Archive for the Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot Category

THE MONSTER AND THE STRIPPER/1968/RON ORMOND

Posted in Camp-Cheese, Exploitation, Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Ron Ormond on September 2, 2011 by Bill Courtney
THE MONSTER AND THE STRIPPER
1968/Director: Ron Ormond/Writer: Ron Ormond
Cast: Ron Ormond, Tim Ormond, Peggy Anne Price, Sleepy LaBeef, Georgette Dante, Ronald Drake, Jack Horton, Pauletta Leeman, Harris Martin, Diane Jordon
AKA: THE EXOTIC ONES
As hard as it may be for the uninitiated neophyte to conceive there is a class of “cult” (I do not like that term much lately as it is overused these days but is still most applicable at times) makers whose skill and dubious vision is on a lower rung of the film making ladder than even Ed Wood Jr.. In fact the title “worst filmmaker of all time” has never really been suitable for Ed Wood Jr. since there are moments in his films that show some degree of craftsmanship. Of course I am talking apples and oranges here, okay. Tim Burton made an embellished biopic of Wood’s life and career of the technical nature Wood himself could never imagine. I still find most of Wood’s catalog pretty deserving of being watched over when there is nothing else to do with life. I can dust the house or watch Bride of the Monster again. Not a tough decision for me folks. But even in more remote orbit from the world of conventional filmmaking are a good that churns out what are often called Z-Films. If B-Movies refer to films made outside the normal system and politics of Hollywood on super low budgets then Z-Films represent a world even outside the rules and codes of B-Movies and their creators. I doubt anyone sets out to make a “Grade Z Classic” the way Ted V. Mikels did with Astro Zombies or Al Adamson did with Dracula vs. Frankenstein but somewhere event beyond reasonable human control (such as the collective lack of filmmaking talent on the part of the entire cast and crew) come into play. And yet there is something genuinely entertaining about the films of folks like Ray Dennis Steckler, aka Cash Flagg, and even Herschell Gordon Lewis that can provide a certain portion of the population a sound evening of pseudo-surreal film watching. One could argue that this same said portion of the population is in desperate need of shock therapy or even lobotomies but that brings the subject matter a little too close to home to make me feel relaxed. So lets move on and discuss a truly odd film I had the masochistic pleasure of watching recently called The Monster and the Stripper, aka The Exotic Ones.

Like many other film makers of his selective ilk Ron Ormond’s personal and professional life followed a course much like one of his eclectic films. If you are really interested there is a ten page write up on the man and his films from an article that appeared in Michael J. Weldon’s Pyschotronic Video Magazine. One of these days I am going to begin some posts that provide mini-bios of the lives of influential Uranium charged film makers and I will use info from the above essay to give an overview of Ormond’s life. I know you can’t wait that long and ten pages is way too much to read of the cuff so I will try to give a very rough sketch from the info I have lying here next to me. He was born in 1910 as Vittorio Di Naro and changed his name to Ron Ormond because of the influence of mystic Ormond McGill on his life. Ron Ormond had a fascination with things mysterious or religious and even spent nearly a year in India with McGill researching and writing the book Mysteries of the Orient. McGill and Ormand would collaborate on some other books, that would probably be found in the occult section of a bookstore, with titles like The Master Method of Hypnosis, The Art of Meditation and The Magical Pendulum of the Orient. Later in life Ormond’s religious leanings would take a more Southern Evangalical slant when, after surviving a plane crash, be became born again and followed the hell fire and brimstone preaching of the Reverend Estus W. Pirkle.

Ormand’s contributions to the world of film began to be more substantial when he began working with cowboy star Lash Larue (so named because of the bullwhip the black clad good guy used in his buts with bad guys) in the late 40’s and 50’s. He produced and wrote many of the Larue and other B-Western films of the time for his Western Adventure Inc. production company. He married June Carr and later little Timmy Ormond was born. The times changed and so did Ron and June Ormond’s film making ventures. In the mid to late sixties they churned out a handful of low budget exploitation style films that seem to belong in a little niche all their own. While most people may have never heard of Please Don’t Touch and Untamed Mistress I hope that they will be a little familiar with Mesa of Lost Women, featuring some of the old Ed Wood Jr. entourage such as Delores Fuller and Lyle Talbot (doing the narration).
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Ormond’s film direction took still another bizarre twist when after the aforementioned near fatal plane crash he began making Christian propaganda films for Estus W. Pirkle with titles like The Burning Hell and If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do? He died in 1981 and like many exploitation style film makers his work remained lost until VHS and DVD brought them to a level of popularity he never knew in his living years. I have seen Mesa of Lost Women a couple times and am trying to download If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do? (Jeremiah 12:5) and Please Don’t Touch Me but the film I just watched and the one this post is about is The Monster and the Stripper and seems to be the film he is most remembered for, alongside Mesa of Lost Women. The title is certainly enticing and it is also known under the less provocative title The Exotic Ones. The film is like that line from Ghost World when the character Rebecca says “Its so bad its good¡± and the totally cynical Enid responds with “Actually it so bad that’s its gone past good and back to bad again¡±.

Like I said, the title is enticing and sounds pretty sleazy but the movie had me using the fast forward often, which is something I seldom do. I was aghast to discover that some people to churn out posts on a daily basis actually fast forward through the film just to get to a review on it. I actually enjoy the fare I watch and tend to do more rewinding and if the film is unwatchable I eject it. The problem with TMATS is that some scenes are fairly watchable Z-Grade material, at least for people to prefer root canals with little anesthesia or think Ed Wood Jr. may have actually been possessed of some sort of genius. The problem really is the dance sequence that are too many and go on too long, sometimes one after the other just filling up reels. They are of the Tease-o-Rama type variety and in small doses could be fun but after a while they really become simply way too boring. What I want to see in a film like this is lots of cheesy acting and corny dialog and goofy monsters. And yes, plump, pastie teasing dancing girls in a sleazy strip club as well of course but it is all just filler here obviously.

The film opens up with shots of New Orleans and the type of over the credit narration that is supposed to give the film a sort of mondo, true life feel. That’s you are about to be exposed to the sights and sounds of some hidden under belly of life in America that few people even know exist, much less have ever witnessed. Soon however we are transported into the less than murky and grimy interiors of Nemo’s Strip Club, run by said Nemo who is played by shade wearing Ron Ormond himself and billed as Vic Narno. His business partner is played by June Ormond and some of the dialog exchanges between consist of them staring into the camera and mouthing a line then cutting to a scene where the other, looking into the camera, reacts. June Ormond sometimes keeps slipping glances into the camera as she is talking and even seems to wink or nod to the camera and it is a little odd. Nemo’s business is slowing down due to competition on the strip he is working and in one scene he has his goons pour a spittoon over the head of a toothless rival who owes him some money. He is watched constantly by what must be a vice cop (Ronald Drake) who wears a goofy straw hat and spews out patronizing advice to one nice girl, Effie, who, in his opinion, does belong in this ratty business. She is played by Peggy Anne Price and she simply wants to be a singer and we are treated to a couple performances of her doing a sort of poor man’s Pasty Cline that are pretty hayseed sounding and do not seem to fit in a burlesque type club. His main dancer is the garishly eye-lined Titiania (Georgette Dante, a real live exotic show girl who stayed friends with the Ormonds long after the film) who is rotund and arrogant and becomes jealous of good girl Effie stealing a little of the lime light from her.

But Narno needs more to draw in customers and on the suggestion of his right hand man Marty (Jack Horton), who looks like he owes every Elvis record ever made, they decides to go into the swamps and bayous around New Orleand and capture the “Swamp Thing” that has been recently killing off hillbillies (or swampbillies) and ripping the heads off livestock. They figure this is just the sort of thing people will money to come in and gawk at. They hire a swamp kid named Timmy (Timmy Ormond) as their guide and the group of four men are soon whittled down to two by the Swamp Thing, a cave man looking brute played by rockabilly singer an guitar player Sleepy LaBeef (some MP3 samples at the end of the post) who lives under piles of Spanish moss. One of the best scenes in the film is when the Swamp Thing rips the arm off one of the hunters and beats the man to death with his own arm. Okay, I thought it was one of the best scenes anyway. There is some irony to this scene actually since the man beat to death was Cecil Scaife who was a PR man for Sun Records and at the time working with Columbia Records. So happens Sleepy LaBeefe (called Sleepy because of his droopy eye lid) was a Columbia recording artist. The dialog and acting in this sequence are simply the “best’ in the film. Anyway, they catch the Swamp Thing, with a hypo-gun I think, and take him back to the Strip Club. The local police seem to have no interest in the fact that a murderous swamp beast has been captured and soon he is on stage rattling the cage bars as the audience stares in shock. Timmy is the only person the monster connects with, for some reason we never understand, and as well he has a monster style crush on good crooner Effie. Naturally the bad girl Titania gets on his bad side when she does her fire act and torments him with fire. In one scene the Swamp Thing bites the neck of real chicken and lets the blood drain over his body. Some trivia here is that the 6’7 Sleepy did not have the heart to actually kill the chicken and so Georgette Dante (Titania in case you forgot) wrung it’s neck off camera and flung it back to Sleepy.

After a pretty non-sexy cat fight between Effie and Titania the monster escapes and kills Titiana then terrifies and bunch of dancing girls who all look like they are laughing at the lumbering, loin cloth wearing Sleepy LaBeef, who is supposed to a pretty funny and hospitable good ol’ boy in real life. The beast squished the skull of Narno while the vice cop in the straw hat just watches, with gun in hand, and winches. In the next scenes we are told that the monster escaped and no ones knows where it is. Guess it just walked down Bourbon Street and back to the swamps without causing any commotion. The film ends with another Russ Myersesque narration. The film actually did rather well on the drive-in circuit where June Ormond arranged autograph sessions with the dancers (including of course Titania) and other cast member sin the concessions area. Not that the Ormonds saw much of the returns of this or any of their films and soon the shady dealings of the exploitation film business, along with his neat fatal plane crash (he may have been the pilot), all contributed to his conversion to Southern style Christianity and his very bizarre but intriguing film work with the Rev. Estus W. Pirkle. More on that stuff another day.

NOTE: One sad note about this article is that when I had it posted originally at my old URL -which was basically destroyed by hackers and unqualified tech support-  the article generated some responses from Tim Ormond and one of the films dancers Diane Jordon. Eventually even Titiana herself (Georgette Dante) contacted Tim and a bit of a reunion occurred and was chronicled in the comments sections and a couple post updates. Sadly when I lost the old URL I lost ll of that precious information. If Tim and Diane are out there I may say hi via your mails and welcome you to the new address for any updates you may want to share. Thanks for sharing the stuff you did and best of luck to you if you read this. Bill.

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THE URANIUM CAFE MATINEE: NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES

Posted in Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Mad Doctors and Scientists, Matinee, Mexican Films, Rene Cardona, Wrestlers and Boxers on August 19, 2011 by Bill Courtney
Half Man, Half Beast, ALL HORROR!

An Orgy of Terror!

They rip, they claw, they tear you to pieces!
SEE NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES HERE >>
http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=640630930151052324&hl=en&fs=true
NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES

KONGA/1961/HERMAN COHEN/MICHAEL GOUGH

Posted in AIP, British Horror, Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Herman Cohen, Michael Gough on July 17, 2011 by Bill Courtney

KONGA

1961/Director: John Lemont/Writers: Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel

Cast: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad, Claire Gordon, Austin Trevor, Jack Watson, George Pastell   

Producer/writer Herman Cohen is a name that will be popping up here at the Cafe on a regular basis. Eventually there will be posts on his great dirve-in classics The Bride of the Gorilla, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, his AIP classics like I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and How to Make a Monster,  and Horrors of the Black Museum. In fact Konga is not our first introduction to the works of this dedicated film-maker. I reviewed Trog starring Joan Crawford and Michael Gough, a few posts back and it, like Konga, was one of the color films Cohen made while in England during the 60’s and 70’s. He would also make the thriller Berserk (I do not even know if I have that film here or not. I need a hunchbacked, mute assistant to sort out all the stuff I have on DVDs or on my hard-drive) with Crawford while in England and I understand most people like it more than Trog, but I thought Trog was pretty darned entertaining. Appearing in five of his British productions was actor Michael Gough who seems to have been given free reign with his roles and he had the time of his life hamming them up to the extreme. While some consider his ultimate over-the-top achievement to be the insane curator and scientist Edmond Bancroft in Horrors of the Black Museum I think he is utterly hysterical as Dr. Charles Decker in the sadly underrated Konga.

During the late 50’s and into the 60’s giant animals and insect swarmed over the surface of the planet, usually the products of atomic radiation or explosions. Most of these unruly brutes were confined to downtown Tokyo or the deserts of the Southwest United States. But for a brief periods some giant monster decided to vacation in Europe and we were treated to some fairly intriguing films like 20 Millions to Earth, Reptilcus, Gorgo, The Giant Behemoth and a couple others before the creatures all had their visas revoked and sent back to Japan and the States. Cohen seemed to have an ongoing interest in killer ape type films and with Konga he made perhaps his best man-in-a-monkey suit ever. The title obviously is a reference to King Kong and in one poster I saw online the title was given as King Konga. Konga is a movie that is really savaged online and is undeserving of the venom it receives. But then maybe these film viewers never grew up with Saturday afternoon Tarzan films or late night creature feature fare. It may be unimaginable to people born after at least the invention of the VCR, mush less DVDs and computer media players, that there was a time when there were basically three TV stations to choose from and the programs on those stations represented the totality of what you were going to see on the tube at any given moment. Of course there were affordable drive-ins and matinees back then but when you a kid with no money and no car you learn somehow to make the best of what you have before you. I grew up in a world where huge Styrofoam boulders hurled by Hercules always bounced off people before they slowly collapsed. In real life they would be flattened to a pulp instantly. I also grew up on more than a few men-in-monkey suit adventures. And come to think I do not know if I have ever seen a genuine gorilla run amok in a movie. The costumes either got better after 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes or they began using computer graphics after that technology developed. What actor would actually want to deal with a real gorilla in a rage?

Make no mistake that the most enjoyable aspects of Konga are Gough’s take no prisoner style of overacting and the corny ape costume. The dialog is hokey but not in an American B-movie style, but in a British B-movie style and I have come to see that is certainly a difference in the way Americans approach a low budget horror film compared to their British counterparts. While Yanks seem to realize they have a turkey on their hands they have some fun with it, the Brits really seem to want to raise even something as ludicrous as Konga to some higher level. Luckily director John Lemont (born in Canada but lived and worked in England) and Gough follow Cohen’s B-movie instincts and Konga never becomes anything too serious. If what I just said sounds like some sort of criticism of British cinema let me be clear that some of my favorite films of all time were British films of the late 50’s to early 70’s. I do not mean only horror films but the social dramas that starred great actors like Terrance Stamp, Tom Courtenay, Dirk Bogarde and James Fox. These are some of the best movies ever made. But we are here to discuss Konga aren’t we?
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Konga is more about the maniacal obsessions of one Dr. Charles Decker than a giant ape. The King Sized gorilla does not really appear until the last fifteen minutes of the movie actually. There are actually four stages of development for Konga: a baby chip, a grown chimp, a grown gorilla and then a giant gorilla that actually does little damage to downtown London. Not as much as Godzilla would do in his sleep in Tokyo or Osaka anyway. Botanist and University Professor Decker was presumed dead in the jungles of Africa after his small engine plane went down and burst into flames. He suddenly appears from the wilds of deepest, darkest Africa one day with a little chimpanzee in tow. Now this scene is simply marvelous. Actor Gough looks utterly uncomfortable with the little chimp and as he is giving an interview at the airport he is holding the chimp and compulsively rubs the darned thing nearly bald. In one scene he is leaning forward in the chair and rubbing the chimps ear thoughtlessly. This scene is mentioned by a few other reviewers of the film so I am not alone in my amazement at how unrelaxed Gough seems to be with the little guy. Anyway, during the interview Dr. Decker explains that he stayed in the jungles and lived with natives of his own accord for one year in order to pursue experiments with some of the insect eating plant life there, that he calls insectivorous with a mad twinge in his voice, and that he has discovered some sort of genetic link between the plants and human beings and that soon his discoveries will have many biology textbooks rewritten. With no further delays he is back to his post at Essex College and his extremely nice campus housing with a laboratory in the basement. He shares the details of his adventures with his assistant Margaret over a warm glass of brandy. As the conversation progresses it becomes clear in a vague British way that Decker and Margaret (Margo Johns) were once more than just friends. Decker is as cold and distant and just down right callus as any pompous snob could be and yet Margaret seems to the desperate type who fears being an old lonely spinster. Her feathers are ruffled still more by all the attention and concern Decker lavishes on Konga, the baby chimp. Decker is clear that Konga is crucial to his experiments in genetics and that the chimp will change forever the world when he helps to prove that there is an evolutionary link between plants and animals.

While he lived with the natives I the jungles of Uganda he discovered that certain plants had properties that when concocted into the proper potion can make life forms grow larger. Exceptionally larger. And if that weren’t enough the potion also puts the receiver under the mental control of the person who administers it to them. That is down right convenient. The first thing to do, after shooting the house cat who licked up a little of the potion, is to give little baby Konga an injection in his rump. I wonder what Gough was thinking as he had to bend down behind this little chimpanzee and, I assume, pretend to stick a hypo in its arse. After some worbly visual effects Konga is now an adult chimpanzee who is soon serving tea on a platter to Margaret, who has now warmed up to the furry fella a bit more. Decker’s greenhouse is now filled with fantastic insectivorous plants. One looks like a huge egg plant with its tongue hanging out. Another is a huge Venus Fly Trap, the type you used to be able to order out of the back of comic books, only much larger.

Well Decker must still pay the bills and he back in the classroom showing a film documentary he made while living with in native village. He explains how lucky he was to rescue all of the photographic equipment from the quickly descending aircraft before he bailed out, and let the pilot plummet to a fiery death. He has some after class words with his curvy, bombshell student named Sandra Banks (Claire Gordon), who not only fills out a sweater quite nicely but is also his most promising and dedicated student. He wants Sandra to assist him with his class more and with some outside projects as well. She is tickled to no end to help the professor in his studies but Decker is simply oozing with lechery. None too happy about the situation is Bob (Jess Konrad) who is smitten with Sandra, but she has made it clear to him that her studies and career come first. The guy would probably be portrayed as jock in an American film but here is simply some awkward nice guy who is sure he can win the girl if he is given the chance. Later Decker has a meeting with Dean Foster who read some about Decker’s claims of standing modern evolutionary theory on its head in the newspaper interview form the airport. The Dean and Decker are soon in a heated debate where basically Decker is called a madman and told he will have to take some time off to rethink his position on established school approved theories. Decker is a guy who easily gets pissed off and when you  take a egomaniac with a volatile temper and mix it in with a super-growth serum that also gives the administer mind control abilities and I think you may have some serious problems on your hands.

Decker takes none to kindly to being called mad and having his tenure threatened so he hightails it home and injects the tea serving Konga with yet another dose of the serum and after some more worbly visual effects Konga transforms into a full grown gorilla, or a full grown man in a fairly decent (for the time) gorilla suit. No point in splitting hairs here over the fact that a gorilla and chimpanzee are two different species since this is a minor flaw in most all ape films. And anyway, what would a giant chimp look like? A gorilla most likely.  Now this leads to another issue most all ape flicks had, and that is how in the hell can a full grown gorilla get around town without causing a commotion. Now I suppose here Konga only had to get from Decker’s dwellings on Essex College campus to Dean Foster’s place but it still stretches the imagination a tad that someone would not notice the brute lumbering about. Needless to say he bursts ungraciously into the Dean’s study and kills him. Decker is a suspect because the heated argument (which he terms a debate between professionals) was over heard by Dean Foster’s secretary. Decker is as arrogant and pompous as any man can be while being interviewed at Scotland Yard but is released because the police are looking for either an animal or incredibly strong man.

Decker holds a cocktail party later for friends and faculty and there meets Professor Tagore (George Pastell from the excellent Hammer version of The Mummy) who it just so happens is conducting almost identical experiments as Decker and is at the point where he is ready to announce his finding to the scientific community. Decker has not worked this hard to be robbed of glory now and so later he pays Tagore a visit at his laboratory and brings Konga along with him to make sure his point is clear. The scene where Gough orders Konga to attack is simply fantastic. He bellows the command in a maniacal fashion that perhaps on he or Richard Burton could have pulled off. Now that Decker has found a way to handle problems with anyone who stands in his way he decides to use Konga to remove the obstacle between him and the luscious Sandra; duffy Bob. Any ambivalence Decker may had about how to settle matters with Bob are erased when Bob basically assault him and kicks his academic ass while Decker’s and some of his class are on a field trip. Bob is simply jealous and lets Decker know he does not want him interfering in his romantic plans for Sandra (though she has basically blown him off repeatedly). Well Konga shows up and kills poor Bob right in front of his own home. I think all these murders takes place in a span of time of just a few days. Decker just cannot control himself. Margaret has let Decker know too that she is absolutely aware of what he is doing and yet she will not go to police so long as he agrees to make an honest women of her finally, to which he agrees with the utmost sincerity, until her back is turned and it is plan that Decker is not the least bit interested in Margaret as anything other than someone to fill up his syringes.

In what is the most unsettling scene of the movie Decker invites Sandra to his place to show her his research and offers her the position of his assistant. He shows her the hot and humid green house with all his strange plants and then loses all control and then starts manhandling her in a scene that Gough must have decided had to be utterly over the top to work. He plants the most awkward and sloppy series of slobbery kisses ever put on film on her reluctant face while proclaiming his love for her. Poor guy must have really gotten lonely out in the jungles. Margaret over hears the entire nauseating conversation and in a jealous rage runs down to poor Konga’s cage and inject him yet again and gain control of him. Problem is she gives him just a wee bit too much and he grows to King Kong size proportions and crashed through the roof of the house. He picks up an immobile rag doll version of Margaret and throws it to the ground and kills her. Sandra has her arm caught by a huge Venus Fly Trap plant and is, presumably since we never see it happen, killed by it in some grisly fashion. Outside Konga grabs Decker, who keeps yelling “let me down Konga” and heads off on a less than climatic rampage into downtown London. I cannot think of another giant ape film where a man is held by the beast and not a beautiful female that the ape has become enamored with. Actually nothing much happens to London at all and Konga is actually killed by machine gun fire from the British Army who arrive on the scene in mere minutes. Konga hurls Decker to the ground before dying and in the final scene reverts back to a baby chimp in a pretty strange looking closing shot. One of Gough’s “greatest” performances in my humble opinion.
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TROG/1970 /FREDDIE FRANCIS /JOAN CRAWFORD/MICHAEL GOUGH

Posted in British Horror, Freddie Francis, Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Herman Cohen, Joan Crawford, Michael Gough, Robert Hutton on June 23, 2011 by Bill Courtney
TROG

1970 /Director: Freddie Francis/Writers: Peter Bryan, John Gilling

Cast: Joan Crawford,  Michael Gough, Bernard Kay, Kim Braden, David Griffin, Robert Hutton   

Now here is a film that is really beaten nearly to death in reviews over the net and while it deserves some degree of flagellation it is not the total waste of time most people make it out to be. There is some degree, albeit half-hearted, talent involved with the project and while the movies suffers from an over serious attitude often found in British low budget films it is nonetheless worth a watch. At least if you the type who can watch and enjoy other films that producer Herman Cohen produced while he still lived and worked the US such as I was a Teenage Werewolf and I was a Teenage Frankenstein. In fact 1970’s Trog was originally slated to be called I was a Teenage Caveman. Appearing in the film is a regular of Cohen’s other British horror films (Horrors of the Black Museum, Konga, Berserk and The Black Zoo) the manically over the top and hammy Michael Gough. Leading the cast in her swan song film role is Oscar winner Joan Crawford who had all but slipped into 60’s style B movie oblivion after 1962’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. While a lot of her films during this time are derided I thought a couple, like Straight Jacket and Cohen’s Berserk, were pretty good “psychotronic” fare. Off screen Joan was not only downing copious amounts of vodka but more than her fare share of Pepsi as well. In fact, everyone on the set was drinking Pepsi since Joan had become a member of Pepsi’s board of directors and I managed to find a couple amusing shots of Joan sharing a cold bottle of the soft drink with Trog himself. The last piece of talent involved is none other than seasoned Hammer actor, cinematographer and director Freddie Francis (Dracula Has risen from the Grave, the Evil of Frankentstein). Surely Trog will not be remembered as the nadir of any these people’s careers but I found it a fair watch. I may be slightly biased here as Trog holds some sentimental value for me. I saw the film a couple times back when it was first released in San Antonio Texas (Joan Crawford’s city of birth) at the Lackland Air Force base matinee for all of .35 cents. Some young friends and I had a good time reinacting some of the scenes later.

To enjoy the film one must first enjoy the guilty pleasure of the classic man in an ape suit adventure. This can run the gamut from the irritatingly comical Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (irritating because of the obnoxious Martin & Lewis rip off duo of Duke Mitchell and Sonny Petrello, review coming eventually) to Planet of the Apes (the original of course) and even Stanley Kubrick’s opening sequence to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Speaking of 2001 the mask used for Trog is part of a custom used by one of the prehistoric men in Kubrick’s classic. But they literally only used the mask and it is obvious as there is a ape like head with wild and wooly hair planted onto pos a place skinned, hairless guy (Joe Cornelius). Actually Trog does not look too bad and is a step up from previous men in suit apes. He even has some facial expression and lip movement that was lacking in the 1968’s Planet of the Apes masks.
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Trog opens up the credits appearing over a trio of college buddies exploring the English country side looking for caves to explore. They stubble upon a cave that does not appear on any of their maps and excitedly prepare to be the first to explore it. The interiors of the cave, though unrealistically well light, look like something from a Hammer Film of the period, no doubt Freddie Francis’ influence. The lads find an underground spring and showing absolute lack of good judgment decide to swim under the cave wall to see where it leads. Well, it leads to a chamber where a troglodyte exists. It never really explains why he is still alive or how he managed to survive in cave other than he may have been frozen solid and thawed out recently but he is not happy and kills one of the students and drives the other to a near nervous breakdown. The spelunking student who opted to lag behind  Malcom Travers (David Griffith) takes his friend to the Brockton Research Center located, fortunately, right down the road. And if that weren’t lucky enough the Center’s area of research just happens to be anthropology. It is headed by Dr. Brockton, of course, who is played by Joan Crawford who simply never seems to look like a brilliant anthropologist. She is fascinated by Malcom’s story and suspects the creature he describes may just happen be to a prehistoric missing link, the kind anthropologists and evolutionary scientists have bben searching the world over for, and by golly there is one in a cave a short drive from her research center. She goes to the cave with Malcom and appears in its depth in a goofy looking white leisure suit, the same place the three spelunkers arrived at using by crawling and shimmying along in the dark. She aims her camera into a dark niche and on her first shot captures a great picture of what appears to be a troglodyte about to hurl a massive rock in her direction.

Soon the news spreads and the community, led by Dr. Brockton, is at the entrance of the cave in quest of Trog. It is not long before Trog is out of the underground river and killing scuba divers and idiotic cameramen who feel they do not have to use their zoom lens but rather should walk within a foot or two of this raging beast to get a good shot. Dr. Brockton soon immobilizes the pissed off caveman with her hypo gun and he is taken back to the institute, much under the angry criticism of local land developer Sam Murdoch (Michael Gough) who sees the troglodyte as a threat to his investment plans. Who wants a cozy country cottage next door to an ape beast who has already killed a student, a scuba diver and two newsmen. And I have to be honest I sort of see his point. Dr. Brockton must all these lost lives as collateral damage in the big scheme of things and soon she is having Trog play with dolls and toy trains in her research center where he happily gulps down rubber looking lizards for snacks. She is soon joined by scientists from around the world in her quest to establish that Trog must be kept alive. Among the imminent researchers and doctors who support Brockton is the American surgeon Dr. Richard Warren (played by The Slime People’s Robert Hutton) who does something that allows Trog to voice simple and mostly incoherent sounds. All of this worthwhile research is being carried on the in the shadow of town hearings to determine whether or not Trog is a threat to the community or not. The hearings get a little too “lofty” as Brockton, the voice of scientific reasons, squares off against Murdoch the voice of prejudice and religious superstition and sound real estate planning.

Things almost turn against Trog when he kills a German Shepard dog that just wanted play ball with Trog and Dr Brockton, but ultimately the hearings favor letting the murderous caveman remain alive and run around the grounds of the Brockton institute with only Dr Brockton and her young assistants to watch over him. Sam Murdoch has had it and one night breaks into the laboratory holding Trog (after waylaying a night guard with a crow bar of course) and soon is taunting him and throwing objects at him and finally releasing him from his cage. Bad idea, since a minute or two later Trog kills Murdoch and escapes into the local countryside and into the local town where he runs amok for a few minutes. During that time he turns over a car and causes it to immediately burst into flames, throws a produce stand clerk through a plate glass window and hangs the neighboring butcher on a meat hook. The towns folk panic and run through the streets and at one point even run past a Pepsi stand. Again, this is at the behest of Ms. Crawford who wanted product placement for the soft drink in most of her latter films.

Trog grabs some little girl and seeks shelter in a nearby cave though I am not sure if it is the same cave he was discovered in. The British army show up in force and though Dr. Brockton is able to coax the child away from Trog the general sentiment is one of “enough is enough” and the soldiers descend into the cave and amazingly miss Trog at point blank range for a few machine gun clips until finally he is hit and falls and impales himself on a stalagmite. The film is not really too violent except for the meat hook part and even that is pretty tame. Crawford was reputedly unhappy with the results and after viewing the movie claimed she may have committed suicide had it not been for her conversion to the Christian Science religion. Instead she stayed home and became a reclusive “Mommie Dearest” until her death in 1977. She would stop drinking in her last couple years because of her commitment to Christian Science. Michael Gough is great playing the snobbish aristocrat he typically plays but his scenes are pretty sparse. Movies here at the Cafe are not Oscar winners and this is not a movie for people who cannot tolerate bad cinema. It is certainly a bad and cheezy flick but it is well shot and no way a total waste of time. The story has been done before in most all the gorilla movies and the only thing really missing the beauty to further give sympathy to the beast and make its inevitable death at the hands of the military more heart rending. I assure you no will cry when Trog gets blasted at the end and what does that ultimately say about us as a species? That would be another high brow ethical debate for Dr. Brockton and Sam Murdoch had Trog not killed Murdoch. 

 

THE MONSTER WALKS/1932/WILLIE BEST

Posted in American Horror, Camp-Cheese, Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Willie Best on June 17, 2011 by Bill Courtney
There is not really much to say about this movie but I can give it a marginal recommendation if you enjoy bad movies or early cinema. I do, but I am aware that what I like is not everyone’s cup of tea.  It would have made it to my new Quikie category except for the fact that while watching the credits I noticed the name of Sleep ‘n Eat and recalled it from the days when I used to really read up on films. But we can go into in part two of this post. This film was made in 1932 and has all the trademark characteristics of a film shot in those days: stiff, melodramatic acting, terrible sound quality and poor music score, static photography (a scene often being shot for minutes from one camera angel), and loads of stereotyped characters. The film is supposed to be a remake of a 1927 silent film called the Cat and the Canary and is basically a whodunit that takes place in an old mansion over the course of one night during a thunder storm. After family members gather for the reading of a will left by the estate’s owner, an eccentric scientist, tensions develop amongst some of the family and staff who feel cheated because the man’s daughter, Ruth Earlton (Vera Reynolds) has basically received the entire fortune. Most upset is the deceased man’s invalid brother  Robert Earlton (Sheldon Lewis) who is receives only the assurance that he can still live in the house and get care,  and his staff Mrs. Krugg and her sinister son Hans (Martha Maddox and Mischa Auer).

Ruth’s fiancé Dr. Ted Carver (with a classic film name of Rex Lease) has accompanied her and is somewhat suspicious when she later alarms everyone with hysterical screaming, claiming she saw a hairy arm trying to grab her in her bed. He claims that while is a hysterical female she is not prone to nightmares. And why not be suspicious of a hairy arm when in the basement there is kept the dead doctor’s experiment in evolution, an ape… a gorilla. Of course it is obvious the “ape” is nothing but a chimpanzee not much larger than the one that played Cheetah in the Tarzan movies. I had really hoped that this was going to be a man in a gorilla suit movie and was sorely disappointed to see a chimp play the monster. Later the ‘ape” strangles the wrong woman, Mrs. Krug, and it gives actor Mischa Auer a grand chance to overact as he mourns her death and his mistake, sense he is in fact the one controlling the ape’s deeds under the behest of brother Robert. Well there are not many surprises and the ape of course kills his tormentor, Hans,  at the end and all is settled nicely overall. Brother Robert dies and Ruth and Ted wind up all hugs and snuggles. I did not hate the film and usually like these types, but I cannot recommend it to everyone. You must have a taste for old movies and bad acting and dialog to appreciate a film like this. It is a bad movie but one I enjoyed for the most part.


Appearing in the film as Exodus, the chauffer, is black actor Willie Best, often billed as Sleep ‘n Eat. I remembered his name from the days when I actually had to read books and magazines to get film information. There is not a wealth of information on the net about him, but I thought I could do a little tribute to this guy, who really was talented but had a difficult, though relatively prolific, film career that ended in obscurity.

SOME WORDS ABOUT WILLIE BEST

There was a time when black actors in Hollywood actually had names like G. Howe Black and Stephin Fectchit. Especially prior to the 1960’s it would hard to point to a black actor who ever had a significant role in any motion picture. Among the actors who possessed genuine talent but never had the chance to show was Willie Best, who was billed under one of the most denigrating of all names in movie history. As unbelievable as it may sound he was cast for many years simply as Sleep ‘n Eat. While a talented actor and comedian, as well as musician and song writer, Best is sadly remembered for his myriad portrayals as lazy, simple minded and cowardly porters, servants and janitors. The lazily drawled line “yussuh”, expressed with drooped mouth and half awake eyes, can be traced back to many of Best’s characters. They are not necessarily by any stretch the roles Best would have wanted to portray, but as he stoically confessed in a 1934 interview, “ I often think about these roles I have to play. Most of them are pretty broad. Sometimes I tell the director and he cuts out the real bad parts… But what’s an actor going to do? Either you do it or get out.”

He was praised by Bob Hope for his acting ability and comedic timing and played in at some Hope films… as a half witted butler of course. He also played in a few Shirley Temple films, doing the same thing. He was busted for drugs in the early 1950’s and his career all but screeched to a halt. He found some work here and there in television and as the civil rights era dawned he found himself the target of disdain by many of his fellow blacks, who saw what he did as an embarrassment to blacks. He was considered to be no more than the character he portrayed in his films. He died alone and in obscurity in a a home for aging actors and now lies in an unmarked grave in Hollywood, far from his home and roots in Mississippi. The closing lines of the film above, The Monster Walks, are so horrible. The conversation focuses on the doctors experiments in evolution and when Exodus (his character) realizes that he may be descended from apes he says something like “Well I had an uncle who looked like that (the chimp) but he was a lot slower.” It was a terrible line and pissed me off. There is hardly anything on Willie Best on the net that I could find with a basic search. I think this guy deserves more than what he got.
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Note: Since the time this article was first published over at the original location of The Uranium Cafe Donna Lethal and the folks over at the Celluloid Slammer started a drive to collect funds to  let Willie rest in diginity  and got him the  headstone finally he deserved. Thanks Donna and all. Good job.

THE URANIUM CAFE NECROFILES: STRANGE BEHAVIOR/EQUINOX/BRIDE OF THE GORILLA/HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY

Posted in Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Italian Films, Lon Chaney Jr., Lucio Fulci, Necrofiles, Raymond Burr on June 17, 2011 by Bill Courtney

 This is a new category I have meaning to launch for sometime now. I simply watch way more films than I can write an in depth article on. I like to explore information on a film from several sources and, along with my own personal opinion and anecdotes, make it available here in one place. But I cannot do that with every film. I have already forgotten a lot of films I have seen over the summer. The Necrofiles category will present about four films with short summaries, basic credits and no images other than a poster. This not mean that some of these films will not wind up with a more in depth post with more images one day but this way at least some of these jewels will be commented on and made known to the public.

STRANGE BEHAVIOR
1981/Director: Michael Laughlin/Writers: Bill Condon, Michael Laughlin/Cast: Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Dan Shor, Fiona Lewis, Arthur Dignam  

A mad scientist long thought dead by the local citizens of a small Illinois town exacts his demented revenge on the towns’ leaders by controlling the minds of some of the teenagers through experiments in his laboratory. The kids are turned into homicidal maniacs with no recollection of their deeds later. Over all well filmed and acted. The violence and death scenes are effective. Nice soundtrack by Tangerine Dream that is, as far as I know, unreleased. The action unfolds in rural Illinois but was filmed in Auckland New Zealand.

EQUINOX
1970/Director: Jack Woods/Writers: Mark Thomas McGee, Jack Woods/Cast: Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner, Robin Christopher, Jack Woods

The thing a lot of people enjoy about this odd little film is the stop-action animation sequences by Dennis Muren and David Allen. While not perfect the sequences are pretty interesting. The rest of the story could be forgettable expect for the fact the dialog, acting and camera work is so bad that it makes the film unbelievably fun to watch.  A group of college kids looking for the cabin of their professor are given an evil book of curses and charms by an old man in a cave. They are soon fighting off monsters and demonic possessions. Original tagline was “Begins Where Rosemary’s Baby Left Off”. Forrest J. Ackerman was helpful in bringing the project together and promoting it. A Jack H. Harris and director/writer Jack Woods is classic as park ranger Asmodius.

BRIDE OF THE GORILLA
1951/Director: Durt Siodmak/Writer: Curt Siodmak/Cast: Barbara Payton, Lon Chaney Jr., Raymond Burr, Tom Conway, Paul Cavanagh

Produced by RKO horror film producer Val Lewton with assistance from Herman Cohen this is a man-in-an-ape suit film that actually does not have a man-in-an-ape suit. Raymond Burr is put under a spell after he kills a plantation owner, Paul Cavnaugh,  who has become jealous of Burr’s feeling toward his wife, the shapely Barbara Payton. Lon Chaney, Jr. is supposed to a local member of an Amazon Indian tribe who is now the police chief, but he still looks and sounds like Lon Chaney, Jr.. George Sanders’ brother Tom Conway is a doctor who has romantic interests in Payton as well. A pretty watchable movie but it would have been much better had there been a real ape rather than hallucinations. Originally to be titled The Face in the Water and you will understand why if you check it out, which you should.

HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY
1981/Director: Lucio Fulci/Writers: Elisa Briganti/Lucio Fulci/Cast: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina

Also known as Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero, House by the Cemetery is one of the new style films Fucli began making in the United States after the Giallo-Horror genre lost steam in Italy in the late 70’s. While I tend to like Fulci’s work overall it is rather confusing at times as is most Italian horror-suspense cinema. I watched a few Luci films back to back with this one andto honest I have the stories all mixed in my mind now and had to put House by the Cemetery back in to remember exactly what the hell happened in it. The films he made in the States lost some of the visual quality his Italian productions had such as Perversion Story and Don’t Torture a Duckling. They simply became average exploitation and gore fare. In House By the Cemetery supernatural goings-ons in a small New England have plenty of people dying off in less than typical grisly Fulcian fashion with way too much dialog in between the action. The deaths are not nearly as gory as The New York Ripper or The Beyond. There is also some pesky kid who seems to have a power like the boy in The Shining and communicates with the spirit world. Probably for die hard Fulci enthusiasts only. Did a earn a Video Nasty from the British censors.

GORILLA AT LARGE/1954

Posted in American Horror, Billy Curtis, Cameron Mitchell, George Barrows, Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Raymond Burr on June 11, 2011 by Bill Courtney
GORILLA AT LARGE
1954/Directer: Harmon Jones/Writer: Leonard Praskins, Barney Slater
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Anne Bancroft, Raymond Burr, Lee J. Cobb, Lee Marvin, Warren Stevens,  Billy Curtis, George Barrows (as the gorilla)
What is really fun about Gorilla at Large is catching glimpses of a few faces that would go on to bigger and better things. Cameron Mitchell really never rose above b-movies or TV (does anybody out there remember the TV western The High Chapperal) roles in his career but it is cool to see him here being so blasted young. The lithe leading lady is played by none other than Mrs. Mel Brooks herself Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson from the Graduate.) It is really hard to connect the two faces as she is so young, demure and short haired here. She is simply ravishing as the object of the primate’s obsession, and I don’t mean mel Brooks. Lee J. Cobb plays yet another cigar smoking wise cracking cop and Raymond Burr –no stranger to gorilla films, check out Bride of the Gorilla- plays the heavy. The most interesting face to see is that of Lee Marvin, one of my favorite actors, playing the role of a goofy cop named Shaughnessy who can’t keep his eyes opened while guarding Goliath the gorilla. The film was one of 21st Century Fox’s first 3-D films and was made by Panoramic Productions. I had a 3-D AVI version of the film got from online and actually watched it without 3-D glasses. My wife really thought I had flipped my gourd when she looked at the TV and saw the mess of colors floating around. I am looking for a non 3-D version an when I get it I will update my screen captures here. In fact these are not my images, I found them online and edited them a bit but the net is sorely lacking in any good screen captures of this film and I hope to remedy this.

The film is simple whodunit type thriller set in a traveling carnival and sideshow called The Garden of Evil. Anyone could be the killer and of course the most obvious suspects are the ones to eliminate from the get go and the least obvious person becomes the actual killer in the end. I didn’t see it coming but I have to admit I wasn’t even thinking about it as I seemed mesmerized by the red and blues globs of color floating al over my TV screen. You have apes carrying girls around a house of mirrors and to the top pf roller coasters so what more do you want? Okay, shots of Anne Bancroft’s arse over the gorilla’s shoulder? Okay, you have that too. Thanks God for replay and pause right? The gorilla is played by the king of Hollywood apemen George Barrows. Perhaps Barrow most famous role was as Ro-Man the ape with a diving helmet in Robot Monster. Barrows can be seen films sans furry costumes sometimes as well. Check him out as George the male nurse in Mesa of Lost Women sans monkey suit.  Small role by one of  the great “little people” Billy Curtis. Both Barrows and Curtis will be popping up here and there in future  of  The Uranium Cafe. This is one of the funnest of the man in monkey suit films and I look forward to seeing it soon without the 3-D effects which really don’t work on a TV screen in my opinion, especially if you do not have the glasses! (Update: I got myself a hard to find color version of the film and put up some great screen captures from that.)
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