Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sothern Comfort: Another Heapin' Helpin' of Southern Fried Cinema!

How-dee, movie lovers! It's time to set a spell and savor another high-cholesterol, high-calorie helpin' of Southern Fried Cinema!

On today's menu is the chicken-fried, dipped in gravy hoot fest "Walk on the Wild Side"(1962). Set in Depression-era New Orleans, it features a lovesick cowboy lookin' for his lost love, a jail bait teenager, a diner owner with a faulty Hispanic accent and a flinty bordello madame who's establishment is the most popular place in town.

Yes, sir, with a line-up like that, there sure is gonna be a hot time in the old town tonight!

Our story begins with an impressive Saul Bass title sequence where a slinky black cat prowls the back streets of the Big Easy to a slow, bluesy song. From that high point, however, "Walk on the Wild Side" goes down pretty quick, like a polecat with dysentery.

Englishman Laurence Harvey(!) is cowpoke Dove, hitch hikin' his way back to New Orleans in hopes of reuniting with his former cuddlemate Hallie. Along the way he meets up with runaway Kitty Twist (a pre-"Barbarella" Jane Fonda), who's been sleeping in a drain pipe. The two decide to travel together, thumbin' rides and hoppin' freight trains. In due time, Kitty makes a move on Dove, but because his heart belongs to Miss Hallie, he says no. Miffed, Kitty retaliates by stealing from kindly diner owner Teresina (Anne Baxter, who models an endless array of off-the-shoulder blouses so we won't forget that she's Hispanic). To make up for Kitty's theft, Dove agrees to work for Teresina who, naturally, falls for him.

Now, you are probably wondering about this Hallie person Dove is so crazy about. She's played by high fashion model Capucine with her French accent firmly in place (in case you are keeping score, we have an English man playing a Texan, a Caucasian playing a Hispanic and a French woman playing a native southerner. Is this movie becoming a UN version of "Hee Haw" or what?). Since Hallie and Dove last met, she's become a hooker for the Doll's House, New Orleans premiere bordello. Hallie once had ambitions to be an artist and she's mighty conflicted about her choice of job, sighing, "I've got the run...of the bottom of the well." Lucky for her, flinty Madame Jo (Barbara Stanwyck) is, well, especially fond of her if you catch my drift.

Anyway, Hallie and Dove at last meet, but it takes Dove a long time to figure out that his lady love is a lady of the evening. Even though she lives in a big house where nobody locks their doors. And all the tenants are female. And the front room boasts a large, well stocked bar tended by a cube-shaped bruiser who wields a baseball bat. And some combo is always wailin' away. And, gosh, a lot of men sure do drop by after hours. And the gals are always so happy to see them.

Hmmm...what could that Miss Jo be runnin' here? An Amway dealership? A Mary Kay convention? A Rand Paul fundraiser? I do declare...

Lonesome Dove is disappointed to learn that Hallie is a hooker, but he still wants to marry her. And Hallie still loves Dove enough to give up turning tricks to marry him. However, because Miss Jo likes Hallie a lot she's not about to loose her to some Texas Bible thumper. So she threatens to have Dove sent up the river on a trumped-up morals charge. When that doesn't work, Miss Jo has her goons beat Dove to a pulp. And when that doesn't work a complicated gun battle erupts and poor Hallie gets a bullet in her gut. Soon the police arrive and arrest everybody and the Doll House shuts its doors and Miss Jo goes off to jail...thanks to the testimony of Kitty Twist. Oh, did I forget to mention that Miss Jo hired Kitty to work for her even though she is under aged? Well, she did.

As you can see, a mere recitation of the plot fails to capture the trashy ambiance of "Walk on the Wild Side". Watching this movie is like watching a prim-and-proper spinster reading a trashy book, exclaiming every so often, "This is a trashy book!"--but she wouldn't dream of putting it down. The producers of  "Walk on the Wild Side" were no doubt counting on people assuming the movie was dirty, so they did their best to hype that angle--in the name of responsible entertainment, of course. "This is an adult picture!" ads for the flick screamed."Parents should exercise discretion in permitting the immature to see it"--thus guaranteeing that every "immature" person on the face of the Earth would make a bee-line for the flick.

Adding to the movie's charm/smarm is watching the cast fight it out to see who could produce the most ludicrous corn-pone accent...and the worst performance. Laurence Harvey, who made a career out of playing sophisticated creeps, is out to sea as a Texas buck supposedly in his '20's. The exotic Capucine is equally unconvincing as the regret-filled Hallie. Anne Baxter sports an uncomfortably theeck accent and lots of peasant blouses--because she's Hispanic, you see. Barbara Stanwyck, meanwhile, slits her eyes and flares her nostrils as Madame Jo. And Jane Fonda chews up the scenery as Kitty.

Apparently, making this movie was not as much fun as watching it. Harvey and Capucine didn't like each other--he even compared kissing her to licking a beer bottle! Jane Fonda insisted on rewriting a lot of her dialogue herself. And Anne Baxter was hoping the movie would wrap up before she went into labor: she was six months pregnant at the time.

In the end, "Walk on the Wild Side" proved to be a cinematic dead end for everyone involved--except for the lovers of Bad Movies, of course. Until next time dear readers: keep a song in your heart and a bad movie in your VCR. Cheers!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Make Way! It's The Warrior of the Lost World! (Actually "The Paper Chase" Guy)

Hello again, movie lovers. Boy, the world sure is a mess, isn't it? More people vote for "American Idol" than  for president. Cyprus wanted to take 10% of its citizens' bank accounts to pay off its debt and get bail-out help. Spain has 25% unemployment. North Korea's Lil' Kim is threatening to nuke EVERYBODY and not even man of peace Dennis Rodman has had any impact.

Obviously, we need a hero. Someone strong, brave, morally upright, inspiring. A leader. Someone like Spartacus. Or General Maximus. Or Gandhi.

Unfortunately, we must make do with the "Warrior of the Lost World" (actually, "The Paper Chase" guy).

Made in Italy in 1983,  "Warrior of the Lost World" is yet another "Mad Max" rip-off where the post-apocalyptic world is run by an evil, oppressive government and all the extras look like members of  a road company for "Godspell". And instead of a pre-batshit crazy Mel Gibson, "Warrior of the Lost World" gives us that "Paper Chase" guy (aka Robert Ginty) as the unlikely savior of mankind.

Wearing a leather jacket, sporting several days growth of facial stubble and the puffiest cheeks this side of Mickey Rourke in "Wild Orchid", "The Paper Chase" guy travels the lonesome highways with his chirping motorcycle Einstein. As the film begins, he's the cool, detached type who could care less about the baddy Omegas, who run a fascist government staffed by zombie-like office drones. He's more interested in making mincemeat out of the futuristic cops that repeatedly hassle him or clobbering the feral extras who pop out of  junk yards at a moment's notice. Despite his ease with these chores, "The Paper Chase" guy must need to get his eyes checked because he doesn't notice The Big Humongous Rock Formation Right In Front Of Him and drives smack into it at full speed and explodes.

Seconds later, "The Paper Chase" guy is lying on an examination table in some other worldly place with a towel draped over his package. Senior citizens dressed in sheets are healing his wounds with mind lasers (or something) as Fred Williamson (!) looks on. Turns out that "The Paper Chase" guy has passed through "The Secret Wall of Invisibility", which only "the pure of heart" can do. This clearly means he's "The Chosen One" who will help The Elders of The New Way to over throw The Omega.

You buy that?

Thus, "The Paper Chase" guy becomes the Warrior of the Lost World (Actually, the world isn't really "lost." It just appears to be badly managed with a crumbling infrastructure. But you can't title a movie "The Warrior of the Badly Managed World" and expect to sell tickets). Naturally, the Warrior could care less about his new found "destiny"--even after Fred tells him that passing through "The Secret Wall of Invisibility" is like "Arthur pulling Excalibur out of the rock." All the Warrior cares about is fixing his bike and getting back on the open road. However, when Natasha (Persis Khambatta, the bald gal in the first "Star Trek" movie) pulls a gun and says if the Warrior doesn't help save her imprisoned father, she'll shoot his manhood off, the Warrior reluctantly signs on.

Donning light blue jumpsuits, the Warrior and Natasha sneak into the capital city of The Omega via a night club which presents a mild S&M floor show. However, the locals are so thoroughly brainwashed by the evil government that they don't appear to enjoy it very much.

Eventually, the Warrior and Natasha join countless other jumpsuited drones at a stadium, where Natasha's rebel leader pop (the Jimmy Carter-ish Ronnie Cox) is set to be executed. Despite there being, oh, 10 million heavily armed guards milling around, the Warrior easily grabs a gun and shoots up a storm. Not to be left out of the fun, Natasha fires off a few rounds herself and so does her dad McWayne (Cox). The trio then make their escape and conveniently find a helicopter just waiting for them. At the last possible second, Natasha trips and is shot by The Omega goons. While the Warrior and McWayne fly away to freedom, Natasha is carted off at gunpoint. Don't you hate it when that happens?

At this juncture, "Warrior of the Lost World" divides itself into two narratives. The first involves poor Natasha, who is informed by the coolly evil Prossor (Donald Pleasence-- you can't make a low-budget thriller without him) that she's to be brainwashed and to have her personality sucked out of her. Then she'll be chained to a machine which will "feed off her energy" and be forced to do data entry for all of eternity. Natasha's response to this is to spit in Prossor's sour puss. Prossor's response is to smack Natasha across the face with his medal claw of a hand. Meanwhile, in the second narrative, the Warrior and McWayne are confronted by a bunch of outlanders (or something) who demand the Warrior fight to prove he's "The Chosen One". This clearly irritates the hell out of the Warrior, but he complies. Thus, viewers are treated to the sight of the Warrior cracking the skulls of various punkers, ninjas, bikers, midgets and Solid Gold Dancers, while heavily made-up transvestites chow down on whole roast chickens. The Warrior emerges triumphant and the freaks and geeks agree to help The New Way over throw The Omega.

What follows next is a tiresome battle between The New Way forces on motorcycles and souped-up low-riders and The Omega's futuristic cops in their spiky cars. Just when you think The New Way has won the day, the baddie Omegas unveil a super duper, king-sized tank/motor-home known as "Mega Weapon". This might signal doom for the good guys, but the Warrior manages to defeat the contraption with a little help from Einstein. Then its off to save Natasha and over throw The Omega.

Just as Prossor promises, poor Natasha has become a glassy-eyed, personality-free drone who will do whatever the bald British baddie wants: wash his underwear, take lunch orders, buy his mother's birthday presents, even shoot the Warrior of the Lost World. However, when Prossor orders Natasha to shoot her dad, she refuses and shoots him instead. Magically cured of brainwashing, Natasha joins the rebels who defeat The Omega and declare peace and justice for all.

When we next see the Warrior and Natasha, they are strolling hand in hand in the moonlight. The chirpy motorcycle Einstein has been fully repaired and the Warrior is very happy. Natasha tells the Warrior she knows he can't stay because he has other people to help blah, blah, blah. Then the resuscitated Einstein, who is a bit of a busybody, bleats, "Kiss her! Kiss her!" and the Warrior gives Natasha the biggest, sloppiest, most stomach-turning tongue lashing since the late Micheal Jackson planted that wet one on then-wife Lisa Marie at the MTV Music Awards.Yuck! As if the poor gal hasn't suffered enough...but at least the movie is over.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, a movie as nutty as "Warrior of the Lost World" has an equally nutty back-story. It seems that director David Worth was hired by the producers and flown to Italy to begin filming only to find that no script had been written. Not a single word. Instead, the producers showed Worth a mock-up of a movie poster and told him to base the movie on that. Under those circumstances, it's easy to understand why the actors perform like people counting the days until they get paid and praying that their checks clear. Robert Ginty, as our hero, employs a low voltage sneer and mumbles his lines so badly you can barely understand him. Peris Khambatta must have pissed-off the make-up man, because she sports some ultra-heavy liquid eye-liner that threatens to turn her into the Demon from Mary Kay Hell. And Donald Pleasence is his usual charming self as Prossor.

Of course, the real stars in "Warrior of the Lost World" are the chirpy motorcycle Einstein and Mega Weapon. Einstein bleats stuff like "Bad Mothers! Bad Mothers!" and "Hold on to your..."--but that's better dialogue than the humans are given. It's also clear that the Warrior has a better relationship with his bike than with Natasha. Mega Weapon doesn't utter a peep, but he/she is an impressive bit of machinery. In fact, Mega Weapon is the Tor Johnson of machinery. Unfortunately, because the flick didn't inspire a sequel, I can't say if appearing in "The Warrior of the Lost World" did anything for their careers. Lets hope Einstein and Mega Weapon are enjoying a comfy retirement somewhere and weren't relegated to the scrap heap once filming was finished.

All in all, "Warrior of the Lost World" proves that when times are tough, you can't sit around and wait for someone to save you--you have to save yourself. Why? Because if the fate of free people everywhere is in the hands of "The Paper Chase" guy, we're all screwed!

As always Bad Movie Lovers, keep a song in your heart and a bad movie in your VCR! And happy Easter, too!

Hey! Did you enjoy this? If so, please leave a comment! I mean, please! I need comments, positive ones! Thank you!