Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Devil Girl from Mars (1954)

Directed by:
David MacDonald

In the middle of winter; reports of a meteor falling in Scottish countryside hit the radio. Also hitting the airwaves is a report of a convicted murderer named Robert Justin, who's just escaped from prison. Robert (Peter Reynolds) shows up at a quaint inn / tavern called The Bonnie Charney, where his former lover Doris (Adrienne Corri) works, claiming to be a stranded hiker who's lost his wallet and now adopting the alias Albert Simpson. Despite the fact he married and then (he claims) accidentally killed another woman, Doris reluctantly agrees to keep his true identity a secret. Robert / Albert makes an agreement with busy-body innkeeper Mrs. Jamieson (Sophie Stewart) and her alcoholic husband (John Laurie) that he'll work to earn his keep by doing odd jobs around the place since he has no money. Also working there is creepy handyman David (James Edmund) and among the few guests are glamorous London model Ellen Prestwick (Hazel Court), who's actually there hiding from her married lover, and Mrs. Jamieson's young nephew Tommy (Anthony Richmond). While out investigating the meteor sighting, reporter Michael Carter (Hugh McDermott) and professor Arnold Hennessey (Joseph Tomelty) get lost and also stumble upon the pub looking for accommodations themselves.







It doesn't take long for a flying saucer to land right outside the pub. Because it's red hot and will take several hours to cool down, Michael and the Professor decide to go into the nearest village seven miles away for help. Unfortunately, they cannot get their car to start. The phones also mysteriously stop working. Once the spaceship finally does open, leather-clad female alien Nyah (Patricia Laffan) emerges. She immediately zaps old David ("a hopeless specimen") with her laser gun, leaving only a pair of eyeglasses behind. The alien then makes her presence and objective known to the humans. Because of a war between men and women on Mars, in which women were the victors, the birth rate has steadily been on the decrease. Nyah not only wants to test out her organic heat-resistant metal spaceship and "perpetual motion chain reactor beam" but also gather up some strong Earth men to take back to Mars to help repopulate. Her ship needs some minor repairs, so she's created an "invisible wall" around the pub so that no one can go in or out.






Also coming along with Nyah is her robot Johnny, a big, clunky thing that looks like a refrigerator with legs. Johnny's head lights up and it's then able to evaporate trees, a car and an entire building with a laser beam. Nyah herself is capable of hypnosis and mind control, which doesn't quite explain why she's unable to keep the small handful of humans she has to deal with in check. She eventually takes little Tommy aboard her ship and agrees to an exchange with one of the adult men for his release. But just who has a life to spare and is in need of a little moral redemption? Checking out the roster of male characters, I'm sure you'll have no problem working that out.






This minor camp classic (named as one of the "100 Most Amusingly Bad Movies Ever Made" in The Official Razzie Movie Guide) is rather set bound and high on talk and corny melodrama. Keeping the whole thing mildly amusing is Laffan, who's pretty hilarious as the bitchy, humorless, short-skirted alien who seems to take great pleasure in tormenting the humans. She casually pushes the old professor aside, telling him "You are a very poor physical specimen," constantly tells the humans how mentally inferior they are and stumbles upon a meeting, noting "It amuses me to watch your puny efforts." This also has a strange, almost obsessive focus on liquor, with characters constantly drinking, talking about drinking or making a big deal about someone else's drinking. Dated special effects (thought not too horribly bad for the time) and some laughable lines (one of the hysterical females notes "I'm scared! Nothing like this has ever happened to me before!") are good for assorted chuckles throughout.






It was based on a (stage?) play by James Eastwood (who also adapted) and John C. Mather. MacDonald (mostly a TV and "quota quickie" director) also made the Tod Slaughter vehicle It's Never Too Late to Mend (1937), ALIAS JOHN PRESTON (1955) with Christopher Lee and a few episodes of the unreleased Boris Karloff series The Veil (1958)."

★★

Los monstruos del terror (1970)

... aka: Assignment Terror
... aka: Dracula Versus Frankenstein
... aka: Dracula vs. Frankenstein
... aka: Man Who Came from Ummo, The
... aka: Monster Panic: Strange Tactics
... aka: Monsters of Terror, The
... aka: Operation Terror
... aka: Reincarnator

Directed by:
Tulio Demicheli


Surgeon Dr. Kerian Danner (Ángel del Pozo), killed during wartime action, and biochemist Dr. Maleva Kerstein (Karin Dor), killed during an automobile accident, both become revived by aliens who take over their bodies (and attain their medical / scientific knowledge in the process). They join forces with another alien - leader Dr. Odo Warnoff (Michael Rennie) - in an attempt to eliminate all of us pesky, weak humans from this planet. They need to conquer Earth because their home planet, Umu, is freezing and they still haven't found a way to create an artificial sun. The three aliens decide that the best way to go about this is to find a way to have attractive girls blindly do their bidding. Because "beautiful women are like magnets," they plan on using them to extract secrets from scientists, politicians and other important people. Their plan starts to come together as they kidnap numerous young women and then brainwash them into servitude by hooking them up to some contraption that looks like an electric chair.







The aliens go to a carnival, where they kidnap beautiful sideshow assistant Ilona (Ella Gessler) and kill a hypnotist. In doing so, they remove a stake from the heart of Transylvanian vampire Janos de Mailhoff (Manuel de Blas); resurrecting him. This occurrence gives the aliens a brand new idea. Why not revive and then clone all famous monsters and then unleash them by the thousands upon Earth? They start by culturing themselves on all things creature by reading "Anthology of the Monsters." After a trip to Waldemar Daninsky's (Paul "Naschi" / Naschy) tomb to steal his corpse, they resurrect the legendary werewolf by surgically removing the silver bullet from his heart and then chain him up in the cellar of their castle headquarters. Waldemar manages to break his chains and then hits the town. He attacks college student Ilsa Sternberg (Patty Shepard), but she manages to get away, so he settles for a hooker named Tootie (!) instead. The aliens manage to recapture Waldemar before he can do any more damage, then it's off to Egypt to get Tao-Tet (Gene Reyes), a mummy, and elsewhere to get a block-headed Frankenstein monster (Ferdinando Murolo).







Things don't go exactly as Dr. Warnoff had hoped because he can't stop his accomplices from being susceptible to human feelings and passions. Maleva keeps demonstrating empathy for prisoners who are punished and, when Warnoff catches her in bed with Kerian, he sends in the Frankenstein monster to strangle Kerian to death. Ilona finds herself drawn to Waldemar, so she eventually frees him and the two run off together. Dr. Warnoff watches everything on magical monitors, which seem to be able to see things anywhere in the world. As bodies start to pile up and people keep disappearing, chief Inspector Henry Tobermann (Craig Hill) discovers that's he got one hell of a weird case to crack. The inspector becomes romantically involved with Ilsa, whose judge father is somehow linked to Waldemar, and both find themselves kidnapped by the aliens. Tobermann is chained up in the cellar and threatened with rabid bats who try to eat out his eyeballs, while Ilsa is laid out for vampire prey.





Naschy (who wrote this using his real name Jacinto Molina Alvarez) was a huge fan of the Universal monster movies and it shows. This seems to want to be the (then) modern day equivalent of something like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) or House of Dracula (1945). It's atypical in the Waldemar werewolf series because Naschy has a sixth-billed supporting role, but you can still tell he wrote it because a hot blonde immediately falls in love with his short, dumpy self and he gets to be the hero at the very end and do battle with the other monsters. The screenplay also happens to one of the film's weakest points. Though the premise is fun, everything's so hopelessly convoluted that it's often difficult to follow. Very poor continuity doesn't help matters, and neither does the terrible English-language dubbing on the version I watched. There's a restored German DVD of this one and I'm not sure if it makes any more sense. The one I watched (which has French credits) runs 83 minutes.





On the plus side, this is genuinely weird, there are some fun moments to be had here and there, the makeups are pretty good for the time and the cast is full of familiar faces. Rennie, best remembered for his performance in the classic sci-fi The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) passed away a year after this was released and it turned out to be his final film. Dor, Shepard and Gessler are all nice to look at, though the version I watched seemed to jump away any time there should be some nudity (which may be available in the uncut version). During the scene where a silver bullet is removed from the werewolf, gory footage of a real open heart surgery has been spliced in.





Though the credits list only Demicheli as director, IMDb claims that Hugo Fregonese (who'd previously made 1953's Man in the Attic starring Jack Palance) and Eberhard Meichsner as uncredited co-directors.

★★
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