Saturday, January 3, 2015

Bing Crosby Presents "Stranded In Space"--No Kidding!

Set your clocks so you won't miss one thrilling moment of "Stranded in Space" (AKA "The Stranger")!

A hail and hearty hello to you and yours, movie lovers.

The subject of today's article is a justifiably obscure, supremely nutty TV movie that features a man on the run, a Big Brother totalitarian government, a planet where everybody is left-handed and an edict banning all open air concerts...produced by crooner, actor and orange juice promoter Bing Crosby(!?)

Ladies and gentleman, I give you "Stranded in Space"!

Made as a (failed) TV pilot in 1973, "Stranded in Space" (AKA "The Stranger") piqued my interest after reading about it in my MST3K bible, The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide.

See, Frank Conniff (TV's Frank) claimed that "Stranded in Space" was "the forgotten MST3K experiment". Unlike other flicks featured on the show, nobody ever wrote about it or asked about it; it had no fan following at all.

Conniff blamed this on "Stranded in Space"s relentless tone of blah "mediocrity", which he described
 "Houston, we have a problem. This movie sucks.": Astronaught Neil Stryker (Glenn Corbett) before trouble strikes.

 "as neither bad enough to stand out nor good enough to watch. It was just there." 

After sampling "Stranded in Space" myself, I would amend that statement. "Stranded in Space" isn't "just there." Rather, to quote Gertrude Stein, "there is no there there."

It begins like this. Astronaut Neil Stryker (Glenn Corbett) is orbiting space (in a capsule the size of a chew toy) with two other cohorts. One fly-boy is a newly married groom anxious to get back to Earth to reume his honeymoon. There is some vague problem going on, but Cape Canaveral isn't too worried, so the crew decides to relax. Then suddenly the camera starts shaking, the crew begins wigging out and the screen goes fuzzy...

Next we are at a hospital, where Stryker is holed up in his room, surrounded by lots of flower arrangements. He's been denied visitors, phone calls, newspapers, TV, even windows. Kindly Dr. Revere (Tim O'Connor) tries to reassure his patient that everything is peachy and he'll be home in no time. Yet...Stryker doesn't believe him. What's going on?

Turns out, Stryker crash landed on Terra, a planet that is just like an impostor fragrance: it looks and smells like Earth-- but isn't Earth! Even more disturbing: Terra is run by an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-pervasive totalitarian government called The Perfect Order. Citizens are subject to constant monitoring and must follow a strict diet of dry conformity. Religion is outlawed, as are open-air concerts, everybody dresses in bland polyester separates and hooch is on the outs.

On the plus side, there is no poverty or unemployment, the streets are spotless and health care is free.

It all comes at a terrible price, of course. There is no personal freedom or freedom of thought. Folks who challenge The Perfect Order's orders are routinely rounded up and sent to the dreaded "Ward E", where they are subject to torture and/or brainwashing and later returned "rehabilitated" to society. If Ward E should fail, the trouble makers are snuffed.

"Is this on every station?" The Perfect Order spies on everybody on Terra.

How did The Perfect Order come to be? Well, "Stranded in Space" is kinda wishy-washy about that, to tell you the truth. It seems after a horrific war, the people of Terra wanted a society free of strife and conflict and somehow The Perfect Order was happy to oblige. It's been in power for, like, 35 years, and although people don't laugh and enjoy themselves as much as they use to (according to one old feller), The Perfect Order is thoroughly entrenched on Terra.

As with any all-powerful regime, The Perfect Order has devoted followers who rise up through its ranks via their toadying servitude to The Man. In "Stranded in Space", the pinched-faced, pompadoured Cameron Mitchell personifies this type of apparatchik. As George Bennett, Mitchell believes in The Perfect Order with all his heart and is convinced that Neil Stryker is a threat to Terra's way of life. That's why he wants the jet jockey dead...after Dr. Revere finishes probing his mind, of course.

Neil, no dummy, realizes something is very, very wrong and manages to bust out of the hospital. He stumbles around Terra trying to find someone who will help, but not rat him out to The Perfect Order's enforcers, who strut around in black turtle-necks and grey sport-coats. It's during these jaunts that Neil realizes that Terra has three moons, the people are left-handed, the only cars around are Chrysler's and that most people know someone who ran afoul of The Perfect Order and then "disappeared."

Now, you might think from my review that "Stranded in Space" seems kinda intriguing.

You would be wrong. Very, very wrong.

Despite including elements that recall "The Fugitive" and the cult 1960's British series "The Prisoner", TV's Frank is right: there is nothing NOTHING! memorable about this movie.

Watching this flick is like being stuck in an endless city council meting where they endlessly ponder zoning regulations and keep forgetting to break for lunch.

"The Stranger": Glenn Corbett grits his teeth...and forget to act.

Or, to put it another way, I've had more fun waiting in line at the DMV than I had watching "Stranded in Space". And I watched this movie voluntarily! I had to go the DMV!

"Stranded in Space" breaks the cardinal rule of Junk Cinema: it's unlovable.

The hero? Neil Stryker seems more like he's suffering from hemorrhoids than a hunted man on a creepy planet yearning to go home.

His love interest? Dr. Bettina Cooke (Sharon Acker) is as blah as her drab pants suit. She only comes alive when she slaps Stryker's puss.

The villain? Cameron Mitchell's pompadoured hair is scarier than he is.

The scariest thing about The Perfect Order's army of enforcers is they all appear to shop at Dad and Lad. Yuck!

When "Stranded in Space" ends its broadcast day and poor Neil's attempt to escape ends with him finding refuge with a family on a camping trip (don't ask), you could care less. The damn thing is finally over, praise the Lord!

So what have we learned from this experience, kiddies?

That a planet can exists on the other side of the sun and no one will ever notice.

That an entire planet of left-handed people will still drive on the right side of the street.

That pairing a turtle-neck with a blazer is dumb.

That Chrysler Plymoths are the official cars of Terra. In fact, they are the only cars on Terra.

Cutting back on alcohol consumption is a fine goal, but banning concerts in the park? That's nuts! What are people suppose to do for fun?

Until next time movie lovers, SAVE THE MOVIES!

TV's Frank (Frank Conniff) was 100% right about "Stranded in Space": It Stinks!

Monday, December 29, 2014

It's "The Giant Spider Invasion"! Or Director Bill Rebane Strikes Again!

Run for your life! It's artwork from "The Giant Spider Invasion!"

Welcome, movie lovers.

Oh my God! Look up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...a golf ball from outer space? A giant splinter from outer space? Well, whatever the hell it is, it's speeding (moderately) towards Earth! And it crash lands in rural Wisconsin! And it brings forth...a bunch of rocks? And nesting inside those rocks are...spiders?

Thus begins "The Giant Spider Invasion" (1975), a low-budget howler lovingly conceived, co-written, produced and directed by Bill Rebane, the man who gave us "Monster A Go-Go" (see my review "Monster A Go-Go' I One Go-Go Gone Flick").

How can we ever thank him?

The many, many hilarious delights of "The Giant Spider Invasion" begins with its stellar cast, a group of actors who are familiar faces from 1960's TV. These actors were never stars, yet they never embarrassed themselves, either...until they reported for work on this flick.

First up is Alan "Skipper" Hale, Jr. as the jovial Sheriff Jones. He is ably supported by Barbara "Della Street" Hale as Dr. Jenny Langer, a local scientist and devoted pant-suit wearer. Next we have Robert Easton as filthy redneck farmer Dan Kester, who is miserably married to Leslie Parrish, his consistently soused spouse, Ev.

An unexplained "meteor shower", meanwhile, brings in Steve Brodie as NASA big-wig Dr. J. R. Vance, who uses this opportunity to begin a tepid flirtation with Jenny. Finally, we have cub reporter Dave Perkins, played by Kevin Brodie, son of Steve.

Alan Hale, Jr. yucks it up as jovial Sheriff Jones.

Leslie Parrish drinks it up as lush Ev.

Robert Easton sweats it up as Dan.

All these folks converge in a small, rural Wisconsin town where everybody knows your name. One typical small town Saturday night finds a hell-fire-and-brimstone preacher (who looks like an unhinged Bruce Dern) headlining a revival meeting, while Dan sneaks off to an assignation with bombshell waitress Helga (Christine Schmidtmer), just as Dave picks up Ev's younger sister Terry for a night of sweet necking.

Then there is a crash, an explosion, a freaky light show and a violent wind storm in rapid succession. The point of impact is the Kester farm, but the bickering Dan and Ev don't check things out until mornin'.

What they find is a crater the size of a swimming pool. And dead cattle. Hideously slaughtered dead cattle. And rocks. Weird space rocks. Little do Ev and Dan realize, those rocks carry space spiders, the shock troops for a giant alien spider invasion...which takes its own sweet time to get going.

Instead, viewers are treated to a low rent "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" bicker-fest, as Dan insults Ev ("You're so dumb, you wouldn't know rabbit turds from Rice Krispies!"), Ev insults Dan right back ("The only way I know you're alive is when I hear you flush the toilet!") and the crackers' mistaken impression that the sparkly rocks lining the inside of the space rocks are "real diamonds."

A far more congenial couple is Dr. Langer and Dr. Vance. They "meet cute" at her observatory, where Dr. Vance says he has "an appointment with her father." When Jenny says her pa died "in 1962", Vance replies, "I'm sorry. So the appointment must be with your husband." Then Jenny coyly states that she's not married, which causes Vance to grin and say, "I'm not sorry." Finally, Jenny makes it clear that she is the visitor Dr. Vance has come to see. With the sexual tension ready to boil over, Jenny offers Dr. Vance some tea.

Dr. Vance (Steve Brodie) admires Dr. Langer (Barbara Hale) from afar.

Meet "Cousin Billy": He's even more repulsive than you think.

At the lab, the doctors scrutinize Jenny's data and try to figure out what it all means. "I've never seen such fouled out data in my whole life!" Dr. Vance declares. Then they head over to Dutch's Cafe, where the elite meet to eat, to confer with Sheriff Jones. They later decide to hire a helicopter to take photographs of the impact site and check out possible radiation levels.

Meanwhile, back at the Kester farm, the house is suddenly over run with spiders--so much so that marathon drinker Ev even manages to blend one into her Bloody Mary. Eww! That evening, the desperate housewife opens her top dresser drawer and is attacked by a mid-sized furry spider sock puppet. Shrieking like a dental drill (and clad in only a blouse and panties), Ev runs pell-mell into a dark, dank, dirty garage for safety...where a afghan with pop-eyes is thrown on top of her.

And that is the end of that.

Ev is just the first in a line of giant spider casualties. The odious "Cousin Billy" is next, after the alien spiders force him to drive into a garage that promptly explodes. (My guess is Cousin Billy's greasy hair caught fire.) Poor Terry (also scantily clad) is attacked by alien spiders in her bedroom. In fact, the ramshackle Kester house collapses under the weight of a giant spider with googly eyes, which was resting on their roof.

Perhaps the worst death belongs to redneck adulterer Dan. Out in the fields searching for more space rocks, he fails to notice the king-size spider puppet creeping along behind him. The alien spider pounces on Dan, crushes him to death and then proceeds to suck...perhaps inhale is a better word choice...the cheese-head through to put this tastefully...hinder.

Eww! Yet, oddly appropriate.

"He Died As He Lived": Dan meets an untimely end.

From that point on, "The Giant Spider Invasion" ramps into full monster movie mode. You know, stampeding hordes of horrified citizens; gun totin' yokels eager for battle; police officers trying to contain the crowds and/or begging for back-up; victims bleeding in the streets; eye witness accounts of the menacing horror ("You know that shark in 'Jaws'?" Sheriff Jones screams into his car phone, "Well, (this spider) makes it look like a goldfish!")--you know the drill.

Of course, the terrified screams of the movie's hapless extras MIGHT be more believable if the F/X weren't so laughable. Simply put, the giant spider causing all the trouble is actually a big, furry rug with huge ping-pong eyeballs and pipe cleaner legs draped over a VW Bug. In fact, when the "giant spider" crashes a county fair--and totally disrupts a Little League baseball game--it's clear that among the "fleeing residents" are about seven extras clearly dragging the critter along with ropes!

Indeed, director Rebane dubbed his movie "The Giant Spider Disaster" because of so many glitches behind the scenes.

For example, the movie makers envisioned a scene where a house would collapse when a "giant spider" hopped on its roof. Techs had a giant spider loaded on a crane; when they placed the bugger on the roof, a bulldozer was to simultaneously pull the house down. Unfortunately, when the spider landed on the roof, its "legs" stuck straight up in the air--and nearly impaled the the crew members inside! Even worse happened when director Rebane tried to stage a scene where a giant spider was suppose to burst into flames. First, the spider was covered in gun powder. Next, crew members in tree dropped a lit match on the critter. Nothing happened. A second match was dropped. Nothing happened again. Then, the book of matches was lit and tossed on the critter. Nothing. Frustrated, Rebane--who had the camera cranked up to a very fast fps to capture a 'slo-mo' effect--turned his camera off. Suddenly the giant spider burst into flames, burning the hair off the crew members and starting several brush fires too boot.

Vance and Jenny lose their footing (and their dignity) when surprised with a giant alien spider.

Made for the comparatively thrift price of $250,000, "The Giant Spider Invasion" was one of the top fifty grossing films of 1975. After running three times on the ABC network, the flick languished in obscurity until the fine folks at "MST3K" got a hold of it. The rest is bad movie history.

This is where I leave you, movie lovers. I can think of no better way to ring in 2015 than spending time with Della Street and the Skipper from "Gilligan's Island" as they battle giant sock puppets and a VW Bug draped in a furry afghan with ping-pong eyeballs in 100 degree heat in rural Wisconsin, can you?

Happy New Year, and of course, save the movies!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's "Yor, The Hunter From Future"s World And You're Just Living In It!

Greetings and salutations, movie lovers.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the holiday hustle and bustle? Is your brain about to explode from the constant blaring of all those Christmas carols? Have you lost the feeling in your legs and feet from standing in endless check-out lines? Are you tired of sales people trying to sign you up for credit cards and dubious store promotions? Do you need a break from the crowds at the mall, the crowds at the grocery stores, the crowds on the streets and highways?

If so, then set yourself down, pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy our featured flick, "Yor, Hunter From the Future" (1983)!

Made as a four-part series for Italian television and shot on location in...I kid you not...Turkey, "Yor" is a sci/fi/fantasy/quasi-remake of Roger Corman's classic "I Was A Teenage Cave Man", starring "Space Mutiny" heart-throb Reb Brown. It also features everything EVERYTHING! a Junk Cinema lover could possibly want: Cave people! Robots! Papier mache' dinosaurs! Horrible dialogue! Cheap F/X! And a bonkers theme song warbled by a group called...I kid you not...Oliver Onions, who's last big chart-buster was titled...I kid you not..."Come With Me for Fun in My Buggy." Author's Note: Oliver Onions is actually the "pen name" for brothers Guido and Maurizio de Angelis, who are describes as "prolific Italian musicians" who produced music under a variety of monikers to "avoid saturating the market." Many thanks to Wikipedia for this info.

The fun in "Yor", meanwhile, begins with its opening title sequence. While Yor, clad in only a leather jock strap and furry Ugg boots, jogs around the rocky, barren landscape he calls home, Oliver Onions bleats out the film's theme song, which goes like this:

"Yor's world! He-e-e-es the man!/Lost in the world of past/with echo of an ancient blast!/There is a man from future/a man of mystery! Yor's world! No trails to lead the way/In his search for a yesterday..."

This is Yor (Reb Brown). This is Yor's world. He's the man.

This is by far the nuttiest theme song I have EVER heard, even topping the haunting "A Terminal Madness", which was the love theme from a horror movie titled (what else?) "A Terminal Madness", that my late brother fished out of a 99 cent rental bin way back when.

Anyway, while Yor is jogging around, a group of cave people are giving thanks to their god for guiding them to a really swell camp ground. Then they are commanded to go hunt for vittles for their nightly pot-luck. This is where viewers are introduced to Ka-Laa (Corrine Clery), a chick in a leather bikini, and Pag (Luciano Pigozzi), her elderly guardian in a Fred Flinstone tunic.

While these two attempt to snare a pig in an armadillo costume, the first of several large papier mache' dinos are rolled on screen. Ka-Laa screams like a dental drill, which alerts Yor to their distress. He promptly springs into action, hitting the bogus beastie with his hatchet and gouging its eyes out for good measure. Then he slurps up a handful of its blood, proclaiming, "Drinking the blood of your enemy makes you strong!"(Dick Cheney, are you listening?) A grateful Pag invites Yor to their tribe's pot-luck and the guest of honor exclaims, "Come! Let us divide the choice meats!"

As Yor and the villagers happily chow down on dino burgers, the women folk put on a floor show where they twirl around in hoop skirts made of twigs. Ka-Laa, hoping to impress Yor, joins the kick line, swiveling her hips in time to the music, all the while giving Yor knowing glances throughout. Yor, meanwhile, grins the goofy grin of a dude who knows INSTINCTIVELY that he's going to get laid in the very near future.

The festivities come to an unexpected halt, however, when some other cave men with bad teeth and blue skin skin attack. Coming to the aid of his new friends, Yor inadvertently sets off a brush fire that torches all their huts and causes all sorts of damage. Although Yor, Pag and Ka-Laa manage to escape, the rest of the villagers aren't so lucky: the men and the oldsters are killed, while the children are carted off to be sacrificed and the women to be assaulted. Through some nutty plot contrivance, Ka-Laa is eventually nabbed by the blue (cave) man group. This means Yor and Pag must save her, but how?

"We didn't start the fire...Yor did!" Yor, Ka-Laa and Pag must find a way to escape the brush fire Yor created to save them from the evil blue cave men.

Simple: Yor will use the giant papier mache' bat he recently killed as a hang glider and swoop down into the baddies' cave! They'll never expect that, will they? And, for an extra touch of daring-do, Yor's theme song will blast from out of nowhere as he makes his flying entrance! Put them all together and you have one kick-ass daring rescue scene, right?

Well, it depends.

See, when Yor does swoop in, you can clearly see the wires operating his "giant bat" hang glider. This makes Yor look like he's trying out a home made zip line, rather than orchestrating the daring rescue of his lady love.

Another problem is what Yor does after he rescues Ka-Laa. While running away from the blue (skinned) meanies, our hero notices the make-shift dam they have built. Using his brute strength, Yor pries the dam open. This causes water to come gushing in, which drowns all the evil cave well as the innocent women and children Yor forgot about while he was saving Ka-Laa!

Safe and sound for the moment, Yor, Ka-Laa and Pag stumble around for a while. Why? Because Yor needs to find himself. See, he wears a special Sarah Coventry medallion around his neck and he doesn't know why. Later, he learns that a gal who lives in the desert has a necklace just like his. Hmmmm. What could that mean? Are they members of a lost tribe? Brother and sister? First cousins? Facebook Friends? Yor must seek this chick out because she holds the key to his past...and might even be hot enough to make out with.

  Rea (Ayshe Gul): The key to Yor's past or just another hot date?

Yor does indeed find Rea (Ayshe Gul), a blond chick with the same medallion and Groucho Marx's eyebrows. She's worshipped by desert dwelling Sand Mummies who wield flaming cocktail wienie forks as deadly weapons. These Sand Mummies hate outsiders and they plan on killing Yor. Poor Rea doesn't know how to handle this dilemma. Should she save Yor or betray the Sand Mummies? Luckily, Yor takes control of the situation by punching out a few Sand Mummies, setting a few more of them on fire and then causing their underground temple to collapse. Naturally, Yor and Rea escape unscathed, while the hapless Sand Mummies are toast.

If you are keeping score, Yor has thus far destroyed three encampments and left dozens of Sand Mummies, cave men, women and children dead and/or homeless.

Yep, he's the man!

When Ka-Laa gets a gander at Rea, she's not too happy. After she spies Rea and Yor having sex by a water fall, she's fit to be tied. So the first chance she gets, Ka-Laa pulls a knife on Rea and prepares to off her. Then, out of nowhere, those pesky blue skinned cave men pop back into the picture. Ka-Laa screams for Yor ; yet another clumsy fight scene with Styrofoam boulders and crotch kicks takes place. The bad cave men are defeated, which is good. Poor Rea, however, is conked on the noggin by a rock and dies of her injuries, which is bad, at least for her. Ka-Laa is honest enough to be conflicted about Rea's passing. Yor, on the other hand, still has a bimbo to make out with, so he mourns Rea rather quickly.

Eventually, our traveling trio make it to the ocean. They frolic in the waves, hunt for sea shells, catch fish and enjoy a Surf-n-Turf dinner courtesy of Pag. This beachy interlude, alas, is interrupted by piercing screams. Sure enough, the gang finds a group of tweens cornered by yet another papier mache' beastie. Through the combined efforts of Pag and Yor, the throughly fake critter is soon oozing fake blood.

The oldest of the kids is called Tarita, and she obviously digs Yor. Inviting the group back to their beach-side village, Tarita's grateful pa Ky offers to give his underage daughter to Yor as a "thank you" present. For the first and only time in the flick, Yor does the mature, responsible (and legal thing) and declines, explaining that he "already has a woman" (Ka-Laa).

"Open your mouth and say 'ahh'" : Yor saves a group of tweens from a toothy, papier mache' dino.        

As the flick has made unflinchingly clear, inviting Yor back to your village/settlement is the surest way to inflict death and destruction on your people. And, yes, you can bet your sweet bippy that these pre-historic Tahitians are all set to become the latest victims of Yor's "assistance".

It goes like this: the villagers are happily breaking bread when lasers--yes, LASERS--start shooting out of an abandoned head light left lying on the sand (don't ask). While people scream and scatter, the lasers set their bamboo huts on fire and kill a considerable percentage of the population at large. This includes Ky, the villages' de-facto leader. When the smoke clears, and Yor surveys the wanton destruction of people and property, he yells, "Damn talking box!"

About now, you might be tempted to interject, "But Auntie Beth! Yor isn't responsible for this catastrophe!"

Au contrare. See, "the damn talking box" is also a video camera of some kind. Once Yor showed up on screen, the order was given to start shooting. Therefore, Yor is indeed the catalyst for this latest round of mayhem.

With her father dead, half her tribe stiffs and her hut a smoldering heap of ashes, Tarita encourages Yor to seek out a mystical island in the middle of the ocean that is constantly surrounded by fog. Right away. Now, in fact. She even gives Yor loan of her father's boat to make the journey. Just please get moving! You're burning daylight! Go, go,go!

Yor, with Ka-Laa and Pag in tow, thus sets off to the mysterious island in a wicker canoe that must have been a steal at Pier 1's annual 40% off sale. They hit high swells and rain and poor Yor is washed overboard. Once he hits dry land, Yor's movements are tracked via a large, clear, glass bubble. The person doing the tracking is a rather camp fellow named the Over Lord (John Steiner).

"We'll meet again/don't know where/don't know when..." Tween queen Tarita and what's left of her tribe wave goodbye (and good riddance) to Yor.

Now, please pay attention, because the final act of "Yor, Hunter From the Future" explains everything you need to know about our buddy Yor and his unique place in the history of mankind...and rotten movies.

Turns out (surprise, surprise) that Yor is from an advanced, technologically superior society that set off a nuclear holocaust. Protected by their ultra sophisticated aluminum siding, these folks were able to avoid the worst aspects of the catastrophe, such as dying. The planet (presumably Earth, but you never know) reverted back to prehistoric times and thus the people we have met along Yor's journey have no idea that they are living in a post-apocalyptic age.

Riding herd over the remaining members of this advanced society is the Over Lord, a bargain basement Darth Mal who declares himself boss of everything. His plan is to create a hybrid race of human/android servants who will do his bidding without question. To accomplish this goal, the Over Lord plans to use Yor's man juice and Ka-Laa eggs and womb to create these minions, thus ensuring that the resulting offspring will be dumb as posts, but easy on the eyes and totally ripped.

Luckily, not all the survivors of "the great destruction" share the Over Lord's views. These folks, who favor white blouses with huge shoulder pads, are lead by a blind, Charlie Watts-ish fellow. They have apparently been organizing a revolt for years, but things just haven't come together until recently. Anyway, these freedom fighters help Yor and Ka-Laa escape from the Over Lord's fertility clinic, and do battle with his rather cheap and chunky androids. Yor being Yor, he joins in the laser blasting fun and even sets off a nuclear device that will blow up the mysterious island, the Over Lord and his 'bots as well. While the Over Lord tries and fails to stop the blast, everybody else piles into a pod racer and flies away. Our feature presentation ends with the narrator proclaiming that Yor plans to use all his super knowledge to help his fellow citizens improve their lives "and avoid the mistakes of the past." Then the narrator leaves us hanging by asking, "But will he succeed?"

Since there was no sequel to "Yor, Hunter From the Future", the world may never know.

After experiencing a film as supremely nutty as "Yor, Hunter From the Future", one is often left to ponder a myriad of questions, such who thought this piece of junk up and how did it ever see the light of day.

A cheeky view of Yor in action.

"Yor' is supposedly based on a graphic novel of the same name and was written and directed by a bunch of Italian hacks--proof that not all Italian filmmakers are in the same league as, say, Fellini.

As our hero Yor, Reb Brown looks like a cross between Garth from those "Wayne's World" skits on "SNL" and the actor Kevin Nealon in a bad Doris Day wig. As an actor, Brown ranks somewhere between Christopher Atkins and a gravy spoon. The rest of the cast ranges from wooden to incompetent. The Sand Mummies, I can report, do throw themselves into their roles, such as they are.

Of course, the real problem with "Yor" is  Yor. He may indeed be "the man", but everywhere this guy goes, trouble and ruin follow.

By the end of the flick, Yor will have set off two brush fires; burst open a dam; collapsed an underground temple; butchered two dinos; left a group of hysterical women and children behind to drown; caused one cat fight; crashed a wicker canoe; and set off a nuclear device that blew an island to kingdom come, all without batting an eyelash.

Rather than a hero who brings peace and prosperity, Yor is a one-man demolition squad in a jock strap.

And another interesting tidbit: if you're hoping to find "Yor" on DVD, forget it. Although VHS copies are available for purchase (because VHS is NOT dead: I actually prefer it to DVDs), the only place you can get a "Yor" DVD is in...I kid you not...Germany! Yes, Germany!

So on that happy, if incredible note, I end this post. Please remember to enjoy the holidays and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Monday, December 15, 2014

And The Worst Movie Of 2014 Is...

Hey, kids! Want to know what the worst movie of 2014 is?

I won't keep you in suspense: it's "The Legend of Hercules", directed by Renny Harlin and starring Kellan Lutz!

Yes, this 3-D CGI chronicle of young Herc's rise to greatness was a dumb, dippy, daffy, dunder-headed dud.

In fact, "The Legend of Hercules" was SO AWFUL a native of director Harlin's home country (Finland) was moved to write on The IMDb, "He makes me ashamed to be a Finnish person."

How bad is "The Legend of Hercules"? Let us count the ways!

WAY#1: "The Legend of Hercules" shows its stupidity right from the beginning by completely botching the story of Herc's birth.

"I had sex with Zesus and all I got in return was Hercules": Queen Alcemene has a close encounter with Greek god greatness.

According to the flick, Herc's ma Queen Alcemene prayed to the Greek goddess Hera for a son. Hera, an obliging sort, promptly sent hubby Zesus down to earth to do the nasty with Alcemene. We know the King of the Greek gods achieved maximum joy from this encounter because he mooed like a cow when he hit the bull's eye, if you catch my drift.

According to Greek legend, Zesus did indeed do the wild thing with Herc's ma, but Hera did not arrange it, condone it or even like it. On the contrary, she was fit to be tied about her hubby's relentless philandering. So mad was Hera about this affair and the child it produced, that she sent a serpent to kill baby Herc, who promptly strangled the critter in his crib.

WAY#2: Herc is portrayed by Kellan Lutz, best known for his minor role in the "Twilight" sagas. Lutz has abs of washboard, buns of steel, shins of granite, pecs like melons and brains of mush. Walking and talking simultaneously is not a skill Lutz the Klutz has perfected yet. Thus, instead of featuring him in any more films, I kindly suggest he just be put out to stud.

Introducing "Jerk-u-les"!: Stud muffin Kellan Lutz in the role that will make him shameless.

WAY#3: The slaying of the Nemean Lion figures prominently in "The Twelve Labors of Hercules", the epic poem written about 600 BC by Peisander.

However, in this flick, the Nemean Lion is just a very shoddy CGI; no context is given as to why Herc slayed it or why he wears its carcass for a cloak. And, to be fair, in this instance, the lion wasn't hurting anybody. And he was kinda cute. Herc just offed the kitty to upstage his sniveling big brother Iphicles and impress Princess Hebe and that's not OK.

WAY#4: Herc's older brother Iphicles (Liam Garringgan) is a scowly, whiney villain in a bad wig. Scott Adkins as pa King Amphitryon looks like Mr. Bean in a too-tight toga. Bro Iphicles is especially obsessed that Herc might have plundered the maidenhood of Hebe (Gaia Weiss), the princess the brothers are at odds over. When confronted about this, Herc replies, "Please reassure my brother that that is none of his business"--which is Herc-speak for, "We did it and you know it!"

Isn't it a bit icky that Princess Hebe is valued only for her looks and her virginity? That's not OK, either.

WAY#5: After Herc is sent on a suicide mission, he's captured and forced to be a gladiator or a cage fighter or a pro-wrestler or a ninja or some such thing to "earn back his freedom." This A) never happened in the actual Herc legends and B) it's a blatant rip-off of "Gladiator" and C) it's yet another example of how director Harlin was banking on his audience being so dumb they wouldn't know he was screwing with them.

Surprise, Renny! We're NOT dumb AND WE DID notice you were screwing with us.

"Look at me! I can fly!": Herc springs into action.

WAY#6: For a good chunk of the flick, Herc does not know and/or really believe he is Zesus' son. Then he's about to be killed and/or crucified and he suddenly realizes having a Greek god for a dad might not be a bad thing. Once Herc undergoes this, uh, "conversion experience", he becomes EVEN stronger.

The unsubtle implication here is to suggest Herc has a lot in common with another son of a powerful man, namely, Jesus.

This is, of course, utter horse pucky. Not even Kirk Cameron would suggest such a thing (but I wouldn't put it past him). This is yet ANOTHER example of Mr. Harlin counting on his viewers being stupid. Well, Mr. Harlin, stupid is as stupid does!

WAY#7: No doubt hoping to appeal to the ladies in the ticket buying public, "The Legend of Hercules" posits that Herc is just ga-ga about Princess Hebe and that marrying her is the only thing he wants to do in the whole wide world and he never, ever, EVER looked at another female.

Uh, not quite.

As usual, Harlin and his script writers chose to ignore yet again THE COMMON KNOWLEDGE about Hercules, mainly that he was a rather frisky fellow who enjoyed tonsil boxing as much as the next demi-god.

Herc actually had three (some say four) wives. Wife #1 was Megara. Herc "won" Megara by helping her pa King Creon defeat the Minyans. When Hera drove Herc mad, he ended up killing Megara and their ( three to eight) tykes. This resulted in the famous "Twelve Labors of Hercules", which he undertook to as penance for his crime.

Wife #2 was Omphale, "The Barbarian Queen of Lydia", who purchased Herc as her personal slave. See, after Herc killed Iphitus, he was sentenced to three years of servitude, which is how Omphale managed to bag her goods. He and Omphale got along great, but when his three years were up, Herc left. Because the circumstances of how Herc and Omphale actually got together are a bit unusual, some scholars question whether this was a "proper" marriage. For the sake of argument, we will assume it was a proper marriage.

Wife #3, meanwhile, was Deianira. This spouse Herc "won" after he defeated the river god Acheloos in a wrestling match.

When did Herc hook up with Hebe? It was only AFTER he was granted immortality and moved in with the other Greek gods on Mt. Olympus;  only then did Herc and Hebe became an item. For the record, Hebe was the daughter of Zesus and Hera, making her Herc's half-sister as well as wife #4. Eww!

Oh, and here is another tidbit about Herc: When he agreed to help King Thespios rid his kingdom of some giant rouge critter, he noticed the king had 50 virgin daughters. Herc slept with 49 of them (the 50th was said to be "too shy" to participate). Nine months later, King Thespios had 49 grandsons, all strong as an ox. Talk about keeping it "all in the family"...

"Isn't it romantic?": The makers of "The Legend of Hercules" wanted movie-goers to think this is how Herc expressed his love to mortal women...

In reality, it was probably more like this...which ISN'T very romantic. 

WAY#8: Although big, beefy Kellan Lutz is supposedly the star of this show, it's Liam McIntyre as army buddy/fellow captive Sotiris who steals the movie. Simply put, McIntyre is everything Lutz isn't: talented, charismatic, intelligent, able to read lines naturally. All of which begs the question: why wasn't he cast as Herc? He might not have been able to save "The Legend of Hercules" completely, but McIntyre would have made a more compelling hero. Pay attention, Renny Harlin! Never send a boy to do a man's job!

WAY#9: Making a movie in 3-D is dumb. Making a bad movie in 3-D is even dumber.

Instead of wasting big bucks on special effects, why not invest that money in a decent script and hiring actors who can act instead of just staring into the camera and flaring their nostrils? The 3-D effects in "The Legend of Hercules" did not enhance or improve the viewing experience one bit.

Rule of thumb, Renny: 3-D will not make your movie any better if it's rotten to begin with! Furthermore, using 3-D will not distract the audience from your movie's failures. A rotten movie in 3-D is just that: a rotten movie in 3-D!

WAY#10: Hercules movies are not meant to seen as historical treatises on ancient Greece. After all, in "The Loves of Hercules" (1960), Jane Mansfield played a naughty temptress who turned her ex-cuddlemates into trees. Herc has battled a race of moon men, drunk from "the waters of forgetfulness", co-starred opposite the 3 Stooges and sang with the voice of Michael Bolton. Do I also need to point out the Kevin Sorbo TV series where Herc was turned into a sensitive '90's guy with Anthony Quinn popping up as Zesus?

However, at least these movies/TV shows were fun. "The Legend of Hercules" was not fun--except when that obviously bogus moon peeked through the clouds or the unseen Zesus mooed like a cow while doing the wild thing with Herc's ma.

WAY#11: Earlier, I mentioned how human beefcake Kellan Lutz was upstaged by co-star Liam McIntyre. Here is a pictorial of actors who played Herc much, much better than Lutz:

Steve Reeves

Kevin Sorbo

Ryan Gosling

Lou Ferrigno

Alan Steele 


Cartoon Herc...who was still more life like than Kellan Lutz.

WAY#12: One of the neat things a really bad movie does is inspire movie critics to sharpen their pens and dip their quills in acid. "The Legend of Hercules" birthed some delightfully nasty put downs from critics that were vastly more entertaining to read than "The Legend of Hercules" was to watch. 

Just imagine, for a moment, that you are Renny Harlin or Kellan Lutz and you read these missive penned in your honor:

"Even dental extraction is more enjoyable to endure than this artistically bankrupt misfire."--Digital Spy.

"Essentially a Monday Night Raw episode with mythological dressing."--Chicago Reader

"Ode to a Grecian turd."--Houston Press

"The only thing epic about 'The Legend of Hercules' is what a failure it is."--Washington Post

"Has a whiff of the Augean Stables about it, if you catch my drift."--McClatchy tribune News Service

"(Kellan Lutz is) a big lump of hamburger who makes Taylor Lautner look like Daniel Day Lewis."--Screen Crush

"While the role (of Herc) may not call for a master thespian, it at least begs for someone who can emote without looking like he's straining to execute a dead lift."--Variety

"If there were any reservations about just how bad an actor Kellan Lutz is, 'The Legend of Hercules' more than confirms it."

For all these reasons, "The Legend of Hercules" earns the (dis)honor of being 2014's worst film.

And on that note, I take my leave. 

So, until next time, keep your loin cloth clean, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Wikipedia, History and Rotten in researching this article.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Watch Pia Zadora Help "Santa Claus Conquer The Martians"!

Ho, ho, no! It's Pia Zadora's career high point "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians."

Ho, ho, ho movie lovers! Looking for a unique holiday film to spice up your seasonal cinematic viewing?

Look no further than today's offering, a tale of Christmas cheer that combines Jolly Old St. Nicholas, a pre-teen Pia Zadora and green martians--all shot on an empty airport hanger on Roosevelt Field by some off duty "Howdy Doody" employees for the bargain basement price of $200,000 bucks!

Of course, I'm talking about the immortal 1964 "yuletide science fiction fantasy" "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians."

The plot (such as it is) is really pretty simple. The kids on Mars are lethargic and depressed because they have no fun. They spend their days doing algebra and live for the pirated broadcasts of earth TV that feature Santa Claus and such alien concepts as "tender loving care."

However, it is in its execution that "SCCTM" achieves its status as a Junk Cinema Jewel ne plus ultra.

From its cheap-o sets to its hokey costumes to its bad jokes to its lame animation to its irritating theme song ("Hooray for Santy Claus!") to its misspelled title credits ("custumes", anyone?), "SCCTM" hits and sustains a perfect pitch of zany incompetence that few films can to match.

Even as a tween, Pia Zadora displayed the acting prowess that would later earn her a "Best New Star" Golden Globe (with a little help from hubby Meshulam Riklis).

You know what you're in for when the best known member of the cast is Pia Zadora. She plays Girmar (which stands for "girl martian"), one of the tots belonging to Leonard Hicks, the King of the Martians, or "Kimar" for short. Dipped in green paint, sporting a tinfoil helmet with antennae festooned on top and her chipmunk cheeks front and center, the future star of "Butterfly" and "The Lonely Lady" is no more ridiculous than anyone else in this flick, but when the best acting of your career is in a low-budget martian movie, it doesn't bode well for future artistic triumphs.

After consulting a wizened old mystic named "Chochum", the martian monarch decides to assemble a crack team to land on earth and bring Santa Claus back to the angry red planet. As Kirmar sees it, "Earth has had Santa long enough!" The only dissenter of this operation is the Elliot Gould-ish Volgar (Vincent Beck). With his bushy brows, droopy 'stache and evil laugh, Volgar doesn't want martian kids running around and having fun. In fact, he thinks "all this fuss about a fat man in a red suit" is a bunch of b@3&s*+?--and vows to scuttle the king's plan.

Due to their vastly superior technology, the martians land on earth lickety-split and soon make contact with siblings Betty and Billy. Kirmar reassures the startled kids, "Don't be afraid. We have children just like you on Mars." Still, Betty is sufficiently confused by the martians appearance that she points to Kirmar's wiggly antennae and asks, "Are you a television set?"

Scooping up the kids, the martians head back to their ship and set a course for the North Pole. Put in charge of babysitting Billy and Betty is Dropo (Bill McCutcheon), "the laziest man on Mars", who is a member of the king's household. As the flick's designated comic relief, Dropo is a cross between an idiot and a moron. He makes Gilligan on "Gilligan's Island" seem suave and sophisticated in comparison. And he always seems on the verge of wetting himself. However, it's Dropo and the earth tots who over hear Volgar's plan to off Santa and vow to defeat him.

Barging into Santa's workshop, the martians use their "Freeze Ray Guns" (which look like Super Soakers) to disarm the elves and a truly batty Mrs. Claus. (IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the first film to feature Mrs. Claus.) Wanting to avoid further bloodshed, Santa (John Call) agrees to travel to Mars. Billy and Betty, meanwhile, have escaped from the martian rocket ship. They plan to warn Santa, but battered by the wind and snow, they must seek shelter in a cave. It's there they run afoul of a "polar bear"--actually, some poor bastard stuck in a ratty, ill-fitting costume with a paper mache' head. No sooner does the "polar bear" saunter off than the martians find Billy and Betty and cart them back to the ship.

The ferocious "polar bear" that threatens Billy and Betty. (Wanna bet that suit itches?)

En route to Mars, Santa manages to charm and disarm all the martians--except for nasty Volgar. It's he who lures Kris Kringle and the kids into an air lock inorder to jettison them out into space. However, the meanie martian fails to take into account Santa's own super powers--and is astonished when the jolly old elf turns up just fine, thank you, along with Billy and Betty. Never one to harbor grudges, Santa forgives Volgar (after all, it's Christmas).

To the surprise of no one, Santa is welcomed with open arms on Mars. Soon the little green kiddies are happier than they've ever been. The martians even build St. Nick a state of the art workshop, where Billy and Betty (along with Girmar and her brother Bomar) lend a hand to meet the demands for toys and games for Mars' youngsters. leaves the humans feeling hollow. Santa misses doing things by hand ("the old fashioned way") and Billy and Betty become homesick. Realizing that it's unfair to keep Santa all to themselves, the martians plan to send their earth visitors home. What's more, Dropo, trained by St. Nick himself, is all set to take over as Mars' resident Santa Claus, thus ensuring the yule tide traditions will live on.

The only fly in this holiday ointment is, naturally, Volgar. So determined is he to kill Santa that he rounds up some martian miscreants to help him carry out his evil scheme. What the Elliot Gould-ish villain doesn't count on is Billy, Betty, Girmar and Bomar. No sooner does Volgar arrive at Santa's martian headquarters than the kids bombard him with pop-guns, Wham-O air blasters, ping pong balls, model air planes, toy soldiers and water pistols. Thoroughly beaten down and overwhelmed by this vicious onslaught, Volgar is finally arrested and sent to jail for good. Christmas is least on Mars.

Shortly there after, Santa, Billy and Betty say goodbye to their Martian friends. With Kimar's help, the trio blast off for earth, just in time to meet the December 25th deadline back home. Hooray for Santy Claus!

"Let me introduce you to my little friend!" The evil Volgar threatens Santa with his deadly martian...blow dryer.

Cataloging "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"'s failures would be like tripping a dwarf.

Yet...even though the premise is nutty and the final result is so lame, you can't help loving this picture. It's heart is in the right place, even if it's brain isn't. In fact, some film scholars have even suggested that the real message of "SCCTM" is for people not to forget their traditions, to let kids be kids and not to become overly dependent on technology.

 Personally, not a bad message for anyone to hear.

So, until next time, hang your stockings on the chimney with care, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"Xanadu": An Olivia Neutron-Bomb!

Olivia Newton-John in the role that made her shameless: Roller skating Greek Muse Kira in "Xanadu."

Critics once carped that if white bread could sing, it would sound like Olivia Newton-John.

Mean, yes, but there was a a grain of truth lurking beneath the snark.

After all, the Aussie song bird had unleashed a series of sweet, breathy hits like "Have You Never Been Mellow?", "I Honestly Love You" and "Please, Mister, Please" that didn't exactly give Patti Smith or Marianne Faithful any sleepless nights.

However, in 1978, ON-J burst out of her middle-of-the-road bailiwick by co-starring with John Travolta in the mega-hit "Grease".

Set in "the nifty fifties", this musical spoof turned the classic good girl/bad boy romance on its head by having sweet Sandy (ON-J) become a slut to keep the love of punk Danny (Travolta).

The runaway success of "Grease" had many in Tinsel Town believing that ON-J had the makings of a movie star. So, in 1980, ON-J starred in "Xanadu": an over-the-top "musical fantasy" where Greek muses, frustrated artists and roller skaters cavorted on screen accompanied by insipid songs, cheap-o animation and Gene Kelly (!).

"Do my eyes deceive me or am I really in this movie?" Neither ON-J (or her fans) can believe she's agreed to star in the roller disco extravaganza "Xanadu".

The final result was NOT a feel good movie for the ages, but a loud, nonsensical, glittery monument to...disco kitsch. 

In fact, "Xanadu" was (and is) such an epic failure that it proudly takes its place in the Junk Cinema Hall Of Shame as ONE OF THE WORST MUSICALS EVER MADE,  alongside "Can't Stop The Music", "Lost Horizon" and "At Long Last Love."

What's more, the sheer awfulness of "Xanadu" would inspire the creation of The Golden Raspberry Awards, the only movie awards that really count for anything (in my opinion, anyway).

How can a musical featuring Gene Kelly be that bad, you ask?

When your co-star is a bland songstress who can't dance, the second male lead is a scowly chap who appears to be suffering from tight under things and the soundtrack is penned by ELO, it's easy!

The (non)fun begins by introducing us to Sonny (Michael Beck), a surly fellow who paints full-sized reproductions of album covers (hey, it's 1980 remember!). Naturally, Sonny yearns to create something more substantial, but he doesn't know where or how to begin.

Enter roller skating Greek Muse Kira (ON-J) who, along with her sisters, "magically" comes to life from a mural while the ELO tune "I'm Alive!" relentlessly batters your brain. After dancing up a storm, the muses dart off in different directions. Kira, who is not much of a dancer, suddenly roller skates up to Sonny, kisses him on the lips and flits off without a word.

Considering that muses have inspired the works of Shakespeare, Mozart, Michelangelo, Picasso and David Hasselhoff, what is Kira meant to inspire in Sonny? A revolutionary new school in painting? A brilliant novel? Perhaps an international TV hit about the personal struggles of hard-bodied life guards?

Ah, no. Kira is meant to inspire Sonny to create the world's most fabulous roller disco night club EVER. Isn't that just what the culture starved masses are crying out for?

A deer in the head lights? Frustrated artist Sonny (Michael Beck) polishes his dazed and confused look.

To assist Sonny in this unholy quest, Kira directs him to Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly). Turns out Kira had inspired Danny himself 40 years earlier when he was a big band clarinetist. Sadly, Danny later lost the spark and gave up music to become a millionaire developer.

Together, Danny and Sonny decide to open a club. Unfortunately, the partners vision of their establishment should be like are, um, poles apart. See, Danny envisions at '40's night club, while Sonny imagines as '80's Viper Room rock vibe. To dramatize this "discrepancy", viewers are subjected to--actually, attacked by--a battle of the stage shows. One is '40's swing with jitter buggers and zoot suits, while the other features The Tubes and a cadre of "Solid Gold" dancers in leather and spandex. Cutting back and forth between the numbers, dancers and singers jump, jive, wail, writhe, moan, scream, twist and shout with increasing frenzy. In what is meant to be the "climax" of the scene, the sets merge, the performers mingle and the whole shootin' match melds into one, ill-fitting musical mash-up.

Or, to put it another way, picture the Hindenburg crashing into the Titanic--in stereo--and you have a pretty good idea of what a disaster this "show stopper" truly is.

Alas, the above mentioned sequence IS NOT the only "Xanadu" production number that goes off the rails and out of its mind. There is the roller skating love scene--I kid you not--conducted, oh, I don't know, in some vacant studio somewhere, where Sonny and Kira roller skate in, out and around shifting sets and special effects. The song warbled in the background is "Suddenly" by Cliff Richard and ON-J. This number is meant to be as dreamy and lyrical as the previous number was loud and obnoxious. However, the sight of Sonny and Kira endlessly skating, skating and skating eventually makes even the most patient viewer WANT TO SCREAM.

Anything else? Oh, yes. There is "All Over the World" where Kelly, ON-J and Beck dance and shop "all over the world" in preparation for Xanadu's grand opening. There is an animated sequence where Sonny and Kira frolic as cartoon characters. Later, ON-J sings "Suspended in Time", outlined in bright neon, where she laments about being an immortal muse in love with a mortal jerk. Last but not least, is the grand opening of Xanadu, where Gene Kelly leads hordes of skating extras who yell "Ho!" over and over again for no good reason.

The cast of "Xanadu" were as shocked as anyone else that their movie turned out to be so awful.

I could also mention the final numbers where Kira and her muse sisters sing and dance in a variety of styles and costumes--but I wont. I've suffered enough.

Lots of coin was dropped on "Xanadu"--$20 million, to be exact--and as the saying goes, it's all up on screen...and flushed down the (Olivia Newton) John. Of course, the asinine script, headache producing soundtrack and endless roller skating sequences helped doom "Xanadu" to bad movie back wash--although one cannot leave out the contributions of the cast, either. Sweet as she may be, ON-J just doesn't have the strength of personality (or the dancing skills) to carry a feature film. Co-star Michael Beck (last seen in "The Warriors"), meanwhile, is too glum and snarly to be a romantic lead. And Gene Kelly? A national treasure, to be sure. But why,oh, why would HE of all people come out of retirement for THIS? Is it any wonder that after "Xanadu"s failure Kelly hurried BACK INTO RETIREMENT and happily STAYED THERE?

My favorite review of this musical mishap was provided by a contributor to IMDb who summed up our feature presentation thus: "Yes, it's a stupid movie."

'Nuff said.

Consequently, the only good to come out of "Xanadu" was the founding of the Golden Raspberry Awards by John Wilson. "Xanadu" grabbed nominations for Worst Picture (it lost to "Can't Stop the Music"), Worst Actor (Beck losing out to Neil Diamond in the remake of "The Jazz Singer"), Worst Actress (Brooke Shields bested ON-J), Worst Screenplay (another win for "Can't Stop the Music") and Worst Original Song ("The Man With Bogart's Face" won). Thank God, director Robert Greenwald was recognized as Worst Director, although, frankly, I can't believe he was the only one so honored by the Razzies. If ever a movie deserved to sweep the (berry) boards, it was "Xanadu".

In an interesting side note, the roller disco craze of the late '70's-early 1980's spawned several more, equally awful films. There was "Roller Boogie", where Linda Blair finds love on four wheels. Also not to be forgotten was "Skate Town USA", which was the feature film debut of Patrick Swayze. His most memorable scene was a roller disco solo (performed bare chested) where Patrick cracked his belt like a whip. And then there was the notorious "CHiPS" episode where Ponch and Jon organize a celebrity studded roller disco fund raiser for the LAPD.

Until next time, keep your white disco suite in storage and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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

Robin Stone IS "The Love Machine"...according to Jacqueline Susann, anyway.

Ah, greetings to you and yours, movie lovers.

How are things going? Not good? Has your career hit a dead end? Is your spouse/partner/main squeeze/ old-ball-and-chain becoming a pain? Has your get up and go gone up and went?

Take heart, movie lovers. Even if things seem bad now, please try to remember this: someone, somewhere, has it much, much worse.

Don't believe me? Well, then, settle in for another heapin' helpin' of our semi-regular feature "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch..." where I, the Movie Maven,  rummage through the Junk (Cinema) Drawer to unearth a flick gar-un-teed to lift you out of your deepest, darkest doldrums.

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

...The Love Machine (1971)."

This is the second (of three) big screen shlockbusters based on a tripe'n trashy Jacqueline Susann novel.

"Note to self: My face hurts." John Philip IS Robin Stone.

Susann, whose prose caused Truman Capote to snap, "That's not writing, that's typing", introduces us to Robin Stone, "a lock without a key", a man "pursuing freedom, but never free". It's his meteoric rise from local anchor to the head of "IBC News" that "The Love Machine" chronicles. Just like in "Valley of the Dolls" and "Once is Not Enough", Robin's roller coaster ride among the "media elite" includes plenty of cheap, sleazy behavior, ugly clothes and big hair--all set to a '70's Muzack sound track that will relentlessly worm its way into your brain, pushing out vital information you need and replacing it with such pearls as "That's Robin Stone/he walks alone..."

John Phillip Law--a blank eyed chump who bears an uncomfortable resemblance to "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" hanger-on Scott Disick--IS Robin Stone. When we first catch sight of him, he's filing a report on "the new fall fashions", which include ultra wide legged pants, stack heels, go-go boots topped with fur, checkered capes and a get-up that can only be described as a Holly Hobby gingham print evening gown with the middle cut out.

Here is Robin interviewing a super model:

HE: "And you are?"

SHE: "Amanda. Just Amanda. That's all there is."

HE: "That's all you need."

Mike Wallace, your days are numbered.

Big Bird takes an emergency phone call? No, it's super model Amanda (Jodie Wexler) in one of her fab outfits.

Seconds later, Robin and Amanda (Jodie Wexler) are back at his swanky pad, making whoopski. When Robin awakens from a sound sleep, he catches Amanda quietly dressing and has a fit. The model explains that she has an early call, but Robin is furious. "Nobody leaves me! Nobody!" he thunders--and then busts Amanda in the chops for good measure.

So there is poor Amanda, dressed in a head to toe red get-up, attempting to be photographed by the "world famous" shutter bug Jerry Nelson (David Hemmings, in a role so over-the-top camp that he makes Rip Taylor seem like Chuck Norris), waxing lyrical about her mysterious, difficult new beau.

"I can handle men so beautifully when I'm not involved," Amanda sighs. "It's different when you care." (Pause.) I'm in love with him, Jerry."

She's not the only one. Watching Robin on TV and ogling him like the juicy piece of butt-steak he is is Judith Austin (Dyan Cannon), the rapacious wife of IBC head Robert Ryan. It's at her direction that Robin is promoted to his executive position--not because he's a programming whiz, mind you, but because she's anxious to sleep with him.

Judith Austin (Dyan Cannon) models the latest turtleneck-corset-checked pants look.

Also panting after Robin is the bassy Edith Evans (Maureen Aurthur). She works in the network's publicity department and enjoys a reputation as "The Celebrity Banger." One day she corners Robin and tells him he needs new publicity photos. Robin explains her that Jerry Nelson will take care of that, except "he only wants to shoot me in the nude."

"Maybe I can hold the flash bulb," Edith offers.

When Robin suggests Edith dampen her ardour, she mutters under her breath, "You don't know what you're missin', buster!"

Meanwhile, back at Robin's pad, the besotted Amanda snuggles up to Robin and breathily asks, "Am I your girl? To have and to hold forever?" Then she presents Robin with an ankh pinkie ring, explaining that the ankh is "the Egyptian symbol of life and love everlasting."

How does Stone react to such a trinket?

"What's next?" he barks. "A little golden leash?"

Amanda's face crumbles as she pitifully wails, "Oh, Robin, I thought it was pretty..."

"Note to self: Get a real beard." David Hemmings as mod photographer Jerry Nelson.

See, Robin calls ALL the shots in his relationships. It's HIS world and YOU'RE just living in it. So when Amanda becomes too clingy and starts throwing around words like "love" and "forever", well, Robin's got NO time for THAT. And he proves it by cold shouldering Amanda and slipping between the sheets with every giggling bimbo who comes his way.

While Amanda simpers and stews over this state of affairs, Judith takes a more direct approach. Because she's the one responsible for Robin amassing such power at IBC, she demands the hunky executive begin servicing her exclusively. She also insists on having a key to his always busy pad. However, when Judith must accompany her hubby to Europe so he can recover from a heart attack, Stone sees no reason why he must halt the traffic in his bedroom. This especially cheeses off the returning Judith, who registers her displeasure in a unique way: after catching Robin in the shower with TWO bimbos, Judith sets his bed on fire.

Hell hath no fury like a trophy wife scorned!

Believe it or not, a torched mattress soon becomes the least of Robin's worries. Amanda, deeply hurt by Robin's repeated rejections, commits suicide. In his grief, Robin hires a king-sized hooker billed as "The Amazon Woman" in the film's credits (honest). The duo are just about to get down to business when the hooker (Eve Bruce) pulls off her curly black wig to reveal Amanda-like blonde tresses. Unnerved by the resemblance to his lost love, Robin decides to leave. The furious hooker then begins taunting her client about being a "closet queen" who (gasp!) "probably still lives with his mother!"

"Can't start a fire without a spark..." A furious Judith decides to take revenge on philandering sweetie Robin Stone.

The unhinged Robin proceeds to beat the stuffing out of the lippy lady of the evening. Then he scampers over to fey photog Jerry's place. Cleaning up his pal's blood and bruises, Jerry tisk-tisks Robin's recent behavior as if it were the height of bad taste: "Why did you have to go out and beat up a hooker?" he sighs. In return for giving Stone an alibi, Jerry insists Robin buy him " a gold slave bracelet"--and engrave it, too. Robin agrees.

"The Love Machine" then shifts its locale from NYC to sunny LA. That's where Robin catches up with Judith and tries to smooth things over. He even escorts her to a swingin' party Jerry is hosting with his actor boyfriend. Unfortunately, Robin chooses to ignore Judith in favor of other guests, which makes her very, very mad. Then she stumbles upon the gold slave bracelet Robin purchased for Jerry.

What follows next is an eye-popping, show-stopping free-for-all that puts the Patty Duke/Susan Hayward cat fight in "Valley of the Dolls"--which ended with Duke flushing Hayward's wig down the john--to shame.

Once Judith has the incriminating slave bracelet in her grasp, she gleefully informs Robin, Jerry and his actor beau. Her plan is to brief the tabloids that Robin and Jerry are a couple and use the bauble "as proof." Judith brags that Robin's career will be finished--and promptly drops the bracelet down her bra for safe keeping.

"Can I freshen your drink?" Gracious host Jerry mingles with his guests while Judith simmers in the background.

Incensed, Robin, Jerry and his boyfriend converge on Judith to retrieve the item. Judith taunts Jerry's beau. He slaps her face. She then kicks him in the nuts. All three men chase Judith around a buffet table, where she throws food, drinks, plates, glasses and silverware at them. Jerry grabs a fistful of Judith's hair; she conks him on the head with an Oscar(!). The threesome continue to hit, kick, slap and bite each other until the police arrive to arrest everybody for A) disturbing the peace and B) performing a Three Stooges routine without a license.

When we next see Robin, he's exciting the police station. Then he's magically transported back to NYC, where he wanders around frozen-faced until his theme music ("He's All Alone" by Dionne Warwick) cues up. Then the credits roll and "The Love Machine" ends.

Kind of abrupt, don't you think? I mean, what happened? Was Robin fired? Did he quit? Perhaps he's "on assignment"? Are Judith and her husband through? Hey, movie makers, want to clue us in here?

"Shall we dance?" Robin and Judith struggle over an incriminating "slave bracelet." Jerry's boyfriend is collapsed in the corner.

Of course, for connoisseurs of cheese/sleaze "The Love Machine" is a cinematic document of sheer, unadulterated nuttiness.

First and foremost, one must applaud the near catatonic performance of John Philip Law in the title role.

With his hair plastered to his skull and never in the same turtleneck twice, Law is about as charismatic as a corpse in the advance stages of ririgormortis. Indeed, his unblinking state and monotone delivery recall Law's earlier performance in 1968's "Barbarella", where he played the angel Pygor to Jane Fonda's notorious space cadet. The big difference was in that movie was his character was suppose to have an unblinking stare because he was blind.(He was also down in the dumps because he'd lost the will to fly--until he has sex with Barbarella. Then he's soaring in the wild blue yonder like a pro.) However, Law's Robin Stone is so lifeless, you just don't buy that women are so crazy about him--unless they have a thing for necrophilia, which is kinda of icky.

Also stumbling around here is Jodie Wexler as the doomed, dim Amanda. Perhaps the highlight of her performance is the TV commercial she stars in to promote "Xanadu', the fragrance of Amanda." Wearing a bunch of hippy/dippy outfits and frolicking like a hose monkey among cardboard sets and psychedelic lighting, poor Wexler does her best to appear as the height of counter-culture chic. Unfortunately, the whole thing resembles a cross between an AV geek's wet dream and a cheap-o version of an OMNI-MAX Laser Floyd show. No wonder the poor dear disappeared from the screen after this--and who could blame her?

So now you may be wondering how watching "The Love Machine" will make you feel better. Admittedly, this is a toughie. Hmmm. Let me think. OK. Here goes. Watching "The Love Machine" will make you feel better because the flick is so awful and the clothes are so ugly and dialogue is so insipid that you can take heart that neither you nor your loved ones are responsible for one bit of it. After all, you didn't write this witty exchange between Robin and some nameless bimbo after Amanda catches them in the hay:

SHE: "You're not a very nice man."

ROBIN: "No, I'm not. (Pause) Let's take a shower."

Until next time movie lovers, be grateful that your fashion fails have remained private, and SAVE THE MOVIES!