Mark R. Leeper

Mark R. Leeper

I can remember having seen 22 films on the list and only three can I actually recommend:

I maintain a list of obscure fantasy films and of them the following have fewer than 1000 ratings on the IMDB:

The Tunnel (1935) Maurice Elvey

This is a fascinating film about mega-engineering. The American title, The Transatlantic Tunnel, really tells it all . Bigger than life people work on what would be one of the greatest engineering feats of all time, a tunnel linking the Britain and the United States. There are lots of big drilling machines and big human drama to accomplish the marvel. The concept was seriously considered at one point, but advances in aviation made it unnecessary. [No DVD]

The Dybbuk (1937) Michal Waszynski

At times this is very slow but also at times a very effective horror film. This was a low-budget film done in Yiddish but is now restored and subtitled in English. The "Dance of Death" scene has become an eerie classic. The story deals with a man's soul returning from the dead to possess the woman promised to him and whom he loved. Most of the filmmakers died in the Holocaust shortly after the film was made.

The Mind Benders (1963) Basil Dearden

This film combines Cold War thriller elements with science fiction and a compelling human story. A scientist working on sensory deprivation commits suicide and is discovered to have been passing secrets to the Soviets. Was he to blame or could his mind have been twisted while under the influence of the sensory deprivation tank? The government investigator decides to experiment to find out. Another scientist working in the same field (played by Dirk Bogarde) is very devoted to his wife and family. Can the government investigators change that in his personality while he is in the tank? This film is well acted, enthralling, and atmospheric. [Currently no DVD, but available used.]

Night of the Eagle (1962) Sidney Hayers

When Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont co-write a screenplay based on a novel by Fritz Leiber, you just naturally expect a good thriller. This story about an empiricist college professor discovering that his wife and several other professors' wives around him are actually witches. It is very well made and remains tense throughout. [No DVD]

Devil Doll (1964) Lindsay Shonteff

This is a wildly uneven film, but it has many very good moments. There have been several attempts to do the stories of ventriloquist dummies who have lives of their own. This is the most intriguing treatment of that theme. For once the secret of what is happening is not a let-down.

Unearthly Stranger (1963) John Krish

A secret project is working on space exploration right in the heart of London. The approach to exploration is a novel one. Rather than sending the whole human into space, they are working on a sort of technological out-of-body experience. One can project ones mind to another planet and there have it take on physical form. invasion by mental projection and out-of-body experiences. The rub is that scientists on the project are being killed in some mysterious way involving super-high energy. And the wives of some of the scientists seem to have no background that project security can trace. The script is tense and the acting is quite good, with a cast that includes John Neville (A Study in Terror, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) and Jean Marsh (Upstairs, Downstairs). (This film is so obscure that Leonard Maltin's usually very complete Movie and Video Guide overlooks it.) [No DVD]

Blood on Satan's Claw (1971) Piers Haggard

In some ways an imitation of the style of Witchfinder General. A 17th Century English ploughman turns up the remains of a demon and the artifact exerts satanic influence on the children of the region. This is a very atmospheric film with an authentic historical feel. [No DVD]

Quest for Love (1971) Ralph Thomas

This film is loosely adapted from the short story "Random Quest" by John Wyndham. Colin Trafford (played by Tom Bell) is a leading scientist at Britain Imperial Physical Institute when one of his experiments goes wrong. Suddenly he finds himself in a parallel London in a parallel Britain that has not been to war since the Great War in the early part of the century. In this world Trafford here is not a physicist, but a popular playwright. He is also now married to a beautiful woman (played by Joan Collins) whose life he has made miserable with his selfish ways and his philandering. Can Colin convince the world he is the playwright while convincing his new wife that he is different? Then there are plot complications that lead to a fast-paced climax across parallel worlds. Denholm Elliot also stars in the story which is part science fiction adventure and part love story. [No DVD]

Who? (1973) Jack Gold

This fairly accurate adaptation of Algis Budrys' novel had film stock problems (!) and could not be released to theaters. That is a genuine pity. Cold War story of its near future has a scientist important to military defense in a bad accident. The East Germans get hold of him and return him to the West more prosthetic than living matter. Now the problem is, how do you prove that he is who he says he is? [No Netflix]

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