Monday, August 11, 2014

Roy Thinnes IS Johnny Paul In "Codename: Diamond Head"!


Roy Thinnes as Johnny Paul! France Nuyen as Tso-Tsing! And Zulu as Zulu in "Code Name: Diamond Head"!

Aloha, movie lovers! That's Hawaiian for "Hello"--and since the great state of Hawaii is the backdrop for today's Junk Cinema Jewel, it seemed appropriate to start things off with this traditional island greeting.

"Code Name: Diamond Head" (1977) is a secret agent/espionage/counter-intelligence thriller featuring a super hip international man of mystery locked in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a nefarious baddie intent on ruling the world, or at least bossing us around for a while.

This time, however, the fate of the free world does not rest on the sturdy shoulders of Sean Connery, James Coburn, Dean Martin or even Gordon Scott. No, this time around it's perm pioneer Roy Thinnes as Johnny Paul AKA "Diamond Head": a high livin' swinger/gambler who loves, loves, LOVES the ladies.

When our feature presentation begins, we find Johnny Paul in pants so tight we can tell what religion he is. He's hosting one of his legendary pool parties and gets supremely pissed when his grumpy old coot of a boss--who answers to the code name "Aunt Mary"--drags him off to save the world.

The major crisis in "Code Name: Diamond Head" is that super baddie Ian McShane (known as "Tree") is in town and up to no good. What "no good" entails, the government isn't too sure about. They just know he's already killed one agent and he's a master of disguise, so it's a safe bet he's not in Hawaii to work on his tan or peddle Amway products.

As it turns out, Tree wants to get his dirty mitts on a deadly nerve gas military scientists discovered by accident while extracting the toxins out of a sea snail dubbed "The Cloth of Gold." The scientists want to show this discovery to their C.O.s before they destroy every last bit of it. After all, the gas is very dangerous and they wouldn't want it to get into the wrong hands and, you know, stuff like that.

Secret agent. Ladies man. Gambler. Perm pioneer. Johnny Paul does it all in "Code Name: Diamond Head".

Tree conveniently kills and then impersonates a top-ranking colonel, all the better to help him nab the gas. Naturally, he plans on selling the stuff to the highest bidder and making himself very rich. Johnny Paul, of course, is the ONLY secret government agent who can stop Tree's evil plans. However, even crack government agents can't do everything themselves, so Johnny calls in some operatives. They turn out to be France Nuyen, who is under cover as the owner of the Dragon Lady night club, and Zulu, who plays the ukulele and sings in a Hawaiian pop band.

It's never clear why, of all the operatives on the government's payroll to choose from, Johnny Paul requested these two. Frankly, they aren't very good at their jobs. Early on, Zulu (who's character is also named Zulu) manages to lose the suspect he was suppose to be tailing. He also gets himself kidnapped. Consequently, Nuyen blows her cover while flirting with Tree--which nearly gets Johnny Paul killed. She gets kidnapped, too. Although, to be fair, Johnny louses things up when he doesn't give himself enough time to search the bad guys' room and must then hide on a window ledge until the coast is clear.

In quick order, Tree (and his minions) manage to steal the nerve gas and the directions to make the stuff. Then he kidnaps Nuyen, who was conveniently at home sunbathing in her bikini. After Johnny Paul rescues Zulu (don't ask), they hop on a boat and race out to catch Tree. Tree, meanwhile, has forced France to use her boat to ferry him out to meet his contact.

Our tale of high stakes espionage reaches it's nail-biting climax when Johnny Paul corners Tree with a flare gun. Even though Tree is holding a harpoon gun, he surrenders. When we next see Johnny Paul, he's over at France's house. The two agents are about to make whoopski when Zulu bursts in with a bunch of friends and everybody starts to party down. The end.

 If you are beginning to think that "Code Name: Diamond Head" resembles a low-budget TV pilot that (mercifully) never got picked up...BINGO! That's because "Code Name: Diamond Head" was a low-budget TV pilot that (mercifully) never got picked up. Never the less, it does have a certain lame-brained charm and some interesting features, which I will catalogue below:

It's Ian McShane and Ian McShane and Ian McShane as nasty double-agent (and master of disguise) "Tree". 
 1) "Johnny Paul" sounds like the name of a porn actor. It's not as obvious as "Johnny Wad" or "Dirk Diggler", but it's still pretty cheesy.
2) Roy Thinnes, as the star of our show, appears better suited for middle management  at an accounting firm than the high stakes world of international intrigue. He makes Tobie Flenderson on "The Office" look like Russell Crow in comparison.
3) Quinn Martin, who produced this flick, had a strange habit of casting actors in supporting roles who are stiffer than the only virgin at a prison rodeo.
4) Besides France Nuyen and Ian McShane, the other notable cast member in "Code Name: Diamond Head" was Eric Braeden. He's better known today as super tycoon "Victor Newman" on the long running soap opera "The Young and The Restless". Although he's supposed to be "a bad dude" from East Germany, Braeden's role in "Code Name: Diamond Head" requires him to do little more than strut around in a Safari suit like a swinger in a High Karate after shave commercial.
5) You can try, but you won't find a better house of 1970's horrors than "Code Name: Diamond Head". The flick is awash in polyester, Leisure suits, bell-bottoms, stack heels, feathered hair, gold chains, loud plaids, wide ties and gas guzzling cars. The only thing missing is someone calling someone else "a turkey", the greatest '70's insult.
6) Even though this flick was supposedly set in Hawaii, "Code Name: Diamond Head" was obviously shot on a sound stage in the states. Despite the abundance of shots of beaches, surfers, tourists and flowered leis, "Code Name: Diamond Head" is about as authentically Hawaiian as the Kon-Ti-Ki Lounge in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Thus, we come to the end of  another detailed post describing the valuable role Junk Cinema plays in protecting, promoting and high lighting rotten movies. Without Junk Cinema and dedicated bad movie fans, "Code Name: Diamond Head" would be gathering dust on a lonely shelf in some long-forgotten basement. Instead, because of the dedicated efforts of "MST3K" (where I first got wind of this flick) and blogs like this, "Code Name: Diamond Head" will be preserved for posterity.
Until next time, Aloha, and remember: save the movies!


Friday, August 8, 2014

"Monster A Go-Go" Is One Go-Go Gone Flick

Go-go dancers and space aliens: Two great tastes that go great together!
"What you are about to see may not even be possible within the narrow limits of the human mind..."
Boy, they ain't kiddin'!
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you "Monster A Go-Go", a movie begun in 1961 by Bill Rebane (of "The Giant Spider Invasion" fame) and shelved when the money ran out. Later, the unfinished footage was scooped up by Herschel Gordon Lewis (director of the beloved classic "The Corpse Grinders"), padded with scenes shot with an entirely different cast, released in 1965 on a double bill with "Moonshine Mountain", given a new name ("Terror at Half Day" was the original moniker) and advertised with the screaming tag-line, "The picture that comes complete with a 10-foot tall monster to give you the wim-wams!!"
How do you do justice to such a film?
I not sure, but I'll do my best...
Our feature presentation begins with strange satellites hovering in the sky. Naturally, NASA sends a space capsule to investigate. The astronaut in charge of the mission is one Frank Douglas. For some inexplicable reason, NASA loses contact with Frank and his capsule crashes to earth. The good news is that the capsule appears to be OK. The bad news is that astronaut Frank Douglas is nowhere to be found.
Then there is some really bad news: the helicopter pilot who landed at the crash site before the NASA mucky-mucks is dead. But not your garden variety dead. When the NASA folks find him, the pilot is "horribly mangled in a way the men had never seen before." Oh, yes, and all the pilot's blood was gone, which may account for the stiff having "withered up like a prune" and then "shrunk".

Not a lot of leg room: Frank Douglas's space capsule appears to have been designed for Smurfs.

"Monster A Go-Go" then switches to the suburban home of Ruth. She's the widow of  another astronaut and has become very close to Frank over the years. How "close" are Frank and Ruth? Well, Frank appears to be single and Ruth is a widow and both are consenting adults, so whatever Frank and Ruth get up to in the privacy of their own homes is really nobody's business. That's how "close" they are.
Anyway, a lady scientist  and Col. Steve Connors from NASA visit Ruth and tell her the awful news about Frank. She completely falls to pieces. When Ruth's son Billy (or Jimmy) comes home and asks, "What's wrong with mommy?" Col. Steve doesn't reply "It's a long list, kid" or "Mommy's upset because she just lost her meal ticket", but instead tells Jimmy (or Billy) that they will be getting an ice cream soda later. The tween realizes this is so totally bogus and runs off.
Next we cut to a laboratory where scientists dicker over Frank being AWOL and wonder about those weird burns surrounding the space capsule. One egg-head believes they are a fraternity prank. With the investigation clearly going nowhere, NASA sends even more big wigs to town to help move things along.
So far, the proceedings in "Monster A Go-Go" have been pretty grim. Therefore, the director (who knows which one) cuts to a swingin' twist party at somebody's house. One gal in particular is twisting up a storm, which upsets her rather sullen boyfriend. After he downs a few shots, the sullen boyfriend yanks his cuddlemate off the dance floor and into his car. They drive for a bit, park and then begin making out.
At this juncture, an unidentified narrator pops in to discuss how many "what if's" there are in life. It would be easier to take the narrator's philosophical musings seriously if they weren't paired with footage of a college couple getting all kissy-face. Anyway, this existential interlude abruptly ends when a thing/force/monster shows up and kills the sullen boyfriend. The girl screams and then faints.
"And how am I suppose to get back to the dorm before curfew now?!" A co-ed reacts to the murder of her boyfriend by an unseen monster/alien/thing.
In case you're wondering, yes, astronaut Frank Douglas is still missing.
Back to the action.
Scientist Dr. Chris Manning decides to tramp out into the area where Frank's capsule crashed. A brave man, Dr. Manning is armed with only a blow-dryer as he stumbles among the thickets and brambles that blanket the crash site. Then the narrator pops back into the picture and declares that Dr. Manning is about to come face-to-face with something SO INCREDIBLE, SO MIND BLOWING, SO ASTOUNDING that it will change his life FOREVER...except the poor sap will be deader than a door-nail any second now, and thus unable to share his findings with an eager public.
What happened? Well, a 10-foot tall chap with a face like a wood duck and a bad case of acne strangles Dr. Manning with his enormous hands. This, I believe, is the monster meant give us "the wim-wams."
Now "Monster A Go-Go" really gets cooking.
Once more we are transported back to the lab, where the scientists and NASA folks endlessly talk and prattle about the missing Frank Douglas and the strange deaths that are popping up all over town. Because Dr. Chris Manning is dead, his cousin, who is also a scientist, has taken over his role in the investigation. For quite a while now Dr. Manning #2 has been acting a little cagey and for some reason keeps disappearing into the laboratory's basement after hours armed with a long, thin hypodermic needle. Hmmm, sounds fishy. What could he be doing? Shooting up? Giving himself Botox injections? Running his own "Dr. Feel Good" practice on the side?
None of the above; after all, Botox wouldn't be invented for years. Turns out Dr. Manning #2--off screen, mind you-- discovered the wim-wam producing monster and hustled him to the lab basement WITHOUT TELLING ANYBODY. What's more, the good doc had been giving the alien monster anti-radiation shots in hopes of "helping" the guy, ALSO WITHOUT TELLING ANYBODY. The shots seemed to be working, and the alien's skin was clearing up, so Dr. Manning #2 thought everything was A-OK. Then one day, the monster broke out of the basement, trashed the lab and headed off for parts unknown. This finally convinced Dr. Manning #2 to spill his guts to NASA.
Oh, and another tidbit: not only is the monster a murderer, he's also RADIOACTIVE and coming into contact with the gent--like the sun bathing housewives the monster snuck up on--can be fatal.

"Does this Haz-Mat suit make my hinder look big?" The brave men of "Monster A Go-Go" prepare to confront their nemesis.
With the realization that a radioactive monster is out prowling around unsupervised finally causes the scientists/ NASA guys to get their rears in gear and capture the guy. With the aid of the police, the fire department, the National Guard, the Emergency Response Team and who-knows-what-else, Dr. Manning #2 and Col. Steve Connors don safety suits and track the monster to a long-abandoned, boarded-up sewer drain. Slowly but surely, the men (using a Geiger counter because, remember, the monster is radioactive) descend into the darkness below, following the monster's trail, coming ever closer until...THEY REACH A DEAD END. Then the narrator informs us, "But there was no Monster!"
Where did he go?
It doesn't matter. There was no monster.
But what about the murders of the pilot and the sullen boyfriend and Dr. Manning #1?
Terrible tragedies, but there was no monster.
And the housewives? Who scared them? Wasn't that a monster?
No, remember, there was no monster!
If there was no monster, what did Dr. Manning#2 drag down to the lab basement and give all those shots to?
Please repeat after me: THERE WAS NO MONSTER!
OK,OK, so what happened to astronaut Frank Douglas?
Oh, that, well, good news! While Dr. Manning #2 and Col. Connors were tracking a monster that never existed in the first place, a messenger arrived with a cable announcing Frank Douglas was found, "of normal size", floating around in the ocean. Case closed.
When a movie pulls a stunt like "Monster A Go-Go" does, it's only natural to feel cheated, lied to, frustrated, mad and seriously pissed-off. I feel your pain, movie lovers, because I experienced it all myself.
However, what I believe happened to "Monster A Go-Go" was this: Herschel Gordon Lewis had two separate reels of film. Each was equally shoddy. He tried to blend the reels together into one coherent movie, but realized he could not. So he tacked on a cop-out ending and called it a day.
If that theory doesn't satisfy you, consider this one:
If two bad movies got together and had a baby, it would grow up to be "Monster A Go-Go".
Until next time, save the movies.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lee Van Cleef Is "The Master" Of His Domain


Lee Van Cleef and Timothy Van Patten draw swords in a TV Guide ad for their series "The Master".
Before she was the ex-Mrs. Ashton Kutcher, before she was the ex-Mrs. Bruce Willis, before she was a member of "The Brat Pack", before she joined the cast of "General Hospital", before she appeared in such films as "Ghost", "Indecent Proposal", "St. Elmo's Fire", "The Scarlett Letter" and "Striptease", Demi Moore honed her craft (if not her acting) in delightfully dunder-headed TV shows like "The Master" (also known as "The Master Ninja").
Broadcast on NBC for 13 episodes in 1984, "The Master" starred one Timothy Van Patten (formerly of "The White Shadow") as Max Keller, a curly-headed slacker who roams the countryside in a custom van with no visible means of support. His best buddy--and moral, intellectual and acting superior--is Henry, a hamster (or gerbil). Henry rides in a state-of-the-art mounted cage and easily out acts Van Patten every chance he gets.
An even bigger draw than Henry is the ferret-featured, epic sneerer Lee Van Cleef, star of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and countless other Spaghetti Westerns. He plays John Peter McCallister, "the first Occidental ever to become a ninja master."  McCallister is pretty content being a ninja until he learns "he has a daughter he never knew he had." So he makes tracks to the US of A to find her, which upsets his fellow ninjas. I guess ninja's don't have a family leave policy.

 Henry the Hamster (or Gerbil) chews plenty of scenery (and carrots) in his break-out role in "The Master".

Where does Demi Moore figure in? Well, she plays Holly Trumbell. Max meets her when she flags him down in order to escape a nasty sheriff (Bill McKinny). See, Holly and her dad Claude Akins (the cast list priceless, am I right?) are being squeezed by an evil developer (Clu Gulgar), who wants to pave over their historic airport and put up a shopping mall.

Max and McCallister, meanwhile, meet in the local dive bar. It's there that corrupt sheriff McKinny has the nerve to paw through the aging Master's suitcase. This ticks Lee off sooooo much that his body double proceeds to demolish the bar. In the ensuing mayhem, Max and the Master escape together and find refuge at the Trumble Airport.

Still with me? Good. Max is soooo impressed that John is a ninja that he offers to help the old pepper find his daughter in return for ninja lessons. Van Cleef at first demurs, insisting that Max lacks the "internal discipline" (not to mention the smarts) to become a ninja. He later relents because the story-line demands it.

There are two sub-plots running through "The Master" like an open sewer: locating McCallister's long lost daughter is one. The other involves disgruntled ninja Okasa (Sho Koshgi), who wants to off the Master. Okasa is sooo determined to do Van Cleef in, that he dodges his every step, even donning elaborate disguises to nail him. He comes fairly close, but Lee always manages to escape in the nick of time.

While Max, the Master and Henry travel over hill and dale trying to locate Van Cleef's daughter, they stop along the way to help people with their personal problems. Besides Demi and Claude Akins, our heroes also help a dance club owner fight a Japanese mob take-over (and assist his daughter with her physical therapy), as well as inspire the workers of a local cannery to establish a union.

Even an attempted "arty shot" can't hide Demi Moore's less-than-adoring attitude about on-screen cuddlemate Max.
However, my favorite episode of "The Master" involved Max and John saving the bacon of a senator's dim-wit daughter.
The duo first come to her aid when her spiffy red sports car experiences brake failure. Max, who happens to be hang gliding at the exact spot where this gal's brakes give out, swoops down and has her grab onto his...uh...wires or something. While Cindy (as I call her, I couldn't find her name in the cast list) hangs on for dear life, Max whizzes over to where the Master is standing. On Max's command, Cindy then flings herself into John's waiting arms. This stunt is suppose to be nail-biting and show what great shape the Master is in. In reality, it looks as if an intern tossed a 50 pound bag of wet cement at the unsuspecting Van Cleef's bread-basket.
To thank the fellas for saving her life, Cindy invites them to her father's snooty garden party. This black-tie gathering is interrupted when terrorists (disguised as waiters) turn over the buffet table and take hostages, one of them being Cindy. The hostages are then hustled over to an impenetrable fortress to rot. Actually, the impenetrable fortress is not really that impenetrable: guest-star George Lazenby (James Bond in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service") manages to climb over the property's fence and snap pictures of the impenetrable show how impenetrable it is. Meanwhile, John and Max have been taken to police HQ. The police are at a loss as to how to save the hostages until one of them recognizes John is a ninja master and the only one who can climb up the fortress's high walls and save the day.
Besides the pedestrian writing, ham-bone acting, predictable slo-mo car crashes and cheesy special effects, "The Master" is also a hilarious showcase for the dubious talents of one Timothy Van Patten.
Simply put, Van Patten has the worst diction imaginable; he makes Elmer Fudd sound like Richard Burton. Often times you just can't understand him, making "The Master" the first English-language TV series that needed subtitles... for its star.
As for Demi, her role in "The Master' required her to do little more than pout and pucker-up with Van Patten. She would later perform this skill with Robert Redford, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise and Michael Douglas. While Moore's future leading men were considerably more "A-list" than Timothy Van Patten, her acting never strayed far from her "Master" beginnings.

 Timothy Van Patten polishes his rodent impression. A real rodent would later upstage him in  this department, too.
So what does this all add up to?
1) Timothy Van Patten was the Elmer Fudd of his generation.
2) Lee Van Cleef can still out-sneer anyone.
3) Demi Moore has given the same acting performance over and over again.
4) "The Master" was a lot like "BJ and the Bear", except the chimp was replaced by a hamster/gerbil. And Claude Akins showed up, but not as Sheriff Lobo. And the lady truckers were replaced by ladies-in-distress. And there is a ninja.
5) Small towns in America are regularly threatened by evil capitalist pigs, corrupt sheriff departments and union busting thugs.
6) Nowhere else but in the universe of Junk Cinema will you find a mush-mouthed jerk driving around with a Spaghetti Western icon who ends up tangling with an ex-James Bond, Monte Markum, Ed "Kookie" Byrnes and the future ex-wife of both Ashton Kutcher and Bruce Willis.
Now that's entertainment!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Killer Tomates! Wild Strawberries! Giant Grasshoppers! It's "The Beginning Of The End"!


 Size does matter in Bert I. Gordon's grasshopper epic "The Beginning of the End".

Say, movie lovers, I have a question for you: How do you feel about genetically modified food? You know, food grown from seeds that scientists have dickered around with in the lab?
Some folks see GMF as a clever way to feed the world. Others fear unforeseen side effects.
Me? I tend to side with those who urge caution. Why? Is it because I am a vegan? A back to nature type? A foodie?
None of thee above. It's because I am a Junk Cinema lover--and I have seen Bert I. Gordon's "The Beginning of the End", which dared to show way back in 1957 that GMF was a VERY BAD IDEA.
It all begins innocently enough. A teenage couple in lover's lane are happily making out in a spiffy convertible. They come up for air and the girl suddenly screams. A few seconds later, a pair of cops out on patrol find their car twisted into a heap and the teenagers are nowhere to be found.
After that shocking discovery comes another even more shocking discovery: The entire town of Ludlow, Illinois (pop. 150) is destroyed! Ruined! There is not a single soul left!

 "Hey, Mare! Get Lou Grant on the line!" Hot-shot reporter Audrey Ames works her beat.
Next we are introduced to spunky girl reporter/photographer Audrey Ames (Peggy Castle), who works for "National Wire Service." She's en route to another assignment when she comes upon a detour. What gives? When the military won't let her through, Audrey smells a cover-up.
Turns out the town of Ludlow (pop.150) has been destroyed and there are no survivors. But you already knew that, right? Well, Audrey doesn't buy it, telling the C.O. in charge, "A town of 150 people just doesn't vanish!"
Because all spunky girl reporter/photographers are, well, spunky, Audrey decides to do some investigating on her own. Her nose for news leads her to a pre-"Mission: Impossible" Peter Graves, who plays Ed Wainwright, a scientist for the Department of Agriculture. Ed is using atomic energy to grow fruits and veggies. Huge fruits and veggies. I mean, his apples are the size of a Dodge Dart.
Hmm. Could there be a connection this atomic powered produce and the events at Ludlow?
Audrey, Ed and his loyal assistant Frank (who lost his hearing in a radiation accident) travel the back roads to Ludlow. Poking around, the trio discovers the grass has been chewed to bits. Then they hear a strange clicking sound. Suddenly a grasshopper the size of a skyscraper hops on screen and eats Frank! Audrey and Ed drive off in horror.

"Peek-A-Boo! I see you!" Ill-fated Frank has a close encounter with a giant grasshopper.
At military HQ, Peter and Peggy try to convince pug-faced Col. Sturgeon (Thomas B. Henry) that danger is imminent. In vain. The military brass doesn't buy the idea of king sized grasshoppers turning the great state of Illinois into their personal salad bar of doom. But after Graves accompanies a platoon on maneuvers, opinions quickly change. Despite tons of guns and ammo, the gigantic grasshoppers devour half the company. Suddenly death by grasshoppers is a very real possibility.
How did this happen? Well, it turns out some grasshoppers got into Ed's super atomic plant food. They then hippity-hopped over to a grain silo, where the bugs chowed down with abandon. The more they ate, the bigger the bugs got until they burst out of the silo. Now the size of freight trains, the grasshoppers proceed to munch the hapless citizens of Ludlow into oblivion. Oh, the humanity!
With the fate of the entire human race at stake, what's to be done? The military, naturally, wants to go in with guns a-blazin'. Failing that, they want to bring in the nukes. Nukes! Ed, on the other hand, argues for a more scientific approach. Audrey, never in the same outfit twice, stands by Ed. She does that for the rest of the flick. Literally. She never moves.
As the clock ticks away and all of Chicago hangs in the balance, Ed finally comes up with a solution: he makes a recording of the grasshoppers mating call (I bet you didn't know that the bigger the bug, the hornier they are. Well, it's true.). With this siren song playing, the grasshoppers are then lured into Lake Michigan, where they quickly drown. The world safe at last, everybody breathes a sigh of relief...oh, what's this? Ed isn't so sure the danger has passed? Could other insects have eaten the super duper plant food? Could other insects and bugs and stuff be growing at a super sized rate as we speak?
On that cheerful note, "The Beginning of the End" concludes its broadcast day. Good luck and God bless.
Now, experienced Junk Cinema lovers will note that the fate of the gigantic grasshoppers in this flick mirrors the fate of the killer bees in Irwin Allen's notorious "The Swarm" (1978). In that flick, bee expert Michael Caine (!) lures the nasty little buzzers into the Gulf of Mexico with the sound of the Queen Bee's mating call (you knew bees were total sex maniacs, right? Well, they are.). After the bees dived in head first into the drink, the scientists then poured OIL on them and SET THE GULF ON FIRE! Green Peace must have had a fit.


 "This is a bug hunt, man! A bug hunt!" The military goes great guns after the grasshoppers.
I also feel it is my duty to ask if drowning gigantic grasshoppers who gulped down some atomic plant food (and their killer bee buddies) is really such a good idea. I mean, wouldn't the bugs pollute the water? And wouldn't setting fire to the Gulf of Mexico be a bit, oh, dangerous environmentally? I'm just asking, mind you; I don't have a better solution. I was just, well, concerned.
Moving right along, Bert I. Gordon wasn't the only one warning folks about the dangers of rouge bugs and evil plants. If you happened to watch "Lost in Space" way back when, you would know that "Space Family Robinson" encountered no less than three episodes about evil plants: "Attack of the Monster Plants", "The Space Croppers" (which featured Oscar winner Mercedes McCambridge, no less) and "The Great Vegetable Rebellion" where the whole family was turned into plant people. Meanwhile, over on the set of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea", a mad scientist forced his twin to make evil plants and vicious sea weed during the "Plant Man" episode in 1967.
Film-maker Bert I. Gordon became known as "Mr. B.I.G." because of A) his initials and B) his fondness for super-sized subject matter. Bet I. has dealt with giant people ("The Amazing Colossal Man" and its sequel "War of the Colossal Beast"), giant rats ("Food of the Gods"), and giant ants in "Empire of the Ants"--which starred a pre-"Dynasty" Joan Collins battling cheap special effects with only one costume change. In this dilly, the ants grow to the size of Buicks after sampling a bit too much of the illegally dumped toxic waste some corporate baddies dumped in the sea. After they mutate, the ants take over a tiny town and enslave the human residents. In her autobiography, Joan admitted she did "Empire of the Ants" because her family needed the money; shortly after film wrapped, poor Joan went on unemployment.
This just proves my point that Junk Cinema is not merely entertaining; it's also educational. After watching "The Beginning of the End", who would believe that GMF is a good idea? The message of the film is loud and clear: Don't fool with Mother Nature! Use natural fertilizer! Grow your own produce! And keep nuclear by-products away from the bugs, for heaven's sake!
Until next time, save the movies!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Fly Me To "Project Moonbase"


"Now boarding for Project Moonbase!"

Ah, greetings and salutations, movie lovers.

The subject of today's discourse takes place in the future (1970, to be exact) and features a female person of the lady sex in charge of an important mission to the moon.

We've come a long way, baby?

Well, not quite.

See, the flick which showcases our ground-breaking female boss heroine--"Project Moonbase" (1953)--also takes every opportunity it can to belittle its protagonist, making it clear that lady persons have no place in the space race.

This premise might be easier to tolerate if the men in "Project Moonbase" weren't A) a total dinks, B) pompous jerks or C) total dinks who are also pompous jerks
The fun begins when we learn SPACOM, which runs our space program, is preparing an important mission to the moon. This vitally important mission is being organized by one Gen. "Pappy" Greene, played with irritating smugness by Hayden Rorke of "I Dream of Jeannie" fame

Col. Briteis (Donna Martell) reports for duty. The men at SPACOM all call her "Bight Eyes."

Little does the general know, a team of super crafty spies are planning to sabotage the operation.
Why? The movie never says. We are also kept in the dark as to who these spies are (Commies? Maoists? Freelance Anarchists?) and who they are in bed with (SMERSH? K.A.O.S? F.O.W.L? SPECTRE? Z.O.W.I.E?).

Never the less, these meanies are a dapper, highly organized bunch who wear three-piece suits and operate out of a tastefully furnished high rise. Their evil plan to sabotage the moon mission involves replacing one of SPACOM's space cadets with a double.

How will they do this? Well, first, they tap into SPACOM's phones and learn one Dr. Wernher (Larry Johns) will be tagging along. Next, the baddies open their meticulously kept files and pull out the composite card of an operative who looks just like Dr. Wernher! Finally, they kidnap the real Dr. and replace him with the fake one! The whole thing takes about 10 minutes.

Frankly, I was impressed.

Meanwhile, over at SPACOM, we learn that Maj. Bill Moore (Ross Ford) has been assigned as second-in-command to Col. Briteis (Donna Mitchell)--much to his chagrin. See, Bill use to think Col. "Bright Eyes" (as all the men insist on calling her) was "a good kid" until she started getting promoted and stuff; then he soured on her. However, it's clear that Maj. Moore is simply miffed that a chick out ranks him.

Unfortunately, the other brass at SPACOM are even less evolved. Gen. Greene is especially nasty. He flatly tells Col. Briteis that "if (Maj. Moore) had weighed 90 pounds instead of 180, he'd be a colonel and a public hero!" Then the general tells Briteis to "pipe down!" and "shut up!" while accuses her of being "too big for her britches."


The dapper spies in "Project Moonbase" get to work. Check out the pony on the wall.

When the female colonel stands up for herself, Gen Greene gets ever madder, barking, "One, colonels don't say 'no' to generals! Two, you're not super woman, you're a spoiled brat! Three, anymore guff out of you and I'll turn you over my knee and spank you!"--all of which makes Gen. Greene even more of a hysterical sexist pig than Rush Limbaugh (quite a feat when you think about it).

After that little vignette, Briteis, Moore and the fake Dr. Wernher prepare for blast-off. They slip into their official SPACOM space wear which consist of  Izod t-shirts, short-shorts and Ugg boots, topped off by a swim cap. This makes the astronauts appear less like experienced space travelers and more like the senior staff at Camp Kok-A-Mungah. The interior of their space ship, meanwhile, includes elevated lawn chairs and lots of flashing buttons.

Whizzing through space, Maj. Moore begins to suspect that Dr. W is a fake: he claims to be from Brooklyn, yet has never heard of the Brooklyn Dodgers! A fight soon breaks out and Col Briteis is conked out cold and the ship heads off course. The colonel decides they must land on the moon, which seems sensible enough, except they haven't packed enough provisions and could starve to death before help arrives. Oh, and they have lost radio contact with HQ.

Faced with these upsets, Col. Briteis goes "all female"; in other words, she becomes a teary, jittery mess, wailing to Maj. Moore, "Bill, I muffed it!" Seeing the colonel revert to Helpless Female 101, Moore urges his superior to "take it easy" and to "go powder your nose" while he, Mr. Manly Man, takes over.

Resuming radio contact with SPACOM, Gen. Greene is glad the crew landed safely on the moon and apprehended the spy (who later dies, but don't worry about it). Supplies, meanwhile, will soon be on their way. However, SPACOM won't be able to rescue the astronauts for a couple of months; something about logistics.

However, there is a larger problem brewing.

Because Maj. Moore is a boy and Col. Briteis is a girl and both are single and they are on the moon with out a proper chaperone, SPACOM is worried, very worried, about...appearances. After all, how many data checks can two astronauts run before they start getting bored and lonely...and horny? And what about the folks back on Earth? How can the parents of America tell their kids with a straight face that a man and a woman who are unrelated can live on the moon and nothing fishy is going to transpire? After all, SPACOM doesn't want to be seen as promoting "free love"! This is the space program, not "Temptation Island"!

Hayden Rorke as Gen. "Pappy" Greene: He's smug and a big least to women.

Besides, the President of the United States has gotten wind of the situation and is demanding our two space cadets get married--pronto!

If this sounds nutty (and it is), you won't believe what happens next: Col. Briteis agrees to marry Maj. Moore--but not before he's promoted to Brigadier General!! After all, a wife can't out rank her husband, can she?

Thus, "Project Moonbase" ends with Briteis and Moore getting hitched. Gen. Greene even stands in for the bride's father at HQ. Our happy (space) campers then have a big fat smooch before the President of the United States--an elderly woman with pearls--beams them a "congratulations from the White House" message.

All's well that ends well?

I bet once SPACOM gets the lead out and Briteis and Moore get back to terra firma, their first order of business will be to head over to Nevada and get a quickie divorce--especially if their petition for an annulment is denied. After all, you can't expect a shot-gun marriage to last when one of the participants (i.e. Bill) is a dink.

To say "Project Moonbase" is sexist is like saying Nancy Grace get a bit shrill at times.

The message of the film seems to be that in the future women will assume positions of authority, but once they assume those positions, they will completely muck them up because, well, they are women, so maybe women shouldn't assume positions of authority in the first place.

Or something like that.

However, when you factor in the cheesy sets (borrowed from "Cat Women of the Moon", also released in 1953), the goofy costumes (Ugg boots, really?) and the hysterical acting in addition to "Project Moonbase"s anti-woman bias, you have one weird, wild, warped, wacky flick.

In short, a perfect example of Junk Cinema at its finest!

Until next time, save the movies!

P.S. If you are a fan of '60's spy movies, you probably recognized that SMERSH and SPECTRE are from James Bond; K.A.O.S is from "Get Smart"; F.O.W.L is from Darkwing Duck and Z.O.W.I.E is from the "Our Man Flint" movies.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Junk Cinema (AKA Bad Movies) Can Teach You

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may wonder why I, the Movie Maven, devote so much time to the celebration and preservation of rotten movies/bad movies/Junk Cinema.

Well, I have no life.

Just kidding!

No, the reason I am so passionate about the preservation, promotion and protection of Junk Cinema is because it's fun. More than that, Junk Cinema is educational. You can learn things, important things, insights that will help you live a better life. And to prove my point, here is a detailed list of what Junk Cinema can teach you...if only you would paid attention!

1. Animals, insects, veggies, cars--you name it--can turn on you.

 "This movie isn't big enough for both of us!" James Brolin goes head to head with "The Car".
Lulled into complacency by your hum-drum life? Better watch out! Countless Junk Cinema movies have warned viewers that anything ANYTHING can be turned into an evil slobbering hell beast. All it takes is an alien energy ray, an atomic bomb blast, a comet coming too close to the earth--any weird, unexplained phenomenon will do--for the mayhem to begin.

"I never thought it would be the bees!" wailed bee expert Michael Caine in 1978's uproarious "The Swarm". "They've always been our friends!" Along with bees , grasshoppers ("The Beginning of the End"), bunny rabbits ("Night of the Lupus") and ants ("Empire of the Ants"), TV's ("The Twonky"), computers ("The Demon Seed") and even babies ("It's Alive!") can wreak havoc.

A pre-Donald Trump Marla Maples recoils in horror when she realizes "Maximum Overdrive" will be the highlight of her acting career.

Motorized vehicles are especially prone to evil. In the Stephen King epic "moron movie" (his words, by the way) "Maximum Overdrive", cars, trucks and big rigs take over the planet. In the ensuing mayhem, an extra who would become the second Mrs. Trump (Marla Maples, in a pink headband) gets offed by a fatal conk to the head by a rogue watermelon.

The best evil car movie EVER of course is 1977's "The Car" staring Barbara Streisand's future hubby James Brolin. He's a small town sheriff  whose sleepy berg is menaced by "Beelzebub's Buick". The Car chases marching bands, spin's donuts on people's lawns and kicks up a lot of dust. The best moment in the flick, however, is when James screams to the Mrs., "Honey! Grab the kids! The Car is in the garage!"

2) Beauty is only skin deep.

Good looking people have so many advantages over us average looking slobs that it's comforting to know that good looking people often make rotten actors.

Supermodel Carre' Otis puckers up in the super flop "Wild Orchid".

Sonny Tufts, Troy Donahue, Christopher Atkins, Brooke Shields, Kathy Ireland, Cindy Crawford, Carre' Otis...all easy on the eyes. But thanks to Junk Cinema, we can enjoy their floundering attempts to act in various big and low budget stinkers that will haunt them for all eternity.

3) ANYBODY can get mixed up in the seamy side of life, especially if you are really stupid.

You really have to tip your hat to made-for-TV-movies, an important subset of Junk Cinema, for altering viewers to the dangerous lure of the dark side and the foolish belief that exposing your breasts can solve all your personal problems.

Housewives worried about balancing the family budget? In "Money on the Side" (1984), they become hookers. Want to leave your small town to seek fame in Hollywood? Think again. Kim Basinger did that and she became an Oscar winning movie star! However, in "Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold" poor Kim couldn't find any employment what so ever and had to room with street mimes and desperation forced her to pose topless. Looking for a fun part-time job in college? Better read the fine print or you could end up a "Co-Ed Call Girl" like Tori Spelling. Is your home life miserable and your mom a bitter, 40-ish divorcee-slash-boozehound who, like, totally humiliated you at the spring dance? Learn some coping skills, kid. After all, failure to do so is what drove Eve "Jan Brady" Plum to run away from home and wind up a teen hooker in "Dawn: Portrait of a Runaway"--also, she was underage and didn't have any job references and people in The Big City are mean, but it was her awful home life that pushed Jan too far.

"Jan! Jan! Jan!" Jan Brady (Eve Plum) walks (and dresses) on the wild side in "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway".


Of course, made-for-TV-movies also tried to show the good side of sexually exploiting yourself.

Is your marriage stale? Are you tired of being ignored by men? Are you one of those pointy headed intellectuals who have to turn everything into a polemical argument? Then you need to pose for Playboy magazine, just like the gals in the TVer "I Posed for Playboy". Not only did it give various gals ( a conservative housewife, a hot-shot lawyer who was once fat and a women's studies college student) a new perspective on themselves, they also earned a nice chunk of change.

4) Screwed up parents equal screwed up kids.

Jimmy Wilson is a high school senior who just won an award for his essay "My Home and Family". Little do people realize that Jimmy is a big, fat liar. His mother is a drunk, his father is a philandering gambler and they both would rather party with their pals than parent their child. Poor Jimmy, desperate for love, sells shoes by day and runs "errands" for the shady Charlie Blake at night. Even worse, Jimmy falls for nightclub singer Kitty Reed--who also happens to be Charlie's cuddlemate. It all ends in gun fire and a big, messy trial where Jimmy accuses his parents of being responsible for the whole sordid mess.

"I Accuse My Parents" (1944) is a classic low budget attack on parental neglect, but it's not the only one. "The Violent Years" by bad movie god Ed D. Wood, Jr. dared to show how indulgent parents who refused to impose limits on their kids were asking for trouble.

"Come here often?" Songbird Kitty Reed and Jimmy Wilson share a musical moment in "I Accuse My Parents".

Suburban teen princess Brenda is one such gal. Little do mom and dad know, Brenda is the head of a deb gang that rob gas stations and fence stolen goods. They also indulge in other sordid doings. After Brenda and her gang stick-up a couple in lover's lane, they tie the girl up and drag the befuddled boy into the woods, where they assault him. Boo! Brenda is finally found out, learns she's preggers and then dies during child birth. When her parents try to adopt their grand child, the judge refuses based on their prior parental performance. Can you blame him?

The moral of these tales? Watch your kids. Know their friends. Make them your priority. If parents neglect their brood to follow their your own foolish pleasures, is it any wonder young people get pregnant, sample weed, guzzle booze, turn to crime, race hot rods, join gangs, pierce their ears and listen to jazz?

Lots of people have sounded this alarm, but Junk Cinema got there first.

5) "Reality TV" is harmful to your health.

I know, I pound away on this theme with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but that's only because it's true.

"Reality TV" is NOT real people experiencing real events in real time. If that's what you're looking for, hustle over to your local Walmart and watch people in stretch pants argue over paint chips.

"Reality TV", on the other hand, is just as fake, as phony, as staged any soap opera, except the acting is much, much worse.

I hate to burst your bubble, but NOBODY on "The Bachelor"/"Bachlorette" is looking to find true love and get hitched. True love can't we won on a game show. The vast majority of these couples break-up once the cameras are switched off. The real motivation for these people is to jump start a modeling or acting career, promote their business ventures, land a talk show or get rich quick. Love has nothing to do with it. Ever.

Conversely, don't you find it odd that the contestants on "Survivor"--which is supposedly taking place in some god-forsaken location--are followed around by a camera crew? Were you shocked to learn that many "scenes" from "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" were "revealed" to have been "staged" for maximum effect? Would you be surprised to learn that those various wine-sipping "Real House-
wives of..."(insert name of city/state/county) regularly collude with their producers to spring embarrassing "gotch ya" revelations on their fellow "cast members"?

Snake oil, my friends. It's all snake oil.

Meanwhile, made-for-TV movies, once a staple of the medium, have all but vanished--along with mini-series, documentaries and any original programming that doesn't involve people grasping to become America's next top model/singer/designer/decorator/inventor/dancer/chef. Worst of all, the careers of real actors like Lindsay Wagoner, Jacklyn Smith, Pam Dawber and Jane Seymour have totally evaporated in the wake of  "Reality TV".

Stop wasting your time with amateurs when you can waste your time with professionals! I will take Sonny Tufts in "Cotton Pickin' Chicken Pickers" over "Duck Dynasty" any day--and so should you!

6) A perfect, utopian society is bunk.

This point Junk Cinema makes clear in movie after movie after movie.

In "Logan's Run" (1976), for instance, viewers are presented with a youthful society where computers run everything. That leaves mankind free to endlessly shop, hang out and have lots and lots of no-strings-attached sex. The catch? When you hit 30, you must participate in "The Carousel" in hopes of being "renewed", that is reborn.

Actually, you are merely vaporized. No one is ever renewed. By killing people when they hit 30, the computer-run society maintains its "pleasure oriented" existence.

A little closer to home, scientist Fritz Weaver in "The Demon Seed" (1977) has developed a computer so advanced, it not only runs his house, it may make "obsolete many of the functions of the human brain." This upsets his wife Julie Christie--especially when the super computer (named Proteus 3) traps her in the house, assaults her and forces her to carry its humanoid child.

And you thought your ATM was nuts for charging you three bucks to withdraw your own money.

1964's "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", meanwhile, dared to show that an overly mechanized and computerized society makes kids sullen and listless. The solution? Create a Christmas holiday to brighten up the kids' lives--and bring Kris Kringle himself over from earth to supervise. As the King of Mars declares, "Earth has had Santa long enough!"

Santa is indeed brought over (along with earth kids Billy and Betty) and he sets up shop. However, he arranges for a really  irritating home grown St. Nick (named Droppo) to head up the Martian holiday in his place.

However, it's not just cheesy sci-fi that details how dangerous a "perfect" society can be. In 1950's "Prehistoric Women" (shot on location at the Department of Water and Power in Whittier, CA, no less) a bunch of cave women fed up with their abusive cave men set up a no-boys-allowed settlement. Things work out great until the original settler's daughters start to yearn for male companionship. Thus, they set about catching themselves some boy toys--to handle the tougher jobs around area and for, you know, recreational purposes.

Eventually, love intervenes and the formerly liberated cave women decide matrimony isn't so bad after all.

So you see, there is NO perfect utopian society. ANYWHERE. It's IMPOSSIBLE. Instead, work to make YOUR society better, freer and more humane right now.

7) Common, household items can save your life.

Don't be fooled into thinking it's only lasers or flashy explosives that can turn the tide when the chips are down. Simple things you might not think of--but Junk Cinema did--have been shown to real life savers time and time again.

When the hapless humans in "Empire of the Ants" (co-starring a pre-"Dynasty" Joan Collins) need to defeat their evil ant overlords, they set the Queen Ant on fire with a humble safety flair. The other ants jump on their Queen in hopes of dousing the flames, but it only makes a bigger fire. Soon all the ants are dead and the humans are set free.

Meanwhile, over at "The Horror of Party Beach" set, folks are being terrorized by zombie fish men covered in artichoke leaves. What finally defeats them? Table salt! Thus, the plucky citizens grab their salt shakers and head for battle. The resulting mayhem looks like out of control well wishers pounding a bride and groom with rice, but soon Party Beach is zombie free.

Other handy house hold hints? Should you and your family be attacked by Eye Creatures from outer space (as in "Attack of the Eye Creatures"), just flash your car's brights and the Eye Creatures melt into goo. Should you find yourself in the center of the earth and confronted by both Mole People and evil albinos (just like in "The Mole People"), use your flashlight. It totally freaks them out and can help you escape their repressive society. Ator, the hero of "Cave Dwellers", can assemble a fully functioning hang glider with sticks, animal hides and a couple of leather straps. Not to be out done, Ator's love interest Millia can make flash powder from her own filth.

Even the simplest things can make a big difference.

8) Alien females are either man-hating shrews or man-hungry sexpots.

Earth girls are easy? Says who?

If you watch Junk Cinema as carefully as I do, you'd know it's female aliens who are either panting after men like hyenas or are using their sexy wiles to trap men and then take over the universe.

In "Cat Women of the Moon" (1954) for example, the futuristic Cat Women use their slinky charms to distract the male astronauts (including Sonny Tufts!), take over the mind of lone female crew member Marie Windsor and hijack their spaceship. All the better, you see, to take over the earth. In "The Queen of Outer Space" (1958), on the other hand, the all female residents of Venus are on an anti-man kick. Or at least their leaders are. So when a bunch of male space jockeys end up on their planet, the Queen and her court (who all wear Mardi Gras masks) are determined to kill them. Luckily, Zsa Zsa Gabor is there to save the day. The reason the Queen of Venus hates guys? Her face was ruined in "an atomic war" started by men.

Moving right along, the "Fire Maidens from Outer Space" (1956) are clearly delighted when astronauts from earth land on their man-free planet ("the thirteenth moon of Jupiter", in case you're wondering.) After defeating "The Creature of Horror" (don't ask), the guys have their pick of literally dozens of eager, man-starved Jupiter gals in skimpy costumes. Unable to satisfy everybody, the space jockeys promise to return with plenty of reinforcements from earth.

Two things about "Fire Maidens from Outer Space" that are especially piquant: the movie's tag line, which screamed "World of Women Seeking Males Partners to Carry on Race!" and the leading lady of the flick, who was born "Patsy Sloots". She sensibly changed her name to Susan Shaw later.

Unlike their alien counter parts, earth women in sci-fi are usually serious, all-business professionals who have to be repeatedly reminded that they would be happier if they gave up their space careers and became housewives.

In short, who you callin' easy?

9) Be proud of your name, whatever it is.

Look, I realize many stars changed their names before they became famous (Archie Leach to Cary Grant, for instance). However, the names in Junk Cinema--both real and stage--are especially unique.

Besides the aforementioned Patsy Sloots (AKA Susan Shaw), there was "The Glamour Queen of the Beast Claw Men" and "The Venezuelan Volcano" Acquanetta--born the humble Mildred Davenport. Director/actor Ray Dennis Steckler opted for the stage name "Cash Flagg" as a sort of in-joke. After too many investors' checks bounced, Steckler insisted on cash only payments. Thus, "Cash Flagg" was born.

Other eye and ear catching names include cowboy star Lash Larue, starlets Bermuda Schwartz and Joy Bang, and the unforgettable star of "The Brides of Blood", one Beverly Hills.

Who wants to spend their time with boring folks named George (Clooney) and Amy (Adams) when you can hang out with fun people like Twinkle Watts, Merry Meisters and Vera Vague?!

10) The world's most profound observations come from Junk Cinema.

This is really, really true. Watching Junk Cinema, you are often taken aback by the words of wisdom the otherwise loopy characters often say.

Granted, this is often a hit or miss proposition, but, still, at least these guys were trying. Now consider the following meditations on the human condition via Junk Cinema:

"He tampered in God's domain," Harvey B. Dunn commenting on Bela Lugosi's ill-fated plan to make a super race in "Bride of the Monster".

"There's more to life than fighting for fish heads!" Jonathon, the Christ-like sea gull in "Jonathan Livingston Sea Gull", to his dad.

"Mary! You're never gonna be happy if you're always gonna be sad! Now you've got nice teeth and you took two years of French. So why not try to see the bright side of things?!" Shirley Temple's dim-witted friend trying to cheer her up in "That Hagen Girl".

"They're more virulent than the Australian Brown Box Jelly Fish!" so says Henry Fonda in "The Swarm". Remember this when you head Down Under and so scuba diving.

"I cannot--yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do 'must' and 'cannot' meet? Yet I must--but I cannot!" The Ro-Man suffering angst in "Robot Monster".

And remember, save the movies!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A British FBI Agent Takes On An Asian Drug Cartel In The German Spy Flick "A 009 Missione Hong Kong"!

"A 009 Missione Hong Kong" AKA "Red Dragon" AKA "Code Name Alpha" AKA...

Hey, kids! do you want iron clad proof that Junk Cinema is truly an international phenomenon? 

Dig this:

The subject of today's article--"009 Missione Hong Kong" (1965)-- is set in San Francisco and Hong Kong and stars a British matinee idol as an American FBI agent. The flick was produced, financed and distributed by a (then) West German production company. Furthermore, the movie was shot in German, dubbed into English and released under the titles "Code Name Alpha", "Red Dragon", "A 009 Missione Hong Kong" and "Das Geheimnis des drei Dschunken"--something for everybody! Eventually the picture made its American broadcast debut on a lowly Philadelphia late night TV show called "Chiller Theater" 1970.

Whew! Take that, "Globe Trekker"!

Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog--because, hey, who isn't?--you may recall I did a piece for my webpage titled "Hey, Can I Interest You In Some Junk Bonds?" That article discussed several pretenders to the cinematic throne of James Bond. Included in that post was a flick entitled "Code Name Alpha", which I could not watch due to computer problems.

Well, I am delighted to report that the said computer problems have been solved and I have at long last been able to experience "Code Name Alpha"/ "Red Dragon"/ "A 009 Missione Hong Kong"/ "Das Geheimnis der drei Dschunken"...and can fully appreciate why this movie had moldered in obscurity for 49 years.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you want to read or re-read my "Junk Bonds" article, alas, you cannot. Someone HACKED and wiped out ALL MY MATERIAL.  Efforts to get the website up and running and retrieve my material have not been fruitful. Needless to say, I am ANGRY and HEART BROKEN that SOMEONE would do such a HORRIBLE ACT. I am not CitiBank or TARGET, for heaven's sake. I feel entitled to say this because IT IS BITTER AND IT IS MY HEART.

Stewart Granger: America's Most British FBI Agent

He's still got it: Stewart Granger as FBI agent Michael Scott.

"A 009 Missione Hong Kong" begins in a park in scenic Hong Kong. A fellow greets a female colleague sitting on a bench--and she promptly keels over dead! Horrified, he races back to his office and begins typing madly--until he keels over dead, shot in the back a thousand times.

Turns out the stiffs were under-cover agents tracking a drug cartel. At FBI head quarters in San Francisco, the higher -ups know this means "something big" is about "to go down" and that means only one agent can save the day: Michael Scott (Stewart Granger, best remembered today for "King Solomon's Mines")!

Unfortunately, he's on vacation at the moment. Needless to say, Scott is not happy when head quarters rings him up at home. Still, when the urgency of the situation is made clear, Scott reluctantly puts down his martini glass and heads back to work.

It should be pointed out that, while still dapper, Stew is about 15 years too old to play a lean, mean fighting machine.

Also, "A 009 Missione Hong Kong" is the third James Bond wanna-be movie I have seen which begins with the secret agent/hero miffed that his vacation is needlessly interrupted in order to save the free world (check out "Secret Agent Super Dragon" and "Danger! Death Ray").

Rosanna Schiaffino as Secret Agent Carol: She can type, too.

Back to the action. Assisting Scott in Hong Kong is secret agent Carol (Rosanna Schiaffino). She's suppose to be the new secretary for pipe puffing Pierre Milot (Sieghardt Rupp) and his testy cuddlemate Blanche (Margrit Saad). These two reside in a fancy pants estate in a gated community and are involved in some kind of illegal smuggling/drug racket/ nuclear reactor parts business--the flick is a little vague about what, exactly, these guys are up to.

Oh, and they takes their orders from an all-knowing, unseen "boss".

Carol, meanwhile, is to type top secret messages for Pierre and keep in touch with Stew via her futuristic bracelet. Sounds risky.

Is This Anyway To Run A Top Secret Evil Organization?

OK, so we have an FBI man in Hong Kong, his female counter-part working under cover, a shady couple doing something illegal with drugs or nuclear parts and a mysterious "boss" giving orders over the phone. All that's missing is a resident jerk side kick for Stew. That part is played by one Harald Juhnke as "Smokey".

Now that all the James Bond-ish set pieces are present and accounted for, "A 009 Missione Hong Kong" gets down to business.

Actually, not really.

See, "A 009 Missione Hong Kong" is a rather dreary thrill-less thriller. The bulk of the movie centers on Stew trying to finger Pierre (and Blanche) as bad guys fronting for an evil organization. This involves Stew taking on the daring disguise insurance salesman. Meanwhile, Carol is typing her little heart out...and never latches on to the idea that swiping and copying her pipe puffing boss' code book might explain just what the hell these no-good-nicks are into: Drugs? Nuclear reactor parts? Racy pictures of the FBI Christmas party? KFC's top secret "special herbs and spices" recipe? Or, God forbid, AMWAY?

"Oh, Stewart..." Secret agents and cuddlemates Michael and Carol exchange information.

Of course, it doesn't help matters that every time "the boss" wants Scott and/or Smokey killed, their man in charge of such matters (Horst Frank, who resembles a really surly Frank Gorshen) keeps bungling the job. Drop a heavy box on Smokey as he checks out a pier? The contraption misses its target and Smokey dives into the drink. Give Stew and Smokey the wrong driving directions so hillside snipers can mow them down? Our heroes bail out of their car in just the nick of time and hitch a ride back to town with a pick-up truck. Ambush Stew on a loading dock and throw a tire around him? Stew's body double handles these guys with a few quick judo chops.

Poor Frank just has no aptitude for this henchman/assassin line of work. He might want to consider other career options before his boss (or Stew) fires him permanently, if you catch my drift.

My Secret Agent Is Dumber Than Your Secret Agent

As all Euro-spy, James Bond imitators must, "A 009 Missione Hong Kong" ends with (gasp!) the mysterious "boss" being unveiled as a trusted character and (gasp!) all the principals being carted to a boat rigged with a bomb and (gasp!) a gun that doesn't work.

Will the recently revealed "boss" get away with murder? Will cohorts Pierre and Blanche get offed, too? Will secret agent Carol recover from her conk on the noggin to help Stew defeat the bad guys? Will idiot side kick Smokey and under cover Hong Kong policewoman May Ping (who was pretending to be Pierre and Blanche's maid!) arrive in time to save Stew and Carol from the inevitable bomb blast?

Is the Pope Catholic?

How star Stewart Granger got through "A 009 Missione Hong Kong"? FBI Agent Michael Scott pours himself a little liquid encouragement.

Perhaps the best thing about "A 009 Missione Hong Kong" is its star, Stewart Granger. Even though he's stuck in a low budget, badly dubbed James Bond rip-off, Stew still manages to summon up his old Hollywood sparkle. He would have been better off cast as the head of the FBI or as the criminal master mind, yet he outshines all his co-stars by a mile. I hope Stew earned a nice chunk of change for this movie or at least got to keep some of the model trains his character is so crazy about for his grand kids--it's the least the producers could do.

As for me, "A 009 Missione Hong Kong" ended a long search to find and watch this flick. During its running time, "A 009 Missione Hong Kong" would occasionally lapsed into its original German. However, this merely added another layer of surreal wackiness to the proceedings that few Junk Cinema lovers could resist.

After all, how many movies starring a British matinee idol cavorting in Hong Kong as an American FBI agent speaking German in a movie with English, German and Italian titles do you think there are, anyway?

Until next time, save the movies!