Bad Movie of the Week

Number 259 of a series

Thank God for Amazon Prime Video, repository for a treasure of old science fiction films. From 1958 this is The Astounding She-Monster. Without a lot of elaboration, here is a summary of the plot and a list of acting credits. Details are from Wikipedia.

As the movie opens a young, rich, and beautiful heiress ,Margaret, leaves her palatial home for another boring afternoon schmoozing with her rich friends. She does not get very far. Two rough characters, Nat and Brad, waylay her and take her away in their car. The object is ransom.

They are really bad. While poor Margaret sits trussed up and gagged in the back seat, the mobsters moll, Esther, drinks from a bottle and tosses the empty out the window onto the pavement. They are litterbugs, besides.

They are headed for the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles. Meanwhile, geologist Dick Cutler is out walking his dog when he spots a meteorite landing with a loud crash.. He and the dog return and settle in, not realizing what the night holds for them.

Brad, driving the mobsters’ car, encounters the Astounding She-Monster in the middle of the traffic lane. She is clothed in a skin-tight, shimmering body suit and is wearing spiked heels. We used to call these FMN shoes. He swerves and clips a tree. The car is disabled. The mobsters make it to Dick’s cabin. Nat goes in first to check it out and threatens Dick with a gun. The mobsters move in.

Brad goes outside to check on what’s raising a ruckus. He encounters the Astounding She-Monster and fires several rounds into her from his pistol. It does not phase her, and she kills him by touching him, giving him a fatal dose of radium poisoning.

Nat goes out to investigate what happened to Brad, and he encounters the Astounding She-Monster. At a certain point in the plot she comes at him and backs him against a precipitous drop-off. She lunges at him, and he steps aside. She plunges to the bottom and lies still. He returns to the cabin and announces he has killed the Astounding She-Monster.

But no. She is alive. She re-appears outside the cabin, and the Earth people prepare a scheme to roast her alive with gasoline. Before they are ready she crashes through the window and menaces them.

They flee outside, where she follows. The gasoline bomb attack fails, and she kills Nat and Esther. She has already killed the dog. She later kills a bear that’s been prowling around the cabin.

Dick has an idea that she is wearing a layer of platinum for protection. He prepares a solution of aqua regia to douse on her.

That works. When the Astounding She-Monster enters the cabin, Dick hits her with a flask of aqua regia, and she succumbs immediately, completely vanishing, even her spiked heels. Dick and Margaret recover the medallion she has been wearing around her neck. They open it and find a note, in English, that describes the purpose of her mission to Earth. She has come to invite Earth to join a league of planets for peace. And they have killed the ambassador.  Things are not looking good for Earth.

Do a search on YouTube. All or parts of the movie are available for watching.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 258 of a series

Where else? Amazon Prime Video is the source for this Bad Movie of the Week. It’s Devil Girl from Mars, from 1954 out of England. Details are from Wikipedia. Watch it if you get a chance. Here’s a summary.

A meteorite lands near Inverness, Scotland, and Professor Arnold Hennessey (Joseph Tomelty) and newspaper reporter Michael Carter (Hugh McDermott) drive up from London to investigate. They stop at The Bonnie Prince Charlie inn, where all the action takes place. Also at the inn are fashion model Ellen Prestwick (Hazel Court), bar tender and waitress Doris (Adrienne Corri), proprietor Mrs. Jamieson (Sophie Stewart), and her husband (John Laurie). Not seen here is the Jamieson nephew Tommy and escaped convict Albert Simpson (Peter Reynolds).

Albert is Doris’s lover, and she has stashed him in a spare room.

With a loud rush in the sky, a spacecraft from Mars appears and lands nearby. The Devil Woman exits. She is played by Patricia Laffan.

Her first task on exiting the spacecraft is to encounter and annihilate a crippled handyman with her ray gun.

She confronts the residents of the inn and announces the intention of Mars to get rid of the useless people on Earth, taking back robust men to replace Martian men annihilated in a battle between the sexes.

Tommy escapes the inn by way of an adjacent tree, and Albert joins him. The Devil Girl discovers them, paralyzes Albert, and takes Tommy aboard the spacecraft.

Professor Hennessey offers a trade, himself for Tommy, and he uses his visit to the spacecraft to discover its weaknesses.

Tommy describes his adventures aboard the spacecraft.

The Devil Girl makes one final demand. She will take one of them with her as a guide when she attacks London, and she will obliterate the inn and all inside.

Albert learns of these plans, and when the Devil Girl returns to take the one chosen by the group, Albert is alone to meet her. The spacecraft takes off with Albert aboard, and explodes.

And that’s the end of the story. Neat, what?

One thing I did not mention is the robot. Whenever the Devil Girl really wants to bring the hammer down she summons the robot, which has tremendous power. We see it vaporize somebody’s house. Here’s an image.

You can watch the trailer on Youtube:

Don’t have an Amazon Prime Video account? Watch the movie on YouTube.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 257 of a series

This is a spectacular 1985 production that blew right by me when it came out. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s Lifeforce, based on The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson. It features:

The acting and dialog are not up to the level of the story line (most interesting) and the effects by John Dykstra. I collected a number of interesting scenes to show off Dykstra’s efforts and also to give male readers a look at Space Girl. Here is the story line much condensed.

An American space craft, the Churchill, explores Halley’s Comet. Get a look at the crew, because everybody is going to die, except Colonel Tom Carlsen.

At the comet they discover a 150-mile-long craft, devoid of life except for three humanoid creatures entombed in mysterious casings. There are two males and one female, dubbed Space Girl.

They pack the containers into the Churchill and head back to Earth. When the craft arrives back to Earth orbit there is no communication, and when the shuttle Columbia goes to investigate the interior is charred, and only charred bodies are found, plus the three containers. The containers are brought back to Earth (in England) and examined. Without warning one of the containers opens, and Space Girl sits up. She is ravishing.

But she is deadly—a space vampire. Without explaining, she sucks the life force out of those who fall into her deadly embrace. Some of Dykstra’s work.

The Churchill escape pod returns to Earth with Colonel Carlsen inside. He tells of the mysterious deaths of the crew and his destruction of Churchill and his escape. The girl has a powerful sexual appeal, and she is dangerous.

Space Girl escapes, and in a dream Carlsen realizes he can channel her mind. Space Girl attacks others in London and enters their bodies. One is a comely wench who hitches a ride and seduces the driver.

Carlsen and others get on the trail of Space Girl and are led to an institution for the criminally insane. They get the cooperation of Dr. Armstrong, but he turns out to be infected. They grab him and drug him, extracting details of an alien invasion.

London is overrun by the infected and quarantined. Nielsen drives into the city to locate and neutralize Space Girl. It’s like a zombie apocalypse in there.

He spots the life force of millions of people shooting into space from what appears to be St. Paul’s

Dr. Fallada  follows, and he comes upon a male vampire and runs him through with a sword of leaded iron. The vampire dies spectacularly.

And turns into a leather-winged dragon man.

Fallada comes upon a hole in the floor of the sanctuary, where the life force of victims is shooting toward the roof in a brilliant stream.

Carlsen has located Space Girl, and they are locked in a passionate embrace. Carlsen cries out to Fallada for help.

Fallada tosses down the lead iron sword, and Carlsen runs it through Space Girl’s back and through his own body.

They ascend together to the space vampire ship, which departs Earth forever.

And that’s the end of the movie.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 256 of a series

This one has been around longer than my oldest daughter, and I have always known about it, but this is the first I ever watched it. It’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory from 1971 out of Paramount Pictures. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

And, despite its grand production and featuring Gene Wilder in the title role, it actually is a bad movie. The plot is ruinous, making little sense, even if you are into wild flights of fancy.

But first, the central theme is candy, and I almost got diabetes watching the opening sequence. It shows chocolate and chocolate candy being made. The background for the title is a river of chocolate.

Cocoa beans flowing from burlap bags into a grinder, powered cocoa tumbling into a mixer, and folds of chocolate forming an endless stream. All manner of chocolate candy being produced and packaged.

There is an elementary school somewhere in England, and when class lets out all the kids dash out and stampede down the street to the candy store. Here we watch candy store owner Bill (Aubrey Woods) perform the film’s signature number “The Candy Man” as he sashays around the shop, flinging candy here and about, watching the kids scramble for the sweet stuff.

And here is the first hitch in the plot. The kids went in to purchase candy, and Bill is throwing it around. Who’s going to pay for candy when they can just pick it up off the floor?

One who does not patronize the candy store this day is impoverished paper boy Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum). He runs his delivery route, collects his measly payment, and then goes home to his widowed mother and his four mooching grandparents, who spend all day in bed while Charlie and his mother tend to them.

But the Wonka candy factory in town is a source of great mystery. Owner Willy Wonka years ago shuttered the premises, allowing nobody in and nobody out. Candy still flows from the factory, but how it operates, nobody knows.

Flash news! Willy Wonka is offering the prize of a lifetime of chocolate to those who find one of five golden tickets wrapped up with a Wonka Bar.

Sales, to use a tired expression, go through the roof. Everybody wants one of the golden tickets. We see the five winners in turn. They are all shown as absolutely worthless individuals, including the supremely self-possessed Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole). Her father is fabulously wealthy, and he hires a legion of repressed child workers to open thousands of Wonka bars, looking for a golden ticket. One day a ticket is found, as Veruca knows to be her right.

Days pass and four more tickets are discovered by equally worthless individuals, the fifth by a Paraguayan millionaire. “As each winner is announced on TV, a man whispers to them.” He tells them he represents a rival candy company, and he offers each to sell him an Everlasting Gobstopper from the factory. It’s Wonka’s supreme invention.

Charlie’s hopes of finding the last ticket are dashed. But then the news announces the millionaire’s ticket is a forgery, and the fifth ticket is still out there. Charlie does not know this yet when he finds some money in a drain. He purchases a Wanka Bar with the money and finds the golden ticket. The deadline for turning in golden tickets is the following day, and Charlie and his grandfather show up with a horde of people at the Wanka factory gate, waiting for the appearance of the mysterious Willy Wonka.

He appears.

He invites in the five winners. All are children accompanied by a relative. Wonka requires they all sign a cryptic waiver before they can proceed, and then he leads them on a tour of his candy land.

One by one, winners are eliminated by means of tricks devised by Wonka. The gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner) and his mother are the first to go. Against all instruction and advice, he attempts to drink from the river of liquid chocolate, and he falls in, disappearing into the drain and never to be seen again. His mother follows.

We see the secret of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory: an army of imported midgets, Oompa-Loompas.

After all but Charlie and his grandfather are eliminated, Willy Wonka announces Charlie will not get the prize, after all. He has violated an obscure provision hidden in the fine print of the waiver he signed. They are told to leave immediately by the door.

Before they leave, Charlie hands back the Everlasting Gobstopper he has. And that is what the whole thing is about.

This has been a ruse by Willy Wonka to discover somebody deserving of taking over the factory as he retires. Charlie wins the prize, but it’s not a lifetime of chocolate, it’s the entire factory. And that’s the end of the movie.

Yeah, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The movie is based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Dahl quickly disavowed the film version of his book. A new version of the film was released in 2005.

After portraying Charlie in the film, Peter Ostrum, from Dallas, Texxas,  elected not to pursue an acting career. Back home after the filming, he became interested in a family horse, and eventually launched onto his career as a veterinarian.

You can watch Aubrey Woods perform “The Candy Man” on YouTube.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 255 of a series

The title says it all. Any movie advertised as Mars Attacks! has got to be bad, even if it sports a top tier cast that includes

Yeah, this flick features Tom Jones performing the supremely ironic It’s Not Unusual.

It’s from 1996 and is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Talk about a spoof of a spoof! Here’s the plot. The opening is a bucolic scene of a farmer stopping by to visit his neighbor and commenting on his Filipino barbecue. Only it’s not a barbecue he smells. Its a herd of horses on fire running down the road. A flying saucer from Mars rises above the horizon. This gets the show off to a roaring start.

Hordes of Martian flying saucers approach the Earth.

The president (Nicholson) takes the news in stride. His generals want to nuke them.

Supercilious Professor Donald Kessler (Brosnan) pontificates and recommends a more nuanced response.

A meeting is arranged in the Nevada desert.

Things go well at first.

Then somebody releases a white dove of peace, and the Martian ambassador is shocked. He whips out his nifty proton disintegrator and blasts the lovely creature. Then most everybody else.

Things go downhill from there. A meeting between the ambassador and a joint session of Congress turns out to be a ruse. The ambassador pulls out his blaster and nukes the Congress.

The movie then follows the formula, with world landmarks coming under attack. Bunches of people get vaporized.

When Richie Norris’s (Haas) trailer home is attacked, he hops into the pickup truck and rushes to the side of his grandmother Florence (Sylvia Sydney), just in time. The Martians are menacing her as she listens to Slim Whitman‘s “Indian Love Call” on her ear buds. When the ear bud cable gets yanked out of the jack, the music goes to the speakers, and it shatters the Martians.

And that’s the secret to defeating the Martians, and humanity is saved. People come out from where they have been hiding into a safer and better world.

Yeah, it’s corny, but it was nice to see and hear Tom Jones.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 254 of a series

This came out in 1962 when I was deadly serious about college and probably missed it. I must have seen it first on TV, and I have some history with it. I worked with a guy named Mike, and I was doing an impersonation of some sort, and he called me the terrible triffid. Now others use the appellation. This is The Day of the Triffids, a classic and a really bad one. It’s one of that bag of down-market features currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

This is London. A brilliant meteor display lights up the sky, and inside a botanical section of the Christal Palace, triffids attack and kill the security guard. The meteor display has triggered them to go rogue. They can kill and devour animals, and they are not rooted to the ground. They roam and multiply.

Merchant naval officer Bill Masen (Howard Keel) misses out on meteor display, because he is laid up with eye surgery and has his eyes bandaged. The doctor promises that tomorrow at 0800 the bandages will come off and Masen will be able to see again. He hopes to see pretty Nurse Jamieson (Colette Wilde), but he never does.

Comes morning, and Masen is sleeping in bed when hears Big Ben strike nine. It’s 0900, and the doctor has not come to remove the bandages. Calling out, Masen receives no response, so he removes the bandages and goes looking. He finds the doctor, blind. Everybody who looked at the meteor display has gone blind. The doctor commits suicide by jumping out the window.

Meanwhile, drunkard scientist Tom Goodwin (Kieron Moore) and his wife Karen (Janette Scott) work on research at a lighthouse on a spit of rock off the coast of Cornwall. They, too, missed the display, and they have not been blinded. Tom waits for the resupply boat that will bring him another bottle of scotch. It never arrives. Neither does radio contact work very well. They are puzzled, but they soon learn the fate of the rest of the world.

Masen goes hunting through the streets of London. The few people he comes across are blind.

At the train station a train thunders in, apparently operated by a blind engineer, because it crashes into the platform. A survivor is school girl Susan (Janina Faye), who can see. They team up and go to Masen’s ship.

Masen uses the ship’s radio to gain information of the catastrophe. He and Susan listen in as an airliner, everybody aboard blind, crashes. Coincidentally the crash is near where the ship is docked.

Masen and Susan make it to France, where they meet other survivors at a château. One is Christine Durant (Nicole Maurey).

Escaped criminals invade the château. They, being in prison, avoided the light show and are not blind. They take over and turn the château into a debauchery. Triffids invade and kill everybody except Masen, Susan, and Christine.

The three make it to Cadiz in Spain, where Susan discovers an ice cream truck that plays music over speakers. They take the truck to an estate in the country near Alicante, where a submarine is available to take on survivors.

There they are menaced by triffids. They discover that sound attracts the triffids, and they use the music from the truck to distract the triffids.

When triffids attack, they encounter an electrified fence that Masen has constructed.

But the fence will not hold them, so Masen employs the hose from a fuel truck and sprays fire onto the triffids. Then, while Susan and Christine get away in a car, Masen decoys the triffids with the sound truck.

Susan and Christine make it to the submarine and are taken aboard. As they watch, Masen reaches the bluff above the water, and he dives in to be picked up by crew members from the submarine.

Meanwhile, at the light house, the triffids multiply and break in. As a last resort, Tom sprays them with a fire hose. But the fire hose uses sea water, and the sea water melts the triffids. They have discovered how to defeat the triffids, and humanity is saved.

I don’t think I have to explain why this movie is bad. For one, it is massively disjoint. The Odyssey of Masen and Susan comprises the bulk of the plot. It’s a chain of unrelated episodes without cohesion.

The bit about the convicts at the château breaks up the flow of the action, seeming to have been inserted as a distraction, perhaps to burn off some celluloid.

From France they go to Cadiz. That is way south on the Atlantic coast. From there they drive in a few hours to Alicante, which is on the Mediterranean coast, hundreds of miles away. Really?

The movie is based on the novel of the same name by John Wyndham. The Kindle edition is available on Amazon for $6 ($5.99 plus tax), and I obtained a copy for comparison. There is none. About the only similarity between the two is Masen and the matter of the triffids. There is a Susan character, as well, but no Christine. No lighthouse, either.

So we have to wonder what inspired screen writers Bernard Gordon and Philip Yordan to stretch Wyndham’s apocalyptic yarn into such a pot boiler. The book appears to have promise. There is a strong parallel to The Death of Grass (No Blade of Grass) by Samuel Youd (John Christopher), that came out five years after this book. Recommended reading. There is also a movie, but it’s not currently streaming on Prime, so I will watch for it and catch it when it does.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 253 of a series

Bonanza! I struck the mother lode. Amazon Prime Video is streaming a truck load of these, so be prepared for the worst for weeks to come. I didn’t even have to click on the link to know this one was going to be bad. With a name like Island Claws, will there be any doubt? It’s from 1980.

Wikipedia does not have an entry for this, and the one on IMDb is devoid of a plot narration, so I’m just going to wing it with the plot outline.

There’s a marine biological lab, and they are studying crabs and how to grow them faster and maybe larger. Do you suspect danger? There is a nuclear power plant nearby, and it has discharged radioactive water. Do you suspect danger?

Here we see happy workers at the lab with the news lady (long blond hair), discussing the research. She is doing a write-up. Her father runs the power plant. There turns out to be no connection.

Just to be sure what this movie is all about.

The setting is a Florida island, and the crowd is very home-spun. Night life is the local crab shack, and a feature is the guy playing the banjo. The crab shack is owned by Moody (Robert Lansing).

The guy playing the banjo is going to be the first to die.

Meanwhile some Haitian refugees land on the island in a boat, and they hide out in the forest. If you are like me you are wondering why they landed on the island, because now they have to get off the island and make it to the mainland.

The banjo player goes home drunk after an evening of playing and drinking at the crab shack. Alone in his trailer home in the woods, he hears the crabs menacing outside. He opens the door and sees a sea of crabs. He closes the door, but it is no use. They come in through the windows. Panicked, he knocks over a kerosene lantern and sets the trailer on fire. It burns with him inside, and something unseen topples it on its side.

The news lady strikes up a romance with the young researcher hunk at the biology lab, and she heads toward home on her bike, through the woods. She encounters a swarm of crabs blocking the trail and dumps her bike. She makes it back to her boyfriend at the crab shack and gets her injured arm attended. People begin to wonder about the crabs.

Two other workers at the lab are romantically involved. When the guy proposes marriage, the girl rebuffs him, and they go for a drive in his jeep. After discussing the matter, she elects to walk home alone, through the woods. This does not look good.

She is attacked by something in the woods, and her friends, hearing her screams, run to her rescue. She is taken to the hospital with serious injuries to her arm and is delirious, saying something about a claw.

Meanwhile, the Haitians are hiding out in the woods and are foraging for food on the island. A young Haitian girl wanders off from the camp. Moody’s dog follows her. She encounters something horrible in the woods, and the dog attacks it. She is injured, and the dog returns to Moody and dies.

The death of the dog angers one local yokel, and he organizes a posse to hunt down the Haitians. They charge off into the woods. Nothing ever comes from it. They return without finding the Haitians or the crabs.

You know how this is going to end. A giant crab wreaks havoc on the island, destroying Moody’s house and a bunch of other stuff. People at the lab prepare tranquilizers to neutralize the crab. Eventually the islanders and the Haitians team to confront and kill the crab.

And that’s the end of the movie. It brings to mind an old song title that somebody made up—the title, not the song. “Don’t watch for the shrimp boats, honey. I’m coming home with the crabs.”

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 252 of a series

It’s getting to where I have to hunt these down on Amazon Prime Video. My only comfort is in knowing that back during my youth there was a machine somewhere in Hollywood cranking these out several a day. From 1958 this is The Hideous Sun Demon, and the title just about tells the whole plot. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening shot shows an alarm going off at an atomic research center, and we see two emergency medical workers carrying off the victim of an accident.

The victim is Dr. Gilbert McKenna (Robert Clarke), and he has been exposed to an unknown form of radiation. His colleagues, Ann Russell (Patricia Manning) and Dr. Frederick Buckell (Patrick Whyte), confer with Dr. Stern (Robert Garry). The doctor tells them he will keep McKenna in the hospital for several days for observation. The effects of this new form of radiation are unknown, and they will need to see what develops.

McKenna takes on some sun on the roof, and the effect is to transform him into a hideous creature. When they take him back inside, out of the sun, he returns to normal. Sun exposure is the key, so they drive him to a remote cabin near Los Angeles, where he can safely recuperate while his condition is studied. He must stay out of the sun. Each exposure to the sun becomes more critical than the previous, and recovery will take longer.

Alone in the cabin, McKenna gets restless. He takes his car, an open-air Austin Healey, for a drive at night. Stopping into a bar to purchase some cigarettes, he spies an interesting cabaret singer, Trudy Osborne (Nan Peterson), and buys her a drink. Her gangster boyfriend intrudes, and McKenna beats him up.  The two leave in McKenna’s car.

They spend a romantic night on the beach while her clothes dry from a dip in the surf. Come morning, and McKenna wakes up on the sand with the sun shining. He abandons Trudy and races back to the cabin, in the open car.

It’s too late. Before he can recover the shelter of the cabin he turns into the hideous sun demon. Ann arrives to find him cowering in a closet. He is strongly advised to stay out of the sun.

Does he head that advice? Of course not, else this would be a very uninteresting movie. He gets lonely that night and drives back to the bar to find Trudy. She is there, and so is her hoodlum boyfriend and one of the boyfriend’s chums. They are hot over the idea the McKenna left Trudy stranded on the beach. The two hoods beat McKenna up, and Trudy takes him away, ostensibly to a hospital. Actually, she takes him back to her place to recover, where the boyfriend finds them the next day. The boyfriend is not amused, and he pulls a gun.

The confrontation moves outside, where McKenna reverts to the son demon and kills the boyfriend.

Quickly the entire countryside is searching for McKenna. The plot has devolved to Hunt the Man Down. McKenna takes refuge in a shed in an oil field. A young girl befriends him and attempts to bring him cookies from home.

That ends up with the girl’s mother figuring out McKenna is hiding in the oil field, and she phones the police. Emerging from the shed, McKenna reverts for the final time to the sun demon and gives battle with the police.

The end comes climatically at the top of a storage tank.

A decidedly low-budget production, with actors facing each other on the screen and speaking their lines. It is obvious from the sound track that filming took place in a low-rent setting. Voices have the sound of being spoken in somebody’s living room. From Wikipedia, “The film’s crew consisted of students from the University of Southern California.”

Budget for the production was $50,000, and it was a financial success (???). This was a follow-on from  The Astounding She-Monster, which also features Clarke. A review is promised if I can get a copy. From Wikipedia:

Clarke initially had no distribution deals set up for the film. Clarke’s brother – a sales manager at an Amarillo, Texas, television station – put him into contact with the owner of several local drive-in theaters. Clarke agreed to premiere his film in Amarillo, and it played on a double bill with the Roger Corman film Attack of the Crab Monsters, under the alternate title The Sun Demon, on August 29, 1958.[14] Peterson and Clarke appeared at the premiere, and, after the film, performed an interview together. While the audience was distracted, Clarke changed into his costume and made an appearance as the Sun Demon.[14] After this success, Clarke declined a distribution deal with American International Pictures and instead chose a competitor, Miller-Consolidated Pictures, who distributed it across the US and UK in December 1959. Clarke made additional personal appearances as the Sun Demon. However, 18 months after the company started distributing the film, it went bankrupt. Because of this, Clarke never saw any income from the deal.[1][27] Clarke later sold off the films rights to various distributors.[1] In the United Kingdom, the film was distributed by D.U.K. and released with the title Blood on His Lips.[28][29] The film was released to US television in the early 1960s.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 251 of a series

Where else? This is from Amazon Prime Video, now streaming it’s Attack of the Crab Monsters from 1957, and you know it’s going to be bad. I’m sure I never saw this one before and will never have to see it again. Here’s the story. Details are from Wikipedia.

A contingent of scientists and Navy people land on a South Pacific island. There they are coming ashore from the seaplane that brought them. The island is near where hydrogen tests were previously conducted, and strange things have been happening. A previous expedition was never heard from after a storm came through. This group is not going to have much better luck.

Things get off to a bad start. A sailor falls out of a landing boat, and when his buddies retrieve his body it has no head.

So, the team members pack their gear up to a house that was used by the previous party, and they go to watch the seaplane take off. After getting airborne, the plane is destroyed by a massive explosion.

Here are:

  • Richard Garland as Dale Drewer
  • Pamela Duncan as Martha Hunter
  • Russell Johnson as Hank Chapman
  • Leslie Bradley as Dr. Karl Weigand
  • Mel Welles as Jules Deveroux
  • Richard H. Cutting as Dr. James Carson
  • Beach Dickerson as Seaman Ron Fellows
  • Tony Miller as Seaman Jack Sommers
  • Charles B. Griffith as Seaman Tate (uncredited)
  • Maitland Stuart as Seaman Mac (uncredited)

Dr. Martha Hunter goes exploring under water, giving viewers opportunity to appreciate her assets.

The usual plot for these movies unfolds on schedule, as daily members of the expedition vanish without a trace. Here Carson descends by rope into a pit. The line goes slack, and they never find his body.

Two sailors, stationed in a tent on the beach play cards, using sticks of dynamite for stakes. They hear a noise outside the tent. They look out. It’s the end of them

Members of the expedition continue to disappear, but by now everybody knows there are giant crags menacing the expedition. Additionally, the island is daily wracked by earthquakes accompanied by the sounds of explosions. And the island is growing smaller. In the end it has been reduced to a spit of land supporting the radio antenna.

By this time three survivors remain:

  • Drewer
  • Hunter
  • Chapman

Chapman, who has grown sweet on Hunter. takes on the remaining crab.

Drewer and Hunter watch the spectacle in horror.

Chapman collapses the radio tower onto the crab and dies along with the crab.

The final scene in the movie.

Besides the obvious hokeyness of the plot, there are a number minor issues.

We see Drewer and Hunter emerge from the sea after their underwater exploration. Other from atop the cliff call to them, and they abandon their SCUBA gear and go with the others. Who does this?

Nobody seems to be in charge of the expedition. People go their separate ways, looking for the caus of the mysterious happenings and getting picked off one by one. Nobody fields an expeditin of this sort without a chain of command of some sort.

The seaplane takes off and then explodes. Why? No reason is given, nor can one be surmised.

You can catch this on Amazon Prime Video for the time being, but a copy appears to be posted on YouTube.

 

 

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 250 of a series

A new month means a new lineup on Amazon Prime Video, so I browsed the movies available. I can’t be sure this one wasn’t there before, but this is the first time I ever heard of it. It’s Odd Thomas, from 2013, and it’s based on the first of the Odd Thomas novels by Dean Koontz. There are several.

But first we are introduced to the Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) character. He relates for us his origins. His name really is Odd, and there is some dispute as to how that came about. However, it is not unwarranted. Start with his family life. His mother was, herself, odd, to say the least.

When Odd was 12 they carted her off to an asylum.

Now he’s on his own, early 20s and already collecting a reputation for being odd in the desert town of Pico Mundo (Peak World). For example, he can see dead people. The girl in the picture is Penny Kalisto (Ashley Sommers), and she is dead, murdered. And Odd has just realized that the guy in the car, Harlo Landerson (Matthew Page) is the person who killed her. For some reason the killer saved a piece of white felt with her blood on it, and that evidence is now in the killer’s pocket.

Confronted with the devastating accusation, Landerson bolts, and Odd chases him down and takes him prisoner.

Two police officers, Bern Eckles (Kyle McKeever) and Simon Varner (Nico Tortorella) haul the murderer off to the slam.

The town police chief, Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe) is keyed in on Odd’s mystical power. As Odd converses with the dead girl, Porter approaches, and she saunters back across the swimming pool, fading into a cloud of dust as she goes. Porter helps Odd keep his special powers under wraps. He advises Odd to claim seeing the evidence when examining the perp’s wallet.

At night Odd is set upon by a host of visions of people who beg for his help. They are being shot by a mysterious figure wielding an automatic weapon, and they are all wearing the same, strange attire.

Break to further character development, as Odd explains he keeps his life simple, for example by choosing to work as a short order cook at a diner.

He is visited by his girlfriend, Bronwyn “Stormy” Llewellyn (Addison Timlin).

Chief Porter drops in, as well. Also a swarm of bodachs, spirit creatures from Gaelic mythology. Only Odd can see them. Bodachs kill any being that they know can see them, so Odd keeps it cool, working hard at pretending they are not there.

But he notices they swarm a patron named Bob Robertson, referred to thereafter as “Fungus Bob,” due to his moldy appearance. Odd becomes alarmed as seeing the bodachs swarming Fungus Bob, because such a swarm is indicative of massive death portending.

Skipping over the vast body of the plot, Stormy works with Odd as he narrows his investigation of the coming doom. In the interim, Fungus Bob is shot by a person unknown and left in Odd’s bathtub. Odd borrows a car and disposes of the body in an abandoned military base.

Then he tracks the plot to a planned attack on the shopping mall, where Stormy works at an ice cream parlor. By now he knows that Varner and Eckles are in on the plot with Fungus Bob. They are cult members who have moved to Pico Mundo and infiltrated the police force. He tracks Eckles to the security room at the mall, where Eckles has just murdered the guards. He ambushes Eckles with a baseball bat as he comes through the door. Then he goes looking for Varner.

Too late. Varner appears inside the mall with an automatic weapon, spraying patrons with bullets. One fusillade sweeps through the ice cream parlor.

Odd confronts Varner and kills him with the pistol he has taken from Eckles.

But Bob’s van is parked at the mall entrance, and it is packed with explosives, set to go off in seconds. Odd takes over the van and drives it out of town. Eckles grabs on and enters the cab in an attempt to kill Odd, who jumps out just before the van plunges into a drainage channel and explodes.

Odd is hailed as a hero, and he and Stormy make plans to spend the rest of their lives together. But the vision of Stormy is just that, for she was killed in the hail of bullets aimed at the ice cream parlor.

Odd exits Pico Mundo on foot to start a life of adventure that will develop into six additional Odd novels.

Production costs of this movie were high ($12 million), possibly owing to the extensive incorporation of CGI. I could not detect any top-tier talent involved, although all roles were adequately executed. And the plot is interesting, but apparently the concept did not connect well. The box office came in at $1.1 million. I’m thinking there will not be a bunch of sequels coming out.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 249 of a series

Another James Bond flick and a most unusual one. It’s The Spy Who Loved Me from 1977, and the back story is worth retelling. The title comes from an Ian Fleming novel unique among Bond stories. This one is told from the perspective of a third person, hence the title. Its being unique in this way gave the story a trajectory like no other. Fleming refused to release the plot for reuse, so the producers of the movie took the title and Fleming’s Bond character, and they concocted an original plot. This is streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

To appreciate the total disconnect from the original, here is how the book starts:

I WAS running away. I was running away from England, from my childhood, from the winter, from a sequence of untidy, unattractive love-affairs, from the few sticks of furniture and jumble of overworn clothes that my London life had collected around me; and I was running away from drabness, fustiness, snobbery, the claustrophobia of close horizons and from my inability, although I am quite an attractive rat, to make headway in the rat-race. In fact, I was running away from almost everything except the law.

And I had run a very long way indeed – almost, exaggerating a bit, halfway round the world. In fact, I had come all the way from London to The Dreamy Pines Motor Court which is ten miles west of Lake George, the famous American tourist resort in the Adirondacks – that vast expanse of mountains, lakes and pine forests which forms most of the northern territory of New York State.

Fleming, Ian. The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond – Extended Series Book 10) (p. 1). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

So the woman, Vivianne Michel, relates her troubled coming of age, passing through two demeaning relationships with men before setting out on a cross-country tour on a moped. She stays a few days at a remote motel and gets sucked into a scheme by its gangster owner, who plans to have her killed and blamed on the arson that will send some insurance money his way. In the nick of time James Bond drops in and spoils the crooked scheme, ending up in the sack with Vivianne. And that’s the story.

Screen writers Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum had something more adventurous in mind. Their story begins with major-power submarines being captured by a technology that takes command from the crew.

And thus begins the standard James Bond (Roger Moore) plot, which includes the obligatory chase down a snowy mountain range.

We meet Anya Amasova/Agent Triple X (Barbara Bach), being given the assignment to recover the technology.

We meet the evil mastermind behind the plot, Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens), here paying off the two scientists who developed the technology. Sitting at the other end of the table is his disloyal secretary (Marilyn Galsworthy), soon to meet a ghastly fate.

When the double-dealing secretary departs the room and enters the elevator, the doors close, and the bottom opens, dumping her into a pool with a hungry shark.

Stromberg does some double-dealing himself. As the two scientists depart in a helicopter it is blown out of the air.

The chase is on, and the scene shifts to Cairo, where a delightful wench sets a trap for Bond. She relents at the last moment, taking the bullet meant for him.

Bond captures the gunman and questions him on the roof top before letting him go.

The setting moves to the pyramids of Giza, where we meet Jaws (Richard Kiel). He’s called Jaws because he’s a Herman Munster stand-in, and all his teeth have been replaced by steel ones. He kills by biting people.

Such as this Soviet operative.

Bond meets Amasova. There will be sex before this movie is over.

They meet Jaws, and Bond defeats him by collapsing scaffolding on top of him. The ruffian survives. In fact, throughout he demonstrates to be indestructible.

Romance begins in a boat ride on the Nile, right before she knocks Bond out with trick cigarette smoke.

Eventually we get around to Stromberg’s super oceanic research vessel, where the final action will take place.

The movie is two hours of wacky attempts at assassination. Here a motorcycle with a side car sets out behind Bond’s Lotus. But the side car is really a homing road missile, which the driver releases to chase down Bond’s car.

Of course all this fails, and the rider exits the movie.

That failing, a conventional motorcar gives chase, but Bond’s Lotus opens up a compartment behind the license plate and sprays oil on the killers’ windshield. Off the road it goes.

Next, Stromberg’s personal pilot and accomplished assassin goes after Bond with murderous, but inaccurate machine gun fire from a helicopter. The problem seems to be the twin guns are set too far apart, and when the pilot centers on the Lotus, the rounds strike on either side of the car. We can see that watching the movie, and we wonder why the person who up-armed the helicopter did not detect this problem.

A close look.

Bond dives the lotus into the sea, where it converts to a submersible vessel.

From below the surface, Bond spots the circling helicopter and fires a missile. Goodbye helicopter.

Bond joins with an American sub crew in an attempt to track down the source of the mysterious technology, but that boat also gets captured and drawn into Stromberg’s fake tanker ship, where the crew are forced to surrender.

But Bond breaks free using the second oldest trick in the book—upsetting a stack of gas cylinders.

There ensues a massive fire fight within the bowels of the tanker. Many are killed on both sides.

Meanwhile, two of the captured subs are sent off onto missions to annihilate world class cities. The navy guys prevail and take the remaining sub out, nailing Stromberg’s tanker with a torpedo as they depart. The ship goes down with the remainder of Stromberg’s team.

Bond confronts Stromberg at his elegant dining table, where Blomberg prepares to eliminate him by means of an under-the-table rocket launcher, which is apparently standard for such tables. Bond dodges the rocket and retaliates by firing his Walther PPK back through the empty launch tube, several times, right into Stromberg’s crotch. That has got to hurt.

Bond initiates the destruction of the research vessel, and he and Amasova prepare to save themselves. Jaws is last seen swimming solo to a distant land mass. We also see the sole reason Bach was cast for this movie, because acting was never one of her accomplishments.

Again, for your viewing pleasure, Steve.

As standard, the film runs slightly more than two hours. It shovels out a string of capers highlighted by novel ways of killing somebody, ways Bond can make it into bed with some seductive wench, professionally executed stunts and special effects, all held together by a Saturday matinée plot.

Richard Kiel is “best known for his role as Jaws in the James Bond franchise, portraying the character in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979); he lampooned the role with a tongue-in-cheek cameo in Inspector Gadget (1999). His next-most recognized role is the tough, but eloquent Mr. Larson in Happy Gilmore (1996). Other notable films include The Longest Yard (1974), Silver Streak (1976), Force 10 from Navarone (1978), Pale Rider(1985) and Tangled (2010).”

Bach also appeared in Force 10 from Navarone. She is married to Ringo Starr.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 248 of a series

Another Bond movie and once again not much of a plot. Besides, this one carries the same title as an Ian Fleming short story that relates an entirely different set of events. The move is A View to a Kill, and the short Story is From a View to a Kill, not exactly the same. The short story is from a Fleming anthology titled For Your Eyes Only., which title was attached to a movie that is nothing about the Fleming story that carries the name. This is streaming on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s worth comparing the story and the movie. Here’s how the story begins:

THE EYES behind the wide black rubber goggles were cold as flint. In the howling speed-turmoil of a B.S.A. M.20 doing seventy, they were the only quiet things in the hurtling flesh and metal. Protected by the glass of the goggles, they stared fixedly ahead from just above the centre of the handle-bars, and their dark unwavering focus was that of gun muzzles. Below the goggles, the wind had got into the face through the mouth and had wrenched the lips back into a square grin that showed big tombstone teeth and strips of whitish gum. On both sides of the grin the cheeks had been blown out by the wind into pouches that fluttered slightly. To right and left of the hurtling face under the crash helmet, the black gauntlets, broken-wristed at the controls, looked like the attacking paws of a big animal.

Fleming, Ian. For Your Eyes Only (James Bond – Extended Series Book 8) (p. 1). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

Yes, the Fleming story is about a gang of Soviet spies who set up a scheme to ambush and kill motorcycle couriers carrying secret NATO correspondence. James Bond happens to be handy (in Paris) and is called in to work the case. He figures out the location of the spys’ base of operations, and he sets up a reverse ambush, enabling friendly forces to wipe out the spy ring. End of story.

This came out in 1985, and the opening scenes of the movie dispense with the obligatory downhill ski chase. Has anybody besides me noticed the number of Bond films that involve a ski chase.

Anyhow, James Bond (Roger Moore) escapes successfully with the microchip he retrieved from the body of MI6 Agent 003. Somebody is hatching a plot against the American microchip industry. This naturally leads to MI6 operatives, including Bond, infiltrating Ascot Opening Day.

Here we are introduced to the dark and deadly May Day (Grace Jones), who is going to torment Bond relentlessly until the closing scenes.

Happy for all of us, Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) attends, as well, becoming enchanted with the progress of the horses and giving the screen writers cause to lift that immortal line from another movie, “Move your ass!”

The arch villain is psycho industrialist Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), who makes a show of breeding race horses while he plots to extort the world.

A target of Zorin’s is Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), whose company has been taken over by Zorin.

So, the CIA agent Bond enlists to foil Zorin’s plot is murdered, and Zorin schemes to murder a California geologist, burn down the San Francisco city hall, kill Bond and Sutton, and blame the whole matter on Bond. This naturally leads to a wild chase through city streets, as Bond and Sutton escape in a stolen fire truck. Didn’t we previously see this scene in Con Air?

Many police cars are wrecked, climaxing when Bond jumps a raised draw bridge in the fire truck.

I have skipped a bunch of the plot, including the part where Zorin plants tons of explosives in an abandoned mine with the plan to unzip the Saint Andreas Fault and wipe out California’s Silicon Valley. We get to appreciate how psychotic Zorin is when he massacres his crew of mine workers by flooding the chambers and machine gunning those trying to escape.

Bond, Sutton, and May Day survive, and Bond extracts the detonator charge with the help of May Day. She rides the mine car with the detonator outside the mine and disappears in a flash when it goes off harmlessly.

Meanwhile Zorin has escaped in his blimp to observe the destruction of Silicon Valley from the air. When he sees his plot has been foiled, he zooms down and scoops up Sutton, for what reason is not explained. Bond snags a mooring line and manages to ensnare the blimp at the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. There the girl is rescued, Zorin plunges 746 feet to the water, and the blimp disintegrates in a fiery explosion when Zorin’s accomplices mishandle a packet of dynamite.

And the movie winds down in standard fashion with Bond and Sutton sharing some sack time.

We are treated to seeing Patrick Macnee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, working with Bond to unseat Zorin until Zorin gets wise to them and has Tibbett murdered. This is for those fans of British TV spy series.

Watching this I could not help seeing a recap of Goldfinger. Anybody else?

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 247 of a series

Another Bond film, now streaming on Hulu. I’m not reviewing these in any special order, just taking them as they show up on Hulu. This time it’s Sean Connery as 007 agent James Bond. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s Diamonds Are Forever, based on a novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, and to get some perspective you need to review some history. Fleming published the novel in 1956, before most of us were born. During the time the De Beers company had a corner on jewel-grade diamonds, and they needed a marketing ploy to sell them. Some ten years before, their advertising company came up with the slogan, “Diamonds are forever” to let you know that when you gave a lady a diamond, as in an engagement ring, you were giving something that would last forever, like your love. All jokes aside, diamonds are quite durable, and they are the hardest natural substance we commonly encounter, except they are carbon, and they will burn up in a fire.

Anyhow, this is about a crime caper that involves a load of diamonds, hence the unimaginative title.

Opening up we see Agent 007 engaged in a fruitless quest to locate and kill the notorious Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He finds where Blofeld has established a facility to create body doubles of himself to decoy enemies such as 007. Bond kills one double, and later kills another, thinking he is done with Blofeld. Not so, and the plot continues.

Now we switch to the diamond mines of Africa, where workers enterprisingly pick rough stones out of the diggings and smuggle them out in their teeth. A corrupt dentist processes a procession of miners with toothaches, taking from each a stone and giving to each a packet of money.

Then the dentist is off with a packet of stones to meet the courier who is prepared to take them out of Africa. Only, two assassins, a Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and a Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) have already intercepted and killed the real courier. They take the packet from the dentist and kill him.

The diamonds wind up in Amsterdam, the diamond market of uncut diamonds of the world at the time (maybe still). Possession of the diamonds has landed in the exquisite hands of a Miss Tiffany Case (Jill St. John). Yes, Fleming had a way with names. But Bond is on the trail, and he tracks down Miss Case, grabbing up the diamond shipment and submitting to the requisite tumble in bed.

Bond has been posing as smuggler Peter Franks (Joe Robinson), and when Franks shows up there is a fight to the death. Bond smuggles the diamonds to the USA, their intended destination, inside the intestines of the unfortunate Mr. Franks. Here he meets CIA Agent Felix Leiter (Norman Burton) at the airport, where Leiter poses as a customs inspector. When Leiter inquires as to where the diamonds are hidden, Fleming takes another turn at humor, having Bond respond, “alimentary, Mr. Leiter.” Most amusing.

Anyhow, the adventure is not over. Bond still has the diamonds, and the crooks still want them. I admit to having read the book decades ago, but I do recall that a thunderous load of details has been changed for the movie. Anyhow, Bond is in Las Vegas, where there are casinos to gamble in and sexy hookers to snuggle up to him. After he wins at roulette, Miss Plenty O’Toole invites herself up to his room and gets mostly naked. Then the bad guys show up and toss Plenty out the window. Fortunately she lands in the pool. A gangster looks out the window, and remarks famously, “I didn’t know there was a pool.”

The case devolves into the standard Hollywood mangling of a straight-forward spy plot. There has to be a quantity of mass mayhem. There is a vehicle chase in the desert involving many gangsters crashing their cars while chasing Bond, who is driving a mock-up moon rover, something that did not exist when Fleming wrote the book.

The carnage continues as Las Vegas police get involved and wreck any number of cars trying to catch Bond.

Along the way Bond has been captured, placed into a coffin, which coffin is fed into the furnace. He comes to as the the flames start to eat away at the coffin, and it’s at this time the crooks quench the burners and extract the scorched box. They open it and demand to know where the diamonds are.

There is also the encounter between bond and homosexual lovers Wint and Kidd. They take the unconscious Bond to a place in the desert where a pipeline is being laid, and they leave him in one of the pipe sections about to be installed. Comes morning, and the construction crew arrives. A crane picks up each pipe section in turn, laying them, Bond inside, into the trench. A welding machine comes along inside and welds the sections together. When it encounters Bond he puts a stop to it, triggering a reaction from the construction company. They come looking for the machine, and Bond steps out.

Anyhow, the supposed recipient of the diamonds is a billionaire named Howard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), who is working on an earth satellite project. Only Whyte has been imprisoned by Blofeld, whose scheme it is to launch a satellite that incorporates the diamonds in a reflector to turn it into a deadly laser weapon. Blofeld will threaten the planet with destruction unless he is paid billions. Yes, lasers didn’t exist in 1956, and satellites were still a dream.

Anyhow, Bond and White figure out where all the monkey business is going on, when Bond points out a Whyte business location that is not supposed to exist.

It’s an oil-drilling platform off the California coast, and Tiffany Case is there as the guest of Blofeld, who has sexual expectations. Bond infiltrates the base and hooks up with Case in a scheme to switch the tape cassette that controls the satellite. Get this, a tape cassette is the thing that determines which parts of the planet are to be zapped. Anyhow, you see here Tiffany Case trying to switch tapes, and one copy is tucked into the back end of her bikini.

There is a battle between good and evil as American forces attack, and Blofeld attempts to escape in his miniature submarine. But Bond takes over control of the crane that is lowering the sub into the water, and he crashes it into the platform superstructure. That eliminates Blofeld and the machinery that controls the satellite. The world is saved.

Case and Bond set off on a cruise together, where they are accosted by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, still working for somebody. They disguise themselves as stewards and bring a sumptuous feast to the suite, since Bond has never actually seen the two.

But Bond becomes suspicious when he recognizes the smell of Mr. Wint’s cheap perfume. When Kidd approaches Bond with flaming skewers he douses him with alcohol from a bottle of spirits. The burning Kidd jumps into the ocean and is never seen again.

Bond grabs the bomb Wint and Kidd have stashed in the service cart, and he stuffs it into Wint’s underwear before tossing him overboard, where he explodes in mid-air.

Yeah, we don’t believe a lot of this either. I no longer have a copy of the book, but you can take a peek at the Wikipedia summary and see the movie is a ghost of the original plot. The deliciously evil characters of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are there, but Bond kills them early before shutting down a diamond smuggling operation. There is no mention of satellites and lasers.

If you know the Bond stories, you will know there is another one that involves CIA Agent Felix Leiter. In the prior story Leiter has lost an arm and a leg in a shark attack, but for this movie he has recovered remarkably, and he is back working for the CIA.

St. John played a number of sexy bimbo roles, in defiance of being one of Hollywood’s brainiest players.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 246 of a series

Yeah, you might have thought otherwise, but all these movies are bad. In my younger days I watched as the concept developed and evolved, and I read the books. What the producers did was take some perfectly good Ian Fleming yarns and cobble them into formula cinematic productions—as predictable as rain. At a certain point each production opened with the following title graphic.

This one is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, staring George Lazenby as British MI6 agent James Bond, code name 007. The bulk of the bond films are now streaming on Hulu, where I obtained screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

I read the book decades ago, and some parts I dis-remember. Watching the opening scene I pictured the hillside roads above the principality of Monaco, but Wikipedia says it’s Portugal. Anyhow, Bond watches as Countess Theresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) wades out into the water at sunset, apparently aiming to meet the waves for the very last time. He drives his Aston Martin down onto the sand and drags the countess back from the brink. He is immediately assailed by two rough characters, both of whom he disposes of with some effort. But the countess gets away.

Shortly he sees her at what I presumed to be the Casino de Monte-Carlo, but then this is in Portugal. She makes an extravagant bet, which she cannot cover. Bond, apparently subsidized by the British treasury, covers the bet and goes to meet her in her room, where he is attacked—from my observation—by the two thugs from the beach.

Anyhow, the two thugs work for Marc-Ange Draco, father of the countess, and also a richer-than-God industrialist criminal. Draco wants Bond to save his wayward daughter—marry her for £1 million. Bond declines, but that’s what he winds up doing eventually.

Bond is really supposed to be tracking down master criminal Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), who is hatching a scheme to threaten the civilized world and thereby extort billions. To that end Bond goes in disguise as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, with whom Blofeld has been negotiating in order to establish his claim of royalty and thereby escape prosecution (???). That takes Bond to the roof of Switzerland’s Piz Gloria, where Blofeld has established a fake allergy clinic as a means to spread a deadly infection world-wide by means of a gaggle of comely female clients. Here Bond has the immense pleasure of meeting Blofeld’s alluring assistant, Ilsa Bunt (Ilse Steppat). How would you like to wake up one morning and find her in bed with you?

Bond meets the bevy of glamorous (and horny) allergy clients who are scheduled to spread Blofeld’s pathogen unknowingly across the face of the planet. In classic Bond fashion, Bond humps two of them in a single night.

But Blofeld trips Bond up on his lack of thorough knowledge of Sir Hilary’s area of expertise, and he imprisons him in the resort’s cable car machinery room in preparation for disposing of him at a later time. Blofeld must first send the gorgeous carriers on their deadly mission. This is formula for all such films. If Blofeld did what real gangsters do, immediately put a bullet in Bond’s ear, that would have been the end of the movie.

Instead, Bond escapes the one locked room in the entire facilities that has an extra opening, the cable port, and the remainder of the movie has Bond being pursued by Blofeld’s gang. Here gunmen race downhill on skis, firing their weapons into the snowbanks and into nearby trees, never hitting anything of worth.

At a brief lull in the chase, Bond encounters the Countess di Vicenzo at a skating rink, and she joins in the escape down the mountain. Blofeld puts an end to thirty minutes’ of excitement by triggering an avalanche down on Bond and the girl. Blofeld’s men drag the countess from the snow, not finding Bond buries nearby. But this is not before Bond and Tracy have enjoyed some sack time overnight in a mountain shack.

Bond now has what he needs to report to MI6, and they accept that, but they will not intervene to rescue the countess. Bond’s boss, M, sends him out of his office, whereupon Bond contacts Tracy’s father, and they launch a helicopter attack on the mountain redoubt to rescue the daughter.

Of course, Draco’s crew of militants-for-hire defeat Blofeld’s thugs, and they destroy Blofeld’s control center, ending the threat and forestalling payment of the world ransom. There follows a wild chase on down the mountain, a chase that includes a several minutes’ interlude involving two bobsleds. My own experience—I’ve ridden half an Olympic bobsled run, and those rides do not last that long.

Bond leaves Blofeld hung up on a tree limb along the bobsled run, and for the first and only time in his career he gets married.

But that’s the end. As Bond and his new bride stop to pull flowers from off their honeymoon Aston Martin, Blofeld and Bunt drive by, Blofeld at the wheel and Bunt firing a machine gun.

Although much is changed from the book, the end of the movie is lifted directly from the book:

‘It’s all right,’ he said in a clear voice as if explaining something to a child. ‘It’s quite all right. She’s having a rest. We’ll be going on soon. There’s no hurry. You see – ’ Bond’s head sank down against hers and he whispered into her hair – ‘you see, we’ve got all the time in the world.’

Fleming, Ian. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (James Bond – Extended Series Book 11) (p. 258). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

After I had read the book and seen the movie, my youngest daughter remarked to me she was at that ski resort once with her grandmother. Check with her if you want additional perspective.

The movie plot stretches believability in a number of ways, one of them being the chase down from the lift station at the top of Piz Gloria. Bond hitches a ride on the descending cable car. Then he skis down some more. Then its down some more. Finally, after a 30-minute chase. They are still within the avalanche zone. Just how high are these Swiss mountains, anyhow.

This was Steppat’s last movie. She died three days after it premiered. Fleming died in 1964, two years after the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, came out and the same year his last book,  Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, was published.

I see that Hulu has up for streaming the following:

  • Dr. No (the first Bond film)
  • From Russia with Love
  • Goldfinger
  • Thunderball
  • You Only Live Twice
  • Diamonds Are Forever
  • Live and Let Die
  • The Man with the Golden Gun
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Moonraker
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Octopussy
  • Never Say Never Again
  • A View to a Kill
  • The Living Daylights
  • License to Kill
  • Golden Eye
  • Tomorrow Never Dies
  • The World is not Enough
  • Die Another Day

Not included among films made from the Fleming novels is Casino Royale, which is not actually based on the short story of the same name and is not part of the Bond movie franchise. I figure I have a few weeks to view these before they are pulled from the lineup, so expect a slew of bad Bond movies in the months to come.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 245 of a series

I don’t know why these are sometimes hard to find on Amazon Prime Video. Amazon knows I like to review bad movies, but often they hide them way down in the listings. This is Vengeance Valley from 1951, and I swear I never saw it when it came out. It’s based on the Luke Short novel of the same name, and I acquired a Kindle edition for comparison. Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

The story is told by Hewie (Carleton Carpenter) a young cowpoke who works at the ranch. Looking at the scenery I got the idea the setting is Wyoming, but Wikipedia says Colorado. Anyhow, two cowpokes come riding in from the winter range. Before heading to the ranch house they stop at the saloon for something to warm their bellies. They are Owen Daybright (Burt Lancaster), the ranch foreman, and Lee Strobie (Robert Walker), misfit son of the ranch owner, Arch Strobie (Ray Collins).

There’s word floating around the saloon, and it filters to the two cowpokes. Apparently there has been a new arrival in the valley since the two ranchers left back in the fall, and the addition is the result of some shenanigans between Lee and a comely restaurant waitress named Lily Fasken (Sally Forrest). Only this last information is, for the time being, a matter of conjecture.

Lee shrugs off his situation and sits at the card table to gamble away some of his money while his own bride Jen (Joanne Dru) pines for his return back at the ranch house.

Since Lee won’t soldier up, Owen stops by the widow’s ranch where Lily and the new addition are convalescing. He lays $500 on her, since he figures his boss’s son is not going to step up.

Also at the widow’s house is Jen, who Owen is thinking made a mistake marrying Lee. Something is happening here.

Lily has two brothers, Hub (John Ireland) and Dick (Hugh O’Brian), and they consider the dishonor of their sister a matter they need to handle. The second brother arrives by train, telling Sheriff Con Alvis (Jim Hayward) they plan to kill somebody.

Meanwhile Lee shows his true colors as he goes about breaking a new horse. All cowboy fans know that a horse, no matter what his lineage, is born with an instinct to buck off anything that crawls onto its back. The way to make a horse ridable is to “break” it by letting it buck until it realizes that bucking won’t work. Often the rider doing the breaking gets thrown several times before the horse finally caves in.

The horse bucks Lee into the dirt, and Lee takes it in true character. He grabs a whip and lashes the horse with it. This elicits a strong reaction from the other cowboys, and Lee’s stock takes a nosedive. He will never be accepted at the ranch again.

Even Lee’s pretty new bride starts to see through him, especially when it becomes he is the one who humped Lily.

Anyhow, the Fasken brothers confront Owen and Hewie. They have guns, and the cowpokes are unarmed. Nevertheless, Owen gains the upper hand in a fight, and the Faskens wind up in the sheriff’s jail for a week.

Meanwhile, things begin to unravel at the ranch. Lee sees his days are numbered. His father recognizes his son’s failings, but tries to overlook them. This leniency is stretching thin, and Lee looks for a way out. He convinces Arch to deed over half the ranch to him before the cattle drive, and he plots to dispose of Owen out on the trail. He enlists the aid of two rustlers, and when the sheriff ships the Laskens out on the train, one of the rustlers is there to advise them of the plan. They get off the train, pick up three waiting horses, and join the cattle drive in a scheme cooked up by Lee.

Lee hooks up with another rancher on the drive and strikes a deal to sell his father’s cattle. Then he arranges an ambush for Owen. The two Laskens are waiting when Lee and Owen ride toward the telegraph station, supposedly to head off the rancher who purchased the cattle.

The shooting starts. Lee skedaddles, and Owen picks off one of the Laskens. The cowboys, hearing the gunshots, ride to the rescue. They pick off the remaining Lasken brother. Own rides down and kills Lee in a duel by the creek.

Back at the ranch, Owen explains to Arch what happened, and Arch agrees it was a thing that needed doing.

About that time Jen arrives in a buckboard, and Owen has the happy duty of telling her she is no longer a married woman. Not shown is Hewie and Lily getting together.

This is not all that bad a movie. It’s well-photographed, and the dialog is realistic. The director has put in a lot of stuff about life on the ranch not strictly required by the storyline. There are interchanges between the characters that can be counted as great additions to the color but providing nothing to advance the story. That business of Owen chasing Lee across the badlands is overdrawn, much as is done in about half the westerns I ever viewed. We see Lee riding. We see Owen riding. We see Lee riding. And on and on. We see pokes firing off their pistols at impossible distances and getting unlikely hits.

A comparison with the book shows that, contrary to many book conversions, character names are generally preserved. Interestingly, Wikipedia uses “Strobie,” and the book shows “Stobie.” Could be Wikipedia’s reviewer didn’t have access to the full credits and didn’t hear the name correctly.

It’s apparent some of the action in the movie is made up, so we can assume a lot of it is. The duel between Owen and Lee never happened—there was more of a free-wheeling gunfight. From the book:

A close bellow of gun behind him swiveled his head. He saw Mead Calhan lowering his gun, and then he saw that Lee was down, gone from his horse which was bucking wildly now.

Short, Luke. Vengeance Valley (Kindle Locations 2544-2545). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

Truth be known, the book is much better than the movie. Although Luke Short was never known for deep character development, his depictions of rough and ready action are legend. And knee-deep.

Sullenly, then, Dick Fasken holstered his gun. As soon as he did, Mead Calhan stepped up to him, yanked the gun from the holster, and hit Dick Fasken in the face with all the strength in his squat and powerful body. Dick fell flat on his back, and did a somersault before the force of the blow was spent.

Short, Luke. Vengeance Valley (Kindle Locations 659-662). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

Good news to all Burt Lancaster fans. MGM failed to renew the copyright, and the picture entered the public domain in 1979. You can watch it for free on YouTube:

 

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 244 of a series

This came out in 1987, and I never heard of it. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video until November, so I watched it and grabbed some screen shots. It’s The Monster Squad, and you know it’s going to be fun, but not so good. Details are from Wikipedia.

I watched this through once, and it appears to be a kind of monster movie spoof, featuring all your favorite monsters. It starts with Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr), apparently in the 19th century, based on the technology. With torches and pitchforks the people are coming after Dracula. They use a bundle of dynamite (19th century technology) to blast open the portcullis of Dracula’s castle. Then they enter and encounter all the horrors. Challenged by Dracula, they proceed to have a virgin (a mere child) to read an incantation, but she continues to be distracted by Dracula’s threats and is never able to finish and thereby to invoke the edict. The people, including the virgin, are sucked up into a vortex, and Dracula prevails for another hundred years.

Forward a hundred years, and some children have formed a Monster Squad, studying up on all the classic monster lore, and conducting monster proficiency examinations to induct new members. Meanwhile, a vintage B-25 bomber is flying a cargo that includes boxes of ancient corpses. The pilot hears a noise in the back, and he leaves the first officer in charge while he goes to investigate. Dracula is on the loose, and he surprises the pilot, who trips the control and opens the bomb bay doors. Dracula merely reverts to a bat, drops through the opening, and flies away to do his deadly business. The Frankenstein monster’s body, in a wooden crate, falls into a pond.

The father of one of the Monster Squad is a policeman (Stephen Macht), so action shifts to the local police station, where strange stuff begins to manifest. A wild guy (Jonathan Gries ) claims he’s a werewolf and demands to be locked up so he can’t hurt anybody. Too late, he views the full moon through a window and begins to transform, grabbing a cop’s pistol and shooting into the ceiling. A cop puts three bullets (not silver) into him, and they cart away the body.

But in the wagon on the way to the morgue, the Wolfman comes around and disposes of the driver, escaping.

Dracula gathers his monster minions in the swamp. They include the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and a mummy. In the box is the body of the Frankenstein monster, soon to be resurrected.

The Monster Squad meets in their tree house to discuss strategy for combating the influx of monsters.

A wannabe member is little Phoebe Crenshaw (Ashley Bank), who recapitulates the iconic scene from Frankenstein, the movie, dabbling beside the water as the monster comes up behind her. Unlike in the 1931 movie, Phoebe’s little body is not found floating in the water. She and the monster bond, and he becomes her protector and subsequently a protector of the boys.

The Monster Squad boys know their stuff, and they fashion sharpened wooden stakes (for Dracula) in the woodworking shop, and stolen silverware is melted down and molded into bullets (for the Wolfman). In a final showdown the Squad saves the world. Patrick (Robby Kiger) shoots Dracula’s consorts with special arrows, and Phoebe, the nearest available virgin, reads the incantation, allowing the vortex to suck up all the monsters, including the Frankenstein creature.

When the military arrives to do battle, the Monster Squad tells them it’s all over but the shouting.

High quality cinematography and some good directing. Definitely a kid movie, PG-13.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 243 of a series

I’ve been to Tombstone a few times, and I can attest to the realistic scenery. This is Hour of the Gun from 1967 and starring James Garner as Wyatt EarpJason Robards as Doc Holliday, and Robert Ryan as Ike Clanton. The screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

Yes, this is about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but the gunfight is only the beginning. Here we see the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday walking out to meet some of the Clanton gang in the streets of Tumbstone, 26 October 1881. There are five of the Clantons, including Billy Clanton, son of leader Ike Clanton. The four lawmen demand the Clanton people give up their weapons. The Clantons had a recent history of death threats toward the Earps.

The Clantons refuse to disarm, and they open fire. Holliday plus Virgil and Morgan Earp take hits, but after 30 seconds of firing three of the Clantons, including Billy Clanton, lie in the dust and never get up.

There is a power struggle in the town, that region of the country for that matter, with Ike Clanton hosting a collection of gunslingers to assist in opposing the onslaught of civilization. The four lawmen face trail for murder, but the judge decides they were acting within their duties as law officers, and therefore there was not crime.

Ike Clanton is not satisfied, and he launches a campaign of vengeance. First Virgil Earp is shot from ambush in the streets of the town. He survives as a cripple.

There is an election for a new city sheriff, and Morgan Earp is winning it, but a shotgun blast through the pool hall door kills him. His opposition in the election, Pete Spence (Michael Tolan) is given the job. Now it’s Wyatt who’s on a mission for revenge.

Wyatt takes his brother’s body to Tucson by train, and Clanton’s men follow. A planned ambush at the train station goes badly, and two of the Clanton assassins are killed by Wyatt and Doc.

Clanton’s gang begins to disintegrate. Clanton dismisses Spence and orders him to leave the area. Spence and others rob a stage coach for the mine payroll and kill three. Wyatt tracks Spence down and catches him with some of the loot. He notices Spence’s shotgun is nearby, and he turns his back for a moment. Spence seizes the opportunity and blazes away. But Wyatt has set him up, and he ducks behind a doorway, emerging to waste him with a volley from his pistol.

A similar fate awaits another ex-Clanton gangster. Wyatt elicits his confession to complicity in the shootings of his brothers and allows the man to go for his pistol before shooting him multiple times.

Meanwhile, Doc, suffering from tuberculosis, goes to Colorado for convalescence. He and Wyatt make the trip twice, and on the second trip Doc remains there to die.

Wyatt traces Ike to Mexico, where his gang is caught stealing cattle. The Mexican Federales are unable to prosecute Ike after their two witnesses, Clanton gang members, are murdered in their jail cells. Wyatt finally confronts Ike in a church courtyard and waits for him to go for his gun before killing him.

Wyatt leaves Arizona and never returns.

So, that was all about 137 years ago this month, plus some. Obviously the story begins on 26 October 1881 and goes forward from there. Despite the promise of the opening credits, little of the movie matches written records. In fact, few of the written records match anything. For example, I can find no record that Wyatt Earp killed Ike Clanton:

Clanton and his brother Phineas were charged with cattle-rustling and pursued by detective Jonas V. Brighton. On June 1, 1887, at Jim Wilson’s Ranch on Eagle Creek, south of Springerville, Arizona, Phin Clanton surrendered, but Ike resisted and was shot dead.

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is the most notorious of the Old West shootouts, but it was hardly known until 1931, two years after Wyatt died. Wyatt Earp retired with his family to Los Angeles, where he cavorted with western movie actors.

This came out the year after Garner made a big splash as a race car driver in Grand Prix.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 242 of a series

I need to check on this. Yes, it was on Wednesday I posted a review of Ghostbusters from 1984. Of course there needed to be a sequel, and there was. Here it is. From 1989, here is Ghostbusters II, with much of the same cast and crew.

Like its predecessor, this is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the source of these screen shots. It’s from Columbia Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening title shot tells this is “5 years later.” There is a crack in a New York City sidewalk, and a slimy ooze emerges and spreads. Along comes the enchanting Ms. Barrett, since married, since divorced, not arriving at her apartment, carrying her groceries, pushing her new baby, Oscar (William T. Deutschendorf and Hank J. Deutschendorf II) in a carriage. There is a special place in hell for parents who name a child Oscar, but that’s another matter. Anyhow, the carriage wheels roll through the ooze, and as Dana engages with the building superintendent, the carriage starts to roll away. Not just roll away, but on and into Midtown traffic while the frantic mother chases after it. It rolls and dodges traffic, as if by luck (or magic) and finally stops. Dana is curious, and she considers calling her old friends with the Ghostbusters.

And we see the new logo. Number 2.

The five years have not been good for the Ghostbusters. The luster has come off the business, and they are reduced to doing birthday parties. Even the sixth graders think this stuff is a big hoax.

Dana stops by Spengler’s research lab to try to get some answers. She does not want Peter involved, since she wound up marrying a musician instead of him (he never asked her).

She is now working as an art restorer at a museum, under the direction of Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol). He’s the nerd’s definition of a nerd, and his attempts at cozying up to Dana are brutally inept.

But in the museum is a painting of Vigo the Carpathian, a European tyrant from centuries past. Alone in the museum, Janosz is accosted by the spirit of Vigo coming out of the painting. He is commanded to obtain a baby to enable his rebirth. We know which baby this is going to be.

The Ghostbusters, following up on Dana’s request, check out her apartment. Peter checks out Dana. He is enchanted by the baby he figures should have been his. Then the team moves to the sidewalk, where they discover a sinister presence underground. Bypassing the city’s permit process, they set themselves up as a repair crew and proceed to punch a hole in the street to locate the sinister force.

They are successful in the first part. They find beneath a river of ooze and recover a sample. In the second part they sever a main power cable and punch the Big Apple into darkness, leading to a criminal trial. As evidence, the police bring along stuff they found in the Ghostbusters wagon, including a beaker full of the ooze.

The ooze is strange stuff. It reacts to human emotion, and as the judge starts to pronounce sentence he becomes more enraged, and the beaker becomes more volatile, finally erupting into the ghosts of the Scaleri Brothers, the pair of which the judge previously sent to the electric chair.

Anyhow, the Ghostbusters are (temporarily) vindicated, but things are not going well for Dana. Mysteriously, Oscar climbs out on the building ledge, where an apparition, apparently in the employ of Vigo, snatches him and carries him away.

I won’t stretch out a deconstruction of the plot, but suffice it to say the Ghostbusters figure the mysterious ooze can be turned around and made to work for them. They accumulate a boatload of the stuff and apply it to the Statue of Liberty, and they activate it with soothing vibes. This animates the statue, which wades the Hudson and comes to Manhattan to do battle with Vigo.

The Ghostbusters triumph. End of movie.

Five years after the original, much of the charm had worn off the concept, but this production still earned $112.5 million in the American market and $215.4 million world wide. It was the eighth best grossing movie of that year.

The script is by Aykroyd and Ramis, those two in the middle above. We saw a lot more of Peter McNicol later, as he played Professor Larry Fleinhardt for six seasons of Numb3rs. Also, he was a camp supervisor in Addams Family Values.

I’m not going to review any additional Ghostbuster sequels.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 241 of a series

You knew eventually I would get around to this one. Here it is. Burt Reynolds died recently, and this was one of his more notorious movies. He met Sally Field here, and the two enjoyed one of those brief Hollywood marriages. That was 41 years ago. Now it’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The title is Smokey and the Bandit, and that’s about the most excitement you’re going to get out of it. This was back in the days when trucker lore was the big rage, and everybody had a CB radio and knew all the highway jargon. “Smokey,” of course is the police, particularly the highway police, because they might be seen wearing these hats likes forest rangers wear, like Smokey the Bear wears. Get it? There used to be a thing called the Gum Ball Rally, and it was an off the books cross-country race engaged by those rich enough to have the fast cars and bold enough to defy the law. The story went that in Ohio if you got on your CB and asked for a smokey alert some patrol officer would come back that there were no smokeys here. This was not to be believed, because the reality was that “Ohio is wall-to-wall Smokey Bears.” Those were the legends of the times. Wait. In case you need further explanation, it was called the Gum Ball Rally, because of the lights on the top of cop cars that looked like gum ball machines.

Reynolds is “Bandit.” That’s his handle. His birth name is Bo Darville, another reason to use “Bandit” for a handle. He is so famous, so popular, he is paid by truck rally promoters just to show up and be there. At this one he accepts the proposition, for much cash, to drive to Texarkana (from Atlanta) and bring back a load of Coors. Some history is involved here.

In those days Coors was strictly from Golden, Colorado, and they limited distribution of their product, because it was not pasteurized, and they did not want to suffer quality defects from long transport times. In the late ’60s I lived in Austin, and you couldn’t get Coors that far east, but you could get it in west Texas, where I sometimes worked at the McDonald Observatory. People would take the charter flight out to Alpine, and they would sometimes bring back a shipment of Coors. We called it something like the Coors Express.

Eventually politically conservative commentator Ronald Reagan weighed in on the matter, because the FTC sued Coors for restraint of trade, and Reagan considered that companies should be allowed to restrain trade to any extent they desired.

So the opening scene shows a trucker being busted for transporting contraband, a load of Coors, east of Texas. The basis of this movie is no Coors east of Texas.

Bandit elicits some up-front for the run, an item of which is the star of the show, this 1977 Pontiac Trans Am. Fact is, this plot is so thin, and the dialog so weak, this car is the move.

The scheme, which does not make any sense, is for Bandit to drive point in the Trans Am in order to smoke out all the mounties while his buddy Cledus “Snowman” Snow (Jerry Reed) keeps a low profile and mothers the cargo.

On the trip back from Texarkana Bandit picks up runaway bride Carrie (Field). That adds romance to the movie and also to Reynolds’ private life.

Interest in the plot is introduced by way of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), whose son is the stranded groom. Sheriff Justice is, of course, relentless in his pursuit of Bandit in the Trans Am, having no clue as to the existence of the contraband Coors.

Of course, Bandit meets multiple smokeys along the way, allowing stunt driver Hal Needham, also the film’s director, to show us what the car can do. Here’s the Trans Am displaying considerable over-steer in the dirt.

To be sure, the plot involves destruction of multiple police cars, as they variously roll over, t-bone, or go into the drink.

Needham made this jump with Lada St. Edmund in the car, standing in for Field. Truth be told, if I were director Needham I would have used a mannequin and saved a movie credit and also an insurance premium.

I won’t leave readers hanging. This cop car eventually does go into the water.

And Bandit makes it back with the load, with Sheriff Justice close behind, by now his sheriff’s car missing both doors and the roof, that courtesy of a steel cable stretched across his path. Bandit and Frog (Carrie) taunt him on the CB from a few feet away as they head off on another exciting run, this time to bring clam chowder back from Boston.

To add edge to the plot, Bandit is required to make the Atlanta-Texarkana and back run in 28 hours., which leaves me in mystery. I’ve made the Dallas-Tucson run, about the same distance, in 15 hours, and that’s while keeping within the posted speed. OK, 85 mph in West Texas. To be sure, this movie was in the days when double-nickels was imposed by federal mandate.

My inclination was to be sorely offended by the bland dialog in this production. Here are some quotes, courtesy of IMDB:

  • Sheriff Branford: The fact that you are a sheriff is not germane to the situation.
  • Buford T. Justice: The god damn Germans got nothin’ to do with it.
  • Junior: What did he say?
  • Buford T. Justice: SHUT UP! ONE SHIT AT A TIME!
  • Junior: All right.

 

  • Junior: My hat blew off, daddy.
  • Buford T. Justice: I hope your goddamn head was in it.

 

  • Carrie: You have a great profile.
  • Bandit: Yeah, I do, don’t I? Especially from the side.
  • Carrie: Well, at least we agree on something.
  • Bandit: Yeah. We both like half of my face.

Wikipedia reports that the dialog was scripted on the set.

This has to be the worst movie I have reviewed that contained this much star power. Field came to the production with a best actress Oscar from Norma Rae, and Gleason had been nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for The Hustler. This was the second highest grossing film for 1977, after the Star Wars debut.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 240 of a series

Another selection from movies filmed in (near) Sedona, Arizona. I was out there last month and picked up on a list of films that used the location. This production made ample use of the famous Red Rock scenery and apparently Oak Creek, that runs through the canyon. Other than that, this is about somewhere out west where mining is a prime industry, and pioneering is a way of life. It’s Johnny Guitar from 1954 out of Republic Pictures. It stars Sterling Hayden as Johnny Guitar (Johnny Logan) and Joan Crawford as Vienna (no last name given). It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. We are also treated to Mercedes McCambridge as hard as nails Emma Small and Ernest Borgnine as badman Bart Lonergan. Ward Bond you will recognize as John McIvers. Details are from Wikipedia.

Speaking of the famous Red Rock country, the film opens with cowpoke Johnny Guitar riding through some of that. I use the term “cowpoke” loosely, because there is no evidence Johnny has ever poked, pushed, prodded, or even touched a cow. First he experiences some blasting, as miners scratch for gold and silver. Only the blasts appear to be somewhere besides Sedona, because the geology is totally unlike the region. Likely the locals and the Bureau of Land Management would not allow blasting away at some scenery that today rakes in millions of tourist dollars each year. Anyhow, Johnny also hears some gunshots, and he looks down.

He sees some men robbing a stage coach and killing somebody. He rides on.

He comes to Vienna’s place, definitely a cut above your typical frontier saloon. The place is up class, and Vienna is something to look at as well. She has hired Johnny to come out to the rough country to work in her establishment, ostensibly to play the guitar. We later learn there’s a flame going between the two, one that’s unquenched since they parted ways five years previous.

Only, Emma and her followers resent Vienna and her upstart ways, and Emma leads a brigade that charges into Vienna’s place to blame the holdup, and the killing of Emma’s brother, on Vienna and the four pieces of loose change that hang around her place. Emma demands the local authorities force Vienna to close her place by the next day. Things are going to get tense.

The four unsettled hombres decide they need to clear out of the territory. Accused of being robbers, they always assert they grub a living from a silver mine they have. Fact is, the mine has run dry, and they need to move on. To get traveling money they decide to pull a bank heist. They barge in and do the deed while Johnny and Vienna are there to close her account so she can pay off her staff and close her place.

Emma places the bank job on Vienna’s head, and she leads a posse to Vienna’s place to string everybody up. Meanwhile, one of the robbers has gotten separated from the others and has made his way to Vienna’s place, where she has hidden him beneath a table.

He is Turkey Ralston (Ben Cooper), and Emma threatens to hang him outright unless he implicates Vienna. He does, and they hang him forthwith. After dragging Vienna and Turkey out to be hanged, Emma takes down the chandelier with a shotgun blast, burning the place to the ground.

After Turkey has been well and properly hung from the local bridge, only Vienna is left. Nobody will whip the horse out from under her, so it’s left to Emma to do it. It’s something she relishes.

But Johnny has made his way in the dark onto the bridge, and he cuts the rope and rescues Vienna. They escape in the darkness, and they make their way to the robber’s secret hideout by way of a tunnel behind a waterfall.

But Turkey’s horse gets restless and heads for the hideout, leading the posse there. Emma meets secretly with Lonergan and arranges a double cross. When the scheme comes to light there is turmoil within the gang, and eventually the remaining three are killed. Emma faces Vienna for a fight to the death. Emma fires first, but a wounded Vienna blasts Emma onto the world beyond.

The posse has come to see this was a feud between Emma and Vienna, and they no longer want any part of it. They turn around and head back home.

Johnny and Vienna come down from the robbers roost to start a new life together.

Hold it right there. This has the basis of a good plot, but some (a lot) of the dialog is junior high. Here is an exchange between Johnny and The Dancin’ Kid (Scott Brady), a rival for Vienna’s affections:

Kid: All of a sudden I don’t like you, mister.

Johnny: Now that makes me real sad. I always hate to lose a friend.

Vienna: That’s the way it goes. Win some, lose some.

There’s a lot of that in this movie.

It’s possible some of the lame dialog can be laid to Roy Chanslor, who wrote the book and also The Ballad of Cat Ballou. Wikipedia claims that “Philip Yordan rewrote the script on location.”

There’s a lot in this movie that doesn’t fit. Who was responsible for continuity, anyhow. We see Emma gun down the chandelier and quickly the two-story edifice is totally engulfed. Later we see the posse ride past the conflagration. And later we see them riding past. And later we see them riding past. And later we see them riding past. Get the picture?

The posse figures to block the bandits’ escape by blasting away various parts of the mountain. We see explosion after explosion, apparently with nobody around setting off the charges. You have to ask, with the bandits heading hell bent for leather to escape, how did the posse get ahead of them to plant all those charges?

Look at the final scene. These four high plains drifters discovered a silver lode in the mountains, and they worked it by themselves to keep the location secret. In the meantime they built this place, apparently designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, all by themselves, as a temporary place to bunk while they worked the mine. And nobody noticed them trucking all this building material up the trail and through the waterfall. When did they have time to work the mine? Maybe I’m being too picky.

Joan Crawford subsequently became even more famous through the memoirs of her stepdaughter. Her nature was manifest during this production, as Hayden and McCambridge found her disagreeable to work with. Sterling Hayden was a real hero in World War II, earning a Silver Medal. He ot his big role as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove.

I recall Mercedes McCambridge as Rock Hudson’s tough-hided sister in Giant. It seemed to me, watching her in my youth, that casting directors had her number on their speed dial, labeled “Masculine Woman.”

This was three years after the start of Ernest Borgnine’s career. I previously saw him in The Whistle at Eaton Falls, a film that is currently withheld from the public. His major break was as a shy butcher in Marty, where he played the title role and won an Oscar for best actor. The real money was McHale’s Navy, which ran on TV for four years. He was a real Navy vet, re-enlisting after the United Stated enter World War II and finishing as a Gunner’s Mate First Class. I previously reviewed Bad Day at Black Rock, RED, and Escape from New York.