(Back in the 1990s when everyone was creating their own zine, I set about — inspired by everything from Psychotronic to Leonard Maltin — to create my own movie guide in zine form. I called it The Movie Bastard.
At the time we were working on a comic called Very Vicky and didn’t have a lot of money, especially for entertainment. Following that, in 1995, we had twin sons, which added new obstructions to going out, as you can imagine. It’s over this period that I worked on the movie guide.
We rarely went to the movies — way too expensive on a limited income when you are self-publishing a comic book — and spent most of our entertainment hours watching AMC, TNT, TMC, that sort of thing. That’s the material I reviewed. A lot of the subject matter, style, plots, etc., from these movies found their way into the comic (particularly the Elvis film Kissin’ Cousins).
The Movie Bastard’s Best Movie Guide Ever — Winter Shut In Edition came out in 1998, after a period of time online as a website. So consider this post on Medium the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Movie Bastard’s Best Movie Guide Ever.
The original edition had an index so you could, say, look up all the Jerry Van Dyke movies I reviewed. I can’t include that here, you’ll just have to search the page for Jerry Van Dyke, but the original also featured a star guide in the front to explain the movie ratings. I reproduce it here before the reviews themselves.
WARNING: I imagine there is some offensive 20 year old humor in here. Consider the subject matter and apologies ahead of time for any uncomfortable moments it might cause you.)
**** If it ain’t a classic it oughtta’ be and if it is it probably stars Jimmy Stewart anyhow.
*** A cut above the rest but no Brothers Karamazov or anything like that
** Parts are better than the whole like Ann-Margret
* Watch purely in the interest of science
• You’ve got better things to do than watch Nancy Kwan movies, you just can’t think of them right now.
Always Leave Them Laughing 1949 ** dir: Roy Del Ruth cast: Milton Berle,Virginia Mayo, Ruth Roman, Bert Lahr, Alan Hale Milton Berle, as far as I’m concerned, has always deserved more than he’s gotten movie-wise (his small role in The Loved One should speak volumes to this argument). Unfortunately, this early tale of a rising arrogant comedian who leeches other people’s material isn’t that vehicle. Berle does manage to occasionally rise above the material, but he’s mostly trapped in a quagmire of vaudeville schtick and giddy backstage fluff. The last ten minutes are really good melodrama and Bert Lahr stands out in his role as a comedy legend, but it’s Berle’s brief imitation of Noel Coward for a peculiar, foreign lesbian that makes the whole thing worth sitting through.
And God Created Woman 1956 *** dir: Roger Vadim cast: Brigette Bardot, Curt Jurgens, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Christian Marquand, Georges Poujouly, Jean Tissier Pouty lips, unbridled mane, and all, Bardot attempts to pick up where Louise Brooks left off and, surprisingly, doesn’t do a half bad job, though she is somewhat less subtle and textured, both inside and out. Still, this is the best performance by a cartoon woman that I’ve ever seen! It’s a Douglas Sirk-esque soap is about a shameless hussy who tears a family apart and features a great cha cha number with a sexually agressive fat guy. Vadim’s “direction” consists mostly of full shots of Bardot’s body, each sputtering the words “You seen this woman? I’m sleeping with her!” despite Bardot’s best efforts to bring some dignity to her role. Features a good song by Gilbert Becaud.
Artists And Models 1955 *** dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Dorothy Malone, Eva Gabor, Anita Ekberg Dean is a cartoonist who gets all his best ideas from Jerry’s sleepytime rants, which leads to fame, fortune, and broads with a sense of fashion, including Shirley as Jerry’s love interest. What starts as a wacky love comedy takes a weird detour into spysville, complete with Eva Gabor, military interests, and Shirley in a Batlady costume (our idea of world class entertainment). Now if only she didn’t sing in this one . . . or should I say, yelp.
Assault On A Queen 1966 * dir: Jack Donohue cast: Frank Sinatra, Verna Lisi, Tony Franciosa, Richard Conte, Reginald Denny Unfortunately not at all what it sounds like, this is silly piffle about crooks reconstituting an old Nazi U-boat (with help from old Nazi!) in order to rob the QEII. Sinatra’s all right, if you’re in a good mood, but his winning of Verna Lisi begs you to suspend your disbelief a tad and even the lovely Miss Lisi can’t block out the ear and eyesore of Franciosa.
At War With The Army 1950 * dir: Hal Walker cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Polly Bergen, Mike Kellin This cheapo service comedy doesn’t make any sense in the traditional definition. Miraculously resembles an amateur film that actual soldiers might have made in the same year, while trying to cover up the fact from their sarge, and it has all the moments of brilliant comedy you would expect from such a production. Except with Polly Bergen.
Auntie Mame 1958 **** dir: Morton DaCosta cast: Rosalind Russell, Forest Tucker, Coral Browne, Fred Clark, Peggy Cass, Patrick Knowles, Roger Smith Swankiest movie in history? Gravel voiced and flirty eyed Rosalind Russell was born to play Patrick Dennis’ flighty and sophisticated aunt, as she screams through this movie like a two ton pith missile with a wit warhead , directing your attention away from the mounds of greenbacks it must have taken to build this handsomely lavish bit of swank. When Mame becomes orphan Patrick’s legal guardian, she gives him perspective on a flat world of dullards — whether through the fabulous world of naked progressive education or romances with Irish poet gigolos or a tour of the Antebellum South reborn or regular sessions with her decadent downtown comrades, Mame shows Partick a less predictable side of it all, with energy and plenty of modern art, not to mention stools and sofas that come out of the floor and elevate way up there. While scores clueless hipster chicks try to emulate Holly Golightly, with the two toned locks and twice the body fat, Mame Dennis is unequivocably the Coolest of Chicks To Appear in Flicks and she could drink Holly under the table. Then, sometime after Miss Golightly came to, she could coerce her into transforming her life in the most extravagant fashion!
Bachelor In Paradise 1961 *** dir: Jack Arnold cast: Bob Hope, Lana Turner, Paula Prentiss, Jim Hutton, Agnes Moorehead Hope plays a decadent writer procuring bachelor digs in a planned community with the intention of writing a steamy suburban tell-all. Along the way, he befriends all the housewives and teaches them how to inject a little fun into their dinner at five lives. Why I’d let Hope teach me how to open up my life any day! Laffs ensue and even Hope’s one liners manage to amuse (as long as he’s not zinging them to Joey Heatherton for Our Boys In Green, we’re all pleased). Has Paula going platinum, Hope changing a diaper (NO BOB NOT ON HIS HEAD — OH NO!) and a hoochie-coo hula from Lana to recommend it.
Bank Dick, The 1940 **** dir: Eddie Cline cast: WC Fields, Cora Witherspoon, Una Merkel, Evelyn Del Rio, Jessie Ralph, Grady Sutton, Franklin Pangborn, Shemp Howard, Russell Hicks, Reed Hadley For all the uninitiated with visions of a liquored-up curmudgeon trading barbs with unfunny wooden dummies and embarrassing, aging sexpots, this movie will give you a shocking jolt, because, in reality, WC Fields is a dynamically unhinged muttering clown. Liquored-up, though. This movie about a dynamically unhinged muttering clown taking credit for thwarting a robbery, getting the prize job as bank detective, and taking a strange, inexplicable detour into film directing, only to return to that bank job, is hilarious, well-staged, and meticulously incoherent. And I don’t think it’s the booze talking.
Beach Ball 1965 ** dir: Lennie Weintraub cast: Edd Kookie Byrnes, Aron Kincaid, Chris Noel, Gail Gilmore, The Supremes, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons Rock and roll band need to keep their instruments out of hock, so try to scam Byrnes’ alma mater credit union, which sends four wallflower chicks undercover as groovy groupies when they realize the swindle. This means they throw off the glasses and paint on some bikinis. As you might have already guessed, it all spirals toward the band dragging it up at the car show finale, if you know what I mean. I’m talking wigs, not jalopies. Wouldn’t dealing heroin like any other musician be easier?
Beach Blanket Bingo 1695 **** dir: William Asher cast: Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Paul Lynde, Harvey Lembeck, Don Rickles, Linda Evans, Jody McCrea, Buster Keaton The most charming aspect of these AIP beach movies is the disgust and mistrust towards aging squares who constantly use teen values and rock & roll to make a quick dishonest buck with something prefabricated and false — like, say, Frankie Avalon. In this case, it’s the really really talented Linda Evans, four facelifts ago, being forced on the kids — and hey the kids dig her, even if they don’t like her smarmy business manager. Strangely subversive. Linda, of course, tries to tempt Frankie away from Annette but doesn’t seem to understand that Annette’s greatest appeal isn’t her breasts bu a decent sense of rhythm manifesting itself in WOW-O-WOW dance moves. Check out Buster Keaton in the end credits, merrily bopping past the sad end of his career.
Beach Girls and the Monster, The 1965 ** dir: Jon Hall cast: Jon Hall, Sue Casey, Walker Emiston, Arnold Lessing, Elaine DuPont, Read Morgan Three awkward, just-plain-gals clad in everyday bikinis twist and shimmy to a Frank Sinatra, Jr. surf song! Each girl competes for the camera’s attentions with some clunky gyrations no professional dancer could every reproduce. This is real dancing by real stumblebums, none of that fake, glitzy stuff! Later, there is a real life beach hootenanny, complete with silly silly sea monster sing-a-long and practical joke tomfoolery. It appears some one dropped by the joke shop prior to the shoot to add pizzaz to an already stunning scene by tossing in a few novelty gewgaws. The plot centers around step-parent squabbles, murders, marine biology, and a sea monster (in fact, one of those sea weed burdened sea monsters — sea weed is apparently the deep sea equivalent of cat hair — no amount of washing will get rid of it). Highlights include a nifty musical score at least partially written by Sinatra, Jr., and extra special full color 16mm footage of boys hot doggin’ the waves in Honolulu!
Beach Party 1963 **** dir: William Asher cast: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Bob Cummings, Dorothy Malone, Harvey Lembeck, Jody McCrea, John Ashley, Morey Amsterdam, Candy Johnson, Eva Six Frankie and his white slacks are just trying to get lucky with Annette in their summer beach rental, but everyone’s trying to stop him: all his surf pals, who have turned his love nest into a bawdy teen flophouse; Cummings, an anthropologist known as The Finger who is studying the tribal rituals of teens; Eva Six, the Teutonic temptress who has to do little more than just be Eva Six to cause trouble; Eric Von Zipper, aging burlesque rebel just itching for a rumble; Candy Johnson, disrupting everything with her sexless maniacal gyrations; and Annette, wishing that Frankie would think of her as a wife and not a girl. He’s trying to, Annette, he’s really trying to. If she really wanted to be thought of as a wife, she’d try to ruin some of his fun and drag him out Morey Amsterdam’s beatnik surf club, white slacks kicking and flailing. That place is trouble. I mean, Dick Dale’s hanging out, doing nothing but being a crazy freak! If she wants to be thought of as a wife, she’d just keep him away from the friggin’ beach altogether! Worth it for Bob Cummings’ hat.
Big Mouth, The 1967 ** dir: Jerry Lewis cast: Jerry Lewis, Harold Stone, Susan Bay, Buddy Lester, Del Moore Weird flick further explores Jerry’s obsession with duality — like anyone cares. Why can’t he just be funny? That’s his job! Watching this is like being a psychiatrist, but for far less money! Jerry’s moron character is mistaken for a mobster and must disguise himself as the Nutty Professor, all the while wooing a chick who looks like the kind of gal who could only find work in late 60’s Jerry Lewis Films and maybe some tv work, on Adam 12 or such. Includes a psycho-sexual martini scene, a kabuki chase scene in Sea World, a man bisected by a fish, and Charlie Callas, yes, Charlie Callas letting loose squeaks and honks. If you sit through only one Jerry movie purely in the interest of science, this one could fire your bunsen burner.
Blood of Dracula 1957 *** dir: Herbert L Strock cast: Sandra Harrison, Gail Ganley, Jerry Blaine, Louise Lewis No one named Dracula in this. Instead, misunderstood teen is sent to boarding school by her father and new evil stepmother, where she engages in teen melodrama until she becomes a guinea pig for a bitter lady science teacher. It seems the teacher has been trying to get her Ph.D but the male-dominated atomic science field has been rejecting her thesis. Well, she could teach those stupid stupid males a thing or two, like, for instance, that instead of bothering with that mass destructive atomic junk, why not just use science to unleash the vampire monsters within! Instead of dropping bombs, you could turn people into weapons — blood sucking weapons! Still, they dismiss her theories all because she’s a woman! Our heroine ends up transformed into Eddie Munster and goes on a killing spree. Features the snappy little song “Puppy Love,” performed by a creepy guy named Tab with the world’s most disturbing warble. Since all the full body shots in this movie look like the camera is anchored at 3 feet off the ground, I safely assume that the cameraman was a midget, or just very, very tired.
Boeing Boeing 1965 **** dir: John Rich cast: Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Thelma Ritter Curtis’ Parisian bachelor pad comes equipped with the essentials — a handsome red home bar and maps, charts, timetables, and airline schedules that allow him to juggle his three stewardess — excuse me, airline hostess — fiancees. Curtis claims his international smorgasbord ( a German fraulein, a French madamoiselle, and a British miss) offers him the best parts of married life and spares him the worst, but since the fiancees eat smelly meats, constantly henpeck the poor cad, and pop in at inopportune moments, perhaps when another fiancee is bathing, he’s obviously blinded by all that blond. Besides, despite all his concern with scheduling, Curtis can’t provide the orderliness these girls demand. Not only do their jobs stress order, but so do their hairstyles and cute little work uniforms and, especially, their consistant attitudes and dietary concerns which make them walking manifestations of their respective national flags, only with charming little carry-on bags. The gorgeously manic Curtis should be relieved when old nemesis Lewis arrives with a scheme to commandeer the whole works, including the housekeeper and point man in the operation, Thelma Ritter, who juggles foods of varying nationalities and brassieres of varying cup sizes with fine comic aplomb. Meanwhile, Lewis is focused and smooth as he drinks and drinks and drinks his way through his first completely adult-oriented (and last enjoyable) movie, and uses his personal comraderie with Curtis to volley the zingers and the stewardesses — excuse me, airline hostesses — back and forth with precision intoxicated gusto. If only these two had such a ball in every movie they made! Miraculously, even the fiancees (particularly Christiane Schmidtmer as Curtis’ Teutonic, knockwurst loving liebling) are funny in roles that could have been and often were consigned to the worst bimbos of the Mighty Carson Art Players variety.
Bonjour Tristesse 1958 ** dir: Otto Preminger cast: Jean Seberg, David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Mylene Demongeot Once, a long long time ago in a much different world, someone had the grand idea that Jean Seberg should be an international movie star. “And why not?” you ask. “Bob Cummings was an international star and, after him, anyone should be allowed to!” Besides, Seberg has that raw uncorrupted style. That’s a fancy pants way of saying that she couldn’t act. And she was really really good at that. In this adaptation of nasty little novelist Francoise Sagan’s big big French best seller, Seberg flits about, overexcited that she gets to be in a movie with David Niven, much like a precocious 14 year flirting with a 30 year old, but with the added vocal bonus of sounding like one of those dubbed little kids in a Godzilla movie. The story concerns a playboy widower and his daughter vacationing in the Riviera, meandering through the fabulousness of the jet set life. Like all those crummy Europeans, with their castles in Denmark and dinner parties on the Loire!!! However, Kerr arrives to become the dominating and romantically attired step-mother, at which point things hop to a bit. But Preminger obviously went to the Riviera to lay on the beach, meet some fancy ladies, and play some craps, and if he managed to slip a movie in there, well all the better! I just hope he had more luck with the snake eyes. Mylene Demongeot wears a miraculously obscene helmet hat which should’ve set the tone for the movie yet, sadly, does not.
Boys Night Out 1962 *** dir: Michael Gordon cast: James Garner, Kim Novak, Tony Randall, Patti Page, Howard Morris, Howard Duff, Fred Clark, Jim Backus Three married squares ask their bored bachelor pal to procure the ultimate pad for wild weeknights away from their strict suburban wardens, er, wives. They hire Novak as their live-in plaything and unwittingly become part of her secret sociology thesis. Luckily for Novak, the only bachelor in the circle is handsome and charming and while Novak diverts the other’s encounters with her into sub-psychiatric sessions, she’s all smoochy with Garner. In many ways the boys seem as impressed by the pad as they are by Novak. Who can blame them? Novak is divine, but she’s lacking in huge wraparound yellow couches, flashy fully-stocked home bars, mirrors on the bedroom ceiling, fancy lamps with delightful silhouettes, knick-knacky little sculpturettes on every surface, and modern art from wall to wall! Playing out like a war of decor, the wardens, er, wives, don fancy frocks and splashy hats and the like, sad attempts to match the pad in dazzle, while Novak balks at the suggestions of designer Bill Thomas (Mad Mad World, Kiss Me Stupid, and a million Disney flicks) and fashions her own wardrobe with graceful verve. Her simple and direct casual outfits stand in homey contrast to the glitzy pad and signal to Garner that Novak is a tasteful post worth getting hitched to! Fueled by “ti many martoonis,” passions explode into chaotic hilarity, as they so often do, complete with the fabulous Fred Clark as a snapshot hungry gumshoe and a tambourine-wielding, evangelical snoop, who makes the very righteous suggestion that these characters really need to repent. Summed up by Jim Backus, as the realtor: “I would die before I allowed my tenants to stack their wines vertically.”
Brain, The 1969 • dir: Gerard Oury cast: David Niven, Jean Paul Belmondo, Bourvil, Eli Wallach, Silvia Monti Following a far out, groovy title sequence, Niven plays an international criminal with a really really really big brain. He shakes his head and makes clunking sounds when he has a brilliant idea and hangs out with Jean Paul Belmondo and some Italian chick in a leather bikini. Of course, neither of these qualifies as very good ideas, nor does actually acting in this, so there technically shouldn’t be a lot of clunking about. I don’t even know what this is.
Brass Bottle, The 1964 ** dir: Harvey Keller cast: Tony Randall, Burl Ives, Barbara Eden, Edward Andrews, Ann Doran Not very good without actually ever being distinctly bad. Randall is a former Paris bohemian turned architect about to wed Eden when he comes into ownership of Ives, a genie. Ives keeps complicating Randall’s life, but never sparks the madcap joie de vive of Eden’s later TV series. The assertion by Randall that anything a genie could do for a modern master would tip off the police or the feds or the IRS would’ve been a good springboard to a great genie caper movie that I would now be raving about, but. alas, I did not produce this film so can’t make such decisions in regard to it. Thankfully Randall has a beatnik sculptor houseguest (he looks about 50) and his leotard-clad blond lady friend, who has a delivery and sashay that implies producer’s girlfriend (which I suppose is another impetus to have produced this number) and also leads one to speculate on her possible future as one of The Mighty Carson Art Players. Can she help it if she stole the show?
Breakfast At Tiffany’s 1961 **** dir: Blake Edwards cast: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Mickey Rooney, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam Rooney’s portrayal of a buck-toothed, thick-lensed Chinese fellow is at least proof of three things. One, we are far, far away from the 50’s when it comes to screen portrayals of other races. Two, the 90’s cocktail movement is more than willing to shuffle some unfortunately commonplace misogyny under the carpet when it upsets the pristine cool of their icons. And, three, with the fluke of It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World aside, Rooney is just perfectly dreadful, isn’t he? This tale of a charming urban party girl being portrayed by a charming international star is predictably charming. Watch Holly Golightly as she sashays through hepster parties, confides in kept men, comforts mob bosses, escapes her secret hillbilly background, spars with offensively-portrayed Oriental neighbors, and makes New York City her madcap playground. Quel charming! She’s really the forerunner to That Fabulous Girl — everyone knows one, she’s got a lunchbox for a purse, wears Doris Day dresses and sneakers, is full of herself, simply simply too too, and you think she’s a clod. Except it works when Audrey Hepburn is doing it. Under the guidance of Blake Edwards, Truman Capote’s funny, poetic tale of self-destruction is transformed into a Jacqueline Susann wacky 60’s comedy, complete with tacked-on happy ending and anchored by a great Mancini score and a sweet Mercer lyric. Silly fun, Rooney notwithstanding.
Cactus Flower 1969 *** dir: Gene Saks cast: Ingrid Bergman, Walter Matthau, Goldie Hawn, Jack Weston, Rick Lenz, Vito Scotti, Irene Hervey Dentist Matthau prefers company of goofy, turtle-faced Goldie to Ingrid Bergman. Ingrid intends to change his mind. Like Ingrid ever had a problem. Especially with Goldie Hawn. Do you think she also had issues with Joanne Worley or Judy Carne? When you consider this diversion is typical of the kind of movie Ingrid made after leaving Italy and Neo-Realist God Roberto Rossellini, it could get you down. But try not to think about that and concentrate on Ingrid doing a groovy dance in a way out club and just pardon her bippy.
Can Can 1960 *** dir: Walter Lang cast: Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Juliet Prowse One of the first old-fashioned, over-long Sixties musicals tells the tale of that scandalous dance which captivated prudes everywhere, though somehow, by the end, gets it confused with strange, conceptual ballet. There’s little in the way of good outfits and alot in the way of “Paris is the city of love” dialogue. And Shirley sings.
Cannonball Run II 1984 • dir: Hal Needham cast: Burt Reynolds, Dom Deluise, Shirley MacLaine, Marilu Henner, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Susan Anton, Catharine Bach, Ricardo Montalban, Jim Nabors, Charles Nelson Reilly, Telly Savalas, Jamie Farr, Jack Elam, Frank Sinatra, Jilly Rizzo Mostly of note for the so-called Rat Pack Reunion and Sinatra’s extremely glorified phoned-in cameo, which is where he must have gotten the bright idea for Duets. He never bothered to film with the rest of the cast, they just stuck him in there. But who could blame him? Would you show up at that set? Burt trying to be charming, Sammy slobbering all over you, and, of course, Charles Nelson Reilly hitting on you? It seems just like old times, though, as Sinatra uses his pull to get beloved bartender Jilly his first movie role surely since The Manchurian Candidate. Also features Shirley in hot pants that oughtta’ be cooled way down and the wildest car chase finale ever to be cheaply animated on a cartoon roadmap because you couldn’t really be bothered to finish the movie. And what a cast! Glad to see someone gave Susan Anton work as of 1984. Come on, Woody Allen — where’s a juicy part for the original Golden Girl?
Caprice 1967 • dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Doris Day, Richard Harris, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen Industrial espionage movie that appears to involve roll-on antiperspirant, segues into glamor wigs, and finally settles into waterproof hairspray. The real pins and needles, though, revolve Doris’ taste in hats and outfits and its increasingly rapid descent into the fiery void. She never should have gone mod. Why Ray Walston would waste one of his few good performances on this is the other bit of intrigue.
Career 1959 *** dir: Joseph Anthony cast: Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Tony Franciosa, Carolyn Jones, Joan Blackman, Donna Douglas, Robert Middleton You can find yourself searching far and wide when you pose the question “Isn’t there a major role for Tony Franciosa where he is both well-cast and strangely un-irritating?” Stop the quest! At least for half that wish. Here, Tony is well-cast, though still irritating. But that’s the ironic nature of the perfect Tony Franciosa role — it must be irritating to be true to the Tony Franciosaness of Tony Franciosa. That is at the core! In this, Franciosa plays a grating actor who has to learn the hard way that when you are a creative fellow, the drive must be about the work, not about the fame and the money. Point well taken! Tony gets mixed up with Off Broadway bohemian Dean Martin (mysteriously great) and slumming drunk rich girl Shirley MacLaine, whose raucous performance is accented by some wicked dialogue and commands your attention, as well as cute, lonely gal theatrical agent Carolyn Jones. Great melodrama!
Change Of Habit 1969 ** dir: Albert S. Rogell cast: Elvis Presley, Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara McNair, Jane Elliot, Ed Asner Any movie with Elvis as a rock and roll doctor in the barrio who uses rape humor to charm a nun played by Mary Tyler Moore has got to be . . . not quite as good as it sounds. Strange socially conscious Elvis flick has the King tackling those problems that are brought forth by the mean streets. You’ll marvel as the King single-handedly cures a young autistic girl with some tough love and, then, wait endlessly for him to pull the fish and loaves razzamatazz! Features nuns in mini-skirts, preening for would-be rapists to help them with the heavy lifting, and crazed knife-wielding Latinos. Muy progresivo.
Cinderfella 1960 *** dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Jerry Lewis, Ed Wynn, Judith Anderson, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Henry Silva, Count Basie This reversed-to-male version of Cinderella misses one point — Cinderella was supposedly beautiful and did not resemble Jerry Lewis in the slightest. Jerry was very probably lucky with the ladies back then, but we don’t attribute that to his good looks, no, no. We attribute that to his humanitarian efforts. Nothing the ladies like more than the scent of giving and giving. This is a funny little movie that features Jerry making one of the coolest entrances ever on a giant, humongous staircase, then breaking into an amusing ballroom dance accompanied by Basie. The story is the Cinderella line, but with a great performance by Henry Silva, just to shake it up a little.
Clambake 1967 *** dir: Arthur Nadel cast: Elvis Presley, Shelly Fabares, Bill Bixby, Will Hutchins, James Gregory Elvis is always a cool cool man of action in his movies, but in this he’s The Uber Elvis — a humble millionaire who is also a brilliant engineer who has discovered an indestructible substance called “Goop” which he plans to utilize for his great love championship speedboat racing all the while living as a “common man” earning his own way and working hard at a hotel as a skiing instructor and still finding some time to knock out rockin’ Elvis tunes in the hotel nightclub. Whew! Even I felt overextended after this one! Still, relaxation comes thanks to a luau with Elvis and Hollywood’s Homeliest Starlets in a performance of the title song, the only mention of a clambake in the entire picture — and it isn’t even sung at a clambake!!! Honestly, though, any movie where a smitten gal has a tough time choosing between The King or Bill Bixby is certainly worth a viewing. Elvis crony Joe Esposito is featured as “Mike.”
Clowns, The 1971 **** dir: Federico Fellini cast: Federico Fellini, Mayo Morin, Lima Alberti, Alvaro Vitali, Gasparmo Faux documentary has Fellini cutting himself down to size, while simultaneously elevating himself a little further, by traveling around with a bickering camera crew to study and film legendary Italian clowns, who brag, nitpick, and snap. Truly giddy and silly, and very loving, the film features a nightmarishly amusing inferno of clowns finale, similar to the end of 8 1/2, wherein the objects of Fellini’s lust take over the screen and the Artist himself. Also has a curious cameo by the flamboyant and large Anita Ekberg. Sure, Fellini’s a little weird, but Anita, she’s crazy.
Cobweb, The 1955 *** dir: Vincente Minnelli cast: Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Gloria Grahame, Charles Boyer, Lillian Gish, John Kerr, Susan Strasberg, Oscar Levant, Tommy Rettig, Paul Stewart, Adele Jergens Thanks to Vincente Minnelli (that’s Vincent With An E!) you can rest assured that the state of mental well being can be boiled down to an aesthetic issue. Here that issue is a battle over curtains for some common area in an asylum and which design will ultimately hang. Such an obviously highly charged issue as drape patterns cause passion and regret and betrayal, it will ruin careers, incite illicit embraces, send some to the brink of insanity, some to the very doorway of death! It will tear these hallowed halls in two, like curtains parted to invite in the early morning sunshine! These, indeed, are the Dreaded Drapes of Doom!!! However, there just aren’t many close-ups of the drapes, so it’s hard for the viewer to decide whether he or she prefers the doctor’s wife’s ritzy special order curtains or the ones designed by the patients for therapy purposes. Who can tell? Furthermore, there are mysteriously fewer close-ups of the divine Ms. Bacall and, as fancy as the curtains get, Bacall’s outfits fail to dazzle. Shame on you, Vincent With An E! Widmark does well in a role that seems like it was written for Sinatra, if he could fit in a fifth movie for 1955.
Come Fly With Me 1963 *** dir: Henry Levin cast: Hugh O’Brian, Pamela Tiffin, Dolores Hart, Karl Boehm, Lois Nettleton, Karl Malden Just in case you think stewardesses are all cosmopolitan glitz, tune in here and watch our gals sit around, smoke, and grimace in some of the most glamorous and romantic cities in the Old World!!! When romance does arrive, it’s in the frame of Karl Malden (a different sort of romantic lead, even by Mrs. Malden’s standards) as an obsessive hick millionaire who goes on one date with a gal, proceeds to stalk her across the continent until he corners her on a chartered jumbo jet and she finally gives in and just marries the guy out of exhaustion. Or that Teutonic Howdy Doody Boehm pulling future Bride of Christ Hart into all sorts of international smuggling intrigue, while still finding time for a deft exhibition of water skiing technique. Best to just lay around the dank room and keep your nose clean!!! The lifestyle may not make any gals want to sign up — but the cute little uniforms will!
Confidentially Connie 1953 *** dir: Edward Buzzell cast: Janet Leigh, Van Johnson, Louis Calhern, Walter Slezak, Gene Lockhart Could be a camp classic at vegetarian conventions if such things exist. And they could, since Americans have a great capacity for turning anything into a geeky fetish. Pregnant Leigh (about three months and still looks like a stick of DYNAMITE!) wants meat in an almost primal way, but can’t afford it on Johnson’s college teacher salary!!! Maybe if she went without some of her fancy dresses that are obviously soaking up all the budget! Thankfully, she sees the worth in sacrifice, promising to give up smoking so she can afford lamb chops! Johnson thinks that’s ridiculous and impossible and describes her obgyn office like a poker table for ladies with protruding bellies. As it turns out, and your really couldn’t have imagined this seeing as he sounds as if he were from up North (say, Newport, RI, birthplace of Mr Van Johnson), but Johnson is actually the estranged son of a Texas millionaire cattle rancher who has rejected that life in order to teach poetry to lunkheads in 50’s Hollywood light comedies. When dad shows up unexpectedly at their college teacher hovel (which looked mighty roomy to a city dweller, even though it’s cluttered up with inexplicable, neatly bound parcels carefully placed everywhere and obviously empty, since they are so easily removed by the pregnant and fancy Leigh) the plot finally spins out of control as he tries to coerce meat onto the family table, secretly stop his son’s promotion (which would ironically allow him to afford meat — from cattle — from a ranch — thus bringing his life is full circle), set off a frantic butcher price war, and learn a valuable lesson about the importance of poetry to lunkheads who attend college in 50’s Hollywood light comedies, not to even mention the rest of us out here. As much as you might find yourself actually liking this movie, when all is said and done, you still won’t fathom why such a cute lady as Janet Leigh would allow yet another perfectly awful do on her head.
Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, A 1949 • dir: Tay Garnett cast: Bing Crosby, Rhonda Fleming, William Bendix, Cedric Hardwicke Well, sure, if your idea of top notch entertainment is watching Bing saunter around Camelot calling medieval knights “skinny” and “bub,” voila!
Courtship of Eddie’s Father 1963 **** dir: Vicente Minnelli cast: Glenn Ford, Ronny Howard, Jerry Van Dyke, Shirley Jones, Dina Merrill, Stella Stevens Recent widower Ford struggles to raise son Howard to the best of his Fifties guy abilities in this examination of the struggles of single parenthood. In the hands of Vincente Minnelli, such a tender subject becomes an exercise in interior decorating, particularly the gratuitous use of the color orange. There are orange breakfast nooks, orange cabinets, orange outfits, orange sodas, orange fish, and even orange hair on a couple of the stars. Orange is the world’s least worn color and Minnelli, the apparent Father of Color Therapy, wants to rectify that. Before you drift into a heady analysis of Minnelli’s brilliant color coding (he’s as meticulous as Peter Greenaway, just without so many naked fat guys filling the frame), you can follow the plot in which Ford woos fancy lady while son prefers the terribly cute nurse next door and proves his case by giving his father a lecture on breasts and their relationship to evil. Howard is so adorable that the typical Minnellian arm flailing and histrionic sobbing makes you rather misty, though the sight of Stella Stevens performing a delightfully vacuous drum solo in a beatnik club will at least make you well up in a different way. It’s nice that the kids of 1963 had a movie that would help them deal with the loss of a parent and guide them through tasteful use of color!
Cracking Up 1984 * dir: Jerry Lewis cast: Jerry Lewis, Herb Edelman, Zane Buzby, Dick Butkus, Sammy Davis Jr, Foster Brooks, Buddy Lester Apparently Percodan-induced brouhaha makes no sense whatsoever. Jerry doesn’t even bother getting into character — you know, a klutzy nebbish — and wanders around in his golf clothes, pinkie ring, and slicked back coif with an assurance that he’s so damn funny that he doesn’t even have to be funny to be funny! Hey, even Sid Caesar has to be funny! This psychiatric comedy is a whole lot more psychiatric than comedy and has something to do with Berle in a dress.
Creature From The Haunted Sea 1961 **** dir: Roger Corman cast: Anthony Carbone, Betsey Jones-Moreland, Edward Wain, ER Alvarez, Robert Bean Super secret spy Sparks Moran infiltrates Renzo Capeto’s criminal gang — typically made up of a compulsive dice-throwing pin-up girl gun moll, a doofusy hillbilly type, and a guy who speaks only in dubbed animal yelps. The gang is helping some Cubanesque generals escape their revolution-laden island with the national treasury and a gang of perpetually dancing locals. Capetos plan: kill the dancing locals, blame it on a sea monster, and make off with the treasury. But Capeto has several obstacles to his plan. One, the derring international do of top spymaster Sparks Moran and radio made of simulated hot dogs and pickles! Two, native girls who know tourist suckers when they spot them. And, three, a real sea monster is stalking the oceans and the dancing locals — AND HE HAS THE DREADED TENNIS BALLS FOR EYES!!!! One of those stupid movies that knows exactly how stupid it is and harnesses that knowledge as a strength. A deserved classic!
Creeping Unknown, The 1956 **** dir: Val Guest cast: Brian Donleavy, Margia Dean, Jack Warner, Richard Wordsworth Donleavy pushes people around, ignores their fears, points his finger and insists, and all sorts of other pushy Americanisms as he struggles to save England from an oogly monster from outer space with a giant pineapple for a hand. And, despite that description, it’s business as usual for this entry in the Quatermass series, which is beyond superior, beyond super cool.
Dark Horse, The 1932 *** dir: Alfred E. Green cast: Warren William, Betty Davis, Guy Kibbee, Vivian Osborne Political party reaches an impasse with nominations and finds itself with a big old goofball without shoes running for governor and a slick crook campaign manager steering the victory. Manages to be amusing and also baffling in its up-to-date criticisms of modern politics — still, it’s crying out for William Powell. Davis’ small role is handled much like a 5 inch person projecting so you realize how big, big, big she really is
Delicate Delinquint, The 1957 *** dir: Don McGuire cast: Jerry Lewis, Darren McGavin, Martha Hyer, Horace McMahon, Milton Frome Originally meant to be a Dean and Jerry comedy, Dino wisely broke up the act when he found out he would have to play a cop. His replacement Darren McGavin is certainly an actor who has had some very fine moments, this moment contains his portrayal of policeman-as-block-of-wood. Makes you wish he and Lewis had become a real comedy team, complete with late night Vegas improvs! The story involves the big brother relationship between a cop and a juvenile delinquint and, while all very harmless, the only good scene has Jerry goofing it up with a theremin, thus choking more laughs out of an inanimate object than out of Darren McGavin. Sill, a million times better than Dean’s solo debut, Ten Thousand Bedrooms.
Designing Woman 1957 **** dir: Vincente Minnelli cast: Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Gray, Sam Levene, Mickey Shaughnessy, Chuck Connors, Ed Platt, Jack Cole Amusing comedy features Peck as a likable, befuddled, regular guy sportswriter and Bacall as an uptown, fashion designer, full of “ever so’s” and “simply divines.” They meet, fall in love, and get married in a matter of movie minutes. As the formula goes, cultures clash in this handsomely decorated movie — it is, after all, directed by Vincente Minnelli and he can’t shoot a simple, tasteful room on purpose. Just check out Bacall’s door knobs (the ones in her apartment, I’m talking about) or Dolores Gray’s strange, cool single gal flat which looks like a depressed film designer moved in and never left. To make the whole thing look even better, Bacall, full of long-armed glamour, wears a thousand outfits and looks stunning in each one. Studios spend millions on special effects these days, but one tasteful gown and a well-placed coffee table is worth a million digital enhancements. Also features an outstanding performance by a giant poodle and an amazingly funny Broadway Choreographer Guy, who dances, fights, and makes snippy proclamations.
Detective, The 1968 *** dir: Gordon Douglas cast: Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick, Ralph Meeker, Jacqueline Bisset, William Windom, Al Freeman, Tony Musante, Jack Klugman, Robert Duvall If you’re of the faction that hangs on Lee Remick’s every word and underwear scene, then you’ll like half this movie. All three of you. For the rest of us, the other half is an interesting, though humdrumingly directed, mystery with Sinatra in super-brooding mode investigating the murder of a gay man, which plunges him into a seedy world of homophobia, political corruption, and lost integrity. Quel intense! It all has the feel of a demented Dragnet — it’s curious that Sinatra avoided landing an NBC Sunday Mystery Movie character after this workout.
Devil At Four O’Clock 1961 ** dir: Mervyn LeRoy cast: Frank Sinatra, Spencer Tracy, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Barbara Luna At first a weepy tale of an ousted aging priest, once the volcano eruptsand allows Sinatra to save a hospital of leper kids and woo some cute young blind chick, things pick up.
Disorderly Orderly, The 1964 ** dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Jerry Lewis, Susan Oliver, Glenda Farrell, Everett Sloane, Jack E. Leonard, Milton Frome Disorderly Director, more like. This movie changes gears so often — from comedy to melodrama and on and on — you’d swear it was the product of a drug abuse like, say, a Percodan addiction. It’s about an orderly who is quite surprisingly disorderly when it comes to his work. One of those movies that has a protracted chase scene involving a runaway stretcher, plus the gratuitous “I got one of my famous buddies to sing a silly theme song” theme song by Sammy Davis, Jr.
Doctor Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine 1965 **** dir: Norman Taurog cast: Vincent Price, Susan Hart, Dwayne Hickman, Frankie Avalon, Fred Clark, Annette Funicello, Harvey Lembeck, Aron Kincaid, China Lee, Deborah Walley Ambling on for a good half hour or so, it seems as though you are being fooled into thinking there’s a plot — it seems to have something to do with robot girls in gold bikinis latching onto millionaires under the direction of an evil man in gaudy dinner jackets, but there is no real evidence the rest of the movie will have much to do with this. It seems much more concerned with Avalon trying to woo girls with cheese sandwich lunches, Hart vocally elongating into some not-quite-pinpointable accents, and Price ranting in a dastardly fashion about his murderous opera glasses. By the time you’ve been convinced there is a story, you find it ponderous that Price would waste so much lively climactic car chase action footage on two goofballs like Avalon and Hickman. What did they have that he could possibly want? That cat is mad! With great music and the immortal screen line “I put great store in fresh fruit, gentlemen — I have these specially grown for me in far flung places.”
Don’t Make Waves 1967 • dir: Alexander Mackendrick cast: Tony Curtis, Claudia Cardinale, Sharon Tate, Robert Webber, Mort Sahl, Jim Backus, Edgar Bergen So, anyway, at the end of the movie, all the appropriate couples have re-coupled even though Curtis’ cliffside dreamhouse has fallen half way down the cliff. The vigorous motions of he and Cardinale’s love making will send it spilling the rest of the way. I tell you this so you can sensibly turn off the movie if you think you want to give it a chance after Jim Backus and his wife (playing themselves) buy a pool. Or perhaps you’ll get as far as Edgar Bergen, the best performance in the movie, as a rather odd gentlemen. Or, God forbid, you might get as far as the lewd montage of Sharon Tate on the trampoline. I just figure that maybe the knowledge of how it’s all going to end up might make changing the channel a little easier on the finger.
Don’t Raise The Bridge, Lower The River 1968 * dir: Jerry Paris cast: Jerry Lewis, Terry-Thomas, Jacqueline Pearce, Bernard Cribbins, Patricia Routledge Highly unfunny, but if you’re one of those who’ve always wanted to see a film where Jerry Lewis ran a Chinese restaurant-au-go-go, you’re in big, big luck. Jerry tries to woo back his Annie Lennox-esque, Carnaby Street chic wife with tiresome results. Of course, it does have a lot of humor revolving around Portugal, which is different, if not actually amusing.
Double Trouble 1967 ** dir: Norman Taurog cast: Elvis Presley, Annette Day, John Williams The King’s Lolita. Elvis becomes painfully attached at the hip to an obsessive, homely British teen heiress who drags him into international intrigue, which spirals out control in romantic Antwerp, surely the most exotic of Elvis’ movie locales. During a carnival scene with large papier mache heads and hooligans decked out like the Three Musketeers, Elvis proclaims a very little girl to be his favorite of his International Smorgasbord of Ladies, rather than the homely Brit. True love is earmarked by spilling beverages on each other’s rear ends — Mrs. Taurog must have had some kind of courtship! Has a groovy title sequence with a way-out instrumental version of the title song.
Egg And I 1947 ** dir: Chester Erskine cast: Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray, Marjorie Main, Louise Allbritton, Percy Kilbride, Richard Long, Donald MacBride, Samuel S Hinds Hollywood smugness isn’t anything new, it’s been going on for decades — they like to prove that they know better than the original author by adapting books and then smiling with self-satisfaction as their inferior screen version supplants the source material as the Official Version. Check out anything that Disney has ever produced. Or check out this movie. The basic plot — fancy gal marries chicken farmer wannabe — was turned into the riotously funny page turner by Betty MacDonald. The book is perceptive, witty, and fairly bawdy. This screen version manages to get some parts right, but ignores other parts in order to impose the obligatory unnatural clean sheen and, also, to add typical by-the-number Hollywood cliched inanities which weren’t in the book, like a fancy vile temptress, a marital break-up, and a poor hillbilly boy who wants to go to college. While Claudette Colbert is very good, the role seems meant for Carole Lombard — after all, MacDonald’s character is supposed to have the chutzpah to help maintain and manage a chicken farm! I can’t even see Claudette Colbert applying her own make-up! Strangely, though, the movie gets it dead on target with Ma and Pa Kettle, who light up the screen whenever they are on, particularly Marjorie Main as Ma. They add a lively sense of unpredictable coarseness that this movie desperately needs and it’s no wonder that they, and not Colbert and MacMurray, inspired about three trillion follow-up movies, where they have adventures in Hawaii and such.
Eight And A Half — 8 1/2 1963 **** dir: Federico Fellini cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee, Sandra Milo, Barbara Steele, Rossella Falk Mastroianni is a smooth mover of a film director who takes refuge in a sanitarium to prepare for his next film. Unfortunately, his wife, his mistress, his film associates, and all his old female demons lurk around to create good old emotional conflict, wherein art and wackiness ensue. Fellini is that rare auteur who gives his films not only a stunning level of visual grace and a complex literary depth to his humorous pathos, but he also dresses his gals to the gills. Funky little dresses, slim and imposing pumps, and untamed coifs hold Mastroianni under their stylish domination. Fellini should’ve done Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
Enemy From Space 1957 **** dir: Val Guest cast: Brian Donlevy, Michael Ripper, Sidney James Got an experimental food reprocessing plant with armed zombie guards harboring exploding meteorites and dangerous ooze? Get Quatermass on it! He’s pushy and he ambles through this artfully grainy 50’s England-via-The-Avengers world miffed that these aliens keep upsetting his plans for moon colonization! And he just finished the mock-up! The decade later followup (50 Million Years to Earth) is as superior to every other movie ever made as this one is.
Executive Suite 1954 *** dir: Robert Wise cast: William Holden, June Allyson, Barbara Stanwyck, Frederic March, Walter Pidgeon, Louis Calhern, Shelly Winters, Nina Foch Heads will roll in the name of sturdy dining room chairs! Careers will teeter on the same edge as the quality of tables! Tempers ignite over furniture sales techniques! Boozing, infidelity, and underhandedness abound! William Holden destroys a flimsy chair and demands that quality and design make a comeback! Is this all a parallel for the film industry? I dunno, but I do know that home furnishings is one cut throat industry. Watch your ass, Ethan Allen!
Family Jewels 1965 * dir: Jerry Lewis cast: Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis, Donna Butterworth, Sebastian Cabot, Milton Frome A new low in Jerry’s insistence that he must bond with children. Stick to mobsters, pal, stick to mobsters! Annoying orphan must choose her new guardian from a cacophony of uncles — six of them, all played by Jerry — while being shuttled around by her well-meaning chauffeur in Beatle boots, also played by Jerry. Other than the fact that the Nutty Professor pops up as a smutty girlie photographer, there’s no compulsion to sit through this, especially considering the sleazy and regrettable double entendre title attached to a film about a girl trying to find a daddy.
Follow That Dream 1962 ** dir: Gordon Douglas cast: Elvis Presley, Arthur O’Connell, Anna Helm, Simon Oakland Florida homesteaders open a pretty successful fishing supply business, but the banks and the government still want to close them down for the land! They’ll even send a dishy vamp to do the dirty work! Elvis is in a role that’s pure Fabian.
Follow The Boys 1963 * dir: Richard Thorpe cast: Connie Francis, Paula Prentiss, Janis Paige, Russ Tamblyn, Ron Randell, Dany Robin Everyone has an advocate these days — every cause, disability, nationality, and on and on. But who’s going to champion Connie Francis — Hollywood Movie Star? When you’re done with your disease of the week, Mr. I Really Care, I think poor downtrodden Connie could use a little help. She’s short and lively, though saddled with an older lady’s puss. She’s a singer of grand chutzpah and talent, but her romantic leads are always doofuses. She a charming little shimmying chanteuse who is forced to sing almost nothing but bland ballads in this movie, so there’s little in the way of fancy footwork. And, most alarmingly, she’s the top billed star who mysteriously barely appears in this movie, being relegated to the comic relief plot. Help! Connie’s acting career is drowning! The story is pure suds, involving Navy wives and girlfriends chasing their fellows around the Mediterranean from port to port, but it is sadly lacking in two qualities we frankly refer to as Gig Young and Jim Hutton. Instead you get weirdo freaks like Tamblyn, whose qualification was probably that he was the only available actor tall enough to realistically woo Paula without tin cans on his creepy little feet. I could have made a better Connie Francis and Paula Prentiss travel the Mediterranean movie with my head on backwards and Tony Franciosa as a co-star!
Fun In Acapulco 1963 ** dir: Richard Thorpe cast: Elvis Presley, Ursula Andress, Elsa Cardenas, Paul Lukas, Larry Domasin, Alejandro Rey Most Elvis movies tend to choose locations with the lush sense of the exotic — or, at least, Florida if Col. Tom is having difficulty traveling too far — but in this one, Elvis glides through dumpy Mexican neighborhoods. They didn’t even try to fancy it up. No mystery that for most of the movie he stays resort bound, being a rival in romances involving Andress and some lady bullfighter with a swarthy cliff diver. Cliff diving is tough for Elvis, you see — he is an ex-trapeze artist and now afraid of heights. Features a great Latined-up soundtrack and Andress’ highly unusual chassis. Features Elvis crony Red West as “Poolside Guest.”
Gay Bride, The 1934 *** dir: Jack Conway cast: Carole Lombard, Zasu Pitts, Chester Morris, Leo Carillo, Nat Pendleton Lombard stomps through the hearts of some gangsters, armed with bitchy innocence, gets a big big car out of it, and, eventually, some down-to-earth self respect. Featuring funny gangsters! Nothing with Lombard is bad.
Geisha Boy, The 1958 ** dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Jerry Lewis, Suzanne Pleshette, Marie McDonald, Sessue Hayakawa More of Jerry’s bonding with kids yawners, this time as an inept magician who tours Japan and links up with a fatherless Japanese boy, while trying to escape the wrath of a hulking Japanese baseball player. The first fifteen minutes are hilarious, involving Jerry hiding his rabbit on the journey and slowly unraveling, in a few ways, a fabulous, self-important aging starlet. Soon, though, it wanders into the territory of so many bad Jerry Lewis films, where it all starts to appear that Jerry filmed this because he’d get some all expenses paid vacation out of the deal. Suzanne Pleshette has a brief monologue regarding her anger at Japanese women’s sex appeal. Apparently, in some alternate universe, young Suzanne Pleshette is regarded as a real plain jane.
Gentlemen Marry Brunettes 1955 ** dir: Richard Sale cast: Jane Russell, Jeanne Crain, Rudy Vallee, Alan Young, Scott Brady Baresabsolutely no resemblence to the Anita Loos book, which is a riotous tale of a nineteen-teens bad girl as told through the meandering mind and mouth of Lorelei Lee. Instead, this movie follows two showgirls, The Jones Sisters, on a European tour. Russell, mysteriously, plays the giant, enormous ditzy one who cannot rebuke gentlemen’s marriage proposals, which seems more Marilyn Monroe’s forte. What gives, Norma Jean was still kicking? The showgirls try to make it big under the tutelage of Rudy Vallee as Rudy Vallee. Features tittering flashbacks to the girls’ mother and aunt, the Original Jones Sisters, as they trample through their numbers with no enthusiasm and emitting painful warbles. That, of course, should have been the movie, since they weren’t actually bothering to use the delightful source material. Rudy Vallee is a hoot, as always, and obviously the center of much humor. I understand that’s not what everyone looks for in their entertainment these days.
Get Yourself A College Girl 1964 *** dir: Sidney Miller cast: Mary Ann Mobley, Chad Everett, Nancy Sinatra, Joan O’Brien, Chris Noel, Willard Waterman, Fabrizio Mioni, Dave Clark 5, Freddy Bell and the Bellboys, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Jimmy Smith, The Animals, The Standells Delightful propaganda film teaches teens the unlikely story that grown-ups are ginchy and you can trust a politician who can watusi! Horse radish! Mobley is a clandestine saucy pop song composer at a conservative all-girls college who drags the movie into too much plot at a ski resort. Why go to all the bother of writing a script when it’s just an excuse to film frugging female parts and the Animals stumbling through a lip synch in a marijuana haze, followed by a stunning succession of musical acts including Louis Prima — Keely Smith knock-offs and a lively young tap dancing Dixieland swing band in funny hats who are begging to be unearthed. Features equine Nancy Sinatra modeling a vast array of nighties and a groovy hip-shaking finale at the campaign-au-go-go headquarters of the watusi mad senator.
Ghost In The Invisible Bikini 1966 **** dir: Don Weis cast: Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley, Aron Kincaid, Quinn O’Hara, Nancy Sinatra, Claudia Martin, Harvey Lembeck, Jesse White, Susan Hart, Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Patsy Kelly, Francis X Bushman, Benny Rubin, Bobby Fuller 4 If you’re in the mood for something on the experimental side, drop the Bunuel videos and look no further. The filmmakers use a layering effect to create the most curious story structure ever, a work as singular and progressive as Breathless, but a lot more bearable. The main story, as filmed, involves a group of groovy teens and has-been British actors spending a night in a haunted mansion to collect an inheritance AND have a pool party with the Bobby Fuller 4. Not wanting to deprive the audience of their money’s worth of top drawer hi-jinks, further scenes were filmed and added in of AIP beach movie regulars Eric Von Zipper and the Rats traipsing around the mansion, apart from all the teen action, only to merge in the vauguest way at the end of the film. After this, the filmmakers take their greatest creative risk, walking that thin line between surrealism and incoherency by shooting and adding in even more footage, this time with Boris Karloff, as the dead man who owned the mansion and now cavorts with the title ghost. The ghost, a way-gone groovester in an invisible bikini, bops around swathed in an eerie blue light and makes goofy faces — and is shoddily superimposed over freeze frames from the already-filmed scenes of groovy teens and has-been British actors spending a night in a haunted mansion to collect an inheritance AND have a pool party with the Bobby Fuller 4. Ah the cyclical nature of art! Chaos can lead to extreme beauty, and this movie’s some kind of looker with alot to recommend it. For instance, each of the main gals has her own song and dance number, including a big nosed, flat chested Italian teeny bopper pop star whose management obviously signed something without a proper working knowledge of English. Also, Lembeck, as Eric Von Zipper, and the rest of the Rats have been at it for so long that they have their act fine tuned, transforming it into an artful schtick ballet, and upstaging everyone else, including the wooden, flat voiced, horse mouthed Sinatra chick, the Boozehound of the Baskervilles (why else would Rathbone be in this movie if not to support hefty Port Wine bills?), and Tommy Kirk, whose performance is such that the viewer is left with the impression that he is an optical illusion who isn’t actually there. Add to the fun a old guy wearing Buster Keaton’s Indian outfit from Pajama Party (wouldn’t want to waste that!) and a guy running around in a gorilla suit, and you’ve got a triumph of creative filmmaking.
Ghost Ship 1943 *** dir: Mark Robson cast: Richard Dix, Russell Wade, Edith Barrett, Ben Bard, Lawrence Tierney Third mate on creepy film noir boat (it only appears to sail at night) is convinced the skipper is killing off the crew. All told through the eyes of a brooding, cryptic, mute sailor! Mildly predictable, but, like any other Val Lewton production, so moody it could use a valium. Solid creepiness from the future director of Earthquake.
Giant Gila Monster 1959 * dir: Ray Kellog cast: Don Sullivan, Shug Fisher From the future director of The Green Berets. Giant lizard terrorizes Texas, but the poor characters have to deal with handicapped little sisters, burgeoning rock and roll careers, and lots and lots of automotive chat. They can barely tear themselves away from a second performance of “The Lord Said Laugh Children Laugh” to do battle with the vicious, lumbering lizard. And no gila (apparently pronounced “hila”) monster is quite as important as French girlfriends becoming wards of the state. Is that a common problem among the French? Regardless, there will be no states, much less wards of the state, if our can-do drag racing, rock and rolling, mechanic hero doesn’t shove a hot rod down the monster’s throat and quick! Inexplicably features good performances.
Gidget Goes Hawaiian 1961 ** dir: Paul Wendkos cast: Deborah Walley, James Darren, Michael Callan, Carl Reiner, Peggy Cass, Eddie Foy Jr That girl midget is heading for a Hawaiian vacation and, don’t you know, it’s simply upsetting for her, what with her break-up with Moondoggie and all that! The plot seems to be that Gidget’s teen-age self — involved whining ruins her parents vacation — they want to have martinis and fun with a couple of ex-vaudevillians. Unfortunately, they’re not able to shake this moping surfer girl! Not even flowery leis can brighten Gidget’s demeanor — only second rate Frankie Avalon Italian rock and roller James Darren and his goofy goofy little “Gidget” songs can do the trick! Along for the ride are a George Hamiltonesque dancer with a very silly production number, three Jim Huttons, and a fancy girl who does a lovely hula. Too long a blow, softened somewhat by Eddie Foy Jr.
Girl Happy 1965 *** dir: Boris Sagal cast: Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Mary Ann Mobley, Harold J Stone, Gary Crosby, Jody Baker, Nita Talbot, Jackie Coogan The mobsteresque Mr Frank hires Elvis and his rockin’ combo to head down to Fort Lauderdale to make sure his curiously coiffed daughter doesn’t get into any trouble — she’s already obviously dealt with a mischievous hairdresser, WHAT NEXT? Well, the prerequisite slumming Eurotrash millionaire wolf stalking the beach for girls who bought brand new bikinis for the big trip — the scourge to fathers everywhere. Back in the Sixties, if you had an innocent teen-age daughter, it was a law that George Hamilton had the constitutional right to show up at any moment and commence with the smooth tongue. Elvis gets all gussied up in those charming matador influenced fashions of his and falls in love with the daughter once she proves to be a very stiff and awkward dancer, totally unprepared for the monolith of The Clam, the most difficult dance I’ve ever witnessed. There’s no repetition to it, it just goes on and on and on. You’ll not catch me doing The Clam anytime soon — I get confused too easily. Features the immortal line “Not much upstairs but wotta’ staircase,” which is strangely neither uttered by or said in regard to The King. Crony Red West plays “Extra in Kit Kat Club.”
Girl Who Had Everything, The 1953 • dir: Richard Thorpe cast: Elizabeth Taylor, William Powell, Fernando Lamas, Gig Young Everything but the love of Fernando Lamas . . . and she’ll do something to correct that, thank God! Taylor woos lawyer dad’s criminal client and wears some awful frocks while doing so — frocks that are very lucky to have the likes of Taylor stretching the shape out of them. Powell, as expected, looks sharp.
Girls On The Beach 1965 ** dir: William Witney cast: Martin West, Noreen Corcoran, Peter Brooks, Arnold Lessing, Linda Marshall, Steve Rogers, Anna Capri, Aron Kincaid, Lana Wood, Lesley Gore, The Beach Boys, The Crickets, The Righteous Brothers Sorority den mother siphons off fund in a fit of do-gooderism and sorority gals scheme to earn the money back through a variety of very very likely plans. They use a sexpot sister to trick a guy with a super brain computer to solve a puzzle for prize money, a chemist sister to enter a baking contest and create the world’s yummiest lop-sided cake, and a gangly sister to win a beauty contest by belly dancing her way to victory. Most importantly, they meet some guys who say they know the Beatles, who they can get to headline a benefit for them. Now this may sound silly and these girls may sound like rubes, but seeing as one of their sorority sisters is Lesley Gore, why would it be unlikely that these eager young boys know the Beatles? If someone claimed to be Tommy Sands’ sister-in-law or Little Richard’s masseur, they’d have every reason to believe that, too! As the sixteen Beatle mad fans go into a frenzy at the delayed concert, the sorority gals very wisely send their belly dancing sister out on stage and her hypnotic swivels sate the teen-age girls and their Liverpudian lusts. Quick thinking!!! Features the dynamite classic “I Wanna’ Marry A Beatle.”
Going My Way 1944 *** dir: Leo McCrary cast: Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Rise Stevens, Frank McHugh, James Brown, Gene Lockhart, Jean Heather, Carl (Alfalfa) Switzer Much like an actual real life branch of the Catholic Church, this movie plays on my guilt, rendering me dumb before the ears of the Lord when it comes to even the slightest criticism of this movie. I guess that’s the power of Der Bingle. Though he’s probably not indicative of every Catholic’s priest experience, not actually being in the bosom of the Church, I’d make a bee line if I knew every little father were like Bing Crosby. Whether he’s glibly dragging the Parrish into the twentieth century , taking in a round of golf, or shaping a gang of juvenile delinquents into a choral group specializing in Van Heusen songs, Der Bingle is easy on the soul. Followed by a sequel, The Bells Of St Mary, with Ingrid Bergman as a nun, as if I needed another reason to be confirmed and quick!
Happy Anniversary 1959 *** dir: David Miller cast: David Niven, Mitzi Gaynor, Carl Reiner, Loring Smith, Monique Van Vooren, Patty Duke, Elizabeth Wilson Not that you’d want to see a movie where Niven and Gaynor are a happily married couple, this mild amuser with a few hilarious parts at least allows their marriage to crumble a bit so there’s actual comedy to be had. A parade of positively tight characters (including a 12 year old!) stumble around as Niven gets drunk and reveals a little too much in the way of intimate details of their marriage to Gaynor’s drunk and bellowing parents, while also having to deal with his drunk, playboy law partner and their drunk client. The marriage deteriorates, drunken paths criss cross, and ninety minutes move faster than you’d expect.
Hardly Working 1981 * dir: Jerry Lewis cast: Jerry Lewis, Susan Oliver, Harold J Stone, Buddy Lester Jerry’s big comeback about an out-of-work clown who can’t hold a job because WACKINESS IS ALWAYS THE PRECEDENT! More Percodan and pinkie ring acting. What really puts this over the edge and beyond the usual Jerry Lewis scope is the tendency to turn this into serious melodrama, with heartfelt family scenes and hard learned life lessons. You don’t want topical Jerry Lewis. You don’t want modern, topical, tackling hard issues Mr. Jerry Lewis. At least in Cracking Up, he threw in some funny noises. But unlike Cracking Up, here, you walk away with a closer understanding of that crazy blue thing we call the world.
Harum Scarum 1965 * dir: Gene Nelson cast: Elvis Presley, Mary Ann Mobley, Fran Jeffries, Michael Ansara, Billy Barty Your worst Elvis nightmare. Elvis is an actor who gets stranded in a backwards Middle Eastern country where Ali Baba and the forty thieves mentality still rule, so Israel never comes up. He meets thieves and orphans and Billy Barty and becomes embroiled in a sinister plot involving boredom and putting you to sleep and making you go grab a snack and going to the bathroom. Oh and a princess. Even Billy Barty can’t rescue this sinking ship.
Having A Wild Weekend * dir: John Boorman cast: Dave Clark Five, The Dave Clark Five, being wacky British guys, live in an old church and have those kind of days that wacky British guys have when they are members of a generation whose lives were slowly reduced to a series of absurd sight gags. They are stuntmen in their day job, and they work on an ad campaign for meat — “Meat For Go” — with the world famous Butcher Girl. Somehow — it’s unclear because the accents tend to be thick and they tend to speak in strict Brit teen slang that makes it even more indecipherable — Clark ends up on a cross country trek with the Butcher Girl to find her dream island, encountering beatniks and rich swingers, and being chased by the Five and the police. And Dave Clark’s so dreamy! It seems to be an advertising parody, but Doris Day did it better — and there’s only about three DC5 songs in it! Most of the music has really bad 60’s easy listening for a score!
High Cost of Loving 1958 *** dir: Jose Ferrer cast: Jose Ferrer, Gena Rowlands, Jim Backus, Edward Platt, Werner Klemperer, Richard Deacon Very under control cog-in-the-wheel thinks he’s getting laid off and is ready to blow sky high. Rowlands is cute as a button and drives a way-cool Volkswagen (if this is when she met Cassavettes, you completely get it, you know?). Richard Deacon plays a giddy doctor who is far too enthused by the rabbit test and deserves a thorough inquiry. Charming, plus they mix their martinis in giant brandy glasses. This is always a good sign.
High Society 1956 *** dir: Charles Walters cast: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, Louis Armstrong, John Lund, Louis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer Light remake of The Philadelphia Story is still rollicking in it’s own special way. Crosby is the righteous C.K. Dexter Haven, millionaire hepcat from the wrong side of something trying to disrupt his ex-wife’s upcoming nuptials with the power of jazz. Sinatra’s a snooping reporter, Holm is his sharp career gal photographer, and Louis Armstrong portrays the only man to ever profusely sweat coolness. Several good Cole Porter songs, including the nice drunken “Did Ya’ Evah” duet between Bing and Frank and positootly outta’ sight “Now You Has Jazz” with Bing and Louis.
Hold On 1966 * dir: Arthur Lubin cast: Peter Noone, Herman’s Hermits, Sue Ane Langdon, Shelly Fabares Homely Peter Noone is typecast as “Herman” and the Hermits are mysteriously typecast as a boring, faceless, goofy looking Sixties rock band. Teenagers have voted to name NASA’s new rocket after Herman’s Hermits and NASA is repulsed by the very thought of naming such important, sleek equipment after shaggy degenerates such as Herman’s Hermits. They send Dennis the Menace’s dad to infiltrate the operation and he ends up fainting a lot, unlike all the itchy teen girls trying to rip at the Hermits’ clothes. But I guess the guy just gets all oogly for Peter Noone. Watch out for dream sequences with Noone in shining armor on the beach! All this and Herman’s Hermits songs!!!
Hollywood Or Bust 1956 *** dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Anita Ekberg, Pat Crowley The bust in the title refers to Ekberg, the real quest object of this cross country whimsey, though Hollywood is where she resides. Dean and Jerry flee New York to escape gangsters — Dean’s a con artist and Jerry’s just a retard — in a co-owned car (the object of Dean’s scam) and accompanied by a big dog and a small lady. With a remarkable extended musical scene reaching oil fields and Injuns, a remarkably funny craps sequence in Vegas, Ekberg ending up as Jerry’s chick, and a cryptic, horrifying parting shot of Jerry that heralds the Percodan nightmare we all came to know and love, this just about beats any Wim Wenders road movies — at about half the length.
Honeymoon Machine, The 1961 ** dir: Richard Thorpe cast: Steve McQueen, Jim Hutton, Paula Prentiss, Jack Weston, Brigid Brazlen, Dean Jagger Though it doesn’t feature a honeymoon, it does feature a machine — an Electronic Super Brain named Max — who is harnessed by crafty sailors to break the bank at a Venice roulette table. Along with Max are featured The World’s Tallest Funny Couple Hutton and Prentiss — she in particular excellent form as a half-blind hot dog heiress. Also features a nice frenzied latter half with the marvelously madcap Jack Weston as a drunk martian-fearing sailor. Could’ve used someone like Paul Newman instead of Steve McQueen, who is someone less of a yukster, but that can’t obscure the fact that the easiest way to make a good movie is to revolve the plot around an Electronic Super Brain with a name like, say, Max. All else will fall into place.
Hook Line and Sinker 1969 ** dir: George Marshall cast: Jerry Lewis, Peter Lawford, Anne Francis A clever enough plot suffers from poor execution and Peter Lawford. A man has been told by his doctor that he only has a certain amount of time to live. When the man leaves his dreadful family to live his last moments to the fullest, he finds it has all been a plot by the doctor to steal his family away. Needs a lot more of Jerry mugging at the camera. A lot more.
Horizontal Lieutenant, The 1962 *** dir: Richard Thorpe cast: Jim Hutton, Paula Prentiss, Jim Backus, Jack Carter, Marty Ingels This guy’s always on his back! Whether getting butted in the head with a hardball, trying to pitch some woo with Paula, or kicking back at a drunken interrogation involving Backus and some guy named “Fatty,” this guy is always, always, always horizontal! Yay to the unusual Drifters theme song, nay to the partial Chinese language version of “How ‘Bout You.”
Horn Blows At Midnight 1945 *** dir: Raoul Walsh cast: Jack Benny, Alexis Smith, Dolores Moran, Allyn Joslyn, Reginald Gardiner, Guy Kibbee, John Alexander, Margaret Dumont, Franklin Pangborn, Robber Blake This movie has taken a lot of unkind ribbing, particularly from Jack Benny, but what the hell did he know? The plot concerns Benny as an angel sent down to blow Gabriel’s horn and herald in the end of the world. Unfortunately, he gets mixed up with some former angels who dig the high life among the lower forms. Reasonably amusing, but cryptically book-ended by unnecessary scenes which explain the movie as the dream of a snoozing orchestra musician. Was that Benny’s touch or something?
Hot Rod Gang 1958 *** dir: Lew Landers cast: John Ashley, Gene Vincent, Jody Fair, Steve Drexel, Doodles Weaver, Maureen Arthur Amusing flick has Ashley splitting his time between being dull studious rich boy (under the tutelage of two Daffy Rich Aunts and one Stuffy Financial Guardian) and clandestine bad ass rockin’ and rollin’ dragster, before finally just taking the plunge as the curiously bearded beatnik rock and roller Jackson Deliripple at the behest of Really Short Guy Gene Vincent and his two boy choir of swishy, rough trade doo wop singers. Deliripple’s beard later reappears in AIP’s Beach Party. Nice bullet bra’d performance of “Choo Choo.”
Houseboat 1958 *** dir: Melville Shavelson cast: Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Martha Hyer, Harry Guardino, Eduardo Ciannelli, Murray Hamilton Half charming, harmless family comedy, half stinging Bergmanesque psychodrama. Grant is a widower set to reclaim the affections of his three children. Through a convoluted series of events, he hires Sophia as his housekeeper and moves onto the world’s neatest houseboat. Martha Hyer plays Sophia’s romantic rival for Cary Grant, but poor Martha can’t compete with earthy, charming Sophia. Unfortunately, a good portion of the film is spent watching Grant accidentally torture his oldest son psychologically to such an extent that the unintentional pathos becomes a real burden to the viewer. We watch helplessly while the kid is driven to steal, to cause the houseboat to be run aground, and even to insult Sophia Loren in favor of that swishy-snooty-snoot Martha Hyer! Who does think he is, Hal Wallis? Eventually, Grant even upstages him for an evening spent with Sophia, and you’re left wondering how long it’s going to take the poor kid to commit arson on the houseboat! Thankfully, Sophia is there to dance a little and treat us to a rendition of the boppy song “Bing, Bang, Bong.” And you’re left to wonder where Sophia Loren is when you’re having a bad day. All you need is a chorus of “Bing, Bang, Bong!” Damn that Carlo Ponti and all his needs! Warning: if you watch this film on television, be sure to turn down the color intensity knob, as Cary Grant’s tan not only hides the man who lurks behind it, but could also cause severe retina damage for you and other viewers.
How To Commit Marriage 1969 **** dir: Norman Panama cast: Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Jane Wyman, Maureen Arthur, Tim Matheson, Tina Louise, Irwin Corey As with any particularly nasty disaster, someone must record it for future generations to read about, to make some sense of the extreme horror and, perhaps, make sure the disaster never happens again. It is with this intention that I transcribe the following. Hope and Wyman are getting divorced but haven’t told their dippy daughter, who is marrying a music student who only writes avant garde pieces. His father is Gleason, a vulgar and amoral rock n roll promoter who handles bands with names like The Frozen Fish Schticks and complains if his bands’ songs have too much melody. When the kids decide not to get married (so outraged are they by the hypocrisy of of Hope and Wyman!), Gleason hooks them up with a job playing in a far out hippy band call The Comfortable Chair. After a groovy session where the kids and the band really connect, man, like musically, they all go out on tour and the kids become enlightened thanks to some faux guru swami type. The parents begin dating, meanwhile — Hope with a golfing sexpot and Wyman with Leslie Nielson. They all wind up together to see the Comfortable Chair perform (Hope looking dashing in a shiny gold Nehru ensemble!) in a far out black and white checkered nightclub, where they notice their daughter is pregnant. The daughter plans to put the kid up for adoption at the behest of Gleason and his pal the guru swami, so Hope and Wyman (who are DISgusted by the thought of adoption) pretend to be a Scottish couple so they might adopt the baby clandestinely, which they do in the hospital parking lot, which makes it all seem very legit and on the up and up. Gleason witnesses the transaction and rooks Hope into a golf game with a highly talented super monkey just to humiliate him and get him to reveal the truth about the baby’s whereabouts — something that has never worked for me, anyhow. Finally, the kids return to town to open at a lecture by the guru swami, and Hope and Wyman sneak backstage where Hope disguises himself as the guru swami in order to convince the kids to go south of the border, get hitched, and retrieve their kid from those nasty little Scotsmen. The kids see the light and all is well. Hope sells Gleason a house, which ends the movie with a mudslide and an obscure punchline referencing a really dreadful Tony Curtis movie. And I’m not making any of this up. Okay, future generations, stop this from happening ever again!!!
How To Make A Monster 1958 ** dir: Herbert L Strock cast: Rober Harris, Walter Reed, Gary Clarke, Paul Brinegar Featuring the song “You Gotta’ Have Eee Ooo” performed by a finger-snapping slick guy, flanked by a bevy of shimmying 7 foot tall second rate chorus girls with big big hands. The song was probably written by the guy who operated the floodlight, or something. Using the phrase “Now we’re cooking with gas” accents the idea that yes, certainly, you DO gotta’ have eee ooo. The delightful musical number is book ended by a silly monster movie about a dismissed studio make-up man gaining his revenge by creating mind control make-up to turn actors into murderous Teen-Age Frankenstein and Teen-Age Wolfman.
I Love You Again 1940 *** dir: W. S. Van Dyke cast: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Frank McHugh, Edmund Lowe, Donald Douglas, Nella Walker William Powell is a grating penny-pincher who, after being clunked on the head, realizes that he’s actually a no good shark who’s had amnesia for the past nine years! When he plans to scam his own amnesiac life out of all its money, he meets his divorce-minded wife — the always whimsically-attired Myrna Loy — and becomes determined to woo her back! Powell’s got his work cut out for him, but Myrna Loy is obviously a great motivator and really worth all that effort, even with the likely wardrobe bills staring you in the face. Powell and Loy are such charming and precision comedians that anything they touch turns to guffaw gold, but a really funny script helps propel them.
I Was A Teen-Age Frankenstein 1957 ** dir: Herbert L Strock cast: Whit Bissell, Gary Conway, Phyllis Coates, Robert Burton Dr. Frankenstein’s got all the luck. He was just blackmailing his assistant into reviving corpses with him when there’s a car crash on the front lawn and an over-emotional drunkard to point out the missing body that was thrown from the car! While the movie features no rock and roll numbers — that’s apparently the province of the Teen-Age Mummy or some other young creep — there is an alligator pit for discarded body parts!
I’ll Take Sweden 1965 ** dir: Fred de Cordova cast: Bob Hope, Dina Merrill, Tuesday Weld, Frankie Avalon, Jeremy Slate Your daughter’s intent on marrying Frankie Avalon — reckless-motorcycling, monotone-warbling, trailer-on-a-hilltop dwelling, big-ol’-$1200-inheritance-receiving, short Frankie Avalon. As a sharp, modern father, what do you do? Do you take off for Sweden? Sweden, land of saucy and immoral pre-marital sex loving attendees of so-called “youth festivals”? Sweden, full of “cows n cheese n girls so pleasin’”? Well, maybe your daughter would be more susceptible to the “cows” and the “cheese” than the “girls so pleasin’,” but heaven forbid she falls under the spell of one those fast n loose Swedes with one eye on a so-called “youth festival” and another on a ski lodge! Reckless-motorcycling, monotone-warbling, trailer-on-a-hilltop dwelling, big-ol’-$1200-inheritance-receiving, short Frankie Avalon starts to look real good, Pops! Bonus points for Frankie’s “I’ll Take Sweden Ya Ya” title song poolside routine AND the strange spectacle of prudish Hope having a posilutely girlish dilemma about HE HIMSELF having premarital hanky panky with the unnecessarily gaunt Dina Merrill. Lots of people made lots of whoopie in Ingmar Bergman movies, but never so shamelessly! When do these people find time to assemble Volvos?
Invasion Of The Saucermen 1957 *** dir: Edwardk Cahn cast: Steve Terrell, Gloria Castillo, Frank Gorshin, Raymond Hatton Enough super technology to create spaceships to take them to earth and they can’t figure out how to free a detached and disheveled hand from a locked car! No wonder the earthlings treat the aliens like escaped, primitive headhunters! With such big heads, you’d think they could figure out how to break a car window! With tons of cynical humor and a drunken bull.
It 1927 **** dir: Clarence Badger cast: Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno, William Austin, Priscilla Bonner, Jacqueline Gadsdon, Gary Cooper Clara Bow really isn’t, but she is a shopgirl trying to help a single mother friend by honest work and, of course, hooking her big fish boss. Cute, but not what you expect. And while charming, Clara is upstaged on the Fab-O-Meter by Elinor Glynn, who wrote the original story the movie was based on.
It Happened To Jane 1959 ** dir: Richard Quine cast: Doris Day, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Steve Forrest, Teddy Rooney, Russ Brown, Mary Wickes, Parker Fennelly It’s Maine Lobster Lady Doris Day versus the Evil Railroad Magnate — and no Rock Hudson to deceive and woo her! Doris sings the bizarre “Be Prepared” to boy scouts and dates Jack Lemmon. Watch it for Kovacs, as always transcending the material as the bald, cigar chomping bastard who owns the railroad.
It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World 1963 **** dir: Stanley Kramer cast: Spencer Tracy, Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Dorothy Provine, Phil Silvers, Jonathan Winters, Peter Falk, Jimmy Durante, Terry-Thomas, Eddie Rochester Anderson, William Demerest, Don Knotts and a cast of millions The definitive American car chase comedy of ugly Americans speeding through the highways of southern California, stepping over each other to find Durante’s hidden treasure, all the while being tracked by policeman Tracy, a disillusioned man looking to use this situation to escape his own sad life. A big big lovely movie full of a million and one big big lovely yuksters, also features a lively musical score, lots of car chases, Dick Shawn doing groovy teenage dances, the biggest W you’ve ever seen, the world’s best performance by Jim Backus, and the immortal line “That’s it — Dinkler — we’ll get Dinkler!” The only fault in an otherwise perfect movie is the underuse of the very talented Edie Adams. As valid as any other of Kramer’s examinations of mob mentalities and their relationship to greed, the desire for freedom from personal responsibility, and the flicker of evil that is in ordinary men, but unlike On The Beach or Judgement At Nuremberg or Ship Of Fools, this movie features Arnold Stang.
It’s A Wonderful World 1939 *** dir: W. S. Van Dyke II cast: Jimmy Stewart, Claudette Colbert, Guy Kibbee, Nat Pendleton, Frances Drake, Edgar Kennedy, Ernest Truex, Sidney Blackmer, Hans Conreid Not a sequel to what you’re thinking — this one was made several years before THAT ONE — rather another in a long line of Claudette Colbert road movies. In this one, Stewart plays a tough talking detective going to jail on a frame up. He escapes from a train to prove his innocence and meets Colbert, a whiney poetess all to eager to tag along and help out. Unfortunately, she’s a famous enough poetess (her big one is called “It’s A Wonderful World” and it’s a gasser) that it sends the police looking for her after her disappearance. Both leads are affable as ever, this is as amusing as any other Colbert road movie, and has the bonus of a sinister scout troop.
It’s Only Money 1962 **** dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Jerry Lewis, Joan O’Brien, Zachary Scott, Jesse White, Jack Weston, Mae Questel Television repairman realizes he is heir to a fortune and is helped out by a cute nurse when daffy folks try to off him for the money. Focused and funny, has a nice rock and roll dance number and three elements meant to collide together in any movie: Jerry, a fat lady, and a fishing pier. If Schindler’s List had even bothered, I might have checked it out. Unfortunately, no fat ladies.
Jackpot, The 1950 *** dir: cast: Jimmy Stewart. All Jimmy Stewart wants is some proof that his life isn’t dull — what he gets is one drunken evening shunning the canasta crowd and listening to endless replays of the creepy echoed voice of Harry James in an attempt to solve the puzzle of the Mystery Husband on a radio gameshow. Desperate for the loot, he cheats and finds himself trapped an avalanche of useless consumer items — including uptight male interior decorator named Leslie and about 7000 cans of soup — which eventually tear his normal life apart at the seams. So he gets drunk again. This darn funny movie had a lot to say about the next 50 years of our country’s history, but there’s something so gentle about it that it barely registers as a warning until one day you wake up and you married a stand-up comedian on live television and you’re not so sure you should’ve done that! Time to get drunk again!
Joker Is Wild, The 1957 *** dir: Charles Vidor cast: Frank Sinatra, Eddie Albert, Mitzi Gaynor, Jeanne Crain, Beverly Garland, Jackie Coogan Seedy bio of comedian Joe E Lewis and his rise and fall and rise and fall in show biz. Features clashes with the mob, unrequited love, heavy boozing, horse race jokes, and Mitzi Gaynor sashaying around. Sinatra is quite sincere as a rather unlikeable guy and isn’t afraid to play the awful side of this character to the fullest effect. Features the grand sex song “All The Way.”
Journey to the Far Side of the Sun 1969 *** dir: Robert Parrish cast: Roy Thinnes, Herbert Lom, Patrick Wymark, Ian Hendry As produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, this has the overwhelming feel of Thunderbirds with real people instead of puppets. Filled with really cool spaceships, desirable space age decor, and less desirable futuristic outfits usually involving turtlenecks (or lots of mod minis on the Lovely Ladies of Tomorrow), the discovery of another planet leads to mounds and mounds of paperwork, long boring meetings, and lots of tit for tat before actually getting onboard the super cool rocket ship and going over to check it out and indulge in some Twilight Zonesque mystery. Never before has bureaucratic officiousness been draped in such colorful space age funkiness!
Jumping Jacks 1952 *** dir: Norman Taurog cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Mona Freeman, Don Defore, Robert Strauss One of those fab service comedies that littered the landscape before 1965 has Jerry pretending to be in the army so he can help ex-showbiz partner Dean put on army talent shows with a little bit of glitz and chutzpah. In a crazy turn of events that you have see to even BEGIN to believe, Jerry becomes trapped in the army and forced to leap out of planes!!! The production numbers are fabulous — never before has the army lavished such money into production values. “Less bombs — more snazzy dance routines” we should be screaming at the Pentagon. A “You can’t twirl a cane with nuclear arms” should be on every bumper in our country. Stupendous, though sadly not autobiographical.
Jungle Book, The 1967 **** dir: Wolfgang Reitherman cast: Phil Harris, Sebastion Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway Bachelor pad flick for kiddies? Certainly a tale of jungle jazz salvation — swingin’ bachelor Baloo pulls the Guide To A Married Man routine on man-cub Mowgli, who is meanwhile being stalked by the very mean and entirely fey Shere Khan — if tigers could dress, he’d be all lavender smoking jacket and ascot. Eventually, eyelash batting, water jug hauling flirt pulls Mowgli out the heat. It’s The Tender Trap all over again. What every boy needs to know.
Jungle Woman 1944 ** dir: Reginald LeBorg cast: Acquanetta, J Carroll Naish, Samuel S Hinds Not so mad scientist buys a sanitarium of a former mad scientist to unlock the secrets of one remarkable ape (unzip the secrets, more like — there’s a man in that monkey suit!) and finds his hospital terrorized by a brooding pin-up girl after the ape disappears and no one seems to care. Of course not — who wants a monkey when you’ve got a bit of acting dynamite named Acquanetta! Is she man or monkey? Whatever she is, she ain’t no thespian. As with any other horror movie before 1960 (even the good ones) there is the requisite annoying young couple who always turn your attentions and sympathies to the more interesting villains, creeps, and scientists featured in these flicks. But the screen lights up when the Jungle Woman turns her lust to our magnetic, butch hero, Bob, and spurns the advances of Big Retarded Assistant. Moral of the story: if you want to study magnificent monkeys and calendar girls, do it in the privacy of your own home, not in a big, creepy, second hand sanitarium.
Kiss Me Stupid 1964 *** dir: Billy Wilder cast: Dean Martin, Kim Novak, Ray Walston, Felicia Farr, Cliff Osmond, Barbara Pepper, Doro Merande, Henry Gibson, Mel Blank A near miss classic has Dean playing Vegas crooner Dino, who is being held captive in a small Nevada desert town by two aspiring songwriters who are trying to sell him a song. One, Walston, tries to offer up his wife to lust driven Dino in one of those classice sex farce mix-ups which happen from time to time. Dean is excellent in a nasty self-parody that he seems to love doing and Kim Novak is great as she plays her standard brooding bimbo role for laffs. Unfortunately, it’s a bit long, thanks largely to Ray Walston making it seem so. His shoulders weren’t made to carry a delicately-rendered sex farce. Original star Peter Sellers would have elevated the proceedings, but he flipped out in an anti Hollywood hysteria and had a heart attack. Now is that professional?
Kissin’ Cousins 1964 ** dir: Gene Nelson cast: Elvis Presley, Arthur O’Connell, Glenda Farrell, Jack Albertson, Yvonne Craig More of that great humor in the hillbilly vein, which must have been quite the thing with the rock and rollsters of 1964 (“The Rolling Who? Elvis has a hillbilly movie out, dol gurnit!”). The King tries to help the military establish a base in the Smokey Mountains but runs into some down home opposition, including the Kittyhawks, a marauding pack of man hungry Daisy Mae types. Elvis is saddled with a difficult duel role as his own hillbilly cousin — blonde — and has to wrassle himself. Yvonne Craig looks cute in overalls. Soundtrack sounds as though it was recorded by sticking a microphone next to an AM transistor radio. Elvis crony Joe Esposito rocks the movie as “Mike”.
Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains 1982 *** dir: Lou Adler cast: Diane Lane, Ray Winstone, Peter Donat, David Clennon, John Lehne, Cynthia Sikes, Laura Dern, Fee Waybill, Christine Lahti, Vince Welnick, Steve Cook, Paul Jones, Paul Simonon Diane Lane, her sister, and their pal pretend to be a band and get hooked up in a rock and roll tour, opening for a soulful, angry Brit punk band who in turn is opening for a haggard, corporate glam rock band. The Stains sound like the Shaggs without whimsey and their song “I’m A Waste of Time” is a guaranteed ice pick to the brain. Taking more than a few cues from the glam rockers, the Stains start wearing see-through blouses and tights and dye their hair two tone — and then encourage pudgy teenage girls to the same and call themselves “Skunks” in their onstage rants, where they come up with slogans like “We don’t put out” and insult the audience. Thankfully, that eats up film time and the only song you have to hear is that lovely lilt of an ice pick. All this drives the pudgy girls to buy lots of merchandise. Eventually, the Stains become superstars, thanks to a very unusual pair of local tv anchors who pontificate floridly about them on air in spontaneous sort of “Point/Counterpoint” segments and take a lot of local news time away from the people who probably really deserve, like the perennial dog who calls 911. The Stains also rip off the soulful, angry Brit punk band after Lane lures the soul searching, illiterate lead singer into a romance just to rip off their catchy punk song “The Professionals.” The rest of the band, made up of ex-Sex Pistols and Clash talents, appears to be somewhat less upset, since they are only occasionally seen yelling things like “Bollocks” and “Bob’s your uncle.” But the Stains are square with their indecipherable Jamaican bus driver who talks a lot about Jah and tosses off lines like “Come live with me and come be with me are two different things” though he might not have said that at all, who can tell? Any given character might, at any given moment, break into a tell-all where you find out the tragedies of their lives, and you can’t stop them. The punk does it, the news anchors, the bus driver, and plenty of other characters who haven’t even been mentioned here. Eventually, this California New Wave Valley of the Dolls ends up cynically with a catchy version of the Stains doing “The Professionals,” accompanied by a very realistic early 80’s music video. Features a great performance by Tubes lead singer Fee Waybill as the morose, conceited glam rocker, bankrupt of any desire to entertain beyond the procurement of his rock star booty. This movie accomplishes the very difficult task of melding sharp, perceptive cynicism with incompetent stupidity, much like Madonna, who it apparently pre-dates, yet whom seems to be its model through hindsight.
Ladies Man, The 1961 **** dir: Jerry Lewis cast: Jerry Lewis, Kathleen Freeman, Hope Holiday, Pat Stanley, Jack Kruschen, Doodles Weaver, Harry James, Buddy Lester, George Raft Uber Jerry Lewis comedy has Jerry running spastic around an incredibly-realized set as the houseboy in Mrs. Welonmelon’s Boarding House For Aspiring Young Actresses after graduating college and getting traumatically dumped by his own best girl. Suddenly, he’s surrounded by needy girls! Overcoming his hatred of women, Lewis helps the girls practice their scenes and dance routines, arranges the hats of their tough guy boyfriends, fixes a life or two, dances with a vampire lady and Mr. George Raft, and even finds time to star in a televised vaudevillian tribute to Mrs. Welonmelon herself, but only after torturing that poor Doodles Weaver and the rest of the tv crew. Plus direct the movie. The sort of joyous giddiness that you wish Jerry could have injected in every movie he did. The lesson of this movie is that even though they do evil things to simple men, if women harangue you enough and keep you so busy you haven’t really got time to think, you can learn to love them again.
Lady From Shanghai 1948 * dir: Orson Welles cast: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloane, Glen Anders, Ted de Corsia, Erskine Sanford, Gus Schilling The icing on this cake is tasty and there’s plenty of it: superior cinematography, direction, dialogue, performances, and use of locales. But the cake is strictly Betty Crocker Yellow — predictable and dull. Welles plays an Irish sailor who is hired by a beautiful rich woman to work onboard her husband’s ship — the husband is a creep, the woman flirty, and the husband’s business partner is a meandering sweaty freak who figures into the tangled web. See if you can guess where it’s going in this cheap radio melodrama plot.
Lady In Cement 1968 ** dir: Gordon Douglas cast: Frank Sinatra, Raquel Welch, Dan Blocker, Richard Conte, Martin Gabel, Lainie Kazan, Richard Deacon, Joe E Lewis Another really gripping Tony Rome suspense chiller has Sinatra stumbling off his houseboat to investigate a “dead wet blonde” found at the bottom of the ocean. The police happily joke about this “dead wet blonde’s” anatomy and also use the occasion to toss off a couple lewd suggestions about her. All this AND Lainie Kazan as a stripper makes it THE progressive sex movie of the 60’s. Bonus points for Evil Gay Man (he’s SO evil and SO gay that Sinatra has to deck him) and Raquel’s really classy wardrobe, the true star of the picture and the main source of the suspense chills.
Lady L 1965 • dir: Peter Ustinov cast: Sophia Loren, Paul Newman, David Niven, Phillipe Noiret This turn of the century tale of a trollop turned lady has a strange effect on some people. Often, about half way through, some have experienced blank spots in their memory. One moment they are watching Sophia and her bombs and the next, staring blankly at the ceiling in a dingy New York City hotel room, their liver noticeably missing, apparently escaped through the crude surgical incision in their torso. Few movies have that affect, beyond Merchant and Ivory.
Lawyer Man 1932 *** dir: William Dieterle cast: William Powell, Joan Blondell, Claire Dodd, Sheila Terry, Alan Dinehart, David Landau, Helen Vinson, Allen Jenkins, Roscoe Karns, Sterling Holloway Amusing drama has Powell as an honorable lawyer with an eye for the gams who willingly deals with corruption in order to fight corruption. As you might expect, Powell glibly manages to keep this moral legal tale from becoming too hard-edged. Besides, he has to maintain levity in order to dig the gams. Blondell, as his seemingly permanent receptionist, is cute, likable, and brainy, and makes alot out of a small role. As for Powell, whatever he does is aces with me.
Leech Woman, The 1960 ** dir: Edward Dein cast: Coleen Gray, Grant Williams, Philip Terry, Gloria Talbot, John Van Dreelen Verbally abusive mad doctor, who is married to a sober pin-up girl unconvincingly made-up to seem like a drunk old woman, happens upon a youth serum thanks to shriveled old mystical crone who comes to his office for some kind of check-up. The mad doctor drags his pin-up girl/drunk old woman wife to Africa to find the serum and have adventures in darkest Africa, complete with Maltese Falconesque double crosses. Later, the wife returns to Los Angeles (this time playing both a pin-up girl AND an drunk old woman — drunk with power, that is) for some nasty man-baiting noir. Three movies in one, none of them quite up to the challenge of diverting your attentions away from your own problems, therefore a must avoid if you’re in the middle of a divorce or murder trial or such.
Life Of Her Own, A 1950 *** dir: George Cukor cast: Lana Turner, Ray Milland, Tom Ewell, Louis Calhern, Ann Dvorak Poor Lana! As a thick-necked Every Gal Gone Glitzy she climbs to the top of the fashion model heap (she even gets a raise!) and claws to keep her Copper Mine Magnate Boyfriend, no mean feat when the competition is one of those Saint In A Wheelchair Wives. How can Lana compete against that?!? A cold, still-toed shrew, perhaps, BUT THIS? Fortunately, she passes her time in a piano bar where a ventriloquist dummy wanders around, harassing patrons and arranging blind dates. At least the night life’s gotten better since 1950!
Live A Little Love A Little 1968 * dir: Norman Taurog cast: Elvis Presley, Michele Carey, Don Porter, Rudy Vallee, Dick Sargent, Sterling Holloway, Eddie Hodges After a high speed dune buggy ride, Elvis lays out in the sun in a light blue turtleneck. Unfortunately, he is accosted by a very ungroovy groovy chick with an grating baby doll voice and her big dog. The groovy chick is one of those Wacky 60’s Movie Chicks who do such wacky things as having a different name for herself each day, determined by what mood she happens to be in. That’s so wacky and groovy. Elvis has to call her “Bernice,” which must be her name for when she’s in the mood to give an obnoxiously awful and precocious performance in one of Elvis’ more dreadful movies from the later years. Anyhow, the groovy chick and the dog make Elvis stay in the water and get sick and, then, hold him hostage in their house for a few days, which causes him to lose his job and his apartment (now occupied by a sexually paranoid fat lady in underwear). Elvis has a nightmare where he sings a psychedelic song while decked out in a suit made of shiny pajamas and accompanied in dance by a man in a dog suit and interpretive dancers in leotards. Later, he gets in a brawl with his old boss’ henchmen, who are Newspaper Production Worker Thugs, and the incident goes unexplained, but that’s okay, because it gives Elvis the chance to show off smooth moves of another kind. Elvis then gets two new jobs — one as a photographer for an ad agency run by Rudy Vallee and one as a photographer for a girlie mag, run by Gidget’s dad. You see, they’re in the same building, so Elvis decides to take both jobs and run back and forth between them. Yeah, makes sense to me, too. Eventually, he goes to a girlie mag party where the publisher gives him a useless gizmo that resembles a sci-fi apparatus from the 50’s, meant to be used as a conversation piece when picking up a girl. Elvis does put it to use, but not before performing another psychedelic song and telling the chick his sign before she will go home with him. All the party goers dance appropriately groovy. Eventually, through a series of events that I fail to understand, Elvis gets the girl. And the dog. The day after, all this plays back in your mind like a recovered memory.
Living It Up 1954 *** dir: Norman Taurog cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Janet Leigh, Edward Arnold, Fred Clark, Sheree North, Sig Ruman Amusing remake of the Carole Lombard movie Nothing Sacred has Jerry pretending to have radiation poisoning so he and pal Doctor Dean can get a free trip to New York and Dean can have the opportunity to woo the always charming Miss Leigh, who walked away with the brassiere manufacturers Golden Bust award 9 years later. What took them so long? Anyone could’ve told ’em. Worth it for the liveliest jitterbug contest ever committed to film. Man, that Jerry kid can dance, especially with a vibrating mountain of a woman like Sheree North.
Looking For Love 1964 *** dir: Don Weis cast: Connie Francis, Susan Oliver, Jim Hutton, Barbara Nichols, Danny Thomas, Johnny Carson, Paula Prentiss, Yvette Mimieux Poor Connie, she looks about 45 years old in this, even though she’s probably 20. That, coupled with the fact that she just can’t act, makes it all the more strange that this movie bounces along with a pleasant buoyancy, largely thanks to a really lively rockin’ soundtrack , Hutton in his master Patented Heel role, and Connie’s radical cool dance moves, which transcend her 45 year old face and make her look like delightful and cute little miss. No wonder Mr. Bobby Darin wanted to marry her — they must have frequented many au go go’s. The story is a bit of piffle about a talented girl doomed to be a showbiz success even though all she wants is an office job and a husband. In the movie’s relentless quest to make Connie seem ultra pathetic, her love interest is her bass player and she has to sing a duet with Danny Thomas. Some days a girl just can’t win.
Love God, The 1969 **** dir: Nat Hiken cast: Don Knotts, Anne Francis, Edmond O’Brien, Maureen Arthur, Maggie Peterson, Jesslyn Fax As a rule, I can’t watch Don Knotts films. They’re relentless in pronouncing Knotts a loser, again and again and again. There’s always the girl he loves who is unattainable, the bully who insults him while we all laugh along, and the townspeople who see him as a simpleton. Halfway through any of his films, I know that he’s not going to be an ASTRONAUT for NASA — he’s going to be a JANITOR! And that makes me weep like somebody’s mother, maybe Don Knotts’ mother. And it’s much worse knowing that the circumstance of his humiliation is the thing which will make him rise above it all with humility — and he still won’t get the girl! There I go, with my girlie weeping again! After a Knotts movie, I need to watch Cries And Whispers just to cheer me up a bit. Thank goodness this movie is a magical break from the formula. Knotts still plays a loser — what else was he meant for — but he’s not playing a pathetic loser. He actually turns out to be a bit of a take charge loser. Knotts is the publisher of a small bird enthusiast magazine and an upstanding churchgoer. His magazine is taken over by, collectively, a pornographer on the rebound, a mobster who gets daily diction lessons from a little old lady because he wants to be a classy publisher, and a glamour hog feminist reporter who wants to harness pornography for good — and a nice wardrobe budget. Knotts is used as the figurehead for the magazine, which he’s willing to do because of his inherent pushover quality, and a good portion of the movie is spent following Knotts at his faux swinginest, in hot bachelor pads with cool stacked broads, all culminating in fabulous musical numbers! If you add to the silliness a firm statement about the types of people who always seem to invoke the First Amendment the loudest, and add a nice bird call song and the fact that Knotts gets the girl in this one, then you’ll be happy to discover the Don Knotts Sixties Sex Comedy you never imagined could have existed, not even in you wildest of dreams.
Love Has Many Faces 1965 *** dir: Alexander Singer cast: Lana Turner, Cliff Robertson, Hugh O’Brian, Ruth Roman, Stefanie Powers Festooned with the flattest tuckus in tinsel town and Lana (at permanent age 45) is all decked out in hot pants, hot pants, hot pants! This wasn’t 1946 anymore! OUCH! What was Edith Head thinking? And why so spangly? Spangles just draw attention to the tuckus, and you want to overlook that! No wonder Lana always wears capes! They oughtta’ take away every Academy Award that Head woman ever won! Warning: while it does feature O’Brian in an Oscar-worthy primping gigolo role, it also has a bullfighting finale. Weigh the options yourself.
Lover Come Back 1961 **** dir: Delbert Mann cast: Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Tony Randall, Edie Adams, Jack Oakie, Jack Kruschen, Ann B Davis, Joe Flynn, Jack Albertson, Donna Douglas Label Doris “the eternal virgin” if you want but don’t say the same about her naughty party joke movies. And don’t claim Doris’ characters were virgins merely because of some stiff moral uptightedness. She was often willing to jump in the pool if she felt it was an attractively shaped pool with fresh chlorinated water. Truth is, Doris was a virgin because of her hats. Her hats are so dreadful that a true man of style could never look past them — imagine being seen with them! At the dinner club! The automat! The beach! The seduction of such an indignant woman topped with uproariously funny hats could only be the act of a bemused practical joker. In this unsung advertising spoof, Doris is an ad agent topped by some grotesque helmets who goes on a crusade against bachelor Rock. As in so many Doris vehicles, she spars with the bachelor while becoming knock-kneed over his alter ego. In this case, Rock has sent spinning an ad campaign for the mysterious Vip (great commercials featuring the multi-purpose Edie Adams), a product that does not exist. After Rock hires a scientist to create Vip, Doris mistakes Rock for the scientist, which leads Doris to smell that lovely chlorine and slip on the swimsuit. When the scientist unveils Vip, let’s just say that it’s a booze-related item that unleashes Bacchanalian revelry on Madison Avenue and puts Doris in a couple positions where the hats won’t stay on. By the end, Rock has taken responsibility for a joke gone too far and learned the valuable lesson that haughty haberdashery is like a signpost to stay out of the pool. Costume designer Irene tossed herself out a window shortly after providing Doris with such dreadful hats.
Mad Ghoul, The 1943 ** dir: James Hogan cast: David Bruce, Evelyn Ankers, George Zucco, Turhan Bey, Charles McGraw, Robert Armstrong, Milburn Stone, Rose Hobart Scientist uses ancient gas to create zombies — one in particular, his assistant. Whenever the assistant becomes The Gas Zombie, his hair is suddenly brushed forward and his tie is loosened, thus symbolizing that zombies are very casual. So there’s no budget for make-up in this monster movie (but who cares with such a creative solution!), but there’re millions for gowns, used in the sub-plot involving the assistant’s opera star lady acquaintance (!) who is having an affair with her accompanist (!!) and the mad scientist mistakenly thinks is smitten by him(!!!). Such a complicated plot for a movie where nothing much happens! Does not feature the standard lilly-white hero and heroine, though does have a snappy crime reporter and the classy society page broad in amusing scenes investigating the case — TO ITS INEVITABLE GRUESOME CONCLUSION . . .
Made In Paris 1966 * dir: Boris Sagal cast: Ann-Margret, Louis Jourdan, Edie Adams, Chad Everett, Richard Crenna, Count Basie, Mongo Santamaria Ann-Margret wears a big goofy hat with a nipple on top and heads to Paris to become a fashion buyer for a department store. She spends all her time juggling the advances of Jourdan, Crenna, and Everett instead of doing her job. One time she tries to do her job because Jourdan tells her how to, but being Ann-Margret, she is capable of only so much when there is a man in the room — like the inevitable little dance number. She indulges in dancebites and goofy faces (see Viva Las Vegas review) and essentially shuffling out the exact same dance she’s performed in every movie ever — well, at least the ones she’s been allowed to appear in. She also has time to perform a dreadful song (by Bachrach of course!) with Jourdan, where she does her patented warble and Jourdan doing that French guy talking/singing schtick. Eventually she drinks about 100 glasses of absinthes and rather than having transcendent hallucinations or just going barking mad, she sings some song called “Fat Mamma” with a brassy broad in a bar. The whole thing ends with two sheepdogs and a station wagon — but in Paris!?! Highlights include nightclub appearances by Count Basie and Mongo Santamaria. And, at least, Ann-Margret wears a big goofy hat with a nipple on top.
Male Animal, The 1942 *** dir: Elliot Nugent cast: Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Leslie, Jack Carson, Herbert Anderson, Don Defore, Hattie McDaniel, Eugen Pallette Amusing comedy about a college professor contending with his wife’s old flame, a legendary college football hero. As always, Jack Carson chews up everything with his own particular brand of bombastic-rah-rah -go-team-go-don’t-mean-any-harm-fella’ presence, effectively upstaging Fonda who, while good, seems mildly stunned by a blow to the head. Hattie McDaniel, actually, has all the best lines.
Man Made Monster 1941 *** dir: George Waggner cast: Lon Chaney Jr, Lionel Atwill, Anne Nagel, Frank Albertson, Samuel S Hinds, William Davidson, Ben Taggert, Connie Bergen Chaney is a man who survives a giant electrical accident that kills a busload of other people, and is transformed into an Electric Zombie through diabolical experiments by an evil scientist with perfectly delightful goggles. Brief, atmospheric, and fun — and when Chaney starts glowing, it’s simply too cool to look at. They can morph Arnold into Little Richard for all I care — this is special effects at their most impressive.
Man With The Golden Arm 1955 **** dir: Otto Preminger cast: Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, Darren McGavin, Arnold Stang, Eleanor Parker Sinatra gives his best performance ever as would-be jazz drummer Frankie Machine, who returns to his old neighborhood from the big house only to be burdened by the unrelenting specters of his past: a crazed handicapped wife, old crime cronies, and a heroin addiction that threatens to return, thanks to evil Darren McGavin. Kim is a sweetheart as Sinatra’s new love and gives the role that brooding, low-voiced giantess charm she always does. Enlivened by a great Elmer Bernstein jazz score and the most serious work to date by Arnold Stang.
Manchurian Candidate, The 1962 **** dir: John Frankenheimer cast: Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, James Gregory Top shelf suspense classic has Harvey (The Man With The Coolest Hair Ever) being brainwashed by commies to assassinate a presidential candidate. Sinatra is focused as the army officer who gets sucked into the plot while investigating the meaning behind some bizarre nightmares he and others in his troop have been having. Lansbury and Gregory steal the movie as Harvey’s politicking mom and step-father. Leigh is a bit unnecessary as Sinatra’s train ride pickup, but four stars to Jilly Rizzo’s performance as a bartender! He’s so good he could work his way up to roles as saloonkeepers if he wanted!!!
Marriage On The Rocks 1965 ** dir: Jack Donohue cast: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Deborah Kerr, Cesar Romero, Hermione Baddeley, Tony Bill, Nancy Sinatra, Trini Lopez Sinatra is a cold business-like husband and father whose entire family wishes he would trade places with his easy going swinger pal, Dean. Several mishaps and a trip to Mexico later, he has. There is an excessive amount of drinking in this movie (more than Ocean’s Eleven) and it must have been the only way they could get through it. Sinatra has no comedic rapport with anyone in the movie, and that includes his real life horse faced daughter, who turns in another one of those fabulous performances that makes you certain that she would have been somewhat less famous if she were, say, Joey Bishop’s daughter. Dean slinks through his circular bachelor pad with a succession of bikini clad secretaries and Frank go go dances in a giant cage. Some life is injected in the film by the unlikely and rather large presence of Romero as a Mexican lawyer orchestrating the divorces and the marriages. Warning: the film promises a negligee named “Viva La Derriere,” but does not deliver to the viewer’s satisfaction. Remember to write and complain. Demand Deborah Kerr appear publicly in a negligee worthy of that name NOW and PRONTO!
Mastermind 1970 • dir: Alex March cast: Zero Mostel, Bradford Dillman, Herbert Booke Prescribed purely for medicinal purposes, this fixed me up in 20 minutes — even with a Japanese Go Go Club scene — and I kissed insomnia goodbye! Finally a practical use for movies starring Caucasian actors as Asian detectives! Use as directed. If sleeplessness persists for more than 35 minutes, consult your physician.
Meet Danny Wilson 1952 *** dir: Joseph Pevney cast: Frank Sinatra, Shelly Winters, Raymond Burr Ironic little flick has Sinatra, before the comeback, playing an up and coming singer who gets involved with the Mob and Shelly Winters (both very common problems in show biz) and eventually becomes a big drunken jerk. Sinatra’s quite good and should be, since the role came very natural to him in real life. Shelly’s even sort of cute. For Shelly.
Mesa of Lost Women 1952 *** dir: Herbert Tevos and Ron Ormond cast: Jackie Coogan, Allan Nixon, Dolores Fuller, Mona McKinnon Jackie Coogan can barely muster up enough enthusiasm to actually be called a “mad scientist” — he much more of a “lethargic scientist.” But dangerous!!! Mysteriously, his life’s work seems to be creating a society of busty super goddesses and also giant spiders. Why he bothers with the spiders, I do not understand. Perhaps it’s the lethargy setting in — once he comes up with a mad idea, he just can’t be bothered not to follow through with his diabolical plan. Ed Wood alumnus Dolores Fuller “acts” (talented as she is pretty)! Cool music.
Miracle Of The Bells 1948 ** dir: Irving Pichel cast: Frank Sinatra, Fred MacMurray, Lee J Cobb Attention keeping, syrupy, religious weeper about a starlet dying and being buried in her hometown where a miracle occurs, possibly to good commercial effect, what with the posthumous release of her Joan of Arc movie and all. Just to show you how far we’ve come, Sinatra is sincere as the soft-spoken, nice guy priest while MacMurray is equally sincere as the glib fast talking Hollywood smoothie with a snatch of a heart somewhere in there. Also features a thought-provoking dissection of the possible nature of miracles. Give it some credit, it didn’t have to do that, it just needed a silly hit song. Good hankie movie, don’t let Leonard Maltin tell you otherwise. From the screenwriter of Gone With The Wind, Lifeboat, Rope, and Roman Holiday.
Mister Buddwing 1966 *** dir: Delbert Mann cast: James Garner, Jean Simmons, Suzanne Pleshette, Angela Landsbury, Katarine Ross, Nichelle Nichols, Jack Gilford, Raymond St. Jacques Doris Day director goes artsy fart. Garner wanders around a stark, black and white New York City with amnesia and discovers that New Yorkers just won’t shut up. At any given moment, a New Yorker is liable to unleash a battery of opinions and recollections at him. The poor guy is merely trying to piece together the soap opera of his life when someone comes along bullying him into being Jewish — or worse, claiming to be God and trying to get Garner to do his evil bidding. Garner, meanwhile, is just trying to pay attention to his extended flashbacks so he can figure out his own name! Minnelli meets Fellini, and that can’t be bad!
Move Over Darling 1963 *** dir: Michael Gordon cast: Doris Day, James Garner, Polly Bergen, Chuck Connors, Thelma Ritter, Fred Clark, Don Knotts, John Astin, Pat Harrington, Jr. Doris returns from five years on a desert island with no dark roots on her blond head! She finds husband Garner has just had her declared dead and has married gravel-throated, sleazy shrew Bergen. Doris demands him back and he’s willing to go, but he has alot of trouble breaking it to Bergen. By the end, Doris breaks into her trademark full-blown righteous indignation of such flawless beauty that no actress before or since has ever quite matched it — the way she straightens her arms downward, turns red, shapes her mouth in an ‘o’, and releases the long gutteral “eeeennnnnnnhhhhhh” is something few actresses seem capable of doing right. Features a curious scene where Doris, dressed up like a Swedish nurse, violently assaults a towel-clad (then not towel-clad) Bergen around a room and then on a bed. And to think they show this on The Family Channel! This is a remake of My Favorite Wife and was originally meant for Marilyn Monroe until she ultimately put a halt to all productions permanent-like. Good thing, too, because this is much more appropriate for Doris. Sorry, Norma Jean!
Mr And Mrs Smith 1941 **** dir: Alfred Hitchcock cast: Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery, Gene Raymond, Jack Carson, Philip Merivale, Betty Compson Oh, Carole Lombard, why did she have to go? I’d gladly sacrifice a totem pole made of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn to assure longevity for Lombard! Hitchcock abandoned his darker tendencies to enter the high stakes genre of screwball comedy, which featured the same sexual warpaths he often brought to the screen, just with more whimsical outfits. Here, Lombard trades barbs with a slightly fey Montgomery as a couple who finds that their long standing marriage is invalid and given the chance to get married again, Lombard thinks “Perhaps not” and traipses around with Hollywood’s resident raccoon coat on a drunk Jack Carson. This is Lombard in all her pouty, foot stamping, infuriating to her male lead glory and Montgomery effortlessly (miracuously?) keeps up with her. No different from any other Hitchcock movie, really — innocent dope finds himself in an extreme situation beyond his control, which is made worse by some blonde. But this one’s actually funnier than The Birds, if you can believe that.
Mr Hulot’s Holiday 1953 *** dir: Jacques Tati cast: Jacques Tati, Nathalie Paxcaud, Michelle Rolla, Valentine Camax, Louis Perrault Tati is an alien, and that’s not an allusion to his French-hood. This is a playful series of mostly silent beachfront vignettes involving the titular Mr. Hulot as well as many other vacationers that are as artful, charming, and funny as they are peculiar and distant. Sometimes it’s akin to watching a Mars probe as directed by a painter, with light cocktail jazz thrown in for atmosphere. Other moments, it’s like a lecture on the science of comedy. Probably the only person who really ever got Tati was Tati, though Jerry Lewis and Rowan Atkinson have made respective mints pretending they got him. Leaves you simultaneously amused and all weirded out.
Muscle Beach Party 1964 **** dir: William Asher cast: Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Buddy Hackett, Luciana Paluzzi, Don Rickles, Jody McCrea, Morey Amsterdam, Candy Johnson, Dan Haggerty, Dick Dale, Little Stevie Wonder Sadly, this is the one AIP beach movie that appears to be entirely Eric Von Zipper-less. To make it up to us they offer a pumped up guy named Mr. Galaxy and an Italian heiress trying to woo Frankie away with promises of his own 45 rpm single! Frankie, being a surfin’ bad boy, does some time with the Italian heiress, despite machinations to the contrary by one Buddy Hackett. There are some questionable Italian jokes spread throughout — not that I really care but given that the two main stars are Italian maybe they should have made the heiress Greek or Albanian or something. Still, indescribably shaky dancer Candy Johnson saves the day with her marvelous earthquake-au-go-go schtick, most notably in the end credits, where she hoofs it up with a bongo beating Little Stevie Wonder.
My Friend Irma 1949 ** dir: George Marshall cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Marie Wilson, Diana Lynn, John Lund, Don Defore, Hans Conreid Dean and Jerry’s first is an unadventurous display with two very irritating women in the lead roles. It’s mostly of interest for its inclusion of Dean and Jerry’s real stage act, sharp and funny and, thankfully separate from the rest of the movie, which has a plot that no one cares about, though it has something to do with this guy discovering talented crooner Dean working at an orange juice stand. One look at the horse-mugged Marie Wilson and you know this used to be a radio show, where she was rightfully confined for a good amount of time. She is so repulsively ugly and unfunny that she should never have gotten work in pictures, or anywhere that involves being viewed by a number of people.
My Friend Irma Goes West 1950 ** dir: Hal Walker cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Marie Wilson, Diana Lynn, John Lund, Don Defore, Corinne Calvert More of the same has those two irritating broads traveling west with the others to seek out Dean’s fortune in Hollywood. After the nose job. They involved in all sorts of hijinks, including mobsters and a beautiful French woman who shares most her scenes with a monkey, or two monkeys if you count Jerry. Calvert later claimed to be sexually harassed by the ready-to-mate monkey, and also claimed that Jerry took every opportunity to imitate the monkey. Why couldn’t they have included that stuff? This isn’t even half as good as the promotional newsreel that features Jerry wrestling the randy monkey in a ring while Dean refereed. The monkey obviously had to get it out somehow.
Never On Sunday 1960 *** dir: Jules Dassin cast: Melina Mercouri, Jules Dassin, Georges Foundas, Titos Vandis The curious absence of Melina Mercouri in the populist annals of Way Cool 50’s/60’s Chicks is just further proof of the world wide entertainment conspiracy against Greece. For some reason, Ann-Margret is accepted, but not someone actually cool, likable, and talented — could this be all because Mercouri is Greek? Hmmm. In this slice of Hellenic bawdiness, Mercouri plays a fun-loving prostitute who charms all the local men with all the obvious stuff, as well as her own revisionist Greek myths, in which even the most tragic figures live happily ever after. Of course, the local fat ladies and Typical British Stuff Shirt Guy try to ruin everyone’s fun. (Typical British Stuff Shirt Guy even tries to pull an Eliza Doolittle on her — they’re always doing that, you gals watch out!) It’s time to stop treating Greeks like Poor Man’s Italians and elect Mercouri to the Va-Va-Voom Hall Of Fame where she belongs!
New Kind Of Love, A 1963 *** dir: Melville Shavelson cast: Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Thelma Ritter, Eva Gabor, Maurice Chevalier, George Tobias, Marvin Kaplin, Robert Clary Cute and way cool Joanne Woodward, decked out in a dark suit and wraparound sunglasses, creates cut rate knock-offs of designer fashions for a NYC department store. She heads to Paris to steal some new ideas and finds herself doomed to a romance with charming swinger/newsman, Paul Newman. Slightly overlong, but very amusing, highlights include a split screen fashion show/strip club scene, a wacky makeover for La Woodward, and a surreal half-singing, half-speaking cameo from Chevalier. Oh, and a fabulous theme song by Frank Sinatra.
Ninotchka 1939 **** dir: Ernst Lubistch cast: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Bela Lugosi, Sig Ruman, Ina Claire Officious but sweet Russian bureaucrat arrives in Paris only to be seduced by the City of Love . . . and Melvyn Douglas. Hey, if I needed a guide around Paris, I’d demand Melvyn AND I’d let him sit next to me in a cozy little bistro, no huff.
None But The Brave 1965 ** dir: Frank Sinatra cast: Frank Sinatra, Tommy Sands, Clint Walker, Tony Bill Standard but entertaining war flick in which US soldiers find themselves trapped on the same teeny Pacific island as some Japanese soldiers during World War 2, which, of course, leads to some amount of not-nicedness. Sinatra seems to be reprising his Ocean’s Eleven role, albeit with far worse clothing. He drinks and smokes his way through the war! Of special interest is the claim that Sinatra directed this himself, dispensing with the usual goons like John Schlesinger.
Not As A Stranger 1955 • dir: Stanley Kramer cast: Robert Mitchum, Olivia DeHavilland, Frank Sinatra, Charles Bickford, Gloria Grahme, Broderick Crawford, Lee Marvin, Lon Chaney, Harry Morgan Despite the very butch cast, this is just a snoozefest soap about medical students, put completely out of its misery by the surprisingly wooden Mr Mitchum and the frankly unattractive Miss DeHavilland. Of course, it does have Harry Morgan affecting a really silly Swedish accent. That’s yust nuts!
Nothing Sacred 1937 *** dir: William Wellman cast: Carole Lombard, Frederic March, Walter Connolly, Charles Winninger, Sig Rumann, Frank Fay Lombard is a small town girl who stretches the truth about her radiation poisoning to get an all-expenses paid trip to New York, become everyone’s brave sweetheart, and take part in stage productions on fascinating women in history. Lombard injects her usual spasmodic flair into the role and Winninger provides some of the best moments as her constantly tippling doctor (he provides the great punchline). Remade as a Martin and Lewis comedy, this version is somewhat lacking in a jitterbug performed by Jerry Lewis, which really has more to do with a movie’s success than you might at first think, but Lombard wears such nice gowns and has such a great forehead that we can forgo the jitterbug just this once.
Nutty Professor, The 1963 **** dir: Jerry Lewis cast: Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens, Howard Morris, Del Moore, Kathleen Freeman, Henry Gibson Jerry’s masterwork, a Jekyll/Hyde premise in which painfully dorky science professor stumbles upon a formula which changes him into ultra flashy, ultra cool, ultra suave ULTRA JERK Buddy Love. As Buddy Love, Jerry wears the shiniest suits ever, hangs out at the local bar teaching the bartender to say “What’ll it be?” with the right intonation, tinkles “That Old Black Magic” out on the piano with a cigarette in his mouth, woos Stella Stevens, wows everyone else, and needles the skeptical Dean into giving a private Shakespearean performance. While it’s hard to tell whether these grotesqueries are supposed to represent he and Dino, or at the very least if Buddy Love is some hateful revenge on Dino, or if it’s just Jerry’s most honest screen face, who cares? It’s just enough Jerry’s having a good day for a change. Best scene: Jerry, as the professor, awkwardly mock dances to Les Brown and his Band of Renown.
Ocean’s Eleven 1960 ** dir: Lewis Milestone cast: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, Cesar Romero, Angie Dickinson, Richard Conte, Norman Fell, Henry Silva, Shirley MacLaine The best movie about men’s suits ever made. Though impeccably well-dressed, every other movie essential beyond wardrobe — oh, script, direction, performance — is sacrificed so we can bask in the inherent coolness of the participants. Norman Fell, I ask you? The movie concerns a group of old army buddies getting together to plot the greatest Vegas heist ever, as old army buddies often do when they’re not chasing strippers and falling over on their big pot bellies. Everyone appears to be drunk, except the uppity Joey Bishop, who seems very nervous, perhaps at the realization he’s surely the least popular and most curious Rat Packer. Back then he could take solace in knowing that he would also be the last surviving member, which would give him the respect that had eluded him for so long. Besides, we’ll take him over that smarmy Lawford chap any day! Amidst all the action, Sammy performs “E-O Eleven” as a sanitation engineer, complete with soft shoe. Eleven ex army buddies and the black guy ends up as a garbageman! How progressive! Not the va-va voomiest appearance by Angie, who mostly broods and walks away hurt, but Shirley manages to give the only actual acting performance in the entire movie with her brief intoxicated cameo which cements her as any reasonable drunk’s pin-up girl. Have a few and you just might get through this awake.
Omega Man, The 1971 * dir: Boris Sagal cast: Charlton Heston, Rosalind Cash, Anthony Zerbe, Paul Kosto, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Eric Laneuville Heston is the last surviving normal human being on Earth. Normal? He plays chess with a statue and wears mod, frilly shirts, while cooking long links of frankfurters! The world has been destroyed by germ warfare and Heston is the only person who had the serum. Somewhat confusing are the other survivors — creepy, underground, night stalking scarred albinos who seem to be dying of the germ warfare disease slowly, rather than immediately like the rest of the world. They want to kill Heston because he’s the old way, man, so they gotta’ make with the sacraficial scene, baby — so says their leader, a newscaster-turned- Johnny-Winter-As-Manson fellow. Lucky for Heston, he runs into a real sweet n sassy Get Christie Love-esque jive talkin’ normal gal from Harlem whose just lookin’ to get down and funky with that frilly shirted badass mutha, Charlton Heston. She’s gonna help Heston bring down whitey, both metaphorically and concretely speaking, and bring the picture to its inevitable end, complete with crucifix imagery and a hippiesque “children are the future” bus trip lead by the obligatory freaked out , floppy-hatted med student with counter culture tendencies. Sadly, this is all directed with the same flair as any given episode of McMillan And Wife, and features similarly dreadful, feelgood wife swapping music. Could’ve worked, but doesn’t, and survives mostly as a curio piece. Still, it scared the Creeping Jesus out of me when I was 8 years old.
One Two Three 1961 **** dir: Billy Wilder cast: James Cagney, Arlene Francis, Horst Buchholz, Pamela Tifflin, Lilo Pulver, Howard St John, Hans Lothar, Leon Askin, Red Buttons High speed laff derby has Cagney as a Coca Cola executive in West German Berlin who finds himself embroiled in an cross-Wall love affair between the boss’ daughter, a Tennessee Williams Meets Gidget nightmare, and pretty boy Communist romantic. Filled with ex-Nazis and statuesque German chicks (who Cagney juggles alongside his own problems with dynamic comic assurance), and frenetic to the point of dizziness (a Tilt-A-Whirl or a Star Wars movie has little on this), this is easily one of Wilder’s wildest and funniest — AND a testament to the enduring can-do mindset of the dedicated workers of Coca Cola abroad. A few more like Cagney and they could become a real world crafty and evil entity . . .
Out of Sight 1966 ** dir: Lennie Weinrib cast: Jonathan Daly, Karen Jensen, Robert Pine, Carole Shelayne, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Freddie and the Dreamers, Dobie Gray From the pen of Larry Hovis! Big evil Russian guy has plans of destroying teenagers and rock and roll by putting on a fair with headliners Freddy and the Dreamers and somehow causing harm to said headliners. How this will exactly do away with youth culture is as mystifying as the placement of twitching, twerpy, straight-legged Freddie and the Dreamers as the leaders of the great youth rebellion. One of the Dreamers looks like he’s about 50! Way gone, grandaddio! As luck would have it, the Russian guy’s plans might be foiled, thanks to a buck-toothed butler of a secret agent who comes on the case thanks to a mistaken identity, and gives the performance of a man who’s seen too many Jerry Lewis movies, but didn’t really understand what was so funny about them. Features lots of bikini assassins, go go dancing, and Norman Grabowski, fresh from his victory as Wolf Call O’ Brien in “Girl Happy”!
Pajama Party 1964 **** dir: Don Weis cast: Annette Funicello, Jody McCrea, Tommy Kirk, Elsa Lanchester, Harvey Lembeck, Jesse White, Ben Lessy, Donna Loren, Susan Hart, Candy Johnson, Buster Keaton, Dorothy Lamour, Patti Chandler, Toni Basil, Don Rickles, Frankie Avalon There’s something about a martian invasion and a hidden treasure in here (vaguely recycled for The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini by the same director), but you lose track real easily. AIP beach movie stars play a hodgepodge of new characters (Annette is Connie NOT Dee Dee and Jody McCrea is Lunkhead NOT Deadhead, for instance) as well as the old reliables (the uncanny Candy Johnson shaking around and Lembeck as Von Zipper with his funny gang of “teen” degenerates, the Rats), all thrown together for the mass funeral of Buster Keaton’s career — how wonderful he had so many young friends near the end! Keaton plays an Injun (really, not an Indian nor a Native American) with such gusto that you suspect they were holding back his paycheck to assure Big Laffs. Meanwhile, Kirk is a martian — when he tells Annette that he is from Mars, she replies that she is from Venue — thus setting in motion the most important self-help industry of the 90’s! Susan Hart is a slow, sloow, slooow hoochie koocher whose easy glide gyrations pop corks and light candles and explode light bulbs. Jesse White plays J. Sinister Hulk. Annette sings the lovely “Stuffed Animals” lament in a nightie equipped with super industrial brassiere supports (if Annette had gone braless, who knows what institutions might’ve collapsed!). Dorothy Lamour makes her final screen appearance wherein she energetically frugs with the kids and certainly embarrasses herself no more than she would, say, sporting a sarong with, say, Bob Hope. This movie sacrifices the usual cohesion and subversion in the name of an all-out entertainment blitzkrieg!
Palm Beach Story 1942 **** dir: Preston Sturges cast: Joel McCrea, Claudette Colbert, Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee, Sig Amo, Robert Dudley, William Demarest, Jack Norton, Franklin Pangborn, Jimmy Conlin Joel McCrea can’t afford fancy wife Claudette Cobert anymore. She being fanciful as well as fancy takes a train trip down to Palm Beach, at the encouragement of a hot dog magnate, to gold dig hopelessly bland doofus Rudy Vallee. McCrea follows, under the name Captain McGloo, and becomes province to Mary Astor, Vallee’s simply fab sister, who is also patron to a little foreign guy. All this has something to do with twins. Mind bogglingly brilliant.
Palm Springs Weekend 1963 *** dir: Norman Taurog cast: Troy Donahue, Connie Stevens, Stefanie Powers, Robert Conrad, Ty Hardin, Jack Weston, Andrew Duggan, Carole Cook, Jerry Van Dyke, Billy Mumy A gaggle of wacky teens descend on Palm Springs and tepid melodrama explodes! Connie, whose finest career moment was a duet with Edd Kookie Byrnes, is a poor girl pretending otherwise, sloughing off a baby sitting gig, and romantically juggling a soulful hillbilly and a would-be rapist playboy. Her roommate is the prerequisite cute plain jane who gets a girlie makeover, complete with fancy hair, which expels any rumor of cuteness. Her romance, tragically, is with the mono-talented Jerry Van Dyke, who, obviously only in theory, is around for comic relief. Also along is Stephanie as a local policeman’s daughter with a weakness for weekenders — in this case a pre-med student who lands her in jail because of a brawl. Pre-med or not, Dad’s wary of the weekenders and would like them outta’ his town — his tension is so bad that Mom’s trying to slip drugs into his orange juice! Not much beach action, seeing as they’re vacationing in an arid depressing desert, but the kids do go to a rich girl’s groovy dance party, where a scuffle ensues with bad boy Eric Von Zipper types (but not funny — SCARY!) who bust up her dad’s home bar because they want hard liquor AND a high stakes casino featuring live music from some freaky Four Lads?Kingston Trio hybrid combo singing about coal miners or workers strikes or something. The best parts of the movie feature Jack Weston a basketball coach/chaperone having an amusingly saucy flirtation with the tough broad hotel owner and Billy Mumy as the owner’s bratty son who makes the swimming pool spill over with soap suds. That’s a scenario you can’t miss with. If in the Godfather Part Two, Michael Corleone had taken his brother out into the lake and then it had spilled over with massive soap suds, causing comic calamity in the cosa nostra, that would have been a much better movie. Unfortunately, because of this glaring omission, we’re stuck with it and can only turn to this movie for relief. At one strange point, Van Dyke performs “Bye Bye Blackbird” with his banjo. Did the kids really dig this? This and the unsettling casino band make me wonder what the Palm Springs music scene was like back then. Certainly, this is the only teen movie that I’m aware of that is begging for a skiffle number.
Pandora’s Box 1928 **** dir: G.W. Pabst cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz Louise glides through this intense, dark tragedy like a wisp of gauze settling onto a naked fat lady’s torso. As the embodiment of the destructive force of naive sexuality with a great haircut, Louise is way ahead of her time and one wonders how Pabst was able to pull such miracles from a contrary, lazy, liquored up, over-sexed pseudo intellectual with magnetic eyes and one great neck. As Lulu, she destroys men, flirts with the decadent underbelly, goes on the run from the law, and even meets Jack the Ripper. Supposedly taking place in the late 1800’s, everyone’s done up in their flashiest 1920’s duds, which is fine because it raises parallels to the decay of Germany at the time and, also, everyone just looks fabulous!
Paradise Hawaiian Style 1966 * dir: D. Michael Moore cast: Elvis Presley, Suzanna Leigh, James Shigeta, Donna Butterworth Eeeek! Elvis plays Greg “Rick” Richards,a chopper pilot in Hawaii who pals around with the creepy little moppet from The Family Jewels! Mitigating factor: their duet of “Queenie Waheenie’s Papaya”. I hope Elvis was all strung out by this point! Elvis crony Red West plays “Rusty”!
Pardners 1956 * dir: Norman Taurog cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Agnes Moorehead, Lori Nelson, Jeff Morrow, Lon Chaney Jr. Dreadful by even the standards of a Norman Taurog film, Dean is a ranch hand and Jerry is a stupid rich guy who wants to be a cowboy. They’ve gotta’ save a ranch. The only good thing here is Jerry’s cowboy duds, and that’s a tenuous thread for an entire picture to hang on. Egos get in the way and the two have no chemistry. Can’t they break up already?
Paris Blues 1961 **** dir: Martin Ritt cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodwar, Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Louis Armstong, Serge Reggiani Brooding, though thankfully not too heavy, jazz melodrama has Newman as a self-centered genius trombonist hiding out in Paris and suffering for his art with cohort Poitier. Two American gals breeze into town and immediately aim to hook these gents mais vite! This agreeable little flick is made better by the presence of its attractive and charismatic cast, especially La Charmant Joanne, sadly undervalued as a fab movie starlet by the current retro freaks. The terribly pretty couples wrestle over art issues, race issues, drug issues, and traipse gracefully up and down the staircases of Paris, all in a lovely black and white. Features a great Duke Ellington score and an electric cameo by Louis Armstrong, a perpetually happy participant in the most inspiring musical scene it’s ever been my pleasure to witness, as he spars via swingin’ jazz with Newman’s band in a dingy club setting — Quel Satch!
Paris Holiday 1958 *** dir: Gerd Oswald cast: Bob Hope, Fernandel, Anita Ekberg, Martha Hyer, Preston Sturges Don’t tell anyone if you find Bob Hope funny — don’t even whisper it in confidence after a couple hopped up spritzers. The Saturday Night Live Generation will run you out of town on a rail, and you’ll have no one else to blame other than your big mouth — and Ol’ Ski Slope Schnozz’s big mouth, too. Well, I don’t think Bob Hope is funny (not ha ha funny anyhow), but this movie has me figuring out ways to run myself out of town on a rail. The logistics are a little tough, but I still don’t like Saturday Night Live, any season, so this could work itself all out. Hope is as good in this as he possibly could be (which means less funny than Jerry Lewis, but miles beyond Danny Kaye) as a big wig showbiz comedian in France to buy a new script, but instead finding himself involved in a mystery involving the murder of Sturges, who, aside from this movie, is one of the Top 10 Most Charming Charmers of All Time. Hope is aided by the luminously businesslike Martha Hyer and the really, really, really big Anita Ekberg. Also along for the ride is Fernandel, a malleable-mugged non-English yabbering French yukster who manages to commit some serious world class entertainment larceny — that is, his face steals the show from Hope’s mouth. Who does he think he is, Der Bingle?
Penelope 1966 • dir: Arthur Hiller cast: Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, Jonathan Winters, Dick Shawn, Ian Bannen, Lila Kedrova, Lou Jacobi One of the least likeable trends in 60’s movies was the groovy, quirky, wacky chick, like Holly Golightly to some pathetic extreme, all played by big prats. By all accounts, Natalie was some kinda rich kid Hollywood wildcat and this should predispose her to these wacky chick roles, but it never really translates. Perhaps that’s because while she might be a top shelf party guest, she’s a pretty dreadful comedienne, having the timing and delivery of formica. Besides, how crazy could she be, married to Robert Wagner? Wood plays a former beatnik folkie who robs her husband’s bank to get some attention and drags otherwise talented comic actors into the tiresome plot. Winters, as a college professor rapist (now that’s a funny idea!) is in this for about 45 seconds! And they have Dick Shawn playing a normal guy! Norman Taurog should know better! As outfitted by Edith Head, it’s indicative of her later work, appearing as though she puked up whimsey and no one could clean up the mess.
Period of Adjustment 1962 *** dir: George Roy Hill cast: Tony Franciosa, Jim Hutton, Jane Fonda,Lois Nettleton, John McGyver, Jack Albertson Tenneesee Williams, fresh off his third cocktail of the mornng, put together a little laff-fest based around all the scary themes of his scary work — Southern-ness, patriarchs and matriarchs, disintegrating marriages, weird diseases, and lost secrets. And it’s better than it sounds — Hutton gives a tour de force as a charming ex soldier who sweet talks his hospital nurse into marriage, only to turn into a pushy, shaky beast fixated on visiting his old army buddy, Franciosa, a unhappy sleazeball who spends his Christmas Eve assuring the positively shrill and dynamic Fonda that their marriage is just going through a “period of adjustment” again and again and again, all the while watching h is marriage go down the tubes. Fonda’s scream is worth the movie.
Private Navy Of Sgt. O’Farrell 1968 ** dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Jeffrey Hunter, Gina Lollobrigida, Mylene Demongoet I’m not falling into the Phyllis Diller trap. Hope orders up a bevy of bodacious nurses to please Our Boys In The Pacific and gets Diller instead!!! I say enough!!! Underneath the fright wig, Diller’s okay, kind of cute, actually, and she’s got a nice little figure, too. She’s certainly got more going on in that noggin than Lollobrigida — or Hope, for that matter. But Hope is too busy trying to procure a lost beer shipment (Did they have those? Did they actually have those in World War 2? Could you actually requisition booze and broads? I’ll bet you could requisition cigarettes and cards too! What a great war to be in!) now under the protection of a lone Japanese soldier. What a great message for the boys in Nam — loosen up — have a little fun — ignore Charlie, requisition some broads!!! That’s what our boys in Nam need — more hijinks!!! Hope’s a bit long in the tooth to play a private — where’s Jim Hutton when you need him?
Producers, The 1968 **** dir: Mel Brooks cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Dick Shawn, Lee Meredith, Christopher Hewett, Andreas Voustinas, Estelle Winwood, Renee Taylor, William Hickey Zero Mostel chews up scenery, wardrobe, Gene Wilder, and just about anything else he can get his gnawing teeth onto in this lively, uncontrolled farce about a pushy Broadway producer who schemes with a psychotic nebbish book-keeper to intentionally produce a Broadway flop for grand profit. The “Springtime For Hitler” song and stage number is legendary, but it’s really the small parts which go into the creation of the play — the weepy Nazi scriptwriter, the self-possessed cross-dressing director and his snitty, overtan, lycanthropic assistant, Dick Shawn’s over-blown, over-age, over weight flower child in ankle boots, the Swedish go-go dancing secretary , and all the goofballs auditioning for the role of Singing Hitler — that propel the genius of this movie, as well as the sharp and raucous performances of the two stars. Also features the even funnier song “Prisoners Of Love.” A parody of nothing in particular, you won’t even believe this is Mel Brooks.
Project X 1968 ** dir: William Castle cast: Christopher George, Greta Baldwin, Henry Jones, Monte Markham, Harold Gould Secret agent with amnesia circa 2112 is made to believe he’s a bank robber in the 1960’s in order to release information hidden in his brain about the Chinese (or as they say “The Sinos”) taking over the world. 2112 and the Chinese are still trying to conquer freedom!!! The future is highlighted by Harold Gould in a see-through skullcap and mod, multi-colored spotlights projected on back walls. The past is alot like an episode of Mannix. Hanna and Barbera provided the way out, groovy animated sequences inside George’s brain, no doubt inspired by LSD-driven nights, staring at lava lamps with the Krofft Brothers.
Rat Pack, The 1998 • dir: Rob Cohen cast: Ray Liotta, Joe Mantegna, Don Cheadle, Angus McFadden, Dan O’Herilhy Frank, Dean, and the rest get trapped in one of the worst lit episodes of Miami Vice I’ve ever seen! They play dupes to some guy who claims to be JFK, but lacks the unusual hairstyle. Sammy performs a riot calming tap dance of love for a crowd of screaming racists, obviously not understanding that his sizzling eclectic performance syle is not one to produce much in the way of tranquility. Bonus points for the centerpiece of the film, the world’s longest comedy improv entirely consisting of outdated racist humor ever committed to Pay TV!!! Why do people like these guys? The suits?
Reluctant Debutante, The 1958 ** dir: Vincente Minnelli cast: Rex Harrison, Sandra Dee, Kay Kendall, John Saxon, Angela Landsbury Spunky American chick finds herself thrust into the dreary high British society ritual of debuting, but at least her new world is decorated with lovely primary color lamps and scarlet evening dresses with matching wallpaper and the belief that John Saxon is a real badass. Thankfully, everyone’s rich in the end and Rex Harrison has the good British sense to imbibe and quip, imbibe and quip, imbibe and quip, God bless him. Evleyn Waugh can kiss Vincente’s well-upholstered ass!
Richest Girl In The World, The 1934 • dir: William Seiter cast: Miriam Hopkins, Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Reginald Denny World’s richest orphan (her parents died on the Titanic!) pretends to be her own personal secretary to find the one man who doesn’t love her for her money. Joel McCrea is the earnest schlub, Mariam Hopkins is the highly-strung millionairess, and the combination makes for a sweet little drunken scene and a surreal little marriage.
Road to Hong Kong 1962 *** dir: Norman Panama cast: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Joan Collins, Dorothy Lamour, Robert Morley, Peter Sellers Ah, those luckless charlatans are huckstering a flying suit in the Orient when Hope procures amnesia rather than funds, sending he and Der Bingle through a dizzying plot involving an ancient swami, Peter Sellers as an unusual Indian physician, spies, underwater headquarters, and spaceships!!! Though all this razzle and all that dazzle is hardly more incredible than the special effect of Hope and Der Bingle wooing young Joan Collins. How can a poor sexpot be expected make up her mind with such a smorgasbord of manly manhood? And don’t even throw Robert Morley into the mix, it’s hard enough on a girl!!! Seems like a James Bond parody, but given the release date, I’d suspect Dr. No was a parody of this. Funnier than it needs to be and worth it to see Hope and Der Bingle aghast and alarmed by the delightfully unhinged Sellers, serving as te New Breed Of British Absurdist Comedian’s Good Will Ambassador To Vaudeville. One can imagine the eye popping whispers between the two stars after that scene.
Robin And The Seven Hoods 1964 *** dir: Gordon Douglas cast: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Falk, Bing Crosby, Barbara Rush, Sig Ruman, Hans Conreid, Edward G Robinson Sure, it’s an over-long Sixties musical, but what do you want to do, sleep through Can Can? Sure this fails to reproduce the triumphant suits of Ocean’s Eleven, sure it takes place in faux gangsterland Chicago instead of seedy modern Vegas, sure there is no, I repeat, no Joey Bishop, sure Sammy plays an equal to all the other characters and not the mob janitor, but this movie has it all over Ocean’s Eleven. It wins just by being coherent. It’s a musical retelling of the Robin Hood legend, with Sinatra as Robbo, a gangster who becomes the hero of Chicago by taking on the Sheriff and evil mob boss, Guy Gisborne. While not perfect (it’s no Bugsy Malone!) there’s still good stuff, and I’m talking about more than just Sinatra’s weird habit of saying “Folly me” at several points in the movie. The music is great fun, especially the very Bing-oriented “Don’t Be A Do-Badder” or maybe it’s “Be A Do-Gooder” or something like that, the silly “You Got To Have Style” with Dean, Frank and Bing, the nifty movie version of “My Kind of Town,” complete with back-up singers and dixieland refrain, and the gin-soaked Rat Pack rave-up, “Mr. Booze.” Indeed!
Rock A Bye Baby 1958 *** dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Jerry Lewis, Marilyn Maxwell, Connie Stevens, James Gleason, Hans Conreid, Gary Lewis Purported to be a remake of Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, this would only really be a remake of the last 5 minutes. Jerry is the adoptive parent of triplets when their starlet mother doesn’t want the world to know she’s got those kind of stretch marks and prefers to make Egyptian costume dramas. Meanwhile, Jerry struggles to make cash to raise the kids with the help of the starlet’s kid sister, a startlingly un-Connie Stevensesque version of the same. Jerry goes on a local television talent show to perform a rock and roll number, which, as you can probably guess, makes this world a more giddy place to .preside.
Rome Adventure 1962 ** dir: Delmer Daves cast: Troy Donahue, Suzanne Pleshette, Rossano Brazzi, Constance Ford, Chad Everett, Angie Dickinson, Al Hirt School teacher lets her students read a saucy novel by this film’s screenwriter, then elevates it to high falutin’ art before being let go by the school and taking off to experience passion in Italy first hand. Unfortunately, she only experiences dull soap opera and a bunch of plain jane outfits. Certainly not as saucy as a certain novel written by a certain screenwriter whose name escapes me! After establishing dullness with bad boy Donahue, the film descends into droll travelogue and more plain jane outfits (despite the hint of illicit love) before culminating into a highly charged conversation between Pleshette and Brazzi covering a cacophony of topics, including technician-like extrapolations on their favorite modes of bathing. Not to be undervalued, though, is Al Hirt, appearing briefly as “Al Hirt,” represented herein as a wild, brawling Dixieland musician slumming with knife-wielding Italian vixens. Now that’s a Rome adventure if I ever heard one, and a tip-off to what could have been if Pleshette had dumped the Donahue bozo and taken up with Hirt. Features Chad Everett as a geeky Etruscan historian in a role that seems meant for Jerry Lewis.
Roustabout 1964 ** dir: John Rich cast: Elvis Presley, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Freeman, Leif Erickson, Pat Buttram, Norman Grabowski, Jack Albertson, Billy Barty, Richard Kiel, Raquel Welch Elvis is a badass drifter who hooks up with a big carnival and works for dykier-than-thou Barbara Stanwyck, and pursues the obligatory performing career. Of course that performance magic is working up to one singular defining moment, this one being a large production number of “Little Egypt,” complete with strange little Middle Eastern background yelps leaping from the veiled craws of the accompanying belly dancers. Elvis also manages to sing a song about carnival freaks. Elvis crony Red West, as “Carnival Worker,” diverts your attentions away from the explosive Raquel Welch as “College Student”.
Sad Sack 1957 ** dir: George Marshall cast: Jerry Lewis, David Wayne, Phyllis Kirk, Peter Lorre Doesn’t have much to do with the comic book — sorry, no Hi-Fi or General Rockjaw — but it does have an ooofy psychiatrist who studies losers, so of course pegs Jerry to have a look at. Still, you’d think with Jerry’s determination to play multiple roles, they might have cooked up some schtick involving Sadie Sack or Hillbilly Sack. As it is, he only meets Peter Lorre as an evil arab and that’s not funny, that’s sad. Hillbilly Sack could’ve lifted it right out of that funk.
Sandpiper, The 1965 *** dir: Vincente Minnelli cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Charles Bronson, Eva Marie Saint, Robert Webber Married religious school headmaster falls for busty beachfront bohemian artist and their passion is framed by illicit red curtains and pillows EVERYWHERE. Lots of talk of the nature of man in the universe while Taylor wears groovy purple slacks. That’s the sort of fashion choice you make when you’re international movie star Elizabeth Taylor. Not every woman can gab philosophy in such slacks! Little reason is given for their relationship, other than the fact that Burton and Taylor are obviously doomed to love and lose again and again and again in some kind of screen version of their ultimate hell. Burton represents the affair as a deep learning experience about freedom and responsibility — I think he learned a more about busty little purple slacked vixens than anything else. Charles Bronson plays a pushy atheist sculptor.
Sex And The Single Girl 1964 ** dir: Richard Quine cast: Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Lauren Bacall, Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer, Fran Jeffries, Edward Everett Horton, Stubby Kaye, Count Basie Curtis is a swinger/writer for a girlie mag sent to expose Helen Gurley Brown, so to speak, played by Wood, in one of her cuter moments, in super career gal mode. She is certainly cuter than the real Brown ever was, with a better hairdo. The real Brown has lately been prestidigitated into a highly-strung monkey with a brand new face-lift, these days. As Curtis inevitably begins to woo Wood, and everything’s headed to matrimony, one can imagine the film veers off the general course of the book from which it borrows its name. I can’t imagine Brown’s book was a step-by-step for strong-willed career gals to latch onto their man. Then again, she got those face-lifts for a purpose, so excuse my ignorance. The last third of the film is, thankfully, a gigantic car chase involving pretzels and Larry Storch. The pretzels are the funny part.
She Creature, The 1957 * dir: Edward L Cahn cast: Marla English, Tom Conway, Chester Morris, Ron Randell, Frieda Inescort, Cathy Downs, El Brendel, Jack Mulhall, Frank Jenks, Paul Blaisdell Evil hypnotist works his magic on a stacked pin-up girl to raise an even more stacked sea creature from his ancient sleep to go on a killing spree in a beachfront town. Two head turners for the price of one. Better than it sounds, the setting is moody and atmospheric, the performances aren’t bad at all, and there is that stacked, topless sea creature. Hubba hubba.
Shop Around The Corner 1940 **** dir: Ernst Lubitsch cast: Jimmy Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, Frank Morgan, Sweet without any syrup, the perfect antidote to Stewart’s other seasonal soaper, but not played twenty four hours a day during tis the season. Centering around a small Budapest department store, Stewart is an officious manager maintaining a secret romantic correspondence with an anonymous girl. He wants to marry her. Margaret Sullivan is a flighty, sarcastic coworker he constantly spars with, who also has a secret romantic correspondence with an anonymous boy she wants to marry. Their fates become entangled with the creepings of their coworkers — the huffy owner, his spoiled wife, the sleazy lothario, and the “aw shucks” courier who seeks position and respect — as well as a bit of tacky, overstocked merchandise (an ugly musical cigarette box), and it all spirals out of control until Christmas Eve, when it’s time to get you all misty. Features one very cathartic kiss.
Sin of Harold Diddlebock 1947 **** dir: Preston Sturges cast: Harold Lloyd, Frances Ramsden, Jimmy Conlin, Raymond Walburn, Rudy Vallee Many film historians hate this movie and, as usual, many film historians are talking out of their rear ends. After years of being chained to his desk, and striking out romantically with a succession of sisters, one Harold Diddlebock is plunged into a take charge frenzy by swilling down an impromptu potent potable that the bartender has named for him, after which he becomes involved with a number of silly misadventures, including very loud suits and zoo animals. A tribute to the power of positive drinking! This movie destroyed Sturges career when pre-urine sampling millionaire/movie producer Howard Hughes re-edited it to include a talking horse. Once it returned to Sturges’ original vision, everyone under the sun, including its capable star, Lloyd, proceeded to speak of it as one would a Pauly Shore movie these days. Since film historians seldom stray from the clean path marked “duh” or approach movies with anything resembling giddy reckless abandon, they’ve proudly backed up this attitude for 50 years! Hogwash! Those folks could do with a good stiff Diddlebock themselves.
Ski Party 1965 *** dir: Alan Rafkin cast: Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Aron Kincaid, Deborah Walley, Yvonne Craig, Robert Q. Lewis, Annette Funicello, James Brown, Lesley Gore, Bobbi Shaw, Patty Chandler, Mary Hughes Amiable dorks Avalon and Hickman play Some Like It Cold at a ski lodge, claiming to be She Brits in order to scam some of those superior “lady’s ski lessons” while dragged up in wigs so they might become ski lodge lotharios in their trousered alter egos. Come on, we’ve all tried that at some point in our lives! We’ve just never understood what we were doing, or why we were doing it! And Avalon is a pretty discombobulated guy, so this makes a lot of sense! Besides, once you toss in the gratuitous yodeling polar bear and the unusually-sweatered gender confused ski lodge manager and Annette as the college professor for the very likely class “Fun Without Sex” and James Brown and his hair melting some of the snow bunnies with that fancy ass footwork, the appropriate inner logic is attained. Features Aron Kincaid in the role of his career! Promised a follow-up called “Cruise Party,” surely too good to be true.
Skidoo 1968 **** dir: Otto Preminger cast: Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Mickey Rooney, John Phillip Law, Nilsson, Frankie Avalon, Frank Gorshin, Peter Lawford, Burgess Meredith, George Raft, Cesar Romero, Arnold Stang, Slim Pickens, Richard Kiel, Groucho Marx Some measure gruff survival against all odds by reaching the highest peak of Everest, others by surviving in the jungle with some rubber bands and chewing gum, but a few of us define it as holding onto all your limbs after the sight of Carol Channing, all gussied up like the father of our country, storming a boat alongside a crew of hippies, and singing the groovy title song to this film. All the rest can have their Mount Everest. This is one unusual mobster comedy — unusual because it doesn’t appear to be a comedy until two-thirds in after the characters have taken LSD, unusual because you can’t imagine the kind of bargaining that must have gone on to get all these oldsters to appear in such a now/happening/with it hippie comedy let alone situating Groucho into the nifty Matt Helm-esque white turtleneck, unusual because it implies that the Arnold Stang character had sex with the Carol Channing character (I think I’m going to be sick . . . ), unusual because it features the best performance ever by Fred Clark here playing a discombobulated prison guard on acid who hallucinates that garbage cans are putting on a little production number, unusual because you get to hear Jackie Gleason ask someone if he’s a “fag,” unusual because Frankie Avalon actually plays a real actual Italian American in real actual slacks that a real actual Italian American might wear, unusual because you get to see Groucho absently grope a couple women (including one very odd hemale stick insect) as if he were disoriented as to his whereabouts on a movie set, unusual because the end credits are sung by that highly talented Nilsson, unusual because it features three count ’em three Batman villains, unusual because you get to see Gleason have an LSD trip where he yells about ears just before renouncing violence, and unusual because the title song will not leave you alone for days after, infecting your brain like a Joe Cocker — Jennifer Warnes duet, except not. Unusual because you feel strangely rewarded and disturbingly satisfied by the final third, an LSD orgy by way of Rowan and Martin. They can make Godzilla stomping New York or the Titanic going down as realistic looking as they want in this age of celluloid miracles, you’ll never see a special effect more amazing than the simple male pleasure of Carol Channing doing a a strip tease! How’d they do that? Hold me down — I’m bustin’ through the TV! This is the celluloid representation of your great uncle with Turrets syndrome — you’re delighted he’s around disgracing the family name, but you don’t want him bugging you anymore than your great aunts do. This beat Easy Rider in the counter culture movie sweepstakes by one year, and it really stems from the same concept — money-laden Hollywood types find they can afford to pay lip service to a let-it-all-hang-out ethos through regurgitated psychedelics and groovy clunky camerawork — but this movie at least had the foresight to include Slim Pickens in the love in. Now that’s a big man with a big ol’ heart!
Some Came Running 1958 **** dir: Vincente Minnelli cast: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer, Arthur Kennedy Ultimate sleazy soaper has Frank as a returning war vet torn between being a writer or a boozer. He ignores his hypocritical, small town lothario of a brohter and prefers the low crowd, which includes the floozied up Shirley and Dino as a guy named Bama who never takes his hat off and packs his suitcases with booze bottles. Only the focused blonde grace of Martha Hyer can save Sinatra from this surly crowd and put him on the right literary path! Conflict is created by the fact that Shirley and Dino make so many fashion flubs, yet their souls are noble. Oh, Vincente, you Kierkegaard of couture! Complete with moto-hip Elmer Bernstein walk-on-the-wild-side score and a great finale at a nighttime carnival!
Space Children 1958 ** dir: Jack Arnold cast: Jackie Coogan, Russell Johnson, Johnny Crawford, Sandy Descher, Michael Webber, Peggy Webber, Adam Williams Mildly gloomy piffle about glowing, growing brain that enlists the aid of children in stopping the development of a weapons satellite. I didn’t really understand what good involving the kids accomplished other than alerting the adults to the existence of the brain and setting the plot in motion, but who am I to argue with a giant glowing brain from an advanced planet? His appearance on our planet interrupts several dysfunctional families who were obviously expecting to be the center of a much different kind of movie. Yet the brain claims to have concerns over the natural order of things -HAH! Features a nifty title sequence with the space children’s faces superimposed over the vast expanse of the universe while eerie theremin music plays and the Professor from Gilligan’s Island as an abusive drunk.
Spinout 1966 ** dir: Norman Taurog cast: Elvis Presley, Shelly Fabares, Diana McBaine, Deborah Walley, Dodie Marshall, Will Hutchins, Warren Berlinger, Carl Betz, Cecil Kellaway, Una Merkel Low level rocker and race car driver finds himself in a matrimonial tug-of-war between a spoiled millionaire’s daughter and a sex-book writer who appears at least old enough to be his step-mother. Also thrown in for the battle royale is a girl drummer/grease monkey/gourmet, the coolest of all Elvis gals, played by future Gidget Deborah Walley. Eventually, the bossy millionaire dad, his perpetually fainting personal secretary, and a truffle-lovin’ simple country cop are thrown into the love mix and it all snowballs to the inevitable Race Car Finale At The End Of An Elvis Movie. Elvis isn’t such a smarty in this one — when someone asks him to do something, if he thinks the guy is a jerk or, maybe, a millionaire ready to unload money on him, Elvis will automatically do the opposite, based on some sort of something that is supposed to make things a matter of principle, but which one is never made clear, and is really just a matter of being Elvis in an Elvis movie — that brash young rebel!!! He might be giving those juvenile delinquents of 1966 even more unsavory ideas! One of the best Elvis movie soundtracks, the musical numbers are the reason to watch, especially the very lively finale — full of frantically wiggling hindsides and all that other stuff that made the Sixties so groovy. No civil rights marches, though. Elvis cronies Red West and Joe Esposito play “Members of Shorty’s pit crew.”
Stay Away Joe 1968 * dir: Peter Tewksbury cast: Elvis Presley, Burgess Meredith, Joan Blondell And stay away from this flick. The King is a full-blooded Native American (!!!) returning to the reservation in the very, very, very, very, very weird movie. The first half is a collection of wild party scenes with little structure, the last half has some retarded girl pursuing Elvis, with her mother and a shotgun, armed with amorous intentions. If you qualify your movies by how topless Burgess Meredith appears in them, this is a four star spectacular. Elvis crony Joe Esposito comes to life in his role as “A Workman”.
Stooge, The 1952 *** dir: Norman Taurog cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Polly Bergen, Eddie Mayehoff, Marion Marshall If you ignore the awful songs which make you feel as though you’re having your eyes drilled, this might be Dean and Jerry’s best. Dean is a browbeating comedian who hires simpleton Lewis as his stooge. The team reaches new fame, but alcoholic meanie Dean takes all the credit. While funny in parts, it’s probably the first visible indication that Dean Martin could be a fine dramatic actor when he felt like it. I don’t think this film was crying out for Jerry to have a love interest named Frecklehead, though.
Story Of Three Loves 1953 • dir: Vicente Minnelli and Gottfried Reinhardt cast: Pier Angeli, Moira Shearer, Ethel Barrymore, Kirk Douglas, Farley Granger, Leslie Caron, Agnes Moorehead, Zsa Zsa Gabor Camera wanders aimlessly and focuses in on the distressed brooding faces of three passengers, unveiling the romantic angst within. And that’s the only link between the stories in this anthology movie. The only one. The only really strong link. That one link. One segment would have us believe that Kirk Douglas would happily wear lavender tights and clogs like a little girlie girl. Well, actually, the proof is right out there, isn’t it? He WOULD, wouldn’t he? I’d rather see his naked ass in a 1970’s science fiction movie than THAT!!!
Suddenly 1954 **** dir: Lewis Allen cast: Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason, Nancy Gates Frank is a hit man gunning for the President who commandeers the home of the typical American — make that typical Hollywood-created American family — with the perfect sniper’s view out their window. Commie-naming boozer Hayden is the upstanding policeman who will save the day. Sinatra’s performance is second only to The Man With The Golden Arm and this portrayal of a war vet as an unstoppable killing machine seems way ahead of it’s time, without actually having any sympathy for the character at all. He’s just bad. Dropping him into Leave It To Beaverland makes it better, though you keep waiting for him to off the brat kid. And take down Hayden while he’s at it, before he fingers another red.
Sullivan’s Travels 1941 **** dir: Preston Sturges cast: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest, Margaret Hayes, Porter Hall, Eric Blore,Robert Greig, Jimmy Conlin, Al Bridge, Franklin Pangborn A delightfully clear-headed justification for all those frivolous flicks Hollywood made during the Depression! McCrea is excellent as the director of such classics as “Hey Hey In The Hayloft” who wants to make a more serious kind of film. He anonymously takes to the road to get a glimpse of the real America, followed by a trailer full of Hollywood cogs, and meets up with Veronica Lake, cute as a button and in charming conflict to Noir Frau fame. By the end, McCrea’s moment of epiphany is posi-tootly life transforming! Nowadays, this would be something smarmy with Billy Crystal, but Sturges had the rare talent to pull off the unlikely.
Sun Also Rises, The 1957 *** dir: Henry King cast: Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, Errol Flynn, Eddie Albert, Gregory Ratoff, Juliette Greco, Marcel Dalio Impotent Tyrone Power finds himself playing nursemaid to an old flame’s discarded beaus from the streets of Paris to the bullfighting rings of Spain. Ava plays that, a flirty evil girl everyone knows, a must to avoid if you don’t like pain. She alternately manages to look 22 or 42, depending on the scene — and is built like the Joker with ice cream cones on his chest. The story is compelling enough when in Paris, but once the action moves to Spain, complete with a drunken Eddie Albert, a creepy, dorky obsessive stalker type, a drunken bellowing Scotsman, and Martin Short As A Torrero, the drama is stretched a bit thin thanks to endless bullfighting scene stacked upon endless bullfighting scene. However you do get the distraction of all the men dressed in identical, very, very butch outfits. French singer Greco steals the movie with her brief role as a bored, sarcastic Parisian performer who Power takes out then dumps in favor of the convoluted whirlygig that Ava offers. I dunno, ask Sinatra.
Sunday In New York 1963 **** dir: Peter Tewksbury cast: Jane Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Rod Taylor, Robert Culp, Jim Backus Take one look at the cast of unappealing male dullness and you’ll be switching channels but fast. Realize who the director is — he gave the world such questionable Elvis vehicles as Stay Away Joe and The Trouble With Girls — and you’ll just give up on the entire medium rather than take your chances in the celluloid wilderness ever again. Even pre-Barbarella Jane can’t turn your head. Which is a shame. Not only does Jane shine in her tightrope walk between calm gutsiness and charming disheveled dizziness in a number of sensible dresses punctuated by smart little jackets, but so does the male cast. Well, not the dresses and jackets part, but the rest. The shine part. They will surprise you with or without the smart little jackets. Jane is a virgin on the run from her over-anxious ex-fiancee. She takes refuge with her swingin’ airline pilot brother, played with delightful smarm by Robertson, and meets Rod Taylor on the bus and draws him into an elaborate ruse when fiancee Culp shows up. Culp plays like a dynamic new Jack Carson and if you never imagined Taylor could be brilliant (and I’d wager Taylor himself couldn’t) then you would be right, except for this strange anomaly. The world’s filled with eccentrics investigating rains of frogs, but no one seems to care about the Strange Case of Rod Taylor’s Mind Bogglingly Brilliant Performance. So frogs drop from the sky? Big deal! As an out-of-towner who comes on smooth but proves to be a befuddled nice guy victimized by Jane’s personal crisis, Taylor beats the frogs hands down. Also features an amusing subplot involving Robertson trying to have an intimate moment with his best girl and ending up flying her around the country by accident and Peter Nero, Peter Nero, Peter Nero! You see Nero’s album, you hear talk of the album’s release date, you witness Peter Nero references, and, finally, you end up at Club Nero, urban home of none other than Peter Nero! Often, movies indulge in product placement, but you’ve never seen product quite like Peter Nero and his fancy fingers! Delightful from start to finish, it’s a shame Jane ever got a shag!
Susan Lenox: Her Rise And Fall 1931 *** dir: Robert Z. Leonard cast: Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Jean Hersholt, John Miljan, Alan Hale Nifty melodrama follows Garbo from innocent country girl to carnival bimbo to high society broad to globe-trotting dance hall girl, all in the name of loving Clark Gable! Can you blame a gal, he’s so dreamy and rugged! A real showcase for Garbo, who gets to play all types and do it well — Gable plays his typical likable dope, though we prefer him with the mustache. They don’t make them like this anymore, and, if they did, they would probably star Julia Roberts and who needs that?
Swinger, The 1966 * dir: George Sidney cast: Ann-Margret, Tony Franciosa, Robert Coote, Horace McMahon, Ann-Margret is a literary goody-two shoes who goes everywhere in leotards and lives in a bohemian flophouse featuring routine go-go dance numbers. In a bid to sell her stories to a skin rag, she pretends to be a sleazy nymphomaniac with a past who is selling her autobiography. You know she’s wild and untamed because she calls everyone “man” and proclaims sex-related acts as “the grooviest.” Worth it for the opening production number and the guy with the fish in the jail.
Tamahine 1963 • dir: Philip Leacock cast: Nancy Kwan, John Fraser, Dennis I don’t know who Nancy Kwan thinks she is, forcing people with a spare 90 minutes to endure the world’s worst performance in broken English. Apparently, we’re supposed to make allowances for pretty Asian ballerinas, but the joke’s on Kwan, because she’s not famous anymore, and here’s one reason why. Kwan’s a Polynesian girl being raised in a British boys school — a fish out the water, but look at the gills, as it were. One of those movies in which a simpleton/innocent/primitive transforms the lives of the snooty/rich/intellectual, which these days often star Robin Williams, but given the fact that the plot of this film involves one hundred different ways to get Kwan into her skivvies, you can at least be thankful for the small favors life hands you. Just think Robin Williams and know that things could be worse, much worse.
Teacher’s Pet 1958 **** dir: George Seaton cast: Clark Gable, Doris Day, Gig Young, Mamie Van Doren, Nick Adams, Charles Lane The real truth about Doris Day comes when, after enduring Mamie Van Doren’s performance of “The Girl Who Invented Rock And Roll” in a nightclub, Doris treats Clark Gable to a 10 second version of her own design, and you realize how obvious a broad like Mamie is and how vivaciously subversive Doris is. This movie is one of the best examples of that. This funny, funny movie has Gable as a gruff, old-timey newspaper editor who ends up incognito in a journalism class being taught by Doris, a professionally inexperienced, by-the-book daughter of a pulitzer prize winner. Through the time-honored Doris Day Vehicle Male Deception Principle, Doris simultaneously spars with Gable while being wooed by his classroom alter ego. The real prize, though, is Gig Young, who steals the show as Hugo Pine, the dancinest, maritini swillinest, bongo playinest, downright dreamiest behavioral anthropologist ever featured in a major motion picture! A truly life altering presence. And dreamy, too.
Teenage Caveman 1958 **** dir: Roger Corman cast: Robert Vaughn, Darrah Marshall, Leslie Bradley, Frank De Kova A.K.A. Ingmar Bergman’s Teen-Age Caveman, covering the dark angst of being a maturing caveman, just discovering the gloom of the world around you. “Why can’t we go past the swamp? Why worship fire? Why fear the large lizards?” asks the know-it-all teenage caveman, echoing his modern day counterparts. Everyone broods for the answers. Though the notion of a caveman psychodrama is a little, you know, stupid, Corman’s sober-faced approach, artsy filmmaking choices, impressive and unusual Biblical beginning, and his wonderful shock ending make this the one must-see caveman psychodrama in existance. Bergman may have gone on and on about Swedes, but never cavemen, not even Swedish cavemen.
Teenage Millionaire 1961 **** dir: Lawrence Doheny cast: Jimmy Clanton, Zasu Pitts, Rocky Graziano, Diane Jergens, Chubby Checker, Jackie Wilson, Marv Johnson, Bill Black, Dion, Jack Larson, Vicki Spencer, Sid Gould As the titular teenage millionaire, Smarmy Jimmy Clanton fulfills every teen’s wildest dream by spending all his timing laying around the house listening to records with Rocky Graziano. He eventually finagles a way to cut a hit record, and you can imagine what a great motivator hanging with Graziano all day would be in getting out of the house and keeping busy. This black and white drama is just something they slapped together in order to show off the tinted color footage of rock stars performing their hits. Each time Clanton puts the needle down on the record, he is overdubbed hypnotically telling Graziano what record he is playing. Cryptically the screen melts into a creative visualization of Bill Black’s Combo acting smoooooooth. The musical scenes are fun though it’s a bit unnerving when these transitions mysteriously take place with a nightclub jukebox. The view is left to wonder what this strange psychic power of suggestion Clanton possesses actually is and why is it limited to hypnotizing people into believing they’re watching Jack “Jimmy Olsen” Larson performing “Me Got The Back To School Blues” while sitting in a jalopy? Or Chubby Checker doing what must be his best song, “The Jet,” complete with theremin and dances moves that look as though they were lifted from a very fey chicken. Maybe I’m reading too much into this movie. Maybe it needs me to. Anyhow, Sid Gould is hilarious as a skittish, weird, harmonica playing record company agent, and obviously didn’t receive the memo from the producers that no one had to act in this movie, just show up, be a body on the set, and get free lunch. Poor Sid. However, there is avid memo reader Graziano, who gives the exact performance you’d expect from a man of stumbling diction who’d been knocked in the head once too often and with great gusto. Also, there is the seemingly intoxicated Zasu Pitts who, six gins into the proceedings, utters the immortal line “I know will’s Robert is strong” which makes you wonder what exactly she said in the other 97 takes that made this the useable one. But, of course, the boyish can-do charm of that atomic powered Wayne Newtonesque wonder Jimmy Clanton saves the picture!
Ten Thousand Bedrooms 1957 • dir: Richard Thorpe cast: Dean Martin, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Eva Bartok, Dewey Martin, Walter Slezak, Dean Jones Dreadful movie with Dean as a hotel playboy wooing Italian broad. Dean’s first movie after THE BIG SPLIT, I think it’s time to give Jerry a little more credit than he’s traditionally gotten.
Tender Trap, The 1955 **** dir: Charles Walters cast: Frank Sinatra, David Wayne, Celeste Holm, Debbie Reynolds A cautionary tale for bachelors. Sinatra has so many women he doesn’t know what to do — he’s relegated Carolyn Jones to Official Dog Walker, for God’s sake! Old married pal David Wayne drops in to escape his wall-to-wall carpeting wife and urges Sinatra to get his life in order. Sinatra’s most likely matrimonial gal Friday is the vibrant Celeste Holm, a smart and cute violin player with an iron stomach. All congregate happily around Sinatra’s homebar, an elegant monolith placed at the center of the pad where martinis are merrily mixed in gigantic brandy glasses. Enter Debbie Reynolds, the young precocious title menace. She has her future all planned out, right down to the part in her husband’s hair. A bachelor’s nightmare! She’s already shopping for home furnishings and, when placed comfortably in an easy chair, she sees her future husband as a gewgaw that fits in with the rest of decor as decisively as drapes. Once she spies Sinatra lounging in the futuristic living room of her dreams, the bells go ding dong, dig that skinny gewgaw! Unfortunately, these bells don’t ring true since this unappetizing prat is pitted against the truly appealing person of Holm, who surely doesn’t conspire to overhaul the pad, a scheme which no doubt means dismantling the monolith and installing wall-to-wall. Regardless, this is an uproariously amusing and mysteriously ignored Sinatra movie, with Wayne in fine form and the Chairman contributing a rousing skat version of the title song in a nifty opening sequence, as well as the world’s best hangover scene. The triumph of decorating totalitarianism over boozy independence proves that some men are just gewgaws at heart.
This Is Elvis 1981 *** dir: Malcolm Leo cast: Andrew Solt, David Scott, Ral Donner Ral Donner, the British Billy Crash Craddock, apparently, is the voice of Elvis in the Great Beyond, telling the true story of his life in this pseudo documentary which mixes the obvious with the unusual and seems to have been the brainchild of Col. Tom “Bad Publicity Is In Fact The Best Publicity” Parker. With many staged recreations (including a fake press conference with Elvis’ bodyguards as he descends into Elvis Druggie Hell) and documentary footage, it manages to build up the hackneyed legend of Elvis and then tear it down in a cautionary tale that seems low on caution. Of course the real prize is the concert footage of fat, mumbly, sweaty Elvis, flubbing all his lines to “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” an incoherent drug-induced babble which, if nothing else, certainly does cement him as the King Of Rock And Roll. Apparently no Joe Esposito role is featured.
Thousand Clowns, A 1965 **** dir: Fred Coe cast: Jason Robards, Barbara Harris, Martin Balsam, Barry Gordon, Gene Saks, William Daniels Robards is a non-conformist NYC writer raising his nephew and considering going legit to prove to two prim and judgmental child welfare workers that he’s a fit guardian. Much, much, much wackier and funnier than the premise implies, Robards is vibrantly self-involved as the former children’s show writer, who has abandoned that world of low laughs in order to pontificate to his nephew about his view of the world, and Gordon is great as his nephew, the real adult in the relationship. Gene Saks steals the show as children’s show host Chuckles The Chipmunk, a vain welt of a human hardly able to look past his own maniacal pseudo-celebrity to see the kids he thinks he’s entertaining, but is probably horrifying. Really not as depressing as it sounds.
Three On A Couch 1966 ** dir: Jerry Lewis cast: Jerry Lewis, Janet Leigh, Mary Ann Mobley, Gila Golen, Leslie Parish, James Best, Kathleen Freeman Jerry Lewis’ adult psychiatric sex comedy??? Jerry plays one of those regular guy middle class joe bohemian artists who pop up in old movies. He wins a contest to paint a mural in France, but psychiatrist/fiancee Leigh won’t go — seems she has three man-hating single gal patients who can’t do without her. Enter Jerry and his predilection for playing multiple roles — this time three different, tailor-made perfect guys who woo the girls into rapid recovery — say, just in time to catch that boat to France! Adult and psychiatric enough for you? In a strange bid to be artsy, Jerry has a habit of shooting people’s backs ON PURPOSE, you know, facing away from the camera as they speak. Godardesque in its own curious way, I suppose. Janet is adorned in millions and trillions of outfits, but all of them are drab, and Miss Golden Bust looks a bit haggard, probably from dividing her time between Jerry at work and Tony Curtis at home — talk about high strung! Worth sitting through for Jerry’s hilariously giddy, effeminate southern zoologist character, which they could’ve wrapped a whole movie around — a funnier, better movie.
Three Ring Circus 1955 * dir: Joseph Pevney cast: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Joanne Dru, Sig Ruman, Elsa Lanchester One of those movies where wanderers get bottom-of-the-barrel jobs at a circus and end up, with a little in the way of chutzpah and a lot in the way of smooth romancin’, are in charge of the whole works. Four year olds might dig this.
Tickle Me 1965 * dir: Norman Taurog cast: Elvis Presley, Jocelyn Lane, Julie Adams Elvis is a fitness instructor at an all-girl dude ranch, helping the owner gal search for lost treasure while dodging the lecherous glances of so many lovely callastinics-loving ladies. Attempts to replace the oceanside locale with a western ghost town, but it’s hardly the same thing — when is Hollywood going to wake up and give us what we want for a change? We don’t want Elvis is the desert with sand — we want him near the water, with . . . sand. I think I missed the tickling scene, but it must be in there somewhere.
Tony Rome 1967 ** dir: Gordon Douglas cast: Frank Sinatra, Jill St. John, Richard Conte, Gena Rowlands, Shecky Green, Sue Lyon, Simon Oakland Any movie that ends with a close-up of Jill St. John’s butt sashaying off then zooms into the happy grin of the Chairman (acting as though he’d never seen Jill’s butt before!) really can’t be all that bad. Apparently Sinatra’s attempt at some Matt Helm style smarm, the plot is purely incidental — about some rich girl and a murder and a houseboat. Features horse-faced daughter Nancy’s theme (“Fathers lock your daughters up/ ’Cause Tony Rome is out and about/ And Tony Rome’ll get ’em if you don’t watch out”) AND ex boxing champ Rocky Marciano in the not at all degrading role of Packy, the pier-side necktie salesman. A true relic from the Late Sixties Marina Era, wherein so many legendary stars would apparently only commit to a film if it took place on location at a lazy, breezy marina.
Traveling Saleslady, The 1935 **** dir: Ray Enright cast: Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell, William Gargan, Hugh Herbert, Grant Mitchell Booze flavored toothpaste might sound a bit yucky, but it’s certainly better than toothpaste flavored booze, of which there is plenty, peppermint schnapps, mint juleps, and the like. Plenty of freshman college dorks have swilled their way through that stuff, but that isn’t going to make them line-up for this highly amusing yarn — they’ll be too busy watching their Blade Runner video for the 32nd time. I’m snoozing just thinking about that, but I’ll prop my eyes open with toothpicks to tell you this: in order to infuriate her toothpaste magnate father, Blondell teams-up with the inventor of the booze flavored toothpaste to sell it to daddy’s chief competitor and make it a huge success just to prove a point to daddy. Blondell is lively and fun, much more so than Harrison Ford, and so is her little movie, unlike Blade Runner, which is by contrast plodding and pre-fab cool for dorks. I mean, gin flavored toothpaste, now that’s futuristic!
Two Faced Woman 1941 ** dir: George Cukor cast: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Constance Bennett, Roland Young, Robert Sterling, Ruth Gordon, Frances Carson Slight comedy about a sweet ski instructor masquerading as her own vampy twin sister to win back her husband’s affections is one part The Lady Eve and one part zzzzzzzzzzz. Why would a gal go to all that trouble for Melvyn Douglas? Makes you fearful of what she’s do for, say, Franchot Tone. Or Cesar Romero. Garbo provides most of the interest here, what with her uncluttered beauty and acting, and Constance Bennett manages to create guffaws from nothing, but it should be remembered that this is the movie that made Garbo vant to be alone. I’m sure Melvyn Douglas maintained his busy social calendar, though.
Two Weeks In Another Town 1962 *** dir: Vincent Minnelli cast: Kirk Douglas, Edward G Robinson, Cyd Charisse, George Hamilton, Claire Trevor, Constance Ford, Otto Preminger Jr Washed up actor Douglas jets all the way to Rome for a bit part to find out he is too old and haggard looking to appear before the camera, so is relegated to the dominion of the aesthetically unsound and works in Edward G’s dubbing department. Passions explode in that Minnellian way — suicide attempts in stunningly sparse bathrooms, catfights against the backdrop of lovely aqua tablecloths, and death beds with red bedspreads that match the lush walls. All this and a decadent, crazed, drunken, artsy finale with Leslie Uggams purring out a torch song. The only movie I can think of that uses the very strange Italian custom of dubbing every actor in every movie to stir up so much pathos.
Undercurrent 1946 *** dir: Vincente Minnelli cast: Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor, Robert Mitchum, Edmond Gwenn, Marjorie Main, Jayne Meadows Minnelli cools his heels until color and has Hepburn move in and out of beautifully realized living spaces as she marries a man who she suspects might be pure evil, despite his confident and on-target knowledge of women’s fashions. Unfortunately, he likes black dresses — as black as the depth of his soul!!! Fine melodrama, Minnelli meets Hitchcock, which means an innocent falls into a spiraling chain of events that are out of her control while indulging in stylish footwear.
Unfaithfully Yours 1948 *** dir: Preston Sturges cast: Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Rudy Vallee, Barbara Lawrence, Kurt Krueger, Lionel Stander, Robert Greig, Edgar Kennedy, Julius Tannen Sturges spends a good hour on drollery, elevating dreamy hoity-toi Harrison into one cliched super suave dream lover — in fact, an arrogant, romantic, genius orchestra conductor in the perfect marriage with the perfectly clad woman — who, thanks to the meandering intrusions of the always socially impaired Vallee, Harrison believes is having an affair and indulges in some melodramatic, and somewhat violent, revenge fantasies. After revealing Harrison to be suave, but, in fact, a suave nut, Sturges then — thankfully for all of us and, I’m sure, much to the dismay of all the swooning shop girls in 1948 — spends the last part of the movie disarming Harrison’s unflappable gun to reveal him as a clucking goofball as he attempts to make good on his fantasies. The final scene might purport otherwise, but by then, we, and all those little shop girls, know better, and Harrison’s fancy wife can have him. We want a real man like Rudy Vallee. Not so much funny as it is subversive, in regard to screen treatments of romantic icons, movies like Titanic could probably take a few pointers from this.
Valley Of The Dolls 1967 **** dir: Mark Robson cast: Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Sharon Tate, Susan Hayward, Paul Burke, Tony Scotti, Martin Milner, Lee Grant, Joey Bishop, George Jessel Following a trio of gals trying to make it in the high pressure world of super glitz showbiz: Parkins is the gal from Ye Olde Podunk, New England, who works her way from assistant to super model; Duke is a substance abusing tornado with a breast hugging necklace and a Broadway belt — like Streisand if she were, you know, temperamental; and Tate is stacked starlet, in love with a diseased invalid, oppressed by his creepy sister, and doomed to act in foreign “art movies.” All the girls fall prey to sex, drugs, booze, mental anguish, and Martin Milner, and also learn about the power of song. Much much better than the useless rock and roll version Russ Meyer made a few years later, it stretches the soap opera movie to new heights and features some groovy wigs as it does so. Features the line “Broadway doesn’t go for booze and dope.” Point taken.
Very Private Affair, A 1962 ** dir: Louis Malle cast: Brigitte Bardot, Marcello Mastrianni, Eleonore Hirt, Dirk Sanders Insanely maned French mega-star Bardot plays insanely maned international mega-star Jill, who leaves the simple life in a Swiss country chateau the size of Delaware for more frenzied fare, being relentlessly pursued by paparazzi and forced to behave like an animal caged in luxury hotels. Eventually, Bardot is holed-up in sparse room in Italy, dodging reporters, performing her hit “Sidonie” in bed, and generally going stir crazy. Considering the movie is somewhat biographical, and that Malle had Bardot hanging around anyway, he might have wanted to ask her some questions about what her life was like rather than churn out more stale melodrama where a beautiful French lady stares emotionlessly at life, despaired by the vacuum of her ennui. But the French like that stuff. Americans? We like explosions.
Village of the Giants 1965 *** dir: Bert I. Gordon cast: Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford, Beau Bridges, Ron Howard, Tiisha Sterling, Tim Rooney, Joy Harmon, Toni Basil Boy genius Howard creates a growth formula that falls into the hands of evil son of a butcher Bridges, who initially thinks dad can use it to make bigger meat product, but eventually misuses it with his frug happy friends to become giants and teach the grown-ups a thing or two about authority. Well, they say that, but it’s apparent that what they really like about being giants is that they can be seen from any point in town at any given moment, which gives them great opportunity to show off some of their groovy moves. Wherever you look, there are teenyboppers in the horizon doing the Pony! The townspeople don’t care, though — after the sight of giant geese frugging in the local au-go-go, few things raise an eyebrow. Except for giant boobs. Don’t think they made a whole movie about giant teenagers without calling attention to giant boobs. Super realistic well-worth-the-money-spent-on-papier-mache giant boobs.
VIPs, The 1963 *** dir: Anthony Asquith cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Louis Jordan, Margaret Rutherford, Rod Taylor, Maggie Smith, Orson Welles, Elsa Martinelli, David Frost The next time you’ve turned your carry-on into an easy chair, sitting in a line with bored teenagers and old people, eating a Twix bar for dinner, and knowing that they’ve cancelled the complimentary meal because your plane has been delayed past the dinner flight hour and that’s just how they do things, remember that there is high drama going on in the VIP lounge that makes you seem small and insignificant. Elizabeth Taylor has time to indulge in the soap opera of her life because she’s so damned big and important she’s got people serving her left and right, arranging where her baggage is going, and setting her up in a glitzy overnight hotel! She also hogs the screen time away from the delightful stories within, such as Orson Welles as a crass foreign film director, underused to a fault, with his bimbo gal wanting to play Queen Elizabeth I in one of his films, and Margaret Rutherford, who steals the movie as a titled British lady who doesn’t understand this newfangled flight technology, popping pills and booze to get her through it, haranguing everyone around her. Not unlike Liz, actually, but Liz makes you feel the chaos from within, lets you know it’s just not all shallow entertainment, and looks marvelous in her outfit, though you can only look at poor stammering, broken Burton and say “Good, God, man, what has this natural force of a woman done to you? Find yourself a good stage play and get out while you can!” No stewardess characters!
Viva Las Vegas 1964 **** dir: George Sidney cast: Elvis Presley, Ann-Margret, Cesare Danova, William Demarest, Jack Carter One thing’s for certain and that’s Ann-Margret ain’t got no rock n roll in her. One thing she does have is the world’s most curious dance style. Usually there’s some predetermined uniformity of style commonly called choreography. With Ann-Margret, you get what I’ll refer to as “dancebites” where she does five seconds of this, four seconds of that, six seconds of the other thing, a frug here, a shimmy there, and a loopty loo hereabouts, and, oh, look, she’s doing a snorkle! Watching Ann-Margret go go go is more like watching a coming attraction of dances she’s actually going to do in full later on, but right now we just get this little teaser. As a bonus, Ann-Margret makes some of the goofiest, most unflattering faces while offering us this exclusive look ahead. Still, it is an Elvis movie, with the King wearing some of the tiniest jackets I’ve ever seen on a trucker from Tennessee. The story is about car racing and I don’t want to give anything away here, but if someone can explain to me how Shorty managed to procure a motor for Elvis’ race car at the last minute, I’d appreciate hearing it.
Von Ryan’s Express 1965 *** dir: Mark Robson cast: Frank Sinatra, Trevor Howard, Raffaella Carra, Edward Mulhare, James Brolin Call it “Sinatra’s Great Escape.” Frank leads POW escapees in World War 2 Italy down the railway and across the country, and also meets a cute Italian chick. Frank makes a good tough guy, because he is a tough guy, at least he might be, though sometimes he tap dances. An exciting war movie that has the distinction of being one of the few 60’s war epics to pack in a lot under 120 minutes.
Voodoo Woman 1957 * dir: Edward L Cohn cast: Marla English, Tom Conway, Michael Connors, Lance Fuller, Paul Blaisdell Mad British Scientist In The Jungle mixes voodoo with science and is surrounded by his tortured pin-up girl wife, the pin-up girl native in the sarong who he turns into a monster, and the evil pin-up girl who is willing to kill for gold. The evil pin-up girl gets to wear a sarong and the monster, previously seen in The She Creature, dons a blond wig, probably to remain incognito. Also features a smokey sacrificial pit and improv bongo songs.
Way Way Out 1966 *** dir: Gordon Douglass cast: Jerry Lewis, Connie Stevens, Robert Morley, Dennis Weaver, Howard Morris, Brian Keith, Dick Shawn, Anita Ekberg, James Brolin Jerry must hate this movie — wouldn’t you if you were upstaged by Dennis Weaver? McCloud/Dennis Weaver? Who would’ve guessed. This silly moonbase movie is a childhood favorite that, when confronted as an adult, brings forth great anxiety — you imagine seeing it again will be much like finding out your grandmother’s house is now a dilapidated crack den with Connie Stevens hanging around. Well, no, it’s not as bad as all that. Consider Morley muttering sadly about his honeymoon or Morris plastering his space station with nudie sketches or Shawn drunkenly bellowing while hoofing it up Russian-style or toothless Weaver accusing Morris of being covered with gravy — well, it’s unlike any dilapidated crack den I’ve ever had the pleasure to frequent and noisier than Grandma’s house. With or without Connie.
We Were Dancing 1942 ** dir: Robert Z Leonard cast: Norma Shearer, Melvyn Douglas, Gail Patrick, Marjorie Main, Reginald Owen, Connie Gilchrist, Sig Ruman Likable fluff about professional guests trying to ply their trade despite the career-wrecking move of getting married. It seems like five different movies in one, and the best movie involves their grand tour of the Mid West, where they stay with the finest families in Michigan. The divinely fore-headed Gail Patrick is on hand in her precision vamp role, buoyed by some nice frocks.
What A Way To Go 1964 *** dir: J Lee Thompson cast: Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly, Bob Cummings, Dick Van Dyke, Reginald Gardiner, Margaret Dumont, Fifi D’Orsay As if Edith Head threw up and out came this movie. Shirley has about a million fabulous wardrobe changes, yet only one mediocre script. The premise is fine — woman recounts the stories of her doomed marriages to over-achievers to Creepy Bob Cummings — but the screenplay only occasionally provides actual laughs — and these yuks are largely thanks to the cast, working overtime for your entertainment. Particularly good are Robert Mitchum as the likable maple syrup magnate and Gene Kelly as Pinky, the at first irritating then evil vaudevillian, although Paul Newman’s enthusiasm for his role as a bohemian artist who created giant robot arms to do his paintings is as refreshing as it is befuddling. Unfortunately, every time Shirley breaks into a tale of woe, it is prefaced by a dull and obvious movie genre parody which, aside from the not funny aspect, also stretches out the movie way too long. But look on the bright side — they do give you the opportunity to catch some cat naps so you stay awake for the rest of the movie.
Wheeler Dealers, The 1963 ** dir: Arthur Hiller cast: James Garner, Lee Remick, Jim Backus, Phil Harris, Shelly Berman, Chill Wills, John Astin, Alan Souse, Louis Nye Down on his luck millionaire oilman tries to get big city returns on ventures such as a fancy French restaurant, modern art realized by walking on the canvas, oil wells in Massachusetts, hundred year old Widget stock, and illicit wooing of Lee Remick. While he may be able to rent a splashy bachelor pad car, complete with automated bartender, it’s not hard to see why he’s down on his luck. And while his schemes might invite disdain, they will also provide a fascination with the hows and whys of Widgets that won’t go away soon.
When The Boys Meet The Girls 1965 ** dir: Alvin Ganzer cast: Connie Francis, Harve Presnell, Herman’s Hermits, Louis Armstrong, Liberace, Sue Ann Langdon, Fred Clark, Frank Feylen, Sam The Sham Connie’s last ditch effort offers a strange mix of Gershwin and Herman’s Hermits, with Connie’s nice postal worker song thrown in to give you some relief. Connie, a letter carrier at a college attended by the really very handsome and not at all reminiscent of a dwarf Peter Noone, falls for over-tall, ascoted goofball Presnell, who helps her open a dude ranch to keep her father too busy to give any attention to his gambling addiction that keeps getting him into trouble with funny Reno gangsters. What?!? Features a delightful and charming cameo by none other than Liberace, who steals the movie away from the limber and way-high Harve Presnell with his number “ArubaLiberace” (no, really!) and curiously static cameos by Louis Armstrong (he looks as if he’s settling a gambling debt of his own and by gunpoint, probably) PLUS The Dude Ranch of The Future. Now if this were a movie about Liberace and Satchmo teaming up to open a dude ranch near Herman’s Hermits college . . .
Which Way To The Front 1970 ** dir: Jerry Lewis cast: Jerry Lewis, John Wood, Jan Murray, Kaye Ballard, Gary Crosby A movie of such intensity, Jerry didn’t release another film for 11 years — and that one was Hardly Working! This strange World War 2 comedy has Jerry in a turtleneck (anything Dino can do Jerry can do better) leading a crack espionage team, all in the service of yuks. Has a must be seen to be believed finale featuring a kooky Hitler. Springtime for Jerry? In the middle of watching movies like this, you sometimes find yourself questioning the direction you life has taken. Isn’t there something better I could be doing with my time? Well, not if I like kooky Hitlers.
Who’s Minding The Mint 1967 **** dir: Howard Morris cast: Jim Hutton, Walter Brennan, Dorothy Provine, Milton Berle, Jack Gilford, Bob Denver, Victor Bueno, Joey Bishop, Jamie Farr Treasury worker Hutton rebukes coworker Provine’s fudge (and its caveat of bourgeois incarceration) in favor of “din dins” with a slinky neighbor in gold lamé slacks. When newly-minted cash is accidentally destroyed while dispensing of the bourgeois fudge in his garbage disposal (standard feature in the coolest of all movie sinks), Hutton schemes to reprint and replace the bills by gathering a gang of over-excited, amateur crooks to help him out. Predictably the conspiracy spirals out of control to include a pregnant beagle, kiddie fair boats, and Jamie Farr!!! The dysfunctional gang — most notably Milton Berle as a greedy pawn broker turned criminal business manager and Jack Gilford as an amiable deaf safecracker — clandestinely stumble through grim federal halls dressed in ballerina tutus and boy scout uniforms and founding father costumes and, later, careen through the early morning streets of Washington, D.C., festooned with a revival meeting loudspeaker urging the myopic crooks to “gather at the river,” which they do eventually, but not for a baptism. By the end of this Mad Mad World Jr, grown-ups will take away a pleasant validation of their bourgeois incarcerations while kids, inspired by the sight of Victor Bueno’s kiddie ride boats puffing through the watery underbelly of Washington, D.C., will develop a lifelong fascination with the mysteries of sewer tunnels.
Who’s Minding The Store 1963 *** dir: Frank Tashlin cast: Jerry Lewis, Jill St. John, John McGyver Jerry Lewis working in a department store? THAT’S CRAZY! Who’d allow that? THEY’D HAVE TO BE NUTS! The store would be gripped in madness! He might even unleash the POWERFUL SUCTION VACUUM. You know what happens with the POWERFUL SUCTION VACUUM. Fat ladies, beware.
Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz 1968 * dir: George Marshall cast: Elke Sommer, Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner After hitting a few snags, I finally became utterly stuck while composing my list of “101 Ways Elke Sommer Might Dispose Of Her Garments,” but, thankfully, this movie has more than a few ideas in it and has made my list a going concern once again, with some creative ideas like pole vaulting and vacuum cleaners. (Can you believe I actually hadn’t thought of vacuum cleaners? And me with all the Jerry Lewis movies!) This is a dirty movie that’s never quite dirty enough to be amusing. East German Olympic star Sommer pole vaults over the wall in black underwear and falls into the clammy hands of black marketeer Crane, while being pursued by the entire German cast of Hogan’s Heroes and they are in uber randy mode! Features a not-at-all horrifying scene where scores of sex mad Germans try to rip of Elke’s panties that would probably even make Bob Fosse cringe a little, though maybe he’d just be cringing over the lack of garters.
Wild In The Streets 1968 *** dir: Barry Shear cast: Christopher Jones, Shelly Winters, Diane Varsi, Hal Holbrook, Richard Pryor Cautionary tale examines what might happen if Shelly Winters is allowed to procreate. Nip that in the bud, please. This groovified Face In The Crowd has a poorly-poneytailed, LSD-ridden Bobby Sherman type working his way from rock star to President of the United States to agecide dictator, all thanks to the massive inexplicable success of a series of 1963esque Paul Revere and the Raiders knockoffs with silly lyrics about allowing 14 year olds to vote. Shouldn’t they be worried about the Vietnam War or giving black people equal rights or something of some importance to somebody somewhere??? Did 14 years olds really have it that bad back then? You’ve come a long way, babies!!! Thirty years later it’s hard to believe that anyone would even say “hello” to people who wear frilly shirts and velvet coats, let alone allow them to corral us all into death camps. Politicial satire for kids just isn’t this goofy anymore and we’re all the sadder for it. Richard Pryor plays the author of “The Aborigine Cookbook.” Exorcising AIP’s teen flick past, and reaffirming this dark and political change of direction, much ado is made of a bonfire with a surfboard in it.
Wild Wild World of Batwoman 1966 ** dir: Jerry Warren cast: Katherine Victor, George Andre, Steve Brodie, Richard Banks Batwoman, whose demeanor suggests an aging stripper whose taking correspondence school courses, battles Rat Fink and Dr Neon about . . . something, it escapes me, you lose track since the sound is so awful that you think you’re watching a wretched pantomime built around go go dancing involving the Bat Girls, Batwoman’s crack assistants who are constantly being slipped a happy serum so they break into mod moves at any given point in the picture. By the end everyone has had the opportunity to show off his moves, though it’s obvious that Bat Girls don’t need some silly serum, they just like to go go go anyhow! Soundtrack is the ginchiest!
Without Reservations 1946 *** dir: Mervyn LeRoy cast: Claudette Colbert, John Wayne, Don Defore, Anne Triola, Frank Puglia, Phil Brown, Thurston Hall, Louella Parsons, Dona Drake A good John Wayne movie for those of us who don’t care much for westerns or war movies or, for that matter, Mr. Marion Morrison (I know Elizabeth Taylor would consider that UnAmerican, but what the hell does she know, she was born in England). Colbert is a writer headed to Hollywood to oversee the movie version of her bestselling book, some weird futuristic utopian novel. Along the way she bumbles into two military guys, one of whom, Wayne, is the spitting image of the novel’s hero — so Colbert follows him across country to sign him up to star in the picture. Colbert plays her typical witty, sophisticated uptown broad, but Wayne walks away with the movie — where’d he dig up the charm? And the comic timing? Real fun road movie.
World, the Flesh, and the Devil, The 1958 *** dir: Ranald McDougall cast: Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens, Mel Ferrer Three person end of the world drama has Belafonte making like The Omega Man and talking to mannequins — particularly one sneering dummy named Snodgrass who gets tossed out the window — after atomic clouds destroy the world — until white woman Inger enters his life. Love blooms, but Belafonte is bound by the old prejudices — as is raging white man Ferrer, flexing his newfound bachelorhood in the abandoned streets of NYC with Inger. Boasts really cool scenes in the abandoned streets of New York, but is shamed by a stupid stupid stupid ending. Stupid stupid!
You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man 1939 *** dir: George Marshall cast: WC Fields, Edgar Bergen, Constance Moore, James Bush, Mary Forbes, Thurston Hall, Edward Brophy, Grady Sutton, Eddie Rochester Anderson Extremely funny circus comedy — who knew such an animal existed? Though the plot is inconsequential, Fields’ circus is a dirty and chaotic and a great breeding ground for his negative wit. There is a disturbing trend, though, for all the characters to treat Charlie McCarthy as a human being and not a ventriloquist dummy. No one seems to wonder why this little man is made of wood or why this larger man is carrying him around. Is the little man frail? Did he get treated this cordially at Hollywood orgies or was there always that sudden moment of recognition? “Wait a minute” Jean Arthur would shriek “that little man Charlie McCarthy’s made of wood!” Then all the starlets would shriek and run. McCarthy’s a better actor than Bergen’s daughter, another piece of wood — he has a sense of delivery and all those other things you need to be in a comedy.
Young At Heart 1955 *** dir: Gordon Douglas cast: Frank SInatra, Doris Day, Gig Young, Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Malone You’d imagine any flick with this line-up to be one of the giddiest, swankiest little sex comedies ever. Hate to disappoint, but this is a low key, somewhat downbeat drama following the love lives of three small town sisters, particularly the quadrangle of Gig, Frank, Doris, and one of Doris’ sisters. Doris and Gig are both quite good, but Sinatra is astoundingly focused and intense as Gig’s fellow Broadway composer. The story culminates at Christmas and will drag the tears from your eyes and you’ll want to get all lit up at that point.
Zontar The Thing From Venus 1966 *** dir: Larry Buchanan cast: John Agar, Anthony Huston Giant bat from another planet makes yet more mockery of freedom by having little papier mache bats stick antennas in the backs of people’s necks and shutting down all the power. Agar battles one of these crafty little handicrafts while holding onto that cigarette and Huston, playing a deranged scientist co-conspirator of Zontar with all the gusto of a bad bad actor with much much enthusiasm, is constantly henpecked about the invasion by his wife. His wife appears to be a former Miss Steak House or Miss Gas Pump or something like that. Why Zontar didn’t send a papier mache bat to shut that woman up and spare his poor crony some suffering is beyond me. The real star is Huston’s living room.