Five Random Movies: The Cosmic Man, Magic, The Reef, Planet of the Vampires, Shock

I should preface this by saying I’ve watched a huge amount of movies. The movies I’ve seen can be broken up into 3 categories. 1) Movies I watch for my own benefit–classic or foreign films by directors or actors and actresses I enjoy. 2) Popular new releases–sometimes I’ll watch these just so I have something to talk about with people who likely haven’t heard of Marcel Carne or Joseph L. Mankiewicz. And 3) Random movies.

I frequently find myself thinking that there have got to be movies out there that were overlooked by critics and fans that are just wonderful. For instance, Moby Dick went virtually unread for decades until modernist writers plucked it out from obscurity and made it the infamous book it is today. I think somewhere out there there has to be a movie that, for whatever reason, has been underappreciated–I guess you could call it my white whale.

Unfortunately, much of the time when I watch movies basically at random, they’re really not very good. Every once in a while I’ll find a gem. Anyways, here’s a mixed assortment of random movies I’ve watched but didn’t want to write long reviews for.

The Cosmic Man (1959):

There’s very little to recommend about The Cosmic Man. The plot is a simplistic rehashing of The Day the Earth Stood Still, except without Gort and with a much smaller budget. An inscrutable and misunderstood alien comes to Earth to warn us against the use of nuclear weapons. The only reason why I was curious about The Cosmic Man is because it featured the classic film star John Carradine (Preacher Casey in John Ford’s The Grapes of Wraith) as the title character, but he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing here, and is only  has about 10 minutes of screen time. There’s nothing special about the special effects: nearly everything is clearly done with a projector. One of the few things I liked in the movie was that the Cosmic Man’s spaceship is a big floating sphere instead of a flying saucer. Here’s a curious piece of trivia: the movie is filmed in Britain, yet none of the actors have British accents. It seems they wanted to create something passably American. If you want a fun, goofy scifi B-movie to watch, check out The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms or The Incredible Shrinking Man. If you want to sci-fi with a similar message against the use of atomic bombs, watch the Tales of Tomorrow episode Verdict From Space. Just don’t watch The Cosmic Man.

Magic (1978):

I hate ventriloquist acts, but for whatever reason, I love stories about evil ventriloquist dummies. Maybe it stems from reading Goosebumps as a child (do you remember Night of the Living Dummy?). There’s a pretty good Twilight Zone episode about a ventriloquist who’s plagued by his dummy, and a similar plotline is used in the wonderful film Dead of Night. Magic is about a ventriloquist who uses his dummy to act out his aggression, yet glibly seems to ask if the dummy is using him. This wasn’t a great movie, but not terrible either. It has a good cast. A young Anthony Hopkins shows off his considerable talent by commiting 100% to a silly role, Ann-Marget is okay (not as good as she was in Carnal Knowledge), and Burgess Meredith is always good (you might recognize him from Grumpy Old Men where he plays Lemmon’s father). Magic is written by the legendary screenwriter William Goldman, who wrote the scripts for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, and Misery–but Magic must have been one of his off days. I don’t regret seeing Magic by any means, but there’s better films out there.

The Reef (2010):

The worst thing about The Reef is that it has the nerve to say before the credits that the movie is based on a true story. The descendants of the people this movie is based on should really sue the filmmakers for making the victims of the shark attack seem so mindless. Basically, a group of young people go out on a boat that is somehow overturned in the middle of the ocean, and after floating around doing nothing for the first half of the film, they decide to try and swim ashore, but then sharks start picking them off one by one. The only conceivable way this movie could be thrilling would be if it were completely fictional, but that these characters are based on people who really died makes this a truly low piece of film-making. It’s not the least bit recommendable.

Planet of the Vampires (1965):

Here’s the funniest thing about Planet of the Vampires: there are no vampires. It’s kind of like how Trolls 2 features no trolls–the monsters are all goblins. Here, the monsters are more similar to Pod People or zombies, but there’s nothing that resembles vampires. Fans of vintage science fiction will enjoy this film for the way the planet itself is designed, plus there’s a neat scene set inside a space ship designed for giants. The problem is, the acting itself is pretty turgid, and none of the characters are well-defined or particularly likeable. Still, Planet of the Vampires, despite being misleading, is a lot better than much of the B-movie scifi films I’ve seen. If you like Planet of the Vampires, I’d recommend the movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

Shock (1946):

Finally a random movie I can fully recommend! I loved Shock. This is a movie I first turned on only because I was looking for something short to watch (its runtime is 70 minutes). To my surprise, this was a really fun thriller. The premise is a little bit ridiculous, but I could look past it. A woman happens to look out her window into the apartment adjacent to hers right in time to see a man murdering his wife. When she goes to the police, and in a strange turn of events, she’s eventually declared insane, and is forced to go to an asylum where her psychiatrist is none other than–the murderer! It’s the type of story only Hollywood could produce. I enjoyed this movie for the way the plot played out like a chess game, with the woman and the murderer maneuvering around the board skillfully, leading to a pretty suspenseful final act. Vincent Price gives a noteworthy performance. Barbara Stanwyck and George Sanders later starred in a very similar film titled Witness to Murder.

That’s it for now. I’ve watched a lot of random movies, so there’ll probably be more posts like this in the future.

Makes sure to check out my NEW book titled A Rapturous Occasion. It’s available right now as an ebook for $1.50 on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble. The price will only be low for a limited time. It will be available in paperback sometime very soon.

 

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