Archive for the Carnival Chills Category

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Meets the CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943)

Posted in 1940s Films, 2013, Animals Attack, B-Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Carnival Chills, Classic Films, Mad Doctors!, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , , on May 9, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943)

Capposter

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

Universal Studios was THE place to go for great horror movies in the early days of cinema.  From DRACULA (1931) and FRANKENSTEIN (1931) to THE MUMMY (1932), THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954), Universal spent money on their horror films, creating atmospheric, beautifully made monster pictures that still hold up to viewings today.  In between their A-Pictures, however, they churned out lots of fun B-movies as well.  These movies didn’t have the best directors in the canon; nor did they employ the top box-office actors.  They utilized lots of money-saving stock footage and re-used sets from the big movies.  This doesn’t mean the films weren’t often very entertaining.  Many of them exude a certain second-tier charm that makes them more than bearable.  Often, they are as much fun as the big productions.  Some examples of these B’s were MAN MADE MONSTER (1941), NIGHT MONSTER (1942), and our feature presentation, CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943). 

While circus animals are being unloaded from a ship, Fred Mason (Milburn Stone, Doc Adams from GUNSMOKE, also in INVADERS FROM MARS – 1953) meets his fiancé and secretary, Beth (Evelyn Ankers from THE WOLF MAN, 1941 and THE PEARL OF DEATH, 1944), who is dressed in great clothes.  She kind of resembles Auntie Mame in every scene of this movie; the costumes are that fabulous!  After playing kissy-face, he tells her about all the big game he has brought back for his circus, including Cheela, a huge female gorilla (okay, a man in a pretty decent gorilla suit).  He introduces Beth to the gorilla as a crate holding a tiger bursts open and the wild beast escapes.  Fred grabs a chair and tames the snarling tiger (more on this footage later).  It’s actually a hell of an exciting opening! 

Milburn Stone and Evelyn Ankers in CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN.

Milburn Stone and Evelyn Ankers in CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN.

Beth tells Fred all about her little sister, Dorothy (played by Martha Vickers as Martha MacVicar) —from THE BIG SLEEP (1946) and THE MUMMY’S GHOST (1944)) —who has developed a glandular problem and was taken to the Crestview Sanatorium.  Dr. Sigmund Walters is a well-known doctor who specializes in the glandular issues between races.  The good doctor has changed several people who were deformed, making them normal by messing with their pituitary gland.  His nurse assistant helps him with his experiments with sex hormones, where he wants to take human hormones and transplant them into animal subjects. 

In his very first starring role, John Carradine (STAGECOACH, 1939 and THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES, 1968, and over three hundred other shows and films) plays Dr. Walters, a mad scientist (is there any other kind, especially with Carradine on hand?).  Walters is obsessed with glandular disorders and charming young women.  He joins Beth and Fred to have a look at the circus, where they are all waiting on famous lion-tamer Clyde Beatty to answer them about his new act.  We get to see these beautiful animals, lions and tigers especially, caged, fed, and trained. 

Cheela, the gorilla (of my dreams —sorry, couldn’t resist) attacks one of the handlers.  Carradine is instantly smitten by the looks and talent of the gorilla.  He wants to buy her, but the circus says no.  So, he pays a thief to steal the animal.  “It’s a deal, mister.  You got yourself a monkey!”  Instead of paying the thief, Dr. Walters pushes the man into the cage, where Cheela kills him!

The legendary John Carradine as Dr. Sigmund Walters.

The legendary John Carradine as Dr. Sigmund Walters.

Once in the lab, Walters begins his nefarious experiments, and Dorothy is included in this mysterious research with Cheela.  Why does he want to turn a gorilla into a hot woman?  Who knows?  Maybe he can’t get a date any other way.  Dorothy starts to die on the operating table, but the gorilla changes through the magic of stop motion photography (like in THE WOLF MAN, 1941) into a sexy young woman, played by Acquanetta (who only had one name, much like Cher or Madonna and was known as the Venezuelan Volcano in press releases and also played in JUNGLE WOMAN, 1944 and DEAD MAN’S EYES, 1944).  Using his nurse’s glands, Walters finishes the experiment.  He saves Dorothy for future surgeries.  He renames the ape-woman Paula Dupree.  Acquanetta plays her as a mute, acting pretty much with only her eyebrows, although she looks stunning doing so.

Meanwhile, back at the circus, Fred gets to try out his new act, mixing lions and tigers in the same cage with himself.  Once again, the animal footage is terrific, exciting and scary and realistic.  The two big cats actually get into a fight, which was supposedly staged and filmed in a single take.  They really look like they’re tearing into each other.  This is not a film for PETA!

Walters brings Paula Dupree (aka Cheela) to the circus, where the animals go crazy, sensing her unnaturalness.  She steps into the lion cage, and the big cat is so afraid of her it backs away.  Fred believes she may be the best lion-tamer of all time.  He hires her, and she becomes a part of the act.  She also falls in love with Fred.  Rut-ro!

Paula Dupree hides a sinister secret in CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN.

Paula Dupree hides a sinister secret in CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN.

When Paula/Cheela sees Fred kissing Beth, she gets angry and starts to change back into a gorilla.  Her teeth grow to gigantic form, her skin turns darker, and hair begins sprouting all over her body, her brow becomes huge.  The transformation is primitive and crude, but it works in context.  It’s created by the great Jack P. Pierce, who also created all the classic make-ups for the Universal monsters like Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. 

She immediately goes after Beth in her home, determined to kill off her romantic competition, but she’s interrupted by a landlady.  The poor older woman is jumped and chewed to death.  Paula escapes, but Dr. Walters knows he needs to perform more operations to get her hormones back to normal.  Things aren’t looking good for Dorothy, who’s still at the sanatorium!

Will Dr. Walters get Paula’s glands back in order?  Will Fred be able to control all those big cats without the help of Paula, and with a big thunderstorm on the way?  Will Paula kill Beth and get the love of the man she adores?  How the hell does Beth afford those terrific glamorous outfits on a circus secretary’s salary? 

Tune in to find out, but it all ends in a spectacular circus finale with crazed big cats, a huge storm, and a lovelorn gorilla.  Watching the stunt footage, I can’t believe somebody didn’t get killed during the filming of these scenes. 

A credit at the beginning of the picture reads “We hereby make grateful acknowledgement to Mr. Clyde Beatty for his cooperation and inimitable talent in staging the thrilling animal sequences in this picture.”  In other words, thanks to Clyde (a world famous lion-tamer) for letting us borrow all your scenes from THE BIG CAGE (1933), a jungle adventure in which Beatty performed the thrilling lion-taming acts.  In fact, it’s rumored that Milburn Stone, a rather bland leading man, was only hired onto CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN because of his diminutive stature and resemblance to Clyde Beatty.

Other than Stone, however, the acting is quite good for this sort of picture.  Evelyn Keyes looks gorgeous in her beautiful outfits and is completely natural, even when spouting dubious dialogue.  Acquanetta is also unbelievably beautiful, and she does a good job, working the whole movie in short, sequined dresses and pantomiming everything she does.  She’s like an animal in a lot of ways, the way her eyes follow things, the way her lips curl when disappointed or angry, and the way she stomps more than walks.  Also impressive is John Carradine in a low-key role.  I love me some John Carradine, and in this film he could’ve turned into the later Carradine, mugging for the camera and camping it up as a mad doctor.  Instead, he reigns his performance inwards, and we can easily see how he could charm women.  He also exudes an innate intelligence.  The man was a terrific actor, and it’s too bad he was relegated to high-camp roles so often in his later years.  A lot of people should watch his earlier work to see how good he truly was. 

As noted before, the gowns in this movie are pretty spectacular for a B-picture.  This is due to Vera West’s costume design.  West was the gown designer behind most of the Sherlock Holmes movies of the 1940s, as well as THE GOOD FAIRY (1935), GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1934), MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (1935) and SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), as well as ALL the major Universal horror films of the thirties and forties.  She designed the gowns for 342 movies, almost all at Universal. 

CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN was directed by stalwart Edward Dmytryk, who also helmed such classics as THE CAINE MUTINY (1954), CROSSFIRE (1947), BACK TO BATAAN (1945), and HITLER’S CHILDREN (1943).  The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Dmytryk started working at Universal as a messenger boy at the age of fifteen.  Later in life, he was one of the infamous Hollywood Ten who refused to cooperate with HUAC and Joseph McCarthy.  He refused to name names as communists, and he ended up in prison.  After a few months, he testified again, informing on several “communists.”  He always believed he had done the right thing, but he was never forgiven by the rest of Hollywood, and his career stalled out in the 1970s. 

Overall, CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN is a bit predictable, but that doesn’t lessen its entertainment value.  This is a fun movie, and it moves amazingly swiftly.  That’s a lot of plot and action for 61 minutes!  The acting is generally very good, the make-up is cool, and the big cat action (thanks again Clyde) is truly jaw-dropping.

I give CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN three glands out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

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Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Helps a GIRL ON THE RUN (1953)

Posted in 1950s Movies, 2013, B-Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Carnival Chills, Crime Films, Dancing Girls!, Femme Fatales, Film Noir, Gangsters!, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , , on February 14, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

GIRL ON THE RUN (1953)

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Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

Film noir is one of my favorite sub-genres in the industry.  With its double crossing dames, doomed heroes, dark shadowy alleys and sets, and general bad attitude, the noir genre contains the darkest mysteries in an already shrouded playing field.  Films like DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), DETOUR (1945), THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946), and the amazing OUT OF THE PAST (1947) established the guidelines of noir, although pulp fiction books and magazines had been promoting such grimy, sordid tales for many years.

Along comes 1953, and with it, one of the grubbiest, sleaziest film noirs of all time – GIRL ON THE RUN.  This one takes place in a traveling carnival, therefore making it – what? – carny noir?  Hoochie coochie crime drama?  In any case, it’s a real find, and it’s a hoot and a half if you’ve imbibed earlier in the evening.  Which I highly recommend.

The titles roll over the strains of John Phillips Sousa, and we get a look at the carnival, complete with Ferris Wheel, funhouse (with a laughing clown that’ll give you nightmares for weeks), a merry-go-round, and, most important, a burlesque coochie dancer show!  A hen-pecked man escapes his wife and makes for the girlie show, where they gyrate with feathers sticking out of their butts like cut-rate exotic birds, with black kitty-kat masks, and sequined bras and grandma-panties.  A dwarf, Blake, (played by Charles Bolander who was also in DARK INTRUDER, 1965), runs the carnival and hangs out behind the coochie tent with the main girlie attraction, Gigi.  He discovers that a vice probe on the carnival has been suspended and the reporter who instigated the investigation has been fired and is on the run from the mob.  A beat cop also goes behind the curtain to keep an eye on things, making the little guy furious.  Turns out, the editor in charge of the paper that called off the investigation has been murdered, and the sarge thinks the young reporter who was fired did it.  The reporter, Bill Martin (played by TV’s Captain Midnight himself, Richard Coogan) and his girlfriend, Janet, luckily happen to be right behind the curtain while this conversation takes place.  He needs to hide in the carnival to prove his innocence and someone named Reeves’s guilt.  Janet is standing by her man, but she also needs to hide.  The cops are everywhere in the carnival, so they require disguises.  So, Bill becomes a boxer in the fighting tent and Janet puts on the sequined black bra and granny-panties and mask of the coochie chorus line.

The dwarf among the girls.

The dwarf among the girls.

After the show, the dancers cackle like a bunch of hens, watched over by an older woman who smokes cigars and cracks wise.  Soon, its costume changes (exposing just enough leg), and they’re out front with the barker.  “All right now folks,” he shouts, “Take yer time.  Don’t hurry.  We don’t want ya’ to hurt yourselves.  I now give you a cavity of beauty, a peerless pulchritude all set to entertain you.  A treat for the lovers of real art.  An exhibition to make the old feel young and the young feel better!  Six tantalizing morsels of loveliness from every corner of the world” (Cut to a lip-smacking bull lesbian in the crowd watching the show enthusiastically!)  “I now present to you . . . hey, this ain’t a show for boys.  This is for adults only.  All right boys, beat it.  Come back in ten years.”  We then get treated to six slightly overweight dancers trying to look exotic.  Fatima of the Veils; Dolores, who shows the boys a little rumba; as well as the horsiest face ever committed to celluloid, Miss Pineapple of 1953 aka Love on the Dole!  It’s actually a lot of fun to watch these time-capsule dancers who strut their stuff and bare just enough skin to earn a PG rating nowadays.  We finish with the star, Gigi, from Paris (Kentucky).

Bring on the dancing girls!

Bring on the dancing girls!

Reeves visits the dwarf, who’s angry at the presence of all the cops when the whole vice investigation has been called off.  Reeves is looking for Janet, who’s seen too much . . . like a murder?  Reeves starts obsessing over Gigi.  While the old woman, Lil,  who oversees the dressing and undressing of the girls, helps Janet turn into a coochie dancer.   Janet asks, “Is that all you expect me to wear?”  The old woman asks, “You ain’t deformed are you?  Put it on!”  Turns out, Janet knows about a girl from the chorus line that Reeves “got in trouble” last year and who disappeared, so Reeves is actually in charge of running the town as well as the prostitutes out of the carnival.   Lil hates Reeves as well, because she’s married to his boss, and Reeves will do anything to be Mr. Big on top of the town.

Blake the dwarf talks turkey to Boxer Bill.

Blake the dwarf talks turkey to Boxer Bill.

The dwarf, Blake, blackmails Reeves for twenty thousand dollars, because he has a lot on Reeves, although we don’t know what.  Meanwhile, Lil convinces the other girls to circle their pasties around Janet to protect her from Reeves’s prying eyes.

Bill Martin, reporter (remember him?), becomes a volunteer to fight the champ in the boxing ring, almost knocking the big galoot unconscious.  He was supposed to take a dive, but instead he becomes the new champ attraction!

Gigi goes into her dance, and we see why she’s the star of the burlesque show.  Yowza!  Wearing bat-wing veils and a leather bikini, she gyrates to a sultry sax solo.  And, hey. . . in the audience . . . is that?  Steve McQueen?  From THE BLOB (1958), THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), THE SAND PEBBLES (1966), and BULLITT (1968)?   It is!  In fact, it was his first role in a feature.  He doesn’t say anything, but it’s freaking Steve McQueen, so the movie just got fifty percent cooler.

The dwarf strikes an uneasy alliance with Bill, offering him a job until they get over the state line.  Bill accepts, but not before Janet has to dance semi-nude in public.  Oh, the shame!  The horror!  But she nearly pulls it off.  Reeves, however, can count, and he notices there’s an extra girl in the hoochie line.  Lil goes after Reeves with her fingernails, and he shouts, “After twenty years, you’re interfering with my life again!”  Reeves figures out Janet is the witness, and a trap is set for Bill using Janet as bait!  But the leering dwarf wants to save her . . . if she’ll do something for him.  Wink wink, nudge nudge.

The double crosses and the fights keep coming until the bodies start piling up.  Lil narcs on Reeves and his soiled past, Bill may be throwing Janet over for another dame, the dwarf seems to be lying to everyone in America, and Gigi has her own agenda.

The script by Arthur J. Beckhard (who previously wrote Shirley Temple movies for God’s sake!  CURLY TOP and OUR LITTLE GIRL, both 1935 – shame shame shame, Mr. Beckhard!) and Cedric Worth is a muddle.  The pacing is all over the place, although it never seems slow.  The dialogue is mostly hateful and bitter, which makes everything better.  The photography is suitably dark, and the carny atmosphere is sordid and grimy.  The actors all do what they can with the material, but it’s kind of a hopeless cause.

Girls girls girls!

Girls! Girls! Girls!

GIRL ON THE RUN is a really fun little carny noir that zips along for its brief 64 minute running time.  You get a somewhat complicated plot with little back story, a shooting, slimy, mustache twirling villains, catfights, rescues,  insane plot twists, and more double crosses that you can shake a scary clown at.  Whenever things get slow, they bring out the dancing girls!  And really, what’s wrong with that?  One part of Gigi’s act is so good, they show it twice.  Plus, a cameo by Steve McQueen and boxing and corrupt cops.   Now, that’s entertainment.

And did I mention it has dancing girls?

I give GIRL ON THE RUN three coochie dancers out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

Meals for Monsters Presents: THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Carnival Chills, Cult Movies, Drive-in Movies, Gypsy Curses, Hypnotic Horror, Jenny Orosel Columns, Just Plain Weird, Meals for Monsters, Ray Dennis Steckler, Zombies with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

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It could be argued that the best part of THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964) is the title. It wouldn’t be hard to argue that, because it is a bad movie. Ninety five percent of this movie is plain awful. But that five percent that isn’t is such pure awesomeness that it makes up for the rest and does make it a fun flick for a movie night.

The title sums up only a portion of INCREDIBLY STRAGE CREATURES. The movie opens with a carnival fortune teller turning a drunk into one of those mixed-up zombies after he spurns her advances. Flash-forward to three not-so-young young people (can’t any low-budget directors find anyone under the age of thirty to play a teenager?) looking for kicks at the local carnival. Jerry and his friends go in for a psychic reading with Madame Estrella from the prologue. She is not appreciative of their silly manner, especially the obnoxious Jerry. So she enlists the help of her sister, a stripper, in bewitching the juvenile delinquent. Soon he abandons his buddy and his girlfriend and only wants to watch Carmelita take it off. She, Madame Estrella and her henchman Ortega turn Jerry into a hypnotized assassin. Can they be stopped before Jerry goes full-blown into mixed-up-zombiness?

I’ve seen some great movies made on a near nonexistent budget. This is not one of them. The acting is horrible (the director cast himself in the lead, presumably to save a few bucks). The story seemed like an afterthought and the pacing was lousy (after the prologue there was barely any reference to the mixed-up zombies until near the end). The tagline for INREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES was “The First Monster Musical”. Reading that, I was expecting…well, a musical. Not so here. Instead, we had a movie with song and dance numbers by the strippers and showgirls thrown in whenever they couldn’t think of anything else to do with that time slot. And I use the term “dance” loosely; it was more like walking around in sync.

So why am I recommending INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES?  Because it’s fun. It’s so far from being politically correct (Estrella and Ortega are a mishmash of the worst stereotypes for Hispanic, Gypsy and Jewish combined) that you feel almost naughty just for watching it. Plus, there are parts of the flick that just straight up look awesome. The dream sequences alone were stunning (it’s worth mentioning that, in the midst of this film involving mostly non-professionals, cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond went on to win a cinematography Oscar for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)).

When coming up with cocktails for these movies, I try to avoid really bad puns. But I don’t always try very hard. Hence, I bring you the:

MIXED-UP ZOMBIEdrink

Ingredients:
1 shot rum
1 shot peach schnapps
1 shot apple schnapps
8 ounces fruit punch

Directions: Take the four ingredients and, well, mix them up.

Seeing as most of the movie takes place at a carnival, it would be fitting to make carnival food. My personal favorite is the corn dog. However, if you don’t have a deep fryer big enough to make Paula Deen weep, it can get very messy very fast. And baked corn dogs resemble their carnival counterparts the way a pug resembles a guard dog. So instead I bring you the best of the corn dog flavors, but in a less messy vehicle:

CORN DOG CAKE dinner

Ingredients:
1 package corn bread mix
½ cup milk
4 hot dogs, cubed
2 miniature pickles, cubed

Directions:Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. In a bowl, mix the first three ingredients, then fold in the last two. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs (mine took 22 minutes). Invert onto a plate, slice and serve with mustard/ketchup sauce and a salad (so you can claim something resembling nutritious for dinner).

MUSTARD/KETCHUP SAUCE:
Ingredients:
¼ cup mustard
3 tbsp. ketchup
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Directions: Combine in saucepan and heat on low until warmed and mixed well together. Serve over Corn Dog Cake

Candy apples come with similar problems to corn dogs. To get that good, hard, bright red cinnamon exterior you need to deal with melted sugar at insanely high and precise temperatures. Ten degrees too hot or too cold can completely ruin it. Then there’s the problem of spillage—on kitchen equipment, it’s a bitch to clean off and spilled on flesh is really not something you ever want to experience. So, again like dinner, dessert captures all the flavors of the candy apple, but in a much easier way:

CANDY APPLE PIE

dessert

Ingredients:
1 pre-made refrigerated 2 part pie crust
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced.
½ cup sugar
3 tbsps. cornstarch
1 2oz bottle Red Hot cake decorations (or equivalent bulk candy)
1/3 cup butter, cut in cubes

Directions: Preheat oven to 425. Place first crust layer inside a 9 inch pie plate. Mix the apples, sugar, cornstarch and candies in a bowl. Pour into the crust, and scatter the butter cubes around the filling. Top with second crust dough, seal the edges and do NOT forget to poke air holes in the top crust (yes, this was learned the hard way). Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet to catch any drips or overflow. Bake 50 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or the souls of your enemies.

The director, Ray Dennis Steckler, is responsible for some of the greatest titles in drive-in history: RAT PFINK A BOO BOO (1966), THE MAD LOVE LIFE OF A HOT VAMPIRE (1971) and THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID ROW SLASHER. Whether these movies live up to the promise of those titles has been debated by film fans worldwide. But after giving THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES a try, I suggest exploring some of his other titles. I’m willing to bet you’ll have more fun than an evening of toenail clipping. And, if you need help enjoying them, go ahead and add an extra shot or two to your Mixed-Up Zombie.

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel