Sunday, June 17, 2018

"God Monster Of Indian Flats": Mary Never Had A Little Lamb Like This

He's a real baaaaa-ass: The Godmonster of Indian Flats.

Hi ho, movie lovers.

The film I am about to discuss defies easy categorization. 

It contains elements of a monster movie, a love story, a mad scientist flick, a racial parable, a political thriller about illegal government surveillance, a clash between historical preservation and big business and a western.

It features a diverse cast of characters cavorting on screen, including fake fortune tellers, corrupt sheriffs, a flim-flam man named "Elbow Jones", an AC/DC "fixer" with a porn 'stache and a German Shepard who acts circles around all of them.

Last, but not least, there is an eight foot tall mutant sheep charging around, scaring the pants off the neighborhood kids and scarfing down all their hot dogs.

Eddie (in cowboy hat and sheep skin vest) is about to be rolled by a Miss Kitty wanna-be. Elbow Jones (and his mustache) look on approvingly.

Welcome to "God Monster of Indian Flats" (1973), a film so screwy, so nutty, so warped and so down right weird that it just MIGHT snatch the laurels of "The Worst Film of All Time" from the mighty grasp of "Plan 9 from Outer Space."

I don't make this assertion lightly. However, because this flick is SO AWFUL, I believe bad movie fanatics must consider that the reign of  "Plan 9" at the top of the Junk Cinema dung heap may be over.

ANYWAY, our tale begins with the sounds of a heavenly choir warbling along while the camera casually pans across a clear blue sky. Then we cut to Eddie, a young sheep farmer. He's hitched a ride to The Big City (actually, Reno, Nevada) to Live It Up on his day off. Strutting into a casino, the greenhorn hits pay dirt on a slot machine and is escorted to the bar by a rather hefty hostess in hot pants (all the rage in '73).

That's where Eddie makes the acquaintance of Elbow Jones, a con artist who can spot an easy mark faster than a rooster on a Junebug. Elbow Jones and his posse get Eddie drunk and drag him off to Virginia City, a former mining town that has been lovingly restored to its 1880's glory. It's there a stewed Eddie is relieved of his money by a hooker dressed like Miss Kitty on "Gunsmoke." When Eddie cries foul, Elbow Jones and his buddies beat Eddie up and toss him in a back alley.

Now, you may have noticed that I haven't named the actors in this flick. I don't plan to. Why? Because their names deserve to be lost to history. It's more accurate to call the individuals who pop up on screen human beings who just happen to be filmed by a camera, rather than "actors". They walk, they talk--sometimes at the same time!--but that's all. Back to our story.

"Is the camera on?": A peek at some of the no-name cast members of today's film.

Remember poor Eddie? Well, he's found by Professor Clemens, who drives the greenhorn home to his beloved sheep. Eddie beds down with the fluffy critters and goes to sleep. What happens next is either a bad dream, an incomplete alien abduction, an intersperses sex scene, a total eclipse, a comet passing too close to the earth, a Grateful Dead light show or a really bad acid trip--I honesty can't tell. However, when Prof. Clemens and his dim-witted (but earnest) assistant Mariposa arrive the next morning to check on Eddie, they discover the poor fellow covered in hay next to a sheep embryo the size of a hub cap. The trio cart the embryo to Prof. Clemens' lab in an incubator/ice chest and put it in what appears to be a freezer oven.

Prof. Clemens is absolutely over the moon about this sheep embryo. Why? Because the prof has long nursed a theory that ancient Nevada was once the home to a roving band of 8-foot tall dinosaur sheep. The rest of the academic world thinks Clemens' idea is preposterous, but he has persisted nonetheless. Now that he's stumbled onto the embryo, the good doctor plans to fertilize it and grow a prehistoric sheep to prove his theory is true. Take that, Richard Leaky!

So the work begins on bringing the titled God Monster to life--and what a creature he turns out to be! Standing 8 feet tall, the God Monster looks like a cross between a sheep, a camel and Mr. Snuffleupagus from "Sesame Street". His body is covered in dirty rags or that ratty raccoon coat your Aunt Ida refuses to throw away. Or possibly he has mange. The God Monster's front legs pose a bit of a problem: one is short and the other is long and basically useless. This means the critter must walk upright on his hind legs, while swinging the useless front leg like a Thurible used in Russian Orthodox church services. Despite these mobility issues, the monster can run pretty fast, dance and knock people over with its perpetually swinging front leg.

Of course, there have been MANY ridiculous monsters roaming around the Junk Cinema land mass over the years: the carpet monster from outer space in "The Creeping Terror"; "Ro-Man" from "Robot Monster", which was a man in a gorilla suit with a deep-sea diving helmet attached; the Chicken and/or Parrot monster from "Teenage Caveman" and "Night of the Blood Beast" (both Roger Corman productions, by the way); the sweat socks fitted with plastic vampire teeth in "Robot Holocaust"; the angry, pointy-toothed giant cucumber from "It Conquered the World"; the radioactive sludge--which looked like a plate of rabid spaghetti--from "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster"; and the green slime... from "The Green Slime". However, the God Monster of Indian Flats takes the cake, in my opinion. A rabid, deformed, 8 foot tall prehistoric sheep with a taste for hot dogs covered in filthy cotton balls is something you don't see everyday. I don't know what director Fredric Hobbs was smoking when he designed this creature, but I bet it was very strong and highly illegal.

While Prof. Clemens and company grapple with their God Monster, other doings are going on around town. Mayor Charles Silverdale is a direct descendant of the man who founded Virginia City way back when. He has lovingly restored the town to its 1880's heyday and to keep things exactly the way he likes them, he has developed a vast network of flunkies to keep the townspeople in line. These include Sheriff Gordon, a fat, greasy, gross man who listens in on peoples' telephone conversations and watches them through his TV monitor. Then there is Philip Maldove, a rather fey fellow with a porn 'stache and a penchant for leather pants. It's hinted that he was in some trouble on Wall Street before he became Mayor Silverdale's fixer, but this is not explored to any degree. It's also suggested that Maldove and the mayor are getting kickbacks from the various tourist traps around town, including the aforementioned Elbow Jones and fake fortune teller Madame Alta, who advises Mariposa on her love life (she and Eddie are a thing).

"What did I do last night?!!": Eddie is horrified to wake up next to a king-sized sheep embryo.

Then there is Barnstable, a representative from "an Eastern mining interest", whose boss would like to buy the mining rights to the surrounding area that Mayor Silverdale holds in his hot little hands. Unfortunately, the Mayor isn't interested in selling to anyone--largely because he fears opening the hills to mining companies would tarnish the purity of his little fiefdom. It would also muscle in on his power and various kick-back schemes. Anxious to ensure that no Virginia City citizen sells their land and/or forks over their mining rights, the Mayor and Sheriff Gordon conjure up a scheme to discredit Mr. Barnstable that is so horrifying it's worth watching the entire movie just to see it.

The gist of their plan is to have Barnstable framed for shooting Sheriff Gordon's German Shepard dog during a wild west quick draw contest. The dog is so good at playing dead, the whole town believes the mining rep did indeed kill the pooch. So distraught is Virginia City over the dog's "death" that they hold A PACKED PUBLIC FUNERAL for the critter. Maldove, naturally, delivers the eulogy. When Barnsable attends the services and tries to make amends, everybody shuns him--and, of course, refuses to sell their land and/or mining rights to him.Then Mayor Silverdale and his fixer cook up ANOTHER fiendish plan to frame Barnstable for shooting Maldove. The mine rep is soon stuck in jail where--horror of horrors--he must watch fat, greasy sheriff  Gordon--wearing a sleeveless, sweaty T-shirt--eat a king size piece of steak smothered in ketchup. Yuck!

Meanwhile, back at Prof. Clemens' lab, the God Monster is growing by leaps and bounds. When the prof gets sleepy from a day of science stuff, he assigns Mariposa and Eddie to watch the critter. Unfortunately, our smitten kittens start making out hot'n'heavy--in fact, they are SO BUSY tonsil boxing that they fail to notice that the God Monster is giving off a heavy yellow smoke AND trying to break out of its isolation tank.

Over at the jail, Silverdale's "Volunteer Committee of Vigilance" drag Barnstable out of his cell and prepare to hang him. Like most goon squads, the "Volunteer Committee of Vigilance" is made-up of dumb jerks who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. Thus, Barnsable easily frees himself from their grasp--and is given a further assist from Madame Alta, the fake fortune teller and saloon diva, who JUST HAPPENS to be driving by in her convertible.

Barnstable and Madame Alta head over to Prof. Clemens' lab for sanctuary. Unfortunately, they've picked a bad time to visit, because holy hell has broken loose, thanks to the God Monster smashing its way out of it's isolation tank, trashing the lab in the process. Seconds later, Silverdale's men arrive, shooting guns and setting off flares, demanding that Clemens hand over Barnstable. Taking full advantage of the chaos and smoke, the monster sneaks out of the lab, attacks several "volunteers" and the escapes into the night.

Rocker Meatloaf picking up some extra work as a security guard? Nope, it's just Sheriff Gordon of Virginia City.

Next morning, search parties are formed to track the monster down. The plan is for men on horseback to surround the critter, tie him up and have Prof. Clemens administer a sedative. However, there is a major disagreement about what to do next. Prof. Clemens wants to save the God Monster for scientific research, while nasty ol' Silverdale wants to put the creature on display and charge admission. The devoted but dim witted Mariposa is horrified by Mayor Silverdale's plans; so she rips off her lab coat and screams, "We gotta save the creature!"

 Running frantically over the rocky, dusty terrain (with Eddie close at her heels), Mariposa eventually comes face to face with the desperate critter. Realizing the God Monster is hot, hungry and scared, Mariposa reaches out and tries to pet the creature. Responding to her kindness, the giant sheep begins to...purr. Then he and Mariposa begin to dance, swaying back and forth like, well, remember that scene in the Disney film "Sleeping Beauty"? Where Aurora is dancing with a "prince" made up of animals wearing a coat and boots? The scene looks like that. Unfortunately, Mariposa isn't surprised by a handsome prince springing out of nowhere, but the dim-witted Eddie, who shrieks, "Mariposa! No! He could kill you!" Then he throws a rock at the critter's nose, shattering the trust she has built with monster. After the God Monster stomps off, Mariposa scolds Eddie for being a jerk.

Meanwhile, realizing he has a public safety emergency on his hands, Mayor Silverdale tells the townspeople to stay inside their homes. Naturally, some people choose to ignore the warning. The numb-nuts include a Chevron gas station attendant fooling around with a blow torch. When the God Monster sneaks up behind the guy and whacks him with his swinging leg, the blow torch goes flying in the air. KABOOM! No more pre-pay after five! Then we cut to a group of carefree kids having a picnic. While they gaily throw food at each other, one kids chirps, "Boy, these hot dogs sure are good!" This carefree idyll is ruined when the God Monster comes charging into view, causing the kids to scream bloody murder and scatter for safety. The famished creature then scarfs down all their hot dogs and chips and doesn't even clean up his mess.

Like anyone who's had a big meal, the God Monster soon has to go potty. While he's quietly answering the call to nature beside a tree, a posse on horseback (played by the Washoe Horsemen's Association) thunders into view. Whooping and hollering reminiscent of that classic scene in "Red River", the cowboys surround the critter, hog-tie him and allow Prof. Clemens to administer a sedative. The horror appears to be over--or is it?

If you think everything I have described sounds completely nonsensical and nutty, hold on to your corn nuts. That's because director Fredric Hobbs has whipped up a final act so bat-shit crazy only the ending of "Monster a Go-Go" is comparable in sheer, idiotic lunacy.

"Can I have a little privacy please?": The God Monster is gob-smacked while relieving himself.

With the God Monster caged and covered, Mayor Silverdale calls the townspeople to the local dump for a community meeting. It's there he announces to the shocked assemblage that he has not only captured the monster, but he has decided to sell the mining and land rights of Virginia City to that "Eastern mining interest". Of course, because the mayor secretly held all those rights himself, he is the sole beneficiary of the deal. Outraged that their pro-environmental leader has brazenly switched sides--and swindled them out of potential millions-- the citizens begin screaming "You lied to us!" What's more, the folks are not mollified to learn that the God Monster will be put on display with the profits going to--guess who?--although he claims the money will go to charity.

Then Mayor Silverdale triumphantly uncovers the caged God Monster, who is giving off yellow smoke. An outraged housewife with a bad perm surges forward and shrieks, "He killed my brother!" The crowd suddenly goes berserk and begins to riot. As the mayor screams about what he plans to do with all his money, the citizens of Virginia City rush the God Monster and push his cage down a huge hill. Hundreds tumble down the steep, dusty terrain with him, throwing rocks and garbage at the monster--and each other. Somebody calls out for law and order and gun shots ring out. Because of the dust and smoke, people are shooting randomly, without regards to who they hit. One of the unfortunate casualties is Maldove. As the people of Virginia City continue their NRA Passion Play, the camera pans over to some sheep quietly grazing in near by fields. The yellow smoke given off by the God Monster drifts past them. Hmm, what could that mean? Anyway, let's all exhale because everything is over now...except for the credits...and the blame.

A movie like "God Monster of Indian Flats" can only be made by an individual who is either a genius or a crazy person. Director, writer and God Monster designer Fredric Hobbs qualifies as both.

According to an article I unearthed from the April 29, 1971 edition of Rollingstone magazine (written by Thomas Albright) Mr. Hobbs was described as a San Francisco -based artist who began his career "as a violent expressionistic painter and sculptor of contemporary Witches' Sabbaths, sacrificial rites and other offspring of 'The Sleep of Reason'". He then switched gears and "moved his art into the streets", fitting sculptures onto wheels and later cars. Fred's sculptures included "mutilated Everymen, deformed Earth Monsters and grotesque demons". Later on, Mr. Albright explained, Fred's moving sculptures morphed into "mythological monsters rising out of the Procrustean slags of Plexiglas mounted on stripped-down auto chassis, which he drove cross country while wearing an orange space suit."

I LOVE the last part of that sentence: "which he drove cross country while wearing an orange space suit." I think that not only sums up Fredric Hobbs, but his movie, too.

Unlike Gamera, the God Monster of Indian Flats is NO friend to children.

I would strongly encourage ANY serious Junk Cinema fan to read Mr. Albright's full article on Fred Hobbs--but only after you have watched "God Monster of Indian Flats" first. Then see if you agree with Albright's observation that Hobbs' film technique (which was on display in his films "Troika"  and "Roseland", the last one being a "metaphysical skin flick or philosophical f@#$ film" ) "courts comparison to Fellini in sweep and style, to Bergman in concentration and intensity, and to Truffaut in the whimsical use of plagiarism and paraphrases of old movie classics and in deft juxtaposition of moods and genres, all adding up to a kind of one-man American New Wave."

OK, Thomas, I will. But only to make you happy. (Pause.) You are wrong.

That said, "The God Monster of Indian Flats" joins "Attack of the Mushroom People" and "The Creeping Terror" in sharing the dubious distinction of never having been shown on a motion picture screen. Yet a movie this bad could not be ignored forever. Somehow, the Bad Movie Gods guided the God Monster to Something Weird Video in the 1990's, where it has resided ever since, astonishing anyone who has seen it.

Is this flick worse than Ed Wood's 1959 MESS-terpiece "Plan 9 from Outer Space", as I mentioned at the top of this article?

Part of me wants to say "yes", because this movie is so crazy and hard to follow and just down right weird. However, upon mature reflection, I believe it's more prudent to say "God Monster of Indian Flats" comes the closest in challenging "Plan 9" in the Supremacy of Cinematic Suck. I've been studying bad movies since 1979, and to come across a film that could be worse than "Plan 9" is quite a feat.

The Man and His Monster: Fredric Hobbs and one of his creepy creatures.

Thus, for writing, directing and designing one of the craziest, kookiest and most bat-shit crazy movies of all time, Fredric Hobbs, Junk Cinema salutes you!

And for coming to the aid of my mother when her coffee maker caught on fire, Tom Rials, staff member extraordinaire of Savage Memorial Presbyterian Church, this post is dedicated to you with heart-felt gratitude. Enjoy

Author's Note: I just liked this picture.

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Night At The (Phantom) Of The Opera

Lon Chaney (star of the original silent classic) recoils in horror to what composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and director Joel Schumacher have done to "The Phantom of the Opera".

Watching the big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's monster Broadway musical "Phantom of the Opera" (2004) is like being trapped inside a demonically possessed Crafters Warehouse.

There is so much lace, ribbon, satin, velvet, gilt, gold, muslin, crinolines, mist, dry ice, rose pedals and gently falling snow that viewers could be forgiven if they thought "Phantom of the Opera" was a Harlequin Romance and not a horror story about obsession, stalking and physical disfigurement.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit I don't care for the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber at all; in fact, one of my favorite "Invention Exchanges" from "MST3K" is the "Andrew Lloyd Webber Grill" where you burn the scores of Webber's many musicals instead of charcoal briquettes.  

I also intensely hate "Cats". This play is merely a feline musical remake of "Logan's Run", except that the cat chosen to "renew" actually does "renew". It also features the Muzak hairball "Memory", which plays continually in grocery stores, elevators and doctor's's probably even playing in one of those places right now.

Then there is the fact that Andy was made a Life Peer by QE2 for "contributions to music". How is this possible? Did HM see "Starlight Express"? Perhaps if she had, the dear lady would have had A L W imprisoned and fined for crimes against music, instead of rewarding for him for his unique brand of tuneful tripe.

"I accuse you, Andrew Lloyd Webber, of ruining one of the world's greatest films to make one of the world's worst musicals!"

So, I may not be the best person to review "Phantom of the Opera".

But review it I shall because 1) it's bad,  2) it's my blog and 3) I have always yearned to stick it to Lord Webber, so away we go!

The year is 1919. The once majestic Opera Populaire is holding a fire sale of its remaining relics. Long ago this theater was a cultural mecca in France, but a mysterious fire involving its huge chandelier closed it for good. Among those assembled to bid on the artifacts include an aged, wheel-chair bound Count (attended by a nursemaid who resembles the Flying Nun) and an unknown lady in black lace. It appears these two know each other, but they don't speak or mingle.

The Count purchases a music box with a monkey playing the cymbals. He then drives off. Suddenly the black and white film bursts forth into color and it's 1870. That was year junk-er, scrap metal moguls Firmin (Ciaran Hinds) and Andre (Simon Callow) became the new owners of the Opera Populaire. It's reigning diva is the temperamental (and hard to understand) Carlotta (Minnie Driver). However, when Carlotta flounces off and refuses to perform in a fit of pique, it's ballet dancer/chorus girl Christine (Emmy Rossum) who is given the chance to sing an important solo in the show. Turns out, Christine has been getting singing lessons from "the Angel of Music", a mysterious presence who has been watching over her for years. Of course, Christine wows 'em at the opera and a star is born.

Watching in the audience is Vicomte Raoul (Patrick Wilson), the opera's new money bags patron and a childhood sweetie of Christine's. The kids were separated after Christine's violinist father died and she came to train at the opera's ballet school. Seeing his childhood cuddlemate trilling on stage in a fluffy white dress causes Raoul to jump out of his seat, rush backstage and insist Christine have dinner with him. When Christine protests that "the Angel of Music" won't like it ("He's very strict"), Raoul says "the Angel of Music" can take a chill pill. He then goes off to fetch his coach.

"Can you hear me NOW?!: Diva La Carlotta (Minnie Driver) throws one her famous temper tantrums. Check out her pet pooch on the left.

No sooner has Raoul departed than "the Angel of Music" shows up, madder than a hen with wet feathers. Calling the Vicomte with cool sideburns "an insolent boy" and a "knave of fashion", the "Angel of Music" turns out to be the "Opera Ghost" or the "Phantom of the Opera" who has haunted the theater for years--when he wasn't coaching Christine. Or writing musical scores. Or designing costumes. Or building sets. Anyway, determined not to lose his prize pupil to some aristocratic pretty boy, the Phantom hypnotizes Christine and takes her to his lair/studio below the opera. This is where the song "Music of the Night" is played. Christine seems OK during this little road trip until she sees a mannequin of herself dressed as the Phantom's bride and passes out cold.

When she wakes up, the Phantom is working on his next big chart-buster. Because Gerard Butler is the Phantom, 2004's Phantom is a totally ripped guy with great hair. Yes, he wears a half-mask on his face, but the effect is kinda sexy, not scary or creepy. Thus, when Christine removes the Phantom's mask--one of the greatest moments in movie history--her response isn't repulsion or horror, but the mild irritation of discovering your prom date has a cold sore.

That's because this Phantom isn't scary. His disfigurement looks like a bad skin condition. Mr. Sardonicus in the William Castle movie "Mr. Sardonicus"(1961) was a lot creepier. Somewhere the decision was made that the Phantom shouldn't be disfigured or misshapen because...that wouldn't be romantic? That wouldn't be scary?

Heartbreaking as it is, the Phantom's disfigurement is a key element of this story. He hides away in the bowels of the opera because there is no other place for him. The Phantom knows even a goody-goody like Christine would be repulsed by his appearance. Therefore, when Christine pulls off the Phantom's mask, it's not only a moment of shock, but a moment of betrayal, too.

Christine eventually returns to the opera, but everybody is in a lather over a series of notes the Phantom has sent: Firmin and Andre are ordered to keep box 5 open and to pay the Phantom's salary;  Raoul is ordered to keep away from Christine; and Carlotta must give the starring role in the opera's next production to Christine or else. "Far too many notes!" sniffs Andre and everybody decides to ignore them.

"Hmmm, what rhymes with orange?": The new and improved Phantom of the Opera (Gerard Butler) plots his next move.

This is a big mistake, of course. On opening night, Carlotta has her voice spray tampered by Guess Who; when she attempts to sing, she croaks like a bull frog. While the corps de ballet tries to perform their number, a stage hand tussles with the Phantom in the rafters. The Phantom chokes him to death and sends his body crashing to the stage. Everybody freaks out and heads for the exits. Raoul and Christine meet backstage and rush up to the opera's roof top. It's there Christine convinces her cuddlemate that the Phantom is not only real, but touched in the head. Amidst all the confusion and mayhem, Christine and Raoul find the time to warble "All I Ask of You", declaring their undying love. Little do they know the Phantom is nearby, listening to every word and getting madder by the second. He then vows revenge on the smitten kittens...and frankly, I don't blame him one bit.  I mean, this song goes on forever!

The Phantom lays low for a while and the folks at the Opera Populaire believe the worst may be over. Raoul and Christine have gotten engaged, but they've chosen to keep it a secret. Then the management announces that the opera's annual costume gala will go on as scheduled. On the big night, everybody's partying like it's 1870 in lavish costumes, singing and dancing away. The fun stops when the Phantom appears (dressed as the Red Masque of Death) and demands that they put on his new opera "Don Juan Triumphant". The opera managers and police believe if they put on the production--and give Christine an important role--the Phantom will come to the show and they can catch him.

Craven fools! The Phantom does away with the scheduled leading man and plays the role of Don Juan himself. While he and Christine sing, the Phantom hypnotizes her again. The two disappear through a trap door as the theater's massive chandelier crashes to the floor, causing both a fire and a riot for the exits. Back in his lair, the Phantom insists Christine marry him, right after he kills Raoul. Christine begs him to spare her fiance's life, telling the Phantom that his ugliness doesn't repulse her as much as his anger and bloodlust. The Phantom has a change of heart and allows Christine and Raoul escape. As a token of her gratefulness, Christine gives the Phantom her engagement ring to remember her by. As the smitten kittens go off to plan their wedding, the Phantom breaks every mirror in his underground studio and stomps off.

Then we are back in 1919. The aged Count turns out to be Raoul. He travels to a cemetary, where he lays the monkey music box on a grave. Surprise, surprise, the grave belongs to Christine, who is described as "a beloved wife and mother." Raoul then notices that a rose tied with a black ribbon rests on Christine's grave--a rose tied with a black ribbon was the Phantom's signature. Her engagement ring is nestled in the rose, which can mean only one thing: the movie is finally over. Bravo!

At the top of this post, I came down very hard on Andrew Lloyd Webber. However, the musical mess of "Phantom of the Opera" is not entirely his fault. He had plenty of help from director Joel Schumacher.

"I love what you've done to the place...": The Phantom gives Christine a tour of his digs.

Now, before you think this titan of the theater had the director of "Batman and Robin" forced on him by some soul-less Hollywood executive only interested in money, think again. ALW wanted Schumacher to direct this film. See, his lordship had watched Joel's film "The Lost Boys"(about punk vampires) and admired the way he had integrated music into the flick. In fact, part of the lengthy delay in getting "Phantom" from the stage to the screen was in coordinating the guys' various schedules.

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

For all his success, Schumacher is a strangely colorless director; his films all have an assembly-line aura about them. Perhaps Webber felt Joel's lack of directorial distinction would allow the source material to shine through unencumbered. Wrong! Instead, what Webber got was a director so hands-off and casual about his assignment that "Phantom" lacks the passion and mad romanticism necessary to tell this type of tale. Despite the fancy costumes, opulent sets and soaring score, "Phantom" is surprisingly dull and flat.

Another consequence in choosing Schumacher to helm this project was his lack of interest in directing his cast. Emmy Rossum is a fine actress and an excellent singer; she was an ideal choice to play the innocent Christine. However, neither Webber or Schumacher thought of giving her anything to do other than wear fluffy gowns and stare like a deer caught in headlights. Patrick Wilson, as the Vicomte Raoul, suffers from the same problem; he looks great, but his character is given no purpose other than to be better looking than the Phantom.

Which brings us to Gerard Butler in the title role.

If Gerard Butler had been allowed more input on his Phantom characterization...

Lon Chaney is the Phantom of the Opera. However, even critics who were less than taken with the original stage production of Webber's musical had excellent things to say about Michael Crawford's performance as the Phantom (Sarah Brightman, the original Christine, won kudos for her singing, but not her acting). Butler can't quite pull off the tortured, heartbroken and vengeful outcast because he's not allowed to be one. His Phantom would be more at home in a Chippendale's Review than lurking below the floors of an opera house. The decision to de-fang the Phantom surely rests with Webber and Schumacher; however, by beautifying their beast, they drained their film of the Gothic elements that under-pin and propel the story.

So, kiddies, what have we learned from this mishandled musical mega-bomb?

* Pairing the man behind "Cats" and "Starlight Express" with the man who directed "Flatliners" and "Batman and Robin" was a stupid, stupid idea.

* If your main character is suppose to be a disfigured freak, make him look like a disfigured freak! Nobody has ever suggested that Frankenstein would benefit from a better hair cut, more stylish threads or a Mary Kay make-over. He's Frankenstein!

* Unless you are directing a game of freeze tag, your actors should be allowed to move, have facial expressions and show some personality. Watching lavishly dressed crash test dummies is nobody's idea of a good time.

The Sexiest Phantom of the Opera (2004).

* Were the characters of Firmin and Andre, rich junk tycoons who understood nothing about opera, meant to be Webber's comment on people who don't "understand" his type of "theater"? A guy who made a mint from a musical where Lycra-clad cats hope to be beamed up into a spaceship so they can be reincarnated has no business complaining his genius isn't appreciated.

*  How does Joel Schumacher keep his job? His films appear to be stamped out like a kid stamping out shapes with Play-Doh. My advice? Either retire on your undeserved millions or set up an Amway dealership--but stop making movies!You have no talent for the job! Has anyone ever told you that?

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, bad movies are not always made by earnest yet incompetent amateurs--but it helps. Highly praised and honored professionals can muck things spectacularly, especially if they are aided by the likes of Joel Schumacher.  Until next time, keep a bad movie in your VCR and help me SAVE THE MOVIES.

Where can I buy this shirt? It's purr-fect!

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.

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--even though he has a TV show, a radio show, writes editorials and has written several books. When his tactics and objectivity were questioned, Sean insists he's not a journalist, he's a "talk show host". Then he changes his mind and says he's "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!


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