Archive for July 21, 2012

Let’s All Go to the Lobby…

Movie Poster for "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine"

Let’s All Go to the Lobby…
Let’s All Go to the Lobby…
and Get Ourselves a Drink!

Some films are so bad they’re good. Some films benefit from a little liquid encouragement. Some people seek out such entertainment. We are such people, and we’re willing to share our discoveries with you.

Please remember to drink responsibly.

“Built part by part in the secret laboratory of the evil Dr. Goldfoot. It is part of a sinister plot to capture the wealth of the world. It has a KISS-BUTTON… a KILL-BUTTON, and a MYSTERY-BUTTON. Press the right button and it’ll GO-GO-GO!

Tonight’s Feature:

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine(1965)

Produced by American International Pictures and Samuel Z. Arkoff, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is a spoof of popular spy films of its day, most notably the James Bond classic, Goldfinger, released just the year prior. To accomplish this feat, AIP pooled resources from two of its fading lines, the Corman-Poe cycle and beach party films. The result is neither fish nor fowl, but flamboyantly fun.

I purposefully omitted this little romp from our Super Spies of the Swinging Sixties
(1965 Edition)
because I knew I would come back to it here. Ain’t I a stinker?

Vincent Price in "Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs"

Vincent Price in the woefully unfunny Dr. Goldfoot
and the Girl Bombs
. That’s his henchman
"Hardjob" in the background there. Don’t ask.

Vincent Price

The venerable Vincent Price is the titular Dr. Goldfoot, the mad scientist inventor of the ultimate honey trap. Each of his robotic “bikini machines” is constructed to appeal to a chosen man of power and wealth. The victim is seduced by the sexbot and cajoled into signing his fortune away to the newfound lady love who is programmed to be unquestioningly loyal to the evil doctor. Price was disappointed that the film, originally intended to be a full-on musical, had all of the musical numbers cut. Most of them were utilized to promote the film on a special episode of the ABC musical variety show Shindig!, though, sadly, Price is still left without a song.

Susan Hart in "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine"

Susan Hart in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine

Susan Hart

Susan Hart (The Slime People) is Goldfoot’s latest creation, Number 11 or “Diane”. She has been constructed to target Todd Armstrong (Dwayne Hickman), the nation’s wealthiest and most elusive bachelor. Unfortunately, Dr. Goldfoot’s resurrected assistant, Igor, blunders and sends her to the wrong victim, who is quickly smitten and not willing to give up so easily.

Frankie Avalon in "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine"

Frankie Avalon in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine

Frankie Avalon

Beach blanket lothario Frankie Avalon is Craig Gamble, and he’s a SIC man. Sick with infatuation over Diane, but also SIC as in Secret Intelligence Command, the “West Coast Division,” to be exact. Craig reports to his exasperated Uncle Donald (Fred Clark) and has the unfortunate code number of “Double-Oh and a Half”. He’s not even allowed to carry a gun as yet, let alone a license to kill. Uncle Donald wants him to turn some red flags (denoting “trouble spots” on the operations map) into blue flags, “happy flags”. Unfortunately, his chance encounter with Diane has left him unable to focus on much more than her chassis.

To prepare for your mission, you must first “ante up.”

Ante: Any style of martini, shaken not stirred. My personal preference is “very dirty,” with a jalapeño-stuffed cannonball olive or two, but the possibilities are practically endless.

Now, once the feature has begun, pick your poison (beer, hard lemonade, etc.).
These are the few simple rules you must obey:

  • Rule # 1: Drink to each numbered “bikini machine” as they are introduced.
    If you have a poor or impaired memory, you are likely to end up taking unnecessary drinks. No risk, no reward.
  • Rule # 2: Any time someone says “Tchin Tchin” or “Chop chop”, drink.
  • Rule # 3: Drink any time a character climbs into or onto a vehicle.
  • Rule # 4: Drink any time a character accidentally bumps his or her head.

I recommend a 15-minute intermission about halfway through for smokes, restroom breaks, water (hangover-proofing), snacks, etc. Appropriate snacks include pita chips and hummus, veggies and dip, or cheese and crackers. Basically, go for beach blanket picnic food. In any case, I do NOT recommend drinking additional alcohol during intermission.

Beer BottleBeer Bottle
Difficulty Level:
Viewers will typically consume 29.5 oz.
(2.5 bottles at 1/2 oz. per drink, 12 oz. per bottle)
of alcoholic beverage if all rules are obeyed.

Running Time: 88 min. (+15 min. intermission)

If you want to check your work or just live vicariously through others, click Diane’s
“KISS-BUTTON” below for the official Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine debriefing scorecard:

Dwayne Hickman and Susan Hart in "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine"

Dwayne Hickman and Susan Hart in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine

Super Spies of the Swinging Sixties!
 (1967 Edition)

Raquel Welch is "Fathom"


The voluptuous Raquel Welch is Fathom Harvill, a dental assistant turned skydiver turned secret agent turned bullfighter, in that order. In a fun little bit of character development, the varied explanations given for her quirky name are “Papa was hoping for a tall son” (six foot, or an imperial “fathom”), “First initials for uncles” (Freddy, Arthur, Tom, Harry, Oscar, Milton), “It’s short for Elizabeth”, or “As a child, you were very deep”. Regardless of WHY she’s named Fathom, Miss Harvill is a born adventurer and easily recruited by H.A.D.E.S. (Headquarters Allied Defences, Espionage & Security) to prevent the “Fire Dragon” from falling into the wrong hands. Depending upon who you believe, the MacGuffin is either an atomic trigger or a Ming vase. If you’re working that hard to follow the plot, you’re missing the point of this film, which is Raquel Welch running around in a bikini for 99 minutes, give or take.

Said plot is based on the second, unpublished Fathom novel by Larry Forrester, Fathom Heavensent. The first, A Girl Called Fathom, was published a year earlier and apparently did well enough to get a screen treatment written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (Batman). She is billed as “the ingenious new mistress of suspense” on the Fawcett paperback movie tie-in, but, alas, no more published adventures followed, and copies of the novel are now hard to come by.

Tony Franciosa (A Hatful of Rain, Career) is Peter Merriwether, Fathom’s first target, but he quickly becomes a foil and frenemy for the buxom beauty. Clive Revill (Modesty Blaise) hams it up as the true villain of the piece, Sergi Serapkin, and Tom Adams (The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World) turns in a cameo appearance as Mike, the Owner of Casa Miguel, bringing together some talent from previous espionage efforts.

My better half has long been a fan of the grenade earring gimmick. Not too likely I’d get her skydiving, however. I’d probably have better luck with bullfighting.

Check out the end of the trailer (2:38). “Toonces, look out!”

Bulldog Drummond in Deadlier Than the Male

I’ll admit this one’s a bit of a cheat since Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond is an insurance investigator and not a super spy, but Bond creator Ian Fleming cited Drummond as a direct influence on his famed secret agent. Starring in a series of pulp novels and their respective film adaptations from 1920 to 1954, the “Bulldog” stories featured even MORE racism than was typical in the imperial adventure tales of the time. Thankfully, little of that translates to the screen here, but being 1967, sexual innuendo is clearly fair game.

Richard Johnson stars as the two-fisted detective, and was supposedly Bond director Terence Young’s first pick for the role of 007. Nigel Green (The Ipcress File) plays Drummond’s recurring arch-enemy Carl Peterson. But the real stars of this romp are Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina as Peterson’s bikini assassins Irma and Penelope. The German release obviously knew which side its bread was buttered on by calling the film Heisse Katzen (“Hot Cats”). Steve Carlson, a contract star for Universal at the time, is shoe-horned into the plot as Hugh’s hip American nephew, but he also brings Virginia North to the table as his girlfriend Brenda, so I consider it a fair trade.

Richard Johnson reprised the role of “Bulldog” Drummond in Some Girls Do (1969), notable for featuring a female sidekick named “Flicky” (Sydne Rome) and Joanna Lumley as a girlbot. Both films have been released on DVD as a double feature, but that might be too much sexy for most audiences to sit through back-to-back.

Liguria’s gonna be the witness to the ultimate test of cerebral fitness.

Johnny Banner in The Fastest Guitar Alive

With its mix of Bond derring-do and western hijinks, The Wild Wild West was riding roughshod over the competition in its time slot. Elvis Presley was crooning his way through the jailhouse, the battlefield, Hawaii, and Las Vegas. It was only natural, then, that someone take Sun Records stablemate Roy Orbison and make him a singing cowboy spy with a tricked-out guitar. Okay, not so much.

I’m thinking Robert Rodriguez owes his entire career to this caper. “Dr. Ludwig Long’s Magic Elixir” and “The Chestnut Sisters” seem innocent enough, but, in reality, they are Confederate spies planning on robbing the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. Along with six dance hall girls and his six-string shootin’ iron, Roy brings “seven of his brand new songs” to the Old West, including the insipid “Good Time Party” and the obnoxious “Medicine Man, Medicine Man”. I guess he don’t believe in travellin’ light.

The line-up of dancing girls includes Johnny’s best girl Sue, played by Joan Freeman (Panic in Year Zero!), Maggie Pierce (Tales of Terror) as Flo, Wilda Taylor (the incomparable “Little Egypt” in Roustabout), Victoria Carroll (How to Stuff a Wild Bikini), Maria Korda, and Poupee Gamin (Journey to the Center of Time). It’s hard to concentrate on the lovely ladies, however, with Orbison’s beady little eyes staring a hole in your soul as he meanders awkwardly through the musical numbers like a stalking butler, who upon the finger rests</Tool>. Predictably, this would be Orbison’s first, last, and only film appearance.

Watch ol’ Roy sing seven new songs, doo dah doo dah,
Makes the film feel seven hours long, takes all doo dah day.

Neil Connery as Dr. Neil Connery
in Operation Kid Brother

Sean Connery was James Bond. Neil Connery was a plasterer.
That’s where things should have stayed.

For some reason, Producer Dario Sabatello thought it would be wonderful to get Sean Connery’s younger brother Neil to play the younger brother of James Bond… except in the movie he’ll go by “Dr. Neil Connery”, so you know he’s Sean’s brother, strangely implying that Sean is an actual secret agent. Whatever, it’s not Rashomon.

Casting Neil may have been too subtle a move for Sabatello, so he also cribbed a metric butt-ton of Bond background players, including M himself, Bernard Lee, as Commander Cunningham. Lois Maxwell, Bond’s secretary Miss Moneypenny, plays… uh… Miss Maxwell. On the bad guy side, we’ve got Adolfo Celi (Thunderball‘s Emilio Largo) as Beta and Anthony Dawson (Prof. Dent in Dr. No) as Alpha. Our requisite femme fatale is the capable Daniela Bianchi (From Russia with Love) as the assassin Maya. She has the enviable distinction of being the only woman seduced away from an evil criminal organization by BOTH Connerys.

The film appears in Season 5 of Mystery Science Theater 3000 under the title Operation Double 007. A particular highlight of that episode is the graph showing the career progressions of the Connery boys. I do miss Joel and the ‘Bots. Good times, good times.

This trailer features 3 arrows (1 explosive), 1 speargun, 1 garter blowgun(?),
2! ballistic knives, a thrown spear, a flamethrower, and a bludgeoning buoy.
That’s “2 much”.

Happy Birthday, Terry O’Quinn!

Terry O'Quinn at TV Guide's Emmy after-party in 2007

Terry’s Early Work

Terrance Quinn was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, on this day in 1952. While attending Central Michigan University, he took up acting as well as writing and directing for the stage. Finding a “Terrance Quinn” already registered with Actors Equity, he adopted the professional name “Terrance O’Quinn,” later shortening the forename to “Terry”.

Terry made a number of unremarkable television and film appearances in the early 1980s, including his feature film debut in the much-maligned Michael Cimino fiasco Heaven’s Gate. In an episode of the television series Tales of the Unexpected, he plays police officer Randy, who unwittingly takes a satchel full of stolen jewelry and negotiable bearer bonds as collateral for a $5.40 cafe check incurred by the panicked burglars. The ending is left purposefully ambiguous, so the viewer never finds out if Randy discovers the loot and what he chooses to do about it. It’s a fun little role, which leaves the requisite twist ending in Terry’s capable hands.

Silver Bullet

In 1985, Terry appeared in the film Silver Bullet as Joe Haller, Sheriff of Tarker’s Mills, Maine. The screenplay was adapted from the Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf. The film was plagued with production difficulties, causing changes in script, director, and creature design, most at the behest of demanding producer Dino De Laurentiis.

Movie Poster for "Silver Bullet" (1985)

Movie Poster for Silver Bullet (1985)

Silver Bullet is the tale of a dysfunctional family in a dysfunctional town. The story is narrated by an adult Jane Coslaw (Tovah Feldshuh, with the younger version played by Megan Follows). It recalls her remembrances of a fateful year (1976) in which a series of murders ravage her home of Tarker’s Mills.

Marty (Corey Haim) is Jane’s younger brother, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair. While Marty isn’t one to let his disability stand in his way, his can-do attitude really gets under the skin of his big sis, who is tired of being overlooked in favor of the golden child (“Marty, Marty, Marty!”; see “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”, Re: The Brady Bunch). This petty jealousy comes to a head when alcoholic Uncle Red (the pitch-perfectly cast Gary Busey) comes for his monthly visit. Jane takes perverse pleasure in pointing out Red’s flaws, his alcoholism and his string of failed marriages, to the crippled nephew who idolizes him.

Marty does have good reason to hold his uncle in such high esteem. Red replaced the usual muffler on his motorized wheelchair (“The Silver Bullet”) with a cherry bomb blast pack and has promised a new, custom wheelchair is already under construction. Of course, even Marty can see that Red’s promises have a bad habit of going unfulfilled.

The Coslow Family drama takes a back seat to a string of murders, starting with a railroad worker, a would-be suicide, and an abusive father. At the local watering hole, Owen’s Bar (named after Stephen King’s own son, Owen), the town gets riled up at Sheriff Haller’s lack of progress and perceived ineptitude. By the end of the first act, Marty’s best friend Brady joins the body count. The discovery of the mangled corpse by Sheriff Haller (O’Quinn) is emotional and effective. Soon, a full-on vigilante mob is formed.

I believe it’s worth taking a moment to address a common complaint about this film and others of its era. As one critic puts it, “After three grisly deaths in a town the size of a postage stamp, you’d think the FBI would descend upon Tarker’s Mills like a tick on a june bug,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. The sad fact is that in 1976, the year in which the film is set, the term “serial killer” and the attendant concept were not widely adopted by law enforcement and were certainly not in use by the public or media. Only with the creation of the ViCAP system in 1985 was the FBI intrinsically tied to the investigation of serial murder. Additionally, without a common motive or method, it’s debatable as to whether a string of seemingly unrelated murders committed by a nebulous “maniac” constitue serial homicide. I’m not playing apologist here, but as I get older I notice more and more of this flawed understanding of history creeping into film criticism, especially films set in a time other than the year in which they were made.</rant>

What follows in the second act is a small town mystery, with Marty convincing his sister that a werewolf is on the prowl. They quickly bring Uncle Red into the investigation, though he is more than a little skeptical, comparing it to a Hardy Boys adventure. There are plenty of suspects, but the audience isn’t kept guessing for long, and I imagine most will have figured things out long before the reveal. Still, I’m not going to spoil the werewolf’s identity here. Thankfully, the trailer below keeps things mysterious as well.

The clumsy glimmer on the bullet in the title kills me every time.

Despite being based upon King’s novella, the Silver Bullet script went through a number of rewrites. Most notable is the initial plan for the werewolf to speak to demonstrate a retention of some of its human intelligence, but this was quickly scrapped. The werewolf demonstrated this trait in other ways, such as angrily beating a man to death with his own baseball bat. Gary Busey was also given license to ad lib in many of his takes. Stephen King and director Danial Attias liked some of them so much, they were kept for the final cut of the film.

The werewolf suit was designed by two-time Oscar winner Carlo Rambaldi (Alien, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and many other genre classics). Producer Dino de Laurentiis was unimpressed and demanded changes that King and Rambaldi refused. With production looking to stall out, then-director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster) began filming the non-werewolf scenes. Eventually, with the werewolf debate still unresolved, Coscarelli quit and was replaced by Attias. Laurentiis was forced to capitulate rather than see the film shelved, but the modern dance actor hired to portray the werewolf still failed to pass muster and was replaced by the actor playing the werewolf’s alter ego, leading to credit for a dual role. I find that the disparity between the Coscarelli-helmed human scenes and the almost campy, old-fashioned, dry ice-obscured werewolf scenes plays to the strengths of both halves of the film.

Terry O’Quinn and Gary Busey aren’t the only actors bringing their A-games to supporting roles. Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs) is natural as the proprietor and bat-wielding regulator of Owen’s Bar. Everett McGill (Quest for Fire) gets one of his first big roles in this film as Reverend Lester Lowe. Bill Smitrovich (Splash) also gets plenty of lines as local loudmouth Andy Fairton.

Terry O'Quinn as Sheriff Joe Haller in "Silver Bullet"

Terry O’Quinn as Sheriff Joe Haller in Silver Bullet

Terry’s Subsequent Projects

Terry landed his first starring role in The Stepfather (1987) as the title creep. A low-budget thriller, the film did well enough to spawn two sequels and a remake, though Terry reprised the role only once, in Stepfather II. Terry O’Quinn was singled out for his performance in the original, earning nominations for both an Independent Spirit Award and a Saturn Award.

Terry found steady work in supporting roles on both television and in film, but he is perhaps best known for his breakthrough role as John Locke on the hit series Lost. Having worked with series creator J. J. Abrams previously on Alias, Locke was the only main character that did not have official auditions. After a seven-episode stint on The West Wing, Abrams called O’Quinn to get him on board the fateful Oceanic Flight 815. In 2007, Terry O’Quinn was recognized for his work by being awarded the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.

From small roles to big, heroes, villains, and otherwise, Terry O’Quinn has ever been a consummate professional. His characters can make you believe in werewolves, Rocketeers, cowboys, and aliens because of his conviction as an actor.
Many thanks and best wishes always.

“Acting has to be your only alternative. You can’t go into it and have a fall-back profession waiting. If you only try halfway, you are going to fail. If you are jumping from one building to the next, do not slow down before you jump. Jump. Jump hard.” — Terry O’Quinn

Super Spies of the Swinging Sixties!
 (1966 Edition)

Monica Vitti as "Modesty Blaise"

Modesty Blaise

Ever so loosely based on the popular comic strip by Peter O’Donnell, Modesty Blaise is a high camp take on the female super spy. Blaise (Monica Vitti) is a thief and a scoundrel, recruited by British Intelligence to foil a diamond heist.

Unfortunately, Vitti plays the role like some kind of spastic fashion doll with a learning disability. Her exasperated enunciation is eerily reminiscent of Maya Rudolph’s impersonation of Donatella Versace on Saturday Night Live (“Get owwt!”). Still, she’s certainly easy enough on the eyes and clearly having fun with the material.

Terence Stamp fares better with the sidekick role as Cockney Willie Garvin, but the grim loyalty seen in the strip comes across here as a terminal case of puppy love. Dirk Bogarde hams it up as villainous mastermind Gabriel, owner of the greatest wine glasses ever captured on film and surrounded by a crew of gimmicky henchmen and sychophants.

Despite the goofy gags, there’s still enough pulp bravado to entertain. Sheik Abu Tahir (Clive Revill) lays out Modesty’s backstory in swaggering expository dialogue and still manages to steal the scene. Modesty Blaise is worth watching just to see Mrs. Fothergill (Rosella Falk) silently strangle a French mime with her legs. Sublime.

And hey, at least it’s better than Brooke Shields and Timothy Dalton in Brenda Starr.

“There is a sting in my tail.”

Secret Agent Super Dragon

Despite this being his first film adventure, Bryan Cooper (Ray Danton), aka Secret Agent Super Dragon, is lured out of retirement to avenge the murder of a colleague. Star Danton is perhaps best known for carrying off glamorous wife Julie Adams Creature from the Black Lagoon-style after they worked together on The Looters (1955). Unlike most super spies, Super Dragon takes his gadget supplier on the mission with him. Codenamed “Baby Face” (Jess Hahn), the big man largely provides comic relief, pun intended. Super Dragon is recruited into this caper by Cythia Fulton (stunning exploitation film mainstay Margaret Lee), who seems to be keeping close tabs on him by putting in a welcome appearance any time the plot starts to lag.

Marisa Mell in "Secret Agent Super Dragon"

Marisa Mell in Secret Agent Super Dragon

Our requisite femme fatale is Charity Farrel, played with relish by the sultry Marisa Mell (Danger: Diabolik). Charity is so striking in her blue-grey cocktail dress with matching long gloves that the image would appear on the lobby card of the unrelated film Danger Dimensione Morte in an effort to make it more appealing. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

The voice-over in this trailer totally reminds me of
Stephen Colbert as Harvey Birdman‘s Phil Ken Sebben

Two 07 in 7 Golden Women Against Two 07

Former Mr. Universe and Mr. Jayne Mansfield, Mickey Hargitay plays Mark Davis, secret agent Two 07. He’s on a mission to locate a Nazi treasure hidden in the Mediterranean by Martin Bormann. The location of the treasure is hidden in a Goya painting. The only problem is, seven identical replicas of the painting were sold at auction to seven “beautiful” women, each hoping against hope that theirs is the real McCoy. Cue the obligatory catfights…

Of course, even though the film is titled 7 Golden Women Against Two 07, these eight principals aren’t the only ones after the treasure. Leading the pack of also-rans is the writer-director-producer-editor-and-star Vincenzo Cascino as Barbikian. There’s no explanation as to why he’s painting them gold and the only justification is it looked good on Shirley Eaton.

Warning: NSFW due to a brief glimpse of Goya’s The Naked Maja.

Matt Helm in The Silencers

Matt Helm is a counterespionage agent created by novelist Donald Hamilton. Much like James Bond, Helm is much more serious and realistic in his literary adventures than in the over-the-top camp that appears on film. The casting of Rat Pack wise guy Dean Martin just takes The Silencers up to eleven.

With the cover identity of a fashion photographer for “classy” men’s magazines such as the curiously titled “Slaymate Magazine” and a house full of gadgets and girls, Matt operates just one shade shy of Austin Powers. In this and the subsequent films in the series, Dean Martin parodies his own flamboyant lifestyle as much as that of the super spies of the era. The film accurately captures one detail from the novels, the fact that Helm has grown soft and is well past his prime. At the time of The Silencers, Dino was nearly fifty years old.

As the clip below clearly demonstrates, Helm is not content to keep to the platonic relationship with his secretary, the “cleverly” named Lovey Kravezit (Beverly Adams), that Bond shares with Moneypenny. In an effort to outperform its competitors, The Silencers abounds with opportunities for Helm to display his machismo. Similar to Secret Agent Super Dragon, Matt is accompanied by an ambitious female agent, in this case, Daliah Lavi (Ten Little Indians) as ICE agent Tina.

The infamous opening credits feature a trio of Vegas-style burlesque strippers in a sequence that would be considered risqué even by today’s standards, though rumors of an “uncensored” version of dance legend Cyd Charisse’s segment are wishful thinking and fondly misremembered by impressionable young minds. The more raw stills from that routine are outtakes, some of which were used to promote the film, but clearly not the most notorious which could only have been used to market Brazilian wax. Go ahead, Google it. I’ll wait.

Even toned down, it’s an effective intro that should definitely get your attention. Nancy Kovack (Diary of a Madman) gets exactly 2:32 of screen time as a honey trap dressed solely in high heels and one of Helm’s dress shirts (Yes, I timed it). She certainly does make the most of it, though, especially in VHS versions which don’t crop the… ahem… bottom of the frame.

Perenniel Playboy Playmate Stella Stevens “rounds out” the cast as the out-of-her-depth femme fatale, Gail Hendricks. She undergoes some of the more controversial interrogation techniques of Mr. Helm (one of the few scenes kept from the novel, though greatly glamorized) that might make some viewers squirm.

I start every Sunday just like Matt, except with more bourbon and less double entendre.

Remembering Marty Feldman

Marty Feldman as Igor in "Young Frankenstein"

Marty’s Early Work

Marty Feldman was born in London’s East End on this day in 1934. An operation to correct a thyroid condition in his late twenties led to his unique goggle-eyed appearance. Feldman’s comedy career began behind the camera, partnering with Barry Took on writing for BBC television and radio productions. Marty made his on-screen debut as part of the ensemble cast of At Last the 1948 Show, joining Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor, and John Cleese. The collaboration produced the classic “Four Yorkshireman” sketch which was later performed by Chapman and Cleese troupe Monty Python and often mistakenly attributed to that group.

After a number of sketch comedy series, Marty Feldman had enough exposure to launch into film. Unfortunately, Feldman made only a handful of films before his death in 1982. These are three of my favorites.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Young Frankenstein was conceived by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks while they were filming the mock western Blazing Saddles. A parody of the Universal horror films, Brooks used vintage props and insisted on shooting the film in black-and-white. Gene Wilder played the titular doctor (“That’s Fron-Kon-Steen!”) while Peter Boyle turns in a memorable performance as the monster.

Feldman is Igor (“eye-gor”), the latest in a line of hereditary hunchbacked servants to the Frankensteins. Igor gets some of the most fondly remembered gags in the film, including his ever-shifting hump (“What hump?”) and the acquisition of the monster’s brain. Startled by thunder and lightning, Igor drops the chosen brain of “scientist and saint” Hans Delbruck and instead returns to the laboratory with “Abby… Abby Normal.”

The famous “Walk This Way” gag inspired the Aerosmith song of the same name. I still occasionally encounter people reenacting the skit that I doubt have ever heard of the film, let alone seen it. They have, no doubt, come across someone else doing it and, like any good joke, it has propagated from person to person.

Marty Feldman and Ann-Margret on the cover of "People"

Marty Feldman and Ann-Margret
on the cover of People

In God We Tru$t (1980)

Despite my grandmother’s fondness for televangelists such as Oral Roberts and Robert Schuller, she found this movie endlessly amusing. Of course, she also loved beer and baseball, so she was clearly a woman of many layers. For many years, a pre-teen RayRay could get away with referring to breasts as “bumpy bits” thanks to Mr. Feldman.

Feldman wrote, directed, and stars in the film as Brother Ambrose, a naive monk charged with rounding up $5,000 to save his monastery from foreclosure. Along the way, he is seduced by a prostitute (Louise Lasser) and exploited by a con artist (Peter Boyle). Eventually, his quest comes to the attention of televangelist Armageddon T. Thunderbird (played with reckless abandon by Andy Kaufman) and poor Ambrose’s quest is temporarily derailed.

While certainly blasphemous and critical of religion, the film, much like Brother Ambrose, has an innocent charm that manages to avoid hostility. Feldman’s antipathy for state-sponsored Christianity became public knowledge during the Oz obscenity trial when Feldman testified for the defense. He refused to swear on the Bible and was accused as having no religion because of this choice, a claim that incensed Feldman. The trial was the longest obscenity trial in the UK up to that point.

Stay tuned to the end of the trailer for an appearance by “G.O.D.” It’s an inspired bit of casting that easily rivals Alanis Morissette in Dogma.

Yellowbeard (1983)

Feldman, Chapman, and Cleese reunited for Yellowbeard a pirate spoof in the Mel Brooks style. The production was plagued with recasts, rewrites, and disasters, including the sudden death of Marty Feldman in Mexico City of a heart attack. Python vets John Cleese and Eric Idle consider the film one of their worst, but have fond memories of working on it. Regardless, Yellowbeard never fails to bring a goofy guilty grin to my face.

Graham Chapman plays the title pirate who has been imprisoned for twenty years and still has not disclosed the whereabouts of his stolen treasure. The authorities, led by Commander Clement (Eric Idle), contrive to force Yellowbeard to escape in the hopes of following him to the treasure. Along the way, Yellowbeard is introduced to his meek and bookish son (Martin Hewitt) and runs afoul of his traitorous bosun, Moon (Peter Boyle).

Keith Moon’s flagging health prevented him from playing Yellowbeard. Harry Nilsson was pegged to create a soundtrack, making the film nearly a Son of Dracula reunion, but neither came to pass. The casting of Yellowbeard’s gardener son, Dan, also went through some changes. Originally, rock star Adam Ant was cast in the role, but he grew frustrated with the slow pace of production and quit. Sting was ready to come on board, but producers thought he would make the cast “too British”.

Marty Feldman, in his final role, plays Gilbert, a former crewman turned prison trusty and gravedigger, turned bosun under “Captain” Moon. Gilbert tries to cajole Yellowbeard into revealing the location of the treasure, but the salty pirate won’t be caught out with mere trick questions. Eventually, with Feldman’s untimely death preventing more scenes with his character, a stunt double for Feldman was used to have Gilbert fall into a pool of acid, ending his treachery.

Marty Feldman is buried in the Garden of Heritage at Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery near his idol, “The Great Stone Face,” Buster Keaton. His epitaph reads
“He made us laugh, He took my pain away, I love you, Lauretta”.

Super Spies of the Swinging Sixties!
 (1965 Edition)

Sue Lloyd and Michael Caine in "The Ipcress File"

Harry Palmer in

The Ipcress File

Len Deighton’s novel, The Ipcress File was released shortly after the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962). The novel sold well enough that producers Harry Saltzman and “Cubby” Broccoli asked Deighton to write the script for the next Bond film, From Russia with Love. He only got about 35 pages in before the producers replaced him for working too slowly.

Still, there was no desire to throw the baby out with the bath water, so Saltzman decided to use The Ipcress File as the foundation for a completely new secret agent film franchise. Fresh off his first big break in Zulu, Michael Caine took the role of working class secret agent Harry Palmer. Palmer is essentially the anti-Bond. He stays in sleazy hotels, cooks his own meals, wears thick glasses, and complains about his pay. Nevertheless, he is every bit the super spy.

“A friend of mine met Putin and he was head of the KGB then and he said, ‘Tell Mr. Caine we used to watch those movies and laugh because he was such a clever spy and we were never that clever.’” — Michael Caine

The character, as created by Deighton in first-person narratives, goes unnamed as a matter of course. He could have any name and it could be just as valid or just as false, given his line of work. Still, for the film, especially the birth of a new franchise, the character needed a name, one that lacked the glamour and panache of “Bond… James Bond.” Harry Saltzman asked Caine, “What’s the dullest name you can think of?” Not considering the source, Caine replied, “Harry.” Michael Caine also supplied the surname Palmer, that of the most boring boy in his school. And thus, Harry Palmer began his career in cinematic espionage. Michael Caine reprised the role in four sequels, Funeral in Berlin (1966), Billion Dollar Brain (1967), Bullet to Beijing (1995), and Midnight in Saint Petersburg (1996), but only the first two are based on Deighton novels.

Don’t Ipcress me, bro.

Lt. Harry Sennet in Operazione Goldman

aka Lightning Bolt

Anthony Eisley (Frankie and Johnny) is Lt. Harry Sennet, codenamed “Goldman” (or “Lightning Bolt” in U.S. release a couple years later) for his unlimited expense account. Unfortunately, the expense account of the folks who made this Eurospy entry appeared quite limited, but they did what they could, even flooding the entire set for the big finale.

Sennet works for the Federal Security Investigation Commission, which breaks a sacred super spy convention by being an unpronounceable acronym (“FSIC?!”). To add insult to ineptitude, the agency office nameplate looks like painted macaroni letters stuck to a block of wood. His superior officer, Capt. Patricia Flanagan (“Agent 36-22-36″, played by the sultry Diana Lorys) joins him on the mission, mostly so he’ll have someone to sexually harrass close at hand.

The “Goldman” name and gimmick where a checkbook is more effective than a gun was envisioned to capitalize on the rampant success of Goldfinger, but by the time of the U.S. release, Thunderball was the Bond film du jour, hence the retitle to Lightning Bolt. After the negatives were lost, the film had to be reassembled from available prints. Eisley also recorded some English narration to help explain the convoluted plot.

Folco Lulli (The Wages of Fear) supplies the menace as the portly beer baron Rehte. He even has a tricked out beer truck with a spinning mug on the roof and surveillance equipment within. Brewmeister Smith from Strange Brew would be duly jealous. Rehte has the requisite underwater lair and a cute schtick where he freezes all his foes in cryostasis so he can gloat at them rather than killing them outright. Still, he is clearly no match for our super spies.

It’s such a supercharger.

Charles Vine in Licensed to Kill aka

The Second Best Secret Agent

in the Whole Wide World

While other super spy films of the 1960s take their inspiration from James Bond, Licensed to Kill wasn’t afraid to make a slew of indirect references to him. Tom Adams (The Great Escape) is Charles Vine, an agent with nearly as much skill as a certain 00 agent, and the license to prove it. Originally released in the U.K. as Licensed to Kill the film was recut and repackaged for U.S. release as The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World with a catchy new theme song by Sammy Davis Jr. and a name and marketing campaign inspired by Avis Rent-a-Car. The structure of the film was altered to make it feel more like a Bond film, with a pre-credit sequence, but a direct reference to Bond by the Agency brass was removed along with expository dialogue regarding the macguffin and a scene in which Charles helps a young lady with a crossword just dripping with double entendre.

If you’re going to rip off James Bond, there’s no reason to half step it. Writer/director Lindsay Shonteff (The Million Eyes of Su-Muru) throws everything into this one:
An evil twin, a transvestite assassin named Vladimir She-He, a helicopter fight, a Russian assassin named Sadistikov, and a broomhandle mauser carried by Vine in a fashion similar to “Nick” from the TV series Tightrope. The film would do well enough to spawn no less than FIVE sequels, two with Tom Adams as Charles Vine but without Shonteff and three with Shonteff and a trio of different actors taking on the rechristened Charles Bind.

“Women come first.” A gentleman to the last.

Boysie Oakes in The Liquidator

Before reviving the Bond novels in 1981, John Gardner created his own super spy in Boysie Oakes. Boysie joins Harry Palmer as an anti-Bond, but in a different way. Boysie (Rod Taylor) isn’t a working class super spy. He’s a coward, a lecher, and a liar. Recruited in error, he is given the codename “L” for “Liquidator” and sent on an assassination mission. Naturally, he does what any good super spy would do. He hires a true professional assassin to do the dirty work for him while he takes the boss’ secretary (the vivacious Jill St. John pre-Diamonds are Forever) out for the weekend. The vacation is short-lived, however, as an enemy agent tricks Boysie into attempting to assassinate the Duke of Edinburgh.

While not up to Bond film standards, effort was made to capture the style of the genre. Lalo Schifrin (“Theme from Mission: Impossible) composed the score, and Shirley Bassey (“Goldfinger”) sang the title song. MGM planned a series of Boysie Oakes films, but a year’s delay in the U.S. release of The Liquidator found the window of opportunity closing on them. As you’ll see in the days ahead, the field was about to get quite crowded…

“Overpaid, oversexed, and over THERE!”

40 Years Ago Today…

Movie poster for "Super Fly"

…Youngblood Priest (Ron O’Neal) decided to walk away from the life in Super Fly (1972). While a successful cocaine dealer, Priest has been formulating an exit strategy. He’s going to flip thirty kilos of coke in four months and walk away with one million dollars, enough to leave the perils of being a “pusherman” behind forever. Of course, Priest can’t do it alone, and with that much money at stake, you can never be sure who you can trust.

Gordon Parks’ Shaft (1971) not only showed that blaxploitation films could be profitable, it saved MGM from bankruptcy. Gordon Parks, Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps with Super Fly just a year later. Filmed on a budget of only $300,000, it pulled in over $30 million, echoing Priest’s big score.

Ron O'Neal and Polly Niles in "Super Fly"

Youngblood Priest (Ron O’Neal) leaves Cynthia (Polly Niles)
to begin the first day of the rest of his life.

Ron O’Neal stars as the ambitious Youngblood Priest. Ron would return to direct and star in the sequel, Super Fly T.N.T. (1973), which takes our “hero” out of Harlem and into the exotic locations of Rome and Africa. Super Fly T.N.T. would be released just one day after the similarly themed Shaft in Africa, though both struggled to capitalize on the success of their respective franchises.

When we first meet Priest, he is abruptly exiting the bed of his white trophy girlfriend, Cynthia (Polly Niles). He seems to have it all, hot and cold running bitches, a swank pimpmobile, and a wardrobe to die for. Still, he is a man unfulfilled. As he explains to his partner Eddie (Carl Lee), Priest is tired of the trials and tribulations of the cocaine biz.

Ron O'Neal and Carl Lee in "Super Fly"

Ron O’Neal and Carl Lee in Super Fly

Eddie is considerably taken aback at Priest so casually dismissing what he considers to be the American Dream. “You gonna give all this up? Eight track stereo… color TV in every room… and can snort a half a piece of dope every day?” Still, loyalty draws Eddie into Priest’s scheme to flip thirty keys in four months with a split down the middle so each man walks away with half a cool million.

“Look, I know it’s a rotten game, but it’s the only one The Man left us to play, and that’s the stone cold truth.” — Eddie

Julius Harris and Ron O'Neal in "Super Fly"

Scatter (Julius Harris) listens to Priest’s pitch.

Their first step in acquiring such volume is to reunite with Priest’s old mentor, Scatter (Julius Harris). Priest pulls a reluctant Scatter out of retirement, where he’s slumming as a cook in the kitchen of a hip nightclub. This favor will be the last he’ll grant to Youngblood, come what may.

Ron O'Neal and Sheila Frazier in "Super Fly"

Priest (Ron O’Neal) takes a tender bubble bath with Georgia (Sheila Frazier).

Sheila Frazier plays Georgia, Priest’s soul sister and confidante. Despite her luxurious attire and furnishings, she would settle for less if it would take the burden of street life off of Priest’s shoulders. She is his motivation, the person pushing the “pusherman” to seek a better life for the two of them. She does not judge him, however, as she explains during their bubble bath palaver.

A photo montage of their plan in motion is set to “Pusherman” by The Curtis Mayfield Experience (who performed an abbreviated version of the song earlier in the nightclub scene), and it is clearly ahead of its time. Photographed by Gordon Parks, Sr., the sequence follows the first kilo of cocaine, from weighing to cutting to packaging to distribution to sale into the hands of its end consumers, New Yorkers from all walks of life. The soundtrack, all written and composed by Curtis Mayfield, is one of the few to outgross the film that featured it and became an instant funk classic.

Sig Shore, born in Harlem, produced all three Super Fly films and would direct the third, The Return of Superfly (1990), without O’Neal. Shore would also put in a cameo appearance (billed as “Mike Richards”) at the end of this film, taking the role of Deputy Commissioner Reardon. Sadly, The Return of Superfly would be his last film before succumbing to chronic pneumonia at the age of 87.

Carl Lee and Ron O'Neal in "Super Fly"

Eddie (Carl Lee) gives Priest (Ron O’Neal) the "straight dope."

“Man, people been using me all my life. Yeah, that honky’s using me. So what? Y’know, I’m glad he’s using me, because I’m gonna make a piss pot full of money, and I’m gonna live like a prince, a ****ing black prince!” — Eddie