Monday, March 26, 2018

Unfortunately, Al Pacino IS "Bobby Deerfield"

Al Pacino suffers from existential angst...or maybe kidney "Bobby Deerfield."

Welcome, movie lovers.

Before we begin our latest excursion into the wide Sea of Cinematic Schlock, I need to say something:

Al Pacino IS Bobby Deerfield.

He is completely and totally Bobby Deerfield.

Nobody else on God's green earth could possibly be Bobby Deerfield other than Al Pacino. Nobody!

Al Pacino in a later role as the evil Smurf White Lightning.

If you don't believe me, please consult the movie trailer for "Bobby Deerfield" (1977) on If you don't come away absolutely convinced that Al Pacino IS Bobby Deerfield, well, you must be dead inside.

So who is "Bobby Deerfield"?

According to the hushed, reverential voice on the coming attractions trailer, "Al Pacino IS Bobby Deerfield...magnetic, idolized, but alone." He is "moving in his own world, motivated by disaster." 

Actually, he's a world famous race car driver motivated by the big bucks he can earn, but same-same.

Al Pacino cools off from all the hot action in "Bobby Deerfield."

He is also "courted by death...and women."

Lots of women. I mean, he's Al Pacino! Or rather, he's Bobby Deerfield!

Then he crosses paths with Lillian (Marthe Keller), a "woman with the instincts and whimsy of a child", who also possesses "a wisdom far beyond her years."

Which means...she went to college?

Anyway, in case you still have no idea what "Bobby Deerfield" is about, the narrator announces it's about "leaving someone, meeting someone and finding yourself."

 Marthe Keller wonders why her Italian character has a German accent.

Starring, of course, Al Pacino AS "Bobby Deerfield."

The trailer for "Bobby Deerfield" is such a riot, you may not feel the need to watch the movie. However, I insist you do watch the movie, because it's just as wacky as the preview--only longer.

"Bobby Deerfield" is a rich, famous and deeply self-involved race car driver who spends a lot of time in Europe. He also does a Mae West impression, but we'll leave that for later. One day he's participating in a race where a fellow driver dies in a fiery crash. This totally bums Bobby out.

As both drivers drove the same make of race car, Bobby becomes obsessed with what caused the accident. The mechanics going over the wreckage with a fine tooth comb can't find anything; in fact, it appears "human error" may have been the culprit. This cuts no ice with Bobby, who insists SOMETHING had to cause the a stray chicken or a bunny hopping along the track.

For the record, nobody else saw any rouge chickens or bunnies, but Deerfield refuses to let the matter drop. He refuses to drive until he knows what killed his friend and announces he's going to visit Karl Hotzman, another pro-driver badly injured in the same crash.

Obsessed driver Bobby Deerfield thinks a rogue rabbit (like the one pictured above) might have caused his friend's fatal car crash.

Karl, who is confined to a wheelchair with a spinal injury, is recuperating in a medical clinic which provides its patients with a 4-star dining experience, plenty of hooch and cabaret entertainment in the evenings. (Anyone doubting that European health care is more comprehensive than American health care need only to watch this flick to know that it's true.) That's where Bobby meets Lillian (Marthe Keller, who was also Pacino's cuddlemate off screen).

Lillian is another puzzling aspect of this flick. She's suppose to be Italian, but she speaks with an inexplicable German accent (just for the record, Keller is actually Swiss). When Bobby asks if she's a patient at the clinic, Lillian barks, "Do I look sick?" Later in the evening, a nurse brings Lillian her nightly meds. She refuses to take them.

"You know the rules," the nurse says.

"I will meet death on my own terms," Lillian declares.

As practiced bad movie fanatics know, this can only mean the Lillian is suffering from Ali McGraw's Disease, named after the mystery ailment that claimed Ali McGraw in the putrid 1970 tear-jerker "Love Story." The victims, all women, look post-card perfect, experience no debilitating side-effects from medicine or chemo, eat like pigs without gaining an ounce and effect a hyper-perkiness that is awesome to behold. Furthermore, they have plenty of money and either live in cool apartments or rent pricey villas. Lillian ticks all these boxes, plus one more: she's annoying as hell.

Lillian asks, "Do I look sick?" In fact, she looks great--which is how we know she's doomed.

That becomes apparent when Lillian bums a ride from Deerfield outside the clinic. As they drive through the lush Italian countryside, Lillian prattles endlessly about the size of her hands, asks if there are "homos in New Jersey" and if Bobby ever felt like screaming when he drives through a dark tunnel (for the record, no). Later, Lillian notices a hot air balloon drifting by. She tries to convince Pacino to follow it, but he declines. She then makes a face and calls Bobby "a turtle."

You'd think Pacino would be glad to unload this Gabby Gertie at the rustic inn they stop at, but no. Instead, when Lillian asks him to snuggle in bed with her, he leaps at the offer. In anticipation of a hot night in the sheets, Bobby methodically disrobes, hangs up his clothes, brushes his teeth and gargles. By the time he joins Lillian in the sack, she's half asleep and mumbles something about Bobby taking too long in the bathroom.

"I always gargle," he states proudly.

"I bet you do," she sighs.

As Bobby is stroking Lillian's hair, a chunk of it falls out. Hmm. That's weird. What could it mean? Perhaps she's going too heavy on the conditioner? Maybe she should dial down the heat setting on her blow dryer? It couldn't be a sign that Lillian's ill, could it? Of course, not! After all, Lillian doesn't look sick, she doesn't act sick...although she was staying at a medical clinic. However, rather than discuss the matter with Lillian, Bobby tries to stick her hair back on her head and goes to sleep.

Bobby Deerfield encourages Lillian to try some extra volume shampoo after her hair starts mysteriously falling out.

FINALLY, Deerfield returns to his Paris flat. Waiting for him is his personal tailor and French cuddlemate, Lydia (Anny Duperey). These two apparently have one of those very '70's, very European relationships where as long as they are "honest with each other", they can sleep with other people. It's clear Lydia has become fed-up with this arrangement. See, a friend tattled that he saw Bobby with Lillian. When Pacino refuses to discuss the matter, Lydia announces, "I will make you an omelette."

"I don't want an omelette," he protests.

Filled with Gallic indignation, Lydia retorts, "I WILL make you an omelette! And I don't give a damn if you want an omelette!"

You tell him, honey!

As "Bobby Deerfield" dribbled along, I began to notice similarities between this flick and "A Place for Lovers", a cinematic suppository from 1969 starring Faye Dunaway and Marcello Mastroianni. Check this out:

"My mouth belongs wherever I put it!"*: Bobby Deerfield yells at Lillian for taking a balloon ride without him.

* Both movies were shot in Italy.

* Both movies featured a rich, chic gal dying of Ali McGraw's Disease.

*Both women leave medical clinics.

*Al Pacino plays a race car driver, while Mastroianni was a designer of air bags for cars.

*Both sets of co-stars were cuddlemates off screen.

"Should we fire out agents?": Pacino and Keller commiserate on the "Bobby Deerfield" set.

*Neither Pacino or Mastroianni realized Keller or Dunaway were sick until some busybody told them.

*Both films were directed by people (Sydney Pollack and Vittorio De Sica) who should have known better.

*"A Place of Lovers" earned a spot in The Fifty Worst Films of All Time by the Brothers Medved and "Bobby Deerfield" earned a spot in The Hollywood Hall of Shame, also by the Brothers Medved.

* Both films tanked at the box office.

Given the abundance of similarities, what does this mean?

Bobby Deerfield and cuddlemate Lydia realize their love has hit the skids.

Theory #1-- The idea of a chic gal dying of a mysterious disease was dumb in 1969 and even dumber in 1977.

Theory #2--If glamorous, real-life couples aren't believable as pretend couples, maybe they shouldn't make movies together.

Theory #3--Under no circumstances should Al Pacino be allowed to do a Mae West impression. Fans might be willing to tolerate Pacino screaming "You're out of order!" in "And Just for All", Pacino yelling "Attica! Attica!" in "Dog Day Afternoon", Pacino snarling, "Let me introduce you to my little friend!" in "Scarface" and Pacino declaring, "My mouth belongs wherever I put it!" in "Revolution", but swinging his hips and trying to copy Mae West's famous come on? No. Never. That's too much. End of story.

Theory #4--The people behind "A Place for Lovers" should have warned the people behind "Bobby Deerfield" that their picture was as doomed as their leading lady's character. It might have saved everyone time, money and embarrassment.

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, the only person who can do Mae West justice is Mae West. And SAVE THE MOVIES, of course.

Al Pacino realizes "Bobby Deerfield" ends his cinematic winning streak of "The Godfather", "The Godfather, Part 2", "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Serpico". Maybe he should have an omelette?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Jennifer Jones And Gregory Peck Give Love A Bad Name In "Duel In The Sun"

"I Hate Myself For Loving You": Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones) and Lewt McClannes (Gregory Peck) find lust in the dust in 1946's "Duel in the Sun."

Editors Note: I interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post to tell you about the most amazing singer/song-writer/performer I have discovered! His name is Pokey LaFarge. I learned about him thanks to my Daedalus Books catalog that featured CDs and DVDs. LaFarge looks a bit like silent screen comic Harry Langdon and his music is an original blend off jazz, swing and rock-a-billy, anchored by sharp writing. Go to and listen to tracks like "Wellington", "A Better Man" and "LaLa Blues". You'll be glad you did!

Greetings, movie lovers.

Are you in the mood for a big, sprawling Western set on the vast frontier under Technicolor skies?

Then watch "How the West was Won"!

However, if you are in the mood for a steamy, expensive cow pie narrated by Orson Welles, performed by miscast actors and featuring one the of the nuttiest endings in movie history, then saddle up for "Duel in the Sun" (1946)!

Produced under the obsessive eye of David O. Selznick, the man who brought you "Gone With the Wind", "Rebecca", "Spellbound" and other classics, "Duel" is every bit a classic, too, although not the type Selznick and company had in mind. 

"Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just enjoying the show?": Pearl's ma (Tilly Losch) in the arms of a VERY devoted fan.

Let's meet the principals:

Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones)--The tempestuous offspring of professional gambler Scott Chavez (Herbert Marshall) and his Native American saloon dancer wife (Tilly Losch). Pearl arrives in Paradise Flats, "the Paris of the Pecos", to live with distant relatives after her pa shoots her ma in a jealous rage.

Lewt McClanes (Gregory Peck)--The randy, rotten younger son of Senator McClanes and his long suffering wife. Lewt takes one look at Pearl and it's lust at first sight--for him.

Jesse McClanes (Joseph Cotten)--Lewt's older brother. He's refined, educated, a lawyer and Pearl falls for him like a ton of bricks. However, gentleman Jesse would rather stay "just friends", which upsets Pearl and pleases Lewt.

Laura Belle McClanes (Lillian Gish)--She's Scott Chavez's second cousin and long lost love. She's a dear, sweet, lovely lady who needle points and plays the piano.

Lillian Gish consoles Jennifer Jones about being in such a crazy movie.

Senator McClanes (Lionel Barrymore)--He's Laura Belle's tyrant of a husband, the owner of the vast Spanish Bit ranch. Confined to a wheelchair after a mysterious "accident", the senator still rides rough-shod over everybody, barking orders, spewing insults and hollering, "Stop that confounded contraption!" whenever Laura Belle plays "Beautiful Dreamer" on the piano.

Although Pearl knows her background isn't exactly Blue Book ("I know what you think! That I'm trashy like my ma!"), she aims to be "a good girl" and even asks Jesse, "I wanna be a lady. Will you learn me?"

 Jesse's refusal to entangle himself with Pearl leaves the door wide open for Lewt. Having no use for subtlety, Lewt swaggers into Pearl's room one night with a cocky sneer, ready for action. Pearl fights him off, tells him off ("I hate you! I hate you!") and throws him out--spitting for good measure. Lewt, however, makes it clear he'll be back.

So what's a girl to do?

Unfortunately for Pearl, there are few options. Why? Because "Duel in the Sun" makes it crystal clear that poor, pitiful Pearl is doomed to fall. Why so? Because her mother was a tramp, remember, and try as she might, it's just ingrained in Pearl's DNA that she'll be a tramp, too.

"Fancy meeting you here...": Lewt offers to show Pearl to her room.

Furthermore, the film argues, Pearl has the sincere misfortune of being pretty with a cute shape. Or, in the words of quack minister Walter Huston (known as "The Sinkiller") she's "a full blossomed woman built by the devil to drive men crazy!"

As if that isn't enough to convince movie-goers that Pearl is a lost cause, sin killer Huston adds, "Pearl, you're curved in the flesh of temptation! Resistin' is going to be a lot harder for you than females protected by the shapes of sows."

Ladies, are you listening? If you're pretty and attractive to men, you're finished! Doomed!

Of course, licentious Lewt is free from such taint. His rake-hell ways are presented as typical, sexy bad-boy behavior. In fact, whenever Lewt gets into a scrape with either the law or the ladies, Sen. McClanes couldn't be more delighted. "What a boy!" he crows.

So Pearl gives in to Lewt and hates herself for it--especially when Jesse finds out and can't hide his disappointment. However, like a moth to a flame, Pearl finds she can't resist Lewt. And Lewt realizes he can't resist Pearl. Thus begins the flick's centerpiece, a sexual tug-of-war between Jones and Peck, who fight, have sex, then fight about having sex, then vow never to have sex with each other again until, of course, they have sex again. Whew!

"Was it good for you, too?": Pearl and Lewt in the milky after-glow.

To her credit, Pearl eventually gets tired of this back-and-forth with Lewt and demands he marry her--or else. Naturally, her cuddlemate likes things just the way they are.

"No woman can tie on to me," Lewt drawls. "Especially a little bob-tailed little half-breed like you!"

"If I'm not good enough to marry, I'm not good enough to kiss!" Pearl shoots back and stalks off.

About this time, Lewt gets himself into trouble with the law (something about blowing up railroad tracks) and skedaddles out of town. That gives Pearl a chance to meet up with Sam Pierce (Charles Bickford), a rancher who treats her kindly. When Sam proposes, Pearl accepts, which causes Lewt to go ballistic. He may not want to marry Pearl, but Lewt will be damned if he's about to let Pearl marry someone who does. In short order, Sam is toast, Lewt is wanted for murder, Pearl is furious, sweet Laura Belle expires (of what, we're never told, but I'm guessing embarrassment) and Lewt vows to kill Jesse. It's also about this time that Sen. McClanes begins to wonder if Lewt might be a bit homicidal or something.

Now "Duel in the Sun" staggers to its justifiably nutty conclusion. Strap yourself in, because it's a doozy!

Sam Pierce (Charles Bickford) and Pearl make a love connection.

First off, Pearl realizes that she's the only one who can save Jesse from Lewt. So she saddles up a horse and loads up her shot gun.

Next, she rides night and day to reach Squaw Head's Rock, where Lewt has been hiding out. She calls out his name, he calls out her name. They declare their undying love for each other and then start shootin' (informed bad movie fanatics will recall that the same thing happens in Roger Corman's equally nutty but vastly cheaper "Gunslinger" starring Beverly Garland and John Ireland--also reviewed in this blog).

Soon enough, Pearl is bleeding to death. By coincidence, so is Lewt. With their last bit of strength, Pearl and Lewt crawl to each other, bellowing each others' name. "Pearl!" "Lewt!" "Pearl!" "Lewt!"--this goes on for quite a while.

Finally, Pearl and Lewt meet. They are dirty, bloody, sweaty and near death's door. They have one last dirty, sweaty, bloody orgasmic embrace before it's lights out. As their corpses bake in the sun, narrator Orson Welles intones, "And this is what the legend says: a flower, known nowhere else, grows from out of the desperate crags where Pearl vanished. Pearl--who was herself a wild flower, sprung from the hard clay, quick to blossom and early to die."


"You'll be the death of me...": Pear and Lewt go out with a bang.

When "Duel in the Sun" was released in 1946, it was quickly dubbed "Lust in the Dust". It was considered so controversial that the diocese of Los Angeles condemned the movie as "morally inoffensive" and "spiritually depressing." Later on, the diocese's official magazine, The Tidings, explained that the flick threw the "audience's sympathy on the side of sin." They also took issue with the fact that Jennifer Jones was "unduly, if not indecently, exposed" and that Walter Huston's "Sinkiller" character "parodies prayer", becoming a "comical figure." Movie theaters, anxious to avoid offending their patrons, used tamer posters to advertise the flick. Jennifer Jones supposedly got hate mail for such a racy turn--after all, she won her Best Actress Oscar playing a nun! Columnist Jimmy Fielder, meanwhile, took out ads in the Hollywood trade papers disavowing his positive review of the movie. Fielder insisted the review was written by a staff member using his by-line-- he was home sick.

Of course, all the hub-bub made "Duel in the Sun" the year's top money maker. Actress Jones was even nominated for an Oscar. Gregory Peck, on the other hand, was pretty blase' about the whole thing. His role as Lewt wasn't a real acting stretch, at least for him: "I rode horses, necked with Jennifer Jones and shot poor old Charles Bickford," he shrugged. Lucky for him, the long shooting schedule for "Duel in the Sun" (20 months!) over-lapped with his filming of "The Yearling", which offered the actor a more challenging part.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, all good movies are alike; however, all bad movies are bad in their own way. In the case of "Duel in the Sun", what made this movie so hypnotically bad was a clear case of insanity--by David O. Selznick.

When Selznick began this project, he envisioned it as rivaling or even surpassing "Gone With the Wind". He also wanted to show off the versatility of his leading lady and off-screen cuddlemate Jennifer Jones. To achieve these aims, David--a micro-manager and a perfectionist ne plus ultra--went through several screenwriters, perched on director King Vidor's shoulder so heavily he quit, spent millions on a promotional campaign and had Josef von Sternberg hanging around to "consult."(Selznick was also battling a reported addiction to uppers, which couldn't have helped matters.) As for Jennifer, she teased her hair into a fright wig, deepened her skin with wood stain and modeled more off-the-shoulder blouses than a Target summer sale. To convey Pearl's fiery and impulsive temperament, Jones stuck out her tongue, spat on the floor, rolled her eyes and yanked at her hair while screaming, "Trash, trash, trash, trash!"--to the approval of her husband, but to the detriment of her character.

 The end result? A movie so extreme, so over-the-top and so luridly photographed that it resembles a western-themed dream sequence from "The Bold and the Beautiful". The only thing missing is "B and B"'s obligatory shower scenes and a wedding disrupted by a character long-thought dead carrying a baby.

Pearl on the look out for her swine, Lewt.

As I mentioned earlier, "Duel in the Sun" was considered hot stuff back in 1946. Since then, it has been duly recognized as a Golden Gobbler of titanic proportions. And it wouldn't have happened without David O. Selznick, who lovingly stuffed this turkey until it exploded.

Thus, for going beyond--way beyond--the call of duty, David O. Selznick, Junk Cinema salutes you!


Monday, January 15, 2018

It's Our 200th Blog Post!!!

"Let's all go the lobby/Let's all go to the lobby/Let's all go to the lobby...and get ourselves a treat!"

Hi Keebah and hello, movie lovers.

Guess what?

This is Bad Movies and the Woman who Loves's 200th blog post!

Do you know what that means?

It means..I've published 200 articles on this blog.

Me, hard at work, composing my next movie article.

Needless to say, I could not have reached this milestone without the support of bad movie fanatics world wide AND the wonderful, funderful bad movies themselves.

In the words of "Champagne Music Maker" Lawrence Welk, "Tank you, Tank you!"

For such an important post, I have decided to spotlight articles I feel haven't gotten the page views they deserve. Thus, you, loyal readers, can scroll down the titles, pop them into the "Search" thing-a-bob and enjoy an article you may have over-looked.

In no particular order they are...

"Ray Danton IS 'Secret Agent Super Dragon'!"--This is yet another in the long line of James Bond rip-offs that I am determined to watch and write about. The villains in this flick plan to take over the world by poisoning the world's chewing gum supply.

Ray Danton (as Secret Agent Super Dragon) uses his futuristic transistor radio to save the world's chewing gum.

"Spinout': Another Cinematic Flat Tire From Elvis"--Elvis plays--what else?--a rock'n'roll/race car driver who's been chosen by author Diane McBain as "The Perfect American Male". Naturally, she plans on marrying him--as does rich girl Shelly Fabray. This being an Elvis movie, there is a pool party, lots of dumb jokes and songs like "My Little Beach Shack". A mess-ter-piece!

"An Extra Crispy Chicken McNugget Threatens the Universe in 'The Phantom Planet'"--An astronaut lands on a mysterious planet--shrinking to the size of a Tic Tac--and is confronted by Richard "Jaws" Keil in a monster suit. He also finds love with a mute Liz Taylor-ish alien chick. Will he return to Earth and normal size? Read the post to find out!

"Voodoo Man"--A William "One Shot" Beaudine classic! Bela Lugosi wants to revive his dead wife, so he uses voodoo to transfer the souls of female motorists into his better half. Alas, these transactions all fail, turning the "volunteers" into zombies. With John Carradine as one of Bela's associates.

"Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves: 'Racket Girls'"--The struggles of female wrestling to say pure are documented in this road-show classic. Peaches Page, yes, that's her real name, is the latest wrestling hopeful suave Mr. Scally( played by bad movie regular Timothy Farrell) plans to make her a star, but at what cost?

"The Sinister Urge"--"Smut! A dirty word for a dirty business!" grouses one of the characters trying to shut down the hard-as-nails Gloria's smut business in this Ed Wood must-see. Actually made up of several films director Wood couldn't finish cobbled together, "The Sinister Urge" features some of Wood's classic dialog, such as Gloria muttering, "That can't be Dirk! Nah, not Dirk! Nah!"

A smut photographer takes pictures of  smut models in Ed Wood's cautionary tale about smut "The Sinister Urge."

"Zabriske Point"--The 1960's were a tumultuous era, no doubt about it, and it produced some nutty flicks--and none were nuttier than this "Stick it to the man!" free-for-all directed by art house director Michelangelo Antonioni. A hippie steals a plan, buzzes the car of a girl hippie, they mess around at Zabriske Point. When he's shot, she imagines blowing up such symbols of Capitalism as patio furniture, a TV, a loaf of Wonder Bread and some fried chicken. Read my review and then watch the movie--if you dare!

"The Love Machine"--Frozen-faced John Philip Law is "The Love Machine" of the title. He's hot-shot TV reporter Robin Stone, a man who beds countless women while trying to improve the quality of network television. When he beats up a hooker, an AC/DC make-up man offers him an alibi in return for Robin getting him an engraved "slave bracelet." Best line in the script? "No, I'm not a nice person.(Pause) Let's take a shower!"

"Swept Away"--The Material Girl (aka Madonna) tries yet again to become a movie star in this remake of the 1970's role reversal classic. Directed by her second ex-husband, Madonna plays a spoiled, nasty trophy wife who finds herself ship wrecked with the studly deck hand she unmercifully bullied. Madonna's acting is so bad, one critic carped, "She makes Pia Zadora look like Joanne Woodward."

"San Francisco International"--Also featured on "MST3K", this failed TV pilot features Pernell Roberts as the most obnoxious airport administrator on the planet. During one typical day, Roberts scares the pants of cost-cutting bureaucrats, foils a bank robbery/kidnapping plot, talks down a tween who has commandeered an airplane and, oh, yeah, encourages the kid's parents to get marriage counseling. A riot!

"Logan's Run"--I had high hopes for this post, which details a the future where life doesn't begin at 30, it ends. Literally. Shot inside an unopened shopping mall, Michael York stars as Logan, a "Sandman" who chases "runners" trying to avoid the "renewal ceremony." Features a pre-"Charlie's Angels" Farrah Fawcett in a bit part and lots of feathered hair. And I do means LOTS.

Logan (Michael York) and new pal Jessica have many things in common--including the same hairstyle.

So movie lovers, please check out these and other posts on this blog. Also, leave an encouraging comment, if you can. Here's to our next 200 posts--AND SAVE THE MOVIES!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Short Takes: Welcome To The First Annual "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?" Awards!

Greetings, movie lovers.

Donald Trump plans to unveil his "Dishonest Media Awards" on Monday.

So I thought, "Hey, if the President of the United States can have his own awards, I can have my own awards, too!"

Thus, here are my "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?" awards for the nuttiest behavior (so far) from the Trump administration.

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Daughter Division, goes to Ivanka Trump, who claimed with a straight face that her father "was not a groper" and insisted that any claims he harassed women was merely a "media projection."

Ivanka Trump reacts to the question, "Does your father respect women?"

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Daddy Dearest Division, goes to Donald Trump, Jr, who, in wanting to teach his children about the evils of socialism, took half his daughter's Halloween candy. He then tweeted a picture of his three-year old daughter looking like she was about to cry. What a neat dad!

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Brother Division, goes to Eric Trump, who, in order to prove that the sketchy "Deep State" is real, tweeted that mysterious Big Brother Liberals told him to follow Barrack Obama, Michelle Obama and...Ellen Degeneres. Scary!

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", First Ex-Wife Division, goes Ivana Trump who, in her parenting memoir Raising Trump, stated she knew daughter Ivanka was really in love with hubby Jared Kushner because she was willing to convert to Judaism--and give up bacon and lobster,too.

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Second Ex-Wife and Daughter Division, goes to Marla Maples and Tiffany Trump, who, wanting to look their best at The Donald's inauguration, wanted hair and make-up artists to glam them up for free in exchange for the realms of priceless publicity doing so would supposedly generate.

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Insider on the Outs Division, goes to Steve Bannon, who insisted his power and influence were so great, he could elect "anti-establishment" Republicans to Congress. The most notorious of these was Alabama's Roy Moore, accused of stalking teenage girls while in his 30's. Most of Bannon's candidates lost.

Steve Bannon note to self: "My face hurts."

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Mix-and-Match Division, goes to Fox News' Sean Hannity, who has insisted he's not part of the media, he's not a journalist and that he's a talk show host. Then, when his tactics and objectivity were questioned, Sean turned right around to declare that he was an opinion journalist. Make up your mind!

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Print Division, goes to US magazine, which printed a fawning cover-story on Ivanka Trump headlined "Why I Disagree With My Dad." The article, which was written without interviewing its subject, relied on previously published quotes to insist that Ivanka would always "balance love and loyalty" and "stand up for what was right", while attempting to advise her erratic dad. Incidentally, the US cover-story came out shortly after Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accords, a move the supposedly eco-friendly Ivanka was against.

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Print Division, Part 2, goes to--surprise!--US magazine, which printed another fawning cover-story, this time on Melania.  Published not long after the First Lady was tsk-tsked for wearing high heels as she boarded Air Force One to visit flood victims, US magazine insisted visiting the flood victims "broke her heart" and "changed (Melania's) life forever."

While there is no reason to doubt that Ivanka and Melania are caring individuals, the US cover-stories appeared to be obvious, ham-fisted attempts to provide both the First Lady and First Daughter some positive spin amid a flurry of bad press--and perhaps curry favor with the Trumps. Note to US: leave the politics to the Washington Post and focus on the hanky-panky happening on "The Bachelor" set, OK?

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Land Speed Division, goes to Anthony Scaramucci, who replaced the hapless Sean Spicer as WH spokesperson. Even though Anthony went around telling everybody how much he "loved the president", he was fired 10 days later. Love is strange, isn't it? (Although that nasty interview he gave dissing the Trump family probably didn't help, come to think of it.).

The "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?", Pot Calling the Kettle Black Division, goes to Rupert Murdoch, media tycoon of questionable judgement and standards, for calling Mr. Trump a "f@%&!ing idiot" seconds after speaking with the President on immigration issues. Well, it takes one to know one!

Rupert Murdoch:"My face needs a nap."

Hope you enjoyed my "Are You Kitten Me Right Meow?" awards! Until next time, Save The Movies!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Here Comes The "Bride Of The Monster"!

Dr. Vornoff (Bela Lugosi) and his assistant Lobo (Tor Johnson) try to reassure reluctant bride of the monster Janet Lawton (Loretta King) in the Ed Wood MESS-terpiece "Bride of the Monster."

It's a dark and stormy night. Hunters Mac (Bud Osborne) and Jake (John Warren) are tramping around Lake Marsh, seeking shelter from the elements. They eventually reach "the old Willow's place", which is supposedly empty and haunted. Mac pounds on the front door and is greeted by Dr. Vornoff (Bela Lugosi). He refuses to give the men shelter and orders them away. Then the doctor's assistant Lobo (Tor Johnson) lunges at the men from behind the bushes. The terrified hunters race off into the night...

Tragedy strikes when Mac falls into a ravine and is attacked by an octopus. Yes, an octopus. Jake repeatedly shoots at the sea creature, but he fails to save his friend. Then Lobo suddenly reappears, over-powering Jake and dragging him off...

When Jake comes to, he realizes that he's been strapped to an operating table with a mixing bowl perched on his head. Dr. Vornoff, you see, has been trying to create a race of "super humans" by bombarding unwilling test subjects with "atom rays". Unfortunately, all of the doctor's previous "volunteers" have expired. Will Jake be any different? Uh, no. After Dr. Vornoff flips some switches and Jake screams bloody murder, the doctor checks his patent's pulse; Jake is dead. D'oh! Vornoff sighs a heavy sigh and tosses the poor hunter's body to his pet octopus for a midnight snack. Back to the drawing board!

OK, who would instruct an actor to pound on the front door of a supposedly abandoned house? Who would have an octopus, a deep sea critter, living in a swamp? And who would have Bela Lugosi play a mad scientist?

Ed Wood, that's who!

Director Ed Wood (in a favorite angora sweater) relaxes between takes.

Hello and welcome movie lovers to the wonderful, funderful world of "Bride of the Monster", an anti-nuke horror flick, written, produced and directed by Ed D. Wood, Jr, a true giant in the Junk Cinema Pantheon of Celluloid Suck.

 Released in 1955 and partially financed by a generous contribution from a wealthy Baptist businessman, "Bride of the Monster" (aka "Bride of the Atom") is Wood's highest budgeted (at $70,000) and best performing film, yet it still showcases all the cheap sets, stiff-as-starch acting, nutty special effects and off-the-wall dialogue that earned Ed the Lifetime Achievement Award as the Worst Director of All Time by the Golden Turkey Awards.

When the remains of Mac and Jake found, they bring the death toll around Marsh Lake to 12. This, in turn, snags the attention of Capt. Robbins, played by the full-figured, nine-fingered Harvey B. Dunn. A regular fixture in bad movies, Dunn's other credits include "The Sinister Urge", "Teenagers From Outer Space" and an uncredited role as an extra in the "The Ascot Opening Day" number in "My Fair Lady." As the head of the homicide division, Dunn spends most of his time in his office, reading the paper and fussing over his Tweetie bird. This might explain why so little progress has been made in "The Marsh Lake Murders".

Thank goodness peppy girl reporter Janet Lawton (Loretta King) is on the case! She knows SOMETHING is going on and she's determined to ferret it out.

"OK, let's have the story on Lake Marsh and the monster!" Janet declares, after pushing her way into Capt. Robbins office.

Capt. Robbins (Harvey B. Dunn) and his trusted companion, Tweetie Bird.

"There's no such thing as monsters," Dunn sputters. "This is the 20th century!"

"Don't bet on it!" Janet snaps back.

Besides being a hot shot reporter, Janet is engaged to Sgt. Dick Craig (Tony McCoy), who is also working on the Lake Marsh case--and refusing to cough up any details, either. So Janet announces, "I'll just have to go to Lake Marsh myself!"

"Over my dead body!" fiance' Dick screams.

"That can be arranged!" Janet declares before stomping off.

Hot-shot reporter girl Janet Lawton (Loretta King) wonders if her series on the Lake Marsh murders will earn her a Pulitzer Prize.


No sooner has the dust settled on that confrontation than "Bride of the Monster" introduces us to Prof. Strowski (George Becwar). He presents himself to Robbins and Craig as a tweedy expert on monsters. Our lawmen are a bit suspicious, mostly because Strowski keeps changing his accent...often in mid-sentence. Then he arranges to meet Lt. Craig the next morning so they can check out Lake Marsh together...and totally ditches him! Not good, not good.

It only gets worse.

Peppy Janet does indeed go over to Lake Marsh. Unfortunately, a storm whips up and she smashes her car. Staggering out of the wreckage, Janet screams and faints when she spies a large rubber snake casually draped over some tree limbs. Thank heavens Lobo shows up, although he's more interested in Janet's angora beret than the lady's safety. Eventually Lobo drags Janet off to Dr. Vornoff's lair, where the mad scientist makes her tea. He also decides the reporter girl will make a great mother for his future monsters.

But not right away! Remember Prof. Strowski? He's tramping around Lake Marsh, dressed like Captain Spaulding from "Animal Crackers." He quickly finds Vornoff's house and lets himself in. Turns out Robbins was right to be suspicious of the multi-accented monster expert. He's actually a secret agent from an unnamed Eastern European country on a mission to convince Lugosi to return to the Motherland.

"Dr. Vornoff, I presume?": Prof. Strowski (George Becwar) makes Bela Lugosi an offer he CAN refuse.


Twenty years earlier, Dr. V. was busy conducting experiments on how to make a race of atomic super people. At the time, his home land wasn't too keen on his theories; in fact, the government kicked Vornoff to the curb and he hasn't seen his wife or kid since. Now the powers in charge want the mad doc to come home and share his discoveries with the Mother Land--a change of heart that cuts no ice with Lugosi.

"I was classed as a madman, a charlatan, outlawed in a world which previously honored me as a genius!" Bela bellows. "I will perfect my own race of people! A race of atomic supermen which will conquer the world! Ha, ha, ha, ha!"

Refusing to take no for an answer, Strowski pulls a gun on Vornoff and demands he return to the Mother Land. Vornoff, in turn, sicks Lobo on Strowski, who tosses the spy to their pet octopus...who resembles as very big, very ugly and very slimy bean bag chair. While Strowski screams and flails about, the octopus remains inert, except for one tentacle that feebly sways back and forth...helped along by the unseen crew member who attached the limb to a fishing pole expressly for this purpose.

As our danse macabre totters along, it's clear director Wood is building up to an epic climax, where the forces of good and evil will duke it out for supremacy.

"Take This Job and Shove It!": Lobo reaches the end of his tether with Dr. Vornoff.

First, Dr. Vornoff hypnotizes Janet and puts her in a fancy wedding dress. She's duly strapped to the operating table and a bowl is put on her head. Lugosi then informs his test subject that the procedure he's going to subject her to "hurts just for a moment, but then you will emerge as a woman." Sounds just like losing your virginity, no?

Next, Lt. Craig arrives on the scene, only to be knocked on the noggin by Lobo. He's soon chained to the wall, all the better to watch his fiance' get fried by atomic rays.

Suddenly Lobo has a change of heart and can't bring himself to fry Janet. This upsets Vornoff, who starts whipping Lobo. The long suffering lab assistant decides he's had enough and pounds Vornhoff into pulp. He frees Janet, who, in turn, frees Lt. Craig. The down side? Lobo and Craig get into another fight and Lobo knocks the lawman unconscious, again.

While all this is going on, Capt. Robbins and a clutch of cops arrive at the Willow's place. They poke around upstairs, but basically are pretty ineffectual.

When we return to Dr. V's lab, it's the mad scientist  who is strapped to the operating table, while Janet and her fiance' cower in the corner. Turns out Lobo has been watching Dr. Vornoff VERY CAREFULLY and is now busy turning the dials and flipping the switches necessary to give his boss the shock of his life.

Bela Lugosi in a shocking portrayal.

Unlike the other poor saps subjected to this treatment, Dr. Vornoff (a body double in platform disco shoes) emerges as a "super man", not a stiff. The new and improved Dr. V. then proceeds to beat up Lobo and drag Janet off.  Fortunately, Lt. Craig finally snaps back into consciousness and chases after the duo.

Dr. Vornoff's lab has caught fire, forcing Capt. Robbins et. al. to vacate the premises. Then nerdy cop Kelton notices Lugosi's body double carrying Janet over to Lake Marsh. Everybody hot-foots it over there, guns a-blazin'.

The piece de resistance of "Bride of the Monster" is the film's final moments, where, in a flurry of cross-cut editing, Lt. Craig pushes a boulder the size of Jupiter on to Dr. Vornoff, who rolls down a ravine. Waiting for him down below is--say it isn't so!--the mad scientist's pet octopus, who proceeds to eat Dr. Vornoff for dinner. At that exact same moment, a lightening bolt hits the Willow's place and everything goes up in a mushroom cloud. As Janet and Lt. Craig hug each other tightly, Capt. Robbins wanders over and solemnly proclaims, "He tampered in God's domain."

Was he talking about Dr. Vornoff--or Ed Wood?

"An Octopus's Garden in the Shade": Bela Lugosi has a fatal encounter with his pet octopus.

Ah, Ed Wood.

I read a quote recently that said," The universe isn't made up of atoms. It is made up of tiny stories."

Since "Bride of the Monster" was originally named "Bride of the Atom", that seems a fitting way to end this post.

If you can think of a better one, have at it!


Saturday, December 23, 2017

"The Magnificent Seven" 2016 Or How The West Was Undone

Mr. Washington goes to Rose Creek: Bounty hunter Chisolm wonders what he's gotten himself into. The audience agrees.

Howdy, movie lovers.

The hard workin', God fearin', Bible readin', honest-as-the-day-is-long citizens of Rose Creek have found themselves in a heap o' trouble.

See, a zonked-out robber baron with a Snively Whiplash 'stache named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is intent on driving them off their land. To achieve this, Bogue has employed murder, threats, murder, poison, murder, arson, murder and murder.

Fed up, the beleaguered citizens hold a town meeting in the church, where they vent their frustrations. It's clear they'll get no help from the local law, as Sheriff Harp (Dane Rhodes) is completely in Bogue's hip pocket. Then Bogue suddenly waltzes in, pausing long enough to berate the assembly, torment a child, shoot a few folks and, just for kicks, set fire to the church.

After such a horrific display of bad manners, the citizens of Rose Creek must decide whether they'll stay and fight or leave while they still can.

"Born to be Bad": Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) in one of his more lucid moments.

Brave but bra-less widow Emma (Haley Bennett) makes it clear she intends to fight. However, she realizes her fellow yokel locals will need some help. With her pal Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) in tow, Emma ventures out to find the muscle who will rid her town of Bogue and his squinty-eye, tobacco-chewin' goons for good.

Of course, you know what happens next, because you've seen the Disney-Pixar feature "A Bug's Life". Ha, ha, just kidding! You know what happens next because you've seen "The Seven Samurai", the legendary classic co-written, produced, directed and edited by Akira Kurosawa.You also know what happens next because you've seen 1960's "The Magnificent Seven", an Americanized remake of "The Seven Samurai" and a classic in it's own right. Finally, you know what happens next because you've your ever lasting regret...2016's remake of "The Magnificent Seven", which sucks on toast. Big time.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: Junk Cinema is not ONLY made by earnest yet incompetent amateurs with more dreams than talent, money or brains--although it helps. Seasoned professionals, with unlimited funds, the best technology, an A-list cast and the best catering crews in the world can still conjure up a cinematic suppository even William "One Shot" Beaudine would blanch at.

Alas, that is exactly what director Antoine Fugua has done with "The Magnificent Seven" 2016. Despite corralling the services of Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio, among others, Fugua has created a truly wretched western, which begs the question: Antoine, sweetie, who hurt you?

For right now, though, let's get back to the movie.

Frontier widow Emma (Haley Bennet) takes aim at the baddies who shot her husband, burned her church, kicked her dog and cast her in this movie.

Emma and Teddy Q. find what they need in the form of Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a US Marshal warrant officer (and People magazine's "Sexist Man Alive" for 1997). When widow Emma first pleads her case, Chisolm isn't interested, remarking, "You seek revenge." To which she replies, "I seek righteousness. (Pause.) But I'll take revenge."

This impresses Chisolm, who takes the job. He then briskly goes about recruiting his team: a whiskey guzzlin' Irishman with an eye for the ladies (Chris Pratt); an outlaw named Vasquez (the hunky Manuel Garcia- Rulfo), who has an opening in his otherwise busy schedule; Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke, ex-cuddlemate of Uma Thurman), an old army buddy of Chisolm's who dresses like Buffalo Bill Cody and Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a protege of Goodnight's who has a wicked way with a knife. Later, our happy campers will be joined by tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), who is missing an ear--along with a good chunk of his sanity-- and Native American Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), an expert with a bow-and-arrow who sports impeccable face paint.

No sooner has this motley crew arrived in Rose Creek than they are called upon to do battle with a posse of Bogue's goons. This they do with deliberate skill (and great editing), earning the tense trust of the townspeople.

As Chisolm and his merry men whip the folks of Rose Creek into shape, the guns-for-hire come to know and respect the humble frontier folk--and vice versa. What was suppose to be just another "job" thus takes on unexpected meaning for everybody.

Or so it was in the first two films. In Fuqua's 2016 version, viewers have to assume this for themselves. That's because outside of colorful costumes, personality quirks and ethnic cliches, the hired guns are given no other opportunities to develop and explore their characters. No warnings about how short and miserable the life of a hired gun really is, no impassioned speeches about how bravery isn't always found at the barrel of a gun--scenes which gave the other two films their emotional heft. The exception is Denzel, whose Chisolm is quietly powerful and a natural leader. He also nurses a secret which explains why he took up the cause of Rose Creek. Masterful actor that he is, Washington doesn't reveal this until the very end, giving his performance a pathos and gravity the other actors are denied.

"The Sexiest Hired Guns of 1879": The cast of "The Magnificent Seven" 2016 strike a pose.

The long awaited confrontation between the citizens of Rose Creek and Bogue's army of thugs that is the centerpiece of "The Magnificent Seven" eventually arrives, with the hayseeds doing a right fine job. Trouble is, Bogue, that meanie, has a nasty surprise in the form of a Gatling Gun. Yet our unlikely heroes manage to triumph anyway. Or do they? Four of their buddies are dead. The remaining three will continue to hire themselves out until they either die or quit. Like the haunting refrain in "Desperado", they aren't free; "their prison is walking through this world all alone." As for the citizens of Rose Creek, they have their town back, but at what cost?

 Unlike Kurosawa or John Sturges, director Fuqua doesn't layer any of this into his film, which is a major, major problem. To quote the late, great Roger Ebert, Fuqua knows the words, but not the music. By leaving out the heart and the emotional complexities of the tale, "The Magnificent Seven" 2016 is just a paint-by-numbers exercise in...painting-by-the-numbers.

Now, I know this movie will have it's fans and some will feel discussing it on a blog dedicated to Godzilla movies and hysterical soap operas is unfair. Fine. To defend my decision, I hereby present seven points to buttress my conviction that this movie sucks on toast:

Point One-- When the original film is an influential classic (as "The Seven Samurai" is) and it's 1960 remake is a classic (which "The Magnificent Seven" is), there is no reason on God's green earth to make a third film! It's just that simple.

Point Two--You don't assemble a cast like this and then give them NOTHING to do. It's down right criminal.

"It's Miller Time--All The Time!": Chris Pratt enjoys an early morning nip of liquid encouragement.

Point Three--What  was Mr. Bogue's problem, exactly? Was he a drunk, an opium addict, suffering from a STD, hooked on snuff, experiencing a bowl blockage, battling the flu, or wearing tight under things? His bleary-eyed, sweaty continence and slightly slurred speech hints that something mighty peculiar is going on--why not clue the audience in?

Point Four--Why must the only consequential female in the movie be a budget Jennifer Lawrence who struggles to keep her breasts in her bra?

Point Five--If the hired guns in "The Magnificent Seven" 2016 were thumb-nail portraits at best, the citizens of Rose Creek were cardboard cut-outs. Shouldn't the film have taken the time to introduce us to these people, to explore their plight and show why they were willing to trust their lives to a bunch of mercenaries?

Point Six--It's hinted that Ethan Hawke's character suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome--the operative word here is hinted. Once again, the film completely bungles a chance to give a major character some depth and the plot a chance to explore the toll the life of a hired gun demands. Also, why must the Irishman always be a poetry spouting drunk? I am Irish myself , so, somebody, please, give this cliche' a rest.

Point Seven--If you're going to remake a classic that's a remake of a classic, you better have your cinematic ducks in a row. You cannot coast on the previous films' reputations or the good will of the films many fans. Mr. Fuqua had every opportunity to make an excellent film. If or when he realized he could not bring anything new to this tale, he should have quit. Leaving movie lovers with "The Seven Samurai" and "The Magnificent Seven" is far more noble than presenting those same movie lovers with a watered-down western that wastes their time and money.

"There has got to be a cash machine around here somewhere...": The Magnificent Seven arrive on the scene.

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, a classic film never ages and SAVE THE MOVIES.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

"The Bad Seed" Is Bad To The Bone--So Deal With It!

Sugar and spice and everything nice is not what this little girl is made of: Rhoda Penmark (Patty MacCormack) lays on the charm.

Hi Keebah and hello, movie lovers.

If you and your husband/wife/spouse/partner/significant other/whatever are planning on having a baby any time soon, please, PLEASE! watch 1956's "The Bad Seed" first. Even if you and your husband/wife/spouse/partner/significant other/whatever aren't planning on having a baby anytime soon, you should still watch 1956's "The Bad Seed."

Based on Maxwell Anderson's hit Broadway play (which was based on William March's hit novel), "The Bad Seed" is the Grand Dame of devil baby movies, a Junk Cinema genre where everyone from Mia Farrow to Joan Collins must face the fact that their little bundle of joy is in fact a nasty, blood thirsty, evil hell-beast.

The centerpiece of "The Bad Seed" is Rhoda Penmark (Patty MacCormick), a pig-tailed paragon of perfection who is twisted enough to freak out Hannibal Lector.

Whatever Rhoda wants, Rhoda gets, even if it means offing people in some pretty gruesome ways.

"My future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!": Rhoda shows off the lighter side of being a  sociopath.
Such as?

When an elderly neighbor hints that Rhoda will be left something fancy in her will, the old dear soon trips down a flight of stairs and breaks her neck.

Later, after a doltish handyman taunts Rhoda about the police coming to put her in the electric chair ("They got a little blue chair for little boys and a little pink chair for little girls!"), Rhoda sets him on fire while he's taking a nap.

Perhaps Rhoda's most unfortunate victim is Claude Daigle, a fellow student at her pricey private school. He had the nerve to win the penmanship medal Rhoda felt was hers. When the nerdy Claude refused to hand over the medal, Rhoda stalked him at the end-of-term picnic. Cajolery and threats failing to do the trick, Rhoda pounds on Claude with her shoe until he forks over the medal. She then chases poor Claude to near-by wharf where he drowns.

Rhoda's mom Christine (Nancy Kelly) is a posh housewife who vacuums in her pearls. However, even she is forced to admit that her beyond-perfect Rhoda isn't your typical kid: "There is a mature quality about her that is disturbing in a child."

Christine Penmark (Nancy Kelly) wonders why people die whenever her daughter is around.

No kidding! Is that why none of the other kids will play with her and she's eventually kicked out of her posh school?

The death of Claude and Rhoda's no-skin-off-my-nose reaction starts to unnerve Christine; in fact, she soon realizes wherever Rhoda goes, bodies start piling up. Then Rhoda lets it slip that she never dreams at night or "feels anything." Does this suggest Rhoda maybe disturbed in some way?

Oh, and another thing: doting mom Christine has been having these weird flashbacks about her own childhood. After she presses her dad for answers, Christine learns that she was adopted. That's fine-- until the gal learns her birth mother was Bessie Denker, a sweet-faced serial killer who dispatched her victims in ways granddaughter Rhoda would admire. Seeking reassurance that Rhoda is just, you know, maybe, going through a phase, Christine asks writer Reggie Tasker (Gage Clark) if kids born to killers can be saved by "by nice family surroundings and advantages".  He's not very encouraging: "They're just bad seeds. Plain bad from the beginning and nothing can change them."


Horrified that she's responsible for transferring "the bad seed" gene to her kid ("Poor deformed children, born without pity!" mom wails), Christine decides that the only thing to do is give Rhoda an over-dose of "vitamins" (actually sleeping pills) and then shoot herself. After all, if the police found out about Rhoda's crimes, they'd arrest her, lock her up in a mental ward, probe her psyche, experiment on her--and what would the neighbors say?! It was the the 1950's, remember, and people cared very much about their reputations back then. If word got out their daughter was a sociopath, the Penmark's would never be allowed to join any decent country club.

"I like you, mommy. That's why I'm going to kill you last."

Now, this is pretty intense stuff, especially for 1956. But have no fear. The Motion Picture Production Code wasn't about to let "The Bad Seed" go that far. Instead, director/producer Mervyn LeRoy had Christine survive her gunshot wounds. Rhoda also survives her "vitamin" over-dose, but she isn't spared--unlike the play, where mom dies and Rhoda lives. Instead, Rhoda sneaks out of her flat on "a dark and stormy night" to retrieve Claude's medal, which ma Christine found and returned to the wharf. While she's fishing the trinket out of the water, Rhoda is struck by lightening and instantly killed.

Karma, get it?

But that's not all! Two seconds later, the whole cast reappears and takes a bow. Then Kelly grabs MacCormick and gives her a spanking--as if to reassure the audience, "Hey, this was only movie!"

Thanks for reminding us!

I know "The Bad Seed" has its fans. It was a big hit at the box office and earned its principal stars Oscar nominations. But that doesn't mean that the flick can't be bad. Consider these points, if you will:

Leroy the handyman isn't nearly as scary as Rhoda Penmark.

*Nancy Kelly, as Rhoda's horrified mom, spends the entire movie either on the verge of a nervous breakdown or wetting her pants. You can appreciate her anguish, but after a while you start hoping someone will tell her to get a grip and call the police--at least take a chill pill.

*With her bone-white pigtails, frilly dresses and perfectly plucked brows, Patty MacCormack looks like she wandered off the set of "Children of the Damned". Even for the prissy '50's, Rhoda is such an over-the-top caricature of "a good little girl" that it's hard to believe people didn't think she was off her dot sooner than they did.

*Also in typical '50's fashion, the movie implies that the mothers are really to blame for all this mess. Christine's birth mother, Bessie Denker, was a serial killer. Christine, in turn, not only passed "the bad seed" on to her own kid--as if she had any control over that--she's guilty of trying cover up her child's crimes. Claude Daigle's mom (played by Eileen Heckart) is a smothering hysteric the flick hints was turning the kid into a wimp. The Penmark's landlady Monica is an annoying busybody who drops in anytime day or night. Finally, the head mistress Miss Fern at Rhoda's school is a hyper-rigid old maid who looks as if she was weaned on a pickle (to quote Alice Roosevelt). Looked at objectively from the distance of 61 years, this movie really hates women.

* And the men aren't any better! Christine's hubby is away on a business trip during these murderous events; Mr. Daigle (played by Frank Cady, best known as Sam the grocer in "Petticoat Junction") is clearly a hen-pecked husband; Christine's father, a respected journalist, won't even admit he knew his daughter's birth mother was a killer--he even threw away his research that proved it! None of them are any help.

*Then there is Henry Jones as Leroy the handyman. Landlady Monica admits that he's lazy and "mentally deficient", but somehow he managed to have kids, so she keeps him on the payroll. Is that a subtle hint that only people with certain IQs should be allowed to have kids? Or a dig about society's preconceptions over who makes the best parents? Author William March was single and childless himself, so maybe he wasn't the best person to write on this subject.

Even prissy Miss Fern is afraid of Rhoda.

In the final analysis, "The Bad Seed" is a preposterously bad movie that has long pretended to be a good movie, even a horror classic. However, just because a movie is a hit and earns itself some Oscar nominations doesn't mean it's good. Elizabeth Taylor won her first Best Actress Oscar playing an annoying, grating hooker/model in an otherwise crummy film ("Butterfield 8"). Irene Cara won an Oscar for writing the theme to "Flashdance", for pete's sake. Like little Rhoda herself, "The Bad Seed" has been pretending for far too long.

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, don't judge a novel by its movie version, and, of course, SAVE THE MOVIES.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Land Of The Pharaohs" Is A Real Pyramid Scheme

"Land of the Pharaohs" German movie poster. As I've always said, "Trash is the universal language!"

Welcome, movie lovers.

I have a question for you.

How bad can a movie be if William Faulkner writes the script and Howard Hawks directs?

Bad. Very, very bad.

"Land of the Pharaohs" (1955) is a big, gaudy, silly, occasionally ponderous soap opera (in CinemaScope!) where the actors behave less like historical personages and more like participants in a hormone experiment.

Jack Hawkins is Egypt's mightiest pharaoh and most demanding client.

"The barbarous love that left Egypt's great pyramid as it's wondrous landmark!" screamed the movie's ads. "The world of  (a) king...crashing to bits on the soft lips of (a) concubine for whom the seven sins were not enough!"

See what I mean?

And what Hollywood hotsy-totsy would be playing this ancient Egyptian bad girl? Lana Turner? Ava Gardner? Vera Vague?

How about a 22-year old contract player (and Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts student) named Joan Collins, future star of "Dynasty" and Dame of the British Empire?

As the female lead in "Land of the Pharaohs", Joan sashays around like the diva she is, flaring her nostrils, arching her eyebrows, hissing like a snake and chewing the Grade A-fat with gusto. She's not only the movie's liveliest character, she appears to be the only one having any fun. Too bad she doesn't arrive on the scene until about 45 minutes into the picture.

The lead float in the Rose Bowl Parade? Nope, it's just Pharaoh Khufu vising the building site of his super pyramid.

Until then, viewers must make do with the gravel-voiced Jack Hawkins as Egypt's mightiest pharaoh, Khufu. Sure, he's rich and all-powerful, but is he satisfied? Of course not! All the pharaoh can do is obsess about building the world's greatest pyramid and stocking it with the world's greatest assortment of treasure, thus ensuring that his "after life" will be as lavish and comfy as his current one.

To achieve this, pharaoh strong arms various architects, builders, masons and slaves to toil away on his dream project. "Land of the Pharaohs" thus crawls at a snail's pace while Hawkins endlessly dickers with his staff over design plans, materials and safety features. He even complains about the sand. "Why can't we do away with the desert?!" Hawkins sputters. After enduring these tiresome vignettes, you begin think you've stumbled onto the most contentious "Property Brothers" episode ever.

Anyway, constructing the world's greatest pyramid doesn't come cheap, so the pharaoh demands various "tributes" from the lands he presides over. This, in turn, puts a considerable crimp on the already over-extended local populations responsible for these "tributes". This is when Joan shows up.

She's Princess Nellifer, ambassador from Cypress. Her initial introduction to the pharaoh and his court doesn't go well. See, when Nellifer's name is called, she's reapplying her lipstick and makes everyone wait. Then she declares that the "tribute" demanded of Cypress is too great--so her father has sent her as the replacement.

This cuts no ice with the pharaoh, who insists that Cypress fork over its assigned "tribute" AND allow him to keep Nellifer. Joan boldly tells Hawkins he can have one or the other, but NOT both. Unaccustomed to any back talk, pharaoh orders Joan to be whipped.

Joan Collins as Princess Nellifer, dressed to excess.

Bloodied but but unbowed, Joan is later dragged back to face Hawkins. "Education is painful, isn't it?" the pharaoh sneers. In response, Nellifer bites the king and seethes, "Don't ever touch me again!"

Despite their mutual antipathy, the pharaoh and the princess have a certain "chemistry" and soon all is forgotten. In fact, the pharaoh decides to marry Joan and make her his second string wife. This makes Nellifer pleased as punch--especially when she tours hubby's super deluxe pyramid and gets a gander at his golden goodies.

Boy, could Nellifer make use of all that treasure!

However, Hawkins makes it perfectly clear that the treasure glittering before wife number two is strictly for HIS benefit and no one else's. Hands off!

It's going to take more than a stern warning from Hawkins to keep Nellifer from getting what she wants. Eventually she realizes that the easiest path to the pharaoh's treasure is through his first wife and their pesky kid.

"I own this and this and this": Pharaoh Khufu believes in buying in bulk.

So Joan plays besties wife #1 and presents the heir to the throne with a cute flute. She even teaches him to play a sprightly tune...with attracts cobras. One evening junior is busy playing away and a nasty cobra slithers out from under the bushes. Luckily mom sees the snake and throws herself on top of it.

It's never explained if junior dies, too, but he disappears from the rest of the movie, so I guess that means he did. Or he went to camp. I don't know.

Now upgraded to #1 wife status, Nellifer begins working her wiles on palace flunky Treneh (Sydney Chaplin). Inviting him to her private chambers, Joan pours them wine and pouts about how even queens "can get lonely, too." As the screen goes dark, it's clear that Treneh will make sure this queen is never lonely again.

Totally besotted with Joan, Treneh is never the less horrified when she urges him to kill the pharaoh. He refuses, but Joan uses the old "You'd do it if you loved me..." line that never fails anyone, especially in movies like this. To make a very long story short, Nellifer sends her servant to kill the pharaoh, but he totally gums up the works, which really annoys Hawkins. Then the pharaoh stumbles into his wife's boudoir and over hears Nellifer and Treneh bickering over the bungled assassination attempt. That, in turn, sparks a sword fight between the two men which doesn't end well...for them.

Now elevated to queen in her own right, Nellifer proudly strolls into her late hubby's super deluxe pyramid, which features more glint and gold than Trump Tower. It's all hers now--or so she thinks. That's because palace aide to the pharaoh has a sneaky surprise in store for Queen Nellifer, which gives new meaning to the phrase "Always have an exit strategy."

Nellifer and her patsy Treneh (Sydney Chaplin) strike a pose.

Oh, before I forget, there is a subplot in "Land of the Pharaohs" about a builder named Vashtar (James Robertson Justice) and his son Senta (the heavily pompadoured Dewey Martin). They are promised their freedom once the pyramid is built; however, as the project drags on (much like the movie) Senta gets increasingly irritated (much like the audience) that their promised deliverence may never come. Worse, pop is slowly losing his eyesight. Will he finish the pyramid before he goes blind? Will he live long enough to experience freedom? Unfortunately, the Vahtar and Senta part isn't as much fun as Joan flaring her nostrils and snorting like a dragon, so I decided not to dwell on it. You can watch it yourself, though.

After enduring such a vast slog like "Land of the Pharaohs", sensitive viewers will be left with a few questions, such as:

*How come Dewey Martin can show his belly button, but Joan Collins couldn't?

*How come Joan appears to have endured the world's worst spray tan?

*How come all the good, noble people in this movie are boring old sticks and the only person with any pep is the villain?

"Navel Gazing": Dewey Martin's belly button peeks out to say hello.

*How could a movie written by William Faulkner and directed by Howard Hawks be so bad?

As I have often said, Junk Cinema isn't only made by earnest yet incompetent amateurs with little money and less talent--although it helps. Seasoned  professionals given scads of cash and the best of everything can--and often do--create cinematic stinkers that would make Coleman Francis or Ed Wood blush.

"Land of the Pharaohs" is proof of that. So is "One from the Heart", "The Great Gatsby", "Heaven's Gate", "1941" , "Town and Country" and countless other "A List" projects.

Despite a hefty (for the day) $6 million budget, "Land of the Pharaohs" only made back a third of its investment for Warner Brothers. The flick ended up being Howard Hawks' first commercial failure and he was so bummed out that he wouldn't make another movie until 1959's "Rio Lobo". Nobel Laureate Faulkner, meanwhile, admitted that his script tanked because he tried to make an Egyptian pharaoh "sound like a Kentucky colonel." And it turns out that watching a pyramid being built is about as exciting to movie-goers as sitting in traffic on a hot day with the AC on the fritz.

The only winner here--besides bad movie fanatics-- is Joan Collins as vamp camp tramp Princess Nellifer. In fact, Joan would play a variety of versions of Nellifer throughout her career, reaching her zenith on "Dynasty" as Alexis Carrington. After a long dry spell career-wise, watching Joan strut through the various Carrington properties, biting the heads off hapless co-stars and wearing designer duds with should pads that would allow her to play tackle football, brings back fond memories of her performance in "Land of the Pharaohs". Although it was Pharaoh Khufu who dreamed of immortality, it was Princess Nellifer who proved to be least for Joan Collins.

"Who's That Girl?": Princess Nellifer is ancient Egypt's answer to Alexis Carrington. Or is it the other way around?

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, nations rise and fall, money comes and goes, love fades and fame is fickle. But bad movies never die--SO SAVE THEM!

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