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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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The Hound of the Baskervilles  (1937)  Germany/Dir: Karel Lamac  -  Another German take on the Arthur Conan Doyle tale, with Bruno Guttner as Sherlock Holmes and Fritz Odemar as Dr. Watson. Also with Peter Voss, Alice Brandt, Friedrich Kayssler, and Fritz Rasp. Rasp was also in the 1929 silent German version, although here he plays the Baskerville's butler. This was a very pedestrian take on the story, and a bit too talky, although I enjoyed the unusual intro that featured a flashback to the centuries-old incident that created the Baskerville curse.   (5/10)

 

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The Ghost Cat and the Mysterious Shamisen  (1938)  Japan/Dir: Kiyohiko Ushihara  -  Sumiko Suzuki stars as a jealous, scheming woman who has set her sights on a talented young shamisen player. When he falls for another, Suzuki connives to drive the other woman away. 

Suzuki, who has been referred to as Japan's first "scream queen", is good at being evil. There also appears to be a tradition of ghost-cat stories in Japan, as they even have their own sub-genre name, bakeneko. The supernatural parts of the tale well done, with some interesting camerawork, but the plot meanders a bit, and I'm not certain if there may have been some scenes missing in the print I watched.   (6/10)

 

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Hyoroku's Dream Tale  (1943)  Japan/Dir: Nobuo Aoyagi  -  Odd fantasy, aimed at young boys, about a would-be warrior named Hyoroku (Kenichi Enomoto) who keeps failing in his training. He decides to enter a haunted forest to prove his worth. Like most films made during the war years, this film is overly militaristic, with a message about young men giving their all to defend the nation, whatever the cost. The supernatural elements are few and far between, but the highlight is a confrontation with a three-eyed giant.   (5/10)

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Ghost Cat of Nabeshima  (1949)  Japan/Dir: Kunio Watanabe  -  Supernatural period piece about an ornate Go board that's said to be cursed. There's also rumor of a "monster cat" roaming the grounds of the ruler's castle. Routine stuff modestly produced and artlessly directed.   (5/10)

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The 2020 London Critics Circle Foreign Language Film Award ….

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Another Round (2020) Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark ****

 

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About Endlessness (2019) Roy Anderson, Sweden

 

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Collective (2019) Alexander Nanau, Romania

 

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Les Miserables (2019) Ladj Ly, France

 

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Minari (2020) Lee Isaac Chung, South Korea/USA

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The Ghost Cat of Ouma Crossing  (1954)  Japan/Dir: Bin Kato  -  A jealous woman (Chieko Murata) and her cohorts scheme to destroy a popular kabuki actress (Takako Irie), bringing down the wrath of the stage star's otherworldly cat. This has a lot of backstage melodrama before segueing into ghostly revenge. The highlight for me was seeing 24-year-old Shintaro Katsu, later of Zatoichi fame, in his second film role, playing a concerned young samurai.   (6/10)

 

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The Ghosts of Kasane Swamp  (1957)  Japan/Dir: Nobuo Nakagawa  -  A blind masseuse is murdered and his body is dumped into the title locale, setting off a chain of events that leave tragedy and more death in its wake. One of director Nakagawa's earlier forays into supernatural horror, this has some good atmosphere, but not much to its story. Future star Tetsuro Tanba has a supporting role as a malicious samurai. Also released as The Ghost of Kasane and The Depths.   (6/10)

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Black Cat Mansion  (1958)  Japan/Dir: Nobuo Nakagawa  -  A man and his sickly sister move to an isolated country house that's said to be cursed by the locals. When they look into the tale's origin, things flash back to the feudal era and the cruel samurai who lived in the house at that time. Nakagawa's artistic style has grown just since his previous feature, and here he uses B&W film for the modern day stuff, and bright color film for the period piece flashback. Things get a little silly late in the proceedings, but never awful.   (6/10)

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Lake of the Dead  (1958)  Norway/Dir: Kare Bergstrom  -  Psychological thriller about a group of middle-aged friends going on a trip to cabin in the woods. They learn of a local folktale about a cursed lake, which leads to eerie parallels of their current situations. I'm not sure if this is the first cabin-in-the-woods horror film, but it has to be one of the earliest. The atmosphere is good, the acting largely top-notch, and the widescreen cinematography is excellent. However, the abundance of pop-psych analysis gets tedious, and the ending wasn't quite what I was hoping for.   (6/10)

 

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Mysteries of Black Magic  (1958)  Mexico/Dir: Miguel M. Delgado  -  Supernatural horror about female stage magician (Nadia Haro Oliva) who actually practices black magic capable of causing harm to others. A professor figures out her tricks and plans to stop her, while she sets her sights on seducing a young man that resembles a former lover. There's some nice, cheesy atmosphere, and I enjoyed the witch's rat-like minion (Carlos Ancira).   (6/10)

 

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The New Invisible Man  (1958)  Mexico/Dir: Alfredo B. Crevenna  -  An unacknowledged remake/rip-off of The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944), the story concerns a man (Arturo de Cordova) who is unjustly accused of murder. His brother smuggles an invisibility potion to him in prison, and he uses it to seek revenge. Also with Ana Luisa Peluffo, Raul Meraz, Augusto Benedico, and Nestor de Barbosa. Some of the effects are fun, and a guy getting beaten up by the invisible man was amusing to watch, but the end results were too uninspired to recommend.   (5/10)

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The Ship of Monsters  (1960)  Mexico/Dir: Rogelio A. Gonzalez  -  Here's an incredible oddity that could only come from Mexico. Two alien women (former Miss Mexico's Ana Bertha Lepe and Lorena Velzaquez) are sent by the Queen of Venus (Consuelo Frank) to look for suitable males to help repopulate their planet after an atomic war. After collecting a menagerie of alien creatures, the ladies crash on Earth, where they meet a singing cowboy (Eulalio Gonzalez). Soon the other alien males escape their captivity and the cowboy must save the day. This is even more ridiculous than it sounds, but it moves quickly and is never dull. The monsters are truly a sight to behold.   (6/10)

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8 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

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Mysteries of Black Magic  (1958)  Mexico/Dir: Miguel M. Delgado  -  Supernatural horror about female stage magician (Nadia Haro Oliva) who actually practices black magic capable of causing harm to others. A professor figures out her tricks and plans to stop her, while she sets her sights on seducing a young man that resembles a former lover. There's some nice, cheesy atmosphere, and I enjoyed the witch's rat-like minion (Carlos Ancira).   (6/10)

 

It's a fun movie. Carlos Ancira was an excellent character actor who could play heroes or villains in comedies or dramas and was always fun to watch.

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The World of the Vampires  (1961)  Mexico/Dir: Alfonso Corona Blake  -  Hungarian vampire Count Subotai (Guillermo Murray) rules over an army of vampire bat-men and beautiful vampire women, all of whom live in a giant cave system beneath the count's Mexican castle. The Count has sworn vengeance against the family line of the man who killed him centuries earlier, thus turning him into a vampire. He is down to just three descendants to kill, but a pianist (Mauricio Garces) stands in his way. Also featuring Silvia Fournier, Erna Martha Bauman, Jose Baviera, and Alfredo Wally Barron as the hunchback servant.

This is another bizarre one, with rubber-faced bat-men, lots of (very fake-looking) bats, and vampire women all sporting the same make-up, including enhanced eyebrows. The count, who looks sort of like George Hamilton with Bert Convy's hair, likes to play a large pipe organ made out of human bones and skulls. Very, very silly, and very entertaining.  (6/10)

 

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Hypnosis  (1962)  West Germany/Dir: Eugenio Martin  -  After a stage hypnotist is killed, the chief suspect (Jean Sorel) is tormented by the victim's ventriloquist dummy. Also with Eleanora Rossi Drago, Gotz George, Heinz Drache, Margot Trooger, and Werner Peters. Slightly-below-standard European b-movie fare.   (5/10)

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from pre 1920 (4 films seen)

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2.  Madame DuBarry (1919) Ernst Lubitsch, Germany

At times way OTT as was the custom but still enjoyable.  Pola Negri with the raccoon eyes is not very good.  Neither is Harry Liedtke as the romantic lead.  But Emile Jannings as King Louis XV and Reinhold Schunzel as the villain are quite good.  The version I saw had very overbearing music.

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The Invisible Man Appears  (1949)  Japan/Dir: Shinsei Adachi & Shigehiro Fukushima  -  Friendly rival assistants (Daijiro Natsukawa & Kanji Koshiba) make a bet with their mentor Dr. Nakazato (Ryunosuke Tsukigata) that whichever of them develops their invisibility potion first gets to marry the doctor's daughter (Chizuro Kitagawa). However, things are sent into chaos when a band of jewel thieves learn of their experiments and seek to utilize them for their own nefarious ends. The first half of the film is a mystery, as the viewer is unaware of which of the scientists has in fact been forced into using the invisibility potion and committing crimes. The second half sees a lot of betrayals and trickery between various factions. Thing slow down a bit too much then, but this is still an interesting, lesser-seen (no pun intended) Japanese sci-fi crime drama.  (6/10)

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The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly  (1957)  Japan/Dir: Mitsuo Murayama  -  The police investigate a series of inexplicable murders where the only clue is that witnesses heard a strange buzzing sound at the time of the attacks. Meanwhile, a group of scientists working on an invisibility ray think that their technology may be what's needed to crack the case. There are a lot of characters and a lot of plotlines going on in this one, and at only 96 minutes, things are a bit rushed and confusing. Despite the subject matter, the special effects are kept to a minimum. The cast is decent, with Ikuko Mori, in her debut, making quite an impression as a nightclub singer/dancer whose act would have pushed the limits of the production code if this film ever saw release in the US at the time.   (6/10)

 

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The Vampire and the Ballerina  (1960)  Italy/Dir: Renato Polselli  -  A group of beautiful dancers and their trainers/managers end up staying in an old, isolated castle that's also occupied by vampires. With Helene Remy, Walter Brandi, Tina Gloriani, Gino Turini, and Isarco Ravaioli. The filmmakers took the revived gothic horror style of Hammer and imbued it with more blatant sexuality. The film was a big hit, and is said to have influenced European horror in the next decade quite a bit. While I enjoyed the dancers in their skimpy, tight outfits, the horror elements of the film are weak, and the vampires look ludicrous.   (5/10)

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The Golden Bat  (1966)  Japan/Dir: Hajime Sato  -  A teenage amateur astronomer discovers that the planet Icarus (?) has been sent on a collision course with Earth. When he informs the authorities, he's invited to join a secret United Nations team (??) lead by Dr. Yamatone (Sonny Chiba) who are tasked with halting Icarus' approach. They travel to Atlantis (??!?) where they revive an ancient superhero named the Golden Bat (??!??) who agrees to assist our heroes, while the evil aliens that set Icarus on its course arrive to cause more trouble.

This insane example of mid-60's Japanese cinema is based on a comic book superhero that had been around since 1931, pre-dating all other superheroes worldwide. I'd never heard of him until today. Golden Bat wears a high-collared cape, has a skull face (with missing tooth) and carries a cane that shoots lasers. He also turns into a tiny bat sometimes, and he laughs a lot. The bad guys are led by a guy who is always standing in the middle of his giant control desk (maybe it's the bottom half of his body?). He looks like he's wearing one of those felt. full-body pajama onesies, and he has three fingers on one hand, a pincher claw for the other, and four eyes that shoot lasers. His minions includes a guy in a fury jacket and a wolfman face, and a guy with bushy eyebrows and burn scars. The movie both child-like and violent. It's also in B&W, which seems like an odd choice for this kind of material in 1966.   (6/10)

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Left-Handed Fate aka Fata/Morgana  (1966)  Spain/Dir: Vicente Aranda  -  Very "swingin' 60's" Euro-arthouse indulgence, with Teresa Gimpera as a model in Barcelona "soon after the incident in London." The residents of the city are evacuating, but Teresa decides to stay, and so gets wrapped up in plots involving spies, crooks, and killers. The plot makes very little sense, and I have no idea what the point of any of it was. It all looks nice, though. This is on rarefilmm, listed under the "giallo" category, which it is not, but I guess it would be hard to decide under which category this oddity belongs.   (5/10)

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The Murder Clinic  (1966)  Italy/Dir: Elio Scardamaglia & Lionello De Felice  -  19th-century set giallo thriller, with mysterious murders being committed at an isolated mental hospital. Could it have something to do with the hidden patient up stairs? Featuring William Berger as the stoic physician, Francoise Prevost, Mary Young, Barbara Wilson, Harriet Medin, Germano Longo, and Philippe Hersent. This is a fairly entertaining early giallo, with less blood and sex than the norm for the genre, but understandable given the release year. Also released under the totally misleading title of Revenge of the Living Dead!   (6/10)

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Terror Beneath the Sea  (1966)  Japan/Dir: Hajime Sato  -  Silly sci-fi action with Sonny Chiba as an adventurous reporter covering a story on the development of a new homing torpedo. During a test launch, the military discover a race of amphibious men. 

Unlike most Japanese movies of the time, this one was made with the international markets in mind. Japanese-language and English-language versions were filmed, and much of the cast is comprised of American and European actors. Some fun sets (obviously inspired by the James Bond films), color cinematography, and the charisma of leading man Chiba aren't enough to elevate the less-than-mediocre script and poor special effects.  Also known as Agent X-2: Operation Underwater and Water Cyborg.   (5/10)

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The Empire of Dracula  (1967)  Mexico/Dir: Federico Curiel  -  In Europe 18th century, the vampire Baron von Draculstein (Eric del Castillo) returns to (un)life after decades of being... dead? I'm not sure. From his base in the Gray Castle, he and his vampire brides terrorize the countryside. Also with Lucha Villa, Cesar del Campo, Ethel Carrillo, and Guillermo Zetina. There's not much to recommend here, although I did like the goofiness of the "Draculstein" name.   (5/10)

 

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