Tuesday, December 5, 2023

A 15th Century German Philosopher Proves Donald Trump and "The Creeping Terror" are Very Much Alike


The truth about cats and dogs: our furry friends have many things in common.

Hi ho, movie lovers.

Have you ever noticed that certain things can appear to be very different, but, upon further reflection, actually have a lot in common?

Take cats and dogs.

Dogs bark and cats meow. Dogs are (supposedly) friendly while cats are (supposedly) more aloof. Never the less, dogs and cats do share important traits. For example, dogs and cats both communicate through body language. Both dogs and cats have territorial instincts. They're both natural hunters. They both shed. Both will drink out of the toilet if you're not careful. Both dogs and cats can get worms, fleas, ticks and rabies (so see a vet regularly). And they both make great pets.

Another different-but-same duo are waffles and pancakes.

Pancakes and waffles aren't so different after all.

Sure, they look different. However, both are made from a mix, both are cooked on a griddle or an iron, both taste good with butter, jam and syrup and both are eaten for breakfast.

See what I mean?

Therefore, when I state that the movie "The Creeping Terror" (1964) and Donald Trump have many similarities, nobody should say, "That's too wild, even for you." Let me explain:

Art J. Nelson (the master mind behind "The Creeping Terror") and Donald Trump (the master mind behind MAGA) are both dodgy flim/flam men who convinced a large swath of people that they were either A) a successful film maker or B) a successful business man.

Like wise, both men assured people that they would either A) make the greatest monster movie of all time or B) they would make the greatest president of all time.

If the Creeping Terror and Donald Trump had a baby...

Both Trump and Nelson were never shy about asking their followers for money--to finance and star in Art's movie or to finance Donald's campaign--and both men had no problem playing fast and loose with that money (see Trump University and the welter of lawsuits Nelson was the subject of).

But wait! There's more!

As every Junk Cinema fan knows, the centerpiece of "The Creeping Terror" is a large, scraggy alien carpet sample and/or old afghan blanket/rug that lumbers around mythical Angel County scarfing up people via his/her/its mouth/hole/opening/thingie/doo-hickie. Once the monster does so, it grows. And grows. A lot. Thus, when the flick nears its end, the Creeping Terror resembles a huge, moldy carpet sample/afghan rug being dragged along by a troop of crawling drunks.

Similarly, Trump is rather large and scraggy, too, and has lumbered around the country. He's also managed to scarf up an entire cable network and the GOP in one, huge vacuum-packed slurp. With Fox News and the GOP fawning over him 24-hours-a-day, Trump's ego and sense of grandiosity inflated so much he started saying stuff like "I'm a very stable genius", "I know more about ISIS than the general do", "Everything I've done virtually has been a great success" (...does that include Trump Steaks?), "I know a lot of tough people who are stupid" and "I know words. I have the best words" with a straight face, so convinced of his infallibility. However, even Trump's biggest fans had to admit his suggestion about injecting bleach to cure Covid-19 was a bit much.

Additionally, despite looking (and being) utterly ridiculous, the Creeping Terror and Trump have/had a "fear factor" working in their favor. By that I mean people are afraid to confront them directly.

Angel County residents dance the night away, not knowing terror will soon creep up on them.

See, when the Creeping Terror began creeping around Angel County, Deputy Martin (director Art J. Nelson) and imported scientist Dr. Bradford (William Thurlby) decided not to alert their fellow citizens about the danger. Why? Because they didn't want the public to panic--even though the Creeping Terror had already gluped down a housewife, a grandpa and grand son, a couple necking in their underwear and all the participants of a "neighborhood hoot-e-nanny". I don't know about you, but after all that, I think a little panic is in order. What's more, by refusing to alert the citizens of Angel County, Martin and Bradford put more people in danger, not less.

Same thing with Trump. Neither Fox News or the GOP would admit the danger Trump was putting voters (and the country) in. Why? Because Fox was getting sky-high ratings and raking in acres of cash for supporting Don and the GOP didn't want to "upset" Trump's "base" (for fear voters would reject them, not Trump, on Election Day). 

However, when these twin terrors could no longer be ignored, both "The Creeping Terror" cast and the GOP tried to make things right, with mixed results.

In "The Creeping Terror", Deputy Martin and Dr. Bradford violently disagree about the creeping monster's fate: Martin wants to kill the beast, while Dr. Bradford wants to "save" and "study" it. While those two bicker, the military (in the form of Col. Caldwell) takes charge and use grenades to blow the creature up. Because there is another Creeping Terror inside the aliens' spaceship, Martin rams it with his car and that Creeping Terror creeps no more. Hurray! Unfortunately, before Dr. Bradford dies (don't ask), he tells Martin et al that the Creeping Terrors weren't creatures at all--they were actually "mobile labs". Their mission was to suck humans inside to analyze their DNA and send the info back to their home planet. Unfortunately, before the humans could stop them, the Creeping Terrors sent a truck-load of DNA info back home. What will happen now?

"God only knows," the flick's narrator intones.

A "Creeping Terror" cast member or a voter on election night 2016...or possibly election night 2024?

Meanwhile, the GOP was even more inept on how to stop Trump. Some RNC delegates tried to draft an alternative candidate to Trump, but that didn't work. Other GOP members said they would "support Trump, but not endorse him." That had little effect, too. Still others said Trump would "grow" into his role as President, but that didn't pan out, either. Then "Access Hollywood" released a tape of Trump proclaiming that grabbing women by the snatch was OK if you were famous. People were shocked, but Trump's faithful insisted it was just "boys talk". Trump's supporters also reminded folks that Donald never said he was perfect; he was running for president, not pope. Besides, they added, didn't King David have, like 5,000 concubines? And what about the behavior of the Kennedys? And FDR? And Clinton? And didn't W drink like a fish and snort coke in his younger years? Why, even George Bush the First was said to have cheated on Barbara! And don't forget Eisenhower. He cheated on wife Maime with his lady driver during WWII. That wasn't exactly patriotic, was it? 

The message the GOP and MAGA were sending was, yes, Donald was rude, crude, insulting, ignorant,  sexist, unfaithful (to his wives), boorish and uncouth. But, hey, what politician isn't?! At least he's honest about it, right? And remember, Donald is running for president, not pope.

 Later on, the House had two (two!) chances to impeach Donald on charges far more consequential than his "Access Hollywood" debacle. However, the GOP held back fearing that offending Trump's base could cost them their own re-election bids. 

The Creeping Terror was capable of great violence to achieve his/her/its goals. When the beastie made his/her/its way to Lover's Lane, it unleashed hell: knocking over cars, inhaling couples whole and appearing to have sex with an Oldsmobile.

Donald Trump has a long history of promoting and/or inciting violence, too.

"Love is all Around ": Parents reacting badly when the annual Kindergarten pumpkin patch field trip is cancelled due to bad weather.

So you see movie lovers, "The Creeping Terror" and Donald Trump are not that different. In fact, they are a good example of Coincidentia Oppositorum in action.

 Coincidentia Oppositorum is a Latin phrase meaning "coincidence of opposites". It is a neoplatonic term attributed to a 15th century German polymath named Nicholas of Cusa in his work De Docta Ignorantia (which in Latin means "on learned ignorance" or "on scientific ignorance").

Coincidentia Oppositorum can also be invoked when one experiences "the revelation of the oneness of things previously believed to be different." This insight can be found in the religious traditions of Toaism, Zen and Sufism, as well as German mysticism, and "various non-dualist and dual traditions." 

Nicholas of Cusa: Cardinal, philosopher, mathematician, jurist, astronomer ...and bad movie fan?

It is Coincidentia Oppositorum that provides the philosophical framework to show how even some of the wilder notions--like "Cats" is really a musical remake of "Logan's Run"--presented in this blog are not so wild after all.

Nicholas of Cusa, wherever you are, thanks for your support!

And save the movies.

Editor's note: The information provided to explain Coincidentia Oppositorum and the life and work of Nicholas of Cusa came from Wikipedia. For further reading, consider The Unity of Opposites: A Dialectical Principal or Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writing  by Lawrence H. Bond. Have I read this stuff myself? No, but it sounds interesting.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

The Barbie Movie


 "What Becomes a Legend Most?": Classic Barbie

Hi ho, movie lovers.

I have just come from a showing of the movie "Barbie", starring Margot Robbie as you-know-who and Ryan Gosling as her companion/not quite boyfriend Ken.

I must say the set direction, clothes and cinematography are all top notch. Barbieland, where the movie is set, is a pastel paradise of dream houses, dream cars and dream fashions. 

Every morning, she (Robbie) wakes up in her dream house, has a perfect shower, chooses a perfect outfit and has a perfect breakfast. She then floats to the ground (Barbie dream houses never come with stairs) and drives around Barbieland in her pink convertible. Along the way, Barbie waves to all the other barbies: President Barbie, Astronaut Barbie, Professor Barbie, Vet Barbie. At the beach, Barbie meets up with Ken (Gosling) who, like all the other Kens in Barbieland, doesn't really do much but surf and work on his tan.

Every day in Barbieland ends with a swingin' dance party. It's in the middle of one of these celebrations that Barbie suddenly blurts out, "Have you ever thought about death?"...which brings the festivities to a screeching halt.

As you can see, Midge wasn't always pregnant.

Next morning, Barbie's shower is too cold, her milk has gone sour and her famous arched feet have gone flat. What's going on? She's told to visit Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), so named because her last owner "played too hard" with her, for advice. Weird Barbie lives in a ramshackle abode, not a perfectly appointed dream house and her legs are always in the splits. Yet it's she who realizes Barbie's behavior is caused by a "tear" in the fabric that separates Barbieland from the Real World. Therefore, Barbie must travel to to the Real World (actually, L.A.) and track down the girl who plays with her to repair the damage.

So Barbie hops into her convertible and drives off . Seconds later, Ken pops up from the back seat, telling Barbie he's coming with her--he's even brought his rollerblades along. Barbie wearily agrees and soon the duo are using various Barbie dream vehicles (like planes, campers, boats, bikes, and space ships) to reach L.A. However, once they get there, Barbie and Ken quickly see the Real World is nothing like Barbieland: women don't run everything, people have genitals and girls like Sasha (Arianna Breenblat), once Barbie fans, now scorn her and call her fascist.

Ken, on the other hand, is delighted to see men are on top of the heap in the Real World. He likes being called "sir" and feels he's finally being taken seriously. Then he grabs a bunch of library books on patriarchy and returns to Barbieland, determined to shake things up.

Meanwhile, Barbie continues to stumble around in the Real World. She meets the CEO of Mattel (Will Ferrell) who, along with his corporate yes-men, try to put Barbie "back in the box" to reprogram her. She manages to escape, but the CEO and his crew are close at her heels, determined to avoid a crisis like the one that happened 10 years ago: Skipper arrived at a house in Florida, asking to babysit. When she tried to teach a toddler how to surf, all hell broke loose. Needless to say, the Mattel people are frantic to avoid such a catastrophe from happening again.

Luckily, Barbie finds an ally in Gloria (America Ferrera), who happens to be Sasha's mom. She's a Mattel employee who loved Barbie as a kid and played barbies with Sasha when she was little. Now Sasha is a truculent tween who dismisses mom like she dismisses Barbie. Turns out the "tear" between Barbieland and the Real World was caused by Gloria, not Sasha, reminiscing about all the good times she had with Barbie and her daughter.

I had a Growing Skipper doll. 

Armed with this knowledge, Barbie, Gloria and Sasha race back to Barbieland. Unfortunately, when they get there, Barbieland has been tuned into Ken World. Preaching the importance of patriarchy, the Kens have supplanted the barbies from their positions of power. Now Doctor Barbie, Lawyer Barbie and all the other barbies have been turned into Stepford Wives and all the Kens act like entitled frat boys. How is Barbie going to fix that? 

Never fear! Barbie and her buds manage to shake the Barbies out of their torpor and set Barbieland right again. What about the Kens? President Barbie (Issa Rae) and her cabinet realize the Kens need to do more than just hang out at the beach. Thus, President Barbie vows to give them more rights and responsibilities. The barbies also come to understand that their treatment of the Discontinued Barbies (Growing Skipper, Weird Barbie, the always pregnant Midge etc.) has to change as well.

And what about Barbie herself? She's had an epiphany, for sure. Barbie's come to see that she's more than just "Stereotypical Barbie", the perky clothes horse. She has other talents and abilities, too. However, in order to live up to her full potential, Barbie will have to take a leap of faith and join the Real World. Will she?

"Barbie" reminded me of movies like "Pleasantville" and "El Canto", as well as such tales as The Velveteen Rabbit and Tuck Everlasting. The film shares their message that perfection is a trap, that there's no "perfect world" or "perfect life", that love is both wonderful and painful, that change is not only constant, but vital.

And flats can be just as chic as heels.

Tres chic, no?

Barbie helped millions of little girls grow-up and dream big. Greta Gerwig's movie suggests it's Barbie's turn now. What will her new life be like? The movie doesn't tell us, but from now on, Barbie's dreams, whatever they be, will be her own.

Barbie is never short of career options.

To be honest, I was never into Ken or Allan (Michael Cera in the movie). My childhood Barbie's boyfriend was named Kip Kipstone.

The Sunshine Family was the "Apple's Way"* of barbies. My sister got them for Christmas one year.

Relax, Jeb Bush! Midge was never a single mother...unless you forgot to buy her husband.

I had this very Barbie lunch box.

Boy Band Barbie? Teenage Soap Opera Character Barbie? Villain On A Vampire TV Show Barbie?

*"Apple's Way" was a 1970's TV show where the big city Apple Family moves to small town Appleton, Iowa. Even as a kid I knew it was dumb.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Walt Disney Proudly Presents a Period Piece

 It's that time of the month...again.

Greetings, movie lovers.

Today we return to the wonderful, funderful world of mental hygiene films.

A product of WWII, progressive educators felt the medium of film could be an effective tool in educating young people, just like it helped educate our troops. Whether it was good manners, household safety, improving your spelling or avoiding the ravages of drugs, alcohol, early marriage, head lice and VD, there wasn't a topic mental hygiene films didn't cover. All teachers had to do was show the short and that was that.

Then as now, how to teach kids about sex caused controversy. Progressive educators felt mental hygiene films could bridge the gap between what parents wanted their kids to know and what teachers and/or doctors felt kids needed to know to keep themselves safe. If a mental hygiene film on, say, menstruation could be made tasteful enough for parents, but accurate enough for doctors, who could object?

And that's how Disney Studios and the International Cello-Cotton Company (aka Kotex) teamed up to produce "The Story of Menstruation" (1946). 

Welcome to the world, baby girl.

Don't tell Ron DeSantis.

As we all know, Mr. DeSantis has a bee in his bonnet about Disney. So imagine what would happen if Ron learned his implacable enemy had made a period piece.

He'd probably have a fit--unless he actually saw the film.

Despite it's highly personal subject matter, "The Story of Menstruation" is about as "woke" as an ice cream social held by the John Birch Society. No graphic screed about "the curse", it's a politely, understated tutorial on an important subject. In fact, the short tries so hard to be genteel and restrained it veers into being rather dull (a common fate of many mental hygiene films).

"The Story of Menstruation" opens to the strains of gentle, lyrical music. White flowers from a blossoming tree waft in the breeze outside the window of a baby girl's nursery. The tyke is a little cutie sporting big eyes, big lips and one tooth. She's snuggled in a bassinet, which is decked out with pink ribbons.

Mother Nature watching over us.

"Why is nature called 'Mother Nature'?" our narrator (Gloria Blondel, kid sister of Joan Blondel) asks. "Perhaps it's because, like any mother, She quietly manages so much of our living without our ever realizing there's a woman at work."

Warming to the theme of a woman working behind the scenes, Ms. Blondel marvels, "Why, right from the beginning we breathe and sleep and wake-up with no more conscious planning than we used in sprouting teeth!"

Smart cookie, that Mother Nature.

One way Mother Nature controls our "bodily developments" is through "automatic control centers called glands." An especially vital gland is the pituitary gland, which releases growth hormones--"busy little messengers"--to kick start this process. Of course, the narrator explains, each person's pituitary gland sends out individualized messages, which explains why some girls "grow small, some tall, some heavy and some slight."

Now we get to the nitty-gritty. All girls menstruate the narrator says. Menstruation begins when a gal "is about 13" and her pituitary gland starts sending out "a new hormone" designed to "help the body mature" and get ready to have a baby. What follows next is a dry, dispassionate lecture (complete with diagrams) on how female eggs are either A) fertilized through "impregnation" or B) washed away by blood and tissue. This process happens every 28 days or so and it's "normal" and "natural".

Although "The Story of Menstruation" mentions "impregnation", it doesn't explain what that is or how it's done. That was typical. As author Ken Smith of Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1970, explained, sex ed films "were about plumbing, not sex". The subject of intercourse was strictly off limits. If, in that rare instance when mentioning copulation was unavoidable, mental hygiene filmmakers came up with some interesting ways to work around the subject. My favorite is "Wonder of Reproduction" (1961), where the reproduction habits of "Uncle Bob's aquarium of Egyptian mouthbreeders" stand-in for humans. As Mr. Smith pointed out, this switcheroo "undoubtedly confused a lot of kids."

I agree.

One of Uncle Bob's Egyptian mouthbreeders explaining reproduction.

Back to the movie.

Once "The Story of Menstruation" explains the technical aspects of why and how you get your period, the film shifts to simple tips to make that time of the month less of a drag. The narrator suggests, for example, that girls avoid "tiring themselves out" during their cycle. It's fine to bathe during this time, just don't have the water be too hot or too cold. Try not to get sick and cut-back on the crazy jitterbugging (it was 1946, remember). You can exercise during your period, but "use your common sense" and stay away from, say, horseback riding.

"The Story of Menstruation" becomes especially stiff-necked when PMS is discussed. Although Ms. Blondel acknowledges hormonal changes during this time can make you tense and weepy, for God's sake don't make a big deal about it! Remember, she says, "You have to live with other people" and you shouldn't make their lives miserable just because you're cramping. Take some Tylenol and get a grip. If that doesn't work, make sure your make-up is fresh and you aren't slouching. Live a balanced life and you should be OK.

"So that's the story of menstruation," the film proclaims. There is nothing "strange" or "mysterious" about this bodily function. "All life is built on cycles," the narrator reminds us and menstruation is just another way Mother Nature passes on nature's "gift of eternal life." The closing scenes return to the cute little tyke in her bassinet, beaming at her delighted mother. The end.

From the quality of the animation and the soothing, reassuring tone of Ms. Blondel, it's clear a lot of time and effort went into making "The Story of Menstruation". For example:

Disney wisely hired an MD to consult on their film.

*A male gynecologist named Mason Hohn was the flick's medical consultant. The Disney people obviously felt having a real MD attached to the project would give their film more creditability than, say, Donald Duck. To his credit, Dr. Hohn steered the movie to be more detailed about female biology and science and less interested in selling Kotex hygiene products. 

*The Kotex people still made free samples available and gave girls a booklet called Very Personally Yours, which extoled the virtues of Kotex products.

*In case you're wondering why tampons don't make an appearance, it's because Tampax Inc had a monopoly on the tampon trade and the Kotex didn't want to give their competition any free publicity.

*"The Story of Menstruation" was the first movie to say "vagina" out loud. The film was later added to the National Film Registry in 2015.

Unlike a lot of other period pieces, "The Story of Menstruation" doesn't feature a cast of thousands cheering on its tween protagonist as Aunt Flow makes her first appearance. Nor does it stray from the expectation that females will ultimately marry and have kids--no mention of going to college or working outside the home. However, for many girls, this mini movie was the only accurate information they'd receive on this subject.

A vintage Kotex ad.

With all the culture war hoo-ha about "woke" schools and their "indoctrination" of children, it's important to remember there was a time when educators were encouraged to help their students understand the world around them and their place in it. Yes, mental hygiene films had a dark side, too, encouraging a conformity that wasn't realistic or healthy. But at least they were an attempt to educate kids using "modern technology" to "meet the complex problems of modern life."

Thus, for trying to give young girls a better understanding of how their bodies work, as well as clearing up any disinformation they may have heard along the way, Disney and Kotex, Junk Cinema salutes you!

If you want to learn more about mental hygiene films, get your hands on a copy of Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1970. by Ken Smith. Not only will this book tell you everything you ever wanted to know about these mini-movies, it's funny and enlightening, too.

Also: I saw "The Story of Menstruation" myself in 5th grade and suffered no ill effects.

And save the movies, too.

Having your period is a breeze thanks to Disney and Kotex.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Junk Cinema Salutes "The Adventurers"


The opening credits for "The Adventurers". This is as tasteful as things get.

Hello to you, movie lovers.

Today we travel to the Latin American republic of "Corteguay". It's home to majestic mountain ranges, rolling green hills, sunbaked deserts and lush tropical rain forests. It's also home to little Dax Xenos (Loris Loddi), son of progressive lawyer and human rights activist Jaime Zenos (Fernando Rey).

One spring day in 1945, little Dax is happily frolicking with his pet dog in a green meadow. A butterfly flits past. Flowers dance in the gentle breeze. Then shots ring out and blood starts squirting from the neck of Dax's pooch,

What happened?

Cold hearted Col. Gutierrez (Sydney Tafler), loyalist to Corteguay's ruthless dictator, has amassed a goon squad to kill the Xenos family, who have all been declared "traitors"--even their dog!

Young Dax Xenos (Loris Loddi) screams in horror after watching a preview of "The Adventurers".

Dax runs home to warn his family. They lock the doors, shut the windows and head for the safety of the cellar. In the dark, Dax's mom, sister and female staff pray in silence. Then Crash! Boom! Bang! Col. Gutierrez's goons kick open the cellar's door and viciously beat, rape and kill every female they can find. Amid the deafening screams of his loved ones, Dax escapes to find help.

Jaime Xenos soon arrives on horseback, with Gen. Rojo (Alan Badel), another freedom fighter. But they are too late. All the women are dead. Dax and his father are devastated.

Gen. Rojo, however, is more matter of fact. He lines up the goons, pronounces sentence and hands Jaime a gun to shoot them with.

"I am not an assassin," the elder Xenos insists.

"Then let me do it!", Dax declares.

"Have Gun, Will Travel": Jaime Xenos (Fernando Rey), Gen. Rojo (Alan Badel) and Dax prepare for battle.

With Rojo's help, Dax yells, "For my mother, my sister and for Corteguay!" and showers the thugs with bullets. Afterwards, Gen. Rojo kisses Dax on the lips---EWWW!

And that's just the opening seconds of "The Adventurers" (1970).

Based on the bestseller by "the dirty old man of American letters" Harold Robbins, "The Adventurers" vacuum packs more sex, violence, sleaze, murder, booze, assasinations, revolutions, fashion shows, polo games, jet setters, shady businessmen, prostitution and betrayal in its 170 minutes than all the works of Jackie Collins, Jacquline Susann, Grace Metalious and Judith Krantz combined.

The end result is a flick (directed by Lewis Gilbert) so awful, Variety dubbed it "a monument to bad taste" and critic Leonard Maltin called it "an incredible mess." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the flick one star out of four.  Bad Movies We Love, meanwhile, deemed the flick "hilariously demented."

Naturally, this south of the border potboiler has earned an esteemed place in the Junk Cinema Hall of Shame--or I wouldn't be writing about it.

"Can I use your powder room? I Need to freshen up": Ernest Borgnine as the dirty, but devoted Fat Cat.

Back to the action.

Young Dax is placed in the care of loyal soldier Fat Cat (Ernest Borgnine). It's he who takes the tyke to the home of Gen. Rojo, where his wife and children will protect him until to revolution is over (quick hint: the revolution is never over, at least not in this movie).

At Gen. Rojo's home in the mountains, Dax meets Amparo, the general's daughter. She's a sweet little thing who wears pink dresses and carries around a doll. After being introduced to Dax, Amparo says, "You may kiss me." After that, the kids scamper off to play in the woods. It's there they stumble upon Fat Cat and a naked lady splashing around in a stream before heading off into the bushes. When Amparo asks what the couple are doing, Dax flatly replies, "He's raping her."

"Let's do it," Amparo says.

"No," Dax firmly states. "You are too young. And I think I have to kill you afterwards."

Which is worse: The movie or the book? Personally, I think it's a tie.

Clearly this scene was meant to demonstrate how recent events have affected Dax. If you guessed the poor kid will grow up to have unhealthy views on women and sex, you're correct. But this is Harold Robbins, remember: everybody has unhealthy views on women and sex.

Night falls and Dax goes to sleep, happy that he has found a safe new home...but not for long. Out of the darkness emerge more goons loyal to the country's dictator. They set the Rojo house on fire, trash their barn and stab/shoot/maim/kill anybody that moves. Amid all this chaos, we see little Amparo in her night gown wailing, "Mama! Mama!" We also see Dax dodging bullets and calling out, "Fat Cat! Fat Cat!" The children meet up and hide in the bushes until the bad guys ride away.

The next day, the kids decide to walk to Corteguay's main city, which is never named. So we're treated to the sight of Dax and Amparo trudging though forests, sloshing in the rain, scaling rocky cliffs and walking, walking, walking. If you didn't know any better, you'd think "The Adventurers" was a kiddie version of "The Walking Dead." When night comes, Amparo refuses to sleep by Dax because "we aren't married." The exhausted Dax tells to to get a grip and go to sleep.

Finally the children reach Corteguay's capital. The country's dictator has been overthrown and the citizens have crowded the streets in celebration. Jaime, Gen. Rojo and El Condor (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos), another rebel leader, wave to the joyful people from the balcony of the dictator's old house. Dax and Amparo stumble thorough the throng of cheering people when suddenly Dax yells out, "Fat Cat!" The loyal soldier managed to survived the attack at Gen. Rojo's. He races to embrace the children and takes them to their fathers. 

Gen. Rojo is named the new president of Corteguay and Jaime Xenos is its new ambassador to Italy. Everybody pledges to create a government that is democratic, with liberty and justice for all.

"Dumb Enchanted Evening": Dax and Caroline get busy.

In Italy, Dax is sent to a fancy all-boys school where he meets his two closets friends, Sergei (the son of an exiled Russian count now working in a hotel) and Robert (the son of Rossano Brazzi, who is the Baron de Coyne). The elder Xenos, meanwhile, has his hands full at Corteguay's embassy. Turns out the last ambassador was a (gasp!) crook who embezzled millions from the country. While Baron de Coyne offers financial assistance to the fledgling democracy, he has Marcel Campion (Charles Aznavour) keep an eye on Jaime. The shifty Campion is the right man for the job, brokering secret deals and making himself very rich. Later on, he will marry a clueless heiress and take a famous opera diva as his extra marital cuddlemate. Hmmm, who does that remind you of?

Years pass and Dax grows into Bekim Fehmiu, an actor from the former Yugoslavia. He has craggy features and a muscular build, but all the charisma of a paper cup. Never the less, junior Xenos is a jet set wonder boy, loving polo, fast cars and faster women. While his father travels to Corteguay to visit his wife's grave, Dax and his buddies drive over to Baron de Coyne's "house" (a villa the size of Monaco) and throw themselves a good old fashioned orgy. It's there that Dax and Robert's sister Caroline (Delia Boccardo) take a nude swim and then head off to the garden to have sex.

Director Gilbert must have wanted this interlude to show yet again how the violence of his childhood continues to affect Dax. So, as our cuddlemates get busy, Gilbert switches back and forth between shots of the humping humans and garden statues. Some of the statues have creepy expressions on their faces and one in particular has a rather large member. Then, so the audience can "experience" the waves of passion between Dax and Caroline, the director has the cameraman zoom in and out, quicker and quicker, to match Dax's...uh..."exertions"? Finally, in the middle of all this activity, Dax has flashbacks to the rape and murder of his mother and sister, which then "dampens" the mood, so to speak.

Once it's over, the sweaty Caroline tells Dax that he "makes love at a woman, not to her." Does this mean Dax is all biology, but no chemistry? That his "performance skills" are robotic, not authentic? While Caroline may yearn for her cuddlemate to be more sensitive and emotionally involved while they're doing the nasty, it doesn't stop her from jumping in the sack with him every chance she gets.

"I Don't Know how to Love Him": Caroline (Delia Boccardo) wonders why her cuddlemate Dax is hot in the saddle, but cold in bed.

The elder Zenos is having personal problems of a different sort. On his arrival at Courteguay, he's horrified that Gen. Rojo has become a vainglorious dictator with a taste for ornate uniforms and goofy hats. Worse, he's torn down hundreds of houses and shops to create a gaudy "Presidential Palace", complete with a cobblestone "public square" where he salutes his goose-stepping troops. All of this was paid for by money Jaime secured from overseas to build schools and infrastructure. When Jaime complains, Rojo waves him off, insisting "the people" demanded he build his palace, saying, "Instead of houses for many people, I have built one house for all the people!"

Ambassador Xenos isn't happy. This is not what they fought for! This not what their wives died for! Miffed, Gen. Rojo, becomes paranoid that his former comrade will hook up with old pal El Condor (who also has a bone to pick with Rojo) and over throw his regime. "A bandit by himself is nothing but a bandit!" the general thunders. "A bandit and a lawyer--that's a revolution!" So Rojo cooks up a fiendish plan with the help of Col. Gutierrez--remember him? He shot Dax's dog. It's Gutierrez who arranges for Jaime to die in a fiery explosion while riding a tram.

Dax is notified of his father's assassination while in the sack with Caroline. He and Fat Cat travel to Corteguay to attend the official funeral. While Dax observes the marching troops on the viewing stand with a dejected scowl, Gen. Rojo blathers on about revolutionaries hiding in the hills and how El Condor, once his ally, is now leading the opposition against him. He begs Dax to help broker a cease fire so he can fulfill the promise of the revolution. To get the general to stop nagging him, Dax wearily agrees.

Accompanied by Fat Cat, Dax finds El Condor hiding in the mountains. The rebel leader is horrified by the elder Xenos' death and disgusted that his one-time ally is now a dictator parading around like a South American Liberace. Yet he is at a loss about what to do. "I am not a politician," El Condor reminds Dax. "I am only a simple murderer." However, El Condor is also tired of the endless fighting and blood shed. Of his 11 children, only his son Jose remains alive.

"If you will guarantee the safety of my son," the rebel leader declares. "You, personally, swearing on the soul of your father AND the cross, then I will accept El President's offer."

"I swear," Dax intones.

Soon after, Dax is reunited with Gen. Rojo's daughter, Amparo, now played by Leigh Taylor-Young. Not only has Amparo turned into a looker, she's also lost her accent. She congratulates Dax on negotiating the cease fire and asks him to stay in Courteguay to help steer the country to democracy. Dax begs off saying, "I don't feel involved." Then in one of the nuttiest scene in a movie full of them, Amparo opens her hope chest and hands Dax the gun he used to kill the goons who murdered his family.

Dax is disgusted by Gen. Rojo's goofy head gear.

"Like it or not, you are involved," Amparo insists.

Dax puts the gun on Amparo's bedroom dresser and the two happily reminisce about the time Amparo wanted Dax to "rape" her. EWWWW.

"We were very young," Amparo smiles before she slips off her housecoat to show Dax how much she has, uh, "grown". The corker? Dax's gun appears to watch over them as they do the nasty. EWWWW.

Once the cease-fire has been finalized, the people of Courteguay rejoice. Music fills the air. Singers warble folk songs. Couples dance in the streets. Wine flows. Fat Cat, Dax and El Condor watch the festivities approvingly; peace at last!

Uh, not so fast, guys. While the citizens of Courteguay party like it's 1955, Col Gutierrez emerges from the shadows. He orders his troops to open fire. In horror, Dax watches as men, women and children topple over like bowling pins. People run wildly to get away, resulting in chaos. Realizing he's been duped, Dax throws himself on El Condor to keep him from getting shot. Then, he and Fat Cat rush to get the rebel leader out of the city. Unfortunately, Col. Gutierrez is waiting for them and shoots El Condor. Quick thinking Fat Cat throws a knife at the Colonel, seriously wounding him. Then Dax slowly walks up to the man who killed his dog. As Gutierrez pleads, "I have my orders!" Xenos yanks the knife out of the colonel's arm and thrusts into into his gut, twisting it for good measure. The meanie Gutierrez goes "ACCCKKK!" and slumps into a bloody heap.

"Same as it Ever Was": Corteguay under dictatorship again.

Back at the presidential palace, Gen. Rojo cheerfully admits he set Dax up to purposely kill El Condor. 

"A man must use what weapons he can to defend his country," the dictator explains.

Dax isn't buying it. He rages at Rojo, "I trusted you! I would have done anything for you!" The dictator could care less. "Until you learn that evil and politics must tolerate each other, there's no place for you here," he coolly replies.

Dax announces he's leaving for Europe; Amparo pleads to go with him. Rojo refuses to let his daughter go, but urges Dax to leave "while you still can."

Sitting next to Fat Cat on the plane to back to Italy, Dax looks out the window at Courteguay. "Such a small country," he murmurs. "So much blood..."

Dax gives Gen. Rojo a piece of his mind--not too big a piece, I hope. He hasn't got much to spare.

And this is where I leave you, movie lovers. For now, anyway. I figured after what's already happened, we could all use a break. I'm already hard at work on "The Adventurers, Part 2" which answer all your questions, such as:

* Does Gen. Rojo ever stop dressing like an extra from "Barbarella"?

* Does Dax ever manage a facial expression?

*Will El Condor's son Jose take up arms to avenge his father's death? Will he blame Dax for betraying his father? Will Jose believe Dax when he says Gen. Rojo tricked him?

* Is the character played by Candice Bergen really based on Barbara Hutton? And did Bergen really say she did this movie "for the money"? (If true, she wasn't paid enough.)

* Does Olivia de Havilland appear in this movie--and in a nude scene? If so, how much was she paid?

* How come a movie set in South America has a cast of largely European and American actors?

 Until we meet again, SAVE THE MOVIES.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Susan Cabot is the "Sorority Girl" from Hell

"I'm not bad. I just act that way": Susan Cabot IS Sabra Tanner in Roger Corman's "Sorority Girl"(1957).

 Hi Keebah and hello, movie lovers.

Meet Sabra Tanner (Susan Cabot), a brunette beauty attending a swanky college. Not only is she a member of an elite sorority, Sabra also has more money than God, dresses like a fashion model and drives a spiffy Thunderbird car.

She's also mean as a snake.

Produced and directed by your friend and mine Roger Corman, "Sorority Girl" (1957) has barely begun when we witness Sabra ordering sad sack pledge Ellie (Barbara Cowan) to wash and iron her clothes, insulting her goody-two shoes roommate Rita (Barboura O'Neill) and sneering at her fellow Sister's knock-off dress--while flaunting her own, more expensive purchase.

Later on, when another Sister calls out Sabra for treating Ellie like her personal maid (which is against house rules), a miffed Cabot tracks down Ellie and slaps her face.

"SHE Who Must Be Obeyed": Sabra threaten Ellie (Barbara Cowan).

"Next time, don't talk so much!" Sabra hisses.

Like I said, mean as a snake. Make that two snakes.

Despite her bullying behavior, Sabra can't figure out why she has no friends or why her fellow sorority Sisters treat her like the plague. Is it her fashion plate perfection? Her social status as a rich heiress? Her brutal honesty? Boy, there is just no pleasing some people, is there?

Of course, it isn't just Sabra's fellow co-eds who don't like her. Her high society mom (Fay Baker) doesn't care for her much, either. That's clear when the two meet for dinner in town and barely conceal their mutual loathing.

Wearing a hat the size of a hula hoop and sucking on a mile-long cigarette holder, Mrs. Tanner asks, "Sabra, what do I have to do to convince you I care about you?"

"What do you mean I have to pay the tip?": Sabra and her mom argue over money--again.

"A lot more than you have," Sabra replies.

"I may not be perfect," Mrs. Tanner admits. "But I am your mother."

"I know how to spell it, but what does it mean?" Sabra asks.

"It means there's a very close bond between us," Mrs. Tanner explains.

To which Sabra hollers, "Mother! You wouldn't walk to blocks to see me!"

Round 2: Sabra and her mom argue some more.

Which causes mom to snarl back, "Maybe you mean you wouldn't walk two blocks to see me!"

Sabra laughs and says, "Now we're both speaking the truth."

Mrs. Tanner fixes her daughter with a steely glare and seethes, "You were a brat the moment you were born! It was in your eyes."

Mrs. Tanner then reminds Sabra that she "still controls the purse strings for a while" and pulls out her daughter's monthly allowance check--which mom rips into pieces.

"I hope you have enough clothes, dear" Mrs. Tanner says airily, "because that's the last one I intend to write. From now on, you can do without."

I couldn't find anymore pictures of Sabra and her mom, so I downloaded this.

"I hate you!" Sabra whispers through clenched teeth.

"What a pity," mom sighs, "when I love you so much. Oh, well!"

Strapped for cash, Sabra takes her frustrations out on Ellie, as usual. After ordering the dumpy pledge to rigorously exercise, she blows a gasket when Ellie refuses to do anymore sit-ups. So Sabra grabs a wooden paddle with Greek lettering on it and spanks the daylights out of her.

"Maybe now you won't say 'can't'!" Sabra declares.

That's when nice girl Rita enters the room.

Nice girl Rita (Barboura O'Neill) has some secrets, too.

"What a horrible thing to do!" she tells Sabra. "You don't belong on this campus! I knew you'd hang yourself with something, but I didn't think it would be this!"

"All I did was spank her a little..." Sabra shrugs. "She's a pledge. She needs discipline..."

"Not like that!" Rita corrects her. "The Dean will throw you out on your ear so fast, you won't know what hit you!"

Before the Dean can do any throwing, however, the girls get in a fist fight and Sabra knocks Rita out cold. Now she can rummage through her roommate's secret lock box. When she comes to, Rita sees Sabra with a smug look on her face, waving around a newspaper clipping. Turns out the high-minded Rita's dad is in jail for murder!

Well, not murder murder. See, an apartment his company built wasn't up to code or something and it collapsed, killing seven people. Rita, who's running for student body president on a progressive platform that includes ending racial discrimination in the admission process, would have a hard time defending her liberal credentials if her fellow students knew her dad was a slum lord.

"Read it and Weep": Sabra threatens to blackmail liberal Rita by telling people she reads The National Review.

So Rita backs down, but Sabra still needs money. When she learns fellow sorority Sister Tina has a bun in the oven (and the guy responsible for it has skipped town), Sabra pushes the distraught gal to blackmail local hang-out owner Mort (Dick Miller, a Corman regular) for $1,000. Mort, by the way, is a recent college grad (and past student body president) who happens to be Rita's cuddlemate. When Tina comes to collect her money, Mort secretly tape records her confession--and threatens to take it to the Dean. Poor Tina runs out of the cafe in tears.

"Sorority Girl" is only an hour long, so the flick's denouncement comes real quick. The sorority is having a day at the beach, but Tina is too upset to join in the fun (plus they're playing volleyball, yuck!). Feeling hopeless about her situation, Tina decides to end it all by jumping off a near-by cliff. Sad sack Ellie sees what's happening and calls for help. Everybody--except for Sabra--races to stop Tina from jumping. 

"It was Sabra!" Tina sobs. Then Mort tells the gang about Tina's pregnancy and how he's called her parents and told them the news ("They're coming to take care of her," he explains. Did I forget to mention that Tina works at Mort's cafe as a waitress? She does).

En masse, the sorority Sisters confront Sabra on the beach.

"You're not human!" Rita screams. "You're something the sea cast off!" (Was that a reference to Cabot's later appearance in the Corman classic "The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent" (1958) which cast Susan as baddie Inga the Dark? It's reviewed in this blog in case you're interested.)

Susan Cabot emotes up a storm as Inga the Dark.

"I suppose everything you do is right!" sobs Sabra. "You never bothered to find out what my story is!"

As the waves crash around her, Sabra says, "It doesn't matter anymore! I don't need you! I don't need anybody!"

"Leave her," Rita says and the sorority Sisters walk away.

"If everything could only begin for me, once more," Sabra reflects in a voice over. "It's too late for me. I've lived my life. Always afraid. Every moment of it..."

As the music swells and the words "The End" flash on screen, we see Sabra alone on the beach. Does she drown herself? Move off campus? Join another sorority? Switch to online learning? The movie never tells us, which is probably the best way to end a film like this.

What will become of Sabra?

Or Roger Corman just ran out of money. Take your pick.

Of all the movies Roger Corman has made (412 at last count), "Sorority Girl" is by far one of his best. I know that might not be saying much, but hear me out.

At only 60 minutes in length, there are no dull patches, no unnecessary subplots and no empty CGI effects. "Sorority Girl" is "economy in story telling" at its finest.

The opening credits by Bill Martin are especially effective. A series of drawings that apparently take place on Easter Island, they show a girl going through a ritual where she gradually looses control. The drawings give off feelings of isolation, persecution and paranoia. No wonder Sabra wakes up screaming when they're done.

However, it's the performance of Susan Cabot as the unhinged Sabra that lifts "Sorority Girl" up from your standard exploitation movie. She portrays Sabra as both smart and sadistic, a player of the long game who is able to ferret out her target's weak points and use them to her advantage. However, Cabot also makes it clear Sabra is being driven by a force she doesn't understand and can't control.

No, she's not playing pickle ball. Sabra is beating some sense into unfortunate pledge Ellie.

Matching Cabot's performance is Fay Baker. Her Mrs. Tanner is a real piece of work: cold, judgmental, dismissive. When Sabra arrives home unexpectedly, the first words out of mom's mouth are, "Did you get expelled?" Cabot is self-aware enough to know she needs help ("I want to hurt everybody!"), but when she tries to explain this to her mother, Mrs. Tanner waves it away as "nonsense" and a childish tantrum. When their conversation goes nowhere, mom says, "If you leave now, you'll be back at school before dark"--and then flounces off to have cocktails with a friend.

With a mom like that, how could you not have mental health issues?

Made on a shoe-string budget (of course) and shot in two weeks, "Sorority Girl" is a nifty neo-noir drama. It's not perfect, of course, but in Susan Cabot "Sorority Girl" has an anti-heroine who is both powerful and pathetic, damaged beyond repair.

So movie lovers, please hug your kids and help me SAVE THE MOVIES.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

For a Good Time, Call "Butterfield 8"--but Hang up if Eddie Fisher Answers


"Working Girl": Liz Taylor checks out her surrounding in "Butterfield 8".

There are many reasons why an actress wins an Academy Award: a knock-out performance (like Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago"), appearing in a role completely opposite their public image (like Donna Reed as a hooker in "From Here to Eternity") or a stunning transformation (like Hillary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry" or Sissy Spacek in "Coal Miner's Daughter") into another person.

 In 1960, Elizabeth Taylor won a Best Actress Oscar for recovering from a near fatal bout of pneumonia and an emergency tracheotomy--it couldn't have been for her acting in "Butterfield 8" (1960), today's featured flick.

Based on the novel by John O'Hara, Liz plays Gloria Wandrous, "the glamour girl who wakes up ashamed!" Why? Is it because she tells people she's "a model" when she's really a high-end escort? Is it because her twitchy ma Annie (Mildred Dunnock) can't bring herself to admit her daughter is a call girl--and it might be partly her fault? Or perhaps Gloria is ashamed because the script by John Michael Hays and Charles Schnee makes her say stuff like "I've had more fun in the back seat of a '39 Ford than I ever could in the vault of the Chase Manhattan Bank!" and "Maybe it's too late for marriage, but it's not too late for love!"?

How did this turkey trot onto Liz's filmography? After 17 years, Liz Taylor's long-term contract with MGM was about to expire. Naturally, the studio wanted Taylor's last MGM movie to be a box office success. To the producer's way of thinking, Gloria's racy exploits--and the off-screen notoriety of Taylor's own behavior-- would propel "Butterfield 8" to box office gold.

Liz, however, balked at her assignment. She called the script "pornographic" and said Gloria was "a sick nymphomaniac". Threatened to be kept off the screen for two years, Liz gave in. Just as MGM hoped, audiences thrilled to the sight of Taylor screeching, "Face it, mama. I was the slut of all time!"--especially in light of the public thrashing she was getting for "stealing" crooner Eddie Fisher from wife Debbie Reynolds so soon after the death of hubby #3 Mike Todd. "Butterfield 8" became one of the year's top money makers and would earn Liz her third Oscar nomination. However, none of that cut any ice with Taylor, who repeatedly insisted, "I still say (the movie) stinks."

"Smoking Hot": Gloria (you know who) prepares to light up.

And she's right: "Butterfield 8" does stink--but in a good way! It's a Velveeta banquet with all the trimmings: censorious neighbors, long-suffering wives, snooty society doyennes, sex mad businessmen, broken dreams, cheap moralizing, throbbing music, bed hopping, boozing and Taylor flouncing around in a custom-made Edith Head wardrobe. "Butterfield 8" is the sort of Lifetime movie the Lifetime Channel would make if they had money.

 "Butterfield 8", in case you're wondering, is the phone number of Gloria's answering service. That's where she gets her daily "modeling" assignments and messages from "friends".  Among Gloria's many "friends" is Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey). The film suggests he's a bitter sad sack because A) he's married to rich heiress Emily Jesscott (Dina Merrill, who, in real life, was a rich heiress) and B) he has a do-nothing "son-in-law job". To cope with these humiliations, Weston drinks like a fish, acts like a jerk, insults his wife and visits hookers like Gloria. Still, wife Emily refuses to believe hubby is as bad as he is. When her rich ma tells her, "Somewhere, at this very minute, he's probably lifting a glass in a bar or some woman's skirt! Or both! And you know it!" Emily can only gasp, "Oh, mother! Don't be vulgar!"

While Emily refuses to follow her mother's advice and divorce Liggett, hubby and Gloria are having a wild night together. How wild? When Gloria wakes up, she finds her dress on the floor, ripped in two.  Harvey has already left for work, so Gloria decides to makes herself at home: she pours herself a drink, checks out Emily's dressing room, looks for some smokes and brushes her teeth. Then she finds an envelope of cash with a note that reads, "Is this enough?" Miffed, Gloria writes "No Sale" in lipstick on a mirror, steals one of Emily's fur coats--a girl's got to wear something if she's going to hail a cab--and marches off. Later on, Liggett will insist the money was to replace Gloria's torn dress, not a payment for services rendered.


Although Liz vows to never see Liggett again, they meet up at the bar in a fancy restaurant. 

"What's a nice girl like you doing in a place this?": Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey) makes Gloria an offer she can refuse.

"We didn't talk much last night, did we?" Liggett pants.

"Hardly. But be grateful for small favors," Gloria replies.

Determined to have Gloria all to himself, Liggett gives her an offer he believes she can't refuse: a fancy apartment, charge cards, even Netflix (if it had been invented back then). Furious that Harvey thinks she can be bought, Taylor hisses, "Mr. Liggett! Put your assets away! You don't have enough! You couldn't match what I've already turned down!" And just so Harvey doesn't get any more nutty ideas, Gloria informs him, "I earn my living modeling clothes like these!" thrusting her cleavage in his face.

Gloria turns to leave and Liggett grabs her wrist. When he refuses to let go, Gloria digs her spike heel into his foot. If Liz thought the pain of this action would make Harvey back off, she was wrong. Very wrong. Instead, from the look on Liggett's face, it's clear it's turning him on.

"I want to grab you and carry you right out of this place right now!" Harvey throbs.

Dina Merrill (as understanding wife Emily) is horrified to learn her name will appear in the credits of "Butterfield 8".

Instead, after Gloria finishes her latest "modeling assignment", she and Liggett decide to run away together for a few days. Their first stop is a no-tell motel run by an ex-starlet named Happy (Kay Medford). Liggett is so anxious to hit the sheets with Gloria, he can't even wait for Happy to finish her latest story about her failed Hollywood career. Next, the duo visit Harvey's childhood home, where they kiss on the street, shocking all the neighbors walking by. Last, they arrive at Liggett's boat, "a rust bucket" that he declares is "all mine". 

"A yacht!" Gloria coos. "You didn't tell me!"

"Well, it doesn't have any Van Goghs in it," Liggett admits. "But I do have two original copies of Playboy magazine somewhere!"

The smitten kittens have such a great time, that when they return to NYC, they decide they're in love. That means Liggett will leave his wife and Gloria will not only give up hooking, she will no longer need to see a mental health counselor.

Ah, but the course of true love rarely runs smooth for a hooker and her john--especially in the movies. 

"Any calls while I was gone?": Gloria phones home.

As "Butterfield 8" enters its final act, the flick starts to resemble the movie "Go Naked in the World" (reviewed in this very blog). The similarities are endless:  Taylor is described as "the most desirable woman in the city" and Gina Lollobrigida is called "the highest priced woman in captivity" (actually San Francisco). Both women have "customers" who fall in love with them. Both movies feature the smitten kittens running off together. Both movies have characters that stand as warnings of how a life of sex-and-sin ends ( for Gina, it's a careworn hooker staggering down the street; for Liz, it's ex-starlet Happy who ends up "running a roadside brothel" instead of becoming a movie star). Both Harvey and Tony Franciosa  get drunk, realize their hooker true loves have slept with lots of men (Tony's own dad was one of Gina's clients, too!) and realize they can't possibly marry such a disgraceful creature. When Liz and Gina learn this, they're heartbroken, devastated that even true love can't erase their hooking pasts. Alas, both Back Alley Sallies come to tragic ends. The men survive, of course, becoming sadder, but wiser, for the experience. Harvey even asks understanding wife Emily to reconcile. After all the hank-panky we've witnessed, there has be a moral in there, right?

Anyway, unlike her character on screen, Liz Taylor managed to overcome all the indignities she was subjected to in "Butterfield 8" and earned an Oscar Nomination for Best Actress. Before the big night, however, she came down with pneumonia, was put in an iron lung and almost died. It was a tracheotomy that saved Taylor's life. By then the public had forgotten all about Liz "stealing" Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds and praised her for surviving such an ordeal. The good wishes carried Liz to triumph on Oscar night. Her tracheotomy scar clearly visible, Taylor hobbled up on stage at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and tearfully accepted her Golden Guy.

When Shirley MacLaine, nominee that same year for "The Apartment", learned Liz had won, she quipped, "I lost to a tracheotomy!"

Even Debbie Reynolds, spurned wife of Eddie Fisher, wasn't immune to the outpouring of support directed at Liz: "Even I voted for her," Deb admitted.

Although Taylor gave a listless, lackluster performance in "Butterfield 8", she didn't stuff this turkey alone. She had plenty of help along the way.

"Stuck in the Middle with You": Girlfriend Norma (Susan Oliver) stands between best pals Gloria and Steve (Eddie Fisher).

Laurence Harvey, for instance. As the married, obsessed Liggett, he needs to get a restraining order on himself. The way he follows Taylor around, you can tell his "problems" go far deeper than being married to a rich woman and having a "son in law job." Harvey was an expert at playing this type of sour, hollow social climber (see "A Room at the Top" and "Darling"), so he was basically on auto-pilot.

Dina Merrill, meanwhile, as the most understanding wife in the world, is so selfless and clueless, you want to slap some sense into her. Clearly the invention of a male scriptwriter, Emily firmly believes her hubby's drinking, sour mood and fondness for hookers is her fault. Instead of being a part of Liggett's world, the filthy rich Jescotts sucked poor Harvey into their world. Seriously? It doesn't look like Liggett was dragged into his life of wealthy non-purpose against his will. As he explains to a friend, "Bing, do you know three of the most over-rated things in the world? Home loving, home cooking and security."

Then there is Eddie Fisher. As an actor, Eddie Fisher makes a good singer. His character Steve is Gloria's childhood friend and suppose to be the voice of reason and common sense. In reality, he's just a whiney pipsqueak trapped between two demanding women: Taylor (who always expects him to bail her out whenever she's in a jam) and girlfriend Norma (Susan Oliver), who expects him to marry her. Naturally, the ladies don't like each other and Fisher has a hard time playing referee between them.

"Is she or isn't she a tramp?" Norma asks Fisher.

"I never liked that word," Steve mumbles as a way of defending his gal pal.

"Unhappily Never After": Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds weren't smiling for long.

On another occasion, Gloria lifts a glass and says, "I hate to drink and run. To the three of us."

Steve replies, "One for all and all for one."

"The question is: which one?" Norma snarks.

Fisher is so inept in his part, you wonder why he was even allowed on the set. Turns out, MGM hired Fisher to appease Taylor and ensure she honored her contractual obligations. In short, Eddie was Liz's babysitter as well as her costar. No wonder the only emotion Fisher could conjure up was irritation--and Eddie had plenty of reasons to be irritated: his career and reputation died after hooking up with Liz. Nobody would buy his records, his contracts were canceled and he became a punch line for years (Don Rickles once said Eddie Fisher marrying Liz Taylor "was like me trying to wash the Empire State Building with soap"). By 1963, Liz had tired of him, leaving Eddie for Richard Burton (a move I heartedly approve).

Although critics called the flick "trash", "dreck" and "sumptuously sordid", like the best of Junk Cinema, "Butterfield 8" nevertheless offers bad movie fans several profound points to ponder:

"Such Good Friends": Liz, Eddie and Debbie before the scandal hit.

* If being a hooker is an awful way for a woman to live (and it is), how come it isn't awful for men to frequent hookers?

* How come the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences never nominated or awarded Liz Taylor for her best work? Her performances in "A Place in the Sun", "Giant" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" were much worthier of an Oscar than "Butterfield 8" or "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

* How is it that Liz Taylor won two Oscars, yet Richard Burton was never awarded one?

* Why is playing a hooker such a good way to win an Oscar? Think about it: Donna Reed, Shirley Jones, Liz Taylor, Jane Fonda, Janet Gayner, Helen Hayes (!), Susan Hayward, Jo Van Fleet, Mira Sorvino, Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger all won Oscars playing ladies of the evening. Meanwhile, Elisabeth Shue, Sharon Stone, Shirley MacLaine, Jodie Foster and Julia Roberts were all nominated for playing hookers. The only man nominated for playing a hooker is Jon Voight for "Midnight Cowboy".

* Why are there so many movies about hookers and johns who fall in love? I don't think it happens a lot in real life, but in the movies it's as common as the day is long: hooker Kim Basinger and cop Russell Crowe fall in love in "LA Confidential", hooker Jane Fonda and cop Donald Sutherland fall in love in "Klute", drunk Nicholas Cage and hooker Elisabeth Shue fall in love in "Leaving Las Vegas", rich Richard Gere and poor hooker Julia Roberts fall in love in "Pretty Woman", MP Michael Caine and hooker Sigourney Weaver fall in love in "Half Moon Street", soldier Montgomery Clift and hooker Donna Reed fall in love in "From Here to Eternity", hooker Kim Basinger (again) and cop Richard Gere fall in love in "No Mercy" and married couple Ernest Borgnine and Stella Stevens in "The Poseidon  Adventure" met when he was a cop and she was a hooker.

"We'll drink to that!": Gloria and her many "friends".

* Is "Go Naked in the World" a rip-off of "Butterfield 8" or is "Butterfield 8" a rip-off of "Go Naked in the World"? They both came out in 1960, after all.

So movie lovers, this is where I leave you, at the end of another moralizing trashfest about a fancy hooker, the john who loved her and her sad, sordid end. Perhaps what "Butterfield 8" was really about was the old saw on how money can't buy happiness. Or, to put it another way, "Money can't buy happiness--unless your favorite hooker's named Happiness."