Another feature of...
Plot: A group of ‘comics’ lay waste to a B-Movie classic.
Boy, the things I do for you people.
Back in 1966, Woody Allen took a Japanese Bond-knockoff espionage movie and overdubbed it with a comical new soundtrack. This film, What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?, has remained a favorite of mine ever since I saw it as a kid on a triple Woody Allen bill at the historic Pickwick Theater. Back in high school, it was the ‘quoting’ film for my friends and me. I saw it again recently and still remembered all the dialog like the back of my hand.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who liked it, and others have occasionally attempted to do the same sort of thing. Without much success, might I add. A pre-Tonight Show Jay Leno (!) provided the main character’s voice for the dreadful What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon?, which used, duh, Bob Clarke’s 1959 The Hideous Sun Demon as its foil. The fact that Leno’s name doesn’t appear in any of the film’s ‘credits’ should give you a hint as to its quality.
Far worse culprits, though, were the L.A. Connection. They were a group who had a short-lived syndicated TV series, Mad Movies, using this same general concept. These were seldom very funny, even though the episodes only lasted half an hour, allowing them to edit a film, say, Night of the Living Dead, down to its supposedly meatiest parts. To my unspeakable horror, I learned that this same group provided the ‘humourous’ soundtrack for this revised version of 1958’s The Blob.
I basically write this as a public service: Don’t rent or buy this film!!! Or, if you must, get really bombed or stoned before you watch it. Which isn’t the sort of thing I’m in the habit of suggesting people do. As for me, I’m just glad I rented this disc rather than buying it. Mailing it back to Netflix will be less painful than literally tossing fifteen or twenty bucks into the trashcan.
The basic ‘plot’ here is that the Blobermouth -- boy, if that doesn’t sum up the extremely lame quality of the jokes right there -- comes to Earth and wants to appear on Steve McQueen’s TV talk show. Because McQueen starred in The Blob. Get it? You see, Blobermouth is a, uh, roll-around comic, complete with a poorly animated mouth. He uses Henny Youngman material, and that worthy is so credited (lucky him). Again, that the whole ‘plot’ seems to have followed from the quite pathetic ‘blobermouth’ pun is really about all you need to know about this.
Furthermore, with the entire running time of the original film being used, scenes where nothing much is happening are awarded moronically stupid ‘comic’ dialog. For instance, one scene with McQueen sitting atop the driver’s seat backrest in his parked convertible becomes about him wanting to feel the wind on his face. Meanwhile, and here’s the ‘funny’ part, his girlfriend keeps pointing out that this won’t work because the car’s not moving. Further desperation is evident from the large amount of painfully unfunny potty-mouth, bathroom and sexual ‘humor’ on display here. See, the film was made in the innocent ‘50s, but here the characters are constantly using the ‘f’ and ‘s’ words and making oral sex references. Man, my sides!
To boot, there’s no continuity to the jokes. When the old guy who finds the Blobermouth appears, he’s introduced as being Lloyd Bridges, because of a passing resemblance. OK, that’s momentarily funny, in a Mystery Science Theater-ish sort of way. There, however, Tom Servo would shout, "Hey, it’s Lloyd Bridges!", and then probably let it go. Here, once introduced, they’re stuck with the idea, and other than the obligatory Sea Hunt reference they can’t do much with it. Seeming to recognize this, ‘Bridges’ is thus awarded the old Elmer Fudd voice for his dialog. What does that have to do with Lloyd Bridges? Nothing. But still…the Elmer Fudd voice! Funny voices are funny, right? Right?!
Summation: Never, ever, watch this movie.
Bloody Pit of Horror
Plot: The soul of a murderous Spanish Inquisitor is released amidst a party of cover girls, with predictable results.
Hot damn! Now this is cinema!
I barely remember seeing this as a wee kid at the local drive-in, probably on one of their cheesy triple horror bills. (Perhaps with The Enbalmer, I know I saw that, too.) All I could really recall, though, was the very end of the film. The bare-chested and bemasked villain, fatally wounded – how, of course, I won’t reveal – clutching at his bleeding torso and crying in dismayed horror, "My body! My perfect body!"
What I didn’t remember was how gloriously junky this film was, at least in the cut presented on the Anchor Bay DVD. As this informative review of the disc reveals, Anchor Bay had access to a gorgeous shorter print of the film, clocking in at about an hour and fifteen minutes. They later got a hold of another, longer print, but not of the same quality. So, wisely, they used the shorter print and included the clipped scenes as extras. In this case, though, I have to say the shorter cut is by far the better one. The brief running time really moves things along at an insane clip, which is all to the good. The deleted scenes, when viewed (they nicely include the footage immediately preceding, so that the scenes make sense in context) are pretty much time-wasting filler.
We begin with a prolog whose resemblance to the opening of Brainiac had me laughing out loud. A bare-chested man dressed in red tights, cape and cowl is led through a castle by two guards. Over this we hear narrated charges against the prisoner, read by a guy who sounds exactly like the fellow who does this in Brainiac. Considering that both films came out about the same time (as hard as it is to believe, given the exceedingly more primitive and innocent Brainiac) and were both dubbed, it is in fact quite possibly the same actor. Also recalling that other film is the stiltedly pretentious wording of the charges:
"On this fifth day of December in the year of our Lord sixteen hundred and forty-eight, by virtue of the power vested in us by our Noble Sovereign, this Tribunal of Justice hereby sentences you, the Crimson Executioner, to death. You will die by one of the very instruments you devised to torture and kill your innocent victims. You dared to take into your own hands the laws of both God and man. You set yourself up as both Judge and Executioner. You caused inhuman suffering, and took life not from any sense of Justice, but from hatred and self-gratification. You showed no mercy to your victims, and no mercy will be shown to you..."
Led to the basement, the Crimson Executioner is put into an Iron Maiden (complete with patently plastic ‘blades’ of the sort that come with a kid’s ‘gladiator’ costume), all while ranting that he will never die. In this he proves wrong, although he vows to come back and get his revenge. The guards close the Iron Maiden, and the camera zooms in to watch cherry cough syrup drip from the mechanism. I guess he had a bottle of the stuff stashed in his cape. After this the Maiden is sealed shut.
Cut to the present. As with other Euro horror films of the period (Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory, Horrors of Spider Island, etc.), a group of sexy women is provided, both for ogling and to provide a ready supply of victims. These are models to be posed in various settings of gothic distress, with the resultant pictures used as book covers for some cheesy horror novels. A rolling caravan of publishing executives, models, photographers and Rick, the book’s author, all converge on the castle from the prolog. This, Parks, the publisher, believes will be the perfect setting for the photos.
Finding the doors locked, Parks sends a guy to scale rather high up the ivied exterior wall (a scene thankfully cut, although available in the extras section), climb in a window and let them in. I guess breaking and entering laws are different over there. This allows for some time-wasting character moments, during which we meet Edith, our heroine. We can tell who she is because she’s dressed more conservatively than the other women. Anyway, they are soon in the castle, especially in the edited version. A henchman -- we can tell because he’s wearing one of those white short sleeved sailor shirts with blue horizontal stripes -- appears and takes Parks to see the castle’s reclusive owner, (Hargitay). He orders them to leave. Parks reluctantly begins to assemble his crew, while Mickey spies upon Edith. Shocked, he talks to them over a speaker and invites them to stay after all.
Two of the men head off and begin to explore into the dungeon passageways. Unsurprisingly, they end up near the Iron Maiden, and, as you’d further expect, the seal on it is quickly broken. Upstairs, the models are photographed in various macabre poses. Then we cut to a ‘humorous’ bit in which a guy tries to arrange a suit of armor for a photo. This is accompanied by particularly excruciating ‘comedy’ music, apparently written for the harpsichord and tuba. Thankfully, this is also one of the sequences that was trimmed. Unfortunately, the following scene where he unsuccessfully tries to get a model to act like a cat is run at its full original length.
About twenty-five minutes into things we get our first death. Male model Perry is posed on a torture device and killed when the attached knives come loose and plunge into him. (Actually, the blades appear to just graze his chest, but anyway.) The rather mild level of shock this event engenders is a highlight of the movie. For instance, no seems to even considering calling the police. Meanwhile, two others have snuck off to have a make out session in the tunnels. To our complete lack of shock, they end up near the Iron Maiden. Suddenly, the castle’s owner – presumably now possessed by the spirit of the CE – appears in the established bare-chested costume and makes quick work of them.
The outfit was undoubtedly designed in this fashion because the castle’s owner is played by body builder Mickey Hargity. Mr. Hargity is most famous for being the husband of the equally large-torsoed Jayne Mansfield. Mansfield, in the bombshell hierarchy, was the B-Movie Marilyn Monroe, while Mamie Van Doren was the Z-Movie Jayne Mansfield. Jayne and Mickey made some extremely campy movies together, such as Primitive Love and the Italian sand & sandals epic Loves of Hercules, before she was killed in a car crash. In 1980, Loni Anderson (!) played Jayne in the made for TV The Jayne Mansfield Story. Mickey was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (!!), four years before he made his nut with The Terminator. I’ve never seen the biography, but the idea of Arnold playing a scene as Hargity wearing the Crimson Executioner costume is irresistibly amusing.
Parks exhorts the models to get back to work (!!). A little bribery soon does the job. Meanwhile, the photographer shows Rick the negative of the photo taken just before Perry was killed. Rick points to a blur in the room’s doorway, noting that it looks like a man’s head. This will prove pretty funny when they develop the picture, as not only is a man’s head visible, but his entire body, and quite clearly at that. Presumably Rick meant to say, "That almost looks like a man’s head – you know, that bit there sitting upon that man’s body." [Imagined addendum in italics.] Even funnier is their consternation at the quite clear photo of a guy standing in the doorway. "It’s barely visible," Rick exclaims in frustration.
The owner comes in to examine the photo, and relates the whole Crimson Executioner legend. Apparently we’re meant to be guessing whether he’s the murderer at this point, although the fellow’s size sort of gives it away. Then Edith enters. She and the guy exchange blatantly significant looks before he leaves the room.
Rick and the Photog begin to explore the castle. They soon find the body of Susie, the girl killed earlier, inside the Iron Maiden. "No one can dare say that this was an accident!" Rick avers. Yeah, dude, you’re a regular Sherlock Holmes. This leads them to examine the rope that held the knives over the deceased Perry. This has been cleanly cut rather than fraying, a detail you’d think would have been evident earlier. Rick sends the Photog off to fetch the police. Yeah, good idea. After filling Parks in on events, but keeping the girls in the dark -- "They’d only get panicky," he notes (!!) -- Rick spots the Executioner in the hallway. He loses him but bumps into Edith. She explains that the castle’s owner is former film actor Travis Anderson. She and he had been engaged to be married -- small world, eh? -- but he suddenly broke it off and disappeared. She had no idea of his whereabouts until now.
Still keeping Edith unapprised of recent events, he hauls her with as they search out the Hawaiian model. In one of the film’s highlights, they find her in a giant metal spider’s web. Nearby, a presumably mechanical yet crudely organic looking spider, perhaps the size of a football, threatens her. Rick tries to get to her, but must be careful: The wires of the web are hooked up to crossbows (!!), and should he trip one of them, he’ll be impaled by the bolt. In a scene purportedly meant to be suspenseful, he wiggles across the floor. However, she appears to faint before he can get to her. He cuts her down, but Edith is grabbed in the meantime. Rick follows her, and is knocked unconscious. We never see the Hawaiian girl again. This eventually lead me to deduce that she hadn’t fainted, but had instead fallen prey to the *cough* spider.
Meanwhile, we see that the Photographer never made it. He’s in the car, but slumped over the steering wheel as it drives around the driveway in continuous circles. A close-up shows us that he’s got an arrow through his neck. This is an arresting image, at least until you consider it for a moment or two. The idea that he died with the steering wheel turned at exactly the correct angle and with his foot somehow still applying a nice steady pressure to the gas pedal is pretty riotous.
Edith finds herself in a chamber with Travis, who enters in a monk’s robe. Travis reviles her as he disrobes (literally) to reveal his red tights and broad leather Santa’s belt. He explains that he abandoned her because she threatened his "purity," both of his spirit and of his "perfect body." This speech, with its rather unsophisticated conception of Freudian sexual repression and his own gloating over his buffly cut and oiled torso proves irresistibly amusing stuff. The character’s closest analog is the General Jack D. Ripper of Dr. Strangelove, a man also driven to insanely by concerns over the purity of his bodily essences. The difference being that Ripper was a satirical figure, while Travis is meant to be taken more or less straightforwardly. If anything, this makes him even funnier than Kubrick’s character.
Travis stands before a mirror facing another mirror, creating one of those infinite progression things, like the girl with the umbrella on the Morton’s salt container. He picks up a chalice and proceeds to anoint his Perfect Body with further applications of oil. The solemnity with which this proceeds is again fairly uproarious. Meanwhile, he continues his spiel, accompanied by organ music. "And a woman’s love," he continues, just in case we’ve missed the gist of all this, "would have destroyed me!" Edith, revealing a firm grasp of the obvious, concludes, "You’re an egotist!"
Travis heads down to the dungeon, where the rest of the visitors, save only Edith and Rick, are imprisoned on various torture devises. How they got there is left to our imaginations. The two remaining models are on a rotating block. This functions like one of those slabs of lamb meat that turn and allow for slices to be cut off to make gyros. Here *cough* swords can be extended so that the points begin to slice into the girls as they twirl by. Viewers of a more sophisticated stripe, however, might perceive that the sword tips are in fact just drawing lines of stage blood on them. Parks the publisher, meanwhile, is tied up in such a fashion that you can yank painfully on his head by pulling on a lever. This, by the way, is Hargitay’s big moment, and he measures out the ham with a heavy thumb. He rants, he raves, and he awkwardly contorts him body in a fashion that calls to mind Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Pee Wee Herman.
Upstairs, Rick awakens to find himself tied, along with the Photographer’s corpse (?), to one of those beds with a descending canopy full of spikes. This seems kind of odd, as moments ago Travis used tongs to crush a prepared plaster test head bust, promising that "This is how Rick will die!" Maybe he just forgot the bed deathtrap thing. Anyhoo, Rick (surprise) manages to free himself mere *gasp* moments before suffering a horrible fate. Laughably, the mechanism that allows this is one of those squeeze toenail clippers, which he spots hanging out of the breast pocket of the Photographer’s body. I’ve never actually known a guy to carry one of these things in his shirt pocket, but maybe it’s a European thing. He uses this to cut his bonds and rolls away with seconds to spare. Frankly, I’d have thought it easier to use the approaching pointed spikes, but what do I know?
Back at Torture Central, the victims have been relocated. Blonde Model is experiencing the dreaded "torture of icy water," which entails having really cold water trickled down her exposed back. This looks pretty darn uncomfortable, but seems safely outside the boundaries of ‘torture.’ I can only expect that Brunette Model, being pulled apart on the rack, is less than sympathetic to her associate’s moans of torment. Parks gets the worst of it, though, getting roasted alive in a cage hanging over a fire. Frankly, if the film weren’t so utterly goofy this would be pretty unpleasant stuff. (Admittedly, I’m kind of a squeamish individual.) Helping is that they don’t get overly graphic. Parks seems to die surprisingly fast, under the circumstances, and offstage at that. Meanwhile, Blonde Model reacts with (patently dubbed) screams after having boiling pitch poured on her, but we are spared the usage of modern f/x to represent her scalded skin bubbling off.
Brunette Model next gets threatened with a swinging dummy with poisoned knives sticking out of it. This is called The Lover of Death, presumably because of its fatal embrace. And because The Swinging Dummy With Poisoned Knives Sticking Out Of It just doesn’t cut it in the menacing appellation department. By now Edith’s snuck down to the torture chamber, while Rick is still bumbling around upstairs. At one point he’s in a room, looking out of a window. Hearing another henchman, he moves away, and seconds later the henchguy looks from the same window and sees Rick running around on the castle’s battlements. (?!!) I’ve seen some Offscreen Teleportations™ in my time, but this one takes the cake.
Edith tries to interfere with Brunette’s latest travail, and Travis ends up hitting Brunette with a big swinging chain. This didn’t look particularly fatal, but as with the girl in the spider web, we don’t see Brunette again, so I guess she bought it. Travis then grabs Edith. As they move towards the camera the buttons on her blouse part. This exposes enough cleavage to reveal that while she wears markedly conservative outerwear, Edith foregoes a bra. (Why, you little hussy!)
Up on the battlements, the henchman is looking for Rick. He finally spots him leaning over the side and plugs him with a crossbow. Back in the dungeons, we find Edith in her panties and tied face down to a stone table. Great, we cut away just when the most interesting thing in the film occurred. Too late now, though, because her shirt has been left bundled under her a rather strategic position, if you get my drift. Anyway, the table has a slot cut into it, where hot coals can be tossed, which heats up the table and…well, you get it. "You’re mad!" she cries, which seems too little, too late, at this point.
Here Rick shows up. It wasn’t him up on the battlements, it was the body of the Photographer dressed up in his clothes. I’m not sure how the heck he set that up, but there you go. Apparently rather liking this gambit, he appears behind the supposedly preserved body of the original Executioner. I’m not sure what the point of this is. Admittedly, when Travis sees the Executioner apparently standing there he does go a little bit further off his nut. However, Rick then just drops the manikin, removing whatever strategic gain he might have acquired from it. I guess he just likes to make a dramatic entrance. (He also explains that the Executioner’s real body turned to dust long ago – for some reason, the fact that the ‘preserved body’ Travis exhibited is actually a manikin is treated like some big revelation.)
Henchguy goes to shoot at Rick with the crossbow, although his target is clearly out of range and hiding behind a big table, to boot. Despite this, Blonde Model jumps in front of the arrow, or something, and dies holding the arrow prop to her chest. Then Rick finishes off the last henchguy while, needless to say, Travis stands there and watches. Anyway, now that all the extraneous characters are dead, we can cut to the chase. Rick and the obviously much more fit Travis duke it out at some length, with Hagitay trying to pretend that he’d be having trouble squashing this guy like a bug. Eventually, as you’d expect, The Villain meets with an ‘ironic’ death. Meanwhile, Edith, who’s been baking on that table for like five or ten minutes, appears unscathed upon her release. Staring at all the various bodies lying around, Edith pronounces her judgment. "He was completely mad," she avers. Yeah, thanks, Sherlock. She then proceeds to re-explain the whole plot of the movie at some length, apparently for those in the audience who missed it and wanted to catch up on events in the last thirty seconds of the film. Then she asks Rick to take her away from the castle, explaining that, "It was a nightmare." Well, OK, as long as you have a good reason.
The disc is called a "Special Edition," which seems a bit much. Still, there are some fun extras. There are the previously referred to outtakes, of course. Then there’s a bit from the obviously insane flick Primitive Love. Set amongst a group of ‘dancing’ island natives, and accompanied by an Annette Funicello song (!!), Jayne Mansfield (made up with a patently bogus black wig) waits for Hargitay to show up in a sarong and whisk her into a nearby cave for some lovin’. This is ‘watched’ by two extremely creepy comedy relief horny guys who couldn’t possibly be more obviously not in the same movie. I doubt if I’ve managed to make this as goofy sounding as it really is. This extra bit, by the way, provides the only nudity we’ll see on this disc.
There’s a rather grainy trailer, with the obligatory over-the-top narration. Then there’s a marvelous six-minute parade of newspaper advertisements for cheesy and mostly hopelessly obscure horror and sexploitation pictures from the ’60s and ‘70s. Adding to the fun is that these are overlaid by bombastic radio ads for similar fare.
Perhaps the best extra, though, is segment called ‘Cover Girl Slaughter.’ This showcases pretty models being made up to act out luridly horrendous murder tableaus, which are then photographed for book covers. Not only is this thematically a perfect match for our film, but also a surprisingly stylish and amusing short subject.
Summation: I don’t want to oversell it, but this is the greatest movie ever made.
Correspondent Sandra writes: "In your review of BPOH, you question the realism of a scene in which a car goes around and around in circles, with a dead man at the wheel. Well, Once upon a time on COPS, a citizen stopped at a convenience store, and while she was out of her car, it slipped out of 'Park', and started circling the parking lot, all by itself. A cop had to smash a window with his baton so that he could reach in and turn off the ignition. Stranger than fiction, as they say."
Plot: In a highly original plot for a Blaxploitation flick, a kick-ass Sistah returns to the ‘hood when the community is threatened by drug dealers.
Cleopatra Jones is one of the more sumptuously mounted Blaxploitation flicks. (The sequel, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, is even more so.) It sports a great cast, including the extraordinary Tamara Dobson as CJ herself. A six-foot tall Amazon, Dobson definitely fits the bill. Meanwhile, the inevitable white mastermind drug dealer is played by Shelley Winters (!!), a year after her memorable turn in The Poseidon Adventure. The rest of the cast is filled out with such dependable names as the always marvelous Bernie Casey, Esther "Good Times" Rolle and the inevitable Antonio Fargas. My only question is: Where the heck is Scatman Crothers?! And, while you won’t know the names, it’s always nice to see such familiar character actors as Dan Frazer, Bill McKinney (who made a career out of playing vicious racists in the Charles Napier mold), Albert Popwell and Teddy Wilson, from TV’s That’s My Mama. As an added bonus, Don Cornelius (!!) appears as himself.
We open in the deserts of Turkey. A helicopter arrives, and out steps a spectacular black woman, accompanied by wakka-chikka music and wearing a cloak trimmed with animal tails (!!). Listen, buddy, if you want to throw paint at her, be my guest. Myself, I’d plan to watch from a distance. She is met by various French and English military officials and sundry sheiks. Their objective proves to be a nearby poppie field. Looking on in disgust, Cleo orders it burned. As she stands dramatically silhouetted against the sky, jet fighters napalm the field (!).
Cut to our introduction of ‘Mommy,’ played at full screaming throttle by Winters while wearing an "Annie"-style red wig. Basically she looks like the result of Lucille Ball and Roseanne tumbling into the Brundlefly machine together. She’s none too pleased with Cleo’s interference, and lets her subordinates know it. Winters is pretty amusing here, letting loose with an especially florid performance. If it weren’t for the character’s constant potty-mouthing and lesbianism, you could drop her right into an episode of the old Batman TV show. (Actually, she once played a Ma Barker-style villain on Batman, so she did know the ropes.)
Since Cleo’s causing so much trouble in Turkey, Mommy plans to lure her
back to her hometown of Los Angeles, where Mommy also resides. (Does this
sound right? Would you really want a person capable of causing you
trouble from half a world away to come right back to your town?) She
will do this by screwing with Our Heroine’s old homies at the local
neighborhood center. At her call, pretty much the entire Los Angeles
police force rolls out to wreck the place and hassle the inhabitants,
including the mightily-Afro’d Casey as (duh) Cleo’s old flame, Rueben
Masters. From there it’s business as usual, as we tread water waiting
for the inevitable showdown between Cleo and Mommy.
Summation: One of the slicker Blaxploitation pictures. Make sure to check out the DVD version. While it lacks any extras, even the film’s trailer (?!), the widescreen letterboxing is essential, and the digital clarity presents the settings and hilariously colorful clothing in eye-popping detail.
-by Ken Begg