Archive for the ‘B-movies’ Tag

The Giant Claw (1957)   2 comments

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Mitch MacAfee (Jeff Morrow), pilot, electrical engineer, and bon vivant, pilots a radar research plane full of radar researchers. During the flight, Mitch reports seeing a UFO.

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What the…?

The Air Force scrambles its fighters, but no one else sees anything unusual and radar comes up empty. Everyone makes fun of Mitch and calls him names and plays keep away with his hat until planes begin to go missing. Now even the authorities begin to take notice.

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Did you see something?

Finally everyone from General Considine (Morris Ankrum) to weather mathematician (?) Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday) believes Mitch and needs his help desperately. Instead of telling them all to pound sand, Mitch agrees to investigate. On a flight to return to the scene of the bird, Mitch and Sally discover a pattern and each other. After some sexual innuendo disguised as baseball metaphors, Mitch draws his spiral on Sally’s map and they’re engaged…or something.

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Grand slam!

At this point we meet the required novelty character, Pierre. Pierre has an outrageous ‘Savoir Faire is everywhere’ accent and makes apple jack in his quaint cabin. He sees La Cocoña, a mythical Canadian creature with the face of a wolf, the body of a woman, and wings, and promptly goes into shock. Pierre kindly invited them into his home and sheltered them so after he sees the French Canadian Bigfoot, Mitch and Sally desert him because they’re sweet. Anyway, the creature described as big as a battleship…a lot, continues its ‘fantastic orgy of destruction’ (thanks, movie) destroying planes and eating the passengers dramatically with cool crunching sounds.

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“B-7.” “Ahhhhhhhhh!”

We get to see Battleship Bird plucking victims from a Miami swimming pool and a London street. He’s a quick flier. We even see the goofy bird crushing the UN building in New York and hanging out atop the Washington Monument.

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Where’s Angelina?

The Deadly Mantis, released the same year, visited the monument as well. I wonder if they got some kind of group rate. So the Army shoots at the bird and the Air Force strafes it to no avail until they get a scientist. Dr. Norman (Edgar Barrier) looks like a guy Ed Wood would know and says things like “You’re both right and wrong.” He explains that the big bird consists of matter/anti-matter and Scotty mentions dilithium crystals and before you know it, Spock has a goatee and a sash. I digress. The scientists devise a plan, but one of them can’t make it so they have to bring Sally which is a drag because she’s a girl and all. They rig up an anti-large bird thingee and get on a plane and things are tense because they forgot a part and Radio Shack doesn’t exist yet and since there was no Giant Claw II: The Molting, you can probably guess what happens.

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Trust me, honey. Just close the window.

I like this movie because a giant malicious muppet dangling from a very obvious wire threatens the entire world and a guy who combs his hair with a pork chop comes to the rescue. Mara Corday is lovely and she and Morrow have some nice chemistry going. Morris Ankrum does his general thing admirably and the squawking sounds of the bird make me giggle. Director Fred Sears (Earth vs the Flying Saucers, Crash Landing) tries for a Cat People effect by showing only the bird’s shadow for the first part of the film. All bets are off, however when he shows the whole googly-eyed bird and the challenge…and the fun is to believe this ungainly behemoth could really accomplish all the destruction in the film. As with most mutant creature films of the 1950s, the science is less factual and more two boys chatting in a sandbox about dinosaurs. Also the fact that Mitch, as a free-lance pilot, has the ear of the joint chiefs strained credulity. The Giant Claw makes up for all that with its patented drinking game. If you take a swig every time a character says ‘big as a battleship’, you’ll forget all your doubts and possibly your first name. So stock up on mixers and watch a big puppet eat planes. You’ll be glad you did.

Best line in the film: “I’m the chief cook and bottle washer in a one man bird watcher society.”
-Mitch MacAfee (wordsmith)

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How the hell are ya?!

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Color Me Blood Red (1965)   1 comment

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Nasty, selfish artist Adam Sorg (Gordon Oas-Heim) scolds his girlfriend, yells at critics, and insults patrons of the prestigious Farnsworth Gallery. Everyone agrees Sorg could use a personality transplant, but they put up with his petulance because of his enormous talent. Yep. Despite his obvious painting chops, Sorg can’t sell a painting. Why? According to the beret-clad art critic who intelligently sits in a chair facing away from the art, Sorg uses color wrong or doesn’t use enough color or something with color. After a weird water bike chase with his girl because they had two water bikes and director Herschell Gordon Lewis needed a tax deduction on them or something, Sorg agrees with his critics and realizes he needs a new color.

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“This is deductible now.”

His girlfriend (Elyn Warner) accidentally cuts her hand and bleeds on some discarded canvas et voilá! Sorg has it! He’ll use Gigi’s blood to liven up his latest painting. He squeezes Gigi’s cut finger onto the canvas until she tells him to use his own damn blood and takes off. Gigi returns to find Sorg passed out on the couch covered in his own blood. Since he can’t keep cutting himself and painting until he loses consciousness, he simplifies things and kills Gigi and uses her head as a paintbrush. Problem solved. He buries her on the beach directly in front of his house under about six inches of sand because he’s an artistic genius, but not exactly a criminal mastermind. He brings the Gigi-spattered painting to the gallery and, wait for it, everyone loves it! Yay! The gallery’s one customer offers to buy it, but Sorg refuses and rushes out.

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I may not know art, but I know what I like.

Sorg kills more people. A couple take his water bikes for a joy ride which doesn’t end well and there’s a fascinating scene in which he squeezes his victim’s entrails into a bowl for later use.

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What a waste of paint.

As the body count rises, so does Sorg’s status in the art world. Offers for his paintings reach dizzying heights. The Customer offers $15,000 for Sorg’s chef-d’oeuvre, a painting with a lot of red in it. He declines to sell once again which puzzles the customer and the critic, who apparently lives in the chair at the gallery and never changes his clothes.

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You’re a monster, Sorg.

Soon we meet the customer’s daughter, April, her boyfriend, Vanilla Guy, and this couple they’re friends with who wear matching clothes and are wacky and fun and you want to kill almost immediately. After some stilted dialogue, April, Vanilla Guy, and the Obnoxious Twins go to the beach. Sorg sees April and can tell by looking at her that her blood has the Pantone seal of approval, so he lures her to his studio by DA DA DUM…asking her to come over. April, whose hairstyle deserves separate billing, and her bathing suit by Depends, visit the elegant, wood-paneled studio/living room of our hero. Sorg then puts April in a series of poses involving ropes and pulleys as he sketches her and handles his axe. Get your minds out of the gutter. Anyway, the Obnoxious Twins discover Gigi’s crab-covered body on the beach.

“Dig that crazy driftwood.”

Really. They remember they came with a fourth so Vanilla Guy goes into Sorg’s house which is about three feet away. He walks in to find his girlfriend tied to the ceiling wearing a bathing suit with her back turned to a man wielding an axe.

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Just stand there so I can kill you.

He does what any red-blooded American 34, ah 21 year-old guy would do. He stands completely still and asks where the phone is.

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“Do I have to dial 9 first?”

Words are exchanged and stuff happens and then it’s over but not before the female Obnoxious Twin says, “ I guess I won’t take up painting for a while.”

Herschell Gordon Lewis wrote and directed Color Me Blood Red along with the other two films in his Blood Trilogy; Blood Feast (1963) and Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964). The sound quality never quite achieves junior high AV club quality and one can assume the actors were hired because of some blackmail plot. I still enjoyed the film as a whole. I didn’t know exactly what would happen and I got to see Sorg squeeze guts, emote, and ride a water bike. Similar to A Bucket of Blood, but without the production quality and sympathetic hero, Color Me Blood Red strikes me as more of an outsider’s film. Lewis didn’t care if you liked his hero. He wanted to tell his twisted tale so he did. He had water bikes so he threw them in. He thought up this screwy couple so he threw them in too. Aquanet was cheap so he used it…a lot of it…on April. He had his hero use a woman’s head as a paint brush. Need I say more? I think not.

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“It stinks.”

They Saved Hitler’s Brain: It Earned 37 Green Stamps!   7 comments

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Filmed almost entirely at dusk, They Saved Hitler’s Brain picks up where The Madmen of Mandoras leaves off. Well, to be more accurate, it starts before The Madmen of Mandoras begins.

Madmen, originally released in 1963, clocked in at 64 minutes. At the request of the producers, director David Bradley and a handful of his UCLA students added 30 minutes to the film for television broadcast in 1968. His added footage appears at the beginning of the film and isn’t exactly seamless despite the skill of cinematographer Stanley Cortez (Night of the Hunter, Chinatown).

As the film opens, we see Dr. Bernard remove papers from a safe, go to his car, and blow up. In the briefing at CID headquarters which follows we learn that Bernard had been working with Professor Coleman on the L7 Project looking for the antidote to G gas. What is G gas, you ask? The head stiff explains that “…loss or destruction of this antidote could mean the complete annihilation of the world.” So there’s that. To prove the lethal power of G gas, Science Guy shows a filmstrip of an elephant lying down. Then, we meet Vic and Toni. Vic and Toni work as agents for the CID. Vic and Toni were not in the original film. Vic and Toni were filmed in different light wearing a completely different style of clothing from the people in the 1963 film. Vic and Toni are doomed.

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Vic and Toni chat about the mission.

Anyway, Vic and Toni begin working on the case of the exploding professor. They drive around in Toni’s VW Beetle looking for clues until they’re chased by some guys in ill-fitting hats. Things go downhill from there for our intrepid duo. At this point the original film starts and it’s The Madmen of Mandoras from here on in.

The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)

Professor Coleman invents an antidote to the powerful nerve gas PAM. PAM, of course is an acronym and don’t ask me for what. It’s also a cooking spray so it’s clear ConAgra never saw this movie.

pam
All this fuss over me?

Anyway, bad guys want the formula so when they release PAM, no one gets out alive. To lure the professor into their clutches, the criminals kidnap his Valley Girl (circa 1963) daughter and take her to the South American country of Mandoras. The professor’s older, more sensible daughter and her husband hop a plane to Mandoras after a foreign guy holds them at gunpoint, then dies in their car.


“I’ll be fine.”

Down in Mandoras, the couple is reunited with their dippy sister. After a weird gunfight in a nightclub where Carmen Miranda’s less talented cousin performs, some guy we don’t know takes a bullet and the local sheriff, portrayed by local sheriff portrayer Nestor Paiva, rounds up our trio of nitwits and brings them to the hoosegow. There we meet the president, who resembles the Hispanic version of Colonel Sanders, and find out the real power behind this incredibly contrived plot. A band of Nazis holed up in the presidential palace plot to gather the rest of their evil gang, drop PAM, and take over.


Nazis have the weirdest cotton candy machines.

Once they’ve laid waste to the world as we know it, they plan to put their own guy in power. Since they’re Nazis, three guesses as to who they’ve chosen to lead them. Yup. The Big Kahuna himself, Adolph. It seems scientists collected some cells in the fabled bunker and used them to…um, grow a new Fuhrer. They didn’t exactly grow a whole Hitler, just a head. So we get some hilarious scenes with a head under glass making odd expressions, looking around curiously, and barking orders. There’s even a carrying case with handles for when the head has to ride in the back of a limo. More stuff happens but who cares? You watch this film to see Hitler’s head scream, “Mach schnell!” to his underlings from under a pastry cover.


“Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”

According to imdb, Steve Bennet and Richard Miles wrote the screenplay for this and They Saved Hitler’s Brain and not much else. Often hard to follow, the story meanders and the audience feels just as out of it as the cast. The Madmen of Mandoras has, as Joe Bob Briggs says, “too much plot getting in the way of the story.” David Bradley directed The Madmen of Mandoras as well as They Saved Hitler’s Brain and used some scenes for both films. I guess with gold like that you want to get as much mileage as you can out of it. I’d recommend this for the weirdness quotient alone.


Added observations:

It may be because I just watched Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 From Outer Space recently, but the double agent who claims to work for the CID, but is really Hitler-Under-Glass’ chauffeur looks like a cross between Bunny Breckinridge and Criswell.

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This guy. You’d agree with me if he took off his hat.

David Bradley directed Charlton Heston in the 16mm student productions of Peer Gynt and Julius Caesar while they attended Northwestern University. I thought that was pretty cool.

I wrote this piece for the Accidentally Hilarious blogathon hosted by Movies Silently. She runs a terrific blog about classic film. moviessilently.com/

Find me on Twitter. @echidnabot

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It’s beautiful!

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The Trip (1967)   Leave a comment

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Made during the height of the psychadelic 60s, THE TRIP tells the story of a man taking his first acid trip. Peter Fonda plays the married director of television commercials who decides to try LSD. Guiding him through his psychological journey is Bruce Dern.  Dern looks professorial with his civilized beard, corduroy blazer, and turtleneck. His demeanor differs immensely in his film too.  He’s worlds away from his usual snarling criminal, but no less convincing. Dern will stay sober and remain with Fonda ensuring that if he gets too high or has a bad reaction to the drug, Dern can calm him down. Roger Corman based this film on his own experiences with LSD.  He went on a controlled trip himself and his experiences and that of screenwriter Jack Nicholson make up the bulk of the film.

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“This antelope just wants her babies, man.”

I watched The Trip with director Roger Corman’s audio commentary.  He paints a fascinating picture of maverick filmmaking and the 60s counterculture. Filmed at Big Sur, the Sunset Strip, and beach homes owned by those immersed in that culture, the film looks authentic. Corman says they barely changed the decor of the houses and paid a great deal of attention to detail when dressing the sets. For example, in one scene we can see the book HOWL by Allen Ginsberg sitting on a shelf. He filmed in a real nightclub and laudromat and for one long shot of Peter Fonda walking along the Sunset Strip at night, the cameraman sat in a wheelchair behind Fonda and Corman pushed him down the street.

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“Please look at me.”

To be honest, the film itself, which also stars Dennis Hopper and Susan Strasberg pales in comparison with the stories Corman tells about it in his commentary and the effects he uses to tell it. The cinematographer, Arch R. Dalzell used light, color and psychedelic paint in some cool new ways. During a love scene between Fonda, Strasberg, and Salli Sachse, Dalzell projected wild colors and designs onto the stars’ naked bodies. It looks fantastic.

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I enjoyed watching this film, but the commentary made it for me. Corman liked making it very much and speaks fondly of the entire experience. He also gives us some great background stories. During one scene, Dennis Hopper tells a story while a joint is passed around a circle of people. Corman says he was so intent on getting the shot that he barely heard the story. When it was over, others on set laughed because they had never heard the word man so many times. Apparently Hopper was riffing a bit. Bruce Dern, that symbol of the counterculture, never took drugs. He was a marathon runner who tried out for the Olympic team and has always led a very healthy life. You can even see him in a scene in which a joint is passed just handing it to the next guy. If you watch THE TRIP, bring a buddy and opt for the audio commentary. Roger Corman won’t let you down, man.

Bruce The Trip #4

The Screaming Skull (1958)   2 comments

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Eric and Jenni Whitlock, fresh from their wedding, arrive at the home of Eric’s late wife to start a new life together. Doesn’t that sound nice? The home, completely empty save a gigantic portrait of the dead woman, sits on a large piece of land inhabited by creepy child-man caretaker Mickey (director, Alex Nichol) and some peacocks. Cozy.

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I like your feet.

Moments later, the minister and his wife arrive. After all, what honeymoon is complete without a visit from the parson? During the visit, Eric tells the minister that Jenni, of a delicate nature, has been under great mental strain since she witnessed the deaths of her parents and he hopes that leaving her alone in his dead wife’s house with a nutty gardener and some screaming birds will help. OK, he doesn’t actually say that but come on! Soon Jenni starts seeing skulls all over the place and Eric tells the minister of his concern.

skully
Hiya, Dollface!

Eric’s a heck of a guy after all and tells his friends he’ll stand by his wife (and her money) even if she relapses and has to go back to the asylum. Sweet. Oh wait. It gets better. Eric’s wife, Marion died after tripping, hitting her head on a stone pond on the estate, and drowning…by accident and Jenni believes Marion still haunts the grounds. After a few more skull sightings and nightmares, Jenni believes she’s losing her grip and goes along with her husband’s idea to rid herself of Marion’s spirit. Jenni’s nightmares will cease if she burns Marion’s giant portrait. Well sure. So they burn the portrait and Eric, like the boy scout he is, rakes the coals so as not to offend Smokey-the-Bear. What does Jenni see in the ashes? A skull, natch. Eric sees no skull and that revelation sends Jenni off the rails. There’s more, but I don’t want to spoil it.

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Skull? What skull?

Peggy Webber, of the Dragnet TV series stock company plays Jenni and Russ Conway, Reverend Snow. John Hudson and Tony Johnson round out the cast as Eric and Mrs. Snow. It looks like the entire film was shot at dusk and apparently in 3D as well. MST3K sent it up though I haven’t seen that version. Another film ripe for a live tweet. Watch it if you dare!! No, go ahead. It’s not that scary.

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The Killer Shrews (1959)   3 comments

Thorne Sherman (James Best) and Rook Griswold (Judge Henry Dupree) moor their boat on the shore of a small island hoping to sit out a rough storm as they deliver supplies to the island’s inhabitants. They arrive in time to see the residents of the island heading toward the boat hoping to leave. When told of the approaching hurricane and that they must stay at least one more night, Dr. Craigis, his daughter Ann, and Jerry Farrell rush back to the house and ask Mario, their live-in-mixologist, to start making martinis. This should have been our heroes’ first clue.

At this point we meet Dr. Radford (Gordon McLendon) who took acting lessons from the David Caruso School of Dramatic Eyeglass Removal and slowly, almost painfully learn about the problem that has them all in a dither. It seems they’ve been experimenting with metabolisms in shrews as a way to fight starvation and overpopulation. Well, you see, they kind of made the potion a bit too strong and someone left the cage door open (JERRY!) and now the little tiny shrews you can fit in the palm of your hand are the size of Afghan Hounds and have nasty big pointy teeth.

There’s more drinking and Jerry (Ken Curtis, Gunsmoke‘s Festus) gets trashed and Thorne and Ann (Ingrid Goude) fall in love even though she’s engaged to drunk Jerry and can’t seem to look anywhere near the camera. People yell at each other, fire weapons, scream whenever they see a shrew, and generally fall to pieces until they come up with a cunning plan to outwit the rodents.

Will two PhDs, a boat captain, his mate, a bartender, and a drunk prove smarter than large dogs wearing bathmats? I’ll never tell. Ray Kellogg directed The Killer Shrews the same year he helmed The Giant Gila Monster. The production values rival that of a middle school language arts project and the only one with any acting chops is James Best who did some cool Twilight Zone and Andy Griffith Show episodes soon after. The Killer Shrews made me laugh. I recommend it highly.

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Hiya!

The Devil’s Hand (1961)   2 comments

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Rick Turner (Robert Alda) has a problem.  Despite being engaged to the sweet and lovely Donna Trent (Ariadna Welter), working a job with a future, and wearing a series of hideous sweaters, he has disturbing dreams about a beautiful woman which keep him up every night.  During one of his insomnia induced walks through the city, he comes upon a doll shop and spies a doll which reminds him of his dream woman.  The next day, Rick and Donna visit the shop and meet the proprietor, creepy to the extreme Francis Lamont (Neil Hamilton-Yes! Commissioner Gordon!) who tells Rick he ordered the dream woman doll and must bring it to Bianca Milan (Linda Christian).  Rick has no memory of this but brings the doll to Bianca anyway.  He falls in lust at first sight and blows Donna off completely.  If that weren’t bad enough, poor Donna suffers in a hospital bed with a sudden heart ailment brought on by Francis’ sticking a pin in a doll with her likeness.  Moments after they meet, Bianca tells Rick he must renounce all goodness and virtue and join her cult which worships Gamba, the devil god of evil.  Since he has nothing else planned, he agrees and goes with Bianca to a meeting of the cult in the back of the doll shop.  I have to say that an evil cult meeting in the back of a doll shop does not surprise me.  The Kerry Scale of Creepy rates clowns as the most creepy.  After clowns come dolls that look like you, regular dolls, and ventriloquist dummies.  Please consult the following chart.

Kerry’s Scale of Creepiness

Totally Effing Creepy Very Creepy Creepy Less Creepy Awkward Benign
Clowns Dolls that look like you Dolls in general Ventriloquist dummies Taxidermied horses Puppies

 

I hope that clears things up.

Rick flourishes using Gamba’s evil and soon he has money, a cool car, and a far more fashionable wardrobe.  Donna’s still in the hospital with a pin in her doll’s chest.  Rick lusts after Bianca and they share a few sexy kisses.  The movie hints at sex, but Rick still goes home and sleeps in his little twin bed.  Anyway, we get to see a few Gamba Book Club cult meetings where people dance to bongo music and cult members sit on pillows and watch each other tested for loyalty under a knife-filled light fixture.  Commissioner Gordon officiates over these meetings speaking with the same voice you use when you’re a kid having a fake séance and wears a natty smoking jacket/bathrobe over his shirt and tie.  It’s a lot of fun really.   Obviously the halcyon days of Gamba can’t last forever and since this stuff happens in a movie, it all has to come to a conclusion they’ll love in Peoria.   I liked The Devil’s Hand.  It boasts cool Misirlou-like tunes, weird cult scenes, Isadora Duncan dream sequences, and Commissioner Gordon as a weirdo with a doll shop.  Jo Heims, who would go on to write Play Misty for Me and Dirty Harry wrote the screenplay and William J. Hole, Jr. (Highway Patrol, 77 Sunset Strip TV episodes) directed this fairly odd story well.  All hail Gamba!

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