Saturday, October 21, 2017

If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch...Or, Rather, Please Read...



"You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover": HRH  is an unexpected royal hoot.

Hi Keebah and hello, movie lovers.

Are you in a funk? Has your "get up and go" gone up and went? Does the daily news make you want to alternately pull your hair out, sob hysterically or pray desperately? Do you feel your life is like a car stuck on a highway off-ramp, forever waiting to merge?

You're not alone. Junk Cinema understands life has a way of kicking you in the shins, the gut, the head and the hinder all at the same time. That's why this blog features a semi-regular feature called "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch...", which recommends a cinematic solution to lift your mood.

Only this time around, "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch..." has been temporarily renamed "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Read...HRH by Danielle Steel."

I stumbled upon this book when I was sick and it was so bat-shit crazy, I couldn't let it pass.



HRH Princess Christianna is just about as perfect as a princess could be.

Danielle Steel is one of the world's best-selling romance novelists. She's also a wonderfully terrible writer whose prose stylings and/or musings are so bad you will be shooting whole popcorn kernels through your nose with laughter.

Now, I know romance novels aren't known for their realism, but it's hard to believe even the most HOPELESS romantic could possibly stomach the sheer nuttiness that enfolds in this novel.

So, without further ado, let's begin HRH. 

HRH Christianna is the daughter of HRH Hans-Josef, the Prince of Liechtenstein. She's a delicate blond who is pretty, gracious, elegant, well-mannered, multi-lingual, smart, articulate, gentle, thoughtful, kind, responsible, dutiful, warm, generous, down to earth, a hard worker, a snappy dresser and completely and totally unsnobbish.

How do I know this? Because author Steel can't help but mention her heroine's fine qualities every chance she gets. If, by the time you have finish the book, you are not convinced that Christianna is just so darn wonderful, then author Steel has clearly failed to do her job. Or you are just a mean, mean person with a big black void where your heart should be.


If you don't think Princess Christianna is darling and wonderful, then you are a cold, evil, heartless person who will die alone.

As the novel begins, Christianna has just graduated from UC/Berkeley and, as Steel writes over and over and over again, she misses Berkeley. Oh, how she misses her time studying at Berkeley. The princess lived there in relative anonymity, in a small apartment with two bodyguards. The college administration kept her true identity secret and nobody, not even her friends, knew she was a royal and Christianna just LOVED that. In fact, Christianna was so quiet and private during her time at Berkeley that she only appeared in People magazine once--at a "football game with her British cousins." ( Could those "British cousins" be the ones who reside in Buckingham Palace? Of course! Christianna is "related to all the major house in Europe.") Oh, and she was featured on the cover of Town and Country magazine in a ball gown, but that was the extent of it.

 Now Christianna is back in the principality and she is just totally bummed. Her days are filled with endless ribbon cuttings and tree plantings and hand shaking. When Christianna isn't doing all THAT, she's touring hospitals, visiting the elderly, reading to the blind and attending dull-as-dishwasher diplomatic dinners. Her older brother Frederick is the Crown Prince, the heir to the throne, but he's just a jerk playboy too busy bedding supermodels to help out.

What's more, Christianna's late mother (who died of cancer) extracted a promise from her princely hubby that their daughter would ONLY marry a royal. No commoners. It must be a royal or, in a pinch, an aristocrat, no lower than an Earl. Dad has steadfastly hued to this promise, which means poor Christianna can't even fall in love! Her whole life is planned out for her! What a drag!

See what I mean about Christianna's life sucking? It's just one parade of suckiness and there seems to be nothing she can do about it. Or can she?

After yet another round of ribbon cutting and hand shaking (which HRH performs with grace and loveliness and charm), our plucky heroine decides to plow through the suckiness. She knows there is more to life than wearing impeccable Chanel suits and popping out babies for her future royal spouse. Christianna wants to use her position to make life better for her fellow human beings. So she wrangles herself a stint as a Red Cross volunteer in Russia during a hostage crisis. Her identity kept secret (and with two body guards in tow), Christianna spends three days handing out water bottles and coffee, blankets and sandwiches, does a bit of translating and hugs and comforts the grieving families. When the crisis is over, the head of the Red Cross station tells Christianna "she has a gift" and encourages her to work for the Red Cross. The princess thus returns to the principality determined to strike out on her own.


"Deck the Halls? My Aunt Fanny!": Princess Christianna finds her royal duties taxing even at Christmas time.

Dad Hans Josef, fed up with his daughter's endless nagging, finally agrees to let her work for the Red Cross in Africa in an AIDS clinic for six months. After that, all bets are off and Christianna must become a full-time royal in service of the principality. 

Accompanied by two body guards (Max and Sam), Christianna, now called Cricky, heads off to Eritrea, in East Africa--although, it should be noted, that HRH flies in First Class, while her body guards languish in Business Class, proving there are perks even royals anxious to experience "ordinary life" won't give up. "Still looking fresh and beautiful after her long trip", Cricky meets her fellow Red Cross workers, who are some of the happiest, nicest, most selfless people ever to set foot on planet Earth. Soon enough, our under-cover royal has seamlessly meshed with her colleagues and is doing all her assigned tasks perfectly; Cricky even arranges hand-picked bouquets of wild flowers around the clinic and hospital to cheer the patients up. 

Unfortunately, there is one member of the Red Cross staff who doesn't like Cricky: a sour-puss French gal named Laure. How could anyone not like Cricky?! I mean, everybody else in the clinic agreed that "she was grace itself."  Turns out the poor dear was suffering from a broken heart. Her fiance left her at the alter and ran off with her maid-of-honor, who also happened to be pregnant with his baby. Cricky looks a bit like Laure's two-timing friend, so that might have made things tense. Yet, despite the rebuffs and scowls, Cricky reaches out to Laure and they eventually become friends. Once Cicky earns Laure's trust, and the French woman chokes out her tale of rejection and deceit, HRH offers her this bit of heart-felt wisdom: "All I can say about them is 'That sucks'."

Amen.

HRH is a romance novel, remember, so author Steel quickly arranges for a Dr. McDreamy to arrive on the scene so Cricky can experience some sexual healing of her own. His name is Parker and he works for Doctors Without Borders. In Africa, the cuddlemates are allowed the luxury of falling in love and having safe, tasteful sex in privacy, but their love is doomed. Soon enough, Cricky will have to tell Parker the truth and return to Liechtenstein. There is no way her father will allow her to marry a doctor from Boston--even a rich and handsome one!--because he promised her late mother only a royal for their daughter. That sucks!


"Calling Dr. McDreamy, STAT!": Can a princess find true love with a doctor? If he looks like this guy, sure!

The royal shit eventually hits the fan when pesky paparazzi spot Cricky and Parker exiting a fancy hotel arm and arm. The photogs were originally there to stake out Madonna. However, the Material Girl never materialized, allowing HRH and Dr. McDreamy to innocently stumble onto the scene. Pictures of the cuddlemates are splashed all over The Daily Mail and now the whole world knows Christianna has a secret love. D'oh!

However, HRH's problems aren't over yet. In quick succession, her father gives a speech at the UN (or somewhere) that riles up a terrorist group, who install a bomb in big brother Frederick's fancy new sports car. The two princes go for a spin and are instantly killed. Liechtenstein does not allow for women to reign (they only got the vote in 1984) and the search for the principality's new leader moves into full swing panic mode. Who could ever replace Hans Josef?!

How about Christianna? To our heroine's surprise and shock, the nation's leaders believe she has all the qualities necessary to (symbolically) govern the principality. Why not give it a shot? HRH thinks about it and the once reluctant royal decides to mount the throne, so to speak.

The best part about becoming the Leading Lady of Liechtenstein is that Christianna can do away with her late father's "royal only" hubby decree and make it legal with Parker. She, Christianna, will do the ribbon cutting, while he, Parker, will continue to practice medicine and search for cures to tropical diseases. As Parker himself reflects at the end of HRH, "It still seemed like a fairy tale to him. He had fallen in love with a girl in braids and hiking boots in Africa. She turned out to be a princess who lived in a castle, and now the princess was his, and always would be. The story even had a fairy tale ending. And they lived happily ever after, he thought to himself, and grinned. And in the castle, the princess was smiling, too."

Now, I don't want to burst anyone's romantic bubble...OK, I do...but the chances of Christianna and Parker having a happy marriage are pretty slim. After all, Princess Margaret married commoner Anthony Armstrong-Jones and they got divorced. Prince Andrew married commoner Sarah Ferguson and they got divorced. Princess Anne married commoner Mark Philips and they got divorced. Prince Joachim of Denmark married a commoner and they got divorced. The prince later married another commoner, but they seem pretty happy. Just recently a prince in Luxembourg announced he was getting a divorce from a gal named Tessy, who is, you guessed it, a commoner. Author Steel has yet to write a sequel to HRH, so we'll never know if this royal/commoner match-up stood to the test time.


Will HRH Christianna and plain old Parker live happily ever after? Author Steele doesn't tell us (maybe that's a hint).

Of course, the over-riding reason I chose to spotlight HRH wasn't because of romantic complications, but the sheer unintentional nuttiness of Steele's writing. Here are a few of my favorite gems, written with brow-knitting seriousness by Danielle:

"Christianna had done everything she could to look plain."

"Together they were a force greater than the sum of their parts that could not be ignored or denied."

"It is about duty. honor and courage. Not about love...

"My God, that's sick," (Parker) said, looking outraged."

And the grand prize winner: "My heart is a virgin."

So movie lovers (and book lovers), please take stock. Your life may not be a bowl of cherries right now, but, given time, things will improve. If Danielle Steel can write a book about a princess who says stuff like "My heart is a virgin", and then goes on to publish even more purple prose, there is hope for all us.

And please SAVE THE MOVIES, too.



Countless innocent trees gave their lives so Danielle Steel (pictured here) could publish her books. Oh the humanity!



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Beverly Garland Rides The Range (With A Little Help From Roger Corman) In "Gunslinger"



 Graphics from opening credits of Roger Corman's wacky western "Gunslinger".

Morning dawns bright and early in Oracle, Texas. Birds are chirping and clouds are parting. Making her way to the sheriff's office is Rose Hood (Beverly Garland), happily delivering breakfast to her lawman hubby Scott (veteran character actor William Schallert). While the couple quietly discuss the events of the day, shots suddenly ring out and the sheriff falls to the floor. Rose quickly grabs a gun and gives chase, but the baddies ride away. Returning to her husband's side, Rose puts her head in her hands when she realizes he's dead.

What's a gal to do?

If that gal is Beverly Garland, she'll pin on her fallen husband's sheriff badge and bring her husband's killers to justice herself!

Welcome to "Gunslinger" (1956), a wild and woolly take on how the west was won, according to America's premiere "Budget Gourmet" filmmaker Roger Corman.

Utilizing four sets (which you might recognize from "The Undead"), employing his usual stock company of actors and shooting the entire thing in six days, "Gunslinger" is a tangled tale of revenge, ill-fated love, land speculation, murder-for-hire and a rowdy saloon that refuses to obey the curfew law. Anchoring the whole shootin' match is Beverly Garland, the blondest sheriff in the west.


 "She's the Sheriff": Beverly Garland as Rose Hood.

Although Mayor Polk (Martin Kingsley) has sent for "legendary lawman Sam Bass" to be Oracle's new sheriff, the widowed Rose feels his arrival will be too late to find her husband's killers. When all the able menfolk in town refuse to be sheriff in the interim, Rose takes the job.

"I think it's a wonderful idea!" meows Erica Paige (Allison Hays), owner of the randy Red Dog Saloon, which refuses to obey the curfew law. "Oracle will be the hit of the western dime novels! And what bad man would shoot a lady?!"

Meanwhile, Rose's dumber-than-dirt deputy Joshua (Chris Alcaide) has other worries.

"I reckon people won't think it proper for a new widow to go around in pants, even if they are black," he frets.

"Ever see a peace officer in a corset?" Rose replies, before adding, "Come on, Joshua! Let's start enforcing the law!"


"Closing Time": Rose Hood and Erica Paige (Allison Hays) disagree on how late the Red Dog saloon should stay open.

Their first stop is the Red Dog Saloon, the local dive where Erica Paige holds court. On this particular evening, Little Man (Jonathan Haze), Erica's devoted but demented lackey, is tending bar while a bevy of chorus girls shimmy for the excited male patrons. Meanwhile, Mayor Polk is playing cards and regaling his chums with stories about fighting alongside Bedford Forest. All this frenetic merrymaking comes to a screeching halt when sheriff Rose and deputy Joshua enter.

After reminding everyone Oracle has a 3 PM curfew law, Rose instructs Erica, "Empty your house and put out the lights."

"Put 'em out yourself!" Erica defiantly sniffs.

So Rose shoots out one of Erica's lights, which touches off a raucous hair pulling, chair smashing, table collapsing, face slapping fight between the sheriff and the saloon diva. Not to be left out, deputy Joshua and Little Man (also known as Jake) trade punches before the doughy Joshua throws Little Man over the saloon bar. Rose then levels Erica with a nasty right hook. While the stunned patrons look on, Rose barks, "Everybody who can walk get out!"

From then on, the Red Dog Saloon closes promptly at 3 PM, no questions asked.


Erica Paige and Sheriff Rose Hood come to blows over Erica's freewheeling management style.

While Little Man massages Erica's sore neck, the saloon diva decides she needs to take Rose out. So she sends her highly excitable lackey off to find a hired gun to do the job. In the meantime, Rose is busy cleaning up Oracle, busting bank robbers, detaining drunks and even ordering the Red Dog's showgirls out of town (they constitute "an immoral influence" on the town's young people). Law and order may have made Oracle safe for decent people, but it sure is dull for everybody else.

Then Mayor Polk waddles into into the Red Dog (after closing time, of course) to chat with Erica. In one of the "Gunslinger"s may sub-plots, the rail road is thinking of building a depot in town. Nobody knows for sure, of course, but that hasn't stopped crafty Erica  from buying up tracks of land--from owners who later wind up dead. Turns out Erica's property is where the railroad would lay its tracks. Mayor Polk cautions Erica that her tactics are "the height of speculative gambling" (and illegal).

"You're brilliant," she yawns.

The mayor also points out that the people of Oracle "won't take too kindly" to a saloon gal cleaning up from such dirty dealings.

"Sometimes I lay awake two or three seconds thinking about it," Erica sneers.


"I have a head for business and a bod for sin": Erica explains how to make a killing in real estate to Mayor Polk (hint: knock-off your competition).

Now, remember, the hired gun Erica sent Little Man to find? He arrives in the strutting form of Cane Muro (John Ireland). Before he and Erica agree to terms, Cane and Rose meet on the outskirts of Oracle, where Rose is tracking a baddie. The two hit it off and begin a tentative romance that is only slightly hampered by the fact that Cane has been hired to kill Rose.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Cane and Erica were once an item? Or that Cane only took the job to bump off Rose because it would lead him to Mayor Polk? Or that Cane blames the mayor for the death of his brothers and the loss of the Civil War? Or that Cane really wants to kill Mayor Polk and not Rose? And that the conflict between what he wants to do and what he's been hired to do is driving Cane to drink?

Are you keeping all this straight?

As a rule, westerns usually end with a big shoot out and "Gunslinger" does not disappoint. However, our featured flick may be the western in the history of the universe where an entire town is nearly killed. See if you can follow along:

Erica and Cane get up bright and early one morning to meet the Pony Express rider who is carrying the official document that states if the railroad is coming to Oracle. It's not. In a fit of pique, Erica shoots the rider. Then she and Cane head back to town.



"Partners in Crime": Cane Muro (John Ireland) and Erica prepare for a shoot-out.

Cane has declared his intention to shoot Mayor Polk, but the poor fellow has no gun at the moment. So the mayor's wife goes off to find him one. Instead, she returns with a pitchfork and is promptly shot dead. Cane then shoots to mayor, who finds a pitchfork little use against a gun.

On the streets of Oracle, Erica hunts down and is about to shoot Rose, but Cane shoots Erica instead. He then hops on his horse and heads to Nine Mile Canyon, with Rose in hot pursuit.

Hunkered down on opposite sides of the canyon, Rose and Cane shoot at each other, stopping long enough to reload and discuss their relationship.

"Was it a two-way thing?" Cane asks.

"Yes, it was a two-way thing," Rose reassures Cane, before she blows his brains out.


Ill-fated cuddlemates Rose and Cane.

Isn't it a total bummer when you meet a nice guy and you think 'maybe this will work out' and he turns out to be a hired gun sent to kill you? Don't you hate that?

The heartbroken Rose eventually drags Cane's body back to town. She tells deputy Joshua she's leaving, pronto, and asks him to put her trunks on the next stage coach. As Rose rides off into the sunset, Sam Bass arrives in town, marveling at how quiet--dead quiet--Oracle is.

The final body count: Sheriff Scott Hood? Dead. Mayor Polk? Dead. Mrs. Polk? Dead. Little Man? Dead. The Pony Express rider? Dead. Cane Muro? Dead. Erica Paige? Dead. The show girls? Relocated, but still alive. Rose Hood? Heartbroken, but still alive, too.

Whew!

If you think the plot of "Gunslinger" sounds ridiculous and convoluted, that's because it is ridiculous and convoluted. However, the one thing this lump of Corman corn pone has in its favor is Beverly Garland.


Her work done, Sheriff Rose Hood decides to get out of Dodge (actually, Oracle).

As Sheriff Rose Hood, Bev is smart, capable and strong.She never buckles. Even in her love for Cane Muro, Rose knows the score. "You aren't bad," Rose tells him at one point. "You're just no good." Later, on the eve of their big shoot out, Rose informs Cane, "We're sworn enemies, you and I, and all the moonlight in heaven can't change that."

See, Rose has sworn to hold up the law. If that means gunning down her boyfriend, so be it. It won't be easy, but Rose Hood will do what's right, case closed.

Bev showed just as much grit behind the scenes of "Gunslinger" as she did on. When she was required to jump on her horse, Bev over-shot her mark and wrenched her ankle. The ankle swelled up, forcing the prop man to cut her boot apart and tape Bev's foot inside the shoe. Once shooting was done, Bev couldn't walk for two weeks.

The scene with Cane and Rose whispering sweet nothings in a tree also proved problematic. The scene was shot a six in the morning and, according to Beverly Garland, it was so cold she and John Ireland's teeth started to chatter. What's more, the tree was home to a nest of Fire Ants, who proceeded to bite and sting the actors throughout their takes. But troupers Bev and John made it work!

Although Roger Corman never met a shooting schedule he found too short, the director had a real reason to get "Gunslinger" in the can in six days. New union rules were about to go into effect that would have required actors to have a mandatory day off after five days of shooting. Cost cutting Corman, therefore, wanted his latest production finished before this happened. That meant filming went on despite rain, Fire Ants, mud, obvious tire tracks, Bev's swollen ankle and Allison Hays' broken arm (she fell off her horse, too).


Little Man (Jonathan Haze) and Rose engage in a staring contest.

Until next time movie lovers, please always remember that while it took our Lord God seven days to make the Earth and the Heavens, it only took Roger Corman six days to make a full length western. And please help me to SAVE THE MOVIES, too.









Sunday, August 27, 2017

Size Matters In "War Of The Colossal Beast"


"Nuclear fallout makes you ugly": The unfortunate Glenn Manning in the unfortunate not-quite-a-sequel sequel "War of the Colossal Beast."

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the Amazing Colossal Man!

Who?

You mean you haven't heard of Glenn Manning, the Amazing Colossal Man? And you haven't seen "The Amazing Colossal Man", directed and produced by Junk Cinema's "Mr. Big" himself, Bert I. Gordon?

Good for you! "The Amazing Colossal Man" is a horrible movie. But that didn't stop Bert I. from writing, producing and directing a sequel titled "War of the Colossal Beast"(1958), which, by strange coincidence, is also a horrible movie!

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Why is the sequel to 'The Amazing Colossal Man' called 'War of the Colossal Beast'?" Well, Bert I. wanted to do a sequel that wouldn't appear to be a sequel. So he gave his movie a different title, hoping people wouldn't realize it was a sequel...until it was too late. Then he hired a different actor to play Col. Glenn Manning, the poor guy caught in an atomic bomb blast who shoots up 60 feet. Director Gordon had this actor plastered in ugly make-up, hoping that by doing so the audience wouldn't realize a different fellow was playing Glenn...until it was too late. That's why "War of the Colossal Beast" is called "War of the Colossal Beast" and not "The Amazing Colossal Man: Bigger, Badder and Balder Than Ever". Everybody understand? Good. Let's move on.


"I'm huge!": Dean Parkin strikes a pose as Glenn Manning, the amazing colossal man turned colossal beast. 

It's a bright sunny day near the Mexican/United States border and a delivery truck is flying along at a break-neck pace. The driver is a young man named Miguel and he's terrified out of his wits. Suddenly his truck crashes and Miguel stumbles from the wreckage. Then he screams and faints as the scene fades to black...

Several days later, hard-charging John Swanson (George Becwar) stomps into the police station of Miguel's home town of Guavas, Mexico. He had hired Miguel to drive a delivery truck full of supplies over to his hunting lodge, but the fellow has disappeared. What gives?

Kindly Sgt. Murillo (Rico Alaniz) informs Swanson that Miguel was found in a state of shock and brought to the near-by hospital. Unfortunately, the blustery gringo could care less about Miguel's mental health; he wants to know what happened to his truck. Alas, the Sargent found no evidence of such a vehicle, causing Swanson to leave in a huff--an ugly attitude that doesn't help anybody, by the way.

Meanwhile, along the US/Mexican border, delivery trucks are disappearing at an alarming rate. What's up with that?

News of the missing delivery trucks piques the interest of Joyce Manning (Sally Fraser). She's Glenn's kid sister and stubbornly refuses to believe he's dead. She arranges a meeting with both Swanson and the stolid Maj. Mark Baird (Roger Price) to see if they can help find her behemoth of a brother. Unfortunately, all Swanson wants to do is drink and bitch about how the insurance company won't reimburse him for his missing truck. Baird, on the other hand, seems more interested in scoring a date with Joyce (she wisely turns him down). After the gentlemen depart, Joyce heads down to Guavas to confer with kindly Sgt. Murillo.


Fortified by a generous supply of hooch, Sally Fraser (as Joyce Manning) summons the courage to beg her agent to get her out of "War of the Colossal Beast".


When Joyce arrives in town, poor Miguel is having one of his screaming fits. Kindly Sgt. Murillo recognizes the words "giant" and "ogre" in Miguel's rant, which means he spotted you-know-who. Together with Maj. Baird, specialist Dr. Carmichael (Russ Bender), Joyce and kindly Sgt. Murillo head to the hills in search of Glenn. When they find a huge footprint in the mud, Dr. Carmichael (a real wet blanket) surmises that such an imprint could only be made by someone "about 60 feet tall."

"Glenn is 60 feet tall!" Joyce exclaims.

In fact, when Maj. Baird and Joyce return to the mountains later, they not only find the remains of all the delivery trucks Glenn had been poaching, they find Glenn, too. He's still bald as a billiard ball, but one side of his face has caved in, exposing buck teeth and an eye-socket minus a peeper. His shoulder also sports a nasty scar. Psychologically, poor Glenn has been reduced to grunting and growling like a rabid Doberman to express his needs. On the plus side, his diet of delivery food has not played havoc with his figure and his sarong appears in good repair.

To capture the massive major, the military loads a truck with doped-up French bread. Kindly Sgt. Murillo drives the truck, with Baird and Carmichael riding shot-gun. When the doctor complains about his fast pace, kindly Sgt. Murillo reminds him, "Giants can run fast. They have long legs!"

And big feet. After the men bail out of the truck, Glenn appears and gobbles up the laced bread. Then he spots the trio hiding behind a rock. Glenn staggers off after them, squishing kindly Sgt. Murillo flat as a pancake (eww) before collapsing in a heap.


"Is this Glutton free?": Glenn gleefully attacks the decoy bread truck.

What follows next is a tiresome procedural where various branches of the US government bicker over who should take responsibility for the care and feeding of Glenn, currently residing chained up in an airplane hanger. It's eventually decided Glenn should be transported to a deserted island, where he will live out his days communing with nature and eating food sent over by the military. Sister Joyce, of course, is not happy about this. Maj. Baird, still trying to get to first base, reminds Miss Manning that her brother is now a huge, radiation-scarred hell beast not fit to live in polite society. She must understand that this is the only way.

Alas, Glenn proves this is the only way after he escapes from captivity and thrashes over to the Griffith Park Observatory. It's there he encounters a school bus filled with bratty junior high kids on a field trip. While crowds gasp, flood lights stream and cops shoot hails of bullets, Glenn grunts and shakes the bus in mid-air, furious that it's filled with screaming teenyboppers and not food.

Just when it looks like all is lost, Glenn has an epiphany. He puts the bus down. He realizes what he has become and he's ashamed. To ensure he will never harm another delivery truck again, Glenn electrocutes himself and falls with a big boom. The "War of the Colossal Beast" is finally over, except for the credits...and the blame.

And the blame for "War of the Colossal Beast" falls squarely on the shoulders of Bert I. himself.

Yes, the cast acted out their parts with all the enthusiasm of people waiting for anal probes. Yes, the F/X was rudimentary and fake. Yes, the stock footage and military mish-mash used to pad out the film was dull as dish water. And those bratty teenyboppers menaced by Glenn were annoying little jerks (and bad actors, too).


"The wheels on the bus go round and round...": Colossal Beast Glenn Manning gives some school kids a lift. Literally.

Taken individually, any one of these elements can wreck a movie.

Yet Bert I. was able to seamlessly blend them all into one souffle' of suckiness by adding one more vital element into the mix: incompetence!

Specifically, his incompetence.

And that's something you're born with; it can't be learned.

Bert I. made 21 movies in his fabled career and they all suck on toast. From "The Amazing Colossal Man" to "The Beginning of the End" to "Empire of the Ants", Bert's flicks were always about nuclear fall-out, big rogue critters, stock footage, military protocols and the eventual demise of a big thing-a-ma-bob. He never felt the need to branch out from beyond this self-imposed cinematic template and, if that made him happy, who are we to argue?


"Peek-A-Boo, Glenn sees you!": Joyce and Maj. Baird surprise Glenn during his lunch break.

So movie lovers, please eat your bread and help me SAVE THE MOVIES.









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 willingly...at 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."

Whew!

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.

Wow.

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:

Wikipedia

IMDB

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 Helene...no 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.
















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