Monday, January 10, 2011

Escape from the Planet of the Buddha Man!

Buddha Man returns! And no Baby Milo!

Happy to be back.

The Tingler  (Columbia Pictures, 1959)  Vincent Price stars in his second William Castle movie, and as usual, the flick is a fun little thriller. Vinnie plays Dr. Warren Chapin, a dedicated researcher with an earnest young assistant (Darryl Hickman - Sharky's Machine), a venomous wife, and a really wild line of research - what is it that snaps peoples spines when they die of fright? Eventually, he discovers that all of the pent up fright energy in the body causes a microscopic creature he calls the Tingler that resides in everyone's spinal area to grow uncontrollably in proportion to the level of fear, and the nasty wormlike creature eventually grows large enough to use its pincers to crumple up your backbone like a matchstick.

 Man, that is one ugly necktie Vincent Price is wearing!
 The only way to escape the Tingler is to SCREAM - as that releases the energy that the creature is gowing off of and shrinks it back to miscroscopic size. This crazy bit of sci-fi is then blended into an even more eclectic plot involving the evil Mrs Chapin; a nebbishy little man who owns a movie theater with his deaf mute wife; and several scary sequences that don't make a lick of sense but are cool as heck to watch. Castle's gimmick for this flick was to have the action come to its climax in that movie theater, so he could have the film you're watching "break" and Vincent Price's voice hammer at you from the darkened theater to "Scream! Scream for your lives!" To insure you might want to go along with the idea, several seats in the theater were wired up to "tingle" the viewer's backside as though the worm monster was working on their spine! Incredible! The other really cool sequence in the black and white movie involves a bathtub full of blood - look at this shot from the scene:

Mrs. Gray was very angry that little Timmy was playing with
his lava lamp in the bathtub again.
 Is that just awesome or what? This may be less of a family flick than some of the other Castle movies, what with bathtubs full of blood, axe murderers, and a big scary worm crawling around, but it is a jammin' little flick, highly recommended to those so inclined! Check this one out!

Not so happy now.

Crazy Girls Undercover  (Monarch Home Video, 2008) I picked this up in a grocery store (!) selling off used DVDs for $2 a pop. Looking this one over, I see it's about a spy who runs a topless revue in Las Vegas and calls on his strippers to run spy missions with him. As you can see, I had to have this. Sadly, the execution is not up to the proposal. The story opens with "Damon Archer" (Clive Robertson - who seems genetically engineered to audition for James Bond - but never quite make it and instead play 007 knockoffs until he gets old enough to start playing James Bond villain knockoffs) finishing his last mission as the greatest spy/commando who ever lived. What does he do with his retirement? Skip ahead five years and he's the owner of the Crazy Girls Revue in the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Nevada. (That is a real show, by the way - making this my first movie based on a stage show - not a play or a musical - but a stage show. Wow.) But he's thinking about coming out of retirement. If only he could assemble an elite squad of spy commandos to work for him. Say, look at all those top heavy exotic dancers totttering around on insanely high heels who are already on his payroll...
    Skip ahead another year (I started to hope the whole movie would be like this, skipping ahead 1-5 years every three minutes until the finale, which would have involved a terrorist attack on the retirement community they had all moved to at the hour mark.) Anyhoo, skip ahead another year and now the Crazy Girl ladies are seasoned operatives, able to fulfill any mission that involves skintight black jumpsuits and insanely high heels. Then, all of a sudden, a whole lot of plot kicks in, including (in no particular order) Damon grieves for his family, killed by some bad guy; his right hand woman Casey (Nikki Ziering - one of the last Barker's Beauties on The Price is Right) loves Archer from afar but totally understands he can't return her love due to grieving for his family, who were killed by some bad guy; Archer's boss (Al Sapienza - The Sopranos) tries to send him on another mission, but Archer points out he's retired - retired because he's grieving due to the fact that his family was killed by some bad guy and thus he can't return Casey's love, which forced him to retire - then he goes on the mission unsanctioned with the Crazy Girls anyway; they run into blonde honey Monica (Simona Fusco) who is sad, which matches Archer's mood because he's been grieving over his dead family who were killed by some bad guy, so they promptly form the two-backed-beast, much to Casey's consternation; and then Archer finds out the bad guy they're after turns out to have killed some operative's family...

That's how you sneak up on a motorized convoy -
When I scooped this up I really thought it looked like and hoped it would be the spiritual successor to the Andy Sidaris movies of the 80's and 90's (Hard Ticket to Hawaii, Malibu Express, Savage Beach, Do or Die, etc); completely tongue in cheek action flicks with scads of T+A, cheesy action, silly humor, and actors like Erik Estrada and Pat Morita. Ever since Andy went to that Great ABC Sports Control Booth in the sky, there haven't been many movies in that elite subgenre. So to find a new filmmaker ready to step in and cinematically scratch that itch was very exciting.
    I'm still itching.
    It turns out this movie was written by the aging producer of the real Crazy Girls revue, Norbert Aleman. And while the movie's production is not bad - with some decent action and stunts, it is the script that does the movie in. Despite every aspect of the movie pointing to it being a jaunty romp with a saucy wink to the camera on a regular basis - scenes that fade out to comic book panels; the production design, the costuming; etc; the script takes it all deadly seriously. It hits every single plot point you expect it to, breaking no new ground from any action movie made in the last thirty years, and reveals each one of those plot points as though it's never been done before. And asking these actors to play dramatic scenes about loss and love instead of dropping them repeatedly into a hot tub holding an impossibly large martini is just cruel. There's also not that much nudity, with more see through costumes in the Crazy Girl revue scenes (of which there are several) than actual bare flesh. While we're on the subject of those revue scenes - why is the audience in one of them filled with the female impersonators from the La Cage Aux Folles show, in costume? While we ponder that one, I'll wrap this one up - Crazy Girls Undercover is one highly skippable action flick that could have been a silly little gem if only they could have realized just what they were really making and who their target audience was.

Why did I return?

Kong Island  (Monarch Releasing Corporation, 1977)  Shot in 1968 as Eve the Wild Woman in Italy, this bungle in the jungle was brought to America in the wake of Dino de Laurentiis's King Kong (1976) and slapped with a wonderfully misleading title. To wit - there is no King Kong in this movie; and it does not take place on an island. Brad Harris (a longtime muscleman actor in Italian flicks about Hercules, Samson and Goliath) is one of those standard issue mercenary/thief types doublecrossed in the opening scene by partner Marc Lawrence (two time Bond cast member - Diamonds are Forever and The Man with the Golden Gun.) The first two things we notice is that Lawrence is playing a stinker as he so often did, and that much to our chagrin, he is completely dubbed here, with some generic middle aged voice covering up his golden throated mutterings. One demerit and counting. Some time later, Harris is hired to do something that involves walking for a long time through the jungle. Two demerits and counting. Along the way, the expedition is attacked by gorillas (!) bearing surgical scars (!!) and one of the women is carted off. Harris takes his time getting back to civilization, (Third and final demerit) but eventually mounts another expedition and sets out to rescue her. He eventually discovers there's a mad scientist deep in the jungle who is implanting mind control gear into gorillas with the intent to eventually do the same to every man and woman on Earth and control the world! (I don't think we have much to worry about - he's still beta testing on the apes, and the surgery takes him several hours - he's no spring chicken, so he'd never live long enough to perform the operation several billion more times...) But I digress. When Harris arrives, he is the only one surprised to find out the mad scientist is none other than... Marc Lawrence! He not only robs payroll trucks and shoots his partners, he's also a mad scientist! Wow! Then for some reason there's a lot more plot with more doublecrosses, more skullduggery, and lots more jungle stock footage thrown in, and eventually the movie ends. Whew.

Marc Lawrence wishes he'd remembered to pack his voicebox
for the trip to Italy...
This is one of those movies I marvel at - where a completely unscrupulous producer gets ahold of some junky movie, slaps a title on it that plays off some other more famous movie, then cashes in on the people who fall for the deception. (And you thought those folks over at The Asylum were the first to do this!) I just wonder what parent got dragged to this after Junior begged to see that "new King Kong movie" because he enjoyed Dino's so much; or who might have been at the local drive-in, not watching this at all if he or she was lucky... In any case, if Lawrence's voice was intact, this might have warranted a tiny recommendation because he's pretty cool, but the dub job puts the final nail in this cinematic coffin. Skip it.

See you soon, and always remember, the government of Alaska will pay you to live there.

1 comment:

  1. Vincent Price is my favorite EVERYTHING! Wish I was reading his cookbooks right now...