June 2021 Mini-Reviews – Tex Avery at MGM to Dark Shadows Collection 11

The months are tripping by again.  Between Shark Week and the Olympics, July is going even faster than most.  And then I dropped in the challenge to create a new serialized Monster Shark novel for Kindle’s new Vella project.  (Almost ready for release.)  So maybe it’s no wonder that it’s the end of the month before I’m getting the June 2021 Reviews posted.

So, what happened in June?  Well, the month ends with my traditional Ray Harryhausen’s Birthday Film Fest.  Before then, I dove into some shows from the Fantasy Network (pretty cool), continued watching the films of Mario Bava with my friend, author David Annandale, watched the usual number of movies and outstanding serials on Monster Kid Radio’s Twitch Channel, and even discovered a new movie series, The Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries, on Hallmark’s Movies and Mysteries channel.  (Not actually shot on the Vineyard, which was/is disappointing, but beyond that, a fun series.)  I also watched and finished Japan’s famous “Dracula” filmnms, the Bloodthirsty Trilogy.  Here come the reviews…

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.

Tex Avery at MGM ***** TCM collection of Tex’s toons. Red Hot Riding Hood – Bad Luck Blackie – Deputy Droopy – Screwball Squirrel – King Size Canary – TV of Tomorrow – Symphony in Slang – Great sampler of Avery cartoons, all classics, in various styles of the period.
Clutching Hand, The (Amazing Exploits of the) (Serial) ** Inventor with formula for synthetic gold is taken by criminals, good guy Craig Kennedy tries to recover him for 15 chapters. Slow with boring stretches & fights with more slapping & grappling than fighting. 1st & last talkie in Kennedy serials. Shows silent roots.
One Hit Die (S1) *** Low-level Fighter, Cleric, Thief, & Wizard on a quest do more bungling & bickering (via interview cam) than adventuring. Amusing.
One Hit Die Crushmas special(s) *** Adventuring team tries to learn the spirit of the holiday season by battling Crushmas “demon.” Some funny incompetency.
Gen: The Girl with the Mark *** Short series in which town girl gains strange “mark” that gives her powers & is sought after by evil warlord & helped by heroes. Good start to a longer series or set of stories that may never be funded. They’d have done better starting with action, not origin.
Gamers, The (2002) *** Very low budget, fairly short, amusing film of D&D players intercut with what their fantasy characters are doing. Fun meta ending.
Outlawed Faith *** Steampunk space western short (pilot?) with little psychic girls saved from exploitation by their evil relative during big gun battle.
Goke: Body Snatcher from Hell **** Japanese horror/SF classic is big on style & visuals. Story falters a bit, but has some very creepy stuff & doesn’t end as expected.
One Hit Die (S2) Legend of the Lich Lord *** We have a paladin in for the cleric now & she’s on a quest to defeat a Lich Lord, with comical mishaps, of course. Fun.
One Hit Die ((S3) The Devouring Dungeon **** Paladin, Barbarian, Wizard & Thief venture into a dungeon with ever-changing rooms. Pushes further than previous installments, for more fun. Really like the cast, “Parks & Rec” confession cams, & the comical dungeon tropes are fun. Hope they make more.
Five Dolls for an August Moon **(*) Unlikable business people are trapped on an island. 1 is a killer, but you don’t care because none are fleshed out. This is basically a 2-star movie, but Bava’s style gets it an extra * for those who like his work. Close to good, but cast is confusing – until they die.
Samson vs. the Vampire Women *** Wrestling superstar El Santo (Sampson in US) faces off against resurrected vampire queen seeking revenge on the living. Fun.
Black Pit of Dr. M, The *** Dr. makes pact with friend that whoever dies will return & tell about what lies beyond. Doesn’t work as planned. Slow but good end.
Cult of the Cobra (Sven) *** American G.I.s interrupt pagan ceremony, causing snake-woman to track them down one by one. By the book, but entertaining.
Case of the Black Cat *** Perry Mason writes millionaire’s daughter out of will & when old man is killed defends his cat (heir) from relatives & murderer. Fun.
Telltale Heart, The (1941) **** MGM’s creepy & fairly faithful retelling of the Poe classic. Short, but well worth seeing.
SOS Coast Guard (serial) **** Future Dick Tracy Robert Byrd vs. mad scientist Bela Lugosi, his disintegration gas, & henchmen in entertaining sea-based serial.
Rocket Ship X-M **** Low budget SF film puts it all up on the screen with interesting characters & unexpected switch of destinations. Minor classic.
Falcon Strikes Back, The *** Falcon (Tom Conway) spends the film dodging the police after being framed for murder & theft of war bonds. Usual hijinks.
Frankie Drake Mysteries (S3) **** Frankie looked better with her auburn do, but turns in another fine season with more of the cast focused on, too. Good mysteries.
Kidnapped *** Bava film about people getting pulled into a car by violent bank robbers has interesting moments, predictable ones.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1914) **** Strong production values & groundbreaking underwater photography that still amazes makes this silent a classic worth seeing.
Destination Inner Space **** Sure, it was made on a shoestring, but it has the 2nd coolest underwater monster ever (Creature is 1st) plus a good cast. Love it!
Sound from the Deep ***** Lovecraftian short of an expedition to find oil in the Antarctic that doesn’t turn out nearly the way everyone hoped.
Terror Beneath the Sea *** Mad doctor kidnaps people to turn them into amphibian slaves. Early Sony Chiba vehicle is slow at time but has fun moments.
Courage & Stupidity (2005) *** Short chronicling Steven Spielberg’s making of JAWS has plenty of inside jokes & references. Amusing. Read JAWS LOG, instead.
How to Make a Monster (Sven) *** Ruthless new studio heads layoff longtime makeup artist who then uses skills & drugged makeup to create monsters to kill them.
Willow *** Lucas’ story is highly derivative, but Howard’s direction competent & SFX good in this kids’ fantasy tale of small man vs. big evil.
Expedition back to the Future **** Josh Gates & Christopher Lloyd look for a DeLorean from the movie to sell for charity before “time runs out.” Fun scavenger hunt.
Dark Shadows (2004 pilot) ** Bava-like colors & camera work can’t overcome marginal direction & weak casting on DS reboot attempt, though story is okay.
Night Walker, The **** One of Castle’s best. Woman’s husband is killed in explosion, but she keeps being haunted by him & dream lover. Hitchcock like.
Aelita: Queen of Mars (silent) *** Man in glorious USSR is mean to his wife while dreaming of Martinan Queen & planning rocket trip to meet her. The Mars stuff looks great in the German expressionist tradition, but they’re evil “capitalists,” & must be overthrown – though USSR seems very bleak. Interesting ideas, but story is messy, hero unsympathetic, & communist life looks… Undesirable. Silent SF worth seeing.
Sadko **** Soviet fairy tale of Sadako who travels the world having adventures to bring happiness to his people. Lush, Sinbad-like adventure.
Sword & the Dragon, The *** Mythical hero goes on lifelong quest to defeat barbarians who kidnapped his tribe and son he didn’t know he had. Lavish, lovely, but slow in places. The women kidnapped don’t end up with a lot of agency. End battle & climax with 3-headed dragon worth it all.
Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession *** Apartment dwelling USSR nerd creates time machine & swaps his buddies with Ivan the Terrible. Very funny in places but too long.
Curse of the Undead **** Universal’s gunslinger vampire picture has a lot of the standard touchstones, but new setting makes them & characters interesting.
Night Stalker (original series) ***** Always pressed for time & budget, this 1-season classic has plenty of iconic episodes that stand with the best TV horror ever.
Expedition Bigfoot (S2) *** Most of the season is spent on the usual snipe hunt with standard dead-ends. Find fresh prints at last, but forest fire stops pursuit.
Planet of the Vampires **** Bava’s SciFi shocker looks beautiful, has strong spooky production, & inspired parts of Alien. Italian SF worth admiring!
Ships in the Night (MVM3) *** Part 3 of the Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries from Hallmark, the series follows a cop retired ’cause of a bullet in his back & an MD who lives on the Vineyard and used to date him when they were teens. The movies series is in the Murder She Wrote vein, meaning family friendly — as you’d expect from Hallmark. This one involves a murder at an art gallery related to the theft of a ship sculpture.
Poisoned in Paradise (MVM4) *** Unexpected, large, faulty bank deposits & the death of a health nut waitress draw our MD & former cop into another murder.
A Beautiful Place to Die (MVM1) *** In the 1st of the series, a wounded Boston cop has his Vineyard retirement interrupted by the murder of a mysterious young man.
Riddled with Deceit (MVM2) *** Doctor & her former-cop friend are drawn into another mystery involving the theft of a famous brooch &, of course, murder.
Spy Smasher ( serial rewatch) ***** Just watched this, but didn’t mind rewatching with my regular MKR gang, as it’s a great fast-paced, high-production value serial.
Secret Agent X-9 (serial) *** Lloyd Bridges is tough as X-9 & Key Luke always fun, but wartime jingoism hard to take, & usual Universal serial pacing issues.
Living Skeleton, The *** Woman’s twin is kidnapped & killed by pirates, but when ghost ship reappears, so does she. Moody but hot mess of SciFi at end.
Genocide *** Insects cause plane carrying an atomic bomb to crash on a remote island & hamper its recovery. Spies & military vs. hostile bugs.
Vampire Doll, The (Bloodthirsty 1) **** Starts out like Hitchcock, ends up like Poe. In between, our characters look for a missing brother & see ghosts. Creepy Hamer-like.
Lake of Dracula (Bloodthirsty 2) *** Women returns to the lake where as a girl she dreamed she saw vampires. Turns out it wasn’t a dream in this Hammer-like flick.
Four Times That Night ** Bava’s attempt at a sex comedy version of Roshamon has some decent nudity, but icky rapey stuff, & doesn’t play by own rules.
Evil of Dracula (Bloodthirsty 3) *** Teacher discovers that his new school has horny girls, a dead headmistress, & vampires. Hammer like. Long long fight at climax.
House of Exorcism, The ** They added new scenes & re-cut Lisa & the Devil into this mess to cash in on Exorcist. Only high point is some added nudity.
Asylum **** One of Amicus’ better anthology films, with strong segments with Peter Cushing, Barry Morse, etc. plus a good wrap-around frame.
La Grande Brechte *** Segment of Orson Wells Great Mysteries show owing more than a little to Cask of Amontillado, but Cushing & co. are great.
War of the Stars, The *** Grindhouse re-cut of Star Wars has some fun & funny moments, plus a grindhouse ending. (Though not as good as grind-Jaws.)
Man Who Finally Died, The *** Man discovers his long-dead father was alive & just died again. Or did he? Good suspense story harmed by unlikeable hero.
Time Walker (Sven) ** X-Ray overdose reactivates mummy who turns out to be alien seeking the crystals that can send it home. Idea better than film is.
It Came from Beneath the Sea **** I often think of this as “minor” Harryhausen, but watching it this time (in color) I liked it more than ever. Great chareacters & Ray!
Mysterious Island **** Harryhausen’s giant creatures are brilliant in this adaptation of the Verne lost isle classic with beautiful production & lively cast.
First Men in the Moon *** Harryhausen’s SPFX are great, as usual, but there are no real heroes in this Wells classis. Strong production values & color.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers **** Of all the classic UFO movies, this is the only one where the UFOs actually DO things. Harryhausen’s Washington attack is classic.
Silencers, The *** Lots of suave gadgets, hot girls, & comic touches as Dean Martin plays the swingingest of all spies against usual world conquest.
UFOs Declassified: LIFE with Josh Gates ** With the usual UFO research guests/believers thrown together for discussion, a teased “new” footage that didn’t turn out to be much, & Josh Gates being obsequious where he’s usually skeptical… Disappointing. Though their house scientist was good.
Dark Shadows Collection 11 **** The meandering Adam storyline finally winds up with some good vamp witch stuff, & we start to move to werewolf & Quentin. Yay!

And that’s the month that was!  Overall, a very good month for watching.  An astonishing 64 shows & films reviewed this month, for a grand total of 363 reviews for 2021 so far.

Next Month: July is in its waning hours as I write this, and as far as racking up numbers, it’s been a real freight-train hit of a month — with Shark Week chewing up 4 hours (basically my whole evening) every month and then the Olympics chewing up entire days at a time.  I think I still got more than 30 reviews done (and I will post the whole Shark Week summary later).  Tune in and see what’s up!  In the meantime:

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