Monday, September 7, 2015

Do You Know The Way To "Pompeii"?

2014's schlock-buster "Pompeii" was a failure of epic proportions. The movie wasn't very good, either.

Greetings to you all, movie lovers.

Today I'm going to share a sure fire recipe for disaster so you, too, can create your own epic (failure) like 2014's "Pompeii" (3-D not included).

First, hack off big, meaty chunks of the movie "Gladiator", especially the parts where the main character wants to avenge the brutal slaying of his family. Chop them up into bite-size pieces and toss them in a mixing bowl.

Next, grind up an entire episode of the glitzy soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful". Place in the mixing bowl.


"I'm sexy and I know It": The Celt (Kit Harington) is ripped and ready for action.

Now you are ready to add in your hero, a totally ripped dude if possible. In the case of "Pompeii" that honor goes to Kit Harington, best known for his role in "Game of Thrones". Here he is cast as "The Celt", a slave forced to be a gladiator, who wants nothing more than to avenge the needless slaughter of his family.

Once you've got your hero, you must mix in your heroine. For our purposes, that is Lady Cassia (Emily Browning), an actress who looks like Kate Moss' kid sister. Kate Moss' kid sister who has clearly over-done the lip-fillers, to be exact.

Never mind if the hero and heroine's romance and/or personalities don't jell or if the script writers haven't bothered to develop this crucial aspect of the flick beyond a few Meaningful Stares and a couple of lip locks. Just keep stirring!

Next you should toss in the following Stock Characters to round out the cast and pad out the film: the Doomed Friend (here played by Adewale Akinnieaye-Aglaje, a fellow gladiator who needs just one more victory in the arena to earn his freedom and return to his family); the slave girl/lady-in-waiting (Jessica Lucas) who is besties with her boss; and the devious, greedy gladiator promoter (Joe Pringue) who will get his Divine Come-Uppance when the volcano towering over the city of Pompeii finally blows its stack.

Last, but not least, you must plop in your villain. That brings us to Kiefer Sutherland (son of actor Donald and ex-cuddlemate of Julia Roberts), who essays Roman Gen. Corvus in the best tradition of Snidely Whiplash and Ming the Merciless. General Corvus not only offed the Celt's entire family, but he's been lusting after Lady Cassia, too. Naturally, Corvus can't for the life of him figure out why Cassia would prefer the ultra-ripped Celt to him, completely ignoring the fact that Harington is on the mega-hit "Game of Thrones", while his show "24" is now in reruns. Conversely, Corvus makes a real pest of himself trying to A) knock off the Celt and B) force Cassia to marry him.

"I'm Back in the Saddle Again": cuddlemates Cassia and the Celt round up some romance.

Alright, once these key ingredients have been thoroughly stirred, you can set your mixture aside for a moment and let it settle for a bit.

Now please take out a much much smaller bowl and your handy cheese grater. One by one, grate these lumps of cliche's into a fine powder: hostility between the Roman bigwigs and the small town citizens of Pompeii; Lady Cassia's father trying to hustle new development plans with the sneering Gen. Corvus; the Celt revealing his true name to his fellow gladiator pals; several rigged, slo-mo battles in the gladiatorial arena where the hero defies all the known laws of physics when he leaps out of nowhere to spear some baddie; and one huge CGI volcano that rumbles, grumbles and belches out more noxious fumes than your drunk Uncle Louie on Thanksgiving.

After your cliche's have been grated into cheese dust, sprinkle half of them on top of your settled mixture.

Next find the biggest, deepest baking pan you own. Pour your mixture into the pan; smooth out the top with a spatula. Then sprinkle the rest of your cheese dust on the goo, making sure every square inch of the pan is covered.

Slide the pan into your oven. Crank up the heat as high as it can go. Inside, the soupy mixture will bubble, boil, churn and pop as all the various elements coalesce into a mushrooming mess of underdeveloped storytelling, scanty character development, dull cliches, plot points ticked off like items on a grocery list and Keifer Sutherland's epic sneering and ludicrous British accent.

"I guess trying to out run a lava flow was a bad idea!" Cassia and her Celt make a mad dash to safety.

Wait for smoke to start gushing out of your oven. Then stand back as the whole sorry CGI mess explodes like a potato in the microwave and you are done.

Don't preview for critics.

Open cold on a Friday to gather in all the box office cash you can before word-of-mouth sinks in and your MESSterpiece ends up on home video, cable and dubbed on YouTube.

For more tasty recipes for disaster, please return to this blog at regular intervals.

And remember, Save The Movies!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Introducing Glenn Beck's Ass-Kicking, Wolf-Slaying, Kung-Fu Fighting Santa Claus!

"Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!": The fur promises to fly in Glenn Beck's upcoming Christmas movie "The Immortal."

Greetings, movie lovers.

If you are a regular follower of The Wild World of Weird News, then you already know that professional talking head Glenn Beck has released a list of 15 cities "you should avoid like the plague" as we approach The End Times--an event Glenn has been avidly waiting for for years.

The city that topped this list was not Vegas (AKA "Sin City") or New York or even Amsterdam (with all that weed and deluge of hookers). No, the honor went to Portland, Oregon, home of micro-brews, tree huggers and all those delightful Made In Oregon shops.

As a native Oregonian who's forebears homesteaded in "The Beaver State" before it was even a state, I was NOT pleased to hear this.

However, my anger lessened when I learned Beck was going to make a Christmas movie that would totally revolutionize everything you thought you knew about Kris Kringle and save Christmas, too.

In other words, forget Kirk Cameron saving Christmas! Glenn Beck is going to save Christmas! Huzzah!

Glenn Beck's new Santa Claus movie promises to be an antidote to our children's unhinged materialism at Christmas time...according to Beck, anyway.

How did all this come about, you ask?

Well, it's very simple, really.

One day Glenn overheard his kids talking about how excited they were for Christmas to come. Unfortunately, the Beck children were mostly interested in the toys and stuff they anticipated getting, while completely over looking the importance of celebrating Christ's birth and the promise of salvation and all that jazz.

Glenn being Glenn, he was down-hearted about this until he got a brain wave: because kids today wrongly see Santa as merely a toy giver who upstages Jesus, it was time to end this unbalance once and for creating a NEW Santa Claus that would turn the traditional jolly old St. Nicholas pap right on its head!

 Introducing "The Immortal", a two-fisted, wolf-slaying, ass-kicking enforcer-type who works part-time as Jesus' body guard before he becomes Santa!

Only from the feverish mind of Glenn Beck-- who sees Commie art hanging in Rockefeller Center, urges people to hoard food and and is discomforted by Ruebens' nudes (he even dismissed the artist as "Butt Boy")--could such a crazy idea spring. Yet, it's just so crazy it might work! Dig this:

An example of the "boar puppets" Santa uses to slaughter wolves?

When we first meet him, Santa is widower with a young son and a champion wolf hunter too boot. His success at wolf hunting comes from the fact that Santa uses LIFE SIZE BOAR PUPPETS to lull the wolves into complacency before before he slaughters them. Neat, huh?

Then one day, Santa's son--we'll call him Timmy--gets torn limb from bloody limb by the very wolves Santa hunts. Well, as you can imagine, Santa just TOTALLY looses it when he sees Timmy has bit the dust; he then pitches a MAJOR fit and cries and wets himself (you can't have a Glenn Beck program and not have crying).

After wandering around half dead, Santa meets up with these wise men. These gents are following a tip that away in a manger (no crib for a bed), the little lord Jesus lays down his sweet head. This baby is rumored to be the Messiah. What's more, some angels said if you followed a certain star, the wise men would find the tyke wrapped in swaddling clothes in the little town of Bethlehem. 

Because Santa has nothing better to do, he decides to join the wise men's posse. Sure enough, he meets the Christ Child, thinks he's cute, but isn't 100% sure he's The Man Upstairs' only begotten son.
Never the less, Santa hangs around the kid as an informal body guard for the next, oh, 30 years.

Then Jesus gives his historic Sermon on the Mount. Hearing the words "Blessed are the peace makers" SO IMPRESSES Santa that he FINALLY realizes Jesus is indeed The Chosen One, the Son of God, the spiritual head cheese we've all been waiting for. How could Santa have been so stupid?

Glenn Beck's "Immortal" (AKA Santa Claus!) performing one of his many bodyguarding chores for Jesus. So much for turning the other cheek!

Because he's appearing in a movie dreamed up by Glenn Beck, that's how!

Anyway, now that Santa has finally seen the light, the Romans up and arrest Jesus and later crucify him. Because Santa can't stop the crucifixion, he feels terrible, but he also understands that Jesus' Resurrection promises salvation and eternal life for all who believe.

That all cleared up, Santa does what any good. God-fearing, Catholic-turned-Mormon would do: he high tails it up to the North Pole, opens a toy factory, hires a bunch of elves, raises flying reindeer and, well, you know the rest. Christmas is saved! Huzzah!

This plot is so bat-shit crazy it's perfect. Only Glenn Beck could take a benevolent figure like Santa Claus and turn him into a violent, wolf-killing ninja in order to deter kids from their misguided materialism. And this anti-materialism message comes from a guy who urges people to buy gold, has his own line of designer jeans and offers "college courses" from his own on-line "university"!

Simply put, "The Immortal" promises to be a real corker and I can't wait for it to come out...if indeed it ever does.

Jolly old St. Nicholas as you've never seen him before!

You see, Beck has a strange habit of announcing grandiose projects and then forgetting all about them.

For instance, Beck was just horrified by the show "Glee", which he said was inundating America's young people with sex soaked peons about diversity, anti-bullying, LBGT rights etc, etc. So Beck proclaimed that he was going to produce his own hip 'n happenin' teen musical that would deliver the conservative, moral message that "Glee" did not.

Which is fine. But Beck didn't stop there. Instead, he went on to brag that he was in negotiations "with a rapper" and that HIS anti-"Glee" would even impress jaded liberals. Furthermore, Glenn also promised that the music on his show would be good music, not "Lee Greenwood-type music"--a nasty swipe at a gent who's biggest hit is "God Bless the USA."

However, after announcing his plans with much fanfare, Beck's anti-"Glee" has yet to air. Anywhere. Meanwhile, the very program Glenn hoped to show no longer in production.

Because of this, I am concerned that "The Immortal" may just remain a fever dream of Beck's and never see the light of day. After all, the sight of Santa inhabiting life-size boar puppets in order to slaughter wolves sounds like just the thing to inspire the Christmas spirit in all of us.

Until then, you have 127 shopping days (as of 8/19/2015) until Christmas!

They have no moral values, but they sure can sing! Glenn Beck's worst enemy is (was?) the cast of "Glee".

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Have No Fear! Radar Is Here!

Guns, gangsters, girls and...radar? The exciting poster for the "forgotten noir" flick "Radar Secret Service".

Hi Keeba and hello, movie lovers.

Have you ever wondered what the greatest discovery in the history of mankind is?

Fire, the wheel, the harness, the printing press, the microscope? Perhaps Penicillin, the Polio vaccine, the Small Pox vaccine, artificial heart valves? Maybe Novocaine, the Pill, air conditioning, the steam engine or Chap Stick?

Wrong on all counts, movie lovers.

The greatest invention in the history of inventions is radar.

Ever hear of G-Men? Well, these are R-Men! Bill Travis (John Howard) and Static (Ralph Byrd) are agents for the Radar Secret Service--and don't you forget it!

Yes, radar.

Who says?

The producers of "Radar Secret Service", that's who!

Released in 1950, produced by Robert "Stock Footage Is My Middle Name" Lippert, directed by Sam Newfield (who gave us "I Accuse My Parents", among other gems), starring no one in particular and featuring more men in suits and fedoras than you can shake a stick at, "Radar Secret Service" relentlessly hammers the theory that without radar, mankind would be lost, utterly lost.

Why, I bet you didn't know that radar can monitor criminals, find stolen goods, uncover hidden mineral deposits, locate icebergs and discover schools of fish fishermen didn't even know about!

"I'm Radioactive": Predatory female Lila shows off her spots.

Yes, radar can do all this AND more. Too bad radar couldn't make "Radar Secret Service" a better flick--but if it had, Junk Cinema wouldn't be interested!

Our story begins in Washington, DC, in the offices that house the Radar Secret Service. An elderly gentleman named Mr. Hamilton (Pierre Watkins) is the the boss of the place. His day consists of barging in and out of his office to see what the radar scanners have picked up or barking orders to his underlings. The star agents of the RSS are Bill Travis (John Howard, who looks like Gilbert Roland crossed with Cesare Romero) and Ralph Byrd as "Static". In a scene of gripping intensity, we watch Bill and Static drive aimlessly around country roads using their radar equipment to find the gun "used in the Anderson case." Sure enough, the agents uncover the shooter and the newspaper trumpets their discovery in bold headlines: "Radar Agent Locates Missing Murder Gun." The sub-head reads, "Evidence Clinches Case For Prosecution."

See how valuable radar is? Well, do you?

The action then shifts to a cafe', where blond femme fatale Lila (Adele Jergens) swishes in for lunch. Her waitress is another blond femme fatale called Marge (Myrna Dee). Marge slips Lila a note that a special shipment of uranium is headed their way. Lila, it turns out, is the moll of hood Mickey Moran (Tom Neal), who is part of the gang assembled by hood Michael (Tristam Coffin). Michael plans on ambushing that shipment and, thanks to Lila's inside info, the gang does just that.

Other members of the gang include comic relief Pill Box (Sid Melton), who fusses endlessly about his health, and Blackie. Blackie, see, is in love with waitress Marge. The smitten kittens plan to marry and "blow this town" after Blackie completes the uranium job and collects his pay. Lila, meanwhile, is snuggling with both Mickey and  Michael.

An underling to RSS boss Mr. Hamilton: "My face hurts."

As mentioned earlier, Michael's gang high-jacks the shipment or uranium. However, because of the wonders of radar, Bill and Static are on their tail. Unfortunately, while dumping the bodies of the saps driving the uranium shipment, Blackie is ditched by his partner; he's quickly punched out and arrested by our trusty RSS agents. Because there is no honor among thieves, Michael and the other hoods are happy to let Blackie rot in jail. When Marge pleads with Mickey to spring her fiance', the crumb orders the waitress to button her lip--if she values her and  her cuddlemate's life.

Determined to find that uranium shipment, the RSS agents seek out Marge for questioning. Static enjoys this part of his job because he fancies himself quite a ladies man. Luckily, savvy Marge can handle him.

Static: (leering at Marge as she hands him his menu) "I know what I want."

Marge: "If it's not on the menu, we aren't serving it."

You tell him, honey!

"Radar Secret Service" movie poster in Spanish (psst, don't tell Donald Trump).

Later, Bill runs into Marge after he's roughed up by one of Michael's goons. He promises to help Blackie if Marge will cooperate with the RSS. "I'll think about it," Marge tersely replies.

By about now, "Radar Secret Service" begins to resemble the John Huston movie "The Asphalt Jungle", the classic crime drama where a bunch of hoods easily pull off a robbery only to start turning on each other...except "Radar Secret Service" isn't very good. Michael's thugs do try to cut each other out of the expected big pay off. Lila continues to play Mickey and Michael off each other. This really gets Mickey's goat. "I want you to comb lover boy out of your hair with a fine tooth comb!" he snarls to his lady love. Blackie continues (unseen) to cool his heels in jail. And Marge continues to keep her own counsel.

Aware that things are dragging a bit, "Radar Secret Service" tries to jump start the flick with a chase scene. Unfortunately, "Radar Secret Service" features what must be the slowest, goofiest, least involving "race against time" EVER. Even though our RSS agents are tracking "a speeding car" carrying uranium and they are flying in a helicopter, the scene is as pokier than grandma at the mall. The audience is treated to endless back-and-forth shots of the hoods driving their car, of the RSS agents following above in their helicopter, another shot of the hoods driving, then another shot of the RSS agents flying their chopper until you want to scream, "I get it! The RSS agents are tailing the hoods! Would you please cut to something else?! Or at least blow up a car?! I don't have all day!"

 Later, Mickey (who has been shot) will surprise Michael and Lila at their love nest. That leads to a double cross/shoot out where poor Mickey (who was bleeding to death) bleeds even more to death. Then, just as fun couple Michael and Lila were about to split, Marge barges in packing heat. The plucky waitress backs her prey into a corner...and marches over to the phone to call the cops. She foolishly turns her back for one second, which allows Michael just enough time to clip her with his pistol.

But wait, there's more! Mere seconds after poor Marge takes her slug, RSS agents burst in, arrest everybody and call for an ambulance. Whew!

"Shhh, I think my boyfriend is beginning to suspect that I have a boyfriend": Mickey catches Michael and Lila in the act.

"Radar Secret Service"ends with Bill and Static lounging in Mr. Hamilton's office. While their boss puffs on a cigar, the RSS agents congratulate each other on a job well done. "But remember, it wouldn't have happened without radar!" Bill exclaims.

So true, so true. Without radar, NONE of this would have happened. The uranium wouldn't have been found. Michael and Lila wouldn't have been caught. This movie wouldn't have been made. Radar is the MAN. Bow down before radar! Worship radar! Name your first born after radar! All hail radar! Huzzah!

I kid, but "Radar Secret Service" really does seem to think that radar is the wonder of wonders. I even suspect the producers hoped "Radar Secret Service" might lead to a series about films detailing the exploits of RSS agents. No soap, as Philip Marlowe would say.

Of course, Junk Cinema is a magnet for unconventional story ideas. After all, who can forget the movie "Dreamer", about a guy who yearns to join the pro bowlers tour? Or "The Little Covered Wagon", a western boasting an all-chimp cast? Or "The Cobweb", a drama set in a mental hospital where all hell breaks loose when the patients want to choose the hospital's new drapes? Honest! These are real movies! So it's easy to see why the producer's hope that "Radar Secret Service" would electrify the country wasn't that far-fetched...for them.

Official hat of the band Radar Secret Service...yes, they're a real group!

So movie lovers, the next time you are at home, snug as bug in a rug, enjoying all the benefits of living in a democracy, take a moment to thank radar, which made every good thing in your life possible.

Good night, God bless and Save The Movies!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Steve Reeves IS Hercules In (What Else?) "Hercules"

He's big! He's ripped! He's Hercules! Well, he's actually Steve Reeves in the 1958 epic "Hercules".

Before there was Magic Mike, there was Hercules: a big, beefy, bodacious Greek demi-god who stormed the world's drive-ins from the late 1950's to the mid 1960's.

Herc could do it all: race chariots, slay monsters, captain ships, lead expeditions, negotiate treaties, head armies, triumph in the arena, rally the oppressed, punch out aliens, tangle with the Three Stooges, walk on a bed of hot coals. Herc was the MAN.

However, it was another man (producer Joseph E. Levine, to be exact) who snapped up the rights to the 1958 Italian movie "Hercules" and brought him to American movie screens in the ripped form of Steve Reeves.

Before we dive into today's feature, I must issue a warning: if you are a Greek scholar or hold a Classical Studies degree, you might want to turn back.


Because the script writers of "Hercules" (Ennio De Concini, Gaio Fratini and director Pietro Francisci) were a bit scatter-shot in telling Herc's story. In other words, they raided the Greek myths fridge, indiscriminately tossed everything they could find into a blender and then pushed the puree' button.

"A Hunk of Burning...Barbecue?" Herc and Princess Iole (Slyva Koscini) have an awkward first date.

Thus we have The Nemean Lion, Amazons, a T-Rex with Godzilla's distinctive roar, Jason and the Golden Fleece all battling for screen time alongside Herc. There is also palace intrigue, an oracle who resembles Morticia Adams, dancing girls and our hero falling in love and wanting to have kids. In the final result is a Junk Cinema smoothie with a Feta cheese flavor--in Technicolor, no less.

Our story begins on one of those rough'n rocky hillsides in ancient Greece, where a lonely goat herd is playing his pan flute...I hope that doesn't sound too dirty... as his flock nibbles away. This peaceful scene is suddenly shattered by the hysterical shrieks of Princess Iole (Slyva Koscini, a dead ringer for Shirley Jones), who has lost control of her chariot. While she speeds pell-mell around the twisty mountain roads, Herc (Steve Reeves) uproots a tree and blocks her path, causing the horses to heel. Iole being a girl and all, faints in Hercules' arms. By the time she has revived, Herc is madly in love.

Unfortunately, the demi-god doesn't have a lot of experience with chicks. Herc stares at Iole slack-jawed and fumbles at making small talk. Then he shoves a big hunk of meat in Iole's face. She takes a dainty bite to be nice, after which Hercules chows down, declaring, "I will start where your lips have touched!" This offends the princess ("How dare you be so audacious!") and she stomps off. Herc, on the other hand, admits he's too hungry to understand what the fuss is all about.

Because her chariot has a broken axle, Hercules must take Iole home to her palace. See, Iole is the daughter of King Pelias of Iolcus (Ivo Garrani) and he has hired Herc to teach his son Prince Iphitus (Mimmo Palara) the arts of warfare. Iphitus, by the way, is a bombastic jerk. The king, meanwhile, is consumed with guilt over how he ascended the throne: by hiring a baddie to off his older brother! What's more, he had the rightful heir Jason (and the Golden Fleece) kidnapped! Iole knows there is a cloud hanging over the legitimacy of her father's reign, but she refuses to believe her pa was in cahoots with a murder-for-hire scheme.

Anyway, Herc's presence in Iolcus inspires all the local guys to start totally hitting the gym. That doesn't include Iphitus, who would rather party than show up for his daily workouts. This, in turn, upsets Herc, especially when scrawny little twerps like Ulysses (Gabriele Antonini) are pushing themselves to learn pole vaulting and archery to earn Hercules' favor.

Hercules shares the finer points of his work out routine with his gym buddies (the nerdy guy on the left is Ulysses).

Because Iphitus never wants to train and thinks he knows everything and is always in Hercules' face, it's only natural that he'll insist on tagging along when Herc sets out to slay the Nemean Lion. The demi-god orders the heir to the throne home, knowing the princeling will only makes a mess of things, which he promptly does. He also gets himself killed by the huge rogue kitty. When Herc returns to the palace with the corpses of Iphitus and the lion, he is unfairly blamed for not protecting the prince (and nobody thanks him for killing the lion, either, which he was charged to do). However, what really bums Herc out is when Iole sobbingly accuses him of being unable to empathize with human suffering. 

King Pelias, meanwhile, is growing battier by the second. That's because an oracle who looks just like Morticia Adams (except she wears red, not black) says the king should beware of a claimant to the throne who arrives wearing only one sandal. Sure enough, Jason (Fabrizio Mioni) shows up wearing, yes, only one sandal. To prove he is the rightful heir to the throne, Jason and a crew of men accept the challenge of voyaging to the Colchis and finding the Golden Fleece. Herc will come along, too. Before he leaves, Hercules and Iole kiss and make-up, but the princess still isn't sure if the bearded demi-god is truly "the one" for her.

After enduring a storm at sea that throws them off course, the crew stumble upon an island inhabited by the legendary Amazons. The men are delighted to be captured by a gang of super cute girls and offer little resistance as they are marched off to meet their queen. Turns out her name is Antea (Gianna Maria Canale), and she looks like Mick Jagger's ex-wife Jerry Hall with her hair pulled into the world's tightest ponytail. The queen says the men can stay a few days in order to stock up on supplies, but she neglects to inform them that they will be killed according to local custom.

"So you're the Queen of the Amazons. Does that pay well?" Jason and Antea get personal.

Complicating matters is the fact that Jason and Queen Antea fall madly in love. Their romance plays like a scene from that smarmy "Bachelor in Paradise" reality show with dialogue lifted from an especially over-ripe episode of "The Bold and the Beautiful". Dig this:

Antea, explaining the Amazon way of life to Jason: "The gods created us purposefully to punish you men for your wrongs!"

Jason: "But a woman isn't complete without a man!"--and soon the proto-feminist agrees.

Antea: "In your arms I found I was not a queen, but a real woman!"

Later on the duo snuggle in a garden and discuss their relationship. If you close your eyes, you can picture this same dialogue being mouthed by Ridge to either Taylor or Brooke. Or Katie. Or Christine (Ridge has no had no shortage of cuddlemates over the years).

Jason: "Why did we meet like this? Brought to me by a strange adventure..."

Antea: "Your destiny brought you to me."

Jason: "We must get away, somewhere, just the two of us, together, living like normal (people.) Is Jason proposing they move to the suburbs? Just asking!) (Pause) I can't let you go, I want to stay by your side, to taste your kisses, hear your voice..."

Well, OK, fine. Wonder if Jason ever tried this kind of sweet talk out on anyone else...say, like, oh, I don't know, MEDEA perhaps?

"You Make Me Feel Like A Natural...Amazon?": Jason and Queen Antea discuss their relationship.

After this hot'n heavy romantic interlude, "Hercules" gets back to the original plot, which is to locate the Golden Fleece. Actually, it's that sniveling twerp Ulysses who gets everybody's rear in gear. See, he over hears Queen Antea begging the Council of Elders not to off their gentlemen guests, especially Jason. "You know I love him!" the queen warbles, but the white faced Elderesses(?) refused to be swayed. "Your feelings are of no concern at all!" one boss lady snaps. "The law is the law! It must be obeyed by all of us!"

Horrified, Ulysses runs off to warn the guys. In the end, he concocts a sleeping potion that he slips to all the revelers at the big Saturday night bash the Amazons are throwing. While the gals snore away, Hercules and the men manage to sneak off and sail away.

After dodging that bullet, Herc and the boys continue on their quest to find the Golden Fleece. They go ashore on another mysterious island and are subsequently attacked by a tribe of hairy ape men with buck teeth--they must have wandered over from "The Quest for Fire" set by mistake. Anyway, Herc and company easily pound these cavemen into mincemeat, which allows Jason to search for the Golden Fleece. And lo and behold, he does find it! The Fleece is dangling from the branch of a tree, which is surrounded by piles of raked leaves! What luck!

Problem is, those mounds of raked leaves can morph into a stop-motion T-Rex that roars just like Godzilla! That's because craft producer Levine bought the rights to use Godzilla's voice! That Levine, he thought of everything! But have no fear! Jason battles the beastie like the brave soul he is; he even gets the upper-hand when he hurls his spear into the critter's eye. The T-Rex keels eventually keels over and the Golden Fleece belongs to Jason. Huzzah!

Herc and the gang (who had been watching the deadly duel from the sidelines) applaud Jason's victory. They also declare his bravery proof that he is truly the king of Iolcus. Thus, with the Golden Fleece slung over his shoulder, Jason scampers back to the ship and Herc declares that it's time for everybody to return home.

The giant rouge critter that guards the Golden Fleece: body by claymation, voice by Godzilla.

Now, as you can tell, quite a lot has already happened in "Hercules"--but we're not done yet. Not by a long shot! There are still more plot points to wade through! In fact, "Hercules" is so jam-packed with plot points that it reminds me of a clown car: open the door and plot points pour out. Endlessly! How much more can possibly happen? The answer: plenty!

OK, try and keep up! Right before Herc et al are about to land in Iolcus, they discover that the Golden Fleece has been stolen. Hmmm, could it have been that baddie with the scar over his eye that wrangled his way onto the voyage in order to spy for King Pelias?

Herc is drugged and chained up in a jail cell. Luckily, one of Iole's ladies-in-waiting has discovered this and alerts the princess to his predicament. So the girls sneak off to release him. Unfortunately, Iole and her lady-in-waiting don't pay attention to what they're doing and lock themselves in Herc's cell. D'oh!

Meanwhile, upstairs in the palace throne room, King Pelias taunts Jason for having lost the Golden Fleece. Then he orders his guards to arrest the whole lot of them. This creates quite a free-for-all, as you can imagine, with Jason and his men drawing their swords and King Pelias' guards drawing their swords and soon, like, everybody is swashing and buckling all over the place. 

Then, out of nowhere, in charges Herc. He still has those pesky chains around his wrists, so, being an inventive kind of demi-god, Hercules turns himself into a whirling, twirling Weed Wacker. Once he's finished mowing down his foes, Herc struts outside and knocks over the large columns flanking the entrance of King Pelias' palace. The columns crash to the ground and break into bread crumbs, kicking up a lot of dust in the process. In fact, the whole front section of the royal palace collapses behind Herc--and when it's all over, Hercules looks really, really satisfied.

"And for my next trick..." Herc prepares to bring down the house--literally.

End of story? Not yet!

King Pelias, finally reaching the end of his royal rope, confesses to heart-broken daughter Iole that, yes, he killed his brother the king. And put his own her jerk son on the throne. And kidnapped the rightful heir Jason. And absconded with the Golden Fleece. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but, well, upon reflection Pelias realized it was a bit of a fiasco. Naturally, he feels terrible and he's super sorry. Then the king gulps down a toxic martini he's mixed and promptly drops dead. Oh, but before his majesty pops off, he tells Iole to marry Hercules because "he's a good man."

With King Pelias dead and the palace in ruins, the royal guards lay down their arms and head for the hills. Herc has triumphed and Jason is declared king. Huzzah!

With the Golden Fleece once again hanging the palace's great hall, peace and prosperity return to Iolcus. Jason proves to be a wise and just king. Meanwhile, Herc and Princess Iole have tied the knot. Together the two cuddlemates sail off for parts unknown, where new adventures and twenty nine (!!!!) other Hercules movies wait beyond the horizon.

Whew! "Hercules" has everything, everything, a movie lover could want: romance, adventure, intrigue, exotic locals, cheap F/X, battle scenes, men in short skirts and uneven dubbing. Toss in a ripped hero like Steve Reeves and you a movie full meal deal that's hard to beat.

Unlike today, in 1958 (the year "Hercules" was released) movie goers regularly got a lot of bang for their buck: a news reel, a short subject, a cartoon, coming attraction trailers AND two features. Now, folks fork over nearly $20 bucks and get one movie...with lots of explosions. Seems like a big step back if you as me...

Ah, well. That's why we need Hercules movies today, to remind us of when going to the cinema was a real event. So, until next time, keep your toga clean and pressed, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cabot! Cabot! Cabot! All Hail Cabot In "The Outlaw Of Gor"...Featuring Jack Palance


Jack Palance as the shifty "high priest" Xenos, modeling one of his nifty costumes in "The Outlaw of Gor".

Hey movie lovers! Have you heard the news? Cabot has returned to Koruba! Aren't you psyched?

Who is Cabot you ask?

Poncy Philistine! 

Cabot is Professor Tarl Cabot (Urbano Barberini), a guy with extremely '80's hair, who is the savior of the mythical kingdom of Koruba in the parallel world of Gor in the partially dubbed, filmed in South Africa, straight to video turkey trot called "The Outlaw of Gor" or "The Outlaw" or "Gor ll" (1989).

Admittedly, you have to wade very, very deep into the backwash of Junk Cinema to wrangle a golden gobbler like this, but it's worth it. That's because "The Outlaw of Gor" is a deluxe cheese combo platter piled high with frizzed-out '80's hair, laughable F/X, men in short skirts, a brave midget that looks like Edgar Winter and, best of all, Jack Palance as the shifty priest Xenos, parading around in a series of outre' caftans and goofy hats. 

Cabot! Cabot! Cabot! It's Cabot! ( Actually, it's Urbano Barberini).

"The Outlaw of Gor" is in fact the sequel of  the movie "Gor", but you needn't worry. Director John "Bud" Cardos (Never trust a filmmaker who identifies himself like this. After all, do you think John Ford would allow himself to be called John "Bud" Ford? Or that Alfred Hitchcock would call himself Alfred "Tubby" Hitchcock? Not on your tin-type!) helpfully supplies viewers with some disjointed flashbacks to ensure we're all on the same page.

"Gor" begins in the present (well, 1989) at a disco/night club/single-mingle place called "The Pullman". Professor Tarl Cabot (Barberini) is glumly sitting at the bar watching his supremely annoying co-worker Watney Smith (Russel Savarolier) harass and molest the female patrons. Then the red mood ring Cabot wears begins to flash. Through the magic of special effects ( really just flashing lights and some stage hands shaking Cabot's car off screen) Cabot and Watney find themselves in Koruba, "a savage land" made up of sand, deserts and false front housing.

Cabot, you see, has visited this place before and is quite the local hero. That is made unflinchingly clear when Cabot enters Koruba's capital city and main shopping district and all the extras scream "Cabot! Cabot! Cabot!" at the top of their lungs. Of course, it's not just the lowly towns people who are thrilled to see their hero; King Marlenus (Larry Taylor) is just as delighted, exclaiming, "Cabot! Cabot has returned my darling!" to his much younger (and obviously evil) wife Queen Lara (Donna Denton).

Also thrilled by the Cabot's arrival is Princess Talena (Rebecca Feratti), Marlenus' daughter and Cabot's great love. HRH looks like Jennifer Beals from "Flashdance" with enormous pouffed out hair and a wardrobe clearly pinched from "Solid Gold". Over hearing the commotion associated with Cabot's arrival, she runs to her window and shrieks, "Cabot! Cabot! Cabot, you've returned!" and rushes outside to embrace him.

Evil Queen Lara clearly believes her hubby King Marlenus is too old for such flashy head gear.

The great and the good of Koruba throw Cabot a huge welcome party and later Cabot decides to ask Marlenus for Talena's hand in marriage. Before he can do that, however, evil Queen Lara slips the king a Mickey (concocted by Xenos) and stabs him. Even worse, she says Cabot killed the king---and so-called friend Watney (promised lots of sex from Lara) provides her an alibi. So poor Cabot and his midget friend Hupp (Nigel Chipps) are forced to make a run for it. Princess Talena, meanwhile, is dragged off to prison, as is stooge Watney.

Wandering around the vast territories of Koruba, Cabot is disgusted to learn that slavery--which King Marlenus had outlawed--was making a comeback under the rule of Queen Lara. In fact, Cabot is so disgusted by the reintroduction of slavery that he rescues a scantily clad slave girl who looks quite a bit like Talena. Later that evening, the unnamed slave girl snuggles up to Cabot and pants, "Master, allow me to pleasure you."

Cabot, remember, is madly in love with Talena, so he begs off the gal's generous offer. When she looks confused, Cabot realizes that this is a "teachable moment" and thus patiently explains to the ex-slave that he's "a free man" who is in love with "a free woman" and because of that freedom he and his freely chosen cuddlemate are "free to give themselves to each other freely" (i.e. whenever they want to). What's more, Cabot informs the gal that she is a free woman, too, and is now free to give herself freely when she falls in love with the right man, provided that he is free also, but don't worry, because he, Cabot, will make sure everybody in Koruba (and the surrounding areas) are free, too.

After Cabot's speech, the newly freed slave gal still looks confused, so everybody goes to sleep.

Unfortunately, the newly freed slave girl has little time to savor her freedom. That's because Queen Lara has sent "a hunter" out to catch Cabot and his gang. Sure enough, the hunter tacks Cabot down in record time and marches everybody back to Koruba.

Queen Lara tries to get Cabot to join her on the dark side. (Note Mike and the 'bots silhouettes in the picture.)

Before tossing him in a jail cell, Queen Lara tries to entice Cabot into ruling with her and sweetens the deal by promising him oodles of sex. Cabot is no Watney, however, and he refuses to buckle under. So he's sent into the bowels of the castle to be whipped and force-fed guacamole (but no chips), dished up by Xenos himself.

Sensing that the people of Koruba don't accept her as their rightful queen, Lara decrees that Cabot, Hupp and Watney must fight to the death in the arena. Before the festivities begin, Xenos asks Lara to drink a "toast to their gods." The mean monarch has come to believe that Xenos is disloyal and thus plots to do him in. When Palance hands Queen Lara her goblet, she in turn stabs him in the gut and tosses her drink over her shoulder. That bit of business taken care of, Lara settles into her chair and orders that the games begin.

In front of a crowd of cheering extras, Cabot, Hupp and Watney must fend off several brigades of fat, scantily clad "warriors" who have clearly seen better days. Of the three, Cabot fares the best, mainly because Urbano's thinly disguised stunt double is doing all the dirty work.

Believe it or not, it is stooge Watney who stops this violent spectacle. In front of everybody, he confesses that Queen Lara killed King Marlenus--not Cabot--and that he, promised mountains of sex, agreed to help her. The citizens of Koruba, delighted to learn that Cabot is every inch the hero they believe him to be, suddenly turn on their queen. In fact, one of Lara's own guards lobs a spear into her gut, killing her instantly. Freedom has returned to Koruba! Huzzah!

Now installed as king, and married to Princess Talena, Cabot relaxes in bed, finishing a bowl of dip. Royal cuddlemate Talena asks what has happened to Watney. King Cabot assures her that the annoying little jerk has indeed been sent packing. Sure enough, there is Watney, still in his mini-toga, back on Earth, wandering around in traffic yelling, "Cabot! Cabot! C'mon Cabot! Where are you?" Later, two police officers drag Watney away--and although the sniveling little jerk is suppose to be in the USA, viewers can clearly see the South African license plates of the cars zooming past.

Cabot and friend Hupp plot their next move. Of course, they get captured anyway.

A movie as sublimely stupid as "The Outlaw of Gor" could, in retrospect, ONLY be directed by a fellow who styled himself as John "Bud" Cardos. The only other person who could do an even worse job behind camera would be "Letterman" sidekick Larry "Bud" Melman who is, alas, no longer with us.

The basic conceit of "The Outlaw of Gor" is how a needy, nerdy guy in OUR world can becomes a hunky hero in ANOTHER world (which is similar to the female dream of an ordinary gal discovering she is a secret princess or a regular girl becoming a princess). In our feature presentation, Cabot's geekiness is accomplished by having leading man Urbano wear glasses in the opening scenes. Unfortunately, since our hero is a nice looking fellow and fairly ripped in his own right, attempts to make him look geeky and gawky fall pretty flat. Pal Watney, on the other hand, is every bit as unappealing as the director intended him to be.

The big name in the cast is Jack Palance, here experiencing some serious bad luck in his career. As noted in my earlier post on "The Silver Chalice" (which has only received 8 page views!!), Jack's Xenos character is an exact replica of his Simon the Magician from 1954. Both parts required Palance to wear zany caftans, kooky hats and make those signature pauses he's so famous for. Everything but act, come to think of it. While making "Gor", you have to wonder if Jack was aware of the similarities, too--or if he was just grateful for the check and got on with it.

Which allows us to segue into other aspects of "The Outlaw of Gor" which suggest the filmmakers were not exactly thrilled with their assignment, either.

1) There is some confusion over the main character's name. In the credit list he's called "Tarl", but in the movie Watney calls him "Kevin" twice. 

No, Jack Palance doesn't wear this in "The Outlaw of Gor", but it's not any goofier than what he does wear.

2) In the film's first ten minutes, the name "Cabot!" is uttered FIFTY-FIVE!! times (courtesy of IMDb).

3) The men in this movie wear shorter skirts than the women and we are treated to many hinder and/or manly package shots. Whether this was intentional or the film makers just weren't paying attention, who can say, but thanks anyway guys.

4) "Gor" and its sequel "The Outlaw of Gor" were shot simultaneously. How the producers ever thought the world would be crying out for two "Gor" epics is beyond me. Put together, these flicks offer an embarrassment of bad movie riches--provided you have the stomach strong enough to endure them. As for me, I freely admit I need the soothing presence of Mike and the 'bots from "MST3K" to help me through this cinematic sewer. Others clearly agree, because the episode where the gang riffs on "The Outlaw of Gor" is a fan favorite.

In final analysis, Cabot and "The Outlaw of Gor" fits nicely into a genre I call "Super Zeros": men who posses big hair, big muscles but little brains; who have vaguely defined powers; and who enjoy strutting around in a G-string or a thong while furthering the cause of freedom and justice. Ator, the star of "Cave Dwellers" and Yor "The Hunter from the Future" are two other examples of this noble breed. I would also pencil in "The Paper Chase Guy" (Robert Ginty) from "Warrior of the Lost World" and The Prince of Space from "The Prince of Space", although these two remain fully clothed at all times.

Therefore, movie lovers, remember it's not the size of a man's loin cloth, but what's inside that counts, and, as always, SAVE THE MOVIES!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Junk Cinema Salutes The Hilarious Debut Of Paul Newman In "The Silver Chalice" Or "Lord, What Have I Done To Deserve This?"

Paul Newman is more life-like in "The Silver Chalice"s movie poster than he is in the actual movie.

Greetings, movie lovers.

Paul Newman was the real deal: handsome, smart, talented, faithful, progressive, persistent, creative, honest, generous. As an actor, producer, director and philanthropist, he had few equals.

But even the greatest (and best looking) among us can have humble beginnings.

And none were humbler or more hilarious than Paul's cinematic debut in 1954's "The Silver Chalice", a thick slice of biblical baloney where Paul cavorts with the likes of Jack Palance, E.G. Marshall, Lorne Greene, a young Natalie Wood and the irrepressible Virginia Mayo--who gets top billing!

Our tale begins in Antioch, where the rich but childless E. G. Marshall (in King Tut's beard) adopts a poor pal's youngest son. He renames the boy Basil, which supremely pisses off E. G.'s kid brother Linus.

While enjoying the comforts of his new home, Basil falls for teen slave Helena (Natalie Wood in an awful blond dye-job). Helena yearns to be free and to become "a great lady", so she decides to runaway. This breaks the young Basil's heart, but he still gives her money and an ugly ring as parting gifts. After vowing eternal love and sucking a bit of face, Basil and Helena bid each other a sad Au revoir.

"We'll meet again/don't know where/don't know when..." A pre-Paul Newman Basil bids his favorite slave Helena (Natalie Wood) goodbye.

Several years pass and E.G. Marshall drops dead. Still pissed off Uncle Linus then sells the grown up Basil (Paul Newman) into slavery as a silver smith. Paul being Paul, he hates being a slave and chained to a wall, but his silver pieces are the best to be found.

Out of the crowded market place swishes the adult Helena. She's come to warn Basil that his uncle plans to snuff him. Paul is astonished to see Helena--and so will you. Basil's childhood sweetie (now played by Virginia Mayo) has morphed into a later-day Zsa Zsa Gabor, flaunting blinding blond hair, outre' jewelry, chiffon gowns, bat-wing eyebrows and floorescent eye shadow. Since escaping to freedom, Helena has become the side-kick/assistant/hostess/cuddlemate of the one and only Jack Palance. He is known as Simon the Magician and he regularly dazzles the great and good with his amazing feats of prestidigitation--such as pulling bunnies out of helmets and pretending to chop off Helena's head.

Relaxing after one such show, Simon is visited by Mijamin (Joseph Wiseman). This fellow wants to hire Simon to become "the new messiah" who will convince the rubes of Jerusalem to stop following that other messiah (AKA Jesus). Then, Mijamin hopes, they will sign up for his secret army and help kick the Romans back to Rome.

Because Simon harbors a messianic complex of his own AND has long nursed a grudge against the disciple Peter (don't ask), the wily magician agrees to Mijamin's somewhat convoluted plan.

Meanwhile, Basil has another visitor: Luke the Physician (Alexander Scourby). He has come to set Basil free so he can fashion a silver chalice to hold the cup Jesus used in The Last Supper. At first Basil is skeptical of Luke's intentions, but when Uncle Linus arrives to kill him, Paul decides to follow Luke.

Adult Helena warns the adult (and very bored) Basil (guess who!) that his life (and possibly his future career) are in danger.

They travel to Jerusalem and decamp at the house of Joseph of Arimathea, an elderly chap who plans to foot the bill for Basil's services. Also present is Joseph's grand daughter Deborah (Pier Angeli), whose Audrey Hepburn-ness contrasts sharply with Helena's Zsa Zsa Gabor-ness. Deb falls for Basil right away, but the silver smith (having reunited with Helena) can't choose between these polar opposite cuddlemates.

What follows next is a lot of tedious back-and-forth with A) Basil having to decide between Deb and Helena, B) Basil trying and failing to capture Jesus' likeness, C) the Christ Cup and its silver chalice being stolen and then recovered, like, 100 times and D) the whole cast winding up in Rome where a foppish Nero holds his over-the-top court. Oh, yes, and there is another subplot about Basil/Paul finding a living witness to his adoption, which brings him into contact with the future St. Peter (Lorne Greene). However, since the movie drops this plot point like a dead weight, I wouldn't fuss over it too much.

Jack Palance, meanwhile, is enjoying his fame as "the new messiah" just a little too much and its gone to his head. In his on going quest to diss Peter, Simon proposes a fancy-pants trick where he will fly off a tower--aided by secret wires and pulleys, of course. What's more, the master showman will present this feat of daring-do in the Coliseum, in front of thousands, with Nero in attendance. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, I don't know, maybe, like, Simon going batty and believing that he is a messiah and possesses of divine powers and therefore believes he can fly on his own accord without all that secret elaborate rigging he has strung up?

While Helena and a lackey try to stop him, Simon emerges at the top of his especially constructed tower. He's wearing red long johns decorated with large, black squiggly designs that resemble sperm. To the roar of the crowd, Simon jumps off the tower intending to fly...only to go SPLAT! on the ground below.

Ewwww, gross!

"I believe I can fly!" Simon the Magician (Jack Palance) prepares to meet his doom. 

Horrified by the gory spectacle, and fearful that the citizens of Rome will begin to doubt his own divinity, a panicky Nero insists that Simon's sidekick Helena be shoved off the tower as punishment for her part in deceiving Cesar. 

Now, you might be wondering if Basil saves the day and rushes to Helena's side and saves her. Sorry, he does no such thing because Basil knows nothing about her role in Simon's ill-fated splatter-fest. See, Paul has been dragooned into being Nero's new in-house sculptor. He's stuck in a room and forced to carve Cesar's new bust. Then in strolls the head of Nero's kitchen (a secret Christian), who helps Basil to escape. This is accomplished when the crowds go berserk over Simon and Helena's double-death dive and start rioting and looting; Basil/Paul merely slips out among them and returns home to Deb, whom he finally realizes he loves. 

Alas, when Basil gets home, Deb is in tears because someone has stolen the Christ Cup and the silver chalice again, this time for good. There is nothing for these poor kids to do but declare their undying love for each other and leave Rome, which they do. The End.

As biblical epics go, "The Silver Chalice" might have sunk into well deserved obscurity under the weight of its own tedium and bad taste (especially in costumes!). However, because Paul Newman is our hero Basil and this is his cinematic debut and he would soon become the highly respected performer of stage and screen we all know and love, "The Silver Chalice" would persistently delight legions of bad movie fans for decades to come.

And make no mistake: Paul had every reason to be embarrassed about his dismal debut. For instance, the tunic he is forced to wear showcased his bony knees. The experimental sets used in the flick caused The New Yorker magazine to sneer that they resembled "an igloo community (crossed with) one of Frank Lloyd Wright's more advanced designs." The script, penned by one Lesser Samuel's (yes, that's his real name!) forced Paul to call a fellow cast member "a sniveling toady!", while a Roman solider lobs this memorable insult at some hapless jerk: "Head of mutton!"

Yet another poster for "The Silver Chalice"...which is more exciting than the flick!

Meanwhile, poor Virginia Mayo has to blather these endearments to her many male admirers as she pours them wine: "My curly headed ram", "my little vestal virgin in armor" and (my fave) "fear not, my little eaglet of Rome!"

I believe the Greeks have a word for such goofy mutterings and the word is... "Yeech!"

Paul, who called "The Silver Chalice" the "worst movie of the 1950's", wasn't spared when critics got a look at the picture. New Yorker magazine declared that Paul "deliverers his lines with the emotional fervor of a Putnam Division conductor announcing stops." The New York Times, on the other hand, dismissed the future super star as "rarely better than wooden."

Perhaps Paul's stolid demeanor in the flick is understandable in light of this info: he had just lost the role of Cal in "East of Eden" to James Dean when he was cast as Basil. Having missed out on such a great part only to have to appear in "The Silver Chalice" would be enough to make ANY talented actor sulk, at least in my opinion.

Of course, as we all know, Paul would ultimately triumph over his dismal debut and quickly establish himself as one of Hollywood's finest, classiest and most versatile talents.

"East of Eden": The movie Paul Newman wanted to star in...and who could blame him!

Such would not be the case for Newman's higher billed co-star Jack Palance. Although he, too, would eventually win an Oscar (for "City Slickers"), Jack would toil for many years in such turkeys as "Che!" (as Castro, no less), "Angels Revenge" (a "Charlie's Angel's" rip-off featuring Alan "Skipper" Hale and a barely coherent Peter Lawford) and 1989's "The Outlaw of Gor", a straight-to-video dubbed Italian cheapie that was lovingly lampooned on "MST3K".

In fact, Jack's role in "The Outlaw of Gor" was eerily reminiscent of his part in "The Silver Chalice": he's again cast as a shifty magician (this time called "Xenos") who parades around in some outlandish costumes and goofy hats--one of which resembles a loaf of buttered split-top bread.

In conclusion, as bad as "The Silver Chalice" was, quite a few cast members did manage to rise above it's biblical bunk and do well for themselves. Besides Newman and Palance, E.G. Marshall would appear on "The Bold Ones", Lorne Greene could look forward to a long run on "Bonanza", Natalie Wood (the young Helena) would star in such films as "West Side Story" and "Splendor in the Grass" (to name two) and Alexander Scourby (Luke) would be the first actor to record the whole Bible on tape.

Which just goes to prove that the Lord does work in mysterious ways.

Until next time, keep your toga clean and pressed and help me SAVE THE MOVIES!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Gideon Drew Loses His Head In "The Thing That Couldn't Die".

"The Thing That Couldn't Die"...except at the box office! 

Happy summer, movie lovers!

Summer, you know, has become the film industry's biggest season, where the studios unleash their "blockbusters" in hope vacationers and kids on summer break will drop lots of coin on movies that feature explosions, car crashes, huge rouge critters, aliens, massive fire balls, tidal waves and even the occasional plot point and realistic conversation.

Lots of "blockbusters", of course, are about "super heroes" who posses "super powers". Which begs the question: What kind of super powers would you like have? Which begs another question: is having super powers--or even "special powers"--really all it's cracked up to be?

We explore this issue in today's feature "The Thing That Couldn't Die" (1958), where a Cindy Brady-ish young woman named Jessica (Carolyn Kearney) can "find things", yet it's clear her "psychic abilities" are more a pain than a pleasure--unlike the movie, which is just a pain (rim shot).

The flick opens with Jessica using a divining rod to locate a spring for her annoyingly shrill Aunt Flavia (Peggy Converse). This is about the time that I should explain that Jessica's diving abilities are a bit haphazard. See, she can't locate something unless it's of her own free will and there is no monetary gain in it for her or anybody else. This kinda puts a crimp in Jessica's "psychic powers", but it does ensure that her talents will be used for good and not evil. Or so she thinks.

While Jessica tries to find her aunt's spring, up cantors guests Gordon Hawthorne (William Reynolds), an anthropology/history professor, Hank (Jeffery Stone), a beatnik painter, and Linda (Andra Martin), Hank's cuddlemate and muse (who looks like a cross between Liz Taylor and Suzanne Phesette).

Psychic farm girl Jessica (Caroline Kearney) in action.

Gordon is a rather tepid fellow who dresses in business casual even when he's on vacation. He's been a guest on Flavia's ranch for many years and has obviously developed an fixation on the perky new breasts Jessica has spouted. However, the egg-head prof is a skeptic about Jessica's "psychic" abilities--even after she tells him where Linda's missing watch can be found (in a trade rat's nest under an old oak tree). It's in that same nest that Gordon finds an old fleur-de-lis amulet. He polishes it up and gives it to Jessica, which allows him another chance to peek down her blouse.

Of much more consequence than Linda's watch is the treasure chest Jessica's diving rod leads her to. Originally Jessica thought she had found Aunt Flavia's spring when her rod magically pointed straight down--and, no, I am NOT going to indulge in any childish jokes comparing Jessica's diving stick to a certain sensitive part of the male anatomy that is known to point upward if aroused and hang limp as a noodle if, you know, it's not working properly. Let's all try and be mature, OK?

Ranch hands Boyd (who is sneaky and mean) and Mike (who is simple and slow, but very strong), dig up the chest, despite Jessica's hysterical pleas that it's "evil". Aunt Flavia is about to crack it open when Gordon stops her. The chest comes with an inscription "in old English" that warns opening it will cause grave harm to "your immortal soul." Besides, the chest, in its natural state, could be worth "thousands". Aunt Flavia, always on the look out to make a fast buck, agrees to leave the chest as-is and locks it up in her sewing room for safe keeping. Gordon then scampers off to fetch an antiquities professor who lives near by.

Jessica refuses to stay under the same roof as the "evil chest", so she bunks with Linda for the night. Linda and Hank, meanwhile, head off to the local square dance. With Aunt Flavia asleep, Boyd leaves Mike to guard the sewing room so he can go peep on Jessica. This proves to be a futile quest, as Jessica is covered in enough frilly under things to douse the fire of the most patient pervert.

Gordon admires the view as he gives Jessica a magical amulet.

Later that evening, Boyd steals Flavia's key to the sewing room and convinces Mike to break the chest open. This Mike does, only to find not gold or treasure, but the disembodied head of one Gideon Drew (Robin Hughes), which is still alive!

Who is Gideon Drew? He was a nasty piece of work who worshipped Satan. When the English explorers Gideon worked with discovered his evil ways, they decreed that his head should be chopped off and placed in a chest--the very chest Jessica uncovered. Drew's body, on the other hand, was placed in a coffin and buried "far away". This arrangement would supposedly ensure that the baddie would never "die" and thus suffer for all eternity--as will anyone who watches the movie (rim shot!).

Oh, and that fleur-de-lis amulet Gordon gave Jessica? It's the only thing that can kill Gideon AND protect people from his "evil eye". See, if you look into Drew's peepers, you become "his slave" and will do his bidding and your personality will change and you will become bad, too.

How do I know all of this? Because I watched the movie! And this is what transpired:

First, Mike opens the chest and sees Gideon's disembodied noggin, which appears covered in paper mache'. The simple fellow looks into Drew's evil eyes and becomes his slave.

The nasty noggin of Gideon Drew claims its first victims: bad Boyd and the bewitched Mike.

Then Boyd shows up. He berates Mike for opening up the chest and Mike promptly kills him (on Drew's orders). Cradling Drew in the crook of his arm, Mike pulls Boyd's body along as they disappear into the darkness.

At the same time, Aunt Flavia hears Mike kill Boyd and screams like a dental drill until Jessica comes running to save her.

Seconds later, Gordon and the antiquities professor (a rather tweedy fellow named Dr. Ash) arrive at the ranch. Aunt Flavia calls the police. While Gordon and Dr. Ash fuss with the chest, Jessica dips her diving rod into Boyd's blood and goes off in search of his body. Out diving in her frilly nightie, Jessica suddenly stops, faints and has one of those weird flashbacks where we see Gideon Drew beheaded and condemned to his headless "living death".

Snapping out of her fainting spell, Jessica find's Boyd's body and shrieks like a car alarm. She then runs pell-mell back to the house, her nightie trailing behind her.

Skulking around the ranch is poor slave Mike and Gideon's head. Watching the action from a safe distance, dastardly Drew realizes that Jessica can find the coffin holding his body. However, as long as she's wearing that amulet, Jessica will never fall under the spell of his evil eyes. So the crafty cranium begins figuring out how to separate Jessica from her jewelry.

Heads up! It's Gideon Drew and his evil eyes.

Simpleton Mike having served his purpose, Gideon next sets his sights on Linda. After bewitching the model, Gideon's head orders her to snatch Jessica's amulet. This proves hard to do, as Gordon had told Jessica the necklace would protect her and that she should never take it off. Totally over the moon about Gordon, Jessica complies. Even when Linda offers Jessica one of her fancy frocks in return for the necklace, Jessica makes pouting faces and refuses to relinquish it. However, when Gordon asks Jessica for the necklace (so he can make a cast of it), she willingly hands it over. As every horror fan knows, this is a big mistake.

Now unprotected from Gideon's evil eyes, the nasty noggin is ready to bewitch Jessica. Under the guise of giving her a fancy hat, Jessica opens Linda's hat box and comes peeper to peeper with Gideon. Now under his spell, the normally prim Jessica puts on a low cut black dress and agrees to find Gideon's body.

Of course, Jessica's dress sense isn't the only thing that has changed. She's become more assertive and sexually aggressive--especially towards the tepid Gordon. While taking a break from digging up Drew's coffin, Jessica plants a big, open-mouthed kiss on the befuddled professor. After Gordon comes up for air, Jessica then pushes him away and barks, "Now, get back to work!" Totally confused, Gordon does as he's told.

Ready for a super scary reveal? Then watch Vera Miles finding Mother's corpse in "Psycho". "The Thing That Couldn't Die" has an all together nuttier climax.

OK, the coffin is found and duly dug up. Our happy campers then cart it back to Flavia's front room. Gordon and Professor Ash fiddle with the coffin's hinges when Gasp! Shock! Horror! the headless body of Gideon Drew pushes his way out of the casket. While Aunt Flavia screams, Gordon and the rest of the cast react in horror as Jessica places Gideon's head on his severed neck stump. Presto! Gideon Drew is back in one piece and ready to rumble!

"Let me help you on with that..." The bewitched Jessica reunites Gideon's head with his body.

As all baddies do, the first thing Gideon wants is to drink human blood. Like a satanic Goldilocks, Drew judge's Linda's blood to be "too cold" and Aunt Flavis's to be "too dry" and Hank's blood to be "tainted" by "the vile" hooch he drinks. If you think Gideon will find Jessica's blood "just right", well, think again! Satan's minion actually prefers GORDON'S BLOOD! In fact, Drew is about to move in for the kill when his intended victim flashes Jessica's amulet in his face.

Cowering in horror, Gideon is eventually pushed back into his coffin; Gordon tosses the necklace in for good measure. When the gang reopens the casket seconds later, they find that the evil Gideon Drew is now nothing more than a collection of dry, dusty bones. The thing that couldn't die is now finally dead--and for good, too.

With Gideon now a skeleton, Linda and Jessica are freed from his evil spell. Linda embraces Hank; Jessica embraces Gordon. All is forgiven. Don't you love a happy ending?

Well, that's that. I've worked hard to end this post, but I can't come up with a suitable conclusion. To be fair, I just finished teaching elementary summer school and I may need to recharge before I can come up with a bang-up finish worthy of the goofily obscure flick. Therefore, enjoy what I have written, seek out the flick and check in later to see if inspiration strikes and I can end this post properly. Also, SAVE THE MOVIES!