Friday, September 26, 2014

Watch Madonna (And Hubby #2) Get "Swept Away" As They Stuff A Turkey Together

Madonna's best acting in "Swept Away" is confined to the movie's promotional poster.

Long, long ago, when the force of nature called Madonna first burst onto the pop culture radar, many pundits thought she had the makings of a movie star. This rosy assessment was based on the success of the Material Girl's early music videos and her appearance in the low-budget comedy "Desperately Seeking Susan."

To the surprise of no one, Madonna also believed she was movie star material. Thus, starting in the mid-1980's, she set sail on the cinematic high seas, searching for the right vehicle to showcase her "unique talents."

Unfortunately, Madonna's journey for Hollywood glory often resembled a voyage of the damned. From "Shanghai Surprise" to "Who's That Girl?" to "Bloodhounds of Broadway" to "Dangerous Games" to "Body of Evidence" to "The Next Best Thing", Madonna stuffed so many turkeys she threatened to put the Butter Ball people out of business.

Those with lesser mettle would have quit. But not Madonna. Instead, the Material Girl continued in the best Captain Ahab tradition, until she finally harpooned--with the help of her second husband-- the Great White Turkey that would finish off her film aspirations for good: 2002's "Swept Away."

Lovingly written and directed by Guy Ritchie, "Swept Away" was a remake/reboot of Lina Wertmuller's controversial art-house hit "Swept Away...By An Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August"(1974). That movie was the tale of a rich (capitalist) shrew and a poor (commie) deck hand stranded together on a deserted island. Earlier, the rich shrew had mistreated the poor deck hand, so when they are shipwrecked, he gleefully turns the tables on her--which she finds she enjoys, along with the kinky sex.

The demanding Amber (Madonna) makes life hell for deck hand Pepe (Adrino Giannini)...and the audience.

Such a film seems ideal for the gal who made that coffee table book Sex  and recorded a ditty about the joys of spanking, right?

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

Ritchie's remake ignores the original's philosophical and sexual politics and merely casts Madonna as a rich, bored, mean, jet-set trophy wife named Amber. She, along with her shallow hubby (Bruce Greenwood) and their jerk friends, are cruising around Greece in a private yacht. As rich, bored, mean jet set trophy wives often do, Amber spouts off about every subject under the sun.  ("I'll say one thing about capitalism," Amber pontificates at one point. "It's better than communism.") She also feels entitled to mock, insult and belittle the studly deck hand Pepe (Adrino Giannini). After all, she's rich, he's poor and her wealth and social position ensure that Pepe will have to silently suck-up Amber's entitled nastiness, right?

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

Late one afternoon, Amber commands Pepe (whom she calls "Peepee") to take her out in the yacht's dinghy. He says the current isn't right. Amber insists. Pepe says it's too late in the day. Amber insists even more. So Pepe takes Amber out. Then the dinghy's motor conks out. "I can't believe you went out in the middle of the ocean without a cell phone!" Amber rages as they bob around the Mediterranean.  Then a storm hits. After Amber fights Pepe for the flare gun, the dinghy springs a leak. Eventually the duo wash up on a deserted island, just like in "Gilligan's Island."

It's a collision course to wackiness! Amber and Pepe are lost at sea.

With no phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury, like Robinson Crusoe, it's primitive as can be--which means rich, mean, bored jet set trophy wife Amber is out of her league and over her head. Pepe, on the other hand, is in his element: he can fish, find shelter, locate clean water, make tools, build a fire. He also remembers Amber's past mistreatment of him, so he's more than ready for some payback.

What does Pepe make Amber do? He has her calling him "master", for one thing. He makes her wash his clothes. He has her collecting firewood. Later, Amber is tenderizing his octopus, rubbing his feet and serving him dinner. At different times, Amber rebels and Pepe slaps her. Amber rebels again and Pepe nearly rapes her. She tries running off and he goes after her. ("Run, my little vixen, run!" Pepe cackles as he gives chase). They tussle in the sand. Pepe reminds Amber that HE is in charge now and SHE better like it.

Slowly but surely, Amber complies. In fact, Pepe's "tough love" approach begins to warm the cockles of her black heart. Before long, the duo are getting all kissy face and "Gilligan's Island" has becomes an "Island of Love." However, once the couple are inevitably rescued, will their love survive?

The heavy handed role reversal in "Swept Away" is suppose to be funny, sexy and/or provocative. Maybe in 1974 it was. But in the hands of Ritchie and Madonna, the remake is none of the above. The flick's biggest problem is, not surprisingly, Madonna herself. Even though she's been at this a while, the Material Girl still hasn't figured out that posing and/or voguing is not the same as acting. Furthermore, the Material Girl seems inexplicably drawn to unlikable characters, which is fine--as long as the characters are interesting. Amber, however, is not interesting; she's just mean. Why is she so mean? What's her story? Was she this mean when her husband first met her? Why do people put up with her nastiness? The movie gives us no insight as to why Amber is the way she is; it just forces us to endure her hatefulness. Considering what a monster she is, it would be easy to understand if hubby, discovering Amber was lost at sea, ordered the yacht back home--pronto!--and left her to rot.

Taming of the shrew? Pepe has Amber right where he wants her.

Now let's consider the remake factor.

If a film is done right the first time, why remake it? Lighting rarely strikes in the same place twice, after all. What's more, certain flicks are so much a part of the era they were filmed in, a remake or reboot often dilutes (or obscures) the very qualities that made the film special to begin with.

Last. but not least, "Americanized" remakes of foreign films are more often than not duds. Why? Because the unique sensibility of a picture's country of origin adds to its flavor. If that is removed, the film's personality is often fatally altered.

So let's take stock: "Swept Away" has an unbearable lead character acted by an actress who can't act. The flick is a remake of a very '70's film and doesn't even attempt to tackle the political/sexual issues that made the original original. The supporting cast is made up of shallow jerks acted by colorless actors. And the director/writer of the film has no finesse with comedy, drama, romance or the eternal battle of the sexes. Put them all together and you have one big worthless hunk of steamy feta cheese.

The moral of this story? Well, there are several.

Whether she is co-starring with her ex-husband or being directed by her ex-husband, it doesn't make any difference: Madonna can't act.

Don't bother with remakes--foreign or national!

When in doubt, go for the original. As they say in Greece, "It's the older chicken that has the juice."

And save the movies!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Junk Cinema Salutes...Troy Donahue!

He's big, beautiful, blond and bland: Troy Donahue in his teen dream hey-day.

Greetings, movie lovers!

It's come to my attention that it's been a while since Junk Cinema saluted one of the many artists that put the "bad" in "bad movies."

So without further ado, let's recognize a certain tall, blond, handsome beach hunk who became--however briefly--an above the title movie star, the undisputed teen dream of the late 1950's and early 1960's. 

Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for...Troy Donahue!

Like so many teen dreams before and since, Troy had perfect hair, deep blue eyes, classic cheekbones, a throaty voice...and the acting talent of a crash test dummy. The settings of his films might change, his female cast members might be shuffled around and Troy might play guys named "Johnny" or "Parrish" or "Hoyt", but his flicks were all cut from the same celluloid cheese cloth: over-wrought, over-acted soap operas about the temptations (and consequences) of pre-marital nooky.

While Troy's various leading ladies would shed copious tears and bemoaned their fates, Troy remained stiffer than a board, his drop dead gorgeous face as immobile as Mt. Rushmore. His standard reaction to anything was blinking his eyes or flaring his nostrils. You could say Troy under played his parts so well that you were never sure if he actually shared the same sound stage as his co-stars or if he filmed his spots miles away, in a different studio, and the editor merely spliced Troy's scenes in post-production.

Nevertheless, Troy remains the Gold Standard of teen idol movie success, a triumph of style over substance. So let's take a long, loving look at Troy and the cinematic Velveeta that made him the head Cheese of Movie Heart Throbs.

"A Summer Place"(1959) or Burn Notice

Johnny (Troy Donahue) and Molly (Sandra Dee) enjoy a staring contest on Pine Island's beach.

It's vacation time at the scenic Pine Island Resort, where aristocratic drunk Arthur Kennedy and his long-suffering wife Dorothy McGuire hope to make enough money to send their glamour boy son Johnny (Troy) to college. Among this season's crop of guests is Dorothy's long lost love Richard Egan, now a rich research chemist, his shrewish wife Constance Ford and their daughter Molly, played by the hyper-perky Sandra Dee.

Although this is the movie that made Troy a star, the real scene stealer here is Ford. She is stone-cold bitchy, ordering her husband to dress up like a yachtsman and pretending to speak French. Ford hasn't let hubby touch her in years and is such a frigid neurotic, she bellows, "Get out the disinfectant and clean this bathroom--and don't forget the toilet set!" seconds after they have been shown their posh suite.

However, the person who really catches hell from Ford is the hapless Sandra Dee. Horrified that her teen daughter is spouting curves, mom insists Molly stuff herself into flattening foundation garments so she won't "bounce when she walks." Later, Ford will blow a gasket when she catches Dee and Troy kissing. Her obsession with keeping her daughter a vestal virgin will reach its zaniest heights, however, when Troy and Sandra are stranded alone over night. Even though the teens insist nothing happened, Ford marches Molly in their room and shrieks, "Take off every stitch and let the doctor examine you!"

Considering what a monster Ford is, you can't blame Egan for hooking up with McGuire. At least Arthur Kennedy has some fun tormenting the frigid Ford. He claims that despite Pine Island's family-friendly atmosphere, it's really " a perverted Garden of Eden where the pines and the sea air seem to act as an aphrodisiac."  Kennedy even makes Ford do a spit take when he asks if she's ever skinny-dipped.

 Sandra Dee wails in protest (and who wouldn't?) when sneering mom Constance Ford demands she under-go a virginity test after being shipwrecked over night with Troy.

When it's discovered that Egan and McGuire have been enjoying trysts at an abandoned boathouse, Pine Island society is horrified. Arthur Kennedy, who's love of the grape will soon cost him his life, let's McGuire go with little fuss. Shrewish Ford, on the other hand, egged on by her shrewish mother ("Remember dear: men only want one thing") nails Egan in a costly divorce. And just to make sure EVERYBODY is as miserable as possible, Ford locks up Dee in an ultra-strict girl's school. Later, when Troy and Dee manage to reconnect on Christmas break, ("Can I kiss you in front of God and everybody?" Troy asks) Ford goes berserk--and how! She cuffs daughter Dee right in the chops, which sends her sailing into their tinseled draped tree.

"Merry Christmas, mama," Dee whimpers.

Once Egan and McGuire are free to marry, they settle down in a cute little cottage especially designed for them by Frank Lloyd Wright. Sure, they are ex-shameless adulterers, but they are happy ex-shameless adulterers. Troy and Sandra, meanwhile, have finally given into their urges and have done the deed. Of course, Dee gets a bun in her oven. Lucky for her, Egan and McGuire pass no judgements and the young couple soon tie the knot. When we next see them, Sandra and Troy have returned to Pine Island and plan to make it their home. Cue Max Steiner's famous theme song (which has been playing incessantly through out the flick) and we are done.

Reunited love birds Richard Egan and Dorothy McGuire compare marital horror stories in "A Summer Place".

"Parrish"(1961) or Wacky Tobackie

The movie poster for "Parrish" makes plantin' tobacco seem real steamy.

Troy is the title character is this crazy quilt soap opera set in Connecticut's tobacco growing country.

Released just a few years before the Surgeon General's warning that smoking causes cancer, Troy and his widowed mother (Claudette Colbert!) arrive at Dean Jagger's estate. Jagger (once a cuddlemate of Bette Davis) wants Claudette to help police and polish up his daughter Allison (Diane McBain). That's because she's head-strong gal who proudly declares, "I'll buy whatever I want--even a lover."

Worried about propriety and stuff,  Jagger won't let Troy room in the main house with his ma. Instead, Troy gets a job as a field hand and bunks with a local farm family, which includes daughter Lucy (Connie Stevens). Gussied-up to resemble Ellie-Mae Clampett, Lucy pounces on Troy right away, announcing, "When it gets hot, I sleep raw."

 After a full day of pulling weeds and fighting Blue Mold (don't ask), Parrish and Lucy become an item--sort of. See, Connie is seeing someone else, but she won't say who. Meanwhile, ma Colbert warns her son that Lucy is the sort of girl who drops her knickers way too easily and he should beware.

"Oh, hell, it's 5 o'clock somewhere!" Spoiled rich girl Allison (Diane McBain) downs another cold one in "Parrish".

To complicate things even more, Claudette has struck up an attachment with cut-throat tobacco baron Karl Malden. Troy doesn't like it that folks are snickering about this coupling, especially since Maldon is Jagger's chief rival and Claudette is Jagger's employee. Like a lot of rich men, Karl sees no reason to get married. Colbert, a widow of longstanding, gives Malden a read-between-the-lines speech about how she's not that kind of a girl. While all of this is going on, Troy has finally hooked up with the randy Allison--and the sexual sparks her father fretted about indeed happen. Slinking into Troy's bedroom after dark, Allison purrs, "As Eve said to Adam, 'Do you want a bite of my apple?"

Back toiling in the fields, Troy learns that Lucy's preggers. He offers to marry her, but Connie declines, because the child isn't his. Refusing to name the father, Lucy does accept Parrish's offer to attend the local barn dance. That makes McBain hit the roof; after all, why would Troy want to be seen on the town with a poor tramp when he can be seen with a rich one? Meanwhile, hovering around the edges of the flick is nice girl Paige (Susan Hugoney). She's not only Karl Malden's daughter, but a budding feminist. She huffily informs Troy that she's studying agriculture in school, and, what's more,"I'm the only girl in the class!" Troy files this information away for further use.

Tobacco farmer Parrish (Trot Donahue) beats the tar (ha, ha, ha) out of his bad news stepbrother Edgar.

As if the plot of this tobacco-scented turkey wasn't stuffed enough, "Parrish" adds on even more subplots! There is Malden and Claudette getting married. There is Malden's snooty sons being mean Claudette. There is Troy telling off his stepbrother Edgar and threatening to tattle that he fathered Lucy's baby. There is Malden hiring Troy and then working him like a punch press. There is Troy getting fed-up and joining the navy for two years--are you keeping up with me? Then Troy returns home to grow tobacco with Jagger, which drives Malden batty. When Troy can't find enough hands to harvest his crop, nice girl Paige rounds up her classmates to help. Finally, Malden's snooty son Edgar tries to burn Troy's field and Troy beats the tar (no pun intended) out of him.

Oh, yes, and ma Claudette up and leaves Karl because he's mean and Allison marries Malden's other son and becomes an embittered lush and nice girl Paige and Troy get all kissy face, the end.


"Susan Slade" (1961) or Who's Your Mama?

Even the movie poster for "Susan Slade" over acts.

No, Troy does not have the lead in this melodramatic soaper. That (dis)honor belongs to Connie Stevens, who plays the heavily bouffant-ed daughter of Lloyd Nolan and Dorothy McGuire. Dad is a super engineer, mom is a former super model and the family has spent the last 10 years in Chile. Unfortunately, life south of the border has left poor Susan with the social skills of a dung beetle. Mom McGuire frets that Susan has "so much love to give" that she may start passing out free samples...if you catch my drift.

Mom was right to worry. On the boat back to America, Susan hooks up with rich boy/mountain climber Grant Williams (best remembered for "The Incredible Shrinking Man"). Susan blushes and stammers when Grant flirts with her, but soon enough they are Deeply In Love. Later, the couple does the deed and Susan sighs, "We've been sinful."

Grant, however, disagrees. See, he wants to marry Connie and they are "secretly engaged." He doesn't want to tell their parents because "it will look bad"(?) Besides, Grant chides Connie, is she going to call up her mom "and confess every time we make love?" Finally, Grant has this Big Important Mountain Climb coming up and he doesn't need anymore distractions. So he urges Susan to head home to Monetary, CA and begin planning their nuptials.

The Slade family settles into their dream house in Monetary and reconnects with friends Brian Aherne and Natalie "Mrs. Howell" Schaefer. The adults would like nothing better than for Susan to hook up with future "Tattle Tales" host Bert Convey, but she keeps pining for Williams. Her cards, letters and phone calls get no response, causing Connie to decide, "I'm the woman God forgot."

"I feel a sin coming on." Susan passes out some free love (samples) to the ill-fated Grant Williams.

Where does Troy fit in? Well, he's the stable boy where Susan boards her horse. He's named Hoyt and he's rather glum because 1) his dad was found guilty of embezzlement and 2) then had the nerve to hang himself. Besides mucking out the stables, Hoyt is a budding author and has even sold a few pieces. He's currently trying to find a publisher for his first book (me, too, by the way) when he befriends Connie.

However dreamy Troy is, Susan isn't interested because she's still waiting for Williams. She gets even more desperate when a trip to the family doctor reveals her to be (horror of horrors) preggers. Bravely putting on a front, Susan attends her parents' swanky party only to learn--via the telephone--that secret fiance Grant fell off the mountain and is dead and buried and nobody will ever find his body.

In other words, the wedding is off.

Absolutely devastated, Susan shrieks like a dental drill, yanks at her blond hair and rips her fancy frock off. Then she mounts her horse...stop snickering, you know what I mean...and rides like the wind straight into the ocean to drown herself. Lucky for her, faithful Troy mounts his know what I save her. Finally coming to, Susan admits there's a bun in her oven and her shocked parents turn pale.

Obviously, something must be done. So the Slades decide to move--lock, stock and barrel--to Guatemala, Guatemala! where dad will accept an engineering post. And to make sure nobody, NOBODY suspects that Susan is in the family way, mom Dorothy begins telling her fancy friends that's expecting. Susan first doesn't want to do this, but her parents INSIST this is the only way to avoid shame and scandal, so she gives in.

"Haven't we met before?" "Parrish" co-stars Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens reunite for the equally nutty "Susan Slade".

Safely tucked away in Guatemala, Connie gives birth to a baby boy named Roger. Once she's lost the baby weight and can fit into her old clothes, the Slade family returns to the USA. Nobody catches on about Susan's "baby brother", but being forced to live a lie is wearing Susan out.

"Everyone is taking my baby from me!" she bleats at one point. "I want to take my son and go where nobody knows me!"

Mom Dorothy tells Connie that's impossible; "Rogie's" future is safe and secure and therefore she must move on and marry the very eligible Bert Convey (after all, "Tattle Tales" will run for four years).

"I can hardly walk down the aisle with a somewhat soiled gown," Susan reminds her mother. "It's suppose to stand for purity--and let's face it, I'm not."

"Let me out of this movie! Or I'll do something marry Eddie Fisher!"

However, when father Nolan unexpectedly drops dead (he was suffering from a heart condition and told no one), Susan reconsiders Bert's proposal. Then Troy reappears. He's published his first book, a runaway success, and he now declares his Deep Love For Susan. In the midst of explaining why she can't marry him, Connie's "little brother" catches himself on fire. Troy puts out the flames and they race the tyke to the hospital.

Several agonizing hours later, the doctor announces that little Roger will be "just fine". Connie wants to see her son, but the hospital rules only allow parents to visit. Despondent, Susan blurts out that she's the baby's mother, not his sister. Bert and his parents are shocked, but sympathetic. However, the wedding is off.

Troy, on the other hand, is so in love with Susan that he doesn't care that little Roger is the fruit of another man's looms. He wants to marry Susan and raise the tot as his own. To the sound of joyful strings, Connie accepts Troy's proposal and they seal their love with a kiss. And thus concludes "Susan Slade".


Troy Donahue, Junk Cinema salutes you!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Portrait In Black" Or Killing Your Husband Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

The over-the-top poster for the over-the-top movie "Portrait in Black."

Welcome back, movie lovers.

Say, have you ever been in love?

Really in love?

You know, madly, passionately, truly, deeply in love?

The kind of love where you count the hours until your soul mate arrives. The kind of love that drives you to pillow-biting ecstasy every night. The kind of love that makes life worth living.

That kind of love.

Is this the look of love or... indigestion? Fun couple Shelia (Lana Turner) and David (Anthony Quinn) swoon into action.

Well, Shelia (Lana Turner) and David (Anthony Quinn) are in that kind of love. They can't be without each other. When they hug each other, they practically crush each others' spines. When they suck face, they nearly swallow each others' tongues. In fact, their love is so exhausting, the cuddlemates can only murmur "Shelia", "David", "Shelia", "David" when they come up for air.

Yes, Shelia and David are truly, madly, deeply, inseparably, totally in love.

So why don't they get hitched?

Because Shelia is already married-- to mean, miserly, terminally ailing shipping magnet Matthew Cabot (Lloyd Nolan), that's why.

Thus begins "Portrait in Black" (1960), a way, way, WAY over-the-top melodrama which proves that murdering your husband can be hazardous to your health.

As mentioned earlier, Matthew Cabot is mean, miserly and dying--but not fast enough. From the sick bed of his snazzy San Francisco mansion, Matthew barks orders to his shifty lawyer Howard (Richard Basehart), bosses around his loyal secretary (the cadaverous Virginia Grey) and bullies his trophy wife Shelia.

"It's too bad they don't have a drug for your illness," Matthew sneers to Shelia at one point. "Love deficiency."

Lana Turner acts and acts and ACTS as the duplicitous Shelia.

David Riviera (Quinn) is Matt's doctor, regularly injecting him with pain killers. However, because he's so in love with Shelia, the medic is going batty waiting for his patient to kick the bucket. So the adulterous cuddlemates begin to wonder if there isn't some way to speed up the process.

But wouldn't that be MURDER??

The Matt-Shelia-David love triangle, however, is only the first course in this Velveeta banquet.

The hyper-perky Sandra Dee is Cabot's daughter Cathy from his first marriage. She's secretly involved with ACME Tug Boat operator Blake (John Saxon)--who's late pa was the business rival Matthew hounded into an early grave.

Meanwhile, down stairs at the Cabot mansion, chauffeur Cob ("My Favorite Martian"s Ray Walston)
his nursing some serious gambling debts and persistent loan sharks. Then there is the all-knowing, long-time housekeeper Tanni (silent screen icon Anna May Wong), who acts like Mrs. Danvers and dresses like Madame Chiang Kai-Shek.

Housekeeper Tanni (Anna May Wong) and chauffeur Cob (Ray Walston) share a mutual loathing.

Anything else? Oh, yeah, a possible longshoreman's strike is looming and miserly Matt wants it stopped.

Then one dark and stormy night, David arrives at the Cabot home to inject an air bubble into his patient. With Matthew Cabot now a stiff, Shelia and David can finally be together.

Err, no. See, among the letters of condolence arriving en masse to the grieving widow is the following note: "Congratulations on the success of your murder." Somebody knows what Shelia and David did--but who?

At this juncture, "Portrait in Black" ratchets up the tension--and the sound track. First, shifty lawyer Howard proposes to Shelia--the day after her hubby's funeral, no less. Shelia throws him out. Next, Blake storms into Howard's office, madder than a hen with wet feathers, because the towing contract Matt promised him has been unfairly terminated. Then David starts cracking under the pressure of keeping his evil deed a secret; he even begins to see Matt's corpse on his operating table! Finally, Shelia, never in the same outfit twice, begins to fret that David is "pulling away" from her.

What more could possibly happen?


"First, do no harm": Anthony Quinn prepares a special dose for cuddlemate Shelia's ailing hubby.

Putting two and two together (and getting five) David becomes convinced that shifty lawyer Howard is the blackmailer. So Shelia lures him to the mansion, offers him a drink and later rebuffs him for getting fresh. This not only makes Howard mad, it allows him to realize that David and Shelia are an item. So Howard starts threatening Shelia...until David emerges from the shadows and plugs him full of lead.

In order to dispose of the body in Half Moon Bay, David insists that Shelia follow along in her car--except she can't drive! In fact, Shelia just got her Learner's Permit, an act that made hubby Matt hit the roof ("What? A car and driver aren't enough for you?!" he sneered.). Nevertheless, Shelia gets behind the wheel of a car, blinks back her tears and follows David down the wet, windy streets of San Francisco until David pushes Howard's car into the drink.

Whew! It's all over now, right?


A couple of days later, Shelia receives another note congratulating her on her second murder. It's this little missive that forces Shelia--dressed in a slinky black gown--to admit to David that--HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS--she sent the blackmail letters because she feared David might leave her!

Poor Quinn, realizing that he needlessly offed Howard, goes off the deep end--and how. Sweating bullets, rolling his eyes and yanking at his hair, David operatically wails about how he disobeyed the Hippocratic Oath and murdered two innocent, though unlikable, people. This display of over-the-top emoting is witnessed by a truly shocked Sandra Dee, who must have wondered how an actor like Anthony Quinn could allow himself to howl like a bull moose with a pine cone stuck up his...nose. You will, too, except Quinn's last scene is topped by his next scene: a desperate David chases Dee up the stairs, into her bedroom, out a window and onto a skinny ledge...where someone promptly goes splat.

Sandra Dee seems genuinely puzzled by the goings-on in "Portrait in Black".

Can you guess who that someone might be? No? Then I'll give you a hint: it wasn't Sandra Dee.

And what is Shelia doing when all this is going on?

She's staring out a window, not a hair out of place, with the frozen expression people develop after standing in line at the DMV.

Poor gal.

I mean, she assisted in two murders. Her cuddlemate is dead. The next stop is jail. This just hasn't been her day, has it?

Until next time, movie lovers, remember: murder can be deadly...and not just to your inconvenient spouse. After this corker, poor "Sweater Girl" Lana Turner was stuck in lower and lower budgeted dramas until she was forced to take LSD in "The Big Cube".

Talk about a bad trip...until next time, Save The Movies!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Junk Cinema Says Goodbye To Richard "Jaws" Kiel

Richard Kiel in his break-out role as the lovesick caveman in "Eegah".

Hi keeba and hello, movie lovers.

As you know, Junk Cinema lost one of its most beloved members, Richard Kiel, this week.

Although Kiel is best known to the general public as the villain "Jaws" from the James Bond epics "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker", he was already well known to bad movie fanatics as the love struck caveman Eegah in the Arch Hall, Sr. mess-ter-piece "Eegah" from 1962.

Hall first met Kiel when he was a bouncer at a western bar. It was then that he concocted the story of local teen queen Roxie Miller (Marilyn Manning) stumbling on a forgotten cave dweller (Kiel) while tooling around in the Palm Springs Desert in her snazzy sports car. Hall played Roxie's father, "the noted" adventurer/writer Robert I. Miller, while her dune buggy driving, guitar strumming boyfriend Tommy was essayed by Arch Hall, Jr., the director's son.

Shot in record heat and hobbled by numerous technical difficulties (a member of the crew kept hitting "playback" instead of "record" during filming), "Eegah" nevertheless became a drive-in hit and launched Hall, Sr.'s mini-movie empire.

The best thing about "Eegah" is Kiel, who, at a reported 7 feet tall, was perfectly cast as the club-wielding cave man. Kiel would go onto other character roles, but it was his start in this Junk Cinema Jewel that made him immortal.

A new article on Troy Donahue is on it's way, but I could not let Richard Kiel's passing go unnoticed.

Goodbye, Mr. Kiel, thank you for everything!

Until next time, remember, save the movies!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch...

The glitter! The glamour!The garbage! "Once Is Not Enough" has it all!

Hi keeba and hello, movie lovers. Fall is upon us and...what's that? You're feeling a bit down in the dumps? Is your boss a dink and your co-workers slackers? Has your spouse turned into a couch potato and your kids into crab apples? Has the impending marriage of George Clooney thrown you for a loop?

I feel your pain; I really do. More importantly, Junk Cinema feels your pain. Don't believe me? Well, then, let's revisit our semi-regular feature "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch..." and spotlight a cinematic potboiler especially made to lift your troubled spirits.

If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch..."Once Is Not Enough"(1975)

Today's featured presentation comes from the fevered imagination of Jacqueline Susann--the last word in big haired, high society swill. "Once Is Not Enough" is the hilariously shoddy "coming of age" saga about a dimwitted ingenue (Deborah Raffin) who learns the painful facts of life from such veteran scenery chewers as Kirk Douglas, Brenda Vaccaro, David Janssen and the vinyl-skinned, perpetually tanned George Hamilton.

Our story begins by introducing us to January Wayne (Raffin). Her father Mike (the chin-jutting Kirk Douglas) is a producer who has always provided his princess with a luxurious lifestyle. However, dad's career has hit a slump and January has spent three years in a pricey Swiss rehabilitation clinic after a near-fatal motorcycle accident. The net result is that dad is broke. Rather than humble himself and work in television, dad up and marries filthy rich, high society iceberg Dee (Alexis Smith). January, naturally, is horrified and wails to dad, "But do you love her?"

"It's not hard to feel a little something for a woman with all that money," Douglas shrugs.

Guess that

Deborah Raffin (January) and dad Mike (Kirk Douglas) console each other about being in a Jacqueline Susann movie.

Although they have just met, the imperious Dee insists that January be taught "to want the right things." So she buys all her step-daughter's clothes, redecorates her bedroom and insists that she date Wall Street whiz David (George Hamilton)--Smith's cousin and "New York's biggest stud." When she's not bossing or baiting people, Dee is excusing herself to play backgammon "with her friend Joan." In reality, Smith is sneaking off to tryst with her secret gal pal Karla (Melina Mercouri), a reclusive ex-movie star with an accent thicker than waffle batter.

Deciding to strike out on her own, January gets a researcher job at Gloss magazine, who's editor-in-chief is her boarding school buddy Linda Riggs (the raspy voiced Brenda Vaccaro). Once a plain Jane, Linda explains how she went from frump to fab: "I had a nose job, my tits were lifted, my ass was flattened and my knees were straightened." However, not everything was subject to the surgeon's knife. "My navel, I'm proud to say in untouched," Linda declares. "It's perfect."

With dad essentially a kept man, her new step-mother a bit AC/DC and her boss a man-devouring hyena, January runs the risk of coming off a bit dull by comparison. Perish the thought, because Susann has provided our blinkered heroine with a few INTERNAL CONFLICTS to spice her up.

The first INTERNAL CONFLICT is that January is a bit too fond of daddy. When Kirk picks her up at the airport after her Swiss sojourn, Raffin squeals, "You're gorgeous!" Later she exclaims, "I hope nobody thinks we're father and daughter. I hope they think you're a dirty old man and I'm your broad!"

January's daddy fixation leads directly to INTERNAL CONFLICT number two: she's still a virgin and a bit picky about doing the deed.

"This isn't domestic champagne, is it?" George Hamilton (as "New York's biggest stud") prepares to put the moves on the hapless January.

Lucky for us, January's sexual initiation at the hands of Wall Street wolf David provides one of the flick's zanier highlights.

It goes like this: David invites January back to his swingin' bachelor pad. There is already a fire blazing, a round bed in clear view and Frank Sinatra crooning (hint, hint) "All the Way" on the stereo. Then David pours January a glass of champagne. "Oh-h-h Dom Perineum!" Raffin marvels. "That's for special occasions!"  Then Hamilton gathers January up in his arms and prepares to carry her off to the bedroom. He doesn't get very far. "Put me down," January commands. "I'd rather walk, if you don't mind."

Judging from their sour faces on the taxi ride home, it appears things didn't go too well. Thus, January and David decide to be "just friends", which is probably for the best.

So, if "New York's biggest stud" can't float January's boat, is there ever going to be a man who can wrest Raffin's heart away from daddy?

 That's the cue for David "Harry-O" Janssen to roar on as the hard-drinking, barroom-brawling and very long winded novelist Tom Colt. He meets January outside a pub and slurs, "Pardon me, but I can't take my eyes off your ass." However, it's the man-hungry Linda who manages to get Tom over to her place. While Linda is off preparing for a night of pillow biting ecstasy with the famed novelist, Tom exits through a window and climbs up the fire escape to January's place. "Silicone tits and a computerized brain is not my idea of a sexy combination," Janssen explains between burps.

From this inauspicious beginning, Tom and January's romance blossoms. The happy couple ride bikes and visit the zoo and when Tom is hired to write the screenplay for one of his books, January joins him in LA. The only problem is that, well, Tom doesn't seem all that interested in, you know, S-E-X and Raffin starts to become, well, concerned.

"Yes, I'm drunk! Stinking drunk! And I like it!" David Janssen bellows like a bull moose in "Once Is Not Enough".

Again, lucky for us, January's eventual "curing" of Tom and Janssen's explanation as to "why I haven't made it in years" is another zany show-stopper.

See, a few years ago, Tom's biological clock started ticking. Having racked up three divorces, no adoption agency would (sensibly) give him a tot. So Tom started shopping around for a baby mama and finds one in the form of (the unseen) Nina Sue. The couple duly marry, but the pressure to conceive a baby right away starts to drain Tom...well, he finds he can' appears the great man of letters can't mate in captivity, so to speak. So Tom's best friend (an astronaut, mind you) suggests the couple under go artificial insemination. Tom agrees, reasoning, "Hell, if it works for sheep and cattle..."

The good news is that the artificial insemination cures the couple's childlessness. The bad news is that is only perpetuates Tom's...performance problems...because he's ashamed that his son was not created...from his own labors, as it were.

What does get Tom back in the game is January appearing in Janssen's shower. After this steamy interlude, the couple are inseparable--or so our heroine thinks.

"Excuse me, do you have any conditioner?" January and Tom prepare to soap each other up.

In rapid succession, Douglas and Smith die in a plane crash. After the funeral, January learns she was left $ 3 million dollars in her step-mother's will. Hoping Tom will comfort her in her grief, he dumps her instead. "You gave a middle aged guy his last pretense of being a stud," Janssen slurs in his farewell kiss-off. "For that I'll always be grateful."

Thus, "Once Is Not Enough" ends with poor January stumbling around the streets of New York alone, dazed and confused. If you have seen the other two flicks based on Susann's novels ("Valley Of The Dolls" and "The Love Machine"), then you know this is the way all these movies end. On the other hand, the novel Once Is Not Enough concludes with January attending a hippie orgy, dropping acid, seeing her father's ghost and stumbling out into the ocean (nude, of course) to "greet him"...and promptly drowning.

Now that's the way to end a lurid, soapy expose'! Don't you agree?

So you see, your life isn't so bad. Granted, you may be experiencing a rough patch now, but at least you're not an orphaned, semi-heiress who was cruelly dumped after curing your cuddlemate's impotence. Nor must you endure the fact that hack scribbler Jacqueline Susann based one of her tacky characters on you--like Barbara Hutton (Dee), Greta Garbo (Karla) and Norman Mailer (Tom) had to. Finally, I'll bet the last thing you'd say while sucking face with George Hamilton would be, "I didn't know men used hair spray!"

Until next time, cheer up and save the movies!

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.