Cleaning Out the DVR #18: Remember Those Fabulous Sixties?


cracked rear viewer

There’s a lot of good stuff being broadcast this month, so it’s time once again to make some room on the ol’ DVR. Here’s a quartet of capsule reviews of films made in that mad, mad decade, the 1960’s:

THE FASTEST GUITAR ALIVE (MGM 1967; D: Michael D. Moore) –  MGM tried to make another Elvis out of rock legend Roy Orbison in this Sam Katzman-produced comedy-western. It didn’t work; though Roy possessed one of the greatest voices in rock’n’roll, he couldn’t act worth a lick. Roy (without his trademark shades!) and partner Sammy Jackson (TV’s NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS) peddle ‘Dr. Ludwig Long’s Magic Elixir’ in a travelling medicine show, but are really Confederate spies out to steal gold from the San Francisco mint to fund “the cause” in the waning days of the Civil War. The film’s full of anachronisms and the ‘comical Indians’ aren’t all that funny…

View original post 728 more words

Cleaning Out the DVR #16: Keep Calm and Watch Movies!


cracked rear viewer

All last week, I was laid up with sciatic nerve pain, which begins in the back and shoots down my left leg. Anyone who has suffered from this knows how  excruciating it can be! Thanks to inversion therapy, where I hang upside down three times a day on a table like one of Bela Lugosi’s pets in THE DEVIL BAT , I’m feeling much better, though not yet 100%.

Fortunately, I had a ton of movies to watch. My DVR was getting pretty full anyway, so I figured since I could barely move, I’d try to make a dent in the plethora of films I’ve recorded.., going all the way back to last April! However, since I decided to go back to work today, I realize I won’t have time to give them all the full review treatment… and so it’s time for the first Cleaning Out the DVR post…

View original post 1,081 more words

Cleaning Out The DVR: Riot on Sunset Strip (dir Arthur Dreifuss)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 180 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 1st, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded the 1967 film, Riot on Sunset Strip, off of TCM on September 28th, 2017!)

“Dig that scene!”

That’s a line that’s heard more than once in Riot on Sunset Strip, a film that’s all about digging that scene.

In this case, the scene is Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in 1966.  All the kids are going to the clubs and dancing to that strange rock and roll music.  Protesters are walking up and down the sidewalk, carrying signs that carry radical messages like: “Be Nice” and “Make Peace.”  (As far as I could tell, no one had a “Join the Conversation” sign.)  Some of the so-called “long hairs” are wearing red armbands to show that they are a member of the counter-culture police force, determined to keep peace on the Strip.  Meanwhile, the real police are a constant presence.  There’s a 10 o’clock curfew for anyone under the age of 18 and if the cops catch you, you’re going to the station where your parents will be called and your mom will probably freak out over the length of your skirt.  The kids want the police to change their attitude.  The local business owners — the ones who don’t own a club and who all look like they might be related to Dwight Eisenhower — want the police to get even more aggressive.

Stuck in the middle of it all is the local police captain, Walt Lormier (Aldo Ray).  Sure, Walt might be a member of the establishment, with his neckties and his J. Edgar Hoover haircut.  But Walt knows that the kids aren’t all bad.  Sure, their music sounds like noise to him.  And some of the boys may wear their hair a little bit longer than Walt thinks they should.  (In some scenes, it’s easy to imagine Walt thinking, “That haircut would have gotten you shot if you’d been in my unit in Korea…”)  But mostly, Walt wants to keep peace.  He’s even willing to meet with one of the protesters and listen to his concerns.

“Are you in college?” Walt asks the protester.

“Third year,” the protester replies, “Straight A’s.”

Of course, what Walt doesn’t realize is that his own daughter, Andy (Mismy Farmer, before she relocated to Italy), is one of the kids who is hanging out on the strip!  Of course, it’s been a while since he’s seen Andy.  Walt is divorced from Andy’s mother and says he really isn’t even sure where either Andy or his ex-wife lives now.  Of course, we know that they’re living in a shack, one that has only one room and where wet clothes are hung from the ceiling so that they can dry.  Andy’s mom is always drunk.  Can you blame Andy for wanting to spend all of her time on the Strip?

Of course, not everyone on the Strip is as reasonable as a third year college student.  Some of the kids actually are bad.  One of them slips Andy LSD, which leads to Andy staring at her hand and then doing an interpretive dance at a house party.  After discovering that his drugged daughter has been raped, Walt attacks her three rapists, which leads to the riot promised by the title.  Being a good middle-of-the-road liberal, Walt realizes that he now has to make amends with the good kids but can he stop things before they get out of control?  After all, those protesters are already passing out signs…

Based on an actual event. Riot on Sunset Strip is a real time capsule of a film.  Regardless of whether the film itself is any good or not, it’s worth watching as just a reflection of the time in which it was made.  Like a lot of the “social problem” films made in the mid-60s, it deals with a very real issue and then resolutely refuses to come down on either side.  Older viewers could watch Mimsy Farmer freaking out on LSD and say, “See, that’s why we need a curfew!”  Younger viewers could look at Andy’s drunk mother and the parents picking up their children at the station and say, “See, that’s why we need to burn down the establishment and move to Cuba!”  In the end, the film declares that the kids are all right except for the ones that aren’t.  Ultimately, it’s all the parents’ fault except for the parents who aren’t at fault.

(That said, I imagine that any truly committed 60s revolutionary would have rolled their eyes at the way they were portrayed in the film.  The protesters and their signs automatically made me think about the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial.)

Seen today, the main thing that I noticed about Riot on Sunset Strip is that all of the wild kids on the Strip looked more like missionaries than revolutionaries.  One of Andy’s friend’s did occasionally let his hair fall in his eyes but otherwise, they were an amazingly clean-cut group of delinquents, the type who, today, would probably get blocked by every member of Resistance Twitter because everyone would assume that they were actually undercover Russian bots.

(At the end of the film, a narrators informs us, “Soon, half the world’s population will be under 25 years of age.  What will happen to them?  Where will they go?”  The answer, of course, is that most of them will go to the suburbs.)

Today, it’s easy to roll your eyes at something like Riot on the Sunset Strip.  Our modern culture of snark almost demands that you do.  But, honestly, I enjoyed this film.  Watching it was like having my own little time machine.

A Movie A Day #278: The Power (1968, directed by Byron Haskin)


Who is Adam Hart?

That is the mystery that Professors Jim Tanner (George Hamilton) and Margery Lansing (Suzanne Pleshette) have to solve.  Someone is using psychic powers to kill their co-workers in a research laboratory.  The police think that Tanner is guilty but Tanner knows that one of his colleagues is actually a super human named Adam Hart.  Hart is planning on using his super powers to control the world and, because Tanner is the only person who has proof of his existence, Hart is methodically framing Tanner for every murder that he commits.

The Power is underrated by entertaining movie, a mix of mystery and science fiction with a pop art twist.  It was also one of the first attempts to portray telekinesis on film.  Similar films, like Scanners, may be better known but all of them are directly descended from The Power.  George Hamilton may seem like an unlikely research scientist but he and Suzanne Pleshette are a good team and The Power makes good use of Pleshette’s way with a one liner.  Also keep an eye out for familiar faces like Arthur O’Connell, Nehemiah Persoff, Michael Rennie, Gary Merrill, Yvonne DeCarlo, Vaughn Taylor, Aldo Ray, and even Forrest J. Ackerman as a hotel clerk.

 

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Terror Night, aka Bloody Movie (dir by Nick Marino)


 

Okay, so this is kind of a weird one.

The movie known as Bloody Movie was originally filmed in 1987, under the title Terror Night.  However, it was never released.  There are plenty of rumors about why it wasn’t released.  Some people say that it was because the film was produced with Mafia money.  Some people say it was because it used a lot of footage that was lifted from other movies and the producers apparently didn’t bother to clear the rights.  Of course, it’s also totally possible that the film wasn’t released because it wasn’t very good.  I mean, that does happen.

Regardless of why, the film apparently sat on the shelf for 20 years.  It was finally released by Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia and retitled Bloody Movie.  That said, the DVD that I own (and watched for this review) was released by Legacy Entertainment and still had the Terror Night title.  The transfer on the Legacy DVD was notably bad.  From what I’ve been told, the Retromedia release looks a lot better.

Now, there’s a lot bad things that can be said about Terror Night.  It’s low-budget, which is one of those things that can be overcome by a clever director but, in this case, it just results in Terror Night looking cheap.  It’s poorly written, full of one-dimensional characters who were shallow even by the standards of a late 80s slasher.  This is also one of those movies where formerly respectable actors pop up for five minutes cameos.  Whenever one of those actors shows up, all the action stops so that they can earn their paycheck.  Aldo Ray is homeless and doomed.  Cameron Mitchell is a cynical cop and doomed.  Alan Hale, Jr. is an affable security guard and apparently not doomed.  There’s no real reason for any of them to be there but there they are!  There’s also a biker couple who show up for no particular reason, along with the typical collection of teenage victims.

But yet, there are moments when Terror Night goes from being bland to being almost transcendently odd..  There are moments of comedy mixed in with some surprisingly mean-spirited death scenes.  Necks are snapped.  Heads are chopped off.  Bodies are split in half.  It all gets rather messy and the presence of all those old time actors makes the sudden gore scenes feel all the more strange.

However, the main thing that distinguishes Terror Night from the other slashers of the era is the identity of the killer.  (And, before anyone yells at me, this is not a spoiler.  There is never any mystery about who the killer is.)  Lance Hayward is not a zombie like Jason Voorhees or a silent symbol of evil like Michael Myers.  He’s not seeking vengeance for some crime in the past.  Instead, he’s a former silent screen star.  (It seems like Hayward would have been close to 90 years old at the time of Terror Night.  He’s still surprisingly spry.)  Hayward commits his murders while wearing costumes from his old movies.  Adding to the strangeness of the whole scenario is that actual silent footage is spliced into the murder scenes.  Most of the footage comes from movies like The Thief of Baghdad, The Black Pirate, and the Gaucho.  You have to wonder if Douglas Fairbanks cheated the director’s father or something.

(Since Hayward spends most of the movie in costume, I’m assuming that he was mostly played by stuntmen.  When Hayward actually shows his face, he’s played by one-time Oscar nominee, John Ireland.  At the height of his career, Ireland co-starred in films like All The King’s Men.)

As to why a silent scream star would be murdering teenagers … well, your guess is as good as mine.  It’s a strange film, a mix of gore and nostalgia.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it but I still always appreciate anything this strange.

Film Review: Welcome to Hard Times (1967, directed by Burt Kennedy)


220px-WelcomehardtimesWelcome to Hard Times is a western that used to frequently turn up on TV when I was a kid.  I remembered that I had always enjoyed it but otherwise, I had largely forgotten about it when I saw that it was airing on TCM earlier today.  I rewatched it to see if I would still enjoy it.  Welcome To Hard Times has its flaws but it is still an above average addition to the genre.

Based on a novel by E.L. Doctorow, Welcome to Hard Times takes place in the small western settlement of Hard Times, Nevada.  When the mysterious Man From Bodie (Aldo Ray) shows up, he terrorizes everyone in the town.  When the town founder, Mr. Fee (Paul Birch), attempts to stand up to him, the Man from Bodie shoots him dead.  When the local undertaker, Mr. Hansen (Elisha Cook, Jr.) tries to stop the Man from stealing one of his horses, the Man silently guns him down.  As the town’s mayor, Will Blue (Henry Fonda), stands by and helplessly watches, The Man rapes and murders Fee’s girlfriend and also kills the local saloonkeeper, Avery (Lon Chaney, Jr.).  The Man burns down the town and finally leaves.

Thought most of the surviving townspeople abandon Hard Times, Will Blue stays behind and tries to rebuild.  He adopts Fee’s son, Jimmy (Michael Shea).  Also staying behind is Jimmy’s mother, Molly Riordan (Janice Rule), a former saloon girl who was also raped by the Man and who constantly taunts Will for not being able to stand up to him.  New settlers arrive and the town starts to rebuild.  Zar (Kennan Wynn) and his four girls reopen the saloon and serve the workers at a nearby mine.  Isaac Maple (John Anderson) reopens the general store.  Under Will’s leadership, Hard Times starts to thrive.

A drifter named Leo Jenks (the great Warren Oates) also moves in.  When Molly discovers that Leo is a crack shot, she gets him to teach Jimmy how to handle a shotgun.  Both she and Will know that the Man is going to return in the spring.  Molly is obsessed with vengeance and Will fears that Jimmy is going to be consumed by her hatred.

Aldo Ray  Welcome to Hard Times (1967)Of course, the Man does eventually return.

Welcome to Hard Times works best at the beginning and the end, when Aldo Ray is on-screen.  As the sadistic Man from Bodie, Ray gives a classic western bad guy performance.  He’s intimidating, he’s violent, and he guns down the citizens of Hard Times with even more casual arrogance than Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, and Lee Van Cleef combined!  The middle section of the film drags and it is hard to ignore Jane Rule’s shaky Irish accent.  It is obvious that Welcome to Hard Times is trying to say something about Will Blue’s humanistic approach but it does not seem to know what.

Director Burt Kennedy was best known for directing comedic westerns.  Welcome to Hard Times was a rare dramatic film for him.  It’s not a great western but, thanks to Aldo Ray’s performance and the excellent work of cinematography Harry Stradling, Jr., it’s still a worthy addition to the genre.

 

Aldo Ray