Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Junk Cinema (AKA Bad Movies) Can Teach You

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

Well, I have no life.

Just kidding!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Beauty is only skin deep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

4) Screwed up parents equal screwed up kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) A perfect, utopian society is bunk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7) Common, household items can save your life.

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

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

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

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

Even the simplest things can make a big difference.

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

Earth girls are easy? Says who?

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

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

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

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

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

In short, who you callin' easy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And remember, save the movies!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

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

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

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

Dig this:

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

Whew! Take that, "Globe Trekker"!

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

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

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

Stewart Granger: America's Most British FBI Agent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is This Anyway To Run A Top Secret Evil Organization?

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

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

Actually, not really.

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

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

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

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

My Secret Agent Is Dumber Than Your Secret Agent

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

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

Is the Pope Catholic?

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

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

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

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

Until next time, save the movies!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Supermodel's Acting Debut Proves Aliens Walk Among Us

Editor's note: Hi-ho, movie lovers! Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to post for a while. However, I plan to rectify this state of affairs by presenting a series of darn good articles on bad movies--starting now!

Swimsuit model Kathy Ireland preps in her greatest role: the needy, nerdy Wanda in "Alien From L.A."

Poor Wanda!(Kathy Ireland, a regular Sports Illustrated cover-girl.) Her mother is dead. Her explorer father is never home. She has eyebrows that rival Eddie Munster's. Robbie (Don Michael Paul), her surfer-dude boyfriend, has just dumped her. AND she has a squeaker toy for a voice box.

Could things get any worse for this sad sack Valley Girl?

Of course they can!

After all, Wanda is the heroine of "Alien From L.A." (1988), a combination "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Romancing the Stone" churned out by the International House of Cheese better known as Golan Globus Productions.

Needy And Nerdy

While working her shift at the local drive-in, Wanda receives a letter informing her that her dad is missing and presumed dead. Even though she is afraid of planes, trains, automobiles, water and the sight of her own shadow, Wanda bravely trudges off to Africa to investigate.

It's there she learns that pops was working on the theory that the missing continent of Atlantis was actually an alien space-ship. When the ship crashed into the center of the earth, the aliens decided to make lemon-aide out of lemons and settle underground. Furthermore, successive Atlantis governments have gone to great lengths to ensure that future generations know nothing of the world above.

Now, any normal, thinking person stumbling upon this info would quickly conclude that dad was A) completely off his dot or B) sampling way too much of the local Hash product or C) a combination of both. Wanda, however, is neither a thinker or normal. Thus, she foolishly goes off in search of dear old dad herself--and promptly falls into the center of the earth which, is to say, Atlantis.

Wanda falls feet first into adventure! Leading lady Kathy Ireland's facial expression is about as animated as she gets.

G'day From Atlantis!

The Atlantis Wanda tumbles into is a dark, dusty, sepia-toned Hell-hole where people dress in early '80's punk fashions. The major industries appear to be mining and pro-wrestling. Even worse, the inhabitants of this dust choked place speak in inexplicable "Australian" accents because...well...they just do. This must have been a deliberate artistic choice by the flick's director to encourage his cast to do this and, like every artistic decision concerning this flick, it turned out to be a bad one.

By far the worst Australian accent belongs to William R. Moses (best remembered for his stint on the prime-time soaper "Falcon Crest") as "Gus". Gus, you see, is a miner always hoping to strike it rich. As "Australian" men from the Outback are want to be, Gus is rough, tough and gruff--and he has no use for the simpering Wanda, even if she did help him fight off squatters to his latest claim. Chattering like a demented chipmunk, Wanda wears Gus down with her tale of woe and TO SHUT HER UP he agrees to help her locate her dad.

Crocodile Dundee? Nope. It's William R. Moses as "Gus", Wanda's "Australian" buddy from Down Under... down under ground, that is.

So off they go to "the City", where the streets are clogged with wild '80's punkers with teased hair and bad make-up jobs. Despite their government's fascist attempts to make sure nobody knows about the world above, Atlantians must be secretly watching reruns of "Solid Gold", because there is no other way to describe how these people look.

Naturally, a gal like Wanda is going to stick out like a sore thumb in Atlantis and she attracts two VERY different kinds of attention: from the government, which hunts down and executes any and all "aliens" and from the pro-wrestling industry, which is always on the look-out for people with "big bones". Trailing after Gus, Wanda is spotted by a Joan Jett-ish punk with really bad teeth (Janie du Plessis), who decides to sell her to crime boss Mambino (Deep Ray), a midget dressed like a 1930's gangster who flaunts red eyelashes that fall to his cheeks.

Did you get all of that?

To achieve this, the evil Joan Jett punker sticks Wanda with a hypo filled with stupid serum, while Gus nips off to make a phone call.

Crime boss and pro-wrestling kingpin Mambino (Deep Ray) readies for his close-up.

Aliens On The Run

Now, you are probably wondering, "What happened to Wanda's father? Is he even in Atlantis?"

Yes, here's there, being held in prison by female General Rykov, a baddie who dresses like Darth Vader, sports a black eye-patch and is prone to pulling faces like the Carol Burnette character "Nora Desmond". She's the one who believes if the civilization of Atlantis is found, the humans will enslave it's people "like trolls". The General is really intense about this. Taking a more even-handed approach is Consul Crassus (Simon Poland), who thinks the world above poses no threat to the world below.

Meanwhile, a doped-up Wanda is delivered to mob boss Mambino. If you're a fan of Kathy Ireland's SI covers and hope mini-me meanie Mambino will make her strip down and wrestle, well, tough taters. Before Mambino can do anything to Wanda, Gus arrives to rescue her. In the ensuing chase, they get separated and Wanda meets "Charmin'" (Thom Matthews), an Australian without an Australian accent. He helps Wanda fight off Mambino's goons and, unlike Gus, isn't bothered by her irritating voice and even more irritating personality.

Crime boss Mambino and a Joan Jett-type punk haggle over the price of "big boned" Wanda. This is Kathy Ireland's best scene in the movie--because she's not talking!

Luckily, their romantic interlude is mercifully brief; soon Wanda is captured by the government's police and carted off to jail.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Wanda?

Finally reunited with her long-lost dad, Wanda is brought before the head honcho of Atlantis. This fellow is a Rastafarian gent who dispenses justice from a constantly rotating...Lazy Susan. Yes, you read that correctly. Don't try to understand it, just accept it. Anyway, whimpering Wanda stands before this fellow and pleads for her and her father's release. Just when you expect General Rykov to scream, "Off with their heads!" Gus bursts in to save the day. Truth be told, Consul Crassus helps out, too. So now Wanda, her dad, Crassus et. al. jump into Gus' schlep car--which he appears to steer with his feet. They arrive at a rocket/elevator and prepare to blast off when General Rykov arrives. She's about to arrest everybody when Consul Crassus busts her one right in the chops. "Bitchin' left hook, Crassus!" Wanda squeals. Then father and daughter blast off for home.

When next we see Wanda, she's a new person. She's no longer afraid, no longer nerdy, no longer needy. Proudly prancing around in a bikini top and sarong, Wanda sends surfer dude Robbie packing when he cravenly suggests they get back together. Then, as the sun is setting on Malibu Beach, a guy on a motorcycle slides up to Wanda. It's Charmin'! All the way from Atlantis! How did he get there? How did he find Wanda? Because she never bothers to ask, we'll never know. However, from the smile on Wanda's face, we're assured that these two are destined for a great and everlasting love...just as "Alien From L.A." is destined to go down in bad movie history as one the stinkiest slices of cinematic cheese the Golan Globas folks have ever churned out.

The new and improved Wanda grabs the attention of a passing motorist. 

Perhaps the best review of  "Alien From L.A." comes from leading lady Kathy Ireland herself. When she and Gus wander into "the City", they slip into a local cafe for dinner. When their food arrives, it looks like a worm sandwich. Screwing up her face, Wanda declares, "Yuck!"

No truer words were ever spoken.

Remember, save the movies!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gordon Scott IS Bart Fargo In "Danger! Death Ray"

Ad for "Le Rayon Infernal" better known as "Danger! Death Ray".

Hey, kids! Thinking about building a death ray for peaceful purposes? Think again! No matter how hard you try to keep everything honest and above board, somebody, somewhere, will always mess things up.

Of course, you don't have to take my word for it. Just ask Professor Jean Karl Michael.

He's invented a death ray FOR PEACEFUL PURPOSES ONLY and has invited a group of select European NATO types to a demonstration of this VERY PEACEFUL DEATH RAY. Things are going swell until some bad guys disguised as NATO types disrupt the proceedings. In short order, they kidnap Prof. Michael, snatch the death ray and then make a hasty get away.

I'm willing to bet these Euro-meanies have no plans to use the prof.'s death ray for "peaceful purposes", but that's just me.

Thus begins our latest feature presentation, "Danger! Death Ray", a 1967 Italian/English/French spy movie clearly inspired by the runaway success of James Bond.

Indeed, all the Bondian elements audiences know and love are in "Danger! Death Ray": the testy boss, the adoring secretary, an evil organization that wants to be the boss of everything, a super secret agent who is catnip to women, far out fashions, futuristic gadgets and exotic locales. Too bad "Danger! Death Ray" is such a laughable, badly-dubbed, shoddy piece of work...of course, if "Danger! Death Ray" wasn't such a laughable, badly-dubbed, shoddy piece of work, there would be no reason to celebrate it!

So, away we go!

How I Spent My Summer Vacation By Bart Fargo

Once world leaders/officials learn Prof. Michael and his peaceful death ray have been kidnapped, they call the only man who can save the day: Secret Agent Bart Fargo (Gordon Scott)!

Rise and Shine, Big Boy: Secret Agent Bart Fargo (Gordon Scott) receives his wake-up call.

Unfortunately, he's on vacation and sound to sleep too boot. So his boss Senor Raymond (Julio St. Cruz) sends two groovy chicks to Bart's hotel room to (ahem) "wake him up." Once delivered to headquarters, (which is never identified), Bart complains that he's "on holiday" and, like, can't someone else save the world this time? However, once the urgency of the situation is made clear to Fargo (and he's promised both a pay raise and an even longer vacation after he saves the world), Bart reluctantly goes back to work.

This upsets Bart's cuddlemate Miss Roberta, but even she agrees that the problems of two people don't amount to a hill of beans when a bunch of baddies of have a death ray. Thus, she reluctantly waves Fargo off to his mission and Senor Raymond orders her back to work.

On the plane over to Madrid, Bart flirts with Silvia Solar, an Italian fashion editor with an enormous bouffant. Fargo would like nothing better than to spend more time with Silvia, but he must follow a tip that "something is going down" at the Club Morocco. What he finds there is the most inept collection of no-goodnicks this side of the White House Plumbers. Their leader is a chap named Scarface (Carlo Hurtado)--so named because he has a scar he tries to hide with the world's worst fake beard. After battling these guys and engaging them in a roof-top chase, Bart--literally--drops into the studio of Lucy (Delfi Mauro), an Elizabeth Hurley-ish painter. After she hides Bart and shoos the goons away (GOON: "I'm looking for a man!" Lucy: "So am I!") a grateful Scott utters my favorite line in the movie: "I don't know who you are, honey, but Bart Fargo owes you a favor."

Hey, What Happened To That Peaceful Death Ray?

"Note to self: my face hurts." One of "Danger! Death Ray"s goon squad.

You are now probably wondering what happened to Prof. Michael and his "peaceful" death ray.

Well, they have been hustled onto a submarine, then taken to the booby-trapped villa of Alberto Dalbes, known as "Carver". Just who Mr. Carver is, where his money comes from and why he so badly wants the death ray is, alas, never explained.

Leaving that plot point for later, "Danger! Death Ray" focuses once again on Bart's popularity with the ladies. Besides Lucy (who never appears in the same hair-do twice), there is Silvia Solar, the fashion editor Bart flirted with a while back. She pops unexpectedly back into Fargo's life, insisting that she thought Bart's hotel room was hers. "The corridor was so dark," she explains, "I couldn't see."  The two have sex and then Silvia suggests they take a boat ride. While Bart is enjoying a smoke at sea, Silvia is sending signals with her futuristic compact. Hmmm, seems fishy. The Silvia suddenly dives into the water--all the better for the movie's goons to blow up the love boat she and Bart were sharing.

Surprise! Silvia is in fact Mrs. Carver! Another surprise? Bart's not dead!

OK, this is getting old. Just what the hell is this all leading up to?

Your guess is as good at mine.

Back to the action.

"Let Me Take You On A Sea Cruise": Mrs. Carver (Silvia Solar) plans secret agent Bart Fargo's burial at sea.

Gussied up in a tux, Bart crashes a swanky party at Carver's villa. It's there he learns that Prof. Michael is being held at another villa. See, the poor professor refuses to show anybody how to operate his peaceful death ray. So the meanies shoot him up with a drug that turns him into a zombie. A zombie that will show Carver's goons how to work the death ray, to be precise. Lucy is there, too, but as a hostage.

While Bart races to this villa, he encounters various thugs who must be shot, stabbed, hit, kicked and otherwise dispatched. This takes a lot of time. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs.Carver are running around, trying to shoot Bart. Unfortunately, it's Mrs. Carver who gets gunned down instead. Mr. Carver, in a show of husbandly concern, dumps her body on the villa's steps.

Poor Prof. Michael eventually has the death ray all warmed up and ready to go. Mr. Carver strolls into the secret room where Lucy and Prof. Michael are being kept, casually flicks on his big screen TV and observes Bart skulking inside his villa. He then grabs his remote controlls and begins shooting at the secret agent--the place is booby trapped, remember? Fargo looks to be a goner until Lucy unties herself and attacks Carver--or she tries too, anyway. FINALLY, Bart is able to break into the secret room where everybody is hanging out. He shoots Carver, deflects the death ray and ensures that the meanie Carver dies by falling plaster if the bullets haven't done the trick.

Whew! Close one!

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Bart Fargo

When next we see our hero, he's in his hotel room. Lucy is there, too, and they are enjoying a glass of champagne. Then Miss Roberta, Bart's cuddlemate back at headquarters, suddenly can be heard chirping via his futuristic wristwatch.

 "Darling!" she exclaims. "Where are you? The plane to Majorca is about to leave!"

Giving Lucy a sly smile, Bart throws his futuristic wristwatch out the window. Two seconds later, the film cuts to a man's hand. He's holding the futuristic wristwatch. He then tosses into a pool.

It is on this confusing note that "Danger! Death Ray" ends.

Has the death ray been destroyed? The filmmakers never tell us.

Has Professor Michael been given medical treatment? The filmmakers never tell us that, either.

Has Bart Fargo finally left on his much needed vacation? The filmmakers are rather mum on that, too.

Therefore, if the filmmakers are content to allow these plot points to fade into the ether, we should, too. After all, the movie is over, which is the main thing.

Bart Fargo prepares to knock some sense into two extras.

Nevertheless, there are just a FEW THINGS about "Danger! Death Ray" that deserve further examination.

First, the plot of "Danger! Death Ray" is strikingly similar to the plot of another Euro-James Bond type flick, "Secret Agent Super Dragon" (1966).

Both starred American actors in the secret agent/spy role. Both spies were trying to enjoy their respective vacations when they were unexpectedly dragged back to work. Both spies were "involved" with their boss's secretary and ended up hooking up with a new gal at the film's end. Both refused to say when they would end their vacations.

Next, "Danger! Death Ray" clearly had no budget for special effects. This is especially true in the case of the "submarine" and "helicopter" that whisks poor Professor Michael to Mr. Carver's lair.

While watching this flick, sharp eyes will note that the "sub" is actually a plastic tub toy, as is the helicopter. In fact, the scenes of the sub emerging from the ocean's depths and later streaming along to Mr. C's WERE CLEARLY SHOT IN A BATH TUB. Economical? Yes. Convincing? No.

Ditto the little red "sports car" of Bart's that careens off a twisty road. It is clearly a Match Box Special. My late brother collected thousands of Match Box cars, so I know one when I see one. Not bragging, just a fact.

Underwater scenes for "Danger! Death Ray" filmed on location at the nephew's fish tank.

Bart Fargo: The Spy Who Bugged Me

Then there is the music chosen to accompany "Danger! Death Ray". 

Basically, there are three tunes that are heard braying on the film's soundtrack: a bouncy instrumental piece that features a group of singers warbling "Ba (pause) upadupadada" over and over and OVER again; a funkier tune used for chase scenes that the old hands at "MST3K" insist is a riff on Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man"; and a ditty that sounds suspiciously like The Lovin' Spoonfull's "Did You Ever have To Make Up Your Mind?"

What does all this signify? That the people responsible for "Danger! Death Ray" couldn't come up with or afford an original score, so they cribbed some elevator music!

Last, there is Bart Fargo himself.

Gordon Scott, who appeared in five "Tarzan" films and a collection of "sword and sandals" epics in the 50's and '60's, is one of the MANY James Bond wanna-bes that have graced the silver screen over the years. He joins Ray Danton, Vince Edwards, Stewart Granger, Mike "Manix" Conners, Tom Adams and Neil Connery (Sean's kid brother) as pretenders for the James Bond throne.

However, Scott, though hunky, may be the least memorable of the bunch. He simply lacks charisma and charisma is the one thing a James Bond hopeful must have.

Of course, he was stuck in a low budget, confusing, Euro-spy flick with an irritating soundtrack and tub toys for special effects. Maybe dealing with all that sapped what charisma Scott had. It would sap mine, anyway.

In conclusion, it should be noted that "Danger Death Ray" is actually the English title given to this flick. Another title is "ll Naggio infernale" or "The Infernal Beam". My choice would be "Danger! An Infernal Movie!"

Until next time, save the movies!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Your Next Flight Through "San Fransisco International"--If You Dare!

Hi ho, movie lovers! Ready for your next jet-set romp around the world? Before you check your bags and get your passport stamped, please find yourself a copy of "San Francisco International"--a TV pilot from 1970--put your seat in an upright position and hang-on for dear life!

Unearthed by the beloved geniuses of "MST3K", "San Francisco International" is a 10-course Velveeta banquet of ugly hair, ugly clothes, hysterically bad acting, nutty plot contrivances and a can't miss cast from B, C and D movie heaven.

Pernell Roberts (of "Bonanza" and "Trapper John, MD") plays the head administrator of San Francisco International airport. He's an insufferable, pompous ass who's personal motto is "My job, my way". Roberts' character is so full of himself that when "SFI" was made into a short-lived TV series, he was replaced by the much more likable Lloyd Bridges.

The head of airport security, meanwhile, is Clu Gulagar, a surprisingly mellow fellow for such an intense job. Skulking around the edges of the terminal is Tab Hunter, an airline employee/quick change artist who is planning a mid-flight robbery of a federal reserve shipment. Then there is David Hartman ("Lucas Tanner" and "GMA") as the most happily married pilot ever. Have I forgotten anyone? Oh, yes, ex-movie star Van Johnson as an influential newspaper columnist who is experiencing marital turbulence (rim-shot).

"I'm Pernell Roberts. Fly me."
Our story begins with self-satisfied Pernell hosting a special flight of congressmen and transportation officials. Suddenly, he dramatically announces that the plane's landing gear has conked out and they will have to make an emergency landing. While the passengers turn various shades of pale, Roberts turns things over to "this young woman" (the stewardess), who is dressed like a Burger King counter girl, complete with go-go boots.
On the ground at SFI, it's all hands on deck as the various airport departments and specialists spring into action. The plane and its precious cargo land safely, of course, and once the passengers breathe a sigh of relief, Pernell cheerfully declares that (yuck! yuck! yuck!) they were never in any danger! He was only kidding! He was just showing the VIPs why SFI needs all those federal funds and updated technology and stuff that the penny-pinchers in congress refuse to hand over! Isn't that clever?!
While Pernell is defending himself to his furious boss (and his cute blond secretary/cuddlemate Katie chuckles over her guy's latest weird-ass stunt), trouble is brewing elsewhere.
Tab Hunter, you see, has masterminded the kidnapping of SFI pilot David Hartman's wife. Why? So he will delay his regularly scheduled flight by one hour, which will allow Tab's ferret-featured cohorts the chance to abscond with a federal reserve shipment. If Dave refuses to comply, they will kill his wife, whom the baddies have stashed in the ugliest motel room imaginable.
Sweating bullets over his dilemma, Hartman does as he's told. To delay the flight, Dave insists his plane has a "mushy nose wheel" and demands that a fleet of mechanics check everything out, pronto. Pernell throws up his hands in despair.
"Roger, tower. Which way is the sky?"
Among the passengers forced to disembark from Hartman's mushy plane is the wife and teen son of columnist Van Johnson. He's obsessed with his job and never home and the Mrs. (Tina Scott) has finally reached the end of her rope. Even more unglued is their teen son Davey, who is nuts about planes. So nuts, in fact, that he sneaks onto the tarmac, hops into a two-seater and takes off. The only problem? Davey doesn't know how to land the plane!
Lucky for him, Pernell does. So he hops into a plane, establishes radio contact with Davey and guides the sniveling little twerp back to SFI. After mom and dad embrace their kid, snotty Roberts informs Johnson and Scott that Davey's little joyride was the result of all the upheaval at home and they had better iron things out before junior does something really weird, like, oh, stealing an airplane and zooming off for parts unknown.
OK, so far Pernell has scared the pants off some congressman, tussled with his boss, saved some air born teen twerp and dispensed some tough-love marital advice. Makes you wonder what mellow fellow Clu Gulager has been up to, doesn't it?
Have no fear, Clu Gulager is here!
Well, criminal master-mind Tab Hunter and his nasty cohorts have boarded David Hartman's plane with his kidnapped wife in tow. By this time Gulager has pieced together Hartman's "mushy wheel" problem with the robbery and his wife's kidnapping. Ably assisted by fellow officers, Clu boards the plane in disguise, ambushes Tab and his miscreants and delivers Hartman's TV wife to the grateful embrace of her hubby. This takes about 10 seconds.
Earlier, while egomaniac Pernell was engaged elsewhere, Clu managed to mediate a dispute between a square and a guitar-toting, fringe-vest-wearing hippie that erupted at the terminal's candy counter.  The upshot of this episode is that mellow Clu takes the hippie's side. Grateful that "the man" has dispensed justice fairly, the hippie plays Gulager the supreme compliant of saying "You're all right." The square, meanwhile, flounces off in a huff.
Order restored at last, "SFI" ends its broadcast day. So self-satisfied and deeply smug that he makes Donald Trump look modest and retiring, Pernell Roberts strides confidently into the sunset--blissfully unaware that "Trapper John, MD" is still 9 years off.
The problems with "San Francisco International" can be summed up in two words: Pernell Roberts.
It's not just that the guy is pompous, smug, insufferable, a know-it-all, a jerk and an egomaniac. He also sports mutton-chop sideburns and struts around the airport like he's God crossed with George Clooney. You simply end up hating the guy, where Roberts seems totally oblivious to how truly grating he is. I'm not sure if this was a deliberate artistic choice by Pernell or if his director made him do it, but, boy, is he unlikeable. No wonder the producers replaced him! However, on the plus side, Roberts' ham-bone theatrics in "SFI" absolutely earned him a place in the Self-Satisfied Actors Hall of Shame.
The other cast members, meanwhile, struggle with their cardboard characters, hilariously convinced that they are acting in A SERIOUS DRAMA. Van Johnson, as the newspaper columnist with family problems, seems either on the verge of tears or wetting his pants. David Hartman, as the beleaguered pilot with the kidnapped wife, looks as if he's suffering from intestinal cramps. Teen flyboy Davey is certainly mopey--and a sniveling little twerp. Only Clu Gulager is having any fun as the totally mellow head of airport security.
However, even with all its flaws, I'll still take "SFI" over ANY reality show ANY day. Why?
Because the ugly clothes, the ugly hair, the ugly sets and the ugly acting all combine to make a singularly entertaining experience, almost in spite of itself. I'm sure everybody involved only had the best of intentions and never expected the viewers at home would be laughing their heads off. When a movie turns out to be as delightfully demented as "SFI", the cast, crew and producers are always the last to know.
So why waste your precious time watching "stars" attempting to rumba for cash, when you can watch fun people like Clu Gulager matching wits with Tab Hunter while simultaneously coping with David Hartman's mushy nose wheels!?
In short, "San Francisco International" may be a rickety contraption with poor landing gear, but Junk Cinema lovers wouldn't have it any other way.
Until next time, save the movies!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

For A Good Time Call...

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Due to technical difficulties beyond my control, I can't put images on my blog. However, because I have articles I want to share, I will be publishing stuff picture-free until I can get this straightened out. I apologize. Sincerely, Beth Arnold

Dr. Lauren Slaughter (Sigourney Weaver) is an attractive, smart, stylish Yank living in London. She
has a PhD. from Harvard, spent 3 years in China and speaks several languages. She writes and lectures at the hoity-toity Middle Eastern Institute. Any time left over is devoted to jogging and working out.

Sound like a nice life? Ha! Dr. Slaughter only makes 150 pounds a week. Home is a cramped "bed-sitter" where the hot water comes and goes and the landlord is poky about making needed home repairs.

So what's a gal to do? Lauren needs more money and decides to take a second job. With her fancy pants credentials, what do you think Dr. S does on the side? Tutor? Translate? Teach aerobics?

Would you believe... hooking?

See, Lauren is sent a video from "The Jasmine Escort Agency", which extols the wonderful opportunities available to gals who work as "paid escorts".

Now, so we are all on the same page here, paid escorts ARE NOT HOOKERS! Hookers are cheap, lowly, disease-ridden wretches who sell their bodies for cash and are beholden to their nasty, nasty pimps.

ESCORTS, on the other hand, are attractive, healthy, intelligent professionals who accept "screened dates" from "gentlemen" and are not always expected to, you know, "put out".

Sufficiently intrigued, Weaver signs on with the agency and begins going out on "dates"--and thus begins "Half-Moon Street"(1986), a would-be "romantic thriller" where sophisticated swells parry and thrust about politics and morals while the average viewer tries to keep track of who's screwing who.
Nice Work If You Can Get It...

OK, so Dr. Slaughter begins going out on "dates" as an "escort". However, she's not your typical trick. She refuses to tart herself up for her "clients", for example. She doesn't ditch her smart-chick glasses, either. If her "date" is a jerk or a bore, she tells him. If she doesn't want to sleep with the guy, she doesn't. When Lauren over-hears one "date" bragging in Japanese about how much her sexual favors cost, she imperiously informs the startled chap that she's "not on the menu" this evening and, furthermore, there will be no sex, either.

Dr. Slaughter speaks Japanese, you see.

Anything else? Oh, yes, she's totally vegan  and charges double for smokers.

Surprisingly, Lauren's unusual approach to her side job does not irritate her agency or her "dates". In fact, it makes her wildly popular and soon she's rolling in cash.

Then one enchanted evening the Jasmine Agency sends her to the home of Lord Bulbeck (Michael Caine, with a '70's porn 'stache). He's a rich, widowed, lonely anti-terrorist expert who has a thing for "hired help". They chat about China and other serious matters and then hit the sheets. When Lauren later asks his lordship why he's into escorts, he replies that, with his busy schedule, he just doesn't have time for "courtship rituals" and prefers to cut to the chase.

This rationale strikes a cord with Weaver, because she, too, prefers "uncomplicated sex." When Caine wonders if Sigourney's side job is a bit risky, she shrugs it off by quipping, "I have a gynecologist who knows karate."

Once introduced, Weaver and Caine fall into a pattern of meeting, having sex, arguing, breaking up, not speaking to each other, reconciling and then hitting the hay again. This gets rather tiring, but, hey, relationships are complicated, even "uncomplicated" ones, right?

Somebody's Watching Me...
Meanwhile, the subplot of "Half-Moon Street" concerns Caine trying to organize a top secret meeting between meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials. This often interferes with his "dates" with Sigourney and, naturally, she becomes madder than a hen with wet feathers when Caine keeps standing her up. When one assignation in Switzerland falls through, Weaver hooks up with a hunky Frenchman named Sonny (Vincent Lindon) whom she meet playing squash (or racquetball).
"I know! 'Something came up'!" Lauren snaps when her titled cuddlemate tries to explain. "Same here. I got hired. It was fantastic!" 
Now, remember that Lord Bulbeck is a government official and anti-terrorism expert and involved in top secret negotiations? Well, on top of that, he also appears to be under secret surveillance--as is Lauren. Who is spying on them--and why--is never reveled, but they are up to something, you mark my words.
Eventually Caine and Weaver patch things up for the billionth time and his lordship agrees to visit Lauren's swanky new digs to celebrate his birthday. She even makes him a birthday cake, which you can bet is low-fat, low-salt and low-carb, as well as wheat and gluten-free.
Then her door bell rings. It's Sonny the sexy Frenchman! He's bearing a big bouquet of flowers--and a mean right hook. After he roughs Lauren up, Sonny smashes all her phones and brandishes a gun. Turns out he's a hit-man and he plans on snuffing both Caine and Weaver!
However, smart cookie Sigourney double crosses Sonny and manages to kill him. Then a trusted character suddenly arrives, flashes a gun and reveals that he's (gasp!) a hit man, too! See, another trusted character thought Caine and Weaver would fancy each other. Knowing she was hard up for cash (and game for anything), they purposefully sent Lauren up with the Jasmine Agency! She was then purposefully sent on "dates" with Lord Bulbeck! Poor Lauren was used to purposefully bait a trap for his lordship!
Don't you hate it when that happens? I mean, how rude!
What's more, this trusted character goes on to explain that she and Caine will be offed to fit the pre-written tabloid headline "Lord Bulbeck Dead In Love Nest With Hooker!"--as soon as he shows up, of course.
Ding! Dong! It's Lord Bulbeck! Sigourney is forced to open the door and bang! bang! bang! The evil trusted character dies in a shower of gun-fire. The police rush the dazed Weaver (who took a slug in the shoulder) to a near-by ambulance, while cordoned off spectators clap (?). Where's Lord Bulbeck? He's off to the side, watching the action and coolly smoking a cigarette. When the smoke clears he helpfully inquires, "Is the girl OK?"
The End Of The Affair...
Turns out Lord Bulbeck knew he was being targeted by baddies! He also knew Dr. Lauren was unknowingly being set-up to trap him! And he never told her! Oh, no! Does this mean their love never existed? Was Lord Bulbeck just "faking it" to fool the terrorists?
Rest easy, movie lovers. From the looks Caine and Weaver exchange at the end of the flick, it's clear that their love will survive "Half-Moon Street" did their subsequent careers, despite the fact that the picture bombed at the box office.
After watching "Half-Moon Street", I couldn't help but notice that it bore A VERY STRANGE RESEMBLANCE to the deeply cherished TV-movie "Co-Ed call Girl", starring your friend and mine, Tori Spelling.
Consider: Sigourney Weaver is a PhD in her movie, while Tori is the most blank-faced pre-med student ever in hers. Both characters need money. Both sign up with an "escort agency". Both enjoy raking in the cash. Sigourney is almost killed by terrorists, while Tori is almost killed by her pimp. Both gals spout goofy dialogue. Sigourney, remember, brags about having a gynecologist who knows karate. Tori, meanwhile, whimpers, "My heart's not in it anymore!", which causes her pimp to snarl back, "I don't care about your heart! Only this body and what it can do for me!" Both eventually quit being escorts.
Furthermore, Sigourney is the daughter of TV pioneer Sylvester "Pat" Weaver and Tori is the daughter of "The Sultan of Schlock" Aaron Spelling.
A harmless coincidence? You tell me...
So once you have digested the cheesy goodness that is "Half-Moon Street", what life lessons will you take away?
1) Having a gynecologist who knows karate is great--for them. However, it won't do a damn thing for you.
2) Higher education and an advanced degree does not guarantee one a life-time of meaningful employment.
3) Graduating from Yale Drama School (as Weaver did) also does not guarantee one a life-time of stellar parts on the stage or the screen.
4) Vincent Lindon, the sexy Frenchman Sigourney shacks up with, once dated Princess Caroline of Monaco. There was even speculation they might marry. Alas, after 5 years, the duo called it quits and Caroline eventually married Prince Ernst of Hanover (they are currently separated, sad to say).
5) Whether you call yourself a hooker, an escort, a call girl, a lady of the evening or a street walker, you still sell your body for cash to strangers. Sad, really--and dangerous.
6) Few johns look like Michael Caine.
7) Sigourney is one of the few silver screen hookers who didn't get an Oscar or an Oscar nomination for playing a doxie. Kim Basinger, Shirley Jones, Elisabeth Shue, Sharon Stone, Donna Reed, Jane Fonda and Jodie Foster were luckier.
Last, but not least, "Half-Moon Street" may be a swanky address in London, but it's a cinematic dead-end everywhere else.

Until next time, save the movies!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Short Takes: Ann Coulter's Grapes of Wrath

Not too long ago, conservative good-time girl Ann Coulter opined about "poor people" and how it was "cruel" for "rich people" not to " shame" poor people for being poor.

She also stated that poor people need to be told to keep "their knees close together" before they got married, so they will stop breeding all those babies that feed at the public trough.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, April 27th, writer Leonard Pitts, Jr. published a column commemorating the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, one of America's most cherished novels,  later made into a classic film starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad and Jane Darnell as his stoic (but heart-broken) ma.

Pitts ends his piece recounting how Rosasharn, Tom's sister, having lost her child, suckles a man too starved and shriveled to take solid food. As Pitt points out, although Rosasharn has literally lost everything else, she still knows her breast milk could save this man, so she willingly shares the only thing she has left.

In light of Ann's recent pronouncements, I began to wonder how Coulter would react to Steinbeck's novel in general and Rosasharn's behavior in particular.

First, I am sure Ann would score Rosashrn for being in a poor family and for not marrying a wealthier man.

Next, I bet Ann would complain that Rosashrn was too poor to be pregnant anyway and, although married, she should have kept her knees together until the family's finances shaped up.

After that, Ann would most likely point out that Rosashrn shouldn't have been traveling with her family in that run-down truck in her condition anyway. Didn't she have family or friends she could stay with until the baby was born?

And considering that Rosashrn shared that long, hot, bumpy, dusty drive with relatives who were sick and would die along the way, how could she possibly expect to have a healthy baby? Didn't granny expose everybody to TB or something?

Oh, and that husband of hers: he left her, right? Guess Rosaharn should have married more carefully. Or maybe she has bad taste in men. Either way, that's her fault, too. Better luck next time.

And if Rosashrn's baby had lived, well, you can bet Ann would see it as just another poor kid tax payers end up supporting, so maybe the tyke's death was a good thing after all.

Finally, Rosashrn's nursing of the starving man? Come on! Isn't that going a bit too far with that artistic license stuff? You can practically see Ann waving that off as some stunt you'd expect from a Hollywood liberal touring a displaced person's camp--with the cameras rolling, of course--rather than some cracker with little education and no press agent. Where do these writers get their ideas?

All in all, you can bet Ann would dismiss The Grapes of Wrath as a predictable left-wing peon to "the little people" and the film itself (including Henry Fonda's famous speech) as nothing more than cheap sentiment meant to grab an Oscar. In fact, she might even demand a probe into Steinbeck's background and finances to see if the late author had any "real" experience with poverty himself, which would entitle him to write a book where big business, banks and union busters were looked upon unfavorably.

Or maybe I'm being too hard on Ann. After all, she has a reputation for being controversial, for saying outrageous stuff meant to shock. Maybe her comments about poor people and closed knees and the need to "shame" poor people so they won't be poor anymore was just to make headlines and sell books and she really doesn't think that hatefully at all.

As another famous American writer once wrote, "Isn't is pretty to think so?"