Archive for the Sexy Stars Category

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou looks into THE HYPNOTIC EYE (1960)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2012, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Hypnotic Horror, Kinky Killers, Mutilation, Paranormal, Sexy Stars with tags , , , , on December 6, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

THE HYPNOTIC EYE (1960)

hypnoticposter

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.

Oh, Allison Hayes, how I adore thee.  I sang your praises earlier this year in the gloriously campy voodoo-fest, THE DISEMBODIED (1957), and I am compelled to return to your side with 1960’s exploitation / trash classic THE HYPNOTIC EYE.  You are not the main attraction in this gruesome-for-its-time sickie, but your performance as Justine stands out among the others like a rose in a cesspool.

Actually, THE HYPNOTIC EYE is a fun little drive-in feature with a twisted plot that probably stunned audiences right out of their rumble seats.  Directed by television vet George Blair (who directed hundreds of episodes of such fare as THE GENE AUTRY SHOW, RACKET SQUAD, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, CASEY JONES, and WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE), the film zips along swiftly with bursts of yucky violence and real live hypnotism demonstrations.  In fact, many of the actresses who performed in the film were actually mesmerized by an off-stage hypnotist and told what to do by the director using trigger words.  Thus, a feeling of real trances and surrealism suffuses the film, although I’m not certain the poor actresses couldn’t have performed just as well using actual acting skillsThe movie was even advertised as being filmed in Hypnomagic, a gimmick to get more seats filled in theaters, in which you – the audience—would actually be hypnotized while watching THE HYPNOTIC EYE.  It didn’t work on me, but perhaps the population was more susceptible back then.

The film starts on a shockingly sick note, when a black lingerie-wearing woman drying her hair over an open burner on a stove shoves her head down until her hair catches fire.  Instead of putting it out, she stands in her kitchen, screaming, unable to move while the hair on her head burns like Nic Cage in GHOST RIDER(2007).  This whole scene is witnessed through the burner, the flames dancing around the edges of the screen, the camera lurking within the stove.  Her entire head is wrapped in bandages and detective Dave Kennedy (played by Joe Partridge of many of George Blair’s TV shows) walks in and asks the doc, “Another self-inflicted mutilation?”  Under questioning, the woman admits she put her hair in the flame on purpose and then promptly dies.  Det. Kennedy expositions that eleven women have mutilated themselves with straight razors they thought were lipsticks or by sticking their heads into fans they thought were vibrators (what?).  So far, it’s all been unexplained.

This lady's got a hot new hairdo in the opening scene of THE HYPNOTIC EYE!

This lady’s got a hot new hairdo in the opening scene of THE HYPNOTIC EYE!

But life isn’t all mutilation and death for Kennedy.  That evening, he takes his girlfriend Marcia (played by Marcia Henderson of RIOT IN JUVENILE PRISON, 1959 and THE WAYWARD GIRL, 1957) on a date to see a popular hypnotist, Desmond (played by Jacques Bergerac of GIGI, 1958 and LES GIRLS, 1957; he was also the fourth husband of Ginger Rogers).  He makes a subject hot, then cold, then turns him into a very bad, mean dog!  There’s nothing like humiliating volunteers in front of a wildly applauding audience.  For his final demonstration, he gets three lovely women volunteers…and there is his assistant, Justine, played by the wonderful Allison Hayes in a hot sequenced outfit!  She helps him pick out the three prettiest women in the audience.  Dodie, a girl who came with the detective and his girlfriend, is one of the volunteers.  Dodie is played by the lovely Merry Anders (TICKLE ME, 1965, THE TIME TRAVELERS, 1964), and she is hypnotized by Desmond, and she actually levitates on stage under his French-accented instructions.  “Ladies and gentlemen…gravity defied!”  Det. Kennedy insists it’s all a trick of misdirection, although his girlfriend Marcia is thrilled.

The hypnotic Jacques Bergerac as Desmond.

The hypnotic Jacques Bergerac as Desmond.

Dodie doesn’t remember anything that happened onstage, and she rushes off after the show to the back entrance.  In a hypnotic state, she stares at a poster of Desmond then goes home where she fills a sink with boiling water and sulfuric acid and washes her face in it, melting away her skin and becoming the twelfth victim.  She survives, but is hospitalized and must be covered in paraffin, since her skin is burned away.  Det. Kennedy and Marcia visit her, and she admits that she remembered going home and washing her face but nothing else.  She knows she did it to herself, but she didn’t feel any pain at the time.

Det. Kennedy goes to a call and drops Marcia off at the theater where Desmond is performing, since she wants to see the show again.  Under Justine’s subtle direction, Desmond chooses, of course, Marcia.  She is the new subject for the levitation trick!  After the show, she tells Kennedy that Desmond is no fake, but that she faked being hypnotized and Desmond whispered in her ear that she wouldn’t remember anything except that she was to go back to his dressing room at midnight.  So, accompanied by Kennedy and his friend, a psychiatrist, she goes back to Desmond’s lair and plays along.

Once in his dressing room, she really is put under his spell by a blinking electronic eye thingie.  He tells her to get up and go to dinner with him.  He asks her address, and she tells him, while Allison Hayes lurks behind the corners, obviously bitter about the situation.  Desmond escorts Marcia to a nice restaurant, and her bodyguards sit at another table in case Desmond tries anything.  Then, they go to a way-crazy-man beat club for coffee and jazz.  So far, it’s a pretty great date.  Then, an old man in a beret screams “I have just written a poem.  Confessions Of A Movie Addict Or The Holy Barbarian Blues.  I was a teenaged movie monster.  I cut my teeth on Clara Bow…”  He goes on to recite the entire damn poem to bongo accompaniment.  He should’ve just called the poem “We Need Padding.  So Here Is Filler.”  Groovy, man, groovy.  Desmond dances with Marcia amongst the beat cats and chicks, which gets Kennedy all hot and bothered.  While dancing, Desmond whispers in Marcia’s ear, then he escorts her home and the detective waits outside while old Desmond makes out with his girl.  After a few minutes, the door opens, and Justine steps into the room.  She tells Desmond, “There isn’t much time.”  Justine makes Marcia go further down under.  Desmond asks, “How many more?”  Justine replies, “As long as there are faces like this.”  She then instructs Marcia to get ready for bed and she turns on the shower for her, making the water scalding hot.  What kind of plumbing does she have that the water is boiling hot in the shower?  Marcia strips while Justine orders her into the “cool, cool shower”.  At that moment, Dave Kennedy knocks on her door, interrupting the mutilation.

Allison Hayes as the mysterious Justine.

Allison Hayes as the mysterious Justine.

At the door, Justine informs Dave she’s a friend from school, visiting Marcia, but Marcia went to public school, and that just throws a monkey wrench into Justine’s plans.  But Marcia remains in a hypnotic state that can be triggered at any time.  It does make her act like a sex kitten, however.  Of course, big dumb lunkhead Dave still doesn’t get the connection between Desmond and the mutilated girls and Justine.  With cops like him, it’s a wonder any case ever gets solved in the city.  Justine, certainly a suspicious character, disappears out the fire escape.  Whoops!  Lost another suspect.

The psychiatrist friend is found in the morning playing classical piano in a smoking jacket with a white dog lying atop the piano!  He tries to explain the whole thing to dim-bulb Dave, but Dave is still in the dark.  They go to visit the first victim, the woman who stuck her face into an electric fan.  She says she has never been hypnotized.  Other victims confirm they were never hypnotized or saw the stage show.  However, it is soon discovered they are all lying (under post-hypnotic suggestion).  They have all been to see the show.

What is the strange relationship between Desmond and Justine?  Why is Justine causing the hypnotized ladies to mutilate themselves?  The answer is right out of a twist ending in a Scooby Doo cartoon.  It’s both ridiculous and horrifying at the same time, and it provides the lovely Ms. Hayes to really strut her stuff and chew the scenery.

THE HYPNOTIC EYE barrels along at a clipped pace for a brief 79 minutes, giving the viewer no time to discredit its hole-filled plot.  It’s hard to dislike the movie; it really pulls out all the stops to entertain.  It even contains a whole scene where Desmond looks right into the camera and hypnotizes the viewer in the movie audience!  There are beautiful women who are turned into monsters in various terrible ways through very good make-up effects created by Emile LaVigne, who created make-up for such great films as WEST SIDE STORY (1961), SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) and THE DISEMBODIED (1957).  I wonder if Allison Hayes had him as her favorite make-up artist?    There are the dumbest cops of all time and damsels in distress.  The acting is good enough for this sort of thing, but the crisp photography by Archie Dalzell, who photographed LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS the same year, and also shot THE TRIP (1967), FIVE DESPERATE WOMEN (1971) and EBONY, IVORY, AND JADE (1979), makes it all pop.

Plus, where else will you hear the great line, “If you like my beautiful face so much, you can have it!”

I command you to see THE HYPNOTIC EYE!  I command you to get the restored copy from Warner Archive!  I command it!

I give THE HYPNOTIC EYE three burning heads out of four.

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: GALACTIC GIGOLO and SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-A-RAMA (both 1988)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 80s Movies, Aliens, Campy Movies, Demons, Grindhouse Goodies, Nick Cato Reviews, Scream Queens, Sexy Stars, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , , , on August 1, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
Nerds, Babes, Baritone Imps and Intergalactic Broccoli
(Or, SGM returns to Times Square!)
By Nick Cato

Just a few months after the first Urban Classics double feature hit New York City (covered in the 17th edition of this column right here). I returned to Times Square to see another double bill of exploitation insanity. On a mild January afternoon in 1988, I took a solo trip to Manhattan to see one film that featured the three (at the time) reigning scream queens, while the opening feature was made by those responsible for one of my all-time favorite horror comedies, PSYCHOS IN LOVE (1986).

GALACTIC GIGOLO (1988) is a wonderfully funny sci-fi comedy, starring the amazing Carmine Capobianco as an alien who—after winning a game show on a planet where all the inhabitants are vegetables—wins a trip to Connecticut where he proceeds to chase women and drink bourbon, all the while being chased by a bunch of brain-dead gangsters. In his new human form (if you don’t know what Carmine looks like, Google him), he drives the ladies crazy and turns into a total party animal. On his home planet, he’s a 6-foot tall stalk of broccoli! It’s goofy and stupid but MAN did I laugh myself into tears, even among a noisier than usual Times Square crowd. Fans of PSYCHOS IN LOVE who might have missed this should do themselves a favor and get the DVD, as most of the PSYCHOS came back for this one under the direction of PSYCHOS’s Gorman Bechard (who has since become a semi-successful author and pop / art film director).

In classic NYC style, the main feature was delayed, I’m assuming due to projector trouble. But once SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-A-RAMA (1988) began (after continuous screaming and snack-throwing that lasted a few minutes into the feature), the mostly teenaged / early 20s crowd sat transfixed as sleaze director David DeCoteau unreeled his latest celluloid abomination to his thirsting fans.

Brinke Stevens and Michele Bauer (here credited as Michelle McClellan) are two sorority pledges being stalked by a trio of super-nerdy frat boys. When the boys are caught spying on a secret hazing/spanking ritual (that goes on for WAY too long), the house mother catches them and forces them to join Stevens and Bauer on the only mission that will allow them into the sorority: they must break into a local bowling alley and steal something to prove they were there. Okay, so the plot is lame, but the opening scenes of Stevens and Bauer running around in g-strings and showering butt-nekkid had the place cheering and drooling like typical degenerates that go to a Times Square double feature like this in the first place. (Wait…did I just insult myself?).

The bowling alley is located inside a shopping mall, and shortly after our group arrives, they meet up with a tough biker-chick named Spider, played by the legendary Linnea Quigly, who uses the F word more than Joe Pesci did two years later in GOODFELLAS (1990). Instead of grabbing a bowling pin or a pair of silly-looking shoes, our group decides to take a trophy, which is quickly dropped and unleashes a small demonic imp who speaks like Bo Diddley (I stood around for the closing credits to make sure it wasn’t him. It wasn’t) and looks about as threatening as a toy from a crane game. The imp begins to grant everyone personal wishes, but of course doesn’t answer them they way anyone had hoped. Chaos ensues, including our sorority girls becoming possessed and Spider kicking both nerd and imp ass, each time sending the crowd into a screaming frenzy.

The late Robin Stille (of 1982’s THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE fame) shows up (apparently EVERYONE decided to break into the joint on the same night) and has a less-than exciting cat fight with Spider before becoming imp fodder, but the few of us who recognized her from her classic duel with the driller killer let our satisfaction be known (mine in the form of a loud “ARRR-YEAH BABY!”).

Back to the imp: I found out its voice was done by Dukey Flyswatter, who sang for horror-punk band HAUNTED GARAGE (if you can find their double 7” with the 3-D cover, you’re in for a real rockin’ treat).

As far as double features go, this second (and I believe final) offering from Urban Classics was a real hoot. In the long run I enjoyed GALACTIC GIGOLO a bit more, as I’m a huge fan of the cast and crew, but SORORITY had its moments, the best being Michelle Bauer showcasing her flawless rack for about three-quarters of the film’s running time, and thinking back this is one of the more memorable characters in Linnea Quigley’s arsenal. What hurts SORORITY is its nearly impossible to decipher plot and/or point, whereas GIGOLO is a solid spoof of sci-fi and sex-comedy cinema.

Both films are now available on DVD, but I doubt either is as fun without a proper grindhouse crowd behind them.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

SORORITY’s infamous deep-talking Imp doesn’t play games!

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: EVILS OF THE NIGHT (1985)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2012, Aliens, Bad Acting, Campy Movies, Grindhouse Goodies, Hillbillies, Low Budget Movies, Nick Cato Reviews, Sexy Stars, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , on April 5, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
TV Stars vs. Porn Stars vs. Hillbilly Mechanics vs. Aliens!
By Nick Cato

1985 was a great year for horror films.  We fans were treated to theatrical releases of George Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD, Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS, Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR, and Dan O’Bannon’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD…and those were just the tip of the iceberg.  It seemed every week a winner was coming down the pike—but, of course, I managed to stumble across a real clunker that caused me to doubt my fellow man’s sanity.

While Friday night audiences were wrapped around the block trying to get into sold-out screenings of the second A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET film, my buddies and I decided to wait till Monday and instead hit the (now defunct) Amboy Twin Cinema for EVILS OF THE NIGHT, one in a series of exploitation films that reeled idiots like myself in primarily with its poster art (see above).  With a rip-off of STAR WARS’ Millennium Falcon spaceship, a poor girl with spike-like nipples being drained of blood as skeleton hands grab for her, there was just NO WAY I was going to miss this.  And when I squinted hard enough that I could read some of the stars (who are all hear simply for a paycheck), I was convinced we had another “so-bad-it’s good” epic on our hands.

Well, it truly is a BAD film.  But if you like bottom-of-the-barrel rip-offs, it doesn’t get much more entertaining than this.

Director Mardi Rustam (who had produced several genre titles before this directorial debut) delivers this ode to old-school SciFi films by featuring John Carradine as the main alien who has come to earth seeking teenage flesh and blood for use in some kind of anti-aging youth serum (or something like that…the plot’s all over the place).  His assistants are Julie Newmar of TV’s BATMAN and Tina Louise of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND fame.  Their acting here is as atrocious as the lesser known “teenagers,” several of whom were played by popular (at the time) porno stars, such as Amber Lynn, Jerry Butler, and Crystal Breeze, who gets the WORST ACTING IN THIS FILM award for her facial expressions as she’s strangled by a hillbilly mechanic as her boyfriend takes her from behind.  Don’t ask…

But since you did, the hillbilly mechanics are conned by our alien trio to help them collect fresh corpses.  Neville Brand (who is as uninteresting here as he was in Tobe Hooper’s overrated flop, EATEN ALIVE (1977)) and Aldo Ray (fresh off another celluloid abortion, 1984’s FRANKENSTEIN’S GREAT AUNT TILLIE) play the bumbling overalls-wearing mechanics, who had the crowd shouting insults every time they decided to abduct a teenager by such hi-tech means as frayed rope and pillow cases.  I mean, let’s get serious here for two seconds: IF a trio of aliens forced me to go out and abduct teenagers, and I was slightly overweight and could hardly run, I’d SURELY demand they give me one of their ray guns or space-age stun phasers…but apparently Carradine and Company come from a planet that’s as cheap as their spaceship and the run-down hospital where they’ve chosen to base their intergalactic operation out of.

I never thought I’d say this, but the “blood-draining” techniques used here PALE in comparison to those used in 1972’s notorious INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS…and trust me if you haven’t seen either film, this IS saying something!

But good ‘ol Mardi Rustam (who would mercifully direct only two more films) had an ace up his sleeve: he KNEW the SciFi here was lame.  He KNEW the horror in his stink-fest was non-existent.  So he figured he’d grab some porn stars to do a few nude scenes, and Presto! EVILS OF THE NIGHT became as racy (sex-wise) as PORKY’S (1982) and a host of other teenage sex comedies that flooded the early 80s market.  Word of mouth (at least in my neck of the woods) spoke more of the lesbian beach sequence than it did of aliens draining teenage blood: more people rented this on VHS a few months after its theatrical release due to Crystal Breeze’s aforementioned doggie-style sex scene, and Amber Lynn’s romp in the boat house segment, than they did for any other reason.  Because, there really IS no other reason to see EVILS OF THE NIGHT, unless, of course, you get demented pleasure in seeing former TV and movie stars going down like the Hindenburg in a last ditch effort to save their careers (although John Carradine had already starred in plenty of Z-grade films, so we’ll let him slide).

Ironically (OR, was it planned?), Tobe Hooper’s LIFEFORCE, a very GOOD film about space vampires, was released a few months before this putrid platter of pus.  Perhaps give that one a shot if you haven’t.

Unless you’re a true masochist for horrendous Sci-Fi/horror/soft porn films, definitely PASS on this one, should you encounter a DVD or late night cable screening.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

Julie Newmar, John Carradine (in funky space suit) and Tina Louise discuss what to do with a teenage corpse in EVILS OF THE NIGHT.

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: CHAINED HEAT (1983)

Posted in 2012, 80s Movies, Exploitation Films, Grindhouse, Prison Movies, Sexy Stars, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Women in Prison with tags , , , , , on March 8, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
Blair Behind Bars!
By Nick Cato

Welcome to the 46th edition of my Suburban Grindhouse Memories, where I’m finally getting around to look at a requested subgenre: Women In Prison films, or WIPs, as connoisseurs of the subgenre so affectionately refer to them. WIPs were a hot ticket in the 70s and early 80s, and as far as I’m concerned, none were as fun, sleazy, and downright mean-spirited as CHAINED HEAT (1983), especially when you consider it played not only in grindhouse theaters, but in respectable multiplexes and duplexes all across the U.S. of A.

What sets CHAINED HEAT apart from others of its ilk is the amazing cast.  When I heard Linda (THE EXORCIST) Blair was starring in this WIP film, my 15 year-old rump made no hesitation getting to the (now defunct) Island Twin Theatre, Staten Island’s best bet for unusual and midnight film offerings, where the opening night line wrapped around the place like a new STAR WARS film had been released.  On top of Blair, cult film legend Sybil Danning was in her prime here and delivers one of her most memorable performances as a tough inmate, plus CLEOPATRA JONES (1973) herself, Tamara Dobson, plays Danning’s African American rival and is tougher than a bucket of galvanized nails.  Topping off the list of cult film icons is John (ANIMAL HOUSE-1978) Vernon as a corrupt warden and his first in command, TV star Stella Stevens (!), plus we get sleaze ball king Henry Silva (you saw him in 1,000 films, including 1980’s ALLIGATOR and 1973’s BATTLE OF THE GODFATHERS) who runs an escort service comprised of inmates along with Stevens’ character.

And those are just at the tip of the iceberg.

Like most WIP films (from 1972’s THE BIG BIRD CAGE to BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1975) to 1982’s THE CONCRETE JUNGLE), CHAINED HEAT follows a typical plot of one woman being busted for some kind of unusual crime (this time Blair is arrested for accidentally killing a man).  Her sentence is 18 months in one seriously hellish prison, overrun with gangs, rapist security guards, and more corruption than your standard presidential campaign.  There’s also a racial sub-plot here, as inmates take sides with either the white or black gangs, and there’s more pot and crack smoking going on than in three Cheech and Chong films combined.

Before the inevitable prison riot, Blair is chosen to leave the jail at night to be an escort, and of course she, being morally better than the other inmates (not to mention the highest paid actor in the film), doesn’t get down and dirty like the other girls do, and in fact manages to help one of the weaker ones fight a rough costumer.

There’s also a sequence that caused us EXORCIST fans to question if Blair was ever truly exorcised: a lengthy nude shower scene where Sybil Danning forces herself on the former teenage devil-doll; I can’t remember ever hearing a theater full of teenaged horn-dogs whistling and screaming “GO FOR IT!” with so much enthusiasm (then again, this WAS less than a year after the blockbuster sequel ROCKY III was released, so pretty much everyone was still yelling “GO FOR IT!” at something or someone).  Unrealistic lesbianism has always been a major part of WIP films, and CHAINED HEAT has its share of it (no doubt helping lead to its successful theatrical run: although rated R, this was about as close to an adult film a teenager could get their hands on at the time, both in theaters and a few months later on VHS).

My favorite sequence is when the warden (John Vernon) reveals to a sexy inmate (in his private office) that he makes his own porn films as they’re making out in his Jacuzzi.  He flicks a button and she realizes they’re being filmed by a bulky video camera mounted above the hot tub.  For some reason she gets into it, despite the balding, unattractive old goat.  This guy gets an A+ for one of the slickest, sleaziest wardens in WIP history.

After the drugs, rape, lesbian sex, straight sex, razor blade murders, knife fights, catfights, and stern speeches by the warden and his right hand man (or in this case, right hand woman), the inmates finally decide it’s time to turn the tables.  They quickly take over the joint, breaking heads and messing the place up, both white and black gangs now working side-by-side against THE MAN.  The best sequence features a male prison guard (who had raped most of the inmates) being SLOWLY stabbed in the throat; it was a simple but effective effect that caused audible groans from the crowd.

While WIP films are quite similar and can get tiring, CHAINED HEAT is simply THE one title to see if you feel the need to experience the subgenre.  It’s not pretty (even the sex scenes are kind-of disgusting), has many technical mistakes (the worst being a sound mic in nearly every-other shot), and it’s about as violent as an R-rated film gets.  In some ways, this is the perfect grindhouse film which I’m STILL amazed had such a mainstream release.

I’ve yet to watch THE EXORCIST (or any other Linda Blair film) the same way again.  Be warned.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

Ericka (Sybil Danning) lays down the rules to Carol (Linda Blair) in the women in prison classic CHAINED HEAT (1983)

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: THE BEACH GIRLS (1982)

Posted in 2011, Comedies, Drive-in Movies, Exploitation Films, Just Plain Fun, Nick Cato Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, Sexy Stars with tags , , , , , on December 1, 2011 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
Before Fast Times, Life was a BEACH!
By Nick Cato

The spring of 1982 was a fantastic time. I was closing in on the end of my junior high days and looking forward to my last summer before high school. Horror films were being released nearly every weekend, as were some decent comedies. But few comedies were as fun (or as memorable) as this silly little T&A flick that (thankfully) made its way to the Amboy Twin Cinema, Staten Island’s most notorious theater for letting us underage pests in with little to no hassle.

Nearly six months before film fans would become captivated with Jeff Spicoli’s antics in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, 1982’s THE BEACH GIRLS hit New York theaters and became something of an underground hit. I remember Roger Ebert giving it a positive review, claiming he’d rather watch it ten more times than have to re-watch whatever film he and Gene Siskel had trashed that week on their old TV show, SNEAK PREVIEWS. I went to see it two days in a row, but then again I was an eighth-grader who fell in love with the film’s star, Debra Blee—who—to my geeky pleasure—went on to appear in such classics as SAVAGE STREETS (1984) and HAMBURGER: THE MOTION PICTURE (1986) and a few others, before starring in her last film, 1987’s BEACH FEVER (Hey, at least she wasn’t afraid of being typecast!).

As far as party films go, THE BEACH GIRLS’s simple premise is quite funny: Sarah (Debra Blee) and her two friends are spending the summer at her uncle’s beach-front house. Her friends (the equally beautiful Val Kline and former real-life PLAYBOY playmate Jeana Tomasina) convince Sarah to throw a massive party. As they begin to get things underway, a drug-smuggling ship discovers they’re about to be intercepted by the coast guard, so they toss about a dozen tall black garbage bags filled with marijuana into the sea. Guess where they wash ashore?

While Sarah spends most of the early stages of THE BEACH GIRLS worrying and trying to get her friends to stop the party, the other girls make phone calls and begin inviting everyone they can think of to come over. The funniest call is made to a pizzeria, where one of the girls asks “Is your delivery boy cute?” Shady character after shady character begin to show up, each one handed a huge bag of weed at the front door as they enter the swanky house. I’d argue there’s more grass smoked in this film than in Cheech and Chong’s UP IN SMOKE (1978), or any other C&C film for that matter. There’s also some horrible music, goofy-dancing (I always wondered where these parties were, where all the girls danced around in bikinis) and a couple of really funny skits, including the coast guard eventually raiding the party and burning the rest of the pot on the front lawn, in turn getting everyone at the party (and themselves) even higher than they were! Of course, Sarah’s Uncle Carl comes home early from a trip and tries to shut the party down…but Sarah’s two friends use their boobs and a huge joint to make him change his mind.

THE BEACH GIRLS was one of those care-free party films released before the fear of AIDS began to tone things down. The California partiers on display here smoke weed, have orgies, and basically do whatever they want with reckless abandon, giving this young mind (and I’m sure many others) a false view of our coming teenage years. Then again, I grew up in New York, so who knows what I missed on the west coast?

While both audiences I saw this with laughed throughout most of it and had a good time, I wonder how today’s politically-correct theater-goers would handle the racial humor (there’s a goofy Mexican gardener who has a fight with a Chinese, kung-fu limo driver named Chang), blatant sexism, and mindless party-till-you-die attitude. As a curve ball, there’s even a couple of wacky scenes where the bags of grass talk to the partiers about to smoke them (one bag convinces a guy it’s really parsley!). I’m starting to believe all who made this flick did so under the influence of multiple controlled substances.

Unlike most modern teenage sex comedies, THE BEACH GIRLS doesn’t feature a bunch of nerds trying to lose their virginity or who are afraid to let it rip: EVERYONE who comes to this shindig drinks, smokes, and shags like the world is about to end (even a couple of dorks), all the while making fun of everyone and everything around them. The mood is basically anarchy incarnate.

And when it comes to cheesy teen comedies, what more could one want? How about one of the best lines in the film: when the pizza guy finally arrives, the girl who answers the door says, “Is that a pepperoni in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?” When the guy says “Pepperoni,” and pulls a long one out of his pants, you either get this sophomoric classic or you run in the other direction.

Ah…the 80s…

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

Jeana Tomasina, Debra Blee, and Val Kline make up the nucleus of THE BEACH GIRLS, in this publicity shot that sadly doesn’t appear in the film

Taylor Lautner in ABDUCTION!

Posted in 2011, Action Movies, Campy Movies, Daniel Keohane Reviews, Sexy Stars, Spy Films with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2011 by knifefighter

ADBUCTION (2011)
Movie Review by Dan Keohane

After his “breakout” role as “Sharkboy” in THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY AND LAVA GIRL 3D (2005) and a few smaller roles, teenager Taylor Lautner hit the big time as the shirtless werewolf in TWILIGHT (2008), NEW MOON (2009) and ECLIPSE (2010) and began the infamous Jacob versus Edward debate among a billion teenaged girls. This past weekend, he broke out from his hirsute role (and only occasionally his shirt) in the new action film ADBUCTION, playing a high school senior who discovers that his life had been a lie when he finds a picture of himself in an online Missing Children website. The website, however, is a trap set by the evil Russian (I think, never really said) mobster Kozlow (Michael Nyvqist). Nathan soon learns that his past, and his parents, have been a lie.

I watched the movie along with two major Lautner fans: my two daughters Amanda (16) and Audrey (14). As we settled into our seats my expectations were minimal. In fact, my early notes covered such critical points as the popcorn (it was really good), my risky choice of Raisinettes over Twizzlers (good choice), and how the trailer for HAYWIRE (2011) showed the whole friggin’ movie (I hate it when they do that; implies the film will not be very good).

Then the movie began and, to be honest, it got off to a good start. Lautner’s performance as a slightly wild but overall decent high-schooler was good. He had a few close friends, including Denzel Whitaker (THE BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL – NEW ORLEANS, 2009) as his spunky black best friend. This made me wonder (not for the first time) why films with a young white action star seem to require the character having a spunky black best friend, and why they have yet to make a film with an African American male lead who has a spunky white best friend.

I do also wonder sometimes what it’s like to grow up in the California school system, since Hollywood makes these kids seem like evil, drunken monsters. Yes, I was a bit of a conservative and nerd in school myself, pre-college, but there sure seems to be a lot of this in films, even supposedly taking place in Pennsylvania. Anyway, I digress. Where was I?

Lautner’s love interest and neighbor, with whom he’s had a crush on since they made out once during camp in middle school, was played by relative newcomer Lily Collins. Her performance was light and we all agreed not very strong. That’s OK, though, because Lautner overall needs a few more years of growth as an actor before he can really shine on the screen (with his shirt on, which was the case for all but a couple of obligatory quick scenes). Together, then, they worked fine, but both were not as impressive as some of the supporting cast.

My point with Lautner, and my daughters agree and, in fact, pointed this out to me, is that his overall presence on the screen is strong – he’s a good-looking kid and not cut from the usual action-hero mold, likely because although he has the body of Hercules, his face still has that quiet innocence of youth. But it’s the face that did him in this movie: his expressive range is not the widest road in town. It’s pretty much one look: halfway between a sweet smile and intestinal gas. This works sometimes, but not when he’s on the phone trying to tell the police about the awful things that had just happened to him (“parents” killed protecting him and his house was blown to bits). He should have at least frowned a little more. There was a scene later on when he wakes up after having been crying in his sleep. The eye drops must have just been put in place by the make-up artist before the director yelled “Action,” and they dripped down his face.

Ok, I’m not trying to be mean. But for an actor to be in every scene there has to be an ability to project emotion and drama without words, a simple look or twitch of the mouth. Lautner’s not there yet, but I think with time and training he will be.

You may not enjoy ABDUCTION, but you might enjoy eating some RAISINETTES while watching it.

As an action star who seems to do most of his own stunts, however, this guy rocks. The climax of the film takes place at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game (which I thought added a lot to the film’s everyman-caught-in-a-web-of-intrigue atmosphere), and here his physical prowess truly carries every scene he’s in. Just don’t zoom in too much when he’s sad, that’s all.

I mentioned the supporting cast. Here, some made the film truly worth watching, and others did not. One in particular in this latter category surprised me. Sigourney Weaver (AVATAR, 2009, ALIEN, 1979, and about a hundred others), plays his psychiatrist-cum-protector. I’m a big Weaver fan – she never fails to add something new and watch-worthy to every role, but she was not good at all in this movie. Her performance felt forced and flat. Now ABDUCTION plays out much like a young adult film, which in many ways it was intended to be, since the star’s fan base is still going through puberty, and Weaver once shined in another YA flick, HOLES (2003), so I know she can have major chops in any film she puts her mind to. Just not this one.

Same goes with the head of CIA pursuing Nathan before the mob can get him, played by the Alfred Molina (SPIDER-MAN 2, 2004, CHOCOLAT, 2000?). Molina usually carries scenes well, but always as a dark, creepy type (in the above-mentioned credits, Dr. Octopus and the uber-repressed mayor of a small French town). His CIA chief was more annoying than anything. Ironically, the guy who almost didn’t get any credit in the film save for a couple short lines as one of the CIA agents, Jake Andolina (UNSTOPPABLE, 2010), was actually much better and very expressive without speaking. I think he would have been better cast than Molina and his Weird Uncle performance.

The actors who played Nathan’s “fake” parents. Maria Bello (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, 2005) and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy of the HARRY POTTER films over past decade, without the hair) were very, very good. Their early scenes (before the mob arrived) shined with their honest, powerful portrayals. Adding to this, and to Lautner’s credit, the young lead’s best performances as an actor were with these two people. Lautner’s and Isaacs’ sparring, Bello’s tender love for her son and her misery when he discovers the truth, were great scenes—were, in fact, the best performances in the film.

Michael Nyvqist (who played Mikael Blomkvistin the Swedish films based on the GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO book series) was good as the head mobster, though the part was as stereotypical as you’d imagine it would be. This is a good place to talk about some loose plot holes. Like the TV series 24 (2001-2010), the bad guys in this film have the most amazing tracking technology at their disposal. They can even spy on the CIA, and are constantly one step ahead of them. Just a little too good, you know? Also, during the climactic scene at the ball park, Nathan has managed to sneak something under his seat with duct tape before the game. How he did this, or how his buddy could have, was never said (because, of course, it wouldn’t have been possible). Lautner’s girlfriend (and this is the problem with many spy thrillers when a character in dire jeopardy is saved only by a quick scene cut), also should have finished up the second half of the movie with a few less fingers. I won’t explain why, but trust me, she should have (would have been too much for the fans, though, most likely) .

As mentioned, the climax at the baseball stadium was very cool. Overall, this scene was reminiscent of old James Bond / Hitchcock films. No, I’m being serious. It was well done (except for the thing-under-the-seat bit). Well-played by everyone including Lautner, who obviously also did his own stunts and shines in this kind of action-packed venue. His performance was appropriately intense, projecting the right amount of determination and nervousness to carry it off.

There’s no sex in the movie, and this was good. There was the obligatory make-out train ride scene mid-way through, but they were being hunted by killers and the filmmakers at least had the sense to realize Nathan’s first time would not have happened then. The characters just kissed passionately for a moment and then stopped and saved me from being embarrassed in front of my daughters.

One last complaint (among what I think has been an equally positive and negative review), and I won’t reveal the ending but: after everything was over and the credits really should have rolled, the filmmakers felt (wrongly) they needed another five minutes of everyone looking happy and smiling and acting syrupy. Honestly, it kind of ruined a lot of the impact of a pretty cool climactic scene. If a dénouement hurts the climax, cut it. Simple as that. Leave them wanting more, not less.

Overall, Amanda, Audrey and I were in agreement: ABDUCTION was entertaining, even with a few plot holes and occasional weak performances. They enjoyed looking at Taylor Lautner. I thought his performance was OK. No real range, which is needed for leading man, however. ABDUCTION is not going to win any major (or minor) awards, but it doesn’t suck, either.

I thought it was worth the admission price as along as you go to the matinee and make it a fun Daddy-Daughter(s) date. Which it was.

© Copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Keohane

BAD TEACHER

Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Hot Chick Movies, LL Soares Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, Sexy Stars with tags , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: BAD TEACHER (2011)
By L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: The teacher’s lounge of a typical American middle school. A PRINCIPAL, a short, wiry man with glasses, is standing before the group of teachers, giving them a pep talk for the day to come. The teachers include an overweight woman (TEACHER 1), a muscular ex-football player (TEACHER 2) and a peppy young go-getter (TEACHER 3) who can’t sit still. There are other teachers, but the rest are a bunch of faceless idiots.)

PRINCIPAL: And so I zipped up my pants. And she said, “So when is Christmas, already?”

(The entire room explodes with laughter)

(L.L. SOARES enters the room, looking confused)

PRINCIPAL: May I help you, sir?

LS: Is this the teacher’s lounge? I was supposed to meet Michael Arruda here, to review a movie.

PRINCIPAL: Mr. Arruda has been sent to the high school across the street. He was needed there. So you’re the other substitute teacher, huh?

LS: Me? Naw, I ain’t no teacher. I’m just here to talk about the movie, BAD TEACHER, that’s all.

TEACHER 1: BAD TEACHER? That sounds horrible!

TEACHER 2: As if the teaching profession doesn’t have enough obstacles. Low pay, long hours, unruly kids. Now we have to deal with bad P.R. in the shape of a movie “comedy” making fun of us.

TEACHER 3: This is unacceptable.

LS: Calm down, people. It’s only a movie. And I didn’t make the damn thing. I’m just here to review it.

PRINCIPAL: Well, as I told you, Mr. Arruda has been sent off. You’ll have to do this one by yourself.

LS: Err, okay.

PRINCIPAL: Okay? What are you waiting for? We don’t have all day. We’ve got classes to teach. If you’re going to review this BAD TEACHER movie, you had best do it quickly.

(PRINCIPAL moves out of the way and ushers LS to the front of the room. The TEACHERS watch with rapt attention)

TEACHER 3: Well? Cat got your tongue?

LS: Cool your jets. I just never spoke in front of a roomful of teachers before, that’s all.

TEACHER 1: We’ll be grading you, you know.

TEACHER 2: So far, I’m not impressed. Stand up straight! Stop slouching.

LS: Yeah, yeah.

So BAD TEACHER stars Cameron Diaz as this mean lady who got into teaching because she wanted summers off and short hours and she wanted to put as little work into it as possible.  She just took the job to kill time before her big wedding to a rich guy who will be her sugar daddy for the rest of her life.

TEACHER 1: What the heck kind of attitude is that? Teaching isn’t an easy profession!

TEACHER 2:  “As little work as possible?” What’s that about? A teacher’s work is never done! I’m gonna beat you up after school!

TEACHER 3: I’m sorry, I just find this review deplorable. If I had to grade it right now, I’d give him an “F.”

LS: C’mon, you guys. Gimme a chance here! I just started talking.

PRINCIPAL: Now, now, people. Give the gentleman a chance here. Don’t be so quick to judge!

LS: Thank you.

PRINCIPAL: Although, I’m not very impressed, either. Get on with it.

LS: Yeah, sure. So her fiancée, Mr. Moneybags, decides to break it off before the ceremony. He has figured out she’s only in it for his moolah (with the help of his annoying mother), and he’s appalled that she really isn’t even interested in his constant talk of opera. She was just humoring him to get to his cash.

TEACHER 1: I love opera.

TEACHER 3: Me, too. Like WEST SIDE STORY and THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

TEACHER 1: No, that’s not opera. Those are musicals!

TEACHER 3: It’s not very nice to contradict a person.

PRINCIPAL: Ladies, ladies! We have a guest here.

LS: So, without a walking ATM to marry, poor Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz’s character) has to go back to teaching for real, to support herself. She’s horrified by this turn of events, but is hell-bent on finding another rich guy to hook on to. She decides the reason why she can’t keep a man is because she needs bigger boobs. So she looks into getting breast implants. But she can’t afford it, so she comes up with all kinds of schemes to get the money.

These include a car wash for the 7th graders, where she shows up in short-shorts and a skimpy top and “washes cars,” as the kids’ fathers look on, drooling.

TEACHER 1: That sounds like god-awful behavior.

TEACHER 3: Abominable!

TEACHER 2: I dunno, this movie suddenly sounds kind of good to me.  (Flexes his muscles)

LS: When a new substitute teacher shows up, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), it turns out he’s the heir to a fancy watch company, and he may just be the man of Elizabeth’s dreams.

PRINCIPAL: You know, you look a little like Justin Timberlake yourself, young man.

LS: Why thank you!

PRINCIPAL: If he lost all his hair and put on another 200 pounds.

TEACHER 1: And if his face got stuck in a lawn mower!

(The TEACHERS erupt with laughter)

LS: That’s not very nice.

PRINCIPAL: Life can’t always be a bowl of cherries, young man. You should have learned that as a youngster.

LS: Yeah, yeah. So bitchy Elizabeth Halsey suddenly becomes all nice and perky, trying to get herself a new sugar daddy. But Scott is very square, and annoyingly upbeat. They don’t have a lot in common, except he has access to a lot of money, and Elizabeth wants some.

There are some other teachers in Elizabeth’s orbit. One is Lynn Davies (Phyllis Smith, who some people will recognize as Phyllis from the NBC series, THE OFFICE), who is sad and overweight and who latches on to Elizabeth, trying to be her friend. Instead, Elizabeth bosses her around, telling her to do things like smoke pot and approach men in a bar. The thing is, Phyllis seems to like hanging around with Elizabeth.

TEACHER 1: She sounds like a lovely character.

LS: There’s also Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), who has the hots for Elizabeth, and they flirt, but she won’t give him a chance because he’s a struggling gym teacher who doesn’t have the big payday she’s looking for. Even though she won’t give him the time of day, he’s rather “earthy” and much more like her, personality-wise, than the other teachers.

TEACHER 2: Hey, I’m a gym teacher, too. Do you think Cameron Diaz would like me?

LS: I doubt it. There’s also Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), the hyperactive teacher across the hall from Elizabeth, who starts out trying to be Elizabeth’s friend, but who turns into her arch-nemesis. Amy is the kind of teacher who likes to role-play and dress up in costumes and do “zany things” to keep the kids interested and learning. Where Amy is perky and upbeat, Elizabeth is lazy and mean. Amy starts to try to look into some of the more shady things Elizabeth has been up to, in an attempt to get her fired.

TEACHER 3: Amy Squirrel? What a funny name. But she sounds like a wonderful, motivated teacher!

LS: Yeah, yeah. So Elizabeth finds out that if her class gets the best test scores in the school on the upcoming state exams, she can win a bonus that will pay for her implants, and hopefully make Scott hers. So she suddenly stops showing movies every day and instead starts drilling her kids, getting them ready to win her that bonus. She even cooks up a scheme to steal the test answers from a goofy state official, Carl Halabi (the funny Thomas Lennon, who is probably best known as Lt. Dangle on the Comedy Central show RENO 911).

So does Elizabeth get her boobs and the dim bulb substitute teacher? Or does she have a change of heart and stop her gold-digging ways to try and find a real relationship,  not based on the size of a man’s wallet?

Well, this is a big, Hollywood movie. So what do you think?

TEACHER 1: I don’t have a clue.

TEACHER 3: Me, neither. Although this movie suddenly sounds very romantic to me!

LS: I actually liked BAD TEACHER. It wasn’t great, but it was a nice enough diversion. I liked Cameron Diaz in this role, and I like it when she does comedy.  Elizabeth Halsey is mean and superficial, and she’s the exact opposite of the super-sweet character Diaz played in one of her biggest movies, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998).

She’s still hot, and she’s funny playing a mean character. I just wish she had been even meaner and more, well, bad!

The rest of the cast is actually pretty good. I didn’t care for Justin Timberlake’s “Gee Gosh Golly” character that much, but he plays the role well enough. Phyllis Smith is very funny, and I always enjoy an appearance by Jason Segel. He’s one of the best things in the movie. And John Michael Higgins as Principal Snur is also very good. But, aside from Diaz, the best character here is Lucy Punch as Amy Squirrel. She’s a decent nemesis and brings a lot of energy to her performance. I thought she was pretty funny.

There’s also a subplot about one of the kids being shy and unpopular and not knowing how to talk to the girl he has a crush on. At one point Diaz’s character gives him some pointers. But for the most part, the kids aren’t all that interesting, except for Kaitlyn Dever as goody-two-shoes Sasha Abernathy (Dever has also been very good as the girl Loretta on the FX series, JUSTIFIED, this season).

The direction by Jake Kasdan is serviceable enough. This isn’t a great movie, but it’s okay. And the script by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg has its moments. But, for an R-rated comedy, BAD TEACHER seemed to be holding back, to me. This movie never really go far enough. Here, it seems like they’re playing it safe. Never going far enough to really shock anyone. And for that reason, it’s not as funny as it could have been. I give it two and a half knives. It’s a fun movie, and certainly not horrible. But it could have been so much funnier.

PRINCIPAL: So that’s it? That’s all you’ve got?

LS: Yeah, I guess I’m done.

TEACHER 1: What a horrible review. You’re an awful man!

TEACHER 2: Yeah, I don’t like him at all.

TEACHER 3: Yeah, let’s escort him off school property, already!

PRINCIPAL: Well, we gave you your chance, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve made any friends here. I think you should go.

LS: But I gave you an honest review. Isn’t that worth anything?

PRINCIPAL: Actually, no. It’s pretty worthless.

TEACHERS: OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

PRINCIPAL: They’re getting unruly. I really suggest you leave.

LS: Okay, okay. (leaves the room to hoots and boos)

PRINCIPAL: I thought he’d never leave.

TEACHER 1: Me, neither.

(They all huddle toward a closet, where the PRINCIPAL opens the door, to reveal MICHAEL ARRUDA, tied up to a chair and looking terrified)

PRINCIPAL: And now, staff, I will teach you how to properly discipline a bad student.

TEACHER 1 (licks her lips): Yes, please show us, Mr. Snoodle.

TEACHER 2: And don’t’ leave anything out. I’m taking notes.

(TEACHER 3 faints from the excitement)

-THE END-

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

L.L. Soares gives BAD TEACHER 2 and a half knives!

Michael Arruda has mysteriously disappeared this week. If you find him, please let us know.