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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Junk Cinema Salutes MaryTyler Moore And Her Nuttiest Role Ever

Opposites who were NEVER meant to attract: Dr. Elvis Presley and undercover nun Mary Tyler Moore.

Hello, movie lovers, wherever you are.

Boy, 2017 has gotten off to an...painful start, hasn't it? Travel bans that aren't "bans", "alternative facts" that aren't facts and a US president picking a fight with...Australia?!

Then came the sad news news that actress Mary Tyler Moore had passed away at age 80.

For millions, Moore will be remembered for two classic roles: as the perky yet perceptive Laura Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and the unflappable Mary Richards on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

MTM also triumphed on Broadway and earned an Oscar nomination for "Ordinary People" in 1980. This was one talented lady and she will be sorely missed.

"Trust me, I'm a doctor": Dr. Elvis meets with a patient.

However, for Junk Cinema Lovers, any reflection on Moore's memory must include her participation in one of the wackiest, nuttiest, most godawful movies EVER MADE: 1969's "A Change of Habit", where Mary played--hold on to your knickers!--an UNDERCOVER NUN working alongside Dr. Elvis Presley "In The Ghetto."

"A Change of Habit" is, in fact, one of the most (dis)honored flicks of all time--which has assured its place as one of the glittering gems in the Junk Cinema Tiara of Trash.

Consider this: the tomes Bad Movies We Love, Bad TV (which featured "A Change of Habit" in its bad movies "Bonus Section"), The Worst Movies Of All Time (which declared our featured flick to be "The Worst Elvis Presley Movie of All Time") and Video Hound's Cult Flicks and Trash Pics all featured pithy peons to this film's unintentional, unrelenting stupidity.

The casting of Moore as the conflicted nun, meanwhile, earned the actress "The Ecclesiastical Award For The Worst Performance By An Actor Or Actress As A Clergyman Or Nun" in The Golden Turkey Awards by the Brothers Medved. The contenders Moore bested to get this golden gobbler included Pat Boone in "The Cross and the Switchblade" (1970), Mickey Rooney in "The Twinkle in God's Eye" (1955), Frank Sinatra (!) in "The Miracles of the Bells" (1948) and Clark Gable (The "King" of Hollywood) as a minister who scandalizes his flock by falling in love with a carny in "Polly of the Circus" (1932).


"The Singing Nun": The relationship between Elvis and MTM is always out of tune.

And that's not all! The book Starring John Wayne As Genghis Khan! Hollywood's All-Time Worst Casting Blunders featured Moore in its "Out Of Their League" chapter alongside Diane Keaton, Bill Murry, June Allyson and other heavy hitters who took on totally nutsy roles and lived to regret it.

It's not everybody who can give an even worse performance than Elvis Presley in an Elvis Presley movie. Hats off to Mary Tyler Moore for doing the impossible.

The non-denominational fun in "A Change of Habit" begins when Sister Michelle (MTM) is given permission by her order to leave her convent and go out into the world to serve God's people where they live. Joining her will be Sisters Irene (Barbara McNair) and Barbara (Jane Elliot). However, because the church wants the gals to be accepted as regular folks and not holier-than-thou prissy-pants, the nuns will reveal their true identities to no one and dress like regular Janes.

So off the Sisters troop to the nearest department store, where they throw off their nun's habits and put on stockings, dresses and heels as the camera records every magic moment of their "transformation." If you think that sounds like a creepy strip show, that's because it is a creepy strip show.

Freshly dressed in their mod threads, the nuns arrive at their new lodgings in a run-down neighborhood filled with the least threatening gang members, hookers, junkies and wayward teens you're ever likely to meet. While Sister Irene remarks that she said "a thousand Hail Marys to get out of a neighborhood just like this" while growing up, Sister Michelle takes a more upbeat view of things. After taking a look at their depressing hovel, she picks up a broom and chirps, "Let's get this place next to godliness!"

 "Dazed and Confused": Jane Elliot, MTM and Barbara McNair report for duty.

Housekeeping done, the Sisters present themselves to Dr. John Carpenter, played by Elvis Presley and his sexy sideburns. He runs the local free clinic and the trio have been assigned to work for him. However, someone failed to notify the good doctor of their upcoming arrival, because Elvis assumes they are "Park Avenue types" looking for (gasp!) abortions.

"All three of you?" Elvis marvels. "Just out of curiosity, was it the same guy?"

The nuns struggle to convince Elvis that they are the real deal, causing him to exclaim, "The last three nurses they sent me couldn't take it. Two of them got raped--one even against her will." (Boo.) When MTM claims she and her colleagues "are very hard nosed", Elvis pushes on the center of her nose and says "Cute, but not hard enough."

Eventually these wacky misunderstandings get ironed out and the un-nuns plunge into their work at the free clinic. They help Dr. Elvis set the broken arm of a goofy grinning kid on "H" (that's heroin, by the way), provide speech lessons and even manage to cure an autistic child using Primal Scream Therapy. Sister Michelle and Elvis, meanwhile, begin to spend a lot of time together: they jog in the park, play touch football, treat disadvantaged kids to ice cream cones and visit the Merry-Go-Round. Soon enough, Elvis is making goo-goo eyes at MTM, something that happens quite a bit in movies--or haven't you seen "The Sound of Music", "The Sea Wife", "The Nun's Story" or "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison"?

Torn between her love for God and her love for Elvis, what will MTM do? "A Change of Habit" is a little fuzzy on this matter. However, when Sister Michelle shows up at the folk rock mass she and Elvis had organized and sees the Man from Memphis leading the congregation in a rousing rendition of "Let Us Pray" (and notices that one of the neighborhood tramps is wearing a prim dress and hat), it's clear that Elvis is edging out Jesus in MTM's heart.

"Give Me That Old Time Religion": Dr. Elvis rocks the house of the Lord.

What is it makes MTM's performance as Sister Michelle so bad? Could it be the sheer nuttiness of the situation? Could it be the unrealistic setting and plot contrivances? Could it be the desperate-to-seem-hip-and-happening dialog the cast is force to spew? Could it be that MTM had no chemistry with leading man Elvis and thus their friendship/romance was just not possible, yet alone not believable? Could it be that MTM was directed to play Sister Michelle as if Laura Pertrie had taken holy orders?

Junk Cinema Lovers could debate this issue until the cows come home, but it all boils down to this: MTM was badly miscast, the script was awful, her co-star was equally miscast and not even the direct intervention of the All Mighty could have saved this movie. To create a truly memorable Junk Cinema Jewel, all the right talent and anti-talents have to be in place--and in "A Change of Habit", they were. In short, MTM was given a golden opportunity to disgrace herself and she did. You go, girl!

As awful MTM was, though, she survived this cinematic stinker to triumph in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" a year later. She would go on to win other awards and critical raves for her work in both comedies and dramas, proving she had the talent and guts to overcome what could have been a career ending role. Elvis, mind you, was not so lucky; "A Change of Habit" was the last film he ever made.

Therefore, for turning the world on with your smile, for showing us that TV sitcoms could be funny and well-written, for co-starring with Elvis and surviving the debacle, Mary Tyler Moore, Junk Cinema salutes you!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia...And Sam Peckinpah

Wanted for crimes against cinema: Sam Peckinpah, co-writer and director of "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia."

El Jefe (Emilio Fernandez) is a very rich, very powerful man. He is not someone to be trifled with. That is very clear when he summons his young daughter before him.

The girl (who is never named) is preggers. Surrounded by family, associates, servants, flunkies and even members of the clergy, El Jefe asks his daughter, "Who is the father?"

Out of fear or defiance, she refuses to give him the man's name. El Jefe nods his head. One of his flunkies walks up and rips open the girl's blouse. She still refuses to divulge the father's name. El Jefe nods his head again. Another flunky walks up to the girl and breaks her arm, snapping it in two like a bread-stick. This time, she collapses in an agonized heap and gasps, "Alfredo Garcia!"

El Jefe is stunned. "He was like a son to me," he replies. Then El Jefe announces he will give one million dollars to whoever "brings me the head of Alfredo Garcia."

Seconds later, dozens of men scatter on foot, horse-back, motorcycle, car and air plane to track down Alfredo Garcia and relieve him of his precious noggin.

"Once I Had A Secret Love...": El Jefe's pregnant daughter is brought before him.

Welcome, movie lovers, to the world of tough guy director Sam Peckinpah and his "modern day western" "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia" (1974).

In the world according to Sam, cars slam into each other in super slow motion. Blood squirts out of people like grape jelly. When someone is shot, it takes them hours to fall to the ground, as if they existed in zero gravity. When characters talk, they...use...many...many...many...pauses. This is a harsh and unforgiving place and the movies Sam churned out were harsh and unforgiving, too.

They also sucked.

On toast.

"We are not amused": El Jefe.

And "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia" may be the suckiest of them all.

Now, I know this movie has it's fans. One of them was the late, great Roger Ebert, who called "Alfredo Garcia" a "bizarre masterpiece." I agree that the movie is bizarre, but "masterpiece" is a bit much. MESSterpiece is more accurate. I don't want to burst anyone's bubble or appear "uncool", but I disagree with Mr. Ebert's assessment AND with the critical plaudits "AG" has earned over the years on its way to becoming a "cult classic."

If there ever was a film designed to test an audiences' patience, this is it."Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia" moves at the pace of a drugged Siberian Yak. It appears to have been photographed through the front windshield of a 1967 Rambler that hadn't been washed in months. It has more pauses than a Harold Pinter play. The main characters are cruel, violent, hateful individuals who make certain gym teachers I had seem kind and benevolent in comparison. This movie dares you to watch it--and once you have, you can practically hear director Sam Peckinpah snickering, "Suckers!" from the great beyond.

We will continue the discussion of "AG"s considerable demerits at a later time. For now, let's return to the plot, OK?

After El Jefe issues his command, two contract killers (Robert Webber and Gig Young) wander into a dive bar/bordello in a dead-end town. There they find Bennie (Warren Oates), an American expat/loser playing piano. The gentleman (who are also a couple) flash some bills and ask Bennie if he has seen Alfredo Garcia recently. He says no. The gangsters leave info about where they can be found if the elusive Mr. Garcia does show up.

 Robert Webber and Gig Young are just two of the no-good-nicks searching for Alfredo Garcia.

Bennie is intrigued by the gangsters and their quest. But he wasn't completely honest with them. It turns out that Bennie knows more about Alfredo Garcia than he let on. See, Bennie has an off-and-on "thing" with a sad-eyed hooker named Elita (Isela Vega). She was deeply in love with Alfredo at one time, but he had "commitment issues" and kept sleeping with other women. Bennie bets that Elita has the inside scoop about Alfredo.

Indeed she does, but the news isn't good: Alfredo Garcia is dead, the victim of a drunk driving accident. This doesn't bother Bennie one bit. Why? Because Bennie has a plan. He will track down Alfredo's grave, dig up the body and chop off Alfredo's noggin. It's not like he needs it anymore, right? Then he will deliver the head to El Jefe and collect the million bucks. What could possibly go wrong? The plan is fool-proof!

However, when Elita expresses misgivings about the project, Bennie snarls, "He's dead! Shut up!" A little while later, he points out, "The church cuts off the feet, fingers and any other god-damned thing from the saints, don't they? Now Alfredo is our savior--he's the saint of money! And I'm going to borrow his head!"

Before Bennie does, he and Elita decide to go on a picnic. They find a nice secluded spot under a large, shady tree. Bennie plays the guitar. Elita rests her head in his lap. The two talk about getting married. This romantic interlude is suddenly interrupted when two bikers roar up. One of these gents is played by actor/singer/songwriter/Rhodes Scholar Kris Kristofferson. He grabs Elita with the clear intention of assaulting her. Bennie remains behind at the picnic site, guarded by the other biker, who helps himself to Bennie's guitar. "You guys are definitely on my shit list," Bennie scowls.

The biker and Elita face each other in a field. The biker takes out his knife and rips Elita's shirt off. She slaps his face. He does nothing. She slaps him again. The biker slaps her back. Poor Elita is resigned to what's about to happen...but nothing happens. His victim's stoicism so completely discombobulates the thug that, well, he experiences impotence. This is so embarrassing that he hangs his head in shame and wanders off.

"I Wear My Sunglasses At Night": Warren Oates is Bennie.

What happens next is also pretty discombobulating. Elita seeks out the biker/rapist and finds him sitting on the ground, ashamed of his inability to carry out his assault. How will he face his friends and family? Elita (still topless) feels sorry for the thug and--I am not making this up, in the words of Dave Barry--decides to have sex with him in order to cheer the creep up. Naturally, when Bennie finds these two rolling around in the brush, he's not happy about it and, naturally, does a very Sam Peckinpah thing: he shoots the biker and his buddy.

Putting that disturbing interlude behind them, Bennie and Elita hit the open road to find Alfred's noggin. What they don't anticipate is that A) other people have similar ambitions and B) Mr. Garcia's family, friends and neighbors are very determined that his head will remain on his shoulders, no matter what.

Of course, the more insistent Bennie is about finishing his gory chore and collecting his reward, the more bonkers he becomes and the higher the body count grows. The casualty list includes various Garcia family members, neighbors, fellow gangsters (including Webber and Young) and poor Elita. Soon it's just Bennie and the bloody, rotting head of Alfredo Garcia. Truth be told, these two unfortunates get along really well. "Have a drink Al!" Bennie declares at one point, pouring some hooch on the head. "It wasn't your fault, Al," he assures the noggin after some commotion. Every now and then, Bennie stops at gas stations and flea bag hotels to give Al a shower and change his burlap bag. I'm sure Al appreciated that.

When Bennie and his precious cargo finally arrive at El Jefe's fortified compound, everybody is celebrating the baptism of the strong man's grandson (the boy's ma, who had her arm broken by grandpa's flunkies, seems less happy). Taking leave of the party, Bennie and the young mother follow El Jefe into his panelled study. "I knew you would come," the strong man mutters, sliding a suitcase full of money at Bennie.

This the pay-off Bennie has been waiting for...and, yet, the whole thing feels kind of hollow. El Jefe seems more interested in his baby grandson than Al's head. "Throw it to the pigs," he shrugs.

"Alfredo Garcia, I presume?"

That does it. Bennie's long, long fuse finally ignites. He explains to El Jefe that lots of people died so he could bring him the head of Alfredo Garcia "and one of them was a good friend of mine!" Nobody likes it when their hard work and dedication are ignored and dismissed, and Bennie is no exception. So what does he do? Bennie whips out his gun and begins shooting. And shooting. And shooting. The body count includes El Jefe (to his daughter's satisfaction), various guards and flunkies. Possibly even some party guests. When Sam Peckinpah is behind the camera, everybody's a target.

The final death, of course, is Bennie's, who drives away as El Jefe's goons shoot the hell out of him. He'll never get a chance to spend all that loot or retire somewhere in comfort, but Bennie is beyond caring about that. He finished what he started, which is the main thing. And isn't a job well done it's own reward?

When "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia" was released in 1974, it was met with deep--although well earned--critical scorn.

"An all out preposterous horror," said Esquire magazine.

"An exercise in manic machismo so witless," charged Vincent Canby of The New York Times, "you can't believe it was made by the man who directed 'The Wild Bunch.'"

"Don't worry, Al! I'll protect you!": Bennie guards his precious cargo.

"A private bit of self-mockery," observed Time's Jay Cocks.

Meanwhile, Joy Gould Boyum of The Wall Street Journal stated, "The only kind of analysis it really invites is psychoanalysis."


Now, you might be asking yourself, "Auntie Bee! If 'Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia' is so awful, why even review it?"

Good question. Why review such an ugly, turgid, slow-moving celluloid asteroid?

Gangster Gig Young really loves his job.

I wanted to give the movie a fair chance.

When I first saw it many years ago, I hated it, but I wondered if that was because I have never been a fan of Westerns. Also, I thought maybe I was too young to appreciate Sam Peckinpah's directorial style and how revolutionary many considered it. Finally, "Alfredo Garcia" had undergone a critical "reassessment" in the ensuing years and, just maybe, with time and age, it had become a better film.

My Aunt Fanny.

"Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia" is a bad, bad, BAD movie. That's a bold statement, but I'm standing by it.

Of course, just because "Alfredo Garcia" is bad doesn't mean we can't gain some powerful insights after viewing it. Among the powerful insights "Alfred Garcia" imparts are:

 Warren Oates shows us how he was able to get through the filming of "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia."

1) The old saying "If you are going to seek revenge, you had better dig two graves: one for your victim and one for yourself" is very true. However, in the case of "Alfredo Garcia", digging two graves wouldn't be enough; you'd need a whole graveyard.

2) When delivering a severed head, plan for any and all contingencies. Bring a cooler, plenty of ice and lots of burlap bags. You want your merchandise to be as fresh as possible.

3) Gangsters have very weird ideas about everything. They demand loyalty, yet back-stab each other all the time. They read the Bible and attend church, but think nothing of killing people or breaking their daughter's arm. They value virginity and fidelity, but only in females. They order someones head to be chopped off and then forget all about it. See? Weird.

4) We never learn a lot about Alfredo Garcia personally, but his family and friends were willing to protect his noggin at the cost of even their own lives. He must not have been such a bad egg after all.

5) If you have gone through hell and high water to bring a volatile strong man the bloody head of the guy who put a bun in his daughter's oven, don't get testy if acts less than grateful. Just take your cash and go.

"Geez, there has got to be a cash machine around here somewhere...": Bennie hits a rough patch of road.

So movie lovers, please always remember and never forget, keep your head on your shoulders and SAVE THE MOVIES.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves In "The Wild Women Of Wongo"

When Credit Sequences Attack.

Happy 2017, movie lovers!

Are you ready to begin another wonderful, funderful tour of the highways and byways of Junk Cinema? Good! Let's start now.

Our first film of the new year is set long, long ago, when the Earth was young. There were no paved streets or big cities, honking cars or endless Starbucks. Only lush sandy beaches, gently swaying palm trees and frolicking, wise-cracking parrots.

As our eyes marvel at this unspoiled natural beauty, a disembodied voice rings out from the heavens above.

"I am Mother Nature. Designer of all the things you see and all the things you are."

The unspoiled beauty of prehistoric Wongo (actually, Homestead, Florida).

Sounding every inch like a highly satisfied CEO going over last month's sales figures, Mother Nature declares, "All things considered, we (she and Father Time) think we've done fairly well."

Oh, sure, they've made a few mistakes. Who hasn't? One mishap took place "about 10,000 years ago" when she and Father Time "tried a topsy turvy experiment with the human race."

What, pray tell, did Mother Nature and Father Time do?

They made all the females in the land of Wongo "beautiful" and all their men "brutes". Meanwhile, over in the land of Goona ("many days march to the south") Mother Nature and Father Time made the men good looking and the women...not beautiful.

Sighed Mother Nature, "It didn't work."

The King of Wongo looks confused. He looks confused a lot.

What went wrong?

"The Wild Women Of Wongo!"

The ancient, prehistoric land of Wongo is ruled by a beefy king (pro-rugby player Rex Richards) with blue-ish dye sprayed in his hair to make him look "older". He is seen traveling to "The Temple of Dragon God" to ask its High Priestess (Zuni Dyer, a waitress from the Bronx who looks like a cross between Cher and Paul Stanley from KISS) to bless the up-coming marriages of "the maidens of Wongo."

Truth be told, the maidens of Wongo are not happy about these nuptials. That's because their prospective grooms are uncouth jerks who make Steve-O look like Cary Grant. Especially down in the dumps is Ohmoo (Jean Hawkshaw), the king's daughter. She's to be paired with Ocko, a short, surly, pug-nosed lout who can't wait to start bossing her around.

But what's this? Out of nowhere tall, strapping stranger with amazing pecs has paddled up to Wongo's beach head. He's Engor (Johnny Walsh), the prince of Goona, and he's brandishing "the wing of the white bird of peace."

"I Come In Peace": Johnny Walsh as Engor, the prince of Goona.

The sight of the gorgeous guy from Goona causes the women of Wongo to go nuts, as you can imagine.

"It's a man!" one Wongo-ette cries out.

"Oh, no, it's a god! I am sure of it!" corrects her friend.

"This is like a dream I've had!" Ohmoo declares, before turning to her gal pal Mona (Mary Ann Webb) and asking, "Are you certain it's a man?"

"I have a feeling that makes me certain," Mona replies.

A Wongo woman is shocked, shocked, that a man without back hair exists.

If the Wongo women are excited about Engor, the men of Wongo are appalled. They sneer at his "women's skin" and don't for one second buy his claim about the "ape men"  in "big canoes" who are threatening neighboring villages. In fact, the Wongo men think it's a trap by the King of Goona to steal their women.

Ohmoo only reinforces these misgivings when she pleads with her father to give her to Engor and not Ocko.

"His father is a king after all!" Ohmoo points out.

"That is a sacrilege to the gods!" HRH thunders, ordering his daughter to stay in her plastic hut for the time being.

Wongo's tribal council meets and decides that Engor must die. They all agree the strapping stranger will be speared by Ocko first thing in the morning. His death will serve as an object lesson to Wongo's "foolish women" about drooling over cute guys from other villages. It will also send a message to Goona's king to stop meddling in Wongo's internal affairs. Ohmoo over hears these plans and is determind to save Engor...for herself.

"Endless Love": Ohmoo  and Engor go nose to nose under the stars.

After the sun goes down, Ohmoo sneaks out of her hut and beckons Engor to join her. They hold hands and walk around for a while before declaring their true love.

"Ohmoo. They call you that?" Engor asks. Pause. "I like it." Another pause. "I have never seen a woman like you."

"I've dreamed of a man like you!" Ohmoo pants. "I never thought it would come true!"

The smitten kittens passionately embrace and suck face. They come for air and then collapse in a heap in the sand. The camera gracefully glides up into the starry sky above, granting our cuddlemates some much needed privacy.

Bright and early the next morning, the whole cast is assembled on the beach to wave Engor off to Goona. By this time Ohmoo has informed all her Wongo friends about the plan to kill Engor. They agree to help. As Engor innocently trudges down the beach to his canoe, the surly Ocko raises his spear, ready to lob the fatal blow. At that very moment, the Wongo women en masse tackle Ocko, knocking him to the ground. Engor races to his canoe and furiously paddles away.

"Girl Power?": The Wongo Women over-take Ocko. Notice the curiously passive fellow at the left of the picture, who can't be bothered to help his fellow tribesman.

As punishment for helping Engor escape, the maidens of Wongo are sent into the wilderness to appease "The Dragon God." This involves a different gal, every night, sitting in the sand and waiting for the Dragon God ( stock footage of a waddling alligator) to choose one of them for "his bride." It should be noted that when "choosing a bride", the Dragon God actually attacks and eats the lucky (?) lady. A minor detail, perhaps, but an important one.

The Dragon God the Wongo folks worship must be a picky fellow indeed, because after two weeks of sending him a different bride every night, he still hasn't made up his mind. The Wongo women are getting pretty fed-up with this situation and tempers are flaring. Then Mona of Wongo is out taking a sun bath when two "ape men" (cast members with mustaches) sneak up on her. Hearing her screams, the gals grab their spears and rush to her aid. They quickly over-power the "ape men" and push them into the sea...where the Dragon God subsequently gobbles them up.

Believing the "ape men"s deaths fulfills the necessary requirements of their punishment, the women of Wongo decide to head home. Alas, when they get there, no one is there to greet them. Where did everybody go? The gals have no idea, but they suspect the "ape men" may have something to do with it. After a few days of holding down the fort, Ohmoo declares, "We do not want to live and grow old and die without men! Wongo is ended. Tomorrow we leave Wongo--we'll go south!"

Off our heroines troop to Goona, hoping to make a love connection with those hunky Goona guys. The problem is the Goona gents are participating in an ancient ritual to "prove they are men." This entails going out into the wilderness unarmed for about a week. When the survivors return, the women of Goona will greet them "with a wedding feast." However, because the Goona women "are not beautiful", the young men of the tribe are looking forward to their marriages with all the enthusiasm usually reserved for tax audits and prostrate exams. Still, an ancient ritual is an ancient ritual, so off they go.

Imagine the surprise of Engor and his buddy Gahbo (Ed Fury), out skinny dipping in a river, when Ohmoo and her fellow Wongo-ettes show up.

"This one is mine! He's cute!" declares one Wongo woman (that's a direct quote, by the way). Notice the guy isn't putting up much of a fuss.

"Where are your friendly men?"asks Engor.

Ohmoo explains that the "ape men" cleaned out Wongo and their village is no more.

"Come out and we'll cook you a meal," she says.

Engor explains that the Goona men are under-going an ancient ritual and can't inter-act with females at the present time. Besides, they are already paired up with a gal back home.

Ohmoo brushes away Engor's argument by declaring, "Look at us! Wouldn't you rather have us for mates!?"

 Engor and Gahbo look confused. They look confused a lot.

Not waiting for an answer, the Wongo women lasso Engor and Gahbo and drag them out of the water. Following suit, the rest of the Wongo-ettes trap themselves a Goona husband by using nets, spears and all matters of subterfuge. These new relationships are off to a testy start, however, when the Goona men sample their wives' cooking.

"Can't you catch anything but rabbits!?" grouses one Goona guy.

Another complains that the grub "is very poorly seasoned. Not the way the Goona women cook."

That crack causes a Wongo-ette to bark, "Next time, you'll season the food yourself! You'll do it under the whip!"

While all this is going on, it turns out the Wongo men have not died. In fact, they have landed in Goona--and have made the acquaintance of Goona's "not beautiful" women. However, to the Wongo men, the Goona women are perfectly fine. Soon enough, the Wongo men pair up with a Goona gal and everybody decides to make it legal. So off they go to the Temple of the Dragon God to seek the Great Dragon's blessing.

A Goona woman bears her fangs...and her tonsils.

Hilarious complications ensue when the Wongo men and their Goona fiance's run into the Wongo women and their Goona intendeds at the temple. Ocko starts making noises that Ohmoo is his gal, but Engor settles things by declaring he and Ohmoo are getting married no matter what. The High Priestess agrees and Ocko returns to his Goona fiance. The last scene in our flick shows each good looking Goona/Wongo couple facing the camera--and the man winks. The last couple is Engor and Ohmoo, only Ohmoo is the one who winks at the camera.

Don't you love a happy ending?

"The Wild Women Of Wongo" is a cherished Junk Cinema Jewel for a variety of reasons, beyond the obvious ones (it's wacky plot, cardboard acting, cheap sets). This nutsy hybrid of prehistoric romance/beach party movie/ battle of the sexes drama perfectly captures the "Can Do" spirit Junk Cinema's greatest practitioners must posses to achieve their goals.

Director James Wolcott was an accountant bored by the 9 to 5 grind when he decided to throw caution to the wind an become a filmmaker. Needless to say, Wolcott had never directed a fly to an out-house, much less a movie, so making "The Wild Women Of Wongo" was both a challenging task and a labor of love. James' inexperience (and incompetence) is present in every frame of film he managed to shoot in focus: glimpses of camper-trailers in the background of various scenes; the awkwardly inserted stock footage of alligators; High Priestess Zuni Dyer stroking her "pet alligator", which was just a plastic toy strapped to her wrist and the badly sprayed hair of the tribal "elders". Even his cast and crew knew Wolcott was over his head; one even told The Brothers Medved in The Son Of The Golden Turkey Awards that James seemed "vulnerable and helpless", the sort of guy "who didn't know enough to come out of the rain." Yet he persevered.

And like any amateur, Wolcott surrounded himself with even more amateurs! Scriptwriter Cedric Rutherford had never written a screenplay before. Most of the cast had never acted before. Zuni Dyer, remember, was a waitress. The King of Wongo was an ex-professional rugby player. The tribal elders of Wongo were off-duty Corals Gable, Florida, police officers. The hunky Goona men were a motley crew of University of Florida football players and Miami Beach muscle boys. The ONLY cast members who went on to act in other projects were Adrienne Bourbeau (Wana of Wongo) who appeared in a 1967 episode of the TV show "Flipper" and Ed Fury (Gahbo of Goona) who made several "sword and sandal" epics in the 1960's ("Colossus And The  Amazon Women", "Ursus" and "The Seven Rangers" among them).

Future star of Italian sword and sandal epics Ed Fury gives a wink to the camera.

Perhaps the most famous name attached to this flick belongs to Tennessee Williams--yes, that Tennessee Williams, the author of The Glass Menagerie, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof  and A Street Car Named Desire.

See, Mr. Williams was dating one of the male cast members. He arrived a bit early to pick up his friend for their dinner date and had to wait around until his companion finished his scenes. Not surprisingly, Tennessee got bored and fell asleep. When the shooting was over, Williams presumably woke up, allowing he and his friend to resume their plans for the evening. Let's hope they had a nice time.

In spite of all the nuttiness that took place in front of and behind the camera, everyone involved with the creation of "The Wild Women Of Wongo" should be proud of themselves. Why? Because they all achieved what they set out to do. James Wolcott got to direct. Cedric Rutherford had his screenplay turned into a movie. Ed Fury made "sword and sandal" movies in Italy. "The Wild Women Of Wongo" was shown in movie theaters and drive-ins and did not merely gather dust on some shelf. And everybody got to meet Tennessee Williams. Have you ever met Tennessee Williams?

Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

To the entire cast and crew of "The Wild Women Of Wongo": Junk Cinema salutes you!

One of the movie posters for our featured flick.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Fur Flies In "Cat Women Of The Moon"

"Those who play with cats must expect to get scratched": The Hollywood Cover Girls bare their claws in this classic movie poster.

Hi-dee-ho, movie lovers.

Interested in getting your paws on a top-notch outer space thriller?

Watch "Aliens"!

Meanwhile, the rest of us plan to hunker down with "Cat Women Of The Moon" (1953), a cinematic hairball that stars "The Male Sensation of 1944" Sonny Tufts as the head of a mission-to-the-moon and "The Hollywood Cover Girls" as the Cat Women they encounter.

The fun begins with Commander Laird Grainger (Tufts) of Rocket 4 waxing philosophic about "the eternal wonders of space and time. The far away dreams and mysteries of other worlds. Other life. The stars. The planets.."

Female lady person Helen (Marie Windsor) makes a (space) ship to shore call while Kip (Victor Jory) eavesdrops.

But enough of that! Suddenly the flick cuts to a Playtex Easy Glide Tampon hurtling through the cosmos and then to its intrepid crew, who are strapped into lawn chairs and looking mighty uncomfortable.

Head honcho Tufts presides of a crack crew of space cadets that include second-in-command Kip (Victor Jory); the business oriented Walt (Douglas Fowley, who looks like the breast-obsessed director Russ Meyer); newbie Doug (Bill Phipps) and navigator Helen (Roger Corman regular and budget Joan Crawford Marie Windsor).

The fact that a woman of the female sex holds such an important position on this mission is meant to show that, in the future, all vestiges of debilitating sexism have been banished. However, since "Cat Women" was made in 1953, all vestiges of that era's sexism remain firmly in place. Case in point: the first thing Helen does after emerging from hyper-sleep is fix her hair and make-up. Later on, when the gang is attacked by a giant spider puppet wearing a tiara, the men launch into attack mode, while Helen screams and faints (twice).

There is another reason why Helen's presence on this trip is vital-- although neither Helen or her cohorts are aware of it. See, an ancient race of Cat Women have been using their superior mental telepathy powers to take control of Helen's mind. Why? Well, it's simple: the moon is running out of air. The Cat Women--who are the last of their lunar litter--must relocate PDQ. Their choice for a new home? Earth.

Of course, the Cat Women wouldn't be in this predicament at all if their tribal elders, many generations earlier, hadn't decided that the best way to "conserve air" was to knock-off half the population. The male half, to exact. Not only did this strategy not save any air, it pretty much ruined the moon's swinging singles scene.

"Comb Together": Helen (far right) checks out her coiffure while Sonny Tufts checks her out.

Through Helen, the Cat Women plan to lure Sonny Tufts and company to their settlement. Once there, the crafty kittens will pump the crew for info on how to fly their rocket ship. The Cat Women will then ditch the guys (but bring Helen along) and zoom off to Earth. It goes without saying that they will take over the planet, establish a female dictatorship and use males only for "breeding purposes." That, however, is farther down the plot-line. And it must reiterated that Helen knows nothing about the feline mind control being practiced on her; the poor dear merely thinks she's having weird dreams (or really bad PMS).

Now, it's not my intention to bog this article down with exposition and/or plot points, but there is one more aspect to Helen's presence that must be discussed before we move on.

It appears there is a subtle love triangle involving Laird, Kip and Helen... so subtle in fact, that Laird seems totally unaware of it. Never the less, Kip feels the need to dramatically announce, "Look, Helen, I have a very high regard for you. You're smart, you have courage and you're all woman! If it hadn't been for Laird, I would have tried to make it 'you and me' a long time ago!" To her credit, Helen tries to keep things professional, insisting her "interest" in Laird is "strictly scientific". Yet Kip keeps pushing, declaring, "You can't turn love on and off like a faucet!"

OK, back to the action.

"Cat got your tongue?": Helen is speechless upon meeting top cat Alpha and her pussy cat posse.

Our crew finally touches down on the moon. Guided by Helen (who is guided by the Cat Women, remember), the gang trudges to the town square of the Cat Women's encampment. The wonder of it all causes Helen to muse, "It's just like I dreamed! Only now the dream is real!" Seconds later, Helen wanders off to join her fellow feline femmes.

"Welcome to the moon!" purrs top cat Alpha (Carol Brewster). "This is my second-in-command Beta and this is Lambda."

Dressed in form fitting body suits with lace collars, sporting hair-dos that resemble shellacked pineapples and wearing enough mascara to make even Tammy Faye Baker wince, the Cat Women are a sight to see. To bad nobody thought about giving our moon minions some personality to go along with their outlandish wardrobe. Unfortunately, these lunar ladies are dull as dishwater and stiffer than starch. There are department store dummies with more get-up-and-go! After enduring their listless acting, you begin to believe boredom is what killed off their men-folk, not "planned genocide."

After conferencing with Helen, the Cat Women eventually show themselves to our unsuspecting male crew members. Although Beta had sneered earlier, "We have no need of men", the Cat Women know that the way to a man's brain is through his stomach. "May we serve you, Earth men?" the crafty cats ask, bearing trays of Hostess Sno-Balls and an exotic fruit that "tastes a little like Honey Dew Melon." The guys gleefully chow down and appear to enjoy to local wine, too. Everybody, in fact, seems to be getting along great, except for spoil-sport Kip. He plants himself in a corner instead, alternating between glaring at the gang and munching on a K-Ration.

It's during this little social hour that Walt, forever looking for ways to make a fast buck, notices a Cat Woman's bracelet. "It's made from a metal far superior to anything you have on Earth," she informs him. Walt is impressed--especially when he learns that the moon is so full of gold, the Cat Women don't even bother to mine it. Soon, the jet jockey and his feline hostess make a deal: he'll show her around the rocket ship if she shows him the gold.

"I'll show you mine, if you show me yours": Engineer Walt strikes a fatal bargain with his cunning kitty companion.

Walt holds up his end of the bargain and so does the Cat Woman. Unfortunately, while Walt is admiring all the gold, his pussy cat partner stabs him in the back--literally. She then scurries off to Alpha's office, where she mentally downloads all the science info she extracted from Walt.

A less sinister hook-up forms between newbie Doug and Lambda. While Doug munches on that strange moon fruit, he shyly drawls, "I wonder what the folks back home would think if they knew I was having dinner with a beautiful moon woman." These two are definitely headed for Heartbreak Hotel, especially after Lamdba confides, "I love you, Doug, but I must kill you."

Meanwhile, Kip has discovered that if he holds Helen tightly and covers a white spot on her palm (don't ask), it breaks the mental hold the Cat Women exert on his would-be cuddlemate. After doing so, Helen not only admits her true feelings for Kip, but also reveals the Cat Women's evil plans. Without a second to lose, Kip and Doug round up their space suits (with help from smitten kitten Lambda) and race after the Cat Women. Just as predicted, Lambda gets a fatal conk on the noggin for fraternizing with the enemy. While Doug mourns over Lambda's kitty corpse, Kip whips out his gun and races off camera. Bang! Bang! Bang! "The Cat Women are dead!" he yells triumphantly. Oh, and "Helen's alright!"

When we next see them, our crew (minus Walt) are busily working at their stations. Commander Laird tries to comfort the heartbroken Doug ( "What's done is done."), but the newbie insists he's fine. When Rocket 4 finally makes contact with White Sands ( which is ground control, not the hotel), the folks on Earth want to hear all about their mission to the moon. "That's a long story," Doug sighs before signing off. "Cat Women Of The Moon", over and out.

Our featured presentation holds a special place in the pantheon of Junk Cinema. Part of this is due to the priceless presence of Sonny Tufts, "The Male Sensation of 1944" and the Godfather of every talentless Hollywood pretty boy who has since come down the pike, from Troy Donahue to Christopher Atkins to Zac Effron.

"When I think, it hurts": Commander Sonny Tufts confers with second-in-command Victory Jory.

Tufts got his start as the eye-catching "Shirtless G. I." in "So Proudly We Hail" and studio execs were hopeful he could be the Next Big Thing in matinee idols. Unfortunately, Sonny's total lack of acting talent kept getting in the way. (Reportedly, when Sonny did a screen test, his dramatic reading was thought to be comedy piece.) By the time Sonny starred in "Cat Women Of The Moon", he was struggling to hold on to his career and his figure (rim shot!). As Commander Laird Grainger, Tufts stumbles around the cardboard sets like a suburban dad who can't remember where he left the Mini-Van in the Park and Ride. On several occasions you can clearly see him reading directly from his script. And more than once a co-star must jump in and finish Sonny's lines.

No wonder, then, that The Golden Turkey Awards chose to nominate "Cat Women Of The Moon" as one of "The Worst Performance(s) By Sonny Tufts", alongside "Cottonpickin' Chicken Pickers" (1968), "Government Girl" (1943) and "The Well-Groomed Bride" (1946). The eventual winner as "Government Girl", a comedy Sonny claimed was "about as funny as three caskets."

Of course, as bad as Sonny is, he gets plenty of competition from his feline co-stars "The Hollywood Cover Girls." These gals just may be the worst acting "group" in motion picture history, besting even The Village People in "Can't Stop The Music" (1980) or the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders when they set sail on a special 2-hour "Love Boat" cruise. Although the script asks The Cover Girls to do little more than perform klutzy dances and slink about, even these tasks appear to be beyond their capabilities. No wonder, then, that after their auspicious debut in "Cat Women", these starlets faded into obscurity, popping up (once in a blue moon) only as a trivia question.

The rest of the cast--Victory Jory, Marie Windsor, Douglas Fowley and Bill Phipps--struggle to hold on to their dignity, but it's a losing battle.

No review of "Cat Women Of The Moon" can over look the sexism that wafts through this flick like odor from a used litter box.

"She's Got...Tammy Faye Baker Eyes?": One of "The Hollywood Cover Girls" tries to act, but her make-up upstages her.

In fact, The Son Of The Golden Turkey Awards nominated "Cat Women" as "The Most Primitive Male Chauvinist Fantasy In Movie History", along with such luminaries as "Prehistoric Women" (1950), "Mesa Of Lost Women" (1953) and "Fire Maiden From Outer Space" (1956). "Cat Women" follows the trope of an isolated community of man-starved females who can't be trusted because, you know, women are two-faced. The flick also suggests that women are happiest tending to domestic duties; when the "liberated" Helen is told she can't go on a lunar camp-out, she protests her exclusion by squealing, "Who's going to cook your meals?!" Perhaps the lowest point in the flick occurs when the ill-fated Walt tells his kitty companion, "You're too smart for me, baby! I like 'em dumb!"

So, kiddies, what have we learned from today's lunar lunacy?

1) Wine and cheese may improve with age, but Sonny Tuft's acting does not.

2) Any female dominated society, regardless of how old or advanced it is, is just a super-snooty sorority run by Mean Girls.

3) Check the fine print! It's Elmer Bernstein, not "Bernstien"! 

Commander Laird tries to comfort heart-broken newbie Doug: "When we get back to Earth, we'll get you a new kitty."

4) Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: the sets for "Cat Women Of The Moon" later popped up in "Missile To The Moon."

5) If you want your spider puppet to inspire real chills, nix its tiara.

So, movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, cats may shed, they may be picky eaters, they may sleep on clean laundry and they may play havoc with your Christmas ornaments, but they are NOT as bad as those dastardly "Cat Women Of The Moon"!

Thank you for all your support and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Wishing You A Patrick Swayze Christmas!

Patrick Swayze in the role that made him shameless: Dalton in "Road House."

Season's greetings, movie lovers.

If you're a fan of "MST3K"--and, really, who isn't?--then you know wise-acre Crow T. Robot penned the holiday hymn "A Patrick Swayze Christmas."*

Inspired by the 1989 cultural touchstone "Road House", a sample of the lyrics go as follows:

"Open up your heart/and let the Patrick Swayze Christmas in./ We'll gather at the road house/ with our next of kin...

"It's my way or the highway/that's Christmas at my bar/ I'll have to smash your kneecaps/ if you bastards touch my car...

"I got the word that Santa/ has been stealing from the till/ I think that right jolly old elf/ had better make out his will..."

Crow, Joel and Tom Servo harmonize to "A Patrick Swayze Christmas."

Therefore, in honor of holidays, in honor of the late Patrick Swayze, in honor of Crow's dandy ditty and in honor of a Junk Cinema Jewel the size of Godzilla, let's all enjoy "Road House"!

Or not. The movie's pretty awful. But I digress...

Once upon a time (1989, actually), there was a small town called Jasper. In this quaint little burg an establishment named The Double Deuce called home.

Once a decent watering hole, The Double Deuce had inexplicably begun to attract an unseemly crowd of bozos, bimbos, bullies and brawlers. Fights broke out every night. The bar-keep was skimming from the till. Waitresses sold drugs in the john. The house band was forced to play on a stage encased in plexi-glass to protect them from flying debris. In short, The Double Deuce had become double trouble, especially for its owner Frank (Kevin Tighe, best remembered as the stolid EMT Roy on "Emergency!").

Frank realized that if he wanted to reclaim his bar back from hospitality hell, he needed the help of a professional. Enter Dalton (Patrick Swayze in his greatest role ever). An enigmatic chap with a painful past, Dalton is known as the best "cooler" (bouncer) in the universe. His specialty is cleaning up disreputable dives, allowing the owners to remake them as honest businesses. Once that's accomplished, Dalton moves on, leaving nothing behind but the great smell of Brut.

Unfortunately, the unruly clientele of The Double Deuce isn't the only problem plaguing Jasper. The entire town is at the mercy of one Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara). You see, Brad firmly believes he is responsible for whatever prosperity Jasper enjoys: "When I came to this town after Korea, there was nothin'! I brought the mall here! I got the Seven-Eleven here! I got Photo-Mat here! J.C. Penney is comin' here because of me!"  Thus, Brad considers Jasper his personal property, his kingdom--and he rules over it like a combination of Al Capone, Boss Hogg, Noah Cross and Satan. 

Ben Gazzara as Jasper's ruler Brad Wesley: "It's my way or the the highway."

Dalton, of course, is unaware of this situation. That's because he's totally preoccupied with cleaning up The Double Deuce, which he starts immediately. First, Dalton fires an employee who lets in under-age patrons. Next, he cans the waitress dealing drugs in the powder room ("We sell booze here, not drugs," Dalton reminds her.) Another jerk is dismissed when Dalton catches him in the storeroom having sex (doggy style!) with a nameless bimbo whom he lovingly calls "my regular Saturday night thing."

"But I'm on my break!" the moron protests.

"Stay on it!" Dalton replies.

Lastly, Dalton kicks to the curb bar-keep Pat (John Doe), who is skimming about $150 a week from the till. This is a risky move, as Pat happens to be the nephew of Brad Wesley. Soon enough, Uncle Brad sends his goons over to insist his loser nephew (who suffers from "a weak constitution") be rehired. Dalton refuses. When the thugs try pressuring Dalton, he promptly dispatches them with some choice martial arts moves aimed at their crotch and knee-cap areas.

 Dalton may have pissed off Brad Wesley, but he has delighted Frank, because The Double Deuce has been reborn under his ministrations. The bar is repainted and refurbished, the staff have new uniforms, the stage is cleared of plexi-glass and the joint is full to capacity every night. Also on the plus side: Dalton has made the acquaintance of Jasper's only non-bimbo resident, Dr. Elizabeth Clay (indie actress Kelly Lynch), known simply as "Doc."

 Dalton and Doc discuss the finer points of chronic pain management. He: "Pain don't hurt." She: "Most of my patients would disagree with you."

The smitten kittens meet when Dalton comes in to have stitches after a knife fight. Doc is impressed that her hunky patient carries around copies of his medical records ("Saves time," he explains) and that he has a degree in philosophy from NYU. Dalton insists his major isn't that unique; merely "man's search for faith, shit like that." What is unique? Dalton refuses to be numbed up for his stitches because "pain don't hurt." Naturally, Doc and Dalton are destined for A GREAT LOVE and, more importantly, an explicit (and highly improbable) sex scene later on. However, more plot points must be unloaded first.

Like any corrupt, evil villain, Brad Wesley is not happy that Dalton refuses to accept his rule. The "cooler" barely bats an eye when Brad's goons trash his junker cars. He serenely dispatches Brad's cronies when they attempt to disrupt the newly calm atmosphere of the Double Deuce ("You're too stupid to have fun," Dalton sniffs). He even turns down Brad's offer to work at a rival bar for more money. "There isn't enough money in the world to make me work for you," Dalton announces before stalking off.

So Brad Wesley turns up the heat. He vandalizes Red Webster's (Red West) auto supply store--Red is Dalton's friend and Doc's uncle. He sends a monster truck with wheels the size of a house to demolish the car dealership of Pete Stroudenmire, another pal of Dalton's. When that doesn't work, Brad orders his mullet-wearing flunky Jimmy to fire bomb old coot Emmett's farmhouse--where Dalton rents a room. Dalton saves the oldster, but it's obvious Brad Wesley has become dangerously unhinged...not that he never was the easy going type to begin with. I'm don't know this for a fact, of course, I'm just saying...

Anyway, through out all this Sturm und Drang, Patrick Swayze's Dalton remains as calm, cool and collected as a Zen master. He looks people squarely in the eye, rarely raises his voice and insists his staff "be nice"--until the time has passed to be nice. In his off hours, Dalton practises martial arts in the nude and reads the novel A River Runs Through It.  However, when Brad Wesley has his mentor/best friend Wade Garrett (Sam Elliot) fatally stabbed in the chest, it's no more Mr. Nice Guy. Dalton erupts into an apocalyptic rage which horrifies his cuddlemate Doc, but was clearly designed to sate the blood-lust of the movie's target audience, who were no doubt getting restless with all this "niceness" horse puckey. 

With vengeance in his heart, Dalton races over to Brad Wesley's McMansion, where he hits, kicks, stabs, shoots and punches the lights-out of each and every one of Brad Wesley's goons. But that's not all! Dalton flattens one thug by pushing a stuffed polar bear on top of him! He spins donuts on Brad Wesley's manicured lawn! And when Dalton and Brad Wesley have their final, bloody face-to-face confrontation, it appears our hero is preparing to rip Brad's throat out with his bare hands--something Dalton has done before (case in point: the mullet-wearing flunky Jimmy).

"Be nice...until it's time not to be nice": Dalton decides it's time not to be nice.

 But no. Dalton pulls back. He may bust the knee-caps of unruly bar patrons for a living, but he's not an animal. So he straightens up and walks away. However, like Jason and Freddy Kruger, Brad Wesley cannot be killed or subdued for long. As Dalton wearily staggers away, Brad  rises up and prepares to gun Dalton down...when Red, Pete and Frank miraculously materialize out of thin air and shoot Brad Wesley over and over and over and over again. "This our town!" Red declares,"and don't you forget it!"--as Brad crashes through his glass-top coffee table and dies in a bloody heap.

A moment of silence please, to honor the those who suffered and died under the rule of Brad Wesley. May they find peace in the here-after. May their loved ones find closure. May Jasper heal its divisions and come together as one people, one community. Let the faithful join hands and vow to begin anew.


OK, now that that's over, "Road House" ends the only way it can, with Dalton, totally nude, jumping into the river to frolic with his equally nude cuddlemate Doc. Praise the Lord and pass the sunblock!

Movies as supremely, sublimely nutty as "Road House" resemble those towering champagne fountains at chi-chi weddings--except instead of bubbly, the fountain is spewing cheese. Thick, gooey, highly caloric cheese. From its daffy dialogue (Jimmy to Dalton: "I use to f@#$% guys like you is prison!") to its atrocious acting (Ben Gazzara, are you listening? Yes, I know you have passed away, but I bet you can still hear me! Shame on you!) to its cartoon depiction of violence (near-death by polar bear?) and vigilante justice ("Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice"*) to its ripped-off and badly used Spaghetti Western motifs ( is Dalton "The High Plains Drifter" or "The Man With No Name"?!) to its homo-erotic sub-text (Jimmy and Dalton's duel to the death, among other examples), the Velveeta just keeps coming.

Shooting blanks? Brad Wesley's goon squad opens fire.

And yet...the flick is not quite as harmless as so many other mindless trash-fests celebrated here. It's treatment of women is truly vile. This is best summed up by Wade's comment about Doc, the movie's "respectable" female character: "That gal's got entirely too many brains to have an ass like that." Furthermore, "Road House"s obsession with male genitals (kicking them, comparing their size, flashing them) is, well, icky. Producer Joel Silver knew his target audience (dumb jerks who love violence and hate women) and gave them exactly what they wanted. He made buckets of money, too. But mixed in with the cheese are shards of glass, so be careful.

This where I leave you, movie lovers. Remember, it's my way or the highway, and SAVE THE MOVIES.

* "A Patrick Swayze Christmas" was actually written by Michael J. Nelson. All rights reserved.

* This quote is from Barry Goldwater.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Brad Pitt Is The Face That Launched A Thousand Twits In "Troy".

"I am the hero of this movie!" "No I am the hero of this movie!": Achilles (Brad Pitt) and Hector (Eric Bana) battle it out in "Troy". Unfortunately, they both end up losing...but not as much as the audience.

Greetings, movie lovers.

Today we travel back in time, to the days of ancient Greece and its seminal conflict, the Trojan War.

According to Homer, who chronicled these events in The Iliad, the Trojan War was a 10-year battle that divided the gods on Mt. Olympus, pitted the Greek armies against the undefeated (and very walled-in) Trojans and forced mere mortals to grapple with the enduring complexities of honor, hubris, revenge and loyalty.

However, to director Wolfgang Petersen, the Trojan War was more like CGI episode of "The Bold and the Beautiful", complete with pious virgins, adulterous couples, duplicitous power brokers, plenty of skin and a hunky hero who affects the worst English accent since Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins."

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Troy", a 2004 epic failure that proves one should be wary of Greeks baring gifts...because they often contain hysterically awful movies lurking inside.

Desperate housewife Helen of Sparta (Diane Kruger) decides to run off with a Trojan (Orlando Bloom)...but will probably wind up pregnant anyway.

Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom are Princes Hector and Paris of Troy. In typical soap opera fashion, Hector is the mature, responsible sibling who must perpetually bail out kid bro Paris, a feckless fellow who can't keep his toga tied, if you get my drift.

Paris' latest scrape involves Helen (Diane Kruger), the desperate housewife chained in marriage to Menelaus (Brenden Gill), King of Sparta. While negotiations for a peace treaty between their two kingdoms are being hammered out, Helen and Paris are hammering each other. This is risky business indeed, as Menelaus is a notorious hot-head with a taste for the ugliest caftans this side of TV's "Maude." Still, the attraction between these two dreamy dead-weights could not be denied.

"Every day I was with him, I wanted to walk into the sea and drown," Helen confides to Paris about hubby Menelaus. "Before you came, I was a ghost. I walked and I ate and I swam in the sea, but I was a ghost."

The king is an oafish brute who will blow a gasket when he learns about the affair, but Helen, so resigned to her unhappiness in Sparta, doesn't care.

"I'm not afraid of dying," she sobs to Paris. "I'm afraid of tomorrow! I'm afraid of watching you sail away and knowing you'll never come back!"

"Paris When It Fizzles": Paris of Troy realizes his romance with Queen Helen has all the makings of  a royal disaster.

After such a declaration, Paris comes up with a great idea: why doesn't Helen come away with him to Troy?

"If you come, we'll never be safe," Paris admits. "Men will hunt us! The gods will curse us! But I'll love you!"

So Paris smuggles his Spartan cuddlemate onto the departing Trojan flagship and nobody even notices. They are about half-way out to sea when Paris tentatively informs Hector (who is anxious to get home to his supermodel wife and new son) that they have an extra passenger on board. Hector hits the roof and orders their ship back to Sparta. However, pretty boy Paris announces that if Helen is returned to Sparta, he's going, too. Realizing his knuckle-knob sibling means it, Hector has no choice but to sail back to Troy--but not before he tears his kid brother a new one: "You say you are willing to die for love, but you know NOTHING about DYING and you know NOTHING about LOVE!"

Meanwhile, Menelaus throws an epic hissy fit when he realizes his trophy wife has flown the royal coop. He then stomps over to to see his older sibling Agamemnon (Brian Cox). All full of brotherly concern, Agamemnon agrees to muster his military might in the service of getting Helen back, so the furious Menelaus can then kill her in the privacy of his own castle.

In true soap opera style, however, Agamemnon has an ulterior motive lurking beneath his sibling solidarity. He wants to rule all of Greece and Troy, wouldn't you know, is the final hold-out. Helen's skipping off with Paris provides Agamemnon with the opening he's been looking for. If things go according to plan, Troy will fall, he, Agamemnon, will become king of everything and bro Menelaus will get to avenge his husbandly humiliation. Win-win for everybody. What could possibly go wrong?

Happy Warrior?: Agamemnon thinks his foray into Troy will be quick and easy. Little does he know...

It's about this time that Brad Pitt struts on as Achilles, the mightiest warrior Ancient Greece has ever known. Pitt reportedly worked out for six months to be ripped and ready as Achilles, and I must say he looks every inch a Greek god. The problem is Pitt's Achilles is a rather conflicted sober-sides: proud of his fighting skills and the renown they bring him, yet fed-up with endlessly winning battles for vainglorious chicken-hawks like Agamemnon. He's gorgeous, but kind of a wet-blanket. 

It's a total bummer, then, that Agamemnon's plans to beat Troy into submission rely heavily on Achilles and his posse of Myrmidons leading the charge. Since Achilles doesn't like Agamemnon and Agamemnon doesn't like Achilles and, furthermore, Achilles doesn't think a runaway wife is worth all the fuss Agamemnon (and bro Menelaus) are whipping up, it's going to be tough sledding getting him to sign-up. 

Enter Odysseus (the future Ned Stark of "Game of Thrones" Sean Bean). He finds Achilles relaxing at his bachelor pad in the company of his pouty cousin Patroclus (Garrett Hedlund), a young warrior in training. Odysseus knows of Achilles' disinterest in the conflict being planned, but he also understands what truly motivates him--and it isn't sunshine or goodness. Therefore, Odysseus proclaims that "this war will be talked about for ages" and says participating will bring Achilles even more glory than he already enjoys. Still not on board 100%, Achilles agrees to think about it and get back to Odysseus. Then the mighty warrior goes off to chat with his mom, Thetis (the uncredited, but still magnificent Julie Christie).

Thetis tells her son he only has two choices: go into battle with the Greeks and become a famous--albeit-- dead hero or stay home, get married, have some kids and die a contented nobody. Want to guess what Achilles ultimately decides to do?

Now, you are probably wondering what's happened to those crazy kids Helen and Paris, whose adulterous antics created this mess. Well, Hector, Paris and Helen arrive in Troy to a joyous welcome. Wise old King Priam (Peter O'Toole in shoulder pads and a Billy Ray Cyrus mullet) greets everyone graciously, commenting on how cute Helen is ("For once the gossips were right!") and offering comfy rooms. Hector's wife Andromache (Saffron Burrows) shows off their baby son and gives hubby a big fat kiss. Then cousin Briseis (Rose Bryne) enters, announcing that she's now a vestal virgin in the temple of Apollo. Everybody seems happy, believing that the sun god will protect Troy, as he always has.

"Will your husband be joining us soon?": King Priam (Peter O'Toole) greets returning sons Paris and Hector and new daughter-in-law Helen.

Unfortunately, Apollo has other things on his "To Do" list and safe-guarding Troy isn't one of them. So imagine the Trojans collective surprise when Achilles, with his posse of Myrmidons and the Greek army in tow, show up on their shores ready to rumble. The invading soldiers sack Apollo's temple and hack its priests to death; later on, Achilles whacks off the head of the sun god's statue just for kicks. Then the Greeks pitch their tents outside Troy's fabled walls and prepare to wait its citizens out.

The invading forces have come well supplied with sub-plots, which they will use to beat the Trojans (and the audience) into submission. For the sake of brevity (and sanity) here is a run down of the major sub-plots that will eventually bring Troy (and the movie) to its doom:

The "Please Don't Fight Anymore/Can't We Move In With My Mother?" sub-plot involving Hector and wife Andromache, who wants hubby to quit the military, stay home with her and make more babies.

The "I Don't Want A Warrior/I Want A Husband" sub-plot, in which Helen begs Paris not to fight Menelaus outside Troy's gates. That's because she knows Menelaus will boot Paris' hinder up between his shoulder blades (which he does).

The "This Isn't The War I Signed Up For" sub-plot, where Achilles realizes Agamemnon is a big fibber who wants to conquer Troy for himself, not to avenge Spartan honor or strike a blow for men's rights.

The future ex-husband of Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie: Brad Pitt as Achilles.

The "Woman Of Peace/Man Of War" subplot, where vestal virgin Briseis is handed over to Achilles as a "thank you present" from his men. The spunky temple maid grows on Achilles, who promptly quits the war when Agamemnon claims Briseis for himself. Even worse, Agamemnon announces he'll make her give him a bath. EWW!

The "Switcheroo" sub-plot, where it appears Achilles has changed his mind and leads his Myrmidons into battle. Surprise, surprise, it turns out to be Patroclus, who slipped into his cousin's battle armor when nobody was looking. Thus, when Hector slays "Achilles" and it turns out to be Patroclus, it provides a valuable lesson: war is not the time to play dress-up.

The "Eye For An Eye" sub-plot, which finds Achilles vowing to kill Hector for killing Patroclus. Briseis begs Achilles not to do this because Hector is a good egg. Achilles kills Hector anyway.

The "Sad King In Disguise" sub-plot, in which King Priam sneaks into the Greek camp dressed as a dowdy peasant and begs Achilles to release Hector's body so he can give his son a proper funeral. The warrior agrees and even tosses in Briseis free of charge.

The "And You Thought Mr. Ed Was Sneaky" sub-plot, where the wily Greeks build a king-sized horse, leave it outside Troy's gates and then head for home--only they don't! Instead, the Greeks hide inside the horse--I don't want to know how they handled the bathroom situation--and wait till the gullible citizens of Troy push the pony into town square and party down. Around midnight, the Greeks burst out of the horse, throw open the city gates and proceed to merrily slaughter the hysterical residents of Troy. Buildings burn, people scream, temples topple, blood flows, and Achilles runs around trying to find Briseis.

My Pretty Pony: The citizens of Troy joyously accept the Greek's equine gift and party like its 1999 BC.

Of course, you know how this all ends: Troy lays in ruins, Achilles is shot through the heel and dies, what's left of the Trojan royal family (including Helen) escapes into the wilderness and poor Odysseus, anxious to get back to the wife and kids, endures a lengthy sea voyage that is chronicled in The Odyssey.

 Or, rather, that is how director Petersen decided "Troy" would end. In Homer's The Iliad, events took a far nastier turn. In fact, the historical (and literary) inaccuracies in "Troy" are for more interesting than the flick itself. According to Dr. James Holoka (a professor of Foreign Languages and History at Eastern Michigan University), Achilles was already dead when the Trojan Horse was unveiled: Andromache, Hector's wife, was captured and enslaved and their son was brutally killed; pouty Patroclus was actually older than Achilles and was not his cousin; Brseis did not kill Agamemnon, his wife Clytemnestra handled that chore; Menelaus wasn't offed by Hector; and. most importantly, Menelaus did get Helen back, they reconciled and later had some kids. Other interesting tidbits: coins couldn't have been put over the dead's eyes because they hadn't been invented yet; it was Alexander the Great who unified Greece, not Agamemnon; Menelaus was actually out of town when Helen ran off with Paris; brave Hector actually ran away from Achilles (three times!) before their final battle and Helen, after learning of Paris' death, took up with another Trojan named Deiphobus. (If you are interested in reading more about this subject, check out "Troy: Hollywood vs. Homer" at

I know, I know, when a famous book is made into a movie, the producers often have to cut away meaty chunks of the text to fit the demands of the silver screen. However, in the case of "Troy", the screenwriters didn't just trim here and there with a sharp knife; they used a buzz-saw. The end result was a soapy stew of cardboard characters mouthing platitudes, while totally missing the deeper meaning of the source material. Even worse, viewers were forced to endure Josh Groban warbling an awful theme song--"Remember", which, by the way, nobody remembers--as if they hadn't suffered enough.

So, movie lovers, here is proof, once again, that Junk Cinema isn't always made by earnest yet incompetent amateurs who lack talent, money, taste, experience and working sound equipment. Talented professionals, given gobs of cash and big name stars, are just as capable of creating a cinematic suppository that would make Edward D. Wood, Jr and Ray Dennis Steckler proud.

Therefore, until next time, beware of Greeks baring gifts, stay away from other men's wives, and remember that immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be. But above all, help me SAVE THE MOVIES!

"Burning Down the House": movie critics were just a merciless to "Troy" as the Greeks were to Troy.