Monday, November 22, 2010

Beneath the Planet of the Buddha Man!

Who da Man? Buddha Man!

My eyes and ears were made happy.

Part of the 2010 Halloween Film Festival
Horror of Dracula  (Hammer Studios, 1958)  Hammer Studios had been making various potboilers and British film noir crime flicks for several years when they decided to do a new version of Bram Stoker's oft-filmed epistolary concoction and struck filmic gold. The script (by Jimmy Sangster) makes some large, but fairly comfortable changes to Stoker's story in the interests of compression and budget. We start off as usual with ol' Jonathan Harker travelling to Dracula's castle, but it seems a bit closer to Germany than Transylvania if you go by the local villagers. Dracula is very tall and not very Romanian, as he's played by Christopher Lee here; but all is forgiven because he's played by Christopher Lee here. And this time, Harker turns out not to be the Count's real estate agent and pawn, but a vampire hunter (!) employed by Van Helsing and well aware just where he's temporarily hanging his hat. He's all ready to lay down some serious stakage, however, he's no match for the Big D, and soon the Big Fanghuna has settled in near Jonathan's hometown in England, the better to put the bite on his fiance. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) shows up searching for Harker, hangs out a bit with Harker's pal Arthur (Michael Gough), and soon is in for the fight of his life with the Grand Poohbah of Vampires.

While Dracula avoids working on his tan, Van Helsing suggests some
decorating touches that are not well received.
This is a tasty little horror treat, done to a turn by the fine folks at Hammer. The cast is impeccable, the direction tight, the production atmospheric and there are some solid scares to be had. Both Cushing and Lee play their parts very well, and this was the first time of several for each (though they each took at least one picture off featuring the other before coming back together for the last couple 15 years later). Titled simply  Dracula in its native land before coming here to have Horror of added to avoid the ire of Universal Studios, this had some scandalous onscreen blood and bosomy cleavage (though no nudity) for the 1950's, but obviously those aspects come off a little more tame more than 50 years later. If you have ever or have never enjoyed any of the various Dracula movies, you should really check this one out, you'll be glad you did!

Cavegirl  (Crown International, 1985)  I saw this movie was playing at a local theater back in 1985, and I skipped it. I caught up with it on USA Up All Night several years later, but it just didn't send me. I recently gave it another try from a DVD collection of Crown International's filmic jewels, and watching it uncut in its proper widescreen ratio, it seemed a whole new movie! Daniel Roebuck (in his first role!) plays Rex, a nerdy high school guy who gets picked on at his school a lot. The best gag the pranksters pull is when they switch the signs on the rest rooms, and despite Rex being a student there for 3 or 4 years he walks right in to the women's room because it says '  men' on the door. But I shouldn't complain, because he runs into a bevy of topless women in there (including LG Fabulous Babe Michelle Bauer!) and is chased around by them, getting us an eyeful. Then, it's time to settle in for some plot as Rex and his classmates head out on a field trip to a pile of rocks outside of town while some jetplanes fly over conducting some kind of experiment. About the time Rex steps inside a cave, the planes fly over again, fire off a missile, and with a huge rumble the cave collapses! Rex fights his way out, but things have changed. He meets up with some cavemen, and quickly realizes he's somehow travelled back in time! After some slapstick encounters with the rest of the cavemen tribe and a local bear, Rex comes upon Eba (Cindy Ann Thompson), a luscious yet perky blonde in an animal skin bikini. Rex and Eba strike up a friendship, which Rex hopes might lead to something more, if he can just keep them both alive from the elements, the bear, and the neighbor tribe of cannibals!

Rex wonders if he can get the hat off or if Eba's already seen it and marked off for it.
 This is just a fun little movie, buoyed immensely by the presence of Roebuck and especially Thompson, sweet and vivacious and gorgeous as the innocent Eba. Not a whole lot happens, really, but there's some amusing character comedy bits, with Eba's tribe pretty funny at the ol' slapstick. There's also a fair amount of nudity, though some of it more eye comedy than eye candy. But it is an entertaining little flick, well worth  a watch for fans of Roebuck or anyone who wants to see a little piece of the 80's and the start of a career that's gone on for 25 years now, from Cavegirl to Matlock, from The Fugitive to Agent Cody Banks, from Lost to Glee!
I did a career-spanning interview with Daniel Roebuck for Psychotronic Video magazine a few years ago - here is what he had to say about his whole experience working on Cavegirl:

    "I moved to Los Angeles shortly before my twenty-first birthday. I was there for eight months, doing all the struggling actor things, including getting Dramalogue, which has all the latest stuff on auditions and things. There was an ad in there for a movie called Primal Urge that was looking for someone to play a high school archeologist. I get a call weeks later that they want me to come in for a film audition, for one of the smaller parts. We I was just like (awed voice) 'I got my first film audition!' On the way there, I stopped off at the bank and ran into Carl Ballantine!" (The comedian and magician). "So to this day I feel that Carl Ballantine is one of my guardian angels! So I went into this audition, and got called back for one of the smaller parts." Along the way Primal Urge changed titles to Cavegirl. "Cavegirl is an amazing thing because what happened with it could never happen again. Here I was, a kid, I've never done anything, and the way I got the lead is, all the actors were together in a big room for the second audition. All the actors, for the small parts, the big parts, all of them, and we're reading together, like you would in a community theater. The director, David Oliver, said 'Is everyone happy? Has everyone read for what they'd like to?' I'd read for the character of Ralph, a small part. I raised my hand and asked if I could read for the lead. Afterwards, I told him that I'd be happy to do anything on the film, and he told me he thought there'd be a place for me in the cast. Now, the part was written to be a really good-looking guy who would wear glasses and act nerdy. Then after he travels back in time he loses his glasses and becomes more 'cool.' So David was really taking a chance with me when he gave me the part! No experience, on my first audition, and I got the lead!"
    "The production of Cavegirl was unlike any other movie. We didn't know what call sheets were (production schedule guides that lay out each day's shooting, what and who is needed). The director would walk out, look up in the sky, play with his beard and say 'I don't know, we may not be shooting anything today.' That happened for a few days. We were all staying at a dude ranch that used to be a gay dude ranch in Caliente California. In the cement behind the ranch were imprints of hands, feet, butt cheeks, and... other things. About that last, I'm not sure how you could put it in cement and not worry! But we were all staying together in this place. We'd all have breakfast together in the morning, then go out and shoot all day. At the end of the day, there were no TVs, so we'd all sit around and talk, and people would play guitars, and stuff like that. An amazing experience."
    "Cindy Ann Thompson was a very nice girl. She was at that time dating Peter Paul, of The Barbarian Twins. Always very interesting to have him on set. I could have kicked his ass though. Just kidding! When the film was finished, the producer watched a rough cut. Then, cigar in mouth, he says 'Needs more tits in it!' So we we back to the high school and shot the locker room scene." I asked him about Michelle Bauer. "I remember Michelle Bauer for two very good reasons! (laughs) And as bad as people may perceive Cavegirl to be, it opened the door to the rest of my career, because I got representation from it, and River's Edge for that matter, because someone had seen it. And then it became this thing that Gilbert Gottfried made fun every month when they showed it on USA Up All Night!"

As I said before, it's actually a very cute movie, recommended to those so inclined. One sad note, I just found out that Cindy Ann Thompson passed away about a year ago, way too young. She had retired from acting in the late 80's, married a man named Gary Glum, and had two children Knokos and Brittania. She is missed.

This post is respectfully dedicated to Cindy Ann Thompson (6/24/59 - 10/9/09)

Thank you for reading, and always remember, hug the ones you love every chance you get.


  1. It's interesting to hear how events conspire to create opportunities for good people. Sounds like this film came around at the perfect time for Roebuck, and the eccentric production is a fond memory for him. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yeah, and I love hearing the stories like this too - it's one of the reasons I enjoy doing interviews!

  2. Sad to hear about Cindy Ann Thompson, She was beautiful and entertaining as an actor. I own the movie "CaveGirl" and agree that the movie is a funfilled comedy. She will surely be missed and my respects go out to her family. All the very best to them..

    1. Thanks very much - yeah it was a gut punch when I found out she'd passed.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.