Spring Break Scenes That I Love: “You jerk. You moron. You idiot.” from Welcome to Spring Break


Since it’s Spring Break for many people in the United States, I figured this would be a good time share some of my favorite Spring Break scenes.

This one comes from Umberto Lenzi’s 1988 film, Welcome to Spring Break.  In this scene, a student has decided to have a little bit of fun by pretending to be dead on the beach.  Since there’s an actual murderer on the loose, his friends are less than impressed with his sense of humor.

It’s a short scene but it features one of the greatest line readings ever.

“You jerk.”

“You moron.”

“You idiot.”

Embracing The Melodrama Part III #2: Common Law Wife (dir by Eric Sayers and Larry Buchanan)


Welcome to Serenity, Texas!

Serenity is the setting for the 1963 film, Common Law Wife.  It’s a small country town, one with a modest downtown and a quaintly innocent feel to it.  As soon as the movie started, I recognized Serenity and that’s not just because I’m a Texan.  No, I recognized it because Common Law Wife was filmed in Forney, Texas.  Forney is known as being the “antique capital of Texas” and apparently, it hasn’t changed much over the past 55 years.  I always like seeing old films that were made locally, even if they’re held in as little regard as Common Law Wife.

Just as small Texas towns rarely ever changed, the same can be said for the way that exploitation and grindhouse films were advertised.  Just look at the poster at the top of this review.  Judging from the poster, you would think that this film is not only dealing with the most important issue ever but that it’s also a realistic look at what it means to be a common law wife.

“You don’t have to say ‘I DO’ to be married!” the poster shouts, “Do you know the law in your state?  Are you a common law wife?  If you’re not old enough for marriage, you should not see this movie.”

On top of that, we’ve got the scales of justice and a key for a room at the State Line Motel.  Nothing good ever happens at a State Line Motel!

Of course, the film itself has very little to do with anything to be found on the poster.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is a common law marriage in the film.  Rich, old Shugfoot Rainey (George Edgley) has lived with Linda (Anabelle Weenick) for so long that they are now legally considered to be married.  Linda and Shug have the type of relationship where Shug keeps himself entertained by throwing darts at Linda’s head.  However, Shug now wants Linda to move out of his house.  His niece, a stripper named Baby Doll (Lacey Kelly) is moving from New Orleans to Serenity and she’s going to need a place to live.  Shug wants Baby Doll.  Baby Doll wants Shug’s money.  Unfortunately, for her, Linda also wants Shug’s money.

While Shug tries to get Linda to move out, Baby Doll gets to know all of the other men in Serenity.  Fortunately, there aren’t many of them.  There’s the sheriff and then there’s a moonshiner.  It turns out that Shug loves his moonshine so what better way to get rid of him than to serve him some poisoned moonshine?  Shug is just dumb enough to fall for Baby Doll’s act but not Linda.  It all leads to an appropriately fatalistic ending.

As in the case of many grindhouse film, the story behind Common Law Wife is more interesting than the story that appears on screen.  In 1960, the notorious Texas-based director Larry Buchanan started to work on a film called Swamp Rose.  For whatever reason, Swamp Rose was abandoned but, three years later, a director named Eric Sayers shot some additional footage and mashed it to together with Buchanan’s footage.  The end result was Common Law Wife.  The majority of the footage is taken from Swamp Rose but all of the dialogue was overdubbed to change Swamp Rose‘s plot.  Whereas the Sayers footage is bleak and harshly lit, the Swamp Rose footage is notably grainy.  Obviously, it makes for a disjointed viewing viewing experience, though it’s really not as disjointed as any other movie that Buchanan was involved with over the course of his long career.

Common Law Wife is currently available of YouTube.  Even by the standards of Larry Buchanan, it’s definitely a lesser film but if you’re a fan of grindhouse and exploitation films — especially ones that have a hillbilly feel to them — you might get a laugh or two from it.

Tomorrow, we continue to embrace the melodrama with the 1968 drug epic, More!

The Covers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents


From 1955 to 1965, Alfred Hitchcock hosted a very successful television program called Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  In order to capitalize on the popularity of the show, a series of Alfred Hitchcock Presents literary anthologies were also issued.  The covers all featured Hitchcock in some sort of potentially ghastly situation.  Below are just a few of the covers from Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

(I tried to pick a favorite but I couldn’t decide between Death Can Be Beautiful and Once Upon A Dreadful Time!)

Film Review: Fit To Kill (dir by Andy Sidaris)


1993’s Fit To Kill opens with the most incompetent secret agents in the world on a training exercise in the desert.  All of the Andy Sidaris regulars are present.  There’s Donna (Dona Speir).  There’s Nicole (Roberta Vasquez).  Bruce (Bruce Penhall) and Shane (Michael Shane) are still with the organization, despite the fact that, over the course of four films, neither one of them has really added much to the mix.  For some reason, these agents still don’t know better than to hide whenever they see a remote control helicopter.  Seeing as how every Andy Sidaris film features someone being blown up by either a remote control helicopter or remote control boat, you would think that these experienced government agents would no longer be shocked when it happened.

Anyway, we quickly go through all of the usual Sidaris stuff.  There’s a meeting in a hot tub.  The team’s boss, Lucas (Tony Peck), shows up and acts like a prick.  Coded messages are still being sent out via the Hawaiian radio station.  Shane Abilene still can’t shoot a gun to save his life.  Eventually, the film gets around to revealing the latest mission.

Chang (Aki Aleong) is the owner of a valuable Russian diamond.  As he explains in a flashback that’s full of stock footage, the diamond was originally stolen by a Nazi general.  On his deathbed, the general gave the diamond to Chang.  And really, in defense of Sidaris, it must be said that the flashbacks are actually handled fairly well.  Maybe the flashbacks were Sidaris’s attempt to show that he actually could be a good director when he felt like it.  Anyway, Chang is planning on returning the diamond to the Russian ambassador (Rodrigo Oberon) during an official ceremony.  The problem is that the diamond is extremely valuable and, as a result, certain international criminals want to steal it.

Criminals like Martin Kane!

That’s right.  Martin Kane is back and he’s again played by RJ Moore.  Just as in Hard Hunted, RJ Moore is handsome, stylish, and charismatic.  RJ was the son of Roger Moore and, when he shows up wearing a tuxedo, it’s hard not to regret that RJ never got a chance to play James Bond.  Kane is determined to steal the diamond but it turns out that he’s motivated by more than just pure greed.  What’s this!?  A complex character in an Andy Sidaris film?  Believe it or not, it’s true.  And Moore gives a good performance in the film, perhaps the best performance to ever show up in a Sidaris film.

If Moore gives the best performance in the film, he’s closely followed by Julie Strain, who plays Blu Steele.  Blu Steele is the mercenary/assassin who is hired by Kane to steal the diamond.  However, Blu Steele has schemes of her own.  Strain, to her credit, appears to understand the exact type of movie that she’s been cast in and she responds with a totally over-the-top performance.  Both she and Moore are so memorably berserk that Donna, Roberta, Bruce, and Shane are even more forgettable than usual.

Fit To Kill is stupid but entertaining.  The plot makes no sense and the dialogue is full of the usual bad puns and regrettable jokes.  Still, it’s entertainingly stupid, thanks to Moore and Strain.  Plus, there’s a scene in which two hitmen get into a passionate debate about whether Homer Simpson’s a better actor than Fred Flintstone.

Of course, it all ends with a hot tub party.  The Fast and the Furious franchise has Vin Diesel saying grace before everyone eats.  Andy Sidaris films have hot tub parties.

Book Review: Thunderball by Ian Fleming


After the publication of Goldfinger in 1959, Ian Fleming’s next installment in the adventures of James Bond would be a short story collection, 1960’s For Your Eyes Only.  It would not be until 1961 that another Bond novel would be published.

That novel was Thunderball.

Thunderball originally began life as a screenplay.  In 1959, Ian Fleming met with producer Kevin McClory to discuss the possibility of McClory producing a Bond film.  Working with McClory, Fleming developed not only the basic storyline of Thunderball but also created the villains who, in the 60s, would replace the Russians as being Bond’s main villains.  It was while working with McClory that Fleming first created both SPECTRE and its enigmatic leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Ultimately, Fleming and McClory had a falling out, putting a temporary end to McClory’s plans to produce the first James Bond film.  Instead, the first Bond film would be produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli and Fleming would turn the screenplay into a novel.  This led to problems when McClory and screenwriter Jack Wittingham sued Fleming, claiming that they owned the rights to Thunderball’s story.  As a result of a settlement, McClory won the right to produce the eventual film version of Thunderball, with Broccoli and Saltzman received executive producer credits.

McClory would later claim that, as the producer of Thunderball, he had the right to produce other James Bond films as well.  This led to several years of lawsuits, during which time McClory remade Thunderball as Never Say Never Again.  Reportedly, he was trying to raise money for a third remake when he died in 2006.  (Later, the McClory estate would sell the rights to Thunderball, SPECTRE, and Blofeld to MGM.  The end result was SPECTRE, a film that totally wasted one of Fleming’s most intriguing villains.)

Reading Thunderball, it’s easy to see that Fleming was thinking in terms of cinema when he came up with the story.  Most of the action takes place in the always photogenic Bahamas.  There are lengthy action scenes, involving planes being hijacked and underwater combat.  The storyline, which features two atomic missiles being stolen by SPECTRE’s Emilio Largo, is tailor-made for the movies.

Thunderball even starts with a lengthy prologue, the type that should be familiar to anyone who has seen any of the Bond films.  M sends Bond to a health spa, where Bond ends up getting targeted by an international criminal named Count Lippe.  The health spa scenes are among the most enjoyable in the book.  Not only is Bond forced to drop all of his “bad” habits but afterward, he actually discovers that he does feel healthier and more active.  Soon, he becomes a bit of a health fanatic and gets on the nerves of almost everyone who works with him with all of his “good” habits.  It’s easy to imagine that Fleming was having a little bit of fun at the expense of all the critics who claimed that Bond was  somehow a bad role model.  Of course, by the next novel, Bond was back to all of his old habits.

As for the rest of Thunderball, this was a book that I wanted to like more than I actually did.  After Bond gets finished at the health spa, he gets sent to the Bahamas track down the missiles and it becomes a rather standard thriller.  It doesn’t take long for Bond to both figure out that Emilo Largo stole the missiles and to seduce Largo’s mistress, Domino.  Felix Leiter makes another welcome appearance but, on the whole, it all feels rather slow and uninspired.

However, Thunderball will always be an important work in the Bond canon because it introduced the world to Blofeld.  Though Bond and Blofeld never meet (that would have to wait for later novels), the book’s best chapters deal with Blofeld’s background and the way he manages SPECTRE.  As is typical of many of Fleming’s villains, Blofeld is described as being someone who does not drink, does not smoke, and who has no interest in sex.  A reoccurring theme in all of Fleming’s Bond novels is that a man with a certain amount of minor vices is far more trustworthy than a man with none.  It’s a good thing that Bond eventually recovers from going to that health spa because otherwise, he never would have been able to defeat SPECTRE’s nefarious schemes.

Fleming would follow Thunderball with one of his most controversial novels, The Spy Who Loved Me.  We’ll look at that one tomorrow!

20 Shots from 20 Alfred Hitchcock Films


Happy National Hitchcock Day!

20 Shots From 20 Films

The Pleasure Garden (1925)

The Lodger (1927)

Blackmail (1929)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

The 39 Steps (1935)

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Rebecca (1940)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Lifeboat (1944)

Notorious (1946)

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Rear Window (1954)

The Wrong Man (1956)

Vertigo (1958)

North by Northwest (1959)

Psycho (1960)

The Birds (1963)

Topaz (1969)

Frenzy (1972)

Family Plot (1976)