Film Mini-Reviews April 2018 – Ben Hur to Doctor Who, Underworld

A more “normal” month of film viewing for me.  I’m thinking that “normal” means between 30-40 films, which is a bit less than last year, but what ya gonna do?  There’s only so many hours in the day, and there are TV series to watch and/or binge, too.  (Currently bingeing Archer and recently finished the new — and AWESOME — Lost in Space.)

Let’s dive in and see what I watched in April, shall we?  (Despite what I said above, the count for April was apparently 46 flicks.)

Ratings are out of 5 stars.

Ben Hur ***** Heston & company make the greatest Jesus/Bible epic of all time. Amazing action, acting, sets. Great message.
Ten Commandments, The ***** DeMille’s heart shows through in the best old-fashioned Biblical epic with great sets, cast, special effects.
Mystery of the Hooded Horsemen, The ** Tex Ritter sings his way through western while infiltrating hooded desperados to foil their plan to steal a gold mine.
Manster, The *** American reporter falls prey to mad scientist in Japan, grows a second head, & battles himself. Really quite good
Destroy All Planets ** 2 boys are kidnapped by aliens so Gamera won’t foil their plans. Doesn’t work. Icky squid-monster impalement.
Doctor X **** Atwill uses mad science to try to track down the cannibalistic Full Moon Killer. Fay Wray dons swimsuit & helps.
Walking Dead, The **** Wrongly executed, Karloff returns to preside, angel-of-death-like, over death of mobsters who framed him. Great.
Mystery of the Wax Museum **** Lionel Atwill as original mad sculptor recreating his lost waxworks using real bodies & lusting after Fay Wray.
Kennel Murder Case, The *** William Powell as Philo Vance solving a complex mystery involving a locked room murder & a wounded dog.
Neanderthal Man, The ** Crazed scientist uses serum to revert people & animals to their primal state, including himsef as title character.
Return of the Ape Man *** Bela Lugosi finds frozen caveman, brings him back to life, & decides to give him a brain transplant, too. Silly fun.
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter ** The outlaw and his buddy run afoul of the mad scientist’s granddaughter, who’s looking for experimental subjects.
Billy the Kid Meets Dracula *** Dracula impersonates the uncle of a pretty girl to put the bite on the Old West, while Billy tries to save the girl.
Dinosaurus! (Sven) *** A bronto, a T-Rex, & a caveman thaw out on an island resort & cause chaos. Good kiddie dino fare. Great score.
Winchester *** Helen Mirren as heiress continually adding rooms to her mansion to house the ghosts killed by rifles. Standard.
Mr. Wong Detective (Wong #1) *** Ignoring the yellow face, Karloff is very good as the detective & the mystery has good twists & fine conclusion.
Annihilation **** All female exploration team enters The Shimmer to find out why no one ever returns. Thoughtful with good ideas.
First Men in the Moon **** Harryhausen creatres are highlight of Wells tale of Edwardian moon landing with mostly unlikeable protagonists.
Voodoo Island *** Karloff leads an expedition to a “cursed” island to make it a resort. Gets an extra * from me for man-eating plants.
White Gorilla, The ** Crash Corrigan is both hero & gorilla in this thin jungle feature beefed up with footage from 1927 silent serial.
Mystery of Mr. Wong, The (Wong #2) *** Karloff investigates a mysterious fake murder, which turns out to be all too real, at a party. Not as good as #1.
Abbott & Costello Go to Mars (Sven) *** A&C land in Big Easy instead & then women-only Venus for shenanigans. Doesn’t hold up. +1 star for nostalgia.
Lost World, The (1925 – Flicker Alley version) **** Good cast, production values, & O’Brien SFX highlight original tale of dinosaurs in lost land. Great restoration.
Post, The **** Spielberg’s tale of The Washington Post bravely publishing the Pentagon Papers has strong echoes for our time.
Have Rocket, Will Travel (Sven) ** Doesn’t hold up very well, though kids may enjoy the Stooges in space. At least it has a fire-breathing giant spider.
Grave of the Vampire ** Vampire rapist’s half-human son tracks him down to destroy him. William Smith & good cast. Set up is too long.
Milpitas Monster, The * Sparse stop-motion & resemblance to Cthulhu are the only real draws in 70s eco-tale. Better print needed ,too.
Graveyard of Horror ** Devotees of noblemen try to resurrect him as a monster. Choppy. Would original language version be better?
Rampage! **** Dwane Johnson & his (CGI) ape pal battle other CGI monsters in this kaiju-style romp with plenty of fun & action.
Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl (movie) *** Tom Baker & Leela (Louise Jameson) vs. an ancient skull that manifests evil in the form of worm-like monsters.
Doctor Who: The Sunmakers (movie vers.) *** Tom Baker & Leela (Louise Jameson) battle a corrupt government on Pluto that oppresses its workers. Standard.
High Spirits ** Steve Guttenberg & Beverly D’Angelo meet real ghosts Daryl Hannah & Liam Neeson in “fake” haunted house.
Hercules (1983) ** Lou Ferrigno is dubbed but very buff in this crazed techno-peplum epic with great sets & costumes & meh story.
Night of the Strangler ** Mickey Dolenz 70s mishmash of assassination & other murders with 70s anti-biggot messages. Little strangling.
Human Vapor, The *** Part Phantom of the Opera, part Invisible Man, plus determined cop and plucky reporter. Toho fun in the tradition of H-Man.
Avengers: Infinity War ***** The climax of all these years of Marvel films pits the Avengers vs. Thanos & throws in some surprises, too. Great.
Doctor Strange **** Dr. Strange goes from arrogant surgeon to Sorcerer Supreme & faces off against minions of Dormamu. Good fun.
Manos Returns *** Manos brings back original cast members, Debbie, Margaret, & Master, along with similar plot & prodction values.
Quatermass Xperiment, The **** Classic SF story. 1st rocket into space crashes on return to earth unleashing escalating menace. Well produced.
Five Million Years to Earth (a.k.a. Quatermass and the Pit) ***** Hammer SF horror doesn’t get any better than this. Classic story of science uncovering an ancient conspiracy to change the history of mankind. Inspiration for Pertwee Doctor Who series & possibly Chariots of the Gods, etc.
Mr. Sardonicus *** Castle’s ghoulish tale of a sadistic nobleman who gets a grinning comeuppance. Decent story, good gimmick.
House of Shadows ** Young woman with visions interacts with friends of woman murdered before she was born to track down killer.
Dead Pool, The *** Dirty Harry is on the hit list of another crazed killer inspired by Liam Neeson’s gruesome “dead poll” betting list.
Donovan’s Brain **** Classic SF thriller/horror movie about an evil mogul’s brain kept alive by a scientist whom it then possesses.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes *** The least of the original Apes series still has strong performance by Roddy McDowell, despite threadbare budget.
Doctor Who: Underworld (movie version) *** Tom Baker & Leela encounter a spaceship seeking its ancestors who now live as slaves in a planet’s center.

So, a bunch of 5-star films in April — including Avengers: Infinity War and several longtime faves — after none in March, plus a whole bunch of 4-star treats.  As usual, I saw some new movies in the month and new-to-me old movies as well.  (Finding a Bela Lugosi horror flick I haven’t seen yet is always a treat, especially as there are so few of them left!)

Next month… More monsters, more horror, more scifi… More of the usual, starting with my first viewing of Killer Klowns from Outer Space.  What will the count be?

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About Steve Sullivan 420 Articles
Stephen D. Sullivan is an award-winning author, artist, and editor. Since 1980, he has worked on a wide variety of properties, including well-known licenses and original work. Some of his best know projects include Dungeons & Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dragonlance, Iron Man, Legend of the Five Rings, Speed Racer, the Tolkien RPG, Disney Afternoons, Star Wars, The Twilight Empire (Robinson's War), Uncanny Radio, Martian Knights, Tournament of Death, and The Blue Kingdoms (with his friend Jean Rabe).