Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974): I recall seeing fragments of this as a kid. The performances and history-on-a-budget settings hold up very well. The old age make-up was not designed for Hi-Def.

RADIO RANCH: "Gene Autry and his pals are amazed to discover a secret underground civilizarion located below their ranch. The under dwellers have advnaced technology and intend to use it in their attempt to conquor the surface world. It's going to take all of the tricks in Gene's bag to stave off this invasion from beneath the surface!"

Last week we watched The Mistress of Atlantis and it put me in the mood to watch The Phantom Empire. Also, I've been reading Wally Wood's THUNDER Agents, whose name was derived from The Phantom Empire's Thunder Riders. Even though I have never seen it, I was familiar with the concept, but I knew I didn't own it... or so I thought. Actually, Radio Ranch is the feature-length version of The Phantom Empire movie serial spliced together. As such, it shares certain similarities with Bela Lugosi's The Phantom Creeps (see above). For one thing, there is a robot, but Gene's is nowhere near as cool as Bela's. Gene's looks as if a kid assembled it from cardboard boxes and silver spray paint. Making matters worse, because this is a western, the robot has a little tin cowboy hat (for some reason), even though it was made to service an underground culture.

Like all movie serials edited into feature form, the story is all plot, barreling from the ranch to the underground city and back again, over and over until they get to the final chapter. Then it ends abruptly which, like all serials, could really have been made to happen at any time. Sometimes it tough to spot where the "cliffhangers" occurs because, without the misdirection at the end of each chapter, the "escapes" aren't all that spectacular. 

Gene Autry plays himself (in his first movie role), a "singing cowboy," who has been hired to provide publicity for a ranch resort. He has a contract to perform at the "Radio Ranch" every day at two o'clock, and his performances draw visitors from far and wide (for some reason). His two kid sidekicks are siblings Frankie and Betsy, leaders of the "Junior Thunder Riders," all of whom wear buckets on their heads (for some reason). The actual Thunder Riders are the bad guys, so I'm not sure why they pattern themselves after them. The three of them are always getting themselves into predicaments far away from the ranch: "Say! We'll never make it back to the ranch in time for our two  o'clock show!" "Then we'll lose the contract and lose the ranch!" "Oh, no!" 

It's very repetitious, just like every movie serial, but it's a "classic" and good fun. 

This sounds like someting that should have made its way to the Satellite of Love.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

RADIO RANCH: "Gene Autry and his pals are amazed to discover a secret underground civilizarion located below their ranch. The under dwellers have advnaced technology and intend to use it in their attempt to conquor the surface world. It's going to take all of the tricks in Gene's bag to stave off this invasion from beneath the surface!"

It was a groundbreaking production. The first Flash Gordon serial didn't appear until the next year.

The 1979 TV show Cliffhangers had a component, "The Secret Empire", based on it.

"This sounds like something that should have made its way to the Satellite of Love."

Oh, definitely!

"The 1979 TV show Cliffhangers had a component, "The Secret Empire", based on it."

You know, I was going to mention Cliffhangers. It was that show that introduced me to cliffhangers serials, really. I wanted to like it, but it was really, really bad. The Gene Autry character was named Jim Donner, and he first introduced himself to the underworld dwellers as, "Donner... Jim." They went around for the rest of the series calling him "Donner Jim" and he kept correcting the, "Jim Donner." The show had three stories per hour-long episode, and when one finished, a different story was substituted in its place. the show didn't last very long and, IIRC, only one of the initial three stories reached its conclusion. 

EDIT: Wikipedia (Ahh, it all comes back to me!)

I first saw The Phantom Empire on the old Matinee at the Bijou show on our local PBS affiliate.

We are closing in on the end of our 100-movie pack. We are on the 23rd disc (of 24) but, of the five movies on it, we have already seen three (duplicated from that 20-movie pack of "Strange Tales" we watched last summer). Almost all of those we already had on this set and didn't know it. Tonight we watched...

RING OF TERROR: "A medical school student is pledging a fraternity but he harbors a dark secret from his past. A traumatic experience from his childhood comes back to haunt him, when his fraternity hazing brings back his memories. This simple fraternity prank ends up going horribly wrong for our pledge and his would-be fraternity brothers."

As a "horror" movie, it's pretty much a dud. The whole movie is a set-up for a predictable climax that's over as soon as it begins. The weirdest part of the movie is the framing sequence, which takes place in the present day (i.e., 1962). the caretaker of a cemetery acts as "host" addressing the audience directly. He walks walks out into the graveyard in the middle of the night calling for his pet cat "Puma." After he finds it, he addresses his remaining commentary to the cat. He sets it down and accidentally steps on its tail, sending it running. He catches up to it next to a tombstone bearing the dates 1933-1955. Then he proceeds to tell his cat the story of the young man buried there.

I won't keep you waiting as long as the film made me wait to find out the young man's problem. When he was a little boy, his grandfather died and his family had the funeral in their house. That night, he begged his mother to let him sleep with the light on, but she refused. Furthermore, she said if he wasn't quite that his grandfather would rise from his coffin and come into his room. the boy spent the night sobbing, expecting his grandfather's corpse to come bursting in at any second. 

Skip ahead to his fraternity hazing. This is the cleanest cut group of college students you have ever seen. They make one guy refrain from drinking anything for the entire day, than during the ceremony, they douse him with a tub of water while he drinks a Coke. Another guy the make dress as Cupid and go to where all the kids are making out and kiss all the girls. The med student, though, they make steal a ring from an autopsy subject awaiting burial. When he breaks into the mausoleum and opens the coffin, he is startled by a cat (Presumably "Puma"), his overcoat snags on the "Ring of Terror" he is supposed to steal, and he drops dead of fright. that's it. It took someone 63 minutes to tell this story.

All the way through I kept thinking what a great MST3K feature this would make, then the Wiki tells me: "The film was featured in the sixth episode of the third season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, along with the third chapter of the 1939 serial The Phantom Creeps."

TERROR AT THE RED WOLF INN (1972): "A college student returns to her dorm after class and discovers she is the winner of an all-expense paid vacation to the Red Wolf Inn. Before she can share her good fortune with her parents, she and two other girls are whisked away to begin their vacation of a lifetime. When one of the guests suddenly disappears, the young woman doesn't believe the explanation the old couple who run the inn gives her concerning the strange goings on at the Red Wolf."

This movie is gloriously BEE-AY-DEE bad. [SPOILERS] The old couple who run the inn are cannibals. [END SPOILERS] They have a creepy grown grandson named Baby John (everyone calls him "Baby"). As a family unit, they remind me a bit of the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie doesn't take itself too seriously, which is fortunate because the plot holes are numerous. The dinner scene early on is particularly disturbing; it's all sound effects and close-ups of people chewing. There's a kind of weird twist at the end.

We're down to our last disc! Four more movies!

THE MANSTER (1962): "An American reporter traveling in Japan stops to meet and interview a reclusive Japanese scientist at his mountain laboratory. the scientist greets the curious newsman and, after getting to know him, concludes the reporter is the perfect test subject for his latest experiment. After injecting the reporter against his will, the scientist discovers his serum changes the man into a hideous two-headed monster."

This is an American-made movie set in Japan. As many Japanese monster movies as I watch, it is odd to hear one in English that is not dubbed. This 72 minute movie is slow to get moving. 30 minutes in, the reporters hand gets hairy for the first time via time-lapse photography. 45 minutes in, he takes of his shirt to reveal an eyeball has appeared on his shoulder. After that the movie picks up. the reporter is married, but he is having an affair with the scientist's assistant. the scientist has previously experimented on his wife and his brother. The scientist's underground lab descends from a shack which looks like a set from The Lone Ranger... except for the active volcano in the background. NOTABLE SEQUENCE: The scientist injects the reporter with a formula which splits him into two beings. 

Three to go!

DR. NO: I'm gearing up for Cap's book/movie discussions, but he's following book order and I want to watch the first three movies in movie order. 

It's my understanding the body of the film was scored before John Barry was brought into to do the credits version of the theme tune. Monty Norman wrote the music, and Burt Rhodes did the orchestration. I read on Wikipedia that Norman's James Bond theme can be heard incorporated into the score, and I wanted to know what it sounded like before Barry's involvement, so I watched the film recently to hear. It's there leading into the bit where Bond confronts the man who has driven him from the airport, leading into the fight in the river, and during the final fight with Dr No. It appears in both slow and fast versions, so it wasn't Barry who first sped it up. I think the credits version is used when Bond returns to his hotel.

One thinks of the dum-de-dum-dum part as the verse and the brassy part as the chorus, but in the credits of Dr No the brassy part opens and the dum-de-dum-dum part follows. There are two reprises of the dum-de-dum-dum part before it's replaced by a Caribbean tune. It looks to me like the brassy part was originally outside the theme and was added by Barry as an opening. It's in the same spirit as the opening of "Goldfinger".

We talked recently about the appearances of "Underneath the Mango Tree" when Bond meets Honey and over the final credits. It also appears when Bond follows Quarrel to the nightclub (sung by the nightclub band, I think) and when Bond puts on a record while waiting for the scientist (in the Diana Copeland version).

Maurice Binder designed the title sequence and regularly did them from Thunderball, but the ones for From Russia with Love and Goldfinger were done by Robert Brownjohn.

Speaking of Mansters, I re-watched Matinee for the first time in many years. It's one of the underrated films of the early 90s, maybe not a cinematic masterpiece but a great deal of fun.

(Mant, if you've not seen it, is the film-within-a-film and, of course, it's hilariously terrible).

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