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Archive for October, 2011
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.
1971/Director: Edwin Sherin/Writers: Roland Kibbee, David Rayfiel
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Susan Clark, Frank Silvera, Jon Cypher, Richard Jordan, Barton Heyman, Hector Elizondo
I love a good western. I saw this at a cinema matinee actually when it first came out for like .35 cents if you can believe that. The film has the edgy violence a lot of action films had at the time and seems influenced not only by Sam Peckingpah but spaghetti western directors as well. In fact the film was shot in Spain using some of the same locales that Sergio Leone used for his westerns. Bob Valdez is played by Burt Lancaster and is a local constable who feels driven to collect a small amount of money to pay the widow of a man he was tricked into killing. The ruthless rancher Frank Tanner (Jon Cypher) will not hear of it and has Valdez essentially crucified. What tanner does not know is that the life weary and soft spoken Valdez was once a skilled tracker, marksman and Indian hunter and he is now pretty pissed off and is out to get even. Richard Jordan does good as the big mouth coward Davis and forgotten beauty Susan Clarke is Tanner’s wife Gay Erin who gets kidnapped by Valdez and is drug through the mountains and wilderness as Tanner’s posse pursue them and are picked off one by one with Valdez’s Sharps long rifle. All this over $100. From the book by Elmore Leonard.
THE DEVIL DOLL
1964/Director: Lindsay Shonteff/Writers: Ronald Kinnoch, Frederick E. Smith
Cast: Bryant Haliday, William Sylvester, Yvonne Romain, Sandra Dorne, Karel Stepanek, Francis De Wolff
Most ventriloquist movies, like Magic with Anthony Hopkins, have the dummy as the villain who drives the ventriloquist insane. In the not too bad Devil Doll the dummy is actually the victim and the ventriloquist the tormentor. The great Vorelli (Bryant Haliday) is not only a gifted ventriloquist but a master hypnotist as well who has earned some degree of success with a stage act. On top of all this he also dabbled in the black arts at one point in his life and learned how to transfer souls from a human body to his dummy, which he did n the case of his old assistant Hugo. A spat of murders is happening in London and American reporter Mark English (William Sylvester) soon suspects Vorelli though he always has an alibi. Vorelli becomes infatuated with rich girl Marianne Horn (Yvonne Romaine) and sets out to so some soul transferring with her but first needs to get rid of his clingy assistant and former lover Magda (Sandra Dorne). There are some spicy scenes of Dorn that revel more butt cheek than you were used to seeing in those times, especially from plump near middle aged gals. In the middle of this is the tormented dummy Hugo who has to do the bidding of Vorelli but has his revenge in the end of course. The movies is not great but, as I said, is not too bad. I saw the MST3K version and it was pretty funny. Not sure how it should stand up with on the comedic onrunning commentaries.
1995/Director: Luca Bercovici/Writers: Sam Bernard, Luca Bercovici
Cast: Stella Stevens, Shannon Whirry, Luca Bercovici, Brant von Hoffman
Granny stars former sex kitten Stella Stevens (The Nutty Professor) as an aging and rich woman whose family is hovering her like a bunch of vultures waiting to collect on her will. She is close to one of her granddaughters Kelly (Shannon Whirry) whom the rest of family ridicules and mocks. Kelly has tended compassionately to Granny in her last years and asks for and expects nothing in return. Which is good since that is what she gets later. Granny drinks an elixir of youth that was exposed to direct sunlight and thus goes bad. Rather than regaining her youth Granny turns into a demon that set abut exacting revenge on all her family members, including nice girl Kelly for some reason. The action and acting is pretty campy but this is a fun little piece of trash. The movie went to VHS pretty fast and there is ample nudity and violence to make up for the whacky script and direction. Everyone seems to playing it tongue in cheek.
1958/Director: Charles Saunders/Writers: Brandon Fleming
Cast: George Coulouris, Robert MacKenzie, Norman Claridge, Marpessa Dawn, Jimmy Vaughn
Probably the horror sub-genre I have always had the hardest time with is the man-eating plant one. I had some of the same issues with this film but it is pretty good. The problem I have is the plant is usually immobile and some evil doctors has to continually lure victims to feed the plant. The doctor here is Dr. James Moran (George Colouris) who discovered a plant in South America that produces an elixir that will return the dead to life but the plant, naturally, must be fed a diet of beautiful girls to produce the proper serum which he finds in plentiful supply in a quit London suburb. The obligatory odd assistant is Tanga (Jimmy Vaughn) who plays bongo drums with a frenzied look on his face which hypnotizes the gals allowing the doctor to escort them to the tree of doom. Lots of complications after the doctors hires a new and attractive keeper he gets the hot for upsetting his former housekeeper and, we assume, lover. I wound up liking the film and my only complaint might be that the tree creature looks cool but in only on the screen for a total of about five minutes. Great to watch the socially inept and unattractive Dr. Moran pick up some female plant food in a pub with all the ease of a Casonova.
MOTHER OF TEARS (LA TERZA MADRE)
2007/Director: Dario Argento/Writers: Jace Anderson, Dario Argento
Cast: Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeno, Adam James, Moran Atias, Udo Keir, Jun Ichikawa
Mother of Tears is supposed to be the final part of a Dario Argento trilogy that began with Supirira and then continued with Inferno. I have Inferno but have never watched it and hope it succeeds in tying the films together as I see no connection to Suspiria in this film yet. Aregento struggles to make a single coherent film and I have doubts about his pulling off a trilogy story that spans three decades. Asia Argento plays an American studying art restoration in Rome. She and her and her friend decide to forget the boss’s rules and they open an ancient urn and then figure reading some ancient inscriptions in the dark would be nice as well. Of course this moves the plot along as a ridiculously fast pace and we are treated to demons and a brutal death in less than ten minutes into the film. Soon Rome is plunged into a crime and suicide wave and Sarah (Asia Argento) must work alone to save the world from some sort of apocalyptic nightmare that I never quite understood. Udo Keir has a brief role as a priest and the deaths are fairly explicit. A woman tosses her baby over the railing of a bridge in one strange scene that rated a replay or two. The usual Argento confusion for the most part but filmed nicely with enough good moments to get a recommendation from me it but it is mostly for Argento fans.
All Necrofile selections are candidates for a more thorough article at a later point in time.