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The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

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Post by Space Cadet on 5/26/2020, 10:43 pm

My personal summary: A great story, an A-list cast and a ginormous budget, resulting in a modern variant of a 50's B movie with a few jump scares.

I'd rather watch an endless loop of that Princess of Mars butcher job, John Carter.
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Post by ghemrats on 5/27/2020, 5:24 pm

Space, I should turn the reins over to you--you're more succinct and direct than my pomposity will allow me.

Post #395 (Marked down from 400 for a limited time): The adage "England and America are two countries separated by a common language" has been attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde, but I think all of them were simply quoting the great American linguist Yogi Berra. Such a lucid observation could come only from the man who observed, "I don’t know (if they were men or women fans running naked across the field). They had bags over their heads." Irregardless [I just wrote that to turn my friends inside out], when it comes to things British, if you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer. So I must admit being filled with emptiness when it comes to today's feature, *Carry On Screaming* (1966), the twelfth in the 31-run of the series.

Following the glowing recommendations of dozens of people I've never met and never will, I picked up this film which promised to be the "best" of the *Carry On* movies, a spoof of the ever prevalent Hammer horror films of the day. Now having watched all of its 97 minutes, making it the longest *Carry On* film in the canon, I wonder if the reviews I read were glowing with toxic radioactivity thus inducing some form of manic loss of judgment in the critics. As the Holy Yogi said, you can observe a lot just by watching, and as I watched I really wanted to enjoy what was spilling across the screen. But outside of a few chuckles, the film struck me like a line drive to the forehead, knocking whatever small supply of sense I had into the bleachers.

In the Edwardian fog-enshrouded Hocombe Woods, a lovely spot to pitch woo and watch women disappear, Albert Potter (Jim Dale) and his petticoat-encrusted lady friend Doris Mann (Angela Douglas) settle in for a bit of the old Slap and Tickle when Doris intuits they're being watched. (Of course they are--I'm catching their every move on DVD.) In keeping with standard horror film convention, Albert goes in search of their voyeur, leaving the creaky monster Oddbod (Tom Clegg) to whisk Doris away, inadvertently giving Albert one of his neanderthal fingers (perhaps it's an obscene gesture, or it's intended as collateral for Doris, we don't know). And the game is afoot, or an interdigitation.

Alerting Detective Constable Slobotham (Peter Butterworth) and his superior Detective Sergeant Sidney Bung (Harry H. Corbett), Albert leads them to the site of the abduction, where upon investigation they find the Bide-A-Wee Rest Home presided over by Valeria Watt (Fenella Fielding), a voluptuous vamp who despite living in this decrepit mansion is far from flat busted, and she in turn awakens her electrically-charged, long dead brother, Dr. Orlando Watt (Kenneth Williams). Here a nice jousting wordplay ensues, a'la Abbott And Costello:

Det Sgt. Bung: Now then, your name please.
Dr. Watt: Doctor Watt.
Constable Slobotham: Doctor who, sir?
Dr. Watt: Watt. "Who" was my uncle, or was - I haven't seen him in ages!

This is the pinnacle of hilarity in this film. For the rest of the time everything is played so broadly, so loudly (as the film delights in fulfilling its title by asking everyone in the film to scream their lines in argument or horror), that the cast look like they were channeling the spirit of Jim Carrey on methamphetamines without the sophistication or subtlety. We learn that Dr. Watt has been cribbing notes from Vincent Price's *House Of Wax* (1953) by kidnapping lovely young women and transforming them into mannequins to supply the local shops. Charles Hawtrey provides a cameo as Dan Dann the Gardening Man who was added due to popular appeal but is quickly dispatched, as is future Doctor Who Jon Pertwee who accidentally creates Oddball Junior to further pile on the absurdity that for me is a more tedious rehashing of the Abbott and Costello Universal Monster Comedies--with British accents.

On the narrative front, you’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there. Well, scripter Talbot Rothwell knows all the tropes in the Hammer Horror wheelhouse, and director Gerald Thomas is well versed on the strengths of the cast with whom he has worked often. But Harry H. Corbett, here in his only *Carry On* role, has zero chemistry with on-screen wife Joan Sims and telegraphs his every quip with a fanfare, though overall in his Sherlock cape and with a meerschaum pipe his interactions with fan-favorite Fenella Fielding are fun frolics. In the end, and based on the general audience's enthusiastic embracing *Carry On Screaming*, the crew knew where they were going and ended up there. I just wish I were in the joke more.

I know a good number of folks who complain, "I don't like British comedy" which tends to paint a vast canvas a brush tied to a weed whacker. I think this film is what they're referring to when they say that, however. I know I kept thinking while watching, "This would be really good if I liked it." And I hold a long love affair with much English comedy--the Ealing Comedies are among the finest films of any collection, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan's *Goon Show* will make me laugh with tears, Monty Python's work is high on my favorites list as is John Cleese's *Fawlty Towers*, and *Good Neighbors* is a sit-com displaying a perfect confluence of situation and character. *Carry On Cabby* (1963), commented on earlier, is a little gem. . .

And some of those folks who summarily disdain English comedy openly embrace *Dumb And Dumber* (1994) and proclaim *Caddyshack* (1980) as high comedy. If I were to assess American comedy by those standards, I would add a counterpart to my friends in saying "I don't like American comedy." But I'm not in either camp; I freely admit this *Carry On* addition may well be held dear because people were raised with it, have forged an alliance with the actors as extended family members as I have with Laurel and Hardy and The Marx Brothers, and enjoy the old music hall approach to humor. I just didn't think it was a base hit in my stadium. And I'd buy a concession stand full of hot dogs for the patron who would drive a home run into the mouth of Ray Pilgrim who sang one of the worst opening themes I've ever heard.

So I want to encourage others who love this style to knock yourself out. I don't want to make enemies, and it's not that I didn't understand the cultural references; I did. In my own way, it slapped but didn't tickle me. Maybe it treat you better, and I hope it will--in these rough days I just want to be civil, because as the Great Yogi once proclaimed, "Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours."
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Seamus on 5/27/2020, 5:30 pm

Thats one of my fave Carry On's up beside Spy and Cabbie. Be careful of the later Carry On movies they are a little weak as the tropes are now well established by the team and a bit of dead horse flogging is going on.
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Post by Space Cadet on 5/27/2020, 11:19 pm

No thanks Jeff, you're a talented surgeon. I'm more like a "Hobo With a Shotgun".
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Post by ghemrats on 5/28/2020, 5:43 pm

Post #396: Everyone who's built a Barbie's Dream House or a Castle Greyskull in the dark early hours of Christmas morning knows following the enclosed plans is for wimps; they're not "Instructions," they're "Suggestions." This same logic dictates that we men don't ask for directions. This particularly evidenced by Montgomery Tully's steering of today's feature on *Terror Street* (1953): To get there you just go winding our way down on Baker Street light in your head and dead on your feet to the corner of Bedlam and Squalor, go down to the end of Lonely Street to Heartbreak Hotel, when you're feelin' lonely and beat and drift back in time and find your feet down on Main Street, and feeling like an exile. You take a left to where the streets have no name but get sidetracked by the Incident on 57th Street where Martha and the Vandellas are dancing in the street, and you sense you're near Electric Avenue even though it's positively 4th Street. By this time you're suffering from Sixth Avenue Heartbreak on Creeque Alley, while silver rain is falling down upon the dirty ground of London Town, near Abbey Road and Penny Lane, a stone's throw from Blue Jay Way. So you snatch the last train to London, taking you down to Strawberry Fields, concluding nothing is real and nothing to get hung about, and give up, deciding you're on a road to nowhere and it's not worth the trouble.

So let me fill you in on what you've missed on *Terror Street (aka 36 Hours*), in the quaint familiar neighborhood of Hammer Films. American pilot Major Bill Rogers (Dan Duryea) takes an unauthorized thirty-six-hour trip to England to check on his Norwegian wife Katie (Elsie Albiin) whom he hasn't seen or heard from in one year due to his training stateside. Returning to their apartment, a dejected Bill finds everything covered in sheets, not because Katie wants to keep the place clean, but she has left, feeling abandoned. Finding she has moved on up to the west side to a de-luxe apartment in the sky where she's entertained by enough men to supply the extras for *Spartacus*, Bill packs his gun and sets off to confront her.

In her swanky new digs Bill waits for her return from an evening's gaiety, drowning in her scotch and his devastating pity party. Surprisingly she's overjoyed to see him, but before the loving couple can rekindle their affection, Bill is knocked unconscious from behind and later wakes to find Katie shot dead with his gun which he picks up, turns over in his hands a few times and stares at before checking Katie's nonexistent pulse. This is another distinctly male province--immediately and stupidly implicating himself in a murder after firmly establishing himself as pissed to a friend before racing to the victim's home in the heat of passionate indignation--and then fleeing the scene in full sight of the police to prove his innocence.

Bill ends up breaking in to a young woman's apartment, naturally, in this case Sister Jenny Miller (Gudrun Ure), who runs a Salvation Army soup kitchen. Ignoring his brandishing a gun and bleeding profusely from a gash on his forearm from jumping her glass-embedded fence, Jenny instantly recognizes Bill's fine character since he doesn't shoot her, and determines she will help him. He has thirty-six hours to solve the crime and right the direction of the universe before he's declared AWOL, shot dead by police or the insidious con man who actually killed his loving wife, or forced to star in an endless loop of B-noir films for Hammer, tortured by the thought that his wife was a goer, nudge nudge, wink wink, know what I mean know what I mean.

*Terror Street*, which actually offers no terror, though there are streets running through the narrative, is a calm, trim little noir offering 83 minutes of comfortable cliches and a slimy John Chandos as Orville Hart, the bad guy who obviously read the script before anyone else in the film did, which is the only feasible reason he was ahead of Bill and Katie and Jenny and the police as much as he was. And as a plus Eric Pohlmann as Slossen the smuggler reprises his Sydney Greenstreet amused bluster for shiggles. But I do feel Dan Duryea should have been given A Plastic Knuckle Award for engaging in the lamest, most uncoordinated fight sequences ever recorded on film, even inching out the pansy-assed slapfests evident in *The Mysterious Doctor Satan (aka Doctor Satan's Robot*, 1940) with superhero The Copperhead. *Terror Street*'s fights are hilarious, evoking visions of two of those clumsy fluttering, inflatable-arm-flailing tube men transplanted from a bad auto dealership to a dingy basement bad guy lair. Eight year olds, Dude.

For viewers of this Pain-By-Number tableau, let's assure you Katie was not the Federal Express (When she absolutely positively has to be there overnight) kind of girl Bill was led to believe she was; she loved Bill to a fault, even though it was San Andreas-worthy, and she was duped out of innocence and misplaced trust. But even that's not a surprise or a spoiler, because, like an exceptionally weak episode of *Columbo* we know who the killer is up front. So the only real suspense you'll find in watching this comes from seeing if you can postpone your bathroom break long enough to finish the story.

Just as sure as you won't come back from Dead Man's Curve, you won't find *Terror Street* a long and winding country road to Shambala that will take you home to the place where you belong. Rather, you'll find yourself a ramblin', travelin' man who makes a lot of stops all over this world truckin' all the way to Memphis by way of Solsbury Hill. It's a travelogue Rand McNally might not approve, but it may help you finally decide that your future lies beyond the Yellow Brick Road.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 5/29/2020, 5:35 pm

Post #397: Of the thirty-one *Carry On* films, today's feature *Carry On Cowboy* (1965), the eleventh in the series, comes out on top in several ways: It is stars Sidney James, Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims' favorite while Jim Dale said it "was one of the best films I did in the series – I did enjoy it. I loved the fact that there were moments I could capture that were a little different”; it was the first *Carry On* film to go over its shooting schedule (by one day), it's the first appearance of regulars Angela Douglas (Annie Oakley), Peter Butterworth (Doc) and Bernard Bresslaw (Little Heap), it's the first *Carry On* feature to offer a singing part on the opening theme, and it's the *only* western in cinematic history to have a severe left hand turn at the end of Main Street (due to Pinewood Studios' lack of sprawling backlots). Each of those distinctions will be enough for fans of the franchise to eagerly snap up a viewing, but are they inducements enough for someone who's a novice in the *Carry On* tradition? Probably not, but it's still a good time.

Back in the saddle again is Johnny Finger, aka The Rumpo Kid (Sid James), who rides into Stodge City and promptly shoots three men in a showdown, defies the Mayor Judge Burke's (Kenneth Williams) mandate for a dry town by ordering whiskey at the saloon, and kills the Sheriff Albert Earp (Jon Pertwee), who is deaf and myopic. Though Rumpo is somewhat lacking in social graces, he does command the attention of the townspeople (and the audience) through his hard-crusted charisma. Filling the town's vacancies (to which he's contributed) Rumpo takes ownership of the saloon from sharp-shooting madame Belle Armitage (Joan Sims) and invites all manner of wild west hoods to take advantage of the newfound opportunities.

Through a bureaucratic mishap (so rare in America), Marshall P. Knutt (Jim Dale), a British "sanitation engineer first class" who has come to America to revolutionize the west's sewage systems, is dispatched to take control of Stodge City, largely because Marshall is his first name rather than his official title. Traveling to the battle-torn frontier town by stagecoach he catches the eye and affection of Annie Oakley (Angela Douglas), daughter of the slain Sheriff who has come to avenge his death. Meanwhile, back at the saloon, Rumpo drums up an Indian attack enlisting the troops led by Chief Big Heap (Charles Hawtrey) and schemes to rid the town of the new law.

Watching this film, you should consistently remind yourself that *Blazing Saddles* would not be made for another eight or nine years and Sergio Leone wouldn't make *Once Upon A Time In The West* for another two or three, or you might complain that *Carry On Cowboy* is derivative of those classics. No, just the conventions they play off. It's not nearly as politically incorrect as Mel Brooks' dedicated efforts, and it's not nearly as funny, but *Carry On Cowboy* does have its moments; even the legendary double entendres are pretty weak or tame by today's standards. Seeing Rumpo's gun, Belle gushes, "My but you've got a big one," to which Rumpo replies, "I'm from Texas, ma'am. We all got big ones down there" and "I once talked peace with a Sioux, but you can't trust them. One moment it was peace on, the next it was peace off." Wahh-wahh-wahh.

Nor should you be put off by the wanderin' accents on display as the cast emulate the western America patois, any more than you might cringe at Americans attempting how they *think* British accents should sound, ey wot? Pip pip and all that. Right then! But it's all in good fun, and the final showdown with Rumpo and his gang is very funny, capitalizing on Marshall's expertise in sanitation. Angela Douglas said of the entire series, "I loved every minute. It was wonderful-- such a happy time. I was working with complete professionals and it was full of humour. We laughed all day long--you came home aching and exhausted because you were laughing so much. They were films of their time. But they are still enjoyed."

My favorite two characters in the show are Sid James as Rumpo, who plays the crusty villain straight, which escalates the comic effect more for me than Jim Dale's characteristic overacting, and Charles Hawtrey as Chief Big Heap, who doesn't try to mask his English accent in the least, to great effect, parodying the great American tradition of casting non-native Americans in such roles. Kenneth Williams as the Judge is also fun, noting that he patterned his character's speech after the great Hal Roach.

Again, for mavens of the *Carry On* series, I can't comment on how this film fits with the flow of the recurring cast, having seen only four of the thirty-one. But from what I've been able to glean from friends and followers of the series, the writing here precludes the lewdness of later efforts; it's just silly innocuous fun that does no lasting damage to anyone whether you watch it at High Noon or with a Fistful of Dollars. It's good, it's bad but it isn't particularly ugly.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 5/30/2020, 5:55 pm

Blues for Bicho. . . .

Post #398 (that's less than a cup of coffee): It was one of those places where the coffee was so strong it would bench press the waiter and toss him through a brick wall for offering sugar. But it wasn't the java that drew me down those dingy rain-bled steps that night. It was the lungs of the blonde using the piano as a support to stop her from tumbling into the curtains. Right then I knew it was curtains, all right, and she'd be the one who'd take the starch right out of me and leave me wafting in the window when she was done. That was fine with me, because I was fragged out anyway from blowing sweet and low and staggering on my last leg of a London tour. Not that I've never been one to blow my own horn--no, wait, yes I am because that's what I do for a living, and I do it well. Even the blonde with the combo knew it when I blew the husk right out of her solo, but she matched me breath for breath until we were both breathless with all that jazz. . . .

James "Brad" Bradley (Alex Nichol) is a famous trumpet soloist and big band leader and another one of those Hammer film heroes whose nickname is derivative of his family monicker in today's feature *The Black Glove (aka Face The Music)*(1954). Fragged, jet lagged and bedraggled after his rigorous touring schedule, Brad begs off his neurotic manager Max "Maxie" Margulies' (John Salew) invitation to a high-publicity after-party and ends up in a modest little nightclub, entranced by the slinky song stylings of Maxine Halbard (Ann Hanslip). In decent noir tradition, the two spar with some saucy subtextually sexual hardboiled dialogue over dinner at her apartment with plans to see one another the next evening.

Brad's scant chance at snoozing is interrupted by his manager and the police, informing him Maxine will never sing again, and Brad was the last one to see her alive, thus the fair-haired suspect in her murder. Put that in your horn and blow it, pal. So begins a fairly standard woozy noir, a full 84 minutes of mood, music and muddled motivations that actually turns out to be in my mind a mile above most Hammer mysteries--if you like jazz and classic brassy performances. Director Terence Fischer is moving this along with heavy shadows and heady solos with an extremely likable Alex Nichol in the lead, firing off firecrackers with the slip of a girl Ann Hanslip who meets him line for line with worldly repartee.

Following only two clues, a freshly cut record and a name on an envelope, Brad enters the intriguing seediness of second-rate recording studios and the dank underground jazz clubs. Most notably he bumps into Maxine's sister, Barbara Quigley (Eleanor Summerfield), a boozy chanteuse whose self-esteem is lower than a mezcal worm's belly, accompanied by skittish piano man Johnny Sutherland (Paul Carpenter), who was once a trick shooter who's hung up his guns--or has he? Famed pianist Jeff Colt (Arthur Lane) and wonky recording studio owner Maurie Green (Geoffrey Keen) also swirl around the shadows as Brad tries to untangle the web of deceit with a laconic voice over.

Honestly, the mystery itself is taking the rumble seat to the music and mood of *The Black Glove*, whose title for American audiences makes less than zero sense or relevance to the narrative (Who tacks on these stupid, lurid titles, anyway? Maybe it's Robert Lippert who's to blame, because the original British title, *Face The Music* from Ernest Borneman's novel of the same name (he also wrote the screenplay) is perfectly suited to the story). The trumpet solos by Kenny Baker (no, not the guy who played Ewoks and R2-D2 in the movies--the other one, the famous band leader) blows the dust off the script, providing a terrific soundtrack and an extra dimension to Alex Nichol's charismatic jazz master-cum-detective.

Some critics who don't like or understand jazz have said there's too much of it in this film, but I completely disagree. It's the jazz and the mood it creates that make *The Black Glove* such a fun film. Admittedly, the mystery is a little convoluted, but Alex Nichol seems to have the chops to make his dubbed solos look authentic, and the musical rhythms in the actors' retorts, asides and threats reinforce the swagger of the bold, brash and brassy, ballsy brotherhood of bandmen. This is also another example of the much more compelling femme being sidelined (in this case, killed) after a sparkling introduction and explosive romantic chemistry with the lead, leaving us with a metal of lesser attraction in Barbara.

The drawing room confessional so prevalent in country house murder stories hits a flat rather than sharp note at the end, but for me the quirks of *The Black Glove* outweigh the bland stretches--the couplet courtship as Brad and Maxine try to out-seduce the other with rhymes, Brad's auditioning new trumpets with a reactive vendor, the last-ditch poisoning scheme, and the big band numbers. . . Louis Armstrong said, "There are some people that if they don't know, you can't tell them. . . . If ya ain't got it in ya, ya can't blow it out." Yeah, play it, Pops, play it.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 5/31/2020, 4:54 pm

Post #399: NEWS FLASH! I believe I have found the answer to one of the world's great trivia questions: What moved Lloyd Bridges to star as Mike Nelson for four years of *Sea Hunt*? It's today's feature, *The Deadly Game (aka Third Party Risk, aka The Big Deadly Risk*, 1954), which is so bad it made him want to hide underwater until people forgot it. It should be called *The Dead Game* because it's more tedious than watching three parties play Risk in a little Spanish adobe flat. It's no wonder Lloyd Bridges changed his name to Steve McCroskey, ended up taking up smoking, drinking, sniffing glue and gulping amphetamines and then picking the wrong day to give them all up in *Airplane* (1980).

Bridges plays American song writer Philip Graham who is vacationing in Spain after the death of his wife. By chance he runs into an old wartime RAF colleague Tony Roscoe (Peter Dyneley), now a jittery society photographer, who looks and acts like a stoic David Brinkley (so you know you're in for a real dramatic treat). Over drinks and some tepid reminiscing Tony suddenly announces he has to return to England (Dyneley was smart to ditch this movie early, after its first five minutes) and finagles Phil to 1.) drive him immediately to the airport, 2.) drive his car back to England for him, and 3.) deliver a Macguffin envelope of vital importance to him, now locked in an inaccessible safety deposit box, when Phil drops off his car. Nothing suspicious there, right?

On the way back from the airport in Roscoe's car, Phil is mistaken for Tony, pulled off the road, knocked unconscious and left in a barn. Convinced he was under the speed limit but surprised by the strong arm tactics of the Spanish highway patrol, Phil reports the incident at the coercion of mysterious local white-suited Sydney Greenstreet wannabe Mr. Darius (Finlay Currie) to a local police inspector (Roger Delgado). Both inform Phil that his friend was most assuredly involved in espionage, intrigue and other suspicious activities that are barely present in this film.

Thus armed with information and the potentially dangerous contents of the Mystery Envelope, Phil returns to London and finds Roscoe dead on the floor of his darkroom, a newly developed photo of a sultry Spanish woman in the tray and a gaily striped handkerchief in his grip. Sensing something is wrong, Phil opens the envelope to find three spools of microfilm or perhaps they're the negatives for *Beach Blanket Bingo* (which is so hotly sought after it will not surface in the market for another eleven years). Now the prime suspect in his pal's murder, Phil writes the song "Sometimes I Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me," which will not be released for another thirty years by Rockwell, and boomerangs back to Spain where he romances two largely interchangeable temptresses (Maureen Swanson and Simone Silva) who may or may not be trustworthy.

Wow, you might be saying to yourself, how can director and co-writer Daniel Birt jam this much tension and surprise into a mere 64 minutes? He can't. That's the problem. Outside of a stupid fistfight over a pit of theatrical spears during a fire, there is no tension, and if you're two years old you might be surprised to learn who is killer is, though your time would be better spent on Spongebob or if you're into mystery, Scooby Doo. And the killer's big getaway scheme is obvious long before we discover who mercy-killed Roscoe and tried to give Lloyd Bridges something to emote over.

Today *The Deadly Game* is being marketed as a Hammer noir, but the only noir aspect in it is a bunch of scenes filmed at night and the viewers being hammered by ennui. Of note, though, is Michael Krein's musical score, which has nothing to do with what's going on on the screen, but even lacks the cohesive playful charm of Leroy Shields' stock background music for The Little Rascals and Laurel & Hardy Hal Roach comedies. It's a weird, moderately bouncy collection of notes undercutting the "action" it's supposed to dramatize. Which is to say, it's the best part of the film, while being totally divorced from it.

I've said before that I wanted to create a game show entitled *How Stupid Can You Get?* which offers big prizes--like the life-sized ceramic dalmatians they used to sell on pre-Vanna incarnations of *Wheel Of Fortune* when winners had to use up their prize money on junk--for those exhibiting the greatest lack of sense. My friends, I think we have a winner. Either that or a new DVD of *The Deadly Game* can be the grand prize because the contestant being crowned Ignoramus of the Week would likely be overjoyed at receiving it.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Space Cadet on 5/31/2020, 8:36 pm

I think I'll just watch Airplane.
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Post by ghemrats on 5/31/2020, 10:02 pm

I'm perfectly serious. And don't call me Shirley.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 6/1/2020, 5:51 pm

Post #400: June is busting out all over, and so is Annette in today's feature, *Beach Blanket Bingo* (1965), the fourth Beach movie and the last in which Frankie Avalon plays a prominent role. So for me, this is quintessential sandy silliness, just edging out the first, *Beach Party* (1963) as my favorite in the franchise, even though the *New York Times* excoriated it: " "We simply can't believe, no matter what the reports say, that the teen-agers buy such junk. It's for morons." Okay. I guess then that I freely admit to being a moron, because this one has the right blend of campy fun, fairly memorable tunes and Eric Von Zipper actually leading his "Stoopids" in a great, catchy song, "Follow Your Leader." No, it's not Ingmar Bergman, but it's not Tommy Wiseau's *The Room* (2003) either. It's the kind of mindlessness we could go for today, especially as the world seems to be on a fast track to wiping out while shooting the curl.

As a moron I enjoyed watching Don Rickles as "Big Drop," owner of a skydiving school, let loose in between a couple rocky numbers and attack all the regulars, complaining to Frankie "You're forty-three years old, Frank. You're old and wrinkled." In his previous Beach appearances he was restrained by the script, but here he's allowed to do what he does best--sarcastically impugning the integrity of anyone in sight. Meanwhile, Buster Keaton is back with Bobbi Shaw, providing some classic comic pratfalls and "dancing," exhibiting his great Stone Face in the background while Rickles strafes the crowd, evidently not fully appreciating Mr. Warmth's sense of humor.

This time the Beach Gang shake and gyrate in their swimsuits, taking time out on occasion to ogle a new singing sensation on the horizon, Sugar Kane (Linda Evans, who has just begun filming *The Big Valley* for TV, and whose name here was cribbed from *Some Like It Hot*, 1959), who's basically pleasant but vapid, bouncing from appearance to appearance to promote her new album with the help of her press agent Bullets (Paul Lynde). Arriving at the Gang's favorite surfing spot by seeming to parachute from a candy-striped Cessna 175, she is immediately accepted as competition for Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) with Frankie (Frankie Avalon). "Now that's what I call a healthy girl," Frankie pants. To further intrude on Dee Dee's affections for Frankie, we have Bonnie (Deborah Whalley), the professional skydiver who actually performed the drop while Sugar waited by on a small cabin cruiser.

Actual subplots abound here too. Bonehead, aka GooGoo (Jody McCrea), takes a secondary lead in a tentative relationship with Lorelei (Marta Kristen, soon to be seen as *Lost In Space* regular Judy Robinson), who saves Bonehead from an accidental drowning late one night. Oh yes, and she's a mermaid. While Bonehead has always been good for little more than being the brunt of imbecilic jokes in past Beach movies, here he sets a sweetly poignant undercurrent as he and Lorelei initiate a surprisingly innocent and touching romance. Foretelling Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah in *Splash* which won't pop out of the water for another nineteen years, this subplot shouldn't work but does, giving both characters some dimension in an otherwise basic romp.

And Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and his Rat Pack move the action along with more substantial screen time than in past Beach parties. Zinging with his signature, "Eric Von Zipper adores you. And when Eric Von Zipper adores somebody, they stay adored," he sets up another love triangle when his admiration for Sugar sends off sparks of jealousy between Puss (Alberta Nelson) and Boots (Myrna Ross), two of his "Mice" in the Rat Pack. Prompted to remove the competition, Puss and Boots enlist the creepy pool hustler South Dakota Slim (Timothy Carey) to kidnap Sugar in a denouement name-checked from *The Perils Of Pauline* (1914) in a typical double-speed homage to silents.

So here's our scorecard: Frankie loves Dee Dee and goes skydiving to prove it to her but along the way becomes distracted by Sugar and Bonnie. Dee Dee loves Frankie but gets jealous and even by flirting with pilot and skydiving instructor Steve (John Ashley, who heretofore was Frankie's best friend Ken), who's in love with Bonnie. [Let's muddy the churning surf even more by letting you know Deborah Whalley and John Ashley were married when they made this film.] Sugar likes Bonehead who loves Lorelei, but she also likes Eric Von Zipper, calling out the green-eyed monster in Puss and Boots, and South Dakota Slim takes a shining to Sugar while confiding to the "Mice," "Well, leave it to old Slim, I got ideas. And they're all vile, baby." Big Drop doesn't like anyone while Buster chases Bobbi and she reciprocates. In the meantime Paul Lynde's Bullets is chaperoning nationally syndicated columnist Earl Wilson everywhere to promote Sugar's new album. I never realized a degree in Euclidian geometry was necessary to understand the subtext of these films.

But equally discomfiting are *Beach Blanket Bingo*'s etymological semantic shifts, or how some words' connotations can change through time. So indulge me as I offer the following. . .

TRIGGER WARNING: Skip the next paragraph is your sensitivities to vagaries of language are highly tuned. Today more likely than not you can watch *BBB* with a sophomoric sensibility and giggle or blush at double entendres that were unintended at the time of the film's release. Given the context of the film and all the bikinis on display, it's hard to imagine as accidental the sinister South Dakota Slim's constant labeling of people as "Boobie" as in "Hey, what you doin' with my Boobie? Hey! Step aside ladies, that's my Sugar, Boobies" and "Come to your Daddy. I'm gonna take ya to my Boobie House!" Ick. Nor is it particularly comforting to have Sugar exude, "Oh, here comes Boney!" as Goo Goo approaches. And it's hard not to cringe when Eric Von Zipper engages in this exchange:
Sugar Kane: What are you doing?
Eric Von Zipper: I'm glad you asked that question. Because, I, Eric Von Zipper, am putting the snatch on you.
Sugar Kane: Snatch?
O-o-o-okay. I may be too attuned to shifts in slang for my own good--after all, I am a moron--or maybe director William Asher actually wanted to parody the cognitive dissonance of "wholesome" teenagers and shaded meanings. I can't tell. But these little slips certainly seem to fit the tame subversive tone of these films with their jokey joshing of the Establishment. As when Paul Lynde's Bullets trades quips with Eric Von Zipper:
Eric Von Zipper: Please, do not destroy my mood. Tonight, I even like you.
Bullets: [sarcastically] Oh, perfect. I'll save the next dance for you.
Eric Von Zipper: I lead.
. . . especially since it was known but not publicly open at the time that Paul Lynde was gay. The joke really works.

But all these elements just add up to an intriguing shapshot of America in pre-Vietnam days. It *is* all innocent fun that will be hard pressed to replicate. Donna Loren is back with a soapy little song "It Only Hurts When I Cry," the Hondells play one good song, "Cycle Set" co-written by Beach Boys collaborator Gary Usher, Playboy Playmate of the Year 1964 Donna Michelle plays Animal who is Dee Dee's friend, and Jackie Ward (who provided additional voices for *The Little Mermaid*, 1989) is Linda Evans' dubbed soloist.

If you're looking for escape, and today there's more than enough reason to seek solace in the cinematic sloppiness of rear projection waves and baldly obvious close-ups during parachuting free-falls with the free-wheeling followers of fun. Frankie Avalon reminisced, "That's the picture of mine that I think people remember best, and it was just a lot of kids having a lot of fun -- a picture about young romance and about the opposition of adults and old people. There's nothing that young people respond to more than when adults say, `These kids are nuts,` and that's what this movie was about. It was also fun because we got to learn how to fake skydive out of an airplane." For me, fake is fine when reality gets too rank. Come on, kids. Surf's up.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Space Cadet on 6/1/2020, 11:55 pm

As one who's done quite a bit of skydiving, I'd never try to talk someone into something they just don't want to do. BUT if you've ever had that dream of free flight, freefall is the closest you'll ever come to experiencing that sensation. Even though you're technically plummeting to your potential doom.

Additionally, the Vegas trip the wife and I have planned is still on. And since we'll be so close, the Canyon Escapade is on the front burner. I've even factored the potential arrest and fine into the trip's budget.
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Post by ghemrats on 6/2/2020, 5:37 pm

Post #401 ('k?):  Seven years before Annette went for bust with her rockin' and boppin' buddies on the beach, Jayne Mansfield gave physicists sleepless nights trying to figure out how she could defy gravity and create seismic disturbances with her hips and the tiniest waist in Hollywood.  While Annette danced and hobnobbed with such sparkling talent as Donna Loren and The Hondells, poor Jayne had to contend with flashes in the pan like Little Richard, The Platters, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Julie London. But as today's feature's title tells us, *The Girl Can't Help It* (1956).

Now let's be clear about the importance of this movie, not so much for its artistic quality or plot or even its breezy direction by producer and co-writer Frank Tashlin, the mastermind behind several Jerry Lewis films and much loved Warner Brothers cartoons.  No, this film at the time of its release took a terrible reductive critical drubbing, suggesting Jayne Mansfield was a pale imitation of Marilyn Monroe.  I suppose it didn't help the critics' assessment that co-star Tom Ewell had just come off his memorable role alongside Marilyn in *The Seven Year Itch* (1955) and Jayne would go on to star alongside Tony Randall in Tashlin's *Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?* (1957).  [Trivia buffs will relish the knowledge that her daughter with second husband Mickey Hargitay is Mariska Hargitay of *Law And Order SVU* fame]

So, no, though Jayne Mansfield stands out in this little trifle of a comedy with some wonderful sight gags from Tashlin's magic hat, the real historical significance lies in the film's influential stamina.  Along with the aforementioned rock and roll royalty mentioned, *The Girl Can't Help It* also offers music penned by Hugo Friedhofer and Lionel Newman, who would be best remembered for Elvis's *Love Me Tender*, and Teddy Randazzo who composed *Goin' Out Of My Head* and *Hurt So Bad*, certifiable Motown hits for Little Anthony and the Imperials.  Randazzo also performs *Cinnamon Sinner* with his group The Chuckles in the film.  Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck (both who performed in iconic The Yardbrids group) cite this film as a big influence, with Beck stating it's "The Best Rock & Roll Movie ever Filmed." No faint praise from people who know.

If that's not enough to give you a moment's pause, consider that John Lennon and Paul McCartney cite this film as a prime influence in their own musical evolution. Though they were both underage when the film was released, they donned fake mustaches to sneak into the theater to see it, and Paul's borrowed mannerisms from Eddie Cochran singing *Twenty Flight Rock* impressed John enough to ask him to join The Quarrymen, forerunner of The Beatles. And a full decade later, when The Beatles were recording *Birthday* for their White Album, they took time out to watch the TV debut of *The Girl Can't Help It*, to celebrate their roots.  John professed seeing Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino and Gene Vincent "in the flesh" on the screen had validated his dream of becoming a rock performer.

Aside from all that special footage of rock legends doing one or two songs, how does the film hold up merely as a comedy?  Well, Frank Tashlin believed, “There’s nothing in the world to me that’s funnier than big breasts,” and though that rather indelicate pronouncement may sound like prototypical 1950s sexism, there is no doubt that Tashlin treated his leading lady with respect, since she herself was fully cognizant of how to market and capitalize on her assets.  (Her holding two milk bottles to her bosom in one scene validates that self-awareness and playfulness.)  And no one less than Francois Truffaut observed that Tashlin “instead of ridiculing her, makes her a likable and moving personality."  Tashlin clearly loved Mansfield's Jerri Jordan, fleshing out her character (sorry) with empathy rather than cheap physical jokery.

The story follows down-and-out press agent Tom Miller (Tom Ewell) as he searches for a chance to defibrillate his dying career at the bottle of bottles of scotch; he blindly promoted into prominence his last client, Julie London (who appears as a sultry, ghostly memory singing *Cry Me A River*) even though all she wanted was Tom, and now he regrets having let her go.  His opportunity to succeed comes from a fellow also-ran, the once-prominent slot machine mobster Marty "Fats" Murdock (Edmond O'Brien) who hires Tom to engineer the rise to fame of his blonde bombshell girlfriend Jerri Jordan (Jayne Mansfield) so he can marry someone important and famous.  Tom's given six weeks to shoot her into the celebrity stratosphere--the problem is, even though she's got great lungs, she has no talent beyond making men weak in the knees when she passes.

Given the mandate that he can never make advances toward Jerri, Tom frequents high profile clubs all around town with Jerri on his arm, instructing her to say nothing but "Ask my agent."  (It's at these clubs we see the rock and roll pioneers plying their trade, so the songs are not merely tacked on.)  Ensuring Tom doesn't try to get close to Jerri, Fats dispatches his associate Mousie (Henry Jones) to bug Jerri's home, revealing all she wants from life is a husband, kids and the joys of domesticity, not fame and fortune.  But Fats is determined, pulling together Ray Anthony and his band to cut a record of Fats' composition, *Rock Around The Rockpile*, a song about prison life with Jerri performing only the sound of a siren's wail to punctuate it.

Ewell's Tom is a mopey moop throughout the film, slowly developing feelings for the sympathetic girl who starts replacing Julie London in his daydreams.  His hangdog demeanor and constant smoking and drinking make him the genuinely pathetic schemer, even though he grows out of it as the film progresses.  Edmond O'Brien is pure slapstick in his broad portrayal of a washed up gangster, bellowing and chomping his ever present cigar at every turn. And while Jayne Mansfield will never be remembered for her Oscar-worthy portrayals on screen, here she does provoke a sincerity and innocent glow that almost makes us believe she wants nothing more than to cook meals for her man, whoever that might be.

For fashionistas *The Girl Can't Help It* offers some memorable costumes: Abbey Lincoln performs *Spread The Word* in the same Travilla gown Marilyn Monroe wore in *Gentlemen Prefer Blondes* (1953), Tom Ewell bumps into a chorus girl backstage who's wearing the Jane Russell costume from that film in which she sang *Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend*, and Jayne Mansfield wears her own Marcel Orcha "mermaid" wedding gown from her marriage to Mickey Hargitay, former Mr. Universe.

I've seen many rock and roll movies of the 1950s, and most are sloppy non-existent plotlines wedged in between popular bands of the time with little regard for the integers who speak their lines or throw punches.  But *The Girl Can't Help It* is not one of those, even though I was afraid that's precisely what I was going to watch. Frank Tashlin knows how to insert classic, genuine rock legends in seamlessly; he tried in vain to get Elvis Presley into the mix, but Colonel Tom Parker wanted much too much money to make it happen, even though *Jailhouse Rock* is really similar to Fats' production of *Rock Around The Rock Pile*.  So this is the rock movie of the '50s to see with a budget of $1,310,000 and box office receipts recouping that and then some at $6,250,000, critics be hosed.

And Frank Tashlin's comic sensibilities shine here, from the opening monologue in which Tom Ewell changes the aspect ratio of the screen and goads the producers to fade in the snappy color palette to full Technicolor splendor, asking "Sometimes you wonder who's minding the store here?" a question Tashlin will grab for his Jerry Lewis film in another seven years.  Okay, surf and sand haven't invaded the sets yet, but *The Girl Can't Help It* is as buoyant and pneumatic as a beach full of beach balls and life preservers and energetic music that just won't let you sink.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Seamus on 6/2/2020, 7:13 pm

Watched this delicious fromage yesterday and enjoyed the plot holes that were wide enough to fly a dreamliner through. Scientists find frozen body of super advanced prehistoric human in advanced clothes that they mention once and never return to. Never once look for more people or where their Cities were or mention why a super advanced telekinetic race were wiped out. So awful it was great.

These are the movies that were written and filmed for coffee money.

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Post by ghemrats on 6/3/2020, 6:51 pm

Post #402: As we near the end of our surf and turf offerings, we find that today's feature *Muscle Beach Party* (1964) is the best advertisement for quicksand in the series. There were several moments when I was watching that I hoped most of the characters would fall victim to a massive sinkhole or writhe in confusion as the ground sucked them under like the soldiers in *Invaders From Mars* (1953). Anyone schooled in bargain basement narrative technique knows that a story needs characters and conflict to make it work; this one has neither. In fact the only real conflict in *Muscle Beach Party* beyond Dee Dee (Annette Funicello renamed from Dolores) being jealous and the Muscle Men throwing Beach Bums around at the conclusion is the massive internal conflict I felt in being an accomplice to the 94-minute murder of brain cells.

Paraphrasing the theme to *Love Story* (1970), Oh where do I begin to tell the story of how bad a film can be? A bad Beach story that's as mouldy as a cheese? But first. . . we dance. Well, there are the on-again, off-again travails of Dee Dee (Annette) and Frankie (Frankie Avalon), and that's standard fare so that's neither a plus nor a minus--so we're at ground zero. Candy Johnson is back as Candy, whose hips knock people off their surfboards, boogie boards and bored stances. Still par for the course, as are Deadhead (Jody McCrae) and "Johnny" (John Ashley) after he's undergone a name change from Ken. Don Rickles is no longer "Big" anything, but Jack Fanny (a parody of bodybuilder Vic Tanny, though it may also be a veiled reference to his character who is a Jack Ass). And Donna Loren is back for her short song status. So for all that and all that, "Our toils obscure, an' a' that; The rank is but the guinea's stamp; The man's the gowd for a' that."

So far, so fair. But first. . . we sing. Six of the songs included in the film were composed by Gary Usher and Beach Boy genius Brian Wilson, but alas only two of them are moderately memorable, the title song and *Muscle Bustle*; two others fall right into the surf of Brian's future classics, *Surfin' Holiday,* which is passable, and *Surfin' Woodie,* which refers to a simulated wood paneled station wagon rather than excitement caused by shooting the curl. But most of the songs are instantly forgettable, mundane little ditties, which loses points in the overall score of the film proper. Not even film debut of "Little" Stevie Wonder, age fourteen, doing "Happy Street"--remember that one? I don't--can bolster the doldrums for long.

Continuing the downward dog yoga posture of the movie, we offer no plot beyond a wealthy Italian spitfire Contessa Juliana ("Julie") Giotto-Borgini (Luciana Paluzzi, who will be graduated to play James Bond's love interest Fiona Volpe in *Thunderball* (1965) one year later), who is perfectly out of place among the doofus dancers in the sand, and acts like it. Accompanied by her advisor and confidante S.Z. Matts (Buddy Hackett), she first falls for Jack Fanny's student Mr. Galaxy, Flex Martian (billed in his film debut as Rock Stevens, he's actually Peter Lupus, who would join the Impossible Missions Team two years later on TV as William "Willy" Armitage). Then she bounces over to Frankie because there's no one else to make Dee Dee jealous. And then there's a lot of surfing footage, dancing, smoking (Frankie goes through three cigarettes in one mercifully short scene before the Surgeon General declared smoking hazardous, which stopped him in subsequent films from lighting up), dancing to Dick Dale and his Del-Tones, a lot of flexing of deltoids, and of course surfing. All this does not a narrative make.

A huge minus here is the loss of Eric Von Zipper and his Rat Pack, though Alberta Nelson shows up as Jack Fanny's assistant Lisa. She lounges in yoga positions and bashes the breakbasket of one of the beach bums in a fight scene repeated (I kid you not, Jack Paar) eleven and one-half times, accompanied by a Mickey Mouse soundtrack of a bass drum with each successive punch. Taking their place as antagonists are six additional slabs of beef (next to be seen hanging from hooks in the meat storage locker pummeled for practice in *Rocky* (1976) but here entertain the crowd by flexing their pectoral muscles) who for reasons unknown to anyone including the new script writer Robert Dillon harbor ill feelings toward the beach bunch. Altogether they share the personality of a Rally's Big Buford. . . without a side of fries. So if you're keeping score, we're down a handful of points for no plot, a new re-branding of character names, no Eric Von Zipper, bland band music and a totally disengaged "star" cast who also includes cameos from Morey Amsterdam reprising his role as Cabby.

But wait--there's more! But file this under personal peeve, but after being a fan of the series as a whole, I am really bugged by the complete lack of continuity between these films. When I write my commentary on the last "official" Beach movie, *How To Stuff A Wild Bikini" (1965) I haven't covered, I'll provide a chronological listing for anyone who's interested (that would be only me), but in the meantime, here's how the schizophrenia screams in these films:
*Annette goes from Dolores to DeeDee (in this film) to Connie (in *Pajama Party*) and back to DeeDee again;
*Don Rickles never assumes the same name or profession in any of his four appearances;
*Jody McCrae is called variously Bonehead, Deadhead, and Goo Goo;
*Bobbi Shaw becomes Helga, Bobbi, Nita Elksberg, Khola Koku, and Princess Yolanda;
*John Ashley is the chameleon known as Ken, Johnny, and Steve, the last divorced from the crew to be a skydiver;

I bring this up only because a fair number of characters retain their identities through the films: Frankie is always uniformly Frankie, though he does a brief layover as Socum in *Pajama Party* (1964) which is an unofficial Beach party film. And for all intents and purposes Annette always plays Annette, and this is a second time Annette is allowed a two-piece suit, with a webbed bodice that gives Jayne Mansfield a run for her money. The entire franchise seems predicated on that pair (Frankie and Annette, I mean). The director William Asher helmed five of the seven films, so he's a constant as well, reinforcing a standard American International Pictures formula. Why then the name changes? It seems as disorienting as renaming Indiana Jones Lompoc Peterson. See, I told you, it's just me.

As I said, one more of these epics to go and we'll have exhausted all the Beach days, unless I slip up and end up buying the re-tooled 1987 *Back To The Beach*. . . I am a completist when it comes to collecting, so. . . In any event, my advice with *Muscle Beach Party* is go exercise your muscles bench pressing a six pack of RC Cola and a raft of Moonpies rather than being sedentarily seated before the screen with this mess, waiting for the ground to swallow you whole as a penance for subjecting yourself to it. But maybe I'm being too harsh--maybe it's just what we need to ensure Invaders from Mars don't approach us looking for signs of intelligent life.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 6/4/2020, 6:06 pm

Post #403: Oh, the lure to watch our last Beach movie was just too great since the weather has been so hot. If only the film had matched that heat. . . Today's feature, *How To Stuff A Wild Bikini* (1965), stands--or lies in the sand like a beached whale--as the last Beach movie featuring Annette and Frankie. But even then there's little to celebrate here, as Frankie is stationed in Tahiti in the Air Reserves and Annette is bound up in flimsy but colorful burnooses to cover her real-life pregnancy--perhaps the highlight of her appearances comes when she's positioned behind a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to mask her condition. Mostly she sits in the sand and seldom moves, which adds to the curious lack of energy on screen, making it, according to her memoirs, her least favorite film in the series. Good call, Annette.

With Frankie relegated to an accumulated six minutes of screen time (largely because he asked for more money to do this epic), Dwayne (*Dobie Gillis*) Hickman stands in for him as Ricky, spending most of his screen time trying to get Annette to drop her guard and all the extra layers of clothing she sports. But Annette (Dee Dee, short for Dolores, she says) is resolute in maintaining her fidelity to Frankie, who is frolicking with Native Girl (Irene Tsu) in perfect double standard decorum. Even so, worried that Dee Dee might be led astray by locals, Frankie forges a deal with Witch Doctor Bwana (Buster Keaton) and his accommodating assistant Khola Koku (Bobbi Shaw) to spy on Dee Dee long distance by way of a steadfast pelican, sending him updates every day. For the daily price of a gourd of Torpedo Juice, Bwana will also stack the deck and a sea siren Cassandra (Beverly Adams) to divert all manly attention away from Dee Dee.

The rest of the plot slogs along with advertising marvel J. Peachmont "Peachy" Keane (Mickey Rooney, certainly a huge pull on the teenage market) looking for the perfect complement to Ricky's "Boy Next Door" charm in a corporate sponsored motorcycle race. When Cassandra appears in her leopard skin bikini, Peachy and all the regular beach bums flock around her, falling down, salivating like a Pavlovian pet, and nearly forgetting about surfing. Peachy immediately signs Cassandra to a contract, and his boss, B. D. (Big Deal) McPherson (Brian Donlevy), is overjoyed that Ricky and Cassandra will be representing them in the race, even though Ricky has eyes only for Dee Dee.

Aaaaaaand. . . that's it. Not even the late appearance of Eric Von Zipper, his Rat Pack and his "Mice" can enliven this one; a full third of the film has already passed before they roar in. I think even the waves took one look at the "plot," the lack of chemistry between Dee Dee and Ricky, the scattershot cameos from Frankie, and Johnny (John Ashley) taking over as lead singer on the beach, and decided they'd retreat to the ocean. Oh, we do have a tune from The Kingsmen, but they don't sing their famous "Louie Louie," but a lackluster "Give Her Lovin'" while joining the rest of the cast in the bouncy title song.

Buster Keaton is given ample screen time, which is welcome, but the whole affair seems to be running out of steam. Director and co-writer William Asher even recycles Eric Von Zipper's solo "Follow The Leader," employing exactly the same choreography and punchline falling through a pool table that we saw in *Beach Blanket Bingo* (1965). Personally I don't mind recycling if the rhythm is right and such scenes are played as sly winks to the audience, but such deliberate rehashing, offering nothing new but costumes, and substituting North Dakota Pete (Len Lesser, Jerry Seinfeld's Uncle Leo on the sitcom) for South Dakota Slim, is just plain lazy. I did however shoot out one blurt of a laugh when the ever present famous cameo at the end of the film--in this case William Asher's wife Elizabeth Montgomery--was revealed: Bwana The Witch Doctor's daughter is Samantha Stevens from *Bewitched*, complete with the nose twerk.

Overall, *How To Stuff A Wild Bikini* is just stuffing--dry bread crumbs lacking any seasoning or unique flavor. In my mind it's a sad farewell, a dousing of Frankie and Annette's spark. Which now brings us to a simple chronological recap of the seven Beach "official" Beach movies, followed by my personal assessment of each on a Five Beach Ball Rating System. I'll note the name, year, director, guest star(s), and musical talent involved. Here 'tis. . .

*Beach Party* (1963) Directed by William Asher; Bob Cummings and Dorothy Malone; Dick Dale. FOUR Beach Balls for fun and plot and establishment of the formula.
*Muscle Beach Party* (1964) William Asher; Luciana Paluzzi and Buddy Hacket; Dick Dale and "Little" Stevie Wonder. ONE Beach Ball because it has no plot or interesting elements but at least it has Stevie Wonder.
*Bikini Beach* (1964) William Asher; Keenan Wynn and Martha Hyer with Frankie as The Potato Bug; "Little" Stevie Wonder. FOUR Beach Balls, for sprightly pacing.
*Pajama Party* (1964) Don Weis; Tommy Kirk, Elsa Lanchester and Dorothy Lamour; Donna Loren--Technically, a Beach movie in spirit only as Annette plays Connie, Eric Von Zipper, Don Rickles, Buster Keaton and the regulars are here with Frankie only in a cameo. ONE Beach Ball masquerading as nightie that's so uninteresting no one would strain to see what it is covering.
*Beach Blanket Bingo* (1965) William Asher; Linda Evans, Paul Lynde, Earl Wilson, Marta Kristen, and Deborah Whalley; Jackie Ward (dubbed vocalist as Sugar Kane) and The Hondells. FOUR AND ONE-HALF Beach Balls for being the best confluence of plot, characterization and pure fun.
*How To Stuff A Wild Bikini* (1965) William Asher; Mickey Rooney, Dwayne Hickman and Beverly Adams; The Kingsmen. TWO Beach Balls for splitting up Frankie and Annette and offering little in return.
*The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini* (1966) Don Weis; Tommy Kirk, Deborah Whalley, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone; The Bobby Fuller Four and Nancy Sinatra--No appearances from Annette or Frankie, though still considered one of the Beach films. ONE modestly blown up Beach Ball because it's not as bad as others.

Now we go to the fringes of Beachdom with three films not considered part of the Canon but within the general guidelines of the formula.

*Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine* (1965) Norman Taurog; Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon (as Craig Gamble), Dwayne Hickman, and Jack Mullaney with cameos from Annette and Eric Von Zipper; The Supremes did the title song--Not really part of the Beach canon, but an offshoot for AIP. TWO Beach Balls near deflation.
*Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs* (1966) Mario Bava; Vincent Price, Fabian Forte, Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia, and Laura Antonelli; Music? Just the sound of pathetic moaning of the audience. ONE-HALF Totally Deflated Beach Ball hopefully interred in a time capsule shot into continual orbit around the disgraced once-planet Pluto for inestimable slipshod shoveling of sh--sugar beets.
*Psycho Beach Party* (2000) Robert Lee King; Charles Busch, Lauren Ambrose, Thomas Gibson and Beth Broderick; Ben Vaughn music. FOUR Beach Balls for a weirdly subversive comic homage to the AIP films.

Until my copy of *Back To The Beach* (2000) comes in--yes, I caved in nostalgic wonder and ordered a copy--that will do it for our sandy sentiments. I should hasten to point out that the high rating of 4.5 Beach Balls for *Beach Blanket Bingo* does not immediately make it a film on a par in the pantheon of more serious fare like *Citizen Kane* (1940), *Some Like It Hot* (1959) or any other classics of the silver screen. The Beach Ball assessment is invoked only for the American International Pictures, a criterion singularly its own, on its own standards, and no comparative significance to any other genre, period, or character pieces should be inferred, though *Dr. Goldfoot* movies are pretty dang close to most *Matt Helm* pictures in their pandering uselessness.

If you're going to go rooting through the beaches for some guilty fun, I just hope my guide might steer you away from hidden scorpions or sand crabs. And if you haven't totally lost any modicum of faith in my commentaries by this time, tomorrow will offer a different direction. Let's hope it isn't a total wipeout.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 6/5/2020, 5:25 pm

Post #404: Just when you thought it was safe to get out of the water onto the beach, along comes Montgomery Tully again, nearly forcing you off dry land to escape his hobbled direction for Hammer Films. Luckily, today's feature, *Paid To Kill (aka Five Days)* (1954) is less plodding and goofy than his other films. It's still not wonderful, but it surely beats being smashed in the head with a surfboard ridden by a busty bikini'd robot created by Vincent Price. (And there, successfully, is *another* sentence I never imagined writing.)

In this quickee noir coming in at a mere 71 minutes, Amalgamated Industries President James Nevill (Dane Clark) teeters on the brink of bankruptcy when his uncle Cyrus McGowan (Howard Marion Crawford), a blustery short-tempered archaeologist, reneges on a risky business deal on which Nevill gambled his company's fate. An American heading a British company, he panics, asking his board for the courtesy of two days before he reveals his secretly arranged transaction, implying a few details need ironing out before they're made public. All but one of the board members, the huffing Hyson (Arthur Young), wholeheartedly support him, Hyson distrusting Nevill's sneaky, unethical [read: American] gangsterish ways.

Confiding in his steadfast secretary Joan Peterson (Cecile Chevreau), Nevill indicates imminent failure and asks her to contact his old acquaintance Paul Kirby (Paul Carpenter) with instructions to meet him at his home ASAP, forgetting that his wife Andrea (Thea Gregory) is hosting a swanky black-tie dinner there. Nonetheless Nevill meets Paul in his study as the aristocrats schmooze and swill champagne, offering Paul one thousand pounds to kill him after he's made necessary arrangements to ensure Andrea will be sitting pretty, in the style to which she's become accustomed, from the insurance payout. When Paul demurs, Nevill blackmails him into it. After all, what good is a pal if he won't kill you on request?

(Un)Fortunately, just as the contract is readied to be fulfilled, Uncle Cyrus returns to town with an Aztec vase (and a silent associate Charles Hawtrey) reversing his decision to deal with Amalgamated Industries and saving Nevill from losing face and his company (not to mention his life). This lovely deus-ex-machina is played with exhilarating lightness befitting Nevill's internal state as once again he is the golden boy in his board's eyes, his wife's fortune has been secured, and he can continue living in self-serving arrogance, rubbing Hyson's nose in his success. All he has to do now is contact Paul to cancel his impending assassination.

But--uh oh, Spaghettios--Paul is incommunicado. And Nevill finds himself dodging bullets, speeding cars hell bent on running him over, and all manner of inauspicious murder attempts. Refusing to be exposed by running to the police, he puts all his faith in trusty Joan to find Paul and stop the madness. As Jim Neville, Dane Clark gives us an almost irredeemably unctuous creep when he's around his wife, whom he proclaims to adore more than a foot fetishist loves Dr. Scholls odor eaters. And when he isn't obsessing over her, he's a callous(ed) heel who stomps on everyone he meets. He does register effective stark panic, though, when he's being trodden down by his mystery killer who he discovers is not Paul after all as the game is afoot.

Paul Carpenter plays Nevill's would-be assassin with an airy earnestness that is unusual in these cheap Hammer productions, giving us an unusually humane set of ethics that helps color our distaste for Nevill, who is supposed to be the protagonist but holds none of the moral character to be likable. Cecile Chevreau as Joan plays her emotions a bit too close to the breast to make her screaming profession of love at the end totally believable, though her actions throughout the film carry that message more than her demeanor. But one of the more textured moments unveiling the genuine obsessive traits Nevill holds over his wife comes in the last shot--a powerful image that places Clark's performance in a new light, causing us to re-evaluate his mania.

You guessed it--Nevill's final confrontation with Paul, Joan and others is a twist unlike most of run of the mill Robert Lippert productions. And Walter J. Harvey's striking black and white cinematography drums up more dread in those lonely English backstreets and dramatically shadowed apartment rooms than most Hammer films. Overall, *Paid To KIll* is a pretty nifty little excursion into mystery and suspense, with Dane Clark gritting his teeth, knitting his brow, spitting his disdain and pitting himself against himself with nuanced witty subtext.

We're still a fairly long trudge up the beach from Grade-A cinema, but I figured if I hit you with the cinematic equivalent of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater home in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, after all these weeks of WWII Army Surplus quonset huts, the whiplash would be too great, so I'm easing my way back to a better class of films, maybe something that will be a pleasure without the guilt. Regardless, let's recall the classic lines of Rick Blaine, "We'll always have Paris. If we didn't have, we'd lost it until you came to Casablanca. And we got it last night. I am my ideal. But YOU are my idol. And when Eric Von Zipper adores somebody, they stay adored." Words to live by.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by Seamus on 6/5/2020, 5:50 pm

Bravo for the FLLW reference this pleased me. Life long fan of the man the myth the legend. Having toured many Wright houses it is quite a humbling experience to move through the house and realise you are being lead through a pageant. Art in motion..... but I digress from the topic at hand....

Back to regular programming. As always Jeff enjoy your reviews. One of the highlights of the club.

Sometime ask me about the time in 47 we approached Wright to redesign the club and the 7 state, two train, one aeroplane, 4 boat chase that resulted. We never did get the plans but we sure had a hoot of a time.
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Post by ghemrats on 6/6/2020, 6:00 pm

Post #405 (from Long Beach to Sherman Oaks): If Annette and Frankie were brooding, tortured adults with no singing ability, living in a 1930 small Spanish fishing village of Esperanza (Spanish for "hope") surrounded by English expatriates in "one of the most beautiful colour films ever made" by cinematographer Jack Cardiff, and no one was around to help them bear their heartache, would a soul falling on the beach make a sound? Don't look to American International Pictures for the answer; look to writer/producer/director Albert Lewin, and be sure to totally disavow any knowledge of the other Lewin film I've commented on (*The Living Idol* 1957) before plunging into today's feature, *Pandora And The Flying Dutchman* (1951), which is twenty thousand leagues above our previous exposure to him.

Critics and audiences are aligned here: Ava Gardner has never been lovelier, photographed with such care and vibrancy in glorious English Technicolor through the warmest sepia tones that she outdoes the scenery, totally befitting the lush fantasy of the story. Unfurled in luxurious flashback by narrator and resident archaeologist Geoffrey Fielding (Harold Warrender, perfectly cast and extremely strong as a close friend to Pandora), the story reclaims the legend of the Flying Dutchman: A man doomed to sail his ship for eternity as a penance for killing his innocent wife in an unprovoked jealous rage of possession--until such time that he can find a kind woman so in love with him she would die for him, thus breaking his curse.

Hendrick van der Zee (his name translated from the Dutch as "of the sea") is that man (James Mason), a lone painter in the style of de Chirico whose ship appears one day at the Esperanza coast. As the wealthy expats and American nightclub singer Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner) waste away their time in a fanciful bar, one of Pandora's many admirers Reggie Demarest (Marius Goring) drunkenly proposes to Pandora then poisons himself on the spot when she refuses. Treating his death with her characteristic insouciance she sashays away, apparently incapable of loving anyone. Thus, Geoffrey opines, "The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it," which quickly becomes Pandora's raison d'être, testing every paramour who approaches her.

Testing her temptation among men, Pandora cavalierly accepts a breakneck excursion to the cliffs with land-speed record holder, Stephen Cameron (Nigel Patrick), even though mutual friend Janet (Sheila Sim) clearly desires his affection in the worst way. Overlooking the sea, Pandora icily asks Stephen What would you do for a Klondike bar? knowing full well his greatest love lies in the two years he's been working on his race car. Agreeing to marry him if he pushes the car over the cliff and into the sea, Pandora delights in her manipulation, especially after Stephen launches his pride and joy (and integrity) off into the rocks. And so they shall be married on September 3 in an inversion of this landmark date--March 9--when he chose the Klondike bar over his passion, in betrayal of Janet's affection.

But she glimpses the Dutch ship from the beach and stripping down, swims out to greet it. Finding no crew but sails being set with automatic invisible forces, she wraps herself in a tarp and investigates, finding one lone man, Hendrick van der Zee adding finishing touches to a portrait of the Greek Pandora--who bears a striking resemblance to guess who. Drawn to the stoic man, Pandora tests his resolve and slashes with brushes ablaze at his painting, yet he remains unmoved, which increases Pandora's emotional attachment. The months leading to her marriage pass with her strange stirrings toward Hendrick whipping her into a frenzied souffle until the return of a former love, the famed arrogant and wholly infatuated bullfighter Juan Montalvo (Mario Cabre). Obsessed with her to the point of madness, Montalvo vows Pandora will be his--or he'll kill everyone in his path, then take his ball, go home and retire to the backyard to eat worms.

Geoffrey dispassionately recounts this romantic quadrangle while deciphering a seventeenth century Dutch account allegedly written by the Flying Dutchman himself. Hendrick helps him, proving he is in fact that legendary soul, loosed every seven years to find the love who will set him free. Now, believing he's found her in Pandora, he rebuffs her, claiming his fate to eternal isolation as he loves her too much to have her sacrifice herself for him. But Montalvo takes the bull by the tail and faces his opposition, plunging a dagger into Hendrick repeatedly, and killing his noisy little dog Toto too. Imagine his surprise the next day when, facing the full in the arena, he spots a very much alive Hendrick in the roaring crowds. And once again, there's hamburger all over the highway.

*Pandora And The Flying Dutchman* is surely a ponderous parable, a gorgeous color extravaganza in a meticulous 4K restoration that positively explodes on the screen. Martin Scorcese said, “Watching this film is like entering a strange and wonderful dream,” for its surrealistic touches come from one of the movement's prime motivators: Man Ray created the chess set and paintings figured in the sets and took the still publicity photographs of Ava Gardner. Famed Welsh poet Dylan Thomas can also be spotted in a rare uncredited appearance in the crowds held rapt at Stephen's attempt to break the land speed record. Indeed, Lewin's screenplay, production and direction are firmly literary and elevated, giving the film an other-worldly sheen.

James Mason and Ava Gardner are so magnetic and enigmatic as the impossible lovers, it's hard to pull your eyes away from the screen as the camera seems to consummate the love they cannot share. Mason's frequent soliloquies, quoting poetry, would be laughable with most other actors, but here his stoicism and remote longing are perfectly captured in his sonorous delivery, treated with reverence that is not ill-placed. Harold Warrender's philosophic Geoffrey remains non-judgmental, unsurprised by the supernatural events swirling around him, yet carries with him a fatalism that brings gravitas to the romance. He makes no moral case against Pandora's impetuous lostness and subtly directs her fate in the eleventh hour. He mediates the chaos inherent in Pandora and Hendrick's lives, a symbolic restorer of balance and order, just as he physically completes the restitution of an antiquity, a shattered vase. He sees, however sadly, what others blindly surrender to and remains above it all.

No, this is no Beach Party with an inane coterie of contemporaries drunk on sea foam and sexual titillation. This is the Big Theme stuff dreams are made of: Temporal vs. timeless love, having vs. being, recklessness vs. noble sacrifice, mortality vs. image, self vs. self, Spy vs. Spy--no scratch that one, that's from *Mad* magazine. This is a romantic delirium with occasional flashes of excitement and melodrama, all accomplished in a style of filmmaking that belongs to another time--when long unbroken takes spoke with grace in silence and lingering looks more compelling than forty-two-megaton explosions aimed at killing a fly and Charles Atlas wannabes cracking walnuts with their maximized gluteal extensors.

Instead, you'll find Ava Gardner's first color film, in production as she was engaged to the already-married Frank Sinatra, her ethereal beauty on full display here. You'll find a rhapsodic clash between ancient cultures and the modern, fragmented pillars and headless statues losing their fight against the sands, while man's bullet-like racers top 250 mph on those same flat dusty plains. But still ageless mysteries remain untouched--what is the measure of love? Does self-sacrifice still exist? And what do you do when the waves swallow you whole and there's not a mermaid in sight to pull you to shore? Grow up, Frankie; Annette's a big girl now, and no one's going to shout Surf's Up any longer.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 6/7/2020, 5:13 pm

Post #406: "Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up/In the morning when the day is new?/And after having spent the day together/Hold each other close the whole night through?" I never tire of that song or those sentiments. The perfect confluence of hope and innocence, harmony and peace, quietly undercut with the knowledge that life isn't there yet. "Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray/It might come true (run run ooo)/Baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do"--it's conditional, it teeters on a big "Maybe," and that poignancy, that yearning breaks my heart just as it buoys my spirit. So it is with today's feature, *Love & Mercy* (2015), a "reimagining" of the life of Brian Wilson, a genius and perennial Beach Boy.

A number of caveats need to be issued before you sit down with this film, shared here in 20-20 hindsight after having watched it last evening: The film is not a sunny surf-and-sand diversion but an intense drama that disturbs more than it entertains. Brian Wilson is portrayed at two separate times in his life by two separate actors, Paul Dano and John Cusack. While Dano bears a resemblance to Brian physically and characteristically, John Cusack is not cast to look like the artist but to capture his essence. So it's best to dismiss the criticism that he's miscast right away--Cusack's is a distillation of character, a nuanced performance of the inner Brian Wilson and his mannerisms, not a prosthetic recreation. And toward that end he's superior. *Love & Mercy* is a study of mental instability, excessive control from the demanding power brokers (familial and medical), the synchronicity of teamwork, the torture of the truly gifted, and above all love and mercy. It is not bouncy, frivolous fluff; it portrays an ocean full of pain and promise.

Nominated for fifty-five awards internationally and winning twenty awards, including seven for Paul Dano as Best Actor, the narrative covers the period of 1964 to 1968, focusing on Brian's (Paul Dano) creation of the classic *Pet Sounds* album and his work on the legendary *Smile* project, and shifts to 1986 and 1987 when Brian (John Cusack) is under the ever watchful eye of his megalomaniacal therapist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Omitted but alluded to are the three years Brian was incapacitated by depression, never moving from his bed and growing to over three hundred pounds. The boyish '60s material is woven interdependently with the pained but hopeful '80s timeline in which an overmedicated Brian developed a supportive relationship with Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), a Cadillac sales associate. The interweaving tapestry of sound becomes its own character in the film, as Brian's tireless quest to bring his inner acoustic landscape to the world leads him toward manically sophisticated innovation and incalculable mental stress.

Director Bill Pohlad, working closely with Ledbetter and under Brian Wilson's approval, set out to make a film as close to factual as he could, taking Brian through a table read of the entire film and soliciting his notes on a rough cut he would watch by himself. Pohlad said, "I have no interest in making a biopic. ... What's fascinating to me is to look at the different elements in his life, like that super-creative period when he was doing *Pet Sounds* and the later part when he was redeemed. ... You don't have to know the music here in the same way you didn't have to know the math in *A Beautiful Mind* ... What we want to do is let you experience the story in a personal way." So close to reality were the film's segments with Landy that Brian suffered a mild dissociative episode during a screening; Brian said he, "actually believed those characters were really who they were, like the guy who played Doctor Landy was so right on ... that it absolutely scared me. [I was] like absolutely in fear for about ten minutes." Melinda added, "I remembered that what Landy did to Brian was even worse. You don't get a sense of it in the movie, but it happened on a daily basis, for years."

Paul Giamatti's Landy, as over the top as he appears, is a very accurate portrayal, Pohlad saying, "I know that Brian believes in many cases in the movie that we were, let's say, fairer to certain people than they actually deserved, maybe. Without getting into details. As harsh as it might be, he thinks that there was some reality that was even harsher than that." Giamatti said, "I play Dr. Landy, the crazy psychotherapist. It's a great character. Brian Wilson had a severe freakout and his family got in touch with a psychotherapist out in L.A. named Eugene Landy who took over. That's where most of the story comes from, because the doctor was basically insane. He made Brian play in a sandbox, I mean crazy stuff." Listening to recordings of Landy in preparation for his role, Giamatti said, "He'd just keep talking and talking, in these completely huge paragraphs. They were brilliant-sounding, but if you dug into them they didn't make much sense."

But it's Elizabeth Banks' Melinda who brings the titular love and mercy to the story. As delicate and tenuous as she might initially appear, her Melinda is a force steeled by genuine care, at first constrained by the dictates of the omnipresent Landy but resolute in her growing affection for a man held captive by memories of his demeaning father Murry Wilson (Bill Camp) whose beatings left Brian 95% deaf in one ear, the death of his middle brother Dennis due to drowning, his relentless pursuit of the perfect sound, and his controlling therapist. While watching the entire film was a largely unpleasant experience for Brian, he was enthusiastic about the scenes with Elizabeth Banks as they represented the most loving times of his life. Elizabeth Banks shines in her role, moving from cautious and tentative affection to a motivating force for peace and healing.

If anything *Love & Mercy* made me fall in love all over again with the music that helped define my optimistic spirit and appreciation of liberating harmony. When people ask what my favorite song is, I honestly can't answer. Even tightening the focus to What is your favorite Beach Boys song? I can't say, because they are all layered with meaning and memory for me. *Wendy* is high on the list because it's the first time I heard a song confronting betrayal from a man's perspective; *God Only Knows* chokes me up any time I hear it, reflecting on my blessings; *Good Vibrations*, *Heroes And Villains* and *Sloop John B* fly beyond most hits of the '70s for me, as the album *Smiley Smile* made me stretch my understanding of the Beach Boys; *Good Timin'* informed a philosophical attitude, much as *In My Room* did years before; *Getcha Back* saw me through rough romantic passages; and *All Summer Long* and *California Girls* will forever usher in warm weather for me. I'm grateful for *Friends* and even *Vegetables*.

"And wouldn't it be nice to live together/In the kind of world where we belong?" Play that song today and tell me it's not more relevant than when it was first composed. Wouldn't it be nice?
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 6/8/2020, 4:45 pm

Post #407:  Have the ball clubs figured out a way to take us out to the ballgame digitally, perhaps by playing baseball via Zoom or Intellivision, that 32-bit gaming system jerry-rigged to the TV? With the pandemic, it might be the Tigers' best chance at the pennant.  Lately my experience with the Great American Pastime has come by listening to old radio broadcasts from WWJ, the most recent being the September 20, 1934 game between the New York Yankees and the Tiges, sponsored by the Flying Red Horse of Mobil Gas. (If you know the outcome, don't tell me--I still have a couple innings to go.)

So today's feature, *Whistling In Brooklyn* (1943), came as a wonderful surprise in the strongest, third and last in Red Skelton's "Whistling" series since a good part of it takes place on the diamond with the 1943 Dodgers.  This time Wally Benton, aka The Fox, a radio detective (Red Skelton), *still* hasn't married his fiancee Carol Lambert (Ann Rutherford) and again their nuptials are interrupted by a series of murders by the cryptic Constant Reader.  Since the most recent killing shares the same modus operandi to The Fox's timely radio broadcast, Wally becomes the star suspect, leading him and Carol and Chester (Rags Ragland) and kooky reporter Jean Pringle (Jean Rogers) on an extended chase.  Basically it's the same formula we saw in the other two "Whistling" entries, but this one differs in one significant way: It's actually funny.

There's no real mystery here, as The Constant Reader is revealed very early on, as is his plan to kill the police commissioner next.  Naturally, Wally and the group discover this and spend most of the film's 87 minutes evading capture or facing danger.  At the 52-minute mark I actually thought the film was going to end, but somehow writer Nat Perrin stretched out the proceedings for another half hour. And I didn't mind as the film was clipping along at a frantic and funny pace. In this film Red Skelton seems to have become more comfortable with his screen presence; he's looser, less reliant on the Fox's howl to garner laughs, and physically ready for more slapstick without waiting for the reaction. Here he's sure footed, with dialogue that moves rapidly and smartly.

Rags Ragland nearly steals the show as the wise-cracking chauffeur he's reprising here, playing off all the particulars with perfect comic timing and a briskness that moves the action along.  Jean Rogers (Dale in the Flash Gordon serials) displays an energetic talent that perfectly melds with Ragland and Skelton's antics, providing a feisty counterpart to Ann Rutherford.  And there's a surprisingly taut set piece as our quartet of hapless heroes hang helplessly over the cavernous maw of an elevator shaft, forming a human chain to reach safety, complete with vertiginous camera angles.

But for me the real fun begins when Wally, following a lead on the impending murder of the commissioner at a vintage Ebbets Field, masquerades as Gumbatz, the pitcher for the bearded Battling Beavers up against the actual 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers, including future Hall Of Famers  Billy Herman, Arky Vaughn, Ducky Medwick and Dolph Camilli batting cleanup.  Red loads the bases with them by beaning them all, only to have Bobo Newsom return the complement when Red takes to the plate.  There's a wonderful rhubarb between Red and manager Leo Durocher as well, showcasing a caustic comic camaraderie. As a side note, the film's Battling Beavers are a lighthearted homage to the barnstorming Israelite House Of David baseball team founded in Benton Harbor, Michigan in 1930. Following a strict prohibition of cutting their hair, these bearded ballers were occasionally joined for a game by such luminaries as Grover Cleveland Alexander, Satchel Paige, and even Babe Ruth, all donning fake beards as a tribute to their regimen.

Rounding out the cast are William Frawley, Ray Collins, Mike Mazurki, Henry O'Neill and Sam Levene as Creeper, a great thug who can be menacing and humorous simultaneously.  The final climactic fist fight and doom in the balance taking place on the Brooklyn docks is fast and furious, with everybody getting in a few licks and head shots with lead pans that look genuine.  If you like Red Skelton's verbal humor, there's a lot to enjoy here, with his sly asides referencing his contemporary radio competition, remarking in passing, "If Bob Hope and Jack Benny could only see me now!"  Yes, some of the jokes were old in 1943, but they move so swiftly you probably won't care.  You're having too much nostalgic fun to notice.

Now it's toward the end of the ninth inning in Wayne County in 1934 with Ty Tyson giving the play-by-play.  A woman in the stands has just been hit by a foul, first aid is attending her, and she appears all right.  Maybe it was providence if she's a Tigers fan, because--oh drat--the Yanks just took the game 11-7, and the Flying Red Horse is mobile again, soaring over the stadium.  WWJ will have a complete run-down of all the scores at six o'clock brought to us by White Star Petroleum until next week when the Tiges take on Chicago in three games at Navin Field. Boy, I can almost smell the virtual hot dogs burning in the sun. But how do I eat them through this damn face mask?
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 6/9/2020, 5:42 pm

Post #408:  A number of years ago I bought the complete series of *The Man From U.N.C.L.E.* on DVD, stylishly packed in a special edition small silver attache case.  In all its geeked out glory it sat alongside my special edition *Big Lebowski* Bowling Ball set, my special edition Toolbox set of *Home Improvement* and other DVD sets that would never sit comfortably on any bookshelf conceived by Mankind. But they look cool, much to the dismay of my wife whose aesthetic does not appreciate vintage TV series in oversized ornamental housings. A few months ago I discovered Warner Archives had just released an eight-movie set of *Man From UNCLE* movies, so nature demanded I complete my collection.  

Woe and behold--they are merely retooled episodes from the set I already own.  So today's feature, *To Trap A Spy* (1964) is not really a movie in the purest sense.  It's a cobbled-together extension of the 70-minute color pilot for the series, shown to NBC executives to entice sponsorship and a heretofore cut for broadcast color version of the first UNCLE show in black and white, "The Vulcan Affair."  With an added 22 minutes, *To Trap A Spy* was released as a 92- minute feature film, though it looks like a TV series on a bigger screen.  On one hand my reaction is, "Bummer, I remember seeing it in the theater in a double feature with a similarly jerry-rigged *The Spy With My Face* (1965), another UNCLE cuisinarted 'movie.'" On the other hand, *To Trap A Spy* is a nice reminder of what was "too hot" for TV in those added sequences.  And on the other hand (I consider myself rather handy when it comes to TV trivia) it's interesting to see how the series evolved from this early incarnation in the Bond New World.

So today's commentary is almost a sidebar from my usual fare: This film doesn't hold up as a piece of cinema, but it's still fun to watch.  Directed by TV veteran Don Medford (he directed the two-part climax of *The Fugitive*, twenty-eight episodes of *Dynasty* and over 73 other TV series episodes), *To Trap A Spy* has some notable departures for fans of the original series: Robert Vaughn is still suave Napoleon Solo, Agent of the United Network Command For Law and Enforcement, but his partner Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) shows up only briefly here.  Gone too is Mr. Waverly (Leo G. Carroll), replaced by Mr. Allison (Will Kuluva) as the Head Chief of the operation.  But most noticeably is the really bad dubbing job when the producers replaced archnemesis organization THRUSH with WASP, due to legal complications in securing THRUSH as the name.  Somehow Napoleon Solo fighting White Anglo-Saxon Protestants just doesn't have the same ring of enmity that THRUSH supplied.

But let's assume some of you never knew of UNCLE and just want a basic spy thriller.  This magnum opus begins with the death of an UNCLE agent just as he is peremptorily interrupted from delivering news of an insidious assassination plan, and coordinated THRUSH agents infiltrate UNCLE headquarters, gassing intermediaries left and right.  Don't worry, though: The bad guys die quickly in their arrogance, and Napoleon Solo is dispatched to quell the killing of Prime Minister Sekue Ashumen (William Marshall) of the newly independent African nation of Western Natumba. Believing the wealthy American industrialist Andrew Vulcan (Fritz Weaver) is behind it, Solo enlists the help of Elaine May Donaldson (Patricia Crowley), once Vulcan's college girlfriend and now a suburban housewife, to rekindle her romance as a bargaining chip, allowing UNCLE to stabilize world order once again, preventing Western Natumba from being a puppet nation for WASP.

It's a lot to ask of a relatively sedentary, domesticated young woman whose afternoons consist of dancing around the house in a skirt spraying a can of Pledge on everything, then singing "Mr. Clean gets rid of dirt and grime and grease in just a minute/Mr. Clean will clean your whole house and everything within it." But Napoleon is nothing if not persuasive, and soon Elaine is posing as a high-profile wealthy widow adorned with jewels, snuggling up to Vulcan. Meanwhile, Solo ups the sex factor in a subplot involving hitting the sheets with WASP operative Angela (Luciana Paluzzi, months before she would really hit the screen with Sean Connery in *Thunderball* (1965) as Fiona Volpe), who was complicit in the death of the UNCLE agent who started them off on this caper to begin with.

You bet, there's a lot of quick action with Pat Crowley slipping into the role of espionage easily while still retaining a shard of reticence in knowing she's over her head as she schmoozes with the suave and deadly Fritz Weaver.  They are both comfortable in her portrayals with Crowley actually looking more accessibly sexy than the treacherous Paluzzi when she's battling a steam death with Vaughn. Weaver is his usual stoic self, simulating a simmering menace without going fully maniacal, and William Marshall oozes calm and diplomatic resolve with his sonorous voice.  And aside from the capable acting we've also got those fabulous whizzing transitional bumps--reminding me of *Batman*--between scenes where commercials would usually hold court.

So what makes *To Trap A Spy* movie theater fare rather than TV fodder?  Not all that much actually.  It is in Technicolor, as opposed to the first season of UNCLE (and the episode from which this film is drawn), which was black and white.  It offers a bit more "adult" content--when people get shot, they do sport blood dots on their clothing; Luciana Paluzzi gets to float around in diaphanous white lingerie that would quicken anyone's heart rate, and adorns an oversized men's shirt whose buttons have popped under the strain, displaying cavernous but tasteful open-necked casualness; Robert Vaughn's Solo gets in a little frisky Freudian frisking of the double-crossing Angela that might surprise audiences even today.  A nice verbal jesting ensues when Angela, now with Napoleon in her boudoir, coyly cooing before she disrobes, "What would you like me to change into?" to which Solor responds, "Anything. . . but a boy." Boy, in those days for a twelve year old, that was hot stuff in the theater.  But the violence is cartoonish overall as bodies fall with a gasp, and the threat of a nuclear meltdown in the stainless steel factories is a knowing nod to *Dr. No* (1963).

Jerry Goldsmith's original UNCLE theme with its rumbling time signatures has always been my favorite of all subsequent versions, reminding me of the initial thrill the show inspired before it turned campy and flat-out wonky in the late 1960s, replaced by *Batman*'s stable of guest star villains.  

With *To Trap A Spy* you won't get the visceral jolt that *Goldfinger* (1964) and *Thunderball* (1965) supplied at the same time, but for a smaller budget on a smaller screen, you'll be a Monkees UNCLE if you can find anything closer.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 6/10/2020, 5:26 pm

Post #409 (Giddy up giddy up giddy up 409): Today we continue to scrape seven feet below the bottom of the barrel with an independent film, a well produced and shiny documentary based on nine separate theories of "hidden meanings" buried halfway to China concerning Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film *The Shining*. Director Rodney Ascher somehow excavated five theorists who lob the most inane interpretations of Kubrick's adaptation of the Stephen King novel with the same breathless, moronic enthusiasm of a tweet suggesting a seventy-five-year-old man bleeding from the head in an encounter with police was actually an ANTIFA agent trying to make the tweeter look bad. If I were force fed massive doses of LSD, crack and Liquid Plumr I couldn't have made up the crap people make up in their own fevered imaginations. But that's what today's feature does--voluntarily and passionately--in *Room 237* (2013).

If you've seen *The Shining* your own reactions might fall between "Whoa, it's the scariest movie I ever saw" and "Well, that was a big disappointment." I admit I bought a first edition of King's novel years before Kubrick's vision hit the screen, I devoured it, got scared out of my wits by it, and decided it was one of my favorite "pop culture" novels of all time; I even bought a slipcased "revised collector's edition" of it, in which King wrote a prelude, and scarfed up the sequel *Doctor Sleep* with glee. I loved and admired Kubrick's canon, but initially in 1980 found the film a gross let-down, emotionally gutting the novel with a stark, clinical conundrum with a terrific performance from Jack Nicholson. Period. I still consider it a classic, but it's never reached the heights of terror experienced by so many others.

For the uninitiated, the bare bones of *The Shining* deal with young Danny Torrance, a boy with some precognitive abilities, whose father, an alcoholic writer, has just secured a job as caretaker for The Overlook, a sprawling high-profile hotel isolated in the mountains. When the family take possession for the long and wicked winter, totally cut off from all civilized life by intense snow storms, the hotel's spiritual evil also takes possession, goading the father to fall off the wagon and kill his wife and child, just as the hotel's history has ingrained violence in its walls. *Room 237* draws its name from a singular room which beckons Danny into its epicenter of evil just as it seduces his father into deeper madness.

Even though *Room 237*'s participant theorists are not shown in the documentary (good thing, since to preserve some level of anonymity serves their best interests), their voice tracks are illustrated with clips of Kubrick's films, vintage WWWII footage and snippets from other movies. Director Ascher does not openly comment on these wild conjectures, but merely presents them as one might point out nature's absurdities in a carnival sideshow. When pressed to expound on his assessment of the theories, Ascher has said, "My personal take on it is, for one, I don’t think it's nearly as visionary as any one of these folks have found. I just see it as sort of a story about juggling the responsibilities of your career and family and as cautionary tale of what may happen if you make the wrong choice. And even maybe looking at the ghosts as these figures that represent fortune or prestige or things that you might be chasing at the expense of paying proper attention to your family."

Stephen King himself held another opinion: He "watched about half of it and got impatient with it and turned it off". According to King, he "never had much patience for academic bullshit," feeling the film makers and theorists were "reaching for things that weren't there." Leon Vitall, Kubrick's close friend and personal assistant during the filming, flatly debunked *Room 237*, saying, ""[Kubrick] didn’t tell an audience what to think or how to think and if everyone came out thinking something differently that was fine with him. That said, I’m certain that he wouldn’t have wanted to listen to about 70, or maybe 80 percent [of Room 237]... Because it’s pure gibberish."

So what are some of the theories espoused by these pundits? One suggests *The Shining* is a cultural commentary on the subjugation of Native Americans, citing the passing reference to the Overlook being built on an Indian burial ground, a portrait of a Native American chief barely visible on a hotel wall, and most strikingly--Sweet Fancy Moses, how did I miss THAT?--a can of Calumet Baking Powder bearing its Indian Chief logo resting on a pantry shelf behind a key character! By the ghost of great General Custer, I can't believe I didn't put all those clues together! And the subsidiary character of Bill Watson, who is proprietor Stuart Ullman's toady, (don't blink or you'll miss him) looks like his skin might be Native-American-tinged! How could ANYONE have reservations about that theory with all this mounting evidence?

But wait--there's more. Another rabid conspirator believes *The Shining* is actually a metaphor for the genocidal Holocaust because Kubrick never completed a project *The Aryan Papers* starring Julia Roberts because the material was too depressing and he believed cinema could never completely do justice to its horror. This theorist cites Jack's recitation of "Little pig, little pig let me in" from Disney's Silly Symphony cartoon *The Three Little Pigs* as proof--because Disney's wolf wears an antisemitic disguise. Jack Torrance uses--wait for it--a GERMAN typewriter! And to further the Holocaust connection, let's remember that the numbers of Room 237 multiplied singly (2x3x7) equals 42--and the Holocaust took place in 1942! Well, that's not a stretch, is it? Let me push that even more: We all know 42, according to Douglas Adams, is the Meaning of Life. So the Meaning of Life was lost in 1942 for six million Jews, while Viktor Frankl wrote *Man's Search For Meaning* which made it all work out. PLUS 42 was Jackie Robinson's jersey number for the Dodgers--and Danny "dodges" the ghosts through the hotel! And because Jackie played first base, Danny won't let the ghosts get to FIRST BASE with him! OMG, I'm on to something here. . . Can I get Director Ascher to put me in the sequel?

Okay, I've got to calm down and get back to the documentary. The best theory comes from a gentleman who says Kubrick was secretly coding messages to the audience that he was the prime filmmaker in NASA's staging of the Apollo moon shot here on Earth in a controlled studio to bilk the American public into believing we were the first ones to make it to the moon. Evidence? Oh, there's plenty: Danny is wearing an Apollo sweater in one scene. Not enough? Room 237 alludes to the mean celestial distance of the Earth to the moon. And if you look hard enough at the clouds of the opening sequence, just as Kubrick's name appears in the credits, you can see Kubrick's visage etched above it all. (Frankly I pushed my face through the TV screen to see it, squinting until I burst a blood vessel, and in my delirium just before I lost consciousness--YES--there it was! Or maybe it was the doctor tending to me in the OR.) But the coup de gras comes when we look at the key holder to Room 237, which says against a red background "ROOM No 237." Good Lord, it's an anagram--MOON! Solid proof. (It's also an anagram of MORON, but let's not rest on that.)

Or maybe it's the story of the Minotaur, because it has a hedge maze and a poster on the wall in one short scene shows a skier who is so fuzzily photographed that he could be a minotaur if you're drunk--which Jack is--and Jack looks like bull in some close-ups. Actually, it's all bull, but critics of *Room 237* gave it positive reviews when it was released nonetheless. Fifty-six percent of Amazon viewers give it four or five stars; an additional 35 percent give it one or two stars. Owen Gielberman of *Entertainment Weekly* gave it an "A" and said, "*Room 237* makes perfect sense of *The Shining* because, even more than *The Shining* itself, it places you right inside the logic of how an insane person thinks." So maybe it's the perfect compliment to the days in which we're living, where idiocy becomes the rule and common decency becomes the anathema.

The stale pretzel logic invoked in the 102 minutes of this film is coated with cheese and cements shut the mouth of anyone who has tried to teach the resistant, recalcitrant, and resolutely ignorant how symbolism might add to one's entertainment. *Room 237* legitimizes the nutballs who DO read too much into a piece of art. Sometimes a continuity error is just a continuity error, and not some apocryphal harbinger. Intelligent, informed filmgoers will dismiss *Room 237* as fanciful fantasy and move on, while conspiracy theorists will continue to gawk, point and seek the countenance of Jesus giving a thumbs up to Kubrick in the pattern of the carpeting. God help us all.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 6/11/2020, 5:31 pm

Post #410: Back in those dark long-distant days before we started communicating exclusively with thumb-numbing texts, emoticons and GIF files, people wrote letters. On paper. If you search long enough, you can actually find examples of these ancient crafts in the Smithsonian or in the trunks of abandoned houses and garages. In those days I used to teach how to write them, too, pontificating on the importance of knowing the difference between brevity and conciseness. Brevity--not saying any more than you HAD to, as prescribed by social convention--was to be avoided, while conciseness--word economy--was to be embraced.

But now, in our age of "straight-shooting" empowerment when media platforms limit the number of words we can use, brevity has become our gold standard. And with it has come a starkness, a bold lack of courtesy (some oldsters like me would say a lack of breeding or manners) in favor of bluntly dispassionate pronouncements of thinly disguised insult pretending to be "truth." Don't agree with someone? Give the opposition a snarky name, proving your moral superiority--but do it with only a few words and then retreat like a troll under a bridge. And so it is with today's feature, *Brief Interviews With Hideous Men* (2009), actor/producer John Krasinski's directorial debut adapting David Foster Wallace's collection of short stories. The "interviews" are brief, leaving me wishing they'd been concise.

I suppose in many ways this 80 minute feature could be included in a time capsule for today, as it explores the dark underpinnings of the male psyche and the male's struggles with relationships. Conducting the interviews with over 100 men, eighteen of whom are featured in the film, graduate student Sara Quinn (Julianne Nicholson) toils away at understanding the opposite sex as she wrestles with her own tumultuous breakup with Ryan, aka Subject 20 (John Krasinski) who has been unfaithful. Some of her interviewees are humorous and self-effacing, some are smug and manipulative, some are tortured, some are in fact hideous and misogynistic, but almost all of them are in some way lost and incomplete; hence, they are brevity incarnate.

We are not privy to Sara's questions to her "Subjects"; we just see them addressing the camera on a variety of topics related to sex, communication, personal foibles, and moments of clarity. And toward that end the film is very much an "actors'" stage, permitting rich assemblage of actors to give stand-out performances in basic monologue style. Among the men are Will Arnett, Josh Charles, Will Forte, Christopher Meloni, Timothy Hutton, Bobby Cannavale, Joey Slotnick and many others, all wound together in vignettes that unfold in non-sequential snippets. Only through serious focus and a readiness to "go with the flow" of the narrative will you discover the linking themes. Consequently, many audiences found *Brief Interviews With Hideous Men* confounding, even though Krasinski's direction is for me inventive and thought-provoking.

The loose narrative structure of the film has been roundly criticized by general audiences and critics alike, but for me, the interviews' bumping up against one another is an effective metaphor for their speakers themselves--they do not connect in truly meaningful ways, even though they believe they do. For all the confessional stream of consciousness the "Subjects" project, I sensed we moviegoers were just skimming the surfaces of their waters. Insecurities and massive walls of defense still shielded them against gaining the audience's empathy. Individually the "hideous men" seemed ready to open up, share their deep secrets, but were their admissions just a different level of game play? Was it all just another semblance of "the right answer" which they could use to leverage some sort of control or desired result?

That sounds really dark, I know. But David Foster Wallace was never known for his Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm attitude. So it's something of a roller coaster emotionally. Some clips are laugh-worthy as all the years in *The Office* helped inform Krasinski's dry wit, while others are jarring and unsettling as we deal with sexual assault and the exercise of power. But one sequence is a stand-out moment: Subject 42 (Frankie Faison) confronts his staggered feelings for his father (Malcolm Goodwin), who labored for decades as the attendant in a luxury hotel wash room. Ambivalent feelings of contempt for the daily humiliation his father endured silently and begruding admiration for the man's strength wheel and soar in the imagined confrontation between father and son. What is the role of a man in this world? Especially if he is Black.

Equally profound are the scenes directly involving Sara, who is an invisible, passive chronicler in most of the interviews. First she encounters her student Daniel (Dominic Cooper), whose thesis for a paper is as incendiary and shocking as his final revelation to her. And the final confrontation with her former significant other Ryan (Krasinski) leaves us reeling with questions of meaning and tone--is it genuine, is it ironic, and how is she to respond to Ryan's justification for infidelity? But interspersed between these powerhouse sequences are incidental flares causing us to question, by their light, if we can identify with any of these characters? And for the most part, briefly answered, no, I couldn't enleague myself with any of them. And at times I felt apologetic for my gender as I don't want to believe they represent the larger sample.

And Sara herself is indeed a cipher, as David Foster Wallace's source material is a collection of short stories in which Sara does not exist as a character. Krasinski himself talked about her passivity to Wallace shortly before his suicide, as Krasinski was working on the film: "When I told him how I had changed the script to center around a woman who is either a psychology or anthropology grad student and that’s her connection to these men, she’s interviewing them for her thesis, he paused, and then he said that’s what he was trying to do in the book. He wanted to write about a character that you never hear from and never see, but by all the characters around her, you know who she is. He never made the leap to have her have a personal connection, and he said he was intrigued to see if that was the answer to make sense of the whole thing."

Wallace's prose is circuitous but brilliant, a carefully crafted combination of observations, asides, digressions and pointed satirical stabs, and his words leap to the screen almost verbatim from his book. Krasinski's *Brief Interviews With Hideous Men* is literary, literate and ambitious; many people find it slow going because the action is conversational and at times cerebral, demanding that you become an active participant, in a totally different manner than Krasinski chose with his spectacular *A Quiet Place* (2018) and *A Quiet Place II* (2020). It is brief, but it packs a lot into those 80 minutes. But if you're looking for a date night film, stick with *A Quiet Place* because what is not said is sometimes more instantly moving than what is.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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Post by ghemrats on 6/12/2020, 5:07 pm

Post #411: The Dream of the '90s may be alive in Portland, where you can put a bird on anything and call it art, but in today's feature, *Portland Expose* (1957), there's a seedy underworld thriving on gambling, violence, pinball machines, slots, and notorious B-Girls who encourage bar patrons to drink up and spend their dough with wild abandon. So explosive were its charges that the film was banned from being screened within a 30-mile radius of Portland, for fear of lawsuits being issued. Based on *Life* Magazine's article covering The McClellan Committee's investigation into Portland's dirty deeds, the film's poster adding "Sin by sin, bribe by bribe, shock by shock," the film is a cheap ($200,000 budget) quickee noir that manages to press the audience's buttons in bleak melodramatic breathlessness.

The name Edward Binns may not set off a cacophonous clanging of recognition bells in you, but you'll almost certainly recognize him as soon as he hits the screen as cozy rustic tavern owner George Madison. Nicely wedged in the trees of 1940 Portland, his modest establishment becomes the battleground for warring factions of the syndicate, as Spud Lennox (Stanley Farrar) gets the pinball rolling by strong-arming George into installing Bally Balls A Poppin' machines for the patrons. Soon George, his stone-faced but caring wife Clara (Virginia Gregg) and his kids young Jimmy (Dickie Betts) and innocent but ripe eighteen-year-old Ruthie (Carolyn Craig) are literally fighting for their lives as syndicate thugs Larry (Joe Marr) and Joe (Frank Gorshin) instigate a gang war over George's ground zero.

At first George accedes to split the profits to gain a little traction financially, but secretly arranges for the police to raid his place and shut him down, making it appear he had no choice but to comply with the law and thus release him from the syndicate's grasp. But the raid falls through, and when George intervenes in Joe's vicious attempt at sexual assault of Ruthie, George's steel resolve demands "This is one thing that I'm gonna see through, all the way," with the total dismantling of the criminal empire.

Sending his family away, stalwart George covertly joins forces with trade union leader Alfred Grey (Francis De Sales) to infiltrate the syndicate while wearing a wire to help document all their criminal activities. Once admitted to the ranks, George deals with all the grittiness you'd expect from an "Expose" including lascivious busty escorts (Jeanne Carmen, who in her private life was one of Marilyn Monroe's besties, and had "dangerously close relationships" with Frank Sinatra, The Kennedys, Elvis, and mobsters Johnny Rosselli and Sam Giancana) and a flown-in top tier Madame Mrs. Stoneway (Lea Penman). And of course it doesn't help that Ruthie is threatened with a bottle of acid to be thrown in her face.

For all its panting sensationalism, *Portland Expose* turns into a lean 72-minute exercise in modest suspense. Edward Binns (who was one of the *Twelve Angry Men*1957 and appeared in *Fail-Safe* 1964, *Judgment at Nuremberg* 1961, *Patton* 1970 and countless TV appearances) is earnest and tough, morally solid as George, even in tight situations, lending credibility to the role. Frank Gorshin, the famous mimic and The Riddler on *Batman*, is frightening as the psychopathic molester who gets his just desserts when, beaten to a pulp he takes the last train to Splitsville as he is laid out across train tracks, much to the creepy glee of his former partner Larry (Joe Marr). And twenty-two-year-old Carolyn Craig brings a nice mix of bouncy teenage joy and angst to Ruthie, though she is best remembered for her role of Nora Manning in the classic *House On Haunted Hill* (1959); she died in 1970 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

*Portland Expose* falls short of salaciousness as its title suggests, though at the time some of the scenes were doubtlessly hard edged. Capable supporting roles from Russ Conway, Lawrence Dobkin, Rusty Lane, and *McHale's Navy*'s Joe Flynn fill in some of the blanks in adapting the true crime story of the City Of Roses, inspired in part by the acid blinding of New York City labor reporter Victor Riesel in 1956. But when the voice-over narrator intones the moral lessons to be learned, we know it's little more than a B-Movie populated by The Queen of the Bs (Jeanne Carmen) and a bunch of B-Girls and badly B-having bunco boobs with B-roll footage of Portland. Put a bird on it and move along.
Enjoy.
Jeff

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