Film Review: Hercules and the Captive Women (1961)

Also known as: Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (original Italian title), Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis (original English title), Hercules Conquers Atlantis (UK), Hercules and the Haunted Women (alternative title)
Release Date: August 19th, 1961 (Italy)
Directed by: Vittorio Cottafavi
Written by: Vittorio Cottafavi, Sandro Continenza, Duccio Tessari, Pierre Benoit, Nicolo Ferrari
Music by: Gino Marinuzzi Jr., Armando Trovajoli
Cast: Reg Park, Fay Spain, Ettore Manni, Luciano Marin

Comptoir Français du Film Production (CFFP), SpA Cinematografica, 101 Minutes (original Italian cut), 94 Minutes

Review:

“Uranus… to rule over all!” – Androclo, Re di Tebe, “What you say is blasphemy!” – Ercole

After seeing about a half dozen (maybe more) of these Hercules films, as well as other sword and sandal schlock, featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, they all sort of blend together in my mind. It almost doesn’t matter that this is the most recent one that I watched, most of it already got flushed down the memory hole.

I mean, if anything was truly a dime a dozen, these Italian sword and sandal flicks would take the cake. While there probably aren’t as many of them as there were spaghetti westerns, which took over when these died out, the quality is generally pretty poor. This film is not an exception to the rule and other than dudes yelling about Uranus the whole movie, there’s not much worth remembering.

Hercules in this outing was played by Reg Park, birth name Roy Park because he’s surprisingly not Italian. In fact, he was an Englishman and won Mr. Universe in 1951, 1958 and 1965. He also played Hercules four times. Most importantly, though, he was an idol and mentor to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Park couldn’t save this movie, however, but what Mr. Universe has ever saved a film apart from Schwarzenegger?

This is a pretty mundane and monotonous movie where a whole lot of nothing happens, other than a buff dude solving problems by lifting heavy things.

Overall, this is a pretty standard Hercules picture, which means there’s not much to give a shit about. If you feel compelled to watch it, just watch the MST3K version.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other Italian Hercules movies, as well as the other sword and sandal pictures of the era.

Film Review: Bloodlust! (1961)

Release Date: September 13th, 1961 (San Diego premiere)
Directed by: Ralph Brooke
Written by: Richard Connell, Ralph Brooke
Music by: Michael Terr
Cast: Wilton Graff, Robert Reed, June Kenney, Gene Persson

Crown International Pictures, Cinegraf Productions, 68 Minutes

Review:

“Listen, Mister Balleau, fun’s fun. But if you think we’re gonna be the clay pigeons in your shooting gallery – you’re just a little far out!” – Johnny Randall

I’ve seen Wilton Graff appear in other films but mostly as an uncredited bit role. Here, one of his last films, he gets some time to shine. And frankly, he comes off like a poor man’s Vincent Price. But honestly, that is kind of cool, even if he doesn’t quite nail Price’s eloquence, panache and poetic way with words.

Despite that, however, this is a pretty crappy film that was deservedly lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The plot sees some vacationing doofus couples hijack a boat from their drunk captain. They get the genius idea to go explore a jungle island. The drunk captain wakes up and warns them not to. The doofuses quickly discover that the island is owned by a madman. Their insane host then holds them hostage in his home. They all want to escape but before they know it, they’re used as game in the madman’s manhunt.

While I like manhunt movies, this isn’t a near masterpiece like 1994’s Surviving the Game, I say that facetiously, since tone can’t be expressed properly with typed words. But honestly, this is amusing to a degree but far from anything all that worthwhile and the concept has been done much better elsewhere.

On a side note: there is a chick in this movie that is the daughter of a judo expert and she judo flips a henchman into a pool of acid. So for all the weirdos that didn’t think that there were badass female heroes before Captain Marvel, you’re stupid.

Anyway, this isn’t a film that I can recommend unless you watch the MST3K version.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other black and white horror schlock that was featured on MST3K.

Film Review: Invasion of the Neptune Men (1961)

Also known as: Uchu Kaisoku-sen (original Japanese title), Invasion from a Planet (alternate title), Space Greyhound (US promo title)
Release Date: July 19th, 1961 (Japan)
Directed by: Koji Ota
Written by: Shin Morita, Akihiro Watanabe
Music by: Michiaki Watanabe
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Kappei Mastsumoto, Ryuko Minakami, Shinjiro Ebara, Mitsue Komiya

Toei Company, 75 Minutes

Review:

Not all tokusatsu films were created equal and that’s certainly the case with Invasion of the Neptune Men.

Even the great and legendary badass Sonny Chiba couldn’t save this picture from itself.

However, if you do have a soft spot for the obscure tokusatsu genre, then this may still hold your interest. But there are much greater films within that genre and from this era. All the Toho stuff is damn entertaining and I’m not just talking about Godzilla and other kaiju films.

This is probably most famous, at this point, for being lampooned in one of the later seasons of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Mike and the ‘Bots really suffered through this one but they make it more watchable than it is on its own.

The special effects are terrible but that goes without saying. Toei wasn’t at the level of Toho or even Daiei.

The alien robots looks like generic knockoffs of Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet (and a dozen other films and shows).

This is also littered with really annoying kids thanks to the awful dubbing. If you want 75 minutes of shrill screaming and loud talking, this will probably be right up your alley. But you should also talk to a psychiatrist because something is wrong with you.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: the worst Japanese tokusatsu of the 1960s.

Film Review: The Choppers (1961)

Also known as: Rebeldes del volante (Mexico)
Release Date: November 30th, 1961
Directed by: Leigh Jason
Written by: Arch Hall Sr.
Music by: Al Pellegrini
Cast: Arch Hall Jr., Marianne Gaba, Robert Paget, Tom Brown, Burr Middleton, Rex Holman, Chuck Barnes, Bruno VeSota

Fairway International Pictures, Rushmore Productions, 66 Minutes

Review:

“[to Jim Bradford, as he is being arrested] We had a ball. A real ball.” – Jack ‘Cruiser’ Bryan

Out of all the films with Arch Hall Jr. in them, this is the best. I first discovered him on Mystery Science Theater 3000 years ago when the Eegah episode first aired. Most of his films are written and directed by his father, Arch Hall Sr. While this one is written by Sr. it isn’t directed by him. That’s probably why this is a better film than the others and Hall Jr. came off a bit more relaxed and natural than when he was directed by his dad.

For those that aren’t familiar with Arch Hall Jr., he was an aspiring pop singer and guitarist that was really into hot rods and the rockabilly lifestyle. That being said, The Choppers was a good vehicle for him, pun intended.

The premise is about this gang of young hoods that chop up parked cars and steal their valuable bits. The don’t really steal the cars, they just strip them and then use the parts to make or enhance their own vehicles.

Arch Jr. plays Jack ‘Cruiser’, who is a hot rod driving, guitar strumming, wannabe badass. He gets in way over his head due to his gang of misfits and eventually finds himself in some serious shit.

This film is pretty damn tame though. It’s like if you took The Outsiders, stripped it of everything that made it cool, tried to edit it down to a G-rating and then de-saturated all the color and gave the lead a guitar so he could randomly break off into song from time to time, than you would have this movie.

In the end, this is a really short picture and it isn’t boring. It’s not exciting but it has some value, more so than the other films from this creative team.

But there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to this picture other than reminding kids in 1962 to not be juvenile delinquents.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: ’60s hot rod and biker movies. Also, other stuff with Arch Hall Jr. like Eegah and Wild Guitar.

Film Review: The Phantom Planet (1961)

Also known as: Planeta Fantasma (Spanish title)
Release Date: December 13th, 1961
Directed by: William Marshall
Written by: William Telaak, Fred De Gortner, Fred Gebhardt
Music by: Leith Stevens
Cast: Dean Fredericks, Coleen Gray, Francis X. Bushman

Four Crown Productions Inc., 82 Minutes

Review:

“We are able to translate all languages with voice tone waves.” – Sessom

Another day, another terrible movie that I watched due to it being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’ve been slowly working my way through the entire MST3K series and I know that I’m more than halfway through it, at this point, but man, there are so many episodes and this feels like a never ending endeavor.

The Phantom Planet is exactly what you would expect from a rocketship movie from 1961 that was made with no budget, very little creativity and a script that probably would’ve been better used to stabilize a wobbly table at Shoney’s.

However, this movie has Coleen Gray in it, which probably means nothing to anyone reading this but she once worked with Stanley Kubrick in The Killing and was in two very good film-noirs: Kansas City Confidential and Nightmare Alley, which is one of the top things Tyrone Power has ever starred in, mind you.

This was also directed by a guy named William Marshall but he isn’t that William Marshall. You know, the suave and sexy black dude that starred in the Blacula films. No, this is just some boring white guy that directed a turkey wearing bells and called it The Phantom Planet.

Now this isn’t the worst space faring sci-fi flick that MST3K has featured. By comparisons sake, it isn’t that bad, actually. It’s still not a good movie but it has the sort of hokiness that is charming.

But let’s run it all down.

The effects are awful, the acting is mostly bad, the direction was pedestrian, the sets were deplorable and the editing was so choppy that I got sea sick and barfed on my popcorn. Still, I don’t hate this.

But that won’t save this movie from going into the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: Other MST3K fodder that featured rocketships: Women of the Prehistoric PlanetProject MoonbaseRocketship X-MFirst Spaceship on Venus, etc.

Film Review: Hamlet (1961)

Also known as: Hamlet, Prinz von Dänemark (original German title)
Release Date: January 1st, 1961 (West Germany)
Directed by: Franz Peter Wirth
Written by: Franz Peter Wirth
Based on: Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Music by: Rolf Unkel
Cast: Maximilian Schell, Hans Caninenberg, Wanda Rotha, Dunja Movar, Franz Schafheitlin, Karl Michael Vogler, Eckart Dux, Karl Lieffen, Alexander Engel, Paul Verhoeven

Bavaria Atelier, 152 Minutes

Review:

This adaptation of Hamlet actually was fairly well regarded before it was lampooned in the final season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But to be honest, and this isn’t due to me seeing this get riffed to death by Mike and the ‘Bots, this version of Hamlet really isn’t that great. In fact, it’s boring as hell and Hamlet is a story I have always liked.

Still, this is just dreadful overall. I wanted to be fair to it but even watching it with MST3K commentary was a tough task. At least the comedic bits around the commercial breaks were funny.

There are so many versions of Hamlet that wasting your time on this one isn’t recommended. In fact, I could name a dozen that I would put ahead of this version.

This movie is one of the drabbest that MST3K has ever featured. If I were making a list of the worst of the worst films featured on that show, this could possibly be ranked numero uno. I found it to be literally unwatchable yet I probably deserve a medal because I got all the way through it.

This obviously needs to be ran through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read,”Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 1/10

Film Review: Mothra (1961)

Also known as: Mosura (Japan)
Release Date: June 30th, 1961 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Based on: a story in Asahi Shimbun by Shinichiro Nakamura, Takehiko Fukunaga, Yoshie Hotta
Music by: Yuji Koseki
Cast: Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa, The Peanuts, Ken Uehara, Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata

Toho, 101 Minutes

Review:

Mothra is the most famous Toho kaiju after Godzilla. Even though he started out in this film, his very own movie, it was probably a nobrainer to bring him into the larger Godzilla mythos. But before all that, there was Mothra and frankly, it was great revisiting this monster in his debut solo flick.

In a change of pace, Mothra’s introduction is due to people messing with his island. He doesn’t come to Japan because he’s just some rampaging beast. A bunch of jerks stole the Shobijin, who are two miniature female twins from Infant Island. Mothra crashes Japan to find the Shobijin and to return them to their home.

The special effects are amazingly handled by Eiji Tsuburaya. The miniatures were great and the heat ray trucks were a prototype for the maser weapon trucks that would be used throughout Godzilla films forever after this movie.

Mothra, as a creature, was the most beautiful and ornate kaiju of his day. Tsuburaya pulled off the creature effects superbly and the art department did a fine job in decorating the monster.

It is more fun to see Mothra rough it up with other monsters but even though he is the only creature in this film, it still plays well. It is similar to Rodan in that it didn’t need to rely on other kaiju to be a success and to leave a mark on the genre.

To this day, Mothra is still incredibly popular. A version of the creature also had its own trilogy in the late 1990s, after popping up in that era’s Godzilla movies.

Mothra will probably just always be around. In fact, Mothra’s first American incarnation is coming in Legendary Pictures’ upcoming Godzilla 2.

As for Mothra, the movie, if you are a kaiju fan, this is a must-see.