Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Beach Party (1963)

Cute-as-a-button Dolores (Annette Funicello) is spending the week at a beach house with shorter-than-expected Frankie (Frankie Avalon). Not sure if she can trust herself alone with him, she invites along everyone she's ever met. Immediately they spat and take turns trying to get each other jealous, Frankie with hot waitress Ava (Eva Six) and Dolores with a creepy professor (Robert Cummings) who is spying on the teens sex life. Entering the fray is the gang who couldn't think straight.

Rife with beach songs, corny jokes, and bikinis, I'm quite surprised to report that I didn't hate this movie. In fact, lose half the musical numbers, punch up some of the jokes, and you might have something here. What was supposed to be a low budget Elvis knock off movie became it's own cultural phenomenon. American International Pictures made a half dozen or so more of these quickies, many with Frankie and Annette, but some without.

Clearly I watched this out of respect for Annette. Her movies were antiques even back in my youth, but she was so likeable. I'm convinced she was the reason my mom always bought Skippy even though I was a Jiff boy. Her charisma comes through. She plays up her good-girl image here, appearing positively overdressed much of the time. She does make one appearance in a scandalous two-piece, so put rumors of modesty aside for a moment.

Surprisingly, Franking and Annette did not got top billing. Cummings and his assistant Dorothy Malone did. Cummings was an odd duck. An avid health nut, in his 40s he likely could have out-surfed green-screen Frankie. He popped vitamin pills obsessively. He lived, hearty and hale, until he was 80. But before you praise his pill-popping ways, know that he died of kidney failure.

Fun, corny, light fare. The real test is if it encourages me to watch more in the series. Time will tell. Hey, I haven't seen an Elvis movie yet ... and I still won't. AMRU 3.
"Boy, this has been some night."
"You can say that again."
"Boy, this has been some night."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Man from Planet X (1951)

An unknown planet is approaching Earth, because that's what planets do. Scientists study it from a haunted castle in the Scottish moors, because that's what scientists do. Requisite hottie (Margaret Field, Sally's mom) visits her requisite wizened professor dad (Bond, Raymond Bond) while a reporter tags along (Robert Clarke). Hottie and reporter are immediately suspicious of the presence of the requisite fiendishly discredited scientist (William Schallert).

On their arrival, hottie Enid (seriously?) and the reporter discover an alien spacecraft. They return later to rescue the alien who's air supply was shut off, and bring it home to try and communicate with it. Efforts prove futile, so they leave the evil scientist alone to try. He gives up, and the others soon realize spaceman and hottie Enid are both missing. Reporter-Man to the rescue!

Perhaps you recognize evil scientist William Schallert. He did a fair number of movies, both good and otherwise, plus a heaping pile of television. I remember him as the doctor from The Incredible Shrinking Man, but you may be more familiar with his work on The Patty Duke Show or The Hardy Boys. Take a look at his resume. He did a prestigious amount of work. Quite impressive. He turns 91 this summer.

Let's make fun of the poster, shall we? Here, we have Enid, complete with awesome sweater puppies, looking calmly past the horrible monster directly in front of her. I vaguely recall her screaming in terror. Also, how is our monster friend both outside his rocket, and visible through the window? It's the MAN from Planet X, not MEN!

Amusing and atmospheric, but let's not confuse it with an important piece of cinema history. The actors and filmmakers appear to have taken the movie seriously, and that always helps. AMRU 3.

The theme I've been trying to follow is 50's Saucer and Rocket movies, but it's hard to keep on track sometimes. Besides, I've hit the good ones already, and the dregs are difficult to come by. I'll do a couple more before moving on, but next on the docket is about as far from the genre as possible.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Duck Soup (1933)

The bankrupt nation of Freedonia wants to borrow more money from the wealthy Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont), but she will only agree if they make the dashing Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) President. When the nation of Sylvania takes steps to invade, hilarity ensues.

The fifth of the eight Marx Brothers movies, this is possibly their best. As always, it's little more than an excuse for the boys to clown around. Here you will find the famous mirror scene, where Chico (or was it Harpo?) disguised as Groucho mirrored his movements pretending to be his image. Real vaudeville stuff.

This is also the last appearance of Zeppo who played, ummm ... Bob. He went on to be an agent and to make pulse rate monitors. Seems his roles weren't terribly memorable. Can't argue that.

So, why 'Duck Soup'? Groucho had a funny line about that, but apparently the studio was simply working the animal theme the previous movies had. No ducks were harmed in the making of this film. Hey, and Charles Middleton, Ming the Mercifullnessless himself, has a small role. Not in makeup, thankfully.

Not much more to say. Just four jews trying to get a laugh. There was the energy and charisma that was lacking in A Night in Casablanca. Made my boys laugh, occasionally. I wanted to see them in sequence, but they aren't readily available, so I'll take them as they come. Not like there is any continuity. AMRU 3.5.
"Rufus T. Firefly: Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don't let that fool you: he really is an idiot. I implore you, send him back to his father and brothers, who are waiting for him with open arms in the penitentiary. I suggest that we give him ten years in Leavenworth, or eleven years in Twelveworth.
Chicolini: I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll take five and ten in Woolworth."