Hercules Against the Barbarians

Film GenericAs with most of the Peplum films that are out there, there appears to be many versions of this film, varying in running time from about 90 minutes to 120 minutes. As well as differing running times, the films hero seems to change from either Hercules or Masciste, the son of Hercules. But that shouldn’t matter too much. The version I am reviewing here is the shortened American version, Hercules Against The Barbarians from, you guessed it, the Mill Creek Warriors 50 Movie Pack.

In many ways this is a follow up to Hercules Against The Mongols. Both films feature Mark Forest as Hercules (or Maciste), Ken Clark, and José Greci; and they are directed by Domenico Paolella. Unfortunately this film isn’t as entertaining than it’s ‘unofficial’ prequel.

In Hercules Against The Mongols, Ken Clark played one of Genghis Khan’s sons (Sayan), but this time he plays Kubilai. But in both films he had to sport a silly hairpiece and a droopy moustache.

The movie starts off with Genghis Khan and his Mongol army invading Poland. Actually we don’t see the invasion, only lots of Mongols, waving spears of horseback. The narrator tells us the Mongols have suffered their first defeat. We are also told that Hercules has fought alongside the Polish, like a ‘tornado’. And when we finally clap eyes on Hercules, he is being thanked, slapped on the back and sent on his way. The opening seems like a bit of a ripoff to me. We hear of a great battle but don’t see it.

Hercules is heading back to Arminia (Jose Greci), his fiancé, but before he arrives, strange things are happening in her village. Firstly a woman, Arias (Gloria Milland) is being chased by an angry mob. They accuse her of being a witch and want to burn her at the stake. She finds refuge in Arminia and her father’s cottage. However, he protection doesn’t last too long, as a band of Mongols arrive and kidnap Arminia, and kill her father. Arias is left arrive, and blamed for the atrocity. The mob quickly pick up their flaming torches once more and tie Arias to a stake. But just before going up in flames, she is rescued once more, this time by Hercules.

It is determined that the Mongols have taken Arminia to the city of Tornapol, where she is being held captive by Genghis Khan (Roldano Lupi). Naturally enough, Hercules and his new lady friend, Arias, set off in a bid to rescue Arminia.

The real villain in this movie is Kubilai (Ken Clark). Kubilai is a vicious piece of work, prepared to kill anyone who hinders his ascension to power, including his father and his brother. His malevolence is shown when he stabs one of his lovers in the heart after she has learnt too much about Kubilai’s plans.

At times, Hercules Against The Barbarians veers into Tarzan territory. Hercules battles various rubber creatures during his travels including a giant python, and a crocodile. Forest makes an admirable attempt at making the croc fight seem real, but cannot overcome the glaringly fake rubber reptile.

For me, Hercules Against The Barbarians is a weak entry in the Sword and Sandal series. Forest is not my favourite Hercules. He takes the role far too seriously and always looks to be in pain. At best the Hercules films are the antecedents of the swashbuckling films of the thirties and the forties. Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power always had a cheeky smile. Not so Forest. He is workman like in his approach.

On top of that this movie is fairly slowed paced and drags between action sequences. There is one sequence that is worth mentioning though. It is in the palace of Genghis Khan, and we are treated to an array of ‘regal’ entertainment, including oriental dancers spinning plates on sticks, and acrobats spinning and tumbling over giant flags as they are swirled around the room. The entertainment culminates with Hercules and one of Genghis Khan’s warriors fighting to the death in a gauntlet of (rubber tipped) spears.

Hercules Against the Barbarians

Fire Monster Against the Son of Hercules

Film GenericThe version of Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules that I viewed seems to be an American repackaging of another English version of the film. It features a toe-tapping theme song, “The Mighty Sons Of Hercules” which appears to have been tacked onto a few Sons Of Hercules Adventures – for example Mole Men Against The Son Of Hercules starring Mark Forest. In this film Reg Lewis plays Maciste, but the very weird thing is that whenever he says his name, he has been re-dubbed (by another voice that sounds nothing like the original dub). He says “My name is MAXIS – SON OF HERCULES

This film is a bit different to many of the other Hercules, or Sons Of Hercules films. It doesn’t take place in ancient Greece or Italy. It takes place in the Ice Age. Which brings us to a very interesting question. How could the Son Of Hercules being wandering around the planet, when his father wasn’t born till several thousand years later? Maybe it’s best that we ignore that.

The films opens with the Sun Tribe venturing out of the ice, trying to find a new home where they can set up camp. These are the good guys. You can tell, because they wear white fur skins as clothing. Amongst the Sun Tribe are Idar (Luciano Marin) and Fuwan (Andrea Aureli). They are set to be married. As they stroll along the foreshore of a lake, a giant rubber water dragon attacks them. It looks like it is curtains for our young lovers, but from a cliff top over-looking the lake, up jumps Maxis (Reg Lewis). Lewis, who is suitably beefy for the role, looks like a blonde Elvis on steroids. His slicked back, rockabilly haircut seems a little bit out of place during the Ice Age, but that is just another thing that it is best that we ignore. Maxis tosses a spear at the dragon which hits it in the eye. The dragon dies and Maxis walks off, having completed his good deed for the day.

Later, Idar and Fuwan are married. As the ceremony finishes, the Sun Tribe’s camp is attacked by the Moon Tribe. You can tell the Moon Tribe is bad because they wear black fur skins. The Moon Tribe kill most of the men, and take the women prisoner. They march the women back to their camp, which is hidden in a cave.

Idar is now leader of the surviving Sun people, and naturally wants Fuwan (and the other girls) back. He sends out search parties for Maxis, who is undoubtedly wandering around in a forest nearby awaiting some kind of calamity, where his strength and services will be required. He responds to the call, and tracks the Moon Tribe to the underground lair.

Inside the cave, Maxis meets and teams up with Moa (Margaret Lee), and that folks is possibly the main reason to watch this film. There is something special about watching Margaret Lee scantily clad in animal skins.

Despite the title, Maxis doesn’t really have to battle a giant Fire Monster in this film. There are two dragons and a few snake like water monsters, but this film isn’t really a rubber monster flick. It is about the two warring tribes.

There are some decent set pieces throughout the film, mostly fights with bloody great clubs, and of course, Maxis gets to throw around a few paper mache rocks and trees. The cheesiest moment happens when Maxis and Moa have been captured by the Moon Tribe and are buried up to their neck in sand. How the couple escape form this dire predicament is laughable.

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules is pretty average. If it didn’t feature Margaret Lee, I would have switched off half way. Reg Lewis is wooden and very low-key as the hero. As a screen presence, I’d say he was over shadowed by Luciano Marin as Idar. And I am not too convinced about the Stone Age backdrop to this film either. I miss seeing the grand palaces with their evil Kings and Queens, the staple of so many peplum films. All in all, I think this film is a bit of a failure.

Fire Monster Against the Son of Hercules

Sinbad the Sailor

Film GenericAs this Sinbad movie predates Harryhausen’s 7th Voyage Of Sinbad by about ten years, this film doesn’t feature any rubber monsters or mythical creatures. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It simply means this film relies on old fashioned adventure and swashbuckling.

The film opens around a campfire, and Sinbad (Douglas Fairbanks Jnr) is retelling the tales from his previous seven voyages, but the audience is bored. They have all heard his fantastical stories before. And furthermore, they didn’t believe him, the first time he told them. In an earnest attempt to make believers of the men gathered around Sinbad begins retelling the tale of his latest (the 8th) voyage.

Sinbad’s tale begins with a ship floundering off the shore during a violent thunderstorm. Sinbad and his buddy, Abbu (George Tobias), swim out to the ship and take control. On board, the crew is all dead. The water bag has been poisoned. Also on board, Sinbad discovers a map to the fabled land of Derriobah where Alexander The Great is said to have hidden his treasure. Adding to the mystery, in the captain’s quarters, a stained glass window has the same image as an amulet that Sinbad wears around his neck. It is an amulet that he has had since birth.

The legend goes that the King of Derriobah feared that pirates would kidnap his son in an effort to have him reveal the whereabouts of the treasure. So he sent his son off to be brought up in a far away land – away from brigands and pirate treasure seekers. Once the young Prince had grown to manhood, a ship was sent out to find him and bring him back home.

Now the ship has been found, many people believe it will lead them to Derriobah, including Sinbad (who may or may not be the Prince). But as he makes port to take on a crew, the map disappears, and with it, his guide to riches untold of.

Adding to the adventure is Shireen (Maureen O’Hara). Now that Sinbad has lost the map, he believes Shireen is his link to Derriobah. But unfortunately for Sinbad, she has teamed up with the cutthroat Amir of Daipur (Anthony Quinn) in their own quest to find the treasure. Regardless, Sinbad sets sail with his own crew of miscreants in a race to find the lost land and the riches of Alexander The Great.

This film is a nice little adventure tale, but it isn’t too frenetically paced. The running, jumping and swinging style of swashbuckling doesn’t really kick in till the forty minute mark. That’s not to say that the film is boring. It isn’t, but for the first third it concentrates on it’s characters rather than action set pieces. As far as swashbucklers go, this film isn’t bad, but it is a step down from the type of film that Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power had done previously.

Sinbad the Sailor

Satanik

Film GenericBecause of the marketing of this movie, a masked girl in a black or red catsuit, Satanik is often compared to Danger: Diabolik. It’s an unfair comparison because they are totally different styles of film. Satanik is in fact a variation on the Jekyll and Hyde story, and has very little to do with masked heroes or villains. Like Diabolik, there is a Satanik comic book, but even then some extreme liberties have been taken with the character. There is a lot of history to the Satanik character, more than I can list here (and I am far from an expert on this), but believe it or not, this film belongs to the same family as the Turkish Kilink fims or the Italian Kriminal films, rather than Danger:Diabolik.

The film opens with Marnie Bannister (Magda Konopka) walking the street on a dark miserable night. She hails a taxi. Inside the taxi we finally get to see her face. It is horribly disfigured, and we wonder what had happened to her. She is in a hurry and gives her instruction to the taxi driver. She is taken to a Doctor. When she enters the room, we expected him to be shocked at her appearance, but not so. That is just the way she looks. She hasn’t been beaten up or involved in an accident (not recently anyway…we are never given a reason for her disfigurement)…she has lived with her scars for quite some time now. And this doctor is not your standard medical doctor. He is in fact a research scientist and Bannister is his research assistant.

The doctor has been working on youth serum and has had a minor breakthrough. He tried his latest formula on an old decrepit dog and it had staggering effects. The dog reverted back to being a puppy. It appears that the Doctor’s research has been successful, except for one small side effect. The dog is now extremely aggressive. It has become a vicious beast.

Bannister is so impressed with the breakthrough that she immediately volunteers to be the first human guinea pig. The Doctor advises against it. Who knows how it would affect humans. He wants to do more research. This isn’t good enough for Bannister. She has been living with the disfigurement for a long time now, and cannot wait any longer.

Bannister kills the doctor and takes the formula. She begins to convulse and passes out. But when she awakes, she is no longer the ugly, disfigured hag, but a gorgeous, super-model type. Now she is a killer on the run. None-the-less, a beautiful one.

This introduces us to Inspector Trent (Julio Pena), the Scotland Yard detective who is working on the case. It doesn’t seem to matter what country Trent is in, he is given any of that jurisdiction guff. He is allowed to investigate wherever he likes? Trent is a workman like detective. He follows his investigation where it leads, but even at the end, doesn’t truly understand that this case is different; that something (almost) supernatural is happening.

Satanik is not a bad bit of Eurosleaze, but I think it could have been more. It is quite slow in parts and all supporting characters are drawn pretty thin. But then again, the enjoyment from this film comes from watching Bannister move from one problem to the next and how she resolves each of the situations. We don’t really need to dwell on her co-stars. This is where the pacing problems do come into it though. Often we can see what is going to happen, and we want the film-makers to get on with it.

On the plus side, the film has a jet-setting late sixties feel to it. There are playboys in bars, performance art, casinos, go-go dancing, and a swinging sixties soundtrack.

If you enjoy sixties cinema, you may enjoy Satanik. Others may find it a bit slow, and the violence and horror aspects of the story too tame by today’s standards.

Satanik

Light Blast

Film GenericLight Blast is a trashy B-grade cop thriller starring Erik Estrada who was swept to fame in the late 70’s and early 80’s playing Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncharello in the TV series CHiPs. For those too young to remember CHiPs, it was a show about two California Highway Patrol police officers, Estrada, and Larry Wilcox, who rode motorcycles and arrested crooks. In Light Blast, again Estrada plays a cop, but this time he’s decidedly more ‘Dirty Harry’ than ‘Ponch’.

To readers, it must seem lazy for a reviewer to continually mention Dirty Harry, but Harry casts a very long shadow. If a cop film features a tough, violent loner who is good with a gun, then the film is undoubtedly influenced by Harry Callahan and his 44 magnum. Likewise, if a film is more gritty and character driven, it probably owes a debt to The French Connection. And in keeping, if a film features a black actor as the lead, then the film is measured up against Richard Roundtree’s Shaft. All three films were made in 1971. It was a good year for cop movies (although Shaft was a ‘private dick’). And all three films provide the template for the cop films that followed.

It could be argued that over the years in police films, although the cops have battled a various assortment of psychos, it wasn’t until the success of The Silence Of The Lambs, that the style of cop films changed from the model set up in the early 1970’s. These days, cop shows on television (like C.S.I.) and at the movies are pretty dark affairs, with serial killers, stalkers, paedophiles, and bizarre cults plaguing society.

As entertainment, I must admit I find it all rather distasteful – that’s not to say that some of them aren’t good productions. But I long for the days of good old fashioned ‘cops and robbers’. It’s easier to understand the motives of your old style villain. It’s greed and selfishness. He wants money. But today’s villain tends to keep a collection of body parts in his basement, which I can’t really relate to. And furthermore, I am not too enamored when it is served up as entertainment night after night (C.S.I. and Bones – I am looking at you), and yearly at the movies (how many Hannibal Lechter films do we need?)

But I have digressed. Light Blast is from the Dirty Harry school of cop films. Estrada is Ronn Warren, a San Francisco cop. The film opens with Dr. Yuri Soboda (Michael Pritchard) test firing a new high tech laser weapon at a railway depot. At the depot a young couple are engaging in a bit of hanky-panky in a train carriage. Unusual location for a secret tryst, but whatever works for you! As the ray hits the carriage, the young lovers melt…yuk!

Then we cut to a hostage situation. Two armed robbers are holding a dozen people hostage in a bank. Police have circled the building and are trying to negotiate a resolution. But it isn’t easy to reason with the gunmen. To prove that they mean business they shoot one of the hostages. They demand a plane. The police officer in charge of the negotiation – the one with the megaphone – tells them that the plane will take time. Next, the gunmen want a meal. They also want the food delivered by someone without clothes, that way they can see if the person is armed.

Naturally the police don’t send a civilian. They send Ronn Warren. He walks up to the bank practically naked, holding a giant turkey and french-fries (or ‘CHiPs’ as I like to call them – sorry, bad pun). Warren quickly overpowers the ‘perps’ and frees the hostages. He does this with a pistol hidden in the turkey – er, yeah!

Meanwhile, a message is sent to the mayor of San Francisco, by Soboda saying that he wants five million dollars. But first he will fire the weapon again at 5:48pm to prove that the threat is legitimate. As a precaution the city’s police officers are sent to cover and protect all the public event happening that day. Warren is sent to the Freemont Speedway. And of course, that’s where Soboda and his team of extortionists strike. They fire the weapon and melt the announcers booth at the speedway.

Warren observes this, and pursues the laser, which is housed in a television broadcast truck. This leads us to the first of the films four car chase scenes. As the film is set in San Francisco, you will naturally think of Bullitt when you see the vehicles speeding around the undulating San Fran street scape. Needless to say, that none of these chases even comes close to the level of excitement in Bullitt. After each chases, Soboda raises his ransom demands. The final chase starts with a citizen exclaiming, “Hey! What the f*ck are you doin!”, and that perfectly sums up the viewing experience.

Light Blast is trash. The only reason to watch it, is if you are old enough to remember CHiPs fondly, because Erik Estrada is all this film has going for it. The acting is generally atrocious, and the action scenes are repetitive. Each one is a car chase!

Light Blast

Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle

Film GenericSheena: Queen Of The Jungle features former Bond Girl, Tanya Roberts naked. Sometimes she is covered in a few discreetly placed animal skins, but it doesn’t really matter – this film is all about Tanya Roberts’ body. Which if you’re going to concentrate on Tanya Roberts, it’s definitely her best asset, because the poor girl can’t act to save herself.

The adventure begins in the Kingdom of Tigora, in the land of the Zambouli people. A husband and wife scientific team are traveling with their daughter. They have come to this part of the world because they have heard the legend of a ‘healing earth’. That is, that when some tribesmen have become very sick, by being buried up to their neck’s in this ‘healing earth’ has cured them of their ailments.

The scientists trace the magical earth to some caves within a mountain. They get up early leaving their daughter in the care of some natives. The young daughter is a restless spirit though and sneaks out from one of the tents and follows her parents. As they are inside the caves, the young girl calls out to her Mommy. Mum answers back, but the echo inside the cave causes a rockfall. Both parents end up dead.

Sheena, as the young girl is now called, is brought up by the Shaman of the Zambouli people (Elizabeth of Toro). The Shaman teaches her all about the land and it’s creatures great and small – even teaching her telepathic skills which allow her to communicate with the animals. After a quick montage of Sheena growing up (into Tanya Roberts) with Elephants, Hippos, Chimpanze’s and Snakes, we move forward to the present day.

In the City of Azan, the benevolent ruler, King Jabalani (Clifton Jones) is about to marry Countess Zanda (France Zobda). Arriving for the wedding is the King’s younger brother, Prince Otwani (Trevor Thomas). Otwani has been educated in the United States and has become a Pro American footballer. As a sideline he has also had the Kingdom of Tigora geologically surveyed (via satellite – if that’s possible?) and has discovered that the Zabouli tribe sit on a site of valuable potanium. Now the Prince has big plans. Firstly, he is in cahoots, with the King’s soon to be wife. They both plan to kill him and then take over the Kingdom. With absolute power, they intend to run the Zambouli people off their land and then mine the potanium for all it’s worth.

But the Prince isn’t the only guy who has flown in for the wedding. Two ‘Sports World’ reporters, Vic Casey (Ted Wass) and ‘Fletch’ Fletcher (Donovan Scott) have arrived to cover the event – focussing on the footballing Prince – naturally!

The first part of Otwani and Zanda’s plan works to perfection, as the King is assassinated at his wedding reception. Adding to the plot, the Zambouli people are blamed for the killing. But not everyone buys the setup, especially Casey and Fletcher, who have filmed some evidence that would suggest otherwise. But this is of little consequence to Otwani who has assemble an army to crush anyone who stands in his way.

One of those people is Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle and she has a few tricks up her sleeve. Well she doesn’t really have any sleeves and her outfit is pretty skimpy – let’s just say she has a few tricks but I am not quite sure where she keeps them.

If I was a film producer and had millions of dollars to invest, and you came up to me and pitched the script to Sheena to me, I tell you, I’d give you at least 50 to 75 mill off the bat. What’s not to like? The story has everything – a gorgeous heroine, a courageous hero, honour, loss, betrayal, fantastic locations, action, drama and romance. Unfortunately the story sort of gets ruined by the presentation. Roberts is gorgeous but can’t act – that kills your drama and your romance. Wass is ineffectual as the hero (obviously Doug McClure was too old for the role) – and that kills your action, drama and romance. The music by Richard Hartley is absolute crap. It is Vangelis inspired, which is fine if you’re making a sequel to Chariots Of Fire, but for an African adventure movie, it’s pretty abysmal. It may suit the one or two slow-mo shots as Sheena rides her Zebra, but for any action sequences, it simply renders the scene impotent.

But the film isn’t all crap. The cinematography is excellent, and it all looks like it was filmed on location. There is only one scene that has some jarring rear projection photography. The rest is pure National Geographic. It’s good stuff. And secondly, the person who painted the horse to look like a zebra has a true flare for retro design.

Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle

Karamurat Seyh Gaffara Karsi

Film GenericKaramurat Seyh Gaffara Karsi, a Turkish Italian co production, is an Arabian Nights style swashbuckler with a healthy dose of Kung-Fu thrown in for good measure. It starts with Mamaluth, a Khan in a Middle Eastern country, sending four envoys to one of his provinces.

It seems the ruler of this province, Mustapha, is a tyrant who is getting too big for his boots. He refuses to pay the Khan the provincial taxes, choosing to keep them for himself. And furthermore, despite his tyrannical ways, Mustapha’s subjects show a fanatical loyalty to him. The envoys arrive at Mustapha’s court and witness firsthand the power that Mustapha has over his subjects. His subjects are willing to commit suicide or even sacrifice their own children. After the display, Mustapha throws three of the envoys into the dungeons, leaving the other to return to Mamaluth with the bad news that Mustapha no longer considers himself under the Khan’s rule.

The king then chooses his finest warrior to go alone to Mustapha’s province and sort out he problems. This warrior’s name is Karamurat and he is played by Cuneyt (George) Arkin. His name may not be familiar to Western audiences, but in his heyday, he was a superstar in Turkey. As Karamurat, he talks tough: “How would you like me to tear out your moustache!” And he acts tough: in one scene after a brawl, a villain tries to escape on horseback. Rather than fire an arrow, he picks up a battered and bruised minion and throws him at the escaping rider.

During his quest, Kuramurat has run-ins, not only with Mustapha’s guards (which there are plenty to beat up on), but also with Ali Baba and his Forty Thieves and a trio of Kung-Fu fighting Chinese dope merchants.

However, Karamurat’s greatest challenge is to overcome is the wicked charms of Selema, Mustapha’s favourite concubine. It’s her propensity to take off her clothes that stop this from being a kids’ film, which is a shame (not that I mind seeing her dancing around topless), but the story is in the style of a ‘boys own adventure’. Unfortunately little boys can’t watch it due to her quasi – psychedelic/erotic dance routines.

Ultimately, Karamurat Seyh Gaffara Karsiis a fairly innocuous time waster. For me, the enjoyment came from seeing how the Turks handle this kind of subject matter. It’s not that different from Hollywood, but with the addition of Kung Fu, and I’d guess this addition has more to do with the success of Bruce Lee and his successors, than a movement in the Turkish film industry.

Karamurat Seyh Gaffara Karsi

The Phantom Of The Opera

Film GenericThe Phantom Of The Opera is a tale that has been told many times, but in recent years, the success of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version, both on stage and on screen, has overshadowed some of the earlier telling of the tale. This version is the Hammer Studios version, and like many of their films, it deviates from the source material, but still provides a great little story.

The film begins on the opening night of Lord Ambrose d’Arcy’s (Michael Gough) new opera ‘Joan Of Arc’. For weeks the Opera House, in the lead-up to the production, has been plagued by small accidents. Some people even believe that the theatre is haunted. The bad luck continues during the performance when one of the stage hands, hanging from a rope around his neck, tears one of the backdrops and swings out into the middle of the stage, dead.

The leading lady in the production quits and the season of ‘Joan Of Arc’ is postponed until a replacement can be found. The production Manager, Harry Hunter (Edward de Souza) finds a girl named Christine Charles (Heather Sears) who has the voice to fit the bill. But Lord d’Arcy is a lecherous swine and tries to take advantage of the rising starlets desire to perform. She rebuffs his advances and d’Arcy fires her from the production and seeks a new starlet to sing the lead.

Hunter tries to reason with d’Arcy, but for his trouble he gets fired too. Afterwards he goes to Christine’s lodgings to tell her the bad news. At the lodgings, however, the landlady tells him of one of her previous tenants, Professor Petrie who was a composer who died in a fire many years previously.

Hunter does some investigating into the death of Professor Petrie. It seems that Petrie wrote a great deal of music, but broke, went to Lord d’Arcy to see if he could get his work published. Lord d’Arcy agreed to buy and publish the work, but instead stole it, and put his name to the music. In a fit of rage, Petrie went to the printers that were running off ‘d’Arcy’s ill gotten sheet music and threw all the printed sheets into the furnace. One sheet fell out of the furnace and onto the floor starting a small fire. Petrie picked up a bucket filled with acid, thinking that it is water. He then threw the acid on the fire, and it splashed back in his face. Blinded in one eye and in tremendous pain, Petrie ran from the printers, out into the street, and then threw him self into the river – never to be seen again.

The Phantom Of The Opera is not a true horror film. Their are a couple of violent scenes, but they aren’t too shocking. Like the best of Hammer, what this film has got going for it, is a sense of atmosphere, and a great ensemble of character actors. Lom is good, but considering he spends most of the movie hidden behind a mask it is his voice that carries his performance. Michael Gough though is brilliantly evil as Lord Ambrose d’Arcy, and he dominates every scene he is in. All in all, The Phantom Of The Opera is an entertaining tale in true Hammer style, of good versus evil, corruption and revenge.

The Phantom Of The Opera

Ten Little Indians

10littleIndiansTMGI am a simple man with simple tastes. And if you put Shirley Eaton and Daliah Lavi together in a movie then you’re pandering to those tastes. Such a pairing occurs in the pot-boiler, Ten Little Indians, based on the novel And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

The film opens in the dead of winter, with eight guests arriving at a train station in Austria. Then they take a cable car up the snow covered mountain to castle residence of Mr. Owen, who is to be their host for the evening. Upon arrival they are greeted by the manservant and his wife, Joseph and Elsa Grohmann (Mario Adorph and Marianne Hoppe). The guests are stunned to learn that their host is not at the castle but will be arriving later in the evening for dinner.

As none of the guests know each other they introduce themselves. The guests are Hugh Lombard (Hugh O’Brian), Ann Clyde (Shirley Eaton), Mike Raven (Fabian), General Sir John Mandrake (Leo Genn), Detective William Henry Blore (Stanley Holloway), Judge Arthur Cannon (Wilfrid Hyde-White), Dr. Edward Armstrong (Dennis Price) and Ilona Bergen (Daliah Lavi). Once they have met, they also ascertain that none of them actually know their host, Mr Owen. They call in Grohmann the manservant to find out a bit more about there host, only to find that he and his wife were only employed two days previously through an employment agency. It appears that no one knows their host at all. But all should be revealed when he arrives for dinner! Not to be. Mr. Owen doesn’t turn up. The guests are slightly concerned, but Owen may have been delayed by the snow.

Later that evening as the guests relax in the parlour, a recorded message begins to play. The message in from Mr. U.N. Owen (Unknown – get it?), and it is voiced by venerated horror film icon Christopher Lee. Owen charges the house guests with the following crimes. Ann Clyde murdered his sister’s fiancé Richard Barclay – Bergen brought about the death of her husband in a cold blooded and brutal fashion – Lombard is guilty of the death of Jennifer Hays – Raven murdered William and Lisa Stern – Mandrake sent five men to their deaths – Cannon was responsible for the death of a innocent man – Armstrong killed Miss Ivy Bedson – and Blore through perjured testimony sent a man to his death. But it is not only the guests who are on trial, but the staff as well. Joseph and Elsa Grohmann are accused of the death of their previous employer.

After this rude attack upon the guests character, each of them wants to leave the castle. Grohmann tries to arrange it but the phone is dead, and the cable car is not operating at this time of the evening. They all decide to make the best of it and decide to ride it out. That is until Mike Raven drops dead from cyanide poisoning.

As this film is a ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery, I won’t outline any more of the plot, needless to say that the guests are picked off one by one, by an unseen assailant – and each murder correlates to the Ten Little Indians nursery rhyme.

Most of the enjoyment in this film comes from the cast. I’ve already mentioned the girls, but the old stagers aren’t bad either. In the end Ten Little Indians is a half decent little thriller that has much in common with the Krimi thrillers that were being made at the same time, the difference being that this is based on Agatha Christie, rather than an Edgar Wallace story. While you can’t really consider it a Krimi, if you happen to be watching The College Girl Murders or The Strangler Of Blackmoor Castle, then add this film to your list. It will slot in very nicely.

Ten Little Indians

Hannie Caulder

HannieTMGHannie Caulder is a film that is very hard to classify. Sure it’s a western, but what kind of western is it? It appears to be a Spaghetti Western, produced by the British; and made by and starring Americans. Furthermore at times, particularly during the opening scenes, it comes across as a dirty little exploitation picture. Adding to that it often veers off into black comedy. Strangely that comedy is performed by the three most repugnant characters in the film – almost as if the film-makers wanted us to like them.

Here’s a quick overview of the story. The three Clemens brothers, Emmett (Ernest Borgnine), Frank (Jack Elam), and Rufus (Strother Martin) ride into a sleepy Mexican town. It is the middle of the day, and all of the Federales are taking a siesta. The Brothers make their way to the bank and hold it up. The robbery goes wrong and it turns into a violent bloody shootout. With the Federales awoken, the would be banditos mount their horses and gallop out of town. With the Federales hard on their heels, the Clemens boys ride their horses pretty hard until they are worn out.

Here, they come upon a farm with a corral full of fresh horses. As they attempt to steal some new beasts, the owner of the property enters the picture brandishing a shotgun. Unfortunately he doesn’t notice Rufus off to his left, also carrying a shotgun. Rufus fires and the farmer is killed. Inside the small homestead, the farmer’s wife, Hannie (Raquel Welch) is preparing a meal. Frank, Emmett and Rufus stumble into the house and repeatedly rape her.

With fresh horses and their carnal desires satiated, the brothers ride off leaving Hannie to die in the burning homestead. She manages to scramble out before the building collapses, but her only possession is a Mexican poncho which barely covers her.

Desolately she waits at the house. What for? – we’ll never know. Suddenly a stranger appears with two horses. The man is Thomas Luther Price (Robert Culp), and he is one of the most feared and respected bounty hunters in the country – depending on which side of the law you stand.

Hannie offers her body to him if he will teach her to shoot. He says no and rides off. She refuses to take no for an answer and follows him on foot. Eventually Price gives in, and agrees to teach Hannie the art of gunfighting, so se can seek revenge.

Hannie Caulder is an uneven film, not only because of the differing styles, but because the actors appear to be acting in different films. The Clemens Brother are the Three Stooges – that is if the Three Stooges were violent psychopathic rapists. Everything they do is wrong – the bank heist goes wrong – a stagecoach robbery goes wrong. They are just plain incompetent. At one point Emmett explains that everything would have been okay if their father was still alive – only to learn that Rufus accidentally killed their Daddy while cleaning his gun. I don’t know if it is meant to be black comedy, but the lines are delivered as if it is.

Next we have Raquel Welch. This film was made at the peak of her popularity, and she certainly looks great, especially in the poncho. But as a rape victim her character is damaged goods. But at times this film displays a double standard – she wants revenge because she was brutally raped, but to get this revenge she is willing to offer her body to Price. Even when a sleazy sheriff spanks he on the ass, she passes it off as a joke. Now I am far from being an expert on the psychology of rape victims, but I can accept that after such an incident, that the sex act would no longer have any meaning to Hannie. But the fact that she is so doggedly determined to track down and kill the men who violated her would indicate otherwise. As I said, I am not an expert, but to me the character seems uneven.

That brings us to Robert Culp. I have seen Culp in numerous television shows, but in very few movies. Based on my limited viewing experience, I would say that this is Culp’s best performance. He is the ‘heart’ of the picture. He is noble, fair, and great with a gun. In real life, nice guys often finish last, but not so here. Of course, if you are going to watch Hannie Caulder, you are watching it foe Raquel Welch – I understand and appreciate that. But this is not a skin flick. It’s about performances, and Culp gives the best one.

And worth a quick mention, venerated horror film icon Christopher Lee makes a small appearance as a gun smith, and what’s more – he’s a good guy?

I’d like to recommend Hannie Caulder very highly. But I can’t. It’s bit too confused and the character motivations are skewed. I can even see some people being offended by this film. But it is a ‘revenge and retribution’ flick, so some unpleasantness is to be expected. Maybe this would make a great vengeful female gunfighter double feature, teamed up with The Quick And The Dead.

Hannie Caulder