|Bettie with Irving Klaw|
|Bettie with Bunny Yeager|
|Bettie with Irving Klaw|
|Bettie with Bunny Yeager|
1958/Director: Edward Bernds/Writers: Charles Beaumont, Ben Hecht
Cast: Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eric Fleming, Dave Willock, Laurie Mitchell, Lisa Davis, Paul Birch, Patrick Waltz
Producer of many cheesy sci-fi yarns Walter Wanger had just finished serving a four month prison sentence for shooting his wife’s (Joan Bennet) suspected lover in the leg and crotch – only four months since he successfully pleaded temporary insanity -when he began to put together this project based on a story by Ben Hecht. Hecht’s original story was more of a farce but Wanger wanted it the story to be more serious and turned the production over to Ben Schwalb for some reason. Schwalb had worked for Sam Katzman on some Bowry boy episodes and director Edward Bernds had done some Three Stooges films. I guess that is way Queen of Outer Space is sort of an odd little story at best. Many of the props and costumes seem to be left-overs from other sci-fi films – Forbidden Planet, World Without End, Flight to Mars – and the actors are playing it pretty straight but it is a cheese fest from the get go.
The film follows a story line that had already become familiar in previous sci-fi films and that is an adventure built around a group of male astronauts stranded on a planet of beautiful Amazon type women. The women are usually sexually frustrated and really seem to like Earthmen from the USA the best. Crew includes Eric Fleming and Paul Birch and the queen is Laurie Mitchell and her rival is prima donna Zsa Zsa Gabor. Story has it that Gabor was so difficult to work with that Ben Schwa wound in the hospital from stress and ulcers. Action takes place on Venus and there is a great spider in the cave sequence that usually accompanies these space maiden films. The color is nice and while the story drags for the most part it is worth the moments when the dialog gets really strange and to see the maidens drooling over the earth guys. The scene at the end where a flock of vivacious Venusian girls are pawing over an ecstatic Paul Birch sums it all. Fans of super cheezy sci-fi will love it.
1964/Director: Don Taylor/Writers: Jo Napoleon, Art Napoleon
Cast: , Fabian, Shelley Fabares, Peter Brown, Barbara Eden, Tab Hunter, Susan Hart, James Mitchum
Three basically All-American boys meet three All-American girls while they are in Oahu Hawaii to surf the big waves at Waimea Bay. The guys must face their own mortal shortcomings, of course, while wooing the gals and competing the seasoned local surfers. Jody (Fabian) is the college drop-out with a chip on his shoulder who falls for sensible and down to earth Brie Matthews (Shelley Fabares) and tries to gain her attention initially by shooting a pineapple on a dork’s head with a spear gun. She acts all repelled by his hokey machismo but of course she can’t enough of him and his edgy bad boy attitude. And like every good girl she makes it her mission to turn the bad boy around by the film’s end. Jody is intent on proving to everyone, and to himself, that he is not a “chicken”. The big waves intimidate him the way Apollo Creed intimidated Roxy and the way Steve Vai intimidated Ralph Macchio in Crossroads, but he has to conquer them to conquer himself and make Brie really respect him and know he is not just another “bum from the neighborhood”. Jody is more concerned with Jody going back and finishing college and after a heated discussion of about ten seconds he totally changes his views on college and his future and decided to go back and give it try, but it will have to wait until he has conquered the surf and competition, including his pals and local legend Eskimo (played by Jim Mitchum, another of Robert Micthum’s boys, along with Chris, whose acting career never really went anywhere).
Chase (Peter Brown) is a pretty common sense sort of surfer and even wear nice sports jackets to beach. While he wants to shoot the tubes of Waimea he is basically a fairly conservative guy who prefers to color inside the lines. Well that all changes when flips –literally- for perky Augie Poole (the always gorgeous Barbara Eden) who happens to a black belt in judo. Augie takes delight at first in simply shaking Chase’s tree any chance she gets but soon enough, natch, she is falling in love with him and he learns to loosen up and gt a little crazy once in awhile himself, such as when he jumps drunk off a dangerous cliff into a pond known for bringing the waves to Waimea, if the diver does not crack his head open on the rocks beneath the surface. Rounding off the romance angle of the film is Steamer (Tab Hunter) and local girl Lily Kilua (Susan Hart) who have problem’s convincing Lily’s mom that Steamer is not just another beach bum like her ex-husband was. The old gal is pretty hard to convince but eventually ol’ Steamer pulls out his wallet and shows her his bank account of about $1800 and some paid off bills and that puts the old bird’s fears to rest and she all but starts calling him son after that. Susan Hart does one wild Hawaiian dance at a beach party that is not to be missed. She would later marry AIP co-founder and co-producer James H. Nicholson.
Surf movies are not for everybody. They are usually pretty contrived and typically downright silly. I guess some guys may even feel a bit uncomfortable watching bronze surfer boys run around, much the way they may feel watching queasy with most sword and sandal/peplum films. Ah, never bothered me. I only recently realized that these movies are called “homo-erotic”, or whatever, by lots of my fellow straight guys. Who the hell cares if it is, this is fun stuff. If you must know I own the Arnold Schwarzenegger documentary Pumping Iron and that is great too, homoerotic or not! And for fear of seeing guys in swim trucks these types will miss the best part of these surf flicks and that is those full figured 60’s chicks in bikinis. No tasteless things, just old school bikinis, and Barbara Eden can certainly fill her’s out. Ride the Wild Surf is not heavy in the pop tune department and the score by Stu Philips works just fine. But there is the catchy surf tune sung by Jan and Dean –and co-written by Beach Boy Brian Wilson- that is saved until the end of the film. I lifted the song form the film and I think it is a bit shorter here than the full 45 rpm version, but here is the film version of Ride the Wild Surf by Jan and Dean.
TITLE SONG FROM RIDE THE WILD SURF
The film is based, somewhat loosely I understand, on the 1963 spy thriller of the same name by Alastair MacLain. His earlier The Guns of Navarone was made into a successful movie with Gregory Peck and David Niven and MGM hoped to turn this new novel into another box office winner. The film in fact did well and earned a couple Oscar nominations for special effects and cinematography but lost out to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It also revived the career of Rock Hudson as an action star after he had become somewhat typecast in his pillow talk movies with actresses like Doris Day. Charlton Heston was originally slated to play Hudson’s role as Captain Ferraday but declined saying the script was too weak. While Heston would have shone in the role Rock does just fine as the capable Captain of the USS Tigerfish as it heads towards the North Pole on both a rescue and top secret mission that involves British spies, Russian defectors, U.S Marines and not one single female character in the entire film.