May 2021 Mini-Reviews – Wild Women of Wongo to Spy Smasher

I’d ask where did June go — how is it that I’m at the end of June without posting about what I watched May yet?  But…

I know that a chunk of June (along with a gout of my blood) went into recovering from a 2-3″ gash in my head that I acquired after tripping and falling head-first into the base of my bookcase.  If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen the pictures.  (I won’t inflict them on you here.)  Thankfully, that laceration and a badly banged up leg (from the fall) were the only consequences — no concussion or anything more serious.  Phew!  But just recovering from those injuries took the wind out of my sales for a couple of weeks, and more than 3 weeks later (at the end of June), I’m finally pretty close to fully recovered.  (The staples have been out of my head for more than 2 weeks now.  But at least I got a cool, Frankenstein Monster-like author photo out of it! Ha ha.)

However, though that June injury may have prevented me from getting around to posting my May viewing for a while, it did not prevent me from watching a lot of movies during May — 62 films, series, & noteworthy shows/shorts, which I guess works out to 2 a day.  Will the injury affect my movie count in June?  Stick around and find out in July.

Until then, you can enjoy the mini-reviews below, which include Weird Westerns, a gleefully grinning fistful of Tod Slaughter and John Carradine films, “meeting” some new horror hosts (all courtesy, my ongoing trek (with author David Annandale) through the films of Mario Bava, the first season of a home improvement show my wife and I enjoy, and two of the greatest serials of all time!  I’ll let you find that duo in the list below (and mention them at the end, for those who don’t want to search).

Here comes May 2021…

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.

Wild Women of Wongo * Boring “caveman” story with Florida & Coral Castle (best part) backdrop. Feels like a nudie movie with no nudity. Ugh!
Brain That Wouldn’t Die, The **** Low-budget classic of mad scientist who keeps his fiancee Jan’s head alive after car accident & plans to get her a new body. Fun!
La Llamada (Sweet Sound of Death) *** Lovers promise to be together always, even to returning from death to prepare the other for the afterlife. Guess what? Atmospheric.
Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy ** Plot meanders. Yellowface villain portrayal. Extended wrestling scene pretty fun. Mummy okay in shadows. For buffs only.
Cathy’s Curse ** Young girl is possessed by the spirit of her dead ancestor, bringing grief to her parents & everyone in contact with her. Slow. Dull.
Little Caesar **** Edward G. Robinson climbs to the top of the mob through ruthlessness & guile. A classic WB gangster movie. Great fun.
El Santo & Blue Demon vs. Frankenstein *** The masked luchadors take on the mad doctor who is kidnapping women & making zombies of his victims. Good wrestling action.
Terror of Tiny Town *** This “all midget” western is a fairly standard singing musical western with a little person cast. Standard western outing despite that.
Aurora **** A “spaceman” turns up in a western town pursued by some kind of creature out of time/space. Creepy short with nice twists.
Shot, The *** Two western bandits have a falling out after one of them shoots a victim when he didn’t need to. A bit of SF in this short.
Switch, The *** A mysterious stranger brings a switch to town that turns everything in this western hamlet from B&W to color. Interesting short
Riders of the Whistling Skull *** The Three Mesquiteers join an expedition to find lost city & a missing man searching for it. Has a lot of cliffhanger serial trappings.
Friday Foster *** Pam Green is a photographer who witnesses an attempted assassination & is sucked into political & crime intrigue. Usual nudity.
Killer That Stalked New York, The *** An outbreak of smallpox is complicated by the fact that the woman spreading it is in a smuggling racket & wants to avoid capture.
Ghost & Mr. Chicken, The **** Don Knotts is timid wanna-be reporter who gets headlines after spending night in haunted house. Fun, goofy horror comedy.
Superfly *** Man named “Youngblood” Priest works to get rich selling cocaine in 70s NYC, battling criminals & cops in blaxploitation saga.
Bay of Blood *** Bava’s neo-slasher film has plenty of shock value & good production, but the characters & storytelling are confusing. Shock ending.
Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn (1935) **** Slaughter seduces a girl & then kills her when she gets pregnant (unstated, but understood) & frames another man, so he can marry a rich girl & put her father out of the way. Standard Todd Slaughter evil villainy, but it’s great fun – as are many of his films.
Ticket to Leave Man, The (1937) **** “Tiger” Slaughter uses counterfeit money to frame young man & then rise in society to try to win his fiancée. Duplicitous identities.
Face at the Window, The (1939) **** Touch of sci-fi enlivens this Todd Slaughter flick about a mysterious racketeer, “The Wolf,” who’s after money & women. Great end.
Sexton Blake & the Hooded Terror (1938) *** “The Snake” Slaughter runs a hidden crime syndicate & matches wits with a Holmes-like detective. Pretty standard fare, a bit of cliffhanger stuff. But culminates in an anti-climactic ending with police left to capture villain . Slaughter still fun, though.
Curse of the Wraydons, The (1946) *** Tod Slaughter tries to frame a young duelist Napoleonic Brit officer for a series of murders & espionage, to nab a girl & fortune.
From Hell It Came (Sven) *** Silly story of manlike mutant tree that goes on a rampage on atomic contaminated south seas isle. Stupid characters but still fun.
IT the Terror from Beyond Space **** Martian monster stows away in battleship-like rocket returning to Earth, slowly picks off crew in this classic inspiration for Alien.
Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader *** Exactly what you’d expect from a Corman production with that title: nudity & toplessness, goofy fun characters, & mayhem.
Crazy Mama *** Cloris Leechman takes her mother, grandmother, & pregnant daughter on 1950s cross-country crime spree. Shoot-em-up fun.
Devil’s Brother, The *** Laurel & Hardy impersonate a famous bandit & become his flunkies in adaptation of comic operetta. Fun comedy, action, music.
Conquistador of the Moon *** Spanish comedian & scientist’s daughter are accidentally launched to the moon & must deal with hostile moon folks. Amusing.
Golden Bat, The **** The original superhero (1931) fights alongside Sony Chiba & task force to protect Japan from alien invaders. Lots of gonzo fun!
King of Cartoons: Tex Avery **** Bio of cartoon pioneer Tex Avery with generous clips from his animations & interviews with Chuck Jones & other co-workers.
Baron Blood *** Bava film with the (foolish) resurrection of a sadistic ancestor, who then proceeds to kill a lot of people. Sloppy story, as usual.
John Carradine 1983 KMOX TV interview raw footage *** The interviewer is interested in Carradine’s horror career. Carradine… Not so much, though he remains cordial. Uncut & weird.
Golf Course that Dripped Blood, The *** Hilarious short of golf course run by John Carradine that fells John Candy & others with horror movie trope hazards.
Voodoo Man **** Bela Lugosi kidnaps women in an attempt to revive his “dead” wife. Carradine is flunky. Low-budget fun. Watch a good print.
Kate Smith Hour “Hound of Heaven” *** Short with Carradine & his dog having trouble getting into heaven. James Dean as an angel. Written by creator of The Waltons.
Lights Out “The Meddlers” ** John Carradine enlists unwilling man to help him find trouble in a house haunted by Confederate soldiers. What could go wrong?
Telephone Time “Novel Appeal” *** “True” story of novelist who sets out to prove an accused seaman didn’t kill his fellows. Carradine had a small part.
Return of the Ape Man *** Lugosi & Carradine discover how to revive frozen people, find a caveman, revive him, & then things go sideways. Low budget fun.
Gallery of Horror ** Carradine hosts series of low budget, predictable horror stories, appears in one, as does Lon Chaney, but… Mostly pretty shoddy.
Fiend Without a Face (Sven) **** Horror-suspense classic about an invisible force killing people near a military nuclear plant. Monsters are great, once visible.
Falcon Takes Over, The *** The Falcon plays Marlowe in this adaptation of Farewell My Lovely. Interesting. Not as good as the later direct adaptation.
Robinson Crusoe (1953) *** Well-made film could use a restoration & of course the Master thing with Friday makes one cringe. I assume it’s faithful to book.
Great Jonny Quest Documentary, The **** Strong fan-made doc covers all aspects of Jonny Quest’s creation & brief television history. Great but could use a bit more polish.
Dark Intruder *** Leslie Nielsen is a somewhat fay supernatural detective in this strange story of a “monster” rampage with a secret.
Roy Colt & Winchester Jack **** Bava’s comedic spaghetti western inspired by Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid has a lot of fun & funny moments. Worth seeing.
Adventures of Captain Marvel (serial) ***** Possibly the best serial of all time. These 12 chapters have everything you want: great fights, great stunts, great action, strong cast, great sets & locations… Oh, plus a superhero who appears with Billy Batson says “SHAZAM!” See a good print!
King Kong Escapes (Sven) *** Mad scientist captures giant ape to mine rare element when his mechanical ape fails. Naturally, they eventually Kong-fight! Kid fun.
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman *** Yeah, the SFX are cheesy as hell, but the acting is good here, & giant sized woman avenging herself on unfaithful husband is fun.
Black Lightning (S4) **** Best of the CW’s straight-up superhero shows wraps up with a few twist & strong finale. Seemed a little rushed, but a good end.
Attack of Astro Monster ***** Godzilla dance aside, this finishes Godzilla’s strongest “trilogy” of back-to-back film with great giant monster action & human story.
Berserker: Hell’s Warrior ** Nasty Vikings are raiding everywhere killing folk & then somehow get transported to the present for Highlander-like battles. Meh
Night of the Cobra Woman *** Woman becomes immortal servant of cobra god & mesmerizes young scientist while running afoul of Filipino gangsters, too. Okay.
Curious Female, The *** Strange SF tale of a polyamorous future run by computer frames a softcore sex comedy about Three Virgins. Better than expected.
Snuff! ** Take a South American action-revenge tale with some nudity & tack on a “real snuff” ending & you get this legendary mediocre flick
Samson in the Wax Museum (Dr. Dreck) *** Samson (actually El Santo for US audience) takes time out of ring to battle evil waxworks owner with the usual ambitions on pretty girls, plus some folks he’s made waxy zombies. Fun, but reads more amusing than it is. Dr. Dreck is a solid horror host.
Fall of the House of Usher, The (1950) (Bobby Gemmonster) *** Moody Poe adaptation with nice settings & appropriately creepy camerawork, plus usual ending. Bobby Gemmonster is good horror host, though his production values are a little low. Love his raven hand-puppet, though.
Dead Men Walk (Lord Blood-Rah) *** George Zucco’s twin brother is a vampire & the two battle to the end. Lord Blood-Rah is a strong horror host with good production.
She-Beast (Marlena Midnight) *** Ancient curse turns Barbara Steele into an ugly witch. Sadly, Steele isn’t in much, but film pretty good. Marlena Midnight is beautiful & charming host with good production values & interesting supporting cast & sketch bits. I look forward to seeing her again.
Frozen Ghost, The (Sven) **** Lon Chaney Jr. is hypnotist/mentalist who becomes convinced he willed a heckler to die. Assistant & others try to prove otherwise.
Flip or Flop (S1) **** It’s interesting to see Tarek & Christina when they were starting out & had to bid on auctions & grub for money. Fun home show.
Monsters & Mysteries in America (S1) *** It’s heavy on the mythology & not so heavy on the skepticism on this show about cryptid creatures, UFOs, etc. in America. Basically a spooky folklore series with “true” accounts from those who went through them. Good grist for the writing mill.
Spy Smasher (serial) ***** Action-packed serial with great production values, SFX. stunts, & story with surprising twists & even a bit of poignancy. It might be a tossup between this & The Adventures of Captain Marvel for the Best Serial of All Time. Amazon Prime has a great print.

That’s the list for this month.  For those who somehow missed them, two of the the greatest serials of all time (both from Republic) are: The Adventures of Captain Marvel, and Spy Smasher.  Anybody out there trying to play along?  If so, I was up to 299 films by the end of May, 2021 — which means I’m averaging just short of 60 films per month, and June I’ve gone over 60.  Yow!

Next Month: June is nearly done, and it’s packed with more movies (of course) as well as wrapping up with my traditional Ray Harryhausen’s Birthday marathon!

Let’s hit 70% vaccinated in the US! Keep Vaxing up!  Keep Masking up!  Stay Safe!  Stay Well!
VANQUISH this pandemic for good!

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!