December 2020 Mini-Reviews – Turkish Star Wars to The Thin Man

Holy Cats!  It’s almost the end of January, 2020, and I still haven’t told you about my mini-reviews for last year, yet!

And what a spectacular, record-breaking  year it was for my film/series viewing!

I doubt it will be a surprise to anyone living through the pandemic that many of us had a lot more time at home to watch movies, TV series, etc. than in previous years.  Add to that Derek M. Koch of Monster Kid Radio creating what started out as Social Distance Saturdays movie marathons, and then morphed into the Monster Kid Movie Club with both all-day Saturday shows and 2 movie Tuesday nights Monster Kid Astronomy Club… Well, you can add another half-dozen or more movies or noteworthy shorts to my weekly watching just for that.

Plus, I started a weekly movie watch — mostly Paul Naschy movies, at least until we run out — with friend, fellow author, and film professor David Annandale.  So, that guaranteed me another movie most weeks, too.  Which, if you’re counting, meant that in 2020, by the end of the year, I was watching a minimum of 7 films a week (yep, equal to one every day), before I even went and watched anything with my wife or my own.

So…  I watched more movies in 2020 by far than I have ever watched in any year since I started keeping track 4 (now 5) years ago.

I’ll make you wait until the end of the reviews to give you the Grand Total.  For now… Let’s talk about December 2020’s movies!

Ratings are out of five stars. Here’s what those stars mean to me…

* – This film is not good. Avoid it unless you tolerate dreck well.
** – A flawed film. You may enjoy it if you like this genre or the folks in it.
*** – A good solid film. If you like this genre, you’ll probably like this film.
**** – A superior film within its genre. Thoroughly enjoyable.
***** – An outstanding film on many levels. A great example of its genre.

Turkish Star Wars ** Live US dubbing & score barely make sense of this goofy mismash of stolen Star Wars footage & mythic action film. Goofy.
Chamber of Horrors *** Seven keys are the MacGuffin in this old dark house inheritance story. Standard, but enjoyable with good cast.
Bride and the Beast, The *** Ed Wood wrote the story for this twisted little tale of woman who is a reincarnated gorilla & her new husband on safari. Fun.
Hellions *** Teen discovers she’s pregnant & is then hounded by demonic trick-or-treaters. Uneven low-budget flick but enjoyable.
Camera Magic (short) **** Fascinating short on camera trickery from the early days of Hollywood, explained for moviegoers.
Nightmare: The Birth of Victorian Horror (Jekyll & Hyde) **** Rewatch of the doc with a slightly different title. Still an interesting study of R.L. Stevenson & his writing the classic story.
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla ** Duke & Sammy are a cheap Martin & Lewis rip-off. Lugosi livens things up, but even 2 gorilla suit men can’t safe this turkey.
Bat, The *** Vincent Price & Agnes Moorhead highlight this old dark house tale of treasure & murder. Strong cast makes low-budget fun.
CLIMAX! Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde **** Michael Rennie as Jekyll-Hyde in TV version. The Hyde makeup isn’t the best, but the Vidal adaptation literate, well done.
STUDIO ONE – The Night America Trembled **** Edward R. Murrow narrates this Studio One which both re-creates the Welles War of the Worlds broadcast & dramatizes some of the panic events that surrounded it — 20 years after the event.
Terror at Red Wolf Inn ** 70s teen wins trip to inn run by folks with handsome but nutty son who turn out to be cannibals. PG version very tame.
Babes in Toyland **** Packed with fantasy, fun sets & FX plus Laurel & Hardy. This classic almsot begs to be in color, but is fun as it is.
Tarzan’s Revenge *** Tarzan against evil hunters & greedy raja-type is pretty much by rote, but with swimming stars in lead roles for only time. OK.
Yesterday Machine *** Surprisingly good low-budget feature about Nazi mad doctor using a time machine to mess with locals & restore reich.
UFO: Target Earth * Starts out as a true UFO story, devolves into a pseudo 2001 thing, with lots of long, boring parts in between.
Projected Man, The *** Scientist turns into electrical menace after being teleported. Mix of the fly, 4D Man, & more, but it’s still fun pseudo-Tigon film.
Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated – S2 ***** The second and final season of this Scooby prequel show ends with a bang, sets up original series, & is great fun. The best.
Innocents, The **** Deborah Kerr becomes governess to 2 children who may, or may not, be possessed by ghosts. Beautiful, creepy, classic.
Jungle Woman, The *** 2nd move in the Paula the Ape Woman (Acquanetta) brings her back, but does very little with her. Universal “comfort food.”
Bermunda Triangle, The ** Low budget Europ film about cursed doll picked up in Bermuda Triangle that dooms all aboard ship. Slow.
Jungle Captive, The *** Last Paula the Ape Woman film recasts her, but does even less with her. Still fun Universal “comfort food” creepiness.
Karloff the Gentle Monster ***** Doc praising Karloff for his range & mainy film roles has good reminiscences & experts talking about actor & his life.
Evelyn Karloff Remembers ***** In long interview, Boris Karloff’s (last) wife gives an amazing array of detaled memories about Boris, his work, & life.
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome **** Karloff shines as clever criminal battling Ralph Byrd’s Tracy in the best of the Dick Tracy films. Sometimes hard boiled.
STUDIO ONE IN HOLLYWOOD – A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court *** Karloff is an unlikely King Arthur in this amusing TV adaptation of the Mark Twain play with IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE’s “Uncle Billy” in the title role.
Fatal Hour, The *** Karloff in yellowface as Mr. Wong looking to solve mysterious murder heard over a telephone. Good detective fun.
Doomed to Die *** Karloff returns to yellowface as Mr. Wong trying to solve the deaths of a woman & her unloved future father-in-law. More fun.
SUSPENSE – A Night at an Inn *** Karloff & a bandit crew come to regret stealing the ruby eye of an Indian idol, when they are targets of revent. Karloff=good.
Case of the Curious Bride *** Perry Mason & crew sort out mystery related to murder & a woman who seemingly has 2 husbands. Standard fun.
Scoob *** Animation designs are great & story has fun and cool guest stars, but lacks lots of the original mystery solving thrust.
It Came from Another World *** Mihm’s 2nd film is longer than it needs to be, but gets funnier with re-watching. Man infected by meteor alien wreaks havoc.
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women *** Corman had Bogdonavich recut PLANETA BUR & add bathing beauties for a new US film that pretty much works. Amusing.
Doomsday Machine ** Colors are nice in this pretty silly space “epic” of people who are in spaceship when Earth goes nuclear. Melodramatic.
Black Sunday **** Bava made Barbara Steele a horror star in this tale of resurrected witch seeking revenge on everyone. Moody & beautiful.
Mandalorian (S2) ***** Mandalorian & child get deeper into the Star Wars universe with great adventures & AMAZING season finale. More, please!
Feast Your Eyes: The Terrifying Genius of Lon Chaney ***** Rick Baker, Doug Jones, & biographer Michael F. Blake talk about the Man of 1000 Faces. Who better? Fond analysis.
Son of a Thousand Faces **** Biography has admirers & even co-starts talk about Lon Chaney, Jr. & his career. A good & sympathetic overview.
Scream in the Night, A *** Chaney Jr.’s strong dual roles as cop & crude bartender working with gangsters who stole gem. Needs good restoration.
Shock, The *** Chaney Sr. as man with paralyzed legs working for a gangster who falls for woman gangster threatens. Solid melodrama.
Whistler, The – Backfire *** Chaney Jr’s chauffeur falls for unfaithful woman & decides to help her bump off her unwanted husband. Usual Whistler fare.
Manfish *** Chaney Jr. is first mate on a fishing ship, Manfish, with captain obsessed with treasure hunt. Some nice twists & ending.
Legend of Korra, The (S3) *** Korra & her friends are up against escaped elemental criminals who want to bring down governments. Good but not great.
Hollywood Party *** Jimmy Durante as a Tarzan-knock-off hosting a party where many celebs show up, inc. Laurel & Hardy, Micky Mouse. Fun.
Moscow: Cassiopeia *** Soviet kids are selected to go on a long-distance journey to the stars. Comedy ensues with some drama. Part 1 of 2.
Invasion of the Animal People ** US re-cut of Terror in the Midnight Sun cuts scenes & then adds ruthless padding to make up for it. See the original.
Christmas Classics Marathon II ***** Annual re-watch of Christmas classic TV this year included: Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, & FINALLY a restored How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Karloff) with the correct musical choral tag at the end of the final scene. Yay!
Scrooge ***** Alistair Sim is the most convincing Scrooge ever in this best ever Christmas Carol version. An annual rewatch, usually.
Power Rangers (2017) *** Amusing action movie with teens gaining powers of intergalactic rangers to fight sexy alien menace & her cohorts.
Phantom Lake Kids and the Unseen Invasion, The **** A bunch of kids have to face down invisible invaders in this SF-comedy from Christopher R. Mihm. The kid actors are great. This might be the best low-budget film one can make during a pandemic.
Christmas Horror Story, A **** Four (or more – depending on how you count) horror stories set at Christmas weave together in a small town — Krampus, Changeling, Santa vs. Undead Elves, ghost of unwed mother, and more. Lots of fun! Plus, radio host is William Shatner, too!
Danny Johnson Saves the World **** Danny tries to save the world from aliens (puppets) who are bent on taking over. Good kid performances. Funny. Fun frame.
Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84) **** Wonder Woman & her friends discover that getting what you wish for may not always be best. Chaotic but fun action sequel.
Most Dangerous Game, The (1932) ***** Joel McCrea & Fay Wray are up against an evil hunter, Zaroff, who wants them to play his game. Best of its type. A classic.
Teenagers Battle the Thing *** Color version of this low-budget film about teacher & students who dig up mummy-monster & become its victims. Nice end.
Snowbeast *** Bo Svenson & Yvette Mimieux try to prevent a ski resort from being destroyed by monster. Jaws-like at times. A bit slow.
Undertaker & His Pals ** Goofy murder/gore story about trio who kill & mutilate women to stock their restaurant & drive an undertaker’s business.
Bloody Pit of Horror, The *** Euro horror. Models & photographers who visit old castle only to fall victim to Crimson Executioner haunting place. Typical.
His Dark Materials (Season 2) ***** Strong HBO adaptation of the book continues with fine young actors & great atmosphere, setting up 3rd season finale.
Monster Walks, The *** Amusing dark-house style murder mystery with woman inheriting house which houses a possible killer ape. Low budget.
Teens in the Universe *** Second in Russian film about teen cosmonauts has wacky robots, a bit of Doctor Who feel, & generally more fun than original.
Star Trek Continues – Fairest of Them All **** This fan-made series continues the original Enterprise voyages with excellent cast & production values. This story follows up the original Mirror Universe tale by showing what happens when Mirror Kirk & crew reutrn in the wake of Kirk’s visit. Well done.
Star Trek Continues – Divided We Stand *** A mishap with a swarm of nanites strands Kirk & McCoy in the US Civil War facing the Battle of Antietam. Another fine story.
Scooby Doo and Guess Who (Season 1) **** A raft of amusing guest stars team up with the Scooby Gang to solve mysteries. Batman & Wonder Woman are super-great.
Wild West Days (serial) **** Wild West clichés abound, but some good cliffhangers & surprising quick exits make this amusing, despite wild Indian sterotypes.
Chained for Life *** More a “why done it” rather than “who,” murder story centers around siamese-twins in vaudeville, one of whom is marrying victim.
Count Dracula’s Great Love *** Naschy Dracula film neither starts nor ends where expected, but needs a lot of voice over to explain the plot. Worth seeing.
Soul **** Jazz musician ends up in the afterlife & tries to return to earth to complete his unfinished life. Great animation. Nice twists & turns.
Thin Man, The ***** Classic Dashiell Hammett story of Nick & Nora Charles solving their first mystery: titular character is missing after committing murder.

If I’m counting right, that means I watched 67 movies/shows in December 2020 — a prodigious amount for a more-than-prodigious year — for a Grand Total of:

715 Movies, TV series, and Noteworthy Shows/Shorts in 2020!

As I said at the top: Holy Cats!  I have no idea if I’ll top that total in 2021 or even ever.  And I certainly hope that the pandemic doesn’t continue throughout 2021, to “boost” my totals again!

Next Month: January 2020 is off to a strong start, though I’m not sure if I’ll hit 50 films/shows in the month.  Guess we’ll find out in a few days.

And hopefully, I’ll get around to posting the reviews earlier in February, too.

Until then… Stay Safe!  Stay Well!  And be patriotic, no matter where you are, and Mask up!

Remember, you can support this and all my other writing work, including Frost Harrow, Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors, and more, by joining my Patreon for a buck or two a month.  Thanks!

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