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CHUD Challenge: Twice-Told Tales (1963)

Twice-Told Tales (1963) dir. Sidney Salkow

The book version of Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne was full of ghosts and supernatural occurrences, so it's not surprising that a star vehicle for noted horror actor Vincent Price would dip into that well. It's not a very deep dip, though, with only one story from that anthology, one from a different story collection, and the third from an independent novel. In addition, great liberties were taken to amp up the horror aspects.

"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" starts us off with Carl Heidegger (Sebastian Cabot) and his old friend Alex (Price) celebrating Carl's 79th birthday. Carl still misses his late fiancee Sylvia, who died on the night before their wedding. A freak thunderstorm opens the crypt where Sylvia lays. The friends soon discover that a leak in the ceiling has been dripping a fluid that has somehow preserved Sylvia's body without decay. Dr. Heidegger experiments with the fluid, and it turns out to have rejuvenating properties. It might even be able to bring back the dead! But with returned youth come old secrets and dark passions.

Front-loading the film with a story featuring another fine character actor was a good choice. Cabot is able to keep up with Price, increasing interest.

"Rappaccini's Daughter" is the most faithful of the adaptations. When Giacomo Rappaccini's (Price) wife left for another man, he locked himself and his daughter Beatrice away in a high-walled villa in Padua. There, among his garden of poisonous plants, Rappaccini turned Beatrice into someone who is immune to poison, at the cost of making her poisonous to everyone else. Thus she can never leave the garden, or be exposed to the evil of men.

But university student Giovanni happens to see Beatrice from a high window in the neighboring building and falls in love. Beatrice returns his feelings, but knows that she is deadly to the touch. Rappachini has a plan, but his misunderstanding of Beatrice's best interests leads to tragedy. Some very nice poison effects.

"The House of the Seven Gables" begins with Gerald Pyncheon (Price) returning to the title house, his ancestral home, after many years away, bringing along his wife Alice. Gerald's sister Hannah is none too pleased to see him as he gambled away the family money, and is now obviously after the last treasure rumored to be hidden away in a secret vault.

Gerald is defying a family curse that all the Pyncheon men will die "with blood on their lips", of which he is the last survivor. It seems that the ancestor who had the house built had condemned a man to death for witchcraft. The strange supernatural things going on now suggest that perhaps Matthew Malle wasn't quite as innocent of that charge as his family claimed. Naturally, Gerald's greed dooms him and all in his vicinity to dangerous times.

The special effects team goes all out in this last segment. Just remember it's the early 1960s.

Content note: One of the stories has on-screen suicide.

This is a fun movie if you like Vincent Price trying on three slightly different roles (elderly playboy, overprotective father, greedy husband.) If you're not keen on him, this movie will be a bit much. I personally enjoyed it immensely.

CHUD Challenge: Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek (2009) directed by J.J. Abrams

The U.S.S. Kelvin is cruising through space when a spacial anomaly opens, disgorging an unknown, highly advanced technology ship that promptly attacks. It turns out to be captained by a Romulan named Nero, who has a grudge against someone named "Ambassador Spock." In the absence of that person, Nero is perfectly willing to destroy Federation vessels. Acting Captain George Kirk is able to evacuate the ship and then ram it into the enemy vessel to protect the evacuees at the cost of his own life. Among the survivors is George's newborn son, James Tiberius Kirk.

Twenty-two years later, Jim Kirk is a directionless rebel, with high potential but no prospects in Iowa. After a bar brawl, Kirk is offered a chance to go to Starfleet Academy and make something of himself. It helps that recruiting officer Pike knew Jim's father.

Three years into his Academy training, Kirk is up on charges of cheating when word comes that Nero is on the move and about to attack Vulcan. Now's his chance to prove his mettle! If only Jim weren't grounded....

When the original Star Trek began airing in 1966, it started in media res. The Enterprise was already several months into its five-year mission, the main characters had been in their positions long enough to have established working relationships, and there was minimal discussion of their backstories. Bits and pieces of the past were revealed over the three television seasons (largely made up on the spot by the writers as they went) and it was up to the fans to try to work out a coherent overall narrative.

By the time the movies came out, the continuity had largely been established, and with the actors aging, it was deemed best to keep going with an older crew.

But in the 2000s, the people who now controlled the Star Trek franchise decided it was time for a "reboot", casting fresh young actors as the familiar characters in new stories. And since they were starting all over, why not have the new movie be an origin story for Captain Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise?

Rather than break all ties with the original series, the "reboot" instead used time travel to establish that the new Trek was an alternate universe, with Leonard Nimoy reprising his role as Spock from the original timeline, while Zachary Quinto played the young Spock of the new timeline. (It's obvious to the long time fan that the changes to the timeline began before Nero arrived, but his attack jolted it into a whole new path.)

Good stuff: All the familiarly-named characters get at least one moment to shine and show why they're important crew members for the Enterprise. (Chapel and Rand are either cut out or reduced to wordless cameos, not sure which.) Some very nice action scenes and explosions. Leonard Nimoy is very good as Spock Prime.

Less good: Spock has a character arc learning to handle his emotions more constructively, but Kirk has no reciprocal arc learning to be less of an ass; instead his arc is about getting other people to realize just how awesome he is. And make no mistake--this Jim Kirk is an ass. The film plays up the stereotypical cocky and horny Kirk qualities, without the moderation or consulting of his officers of Classic Kirk.

Also, I am really not keen on making someone who hasn't even graduated from Starfleet Academy the full-time captain of Starfleet's flagship vessel. Classic Kirk was the youngest Starfleet Captain ever, but that was still after he'd had real experience as a subordinate on other ships.

I am disappointed as well that the social commentary aspect of Star Trek seems to be entirely missing. It's one of the things that makes Star Trek different from the other science fiction franchises.

Still, it's a good popcorn movie, and I still have tapes of the classic series.

CHUD Challenge: Tales from Earthsea

Tales from Earthsea (2006) dir. Goro Miyazaki

There is something rotten in the Two Lands. Wizards are losing their powers, dragons are fighting each other, animals and children are dying of disease, storms are getting worse, slavery and drug addiction are on the rise. And also, Prince Arren has just committed an unspeakable crime.

Thus Arren is now a fugitive, fleeing with racking guilt, fits of irrational violence and a sword he cannot unsheath. He is pursued by a shadowy figure of unknown intent. Arren meets the wandering wizard Sparrowhawk, who takes the troubled lad under his wing.

On their way, Sparrowhawk and Arren stop for a bit at the home of Tenar, Sparrowhawk's old friend and one of the few people who knows his True Name of Ged. She's taken in a burned and abandoned girl named Therru, who isn't good with strangers.

Sparrowhawk's quest to find the source of the imbalance in nature that is causing Earthsea's problems is closer to completion than he thinks. The wizard Cob, who also runs the local slavery racket, plans to become immortal at any cost to everyone else, and he sees Arren as a way to help accomplish this and get revenge on his old enemy Sparrowhawk.

This movie is loosely based on the much loved Earthsea series of fantasy books by Ursula K. LeGuin. It mashes together the plots of two of the books, while leaving considerable amounts out from those same books. While it's done in the lovely Ghibli art style (some character designs look awfully familiar), famed director Hayao Miyazaki had temporarily retired at that point, so the direction was by his son Goro.

The art is lovely, there are some nice magical effects, and some excellent moments in the final fight. For a country-spanning menace, it's a tight cast of characters. (One person with enough resources and selfish goals can ruin the environment for everyone.)

But the movie just is not as good as it could have been. Important bits of explanation are left out, like just how the shadowy figure that pursues Arren ties in to anything, or what's going on with the huge spoiler twist in the last ten minutes.

Also, the cast's appearance is influenced by mukokuseki "statelessness", a generic look designed to make characters look vaguely Japanese to Japanese viewers and "white" to Western viewers, when the book characters are largely dark-skinned. (Sparrowhawk is just tan enough to allow his pale scars to be noticeable.) Therru's character design was also altered to minimize her extensive burn damage, apparently so the audience would find her cute.

Overall, the movie is a pleasant diversion, but the books are better.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) dir. Robert Wise

The humans of Earth are a fractious lot. Why, just six years ago, they had an entire World War, as a result of which they created and used atomic weapons. You'd think they would have learned their lesson, but instead they went right into a Cold War, turning hot in places like Korea. And they're building rockets to explore beyond their atmosphere! If the Earthlings got off their own planet while still maintaining their warlike ways, other worlds might be threatened. Someone should really go and have a word with them.

And so Klaatu has come to Earth with his mighty robot companion Gort. They land their saucer in a Washington, D.C. park near the Mall. Klaatu speaks words of peace, but when he pulls out a device that looks a teensy bit like a ray gun, a nervous soldier shoots him. Gort raises his visor and reduces multiple pieces of military hardware to ash before Klaatu gets his breath back enough to ask Gort to stop.

Klaatu recovers in a nearby hospital, but the governments of Earth refuse to meet together to hear his message, even at the United Nations. Realizing he needs to learn more about the Earthlings before taking his next step, Klaatu escapes from the hospital and assumes the identity of Mr. Carpenter, a traveler who takes a room at a boarding house.

There he meets widow Helen Benson and her son Bobby, who Mr. Carpenter makes a good impression on. So much so, that when Helen steps out with her new boyfriend Tom, an insurance salesman, she allows Mr. Carpenter to babysit Bobby by having the boy guide him around town. Bobby enables Klaatu to see that Earth people do have some capacity for goodness and growth, and enables Mr. Carpenter to get in contact with Earth's greatest scientist, Professor Barnhardt.

Professor Barnhardt is willing to assemble an international conference of scientists to hear Klaatu's message, and asks for a non-lethal demonstration of the alien's power to back up his words. Klaatu does so, halting most electrical activity on Earth (except where that would kill people) and making the Earth Stand Still. The military does not respond well, and this sets up the spine-tingling conclusion.

This 1951 film is deservedly considered one of the all-time classic science fiction films, far above the schlock treatment the genre usually received at the time. The acting is decent, the effects very well done given technological limitations (there were two Gort costumes with zippers in different places, depending on whether Gort is facing towards or away from the camera.) The theremin music is spooky, and the writing is also good. Even though all of the action is confined to the Washington area, the international nature of the crisis is frequently shown, and even in American crowds we see some diversity.

A hilarious moment for later audiences is when two doctors are baffled by the fact that Klaatu's people live twice the lifespan of Earth humans, and wonder how this is accomplished--then light up cigarettes.

There is one clunker of a line late in the film, put in at the insistence of the censors, about how raising the dead permanently is reserved for "The Almighty." And there's that moment at the beginning where Klaatu stupidly makes a sudden move in front of a nervous and highly armed crowd.

Highly recommended for any science fiction fan who has somehow not seen it before, or only seen the much less well done remake.

CHUD Challenge: Three Outlaw Samurai

Three Outlaw Samurai (1964) directed by Hideo Gosha.

Times are tough in this rural district of Japan. There's been a succession of bad harvests, but no reduction in taxes, so the peasants are starving and broke. In desperation, several farmers have kidnapped the daughter of the local magistrate in an effort to extort him into presenting their case to the provincial lord. Three masterless samurai are also in the area, and about to be swept up into this crisis.

This was the first movie directed by Hideo Gosha, who'd previously worked in television, including directing the first season of the television series the movie is a prequel to. In that series, three ronin travel from place to place righting wrongs and protecting the weak. This film reveals how the trio gets together.

The first samurai we meet is Shiba, who finds a woman's hairpin on the path to an old mill, investigates, and learns about the kidnapping. Once it's clear that the farmers aren't going to rape Aya, the magistrate's daughter, or seriously harm her, he starts helping them out. He knows full well the magistrate isn't going to respond well to this tactic.

The next to join is Sakura, a scruffy spear carrier that was in jail for vagrancy. He's offered his freedom and a reward for fighting the farmers and their new samurai ally. On the way to the mill, Sakura is ambushed by one of the farmers, and kills the man. But once he hears the truth about what's going on, Sakura switches sides. Later, he starts developing feelings for Oine, widow of the man he killed, who doesn't know the truth. Awk-ward.

Kikyo is nominally on the magistrate's side for much of the movie, as he's been freeloading off that household's food supply. He is, however, careful to avoid any of the more heinous actions requested by the magistrate. When the magistrate demonstrates straight up that he is a man without honor, Kikyo defects.

Meanwhile, the magistrate is trying to keep the news of the peasant disgruntlement as quiet as possible, no matter what dirty tricks he has to pull to ensure that. The lord is visiting this district in a few days, and if the petition disturbs the lord in any way, the magistrate is sure to lose his position.

Since this is a samurai revenge drama,while we know the three central characters are going to make it out alive somehow, don't get too attached to anyone else.

The good: Our main trio are honorable men who try to do the right thing, even in a cynical world where doing the right thing is often fatal or a failure. They don't always live up to their own standards, but their consciences are very much alive. Overall, everyone's motivations and the resulting actions ring true.

There's some excellent action sequences. I especially liked the invasion of the old mill for good fight choreography in a cramped space filled with obstacles.

Less good: Some parts of the film felt like they were shot for television rather than a movie, not using the full frame well. I am given to understand that Mr. Gosha quickly became much better at this. Sakura and Oine's romance felt very rushed, as though it were put in solely for the sake of having a little romance.

Content notes: As expected from a samurai drama, there's plenty of black and white blood being spilled. There's also a couple of torture scenes. Kikyo has sex with a prostitute just off-screen.

Recommended to fans of samurai revenge drama. Sadly, it appears that the first few seasons of the TV show the movie is based on have been lost, so following up with that is not an option.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) dir. Isao Takahata

Mukashi, mukashi, long, long ago in Japan, there lived an old bamboo cutter and his wife who had no children. One day while the bamboo cutter was out in the bamboo grove, he saw one of the bamboo stalks glowing. A new bamboo shoot sprung up from the ground, and when it opened, there was a tiny princess inside. Thus begins "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter", a classic fairy tale of Japanese tradition.

This animated adaptation by Studio Ghibli centers the girl, who will become known as "Kaguya-Hime", the Shining Princess. When the bamboo cutter's wife takes hold of the tiny princess, it transforms into a seemingly normal human infant. (Perhaps symbolic of how fathers may envision a child, but it's the mother who actually has to grow them.) The child is not normal, though, and grows quickly, like a bamboo shoot. The other children in the village nickname her "Takenoko" because of this.

While Takenoko enjoys frolicking with her friends in the countryside, her adoptive father finds a stash of gold in another bamboo shoot, and then a pile of fine robes. He reasons that the Heavens, which blessed him with a daughter in the first place, want him to take his "Hime" to the big city and raise her up to be a upper class lady.

The family moves to the capital, and Hime is given instruction in how to be a proper young woman. While a reluctant student, she proves suspiciously good at playing the koto and speaking properly. She's also blossomed into a great beauty, and is given the name Kaguya-Hime. Although very few people have actually seen her due to social custom, the rumors of her good looks attracts multiple suitors, including high government officials and even the Emperor himself!

Kaguya-Hime tries to discourage suitors by assigning them impossible tasks, for she has no interest in marriage just yet, but this does little to stop their pursuit. Eventually, circumstances come to a crisis, and Kaguya-Hime finally remembers the real reason she came to Earth in the first place, when it's too late to undo what she's done.

The art style is done as a water color palette, like a children's book, and is heavy on the traditional Ghibli lush scenes of nature. There are, however, moments where the animation gives itself over to expressionism to convey great speed or intense action. The music by Joe Hisashi is fitting and of high quality.

There's a looming sense of claustrophobia in many of the scenes, as to ensure Kaguya-Hime's "happiness", society just kinds of assumes she wants to marry well, and men make decisions without consulting her. Parents of younger viewers may want to talk about social expectations and how they've changed.

My favorite character is the short servant, who clearly cares for Kaguya-Hime, even if she isn't always the best help.

Some parents may be a bit reluctant as Japan's more casual attitude towards children seeing nudity applies--we see women breastfeeding, and small kids going bare. More difficult to handle for some kids will be the fact that this tale does not have a conventionally happy ending, but one that is more bittersweet.

Recommended for families whose children are ready for more complexity in their fairy tales.

CHUD Challenge List: July 2019

This is a list of movies I've had lying around for ages and never got around to watching, so I am participating in the CHUD Challenge. A member of the CHUD Buddies community will be picking four of these movies for me to watch during July, and post reviews of same.

20th Century Boys 1: Beginning of the End (2008) dir. Yukihiko Tsutsumi
20th Century Boys 2: The Last Hope (2009) dir. Yukihiko Tsutsumi
20th Century Boys 3: Redemption (2009) dir. Yukihiko Tsutsumi

Absolution (1978) dir. Anthony Page
Adventures of Gallant Bess (1948) dir. Lew Landers
The Adventures of Rex and Rinty (1935) dir. Ford Beebe
Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls (2008) dir. Mark Atkins
All-Star Superman (2011) dir. Sam Liu
The Amazing Mr. X (1948) Bernard Vorhaus
The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) dir. Edgar G. Ulmer
Angel and the Badman (1947) dir. James Edward Grant
Anna Karenina (1948) dir. Julien Duvivier
The Ape (1940) dir. William Nigh
Apocalypse (1997) dir. Hubert de la Bouillerie
The Armour of God (1986) dir. Jackie Chan
Assassin of Youth (1938) dir. Elmer Clifton
Atom Age Vampire (1960) dir. Anton Giuilo Majano
Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) dir. Bernard L. Kowalski
Attack of the Moon Zombies (2011) dir. Christopher R. Mihm
The Avenging Eagle (1978) dir. Chung Sun
Azumi 2 (2005) dir. Shusuke Kaneko

Bangkok Haunted (2001) dir. Oxide Chun Pang
The Bat (1926) dir. Roland West
Beast from Haunted Cave (1959) dir. Monte Hellman
Beauty and the Beast (1991) dir. Gary Trousdale
The Big Boss (1971) dir. Wei Lo
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) dir. John Carpenter
Black Jack: The Movie (1996) dir. Osamu Dezaki
The Black Room (1935) dir. Roy William Neill
Blood Brothers (?) dir. Chang Cheh
The Brain that Wouldn't Die (1962) dir. Joseph Green
Braveheart (1995) dir. Mel Gibson
Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937) dir. James P. Hogan

Captain Kidd (1945) dir. Rowland V. Lee
The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969) dir. Jesus Franco
Celtic Thunder: It's Entertainment (2010) dir. Michael Watt
Chained for Life (1951) dir. Harry L. Fraser
Champagne (1928) dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (1944) dir. Phil Rosen
Child Bride (1938) dir. Harry Revier
Chocolate (2008) dir. Prachya Pinkaew
Creature (1985) dir. William Malone
Crypt of the Vampire (1964) dir. Camillo Mastrocinque

Dead-Alive (1992) dir. Peter Jackson
The Dead Matter (2010) dir. Edward Douglas
Death Wish (1974) dir. Michael Winner
Devil Girl from Mars (1954) dir. David MacDonald
Doctor Strange (2007) dir. Patrick Archibald
Dragon Ball Z: Cooler's Revenge (1991) dir. Mitsuo Hashimoto
Drunken Monkey (2003) dir. Chia-Liang Liu

Earthquake (1974) dir. Mark Robson
Easy Virtue (1926) dir. Alfred Hitchcock
The Egg and I (1947) Chester Erskine
Electric Dragon 80,000 V (2001) dir. Gakuryu Ishii (4)
Excalibur (1981) dir. John Boorman (3)
Existenz (1999) dir. David Cronenburg

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) dir. Hironobu Sakaguchi
Fist of Fury (1972) dir. Wei Lo
Five Deadly Venoms (1978) dir. Cheh Chang
Flash Gordon: Rocketship (1936) dir. Ford Beebe
The Fly (1958) dir. Kurt Neumann
The Flying Deuces (1939) dir. A. Edward Sutherland
The Flying Scotsman (1929) dir. Castleton Knight
Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (1974) dir. Dick Randall

Gaslight (1940) dir. Thorold Dickinson
The General (1936) dir. Clyde Bruckman
The Giant of Marathon (1959) dir. Jacques Tourneur
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) dir. Mamoru Hosoda
Great American West (1973) dir. Denis Sanders
Green Lantern: First Flight (2009) Dir. Lauren Montgomery

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) dir. Chris Columbus
The Hasty Heart (1949) dir. Vincent Sherman
Hollywood Safari (1997) dir. Henri Charr
Horror Hotel (1960) dir. John Llewellyn Moxey
House on Haunted Hill (1959) dir. William Castle

The Incredibles (2004) dir. Brad Bird
Inuyasha the Movie 2: The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass (2002) dir. Toshiya Shinohara

The Jade Mask (1945) dir. Phil Rosen
Jodhaa Akbar (2008) dir. Ashutosh Gowariker
Juggernaut (1936) dir. Henry Edwards
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010) dir. Sam Liu
Justice League Doom (2012) dir. Lauren Montgomery
Justice League vs. the Fatal Five (2019) dir. Wes Gleason

The Kennel Murder Case (1933) dir. Michael Curtiz
Key Largo (1948) dir. John Huston
Kitaro (2007) dir. Katsuhide Motoki
Kunpan: Legend of the Warlord (2002) dir. Tanit Jitnukul

The Land that Time Forgot (2009) dir. C. Thomas Howell
The Last Tycoon (2012) dir. Jing Wong
Law of the Wild (1934) dir. B. Reeves Eason
Legend of the Eight Samurai (1983) dir. Kinji Fukasaku
Legend of the Red Dragon (1994) dir. Jing Wong
Let the Right One In (2008) dir. Tomas Alfredson
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) dir. Peter Jackson

Ma and Pa Kettle (1949) dir. Charles Lamont
Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell (1987) dir. Jim Monaco
Mamma Mia! The Movie (2008) dir. Phyllida Lloyd
The Man They Could Not Hang (1939) dir. Nick Grinde
The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) dir. RZA
Martial Angels (2001) dir. Clarence Ford
Maze (1996) dir. Atsushi Aono
Meera (1992) dir. P.C. Sreeram
Meeting at Midnight (1944) dir. Phil Rosen
Metropolis (1927) dir. Fritz Lang
Metropolis (2001) dir. Rintaro
Militant Eagle (1978) dir. Chia Chih Li
The Milky Way (1936) dir. Leo McCarey
Monster from Green Hell (1957) dir. Kenneth G. Crane
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) dir. Terry Gilliam

Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow (2004) dir. Tensai Okamura
Naruto the Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom (2006) dir. Toshiyuki Tsuru

One-Eyed Jacks (1961) dir. Marlon Brando
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003) dir. Prachya Pinkaew
The Over-the-Hill Gang (1969) dir. Jean Yarbrough

Paradise Canyon (1935) dir. Carl Pierson
The Plague of the Zombies (1966) dir. John Gilling
Pokemon: Mewtwo Returns (2000) dir. Matsamitsu Hidaka
Ponyo (2008) dir. Hayao Miyazaki
Princess Mononoke (1997) dir. Hayao Miyazaki (1)
Prodigal Boxer (?) dir. Unknown, stars Fei Meng
Project A (1983) dir. Jackie Chan

Rage at Dawn (1955) dir. Tim Whelan
Return of the Evil Fox (1991) dir. George Leung
The Return of the Five Deadly Venoms (1978) dir. Cheh Chang
Return of the Fly (1959) dir. Edward Bernds

Samurai Princess (2009) dir. Kengo Kaji
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) dir. Allan Dwan
The Scarlet Clue (1945) dir. Phil Rosen
Secret of the Andes (1998) dir. Alejandro Azzano
Serenity (2005) dir. Joss Whedon
The Seven Samurai (1954) dir. Akira Kurosawa
Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990) dir. Michael Herz
The Shanghai Cobra (1945) dir. Phil Karlson
The Shooting (1966) dir. Monte Hellman
Snake Girl and the Silver Haired Witch (1968) dir. Noriaki Yuasa
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) dir. Henry King
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) dir. William Cottrell
Spy Smasher (1942) dir. William Witney
Summer Wars (2009) dir. Mamoru Hosoda
Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) dir. Terence Fisher

Tales from the East (unknown) dir. Manfred Wong
Tales of Terror (1962) dir. Roger Corman
Tarzan and the Trappers (1958) dir. Charles F. Haas
Tears of the Black Tiger (2000) dir. Wisit Sasanatieng
Tulsa (1949) dir. Stuart Heisler
Twice-Told Tales (1963) dir. Sidney Salkow (2)

Volcano High (2001) dir. Tae-gyun Kim
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968) dir. Peter Bogdanovich

The War of the Worlds (1953) dir. Byron Haskin
Weird Woman (1944) dir. Reginald Le Borg
When Worlds Collide (1951) dir. Rudolph Mate
White Comanche (1967) dir. Gilbert Kay
White Zombie (1932) dir. Victor Halperin
Wildfire (1945) dir. Robert Emmett Tansey
Winds of the Wasteland (1936) dir. Mack Wright
Wonder Woman (2009) dir. Lauren Montgomery
Zebraman (2009) dir. Takashi Miike

Why, yes, most of these are from discount bins, why do you ask?

Previous Challenge movies:
Blackmail (1929) dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Carnival of Souls (1962) dir. Herk Harvey
Chamber of Horrors (1940) dir. Norman Lee
The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (2006) dir. Russell Mulcahy
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) dir. Robert Wise
The Last Man on Earth (1960) dir. Sidney Saikow
Operation Condor (1991) dir. Jackie Chan
Star Trek (2009) dir. J.J. Abrams
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) dir. Isao Takahata
Tales from Earthsea (2006) dir. Goro Miyazaki
Tarzan the Fearless (1933) dir. Robert F. Hill
Three Outlaw Samurai (1964) dir. Hideo Gosha

CHUD Challenge: Operation Condor (1991)

Operation Condor (1991) directed by Jackie Chan

Back during World War Two, a large shipment of gold was concealed at a secret German base somewhere in the Sahara. The officer in charge of the mission, and the eighteen men assigned to assist him, mysteriously vanished, and anyone who knew the exact location of the base died one way or another before the end of the war. It sure would be nice if the United Nations was the first to find the gold so it could be used for peace. And that's where the man codenamed "Asian Condor" comes in.

This action-comedy movie is a sequel to 1986's Armour of God, but due to import shenanigans came out in America first, so most of us know the latter movie as "Operation Condor 2."

After a failed mission in the Amazon, treasure hunter Jackie (Jackie Chan) is recruited by the UN to lead an expedition into the Sahara to look for the Nazi gold. The dub I saw carefully avoided saying the word "Nazi" though. He's teamed with a geography expert named Ada, who manages to pull rank on Jackie once and then is overruled for the rest of the movie. They are soon joined by Elsa, the granddaughter of the German officer who hid the gold, who is trying to prove that he didn't just steal it.

There are other parties after the gold too, a pair of bumbling Arab bandits, and a more competent group of mercenaries led by a mysterious man in a wheelchair.

Once in the desert, our heroes are joined by Momoko, a Japanese drifter in the desert to consider philosophy, and her pet scorpion. Shortly thereafter, a random band of Arab slave traders (what, again?) abduct Ada and Elsa, so Jackie and Momoko must rescue them. While they're away, the mercenaries slaughter the rest of the expedition, so it's up to Jackie and the girls to find the hidden base, defeat the mercenaries, and confiscate the gold. Two out of three ain't bad.

The good: This is how you make an Indiana Jones-inspired movie. Keep the action and comedy, and the basic idea of a treasure hunter, but have the main character be entirely their own person rather than a Harrison Ford imitation.

The comedy mostly hits, especially when Jackie is being self-deprecating, and the action is excellent, with Jackie Chan as always doing his own impressive stunt work. I especially liked a fight sequence on moving platforms.

Less good: The roles for women in this movie are...less than good. After a fat-phobic joke in the opening, the women in the story exist for being rescued, comic relief and fanservice, including being forcibly stripped and ogled. (The audience only sees rear nudity.) None of the women seem competent (Ada even noticeably fails at her supposed expertise), though they sometimes manage to distract Jackie's opponents.

The dub I watched flattens out many of the characters' voices. Some of the accents are over the top vaudeville stereotypes.

Overall: It's a very well-produced movie, and Jackie Chan shines in it. But take a star off if you prefer competent female characters.

CHUD Challenge: Tarzan the Fearless

Tarzan the Fearless (1933) directed by Robert F. Hill

Mary Brooks' scientist father has been lost in the jungle. Therefore, she and her good friend Bob Hall have organized an expedition to find Dr. Brooks. Not everyone in the safari is of pure motivation, however. Jeff Herbert, their guide, wants to find a lost emerald mine or kill local legend Tarzan for a reward of 10,000 pounds, or get it on with Mary, in that order of priority. Nick Moran, his sidekick, is just interested in the emeralds. Arab interpreter Abdul is secretly a slaver who wants to sell Mary to a wealthy buyer. Oh, and that emerald mine? Owned by the worshipers of Zar, an Egyptian offshoot that kills all outsiders who stumble on their mine temple.

Good thing Tarzan of the Apes, lord of the jungle, is there to sort all this out!

The version I watched was the 85-minute overseas edition, trimmed down from the 12-chapter serial (since lost). Buster Crabbe, an Olympic swimmer, plays Tarzan. (Due to separate rights sales, this movie came out at the same time as the MGM movies starring Johnny Weissmuller, also an Olympic swimmer.) Tarzan gets several nice swimming sequences, including the requisite crocodile fight. This is supposed to be Tarzan's first encounter with civilized (read: white) people, so he is mostly silent, picking up a few English words by the film's end.

The typical serial has a lot of repetition and padding, and that's been trimmed out to make the feature film the "good bits" version. Indeed, the action hardly ever slows down. But it also results in some lack of coherency. Jeff switches priorities to whatever is most inconvenient for the rest of the group at alarming speed, Tarzan attacks random lions (or is it the same lion?) twice for inadequately explained reasons, and Abdul's plan to abduct Mary is just plopped in the middle of the movie with no foreshadowing or characterization to make sense of it.

Crabbe's Tarzan is likable, but relies heavily on the audience already knowing who Tarzan "is" to explain his foibles. Most of the other characters are "types" who do things because that's what the story requires. Mary is played by Julie Bishop, who does the best she can with the material she's given, and who you'll probably recognize from the eighty-plus other movies she was in. Zar is played by a prop from Universal's The Mummy.

This movie is suitable for "all ages", though parents of younger viewers may want to talk to them about racial and ethnic stereotypes present that are out of date at best.

CHUD Challenge List: June 2019

Hi Folks!

This is a list of movies I've had lying around for ages and never got around to watching, so I am participating in the CHUD Challenge. A member of the CHUD Buddies community will be picking four of these movies for me to watch during June, and post reviews of same.

Absolution (1978) dir. Anthony Page
Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls (2008) dir. Mark Atkins
The Amazing Transparent Man (1960) dir. Edgar G. Ulmer
Angel and the Badman (1947) dir. James Edward Grant
Anna Karenina (1948) dir. Julien Duvivier
The Ape (1940) dir. William Nigh
Apocalypse (1997) dir. Hubert de la Bouillerie
Assassin of Youth (1938) dir. Elmer Clifton
Atom Age Vampire (1960) dir. Anton Giuilo Majano
Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) dir. Bernard L. Kowalski
Attack of the Moon Zombies (2011) dir. Christopher R. Mihm
Azumi 2 (2005) dir. Shusuke Kaneko

Bangkok Haunted (2001) dir. Oxide Chun Pang
The Bat (1926) dir. Roland West
Beast from Haunted Cave (1959) dir. Monte Hellman
The Big Boss (1971) dir. Wei Lo
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) dir. John Carpenter
Black Jack: The Movie (1996) dir. Osamu Dezaki
The Brain that Wouldn't Die (1962) dir. Joseph Green

Captain Kidd (1945) dir. Rowland V. Lee
The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969) dir. Jesus Franco
Celtic Thunder: It's Entertainment (2010) dir. Michael Watt
Champagne (1928) dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (1944) dir. Phil Rosen
Creature (1985) dir. William Malone

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) dir. Robert Wise (4)
Dead-Alive (1992) dir. Peter Jackson
The Dead Matter (2010) dir. Edward Douglas
Death Wish (1974) dir. Michael Winner
Devil Girl from Mars (1954) dir. David MacDonald
Doctor Strange (2007) dir. Patrick Archibald
Dragon Ball Z: Cooler's Revenge (1991) dir. Mitsuo Hashimoto
Drunken Monkey (2003) dir. Chia-Liang Liu

Earthquake (1974) dir. Mark Robson
Easy Virtue (1926) dir. Alfred Hitchcock
The Egg and I (1947) Chester Erskine
Electric Dragon 80,000 V (2001) dir. Gakuryu Ishii
Existenz (1999) dir. David Cronenburg

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) dir. Hironobu Sakaguchi
Fist of Fury (1972) dir. Wei Lo
Flash Gordon: Rocketship (1936) dir. Ford Beebe
The Flying Deuces (1939) dir. A. Edward Sutherland
The Flying Scotsman (1929) dir. Castleton Knight

Gaslight (1940) dir. Thorold Dickinson
The General (1936) dir. Clyde Bruckman
Great American West (1973) dir. Denis Sanders

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) dir. Chris Columbus
The Hasty Heart (1949) dir. Vincent Sherman
Hollywood Safari (1997) dir. Henri Charr

The Jade Mask (1945) dir. Phil Rosen
Jodhaa Akbar (2008) dir. Ashutosh Gowariker
Juggernaut (1936) dir. Henry Edwards
Justice League Doom (2012) dir. Lauren Montgomery
Justice League vs. the Fatal Five (2019) dir. Wes Gleason

Key Largo (1948) dir. John Huston
The Land that Time Forgot (2009) dir. C. Thomas Howell
Legend of the Eight Samurai (1983) dir. Kinji Fukasaku
Legend of the Red Dragon (1994) dir. Jing Wong
Let the Right One In (2008) dir. Tomas Alfredson
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) dir. Peter Jackson

Ma and Pa Kettle (1949) dir. Charles Lamont
Mamma Mia! The Movie (2008) dir. Phyllida Lloyd
Martial Angels (2001) dir. Clarence Ford
Maze (1996) dir. Atsushi Aono
Metropolis (1927) dir. Fritz Lang
Militant Eagle (1978) dir. Chia Chih Li
The Milky Way (1936) dir. Leo McCarey
Monster from Green Hell (1957) dir. Kenneth G. Crane
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) dir. Terry Gilliam

Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow (2004) dir. Tensai Okamura
Naruto the Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom (2006) dir. Toshiyuki Tsuru

One-Eyed Jacks (1961) dir. Marlon Brando
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003) dir. Prachya Pinkaew
Operation Condor (1991) dir. Jackie Chan (1)

Pokemon: Mewtwo Returns (2000) dir. Matsamitsu Hidaka
Prodigal Boxer (?) dir. Unknown, stars Fei Meng
Project A (1983) dir. Jackie Chan

Rage at Dawn (1955) dir. Tim Whelan
Return of the Evil Fox (1991) dir. George Leung

Samurai Princess (2009) dir. Kengo Kaji
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) dir. Allan Dwan
The Scarlet Clue (1945) dir. Phil Rosen
Secret of the Andes (1998) dir. Alejandro Azzano
Serenity (2005) dir. Joss Whedon
The Seven Samurai (1954) dir. Akira Kurosawa
The Shanghai Cobra (1945) dir. Phil Karlson
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) dir. Henry King
Spy Smasher (1942) dir. William Witney
Star Trek (2009) dir. J.J. Abrams
Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) dir. Terence Fisher

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) dir. Isao Takahata (2)
Tales from Earthsea (2006) dir. Goro Miyazaki
Tales from the East (unknown) dir. Manfred Wong
Tarzan and the Trappers (1958) dir. Charles F. Haas
Three Outlaw Samurai (1964) dir. Hideo Gosha (3)

Volcano High (2001) dir. Tae-gyun Kim
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968) dir. Peter Bogdanovich

Weird Woman (1944) dir. Reginald Le Borg
White Comanche (1967) dir. Gilbert Kay
White Zombie (1932) dir. Victor Halperin
Winds of the Wasteland (1936) dir. Mack Wright
Zebraman (2009) dir. Takashi Miike

Why, yes, most of these are from discount bins, why do you ask?

Previous Challenge movies:
Blackmail (1929) dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Carnival of Souls (1962) dir. Herk Harvey
Chamber of Horrors (1940) dir. Norman Lee
The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (2006) dir. Russell Mulcahy
The Last Man on Earth (1960) dir. Sidney Saikow
Tarzan the Fearless (1933) dir. Robert F. Hill

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