A Movie A Day #54: Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 (1966, directed by Gordon Flemyng)


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When London Special Constable Tom Campbell (Bernard Cribbins) spots a robbery at a jewelry store, he runs into a police box to call for backup.  But this is no ordinary blue police call box.  Not only is there no phone but it’s bigger on the outside than on the inside and it’s inhabited by Dr. Who (Peter Cushing), an eccentric inventor, and his niece, Louise (Jill Curzon) and his granddaughter, Susan (Roberta Tovey).  The call box is a time machine that’s known as a TARDIS and Tom just happens to stumble in at the exact moment that the Doctor and his family are heading into the future.  When they arrive in London in 2150, they discover that Earth has been conquered by the Daleks.

Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 was the second and last Doctor Who film to be produced by Amicus Pictures.  As both a sequel to Dr. Who and the Dalekand an adaptation of the televisions serial The Daleks Invasion of Earth, Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 shares many of the same flaws as the first movie.  Of course, the main one is that, as any true Whovian can tell you, the Doctor was not named Dr. Who, he was not human, and he did not invent the TARDIS.  He also never had a niece, at least not one named Louise.  Hearing the Doctor introduce himself as “Dr. Who” just sounds wrong.  The comedic relief also feels as out of place here as it did in Dr. Who and the Daleks but at least Bernard Cribbins’s Tom isn’t as annoying as Roy Castle’s Ian.

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Even taking all of that into consideration, Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 is still a clear improvement over the first film.  The futuristic location, with a London made up of the ruins of recognizable landmarks, is well-realized and far superior to the cardboard sets of the Dr. Who and the Daleks.  The moment when the Daleks first appear, rising out of the Thames, is a great Dr. Who moment and, for once, the Daleks comes across like a real threat instead of just oversized salt and pepper shakers with attitude.  Unlike the first film, the Daleks use their “EXTERMINATE” war cry and they exterminate almost everyone that the Doctor and his companions meet.  Since the Daleks are killing Brits instead of Thals, the stakes are higher in Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150.

Even though he was playing a human version of the character and therefore, cannot be considered canonical, I have always liked Peter Cushing’s interpretation of the character.  Cushing’s firm but grandfatherly Doctor was quite a contrast to William Hartnell’s strict and abrupt version.  (Cushing’s Doctor has always reminded me more of a combination of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee than William Hartnell.)

Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 may have been far better than the first film but it was also a flop at the box office, ending plans for any further Dr. Who movies.

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A Movie A Day #53: Ghost Town Renegades (1947, directed by Ray Taylor)


gtrWhen a federal surveyor disappears while checking out the ghost town of Waterhole, the U.S. Marshall sends Cheyenne Davis (Lash La Rue) and Fuzzy Jones (Al “Fuzzy” St. John) to investigate.  It turns out that gold has been discovered around Waterhole, on land owned by the Trent Family.  Bad guy Vance Sharpe (Jack Ingram) is trying to kill the last remaining Trents — Rodney (Steve Frost) and his daughter, Diane (Jennifer Holt) — so that he can claim the land as his own.  As Cheyenne and Fuzzy investigate, there are plenty of shootouts, fist fights, and an out of control stagecoach.  Since this is a Lash LaRue film, there is also a lot of exciting bullwhip action.

If you’re like me, the name Lash La Rue immediately makes you think of Pulp Fiction and Harvey Keitel asking John Travolta, “What about you, Lash La Rue, can you keep your spurs from jingling and jangling?”  But, long before Quentin Tarantino ever came up with that line of dialogue, Lash La Rue was a legitimate Western star, starring in several B-westerns in the 1940s and 50s.  What set Lash apart from other western stars was that he looked like he could have been Humphrey Bogart’s younger brother, he always wore black, and he often used a bullwhip instead of a gun.  In fact, when Harrison Ford needed someone to train him how to use a bullwhip for Raiders of the Lost Ark, 65 year-old Lash La Rue was the man that they called.

I have read that Ghost Town Renegades is considered to be the best of La Rue’s movies.  I haven’t seen enough of them to say whether it’s the best but Ghost Town Renegades is an entertaining and fast-paced B-western.  Lash La Rue is good with a whip, Jennifer Holt is beautiful, and not even the broad comedy of Fuzzy St. John detracts.

Interesting to note: Jennifer Holt, who co-starred in several of La Rue’s movies, was the daughter of Jack Holt and the sister of Tim Holt, both of whom were prominent western stars themselves.

A Movie A Day #52: Overexposed (1990, directed by Larry Brand)


overexposedSomeone is stalking soap opera star, Kristin (Catherine Oxenberg).  She is receiving frightening notes and her coworkers are dying.  Who is after her and what does it have to do with a tragic fire at a birthday party?  Is it one of her jealous co-stars?  Is it her duplicitous boyfriend (David Naughton)?  Is it the stranger (William Bumiller) that she’s having an affair with?  Or is it the obsessed fan (Karen Black)?  Detective Morrison (Larry Brand) is on the case!

The return of Detective Morrison (played, again, by the film’s director) makes Overexposed a sequel to The Drifter.  (Both films were directed by Brand and executive produced by Roger Corman).  Morrison has much more to do in Overexposed than he did in The Drifter so maybe the plan was to launch a low-budget franchise of Detective Morrison movies.  It didn’t happen, because Overexposed is much less interesting than The Drifter.  The spoiled and rich Kristin is never a likable character and the movie’s real star was Oxenberg’s busy body double, Shelley Michelle.

Overexposed does have a few good scenes, including death-by-acidic-facial-cream.  The best thing about movie is Karen Black, who brilliantly delivered a monologue about why she loves television.  It doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the movie but Karen Black knocked it out of the park.  The monologue ends with Karen Black paying homage to The Mod Squad by shouting out, “Solid!”

Overexposed was forgettable but Karen Black?

Karen Black was solid.

A Movie A Day #51: The Drifter (1988, directed by Larry Brand)


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Don’t worry.  There’s Miles O’Keeffe in The Drifter. (™ MST3k)

While driving back to Los Angeles from a fashion show, designer Julia Robbins (Kim Delaney, long before co-starring on NYPD Blue) picks up and has a one night stand with a hitchhiker named Trey (O’Keeffe).  Even though Julia does not ever plan to see him again, she still gives him her grandfather’s stopwatch.  Trey is so touched by the gift that he shows up in Los Angeles and starts demanding to see her.  Julia, who already has a cheating boyfriend (Timothy Bottoms), doesn’t want anything to do with Trey.  When one her friends is murdered while staying at Julia’s apartment, Julia finally goes to the police and tells Detective Morrison (played by the director, Larry Brand) about Trey.  But is Trey the one who she should be worried about?

The Drifter is an above average example of the films that Roger Corman executive produced in the 80s and 90s.  The predictable plot won’t win any points for plausibility but Larry Brand did a good job directing and everyone in the cast (especially Delaney) contributed a decent performance.  The film has a twist ending that might take viewers by surprise but probably won’t.  As for where this ranks in the Miles O’Keeffe filmography, it’s better than Tarzan, The Ape Man but it’s still no Ator.

The Drifter was enough of a success that it got a quasi-sequel in 1990.  Larry Brand (and Detective Morrison) returned in tomorrow’s movie a day, Overexposed.

A Movie A Day #50: Survival Run (1979, directed by Larry Spiegel)


This poster for Survival Run reflects absolutely nothing that happens in the movie.

This poster for Survival Run reflects absolutely nothing that happens in the movie.

“We are young/ We are free/ Anyone know a better place to be?/ Takin’ it easy/ My baby and me….”

So goes the deceptively mellow opening theme song of Survival Run.  In this one, teenager Chip (Vincent Van Patten) and his five best friends take off for the weekend.  When their van breaks down in the middle of the desert, they light a campfire, sing a song, and have sex.

Takin’ it easy, my baby and me.  

When they later decide to search for help, they stumble across a group of men in the valley.  The men are being led by Peter Graves, who tosses one of the teens a beer and says, “This’ll put hair on your chest, kid.”  The kid looks down at his chest, says, “Where’d it go!?,” and then touches him armpits.  “There it is!” he says.

We are young, we are free

The men say they’re prospectors but they’re actually drug smugglers.  When the same teen who couldn’t find his chest hair is murdered, a fight for survival begins.  Despite that killer opening song, Survival Run takes forever to get started, the action scenes are poorly directed, and the teens are too stupid and poorly written to be sympathetic.  However, Survival Run does feature Peter Graves and Ray Milland as the two most unlikely drug smugglers in the world.  Peter Graves wears a red ascot and an all khaki outfit with rapidly spreading sweat stains.  Ray Milland wears a suit while sitting out in the broiling desert.  Milland, who was 72 at the time, spends most of the movie sitting.  One of the teenage girls thinks he’s intriguing.

Dangerous international drug smugglers Ray Milland and Peter Graves

Infamous international drug smugglers Ray Milland and Peter Graves

When I was growing up in Baltimore, Survival Run used to frequently come on TV in the afternoon.  I’m still not sure why but I imagine a lot of fans of the Biography Channel were tricked into tuning into this one, just to watch in shock as Peter Graves killed teenagers in the middle of the desert.  Ray Milland did this 35 years after winning an Oscar for The Lost Weekend.  As for Vincent Van Patten, he was the Van Patten who didn’t appear in Mel Brooks films or win an Emmy for his work on Boardwalk Empire.

Peter Graves and Ray Milland vs. the least known member of the Van Patten family.

Anyone know a better place to be?

A Movie A Day #49: Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure (1995, directed by Jim Wynorski)


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After five years of kinky sex and murder, the Body Chemistry franchise ended with Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure.

Like the third film, Full Exposure was directed by Jim Wynorski and produced by Andrew Stevens.  Shannon Tweed stepped into the role of murderous Dr. Claire Archer, replacing Shari Shattuck.  Shannon Tweed was always one of the most talented of the actresses who regularly appeared on what was then nicknamed Skinemax.  It wasn’t just that Tweed always seemed to being give it her all in her films’ frequent sex scenes.  Tweed also had the look and style of an old-fashioned femme fatale.  It was easy to imagine her trading sultry quips with Alan Ladd or Tom Neal.  This made Tweed perfect for the role of Claire Archer and her performance was a noticeable improvement on Shari Shattuck’s.  It’s just too bad the rest of the film was such a snoozefest.

In Full Exposure, after getting away with three murders in the first two Body Chemistry films, Claire has finally been arrested.  She is on trial for killing Alan Clay (Andrew Stevens) at the end of the third film.  However, she has a hotshot lawyer named Simon Mitchell (Larry Poindexter) and she is soon up to her old tricks, having sex with Simon in his office, a parking garage, and an elevator.  Simon’s aide, Lane (Marta Martin), has come across proof of Claire’s crimes but Claire has a plan to take care of that.  She always does.

Full Exposure starts out as a typical Body Chemistry film, with neon-lit sex scenes, but it quickly get bogged down in lengthy courtroom sequences.  In the previous three films, Claire at least had some sort of motivation but here, it’s never clear why she would try to destroy her lawyer’s life during the trial instead of waiting until he had, at least, gotten her off the hook.  Tweed is a perfect Claire but the rest of the cast is just going through the motions.   Though Claire once again got away with murder, there were no more chapters to her story after this one.  The Body Chemistry franchise managed to do a lot with a very thin premise but Full Exposure shows, that by the fourth film, there was no where left to go.

A Movie A Day #48: Body Chemistry III: Point of Seduction (1994, directed by Jim Wynorksi)


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In Body Chemistry III, Jim Wynorski and Andrew Stevens take over the venerable franchise and things quickly get meta.

Alan Clay (Andrew Stevens, who also produced) is a TV director who wants to make serious films about the environment but his producer, Bob (Robert Forster), is only interested in exploitation films.  His wife, soap opera star Beth Chaney (Morgan Fairchild). wants Alan to direct her in a great role but Alan tells her, “I’m not a creative artist, Beth!  I’m a TV director who specializes in women-in-jepordy thrillers!”  That should make Alan the perfect choice to make a movie about Claire Archer.

Having gotten away with murdering both of her two previous lovers and her boss at the radio station, Dr. Claire Archer (Shari Shattuck, replacing Lisa Pescia) is now hosting her own TV talk show, Looking At You With Claire Archer.  She has also written a best-selling textbook called Sex and Violence and Vice Versa.  Her former colleague, Freddie (Chick Venerra, taking over the role played by Dave Kagen in the first film), has quit the sex research game is now a screenwriter.  He wants to write a script about Claire but he can not convince her to sign over the rights to her story.  Maybe a night with Alan can change her mind.

Claire’s soon up to her old tricks.  Alan wants to break it off with her, Freddie is figuring out that Claire is a murderer, and Beth wants to play her in the movie.

Featuring no one from either of the two original Body Chemistry films (even when Freddie sees a picture of Big Chuck from Part 2, an anonymous extra has replaced Morton Downey, Jr) and shot in Jim Wynorski’s signature “drop your top,” straight-to-video style, Body Chemistry 3 is a deliberate parody of the genre.  It’s easy to recognize Robert Forster’s Bob as being a stand-in for Body Chemistry‘s executive producer, Roger Corman while Freddie is the most obnoxious screenwriter since the one Tim Robbins killed in The Player.  All of that makes Part 3 more interesting than the first two Body Chemistry films.  If the sultry Lisa Pescia had returned to play Dr. Archer, it might even be a classic.  Shari Shattuck gives a game performance but lacks the demented intensity that Pescia brought to the role.

For tomorrow’s movie a day, Wynorski and Stevens return but Shannon Tweed takes over the role of Claire Archer in Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure.