Maniac

Van Gogh is the central character in the story of an American painter who shucks off his rich mistress in the south of France, meets a lovely girl but falls in with her stepmother, whose husband is in an asylum “just outside Avignon” and wants to be freed in exchange for a divorce. The two lovers arrange an escape.

Alas, it isn’t the American painter whom the stepmother loves, nor even the young girl’s father, but a male nurse at the asylum.

Criticism does not seem to have taken all this into account. Bosley Crowther (New York Times) panned the film along with De Sica’s The Condemned of Altona, Resnais’ Muriel, Shavelson’s A New Kind of Love, Castle’s The Old Dark House, and Annakin’s Crooks Anonymous, all on the same day, which must be something of a record.

Arles is seen and mentioned, a rendezvous at the arena.

 

The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb

A film outside the canon, and perhaps for that reason shockingly unnoticed by reviewers (“limp... resolutely unimaginative,” says Geoff Andrew in Time Out Film Guide, pursuing a Variety foist).

“Egypt in the year 1900”, the tomb of a murdered prince, an “intellectual” hated by his “sensualist” brother.

The American promoter of the expedition mounts a carnival tour, the Cambridge archŠologist loses his girl as well, to a London amateur.

The latter is the murderous twin, condemned to live until his victim should requite him for the deed.

Reality is the strong suit of the film, it isolates the strangeness of the tomb as it is penetrated in the opening shot, a POV. Egyptian myth forms the basis of the tale.

The American is a delightful portrait singled out by Variety.

It begins with Professor Dubois murdered and mutilated in the desert, and ends below a London street collapsed by the resuscitated mummy to reveal the professor’s daughter in the sewer where she has been brought to die by the twin, killed by the hand of Ra.

 

Prehistoric Women

Quite the master of hallucination Terence Fisher is of evil, Carreras.

It would seem the august body of criticism overlooked this work. “Feebly preposterous comic strip farrago without the saving grace of humour” (Halliwell’s Film Guide). “This film is full of sadistic humor but is ultimately below average” (TV Guide).

A white hunter’s guide tracks a wounded leopard to the Sacred Land of the White Rhinoceros, and thereby hangs a tale.

The British title is Slave Girls, the original print is somewhat longer.

The whites have exhausted themselves on killing and slavery, now blondes are captive to a brunette queen, their men in vile servitude, until the return of the White Rhino.

Every ounce of genius is wrung from this exhaustive premise, and if you are not a film critic you will probably have the native intelligence to perceive it.

Carreras is deeply studied in the films this pertains to, mainly of the Thirties but all the way to the time of filming, his surrealism is in the Hammer style, with a camera on the sound-stage floor.

 

The Lost Continent

The general outlines of this “Hammer masterwork”, as Time Out Film Guide quite properly calls it, are discernible in Brooks’ Lord Jim. The quality of hallucination achieved by Carreras has another stamp of satire, visionary and acute. It is quite enough to notice the battle of a giant crab and a giant scorpion, from O’Brien and Harryhausen, and by deliberate contrast the absurd idiocy of it. Ritchie’s The Island has rightly been compared, though it has another tale to tell (from Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies).

El Supremo is buried at sea, then carefully explained in a flashback that prepares him on the Sargasso Sea as a despot and thief with an Inquisition and a Spanish court of monks and conquistadors, a mere boy dethroned by wisdom and stabbed in the back by his own Inquisitor.

The S.S. Corita on its dicey voyage from Freetown to Caracas with a cargo of Phosphor-B, which explodes on contact with water, runs afoul of weather and mutiny and other dilemmas that excited the humorous sensibilities of Vincent Canby in the New York Times, and finally is enmeshed in the iron grip of seaweed amidst an ocherous graveyard of ships, their hulls slowly crushed. Then El Supremo strikes, etc.

Among the passengers is the German mistress of an absconding Latin American dictator full of money, an unscrupulous English doctor fleeing Sierra Leone with his daughter, and so forth. The captain owns the ship and plans to scrap it, such as it is, in Venezuela. He and the crew are British.

Halliwell cannot make up his mind to ignore Canby, but quotes the Monthly Film Bulletin’s idea of the last word, “one of the most ludicrously enjoyable bad films since Salome, Where She Danced.”

 

Shatter

The assassin of an East African generalissimo finds himself unpaid and persona non on an agency job through the usual channels.

Hong Kong is the place, drearily rundown, Lang’s Prague is nevertheless suggested (Hangmen Also Die!).

Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent supplies the method.

The young master of a kung fu school with a particularly scientific brand of fighting befriends the fellow.

Certain elements figure strongly in Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite.

The actual state of affairs is revealed as something different, nothing of what it seems. This amounts to a political satire of the rarest, power is maintained at the point of a gun bought with Mafia opium, Red China is a freebooter in the market, regimes and counterregimes are a matter of supply and demand, that’s all.

It rises by degrees to some plush offices in Macao, and descends again to the Hong Kong waterfront, a thing of genius.

Hal Erickson (Rovi) has but a dim idea of it, “something of an experiment”.

TV Guide, “rotten, disjointed” (as Call Him Mr. Shatter).