Friday, December 2, 2022

A Young Bride Realizes "I Married A Monster From Outer Space"!

 Marge (Gloria Talbot) reacts in horror when she realizes she's been given three cheese boards for wedding gifts in "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" (1958).

Author's note: No, this is NOT the "Melania Trump Story"--but it comes pretty close (rim shot).

Who doesn't love a wedding?

The beautiful bride, the beaming groom, the adorable flower girls and page boys. The first dance, the heartfelt toasts and the priceless moment when the newly married couple smash wedding cake into each others' face. Or when the bridesmaids duke it out for the bouquet. Or when the in-laws start demanding, "When am I gonna get some grandkids? I mean, Tic-Tock goes the clock. It's not like she's 21 or anything..."

No doubt bride-to-be Marge Bradley (B movie regular Gloria Talbot) is counting on experiencing all of thee above when she marries true love Bill Farrell (Tom Tryon). It's the 1950's, after all, and living happily ever after in the suburbs is the order of the day.

Once Marge and Bill tie the knot, however, things don't go as planned. Hubby Bill suddenly seems distant and evasive. He and Marge have yet to have sex; in fact, Bill doesn't show any physical interest in his perky wife at all. He stays out late at night, ignores (and eventually kills) the puppy Marge gives him and seems to prefer spending all his time with his friends. Male friends.

"Don't worry, darling": Marge feels a growing alienation from hubby Bill (Tom Tryon).

Hmmm. What's going on? How could Marge's dreams of perfect love and domestic bliss shatter so quickly?

Unfortunately, the reason hubby Bill has become so alien to Marge is because he is an alien. Instead of a red-blooded, God-fearing, sport coat wearing regular guy, Marge realizes, "I Married a Monster from Outer Space!"

Which is also our featured flick.

Inspired no doubt by "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" (1958) centers on a bunch of aliens who come to Earth via the small town of Norrisville. Their mission? To relocate here. Why? Their planet got too hot to live on or their sun exploded, something like that. Anyway, the residents were building space ships to evacuate, but this ended up taking longer than expected (red tape and price over-runs?). In the mean time, the sun's rays killed off all their females. Now the aliens must not only find a new home, but new mates.

However, once the aliens land on Earth, they realize they can't breathe our air. To mix and mingle, the aliens kidnap human guys and hook them up to some kind of sound system/coat rack in their space ship. This allows the aliens to assume their victims' appearance--for a while, anyway. At some point during the day, the aliens must return to their mother ship in order to recharge and assume their regular form.

Bill's inner alien reveals himself.

However, if the aliens expected to blend seamlessly into daily Earth life, boy, were they wrong. See, while the aliens may look human (for a while, anyway), they don't know the first thing about acting human. On the aliens' home planet, the genders were strictly separated and only came together for "breeding purposes". Possessing superior technological skills, yet emotionally barren, these ETs are a race of Elon Musks. No wonder the lady aliens were happy to keep their close encounters limited to their once-a-year obligation (they must have viewed it like paying taxes--not fun, but necessary).

While Bill's sudden lack of  savior faire tips Marge off that something isn't right, nobody else believes her. It's the '50's, remember, and nobody believed women in the 1950's. It's just nerves, she's told. Or maybe post-honeymoon let down? Or perhaps Marge has read an early draft of The Feminine Mystique and realizes the domestic goddess perfection she's been spoon-fed since childhood is all a sham? 

Whatever the cause, Marge grows increasingly desperate. She wakes up in the middle of the night and finds Bill gone. She goes out looking for him and finds him deep in the forest. That's not all Marge finds: she sees the alien's space ship and gets a gander at the alien inhabiting Bill's body. He's not a looker, that's for sure. In fact, he's an ungainly mixture of Big Foot, an octopus and a robot. He sports breathing tubes sprouting from his head, connecting to his chest via electrical (or UBS) portals. His hands are hairy paws with 3 fingers each. Like I said, not a looker.

The hysterical Marge runs back to town seeking help. She stops at the local bar and approaches two men.

"I've just seen a monster!" she gasps.

"The problem isn't that I'm drunk; it's that you're sober!": Marge gets little help from the patrons at the local bar.

"Who hasn't?" one of the men replies.

Marge then rushes out into the street, where she's picked up by the police.

"Take me to Chief Collins," Marge says before passing out. "He's my Godfather."

Meanwhile, back at the bar, one of the men Marge spoke to muses, "Funny, she doesn't look like a lush..." causing his buddy to retort, "Well, they don't wear badges, you know!"

"I've got a secret": Chief Collins has become alienated from his fellow humans.

Marge tells kindly Chief Collins what she saw. He tells her to calm down. If the other folks in Norrisville hear her wild tales, Collins says, she'll spend the rest of her life in an insane asylum. Marge reluctantly trudges home. When the camera pans back to Chief Collins, he's looking out his office window. A storm's raging outside and when a streak of lightening flashes, it reveals--say it isn't so!--that Marge's Godfather has been taken over by an alien, too!

Poor Marge. Fearful her gal-pal Helen (the gravel-voiced Jean Carson) is also marrying an alien, Marge takes her aside during her wedding rehearsal.

"Oh! I just love rehearsing for weddings!" Helen exclaims. "Especially when it's my own!"

 Marge begs her not to marry Sam, at least not right away.

"After all the years it took me to land him?" Helen barks.

Try as she might, Marge just can't spit it out that Sam might've been replaced by an alien.

"Marge, honey, I don't know what's bothering you," Helen sighs, lighting a cigarette. "But it's not going to keep me from marrying Sam. I love him!"

Marge's news about groom-to-be Sam will wipe that smile off bride-to-be Helen's face.

So the wedding commences--but tragedy follows. The gang (including Marge and Bill) have a picnic by a lake. Sam and Helen, meanwhile, go boating. Suddenly Sam tumbles into the drink, but nobody's  worried; Sam "can swim like a fish." Only now he can't. Seeing Sam flailing about, the men frantically drag him out of the water and give him CPR. However, when the paramedics give Sam oxygen, he dies on the spot. Realizing the aliens can't breathe our air, Marge fears the alien invasion is moving faster than expected.

Finally, Marge tells alien Bill the gig is up. She knows everything: what they really look like, where their space ship is, that they can't breathe our air. 

"Aren't you afraid to be saying this?" alien Bill asks.

"Yes", Marge admits. "Does your race enjoy frightening women? Does that make you proud? Or do monsters have no pride?"

Alien Bill looks hurt. "We understand pride," he says. "But we can't afford it."

"I think we should start seeing other people": Alien Bill and Marge realize they are incompatible.

Alien Bill regurgitates the sob story of what happened to his planet. Marge is sympathetic, but still wonders, "Why did you have to come here?"

"You have no idea how rare life is in those cold, countless miles of space," alien Bill somberly replies.

So the aliens invaded Earth because they were lonely and tired of space travel? And they'd gone so long without S-E-X they were willing to take their chances on a planet with un-breathable air (for them) so they could get some nooky? Talk about desperate...

Marge asks alien Bill, "Did you (pause) love your women before they died?"

"No", alien Bill states.

This romance novel is far out (rim shot).

Then alien Bill launches into a bonkers monolog about how when they took over human bodies, the aliens began experiencing human "emotions and desires" which was something "they hadn't foreseen." The longer alien Bill inhabited human Bill's body, the more alien Bill wanted to get in touch with his own feelings. And because there was no love on his home planet, alien Bill declares, "I want to know what love is!"

Marge is dumbfounded--I mean, the aliens were listening to Foreigner during their space voyage? EWW!

Anyway, Marge tells alien Bill to find another planet to invade; Earth is already taken. Without their female counter-parts, they "can't have children" and "your race will die out!"

Alien Bill retorts, "Eventually we'll have children with you."

 "What...kind...of...children?" Marge asks. 

"Our kind of children," alien Bill declares.

"Look dear! He has your eyes!": Alien Bill and Marge's first born?

Naturally, Marge is repulsed by the thought of giving birth to three-fingered hairy robot alien babies, but what can she do? The roads out of town are closed. The phone lines are always mysteriously busy.  And the aliens are taking over more and more men. Mother of Mercy, is this the end of humanity?

Not so fast! Marge finally finds someone who believes her: kindly Dr. Wayne (Ken Lynch). "We've got to destroy their ship!" Marge bleats. "Otherwise, they'll over run the Earth and we'll be baring their children!"

Dr. Wayne wonders how they'll round up a posse that isn't full of alien imposters. Then he has a brain wave: "I know where to get our men!" They'll gather up all the guys whose wives have recently given birth! The aliens couldn't have gotten to them yet!

So Dr. Wayne and what's left of Norrisville's human men get their guns and go out to kick some serious alien booty. One of the guy's brings his German Shepherds along, which proves to be a stroke of genius. See, Earth dogs know an alien when they smell one. When the human men quickly realize their bullets are of no use, the dogs simply pounce on the aliens, rip out their breathing tubes and--Presto!--no more aliens. What good boys!

Once the dogs have dispatched the enemy, the human men venture into the aliens' spaceship and find their buddies hooked up the coat rack/sound system described earlier. Kindly Dr. Wayne unhooks the men from their batteries and they resume consciousness. The aliens aren't so lucky. Their vital link for survival on Earth severed, the aliens start breathing oxygen and collapse en masse. They gasp, roll around and quickly die, turning into chunky goo along the way. 

"Paw Patrol": Invading aliens are no match for man's best friend.

Marge races to the aliens' hiding spot. There she runs into alien Bill, who is slowly dying. He laments that he was just learning to feel and love and enjoy life, but Marge could care less. She's reunited with Bill--the real Bill, the human Bill--and they embrace. The aliens call off their invasion and fly away. Yes, they're doomed to endure another long, lonely, cold journey out in space, but think of all the Frequent Flyer Miles they'll accumulate.

Unlike a lot of flicks profiled here, "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" was a hit with both audiences and critics (it ran on a double with "The Blob", a movie starring a guy named Steve McQueen). It's plot was direct and compact, not drowning in sub-plots, although the pace could get pokey at times. The F/X is good and sparingly used. The acting, especially from Gloria Talbot as the desperate Marge, is unusually effective. In other words, an all-around A-OK flick. So what's it doing here?

Because "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" is yet another example of the double standard in Sci-Fi when it comes to alien/human relations.

Simply put, when Earth men come upon alien females, the said femmes are almost always attractive young gals who dress like Miss America contestants and can't wait to marry and/or do the nasty with the human visitors. "The Queen of Outer Space", "Fire Maidens from Outer Space", "Cat Women on the Moon", "Forbidden Planet", "Barbarella", "Star Man" and "The Phantom Planet" are just a few examples of this. And don't forget Captain Kirk got more ass than a toilet seat on "Star Trek" or that nurse Christine Chapel had the hots for Mr. Spock (as did guest star Jill Ireland, the future Mrs. Charles Bronson).

However, whenever aliens come upon Earth females, the aliens are always ugly, hairy, creepy monsters and the women recoil at the thought of doing the deed with them--and their fellow Earth men aren't too happy about the idea, either.

"Bachelor in Paradise"?: "The Fire Maidens from Outer Space" are out-of -this-world in the looks department. Male aliens aren't so lucky.

And if the Earth gals and the aliens do have contact, it's usually because the aliens have forcibly impregnated them. 

 Consider the flick "Village of the Damned", where aliens impregnate the local ladies of child-bearing age. The result is super albino alien kids who have telepathic powers and plan to take over the world. In the movie "The Demon Seed", poor Julie Christie gets pregnant by her hubby's super computer--and experiences a climax that resembles a laser (Pink) Floyd Omni Max show. Then there's the TV movie "The Stranger Within". Starring TV's "I Dream of Jeannie"s Barbara Eden, it's another tale of a gal impregnated with an alien fetus. Soon the nasty little bugger is forcing Barb to drink tons of coffee, put salt on everything, turn the house into Ice Station Zebra and forget to do her house work. According to my calculations, the only alien/Earth woman who came together successfully as a couple are Mr. Spock's parents, Ambassador Sarek and Amanda Grayson.

Why the double standard? Why are female aliens always hot-to-trot and the male aliens ugly freaks?  I'm not suggesting human females would want to mate with ugly, hairy robot aliens. However, what if the male aliens were nice looking, had good personalities and were genuinely interested in commitment? I bet there'd tons of human gals who would give it a whirl. After all, if countless women are willing to humiliate themselves on "The Bachelor", "Love Island" and "Married at First Sight", how could hooking up with an alien be any worse?

And considering the male specimens on those above mentioned shows, hooking up with an alien might even be better.

Of course, I can't discuss aliens and human females close encounters without mentioning "Mars Needs Women" (1967). In this crack-pot classic, Tommy Kirk leads an alien unit down to Earth to rustle up some gals so they can repopulate Mars. Dop (Tommy's character) ends up falling for scientist Marjorie Bolen (Yvonne Craig, Bat Girl herself)--who won the Noble Prize for Medicine for her ground breaking work in "frozen surgery techniques." However, Tommy becomes repulsed at the idea of using his new cuddlemate as "a test case for artificial insemination!" and calls the whole mission off. Before he leaves for home, Dop tells Marjorie that, even though Mars dispensed with the word "love" a long, long time ago, he knows it's love that he feels for her.

"Meet the Parents": Mr. Spock's mom and dad share the love.

Awww, that's so sweet. I wonder if Dop watches Hallmark movies in his spare time.

OK, kiddies, what have we learned today?

We learned that space travel is really lonely and boring, so bring along plenty of magazines and cross word puzzles to distract you.

We learned that '50's women were so determined to get married, they'd marry an alien-infected man if it meant avoiding spinsterhood.

We learned that low-budget sci-fi can beat the pants off big-budget sci-fi, artistically, anyway.

And we learned that clean air is our best defense against an alien invasion.

So, until next time, lets do all we can to end pollution--and SAVE THE MOVIES, too.

"Screw fate. I'll tear down the stars for you."* Dop and Marjorie say goodbye.

* That quote is from Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston, in case you're wondering.

Monday, November 7, 2022

If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Read...

Author Penny Junor believes Camilla Parker-Bowles is misunderstood. She says this over and over and over again until you want to SCREAM. 

How-dee, movie lovers.

Have you ever woken up one morning and felt the entire world was against you? Have you ever felt you were unjustly blamed for some high crimes or misdemeanors? Have you ever felt caricatured, excluded, lampooned, criticized, bullied and mercilessly poked fun of?

If so, well, welcome to middle school! But seriously, folks, Camilla Parker-Bowles can relate--and so can Junk Cinema. That's why this blog has the semi-regular feature called "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch/Read..." where a book or flick is suggested to lighten your mood, if only momentarily.

Back in the day, Camilla was one of the most hated women in Britain for supposedly breaking up the marriage of Charles and Diana. But Camilla is a really good egg. She's warm, funny, down-to-earth, a great cook ("her roast chicken is legendary") and a doting grandma. The view that she's a nasty, chain smoking home wrecker is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

At least, that's the view point of author Penny Junor. And she states it over and over and over again in her book The Duchess: Camilla Parker-Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown. If, by the end of this tome, you are not convinced that the Duchess of Cornwall--now the Queen Consort-- has been the most maligned person the planet, you are hereby sentenced to read this book until you agree one-hundred percent that Camilla has indeed been the most maligned person on the planet ( Melania Trump, who once claimed she was the most maligned person on the planet, really should read this book. Junor makes a pretty good case that in the most maligned person sweepstakes, Camilla has it all over Melania). 

Melania Trump, "I'm the most bullied person on the planet!" Camilla Parker-Bowles, "No! I'm the most bullied person on the planet!" Stop! You're both bullied!

How did Camilla end up in this situation? Princess Diana. That's because Di, almost from the beginning of her relationship with Charles, never, ever trusted Camilla. Nor did she believe hubby Charles when he insisted he had ended it with Camilla. So, when the Wales marriage began to crumble, Diana instantly knew who to blame.

 According to Junor, this was all so unfair to Camilla; to paint her as a scheming home wrecker was so wide of the mark it was ridiculous. At least according to Junor, anyway. 

 In her earnest portrayal, Camilla Shand came into this world a nice, horse-loving daddy's girl; she grew up among the wealthy British gentry. Camilla attended socially acceptable schools, which taught her to read and write, but little else. No matter, because Camilla possessed one talent you can't teach: how to talk to boys. This talent--along with her "laughing eyes"--made Camilla the hit of every party and ensured her future success among the smart set.

After boarding school, Camilla was sent to finishing school abroad, where she learned to "lay a table" and cook that legendary roast chicken. Then it was back to Britain to make her formal debut into society, lose her virginity and live the life of a well-connected deb. It was during Camilla's life as an "It Girl" that she met the love of her life, the man she longed to marry: Andrew Parker-Bowles. 

Andrew Parker-Bowles: "I really wanted my wife...but I wanted everyone else's wife, too."

Andrew was a wealthy, semi-aristocratic military officer, horse lover and polo player par excellance. He was also a love 'em and leave 'em cad who went through women like a hot knife through butter. Never the less, Camilla was determined to marry him and was willing to put up with an on-and-off relationship for several years until Andrew came to his senses...or, rather, his father and Camilla's father placed an engagement notice in The Times behind Andrew's back, forcing him to propose, which he eventually did.

It was while Camilla was waiting for cuddlemate Andrew to propose that she was introduced to Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. It was love at first sight, at least for Charles. He loved the fact that Camilla was a laid-back country gal who didn't fuss over her hair and clothes, that she loved horses and polo and that she laughed at the same things he did. The couple's idyll ended when Charles (then in the Royal Navy) went back to his ship. For someone so head-over-heels in love, however, Charles was pretty tight-lipped about it, and failed to share this information with Camilla. Author Junor believes that Charles' failure to do so was based on several factors: A) He was a boob, B) He wasn't ready to marry anyone at that time, C) He feared Camilla would turn him down and that D) Camilla wouldn't be considered "pure and posh" enough to be Britain's next queen, at least according to the royal family. Never mind that Charles wasn't exactly "pure" (aka a virgin) or really even "posh" himself.

As the 1970's slowly wound into the 1980's, Charles and Camilla went their separate ways. Except they didn't. See, Andrew Parker-Bowles was a polo pal of Charles, and a relative of Charles' beloved granny the Queen Mother, so he and wife Camilla soon became part of "the Highgrove set" that surrounded Chuck. This also kept the Charles/Camilla flame on a continual low simmer.  Andrew, meanwhile, didn't find marriage or fatherhood (he and Camilla had two kids) any reason to stop sleeping with other women. Thus, the Parker-Bowles' union quickly became one where Andrew lived in London during the week and screwed various women, while Camilla stayed with the kids in the country. Everybody met up on weekends to ride the hounds and shoot ducks and stuff. Then Andrew would return to London and his latest cuddlemate and the whole cycle would begin again. 

This type of "open marriage" is considered quite normal in high society circles; as long as everybody stays "discrete" and polite about things, of course. Fidelity and monogamy are boring middle/working class virtues for boring middle/working class people, not the country's grandees. So who would raise an eyebrow when poor Camilla, fed up with hubby's serial sleeping around, turned to good friend Charles for some understanding and, well, one thing led to another and soon enough Charles and Camilla were mattress mates once more.

Unfortunately, Charles wasn't an anonymous aristocratic; he was heir to Europe's best known throne. Sure, he could sleep around all he wanted (his beloved "Uncle Dickie" actually encouraged him to do so), but the fun and games would have to end (or least pause) long enough for the Prince of Wales to collect a wife and sire some kids to secure the Windsor line. After innocently proclaiming that "about 30" was a good age to marry, the British press, the public and his parents started hammering Charles to get a move on, especially as the big three-oh was starring him in the face. 

"Don't worry, dear. Charles and I are just good friends.": Lady Diana Spencer and Camilla at the races.

That's when Lady Diana Spencer enters the picture. The apple-cheeked aristocrat came from the wealthier and infinitely more British House of Spencer. She was young, pretty, photogenic and, at 19, hadn't had the time to accumulate much of a "past". She also seemed "besotted" with Charles--and he with her, up to a point. Everybody agreed that Lady Diana was right for the job of Princess of Wales, including Camilla. 

The glorious "Wedding of the Century" (July 29, 1981) was the sort of spectacle the British do so well: lots of horses, carriages and soldiers, cheering crowds, soaring choirs and big, goofy hats. It may have been the happiest day of Charles and Diana's marriage, because problems were already starting to appear. As author Junor puts it, the Prince and Princess of Wales were a "classic mismatch". Even with the arrival of two sons (William and Harry, coming in 1982 and 1984, respectively), the too-young for her age Diana and the-too-old for his age Charles had little or nothing to build a marriage on (Camilla and Andrew at least had polo in common).

More importantly, despite her breezy Sloane Ranger exterior, Junor explains that Diana suffered from serious mental health issues. Unfortunately, neither Charles nor the royal family understood the complexities of mental illness. Charles, to his credit, did encourage Diana to seek professional help and this did give her some relief. However, her position as the future queen, the press scrutiny that attended her every move, upper class distrust of psychiatry and Diana's own unwillingness to admit her problems (especially her eating disorder) for fear of being labeled, made effective treatment nearly impossible.

So the "Wedding of the Century" devolved into the "War of the Wales". There would be separations, palace denials, awkward photo calls, tell-all books, tell-all interviews, embarrassing leaked phone chats, his-and-hers affairs and eventually the Wales' historic divorce. A year later, a tragic accident in Paris would claim Diana's life.

Alas, "The Wedding of the Century" became "The War of the Wales" very quickly.

However, The Duchess doesn't end there. Although the major principals in this saga would soon be free to remarry, C & C couldn't make things legal--or even appear in public together--because of  one very harsh and unflinching reality: people didn't like them.

This unpopularity, Junor believes, came from press manipulation, pure and simple. The Barrons of Fleet Street sensed right away that the public was more sympathetic to Diana, so they portrayed her as a wronged innocent betrayed by the cold royal family and the unfaithful Prince Charles. Because every soap opera needs a villain, Camilla morphed from a happy-go-lucky country wife into a cynical, scheming, chain-smoking mantrap.

 The unexpected death of Diana and the out-pouring of grief that followed made the couple even more unpopular than they already were. So the PR department of Buckingham Palace rolled up its sleeves and got to work. First, they had to brush up Charles' image as a good dad and worthy future king. Next came an extensive (but largely secret) campaign to not only make Camilla palatial to the British public, but also to the royal family. See, Charles' beloved granny refused to even "receive" Camilla and Queen Elizabeth wouldn't even be in the same room with her--strange behavior, since both ladies attended Camilla's wedding to Andrew years before. Various palace flacks urged Charles to give Camilla up, which he stoutly refused to do. It was years before princes William and Harry agreed to meet her. Meanwhile, Camilla did her part by giving up smoking, having her teeth straightened, enduring a chemical peel, freshening up her hair and make-up and doing charity work--all in hopes of proving her worthiness as Charles' cuddlemate. Finally, mummy QEII began to fear her heir might pull an Edward VIII and abdicate. So she allowed Charles and Camilla to marry--but she didn't attend the ceremony and gave a firm "no" when Charles wanted to have an all-organic sit-down meal to celebrate the nuptials.

Once Charles and Camilla are Mr. and Mrs., The Duchess switches gears from an impossible love story where the devoted couple vanquish all their foes to a run-down Camilla's royal duties, which includes family literacy projects and visiting battered women's shelters. These chapters are Junor's earnest attempt to show that Camilla is just as kind, loving and caring as the late Diana was. She may well be, but the author's breathless tone and gushing prose soon become tiring. By the end of the book, you want to scream, "OK, you've convinced me! Now will you please shut up?"

The Duchess ends with Charles and Camilla happily married, enjoying their growing brood of his-and-hers grandchildren and hoping one day to rule as King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla, which, by the way, they will in 2023 (The Duchess was written before QEII's passing).

The late Queen Elizabeth on Charles and Camilla's wedding day.

What's the point of all this, you ask?

Maybe the point is The Duchess proves that bad times don't last forever. Even if an entire country believes you're a frumpy, chain smoking home wrecker with bad hair, with enough time, patience and money (his, not yours), you can turn your image around and be, if not exactly embraced or loved, at least respected for your work ethic and applauded for giving up the cancer sticks.

Or maybe the point is that lasting love isn't based on social pedigrees or press approval, but having common interests and values that help you weather the storms of life.

Or maybe it's that Britain's royal family is great throwing glitzy spectacles, but totally sucky when it comes to male/female relationships.

 This is especially true in the case of Prince Charles and the search for his future queen. The Windsors insisted the heir to the throne find a wife using impossible standards more in line with the 19th century than the 20th. What Camilla Shand may have lacked in dress sense or "dignity", she more than made up for in understanding Charles and what he needed to be happy. Diana, for all her charms and aristocratic lineage, didn't. Perhaps if the Windsors had realized times (and morals) had changed since the 1840's, they wouldn't have pushed Charles into marrying a girl simply because she was "posh and pure". 

Charles and Diana after a reporter asks them if they are "in love."

Or maybe The Duchess proves that the best princesses aren't pretty young things who think the Copernican Revolution is a science fiction show on Netflix, but mature, intelligent women who understand the realities of a very difficult and often thankless job.

Or maybe I've over-thought the whole business. Perhaps The Duchess is just a bland book that states REPEATEDLY that Camilla Parker-Bowles is a good egg. With all the upheaval the world is going through at the moment, you could do worse than devote a couple hours to this fan fiction, because it may, just for a short time, distract you.

I like that one best.

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, fairy tales only exist in Disney films and SAVE THE MOVIES.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Now, An Update From The "Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction" Department

"Would you believe...": Trump has endless excuses about how those top secret documents ended up at Mar-A-Lago.

As you probably know, the FBI raided Donald Trump's Florida resort/home Mara-A-Lago in early August to retrieve top secret and classified documents.

Many of Trump's devoted fans have given some interesting answers as to why he did this. For example:

*Trump had already declassified the documents because, you know, presidents can do that.

*President Biden arranged the FBI raid to distract people about Hunter Biden's laptop mess.

*Mr. Biden rescinded Trump's ability to declassify documents without telling him.

"Don't worry, be happy": A peek inside the secure room Trump created for the top secret docs he took.

*Trump had a secure room at Mar-A-Lago and was even getting more locks for it!

*Trump was writing (!) a biography/autobiography and he needed the docs for "research".

As the scandal has grown and deepened, the excuses have continued to pile up. To inject a little light hearted humor into this very serious situation, I present my own reasons why Trump took the documents.

 In no particular order, they are:

*Disgusted by all the typos, run-on sentences and misspelled words, Trump took the documents home to correct the errors.

*He was using the backside of the docs for his high stakes "Tic Tac Toe" games with Eric.

A sample of Trump's Origami skills.

*Ever since Trump took up Origami, he's needed tons of paper to do his projects.

*He was trying to "save some trees" by recycling the documents as copy paper for Mar-A-Lago.

*Hey, Trump can't read, remember? So how was he suppose to know they were top secret?!

*Know that secure room Trump had at Mar-A-Lago? Trump was in the process of buying more locks, but every time he went to Home Depot, they were sold out. Not his fault!

*Hillary Clinton had top secret docs on her private email! What about that, tough guy?!

"I know what I am, but are you?: Hillary and Hannity face off.

*Seriously? Like you've never taken anything from work?

*The National Archives are run by a bunch of prissy, pushy geeks who've been totally unreasonable about Trump returning these documents! I mean, they've been nagging him for, like, a year! Geez, what's their problem? Sad!

*Because Melania used up all the tissue paper, what was Trump suppose to use to make sure his clothes didn't wrinkle while he packed them?

* You mean Presidents of the United States don't get to keep all that top secret stuff? What a rip-off!

As this investigation continues, expect even more crazy reasons why highly classified and top secret documents were at Mar-A-Lago. Stay tuned!

And save the movies, too.

"They're mine! They're all mine!": Trump explains why Mar-A-Lago had top secret documents lying around.

Monday, September 5, 2022

A Book That Hits All The Right (Sour) Notes


Hi ho, movie lovers.

I was at the library recently and came upon a book that I ABSOLUTELY INSIST every person in the world read.

The title? Dave Berry's Book of Bad Songs.

If you love music, you must read this book. If you have a particular fondness for bad songs, you must read this book. If there are songs you simply can't stand (like "Cat's in the Cradle", a ditty I have always loathed), you must read this book.

It's just that simple.

A common reaction from people who have heard "Muskrat Love".

OK, you say. I will read this book. But this blog is dedicated to the promotion and protection of bad movies. Why are you plugging a book about bad songs?

Because bad movies and bad songs so together, like peanut butter and jelly or figs and newtons.

Let me explain.

One of the reasons the movie "At Long Last Love" (1975) is such a towering turkey isn't just because of its bad acting, bad jokes, bad dancing, bad direction, bad script, bad sets and bad clothes. The bad singing was also an integral part of the movie's badness. Even though the tunes warbled on screen came from the Cole Porter song book, the golden throats warbling them included people like Burt Reynolds and Duilio Del Prete.

And if you think a Cole Porter song can't be staged and/or sung badly, you haven't heard Burt Reynolds demolish "You're the Top".

At words poetic, they are pathetic: The cast of "At Long Last Love."

It's not pretty.

However, the sight of Burt (and other cast members) mangling Porter songs and dancing (as one critic put it) "like a drunk killing coach roaches", helped enshrine "At Long Last Love" as one of the WORST movies ever made--a designation that still holds today.

In short, those musical interludes help make a bad film even badder. (sic).

Likewise, one of the many, MANY reasons why Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Cats" is such a huge horrible hairball isn't only because of its kooky plot, but also because of it's awful songs--especially "Memories" which I will go to my grave insisting NOBODY can sing without annoying the hell out of everybody within striking distance. Nobody!

As if you needed any more proof of the invaluable contributions of bad songs to bad movies, please remember that the teenage hero in "The Giant Gila Monster" (1959) took time out from his heroic duties to sing the ballad "I Sing Whenever I Sing Whenever I Sing". Or that "I Accuse My Parents" (1944) featured the toe-tappers "Are You Happy in Your Work?" and "Love Came Between Us". Let's also not forget Bobby Van's show-stopping number "Answer Me a Question" from "Lost Horizon" (1974) which showcased the sparkling pipes of George Kennedy, Sally Kellerman, Liv Ullman and Peter Finch.

"The hills are alive/with the sounds of/these guys...": George Kennedy and Sally Kellerman in "Lost Horizon".

Now, back to Dave.

The Book of Bad Songs came to be in response to a column Barry wrote for the Miami Herald about not hearing any good songs on the radio--i.e. "good songs" meaning songs he liked. However, what actually struck a nerve--and created an avalanche of mail-- was Barry criticizing Neil Diamond,  especially the tune "I Am, I Said". Dave wrote that he found the lines "I am, I said/ to no one there/and no one heard/not even the chair" very stupid--and for the record, I totally agree. He went on to ask, "Is Neil trying to tell us he's surprised that the chair didn't hear him? Maybe he expected the chair to say, 'Whoa, I heard that'?"

Furthermore, Dave also wondered if Neil ended that particular line with "Not even the chair" because  "So I ate a pear", "Like Smokey the Bear" and "There are nits in my hair" didn't sound right.

The response, as I said, was overwhelming--and not just from Neil Diamond fans who took umbrage at Berry daring to criticize their idol. Other readers wrote in to share their opinions of what are the world's worst songs were. That, in turn, inspired Dave to run a "Worst Song Survey", inviting readers to send in their nominations. Later on, Berry tabulated the results and shared them.

Needless to say, zillions of readers sent Barry their suggestions, along with their reasons why a particular song was especially loathsome. In Book of Bad Songs, Dave included some of them, my favorites being:

A typical reaction to hearing the song "Afternoon Delight".

* " The number one worst piece of pus-oozing, vomit-inducing, camel-spitting, cow-phlegm song EVER in the history of the Solar system is 'Dreams of an Everyday Housewife.'"

* "I wholeheartedly believe that 'Ballerina Girl' is responsible for 90% of the violent crimes in North America today."

* "I nominate every song ever sung by the Doobie Brothers. Future ones also."

Dave Berry's Book of Bad Songs is a slim volume, only eight chapters, with titles like "Weenie Music", "Teen Death Songs" and "Songs Women Really Hate". It's a quick read and totally hilarious. Dave not only reveals the winners of his "Worst Song Survey", including the number one vote getter, but he provides even more comments from his readers about the songs they hate (One respondent even told Dave that his loathing for "Cat's in the Cradle" was so intense that "the next DJ who played 'Cat's in the Cradle' was going to get smacked across the head with a tube sock full of wood screws"--an action I totally support). I won't spoil the surprise of which song took first place, but I will say I thought it was an excellent choice.

Although this book was first published in 2000, Dave Berry's Book of Bad Songs is timeless. The songs discussed are truly bad and even if you were born after the release of, say, "The Pina Colada Song" by Rupert Holmes or "Wildfire" by Michael Murphy or "I've Never Been to Me" by a gal named Charlene, this book will still resonate with you. After all, like wine, bad songs only get better with age.

A typical reaction to hearing the song "Disco Duck".

However, if Dave decides to write an updated version of Book of Bad Songs, I suggest he include the following tunes:

*"Like a Bird" by Tiffany Trump. Before she graduated from law school, the Donald's second daughter dreamed of being a pop star and thus released this brain-numbingly awful single in 2016. The lines include such gems as "Diamonds are so shimmery/Special things uncover me/You know what you say/Baby, baby/Don't you go" and "See you in the spot above/Crawling through/The liquid love/You're cute and tweeting me/Baby you go beep, beep, beep."

To the astonishment of all, the single flopped.

*"(She's My) Cherry Pie" by Warrant. The now forgotten hair band released this ditty in 1990. Featured on their album of the same name, it was reportedly written in 15 minutes on the back a pizza box. The song praises the joys of...a certain type of sex act...using double entendre to prevent being, you know, crass or gross or vulgar. Interestingly, the band insisted, despite the lyrics, that they "respected women" and this song was "just for fun." They also admitted "Cherry Pie" wasn't the best song on their album and its success hurt Warrant's reputation as serious heavy metal artists.

*"How Bizarre" by OMC. This song is just plain weird and irritating and I hate it, which is why I include it. It came out in 1995.

Typical reacting to hearing anything by Robin Thicke.

So, for giving us Dave Berry's Book of Bad Songs and numerous great humor columns and books over the years, Dave Berry, Junk Cinema Salutes you!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Joan Crawford Creates a Deadly Buzz in "Queen Bee"

Joan Crawford felt the title character of the novel Queen Bee was perfect for her. How right she was!

Hi-Keebah and hello, movie lovers.

I want to take a moment to talk about bees.

Did you know there are over 20,000 species of bees? The smallest is the Perdita minima, which measures only 2mm, while the largest, the Megachile pluto, boasts a wingspan of 2.5. inches.

There are honey bees, bumble bees, stingless bees, mason bees and leafcutter bees. Bees can be social and live in hives (as honey bees do) or they can be solitary and live alone (as carpenter bees prefer).

Bees make honey, of course, but they also produce beeswax, pollen, Royal Jelly and Propolis, which bees use to water-proof their homes. Propolis, by the way, is also a natural antibiotic.

"It's good to bee the queen!"

The star of any colony of bees is the queen. This is because of her size and birthing abilities. Male bees are wild to have sex with the queen, after which they promptly die (but at least they die happy). In order to maintain her position in the hive, the queen will seek out and kill her "sister queens" with her reusable stinger.

Who's the deadliest bee of all?

Without a doubt, that would be Eva Phillips, the centerpiece of the 1955 buzz bomb "Queen Bee".

As portrayed by Joan Crawford, Eva Phillips is a real piece of work. Her tongue is as sharp as an ice pick and her glare is as deadly as Medusa's. What's more, Eva's need to control and humiliate everyone around her rivals that of my 10th grade PE teacher. Easy going she's not.

In fact, the flick has barely gotten started when we learn that 1) Eva tricked her mega rich husband Avery (Barry Sullivan) into marrying her, 2) she caused the car accident that left an ugly scar on his face and 3) Avery's very serious drinking problem can be traced directly to his unhappy marriage (any attempt to get a divorce has been blocked by Eva threatening blackmail).

"We are not amused": Eva Phillips (Joan Crawford). Is it just me or does she look a bit like Better Davis here?

And that's not all! The woman Avery was suppose to marry, Sue McKinnon (Fay Wray), was so traumatized after being left at the alter, she suffered a nervous breakdown and is now behaving like Miss Havisham from Great Expectations (but she gets out more).

Anything else?

Oh, yeah, Eva either neglects her two kids or terrorizes them AND she once had a torrid affair with Jud Prentiss (John Ireland) who is now engaged to Carol Phillips (Betsy Palmer), her sister-in-law!

Well, as you can imagine, that last bit of information doesn't sit well with Eva, but I'm getting way ahead of myself.

"Queen Bee" starts with poor relation Jennifer Stewart (Lucy Marlow) arriving at the Phillips' mega-mansion. She's just graduated from college and Eva has invited her for a visit. At first, Crawford couldn't be nicer or more welcoming to Jen; she even spruces up her wardrobe, arranges for her to date hunky rich guy Ty McKinnon (William Leslie) and fills her in on all the social niceties.

Recent college graduate Jenny (Lucy Marlow) is the newest drone in the Phillips hive.

However, her relatives warn Jen not to be fooled by Eva's gracious hostess act. Comparing her to--what else?--a buzzing bee, Carol cautions Marlow, "She'll sting you one day. Oh, ever so gently, so you hardly even feel it--till you drop dead."

Of course, the naive Jennifer doesn't believe that's possible, even though Eva has slowly but surely turned Jen into her personal maid. What finally changes Jen's mind is watching Eva, riding crop in hand, smashing Carol's bedroom to bits as she complains about how rotten her in-laws are.

"I'm an outsider!" Eva seethes, waiving her riding crop around. "They hate outsiders...You don't know how they are! You don't know the things they've made me do to protect myself!" (Crawford starts pounding Carol's stuff into pieces.) "You don't know how they are!" Eva wails. "But you'll find out! As I have! How they whisper, small talk, laugh as if you have to be from the south to be any good!" (Eva's voice becomes shrill as she continues to destroy everything in her sight.) "Oh, they're so smug and namby-pamby! I wish I could get rid of them as easily as this trash!"

Finally calming down, Eva surveys the wreckage of Carol's room and replies, "Well! I've never known when I've been in such a temper!"--and walks away.


"A docile dog can be slapped by a courageous chicken"--An African Proverb.

Later on, Jennifer excitedly tells Eva that Jud and Carol are engaged. Her reaction? Crawford gives Jen a loud smack across the face and stomps off in a huff. See, once upon a time, Jud and Eva were having a torrid affair until Eva dumped Jud for Avery. However, Eva simply can't stand the idea of Jud being with another woman; if she can't have him, nobody can! So Crawford starts trying to stop the wedding.

First, Eva suggests that if Jud and Carol marry too quickly, the neighbors will think they "had" to get married. When that doesn't work, Eva puts on her frilliest house coat and meets Jud in the middle of the night.

"Isn't there anything left of us?" Eva throbs, before giving Judd a big, open mouthed kiss.

"You're like some fancy disease," Jud replies after he untangles himself. "I had it once; now I'm immune."

After Jud's rebuff, Eva brings out the big guns. She marches over to Carol and announces, "Any mans MY MAN if I want it that way!" Then she loftily informs her sister-in-law that the long list of women Jud has had affairs with includes her. Say it isn't so! This revelation so upsets Carol she wanders out to the horse barn and offs herself.

"Hmmm. What would Bette Davis do?": Eva wears her frilliest house dress to ensnare a wary Jud (John Ireland).

This last stunt proves too much for the lush Avery. So he cuts back on the booze and begins formulating a plan to kill Eva. It's too complicated to explain here, but it involves a party invitation, a fancy piece of jewelry Eva's always wanted and Avery and Jennifer admitting they're attracted to each other. However, once Jud figures out Avery's scheme, he decides to kill Eva instead.

So, on a dark and stormy night, Jud arranges to take Eva to a fancy-pants party...and promptly drives them off a cliff.

The next morning, Avery and Jennifer commiserate about the tragic accident that took Jud and Eva and  declare they're madly in love. The end or a new beginning? Since there wasn't a sequel, we'll never know.

On it's own, "Queen Bee" is pretty dreary. The only reason to watch is to witness Joan Crawford doing her stuff. Never in the same Jean Louis outfit twice, Crawford stalks, flaunts, flounces, schemes, snaps, screams, thrashes, slaps, insults, harangues, prims and preens. She's a tidal wave of star power and she knocks her co-stars over like bowling pins as she acts and acts and ACTS. In fact, "Queen Bee" is practically a one-woman show; the only reason Crawford has co-stars is because she needed people to be mean to.

By the time Joan was appearing in "Queen Bee", she was no longer had a studio contract. As a "freelancer", Crawford could accept work from any studio, but that meant finding the right projects for herself. Fortunately, Joan knew a hot property when she saw it. After she'd read the Edna Lee novel Queen Bee, she purchased the rights. When Columbia studios decided to make the book into a movie, Crawford was ready. Besides playing the lead, Joan insisted on Jerry Wald producing, Ranald McDougall handling the writing/directing chores and Charles Lang as her cinematographer. Furthermore, Joan wanted final approval over who would do her make-up, hairstyling and clothes. Columbia agreed everything.

Eva Phillips trashing her sister-in-laws bedroom: "Well! I've never known when I was in such a temper." 

Although you can admire Crawford for taking the helm in getting "Queen Bee" on the silver screen, Joan's snarling out-of-this-world performance didn't impress a lot movie critics.

 The tome Bad Movies We Love  by Edward Margulies and Stephen Rebello (which includes "Queen Bee" in their chapter "Viva las Divas") declared, "From the moment Joan Crawford makes her grand entrance into this overblown penny's clear why this is the movie most beloved by the star's fans as well as by her detractors--and for exactly the same reasons." The authors point out that "there's not an inch of film wasted on anyone but Crawford" who "vamps around her mansion" while she cuts "the rest of the cast down to size." 

Meanwhile, in his New York Times review, Bosley Crowther complained that director/writer McDougall had allowed Crawford to "flaunt her noxiousness and bad acting all over the place" while poor Barry Sullivan merely "blinks and boozes" and Lucy Marlow just "gawks and quakes". When Jud finally kills Eva, Crowther sniffed, "Nothing has really been achieved except a mawkish manifestation of cheap dramatics." 

 Clyde Gilmour (of Canada's McClean's Magazine) couldn't have agreed more. He described Eva "as a self-adoring psychotic empress" and felt the flick itself  was a "vintage item for the Joan Crawford Fan Club, but a bit of an ordeal for non-members like me."

Even Francois Truffaut--yes, that Francois Truffaut--wasn't impressed. According to The Early Film Criticism of Francois Truffaut by Wheeler Winston Dixon, an exploration of Mr. Truffaut's film reviews for Cathiers du Cinema before he turned to directing, the French auteur had this to say about "Queen Bee":  the acting "is not absolutely bad, but weak, very weak, including Joan Crawford's". He described the "mise-en-scene" as "clumsy" and felt Crawford resembled "both an octopus and a spider". The future director of "The 400 Blows" felt Joan was "absolutely ridiculous when directed by a filmmaker who precisely fears ridicule." Truffaut ultimately dismisses the flick as a "slightly indigestible and in the long run tedious cinematic food." He also added that "the future works" of director McDougall "I don't really feel like seeing."

The "Queen Bee" relaxing in her boudoir.


Last, but not least, the website Flickchart ranked "Queen Bee" as number five on their "Twenty Worst Films of Joan Crawford" list. The top vote getters were "Trog", "Reunion in France", "The Hollywood Revue of 1929" and "Berserk". The inclusion of "The Hollywood Revue" surprised me. A Pre-Code musical and one of the earliest talking films, parts of  "The Hollywood Revue" were shot in color and it was a hit with both audiences and critics. Meanwhile, "Grand Hotel"--another classic-- makes it in at number 13. Go figure.

While "Queen Bee" may not have made much buzz at the box office, it did give viewers a Master Class in over-the-top scenery chewing. In fact, not even Patricia Neal in "The Fountainhead" or Faye Dunaway in "The Eyes of Laura Mars"--two completely unhinged performances by any measure--can top Joan's historionics here.

And wherever she, I know that makes Joan very proud.

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, bees who have honey in their mouths (like Eva) also have stings in their tails (like Eva).

And while you're helping me to SAVE THE MOVIES, SAVE THE HONEY BEES, too.

A movie poster for "Queen Bee": 100% nightmare fuel at its finest.