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 Wednesday

One of a continuing series

All comes to those who wait. Finally Deliverance popped up on Amazon Prime Video. It came out in 1972, and it stars Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds. It’s based on the book of the same name by James Dickey, who also wrote the screen play. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s a hair-raising tale about four Atlanta city slickers off for a white water adventure on the Cahulawassee River. The deal is the power company is damming the river, and the gorge will be shortly flooded for several lifetimes. This is their last and only chance.

As they motor into the Georgia mountains, they feel themselves going back in time and into a world bereft of culture. They have a low regard for the mountain locals, and this begins to set the stage for subsequent encounters. They stop their two vehicles to fuel up, and Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty) gets into an awkward conversation with one of the locals. Bobby is a salesman and the softest of the four.

Another newcomer to the out of doors is Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox), who gets into an impromptu musical duel with a banjo-playing teenager. The musical number is a signature feature of the movie. Viewing the kid, a remark is made about the region’s shallow gene pool.

The four set off on the river adventure that will change their lives forever.

Early the following day (Saturday) Ed Gentry (Voight) and Bobby get ahead of the others, and the two put ashore, where they encounter two characters from the backwoods. The tough guys have a dim view of the city guys and proceed to abuse them. They strap Ed to a tree, and the toothless one on the left forces Bobby to strip and then corn-holes him. That job finished, the two approach Ed and make plans for him. Just then Lewis Medlock (Reynolds) and Drew come in quietly through the woods, and Lewis puts an arrow through the chest of one of the toughs. the toothless one gets away in the woods.

Figuring they are in deep trouble for killing a local, the four bury the dead guy in the woods and make their escape down the river, ever watchful for the dead man’s accomplice, who they figure might be stalking them from the bluffs above.

Suddenly Drew pitches forward and disappears beneath the surface. Bobby, who has been sharing the canoe, thinks Drew was shot. They immediately encounter some white water, and one canoe is demolished. Lewis is severely injured, and he sits out the remainder of the movie.

Fearing another sniping attack, the three survivors hunker down on the shore Saturday night while Ed takes a bow and some steel-tipped arrows and climbs the bluff. There he waits out the night, ready to pounce if the surviving mountain man appears.

Come morning, and a man appears nearby on the bluff carrying a rifle. In the ensuing exchange the mountain man is killed by Ed’s arrow, and Ed manages to wound himself with one of his arrows. The dead man does not have the missing teeth of their antagonist from the previous day. Ed has killed a random hunter.

Ed attempts to lower the dead man to the bottom of the gorge at the end of a line, but he ends up falling into the water when the line snaps. The three adventurers sink the body in the water, and then they discover Drew’s body. They cannot confirm that Drew has been shot, but they fear that an coroner’s examination will reveal a bullet wound and trigger an investigation. They weight the body of their friend with stones and sink it into the river.

Back at their downstream pickup point the survivors spin a fabricated story to keep investigators from looking upstream and finding Drew’s body. Evidence does not support this story, but the sheriff (played by author James Dickey) has no evidence to hold them. The last we hear about Lewis is that he might possibly lose his leg.

Settling back into his home life, Ed dreams of a human hand rising above the surface of the new lake.

This production received considerable push back due to its condescending depiction of the local characters. There is not much evidence that Georgia mountain people are as backward as depicted.

The first thing I noticed about the plot is that the four rational individuals would head into such treacherous white water with two of them apparently experiencing their first ride in a canoe. Any sane outdoors man would recognize this as a recipe for disaster. Even without the attack by the mountain rapists, this expedition would not have ended well.

Uh, Ed climbs to the top of the bluff, and he takes along with him enough line to lower a body to the bottom of the gorge. That is an amazing amount of forethought, and I have to wonder, “Why?” I mean, if you want a dead body down at the bottom of a cliff, the way to do it is to roll the body off the cliff. That is essentially what happens in the end. I have not read the book, so I don’t know if Dickey employed this element in the book or if director John Boorman figured the plot needed some extra drama.

Voight shot to fame for his portrayal as a would-be gigolo in Midnight Cowboy, He also received acclaim for his role in Runaway Train. I previously reviewed Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit.

This was the first feature length role for both Beatty and Cox.

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 Wednesday

One of a continuing series

It’s here at last. I’ve been waiting for this to start streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and my wait was rewarded this month. It’s Westworld from 1973 and starring Yul Brynner as a killer robot. I saw this when it came out, so the plot is familiar. Details are from Wikipedia.

Michael Crichton, who previously gave us The Andromeda Strain., wrote and directed this. It’s a sci-fi thriller with a ground-breaking theme. It’s the original theme that keeps this from being posted as a Bad Movie of the Week.

There is a plot, and it’s straight forward, so I will sketch it out and show some visuals. The kick-off plays a smarmy TV commercial for Delos, an entertainment enterprise. They’re like Disneyland, only for adults. Here the ad man is interviewing a customer just returned from one of Delos’ three theme parks. They are Romanworld, Medievalworld, and best of all, Westworld. Each of the three allows visitors to experience life once lived in respectively, the decadent Roman Empire, the decadent world of a Medieval court, and a decadent frontier town of the American 1880s.

In the parks high-tech robots interact with patrons and drive the narrative. 20th century visitors will live among the robotic inhabitants as citizens did in those days gone by.

This is billed as “The vacation of the future, today.”

Two dudes from Chicago are riding the futuristic flying shuttle to the theme park, apparently somewhere in a California desert region. They are John Blane (James Brolin), a return visitor, and Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin), come to visit Westworld for the first time.

Checking at Westworld, the two are outfitted for their week-long stay on the American frontier. And by the way, cue the banjo music.

They quickly get into the swing of things. In a frontier saloon they order whiskeys and throw them back. A gunslinger (Brynner) saunters in, bumping Martin, causing him to spill some of his drink. This is how fights got started in the old west. At Blane’s urging, Martin picks a fight with the gunslinger, who is a role-playing robot. Both men draw their pieces, and Martin kills the robot. Patrons dutifully drag the body out into the street. That was life and death in the old west.

The deal is, visitors are given the opportunity to act out as would not be allowed in modern society. And the beauty is, there are no consequences of their actions, since everything is designed so no actual people are harmed.

We are given snapshots of life at the other two theme parks. Here is a ribald court scene from Medievalworld.

One of the attractions of the old west was the availability of ladies for hire.

At night, when all the patrons have bedded down, park crews come forth and haul in the damage from the previous day’s debauchery. They have to repair robots that have been shot, stabbed, beheaded, whatever.

There is a problem. In a place where it is promised that nothing can possibly go wrong, things are starting to go wrong. At a project meeting we see that the rate of defects, failures in the robots, has not leveled off as one would expect in a new technology. Instead, it is as though an infection is spreading among the robots, which source the technicians cannot explain, since much of the technology was developed by computers, and nobody fully understands it.

The gunslinger from the day before is resurrected, and he comes looking for Martin. Martin defeats him in a blazing exchange of gunfire in the pair’s hotel room, and the gunfighter dies, again, crashing through a window and falling to the street below.

But there was law in the old west, and the sheriff jails Martin to await trial before a hanging judge. Not to worry. Blane springs him by smuggling in some explosives. Blasting through the jail house wall, Martin escapes, and the two ride off to hide out in the desert.

The first thing they notice that something is going wrong is when a rattlesnake bites down on Blane. It’s a non-poisonous robot snake, but this was not supposed to happen. After Blane and Martin depart, a crew goes out to retrieve the snake and poke for the problem.

Meanwhile in Medievalworld, a stately lord, a park visitor, is forced to fight a duel with the Black Knight. He loses the fight when the robot plunges a real sword through his belly. Something is obviously going wrong. The resort operators attempt to shut the park down, but there is no response to their controls. They attempt to shut down power to the resort, but they only succeed in sealing themselves inside their airtight control building, where all die.

Riding back into town, Blane and Martin encounter the gunslinger again. Blane accepts the gunfighter’s demand for a duel, and he gets two slugs in the belly. Martin gets on his horse and rides for his life, the gunfighter following.

For reasons I never caught onto, Martin knows how to get access to the control building, and he hides from the gunfighter by pretending to be one of the robots on an examining table. When the gunfighter detects something and comes over to take a look, Martin throws hydrochloric acid into the gunfighter’s face and makes a run for it.

His vision much diminished, the gunfighter stalks the resort, looking for Martin. Pursued to Medievalworld, Martin notices the gunfighter cannot see him, paying attention only to hot objects. He decoys his adversary and sets him ablaze with one of the torches serving as lighting in the castle.

Martin looks around and can find nobody else alive. He hears a noise and comes to the rescue of a fair damsel, who has been chained to the bars of a dungeon cell. But when he gives her a drink of water, the water shorts out her circuits, and she begins to smoke. She is a robot.

Martin contemplates being the sole survivor of the movie.

Besides some corny dialog, this production is plagued by a load of unlikelihood. Of course, the technology is nowhere believable. In 1973 it may have been a wish that sentient robots would be feasible in a few years, but hopefully this would involve technology of the future. What we see when technicians open up one of their creations is 1960’s electronics.

Additionally, some of the logical basis is beneath belief. The pistols in Westworld fire real bullets, but to ensure the safety of real people, the guns are fitted with (supposedly) infrared detectors that prevent their being fired when pointed at a warm object (person). Yeah, that’s going to work. Like a bullet going through a wall is not going to kill somebody on the other side?

These anthropic robots are supposed to be very smart and of advanced, futuristic construction. But when we are allowed to view the world through the gunslinger’s eyes, the image is coarsely reticulated. Everybody’s cell phone these days has resolution sharper than the 35mm cameras used to shoot the movie.

Creighton imagined some kind of technological plague spreading from one park site to the others, but nowhere is it contemplated what vector must be involved. Viewers are asked to accept the premise and follow along with the plot.

Of course, this movie involves a bunch of actors who are supposed to be robots, and this set up for a breakthrough in motion picture production. A view into the insides of one of the robots incorporates computer-generated animation, the first time industry unions allowed creativity to performed by other than a union member.

Little known about Brynner, who seemed to burst into stardom as the haughty monarch in The King And I, was originally from Siberia, in Vladivostok. He needed the money at the time, and accepted $75,000 to play the role. He died 12 years later.

A Westworld TV series airing on HBO debuted in 2016, continuing into 2018. A third season is scheduled for production.

Quiz Question

Number 180 of a series

It’s time for a change of pace. Here is an exercise in modern culture. Give the title of the movie associated with each of the following quotes.

  1. Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin’ arse!!
  2. We’re going to need a bigger boat.
  3. TWA 517, do you want to report a UFO? Over.
  4. Top of the world, ma!
  5. You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.
  6. Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.
  7. Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.
  8. Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?
  9. Let the wookie win.
  10. It was beauty killed the beast.
  11. The wind blows so hard the ocean gets up on its hind legs and walks right across the land.
  12. Mildred: Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?Johnny: What’ve you got?
  13. Why, you crazy — the fall’ll probably kill ya!
  14. Do you feel lucky?
  15. Go ahead, make my day.

You can use Google to find all these, but the requirement is to answer from your own knowledge. Post your answers in the comments section below.

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 Wednesday

One of a continuing series

James Bond movies are currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. First, something about the Bond series. Ex spy Ian Fleming wrote a bunch of these stories in the 1950s before finishing up in the early 1960s and dying in 1964. MGM began to put out movie interpretations, beginning with Dr. No in 1962, and they generally followed Fleming’s plots. Then they got famous for their special effects, and eventually Bond movies became synonymous with sex, glitz, stunts, and special effects. Really quite boring. No story—sequences of episodes strung together, sometimes losing the central theme in the process. Fortunately for us, something like this one got made, and it has a real story with real plot development. It’s For Your Eyes Only, from 1981, by which time the Bond series was well into it’s plot-devoid era.

The problem is, the original Fleming plot takes up a few pages in a collection of short stories published under the same title. The movie uses the title and the names of a few of the characters and concocts an epic yarn. More later.

The opening scene has nothing to do with the plot. We see James Bond (Roger Moore) laying flowers at the grave of his wife, who was cruelly murdered in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Comes a call from headquarters, and a helicopter arrives to pick him up for an important assignment. Only it’s a fake. Once Bond is inside the helicopter, buckled in, and in the air, an unseen hand pushes a button on a remote control device and causes the pilot to be electrocuted. Bond is trapped inside the helicopter controlled by a vicious and sinister old man sitting in a wheel chair on top of a distant building. The man’s voice comes through the helicopter intercom telling Bond of the grisly fate that awaits him.

But Bond gains the upper hand. He climbs out a door and hangs on as the helicopter flies a torturous and frightening route among buildings and stacks in an industrial area of the city.

Finally he gets inside the pilot’s compartment, dumps the dead pilot, and takes control. He flies the helicopter up behind the sinister wheel chair and scoops it up with one of the  craft’s skids. Then he dumps his nemesis, wheel chair and all, down a smoke stack, which you see just now coming up.

Then runs the film’s intro, and the movie starts for real. A British spy station is disguised as a fishing boat off the coast of Albania, and the “fishermen” catch a floating mine in their net. The mine explodes, sinking the vessel before the crew can activate the thermite destruction device to destroy the ultra-secret ATAC device, this plot’s MacGuffin. The race is on to recover the device before opposing forces can get at it.

Switch to the yacht of the Havelock family, husband and wife being oceanographic researchers, he being involved in helping recover the ATAC. Their glamorous daughter Melina (Carole Bouquet) comes to visit while the yacht is anchored in Greek waters. She arrives by a float plane, which lands close by and lets her off at the yacht.

The float plane takes off, but then it circles back, and the pilot opens up on the boat with machine guns concealed in the floats, killing the husband and wife.

Here is where the film and the Fleming story overlap. In the book Mr. Havelock is retired MI6 living on the family estate in Jamaica. Gangsters seeking to flee Cube before Castro comes to power (this sets the time about 1958) are looking for other places to park their wealth. One gangster seeks to purchase the Havelock property, and Mr. Havelock turns them down flat. The gangsters take the next logical step and murder the husband and wife, then they begin to put pressure on the heir, the daughter, named Judy in this case. She seeks revenge with an aim to track down and to kill the gang leader. At this point the two plots diverge, never to cross paths again.

In the book James Bond’s boss, “M.”, is a friend of the Havelocks, and he asks Bond to “take care of business.” He hands Bond a file and stamps it “FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.” Hence the title.

Here is a scene nearly straight out of the Fleming story. The gangster is holed up in a resort in Vermont near the Canadian border with a lake and hot and cold running bimbos. The movie somewhat duplicates the scene, only this may be on the island several thousand miles to the east.

In the book Bond goes in with a sniper’s rifle with intent to kill the gangster. There he meets Judy, who has arrived by a different route and with a crossbow. Judy tells Bond to stay out of this business and to let her do it. In the movie Bond is unaware of the girl until the gangster dives into the pool and floats to the surface with an arrow through his worthless torso, a scene from both plots.

But Bond has been surprised by guards and taken to the boss, who orders him disposed of. The arrow generates confusion, allowing Bond to escape, whereupon he meets Melina on the trail, where she saves him again with a well-placed arrow. They team up and escape in her little yellow car, since his tricked-out Lotus has exploded when one of the guards attempted to break in. Here begins the first of several stereotype Bond chases, as the little yellow car (a Yugo?) dashes madly along winding mountain roads and through villages, pursued by two cars full of gunmen. Of course Bond and the girl escape, as the gunmen meet ghastly ends.

Trust me. There is a plot in this movie. The story advances as Bond follows lead after lead to track down who is after the ATAC. In the meantime there is the requisite snow chase. Here motorcycles with ice racing tires (spikes) chase Bond, on skis, down the mountain.

And down a bobsled run.

But Bond finds out he has been chasing the wrong villain. A smuggler clues him in that a supposed Anglophile is the real mastermind, and Bond and the girl retrieve the ATAC from the sunken spy boat, only to be captured by the traitor. It is decided that rather than shooting the two and dumping them to the sharks, the mastermind will troll them behind his boat over some sharp coral and let the sharks do the rest.

This is a plot device out of Live And Let Die, and the same escape is employed. Bond and the girl catch some slack in the tow line when the boat reverses course, and they snag the line on some rocks. As the boat charges forward the line goes taut and snaps, allowing the two to escape.

They team up with the smuggler, Chaim Topol as Milos Columbo, and they form up a team of five to assault the villain’s stronghold atop a Greek mountain top.

Bond makes the climb using rope and pitons, but when he nears the top a guard confronts him.

To sum up, the gang of five defeat the villains in a fierce fight in the mountain fortress, right before the Soviet general arrives to take possession of the ATAC. Bond tosses the device off the mountain, where it explodes in a shower of particles, and everybody departs content.

Finally, Bond and Melina reconcile, and as she undoes the top of her clothing she tells him the scenery is “for your eyes only.”

Obviously there are plot defects. We are meant to believe the ATAC, a highly sensitive device aboard the spy boat. has been designed for destruction to avoid capture. The person chained to its console drowns before he can pull the lever to initiate the destruction, and the device sinks, intact, with the boat. And it was not designed to dissolve in salt water? It lies at a depth of over 400 feet for days (weeks?), and it’s still going to be functional? No. Just no.

It’s necessary to have the Havelocks killed. In the book the two gunmen who come around to make Mr. Havelock an offer he can’t refuse. When he refuses, they pull weapons out of their bags and shoot them down on the patio. In the movie they trick out a float plane by installing machine guns in the floats. Then they endeavor to have this be the plane that picks up the daughter and takes her to the yacht. A simple matter would have been for the pilot/assassin to come aboard at the time and gun down everybody and leave. In real life, nobody fits out a float plane with guns in the float pods.

Bond and the girl are captured, and the miscreant needs to get them out of the way. Does he have them shot and dumped overboard? No. He needs to come up with a plan to kill them creatively and also to give them an opportunity to escape. Movie plots seem

The story is one of five in a volume with this title. The first story in the book is From a View to a Kill, and yes, Hollywood made a movie using a similar title. The Fleming story has Bond tracking down a Russian spy ring engaged in murdering motorcycle couriers carrying secret NATO communications in France. As became typical, MGM threw away Flemming’s plot to make the movie, now streaming on Hulu. A review shortly.

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 Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Hey! A surprise even for me. Never heard of it before it popped up on Amazon Prime Video. It’s Blue Steel, from 1990 starring Jamie Lee Curtis as newly-minted NYPD cop Megan Turner. Details are from Wikipedia.

This was co-produced by Oliver Stone and directed by  Kathryn Bigelow, listed as co-writer. We have much to thank for the stunning visuals and action, but I resisted the temptation to put up a full gallery of imagery. It’s an interesting plot, but I am only going to skim it and give you an idea of how twisted it is.

The opening follows the action of a police raid on an apartment. Officers approach a door in a darkened corridor with weapons drawn. They kick in the door, and in charges Turner. She is confronted by a desperado who grabs up his female companion, creating a hostage situation. Turner threatens without flinching, causing the gunman to drop his sidekick and turn his attention toward her. She wastes him, and as he falls to the floor, so does the chickadee. While Turner focuses on the the man, the woman whips out a weapon and fires. It’s all over. It was a police academy training exercise, and Turner has learned a valuable lesson. Keep your focus at all times.

Graduation follows, and Turner pauses to experience a dysfunctional home life. Her mother is a middle-aged punching bag for her abusive husband, who hates cops. They did not attend the graduation.

Comes the day of Turner’s first active duty assignment, and she and her partner cruise the streets of Manhattan, looking for trouble. The partner opts for a pee break, and they stop into a quick mart. While her partner relieves himself, Turner practices being observant. She observes that at the supermarket across the street a man with a .44 magnum is got the clerk at the till cowered. Seeing no sign of her partner finishing up in the back, she crosses the street, and sneaks in the back way. Stalking among the shelves, she finally gets a view of the action and levels her weapon.

The guy with the .44 is having none of this shit, and he is certainly not taking any off a cunt rookie cop. He points the .44 at Turner, who empties six chambers into his unfortunate body, which crashes through the glass and onto the sidewalk.

All patrons have been on the floor up to now, one being Wall Street commodities broker Eugene Hunt (Ron Silver). While Turner focuses on the damage, Hunt focuses on the .44 dropped by the dead man. He reaches his hand over and pulls it into this possession. That creates a problem for Turner.

Back at the station house they have a rookie cop who has killed a man an hour or so into her first time on the street, and there is no gun. Hunt has slipped away with it, and Turner is in deep trouble. They relieve her of her badge and her gun and send her off duty indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Hunt takes the weapon home, extracts the cartridges, and carves “Megan Turner” onto each before reloading. Then he plays Matt Dillon before a mirror and ultimately stalks the streets with the .44 under his jacket. On a rainy night in Manhattan he literally bumps into a middle aged white man, and both fall to the sidewalk in the rain. The weapon clatters to the concrete. Hunt picks it up and fires one shot into the unfortunate bumpee. A serial killing rampage is under way.

It quickly becomes apparent that Hunt, besides being a Wall Street commodities trader, is a raving psychopath. He works out at the gym and hears voices in his head telling him to do things.

Turner, looking for a night on the town, steps out onto the sidewalk to hail a cab in the rain. But Hunt is there, and he has a cab. He invites Turner along. He takes her to dinner. He later takes her on a helicopter rider to view Manhattan by night.

Meanwhile the police have come across an empty cartridge casing with Turner’s name carved on it. They haul her in for questioning. Since the only other Megan Turner in New York City is an octogenarian living in retirement, the cops figure they have the correct Megan Turner. They decide to bring Turner back onto the force as a detective and use her as bait to catch the person with the hot .44. They assign sexually appealing Nick Mann (Clancy Brown) to be her second skin.

Things develop. When Turner and Hunt return to her apartment from a date, she invites him up. He suggests a later time. Good thing, because when Turner opens her apartment door, Mann is there waiting. He chides her for not having much to eat, forcing him to dine on tuna salad.

For reasons I am unable to fathom, the police never connect Hunt with the case, and on a subsequent encounter with him, he reveals to Turner he first saw her when she blew away the perp at the supermarket. She guesses he is the person they are looking for, but since the police didn’t scoop him up at the scene, there is no evidence he is the killer. He engages heavy legal counsel, and under threats of sever legal action, the police are forced to let him roam.

Disaster follows. As Turner and her chum Tracy (Elizabeth Peña) go out together, Hunt falls silently in behind. He throws an arm around Turner’s neck and shoots Tracy. Then he conks Turner on the head and departs. Since she is unable to verify it was Hunt, the police are again forced to let him walk.

We see Hunt burying the weapon in a park somewhere, and we see Mann and Turner stalking him, waiting for him to lead them to the gun. They ultimately determine he must have cached the gun, and they stake out the place. When they see somebody searching with a flashlight, Turner handcuffs Mann to the steering wheel of the car and pursues Hunt on a personal quest for vengeance. But Hunt has outsmarted them, and Turner discovers the person with the light is an old shopping cart woman. Meanwhile Hunt ambushes Mann in the car and takes his weapon, preparing to shoot him. But Turner shows up and puts one through the fleshy part of his arm. He again escapes, but now the police put on a full court press to locate him.

While the police sweat to resolve the matter, Mann and Turner retire to her place to get in some sack time. But Hunt is already there, hiding out in a back room. While Turner is showering off, Hunt muffles the .44 with a towel and shoots Mann, who recovers eventually. But Turner is placed under police guard while Hunt is on the loose.

Fire burning her belly, Turner resolves to personally close with the enemy. She decoys the cop guarding her and slugs him, stealing his uniform and his weapon. She stalks the streets, waiting for Hunt to find her.

He does, and there ensues a running gun battle. Turner catches a slug and puts a tourniquet around her arm, continuing the battle with her good arm. After putting another round into Hunt, snatching up a civilian car and ramming him, she exchanges shots until she empties all six chambers. Hunt stalks her while she reloads, and he wastes his last round hitting the civilian’s car. Now Hunt is defenseless, but there is no “kings ex” in this game. Turner must have her retribution, and the last thing Hunt sees in his life is her starring at him over the sights of the purloined pistol. Classic Jamie Lee Curtis.

A bunch wrong with this plot. Point by point:

Turner has no evidence the robber had a weapon. Really? The store clerk was so frightened he could not recall whether the man had a pistol or a knife. Who believes that bit of nonsense? Also, there were multiple customers lying on the floor besides the commodities trader. Why were they lying on the floor if there was no gun. Even if they did not see the gun, they must have known there was a gun, else they would have skedaddled.

Now Hunt shoots a man on the street in Manhattan. To be sure, it’s raining, but even in the rain people are going to notice a .44 magnum going off, and this is not going to pass unnoticed. The police find a .44 casing with Turner’s name carved into it. Where? At the crime scene? It’s a revolver. The shooter had to eject the casing and toss it nearby. We are left to our imaginations to figure this is what must have happened.

Hunt encounters Turner hailing a cab in the rain. No rain, and she would not have accepted his offer of a ride. Too many things are falling into place for this plot to be believable.

They give Turner a pretend detective’s badge. That is not explained. She is obviously a rookie. Why pretend she’s a seasoned detective?

Mentioned before; if the police are going to be on Turner like paint, how come they miss so much about Hunt? How come they don’t notice Hunt sneaking into her apartment?

Toward the end, after it is determined Hunt is the killer, Turner visits her parents. There has been trouble. Her father has been beating her mother. She arrests her father, cuffs him, and starts toward the station house in her car. Then she reconsiders, he promises to stop this bad behavior, and they both go back to the family home. Hunt is there, posing as a friend of Turner’s. It’s touchy situation. Turner is concerned Hunt will pull something deadly if she doesn’t get him out of the house. She does, and reports this to the police. But wait! If Turner didn’t discover her father’s assault on her mother, she would never have left with him in the car. If she had taken him to the station, then Hunt would possibly have come and gone before she got back. The plot doesn’t work unless a string of special circumstances convene. This makes for an improbable plot.

Turner decides to engage in a vendetta, so she slugs a copy. I mean, she cold-cocks him with her fist, and he does not come around until after she has undressed him and left with his uniform and his weapon. Do not, I say, do not mess with this woman.

The police are out in force, scouring the borough for Hunt. The can’t find him. But Turner knows how to find him. Just put on a cop uniform and walk down the street like Gary Cooper with her six gun on her hip. Hunt is right there on the spot.

Turner and Hunt engage in a gun battle for several minutes in downtown Manhattan, and the scene is not swarming with cops until all the smoke has cleared? I don’t believe it either.

Jamie Lee Curtis is, of course, daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Her face tended toward androgynous, but there was a body what would not quit. Guys went to her movies on the chance of seeing her naked, often the case. My favorite JLC movie is True Lies with Arnold. I have it. I will do a review.

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 Wednesday

One of a continuing series

It’s one of the few movies I have seen in a theater in the past 40 years, and I saw this one because my daughter wanted me to take her. It’s Pet Sematary from 1989, and I will get to the spelling of that last word in the title shortly. This is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. I don’t have a copy of the book, not even the Kindle edition, so I have no way of comparing this movie with the book. In fact, I didn’t watch the movie through again. I pulled the video up on Amazon Prime Video and grabbed these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The setting is in Maine, Stephen King’s home ground and where the location scenes were shot. The opening sequence sets the ominous mood. A massive tanker truck comes barreling down a country road, past a neat home that has just sold.

Right behind comes the Creed family, moving in, not realizing the nightmare that is to unfold here.

They meet their curmudgeonly neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne). He needs to be in this plot for the city slicker Creeds to play off against. He also needs to be the voice of a dark and foreboding wisdom.

Jud takes the Creed family to a place in the woods where apparently children have brought defunct pets and named it Pet Sematary, using second-grader spelling.

Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) is a doctor, and one of his patients is a jogger who has been struck and killed. Before he dies the patient warns Louis about the Pet Sematary, calling him by name, although the two had never met before.

When the family cat comes a cropper to traffic in front of their home, Louis takes the animal to the Pet Sematary. The cat comes back as a demon possessed.

Repeat that opening sequence, if you please. The truck driver picks up his load of fuel at the depot and sets off along the highway of death, not a care in the world. His music is playing, it’s a bright and sunny day, the truck is humming along without missing a beat. He adds weight to the pedal.

Meanwhile the Creeds are enjoying an outing on the front lawn. The truck is coming nearer. Little Gage (Miko Hughes) is doing what doomed toddlers are always doing. he is seeking death in his merry way. Too late, the family notices Gage is headed toward the highway.

You knew all along what was going to happen. The truck ends up on its side, and little Gage has proved to be no match. To shorten my recap, Louis takes Gage’s body to the Pet Sematary. Horror of horrors! He comes back as evil personified.

Jud seeks the demon Gage, searching into his own home. A small hand wielding a surgeon’s scalpel strikes like a snake from under the bed, expertly severing Jud’s Achilles tendon. Jud goes down, and Gage is on top of him to finish him off with the scalpel.

Next to go is Gage’s mother Rachel (Denise Crosby). Louis goes looking, and her body, hung by the neck, drops from above.

Louis cannot escape his fate. He takes Rachel’s body to the Pet Sematary, and later she returns for him to love into eternity.

Yes, this is a very scary film. King, if this is his plot, has put together all the standard components for classic horror. And that’s what is much about the plot. It’s formula without an underlying story of great interest.

None of the other players tug at my memory, but Fred Gwynne does stand out. He kept us entertained as Officer Francis Muldoon in the TV series Car 54, Where Are You and also as Herman Munster in The Munsters. I most recently saw him as the curmudgeonly Judge Chamberlain Haller in My Cousin Vinny. I’m keeping an eye open for that one to come to Prime Video. A review will be forthwith.

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 Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is one that completely blind-sided me. I moved back to Texas in 1984 and was working for a defense contractor. A group in my section was working on a project called “Tankbreaker.” It was a little missile that would home in on a tank and wipe it out. Anyhow, we were called to a section meeting, and two of the executive assistants had composed this cute presentation. It was a slide show accompanied by music, and there was a cute tune. The graphics showed a Soviet tank superimposed with a crossed-out circle, “no tanks.” And the tune played, and when it got around to the part where it said, “Who’re you gonna call?” they substituted in “Tankbreaker.”

So I told one of the gals who did this that it was a nice tune, but where did it come from. Did I ever get a roasting. Had I never heard of Ghostbusters?

Anyhow, I subsequently caught the movie when it came on TV, and it’s now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. Here’s a rundown of the plot.

The opening sequence has a prim lady librarian in the New York City Public Library, and she is moving with a measured pace among the stacks. She has a cart, and she is reshelving books. Behind her back books start moving themselves from one shelf to another. She doesn’t notice at first. Then in the card file system (they don’t have these anymore), the drawers start opening by themselves, and presently cards are flying out of the drawers and spraying amongst the rows. The noise alerts the librarian, and she turns around and sees the chaos. She screams and runs in panic. Then comes on the title graphic and the theme music starts to play.

Only, at this point in the movie there is (are) no Ghostbusters. There are three odd-ball researchers living off grants at Columbia University.  Two are doing research into supernatural phenomena, such as ghosts. The other, is Professor Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), who is conducting research into psychic abilities. Here he has hired two students to participate in his work, which is to explore whether negative feedback can bring out latent abilities. He has two students, one a nerdy guy, and the other a comely coed, and it’s obvious he’s making a play at the girl. He has a set of Zenner cards, of which there are five kinds, each with a different symbol. He alternates between the boy and the girl, and when the boy guesses wrong he throws a switch, delivering a painful shock to the boy. The girl never gets it right, but Venkman conceals this and always rewards her with praise.

The boy quits in disgust and charges out of the room. Venkman tells the girl they need to do more research after hours.

Then Venkman’s two friends charge in with a report from the library. They have their instruments, and they want Venkman to come with them to look for a ghost in the library. The two friends are Dan Aykroyd as Raymond “Ray” Stantz and Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler. It’s during this sequence we get to hear Venkman utter those immortal words, “Back off, man. I’m a scientist.”

Presently they spot the ghost, a wisp of vapor in the form of a lady librarian left over from the 19th century. They initially draw back, but then they decide to approach her. She shows her true nature, and they flee into the street.

Meanwhile, Columbia has become fed up the three hangers on and has withdrawn their grants, closed their facilities, and banished them from the campus. Staring unemployment in the face, they decide to go private. They form Ghostbusters, adopting the logo shown above. They move into an unused firehouse, and they hire a woman to answer the phone. Then they wait for the phone to ring. And they wait.

Enter Dana Barrett played by Sigourney Weaver, a sharp contrast from Warrant Officer Ripley of the space tug Nostromo. Now she’s a concert cellist, returning to her Central Park West apartment by cab with a load of groceries. When she enters her apartment, the TV is mysteriously on, and a commercial for the newly-minted Ghostbusters is playing. She looks. She think’s that’s strange. She starts putting away the food stocks, when mysteriously the egg carton springs open, and eggs start exploding and cooking themselves on the counter top. She hears a noise coming from the refrigerator. She cautiously approaches it. People in the audience are screaming at her, “No, no! Don”t open that door!” She opens the door and is greeted by hideous monster, which description and background I won’t get into.

We next see Dana showing up at the Ghostbusters store seeking resolution. Peter, still pining for the days of coeds gone by, leaps into the breech. He insists on coming by Dana’s apartment to check out things. He gets nowhere with Dana.

The phone actually rings. The manager of a swank hotel has a ghost problem. Can Ghostbusters help? They come charging, arriving in their Ghostbusters wagon, lights flashing and sirens blaring. They approach the assignment like a squad of Navy SEALs.

The first encounter—not so good. Peter comes, Peter sees, Peter gets slimed. Get ready for it. Here it comes. “He slimed me.”

But there is success, and the team departs the hotel with the bad fellow locked safely in an apparition-restraining box. More good news. Peter gets a date with Dana. Before he can arrive she encounters difficulties. It turns out her upscale apartment building was originally constructed as a conduit to an ancient goblin. As she sits in a chair, hands come out through the fabric and restrain her, and the chair slides into her bedroom, from which emanates an unearthly light.

Peter arrives for the date to find Dana much transformed.

He coaxes her to bed, but that only reveals additional surprises.

To cut to the conclusion, a smart aleck EPA official orders Ghost busters to cease operations forthwith, and he commands a technician to shut off the power to the goblin containment facility. All hell breaks loose, and goblins run rampant through midtown Manhattan. The Park West building erupts, spewing lightning and masonry.

When the ghost busters arrive they find Dana and her nerdy neighbor Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) transformed into manifestations of the evil goblin. It’s a great opportunity to show off Weaver’s fantastic legs.

You guessed it. The ghost busters are triumphant, and they deploy their proton pack weapons to defeat the demigod Zuul and save the day.

They are heroes (for the moment) and Peter and Dana are a couple (for the moment). We see in the sequel that the moment has come and gone, and I will be posting a review of the sequel on Sunday. Keep reading.

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 Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This came out in 1975, and I watched it once before on TV. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. It’s The Stepford Wives, and if you never heard of it, then you’ve been vacationing on the moon. In the intervening 43 years this film has added to our lexicon. A Stepford Wife is the ultimate subservient domestic partner. In modern terms, this is The Handmaid’s Tale writ small, as though Gilead were shrunk into the tight (presumably) Connecticut village of Stepford.

For those just back from the moon, here is a sketch of the plot with a lot omitted. First we see the Eberharts leaving their Manhattan digs and moving to Stepford, where husband Walter (Peter Masterson) hopes to get away from the clamorous city life to a place where he feels more in charge. Joanna (Katharine Ross) has not been consulted on the move, and she is not thrilled.

It definitely is a change of pace. Joanna takes some time getting used to the new digs.

She takes a lot of time getting used to the stiffness of Stepford society. The wives mainly walk around like robots, always immaculately dressed, always soft spoken, always polite, always stiff. Then Joanna meets a kindred soul in Bobbie Markowe (Paula Prentiss) a free spirit, also new to Stepford. Together they decide to take Stepford society head on and turn it around. They fail absolutely. Something sinister is in complete control.

What they observe is breathtaking. Exemplifying Stepford women is Carol van Sant (Nanette Newman). She is the complete domestic, and almost totally mindless. She goes off kilter and has to be carted away in an ambulance after a small bump car event at a shopping center. Joanna notices with alarm that the ambulance does not take Carol in the direction of the hospital. Suspicions grow.

Later at a party Joanna and Bobbie become alarmed at Carol’s actions. She walks around with a blank expression saying to each person she meets, “I’ll just die if I don’t get this recipe.”

Joanna gets ever closer to the truth. When Carol and her husband go away for a weekend, she comes back much changed. Now she’s glassy-eyed like all the rest, she is fashionably dressed, even in her own kitchen, and her house is spotless. Nothing is out of place.

Joanna guesses what has happened. She grabs a kitchen knife and plunges it into Carol’s abdomen. Carol’s only response is to pull it out, wipe it off, and replace it on the rack. Then she starts to go bonkers, moving and speaking in a loop, taking a cups from the shelf and dropping them on the floor.

In the end Joanna confronts the mastermind of the scheme, Dale “Diz” Coba (Patrick O’Neal) in a mansion used by the Men’s Associatoin. There she enters a room that’s a mock-up of her own bedroom, and she meets her artificial replacement, wearing a blank stare and a see-through nightgown. Every husband’s dream woman. The replacement Joanna advances on her holding a nylon stocking, presumably to be employed as a garrote.

The final scene shows the Stepford Wives, Joanna included, shopping in a grocery market. They are all dressed to perfection, and they move slowly with grace, speaking in soft tones, staring blankly.

Fade to black.

It was a scary movie. The implication is these men are bringing their wives to Stepford, there to have them disposed of and replaced by complacent automatons. Once you get over that hurdle there are more mundane considerations to ponder.

  • Hundreds of men are having their wives murdered, and nobody is getting wise?
  • The children are growing up in this society. What’s going to happen to them?
  • Here is a conspiracy theory on a grand scale, historically a recipe for disaster. A quote from the Russian revolution goes, “When three men sit at a table to plot revolution, two of them are fools, and the third is a police spy.” That has not changed in 100 years.
  • The Eberharts have a runty little dog, and we see him in a cage in the back of a truck, driven supposedly out of town. Where does this fit into the plot?
  • What kind of person wants a wife like that, anyhow?

Before you are too quick to dismiss this kind of attitude, let me tell you that I knew such a person. I worked with him, and once on lunch break we went to where he was purchasing some art. The artist was a woman who worked at home, producing pieces out of copper. One of our party remarked on leaving how amazing it was she was able to do that. My friend remarked he would prefer a clean house.

The same friend watched this movie, rather part of it. He said he quit watching, because it became apparent Joanna was planning on having an affair. He never caught on to the plot that involved men having their wives killed.

Prior to this Ross made a big splash in The Graduate and later in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Her most recent movie was The Hero, released last year.

Unlikely Hero

Yesterday I posted a review of Sergeant York, a movie from 1941 based on the life and war exploits of American soldier Alvin York. The battle action of that film is based on events of 8 October 1918, in the closing days of World War One. During the same week another drama of courage under battle was playing out, and the episode became know as the story of The Lost Battalion. A 2001 TV movie based on this story recounts the events of that horrific week. This is being posted on the 100th anniversary of these events.

The movie played on The History Channel a few years back, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening scenes show battalion commander Major Charles White Whittlesey (Rick Schroder), a former New York lawyer now turned soldier. And he is every bit the picture of a New York lawyer. A more stiff and up-tight prig you might never expect to see in the trenches of the Great War. Here is inspecting his troops on the front lines, determination etched in his face. Above ground the war is taking lives. A soldier arriving from no man’s land, wounded and apparently blinded, is shot by a sniper as he steps to the edge of the trench. He falls dead at Whittlesey’s feet. The Major orders others to attend to the body, and he resumes his inspection. He is the picture of unflappability.

Major Whittlesey’s battalion comprises nine companies of the 77th Division, approximately 554 men. They are ordered to advance into the Argonne Forest against unseen German forces. They are supported on the right by two units of the 92nd Infantry Division and on the left by a contingent of French troops. The advance encounters German resistance, and shortly the French and those from the 92nd withdraw, leaving Whittlesey’s men isolated in the woods. Due to lack of communication with the command structure it is some time before Whittlesey finds out they are alone in the woods and completely surrounded by German forces.

His men may have originally been dismissive of Whittlesey, for all his bookish ways, but that presumption quickly vanishes as he remains calm and in complete control throughout the five-day ordeal that is to ensue. Whittlesey and his men engage the Germans and prevent them from taking this critical area in the center.

The Germans are stymied and a bit confused. They cannot figure out why this isolated group of American soldiers does not recognize the inevitable and surrender. They know they must dislodge Whittlesey’s troops or else lose this section of the front.

Attempts to establish communications are unsuccessful. Messengers sent back to the rear are captured or killed by the Germans. Whittlesey’s men are pinned down on an uphill slope facing the Germans. The Germans enjoy the advantage of grazing fire, meaning their guns are able to fire flat from protected positions. Anything a distance above the ground will catch a bullet.

Attempts to obtain water from a stream only result in soldiers getting killed. From time to time the Germans assault Whittlesey’s position, and there is close-quarter fighting. American artillery fire falls on the American position, and the Americans send a critical plea by carrier pigeon telling them to stop firing.

The Germans capture two American soldiers. The German major entices Lieutenant Leak with offers of food and water. The Lieutenant lies to his face, claiming he has no need of such. There was plenty of food and water where he just came from. The German expresses puzzlement at the Americans’ resistance. Leak tells the German what he is dealing with. “What you’re up against, Major, is a bunch of Mick, Dago, Polack and Jew-boy gangsters from New York city: They’ll never surrender.” The German major is left in amazement. His troops are not up against soldiers they are accustomed to fighting. They are up against New York City gangsters.

The American command is unable to locate Whittlesey’s position, and they send a scout plane out to search the woods. The Germans don’t fire on the plane at first, because they don’t want to signal the battle situation to the American command. Whittlesey’s men catch the attention of the pilot, who circles their position on his map. The Germans realize he has located the American troops, so they open fire on the plane. The pilot lands and dies, but his map shows Whittlesey’s location.

The Germans attempt a final assault, using flame throwers. We see close quarter combat as Whittlesey fires his pistol into the face of a German soldier.

After five days the Lost Battalion is relieved with only 194 remaining. The others have been killed or else captured by the Germans. Offered a ride back, Whittlesey declines. He is furious at the lack of support his battalion received, and he responds, “That’s not acceptable, sir. I’ll stay with my men.”

Whittlesey and Captain Nelson M. Holderman were subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor. However, the lingering effects of the ordeal never left Whittlesey. Three years after the ordeal he disappeared and was presumed lost on a ship from New York to Havana.

The line about New York gangsters plays out in another film about another war. In Casablanca Major Heinrich Strasser asks Rick Blaine how he would feel to see German troops in New York. Rick reminds him there are parts of New York City he would not recommend the Germans attempt to invade.

All was for naught. Days after these events the Germans capitulated and the insanity that was the Great War came to an end. It was 100 years ago.

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.