The Batman (2022) – A Science Fiction – Fantasy Movie Review

Last night I went to go see the “The Batman” with my two older grandsons.  We hadn’t gone to the movies since before the whole COVID mess and I figured with them on Easter vacation from school it was now or never.  They’d heard good things about the movie.  I was skeptical about it because Batman was being played by Robert Pattinson.  And I remember he’d been the actor in those lame Twilight vampire movies that teenage girls were so excited about a while ago.  But I figured it would still be fun hanging out with these descendants of mine.

So, we met up after their work hours.  These two guys are working on their holiday and doing nine hours a day of manual labor.  I told them I was embarrassed that I never had the work ethic they have at that age.  I drove to the nearest cineplex for the last night of the movie’s run.  But I wasn’t familiar with the town or mall it was in, so I was amazed to see that the mall was almost completely empty.  All the biggest chain stores like Macy’s and Target were vacated and even most of the smaller stores were boarded up.  It felt like we were walking onto the set of a zombie movie.  There were barely a dozen people walking around in the mall at 6:45 at night.  The theater was empty except for the ticket seller, popcorn girl and the ticket taker.  It was pretty creepy.  But they still got their popcorn and drinks.

The plot of the movie revolves around the familiar scenario of Bruce Wayne acting as an avenging angel stalking the streets of Gotham City fighting against organized (and disorganized) crime as the caped crusader.  In this iteration James Gordon is a police lieutenant who has teamed up with Batman to allow the city to benefit from Batman’s vigilante activities.  The current crime spree is a series of high-level city government officials being murdered by the Riddler.  The mayor, police commissioner and district attorney are murdered gruesomely and their killings are videotaped by the Riddler and shared with the public on-line.  The Riddler highlights the corrupt activities of the men he’s murdered and announces that he will be “unmasking” the full depths of the partnership between organized crime and the present city administration.

Batman starts following clues that the Riddler provides specifically for him.  And in the investigation, he meets up with Selena who has her own secret identity as the Catwoman.  They become romantically involved, sort of, and together they discover the link between Batman’s father and the crime boss Carmine Falcone (played ably by John Turturro).  We find out that Falcone is also Selena’s father.   Mixed up in Falcone’s vice trades like drugs and prostitution is Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot also known as the Penguin.  The Penguin ends up shedding light on the origins of Falcone’s control of City Hall.  The details of this old history illuminate the basis for the Riddler’s campaign of vengeance against the city’s power brokers including Bruce Wayne.  By the end of the movie, it’s clear what the Riddler was up to but it isn’t in time to prevent a plot to blow up the sea wall that keeps the river out of Gotham’s downtown.  And it also barely allows the foiling of a massacre at a political rally being held for the reform candidate running for mayor.

Of course, Batman must almost single-handedly prevent thirty, gun wielding acolytes of the Riddler from shooting Gotham’s citizens like they were literally fish in a barrel.  But in doing so he learns that his negative role as a vigilante seeking vengeance is too limited to help save Gotham City.  And that he must become also a positive force to help people survive the mayhem all around them.

So, what did I think?  Well first of all, this movie is almost three hours long.  That’s really long.  And the movie is unrelentingly bleak.  Bruce Wayne in the few scenes when he is not Batman looks almost suicidal.  There are no lighter moments in this movie at all.  There is a grittier and uglier feel to this movie than, for instance, in Nolan’s Dark Knight movies.   On the other hand, the action scenes are very well done.  This Batman apparently has a much more capable armor than the Dark Knight had.  He is blasted by machine guns and even a shot gun and not only survives but doesn’t even show any damage to his suit.  And a chase scene on a crowded expressway is pretty spectacular, even if absurdly unrealistic.  On the negative side, Selena does utter the phrase “white privilege” at one point which annoyed me mightily.  But on the whole the movie is an effective and enjoyable Batman movie.  I recommend it to fans of the genre.

Leaving the theater, we were the only people in the huge mall except for a guard who escorted us to the only door still open in the building.  Our car was the only vehicle in this enormous parking lot and as we walked through the eerily empty space, we reflected on its resemblance to some of the darker corners of Gotham City that we had recently visited.  We spent the long ride home discussing the pros and cons of the film and all decided that it had been a worthwhile expedition.  I got them home an hour later than I had estimated and their parents told me of the unbelievably early hour they had to get up for work the next morning.  I felt awful getting them home so late but the boys still claimed it was worth it.  Score one for nonconsecutive generational male bonding.  Now, bring on the great grandsons.

Dune, Part 1; A Very Short Discussion of the Movie – A Science Fiction Movie Review

 

In November of 2021 Neil Dunn wrote an excellent review of Dune part 1.  Now that I’ve finally seen the movie, I can definitively say that his review was wholly accurate.  Let me qualify my comments by stating up front that I have inexplicably avoided reading the Dune books most of my life.  And now I am ready to amend that situation.

As I said this will be short.  The movie is a stylish and well-made science fiction film that uses the current state of the art in computer-generated imagery to great effect.  The battle scenes, the space ships and the creatures such as the sand worms are all impressively realistic.

The actors are very good.  With only a couple of familiar faces I was still highly impressed by the cast.  The plot was kept moving and the tension between the family dynamics and the political struggle was well done.

Read Neil’s review for a more in-depth and authoritative look at the story.   But as a new comer to the Dune universe I will gladly recommend this film to all fans of science fiction and more generally, to anyone who likes a good adventure film.

The Fly (1958) – A Science Fiction Movie Review

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Andre and François Delambre are two brothers who own a technology company.  Andre is a genius and he is working on a teleportation machine.  He shows it to his wife Helene but she notes that the machine still has some problems.  When Andre thinks the machine is perfected, he tries to teleport his cat but it disappears.  Finally, after much work, he shows his wife that it can teleport a guinea pig successfully.  Next, he plans to teleport himself.

The next day Andre’s little son catches a fly with a white head in the garden with his butterfly net.  Helene makes him release it.  When Andre does not appear for dinner Helene goes down to his laboratory.  But the door is locked and Helene finds a typewritten letter from Andre saying his experiment has gone awry.  A fly entered into the chamber and during the teleportation the fly got a human arm and head and Andre got the head and leg of a fly.  He could still think like a human but he was finding his mind slipping away.  He tells Helene to catch the fly so that he can go through the teleporter with it and hopefully return to normal.  They catch the fly but it escapes again.  Andre despairs and tells Helene (through writing on a blackboard) that he will destroy his dangerous machine and his notes.  And he wants to die so he tells Helene to assist him by crushing his head and arm in the hydraulic press in his lab to destroy the evidence of his horrible accident.  She agrees.  After helping her husband to suicide she calls her brother-in-law François (played by Vincent Price) who calls police inspector Charas.  When they arrive, Helene tells them how she killed her husband.  Later on, after much coaxing she tells them the story of the fly.  But they assume she has gone mad.  Inspector Charas gets a warrant for her arrest for murder.  But just before she is taken away Andre’s son tells François that he has found the fly in a spider’s web.  François calls Charas to the web and they see the fly with its human head and hand and hear it cry for help as the spider comes to devour it.  Charas crushes the spider and its victim with a rock and is horrified by the reality of Helene’s story.  Charas and François figure a story involving Andre’s suicide to protect Helene.  The movie ends with François assuming the guardianship over Andre’s wife and son.

I saw this movie as a child on tv.  And then, as now, the big scene in this movie is the spider web scene.  The pathetic little voice coming out of the haggard face of the fly is horrifying as we see the enormously magnified head of the spider come closer and closer to the poor trapped fly.  The other notable scene is where Helene pulls off the hood hiding Andre’s head and we see his repulsive fly face.  It’s kind of hard to see it.  It seemed out of focus but it was reasonably hideous and Helene screams to very good effect.  The only decent acting was done by the police inspector.  The rest of the cast acted their lines but no Academy Awards were earned.  Vincent Price gave his usual over the top delivery.  One surprise for me was that the actor who played Andre was David Hedison and I recognized him as the captain on the 1960’s television series “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” about a US Navy submarine that was always bumping into giant squid and other under sea monsters.  This movie is for connoisseurs of campy giant insect sci-fi films.  It’s not as good as “Them!” but it’s still fun for fans of this type of movie.

Alien (1979) – A Science Fiction Movie Review

I watched the movie Alien today for the first time since I saw it back in 1979.  Some things surprised me about the movie but the general impression is much as I remember it.  Luckily, the most annoying thing about the movie as I remembered it, the wildly varying sound levels used as a weapon against those with intact ear drums, was under my direct control thanks to the volume button.

I won’t give a detailed synopsis since everyone knows the plot.  I’ll describe it as follows.  An Earth space ship, the Nostromo, is travelling to Earth with a large cargo of ore.  The crew is awakened to investigate a message beacon coming from a nearby planetoid.  On it they find an ancient space ship with a long dead creature that seems to have died when something exploded out of its chest.  They discover a chamber that contains what look like eggs.  One of the eggs opens up and a crab-like creature smashes through the spacesuit helmet of one of the crew (played by John Hurt) and attaches itself to his face.  Later on, back at the ship the creature detaches from the crewman’s face and wanders off to die.  The crewman is seemingly unharmed but a few hours later a small somewhat humanoid creature erupts out of the crewman’s chest killing him.  The creature which is about a foot tall runs off into the ship and the crew goes on a search to find it and throw it out into space.

Somehow the creature increases in size until it’s about seven feet tall and spends the rest of the movie killing off the rest of the crew.  Finally, the only one left is Warrant Officer Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver.  She sets the Nostromo to self-destruct and escapes on a shuttle craft.  But, of course, the alien is on the shuttle so she has to sneak into her space suit, open the air lock and shoot the alien with a grappling gun to push it out into space.  It manages to grab onto the engine so she ignites it thus ejecting the charcoal broiled alien into interstellar space.

The movie is a mixed bag.  The sets on the planetoid and the exterior shots of the Nostromo are beautifully done.  The interior shots of the Nostromo for the most part succeed in portraying a futuristic but gritty industrial environment.  I guess a combination of a tramp steamer and a star ship.  But one of the worst features of the movie is intentional.  Apparently, the designers and constructors of the ship ran out of light switches.  The whole movie takes place in the absence of light.  You can’t see a thing.  Sure, every once in a while, the monster’s jaws and its inner jaws start opening up and monster drool drips out but you never get to see the damned thing doing anything other than that.  And there’s a very good reason for that.  When all is said and done and all the marvelous CGI shots of the planetoid and the Nostromo are taken into account it’s still a movie with a guy in a rubber suit.  And that’s just not going to cut it.  So, most of the movie is just the crew running around in the dark waiting to scream when the monster bites them or injects them with an egg or whatever the hell it’s supposed to be doing when it catches them.

The actors do a creditable job with what they’re given.  In fact, most of them seem quite interesting and I wouldn’t mind watching a prequel where we see them interact while performing their duties as the crew of an interstellar ore freighter.  I’ll bet they could make such a movie fun and interesting with all kinds of adventures and sights.  But as monster fodder it’s a sort of limited palette.  Look left, look right, oops he’s behind you.  Look all around you, uh oh he’s hiding on the ceiling.  What this movie needed was a few Maglite flashlights.  Then they not only would have seen the monster but also beat it to death with the generous heft of the Maglite ML300L LED 6-Cell D Flashlight.

There was one really scary scene.  When Ripley escapes the Nostromo in the shuttle, before she discovers that the alien is in with her, she strips down to her skimpy underwear before entering the hibernation chamber.  And for the most part she seemed admirably contoured for a young woman thus attired but then she turned away from the camera and I discovered with horror that her butt was missing.  Instead of gluteus maximus she seemed to be suffering from a case of gluteus minimus.  What could have happened to her?  Did she lose her butt in some kind of industrial accident?  Did she donate it to someone else in the very rarely mentioned butt transplant surgery?  We may never know.  I still haven’t completely recovered from the shock.

Suffice it to say I have a mixed opinion on this movie.  If you think you could enjoy a poorly lit game of hide and seek with an interstellar menace then go for it.  You will see some nice visuals.  But watch out for Sigourney Weaver’s butt.  It’s truly shocking.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space – A Science Fiction Movie Review

I’ll give the plot of this movie in a very short synopsis.  The first manned trip to Mars ends with all but one of the ten-man-crew dead.  A rescue mission takes survivor, Col. Carruthers aboard to bring him back for a court martial for his alleged murder of his crew mates.  On the voyage home they discover that a Martian creature who must have been the killer of the first crew is aboard and is now killing them.  The movie is mostly about the crew’s attempt to kill the monster before he finishes them all off.

Alright, how do I hate this movie, let me count the ways.

  • The special effects consist of a big guy in a rubber monster suit, a couple of rooms outfitted with ship’s ladders and fake metal bulkhead hatches, really bad fake spacesuits, some star backgrounds with comets and meteors moving by every once in a while, and a model of a space ship. That’s it.
  • The script is seriously underwhelming. During the first quarter of the film most of the dialog is the crew taunting Carruthers trying to goad him into confessing to the murder of his crewmates.  After the monster comes on the scene all they do is walk around the small sets whining about how nothing they do seems to affect the monster and bemoaning the death of their shipmates.
  • On the second mission to Mars they brought girls! Sure, sure, I know, they’re nurses or something.  They’re always putting a bandage on Carruthers or an IV bottle on “Van.”  But they even had to start up a love triangle between the less homely nurse and Carruthers and Van.  Even in the face of imminent death at the hands (or three fingered claws) of “It!” we still have to endure hand holding and soul-searching looks into each other’s eyes.
  • The monster is ridiculous. Its face hands and feet are so obviously latex rubber that it’s embarrassing.  When he catches any of the crew, he pummels the victim by windmilling his ridiculous arms.  According to more homely nurse this treatment breaks every bone in the victim’s body.  But remarkably the victim isn’t killed.  Instead, the monster stows them in the ventilation system where they are retrieved so that the monster can suck the water and oxygen from their bodies.  Also, the monster sounds like he has asthma.
  • The movie is only 68 minutes long. Now normally that would be a fault.  But in this case brevity is a great virtue.

After failing to kill the monster with bullets, grenades, poison gas and bazooka they finally settle on emptying the ship’s atmosphere into space thus asphyxiating him.  They make a big deal of the fact that the monster has large lungs because of the thin atmosphere on Mars.  Why that would make him more vulnerable to asphyxia I couldn’t possibly say.  And once the air is all gone, he quickly expires as did my patience.

The fairly familiar character actors in this movie like Marshall Thompson and Dabbs Greer had an impossible task to make this turkey watchable.  It’s not as awful as ‘Plan Nine from Outer Space” so it can’t be watched for laughs.  It’s just schlock.  Unless you really enjoy bad old sci-fi, I recommend giving this one a pass.

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were brothers who studied German language and folklore during the 18th and 19th centuries.  They are best remembered by people today for their collection of German fairy tales.  And this movie is a fanciful story of the two brothers struggling to find a paying audience for their talents.  Wilhelm is presented as the idealist spending all his time collecting folktales from old women while his brother Jacob attempts to keep their heads above water by slaving away at tedious but paying work such as writing the family history of the local duke.

And interspersed with the story of the brothers are the fairy tale sequences of the film which correspond to three of the stories that Wilhelm hears from his sources.  They are versions of, “The Dancing Princess,” “The Cobbler and the Elves” and “The Singing Bone.”  In each case a different cast of actors portray the action.  And even though this is a German/American production there are some familiar American and British actors sprinkled in the cast.  Jim Backus, Claire Bloom, Beulah Bondi, Terry Thomas, Buddy Hackett and Barbara Eden are among the more well-known cast members.

The story about the brothers reaches its crisis when Wilhelm loses the draft of the duke’s family history in a river while rushing back from hearing a story in a “witch’s” cottage.  Jacob storms off vowing never to work with Wilhelm again.  The duke vows to prosecute Wilhelm if he doesn’t recompense him for the free home provided Wilhelm and his family during the unsuccessful project.  And simultaneously Wilhelm becomes seriously ill with pneumonia.  But hearing of Wilhelm’s dire straits Jacob sells his private library and uses the money to save Wilhelm.  Afterwards they continue on together with Jacob writing scholarly works on German philology and Wilhelm publishing his stories.  Eventually the king has the brothers nominated for the Prussian Royal Academy but the citation only includes Jacob’s scholarly works as cause for the nomination.  Saddened, Wilhelm still congratulates Jacob for the honor they will both be given.  But when they reach Berlin, the train is met by thousands of children cheering for Wilhelm to “tell them a story.”  And he starts off, “There once lived two brothers.”

I saw this movie as child when the nuns at my grammar school called an assembly in the gymnasium and played it to reward us for not burning down the school that year.  There was an unfortunate incident before the film.  A very good friend of mine, one of the most naturally talented comics I’ve ever known but who had extremely poor impulse control got in trouble for mouthing off to the principal, Sister Theodore.  She pulled him out of line and after a little back and forth dialog she slapped him in the face.  Unfortunately for his school career he slapped her back and added a few loud and obscene remarks.  Unsurprisingly he was expelled.  And the diversion made us pay less attention to the movie than we might have otherwise done.

But I remember from back then that it was an amusing movie.  And a recent viewing confirms that opinion.  The fairy tale sequences are played in a broad, very comical style.  Whereas the story of the brothers is in a dramatic style that chronicles the difficulty of trying to earn a living at a dull task when your heart is somewhere else.  Being a dreamer myself, may be why I’m so sympathetic with Wilhelm’s plight.

I’m not sure who I would recommend this movie for.  It’s not really a children’s story but I think many children might like it.  As for adults, it might be too primitive for people brought up on CGI special effects.  Maybe it’s only for old folks like me who are still young at heart.

Nosferatu (1922) – Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) – A Science Fiction & Fantasy Movie Review

Last night I watched both Nosferatu movies.  I believe they are best reviewed together since Herzog’s remake of the silent film is in many ways an homage.  Almost all of the “dialog” of the silent film is reused word for word.  The appearance of the Dracula character and even the sets have been constructed to mimic the look of the originals.  Mercifully, the science of motion picture imaging had progressed tremendously between 1922 and 1979 so the picture quality of the latter film has none of the pioneering qualities of its predecessor.  Night scenes weren’t shot during the day and there is sound so the actors can restrain their pantomime gesturing.  But that being said it is essentially the same story.

In this version of Dracula, Renfield is a “land agent,” sort of a nineteenth century realtor and he employs Jonathon Harker to go to Transylvania to sign papers to buy a house in Bremen, Germany.  Jonathon leaves his wife Nina behind fretting about his safety.  When he gets to the environs of Castle Dracula the townsfolk warn him about spooky stuff but he goes anyway.  Dracula meets him and signs the papers and then feeds off of Harker for a few days, packs his dirt boxes and drives off with horse and wagon.  Harker escapes from the castle, and after recuperating for some time in the village heads for home by horse.

Dracula takes the slow boat across the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, and the North Sea to Bremen.  Enroute, he sucks the life out of the crew so that the boat drifts into Bremen with only the captain’s lifeless body tied to the ship’s wheel.  Somehow Dracula sneaks off the boat and takes up residence in the house across the street from the Harkers.  Dracula also brings a goodly supply of plague rats with him and the town starts dying off of the bubonic plague in droves.

While Dracula was enroute by ship Renfield is somehow driven mad and starts eating flies and biting animals and people to get blood.  He is cast into a mad house but eventually escapes and capers around town awaiting “the master” and acting like a gibbering idiot.

All this time Nina has been suffering mentally from the strain of worrying about Jonathon and because she seems to be a clinically depressed heroine.  When he arrives, she reads this book on vampires that Jonathon has specifically told her not to read.  This disobedience seemed the most realistic detail of the movie.  Nina reads that a pure spirited woman who offers her blood freely to the vampire can keeps him drinking until dawn.  And at that point the sun will destroy him.  Nina feigns illness and sends Jonathon to get a doctor.  She invites Dracula to her home and he falls for the trick and is evaporated in a puff of smoke.  Jonathon and the Doctor arrive just in time for Nina to greet Jonathon and expire from exsanguination.

In the 1979 version the ending is less positive.  When Nina expires Jonathon, who has been slowly becoming a vampire for the last few days goes full Nosferatu and escapes the town on horseback to start his own reign of death somewhere else.

So, what about these movies?  The silent version is a product of German Expressionism and uses bizarre and unreal imagery to evoke the sense of fear and dread.  The Dracula character is a cartoonish figure.  He is exaggeratedly tall and gaunt, has a dead white skin color, an elongated hairless head, protruding front teeth and ridiculously long and curved fingernails.  The sets at Castle Dracula showcase bizarre architectural details like the odd shaped doors and the monolithic walls in the crypt.  Everything is unnatural and bizarre.  I would say for a silent film this is a successful visual representation of a horror story.  But remember, it’s a silent film.  That means the acting is painfully exaggerated to pantomime the meaning.  Both of the Harkers are always gesticulating and grimacing to let you know they are emoting something or other.  I think very few modern viewers can get past the staginess of silent films to enjoy the story as a story.  So, it’s a successful silent horror film but I couldn’t recommend it to the general audience.

As for Werner Herzog’s 1979 homage, that’s more of something we can discuss in normal movie terms.  I’d call it an art film.  It goes a long way to provide good cinematography, good (if odd) acting and a rationale for the actions of the primary characters.  Dracula even gets to tell of his ennui and his envy for those who can die.  And he invests the characters with a reasonable level of personality above what was provided in the silent film.  There is even a small amount of humor thrown in, primarily around the character of Renfield but what struck me as funniest was a scene at the very end of the movie.  Dr. Van Helsing is holding a bloody stake that he has used to permanently kill Dracula.  Two town officials arrive on the scene and Jonathon denounces Van Helsing to them stating that the doctor has murdered good old Count Dracula.  The magistrate orders his underling to have Van Helsing arrested and jailed for murder but the subordinate argues with him that there are no police left to arrest him, no jailors left to imprison him and no town officials left to charge and try him.

Herzog has succeeded in making an atmospheric, artistic horror film.  It’s not particularly frightening but it attempts to adhere to the spirit of the original Dracula story, a sort of late nineteenth century gothic fairy tale.  So, my recommendation is restricted to people who enjoy art films.  And it wouldn’t kill a horror fan to watch it.  It just might not be completely what he would be hoping for.  So, there’s my Halloween day horror review that I promised.

30OCT2021 – OCF Update

Today I spent a good chunk of the day on fiction writing.  And it was very productive and I think successful.  But the trade off is no time for web site work.  I’m going to have to get much more efficient at splitting my time between the two tasks.  Tonight I am employed watching the 1922 and 1979 versions of Nosferatu.  The original is a silent film that is without a doubt a puzzling experience for the modern audience.  The film quality is terrible, the special effects are non-existent and the acting is highly stylized if I want to put it politely.  The 1979 version is titled Nosferatu the Vampyre and was directed by Werner Herzog.  I just started it but it looks like it could be okay.  I hope to have the review out tonight.

 

Carnival of Souls (1962) – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review

The “Carnival of Souls” is a low budget horror movie that consists of the life of a woman named Mary Henry after she is in a car accident.  She and two other women crash their car off a bridge into a river.  The car disappears into the muddy river and is given up for lost but after three hours Mary Henry crawls out of the water and claims that she has no memory of the crash or her escape.  She decides to take a job out of state as a church organist in a town next to the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  Along the way she is haunted by the apparition of a man who looks like the animated corpse of a drowning victim.  She is strangely attracted to an abandoned pavilion on the lakefront that had served as a carnival at one point.  Her interactions with her minister employer, her landlady and the neighbor who attempts to interest her romantically are awkward and extremely detached on her part.  And several times during her first few days in the new town she suddenly finds herself detached from the world around her.  Specifically, no one seems able to see or hear her.  Also, she cannot hear any sounds from her surroundings.  Eventually she starts seeing visions of dead people rising out of the lake and dancing in the pavilion.  These visions cause her to lose her job when the minister senses her morbid soul in her organ music.  She turns to the young neighbor to try and ground her in reality but even his clumsy advances cannot spark any strong response from her.  Eventually she is drawn to the pavilion and the drowned dead.  She watches them dancing in the pavilion ballroom and finally they come so close to her that she panics and runs away.  But they chase her onto the beach and finally catch her when she stumbles on the sand.  They surround her and the scene changes to the next morning where a search party including the minister and a policeman look at some footprints on the sand and nothing more.  She has completely vanished leaving just her car.  In the next scene we are back in her home town and the crashed car has finally been located in the river and the bodies of the two women and Mary Henry are all in the car (and strangely not decomposed after all the time under water).  The End.

There are a lot of things wrong with this movie.  It was made on a very low budget without professional actors and it shows.  I guess it would be called cinema verité.  But the amateurish quality of the cinematography and the flat recital of the lines makes you wonder why you would watch such a cheesy offering.  But the nature of the scene at the end of the movie with the dance of the drowned corpses is the very essence of horror.  It is almost iconic and I think it has inspired some later works that are recognized as successful, specifically I think the haunted house in Stephen King’s “The Shining” owes something to this movie.  And there is at least one episode of the Twilight Zone that seems to borrow heavily from this story.

So, there you have it.  This is a cheesy amateurish film from 1962 that also contains an image that I think is authentically evocative of what we call horror in film.  You’ll have to decide if that makes it worth seeing.

Transatlantic Tunnel (1935) – A Science Fiction Movie Review

This is such an awful movie that I thought I should start off with a clear statement to that effect.  The script is unbelievably bad.  And with a script this bad it wouldn’t really help if the cast were first rate because even Lawrence Olivier would sound like an idiot saying idiotic things.  But this is not a first-rate cast.

Richard Dix “stars” as Richard McAllan a brilliant engineer who has already built a tunnel under the English Channel.  Not satisfied with that he’s now going to build a tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean from England to the United States.  Well, good for him.  But his wife is unhappy because the daughter of one of the financial backers has the hots for her husband and has blonde hair that’s blonder than hers.  And blondie keeps dragging her husband away to publicity shoots in New York.  So somehow this convinces her to go work in the tunnel as a nurse without her husband knowing.  And she ends up with “tunnel fever” and goes blind.  So, for reasons that don’t make any sense to the audience she leaves her husband and raises their son up alone until he’s old enough to get killed “working in the tunnel.”  Apparently, the tunnel designers picked a route that had an active volcano directly in the path of the drill.  And in order to contain the destruction caused by the raging volcano McAllan is forced to shut the isolation doors trapping McAllan Jr. and sending him to a fiery death.  When McAllan explains this death to his blind wife it sounds like he’s trying to find the bright side of this unfortunate situation.  It’s really quite extraordinary.  It’s as if the dialog were written by someone who had never met humans and had been raised by google-bots.

Finally, when the tunnel is somehow completed the President of the United States and the British Prime Minister announce it to their respective nations as if it were the second coming of the Lord.  Somehow the tunnel would bring on world peace and defense budgets would be slashed to nothing and prosperity would engulf humanity.  I’m really not sure why shipping things from Europe to America somewhat faster would achieve all that.  But there was a lot of cheering.  Go Anglosphere!  Next, I guess a tunnel between Australia and California would really make the world a greater place.  I think I’m really feeling that tunnel fever now.

And there are problems beyond just a bad plot and dialog.  The tunnel sets and the props like the pressure suits they wear are quite silly looking.  And the investors and the public gyrate between giddy elation and stark terror on an almost constant basis.    There’s even a murder plot going on between two of the venture capitalists funding the project.  It all seems to have been strung together from odds and ends out of a bucket of spare ideas for movie plot devices.  I would say, unless you really enjoy bad old sci-fi movies skip this turkey.