Friday, May 22, 2015

Will Secret Agent Sam Casey Survive "Riding With Death"? Will The Audience? Part 2

"Breaker! Breaker! Where is the road?" Secret agent Sam Casey (Ben Murphy) goes under cover as a long distance trucker in "Riding With Death", a TV movie culled from the cancelled TV series "Gemini Man."

Greetings and salutations, movie lovers!

We will now rejoin "Will Secret Agent Sam Casey Survive 'Riding With Death'?" already in progress.

Blissfully unaware that INTERSECT co-worker Abby is stuck in the back of his big rig with a lethal batch of Tripoladean (sic) OR that Tripoladean creator Dr. Hale is a baddie intent on killing him, ultra mellow secret agent Sam Casey is indeed riding with death.

Alerted by his new buddy Buffalo Billy Joe Hickens that there's "a bear in the air" (a helicopter) following him, Sam contracts boss Leonard Driscoll (who is NOT, strangely enough, cleaning his glasses at the moment) with the info. Turns out the chopper has been rented by one Luther Stark at the behest of Dr. Hale as "extra security" for his Tripoledean transport.

Hmmm. Sam finds all this a bit fishy. And Abby (whom Sam thinks is "some gal", remember) is still nowhere to be found. Putting two and two together (and getting five), Sam foolishly decides to continue his trek to Long Beach--never suspecting that friendly gas station attendant Carl his cut his break line on Dr. Hale's orders!

"Pay no attention to the men in the helicopter!" Dr. Hale and flunky Luther Hale hover above the action.

Traveling through a stretch of twisty mountain road, Sam soon finds himself with an out of control vehicle. By an amazing coincidence, Buffalo Billy Joe is just a few miles ahead. So when Sam comes upon Buffalo's "old iron horse", he drives his truck right up to the back of Billy Joe's truck. While Sam is doing this, Buffalo is slowly applying his breaks. The trucks nudge each other this way for several minutes. Although this "brilliant maneuver" saves the day, it looks as if the trucks do I put this tastefully...engaging in a VERY personal and INTIMATE encounter of a decidedly PHYSICAL NATURE that often results in babies being conceived...or once this EVENT is completed the participants often light up a smoke and enjoy the milky after-glow...if you get my drift.

Once Sam collects himself, he calls Dr. Hale on the rig's intercom to apologize for the close call. When the devious doctor suggests they go to the Val-Co station a few blocks away "to speed up the repairs", Sam realizes his "passenger" is not in the truck's safe room, but most likely in the helicopter hovering over head. So he borrows a handy blow-torch and cuts a hole in the safe-room door. There he finds a relieved Abby, who promptly informs Sam of Dr. Hale's evil intentions. Sam then calls Leonard and gives him the scoop.

Observing these events from his chopper, Dr. Hale realizes the jig is up. He then grabs a high powered rifle and orders Stark to give him "a clear view" of the truck's gas tank.

"The whole town will blow up," Stark warns his boss.

"So the whole town will blow up," Hale replies. "Ten million, Luther, ten mill." (referring to the amount of money they have embezzled from INTERSECT, no doubt).

"I love the smell of Tripoladean(sic) in the morning; it smells like victory!" Flunky Luther Stark and Dr. Hale survey their damage.

As soon as Dr. Hale starts shooting, Sam jumps back into the driver's seat and hits the gas peddle. Abby screams that Sam will get killed, which causes Sam to scream back, "If I don't get this rig out of town, there ain't gonna be no town!"

Dodging bullets (and, one presumes, other cars and pedestrians) Sam barrels into an open field and bails out of the truck. He also turns himself invisible. The rig explodes as predicted, but the explosion is not as deadly as feared. (Tom Servo from "MST3K" felt that the explosion might have "singed the side of a Bed and Breakfast", but certainly wouldn't have flattened the town and I have to agree.)

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Hale and henchman Stark land their whirlybird. They want to inspect the kill zone to make sure Sam is truly dead. To their mutual surprise, Sam materializes before them and promptly punches Luther out. This makes Dr. Hale go positively nutsy and he pulls a gun on Sam. Sam proceeds to turn himself invisible again, which doesn't stop the unhinged Dr. Hale from madly firing off the rounds of ammo into the air. His piece empty, Sam reappears, tisk-tisking Dr. Hale for his foolish scheme.

"Sorry, doctor," Sam tells him. "Bad guys finish last."

The police and INTERSECT arrive shortly. Being lead away in handcuffs, Dr. Hale excitedly tells Leonard Driscoll that Sam "isn't human." The exasperated INTERSECT head tells Dr. Hale "he's imagining things" and experiencing "the delusions of a guilty mind." While Abby and Sam laugh uproariously, Dr. Hale continues to rant and rave, causing Leonard to scream "OP-TIC-UL-ILL-LU-SION!" at the squad carrying Dr. Hale to the poky.

Sam and Abby share a laugh as Dr. Hale is carted off to jail; boss Leonard Driscoll is not amused.

But wait, there's more!

How much more?


See, Buffalo Billy Joe Hickens becomes a stock car racer! Leonard sends Sam after "the elusive" Robert Denby! Abby's hair gets bigger! Buffalo Billy Joe hooks up with a gal called "Cupcake"! And some awful stuff called "Duetreum"(sic) is causing stuff to blow up courtesy of "the elusive" Robert Denby!

Tune in for part 3 of "Riding With Death" coming to this blog very soon!


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Will Secret Agent Sam Casey Survive "Riding With Death"? Will The Audience? Part 1

Ben Murphy is super '70's secret agent Sam Casey in "Riding With Death" AKA "Gemini Man" AKA Steven Bochco's worst idea before and after "Cop Rock".

Greetings, movie lovers.

Today we revisit the secret agent/spy genre, where suave men of the world like Matt Helm, Bart Fargo and Secret Agent Super Dragon are called upon to save our collective skins from some meanie intent on ruling the world.

However, our latest secret agent man Sam Casey (Ben Murphy)--who works for the hush-hush organization INTERSECT--deviates from the standard globe-trotting, ladies man formula in significant ways.

First, "Riding With Death" (1976) was not a big budget feature film, but a TV movie stitched together from two (unrelated) episodes of the cancelled TV series "Gemini Man".

Second, Sam Casey is not a European smoothie, but a very mellow '70's guy who favors bell bottom jeans, rides a motor cycle and calls bad guys "turkeys" (the ultimate '70's insult).

Third, "Riding With Death" doesn't take place against the exotic backdrop of Monaco or Istanbul. It stays put in mid-sized California towns and later stock car race tracks.

"She's some gal !": Intersect agent/doctor/scientist Abby (Katherine Crawford) and her '70's hair.

Fourth, our villain isn't some velvet-voiced megalomaniac who strokes a cat and resides in some fortified castle. Instead, he's a con artist who looks like Gavin MacLeod from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Love Boat".

Fifth, Sam Casey's side-kick and comic relief is Jim "I Don't Like Spiders and Snakes" Stafford, who plays "Buffalo" Billy Joe Hickens, a (surprise, surprise) dumb cracker truck driver.

Sixth, you folks of the male gender will be disappointed that this spy caper doesn't have the regulation "Bond Girls" who lounge around in bikinis and ball gowns and have names like "Sparkle Badness" and "Pussy Galore". Instead, "Riding With Death" features female scientist/doctor Abby (Katherine Crawford) who is upstaged by her Dorothy Hamil-wedge cut and whom Sam thinks is "some gal." The other female cast member of note is named "Cupcake" and performs the herculean task of being Buffalo Billy Joe's cuddlemate.

However, Sam Casey does have one unique trait that sets him apart from other international men of mystery: he can turn invisible!

For 15 minutes, anyway.

See, he's fitted with a "DNA stabilizer" that allows him to disappear and reappear at will. But only for 15 minutes at a time. Any longer than that and Sam A) will stay invisible forever or B) die.

"The big hand tells the minutes and the little hand tells the hours..." Some gal Abby explains to Sam how his "DNA stabilizer" (disguised as a wrist watch!) works.

How Sam received his invisible powers is a rather long and preposterous story--which is why "Riding With Death" recounts it for us, even though the details are suppose to remain top secret and highly "classified." Suffice it to say, it involves a secret mission, an unidentified satellite on the ocean's floor, an explosion and Sam emerging unhurt from said explosion, but, as noted earlier, invisible. Thanks to highly experimental medical procedures and a "DNA Stabilizer", Sam Casey regains human form while retaining the ability to render himself invisible for 15 minutes at a pop. 

But, shush, don't tell anybody because it's top secret!

That tedious exposition all cleared up, "Riding With Death" settles down to business by introducing us to the ultra groovy, ultra mellow secret agent Sam Casey and his co-workers at INTERSECT: boss Leonard Driscoll (Richard Dysart), a short-tempered fellow who is ALWAYS cleaning his glasses, and the previously mentioned Abby, who's job description is kind of sketchy. 

Anyway, Sam learns his latest assignment is to protect Dr. Arthur Hale (Alan Oppenhiemer), a scientist who looks just like Murray Slaughter from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Dr. Hale has invented an additive/mixture called "Tripalodean"(sic) that supposedly triples gas mileage. However, baddies from "The International Oil Cartel" want to swipe the formula. In fact, when poor Dr. Hale arrives at INTERSECT for a meeting, two leisure suited goons ambush him and try to steal the formulas tucked in the doctor's briefcase. Lucky for him, Sam Casey was near by, turned himself invisible and saved the day.

"Relax! I'm one of the good guys!" Sam tells the flustered Dr. Hale. Gesturing at the retreating thugs he asks, "Any ideas who those turkeys were?"

In order for Dr. Hale to deliver his Tripoladean formulas to the Federal Energy Agency branch office in Long Beach safely, Sam will--please follow along carefully--disguise himself as a trucker and drive a carefully outfitted big rig. This carefully out fitted big rig contains a secret safe room where Dr. Hale will hide out--and this is very important, too--in case there is any trouble along the way.

Abby waits patiently for INTERSECT boss Leonard Dricoll (Richard Dysart) to finish cleaning his glasses. He cleans his glasses a lot.

Dressed in embroidered jeans, a muscle T-shirt and a trucker's hat, Sam meets Dr. Hale at his laboratory. Unfortunately, "a piece of equipment" that is "absolutely essential" has been left at Dr. Hale's other laboratory. A go-with-the-flow kind of guy, Sam tells the scientist that they can swing by his place and pick the missing equipment up and still stick to their time table.

But it's a trap! See, Abby arrived at Dr. Hale's lab ahead of Sam. It's there she discovers that Tripoladean is a fake. In fact, the additive's "molecular structure breaks down" and it becomes an explosive "more virulent than nitroglycerin". Abby was in the process of telling Driscoll all this info (and that ten million of INTERSECT's money has been embezzled to Switzerland) when minions in cahoots with Dr. Hale disconnect her phone. D'oh!

The baddies then stuff Abby in a laundry bag and toss her in the back of Sam's big rig. And that's a trap, too! See, crafty Dr. Hale has secretly slipped into another laundry bag, which his goons cart away because "this bag isn't even his!" Thus, Sam drives off thinking Dr. Hale is snuggled securely in the back of the rig when it's really Abby trapped in there! Meanwhile, nasty Dr. Hale has jumped into a helicopter and fiendishly awaits for the Tripoladean to explode due to the jostling from the truck!

As "Riding With Death" tightens the tension screws, cracker Jim Stafford makes his appearance as Buffalo Billy Joe Hickens. He sings a ditty over his CB about "bein' a truck drivin' man", which Sam (who calls himself "Lazy Rider") claims to actually like. The two banter back and forth in CB jargon, with Buffalo asking Sam (rather suggestively) "to keep the Black Barts off my mud flaps."

Meanwhile, Abby has managed to get her self un-stuffed from her laundry bag and is banging hysterically on the walls and doors of the truck's safe room to attract Sam's attention. No dice. So she does the next best thing, which is rip the laundry bag into strips and constructs a bouncy seat for the two gallons of Tripoladean locked away with her. Abby clearly hopes this contraption will minimize the bumps and jostling on the open road, although it does look rather flimsy to me.

Anything else?

Sam Casey and Buffalo Billy Joe Hickens (Jim Stafford) exchange a secret handshake before hitting the open road.

Oh, yes, Dr. Hale and one of his baddies are following Sam's rig in a helicopter. Through the magic of electronics, Dr. Hale can converse with Sam as if he's really in the truck's safe room! However, the evil doctor tells Sam that he's very busy filling out paper work and therefore has little time to chat--and Casey believes him!

Will Sam figure out that Dr. Hale is a fraud?

Will the Tripalodean explode as predicted?

Will Abby's whereabouts be discovered in time?

Will Buffalo Billy Joe sing another annoying track driver song?

Tune in for Part-Two of "Riding With Death"!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Do You Have "The Sinister Urge"?

Dino Fantini is Dirk the "psycho with the urge to kill" in Ed Wood's "The Sinister Urge".

Greetings, movie lovers.

When last we met, the topic explored was out of control teenagers and their clueless parents via Ed Wood's "The Violent Years."

Today, we shift our focus to the dangers of the smut picture racket via another Ed Wood gem, "The Sinister Urge" (1959/60).

Written and directed by Wood, "The Sinister Urge" is a series of inter-connected stories all linked by (you guessed it!) the horrors of the exploding smut picture racket. Before we delve into the plot (which is pretty straight forward by Ed Wood standards) let's meet the players:

Lt. Matt Carson (Kenne Duncan) and Sgt. Randy Stone (Duke Moore): Two of L.A.'s finest, trying to crack a smut ring from their cardboard office.

Lt. Matt Carson (Kenne Duncan) and Sgt. Randy Stone (Duke Moore) discuss their latest case.

Johnny Ryde (Carl Anthony): Once a "legitimate" filmmaker, he's now reduced to directing smut and scouting for, uh, "new talent". He works closely with photographer Jaffe (Harry Keaton), a balding elf who puts on a "foreign" accent to impress would-be smut models.

Gloria Henderson (Jean Fontaine): She's Johnny's boss and occasional cuddlemate. Hard, raspy and shrill, Gloria is the Martha Stewart of Smut, running her booming business from her suburban home--and never in the same outfit twice.

Mary (Jeanne Willardson): She's an innocent actress from the sticks who is "discovered" by Johnny and realizes too late that she's signed up with a smut producer.

Dirk (Dino Fantini): He's the "muscle" of Gloria's operation. Sporting an impossibly high hair-do, Dirk is also deeply attached to his pet knife, which he uses to cut up smut models. Gloria knows Dirk is off his dot, but keeps him around because "he's useful."

Minor characters worth keeping in mind include Janet and her booby socks-ers, who distribute Gloria's smut to the high school crowd (and rough up suppliers late on their payments) and Jake, who runs a popular pizza hang-out where the kids can pick up their porn. Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows is "The Syndicate", a quasi-mafia group who are Gloria's higher-ups.

Gloria (Jean Fontaine) tells innocent Mary (Jeanne Willardson) she's employed in the smut racket--and there's nothing she can do about it!

Now that you know who's who, let's settle in for the plot.

An unidentified blond (dressed in a slip and high heels) runs down a dirt road. She spies a phone booth and frantically screams, "Operator! Operator!" Next we cut to the plywood office of Lt. Matt Carson (Kenne Duncan). It's he, along with Sgt. Randy Stone (Duke Moore), who take the victim's call and rush out to help. Alas, they are too late; the gal has become the latest victim of the crazed killer the duo have been tracking.

"Same age, same M.O., same everything!" Randy fumes.

"But with one difference," the more experienced Carson points out. "Her name is different."

Next we jump over to Jaffe's studio, where the porn pixie is putting three (rather butch) models through their porn paces. While his assistants fuss with the lights, Johnny Ryde shows up. He wants to make sure Jaffe finishes his session on time and that boss Gloria's smut stash is safe. No sooner does Johnny leave than Jaffe's studio is raided by Carson and Stone. It's there they find a secret room filled-to-the-gills with smut movies. The cops drag everyone off to jail; score one for law enforcement.

Now we meet "The Sinister Urge"s star attraction, Gloria Henderson (Jean Fontaine)!

Gloria gives a piece of her mind (but not too big a piece) to Johnny.

As I mentioned earlier, Gloria is the Martha Stewart of Smut. She runs her booming business from the comfort of her suburban home--and never in the same outfit twice. Gloria favors tight slacks, short-shorts, high heels and frilly prom dresses, accessorized by opera gloves and a rhinestone tiara. However, her most memorable feature is her voice: rough and gruff, it is the oral equivalent of a sandblaster. Whether she is barking orders ("And brother I mean hot!"), cracking wise ("Close the door; you're letting the flies out!") or just answering the phone, Gloria's raspy bark scorches everyone in sight.

From the profane we move to the innocent. Mary (Jeanne Wiilardson) is a young actress from the sticks who longs to be a star. Johnny spots her in the park and convinces her he is a real movie producer. Visiting his office, Mary notices the framed copies of Ed Wood movie posters on the wall--which should have been a clue that things weren't on the up and up. "Are gangster and horror pictures all you do?" she inquires. Reeling her in, Johnny puts Mary "under contract" and gives her money to buy new clothes and move into a better apartment. He also urges her to be "seen at all the right places." All this is fine with Mary, who later asks, "Don't you want me to start memorizing a script?" All in good time, dearie.

The moment of truth arrives when Mary finally meets Gloria.

"Let's see those legs!" Gloria barks. "And when I mean 'those legs', I mean from your toes to the top of your hat!"

When Mary balks at exposing herself, Gloria informs her that all the money Johnny Ryde has been giving her has gotten the actress deep in debt--to her! Then she threatens to call Mary's parents and tell them their daughter has signed on with a smut producer. Defeated, Mary starts hiking up her skirt.

Starlet Mary shows some leg. Note the posters for Ed Wood's own movies on the wall.

Alas, there is more humiliation to follow. After hiking up her skirt, Mary is posing for Jaffe in a baggy swimsuit and a sheer wrap. Could things get any worse?  Of course they can! Dirk the psycho breaks into Gloria's house and finds Mary's racy pictures. Later he tracks the starlet down at the local park, where she's feeding the ducks. Dirk leaps out from behind a tree. The two fall into the water and thrash around. Mary screams and the ducks scatter, but it's all over very quickly...for Mary.

This latest smut-inspired murder gets Lt. Carson hot under the collar. He knows Dirk is carving up these smut models, but how can they catch him in the act--without anyone else becoming a victim? Suddenly Carson comes up with a brilliant plan. Well, it's not that brilliant, but it is a plan: have a male police officer dress up as a woman to trap Dirk! Sgt. Stone is floored by the idea. "What did you have for coffee this morning?!" he demands. Never the less, the plan just might work.

Next we see an (obviously) male police officer in a smart two-piece suit, pearls and heels trudging along a wooded path. Dirk, who has a second sense about these things, is hiding near by. He ambushes the decoy, only to have the copy toss him over his shoulder. While they tussle, a shadowy figure emerges to conk the cop on the head. It's Johnny! He hands Dirk a set of car keys and orders him to deliver a smut shipment out of town.

But it's a trap! See, Dirk has killed too many smut models for the Syndicate's taste and they want him gone. So Johnny rigs the breaks on an old car and sends Dirk on his fatal errand. Of course, Gloria approves.

Johnny and Gloria discuss their mutual interest in smut.

Now "The Sinister Urge" really starts cooking. The breaks on his car do indeed fail, but Dirk survives the crash. He then high tails it over to Gloria's, where he confronts Johnny. Johnny tells Dirk it was Gloria who wanted him out of the way. To prove it, Johnny tells Dirk to confront Gloria, while he  hides in the bushes off the patio. Naturally, Gloria over hears everything. To make a long story short, Gloria plans to shoot Johnny and blame it on Dirk. And Gloria does indeed shoot someone , but the dusk of early evening obscures just who that someone is. No matter. Gloria calls the cops and Carson, Stone and deputies drop by. To Gloria's horror, she learns she has shot Dirk--D'oh! What's more, Dirk managed to kill Johnny before Gloria killed him!

Even when faced with the evidence, however, Gloria refuses to believe what has transpired.

"Dirk! Nuh!" she rasps. "That can't be Dirk! Uh-uh. Nah, that's not Dirk! Nuh!"

Then Gloria makes a grab for her gun--which she had conveniently placed under her sofa cushion--but Lt. Carson stops her. It's still smoking and Gloria's finger prints are all over it! The Martha Stewart of Smut is lead away in handcuffs, guilty as charged.

In the Wood cinematic cannon, "The Sinister Urge" is a endless salad bar of incompetence.

Smut maven Gloria Henderson relaxes at home. Scary!

There is the stiff, awkward acting of the principals, especially Carl Anthony as Johnny Ryde, the ex-Hollywood hotshot now reduced to smut purveyor. In real life, Anthony was a commercial pilot who once flew a plane blindfolded. He also appeared on the TV show "You Asked For It." His other credits include "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and "Kung-Fu Cannibals".

Duke Moore (Randy Stone) has the dubious distinction of only appearing in Ed Wood movies. Along with "The Sinister Urge", Moore showed up in two Ed Wood TV projects ("Crossroads of Laredo" and "Final Curtain") as well as "Plan 9", "Night of the Ghouls" and "Take It Out In Trade." Kenne Duncan, on the other hand, began acting in silent films and accumulated over 200 film credits. Most of his work was in B-pictures and Poverty Row westerns, usually as a heavy. Duncan was also known by two nicknames "The Meanest Man In Movies" and "Horsecock" (the later reflecting his serial womanizing).

There are the continuity gaffes, such as the boom mike hovering above Duncan and Moore as they discuss their case in their plywood office; the unrelated footage of "Rock and Roll Hell" (made in 1956) that Wood snuck in to pad out the flick's running time; the fact that stunt double Conrad Brooks took Dino Fantini's place in Dirk's ill-fated car wreck; and the timely tidbit that Wood's director of photography (William C. Thompson) was blind in one eye! Sort sort of pulls everything together, doesn't it?

"The Sinister Urge" also has a very heavy handed message about the dangers of smut. That's fine in and of itself, but bitterly ironic when you consider that Wood would soon be toiling in the porn trenches because nobody else would hire him.

Then there is Gloria Henderson.

In my research, I could find only two other credits for this gal. Jean apparently had a rich hubby and pursued show-biz only as a hobby. Ed discovered her singing in a night club and hired her to play Gloria. She even supplied her own wardrobe! Although Fontaine had no previous acting experience, her role as the tight-clothes loving smut maven with a voice you could shave with, left an indelible impression on viewers for years to come. You can bet people like Gloria really do exist in the fringe-netherworld of smut that Ed Wood sought to portray.

And if they don't, they should.

So you see, movie lovers, for all its faults and failures, "The Sinister Urge" just might be Ed Wood's best film. It's bad in all the right places and features a cracker-jack performance from a tough broad who could give Bette Davis and/or Joan Crawford a run for their money.

Jean Fontaine, wherever you are, Junk Cinema salutes you!

Friday, April 24, 2015

"The Violent Years": Girls Gone Wild With A Little Help From Ed Wood

"Parents, do you know where your daughters are?" A poster for the Ed Wood-scripted but William Morgan-directed "The Violent Years".

Greetings to you all, movie lovers.

I want to introduce you to Paula Parkins. Paula (Jean Moorhead) is the most privileged bobby socks-er on the planet. Her indulgent parents have given Paula everything she's ever wanted--except, of course, their time and attention. As well as boundaries, discipline, chores and a good dollop of religion, come to think of it.

So is it any wonder, then, that sweet little Paula becomes the head of a gun totin', tobacco puffin', booze chuggin' girl gang?

"The Violent Years" (1956) may have been directed by William Morgan, but it's an Ed Wood movie through and through. You can feel The Master of Disaster's presence in every frame of the film, from its cheap sets to its stiff as starch actors to its heavy handed moralizing to its incredibly daffy dialogue.

Clearly, "The Violent Years" wanted to be another "Rebel Without A Cause" or "Blackboard Jungle", but under the combined touch of Ed Wood and William Morgan this tale of "Untamed Girls Of The Pack Gang!" who take "Their Thrills Unashamed!" ended up becoming the goofiest "message" flick this side of Juvie Hall.

"Stick 'em up!" Gang leader Paula pulls off her latest heist.

Paula looks like an angel, but she's the devil in disguise. Along with her fellow bad seeds Georgia, Geraldine and Phyllis, she has master minded a string of 17 (!) gas station robberies. They also fence stolen goods for a small time crook named Shelia (Lee Constant).


"It's the thrill that gets me! The thrill of the chase!" Paula declares.

Naturally, Paula's utterly clueless parents suspect nothing is amiss. But how would they know? Ma (Barbara Weeks) is a country club gad-about and pa (Art Millan) is obsessed with publishing his newspaper. In fact, on Paula's 18th birthday, pops is so busy that he has his star reporter Barney (Glenn Corbet) deliver his kid's gift! (Mom, meanwhile, is at a charity bazaar.)

Her father's newspaper connection does give Paula the inside track on how the police are progressing on tracking her gang. (The verdict: not well.) When she learns that under cover cops will be posted at all gas stations from now on, Paula realizes they need a new game plan. That's when the gals take to sticking up couples in Lovers Lane. This leads to "The Violent Years" most notorious scene--a scene only Ed Wood could dream up.

Female Trouble: "The Violent Years" most infamous scene.

The gals pounce on an unsuspecting couple necking in a convertible. At gun point they force the girl to strip to her skivvies. Then they rip her skirt into strips and tie her up. That done, they turn their attention to the male half of the duo.

The girls take his watch, his ring and his money (eleven dollars). Then they drag him off to a secluded spot. Paula gives him an evil smirk, yanks off her sweater and strides purposefully over to their captive...

Of course, viewers never see Paula and her pals assault the poor fellow, but that is clearly what transpired. Meanwhile, the victim's date has freed herself and runs off screaming for help.

When we next catch up with Paula, she's throwing a "pajama party." With typical cluelessness, Paula's ma thinks her daughter's party is an innocent little frolic "where the girls talk and play games in their pajamas." Ha! Instead of playing Twister or Charades, the gals listen to rock 'n roll, belt back booze, smoke and make out with JD's in their pajamas! Always ahead of the curve, Paula slinks around in a shiny, strapless jumpsuit and tongues an older man in a sport coat named Manny. When star reporter Barney arrives to give Paula her father's present, her "date" threatens to rearrange his face. Barney blasts him into the middle of next week (actually, the couch). He then warns Paula about the rough company she's keeping--but doesn't even think to tell her father!

Not the type of boy to bring home to mother: Paula and Manny.

It probably wouldn't make any difference. Paula and her pals think they are invincible. Thus the girls jump at the chance to accept a more lucrative assignment from Shelia: trashing a classroom at their high school and desecrating the flag. See, Shelia's "clients" are "foreigners" (Commies) who have a strong anti-American bent. Butch Phyllis is mad at her math teacher, so that's the room they hit.

As the girls knock over chairs, mess up the teacher's desk, erase her lesson plans from the blackboard(!) and toss a globe out the window, the cops arrive. Gun play ensues; Phyllis cackles, "Look at 'em jump! Just like rabbits!" Then she's shot. "This ain't the way it's suppose to be..." Phyllis whispers before keeling over. The remaining girls make a run for their car; as they do, another one bites the dust. That leaves just Paula and Geraldine. They head over to Shelia's place to hide out. However, when their fence learns that the job has been botched and a cop has been killed, Shelia decides to call the police. Paula plugs her full of lead before she can.

Dressed up in Shelia's duds, the girls try to sneak out of town, but they are spotted by the cops. A high speed chase unfolds and Paula dives into a store's plate glass window. Is this the end? No. Paula survives (with out a scratch on her) only to wake up in the hospital ward of Juvie Hall--pregnant!

Is this the end? No way! Paula must stand trial for her crimes. She's remanded to Juvie Hall until she's 21 and then Paula will be transferred to The Big House, Ladies Division, for the rest of her life.

OK, justice is served, so is that  the end?

Pregnant Paula ponders her fate. The anti-heroine's final thoughts? "So what!"

Of course not! Paula has to give birth, remember. In due time the junior jail bird delivers a baby girl, but promptly dies. That's the end, right?


You see, Paula's parents want custody of their grandchild. Being the tot's next of kin, you'd think they'd be a shoo-ins. Not so fast. Presiding Judge Clara eventually deliver his verdict, which he does in a long, slow, disjointed, rambling, tour de farce that will leave you scratching your head and/or screaming for him to get to the point. First, he hammers the Parkins' for their simultaneous neglect and indulgence of their daughter. Next, the judge laments the lack of parental control and the permissiveness of (1956) society. Then he sounds off on the "back to God movement" and his hope that "the world's religions" might help reign in society's trouble makers. Just when you are about to scream, "Will you cut to the chase?! We're burnin' daylight here!" Judge Clara tells the stunned Parkins that, no, they will not get custody of their granddaughter. She will remain "a ward of the state" until a "suitable" family adopts her.

NOW "The Violent Years" ends, with the Parkins' heads bowed in shame.


Paula and Geraldine shoot first and ask questions later.

They say the road to ruin is paved with good intentions, which also sums up Ed Wood's entire career.

Obviously, in his own blinkered way, Ed Wood wanted to sound off on neglectful parents and the dangers of letting young people run wild. He just didn't know how. Or, rather, Ed didn't know how to fashion a script that would convincingly parlay that message. I don't know why Wood didn't direct this flick himself, but William Morgan was the perfect stand-in. In other words, Morgan's directing skills were as inept as Wood's. In fact, he even managed to committed several cinematic faux pas that would make Wood proud. To wit:

*When Paula's gang arrives at the high school to trash it, it's night. When they drive past the cops, it's day.

*Everyone in the courtroom scenes wear the same outfits, even though the hearings supposedly take place on different days. The curtain behind the judge appears to be a shower curtain.

*Although Paula shoots Shelia in the gut, her victim never bleeds and the bullet doesn't leave a mark on her sweater.

*The footage of Paula's car driving down a stretch of road and making a right turn is used twice.

*All the girls wear angora sweaters, an Ed Wood favorite.

*The scene where the assault victim's girlfriend runs screaming for help in her slip was repeated in the opening of Ed Wood's "The Sinister Urge", where a gal runs screaming for help in her slip. 

When parents are away, the teenagers will play: Paula entertains at home.

However, Ed Wood's own inimitable Junk Cinema genius shines through best in "The Violent Years" daffy dialogue, which includes some real pearls of Wood Wisdom.

For example, when Paula asks her mom if they can chat for a minute, Mrs. Parkins replies, "Good gracious, no! Besides, what can be so important in your young life as to warrant my attention so drastically?"

Later, when Paula and her pack ambush the couple in Lovers Lane, this transpires:

Girl: "What's going on?"

Mean Girl: "Stop asking questions and you may get some answers!"

This racy exchange occurs when Paula and her gang are deciding what to do with their male captive:

Mean Girl: "Maybe he's got more to offer than his money."

Other Mean Girl: "Yeah, under conventional circumstances he could be interesting."

Paula: "Why wait for conventional circumstances?"

After Paula has dies, her mom laments that she and her hubby gave their daughter "everything but love". Specifically "a new dress instead of a caress."

Best of all is the policeman discussing JDs: "These aren't teenagers! These are morons!"

Only in the wonderful, funderful world of Junk Cinema could a hard-drinking cross dresser with a thing for angora (and female bondage scenes) pen a script that champions a return to family values. In 1956, mind you.

Ed Wood strikes again!

Until next time, hug your kids, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Put On Your Haz-Mat Suits! "Grace of Monaco" Is A Real Bio-Hazard

Princess Grace (Nicole Kidman) attends yet another royal function in "Grace of Monaco", a fictional film inspired by real events that pretends to be about Grace Kelly's life but really isn't.

Once upon a time (actually, 1956), an American movie star married a European prince. The bride wore a fabulous wedding dress and the couple enjoyed a 6-week honeymoon cruise. Then they returned to their principality (called Monaco), where they lived happily ever after.


Kind of.

Well, they worked it out.

When considering the life of Grace Patricia, Her Serene Highness, the Princess-Consort of Monaco, any intelligent filmmaker could see there was enough material for several movies, a couple of multi-part mini-series and maybe even a Netflix show.

Unfortunately, NO intelligent filmmakers appeared interested. That's why movie goers had to contend with Olivier Dahan's "Grace of Monaco", a production that admits "This film is fiction inspired by real events" (translation: some stuff is real, some stuff is made-up and you'll have to figure out which is which) that plays out like the most elaborate episode of "The Bold and the Beautiful" ever.

Nicole Kidman as Princess Grace or as Princess Grace's wax effigy--you decide.

The setting is the principality of Monaco, the world's tiniest (2.02 km squared or 0.78 square miles) independent nation. It's the early 1960's. The frozen-faced Nicole Kidman (Mrs. Keith Urban to you) is Princess Grace. Poor dear, the bloom if off the marital rose. Princely hubby Rainier (the chain smoking Tim Roth) is always "busy" and "in a meeting." The rank and file of Monaco still haven't embraced "this American movie star" as their princess. The high society snoots of Monaco and Europe haven't been too welcoming, either. In fact, the ladies of The Red Cross would rather gossip and gab than go along with Grace's plans to modernize the local hospital or improve the children's home! Even worse, the palace staff snickers behind Grace's back and her chief lading-in-waiting Madge (Parker Posey, who appears to have been sucking lemons between takes) bullies and belittles the hell out of her.

Of course, the outside world thinks Grace's life is "a fairy tale" and one long swan to charity balls, royal galas, state visits, Paris shopping trips and skiing holidays in Switzerland. Even Grace's mother refuses to believe her daughter's life is anything but perfect.

 If they only knew...

Is it any wonder, then, when old pal Hitchcock (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) waddles into town, he finds his most alluring leading lady tired, nursing a scotch and slightly depressed?

Lucky for her, Hitch wants Grace to star in his new film "Marnie", a thriller about a frigid, compulsive thief. Her leading man will be some Scottish chap recently hired to play James Bond (I think his name is Sean something). To sweeten the deal, Hitch offers Grace a million dollar fee.

Grace jumps at the chance to act again, but this really isn't the best time to go to Hollywood. See, France and Monaco are having a bit of a tiff. France is bogged down in North Africa and its economy isn't doing so good. Monaco, on the other hand, is becoming rich, rich, rich. Well, it was always rich, but lately it's becoming richer. Turns out French citizens and their businesses are the source of this richness. These folks are relocating to Monaco, where they can stash their cash and avoid paying French taxes.

Tim Roth as Prince Rainier: He smokes more than Edward R. Murrow, Lillian Hellman and Rod Serling combined.

President Gen. de Gaulle (Andre' Penvern) wants this to stop maintenant (right now). Prince Rainier, anxious to diversify his economy beyond gambling revenues, says no dice (rim shot). The imperious General threatens to cut Monaco off and then absorb it into the French republic if the Grimaldi prince doesn't cry uncle.

Obviously, the French/Monaco stand-off wasn't in the same league as, say, when Bismarck wrenched the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein from Denmark or when the Commies rolled their tanks into Hungary, Prague, Poland or Afghanistan. So a bunch of wealthy French businessmen will have to pay their fair share of taxes? Big deal. Monaco relies on France for its security, France relies on Monaco as a place to park its yachts, so can't you guys work something out?

However, "Grace of Monaco" plays this out as if the very sanctity of national sovereignty world wide was at stake.

The French/Monaco crisis awakens Grace from her torpor; HSH thus rolls up her royal sleeves and begins to fight for her adopted country. Does she rally the citizens with passionate speeches in the public square? Uh, no. Does she plead her country's case at the UN? Uh, no. Does she confront the French troops amassing on Monaco's boarders? Yes...but only to drop off gift baskets of bread and cheese and to wish them a happy day.

But wait! There's more! Grace then plans a big splashy royal gala and even invites de Gaulle! And he even accepts! Dressed in her princess-y best, Grace mounts the stage and gives an impassioned speech about love and sharing. She tells the assembled throng that what unites us as human beings is greater than what divides us. That ours is a world of laughter and a world of tears; a world of hopes and a world of fears. There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware, it's a small world after all.

Grace and Hitch: "Remember, dear, it's only a movie."

And in Monaco's case, it's a really small world.

The grandees are so moved by her speech that they give Grace a standing ovation. Her hubby whispers, "I love you" in her ear. Gen. de Gaulle is so impressed, he drops all his nasty threats. Monaco is saved! Vive Monaco! Vive la princesse!

Reaction in the real world was less, shall we say, enthusiastic.

Princess Grace's children pitched a fit about "Grace of Monaco" and refused to let the filmmakers shoot in the principality. The director, meanwhile, got into a very public squabble with the flick's distributor over the picture's final cut. When "Grace of Monaco" bowed at the splashy Cannes Film Festival, it received lousy reviews...all of which were deserved.

Unfortunately for everyone involved in front of and behind the scenes, "Grace of Monaco" proved yet again that Junk Cinema is not always made on shoe string budgets with earnest yet incompetent hacks at the helm. Talented, well-financed individuals are just as capable of gumming up the works to rival any Ed Wood or Coleman Francis.

In the end, Nicole Kidman's zombie imitation in royal drag now joins Rod Steiger as W.C. Fields, Jack Palance as Fidel Castro (!), Carroll Baker as Jean Harlow, James Brolin as Clark Gable (!), Misty Rowe as Marilyn Monroe, Richard Burton as Trotsky and Liz Taylor as Cleopatra in The Celebrity Wax Works Hall of Shame.

So,until next time, remember the original is always the best, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

An Electric Kitchen Provides The Needed Jolt Of Romance In "A Young Man's Fancy"

Looking for romance advice? The Jam Handy Organization is here to help. (Yes, this short was given the once-over by MST3K, hence the iconic silhouettes.)

Greetings, movie lovers.

Say, if you don't mind, I'd like to indulge in a little "girl talk".

Ladies! Have you met the man of your dreams, but are having trouble attracting his attention? Do you feel at a loss as to how to seal the deal? Are Mr. Perfect's obscure hobbies and eccentric career goals putting a damper on your amour?

Suffer no more! Junk Cinema once again has the solution for your problem! If your dream boat seems to have sprung a leak, please watch "A Young Man's Fancy", an "industrial short" from 1952 produced by the Jam Handy Organization. Only by doing so will you learn the secret to securing a (somewhat) reluctant swain: electronic cooking devices!

Let me set the stage:

Judy: "I feel all squishy inside!"

The Heroine: Judy Adams (Bonnie Baken), your typical '50's bobby socks-er who goes "all squishy inside!" when she meets Alexander Phipps.

Author's note: Judy is a bit of an airhead and appears to go for anything in pants, so how deep her love for Alex is is really questionable.

The (Reluctant) Hero: Alexander Phipps (Robert Casey), a square headed engineering major and a college pal of Judy's brother Bob (Hazen Gifford). Alex's hobbies include time saving studies and the financial possibilities of growing (non-hallucinogenic) mushrooms.

Alexander Phipps: "Is that a mushroom in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"

The Setting: the neat, clean, orderly, white suburban home of the Adams family, which also boasts an electric range/oven, dishwasher, garbage disposal, fridge and freezer.

The Conflict: Believing Alex to be a nerd like her brother Bob, Judy initially could care less about their future house guest. Then she meets Alex and goes "all squishy inside", declaring the fellow  "totally frantic" and "a real Jonah".

But how to catch his eye? Judy changes from jeans into a dress, serves Alex a lunch of stew and "hot biscuits" and even invites him to a swimming party. No dice. All Alex wants to do is talk about is hydraulics, time saving devices and the money making potential of mushrooms.

Are you woman enough to take this man? Judy zeroes in on the clueless Alex.

The Plan: Mrs. Adams (Jean Hayworth), the perfectly coiffured lady of the house, suggests Judy cook Alex dinner using all their electric kitchen appliances.

The Set-Up: Mrs. Adams announces she's attending a garden club function and will be gone all evening. When brother Bob wails, "What about dinner?!", Mrs. Adams says Judy will fix it.

Author's note: It being 1952, it never occurs to Bob to hustle his hinder into the kitchen to make his own damn dinner.

Alex, however, gentlemanly says he can't wait to sample Judy's cuisine.

Partners in Crime: Judy and her mom plot behind Alex's back.

Baiting the Hook: To get Alex to stop yammering about mushrooms, Judy plays the helpless-female-card and claims the electric mixer won't work.

Author's note: Judy deliberately unplugged the mixer. 

Alex plugs in the mixer, to Judy's breathless delight. He then launches into a monologue about time saving devices, describing how the modern kitchen is strategically arranged to ensure housewives won't exhaust themselves moving between the freezer to the fridge to the oven to the sink to the dishwasher to the table. Judy reacts to all of this as if it were the most enthralling, exciting news she's ever heard. It isn't, of course, but who cares! Judy has finally got her fish on the line and is ready to start reeling the poor sap in.

Judy lures Alex into her web of domestic intrigue.

The Main Event: Judy serves Alex, Bob and her father a multi-course meal on bone china. They start with chilled pineapple juice, move on to a pork roast and end things up with cherry pie topped with whipped cream. Judy is in a dress; Alex and Mr. Adams wear suits and ties; Bob gets by with an open-necked shirt and a vest. Just as Mrs. Adams predicted, Alex is blown away by Judy's dinner, which she modestly credits to her family's electric kitchen, which "does practically everything but talk!"

Never the less, Alex is soooooooo impressed with Judy's culinary skills that he decides to ditch his mushroom lecture and take Judy dancing instead.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! Success! Success! Success!

      The pork roast Judy whipped up for Alex.

The Conclusion: Mrs. Adams, decked out in a fanciful beret, returns home to find Mr. Adams loading the dishwasher. He informs his wife that the dinner went great and Judy and Alex are out cutting a rug somewhere. Then he pulls out the tickets for Alex's mushroom lecture and suggests they go. Mrs. Adams, who has her heart set on an electric dryer, says no way. Hubby and wife share a laugh and our feature presentation ends on this happy note.

A couple of interesting tidbits about "A Young Man's Fancy":

1) When Bob and Alex first arrive at the Adams home, Bob announces that he and Alex plan to take a shower. But not together! Get your mind out of the gutter! With the Adams' new electric hot water heater, there is enough hot water for everybody!

College buddies Bob and Alex are friends! Just friends!

2) When Bob sees his sister Judy, he announces "And here's the twin without the Toni Perm!"

Believe it or not, in 1952, that comment was a very hip social reference.

See, Toni Home Permanents had just arrived on the market. To prove how great their product was, the Toni people created an ad campaign that featured twins, one with a Toni Perm and one with a beauty parlor perm. Which was which? They never said.

To hammer their message home even harder, the Toni Home Permanents people created a TV show called "Toni Twin Time" in 1950. Hosted by Jack Lemmon (!), it was a talent show where one twin had a Toni Perm and the other didn't.

Did she or didn't she? A vintage ad for Toni Home Perms

3) Robert Casey (Alex) also appeared in the 1951 short "What To Do On A Date."

When appraising a cinematic specimen as nutty as "A Young Man's Fancy", one must be mindful of certain cultural and artistic realities.

First, the film was made in the 1950's, not an era known for its progressive views about women or their capabilities beyond being a good lay. I mean, women's capabilities beyond the domestic sphere.

Second, the actors in this short, while clean-cut examples of the middle class patrons Jam Handy wanted to reach, are about as charismatic as crash test dummies.

Third, Judy, our female protagonist, is an unappealing character, to say the least. She's dippy, boy-crazy, manipulative and has all the emotional depth of your average Kardashian. If she indeed marries Alex, I bet in ten years Judy will be hitting the cooking Sherry big time in order to cope with her mushroom obsessed husband, their passel of square-headed brats and the suburban hell she willingly created for herself.

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall..." Judy freshens up before moving in for the kill.

Fourth, Alex is a sexless, personality-free dope if there ever was one. There is no reason why Judy or any woman would go "all squishy inside" over him. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to subtly suggest it was the females duty to draw the preoccupied male out of himself and into the wonders of domestic bliss. However, considering that Alex is as stolid as one of his precious mushrooms, even doing the Dance of the Seven Veils in broad daylight probably wouldn't arouse him.

Fifth and finally, "A Young Man's Fancy" posits that electrical appliances, along with empty flattery and emotional manipulation, are the best ways to hook a man--a queasy assertion even for 1952. It's surprising that the producers forgot to mention getting pregnant, dad loading up the shot-gun and magically fitting into a glass slipper as other tried-and-true matrimonial options. But they were hoping to sell electrical appliances, so they bypassed those.

So, all you love-starved single gals hoping to hook a mate, watch "A Young Man's Fancy" and start rattling those pots and pans!

Until next time, SAVE THE MOVIES!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Want "The Best Of Everything"? Just Ask Stephen Boyd!

It's a dog-eat-dog-world out there and these gals are wearing Milk Bone girdles: The wage slaves of "The Best of Everything."

Hey to all you movie lovers out there!

Before there was Sex and the City, there was The Best of Everything.

Before there was Miranda Priestly, there was Amanda Farrow.

Before there was "The Devil Wears Prada", there was "The Best of Everything" (1959).

This soap opera cum fashion parade cum chick flick is both a celebration of female independence and a warning that female independence is merely a flashy euphemism for childless, bitter, lonely, menopausal, regret-filled she-freak.

Based on the Rona Jaffey novel, "The Best of Everything" brings Vassar-educated Hope Lange (fresh off "Peyton Place"), supermodel Suzy Parker (as an aspiring actress) and green-horn Diane Baker to the Big Apple, where they toil away in the secretarial pool at a glitzy publishing house.

Shown around the office by hyper chatty Mary Agnes (Sue Carson), Lange learns that fashion editor Martha Hyer is a young divorcee with a baby, forced to live with mom and has no chance at future happiness ("Most men want their own children, not somebody else's," M-A proclaims). We also discover that lofty Fred Shalimar (Brian Aherne) is a lush who pinches and gropes. However, the real terror of the office is Amanda Farrow (Joan Crawford), a tough-as-nails editor with alien eyebrows, a bullet proof coiffure and a tongue she wields like a hatchet.

Boss from Hell Amanda Farrow (Joan Crawford) is not amused.

When Lange casually asks if Crawford wants her report typed, the diva editor fixes her with a glacial smile and replies, "No, beat it out on native drum."

Geez, just asking...

Farrow, you see, is convinced every college-educated gal in the world is after her job, which is why the 50ish spinster (who is having an affair with a married executive!) goes out of her way to bully, brow-beat, bitch-slap and bulldoze everyone in the typing pool. And of course, Farrow doesn't buy it when her underlings insist they are only working until they get married--in fact, office manager Mary Agnes prattles endlessly about nothing else but her engagement ring, her wedding dress and her honeymoon nightie, which she brags is so sheer "it could fit in your fist."

While finding her way around the office (and becoming roomies with Parker and Baker), Lange catches the eye of hot-shot writer/reporter and marathon drinker Mike Rice (Stephen Boyd, future star of "The Oscar"). Boyd counsels newbie Hope to "accomplish everything you want to in six months", then "get out quickly" and "love happily ever after", presumably to avoid turning into Crawford.

The mush-mouthed Boyd needn't worry. At home drinking bubbly with Parker and Baker, Lange declares that "she'll have to take a lover" if Rhodes Scholar beau Eddie (Brett Halsey) doesn't make it legal between them by the time she's 25.

Green as grass Baker agrees, adding, "When you're that old, you have a right to live."

Working girls Hope Lange, Suzy Parker and Diane Baker laugh (and drink) their troubles away.

Baker also reveals that her mother never counseled to not have an affair "because she knows I'll never have one."


Because "The Best of Everything" is a big, glossy, full-color flick, viewers aren't stuck watching the cast type reports all day long. The leading ladies' personal lives quickly take center stage and, I warn you, it's heart break full steam ahead!

Hope Lange finally receives a call from true love Eddie, only to discover he's up and married some oil heiress. Distraught, Lange goes out on the town with Boyd and subsequently downs more shots than a frat boy on Spring Break. Thoroughly soused, she throws herself at Boyd screaming, "Make love to me! Twenty-five is too far ahead!"--then passes out cold. Ever the gentleman, Boyd covers Lange up and lets her sleep it off, her virginity safe and sound, at least for now. Later on, Hope will graduate from typist to reader, causing Crawford's eyes to narrow and her nostrils to flare.

Aspiring actress Parker, meanwhile, finally lands her big break on the Great White Way. She also begins a torrid affair with worldly director David Savage (the ultra suave Louis Jourdan). Although Parker professes to be a love 'em and leave 'em gal (her mom was married three times, no less), the actress deep down really wants to find a good husband along with good parts.

Aspiring actress Greg (Suzy Parker) feels like trash after director Louis Jourdan dumps her.

Savage, however, is so used to sleeping with his leading ladies that he quickly grows tired of Suzy's clingy domestic overtures. He even demotes her from cast member to understudy and she still doesn't take the hint. Desperate to be his gal at any cost, Parker takes to doing Louie's laundry, rummaging through his trash and sleeping on the fire escape outside his flashy bachelor pad. Then one day Parker's heel gets stuck in the grating and she falls splat! onto the pavement below. Jourdan, who has a new play in rehearsal and more starlets to bed, mourns her very briefly.

Now we come to innocent Diane Baker. At a company event taking place at a fancy estate in the Hamptons, she meets Dexter Key, played by future Paramount Pictures wonder boy Robert Evans. He's a trust fund brat a la' Conrad Hilton III (Paris' kid brother) and he wows Baker with his piano playing/fancy car rich boy attentions. Of course, they go all the way (although Baker tries to "stay pure" as long as she can) and of course she gets a bun in her country oven. The caddish Dexter, on the other hand, is in no mood to tie the knot. Instead, he blames Diane for getting pregnant and insists she undergo an abortion. Horrified, Baker leaps out of Evans' speeding convertible and lands in an unconscious heap on the sidewalk.

When we next see Evans, he's coolly paying the hospital bill and preparing to make himself scarce. Before he goes, Lange tells him off and slaps his puss for good measure--you go, girl! Unfortunately, Baker is so disillusioned  by the whole sordid mess she can only wail, "I'm so ashamed. Now I'm just someone who's had an affair."

Ain't it the truth, girls?

In case you're wondering, Lange isn't doing much better. Oh, sure, on the surface things look good. Hope has been promoted to editor, just like Joan Crawford. She gets a fancy office, just like Joan Crawford. She starts smoking, just like Joan Crawford. She starts having an affair with a married man, just like Joan Crawford...OH MY GOD, HOPE LANGE SCREAMS, I'M TURNING INTO JOAN CRAWFORD JUST LIKE STEPHEN BOYD SAID I WOULD!!!!

"I take my hat off to you..." Hope Lange learns "The Best of Everything" begins and ends with Stephen Boyd.

This is a horrible thing because, as we all know, Joan would go on to appear in such tripe as "Straight Jacket" and "Trog", two flicks nobody wants on their resume. Then daughter Christina pens Mommie Dearest ....need I say more?

Luckily, Hope is a smart cookie. After she learns that Joan's 11th-our attempt at matrimony died a quick death ("It was too late for me..." she laments) she meets Boyd on a street corner. They exchange knowing looks. Lange removes her pillbox hat with a veil. The music swells. Do they marry? Go bar hopping? Find the nearest motel and make whoopski?

"The Best of Everything" doesn't say. However, I bet Hope turns in her two notice and starts shopping for her honeymoon nightie pronto.

At the top of this article, I mentioned that "The Best of Everything" was a precursor to HBO's "Sex and the City". That's because both the flick and the TV show were about women looking for success and love in NYC. Hope Lange was clearly the Carrie Bradshaw of the bunch, right down to her longing for a rich, older, more experienced man. Suzy Parker, meanwhile, is closest to Samantha, although she lacked that character's supreme confidence in herself. Diane Baker is Charlotte, the romantic dreamer who wanted both True Love and Upper West Side elegance.

The major difference, however, is that the friends in "Sex and the City" learned they had to make their own happiness; there was no cosmic one-size-fits-all blueprint. "The Best of Everything", on the other hand, states that marriage is the only path to real happiness for women. Deviate from that and you morph into Joan Crawford...according to Stephen Boyd, anyway.

I don't know if I'm really comfortable with that theory. Not the only-marriage-will-make-you-happy part; the fact that Stephen Boyd is telling you only marriage will make you happy part.

Frankly, Stephen Boyd is in no position to tell anyone anything. His character is unmarried, clearly has a drinking problem and sleeps around a lot. Later on, Boyd would star in "The Oscar", "Potato Fritz" and "Kill! Kill! Kill!". Would you take advice from such a person? He seems kinda iffy to me.

So, on that note, I leave you. Keep a VHS in your VCR, avoid Stephen Boyd at all costs and SAVE THE MOVIES!