Monday, December 31, 2018

Daryl Hannah Is The Blondest Cro-Magnon Of Them All In "The Clan Of The Cave Bear"

"Mommy! Get me out of this terrible movie!": Young Ayla screams for help in the opening scenes of "The Clan of the Cave Bear" (1986).

A long, long, long, long, long time ago, when the Earth was young, a cute little blond muffin was tramping around outdoors. Then a volcano erupted or an earthquake happened and the tot ran for the protection of her mom. Unfortunately, mom is swallowed up by a gap that suddenly opens in the ground. The poor kid staggers around until she's found by a group of wandering cave people, who reluctantly adopt her.

From the beginning, the cave dwellers know this kid is "different": they have protruding brows, buck teeth, bad mullets and can't count past the number three; she, on the other hand, is a blond with great hair, tweezed brows, shiny rows of teeth and a mean way with a sling-shot--and she can count to twenty; they are Neanderthals, while she is Cro-Magnon, one of the "others". She is Ayla, the protagonist/ protofeminist of "The Clan of the Cave Bear" (1986), a prehistoric head-scratcher starring Daryl Hannah and her many hair extensions.

Now, some might argue that Hannah, who rose to fame as a mermaid in "Splash" (1984), would be a natural choice for this type of role. They have a point. As an actress, Hannah's best work has been in quirky, off-beat parts: the ethereal astronomer in "Roxanne", the secretive shampoo girl in "Steele Magnolias" and the one-eyed, whistling assassin in "Kill Bill".

However, if Ayla is to believed not only as a character, but also as a threat to the Neanderthal way of life and as a harbinger of things to come, the flick needs a rock solid script that conveys this. And that's where "The Clan of the Cave Bear" falls flatter than a Trump message on the importance of environmental stewardship.

Instead of telling an original story, the plot trots out the same old tropes about outcasts we've all heard before, from "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" to "A Bug's Life" to "Happy Feet": Ayla doesn't conform to the Neanderthal ideal, so she's treated like an inferior, a position she accepts with a heavy heart. Even when she demonstrates her math skills to Creb (James Remar), the tribe's wise man and Ayla's adoptive father, he tells her not to let anyone else know. That's because Neanderthals firmly believe females exist to be submissive beasts of burden and obliging sex partners. If a male member of this tribe gets horny, his chosen female must meekly submit, even if she's not in the mood. And woe to any gal who dares touch or use hunting tools: the penalty for that is death. 

It's easy to see why Ayla (Daryl Hannah, right) is the Plain Jane of her Neanderthal tribe.

In other words, these Neanderthals are, well, real Neanderthals.

Ayla tries her best to fit in, but it never quite works. Her adoptive mom Iza (Pamela Reed) is the clan's medicine woman. She trains Ayla to be her successor so she will have a "role" in the tribe. However, if Ayla is truly going to be safe, she needs a "Spirit Animal" and a mate to protect her. As the women of the tribe aren't allowed to hunt--cook, yes, but hunt, no-- without "someone to hunt for her", Ayla would starve. While Creb has no problem finding Ayla a spirit animal (he settles on a lion), he can do nothing about Hannah's matrimonial prospects, which are pretty dim. The local boys like their women short and stooped with a matted mullet of hair. Ayla, on the other hand, is tall, tawny and sports chic braids, thus dooming her to a life of spinsterhood.

"Ayla is so ugly," one old biddy confides to Iza.

Ain't it the truth.

While the other clan members eventually accept the poor dear, one fellow especially has it in for her: Broud (Thomas G. Waites), the mean, temperamental bully who is inexplicably set to become the clan's next leader. Unfortunately, his hostility is never satisfyingly explained. Is Broud threatened by Ayla's superior abilities? Is he worried Ayla might inspire the other women to start asserting themselves? Or is he miffed because he mounted Ayla and then failed to perform and the tribe saw the whole thing? And the women of the tribe joked and snickered behind his back?

 Broud (Thomas G. Waites) is a Neanderthal in every sense of the word: mean, dumb, violent and hairy.

Eventually Broud gets his revenge on Ayla by assaulting her when she's out picking plants for Iza. A plucky gal, Ayla manages to put up a good fight before Broud over powers her. Still, no matter how bad her situation, our heroine manages to stay positive: when it becomes clear that Ayla is pregnant, she's thrilled, because Iza had previously said "her spirit marking" (scars from an earlier animal attack) made her "too strong" to conceive (in reality, Iza was just too kind-hearted to tell Ayla she was too ugly to find a mate and therefore would probably remain childless).

Later on, the clan of the cave bear decides to go on a picnic. Little do they realize a pack of wolves are skulking near-by. In a flash one of the critters grabs a toddler and runs off. While everybody else flail their arms and grunts in horror, quick thinking Ayla grabs her sling-shot and brains the beast. The tot is saved, but Ayla has broken the taboo against women touching or using weapons. It's announced that Ayla must go into exile for "one cycle of the moon" as punishment.  Making her sentence all the harsher is the fact that she's preggers.

However, as the flick has shown us time and again, our Cro-Magnon heroine is nothing if not resilient. In short order, Ayla finds a cozy cave, hunts for food, gives birth to a son and survives a harsh winter. She returns to the clan none the worse for wear, although her single mom status does pose a problem. See, without a man to hunt for Ayla and the baby, the two are doomed--or so it seems. No doubt inspired by his daughter's pluck and grit, Creb the wise man decrees that Ayla can hunt for herself; she is now known within the tribe as "the Woman who Hunts." Although this is quite a move for such a conservative clan, nobody objects and people go about their business as before.

Years pass and Ayla seems content. Her son, Durc, is fully accepted by the clan. She can hunt to her heart's content. Her position as medicine woman is respected. What more could a Cro-Magnon living among Neanderthals want?

Then word gets out that all the heads of the neighboring clans are to meet for some type of caveman council. Because of her status as medicine woman, Ayla gets to come, too. It's not like Cinderella going to the ball, exactly, but it does signify Ayla's acceptance by her adopted clan. Should anyone get sick back home in her absence, well, tough luck.

Proud warrior Ayla practices her sling-shot skills in privacy.

It's while attending this conference that Ayla meets another Cro-Magon type guy. He's the first to ever find Ayla pretty and remarks that they have the same color of eyes. However, any prehistoric romance is nipped in the bud when the poor sap has his head ripped off in a bear baiting ceremony--don't you hate it when that happens? I mean, you finally meet a nice guy and then SNAP! off goes his head. "Gentle Ben" my ass...

Putting her heartbreak aside, Ayla participates in the wild kegger thrown on the conference's last night. With her face painted ghostly white accented by orange and black streaks, Ayla enjoys many cup-fulls of the spiked hooch served. While everybody else cavorts like a typical crowd at Coachella, Creb and Ayla have a mind meld. Ayla sees a bear, a lion and her son Durc all walking happily together in the fog. Then the lion goes in one direction and the bear and Durc go in another. Hmmm, what could that mean? Before Ayla can figure it out, she passes out--also typical Coachella behavior.

Back home at last, the clan of the cave bear has a change over leadership. Broud is finally made boss of the clan and Creb hands over his wise man duties to a fellow named Goov (Curtis Armstrong, best remembered for his turn as Herbert Viola on "Moonlighting"). Ever the meanie, Broud's first order of business is to kick Creb out of clan because he's old. Ayla jumps up and objects. She also beats Broud up for good measure. Suddenly, like a flash of light, Ayla understands the meaning of her vision at caveman Coachella: Ayla (the lion) must leave the clan and finally reunite with her true people, "the others", wherever they may be. Little Durc will become the leader of the cave bear clan when he gets older, as symbolized by him walking happily away with the bear. With mom Ayla's superior genes coursing through his body, Durc will be a good leader and perhaps even pass on her wisdom to his dumb, awkward, hairy subjects, but it seems like a losing battle, if you ask me.

So, with the sun slowly sinking, Ayla leaves the clan of the cave bear forever. With her beauty, brains and sling-shot, our heroine confidently strides into the great wide somewhere, knowing that, not too far off, Neil Young is waiting for her.

Amen.

"Searching for a Heart of Gold"?: Ayla heads for the hills.

"The Clan of the Cave Bear" isn't as low rent and nutty as "The Wild Women of Wongo" (1958),  "Teenage Caveman" (1958) or "Prehistoric Women" (1950). Nor is it as stupid as "10,000 BC" (2008) or "One Million BC"(1966), which proudly proclaimed, "Raquel Welch wears mankind's first bikini!" It lacks the urgency of "Quest for Fire" and the brilliance of  the "Dawn of Man" scenes in "2001: A Space Odyssey".  

Indeed, upon reflection, "The Clan of the Cave Bear" resembles nothing more a prehistoric Lifetime movie, except instead of a put-upon employee finally telling off her jerk boss, quitting her job and starting her own business, we have a put-upon Cro-Magnon finally telling off her jerk clan leader and heading off to find smarter people to hang out with.

While Daryl Hannah has the athletic prowess necessary for Ayla, she doesn't convey her character's superior smarts very well. In fact, Hannah spends most of the movie looking bewildered and lost. Even her realization that she must leave the clan and live among her own kind lacks emotional heft. If the flick's narrator hadn't told us what Ayla was thinking, the audience might have assumed she was just fed up and decided to take a walk to cool off.

The only actor in the cast who manages to convey any real personality and emotion is Pamela Reed, Aya's adoptive mom. But even she has her limits: the movie often forces her to stare wanly out into space and wear increasing amount of old lady make-up to show the passing of time.

Although I have never read the series of books "The Clan of the Cave Bear" is part of, I can still state with confidence that the character author Jean Aurel created had to be a lot smarter and forceful than the one depicted on screen. Life was pretty tough back in the early days and you needed more than just great hair to survive.

With clan members like this, it's easy to see why Ayla felt out of place.

Early in this review I called "The Clan of the Cave Bear" a "head scratcher." I stand by that. The movie is bad, to be sure, but it's not as bad as it could have been. It's badness isn't bad enough to earn it a place in the Junk Cinema Hall of Shame like "Teenage Caveman" or "The Wild Women of Wongo", but it's pleasantly bad in it's own minor way--and that's good enough for me.

Therefore movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, our differences can often be our strengths and SAVE THE MOVIES.

There were no dinosaurs in "The Clan of the Cave Bear". If there had been, it might have spiced things up.







Friday, December 21, 2018

"A Christmas Prince" Or Who Hurt You?

"Pulitzer Prize, here I come!": Junior journalist Amber Moore (Rose McIver) is ready to break into the big leagues in "A Christmas Prince."(2017)

Huzzah and welcome, movie lovers!

Today we travel to the ancient realm of Aldovia, a small, but vital, nation of towering forests, snow-capped mountains, cobblestone streets and centuries of royal tradition. Aldovians have survived war, geopolitical upheavals and economic challenges with their culture and sovereignty in tact. This, no doubt, has been due to the enlightened guidance of  Aldovia's many wise kings. And as "A Christmas Prince" (2017) opens, the nation is about to end its mourning for the late, lamented King Richard I and begin a new era under his son, also named Richard.

According to tradition, after a monarch dies, a year must pass before a new king can be crowned. However, Aldovia's king-to-be Richard (Ben Lamb, who appears to be suffering from tight under-things), high-tailed it out of town as soon as pops kicked the royal bucket. Rumor has it Prince Richard is a lazy, shiftless, super-model chasing aristo-brat who doesn't even want to rule. Nevertheless, the palace insists Richard will be home in time to be crowned on Christmas Eve. Still, the clock is ticking, if you know what I mean.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. of A, Amber Moore (Rose McIver), junior editor at "Now Beat" magazine, is chomping at the bit to tackle a "real" story. So when editor Max (Amy Marston) assigns her to cover the return and coronation of Prince Richard, the crusading journalist is more than ready. She books a flight, gets a hotel room and does mounds of research. Unfortunately, when Amber lands at the "Aldovia International Airport", a tall, bearded guy swipes her cab, causing her to scream, "Stupid jerk!"

Later, sitting with the other reporters on the press bus, Amber asks a seasoned journalist for some "words of wisdom."

If ZZ-Top had a baby...: Under-cover royal Prince Richard (Ben Lamb) and his beard.

"Pick a new career," he replies.

Too late! The movie's already been filmed!

While the press pack cools their heels waiting for the official press conference to begin, the Lord Chamberlain suddenly announces Prince Richard has chosen not to appear and, what's more, will not be giving any interviews until his coronation. The room explodes into boos and the frustrated reporters stomp off in a huff. Amber, however, is afraid to return to her boss empty handed on this, her very first assignment. So the plucky reporter sneaks past security and manages to infiltrate the palace proper. Once inside, Amber runs into a palace flunky who assumes she is the new American tutor for Princess Emily (more about that later.). She's promptly hustled in to meet Queen Helene (Alice Kringe), who is having a serious conversation with... the same stupid jerk who stole Amber's cab! Believe it or not, that stupid jerk is Prince Richard! What are the chances of that happening?!

 When Richard and Amber recognize each other, they look like they are about to punch each other. "Stupid jerk at your service!" Richard sneers. But their mutual hostility soon melts into mutual attraction because, jeez, what else is suppose to happen? Have Amber kick HRH in the nuts for swiping her cab? Have HRH call Amber a pushy Yank skank? No, because that would be too original (and too much fun).

Then Princess Emily (Honor Kneafsey) arrives. She's a curly headed tween who also happens to have spinal bifida. Although she manages well with a wheelchair and crutches, mommy Queen Helene still over-protects her. This has made Princess Emily a bit of a brat, at least to her string of long-suffering tutors. However, plucky Amber quickly earns her love by treating the princess like a regular kid, even going so far as to take her sledding and helping her bake cookies.

"Sleigh Ride": Over-protected Princess Emily enjoys some outdoor fun with Amber.

Ensconced in the palace, Amber tries to balance her role as Emily's fake tutor with observing Prince Richard for her magazine article. To the surprise of no one, Prince Richard is actually a good egg: he's well spoken, plays the piano, practices archery and enjoys snowball fights. He is the exact opposite of the super-model chasing playboy the press has claimed he is. Naturally, Amber starts to fall for the big lug because there wouldn't be a movie if she didn't...but then there's no movie anyway, so same/same.

Meanwhile, skulking around the palace corridors is Richard's cousin Simon (Theo Devaney), who happens to be a duke and second in line for the throne. Simon is a nasty piece of work who covets the throne of Aldovia for himself. The prince and the duke dislike each other intensely, often trading insults along the lines of this:

Simon: "Still soul searching?"

Richard: "At least I have one."

Ouch.


Scheming Duke Simon (Theo Devancy) plots to steal Prince Richard's throne--and his comb-over.

Also making their unwanted presence felt is Baroness Sophia (Emma Louise Saunders), Richard's blue-blooded ex. Looking like "The Big Bang Theory"s Mayim Bialik's really evil sister, Sophia made the mistake of speaking to the press about her romance with Richard. Sophia insists she feels really bad about that ("I was young and stupid!" she wails); what's more, she claims she has always loved Richard for himself. Honest! Instead, the prince fixes Sophia with a piercing gaze and declares, "You love the spotlight! You love the attention!" and stalks off.

It doesn't take Simon and Sophia long to notice that Richard and Amber are spending more time together than necessary. So the no-good-nicks team up to get dirt on the duo. Baroness Sophia is especially hostile to Amber, making snide cracks about her "gauche" manners and choice of footwear (high tops with everything). After all, how could a prince of the blood favor a dorky American over a polished European socialite? 

Then late one afternoon, Amber saddles up a horse and secretly follows Prince Richard into the forest. In due course, Amber gets lost and the horse bucks her off. Seconds later, a snarling wolf appears, ready to tear Amber limb from limb. Before you can say, "Go for it, Wolfie!" Richard arrives and fires a pistol, causing the critter to run away. The prince and Amber repair to the late king's favorite hunting lodge, where they build a cozy fire, sip hot drinks and suck face. Interrupting this "dumb enchanted evening" are more pesky wolves, so Richard goes off to investigate. This gives Amber time to poke around a near-by desk, where she discovers (gasp!) a secret compartment (shock!) that hides a mystery set of royal papers (no way!) written by the late king!

Back in her palace bedroom, Amber reads through the papers, learning (to her horror!) that Prince Richard was secretly adopted by the king and queen! In other words, Richard is NOT the true heir! Cowabunga, it's the royal scoop of the century!

What should Amber do? Tell Richard the truth about his parentage? Contact her editor and score a front page bombshell? Use the info to blackmail the royal family into bankruptcy? Perhaps claim the throne of Aldovia for herself?

"One usually has to go to a bowling alley to find a lady of your stature..."*: Amber bends at the knees  before her betters.

Before Amber can decide what to do, it's time for the highly anticipated Christmas Eve Ball-slash-Coronation. Realizing what a fashion victim Amber is, Princess Emily arranges for a team of stylists to give her tutor a make-over. You know what happens next: while a ballroom full of dignitaries and guests look on in shock and awe, Amber, in a sparkly blue gown, makes her grand entrance. Prince Richard's jaw hits the floor and his package bulges when he catches sight of her. The handsome prince leads Amber to the dance floor. The couple sway to a lovely waltz and nearly kiss in front of everybody. It's the wonderful, romantic, fairy tale moment every girl dreams of...until it isn't. That's because Duke Simon barges in to announce that he, not Richard, is the rightful heir. While everybody gasps, Simon not only waives around Richard's secret adoption papers--which he pinched from Amber's room because she didn't hide them very well--he also unmasks Amber as the under-cover reporter preparing to blab the whole story to the world.

Prince Richard later confronts Queen Helene. She tearfully explains that, shortly after marrying the king, she learned she could not have children. Understandably, this news made her "feel like a failure" and led her to believe that she'd "let the country down." Later on, however, when the royal couple learned they could "secretly adopt", they were over-joyed. Thus, when infant Richard was handed over to them, their majesties saw him as "truly their son" and how he came to them was beside the point.

Filled with love and understanding, Richard vows to fight for his birth right.

Amber,on the other hand, is miserable. She's blown her first journalism assignment, betrayed Richard and Emily, handed the throne over to rotten egg Simon and been exposed as a fake tutor. Even worse, she's been unceremoniously dumped at the "Aldovia International Airport" during rush hour. In tears, Amber calls her dad, a laid-back, the glass-is-always-half-full-kind-of-guy, and tells him the whole, sordid story. Dad ends up reminding his daughter that, while failure is no fun (amen to that), it often "plant(s) the seed(s) of greater success down the road."

Suddenly, Amber has a brain wave. Didn't Prince Richard share with her the last poem King Richard wrote (the late monarch was quite a wordsmith)? And didn't that missive contain allusions to trees and acorns and seeds that nobody could make heads-or-tales of?

Royal Pains: Duke Simon and Baroness Sophia plan some royal intrigue.

Off like a shot, Amber races over to the Aldovian royal palace, where she is met by the Mrs. Danvers-ish Chief of Protocol, Mrs. Averill (Sarah Douglas). She begs the frozen-faced Brit to let her see the hand made wooden acorn ornament the late king made for Helene (the king was also quite a wood worker, too.).

Meanwhile, over at Parliament, Simon and Baroness Sophia have become husband and wife. All that needs to be done is for the Prime Minister to declare Simon king.

But wait! Amber bursts into the historic chamber with Mrs. Averill at her heels. She opens Queen Helene's acorn ornament and pulls out King Richard's last will and testament. It proclaims that Prince Richard is his son in every way and, what's more, he has earned  the right to be king because he's such a good egg. The document is signed with King Richard's personal seal, so nobody can doubt its authenticity.

The Prime Minister inspects the document and declares it legal and valid. Huzzah! Now Prince Richard can become King Richard II, just as he was meant to be. While Parliament cheers, Richard bends his knee and takes the oath of state. Baroness Sophia, pissed off that she won't be queen, flounces off to find a divorce lawyer. Simon, foiled in his plans to stage a royal coup, slinks off to sulk. Amber, having saved the day for both Richard and Aldovia, quietly heads for home.

Back in the states, Amber hands her finished story over to her editor, Max. She loves it; it's a mature, nuanced piece of writing that explains the Aldovian crisis in all its intricacies. The problem is, Max didn't want that story; she wanted all the juicy palace intrigue with secret adoptions and stuff. After all, Amber works for "Now Beat" magazine, not "US News and World Reports".

Rose McIver shows us how she got through the filming of "A Christmas Prince."

Shocked, shocked! that her editor wanted a piece of gossipy drivel instead of a responsible piece of journalism, Amber grabs her story and quits...before Max can fire her. Unemployed but undaunted, our plucky reporter girl takes her tale to the Internet--where factual, concise, even-handed and truthful reporting is always welcome (my Aunt Fanny). Amber publishes several blog posts about her adventures in Aldovia and tells the world what a good egg King Richard II is.

Of course, it ain't over yet. As every bad movie fanatic knows, "A Christmas Prince" will drag its bloody carcass across the screen until it reaches its Inevitable Conclusion. If you don't know what the flick's Inevitable Conclusion could possibly be, may I remind you that Netflix is airing "A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding" as we speak? Now, do the math. Need flash cards? Paper and pencil?

All of this doesn't mean "A Christmas Prince" is the worst "royal romance" movie ever made. "Grace Kelly" (1983) starring Cheryl "Charlie's Angel's" Ladd, "The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana" (1982), "Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story" (1982), "Andy and Fergie: Behind Palace Doors" (1992), "The Women of Windsor" (1992), "William and Kate" (2011) ( supposedly set in an "England" where people drive on the "American" side of the street), "Harry and Meghan: A Royal Romance" (2018) (where Prince Harry lectures his future wife, "What do gingers have to look forward to? Gray hair!"), and "Mary: The Making of a Princess" (2015, an Aussie TV-er that dared show the future Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark snuggling under the sheets in their underwear hours after they met) certainly give our featured flick a run for its money.

However, what does set "A Christmas Prince" apart from the roll call of royal wretchedness is its inexplicable success on Netflix--a success that lead Netflix employees to discover that fifty three (53!) subscribers had watched this movie at least once a day for eighteen (18!) days straight. Furthermore, this information moved a Netflix employee to pose the following question to the movie's more ardent fans: "Who hurt you?"

To which I would like to add: I agree. Who hurt you? Was it a gym teacher?

Princess Emily: "I like you, Amber. That's why I'm going to kill you last."

In final analysis, what does the enduring success of "A Christmas Prince" reveal about the state of the world we live in?

1) Our world is so starved for genuine love and affection that people are willing to subject themselves to this wretched film in order to fill the void, at least temporarily.

2) People still believe marrying a prince and/or future king means you will enjoy a happy life. The trials and tribulations of Princess Margaret (one thwarted love, one divorce, one major drinking problem), Princess Stephanie of Monaco (two divorces), Princess Caroline of Hanover (one divorce, one annulment, one death, currently separated from from current hubby who urinated on the Turkish Pavilion in Hanover in 2000), Princess Diana ('nuff said), Duchess Fergie (ditto), Empress Elisabeth of Austria (STDs, compulsive exercising, assassination), Czarina Alexandra of Russia (killed with all of her family in 1918), Crown Princess Masako of Japan (isolation, depression, fertility struggles, the ossified life inside the palace) and ALL of Henry the Vlll's wives (two beheaded, one died, one sent into exile, one granted an annulment for non-consummation of the marriage) prove otherwise. Not only does history show marrying a prince is a thankless task, but producers make horrible movies about you. To all would-be princesses out there: don't say you weren't warned.

3) If producers insist on making "royal romance" movies, why can't they show some balls and make a movie about Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and his decision to marry Sofia Hellqvist, a gap-toothed "glamour model" and former reality show contestant? Or how about a movie-of-the-week about Norway's Crown Prince Haakon, who announced his engagement in 2001 to Mette-Marit, a part-time student and former strawberry picker who was active on the Rave party circuit--and came with a three year old son fathered by an ex who did jail time for drug charges? (Mette-Marit's dad, meanwhile, married a stripper several years his junior shortly after his daughter married Haakon.) By the same token, how come nobody's made a movie yet about Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria, who found love with her former personal trainer (now known as Prince Daniel)? Now these are "royal romances" begging to be made into films!

4) Somewhere, Koo Stark is crying.

"Hey! Cinderella! Does the shoe fit you now?"

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, heavy is often the heart of the gal who marries the guy who wears the crown and, above all, SAVE THE MOVIES.

* That's what Sir John Gielgud said to Liza Minnelli in the movie "Arthur".






Tuesday, November 20, 2018

George Peppard ISN'T Howard Hughes And Carroll Baker ISN'T Jean Harlow In The Trash Masterpiece "The Carpetbaggers"!

Carroll Baker and George Peppard have a calamitous encounter in "The Carpetbaggers"(1964).

"You filthy perverted monster!" Rina Marlow (tramp expert Carroll Baker) screams. "You're the meanest, cruelest, most loathsome thing I have ever met!"

Who is the recipient of such endearments, you ask? Why, it's Jonas Cord (a pre-"A-Team" George Peppard), Rina's one-time boyfriend-turned-step-son(!) in the legendary trash-fest from 1964, "The Carpetbaggers".

Written by Harold Robbins, "The Carpetbaggers" was the first (and perhaps the best) big screen adaptation of this author's distinct literary style, which was basically borrowing heavily from the tabloid scandals of the day; changing a few names and details so he couldn't get sued; throwing in some rough sex; adding dialog that must be screamed at the top of the actors' lungs and serving it up hot'n'heavy to an eager public delighted to witness the privileged classes acting like participants in a hormone experiment.

Jonas Cord is the son of a rich (but morally questionable) big business tycoon Jonas Cord, Sr., played by Leif Erickson. After a particularly ugly argument ("A man is judged by what's in his head--not his bed!" dad rages, prompting sonny to bark, "You dried up impotent old man!") the old pepper drops dead. Jonas then takes over Cord Enterprises and turns it into an international airline/movie studio/multinational corporation powerhouse. Along the way, he marries and discards wife Monica Winthrop (Elizabeth Ashley, Peppard's real-life cuddlemate), dates and dumps a variety of other women, takes over and sells off a bunch of companies, blackmails anyone who moves, beats a few people up, smokes umpteen cigarettes and downs endless shots of scotch.

Whew!

 Rina Marlowe celebrates the death of her husband, who happens to be Jonas' father.

What makes Jonas act this way? Well, I'll tell you: he had a twin brother who died insane at the age of eight. After that, Jonas' cold pa (fearful of catching insanity) "treated him like a leper" and drove his heart-broken ma to a premature, booze-soaked grave. Believing he may die young and insane, too, Jonas is determined to achieve more success, screw more women, make more money and screw more women than his dad. Sure, he might step on some toes along the way and possibly break a law or two, but Jonas Cord will show the world he's got what it takes!

Eventually it's Jonas' childhood caretaker Nevada Smith (Alan Ladd) who knocks some sense into the guy--literally. In fact, one of the highlights of the flick is watching the obviously smaller Ladd pound the tar out of Peppard, who deserves every punch to gut, sock to the jaw and kick to the crotch that Smith delivers (this is one scene that proves size really doesn't matter.).

"The Carpetbaggers" is a delightfully dense, triple-decker, grade A cheese fountain that must be seen to be believed. In 1964, this movie was considered so racy that my grandmother was horrified that my mom and dad went to see it--and took my older brother (then a toddler) along with them.

It's part of Bad Movie Lore that the character Jonas Cord was based on Howard Hughes. It's also been reported that Rina Marlow was based Jean Harlow, Jenny Denton (played by the hysterical Martha Hyer) was based on Jane Russell and Nevada Smith was based on cowboy star Tom Mix. That may well be true. However, while I was watching the flick, it seemed to me that author Harold Robbins had somehow looked into a crystal ball and conjured up another inspiration for his loathsome main character: Donald Trump.

Consider this:

"Viva La France!": Rina Marlowe swings into high gear as the wildest jazz baby ever.

Both Jonas Cord and Donald Trump inherited their money from their fathers and took over their companies; both cheated on their wives; both demand absolute fealty from subordinates, yet do not offer any in return; Jonas Cord didn't want kids because he feared passing on bad genes; Donald Trump didn't want to name his first born after himself for fear the tyke would "end up a loser"--a realistic worry, as it turned out.

Where these two characters REALLY intersect, however, is their awful treatment of anyone who crosses their path, especially women.

When ex-girlfriend turned stepmother turned widow Rina throws herself at Jonas ("I'm yours anyway you want me! Love me!"), he spits back, "You want sensation! The uglier, the better! The more it hurts, the nicer it is!"

When fiance' Jenny turns down Jonas' marriage proposal (because she's being blackmailed by a sleazy scriptwriter and she doesn't want to embarrass him), Jonas remarks, "There's nothing more righteous than a reformed hooker."

However, when Jenny insists that she's not fit to be anybody's wife ("I'm only good at one thing!" she sobs. "I can't even have children!"), Jonas grabs her in a death grip and declares that's just what he wants from a wife: "All I ask for is your beauty and your sex! I don't want love or children or home baked cookies! I just want a woman who is there when I need her! In return, you'll live like a queen!" Close your eyes, and you can imagine Donald Trump saying the same thing!

Jonas makes Jenny an offer she can't refuse--or so he thinks.

After witnessing so many of these encounters over the years, an employee of Jonas' observes, "When it comes to people, he's a jerk."

Does all this make Jonas and Donald twin brothers from different mothers? I report, you decide...but I say yes.

Back to the flick.

After Jenny runs away and Nevada beats him to a pulp, Jonas realizes he's
 a total motherf...er, jerk he's been. So he crawls back to the only character in the film who can actually tolerate him: ex-wife Monica.

Of course, things aren't perfect there, either. Remember, Jonas goaded Monica to divorce him and made it clear he didn't want kids. Then, when Monica delivers a bouncing baby girl named Joanne shortly after their marriage is dissolved, Jonas is fit to be tied. Monica raises the tyke on her own and Joanne appears to be perfectly normal. When Jonas remains unconvinced, his ex wails, "Just look at her report cards!" Still, Monica takes Jonas back in a New York Minute and they live happily ever. The end.

Jonas Cord spends some quality time with his only friend...besides his ex-wife...booze.

So, movie lovers, what have we learned from all of this?

* Rich people are different from you and me..they're tackier, more promiscuous and they booze a lot. According to Harold Robbins, anyway.

* Carroll Baker is the only actress in Bad Movie history to have played both Jean Harlow (in the bio "Harlow") and a character thinly based on Jean Harlow.

*Nobody can grit their teeth and jut their chin like George Peppard!

* Jonas Cord and Donald Trump were separated at birth...maybe?

"Take that and that and that!": Nevada Smith tries to knock some sense into Jonas Cord.

* You haven't lived until you've seen George Peppard snarl, "You were beautiful and no good and that made it better!"

* Screenwriter John Michael Hayes had to do quite a cut and paste job in bringing Robbins' novel to the screen. Among the scenes he had to leave out from the book included a sexually inexperienced gal hoping to make her wedding night easier for her husband by, um, cramming a stick up her, um, "insides", so her better half would have an easier time ,um, "sliding in", so to speak. Altogether now: EWWW!

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, art can sometimes imitate life and truth can be stranger than fiction, and Junk Cinema is where they both meet! Also, save the movies!



Sunday, November 11, 2018

The SPECTRE Of Harry Styles As The Next James Bond Cannot Stand!

"This party is to die for!": Daniel Craig and an unnamed cuddlemate enjoy the Day of the Dead.

Greetings, movie lovers.

After an amazing opening sequence during Mexico City's Day of the Dead festivities, 2015's James Bond extravaganza "Spectre" settles into being a fit-fulling interesting secret spy caper.

 Daniel Craig was as aloof and elusive as ever as 007. M, Q and Moneypenny all had their hands full trying to keep Bond from going rouge--or at least not smashing all his high-tech goodies into pulp. Much was made of the fact that Monica Bellucci was the first age-appropriate "Bond girl" Bond ever nailed--although Bellucci was on screen so briefly and her character so thin that her appearance hardly qualifies as "progress." Meanwhile, Lea Seydoux, as Dr. Madeleine Swann, 007's main cuddlemate, was so bland and colorless that she made Barbara Bach's sleepwalking turn in "The Spy Who Loved Me" seem positively manic in comparison.

However, that's not really our story.

Turns out Daniel Craig will make at least one more flick as the British spy with a license to kill. That's OK by me; I like Daniel Craig, although I have never met him and don't expect to. Also, he's married and a new father, and there are rules about that sort of thing. Anyway, Craig's eventual retirement means the 007 people have got to start scouting out a new James Bond. This is a sensitive undertaking, because for every right choice (Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan), there have been some wrong ones (George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton). Simply put, the selection of the actor to play 007 can make or break the series, regardless of how handsome or talented the lad may be.

George Lazenby had the look, the tux and the hair, but he was no James Bond.

Among the names currently circulating as possible 007's are: Richard Madden (Rob Stark from "Game of Thrones" and the BBC series "Bodyguard"); Idris Elba, People's latest "Sexiest Man Alive" and a popular front-runner, although some are saying he's now "too old" for the part (hogwash); Luke Evans; Tom Hiddleston; James Norton; Tom Hardy and... HARRY STYLES!?!

Are they nuts?!

When I read that the former One Direction member was actually mentioned in the same breath as these gentlemen, I wanted to throw up.

Supposedly, Harry's appearance in "Dunkirk" revealed an untapped acting talent (HINT: it did not).  Also, his modeling ventures would allegedly bring lots of young girls into the movie theaters to help build up "brand loyalty."

On the other hand, cooler heads are saying Harry is not only too young for the role, but too glamorous. James Bond is many things, but he's NOT a simpering pretty boy who looks like he'd wet his pants if he stubbed his toe or mussed up his hair...all stuff I bet Harry has done.

Although he has his fans, Sponge Bob Square Pants isn't Bond material, either.

And just for the record, the following individuals are also NOT QUALIFIED to be the next James Bond:

Donald Trump, Jr.

Eric Trump

Sean Spicer

Ben Affleck (remember "Batman"?)

Barbara "The Spy Who Loved Me" Bach (and Mrs. Ringo Starr) displays the multifaceted acting skills that made her career what it is today...a distant memory.

"Grocery Store Joe" from "Dancing with the Stars"

Boris Johnson

Liam AND/OR Noel Gallagher

David Beckham--and that includes his kids, too.

Anyone married to/divorced from/engaged to/or who has had a baby with ANY MEMBER of the Kardashian family.

Homer Simpson auditioning for James Bond...or a remake of "Reservoir Dogs"?

Borat

Russell Brand

Russell Crowe--he's already played an iconic role (Gen. Maximus in "Gladiator") and won an Oscar for it (he shouldn't be selfish).

Guy Pierce--who would actually be an interesting choice, come to think of it.

Movie lovers, unite! James Bond is the most successful film series in the history of motion pictures (he even beats out Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Commander Cody and Flash Gordon!) and the actor chosen to follow in Craig's footsteps MUST be handsome, charismatic, fit, smart, talented, sexy and rugged--that's a given. More importantly, he needs to be a performer who can bring something new to the series, as well as create his own personal stamp to a role that has been essayed by SIX DIFFERENT MEN. Therefore, he MUST be an individual of substance and experience, not some sniveling twit who is constantly checking his hair in the mirror.

Until next time, SAVE THE MOVIES...and search this blog to read up on such James Bond wanna-be flops as "Secret Agent Super Dragon", "Danger: Death Ray", "Code Name Alpha" (a film produced in West Germany about a British FBI agent sent to investigate the Asian drug trade), "Agent From H.A.R.M." and "Operation Kid Brother", starring Sean Connery's real kid bro, Neil!


Even Fred Flintstone had a go as James Bond...which still doesn't make it right.









Sunday, August 12, 2018

"Go Naked In The World", But Put Some Clothes On First

"Naked Lunch": Anthony Franciosa and Gina Lollobrigida meet cute (and fully clothed) in "Go Naked in the World."

Hi Keebah, movie lovers.

Have you ever heard of the novel La Dame aux Camellias by Alexandre Duma, fils?

Of course you have!

However, if by chance you haven't, here's a brief run down:

Marguerite Gautier is a wildly successful French courtesan (AKA high end hooker). One night at a party, she meets a slightly younger man named Armand and the two fall madly in love. Just for the record, courtesans don't fall in love. However, Marguerite and Armand are too far gone to realize that, so they quit Paris and shack up together in the country.

A typical book cover for The Lady of the Camellias or Camille for short.

Marguerite has a bad cough, but of far more importance is how Armand's family reacts to this hot new romance. Specifically, Armand's dad fears that his son's entanglement with Marguerite will sully the family name. With her cough growing worse by the day, Marguerite gives into societal pressure and breaks it off with Armand. Needless to say, he's crushed, especially when he's told his cuddlemate dumped him for another man.

Eventually Armand learns the truth--AND that Marguerite is dying (of what, we are never told. However, most people believe it's Consumption. Another theory is Camille is dying of Syphilis. Romantics, for obvious reasons, dismiss that theory. More about it later.) He rushes to her side and all is forgiven. The cuddlemates declare their undying love. Marguerite lets out one final, hacking cough and drops dead in Armand's arms. The end.

Yes, La Dame aux Camellias (or just Camille) is swoony and a bit preposterous. Never the less. this tale of ill-fated love has inspired plays, ballets, operas and even films--Greta Garbo played Camille herself in 1936...and so did Gina Lollobrigida...sort of...in a Camille inspired hack job called "Go Naked in the World", released in 1961 by MGM studios, which is, by sheer coincidence, our featured flick.

Julie Cameron (Italian bombshell Gina Lollobrigida) is "the highest priced woman in captivity" (AKA  high end hooker). She lives in San Francisco before it was infested with hippies and (later) snooty, over-paid tech workers. As the film begins, Julie is on the arm of a rich, grey-haired "gentleman caller", dressed to the nines in a Helen Rose gown, fur stole and long gloves. The two have just entered a chic night club when Julie's "date" must take "an important phone call"--"Probably from his wife," she sighs.

Moments later, her "date" returns, telling Julie that he must leave.

Returning GI Nick is stunned when he catches a glimpse of Julie--or maybe he just got a peek at his bar bill.

"I hate to leave you alone," he says sadly.

Julie pats his hand reassuringly and says, "Darling, I haven't been alone ten minutes since I was 12."

She's not exaggerating, either! Within seconds, Nick swoops in to introduce himself.

"Do you mind?" he asks.

"Yes, I mind," Julie retorts.


"I am NOT pleased to make your acquaintance": Julie and Nick are formally introduced.

Then shifty maitre d' Argus (Will Kuluva) tells Julie that Nick is the son of super-wealthy blow-hard Pete Stratton (Ernest Borgnine). However, Nick has no money of his own.

"Still, fun's fun," Julie shrugs, and she waives Nick over.

"I've been waiting for you," she purrs. "Shall we leave?"

Nick agrees to leave. Once Julie stands up, her breasts are exactly level to Nick's bugging eyes.

"Well, leave something on me," Julie coos. "I might catch cold!"

"The Naked City": Nick and Julie out on the town.

The smitten kittens depart for a beatnik joint where they sip Espresso and exchange flirty banter.

He: "Do you like me?"

She: "Yeah, but I'm wondering why."

After more Espresso, Julie tells Nick she's a widow. He assumes her hubby died in "the great big war."

"No," she replies. "In bed." (EWW!)

"The Naked and the Bed": Julie in the milky after glow.

Eventually Nick and Julie head back to her place and spend a sheet-twisting night in the sack--viewers don't actually see this (it's 1961, after all), but it's implied. Anyway, the next morning, Nick pours them coffee and juice and proves to be an obnoxiously chipper "morning person." He also has no idea what Julie does for a living--even though her telephone rings constantly and her fridge is empty except for champagne and olives. Unfortunately, when Julie tries to explain herself, thick-as-a-brick Nick doesn't get the hint.

"I have a certain kind of life," Julie begins. "I don't get involved with men, usually...I don't want any man to become necessary to me..."

When Nick protests that they have "something special", Julie counters that "I don't believe in Santa Claus or in love! That's what love is to me--trouble!"

However, when Nick says he doesn't believe in Santa Claus either, Julie gets angry and kicks him out. Still not taking the hint, Nick agrees to leave, but says he'll call later so they can go out.

Of course, Nick calls and calls, but Julie refuses to answer the phone. She becomes one unhappy hooker, realizing she loves Nick. Then Nick barges into her apartment while Julie is doing her nails. He browbeats her into admitting their love and the cuddlemates fall into a passionate embrace. A swoony montage of Nick and Julie, um, "enjoying each other" follows. Soon enough, Nick suggests they get married. Julie is hesitant and Nick, naturally, has no idea why. What's more, Nick insists Julie attend his parents' 30th anniversary party with him. She reluctantly agrees.

"Haven't we met before?": Julie and ex-client Pete Stratton (Ernest Borgnine) exchange uncomfortable glances. Nick and his mom don't seem to notice.

The second Julie arrives at the Stratton's anniversary bash, decked out in yet another Helen Rose gown, all the men in the room collectively wet their pants. Having sampled Julie's charms over the years, these guys cannot have their wives in the same room with a hooker! After all, they're happily married men! They bombard Nick's hard-driving, blow-hard dad to send Julie packing before the jig is up.

Practically yanking his kid's arm out of it's socket, Pete yells at Nick, "Get that broad out of here!"

When Nick states that they are in love and plan to marry, his dad pops a blood vessel and screams, "Love?! We're talking rent! There's a dozen men in this room that know that call girl better than you--including me, you dumb kid!"

Horrified by the news, Nick drags Julie back to her place, her throws her on the floor and demands, "Tell me all about it!" Julie tearfully admits that she "sells herself". Thoroughly repulsed, Nick wipes his hands and wails, "I'll never get clean again!" Sobbing hysterically (but not mussing her make-up!) Julie tears Nick a new one: "What bothers you so much?! The idea that I've known other men before you?! Is that it? Or is the idea of your father being one of them!?!" She then points out that she warned Nick to "stay away" and that she never "took anything" from him. "All I did was give!" Julie cries.

This cuts no ice with Nick, who sneers, "I want to be like all the rest! I want to have a hard time remembering your name!" Then he throws a wad of cash in Julie's face and stomps off.

"Can you make change for a $50 ?": Julie finally tells Nick what kind of working girl she is.

Devastated to learn his honey bunch is San Fran's premiere hooker, Nick goes on a bender and winds up in a flea bag motel (with a lovely bay window). Drowning his sorrows in alcohol, Nick wails to his father, "I'm hooked by a hooker!" Dad Pete tries to slap some sense into his son by telling him, "The only thing you owe a woman like that is money." Finally getting a grip, Nick agrees to go home, shower and join pops in their construction business. No matter how hard he tries, though, Nick can't get Julie off his mind. So he arranges with Argus to set up a "date" with Julie "for a friend". The two meet at the appointed hour and BAM! they cannot deny their love. So the only thing left for the smitten kittens to do is run off to sunny Acapulco and plan their wedding.

At first, everything south of the border is great. Julie and Nick have a super hotel room, they eat out every night, Nick plays the guitar and Julie has never been happier. Then reality rears it's ugly head when Borgnine shows up. While Nick is out water skiing, Stratton pleads with Julie to end it with his son. What kind of a future could Nick have married to an ex-hooker? Pete asks. Julie reluctantly agrees. So she breaks it off with Nick, packs her bags and leaves.

Of course, ex-hookers, even regretful ones, can't just sally forth into the sunset. Although the Motion Picture Production Code was on its last wobbly legs when "Go Naked in the World" was released, Julie still had to pay for her shameful life choices. Thus, the producers whipped up a final act worthy of their wacky, would-be weeper. It goes like this:

Julie tells Nick they're through. Next, she goes to a sleazy bar to get bombed. Then Nick walks into the same sleazy bar. To drive Nick away and prove to him her hooker ways will never leave her, Julie engages in a drunken cha-cha with some sleazy bar patrons. Nick tries to break it up, but a riot ensues and Nick is arrested. Julie, however, is assaulted by the sleazy bar patrons. The next morning, we see poor Julie staggering around the back streets of Acapulco, dragging a black scarf. She suddenly comes upon a white dress hanging on a wash line. The white dress symbolizing the proper life Julie never led, she pulls it off the line and leaves the black scarf in its place. Back in her hotel room, Julie puts on the dress, walks to the balcony railing and does a swan dive into the ocean below.

Moments later, Nick arrives calling her name. He notices a crowd gathering on the beach below. Horrified, he runs down to the beach, pushes his way through the gathering throng...and finds Julie, deader than a door nail. "Julie! Julie!" Nick wails, as a policeman gently pulls him aside. Someone in the crowd throws a wreath of flowers on her corpse. As the police carry her body away, Nick clutches at a few blossoms that have fallen by the wayside. As if by magic, dad Pete arrives and embraces his son. As the music swells, father and son walk away, while the ocean waves gently lap over a few stray flowers left behind.

"Naked Kiss": Nick and Julie are so happy they could plotz.

WHEW!

Now, if you are still not convinced that "Go Naked in the World" is a low-rent hack-job on Camille,
here are a few more points to take into consideration:

*Camille earned her nickname "Lady of the Camellias" because she always tucked a white camellia in the front of her dresses. This let her patrons know she was OK to have sex with. On the other hand, if she tucked a red camellia into her dress, it meant she was menstruating and otherwise off limits.  Meanwhile, in Julie's apartment, there is a big painting of her wearing a white dress holding a white camellia!

* Julie and Nick and Marguerite and Armand meet at parties.

* In Camille , Marguerite and Armand run off to the French countryside; in "Go Naked in the World", Julie and Nick head off to Acapulco.

"Father Knows Best?": Dad Pete convinces Julie hookers make bad wives.

* Both Nick and Armand have pushy dads who worry about the family name and firmly believe their sons marrying ex-hookers will never wash in polite society.

* Both Marguerite and Julie die as "punishment" for their shameful pasts. Earlier I said Marguerite is believed to have died of Consumption, although some scholars suggest she really had Syphilis--which would explain why Armand later died, too. Romantics, of course, don't like that theory. However, it is historically possible, I'm just saying...

* Both Marguerite and Julie were high end hookers with many rich "clients". Neither one was interested in love, but love proved their undoing.

* In the TV movie "Hollywood Madame" (reviewed in this very blog), the hooker played by Melody Anderson falls in love with one of her clients and they get engaged. At a family dinner, the groom-to-be's uncle recognizes Melody and informs his nephew. The couple break up and Melody goes on a booze bender just like Nick, proving hookers and their clients can fall in love with each other. 

* In the film "The Poseidon Adventure", it's revealed that Ernest Borgnine and Stella Stevens met when he was a cop and she was a hooker. I wonder if Ernest used his experience making this film to "inform" his later characterization...but I doubt it. 

Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Franciosa over act even in the movie's lobby card!


Thus, as a "modern" update of Camille, "Go Naked in the World" is a dud. As a movie in it's own right, "Go Naked in the World" is a dud. Ann Marsters of the Chicago-American newspaper described the flick as "an offensive story told in a vulgar, cheap, shallow manner." Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times carped that "Go Naked in the World" was "long, maudlin, heavy-handed and as loaded with cliches as January is loaded with icicles." However, it wasn't just critics from the Windy City that hated the movie; Bosley Crowther from the New York Times sneered, "Here is a film its producer--not censor, not anybody else--should have taken out and burned." 

Ouch.

Another point to consider about "Go Naked in the World" is that it also recalls the turgid call girl saga "Butterfield 8", which inexplicably won Liz Taylor an Oscar for Best Actress. In the classic tome Bad Movies We Love by Edward Margulies and Stephen Rebello, the authors suggest "Go Naked in the World" might have been originally slated for Taylor, who was under contract with MGM at the time. "The movie has Taylor's fingerprints all over it," the authors explain, "down to the Helen Rose gowns topped with what look like Cadillac fins, to emphasize an ample bosom." They then go on to crack, "Perhaps Gina got this role because she could step right into the costumes--it certainly can't have been her acting."

So movie lovers, the message here seems to be that good girls go to Heaven, bad girls go to Hell, but bad movies go Everywhere.

Until next time, SAVE THE MOVIES!






















Sunday, July 15, 2018

Joe Don Baker IS "Mitchell"!

Bewitched, bothered, bewildered or blotto? Joe Don Baker IS "Mitchell".

Hello and welcome, movie lovers.

The late 1960's and early 1970's were the golden age of the cinematic anti-hero: cocky, anti-social types who thumbed their noses at authority and disdained rules and regulations. 

Classic anti-heroes include Paul Newman in "Cool Hand Luke", Robert Redford in "Three Days of the Condor", Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown", Al Pacino in "Serpico", Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" and Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland in "M*A*S*H".

To this illustrious roll call of independents and agitators we can now add...Joe Don Baker?!

As the lead in 1975's "Mitchell", Joe Don is a crude, slovenly, hard drinking, cigarillo-smoking, girly magazine reading police detective who (the movie's poster proudly boasts) has "no friends." Yet underneath the rumpled suits and beer sweat, beats the heart of a dedicated public servant ne plus ultra, committed to truth, justice and the American Way.

"I'm jut gonna crash here and get some sleep, OK?": Dedicated detective Mitchell is on the scene.

Or so the movie wants us to believe. Desperately. 

In reality, what "Mitchell" in the bloated form of Joe Don Baker is is not an anti-establishment rule breaker who marches to the beat of his own drummer, but merely an unpleasant, unlikable slob who lives in an apartment that smells like a petting zoo.

The tale of "Mitchell" begins in the limo of Walter Deaney (veteran bad guy John Saxon). Sharing the ride is a "business associate" and the gentlemen's two, uh, "dates." Once the party arrives at Deaney's home, the men leave to "go get some juice." Meanwhile, their "dates" are asked to "prepare" for the evenings "entertainment."

"I want you to exercise the bottomless resources of your imagination," Saxon says with a smile. "Surprise me, like you always do."

Once he's out of ear-shot, Saxon's "date" gripes, "What the hell does he think I am? An acrobat?"

Baddie John Saxon is upset to learn his hooker is not also an acrobat.

While fetching the "juice", Saxon realizes there's a burglar in his den. Rather than exiting the house and calling the police, Deaney instead pulls a gun from a drawer and shoots the guy (he even smiles while doing it). Then he calls 911 and gives the cops a cock-and-bull story about the intruder grabbing a gun off the wall and pointing it at him, first.

"So you see why I had to shoot him," Saxon explains between puffs on a cigar.

Lucky (?) for us, who do think is passed out in the back seat of the police car sent to Deaney's house? Mitchell! Once he staggers onto the scene, the detective realizes things are just a little too cut and dry. For instance, Mitchell wonders, how come Deaney can't remember which one of the guns mounted on his den wall are loaded? Since the burglar was kinda short, how could he grab a gun placed so high? And who gave Saxon's guests to the OK to leave?

"The party's over," Saxon shrugs.

"There's a police investigation going on!" Mitchell barks, closing the automatic gates before the trio can drive off.

"I Drink Alone": Mitchell enjoys quality time with his only friend, booze.

Because of these loose ends, Mitchell refuses to sign-off on the police report. This infuriates his C.O. Pallin (Robert Phillips), who states, "Mitchell, people don't like you. In fact, I don't care for you myself. Why is that?" When Baker replies, "I don't know", Pallin throws him out of his office in disgust.

For being so picky about the Deaney case, Mitchell is put on a 24-hour surveillance detail--alone. This really pisses Mitchell off; after all, he demands, when is he suppose to eat? Mitchell could care less that his target, James Arthur Cummings (Martin Balsam), is a baddie mixed up in drugs and the mob. He wants a proper eating schedule! And nap time! And what about taking care of his personal hygiene? When it's suggested Mitchell handle those details between midnight and 6 AM, he scowls and stomps off.

True to his nature, Mitchell quickly begins to annoy Mr. Cummings. After all, he's planted himself outside his house, follows him wherever he goes and even manages to survive the "high speed car chase" Cummings unleashes. At the end of his rope, Cummings decides to do something drastic: he invites Mitchell over to his house for dinner. Although Mitchell thoroughly enjoys the meal (soup, steak, baked potatoes, gravy, veggies, rolls), he resists his host's suggestions to improve his personal skills. Mitchell also refuses to allow Cummings to put him on his "payroll". Other than that, the dinner date is going along swimmingly until Cummings mentions the hooker Mitchell is (gasp) sleeping with.

Oh, excuse me, did I forget to mention that?

Well, you see, Mitchell is sleeping with a hooker named Greta, played by a pre-"Dynasty"/pre-Yanni Linda Evans. How she got there is a bit complicated, so please try to follow along: even though Mitchell is suppose to be tailing Cummings 24/7, he can't take his mind off the Deaney case. He even breaks into Deaney's house to double-check the crime scene! Deaney catches him, but Mitchell out runs him--a bit of Hollywood magic I don't buy, since Baker is heavier than Saxon, who keeps himself in good shape.

"I have got to get myself a new pimp": Hooker Greta (Linda Evans) prepares for her worst assignment ever--sleeping with Mitchell!

Anyway, in hopes of keeping Mitchell off his case (and perhaps to get him on his "payroll"), Deaney begins sending Greta the happy hooker over to be Mitchell's "new friend".

Whatever Deaney's paying Greta, it's not enough. (Actually, he's paying Greta $100 bucks an hour. That's $468.38 an hour in 2018 values. Like I said, it's still not enough.) Not only is Mitchell an unappealing person, he lives in an apartment that looks (and smells) like a petting zoo. I can just imagine Greta, emerging from a night under the covers with Mitchell, rushing home to shower off all the beer sweat, cigarillo stench and baby oil grease, wondering how her life got so awful.

Mitchell, by the way, has no problem accepting Greta's "favors". He also isn't curious about who's picking up the tab, either--although Linda is paying the ultimate price, if you know what I mean.

Therefore, when Cummings tells Mitchell that Deaney is paying for Greta's "services", Mitchell gets supremely miffed and stomps off.

Full of righteous indignation, Mitchell confronts Deaney. Saxon gleefully admits that he's the one keeping Mitchell "sweet". Baker then insists Greta is sleeping with him freely and gladly, which makes Deaney (and the audience) laugh hysterically. His romantic illusions shattered, Mitchell stomps off.

Meanie Deaney enjoys his life of crime.

"Mitchell" is suppose to be a crime drama; however, that aspect of the flick tends to be over-shadowed by the general loathsomeness of the main character. Never the less, the fact that Deaney appears to have gotten away with murder becomes a canker on Mitchell's gum-line. Why won't the police arrest Deaney? Because, it turns out, Deaney is "a crooked union lawyer" and the FBI has had him under surveillance for two years. In fact, they have mountains of evidence tying him to "every violation in the book." Pallin informs Mitchell that his messing around with the Deaney case could destroy all the feds' hard work.

"Deaney is FBI property!" Pallin hollers.

OK, fine, but why didn't somebody say so earlier? 

Now, about this Cummings fellow: he supposedly runs an "import/export" business. Way back in 1963, he struck a deal with an Italian mobster named Gallano (the stone faced Harold J. Stone) to handle certain "shipments" for the mob. This agreement has worked out great ("We have made a lot of money, no?" Gallano reminds Cummings) until an operative named Mastretta (Morgan Paul) informs Cummings that a shipment of hijacked heroin from Mexico will be coming through his port. Unfortunately, it's a very inconvenient time for such a package to pass through Cummings' port; after all, he's got Mitchell on his case 24-hours a day. Besides, the way the drug deal was carried out wasn't nice.  "If you want drugs, you can grow 'em, you can buy 'em," Cummings lectures Gallano, "but to steal 'em is greedy." Balsam also tells Gallano that Mastretta, who is Gallano's cousin, "is a punk." Yet Gallano remains intractable; the heroin shipment WILL go through Cummings' "facilities"--and that's final!

So what is a mobster to do? Why, he calls Mitchell, of course, in what appears to be a set-up for Gallano. But it's not! In reality, it's an elaborate double cross involving a rich old lady stooge, the precious heroin replaced with bags of chalk, a helicopter chase over the high seas and a deadly gun battle on Cummings' boat...all thought out, organized, timed and executed like clock work under the leadership of Mitchell (!), a man normally too stewed to pass a drunk driving test.

Joe Don Baker takes aim at all the critics who mocked drunk-pig antics (and horrible wardrobe) in the movie "Mitchell".
Sure.

Movies like "Mitchell" rise or fall on the audiances' identification with the main character. Considering that Mitchell is a disagreeable, slovenly, argumentative booze hound with an apartment that looks (and smells) like a petting zoo, the only person who could identify with (or be inspired by) Mitchell would be the Son of Sam. What's more, "Mitchell" doesn't offer a critique on current society, official procedures or accepted hypocrisies, as so many anti-hero movies do. Mitchell is no champion of the under-dog; he just wants another beer. The only "message" viewers could glean from "Mitchell" is to cut out the booze and cigarettes, join a church or at least enter counseling unless they, too, want wind up a friendless, cranky couch potato who reeks of beer sweat.

In my "Daughters of Satan" post, I mentioned Tom Selleck earned a Golden Turkey nomination for the "Most Humiliating Performance by a Future TV Star". Also nominated was Linda Evans in "Beach Blanket Bingo." However, after watching both films, I firmly believe Linda's performance as Greta in "Mitchell" is far more humiliating to the future Krystal Carrington/Yanni cuddlemate than her role as Sugar Kane in "Beach Blanket Bingo". In choosing Joan Collins for "Empire of the Ants" as the winner, the Brothers Medved took into account Joan's humiliation on and off the screen as the deciding factor in giving her the Golden Gobbler. However, Linda had to (pretend) to have sex with Joe Don Baker multiple times and enjoy it. In their earliest encounter, Joe Don spills beer on Linda and she asks him, "You want to lick it off?" EWW! On another occasion, Mitchell asks Greta if she ever posed for porn. "Sure," she replies, "when I needed the bread." His suave response? "Where can I buy some?" Double EWW! Later on, when Greta suggests she and Mitchell have more than just a "business relationship" going, Mitchell pushes her away snarling, "You were a Christmas gift!" OUCH! Perhaps the Brothers Medved didn't catch "Mitchell", but if they had, they would have seen the multiple humiliations heaped on Linda in the course of the flick--and she had to kiss Joe Don Baker, too! In the end, fighting off fiberglass ants is nothing compared to snuggling under the sheets with Mitchell.

"Mitchell" was not a hit at the box office or with critics. However, it did provide ex-football player Merlin Olsen with his first movie role. As Martin Balsam's butler and general flunky Benton, Olsen  wears a flat cap and delivers his lines in a droning monotone, showing none of the charisma so evident in his FTD-Florists commercials.

Because there was--thank heavens!--no sequel to "Mitchell", viewers are left to wonder what the future had in store for this nasty piece of work. Personally, I think Mitchell died as he lived, alone, in his petting zoo of an apartment, a girly magazine in his lap and a can for beer (with a cigarette floating in it) in his cold, dead hand.

Mitchell should be kept out of the reach of children.

King George IV was a lot like Mitchell: big, slovenly, a marathon drinker, loud, boorish. When he died, the august London Times didn't even pretend to feel sorry about his passing. Their words about George are strangely apt for Joe Don Baker's "Mitchell", which I shall paraphrase: "There never was a movie character less regretted by his fellow creatures than Mitchell."

Amen.

And SAVE THE MOVIES!

King George IV: Mitchell's inspiration, perhaps?