Caught two movies last night. (No, really.) Both from Netflix, although I viewed one online and one on my very own DVD player.
First up, we had The Astro-Zombies (1967). As you might ascertain from the title, this was a huge stinker – which is why I wanted to see it! I actually took the trouble of adding several bad bad movies to my NF queue, just for the heck of it.
In Astro-Zombies, John Carradine (cast with type!) plays a scientist who’s trying to transfer memories from the recently deceased into, well, other dead bodies. He accomplishes this using 1960s technology, so you can expect plenty of smoking beakers and lots of lights and buttons that apparently don’t do squat.
Meanwhile, there’s subterfuge afoot. A crime gang (led by cult actress Tura Satana) figures out that mindless zombies are behind it, although I can’t remember why, and they plot to track down Carradine in his lab so they can use his knowledge to further their diabolical plans. Carradine’s Dr. DeMarco, it should be noted, is not a mad scientist, not even an evil doctor; he’s innocent and genuinely hopes his creations will cause good! So he’s kind of bummed to find out that’s not the case.
The CIA (?) gets wind of Dr. DeMarco’s experiments, too, because of the recent killings and the fact that Dr. DeMarco was kicked out of his research lab for his experiments.
The best part of this is the zombies. They kind of look like Tusken Raiders, only if the Raiders were “special” people you wouldn’t trust with a sharp pencil. They move as slow as zombies are expected to move, which means, of course, that no one can out run them. Or overpower them – it’s like being undead makes you strong.
Anyway, the movie’s pretty awful, also Satana is a lot of fun to look at. A lot.
Then we have Trouble in Paradise (1932). This is a classic screwball comedy by director Ernst Lubitsch, who was known for subtle wit in his direction. Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins play jewel thieves who fall for each other and team up to con a wealthy socialite, played by Kay Francis. Ah, but Marshall falls for Francis – or does he – and madcap fun ensues. Also in the cast are Charlie Ruggles as a stiff-backed major trying to win Francis’ hand and Edward Everett Horton, another rich sap who’s trying to do the same.
It’s a well-written, quick-witted film with plenty of laughs and physical comedy; Marshall, Francis, and Hopkins are wonderful together, and in real life the latter two were close friends. The premise is timeless, although the setting and execution do feel a tad dated now. But the inspiring, energetic performances by the three leads – as well as the supporting cast, particularly Horton – boost this one to classic status.
The Astro-Zombies (1967): *
Trouble in Paradise (1932): ****