Bava had greater control, was the better overall effort but, really, none of the director's peplums constitute major achievements, let alone masterpieces! Amusingly, the Viking call sounded on the horn here felt awfully familiar to my ears – and I would not be surprised if it were lifted outright for ERIK itself!

SPINE TINGLER!: THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY (Jeffrey Schwarz, 2007) ***, 2 May 2014

This 80-odd-minute award-winning tribute to the enterprising cult Hollywood film-maker was included in Columbia's box set dedicated to him released in 2009 which repackaged some of his already existing films on DVD plus debuting some of his rarer stuff; being already the owner of the majority of these, I did not spring for the collection myself and proceeded to acquire this documentary likewise from ulterior sources. In fact, I finished off my 20-title celebration of the great man's centenary with this very item; having just watched the PSYCHETTE: WILLIAM CASTLE AND "HOMICIDAL" featurette from 2002 – included on that film's disc, I realized that not only do they share the same director, but that segments from that 8-minute short were incorporated into the later feature-length look at Castle's life and work.

While most of his more celebrated collaborators have passed on (Vincent Price, Joan Crawford) or declined to appear (Roman Polanski), there is still an impressive gallery of talking heads waxing their genuine enthusiasm for the late cinematic showman: directors John Badham, Budd Boetticher (who himself died back in 2001!), Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon, John Landis, Fred Olen Ray, Jeannot Szwarc and John Waters, actors Diane Baker, Darryl Hickman and Marcel Marceau, historians Forrest Ackerman, Bob Burns, David Del Valle, Donald F. Glut, Leonard Maltin and Bob Thomas. Although there are some good pre-fame stories – notably desecrating his own theatre and passing it off as Nazi retribution at the start of WWII; meeting with George Stevens in a bar which led to his first Hollywood job as a dialogue director on the Cary Grant drama PENNY SERENADE (1941); and his being hired as an assistant director on Orson Welles' THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948) after getting bypassed for direction – regrettably his generic stint at Columbia under the aegis of producer Sam Katzman is very quickly dealt with and his best film from this early period, the Robert Mitchum/Kim Hunter-starring noir WHEN STRANGERS MARRY aka BETRAYED (1944) does not rate a mention at all.

Once we reach his career-altering departure with MACABRE (1958) early on, at least we are taken in some detail into the production of each of his gimmick-led films up till LET'S KILL UNCLE (1966)…but, again, the quintet of outright comedies he made during this phase of his career are completely neglected! The highlight here is hearing about Castle's having to submit to Joan Crawford's every whim on the set of STRAIT- JACKET (1964)! Luckily, I have just acquired a copy of Castle's own memoirs, "Step Right Up: I'm Going To Scare The Pants Off America!" and, hopefully, they will shed some light as to what made him decide to change pace when he had discovered a successful formula after having been denied recognition for so long. Needless to say, the almost inevitable rivalry between Castle and his self-confessed idol Alfred Hitchcock is alluded to and we get to see several personal appearance the director made in the theatrical trailers and screenings of his own movies – not to mention get to listen to his own voice during what seem to be radio interviews.

Apart from the obvious reason of the audiences' changing tastes, I had often wondered why Castle's directorial career suddenly seemed to peter out at the tail end of the 1960s and I never knew that the curse of ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) – that proved fatal to its Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda and, obviously, Mrs. Roman Polanski herself, Sharon Tate – was also to blame for Castle's semi-retirement as he was struck down with a life-threatening ailment…having already been disappointed in being replaced by the much younger auteur! By the time, he went back work, his brand of horror was passé and he only managed to produce a short-lived TV series GHOST STORY (1972-3) – which again is almost entirely omitted here – and the improbably intriguing BUG (1975). Amusingly, director Szwarc decries the fact that his film's box office chances were demolished by its being released on the same day as JAWS… but he fails to mention that he got the lucrative assignment of helming its first sequel 3 years later! Thankfully, famous mime Marceau appears here to reminisce about working with Castle on what proved to be his last and finest directorial achievement, the utterly unique concoction SHANKS (1974) – a legitimate home video release of which is elusive to this day. Ultimately, this emerges an entertaining, affectionate and illuminating portrait of a beloved Hollywood personality and, while it also sees the participation of his surviving family members, the film-makers here unwisely elected to finish off with them clowning for the camera...

Supernatural: THE WEREWOLF REUNION {TV} (Simon Langton, 1977) ***, 2 May 2014

In my last Halloween marathon, I had unwittingly watched what proved only the first half of a two-part episode in the British TV horror series SUPERNATURAL; at the time, I knew these would soon be officially released on DVD – but it took me this long to catch up with the remaining narrative (which, as it happened, came hot on the heels of a handful of entries from the similar GHOST STORY aka CIRCLE OF FEAR {1972-3})! While there was a recap with respect to "Countess Ilona" at the start of its continuation here, I still pretty much recalled what had gone on before anyway: while two of the male protagonists (gourmet arms dealer Ian Hendry and erotomane doctor Charles Kay) are featured in both parts, musical virtuoso John Fraser only appears in the first, whereas ruthless politician Edward Hardwicke only turns up in the latter section. Still, all four fall victim to the titular monster – which rather renders the whole repetitive, and it is doubly disappointing because the werewolf is never actually seen (apart from a flickering shadow at the very end, his movements being otherwise depicted via POV shots accompanied by heavy breathing), no doubt on account of the limited resources at its makers' disposal! Still, the high level of acting involved (including, of course, leading lady Billie Whitelaw), the irresistible Hammer-like period style, and the engaging Mystery approach to its central theme ensures another 50 minutes of solid chills and overall good fun. Typically, one final twist is reserved for the framework story set inside an elite upper-class society: it is suggested that the man (Sandor Eles) recounting the violent and eerie goings-on of many years previously may well be not only Whitelaw's grown-up son – with, as a tell-tale sign, their shared predilection for candied fruit – but also the by-now dead lycanthrope's own offspring…

Riot (1969)
RIOT (Buzz Kulik, 1969) **1/2, 2 May 2014

I realized in time for his centenary tribute that this tense jailbreak thriller was produced by William Castle; the film does not have much of a reputation, however, and is perhaps most notable for being one of a number of transitory parts for Gene Hackman between his acquiring fame in BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) and stardom via THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) – another such effort, THE SPLIT (1968), had partnered him with Jim Brown (who also assumes the leading role here). Indeed, Hackman's superiority in the acting stakes – despite essentially playing second- fiddle to ex-American Football luminary Brown – in comparison to the other participants (more on this later) is palpable throughout. Having said that, Gerald S. O'Loughlin is initially set out as the prisoners' chief nemesis but his contribution gradually diminishes once the titular event takes centre-stage.

The movie is basically an updated and more brutal version of earlier prison dramas, the obvious prototype being Don Siegel's noir classic RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (1954). What is interesting in this case is that the riot is borne out of an attempted mass escape of the isolation division; when the latter is foiled, mastermind Hackman decides to buy some time – ostensibly negotiating system reforms with the authorities on the outside (as it happens, the fearsome warden has chosen this precise moment to take a break!) – while a tunnel is being laboriously dug from under the auditorium to freedom just past the walls of the vast compound!! Incidentally, Castle is to be commended for shooting this in an authentic Arizona correctional facility – with not only the real-life warden filling his respective shoes within the narrative (I wonder whether he was aware of how unsympathetically his office was being depicted!) but also a number of the convicts themselves!!

As I said, the film features a number of contemporary trappings which, frankly, do it (and even more so the genre involved) no more than a disservice – notably a substance-fuelled party by the inmates, with a handful of them in drag so as to titillate their 'colleagues'; one of them even invites coloured macho Brown to his cell, but he obviously backs off (preferring to envision a clutch of bikini-clad 'sisters' in the movie's one scene with female presences, drooling over him)! Similarly over-the-top are the actions of a wacky knife-happy Indian who constantly antagonizes Brown, and whom Hackman needs tagging along in order to supply guidance in their eventual flight to Mexico…only to have his throat memorably slit by him at their very moment of glory (many of the intended fugitives had already been routed by the shrewd warden)! Among the assets, then, are the pristine DVD-sourced look and Krzysztof Komeda's unusual score (albeit backed by a recurring wistful ballad that acts as Brown's theme tune), the esteemed Polish composer's last effort prior to his untimely tragic death – and which ties the picture with Castle's much more distinguished production ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968).

Ghost Story: THE PHANTOM OF HERALD SQUARE {TV} (James H. Brown, 1973) **1/2, 2 May 2014

After 13 episodes featuring Sebastian Cabot introducing tales of the supernatural from Mansfield House, William Castle's "Ghost Story" not only dropped this device but also saw its title changed to CIRCLE OF FEAR (lasting for a further 9 weeks)!; by then, apart from Richard Matheson, former Hammer Films scribe Jimmy Sangster (now relocated to Hollywood) had been roped in as Story Consultant – and, in fact, he personally co-wrote this particular and rather misleadingly-named entry which effectively brought the enjoyable series to an abrupt close. What we have here is a Dorian Gray-type narrative in which an old man (Victor Jory) sells his soul – to a sinister (albeit fictional) company a' la John Frankenheimer's SECONDS (1966), whose director is continually spying on his clients via a telescope and has goons follow them around to ensure they abide by their contract! – in order to regain a youthful appearance (under the guise of David Soul)…only he is able to obtain this 'service' by making a succession of women fall for him and drain their own energy (thus making them old before their time)! The thing is that every night he reverts to his real age – by which time he has become weary of the situation and simply wants to die…so that he deliberately terrorizes his own young self's latest conquest into leaving him and save herself! She obviously does not understand, nor does she suspect the truth (even if he constantly excuses himself so as not to spend the night with her), and is further confused whenever an elderly woman approaches her lover in the street and, vehemently dismissed by him every time, eventually commits suicide! One night, however, he does stay on and 'turns' before her very eyes (effectively rendered in the dark – and it helps that Jory and Soul actually have similar physiognomies); ultimately, he has his contract fixed: apparently harbouring genuine affection for his current girlfriend, the protagonist chooses to end his misery by his own hand and, in this way, averts a cruel and unwitting fate for his art student lover. A definite low-point here, though, is an incongruous and recurring love song employed for the couple's deceptively idyllic meetings.

Ghost Story: AT THE CRADLE FOOT {TV} (Don McDougall, 1972) ***, 2 May 2014

This is the best entry in the series I watched in tribute to its creator William Castle; the plot is certainly the most original and intriguing and, incredibly enough, somewhat predates James Cameron's THE TERMINATOR (1984) by a decade. A man (James Franciscus) is estranged from his wife (Elizabeth Ashley) over what she deems the excessive attention he gives to tragic premonitions received via recurrent nightmares. Though Franciscus had failed to save his father, he determines not to repeat the same error with his little daughter – and, in this case, manages to get Ashley involved as well (she even begins to have visions of her own!). The event that he witnesses this time around is his girl's death (shot while riding a horse in a carousel!) in the distant future – at the hands of a young man who, as it turns out, has yet to be born…so he has a hard time preventing the murderer's would-be parents from getting hitched!! What he tries to do, in fact, is seduce the boy's mother (Meg Foster from Laurence Harvey's WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH {1974}) away from her fiancé – even if it means Ashley has to witness the 'affair'! This seems to work because the prospective husband confronts them on the point of jointly leaving town and, in a tussle for his gun, ends up killed by Franciscus! The irony is that Foster is already pregnant…yet Ashley persuades her former hubby to spare her and, by extension, the baby too – arguing that the incident has brought the couple back together again, so the best they could hope for is to reshape their daughter's grown-up life! The title refers to a quotation imprinted over the entrance of the local courthouse – where Franciscus first sees the trial of his daughter's killer, but is then himself arraigned over the death of that same man's dad! An amusing idea during the prophetic passages – lifted outright, incidentally, from Castle's own comic fantasy ZOTZ! (1962) – involves a slowed-down soundtrack whenever the characters speak.

GHOST STORY: CRY OF THE CAT {TV} (Arnold Laven, 1972) **1/2, 1 May 2014

This is the second entry I watched from the titular fantasy series – actually following the third in the original scheduling chronology, which I acquired after I had already checked this one out! – produced by affable showman film-maker William Castle; as with the two remaining episodes, I only came across this via a segmented copy on "You Tube"...unlike the series pilot, which was a 'full video'! Although director Laven had infrequently tackled the genre before (notably helming THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD and producing THE VAMPIRE within the same year, 1957, both with effective results), I suspect he was chosen for this one on the strength of his expertise in the Western field.

Indeed, here we have a star rodeo rider (Doug McClure) returning with a mysterious bride (Lauri Peters) and, for whose blind devotion, he ends up alienating his former flame (Mariette Hartley) and mentor, now reduced to dressing up as a clown to amuse the crowds (Jackie Cooper). The thing is that the new lady is the daughter of Cooper's own ex-lover… whom he had been forced to kill after she metamorphosed into a cougar and attacked him; he fears Peters will take after her, which McClure obviously dismisses. However, whenever the hero is thrown by the animals he mounts (be it an ox or his horse – instinctively mistrusting Peters' feline nature), these are subsequently found with their throats slashed! A male cougar known to be in the vicinity is targeted for the deeds, but it is actually following Peters around, the latter being its female counterpart!

Anyway, after Hartley is herself assaulted and McClure fails to take a pot-shot at the she-cat (for fear it may really be his wife), he decides to heed her advice and leave for his ranch – where she asks him to chain her in the barn for the night (a' la Lawrence Talbot in the Universal "Wolf Man" franchise!), while he has to force himself from listening first to her pleas and, then, her animal growls. Just when he decides to go after the male, which might help Peters from 'turning', Hartley and Cooper pay the couple a visit – the latter lays traps for the ultimate kill, but the former is duped into believing that McClure himself has grown unreasonable when she sees the shackled Peters and frees the woman…thus unwittingly also sending her romantic rival to meet with an inevitable destiny.

As can be seen, this is essentially CAT PEOPLE (1942) all over again, without the psychology or the noir stylistics that producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur had instilled into their similarly modest but infinitely superior effort! Perhaps the worst that can be attributed to this one is that Peters is not only, to my mind, less attractive than Hartley (which begs the question of what did McClure see in her in the first place) but she is intermittently made to display an inhuman tick which is positively ludicrous! Otherwise, as before, the episode is certainly harmless and not unentertaining for what it sets out to be.

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