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Film Picks

[whitespace] By Richard von Busack

Selected theaters.

Here's Marxist pop that beats the pants off of Verso's anniversary edition of The Communist Manifesto. This computer animated feature from Dreamworks could be retitled Ten Days that Shook the Anthill. Right after the pismires pull a wildcat strike, an evil military leader named General Mandible co-opts the revolution, just like Napoleon did. The plot: a worker ant (voiced by Woody Allen) meets the slumming daughter of the Queen (Sharon Stone). He joins the army in hopes of seeing her from afar, but emerges as the lone survivor of a pointless war of aggression against the termites. Hearing about "Insectopia," Z heads out for rural escapism in a garbage dump, but love for the captured princess calls him back to save his colony from a military coup. The familiar Spielbergian roller coaster slams along jerkily from episode to episode. Antz's allegory is fatally weakened by its social democrat streak--its insistence on a partnership between royalty and labor. But who cares--like ants, left-wing film fans will seize any crumb they can get.

Halloween Noir
Oct. 31 at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St.; 415/863-1087.

The Roxie Theater celebrates Halloween night with five low-budget horror films made from 1941 to 47. These are among the most obscure horror films ever flashed on a rep house's screen. The best liked of the quintet is Among the Living (1941), starring Albert "Dr. Cyclops" Dekker in the original evil-twin tale; his co-stars are Susan Hayward and Francis Farmer in her penultimate film before her crack-up and lobotomy. From the ultra-cheap PRC studios, the 64-minute-long The Monster Maker (1944). Hollywood's favorite utility foreigner J. Carrol Naish plays a mad scientist who infects Ralph Morgan with acromegaly, making him look kind of like a bigheaded Max von Sydow with arthritic hands. Acromegaly, of course, is the same dread disease that disfigured Rondo Hatton, star of the popular 1944 picture Pearl of Death and others. Also on the bill: Bury Me Dead, with June Lockhart and Hugh Beaumont (1947); Dark Waters (1944), directed by Andre de Toth; and The Madonna's Secret (1946).

Universal Horrors
Oct. 23-29 at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro St.; 415/621-6120.

Continuing at the Castro Theater, a month-long series of classic horror films from Universal: Edgar Ulmer's masterpiece The Black Cat (Oct 26-27), teaming Bela Lugosi with Boris Karloff. Dracula is paired with the lesbianish Dracula's Daughter (Oct. 23-25). Last, and perhaps least: Lugosi in the title role of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr. as Frankenstein's furry pal), co-billed with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Oct 28-29), starring Bela as Dracula, searching for a brain to stuff into the noggin of Frankenstein's monster.

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From the October 19-November 1, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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