Film Review: The Wild One (dir by Laszlo Benedek)


Motorcycles have always been unbelievably sexy and, in 1953, so was Marlon Brando.

1953 was the year that Brando played Johnny Strabler in The Wild One.  Johnny’s the leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club.  He wears a leather jacket and always has a cap tilted rakishly on his head.  When Johnny moves, he makes it a point to take his time.  He doesn’t run from anyone and, perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t run to anyone.  Johnny’s a rebel and he doesn’t care who knows it.  “What are you rebelling against?” Johnny is asked.  “Whaddya got?” Johnny replies and, when he says it, you not only believe him but you want to join him in his rebellion.

And yet, from the minute that we see Johnny, it’s obvious that there’s more to him than just his jacket and his attitude.  He speaks softly and when he smiles, there’s something almost shy about the expression.  You look into his brooding, soulful eyes and you know that Johnny isn’t just about making trouble.  He’s searching for something that society alone can’t deliver.  Johnny’s a bad boy, the type who you fool yourself into thinking that you — and only you — can reach and help heal.

At least, that’s the way that Kathie (Mary Murphy) feels about him, even though she’s way too smart to accept his invitation to go to a dance with him.  Kathie works at a diner in a small California town.  When Johnny and his gang ride into the town, all of the boring, responsible citizens want to force him to leave.  Kathie, alone, sees that Johnny’s not as bad as everyone assumes he is.  And if there’s any doubt about the fact that Johnny’s got a good soul despite his brooding nature, Chino (Lee Marvin) shows up to remind everyone of what a truly bad biker is like.

Chino and Johnny may both love their motorcycles but otherwise, they’re opposites.  If Johnny has the soul of a poet, Chino has no soul at all.  Johnny’s searching for freedom while Chino is merely searching for power.  Chino and Johnny were once friends, all part of the same gang.  However, Johnny eventually went off on his own and took the younger gang members with him.  Chino, in many ways, represents America’s destructive and wild path.  He’s an old west outlaw who rides a motorcycle instead of a horse.  Johnny, meanwhile, is a wanderer who represents the part of America that created Kerouac and Dylan.

(Interestingly enough, both Brando and Marvin were 29 years old when they made The Wild One.  However, Brando looked much younger and Marvin looked considerably older, which only added to the film’s theme of generational conflict.  Brando, himself, has never rode a motorcycle before making The Wild One and reportedly avoided the actual bikers who were hired to act as extras.  Lee Marvin, on the other hand, was an experienced rider and fit right in with the film’s cast.  To be honest, Lee Marvin is actually more convincing than Brando but Brando had the eyes and the wounded way of speaking whereas Marvin was every single guy who needlessly revs his motorcycle’s engine in the middle of the night.)

Anyway, needless to say, the townspeople are even less happy once Chino’s gang shows up.  Unfortunately, few of them understand the difference between Johnny and Chino.  In fact, the majority of the upright citizens prove themselves to be just as and, in some cases, more violent than the bikers that they’re trying to run out of town.  It all leads to violence, tragedy, and, ultimately, understanding.  This was a 50s film after all.  Director Laszlo Benedek may have played up the more sordid aspects of the story but the film was produced by the reliably and safely liberal Stanley Kramer and the film concludes on a very Krameresque note.

If you only know Marlon Brando from the latter half of his career, when he was best known for his weight, his eccentricities, and his personal tragedies, than watching The Wild One is quite a revelation.  It’s a well-directed film with a host of effective supporting turns but it’s Brando who makes the film unforgettable.  Watching the film, you understand why Brando became a star and you also see just how much he inspired so many of the actors who came after him.  James Dean’s performance in Rebel Without A Cause owes a huge debt to Brando’s work here.  In fact, every rebel owes a debt to The Wild One.  In the role of Johnny, Brando invites and inspires us all to ride down the road and see what we find.

The Wild One was a huge hit in 1953, leaving teenagers excited and parents concerned.  That same year, Brando also played Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar and received an Oscar nomination for the performance.  The Wild One was ignored at the Oscars but lives on whenever anyone hit the road and goes searching for America.

Horror on the Lens: Robot Monster (dir by Phil Tucker)


Today’s horror film is a true classic of its kind, the 1953 science fiction epic Robot Monster.

Now, I should admit that this is not the first time that I’ve shared Robot Monster in October.  I share it every year and, every year, YouTube seems to pull the video down in November.  That sucks because Robot Monster is one of those weird films that everyone should see.  So, I’m going to share it again.  And, hopefully, YouTube will let the video stay up for a while.

As for what Robot Monster is about…

What happens with the Earth is attacked by aliens?  Well, first off, dinosaurs come back to life.  All of humanity is killed, except for one annoying family.  Finally, the fearsome Ro-Man is sent down to the planet to make sure that it’s ready for colonization.  (Or something like that.  To be honest, Ro-Man’s exact goal remains a bit vague.)

Why is Ro-Man so fearsome?  Well, he lives in a cave for one thing.  He also owns a bubble machine.  And finally, perhaps most horrifically, he’s a gorilla wearing a diver’s helmet.  However, Ro-Man is not just a one-dimensional bad guy.  No, he actually gets to have a monologue about halfway through the film in which he considers the existential issues inherent in being a gorilla wearing a diver’s helmet.

Can humanity defeat Ro-Man?  Will Ro-Man ever get his intergalactic supervisor to appreciate him?  And finally, why are the dinosaurs there?

All of those questions, and more, are cheerfully left unanswered but that’s a large part of this odd, zero-budget film’s considerable charm.  If you’ve never seen it before, you owe it to yourself to set aside an hour and two minutes in order to watch it.

You’ve never see anything like it before.

Enjoy!

Film Review: Malibu Express (dir by Andy Sidaris)


Other than being the protagonist of the 1985 film Malibu Express, just who is Cody Abilene (played, in the film, by Darby Hilton)?

He’s a private investigator.  Judging from his accent, he’s from Texas.  He drives a red sports car and he lives on a houseboat that he’s named the Malibu Express.  He’s even got a painting of a caboose that stands on the docks next to his boat.  (It all goes back to an old friend of his and how he wanted to “remember her caboose.”)  He’s got nice hair and mustache and he looks like he could have had a career in 70s porn.  Literally everyone that he meets wants to have sex with him.  His best friend is a cop named Beverly (Lori Sutton).  His girlfriend is a race car driver named Judy Khnockers (Lynda Wiesmier).  “Khnockers … with an H.”  Cody says that about a thousand times over the course of the film.

Cody loves his cars.  Of course, it seems like he can’t go anywhere without running into three obsese rednecks who always demand that he race their son.  (Their son is apparently a mechanical genius.)  Cody always gives into their racing demands and he loses almost every time.

Cody also spends a lot of time talking to himself.  Nothing he says is that interesting.  I spent the entire movie waiting for him to say, “I hate pigs but yet I love bacon, what’s all that about?”  He never did.  I think the film would have been better if he had.

I should also mention that Cody is remarkably incompetent at his job.  The movie opens with him at the shooting range, firing his gun and continually missing the target.  Later on in the film, Cody’s accuracy will get better but he still always seem to be shocked whenever he actually hits his target.  From what we hear in the film, it appears that Cody has the respect of his peers but I’m really not sure why.  While he does solve the case, it’s mostly through dumb luck.  Cody doesn’t find clues through detective work.  Instead, he just kind of stumbles across them.

As for the case that Cody is investigating in Malibu Express … well, honestly, your guess is as good as mine.  I watched the film and I could hardly follow the plot.  Some of that is because this is one of those films that appears to have been edited with a chainsaw.  But a lot of it is because the film’s plot has a make-it-up-as-you-go-along feel to it.

It starts with Cody being hired by the mysterious Contessa Luciana (Sybil Danning) to investigate who has been selling computer secrets to the Russians.  Luciana has figured out that it has to be someone in the household of her friend, Lady Lillian Chamberlain (Niki Dantine).  (Apparently, every aristocrat in Europe has relocated to Bel Air.)  It doesn’t take long for Cody to discover that everyone in the house has a secret.  For instance, one daughter is having an affair with a butler.  A son-in-law is actually a drag queen.  Another daughter has gotten involved with a sinister computer mogul.

The computer mogul sounds like a good lead to pursue but, before it occurs to Cody to do that, there’s a murder and Cody shifts his attention to trying to figure out who did the killing.  But then suddenly, Cody’s being chased by three armed men so Cody shifts his attention yet again to trying to escape from them.  Fortunately, the actual murderer doesn’t really seem to care that much about remaining undetected, which certainly works out well for Cody…

Malibu Express is an Andy Sidaris film.  If you’ve ever seen a Sidaris film, you know better than to expect a nuanced or even narratively coherent film.  Sidaris specialized in over-the-top B-movies with nonsensical plots, frequent nudity, and dialogue that was heavy on groan-worthy double entendres.  Malibu Express was the first of his so-called triple “B” films (that stood for either Bullets, Bombs, and Babes or Bullets, Bombs, and Boobs, depending on who you ask).  It’s definitely a flawed film.  The plot makes no sense.  The dialogue is often cringe worthy.  The acting ranges from competent to awful.  The editing … oh my God, don’t even get me started on how messy this film is.

And yet, it’s also an oddly likable film.  If nothing else, the film seems to be aware of its flaws.  It knows that it makes no sense and that Cody is incompetent and no one in real life would ever say 75% of the lines that are uttered in Malibu Express.  It knows all of this but the film is determined to have fun and it’s hard to admire the film’s determination to full embrace the exploitation aesthetic.  Watching Malibu Express, you can tell that Sidaris probably enjoyed himself will directing it.  How much fun you have will depend on how much patience you have for Sidaris’s style of filmmaking.

Myself, I love over-the-top B-movies so I enjoyed it even if I couldn’t follow the plot.

 

Horror on the Lens: Robot Monster (dir by Phil Tucker)


Today’s horror film is a true classic of its kind, the 1953 science fiction epic Robot Monster.

Now, I should admit that this is not the first time that I’ve shared Robot Monster in October.  I share it every year and, every year, YouTube seems to pull the video down in November.  That sucks because Robot Monster is one of those weird films that everyone should see.  So, I’m going to share it again.  And, hopefully, YouTube will let the video stay up for a while.

As for what Robot Monster is about…

What happens with the Earth is attacked by aliens?  Well, first off, dinosaurs come back to life.  All of humanity is killed, except for one annoying family.  Finally, the fearsome Ro-Man is sent down to the planet to make sure that it’s ready for colonization.  (Or something like that.  To be honest, Ro-Man’s exact goal remains a bit vague.)

Why is Ro-Man so fearsome?  Well, he lives in a cave for one thing.  He also owns a bubble machine.  And finally, perhaps most horrifically, he’s a gorilla wearing a diver’s helmet.  However, Ro-Man is not just a one-dimensional bad guy.  No, he actually gets to have a monologue about halfway through the film in which he considers the existential issues inherent in being a gorilla wearing a diver’s helmet.

Can humanity defeat Ro-Man?  Will Ro-Man ever get his intergalactic supervisor to appreciate him?  And finally, why are the dinosaurs there?

All of those questions, and more, are cheerfully left unanswered but that’s a large part of this odd, zero-budget film’s considerable charm.  If you’ve never seen it before, you owe it to yourself to set aside an hour and two minutes in order to watch it.

You’ve never see anything like it before.

Enjoy!

Horror on the Lens: Robot Monster (dir by Phil Tucker)


Hi there and welcome to October!  This is our favorite time of the year here at the Shattered Lens because October is horror month.  For the past three years, we have celebrated every October by reviewing and showing some of our favorite horror movies, shows, books, and music.  That’s a tradition that I’m looking forward to helping to continue this year.

Let’s start things off by watching the 1953 sci-fi “classic,” Robot Monster!

Yes, Robot Monster is the movie where a gorilla wearing a diving helmet terrorizes that last surviving humans on Earth.  It also features some oddly placed dinosaur stock footage.  But, that being said … Robot Monster is a lot of fun.  There are few movies that have truly earned the “so bad that it’s good” label and Robot Monster is one of them.

Add to that, watching Robot Monster in October is kinda of a tradition in these parts!

Enjoy!

Horror on the Lens: Robot Monster (dir by Phil Tucker)


Robot Monster

I realize I shared this last year as well, but hey, it’s Robot Monster!  It’s a movie about what happens when Earth is invaded by a gorilla wearing a diving helmet.  (For some reason, it also causes the dinosaurs to come back to life.)  It’s one of the most compulsively watchable bad movies ever made so how could I be expected to resist the opportunity to share it again?

Seriously, it’s Robot Monster!

Horror on The Lens: Robot Monster (dir by Phil Tucker)


Robot Monster

Today’s horror film is a true classic of its kind, the 1953 science fiction epic Robot Monster.

What happens with the Earth is attacked by aliens?  Well, first off, dinosaurs come back to life.  All of humanity is killed, except for one annoying family.  Finally, the fearsome Ro-Man is sent down to the planet to make sure that it’s ready for colonization.  (Or something like that.  To be honest, Ro-Man’s exact goal remains a bit vague.)

Why is Ro-Man so fearsome?  Well, he lives in a cave for one thing.  He also owns a bubble machine.  And finally, perhaps most horrifically, he’s a gorilla wearing a diver’s helmet.  However, Ro-Man is not just a one-dimensional bad guy.  No, he actually gets to have a monologue about halfway through the film in which he considers the existential issues inherent in being a gorilla wearing a diver’s helmet.

Can humanity defeat Ro-Man?  Will Ro-Man ever get his intergalactic supervisor to appreciate him?  And finally, why are the dinosaurs there?

All of those questions, and more, are cheerfully left unanswered but that’s a large part of this odd, zero-budget film’s considerable charm.  If you’ve never seen it before, you owe it to yourself to set aside an hour and two minutes in order to watch it.

You’ve never see anything like it before.

Enjoy!