Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"Rattlers" Or Watch Out For Snakes!

"Watch out for snakes!": Farm boy Rick is clearly not watching out for snakes, as this scene from "Rattlers" shows.

Cheerio, movie lovers.

 Our featured flick for today opens with two tow-headed boys climbing up a craggy cliff and then sliding feet-first into a nest of nasty rattlesnakes. The rattlers bite the hell out of the kids, who promptly die.

Of course, the rattlers might not have been so vicious if crazy-as-a-loon Colonel Stroud hadn't secretly dumped all that nerve gas down that abandoned mine shaft where the critters lived, gosh darn it!

That's the message, anyway, of "Rattlers", a low budget, dumber-than-dirt "eco-thriller" from 1976.

Perhaps it was a symptom of the upheavals besetting the nation, but 1970's cinema was bursting with flicks about Mother Nature run amok. Alongside "Rattlers", there was "The Swarm" (about killer bees), "Frogs" (about rabid pond life), "Night of the Lepus" (about deadly king-sized bunnies), "Food of the Gods" (about king-sized rats), "Grizzly" (about an unhinged bear), "The Prophecy" (about an evil bear spirit), "Empire of the Ants" (featuring a pre-"Dynasty" Joan Collins), "The Great Spider Invasion" (reviewed on this very blog) and countless yarns about marauding fish, squids, whales, sharks, octopuses and rabies-infected raccoons.

"Watch out for snakes!": Two boys will soon discover that not watching out for snakes can be deadly.

What's more, these flicks were made for both the big and small screen, so viewers weary of such tales could find little relief.

The basics of this genre were simple: a seemingly idyllic community is plagued by a series of unexplained deaths, that arouse the suspicions of the police/forest rangers/neighborhood scientists/community college professors. The apparatchiks of City Hall dismiss fears of impending doom, mainly because they have been secretly and/or illegally polluting/dumping/spraying etc. behind their constituents' backs for years--and making a nice tax-free profit, too. When concerned citizens try to investigate, they are thwarted at every turn, right up until the crisis threatens the entire planet. A big explosion and/or showdown is required before the blood thirsty fish/turtles/ants etc. are stopped in their tracks. The films often ended on an ambiguous note, suggesting that perhaps Mother Nature was merely regrouping to fight another day.

"Rattlers" slavishly followed this format to a "T." However, the filmmakers did try to layer in subplots about pushy women's libbers, desperate divorcees and an opposites-attract romance to enliven the tedium.

Let's now meet our cast, for whom appearing in "Rattlers" would be the highlight of their respective careers:

*Sam Chew, Jr. is Dr. Tom Parkinson, the film's nominal hero. A herpetologist and aggressive wearer of leisure suits and turtle necks, Tom is brought in by the local law to advise on the sudden rash of rattlesnake bite deaths.

"Watch out for snakes!": Dr. Parkinson (Sam Chew, Jr.) gets in a round of freeze-tag before his herpetology duties begin.

*Elisabeth Chauvet is Ann Bradley, a combat photographer assigned to document Dr. Parkinson's investigation. A pushy "women's libber", Ann complains constantly that "all the good jobs" in her field are taken by men. Tom disagrees, pointing out all the nurses in the emergency room seem happy, so why isn't she? The duo fight the battle of the sexes for a good chunk of the film until they start sharing a sleeping bag later on.

*Dan Priest is bat-shit-crazy Col. Stroud, whose beloved nerve gas was found too lethal to use in Vietnam. He then secretly dumps the stuff down an abandoned mine shift, where it proceeds to infect the local rattlesnake population, making the uppity little buggers nastier than usual.

*Ronald Gold is Capt. Delaney, an army doctor and full time lush. He knows all about Col. Stroud's dirty little secret, but is A) too drunk to do anything and B) is being blackmailed by Stroud to make sure he doesn't do anything (something about Delaney having a DUI).

*Scott McCartor is Rick, a local farm boy sent by his ma to fetch pa for supper, only to be besieged by rattlers. When Rick falls to his death (don't ask), he accidentally sets the barn on fire and soon the air is scented with fried rattlesnake.

*Jo Jordan is the (unnamed) local divorcee, still bitter about her ex and struggling to raise her bratty kids on insufficient alimony checks. "All I want is to make enough money to leave this town!" Jordan grouses, a bit of foreshadowing that signals her doom.

"Watch out for snakes!": The whimsically named Tipp McClure ("The Plumber") did not watch for snakes.

*Tipp McClure (don't you love his name?!) is "The Plumber." He's called to Jo's house when the hot water goes out. To escape her constant bitching about her lousy ex-husband and shitty post-divorce life, Tipp crawls underneath her track house, where he is attacked by a posse of rattlers. The reptiles then shimmy up the drain pipe to the surprise of Jo, who is taking a bubble bath.

The fate of a movie like "Rattlers" would be to spend the rest of its days gathering dust on a forgotten shelf. Then something wonderful happened.

Joel Hodgson, the creator and original host of "Mystery Science Theater 3000", chose to feature "Rattlers" on his show "Cinematic Titanic". Along with such noted "MST3K" alums Mary Jo Pehl, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff and J. Elvis Weinstein, the Titanic crew subjected our featured flick to a barrage of quips, wise-cracks, one-liners, jokes and witty put-downs, giving new life (and purpose) to this long-ignored cinematic suppository.

What "Cinematic Titanic" (and "Riff Trax") do is truly celluloid urban renewal. I had never heard of "Rattlers" before, so the "Cinematic Titanic" was both hilarious and educational. My advice? Check out the "Cinematic Titanic" catalog from The Shout! Factory website and order up some episodes for yourself. You won't be sorry!

This is where I leave you, movie lovers. Please remember to SAVE THE MOVIES and, of course, WATCH OUT FOR SNAKES!

"Watch out for snakes!"

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Junk Cinema Salutes "The Creeping Terror" of Art J. Nelson

It's Arthur White! No, it's A.J. Nelson! No, it's Art J. Nelson, director of "The Creeping Terror".

Hi-dee-ho, movie lovers.

Today we travel back to the not-so-distant past to visit the sleepy burg of Glendale, California.

Like so many small towns the world over, Glendale was a place where people never locked their doors, neighbors knew each others' business and life followed the familiar path of home, work, family and church.

Then a cool rockin' daddy from La La Land (aka Hollywood) arrived in town and blew everything to bits.

Art J. Nelson is a man known by many names--especially in court documents: Arthur Nelson White, Vic Savage, Arthur White, A.J. Nelson. Whatever name he chooses to be called by, Art J. Nelson was the genius behind 1964's "The Creeping Terror". Begun in 1962, "The Creeping Terror" is a 14-carat Junk Cinema Jewel about an alien carpet sample that threatens to eat all the residents of a sleepy California town.

Truth in Advertising?: a clip from "The Creeping Terror"s trailer.

For over 50 years, this moronic monster movie has delighted legions of bad movie fanatics. However, the back story of how this cinematic suppository came to be is just as ridiculous as the flick itself--perhaps even more so.

First, let's go back to sleepy, quiet Glendale, circa 1962, and the fateful arrival of Art J. Nelson. Like so many dreamers and schemers in Junk Cinema, Nelson was a picturesque fellow with a mysterious past and a colorful personality. According to The Son of the Golden Turkey Awards, some people thought Art was from Chicago or Connecticut; others believed he was of Native American descent and hailed from Oklahoma. Nevertheless, he introduced himself around town as the head of "Metropolitan International Productions" and as the director of  the the film "Street Fighter". Who he really was, where he came from and what skills he truly possessed, however, became irrelevant once the citizens of Glendale learned the Hollywood hotshot had chosen their town as the site of his next blockbuster. What's more, Glendale wasn't just going to be the back drop of the movie; Nelson was going to hire actual residents for roles in front of and behind the camera!

For a fee.

See, Nelson convinced the folks of Glendale that paying to participate in his picture was simple Hollywood economics. Interested parties would be investors in the project as well as on-screen talent. As Nelson's movie was destined to be a smash hit, such an arrangement was a win-win for everybody.

"What would Orson Welles do?": Director Art J. Nelson as Vic Savage as Deputy Martin.

Thus, like ants to a sugar cube (or flies to a dung heap), the citizens of Glendale began forking over their cash in order to participate in this once-in-a-life-time opportunity. One such individual was Dr. Frederick Kopp, a local music teacher and would-be composer. For a mere $600 bucks ($48, 286.40 when adjusted for inflation), Kopp was given the task of writing the film's musical score. Whether anyone got their money's worth is debatable. Then there was Jack King, a full-figured gent cast as "Grandpa", who meets his end while out fishing with his grandson Bobby. This privilege cost King $2, 500 or $20, 119.33 in 2017 dollars. That's small change, however, when compared to the $16,000 shelled out by male model William Thourlby to play the heroic "Dr. Bradford"--which would be $128, 763.73 in today's values. And remember: these people handed over their money a time when money was a lot of money!

Some parts were not up for sale, though. "Deputy Martin", the lawman called upon to save Angel County shortly after arriving home from his honeymoon, was one. To ensure the actor chosen had the right combination of talent, looks and charisma needed to carry the film, director Nelson chose Vic Savage...that is, himself, "Vic Savage" being one of Mr. Nelson's various stage names. For the equally important role of "Brett", Martin's wife of "two wonderful weeks", newcomer Shannon O'Neil was tapped. Coincidentally, Ms. O'Neil was rumored to be the off-screen cuddlemate of Nelson; some even thought she might have been his wife (in court documents, Mrs. A.J. Nelson was one of her many aliases). Still, I'm sure her personal attachment to Nelson had nothing to do with her casting.

My Aunt Fanny.

One of the few people getting paid to work on "The Creeping Terror" was Alan Silliphant, the 18-year old half brother of screenwriter Stirling Silliphant (who earned an Oscar for "In the Heat of the Night" and would later pen the bee movie "The Swarm"). Given $200 bucks--$1, 609.55 in 2017 values --by Nelson, Alan churned out a screenplay in three days; he later told The Son of the Golden Turkey Awards that Nelson thought "it was the best script since 'Gone With the Wind'".

OK, the script was ready, the actors were ready and the director was ready. Bring on the creeping terror! Then it was discovered that the monster--the centerpiece of the film-- was nowhere to be found. What happened? Turns out the F/X man hired by Nelson hadn't been paid. In a fit of pique, he absconded with the monster and hit the the road. Under ordinary circumstances, this would be a disaster. However, to the quick thinking Nelson and his crew, it was no big deal; they merely cobbled together some odds and ends, threw some old rugs over it and--presto!--instant monster. Yes, the resulting creature looked like a decaying Chinese dragon float smothered in Granny's old afghans, but, hey, it's a monster! In the world of Junk Cinema, where a gorilla wearing a deep sea diving helmet is considered state of the art and sweat socks fitted with plastic teeth are seen as highly imaginative, the Creeping Terror's resemblance to a heap of discarded throw rugs out for an afternoon stroll would not raise any eyebrows...or red flags.

Looks aren't everything: The Creeping Terror in all its glory.

What would be become a problem--a big one, in fact-- would be the sheer number of people the Creeping Terror consumed. According to the script, the monster came to Earth with the expressed purpose of collecting human DNA samples. Logically, that would require only a select number of victims. After all, how many DNA samples would a bunch of aliens need? Anyway, because so many people had paid to appear in the film, director Nelson was forced to accommodate them--or lose his funding. Thus, viewers were treated to the Creeping Terror gorging himself on police officers, necking couples, a busy housewife, a portly grandpa, all the participants of a neighborhood folk-fest and every guest twisting the night away at a community dance. Of course, the more people the Terror ate, the bigger the Terror got. Not knowing the real reason behind the monster's bottomless appetite, audience members were left to wonder if the critter had a tapeworm or was "stress eating" to cope with unresolved personal problems.

Now, about the Creeping Terror itself: is it male or female? This subject has been viciously debated amongst bad movie fanatics for decades. The evidence for each side is far from conclusive. A key part of the Terror's physique is the rather large hole/maw/opening/portal/thing-a-ma-bob where victims are sucked in. Does this "opening" double as the Terror's primary female pleasure receptacle? Meanwhile, several long tube-like objects dangle from the Terror's "face". After the beastie eats someone, they often become, shall we say, erect. Are these accouterments meant to represent the manly body part found "below the belt"? Could the Creeping Terror be both male and female? Or is its mysterious center opening just a tracheotomy scar? The world may never know.

Back to the action. To keep his production on schedule and on budget, Art J. Nelson employed a cost-cutting measure favored by many Junk Cinema auteurs. "The Creeping Terror" was shot without sound. The actors would mouth their lines on screen and then dub them in later. Unfortunately, once the movie was in the can, the cast--and their scripts--went their separate ways. When it came time to add in the dialog, Nelson couldn't find his actors or his script. Under ordinary circumstances, this would spell disaster. But remember: "The Creeping Terror" wasn't filmed under ordinary circumstances, so director Art J. Nelson came up with a novel solution.

Larry Burrel, narrator of many driver's ed training films, was hired by Nelson to narrate the movie. This decision turned out to be a stroke of "genius in reverse" that would go a long way in cementing "The Creeping Terror"s reputation as a Junk Cinema Jewel ne plus ultra. How so?  Because no matter what kind of mayhem was unfolding on screen, Burrel described the proceedings in the same measured, detached and unemotional manner he regularly used to explain the protocol required at a four-way traffic stop.

Imagine, if you will, the sight of the Creeping Terror viciously scarfing down necking couples in their convertibles while Burrel blandly observes, "The monster next appeared at Lover's Lane. Anyone who witnessed that catastrophe and survived would never go there again."

One picture is worth a thousand words.

Shortly before a housewife, a randy couple in the woods and all the members of a neighborhood folk fest are devoured by the Creeping Terror, Burrel casually notes, "The first of a series of tragedies (take) place. Tragedies that could have been avoided if the public had been warned."

Hey, you win some and you lose some, right?

Because Burrel's voice is the only one we hear for 95% of the movie, he must expel large chunks of exposition to keep the audience engaged. One example of the humongous chunks of dialog Burrel is forced to deliver occurs when deputy Barney arrives home unannounced with Martin for dinner: "Barney and Martin had been bachelor buddies for years. But now that Martin was settling down to marriage, they were slowly drifting apart. Barney, naturally, was still dating all the girls in town, and he couldn't understand why Brett and Martin didn't pal around with him more than they did. He couldn't comprehend that married life brought with it not only new problems and duties, but the necessary togetherness of husband and wife as well...since time began, this change in relationships probably happened to all buddies in similar circumstances. Life has a way of making boys grow up, and with marriage, Martin's time had come. His life was now Brett, a life he thoroughly enjoyed."


Or consider this passage, spoken by Burrel in a tone usually reserved for reviewing the check-out procedures of motels, while a cast member staggers back from a Creeping Terror attack: "The Sergeant, a shaken man, returned babbling about what had happened. Realizing the full danger of the situation, (Colonel Caldwell) decided he had only one means left to stop the monster: grenades! Now Bradford made a drastic move. Acting on his superior authority, he forbade Caldwell to destroy the creature. The Colonel, more concerned with saving human lives than advancing science, told Bradford to go to hell."

"Ready, aim, fire!": The National Guard confronts the Creeping Terror.


However, after a shooting schedule that stretched out to nearly two years, location temperatures that often hit 100 degrees, a missing monster and a hasty new-hire in Mr. Burrel to complete the dubbing, the latest and greatest Art J. Nelson production was finished. All that was left to do was release the film to the waiting public. Cue the rave reviews and boffo box office!

Ah, not so fast...

Alas, when "The Creeping Terror' and its creator left Glendale, the residents never saw them again. The movie, which so many people had paid good money to participate in, would never be screened at any movie theater, anywhere. Not even Skid Row triple-feature movie houses were given a crack at "The Creeping Terror". It would not be until 1976--twelve years!--when investor/actor William Thourbly (who would go on to write You Are What You Wear  and advise Richard Nixon on his wardrobe) would get a hold of the footage. He promptly sold the flick as part of a syndication package to UHF stations. However, it was in the nether world of late, late, late night TV that "The Creeping Terror" began to acquire its loyal army of followers. Appearances at "Worst Film Festivals" and receiving the full "mistie" treatment on "MST3K" (episode 606) only enhanced the film's stature. Today, "The Creeping Terror" is proudly considered one of the worst films ever made, second only to Ed Wood's 1959 mess-terpiece "Plan 9 from Outer Space."

And what of Art J. Nelson, the man who made this all possible?

Have you seen this couple?: Art J. Nelson and his "discovery" Shannon O'Neil.

He completely disappeared off the face of the Earth, which seems entirely appropriate. Fanciful rumors about his whereabouts--such as his being the editor of George Stevens' "The Greatest Story Ever Told"--have sprung up from time to time, but Art J. Nelson never worked in the motion picture industry again. His disappearance puts him in league with Herbert Tevos, James L. Wolcott and Hal P. Warren (directors of "The Mesa of Lost Women", "The Wild Women of Wongo" and "Manos: The Hands of Fate", all reviewed on this blog) fellows who sank their hearts and souls into a single film and then vanished.

Another way to look at it: their movies were such corkers, there was no need for them to make another one!

Thus I declare: Art J. Nelson, wherever you are, living or dead, for creating an audaciously awful monster movie, for shaking things up in Glendale and for proving that old throw rugs can become violent hell-beasts, Junk Cinema Salutes you!

God bless and good night.

Hair-raising: an extra reacts to the Creeping Terror.

 The author wishes to acknowledge the following sources that made her research and this post possible:



The Son of Golden Turkey Awards by Michael and Harry Medved

"Mystery Science Theater 3000", the greatest TV show EVER

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Roger Corman's "The Undead" Or This Is Your (Past) Life

"Look deep into my...palm?": Quintus Ratcliff (Val Dufour) begins to hypnotize Diana Love (Pamela Duncan) in "The Undead."

Hi Keebah and hello, movie lovers.

I have just experienced what may be the craziest Roger Corman movie EVER--and I can't wait to tell the world about it!

Released in 1956 and shot on a relatively lavish (for Roger Corman) budget of $70,000, "The Undead" is an uproarious tale with something for everyone: hypnosis, reincarnation, time travel, witches, true love and hookers. Ping-ponging between the present and "the second year in the reign of King Mark", "The Undead" showcases such Corman cronies as Bruno Vesota, Dick Miller and Allison Hays. Cavorting alongside them are Billy Barty (as an imp), Richard Devon as Satan (complete with a pitchfork) and props left over from Corman's last feature, "It Conquered the World."

Topping it all off: "The Undead" was filmed in 6 days in an abandoned grocery store--and half the dialog is in iambic pentameter and blank verse!

Can you dig it?!

"Downward Mobility": Diana Love begins her many lives as a noble woman but ends up a hooker.

When a flick is as nutty as squirrel scat, it must be savored and cherished. Cheesy goodness like "The Undead" doesn't come along everyday--so prepare yourself for a multi-course Velveeta banquet lovingly laid out by your friend and mine, Roger Corman.

 Diana Love (Pamela Duncan) is a gum popping hooker out on a midnight "stroll". Then she's picked up by snooty psychiatrist/budding psychic Quintus Ratcliff (Val Dufour), who makes her an usual proposition: for $500 bucks, will Diana allow him to hypnotize her to see if she's ever lived before?

Diana agrees (after all, this can't be the weirdest thing a client has asked her to do). While Ratcliff's stuffy former professor Mr. Olinger (Maurice Manson) looks on, Diana travels back in time until she reaches the "second year in the reign of King Mark." It's here we learn Diana was once a noble woman named Helene, falsely accused of witchcraft. She's currently chained up in a dungeon, waiting to be executed in the morning.

Fighting hard for Helene's freedom is her devoted cuddlemate Pendragon (Richard Garland)--who is possibly the dumbest knight to be found anywhere. Unfortunately, his willingness to save his sweetie does not sit well with Livia (Allison Hays, future star of "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman").

And who is Livia, you ask? She's a REAL witch, and damn proud of it! She's the one who actually did the bewitching Helene is jailed for. Livia has the hots for Pendragon, naturally, and never misses an opportunity to throw herself at him. As Pendragon thinks only of Helene, this becomes a rather futile past-time on her part. Finally fed up with his repeated rebuffs, Livia decides she will trick Pendragon into selling his soul to the devil at the upcoming "Witch's Sabbath." When the not-too-bright-knight realizes he's been had, it will be too late, and Livia will have her revenge...or something.

Gruesome Twosome : The Imp (Billy Barty) and Livia (Allison Hays).

While all this is going on, Diana manages to inadvertently make psychic contact with Helene; she even helps her escape from the castle. On the surface, that doesn't seem like a bad thing. Quintus, however, blows a gasket when he finds out. Why? Because the present cannot interfere with the past! If the past is tampered with in even the SLIGHTEST way, it will irrevocably harm the future! As awful as it sounds, the innocent Helene MUST die or Diana (and all her other incarnations) will never live. So how will the people of 1956 ensure Helene dies on schedule?

Easy! Quintus, who has always yearned to travel back in time, will journey to "the second year in the reign of King Mark". Once there, he will set everything right and make it back in time for Diana to safely wake up from her trance. The particulars of how the smug psychic will manage this are never really explained; however, a major part of the process requires Ratcliff to be nude.

Still with me? Good. Because "The Undead" has still more subplots to roll out.

OK. Helene escapes from the dungeon and runs straight into a fog-shrouded forest, castle guards at her heels. It's in this fog-shrouded forest that we meet Smolkin (Mel Welles), the local grave digger. He's carting around a corpse and singing weird songs like this to pass the time: "Three witches have heads/But they'll sever them all/The head of Helene/ Is the third that must fall/ All the king's horses/And all the king's men/Cannot put the witches together again." Preoccupied by his singing, Smolkin doesn't notice when Helene crawls into the casket to hide. Shortly thereafter, castle guards arrive and insist Smolkin open the casket to ensure the corpse is indeed a stiff. As plucky Helene has hidden herself under the body, the guards are easily fooled (it could also be that the guards are just very stupid). Anyway, everybody goes about their business until Helene can't stand being squished under a dead body any longer. She makes such a ruckus that Smolkin opens the coffin and out she pops.

Smolkin, by the way, is the fellow Helene is falsely accused of bewitching. The kicker? He can't remember that it was Livia who bewitched him because, well, he's bewitched. Never the less, Smolkin tells Helene to hide in the house of Meg-Maud (Dorothy Neumann). Who is Meg-Maud? She's a shriveled up old hag with a raspy voice and a wart on the end of her (fake) pointy nose. Is she a witch, too? No. I mean, yes--but a nice witch. She won't resort to dirty pool, even when challenged by bad witch Livia. "Try every trick you know! I will vanquish thee and do it in my sleep!" Livia rails, calling Meg-Maud a "twisted copy of a wizardess" to boot.

Meg-Maud, who is no shrinking violent herself, snaps back, "Sleep not while I'm awake! Thine sleep is coming, in the sulfurous pit!"

"Which witch is which?": Meg-Maud (Dorothy Neumann) ponders her next move.

Although the principal action in "The Undead" supposedly takes place in the deep, dark heart of a fog-shrouded forest, this place is absolutely crawling with people: bewitched grave diggers, noble women, palace guards, nice witches, bad witches, imps (really only one imp, played by Billy Barty in short pants and a pointy nose), knights and a nude psychic from 1956. Of course, things will only get more crowded when "Witch's Sabbath" gets underway at midnight. Can you stand it?

At midnight, a rag-tag group of losers stagger on camera (including Dick Miller, a Corman favorite, as a leper), awaiting the "Witch's Sabbath." In a puff of smoke, Satan (Richard Devon) appears and grandly announces, "Welcome, folk of judgement! You come to pledge your service to your lord!" Sensing the crowd is listless and depressed, the Author of All Lies declares, "Give my people song and dance and gaiety! Bid the dancers appear!" Suddenly three gals, all decked out to look like Vampira, magically emerge. Their dance routine is a real doozy: the gals leap in the air, do the splits, wave their arms and toss their heads to and fro. Despite the trio's best efforts to energize the crowd, the attendees remain unmoved. Old Scratch wisely decides to move things along.

This is where Livia presses dumb-as-dirt Pendragon to sell his soul, claiming that doing so will help the imprisoned Helene. He's stopped in the nick of time by Quintus (who has since found some clothes) who reveals that Helene is not imprisoned and is in fact cooling her heels at Meg-Maud's. This causes--quite literally--for all hell to break loose, as Pendragon rushes back to Meg-Maud's and Livia and her imp try to stop him. Fortunately, Quintus stabs Livia and she turns into a dead black cat.

It's at Meg-Maud's shack that Helene learns about all her past lives. She freaks out, however, when she's told she must off herself in order to set time and history right. After her hissy fit, Helene gets a grip and realizes what she must do. Bright and early the next morning, Helene calmly presents herself to the executioner. He chops her block off and history is set right.

Back in 1956, Diana wakes up rested and refreshed. She tells Olinger that meeting Helene has made her a better person. "She gave up so much for me," Diana says. "She left me a whole new life." Unfortunately, things don't work out as well for Quintus. See, the devil encouraged the snooty psychic to stick around and watch Helen's execution--but neglected to tell him (on purpose!) that Helene's death will sever "the link" between the two women. Without that "link" Quintas will not be able to return to the 20th century. "Thy voyage to this age was down a long, long road," Lucifer gloats. "Diana to longer is there any road for thee to take!"

"Dancing in the Dark": Satan's opening act for the "Witch's Sabbath" shake their booties.

On that cheery note, the devil laughs and says he looks forward to seeing Quintus when he's dead. Considering how unsanitary and germ infested the middle ages are, that should be very soon.

All together now: whew!

When you watch a movie as bat-shit crazy as "The Undead", you can't help but be impressed. In six days, in an abandoned grocery story, for $70,000 bucks, Roger Corman and company crafted a time traveling tale involving hypnosis, witches, imps, dancing ghouls and a nude psychic. Sure, language purists will blanch at the uneven (and unmetered) iambic pentameter and blank verse delivered in 45% of of the flick, but how else would audiences get exposure to such gems as "hell hag", "demonness" and "wizardess"? Perhaps the best line in the film is uttered by witch Livia, who barks at chubby inn keeper Bruno Vesota, "Rest thy corpulence!"

This kind of off-kilter creativity can only happen when people have to the total freedom to go for broke, where they have nothing to lose. And that's one of the true hallmarks of Junk Cinema. It's a world where anything can happen and usually does. A hooker time travels and learns she was once a noble woman falsely accused of witchcraft? Sure, why not! A witch and an imp need to turn into bats? Haul out the bats from "It Conquered the World" and dangle them from fishing poles! Problem solved! The movie's bad girl is dressed in a gown where you can see the zipper? OK, there were no zippers in the middle ages, but there was no King Mark either! Don't be so picky!

Once again, Roger Corman has done the impossible and Junk Cinema lovers are in awe. Well, this Junk Cinema lover is in awe.

"This won't hurt a bit...": Noble Helene sacrifices herself so she can live another day.

Until next time, remember that you can't live in the past, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Spanky The Gorilla Drives A Newlywed Ape In "The Bride And The Beast"

"Baby You Can Drive My Car": Dan and Laura Carson on their wedding day.

Happy summer, movie lovers.

If you're married (or in a long-term relationship), you probably have plenty of gripes about your cuddlemate: he/she snores, leaves the towels on the bathroom floor, squeezes the toothpaste from the wrong end of the tube, drives like a maniac, drinks from the milk carton.

So imagine Dan Carson's (Lance Fuller) horror when he learns that his lawfully wedded wife Laura (Charlotte Austin) is more attracted to a gorilla named Spanky than to him--because she was a gorilla herself. In a past life. A queen gorilla, in fact.

Bet that makes your significant other's quirks seem pretty puny in comparison, am I right?

"The Bride and the Beast" (1958) may have only been written by Junk giant Ed D. Wood, Jr., but it's an Ed Wood movie through and through. The ridiculous premise, stiff acting, stock footage, angora sweaters, off-beat sexual obsessions and crazy dialogue-- hallmarks of Ed's unique cinematic style---are all present and accounted for. The only things missing are Tor Johnson and Bela Lugosi. Adrian Weiss may have directed and produced "The Bride and the Beast", but Ed's sensibility is evident in every frame.

Or, to put it another way: you can take the movie out of Ed Wood, but you can't take Ed Wood out of the movie!

"Was It Good For You Too?": Laura and Dan critique their wedding night.

Laura Carson is an angora sweater-loving socialite. Hubby Dan is a critter catcher with a mansion full of stuffed hunting trophies (eww). Down stairs in a cage is Spanky the gorilla (played by Ray Corrigan) slated for transfer to a zoo in the morning. After the newlyweds arrive home, Dan offers to show Laura the big ape, but warns her not to get too close.

"Oh, don't worry about me," Laura chirps. "I had a pet monkey as a little girl. He loved me, but hated everyone else."

Sure enough, the moment Spanky and Laura's eyes meet they feel the power of things preordained. TRUE LOVE. KISMET. DESTINY.

"He's beautiful," Laura pants.

While Dan rummages around for Spanky's dinner, Laura moves closer to the gorilla's cage. The look in their eyes suggests the two have met before, but where? Spanky recognizes Laura. He runs his paw through her hair; he fingers her sweater. Why are you dressed like this? he seems to be saying. Then he grabs Laura's wrist. She tells him gently but firmly, "Spanky, let go of me. Spanky, you don't want to hurt me."

"Gorilla My Dreams": Spanky, Laura Carson's long lost love.

And he doesn't. Spanky lets go. Then Dan rushes over and hustles Laura away. This makes Spanky furious. What's that human doing with his mate?! He pitches a nasty fit, tossing straw and pounding his chest. Dan has no idea what's gotten into Spanky, so the newlyweds take their leave.

While Spanky simmers downstairs, Dan and Laura prepare for their wedding night. He dons silk PJs. Laura emerges from her dressing room in a frilly nightie. Overcome, Dan sweeps his bride into his arms and carries her over the threshold. As Dan and Laura embrace and kiss, the camera glides over to the fire place...and back again, where we find the newlyweds sound asleep in separate beds (it was 1958, after all.) Later on, Laura has a really weird dream. There are animals and stock footage and really racist depictions of natives. In the dream, Laura appears to be running for safety in a jungle. Then she looks in a pool of water and "sees" her reflection...and she's a gorilla!

Laura's hysterical screams awaken Dan. He reassures his wife that it was "only a dream". To calm her nerves, Dan gives Laura a sedative and promises to call a doctor in the morning. Then he crawls back into his bed and goes night-night.

 Spanky, meanwhile, has broken out of his cage. Turns out Laura's sleeping pill wasn't that effective, because she's soon up and around and having a smoke. When she looks over her shoulder, there is Spanky. The bride and the beast approach each other cautiously, slowly. They say nothing. Once again Spanky runs his hairy paw through Laura's hair. He fingers her night dress. Then, in a burst of simian sexuality, Spanky rips off Laura's nightie. She screams and covers herself. Just then, the sound of gunfire pierces the air. Bam! Bam! Bam! Spanky grabs his chest. He staggers out the bedroom and into the hall way. He crashes through the upstairs guard rail and falls to the floor below.

Turns out hubby Dan keeps a gun in his night stand drawer. When he caught Spanky and Laura having their close encounter, he quietly reached for his piece and fired to defend his wife. No word on how he's going to explain Spanky's demise to the zoo. Oh, well, he's probably insured for this sort of thing.

"Try A Little Tenderness": Spanky and Laura share an intimate moment.

Reflecting on the episode later that evening, Laura confides to Dan,"I still shudder at the strange sensation I had when the gorilla was trying to be tender..."

The next day, Dan has a psychiatrist buddy, Dr. Carl Reiner (William Justine), place Laura in a hypnotic trance to figure out what her disturbing dream might mean. Turns out Laura is especially turned on by angora sweaters. In fact, wearing one was the catalyst to awakening her past life. According to Dr. Reiner, the "dream" is really Laura remembering her previous life as a gorilla.

"Aw, c'mon!" hubby Dan exclaims. "You don't really believe she was a gorilla!"

"All the evidence points to it," the doctor insists. "Her fixation for fur-like materials comes from that fact."

"I'm sorry, doctor, but I just don't buy any of this," Dan insists.

Dr. Carl Reiner puts Laura (and the audience) in a trance.

"Well, you have a right to your opinion," Reiner shrugs.

While Dan remains skeptical, Laura seems just fine. The hypnosis appears to have settled her mind and she eagerly accompanies hubby on his next trip to "Africa"--I say "Africa" because it's clear that "Africa" is played by randomly inserted shots of stock footage from nature documentaries. Furthermore, any "location" shots were filmed in Bronson Canyon, a popular site for cash strapped film makers.

Anywhoo, once Dan, Laura and their team settle into their jungle camp site, "The Bride and the Beast" completely forgets all about gorilla and past lives. Instead, viewers are forced to endure a new subplot about a tiger skulking around the neighboring villages. Dan is asked to nab this big cat, who, like "Africa", is played by various bits of stock footage. In fact, astute viewers will quickly recognize that the "tiger" Dan seeks is truly a rare creature: he can easily bounce between different ages, heights and weights in the blink of an eye! No wonder the great white hunter can't catch this kitty.

Left behind while hubby and his natives are out hunting, Laura gets bored and decides to go for a walk in the jungle. Naturally, she soon encounters the many edited pieces of tiger film and starts screaming like a dental drill. The celluloid tiger chases Laura off a cliff and she suffers a nasty bump on her head. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Carted back to her tent, Laura is tended by Dan and his loyal houseboy Taro (Johnny Roth, a white actor dipped in Quick Tanning Syrup. He also speaks in broken English). It is Taro who assures "Bwana" that he knows a "short cut" through the jungle, the better to find a doctor for Laura. Dan agrees to let him go and Taro sets off. I don't believe his "short cut" was that successful because Taro is never seen again. Meanwhile, Dan, satisfied that his wife is OK, decides to have a sponge bath.

Shirtless Dan and shirtless Taro wonder if Laura's past life as a gorilla will be considered a pre-existing condition.

Completely absorbed in this activity, Dan fails to notice that a gorilla has waddled into their camp site. Laura, however, senses the big ape's presence and gets out of bed to greet the critter. The gorilla is just about to gather Laura up in his arms when Dan screams, "Laura! No!" This leads to a husband vs. gorilla duel over Laura, and three guesses as to who wins (hint: it isn't Dan). In fact, the gorilla floors Dan with a mean right hook (or paw). He then carries Laura back to his cave, where the gorilla introduces her to all the other gorillas, who instantly accept her as one of their own. Laura seems at home, too.

Hours later, Dan arrives to retrieve his wife. He shoots two gorillas that were mingling outside the family cave, but he's yet again no match for the gorillas inside. While Laura (clad in only her nightie) sits passively on a rock, the gorillas pummel Dan into unconsciousness. Then they grab Laura and head off for parts unknown.

When Dan comes to, he's back in the US of A, in his mansion, recounting this uproarious turn of events for Dr. Reiner.

"Weird, isn't it?" Dan admits.

Au contraire!

"Endless Love?": Laura reunites with a fellow gorilla.

In the World According to Ed Wood, where suburban bobby-soxers rob gas stations for kicks ("The Violent Years"), where mad scientists dump bodies in swamps where they are eaten by octopuses ("The Bride of the Monster") and where aliens bungle nine plans to take over the Earth ("Plan 9 from Outer Space"), a newly married gal deciding to ditch her hubby to go live with gorillas because she was once a gorilla isn't weird--it's par for the course!

Until next time movie lovers, never under estimate the power of a primate passion and SAVE THE MOVIES.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Let's Get Kraken! It's "Clash Of The Titans" 2010!

The cast of "Clash of the Titans" (2010) prepares for an onslaught of negative reviews.

Hail and hearty hello you and yours, movie lovers.

Today we set our cinematic sights on ancient Greece, a time of gods and monsters, humans and immortals, men in short skirts and over stuffed movies based on a mish-mash of Greek myths the screenwriters invariably screw-up, big time.

In 3-D.

"Clash of the Titans" (2010) is the completely unnecessary (but fitfully hilarious) reboot/remake/revamp/regurgitation of 1981's "Clash of the Titans."

In the original version, a pre-"L.A.Law" Harry Hamlin played Perseus, the son of Zeus, who rises to his destiny and saves cuddlemate Princess Andromeda from certain death.

"What's the matter with kids today?": Zeus (Liam Neeson) wonders what to do with his unruly brood of human children. 

In our 2010 version, Sam Worthington is Perseus, a crew-cutted nitwit who yammers endlessly that he could care less that Zeus is his father. In fact, Sam's Perseus is less interested in rising to his destiny and more interested in whining about how he wants no part of his destiny. In other words, he's a typical Millennial (rim shot).

Oh, and another thing: Perseus doesn't save the Princess Andromeda out of love. In fact, the two barely even know each other. This time around he's warm for the form of Io (Gemma Arterton), a mysterious gal who looks like Kendall Jenner and, unfortunately, acts like Kendall Jenner...if Kendall Jenner could act, which, she alas, cannot (see her ill-fated Pepsi commercial if you need further proof).

Now, movie lovers, if you are a bit confused by all this, well, wait until you watch the movie. Then you'll really be confused! Until then, please enjoy my witty and informative take on this bloated, budget-busting, 3-D, CGI charbroiled cheeseburger par excellence.

The action begins with the mighty Greek god Zeus (Liam Neeson) stomping around Mt. Olympus complaining that the mortals of Earth are a bunch of ungrateful, whiny brats. They refuse to honor their creator! They are slacking off on their prayers! Their offerings in the temples are puny! Sounding like an exasperated suburban dad fed up with his high school-age children ignoring their curfews and leaving all the lights on, Zeus screams that the mortals need to be taught a lesson and to start showing some respect.

Suddenly appearing in a puff of black smoke is Hades (Ralph Fiennes), Zeus' kid brother and ruler of the Underworld. He agrees that mankind needs a collective kick in the crotch and, what's more, he has the perfect means to achieve it: the Kraken, a fearsome, gigantic snapping turtle that Hades carved out of his own flesh (eww). Once the humans are threatened by this beastie, Hades promises, they will come rushing back the gods like ants to a sugar cube.

"All in the Family": Perseus (center) is surrounded by his happy, loving family...who in a few minutes will all be killed.

While all this is happening, the strapping young stud Perseus (Sam Worthington) is sailing to the city of Argos with his happy, loving sea-faring family: dad Sypros (Pete Postlethwaite), mom Marmara (a pre-"Downton Abby" Elizabeth McGovern) and kid sister Tekla. Although Sypros and Marmara found Perseus bobbing around the sea in an ornate casket many years ago, they insist he is their son through and through. Perseus finds great comfort in this, declaring at one point, "I have everything I need" as he watches his family peacefully sleeping.

As bad movie fanatics know, such a heart felt declaration only means everyone is a dead duck. As Perseus and family sail into Argos, the citizens of the city are toppling a gigantic statue of Zeus. As it crashes into the waters below, the family's boat nearly capsizes. Seconds later, out of the drink comes a battalion of winged, vampire bat lizard people. These beasties tear a few extras to shreds and then meld together to form a super-sized Hades. Hades then proceeds to cause a massive title wave, which sweeps the hapless citizens of Argos in every direction...and sends Perseus' happy, loving family to a watery grave.

(You may be wondering where Poseidon, god of the sea, is while this is going on. I wondered about that, too. I suppose Poseidon's silence means he's OK with Hades' behavior.)

Perseus survives the tidal wave and is fished out of the water by a naval ship. Nobody knows what to do with him, so the soldiers march him to the palace of the King and Queen of Argos. These randy royals are hosting a lavish "Stick It In Your Ear!" benefit to mock the gods, something their civic minded daughter Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) knows is a bad idea. No sooner does her booze chugging mom (Polly Walker) dare to say her daughter is cuter than Aphrodite, than Hades reemerges in his tell-tale black smoke. (Why Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, doesn't show up to avenge this insult is never explained.) "You are specks of dust beneath our fingernails," Hades rasps to the astonished party-goers. And to prove it, he turns the glamour-puss queen into a dessicated bag of bones, causing her to promptly expire. He then announces that "in ten days" he will "release the Kraken". If the people of Argos wish to save themselves, the god of the Underworld says they must feed poor Andromeda to the Kraken--nothing else will suffice.

"This is the will of Zeus--your father!" Hades says, starring straight at Perseus before he billows away.

"The Uninvited": Hades crashes the King of Argo's party, kills dozens of guests and vows to unleash the Kraken. How rude!

Perseus insists to anyone who will listen that he is not a demi-god (the offspring of Zeus and a mortal woman), he's a poor but honest fisherman. "I mend nets!" he screeches. "I don't wield a sword!" (Or act, I might add.)

That's when Io shows up. She proceeds to inform Perseus (in a droning monologue) that he is the son of Zeus. See, Zeus took the form of King Acrisius and visited the bedroom of his unsuspecting wife Danae. After the two did the wild thing, Zeus revealed himself, causing the king to go bonkers with rage (the wife wasn't very happy, either). Eventually, Acrisius sends mother and baby out to sea in a casket. It was Io who guided Perseus to his happy, loving but now dead family. When Perseus asks if Io is also a god, she replies, "There are gods, there are mortals and there are those in between." Suitably confused, Perseus presses no further.

Io then saves the best bit for last: Perseus "was born to kill the Kraken." She offers no examples to prove this, so we just have to take her word for it. Ninny that he is, Perseus insists that he doesn't want to kill the Kraken; he wants to avenge his family by killing Hades--ignoring that Hades, a god, is immortal and pretty much death-proof. Still, he signs on when Io explains that defeating the Kraken will hurt Hades, which is better than nothing.

Oh, and another thing: Perseus wants to kill the Kraken as a man, not a demi-god, so he plans on refusing all help his demi-god status could provide him. Perseus says this a lot.

To help Perseus in his noble quest (and to save his kid), the King of Argos sends him off with a crack team of untested pretty boys and grizzled vets just shy of retirement age--the ultimate Expendables. The head honcho in charge of this mission is Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), an unsmiling sourpuss who constantly badgers Perseus to accept his demi-god status for the good of the team.(We won't know until much later that Draco is mourning the loss of his daughter, which explains why he's so crabby.) Also tagging along are two comic relief mercenaries (brothers Ozal and Kucuk) and Io (with a vast array of outfits and never a hair out of place).

"Get my point?": Commander Draco takes issue with the perpetually whining Perseus.

It is decided that the Stygian Witches would know best how to defeat the Kraken. So our happy warriors trudge off through dense forests and burning deserts to find them. Along the way, Perseus and company met up with a passel of CGI scorpions forged from the toxic blood of, oh, never mind. Watch the movie yourself to get the details. Anyway, like so many CGI critters, these scorpions exist merely to pad out the film and kill off unnecessary cast members. Despite their size, these crustaceans are not especially frightening or awe inspiring; therefore, when they are later tamed and turned into pack mules, nobody bats an eye.

Another group of fun guys calling the desert home is a tribe of freaky warriors called "The Djinn." These gents are tall drinks of water who sport flowing robes and glowing blue peepers. Any resemblance to the Sand People in "Star Wars" is probably unintentional. One grizzled vet explains to a newbie that, when a Djinn's skin rots off or they lose a limb, they replace it with tree bark (eww). Charming as they are, the Djinn add nothing of significance to the proceedings, either, except they do manage to turn those computerized scorpions into pack mules.

Finally, Perseus and the gang locate the Stygian Witches, a trio of sightless, ugly, bickering hags. The gals share one slimy eyeball between them--and a taste for young men. According to them, the only way to defeat the Kraken is to show it the head of Medusa. Who is Medusa, you ask? She's a Gorgon cursed with such ugliness (and snakes for hair) that men turn to stone when the catch sight of her. Since it's highly unlikely Medusa will offer her services out of the goodness of her heart, Perseus et al must make the radical move of chopping off her noggin. This means a trip down to the Underworld (where Medusa calls home) and yet another tiresome encounter with a CGI beastie.

OK, so, Perseus and his dwindling crew converge on Medusa's lair. His inspiring words to the troops? "Don't look the bitch in the eye!" However, one by one, members of Perseus' team confront Medusa and make the fatal mistake of looking at her. And to be fair, Medusa doesn't look that bad. Yes, she has snakes for hair, but she's quite pretty. Medusa also has a taste for high fashion, as she sports a chic leather breast plate and opera gloves. It's only when Medusa flashes her peepers and screams in a guy's face that she turns ugly and they turn to stone. However, don't fret that our hero will fall prey to Medusa's charms. After a spirited sword battle, Perseus flashes his shield at Medusa, which temporarily blinds her. Perseus then slices off her head and the poor dear slithers off into a pit of fire. Yes, Perseus has won the day, but the movie still isn't over.

Because "Clash of the Titans" 2010 has spent so much time focused on Perseus and his quest to knock Medusa's block off, viewers might have forgotten about the besieged inhabitants of Argos. In the absence of inspired leadership from their king, the citizens of Argos have been whipped into a frenzy by a Milo Yiannopoulos-type and have decided to sacrifice Princess Andromeda to the Kraken-- Perseus be damned. A plucky gal, Andromeda accepts her fate ("No one should die for me") and calmly dangles over the Bay of Argos like a worm on a fish hook.

Princess Andromeda is surprising OK with being Kraken bait.

Now comes the moment we've (or some of us) have been waiting for: the emergence of the Hades' "child", the Kraken! A true diva, this bloody thirsty monster takes his own sweet time lumbering over to Argos and emerging from the ocean's depths. In his full CGI glory, the Kraken resembles a large, very pissed off snapping turtle with an impressive set of pointy choppers and a face only a father could love. I am sure a lot of time and money went into creating this CGI, yet, like so many CGIs, the Kraken comes off flat and fake. He's no match for the beasties in "Aliens", the high water mark of movie monsters. Or those wonderful skeleton soldiers in "Jason and the Argonauts." Instead, the Kraken resembles Gamora, the flying turtle (and "friend to all children") who starred in a series of Japanese monster movies in the late '60's and early 1970's. Not even Andromeda is afraid of him, and she's his designated snack.

No matter. As the Kraken waves its mighty flippers, as the citizens of Argos scream and shout, as the movie's soundtrack reaches ear-shattering decibels, "Clash of the Titans" 2010 finally reaches its frenzied climax. Just when it seems all is lost, the clouds part and Perseus appears on the winged horse Pegasus, Medusa's noggin in a burlap sack. After an aerial battle with those pesky winged vampire lizard people, Perseus yanks Medusa's head out of its sack and flashes her ugly mug at the Kraken. As promised, the mighty beast turns to stone. Slowly. Very slowly. Unfortunately, the Kaken also turns into rather cheap stone, because large chunks of him start falling off  immediately and flattening the people below--such as Andromeda's feckless father and that false prophet/Milo Yiannopoulos guy. The impact of these crashes sends poor Andromeda into the drink, but have no fear: Perseus with his demi-god lung power saves her bacon quite easily.

Washed up on the shores of a near-by beach, Andromeda and Perseus eventually come to. Acknowledging his bravery and loyalty, Andromeda asks Perseus to rule Argos with her. He declines. Later on, Zeus shows up and asks his son to join him on Mt. Olympus. This our hero also rejects. After everything that has happened, all Perseus wants to do is return to his quite life as a fisherman. This is granted, along with the resurrected Io, who died a couple of scenes back. Oh, did I forget to mention that? Well, she did, but she's OK now.

With Io at his side, Perseus begins his life anew...until he is contractually obligated to begin shooting "The Clash of the Titans" 2010 sequel "The Wrath of the Titans". That film will be EVEN WORSE than this one--trust me, I've seen it--but until that day comes, let's wish those crazy kids Perseus and Io a long and happy life together.

Want to go in on a wedding present?

"Open Wide!": The fierce Kraken bares her/his/its fangs, but proved no match for movie critics barbs.

While writing and researching about "The Clash of the Titans" 2010, I came upon a quote from a disgruntled movie-goer that describes the experience of enduring this flick: he called our featured presentation "a rectal probe of a movie."

Crude, perhaps, but accurate. Painfully accurate, I might add.

When you consider the source material the screenwriters (Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi) had access to, the talent of the actors cast in major roles and the budget ($125 MILLION) that the producers (Basil Iwanyk, Kevin De La Noy and Richard D. Zanuck) had to work with, it is not unreasonable to believe a rousing, thrilling adventure with compelling characters and feats of daring-do was possible. Instead, director Louis Leterrier churned out an epic failure that left movie patrons feeling as if a medical instrument had been shoved up their hinders.

Where did "Clash of the Titans" 2010 go wrong? Was it the less-than-charismatic hero, played by Sam Worthington? Was it the skimpy script that invested nothing in the human characters and failed to flesh out the immortal ones? Was it the blind faith that CGIs images would distract the audience from the hollowness of the film over-all?

All of thee above. But, hey, it made money, so who cares...except for the people who love movies and demand more of them than just CGI scorpions.

"Who are you?": One of the original props from "Clash of the Titans" 1981 makes an appearance--and upstages leading man Sam Worthington.

Sigh. I end this post with a heavy heart. For what is the point of a $125 million dollar movie budget if the resulting film is a noisy non-experience?

So help me stop the insanity and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves In "Angel's Revenge"

"Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear To Tread": The no-name cast of "Angel's Revenge" suit up for duty.

Hello and welcome, movie lovers.

If you need any more proof that the 1970's were a HORRIBLE decade, our featured flick should do the trick.

"Angel's Revenge" (1979) is a low budget, brain-optional "Charlie's Angel's" rip off that is filled-to-the-gills with feathered hair, Dr. Pepper lip gloss, polyester and, worst of all, disco music.

What's more, "Angel's Revenge" gave screen time to three--count 'em, three!--pasty-faced 1960's sitcom second bananas and--hold on to your hats!--Arthur Godfrey.

If all that isn't enough to make you gag on your Pop Rocks, future Oscar winner Jack Palance shows up, along with disgraced Kennedy in-law Peter Lawford--who was reportedly so stewed during production, all his scenes had to be shot with him sitting in a chair.

 Peter Lawford in one of his (very few) lucid on-screen moments.

Obviously, "Angel's Revenge" promises an embarrassment of bad movie riches. So let's take a deep breath and dive in, OK?

Our pain parade starts by introducing us to a diverse group of young women who are determined to blow up an illegal drug processing plant. They are:

April (Jacqueline Cole), a ditsy middle school teacher.

Michelle (Susan Kiger), a singer managed by Alan "Skipper" Hale, Jr. of "Gilligan's Island" fame. No wonder her career's going nowhere.

Keiko (Lieu Chinh), a martial arts expert and after-school tutor "newly arrived from Vietnam" who "knows well the problems young kids face." (Please ignore that Keiko is a Japanese name and that the actress portraying her is Chinese.)

Singing sensation Michelle belts out her disco anthem "Shine Your Love"...or she's in pain. I can't tell.

Terry (Sylvia Anderson), a super stunt woman and mechanics expert who also sports an impressive 'fro.

Maria (Noela Velsaco), an ex-junkie turned super model.

Elaine (Robin Greer), a policewoman who suffers from a bad perm.

And Trish (Liza Greer, Robin's kid sister), a student of April's who nags incessantly to become "one of the Seven."

Needless to say, none of these actresses was cast for their thespian skills. As long as they flipped their feathered locks on cue and remembered to ditch their bras, producer/director Greydon Clark was satisfied.

Maria gasps in horror when she realizes her perm didn't take.

Back to the action. Michelle, the rising disco diva, has just finished a rousing rendition of her hit "Shine Your Love" in Vegas when she learns her kid brother Bobby has been beaten and hospitalized. To her horror, Bobby is revealed to be a regular customer of a Christopher Atkins-ish pusher named Sticks (Darby Hinton). When the tween needed a fix, but was out of cash, he conked Sticks on the noggin with a beer bottle and made off with his stash.

The robbery forces Sticks to contact his superior, Mike (the growly/scowly Jack Palance). Mike calls Sticks "real dumb" for allowing a middle schooler to get the better of him--although "real dumb" is an accurate description of Sticks in general. Anyway, the two druggies manage to track down Bobby and Sticks gives the kid one hell of a hiding. Even worse, the pusher calls him "a little twerp" and leaves him on the street to rot.

Bobby, as it turns out, is a student of April's, so the teacher decides the time is right to approach Michelle. After digging through her junk infested purse, April pulls out her "highly detailed" map of the baddies' drug processing plant. Because Michelle is so famous, April believes she can help convince the necessary experts to join her team.

"Women can make a difference," April asserts.

Once the team members are duly assembled, the gals go shopping for a van. This is where they meet Mr. Haney from "Green Acres", Pat Buttrum (who frankly looks embalmed). Dressed in his best Roy Rogers outfit, Pat declares that our heroines are "prettier than a creek full of catfish" and promises to make them a deal "just as sure as a goose goes barefooted." Our savvy sisters have little time for Pat's barnyard analogies, so they quickly take their van and go.

Does Mr. Haney know he's not in "Green Acres" anymore?

Once Terry has their van fitted with such amenities as a turret gun and bazooka (don't ask), the girls realize they need ammo (D'oh!). Lucky for them, a right-wing paramilitary group headed by Jim Backus (Mr. Howell from "Gilligan's Island", who also looks embalmed) is in the area. Maria and Terry case out their compound disguised as a rich widow and her driver. Realizing that the poor, pasty Backus and his Laurel and Hardy-esque goons will be no problem, the gals stage a midnight raid that would embarrass The Three Stooges with its slap-stick incompetence. In fact, the sight of the obviously frail Thurston Howell III screaming orders and having a bowl of gumbo dropped on his head by Terry ("This turkey's mine!" she rages) is rather sad.

OK, the van's ready and the girls have enough ammo to throw a NRA Tupperware party, so our heroines put on their low-cut, spandex jumpsuits and high-heeled boots and prepare to give those illegal drug processing baddies a hit in the hinder they will never forget. You go, girls!

First, April April and Keiko cut through the plant's barb wire fencing and kick a couple of guards in the crotch.

Next, Maria approaches the guards at the front gate, claiming she broke her shoe. She also punches them with her brass knuckles and sprays them with mace.

Then, Michelle, Elaine and Terry burst in in their souped-up van, firing their turret gun.

"Hell Hath No Fury Like A Super Model With A Shot Gun": Maria takes aim at some baddies.

As the flunkies at the processing plant flail their arms and race around like penguins trying to fly, Terry hops on her motorcycle and begins lobbing hand grenades. April and Keiko, meanwhile, are busy dumping the drugs down the chimney of another building as explosions and gunfire consume the surrounding area.

Last but not least, April and Keiko jump from the roof of a building into the van. As the gals drive away, the illegal drug processing plant is a smoldering ruin and its employees are either dazed or dead.

You go, girls!

Our heroines need a break, so they stop off at a near-by water fall. Stripped down to their skivvies, the gals splash and simper over a job well done.

Unfortunately, the success of "the Seven"s maiden voyage into vigilante justice upsets drug king-pin Peter Lawford; it was his stash, after all. Sitting poolside at his mansion in a gated community, the obviously stewed Lawford slurs abuse at Jack Palance.

Teen Trish (Liza Greer) wonders how she can get out of this bad movie and into a good one.

"Control, baby," Lawford blathers, "If we don't control them, we will be controlled."

Palance takes this tongue lashing in stride; after all, in a few years "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" and "City Slickers" will revive his career and save him from the indignity of appearing in flicks like "Angel's Revenge". For the time being, however, Jack agrees to track down the avenging angels and end their anti-drug meddling for good.

Will the "Angels" carry out another daring drug raid? Will street pusher Sticks get his comeuppance? Will Peter Lawford sober up? Will any of "the Seven" learn about the benefits of a jogging bras?

The answers to those queries are: "yes", "and how", "unfortunately, no" and "of course not." However, viewers will be happy to learn that Trish does finally make it into "the Seven", even though it nearly costs her her life--but not really. I don't want to unload any spoilers, but it's nothing fatal.

Of course, "Angel's Revenge" was just one of several productions that sought to copy/cash in the "Charlie's Angels" format. "Flying High" (1978) was a TV program dedicated to the jet set lives of flight attendants working for fictional Sun Airlines. "The American Girls" (also from 1978) was about two female reporters who traveled the country in a special van reporting stories for a "60 Minutes" type news show. Then there was "Velvet" from 1984, where a crack female team of international crime fighters disguise themselves as aerobic instructors. Honest. However, my favorite "Charlie's Angels" rip-off is "Ebony, Ivory and Jade" (1979). This one featured Bert Convey (best remembered as the host of "Tattletales") as a former Las Vegas tennis-pro-turned night club singer named Mike Jade who moonlights as a private eye. He solves crimes aided by his back-up dancer/singers Ebony and Ivory.

Where "Angels" go, trouble follows...for bad guys.

All things considered, "Angel's Revenge" is not be the only low rent "Charlie's Angels" knock-off featuring bad acting and bad hair, but it is the worst. That distinction is even more impressive when one considers how truly awful "Charlie's Angel's" is. Wherever he is, I hope director Greydon Clark (who's other credits include "Joysticks" and "Satan's Cheerleaders") is savoring his triumph.

Therefore, movie lovers, please always remember that stupid is as stupid does and to SAVE THE MOVIES.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Without A Wing Or A Prayer: "Ator, The Fighting Eagle"

He's ripped! He's ready! He's ridiculous! Miles O'Keeffe in his greatest(?) role.

Happy Spring, movie lovers.

Do you know when you've hit Junk Cinema pay-dirt? When the flick you're watching contains the following:

1) A big, beefy bald villain who loves to have spiders crawl all over him.

2) The movie's hero is Miles O'Keeffe, the poor, unfortunate soul who played the speechless Tarzan opposite Bo Derek in "Tarzan, The Ape Man"(1981).

3) An extra exclaims at one point, "The ground is trembling like a virgin drawn to the nuptial bed!"

"Can I get an amen, somebody?": The High Priest of the Spider God cult rallies his troops.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Ator, The Flying Eagle", a dumber-than-dirt "sword and sandals" epic from Italy, circa 1982.

Made in hopes of cashing in on the success of "Conan the Barbarian", "Ator, The Fighting Eagle" begins, as all mystical fantasy mush must, in a far away land. The average citizens toil under the yoke of "The Spider God"cult, whom the prophets say will rule for a thousand years. After that, an avenger will come forth to challenge their rule, inspiring the people to rise up and declare their freedom...No. That's not right. The Spider God cult will reign for a thousand years and then an avenger named Turren will rise up to challenge their rule..and promptly die. However, even in death Turren can't be stopped because (according to the narrator) "he (will) cast his seed upon the wind"(eww) which will allow some lucky gal to bear Turren's son. The tot will be named Ator and he will "bear the mark of Turren", which will be proof of his destiny to destroy the Spider God cult.

No, wait, forgive me, that's still not quite right. Turren does indeed "cast his seed upon the wind" (eww). And an unnamed village maiden does give birth to Ator. However, when the mid-wives notice that the bouncing baby boy bears "the mark of Turren", they don't joyously announce that their savior has arrived; instead, they head for the hills. This leaves Ator's ma rather confused and upset.

She's not the only one. Over at the palace of Dakar, the High Priest of the Spider God (played by an actor named Dakkar), a statue of a bird begins bleeding from the eye. The winds blow, the skies darken and an extra rushes in to declare, "The ground is trembling like a virgin drawn to the nuptial bed!" That can only mean one thing: the prophecy is coming true!

Refusing to have the son of Turren kick him off his spider throne, Dakar orders all baby boys and their mothers killed. As the troops merrily slaughter away, a mysterious fellow named Griba (Edmund Purdom) arrives at the hut of Ator's mom. He insists that the child be turned over to him for protection. A single parent with few options, Ator's ma agrees. Seconds later, a member of the High Priest's posse shows up and hacks off her noggin--proving the decision to hand her kid over to a complete stranger was a wise one, at least for the tot.

"Yes, Sir, That's My Baby": The infant Ator.

Well, on second thought, maybe not. Turns out Griba had no intention of raising the kid himself. Instead, he pawns baby Ator off on Bardak and Nordya, a poor couple in a poor village, who already have an infant of their own (a daughter named Sunya). To make sure nobody knows Ator's true identity, Griba rubs some powder on "the mark of Turren", making it disappear. Then he disappears for about half of the movie.

The years pass and Ator grows into the lean form of Miles O'Keeffe. He is a mighty hunter with abs of granite, buns of steel and the hair of Farrah Fawcet from "Charlie's Angel's". He's also in love...with his sister Sunya (eww) played by Ritza Brown. Current mores being what they are, Ator and Sunya can't marry, but that doesn't stop our plucky hero from broaching the subject with his dad. It's at this moment Bardak reveals to Ator that he's adopted. Overjoyed by the news--but ignoring the obvious psychological implications--Ator and Sunya marry in a goofy ceremony where they each sport floral head dresses. Then the happy couple is lead to a hut to consummate their marriage, while their fellow villagers mingle outside and cheer them on (eww).

Before the new Mr. and Mrs. so much as lock lips, the Spider God's army roars in and starts killing everybody. Turns out the High Priest of the Spider God has realized that his first mass slaughter did not kill Ator. Therefore, he orders a second mass slaughter, hoping that will finish the job. It doesn't. Ator is merely conked on the head, while his fellow villagers are toast. Meanwhile, poor Sunya is dragged off by the Spider God's soldiers, kicking and screaming all the way--and, really, who can blame her? The only wedding worse than hers was the "Red Wedding" on "Game of Thrones". I don't blame Sunya one bit for being upset.

Anyway, once Ator comes to and discovers his family dead, his bride gone and his village brunt to the ground, he puts on some furry Uggs and hits the road. Lo and behold, who should Ator meet but Griba? The mysterious mystic takes Ator under his wing and into his home. He also reveals to Ator his true destiny and begins training him in earnest to defeat the Spider God. Then, just like before, Griba disappears again, only this time he leaves Ator a special sword and shield that will allow him to kill the Spider God and rescue Sunya.

Ator's quest, however, gets off to a rocky start when's he's ambushed by a tribe of Amazons. Dragged before their Queen, Ator is poked and prodded like the prime cut of beefcake he is. The Queen then announces Ator will father the heir to their throne. She claps her hands and all interested Amazons line up to fight to the death for the privilege of being impregnated by Ator--who, after the deed is done, will be killed. The eventual winner is a sullen white-blonde archer named Roon (Sabrina Siani), who coolly announces to Ator, "Are you ready to perform the duty that is mine by right?"

Trembling like a virgin dragged to the nuptial bed, Ator prepares himself for victor Roon.

Actually, no. See, Ator explains that he's married to the love of his life and that he was on his way to rescue her (and defeat the Spider God) when he was shanghaied by her fellow Amazons. Roon could care less about Ator's sob story; however, she is interested in the treasure the Spider God has supposedly stashed in his castle. Before long, the two cut a deal: they will forget about siring the Queen's heir and give the Amazons the slip, venturing to the Spider God's castle together. Ator will save Sunya, Roon will help herself to the treasure in the Treasury. All they have to do is sneak out of the Amazon's heavily guarded encampment, traverse over uncharted territory, find food, water and shelter as needed, defeat the Spider God's troops, kill the High Priest of the Spider God cult and then off his furry, super-sized spider puppet. Should be a cinch.

As it turns out, escaping from the Amazon's encampment is a fairly easy task, thanks to a frisky bear cub (which Ator has adopted as a pet) and a tree with thick foliage. It also helps that the Amazons are really stupid (and terrible actresses). The problems begin when Roon and Ator stumble unwittingly into the clutches of an ancient Enchantress (Laura Gemser), who looks like Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs--only with more lip gloss and teased hair. While this hotsy-totsy traps Roon in a cave, she lures Ator into her boudoir with visions of Sunya. The Enchantress then slips him a Mickey and pants, "You will be mine until you have no strength left to gratify me." While Roon is busy digging herself out of the cave (with help from the bear cub), Ator and the Enchantress get busy, too ("Your touch is ecstasy," moans Ator). Taking a breather, the Enchantress shows Ator her pet owl. She explains he was "once a prince" who dared "opposed my will" so she "transformed him into an owl who has to stay upon this perch." Ator, however, is more interested in a huge mirror that is covered by heavy cloth. The Enchantress promptly orders him to never touch it. That said, they head back to bed for more whoopski.

Roon breaks free and locates Ator and the Enchantress. Helped once more by the bear cub, Roon distracts the evil one and shoots an arrow into her cave. By doing so, she uncovers the magic mirror. The Enchantress gets a good look at herself and is instantly transformed into an ugly hag. Ator snaps out of his drugged stupor and runs away to safety. The Enchantress, however, is really mad and screams, "I will be avenged!" I bet the owl (who was once a prince) is happy the Enchantress got her comeuppance, even if his situation hasn't improved.

Finally, Ator and Roon arrive at The Spider God's castle. Even though there are only two of them, our plucky duo manages to slay all the guards and sneak into the castle. Perhaps Ator's special sword and shield has something to do with that. While Roon is checking out the treasure in the Treasury, Ator comes face to face with the High Priest of the Spider God. They tussle a bit and Ator defeats him soundly. Then our hero hears Sunya shrieking like a dental drill, this time for real. Turns out the poor gal is tied to a giant spider web (yes, you read that right; she's tied to a spider's web. Wouldn't it be more logical for her to be stuck in the giant web, since spider webs are suppose to be sticky?). While Ator rushes to cut his bride free, who should show up but Griba--only this time, the mysterious mystic reveals his true colors. See, he was only pretending to protect and nurture Ator. What Griba really wanted was for Ator to kill the High Priest of the Spider God he could regain is his post as the High Priest of the Spider God Cult! The fiend!

While Ator and Griba duke it out, a giant spider puppet ambles on screen, causing Sunya to shriek even more. Finally, after a round of spirited sword fighting, Ator pushes Griba into the huge spider, who promptly bites his head off. Ator unties Sunya and they run away.

"Do you get my point?": Griba surprises Ator and Sunya.

Of course, "Ator, The Fighting Eagle" isn't over yet. The High Priest of the Spider God cult may be dead, but its super-sized spider mascot is very much alive. While Sunya watches from a safe distance, Ator--shield and sword at the ready--approaches the fearsome beastie. He takes several broad swipes at the critter, which wiggles and jiggles like a furry bowl of Jello. Then our hero plunges his sword into the spider's head/heart/stomach with a manly thrust. The spider collapses in a heap, simultaneously gushing red Kool-Aid, which splash all over Ator's Ugg boots (eww). However, that is a small price to pay for defeating an evil that terrorized people for a thousand years. Besides, Ator can probably find a new pair of Uggs on real fast.

Oh, by the way, Roon is dead, having been ambushed by guards while looting the Spider God's Treasury. So what.

When we next see them, Sunya and Ator are hand in hand, skipping merrily in a spring meadow dotted with flowers. They have every reason to celebrate, of course. The Spider God Cult is no more. The High Priest is dead and so is that spider mascot. Come to think of it, Sunya and Ator's parents are dead, too. And so are their friends. And Roon. They have no money. Their village has been burnt to the ground. An Enchantress has sworn to avenge herself on Ator for turning her into a hag. And somewhere out there is a tribe of Amazons spitting mad that their designated baby daddy gave them the slip. 

Hey, what are these two so happy about?! Their lives haven't improved at all! In fact, things have gotten worse!

Oh, yeah, the movie's over. Never mind.

Flower Power: Not really brother-and sister Sunya and Ator are now husband-and wife.

When a movie is as delightfully dense as "Ator, The Fighting Eagle", convention film analysis is beside the point. Therefore, lets focus instead on several key elements that helped make "Ator, The Fighting Eagle" the Junk Cinema messterpiece it is.

1) Despite its prominence in the flick's title, eagles are nowhere to be found in the movie. Spiders, yes. An owl (that use to be a prince). A tiny bear cub (who easily out-acted the human cast). Even a dog shows up. But no eagles. Go figure.

2) The flick's villain was a rather strange fellow, don't you think? Although he held the position of High Priest of the Spider God cult, he seemed more interested in frolicking with his pet spiders than over-seeing the organization he was in charge of. He presided over no meetings, passed no laws, didn't comment on cult doctrine and screwed up the execution of his rival twice. How did Dakar get this job? And how did he manage to keep it?

3) Twice in "Ator, The Fighting Eagle" Ator is forced to be a sex slave against his will. Was this because the film's producers wanted to reverse the tried fantasy movie trope of female characters constantly being forced into sexual servitude against their will? Or did the producers think the audience would get a kick out of seeing big, buff Ator at the mercy of a bunch of girls?

4) Pauline Kael once said the only flair in Ali McGraw's acting was in her nostrils. Poor Miles O'Keeffe can't even claim that. Despite his killer cheekbones and lean torso, Miles has all the screen presence of a department store dummy. He has the acting talent of a department store dummy, too. Movie heroes must have intelligence and personality. Think Russell Crowe in "Gladiator". Think Kirk Douglas in "Spartacus". Think Sigourney Weaver in "Aliens". Miles is just an empty vessel in contrast.

Miles O'Keeffe defends himself against the pointed barbs of film critics.

So why was he hired for all three "Ator" movies? Were the producers gluttons for punishment? Did Miles agree to work for cheap? Was the whole enterprise just a tax write-off? The world may never know.

5) The only decent plot twist in this movie was Griba turning out to be a secret baddie. I did not see that coming. So, half a point for team Ator.

I like to call bad movies "success stories in reverse." It's their failures we love, not their triumphs. If you want to watch an inspiring epic about a guy challenging an evil power, watch "Spartacus."

However, if you want to watch a semi-dubbed Italian rip-off of "Conan the Barbarian" complete with a himbo lead, a bleached-blond side-kick and a passel of "blind craftsmen" who have wet paper bags stuck to their eyes, boy, do I have a movie for you!

Until next time, movie lovers, please remember that a full loin cloth does not a movie hero make, and help me SAVE THE MOVIES!

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