Thursday, March 26, 2015

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

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

Hey to all you movie lovers out there!

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

Before there was Miranda Priestly, there was Amanda Farrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geez, just asking...

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ain't it the truth, girls?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Run For Your Life! It's "Mr. B Natural"!

Let's all meet "Mr. B Natural, second note from the left." (And, no, she/he's not doing The Robot.)

Hey kids! Are you feeling moody and depressed, anxious or worried? Is your voice changing? Are developing (or not developing) breasts? Are pimples, an oily scalp and/or hair on your legs suddenly becoming a problem?

Girls: has your "Aunt Flow" started her monthly visits?

Boys: do you live in terror of being the victim of a double jock lock in gym class?

In short, has your world turned upside down and you don't know why?

Relax! You are merely going through puberty, a time of intense physical and psychological change! And if you are at a loss as to how you are going to navigate this mine field of hormones, anxiety, fear, exhilaration, social awkwardness and peer pressure, don't give it another thought!

The hapless Buzz (far left of the photo) yearns to fit in like the other hip kids at school.


Because Mr. B Natural is here!

Who is Mr. B Natural, you ask?

Why Mr. B Natural is the star of the greatest, goofiest, nuttiest, wackiest, most bat-shit crazy "Mental Hygiene" short ever made!

A 27-minute hysterical harangue produced in 1956 by Kling Film Productions for Conn Instruments, "Mr. B Natural" aimed to help kids manage puberty by "discovering the fun and joy in music". Once they discovered this fun and joy, kids were then encouraged to join their junior (or senior) high school band playing (what else?) Conn Instruments.

"Just put your lips together and blow": Mr. B teaches Buzz how to wail.

The star of "Mr. B Natural" is an ambiguously androgynous "hep pixie" (in Conn's words) played by the hyper perky Betty Lustre.

Flaunting a flared cape, blue tights, pixie boots and a beanie, "Mr." B Natural flits, frolics, scampers, cavorts, bounces and gads about this short like a Smurf on crack. Mr. B also has an unnerving tendency to chirp such lines as "Knew you father, I did!" and "Don't be too sure that I wasn't in the Garden with Mr. and Mrs. Adam!" with alarming frequency.

With all due respect to Ms. Lustre, who was merely following her director's instructions, the net result is a frightening, over-the-top menace who is more likely to inspire terror in the hearts of young people than "the joy of music."

It begins like this:

Teen Buzz (Bruce Podewell, who's real nickname was Buzz) is a shy, awkward junior higher with a crush on Jeannie, "the cutest girl in school." When Jeannie invites Buzz to join the gang over at her house to try out the newest dance steps, he demurs. See, our hero believes has no musical talent and has two left feet, and he doesn't want to disgrace himself in front his lady love, so Buzz fumbles an excuse about going home to work on a "history essay" instead.

Mary Martin begat Peter Pan who begat Betty Lustre who begat Mr. B Natural.

"Suit yourself," Jeannie shrugs and the gang leaves the poor dope in the dust.

It's in Buzz's lonely bedroom that Mr. B Natural appears, shrieking like a dental drill and telling Buzz that his adolescent angst can all be cured by taking up the trumpet.

Buzz's parents, equally alarmed by their son's lack of popularity, are more than happy to buy the horn from Conn Instruments--anything to avoid having their kid be a social flop! And soon enough, Buzz is jamming away and becomes more confident, out going and popular with every note.

"Mr. B Natural" ends with Buzz playing for a school dance and impressing Jeannie with the length of his trumpet solo. His/her work done, Mr. B Natural flits off in search of other lost souls to help. The shorts final image is a scary super close-up of Mr. B's smiling face. Like the perpetually frozen grin of ring wing activist Phyllis Schafly, Mr. B's demonically smiling mug is pure, 100% nightmare fuel, guaranteed to haunt your dreams for years to come.

Once more, we can thank the folks at "MST3K" for unearthing and featuring this atrocity on their show back in 1991. The SOL gang paired it with "War of the Colossal Beast", the sequel to "The Amazing Colossal Man", and it became a fan favorite. Ken Smith, meanwhile, also featured "Mr. B Natural" in his excellent book Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1970. This tome is by far the best resource for learning EVERYTHING about the genre of "educational" or classroom films, from the directors and production companies to the films themselves (which covered every topic from how to improve your spelling to how to avoid getting VD).

A gem like "Mr. B Natural" is also another reason to love, love, love Junk Cinema. Where else but in the Junk Cinema universe will you find this type of a flick? The Conn Instrument people and Kling Film Productions had only the best of intentions when they made "Mr. B Natural"--but as we all know, the road to ruin is paved with good intentions! If you were going to make a short subject encouraging kids to take up musical instruments, would you have it star a "hep pixie" of indistinguishable gender who had breasts and a high pitched voice?

Of course, "Mr. B Natural" isn't the only gonzo short out there. Consider the Oscar winning min-flick "Bill and Coo", a love story set in "Chirppendale", starring an all bird cast. Then there is "The Home Economics Story", where high school girls are relentlessly pounded into studying Home Ec in college to prepare for such "exciting careers" as becoming "a tea room manager" ("Thousands of customers eat out every day and never realize she's the boss!" the narrator marvels). And who can forget "Adventures in Home Decorating" where 1950's housewives are encouraged to cover every inch of their homes in "the wonder product" of Formica?

So, movie lovers, grab yourself a view of "Mr. B Natural", buy a copy of Mental Hygiene by Ken Smith and help me SAVE THE MOVIES!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Robert Vaughn Is The World's Oldest Teenager In--What Else?--"Teenage Caveman"

Arrested development? Before he was "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." Robert Vaughn was a "Teenage Caveman".

Greeting, movie lovers.

Today's featured flick takes place when the world was young, when stop-motion dinos (pinched from "One Million BC" and "Robot Monster", respectively) roamed the earth and Roger Corman, King of the Budget Busting B Picture, ruled the drive-ins.

It was during this fabled epoch that the Corman Film Factory churned out (for $70,000 bucks) "Teenage Caveman" (1958), a coming-of-age/semi-romance/adventure tale where a 30ish Robert Vaughn ("The Man From U.N.C.L.E") dares to defy the elders of his tribe and seek his fortune beyond their scrubby little encampment (also used for "Night of the Blood Beast").

Vaughn, his hair Brill Creamed to perfection and sporting no trace of a beard, constantly pesters his dad (Leslie Bradley) about why their people cannot venture beyond the river.

"It's forbidden by the law!" thunders dad, probably for the billionth time, "The law that's given in good."

Leslie Bradley ("The Symbol Maker") is unconvinced by his son's (Vaughn) pleas that they find a better camp site.

OK, fine, sure, but besides the law, Vaughn wants to know what else prevents the tribe from venturing beyond "the burning plain"?

How about "shadows cold and dark", "dirt that eats men" and "a god that gives death with its touch", dad replies--although he admits he's never seen or experienced these things himself.

Vaughn, repeatedly called "boy" through out the flick (nobody in the movie has a proper name), still isn't convinced. This causes pops to sigh and caution his son that the land beyond the river "promises a lot, but only gives a place to die."

Kinda like Vegas (rim shot).

After they return home, Vaughn hammers the elderly "Keepers of the Gifts" on what sort of satisfaction they get  by constantly A) tending a puny fire, B) spinning a prehistoric Lazy Susan and C) building and breaking objects.

The "grey beards" tell Rob that these are the three "great gifts of man." As always, the impetuous boy is never satisfied with these pat answers and wanders off to sulk.

Scheming Frank De Kova is no friend to teenage rebel Robert Vaughn.

Meanwhile, hobbling around on a bum leg (and in an ugly costume) is Frank De Kova. The future star of "F Troop" has his eye on Vaughn's cuddlemate Darah Marshall, known to all as "the Blond Maiden." In fact, baddie De Kova spends half his waking hours trying to convince Blondie that Rob's insatiable curiosity will get the better of him and "he won't make it to the rights of manhood." Then De Kova turns right around and spends the rest of his waking hours encouraging Vaughn to journey beyond the river--hoping the boy will run afoul of the "god that gives death with its touch" or some of that man eating dirt, thus making the Blond Maiden more receptive to his clammy advances.

What a Neanderthal! 

Being the dumb head strong kid he is, the boy finally convinces his fellow cave buddies (including Corman regulars Jonathon Haze and Ed Nelson, the latter in a really bad blond wig) to join him on a hunt beyond the river. There they run afoul of some stock footage and the Fair Haired Boy (Beach Dickerson) drowns. But don't fret about that; Dickerson has four parts in this flick. Not only is he the Fair Haired Boy, he also impersonates a rampaging bear, plays a member of another tribe and mans the cymbals at his own character's funeral.

Roger Corman: nobody utilizes his cast better!

While the rest of his buddies run home, the boy stays behind. Actually, he runs head long into a tree and knocks his prehistoric self out. When he comes to, Vaughn decides to scope out the forbidden zone. He bags himself  a squirrel, invents the bow and arrow and creates the world's first pan flute. Except for a brush with some wild dogs (last seen in "The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent"), the boy is totally having a great time. Leave it to his perpetually pissed off pop to harsh his buzz and drag Rob back to their encampment.

As punishment for his wandering ways, Vaughn is shunned, but that doesn't last long, because the Blond Maiden is then telling Rob that they should move in together.

The Blond Maiden (Darah Marshall) consoles her caveman crush after he returns from an illegal trip beyond the river.

"We could make a place to lie down on," she pants. "Spread the furs on the floor so the cold won't get us."

It's an offer Vaughn can't refuse. Soon enough, he's digging away, which arouses the suspicions of De Kova. When the meanie learns that the boy has claimed the Blond Maiden as "his woman", he is fit to be tied--and even more determined to get rid of the pesky teen.

Of course, as seasoned viewers of Junk Cinema know, the tensions between Vaughn and De Kova will soon lead to a violent confrontation/climax. Their quarrel is perhaps less about who gets to bed the Blond Maiden (although, frankly, De Kova never had a chance) so much as which direction their tribe will take in order to survive. Will they embrace the new or stick with the old ways? Do you even have to ask?

As if these Cromagnun conniptions weren't diverting enough, suddenly "the god that gives death with its touch" wanders into the encampment. Unfortunately, as gods go, this one is rather lackluster: he resembles a really cheap, crusty, worn out chicken/parrot mascot costume from junior high. But hold on to your corn nuts, because this chicken/parrot god has a secret: he's an astronaut!

See, the prehistoric world Vaughn and his fellow cave dwellers are cavorting is really--SHOCK! GASP! HORROR!--the remains of a post-apocalyptic society! Ha! Ha! Fooled you!

It goes down like this:

"The God Who Gives Death With Its Touch" just wants a hug.

While the astronaut was in space, the world had a nuclear war. Bummer! When the space crew arrived home, everything was totally nuked out. Luckily, the astronauts' space suits kept them from dying of radiation poisoning, but had the unintended side effects of A) contaminating everybody they came in contact with deadly radioactive poison and B) scaring the pants off folks as well. For decades the space crew wandered the now prehistoric planet trying to contact people, but they slowly died off. The chicken/parrot fellow was the last of his group. Inside his weathered protective suit was even a book about the joys of the atomic age. OOOOOh, the stinging irony!

Thus, "Teenage Caveman" ends with the men folk of the tribe venturing out into the wilderness beyond the river. No more will they be fearful of the unknown or hostage to goofy philosophies. They will explore, prosper, build, reach out to others of their kind--but, the narrator wonders, will they repeat the mistakes of the past or learn from them?

This, by the way, is also the ending "Yor, Hunter From The Future" used. Wanna bet which society was the most successful?

When critiquing a Roger Corman film, one must consider the follow facts before passing artistic judgement:

1) Corman movies were shot on ultra-cheap budgets, on ultra-short schedules and recycled the same props, locations and actors as much as possible.

2) Corman also fleshed out his movies with stock footage, which was not as seamlessly edited into the final cut as it could have been.

3) Folks in Roger Corman movies walk around a lot and often have deadly, dull conversations--which is why having guides like the MST3K people (or me) is a good way to familiarize yourself with Roger Corman flicks until you are experienced enough to watch them on your own.

Contrary to popular opinion, Robert Vaughn, not Pat Boone,  is the world's oldest teenager.

Once you take all that into account, "Teenage Caveman" is a fine example of late 1950's drive-in fare. It's unintentionally hilarious, has a heavy handed message, features "teenagers" who look moments away from a mid-life crisis and boasts the goofiest chicken/parrot god/monster you will ever see. Throw in Frank De Kova in a furry tunic and a deeply embarrassed Robert Vaughn and you have a can't-miss caveman calamity that only a true bad movie master could conjure up.

Roger Corman! Junk Cinema salutes you once again!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Zabriskie Point"-less

"It's the bomb!" Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point" blows up in more ways than one.

Hi Keeba and hello, movie lovers.

I have a question for you.

What major American motion picture was directed by a European "art house" great, produced by Sophia Loren's husband, co-scripted by Jessica Lange's ex-cuddlemate AND starred one of Dennis Hopper's ex-wives?

Give up?

It's 1970's "Zabriskie Point", a long, slow, symbol-laden, "heavy", counter-culture/anti-Establishment hippie epic directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, produced by Carlo Ponti, released by MGM, co-scripted by actor/playwrite Sam Shepard (Jessica Lange's ex) and starring (as Mark and Daria) Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin (Dennis Hopper's ex).

Fun couple Daria Halprin and Mark Frechette wax philosophical.


Now, before I launch into a critical analysis that explains why "Zabriskie Point" qualifies as a Junk Cinema Jewel (with sprightly humor and bits o'trivia to lighten up your day!) it should be mentioned that Antonioni deliberately cast Frechette and Halprin as his leads even though they had no acting experience (or talent) between them. In fact, Rod Taylor (as a capitalistic, money grubbing pig on the make) is the only professional actor in the cast.

Therefore, if you begin to notice what a couple of stiffs Frechette and Halprin, well, now you know why.

With that important bit of info out of the way, let's jump into the movie, and, remember, you have been warned.

"Zabriskie Point" begins at a protest planning meeting, where young radicals say stuff like, "I don't have to justify my revolutionary credentials to you!"  and so forth. While the kids bicker back and forth about tactics, one sexy rebel (Frechette) stands up and declares he's ready "to die for his cause."

"Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?" Capitalist pig Rod Taylor tries to contact hippie crush Daria.

"Alone?" someone asks.

"No, of boredom," he sneers and stomps off

This is Mark, our anti-hero hero. He's cool and sexy, if  a bit self-satisfied. He's no actor, but that's what Antonioni wanted.

In another part of the movie, we meet Daria (Halprin), a free-love endorsing hippie chick who works as a secretary "only when I need the bread." She's trying to get back a book she left on the roof of the building she works at. The snippy security guard is giving her a hard time, wondering why she was on the roof in the first place and not eating "lunch in the lunch room like everybody else." That's when capitalist pig Rod Taylor arrives. He's the Big Boss and he offers to help Daria get her book back--although it's clear his interest in her isn't literary.

The movie then switches to a library where the police are ordering some occupying radicals to come out with their hands up. Mark is hovering around near by. The police shoot one of the radicals (even though they are unarmed) and seconds later a cop is shot dead. Did Mark do it? The movie is deliberately unclear on that point. However, because Mark was lurking about the protest and he was packing heat and he was seen fleeing the scene of the crime, the police (and the media) decide Mark is guilty.

Medium Cool? Mark and his fellow radicals.

Deciding that he "needs to get off the ground", Mark strolls over to the local airport. Just like the nerdy tween Davy in "San Francisco International", Mark hops into a plane and takes off like a seasoned jet jockey. Unlike the nerdy tween Davy, however, Mark is skilled and confident enough as a pilot to repeatedly buzz the car Daria is driving in.

Daria, you see, is driving to Phoenix for a business meeting with Rod--or perhaps for something a bit more personal.  Mark and Daria finally meet at a lonely highway siding where Mark has befriended an old hermit (don't ask). Daria agrees to drive Mark to the nearest gas station and along the way they stop at Zabriske Point.

Thus we come to the most crucial part of the flick. Surveying the vast, open, dry, dusty and rocky landscape before them, our two leads wax Existential about everything...and nothing.

Daria: "Don't you feel at home here? It's so peaceful."

Mark: "It's dead."

Daria: "Hey, guy, you want a smoke?"

Mark: "You know you're talking to a guy under discipline."

Daria: "What's that?"

Mark: "This group I was in had rules against smoking. They were into a reality trip."

"Was it good for you, too?" Mark and Daria in the milky after-glow.

Daria: "Wow! What a drag!"

Mark: "You're pretty tolerant about a guy who doesn't turn on."

Daria: "There's a thousand sides to everything, not just heroes and villains. So anyway, so anyway...'So anyway' ought to be one word. Like a place or a river. 'So Anyway River'!"

Once Daria and Mark exhaust themselves with this disjointed small talk, they decide to have sex. While our leads roll around in the dust tonguing each other, out of nowhere appear dozens of other hippie couples. They kiss, snuggle, roll around and do the nasty. In one impressive shot, Zabriskie Point is dotted with couples gettin' busy. When Mark and Daria are through, the other couples disappear. Still in the milky after-glow, Mark mumbles, "I always knew it would be like this."

So anyway...

After their dusty douse of afternoon delight, Mark tells he's returning the plane. Daria warns that could be a risky movie, to which Mark declares, "I need to take risks!" So be it. However, before Mark flies back to the airport, he, Daria and the old hermit repaint the plane hippie-style. They add on breasts, slogans like "Bucks Suck" and "No Words", eyes and a smile, the typical cheeky protest stuff.

Mark, Daria and the old hermit give their plane a hippie make-over.

"It's nice to see a young person with respect for authority," the old hermit says.

Unfortunately, the police, the airport personnel, the media and the real owner of the plane disagree. Although Mark lands the plane with aplomb and is unarmed, he is shot and killed.

In the words of Daria, "What a drag!"

Now at the Phoenix home of Rod Taylor, surrounded by hypocritical squares, Daria is filled with rage--for the loss of Mark, for the senselessness of his death, for The Man, for all those Establishment fat cats who put profit before people...all the usual suspects of post-'60's America.

So what does Daria do?

She visualizes a string of symbols that represent The Establishment and All She's Against and blows them up to kingdom come.

Do these symbols include, say, the Pentagon, Wall Street, the IRS, the Watergate building or the draft board perhaps?

"Take that, KFC!" One of Daria's more memorable visions in "Zabriskie Point".

Nah. Instead of those symbols of  American hypocrisy/decline/repression, Daria takes her vengeance out on (among other things) patio furniture, a clothes rack, a TV set, a loaf of Wonder Bread, books, magazines and a raw chicken.

A raw chicken? Go figure.

It is on that note that "Zabriskie Point" ends its broadcast day.

So, you may be asking, what was the point of this film?

Far more famous and learned critics than myself have been debating that since 1970, when "Zabriskie Point" was unleashed and landed with a big thud in movie theaters, despite a lot of pre-release publicity and leads Daria and Mark landing on the covers of Look and Rollingstone magazine, respectively.

For me, "Zabriskie Point" is exactly like Zabriskie Point: it's dry, dusty and vacant. It's empty. 

However, it's also an excellent example that Junk Cinema can be made by anybody, even a famous, respected European director!

"Hooray! The movie is over!"

It's wrong to think Junk Cinema can only be made by non-Hollywood hacks who have no money and no talent. Antonioni was not a hack, MGM gave him buckets of money to make this flick, he had total artistic control and he had plenty of talent. But he bungled to job anyway. Give any director enough rope and they can hang themselves, artistically speaking.

 Junk Cinema can happen anywhere at anytime--isn't that neat?

So, kiddies, the next time someone gives you grief for loving bad movies, please remind them that Antonioni might have made "Blow Up", but he also made "Zabriskie Point" and that Peter Bogdanovitch might have made "The Last Picture Show", but he also made "At Long Last Love" and Orson Welles might have made "Citizen Kane", but he also co-starred with Pia Zadora in "Butterfly"!

Until next time, Save The Movies!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves In "The Viking Women And The Sea Serpent"

Fearless Viking women battle a ferocious sea critter in the poster for Roger Corman's 1957 feminist epic "The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent."

Valkommen tillbaka, filmalskare!

That's "Welcome back, movie lovers" in Swedish.

Today's film is a historical saga that takes place long, long ago in ancient Scandinavia. It features proud Viking warriors, their proud Viking women and chronicles their proud Viking determination to survive the made-in-10-days Roger Corman adventure classic "The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent"(1957).

 "In the days when the world was young and the gods had not abandoned the race of men" our narrator intones, a group of proud Viking warriors from the village of Stannjold realized "their own rocky shores and forbidden mountains could no longer yield them a livelihood". Thus, the guys "bade farewell to their women and ventured fearlessly into the unknown." Time dragged on and the men had yet to return. This means A) the men have died or B) they have gotten hopelessly lost because they refused to stop and ask for directions. Therefore, it's up to the proud Viking women of Stannjold to take control of the situation.

The proudest of the Viking women is Desir (Abby Dalton, future cast member of "Falcon Crest"). Actually, Desir is both proud and democratic, because she allows her fellow Vikettes to vote if they should venture out to find the guys or just sit home and continue to wait. This they do by throwing spears at either the "yes" tree or the "no" tree.

Which is more life like? Future "Falcon Crest" star Abby Dalton or the gargoyle figurehead?

Two important votes swing things for Desir. The first is Thyra, who has no missing husband, but figures she won't get one if the situation doesn't improve. The other is "Enger the Dark" (the surly Susan Cabot). She's the brunette outcast among her (bleached) blond sisters. However, her motivation is less than honorable: the whole village knows Enger wants Desir's man, Vedric. Perhaps during their voyage to find the men, Desir could fall victim to an accident and perhaps Vedric would consider coming over to the dark side?

Summing up the general feeling about Enger, one Vikette declares, "She gives me the creeps."

And so the proud Viking women set sail to rescue their proud Viking men. Stealing away on their ship is Ottar (Corman regular Jonathan Haze), a rather shrimpy fellow with permed and bleached blond locks. Ottar was suppose to stay behind, but he insisted on coming to "protect the women." In the course of the flick, Ottar and gigantress Thyra will fall in love, proving yet again that size doesn't matter.

While paddling about, the proud Viking women hit a rough patch of water known as "the swirling vortex." This being a Roger Corman picture, "the swirling vortex" actually resembles a close-up of a flushing toilet bowl. Then the sea monster of the film's title shows up. This being a Roger Corman movie, the sea monster is actually pretty nifty: we get a close-up of his big, bug eyes, sharp teeth and long, pointy tail. He's pretty menacing and a better actor than most of the cast. Congrats to Roger for taking the time to include some decent F/X in his flick!

As special effects in Roger Corman movies go, this titled sea serpent is one of the best.

Despite the best efforts of the proud Viking women, the title critter totals their boat and sends the gals crashing into the drink.

Moments later, the survivors wash up on a beach (without a hair out of place). They are then promptly captured by the whip-cracking tribe of Grimolt, who's leader, Stark (Richard Devon) looks like Don Draper from "Mad Men"--if Dan Draper wore a fuzzy vest and a hat with a spike on top of it.

As it turns out, these Grimolts have enslaved the proud Viking women's proud Viking men; they have been forcing them to dig, mine and build stuff--without proper credit or compensation, mind you. The rest of the time the proud Vikings are chained up in a cave.

The proud Viking couples are thrilled to be reunited, but the mean Grimolts won't be allowing any conjugal visits. See, the Grimlots want the proud Viking women to mate with them--and could care less that their recent arrivals have other ideas.

"We will never submit to savages!" Desir flares.

"Once you've known a Grimolt warrior," the smirky Stark intones, "you'll soon forget the pale Viking slaves."

Grimolt head Stark (Richard Devon): Don Draper's long lost ancestor?

Viking bad girl "Enger the Dark" (Susan Cabot) prays for acting guidance.

Meanwhile, the Grimolts are so eager to show the Viking gals what hot dates they are, they invite them to go on a boar hunt. It's during this show of manly daring-do the Grimolt crown prince Senya (Jay Sayer) falls off his horse, scrapes his elbows and shrieks like a dental drill when the boar grunts at him. Riding up spear in hand is Desir, who nails the pig with one swift throw.

Is Prince Senya grateful? Can pigs fly?

"A GIRL!" the wimpy royal cries--I mean, he literally breaks down and cries.

"What's so wrong about a girl being a good hunter?!" demands Desir.

"But you don't understand!" Senya bleats. "I am a prince!"

"I'm a Grimolt warrior!" Crown Prince Senya (Jay Sayer) fails to impress Desir.

So to save his face and precious ego, Desir allows Senya to claim he speared the porker. This clearly pleases dad Stark, who proclaims his whiny, wimpy son "a mighty hunter!" and throws a wild bash in his honor.

The proud Viking women are still trying to find a way to escape with their men. Unbeknownst to them, surly, scheming Enger has cut a deal with Stark. In return for spying on her Viking sisters (and agreeing to have sex with Stark at a later date), Enger will be allowed to escape with Vedric.

However, proud Viking leader Vedric won't leave his fellow warriors behind or renounce his true love for Desir when Enger informs him of the secret deal she has struck. This causes Enger to stomp off in a huff--and for meanie Stark to make an example of Vedric and Desir by burning them at the stake.

Because time is running out, Corman picks up the pace considerably. First, Desir and Vedric are tied to his-and-her stakes--and they vow to die together. Next, Enger, realizing what a sap's she's been, prays to the god Thor to help the couple. Thor replies by bringing rain, which douses the fires, and lightening, which strikes and kills Senya. Lead by Ottar, the Viking men and women then pummel their Grimolt captors and make a run for it. In a final bit of self sacrifice, Enger allows the Grimolt dogs to tear her apart, allowing the Vikings time to hop into some conveniently available canoes (which just happened to be waiting on the beach) and paddle away.

When we next see our proud Viking protagonists, they have eluded recapture, killed off the sea serpent and safely returned to Stannjold. No doubt their fellow villagers will toss these proud Viking couples a super group wedding. Raggmunk (potato pancakes served with fried pork and loganberries) and glogg (hot mulled wine) for everybody! Let's party like it's 1099!

"Keeping paddling! The end of the movie is almost in sight!"

Since "The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent" is produced and directed by Roger Corman--one of the greats of Junk Cinema--you can safely assume that our feature presentation was made on a shoe-string budget ($65,000), shot on an impossibly brief schedule (10 days), spotlights some hilarious acting (Abby Dalton became the flick's leading lady because the actress first hired to play Desir got sick) and was plastered on drive-in screens with an equally nutty co-feature ("The Astounding She-Monster", to be exact).

Yet, "The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent" is one of Corman's better efforts.

The title critter is decent F/X and probably blew the budget, but it's very effective.

Susan Cabot was a regular Corman bad girl, having played a sociopath co-ed in "Sorority Girl" and a cosmetics mogul in "Wasp Woman". Her character Enger the Dark is an outcast who schemes for another gal's man, yet Cabot manages to make her interesting. The other stand out in the cast is Jay Sayer as Prince Senya. Yes, he's a whiny little creep/crybaby and Sayer brings a camp element to the character. However, the role was originally conceived to be a nerdy teenager. Corman probably figured a real teenager would be either too expensive to supervise or too much of a hassle to have around. Thus we have 20-something Sayer mincing about, but it's memorable mincing.

Finally, it's refreshing to see females in a 1950's film being strong and capable, as opposed to just shopping for husbands. In fact, Junk Cinema has a long tradition of strong female roles: Beverly Garland's savvy sheriff in "Gunslinger"; the independent ladies of "The Wild Women of Wongo"; spunky reporter Audrey Ames in "The Beginning of the End"; and the understanding Delores Fuller in "Glen or Glenda?", to name but a few. This little known fact is another reason to love Junk Cinema.

Therefore, despite impossible odds, Roger Corman hits another one out of the ball park!

Roger Corman: we who love Junk Cinema salute you! Skoal! 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

One Bad Trip: Otto Preminger's "Skidoo"

The dancing mascot of "Skidoo". Created by credit genius Saul Bass, it's the best bit in the move.

Hi Keeba and hello, movie lovers.

Do you remember the '60's?

According the old saying, if you do remember the '60's, you weren't there (rim shot).

I don't remember the '60's because I was a wee baby. But if the '60's were anything like Otto Preminger's all-star 1968 freak out "Skidoo", I'm glad I missed out.

Conceived as a no-holds-barred culture clash comedy, "Skidoo" was a legendary box-office bomb for writer/producer Preminger, the Richard Burton of filmmakers. Despite his talent, Otto, like Richard, is better known for his many misses than his hits. For every "Laura" or "Anatomy of Murder", there is "Saint Joan", "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon", "Rosebud", "In Harm's Way", "Hurry Sundown" and "Such Good Friends"--a flick one critic likened to "a closet full of smelly underwear".

Even with that impressive list of flops to his credit, "Skidoo" may be Preminger's ne plus ultra of flop flicks.

It goes like this:

Concerned mother Carol Channing gets hip to her daughter Darlene's (Alexandra Hay) boyfriend Stash (John Philip Law).

Jackie Gleason is "Tough Tony" Banks, a retired mob "torpedo" (hit man), now living as an honest businessman in the California suburbs. Carol Channing is his ditzy wife Flo, who had quite a racy past before they married. Alexandra Hay (of "The Love Machine") is their daughter Darlene--at least, that's what Channing claims.

On a typical evening at home, Tony and Flo are fighting over what to watch on TV. Each armed with a remote control, husband and wife switch back and forth between the channels, cutting between commercials, various movies and even a senate hearing. Fed up, Tony storms into the kitchen to make a snack, only to discover his college-bound daughter sitting in a parked car with (gasp) a hippie!

This gentleman's name is (oh, how telling) Stash (John Philip Law, also of "The Love Machine"). He sports the usual hippie garb of long hair, love beads and a headband. This causes Tony to snarl, "Who's your tailor? Sittin' Bull?" Stash also spouts the usual hippie babble: "You know what I dig? Nothin', man. 'Cause if you can't dig nothin', you can't dig anything. You dig?"

This deeply impresses Darlene, who muses, "If I could be nothing, I could be anything."

Stash also dreams of a world where butterflies are free and there are organic supermarkets on every corner, so no wonder Gleason pops a blood vessel when he learns his daughter is dating this freak.

God (Groucho Marx) calls Tony home: Boy, did he get the wrong number.

Believe it or not, Tony soon has bigger problems than his kid's long-haired beau. He's visited by mobsters Henchy (Cesar Romero) and Angie (Frankie Avalon), who come on behalf of Tony's old mob godfather, simply known as God (played by Groucho Marx in his last film appearance).

It seems God wants Tony to break into Rock Island Federal Pen and rub out stool pigeon "Blue Chips" Packyard (Mickey Rooney), formerly Tony's BFF and Darlene's godfather. At first, Gleason refuses, insisting God released him from mob chores 17 years ago. However, when Tony finds his pal Harry (Arnold Stang) sitting in a car with a bullet through the head, the retired wiseguy glumly goes back to work.

Once inside the joint, Tony meets his cellmates: Leech (Michael Constantine, the principal on "Room 222") and Austin Penelton, known as Professor Fred. Fred, you see, is doing time because he burned his draft card. He's also a technical genius who has renounced technology and eats only brown rice.

Oh, yes, and one more thing: Fred carts around a stack of paper soaked in acid.

 Hmmm, that could cause problems, couldn't it? I mean, if someone accidentally got in to it...

Tony, Leech and Professor Fred share tight quarters in the slammer.

While Tony awaits his instructions, wife Flo is aghast to learn that Darlene, covered head to toe in body paint, has been arrested with Stash and about 30 other long-haired, pot smoking, folk singing hippies. To prevent her daughter from running away with this flower power mob, Channing invites the whole group back to their place. Soon, the Bank's dream house has become a hippie crash pad, complete with sitar music. Of course, the uptight neighbors are fit to be tied, but what else could a mother do?

Still cooling his heels in prison, Tony writes Flo a letter and then licks the envelope. Uh oh! The horrified Fred informs Tony that the paper was soaked in acid. "You mean LSD?" Gleason gulps. Is there any other kind? Soon enough, Tony is on a trip, complete with melting walls, vivid colors, floating heads, imaginary flies to swat at and his room mates shrinking to the size of Smurfs. Gleason sweats, laughs, screams and then asks for a flower. Once the trip is over, Tony has "lost his ego" (according to Fred) and is thus a changed man. That means the hit is off.

Scenes from an acid trip: Tony Banks (Jackie Gleason) freaks out.

So how can Tony escape Rock Island and get back to his family, especially when he learns Darlene is being held captive on God's yacht? (FYI: God lives on a yacht in international waters with his statuesque companion, the insatiable Luna, to escape arrest. George Raft is his captain.)

That's easy. Professor Fred spikes the prison's water and food supply with LSD. The resulting mass freak out is "Skidoo"s showcase sequence. To ensure the artistic integrity of the cinematic trip he was to film, Preminger supposedly dropped acid with Timothy Leary. While you can admire Preminger's commitment to details, I doubt any acid trip resembles the one Otto presents.

 Everybody from the prisoners to the guards to the visiting warden (Burgess Meredith) to the kitchen staff to the phone operators suddenly go bonkers. They sing in slow motion. They form daisy chains. Convict Frank Gorshin ("The Man") sees visions of himself as an angel. The tower guards watch pop-eyed (and you will too) as garbage cans come to life and dance to a Harry Nilsson song. This little musical interlude is called "The Garbage Can Ballet". A sample of the lyrics? "Oh, oh, oh, the great garbage can/Is a tribute to the ingenuity of man/Where corn and tomatoes mix with potatoes/And get thrown together with ham/And succotash and a piece of hash/ Can get together and have a bash..." The ditty ends with the lines, "Life is always equal in the can." Then the Green Bay Packers show up--nude, mind you--except for their helmets and shoulder pads to run a few plays. Meanwhile, Senator Peter Lawford gives his presidential acceptance speech and warden Meredith proclaims the "ideal prison" will teach macrame and modern dance.

Can you dig it?

Do not adjust your set: "Skiddo"s infamous dancing garbage cans prepare to cut a rug. Watch the sequence on "YouTube" if you dare.

While the prison population is tripping the light fantastic, Tony and Fred make their getaway in trash cans tied to helium balloons. Their destination? God's yacht. However, they aren't the only ones. Converging on that very craft is Flo, dressed in a mini skirt and tri-cornered hat, with a flotilla of hippies.

 "Skidoo! Skidoo! The world can be a better place for you!" warbles Broadway's Dolly Levi. "Skidoo! Skidoo! The number between one and three is two!"

As dopey and embarrassing as this number is, Channing totally throws herself into it. When it's all over, you can't help thinking, "What a pro."

The scene on God's yacht, of course, is total mayhem, with hippies and gangsters fighting, dancing, singing and taking drugs together. Gleason searches for his daughter, runs into wife Flo and the bickering mob couple have make-up sex. Then George Raft marries mobster Angie (Frankie Avalon) to the insatiable Luna--who starts making out with Henchy. A hippie then marries "this brother to this sister", meaning Stash and Darlene. And God? He and Professor Fred have ditched the love-in to sail away in a psychedelic sailboat dressed as Harri Krishna's. Fred offers Groucho a joint, who promptly inhales and then declares, "Mmmm, pumpkin!"

"Skidoo" is all over except for the credits--and you will want to watch the closing credit sequence, because Harry Nilsson sings the name of each and every member of the cast and crew, right down to the lowliest worker on the production staff. Now, the movie is over.

A real wild trip, right?

"23 Skidoo!" Flo and Tony get hip to the swingin' sixties.

Well, that depends.

"Skidoo" wants to be seen as a hip, irreverent, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants comedy. But director Preminger is too much of a tactician and control freak to helm such a free-flowing production. The movie just seems off, from the flat jokes to the usual '60's stereotypes to the kooky musical numbers. It's clear Preminger wanted to show the kids that an old Hollywood hand could groove to the times; any kids who actually saw the flick weren't fooled. Neither, as it turns out, were their parents, because "Skidoo" was one of the decades biggest bombs.

It was also one of the most obscure box office bombs of that decade. "Skidoo" never appeared on TV, not even on the late, late, late show. When VCRs came out, nobody clamoured for "Skidoo" to make its VHS debut. And it was years before "Skidoo" came out on DVD. Nobody wanted to see this movie ever again--including the people who made it! The only ones to show "Skidoo" any love was dedicated Junk Cinema Lovers, but we are, shall I say, a very particular bunch.

In the end, "Skidoo" seems to prove that the '60's mantra "Don't trust anyone over 30!" was sage advice, at at least in this case.

Therefore movie lovers, until next time, question authority, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Once More With Feeling! It's "Beastmaster 2:Through The Portal Of Time"!

"Oh, dear, his perm didn't take!" Older, but not necessarily wiser, Dar (Marc Singer) returns for "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time."

Hey, kids, what's the worst sequel of all time?

"Stayin' Alive"? "Grease 2"? "The Sting, Part 2"? "Return to Peyton Place"? "The Exorcist, Part 2"? "The Godfather, Part 3"? "Ghostbusters 2"? "The Jewel of the Nile"? "King Kong Returns"? "Scarlett"?

Believe it or not, it's none of the above. The worst sequel of all time belongs to "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time" (1991).

"B2" (as I call it) is the ten years later second serving of "The Beastmaster", the 1981 sword and sorcery flick about an ancient Dr. Doolittle named Dar (Marc Singer in his greatest role EVER) and his quest to avenge the deaths of his family, friends and pet pooch at the hands of the evil Jun army, which was headed by an evil priest named Maax (Rip Torn in the most embarrassing role of his career).

Besides being the beastmaster, Dar is also the long-lost son of King Zed. He doesn't realize this because A) as a baby Dar was kidnapped from his mother's womb and transplanted by an evil witch into a cow's womb, thus ensuring that B) he could be kidnapped and later sacrificed by the evil witch. Baby Dar was saved by a poor farmer who A) also didn't realize Dar was King Zed's son and B) raised him as his own but C) eventually realized Dar had special abilities with critters.

As you can see, "The Beastmaster" had its own lame-brained charms. Unfortunately, "B2" is only lame-brained. That's because, except for Marc Singer and the ferrets, nothing in "Portal of Time" references, revives or continues the saga of Dar and his beastmastering abilities.

Wings Hauser waves his magic wand in "B2". Where is Rip Torn when you need him?

Instead, "B2" gives us--not that we asked for it, mind you--a completely new story that is an unsavory mix of sword and sorcery/time traveling/fish-out-of-water/bad '90's hair/bad '90's rock/and bad F/X that never congeals into anything coherent or entertaining. Instead, it merely stalls and sputters like an over-heated Yugo in rush hour traffic--and manages to make the original flick look good by comparison.

With Rip Torn unavailable because of his character's demise in the first flick, the baddie role in "B2" is taken up by Wings Hauser, a beefy fellow who resembles Sam Kininson, Meatloaf , Kiefer Sutherland  and the Phantom of the Opera all rolled into one.

When we first meet him, Arklon (as the baddie is called) has captured beastmaster Dar and has condemned him to death for, among other things, siding with rebels who want to unseat him and "practicing witchcraft". Arklon also sneers at Dar's talents with animals. This the despot will regret, especially when he commands his henchmen to chop off Dar's noggin. Why? Because Sharak the eagle will poke Arklon's eye out, Ruh the tiger (no longer black) will slaughter his goons and ferrets Kodo and Podo will release Dar--who will then proceed to stab, hit, punch and kick Arklon's remaining troops in their respective crotches before fleeing into the night.

Our story then shifts to a rag-tag group of rebels out on patrol. When their nominal leader wants to know if Arklon's flunkies are in the vicinity, he calls out, "Bring the witch!" That would be Lyranna (Sarah Douglas), a hip swaying Jennifer Beals-type who can "see" things. The rebel leader warns Lyranna that her "visions" had better be truthful or he'll cut her "black heart out of (her) bosom." This causes the witch to parry back, "Surely such a valiant warrior such as yourself you can think of a better use for my bosom."

 The fellow probably can, except an arrow through his neck ensures he won't be able to act on them.

Suddenly, the poor rebels are beset by Arklon's troops and Arklon himself, who wields a very bizarre weapon indeed: an old fashioned phone receiver. An old fashioned phone receiver that shoots lasers, no less. When all the dust settles, only Lyranna is left standing. Arklon wants her dead, naturally, but the wily witch insists that she knows where the one-eyed Arklon can get his mitts on the ultimate weapon and rule the world unchallenged.

I must interject here and point out that Arkon ALREADY HAS such a weapon and ALREADY IS ruling unchallenged. After all, what could possibly top a phone receiver that shoots lasers?

How about a neutron bomb?

"Is this the set for 'Conan the Barbarian'?" Evil witch Lyranna (Sarah Douglas).

See, Lyranna has discovered a magic portal that leads to 1991 L.A. In her spare time, the witch has been hopping back and forth between dimensions, picking up '90's slang ("You are are so hard to take a meeting with!") and taking stock of US weapon capabilities. Lyranna convinces Arklon that having The Bomb will make him truly the boss of everything and put his laser shooting phone to shame. In return for helping the baddie Arklon snatch the weapon of mass destruction, Lyranna wants to be his queen.

Arklon's queen? "Well, I certainly don't want to be your maid!" Lyranna huffs.

While all this is happening, Dar is tramping around in a swamp. It's there he meets a long-lost relative that resembles a talking tree. This leafy sage tells Dar that he has an elder brother who must be killed or the world will go kaput. Dar pleads with the tree person to identify his bad seed brother, but the relative just stomps off to die. Not very helpful, would you say?

I'm going to interject again and suggest that Dar's unknown bad seed big brother is Arklon. Who's with me?

As if "B2" didn't have enough going on, we are introduced to one final character, an annoying Valley Girl twerp named Jackie Trent (Kari Wuhrer). She crash lands into Beastmaster territory through that magic portal Lyranna is always babbling about. Of course, she is so dumb that she doesn't realize what has happened. Instead, she chirps such lines as "Where is the auto club when you need them?" and "Ever hear of the 'middle of nowhere'? Well, this is it!"

Of course, it's preordained that Jackie will meet up with Dar and still have no idea that she's not in L.A. anymore. She variously thinks the Beastmaster works for the circus or is one of those off-the-grid-loner-types and at one point asks, "Dar, were you raised by wolves?" Even worse than her stupidity is Jackie's constant stream of one-liners. When she and Dar are sitting around a campfire, they hear the howling of "The Lost Hounds" who, explains Dar, "stalk the night, looking for souls to drag down into the abyss."

"Sounds like two guys I met in Tijuana last night," Jackie smirks.

Alien from L.A.: the very annoying Jackie Trent (Kari Wuhrer).

Later, when Dar and Jackie are tramping around in the desert, they come upon soldiers on horseback. "Who are those geeks?" she asks.

They happen to be Arklon's goon squad and they have orders to capture "the outsider", as they call Jackie. This they do, but once the L.A. airhead is dumped on them, Arklon and Lyranna can't stand her anymore than anyone else.

When Lyranna shows Jackie the magic portal, all she can do is coo, "Way rad!" Later, when Arklon demands that Jackie provide him with the necessary info to nab a neutron detonator, she squeals, "I'm loaded with information! I watch 'Jeopardy' every night!"

After enduring several more of these inane bon mots, you can't help but root for Arklon to pistol whip the little jerk.

In final analysis, Kari Wuhrer's performance in "B2" makes Kathy Ireland's performance in "Alien From L.A." look like a masterful piece of nuanced underplaying--and is one of the key reasons why this flick's reputation as a piece of cinematic backwash is so richly deserved.

"Let's see, do I have everything? Tiger? Check. Eagle? Check? Ferrets? Check." Dar prepares to save the world.

Of course, it goes without saying that Arklon, and Lyranna will drag Jackie back to L.A. so they can get their nuclear bomb and Dar and his animal buddies will follow in hot pursuit. There will be culture clashes and confrontations, car crashes and sword fights, good will defeat evil, Dar will off Arklon and Jackie will continue to chirp like a demented chipmunk. Finally, our mismatched duo will say goodbye. Dar will return to his world and Jackie will hopefully shut-up.

It's not often that a genuinely bad movie is followed by a sequel that is even worse, but "B2" manages this amazing feat. Of course, many elements were involved in making "B2" so very, very bad: a horrible script, an uneven tone, cheap-o F/X and a truly annoying heroine all played their part.

You also can't forget the acting of the principals, either. As baddie Arklon, Wings Hauser struts about and fondles his long hair, but he's no match for the scenery chewing theatrics of Rip Torn. Sarah Douglas' Lyranna seems as if she wandered over from the set of "Dynasty", as her hair-tossing, nostril-flaring histrionics seem better suited to a night time soap opera than a mixed-up swords and sandals epic. Marc Singer, meanwhile, is still plenty ripped as Dar, but his bleached blonde hair and stringy perm are not flattering. Even though he is the nominal star of the show, Singer's role in the sequel is actually pretty small. As always, the acting honors ultimately go to the critters, but even they seem off their game this time around.

In the final analysis, "Beastmaster2: Through The Portal of Time" is just more proof that sequels to hit movies are just a waste of money--for the producers and the audience. Lightening rarely strikes twice; there is no guarantee that a sequel will recapture the spirit of its predecessor. Sequels are just a cynical ploy to ring cash out of a familiar name.

In the case of "B2", the filmmakers did something even more incredible: they took an already bad movie and made it even worse!

So, until next time, accept only originals, and SAVE THE MOVIES!