Archive for Montgomery Tully

Wailing Asteroid, Crouching Hawtrey

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2012 by dcairns

Ah, Montgomery Tully, reliably awful as ever — THE TERRORNAUTS (1967) has the appeal of being scripted by respected sci-fi  scribe John Brunner (Stand on Zanzibar) from a novel (The Wailing Asteroid) by the equally celebrated Murray Leinster (who, according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, invented front projection). Unfortunately, the script is pretty awful, but not so bad that director Tully can’t enhance its dreadfulness with a variety of pleasing touches.

We’re at a giant radar dish place (that’s the technical term for them, I assure you) where rubbish actor Simon Oates has an underfunded research project, Star Talk (sounds like a chat show, I know) under threat from hissy, officious official Max Adrian. Things get even swishier when Charles Hawtrey turns up to audit the project, but then the whole building is sucked into the asteroid belt, taking with it tea lady Patricia Hayes, fellow scientist Stanley Meadows (outstanding in PERFORMANCE, just about hanging onto his dignity here) and charm school secretary Zena Marshall.

OK, so we have to admire any seriously-intended science fiction film with the stones to cast Hawtrey, a sort of superannuated camp schoolboy, referred to in CARRY ON CLEOPATRA by no less a person than Kenneth Williams as “you silly old faggot.” True, he is called upon to deliver some sort of comedy relief, and in the absence of any scripted humour he’s required to do it with his presence alone.

I was mysteriously and unpleasantly reminded of Intergalactic Kitchen, a kids’ TV show I once worked on, and I kind of wonder if series creator Frank Rodgers was possibly inspired to greatness by this movie. There’s a scene of the assembled cast wondering what kind of weird alien being is going to come through the door which is very reminiscent of a bit in our first episode… what comes through the door this time is a crap robot bristling with aerials. Patricia Hayes, who has been luridly imagining tentacles and giant spiders,  immediately wonders what the robot would be like to shag. I’m not making this up.

“I wouldn’t fancy spending the night with one of them things, look at all them spiky bits.”

The production designer has really pulled all the stops out. Out of his ass. The alien craft interior is sucky, but the quarry with spray-painted “cave art” really puts the tin lid on it.

Glass painting, or just a really dirty lens?

Les Bowie’s tabletop special effects are probably a lot cheaper than they look, because he was a dedicated craftsman… I guess that means in this case he must have paid them.

Just keep repeating to yourself, “The following year, we made 2001.”

Using front projection, which was invented by the author of the story which became this ludicrous film. Strange.

Wash-out

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by dcairns

ELECTRIC MONSTER is a 1958 Anglo-Amalgamated scifi thriller from the reliably terrible Montgomery Tully. It has a laughable alternative title, ESCAPEMENT — although I think it’s a toss-up which is a worse one-word, that or INCEPTION. There’s no electric monster, or any other kind of monster, in it.

But, it’s from the soon-to-be producers of PEEPING TOM, and might be paired with that film thematically even more aptly than CIRCUS OF HORRORS and HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, sometimes descibred as forming a kind of “Sadeian Trilogy” with Powell’s superior shocker.

Tully’s plodding crapola makes a laughable pretence at being set in New York and the Riviera, but it’s visibly the Home Counties + stock footage all the way. Poor old Rod Cameron’s impersonation of a leading man is no more convincing, his youthful wiriness has vanished under a heap of dough,and his somnambular style is unfortunate in a film about brainwashing.

For YES — an ex-Nazi in the South of France is experimenting with a fake therapy technique, targeting celebrities and brainwashing them into becoming hypnotised cult drones. And this becomes pretty interesting, because Scientology was only a few years old at this time. Not that I’m suggesting that scientology is more like brainwashing than any other organized religion.

This is apparently based on a pretty smart novel, in which the will-sapping technology is in the hands of a movie mogul who’s lobotomising America with mindless entertainment piped directly into the brain. Although the mental pablum theme has been stripmined away in the “adaptation” process, it creeps back in via the “visions” created by the process, which are basically light entertainment dance numbers filmed in a TV studio. It’s all leotards and mildly suggestive moves, with the odd sinister prop like a giant spider web with a spinal column hanging from it. It’s Death by Scopitone.

For death is occurring as an unwanted side-effect of the therapeutic process — victims are found to have suffered “electrolysis of the brain,” which sounds pretty silly but for all I know is a perfectly real thing. Will Rod Cameron bring down the monster cult, or will he end up with a bald, scrubbed-clean cerebellum? It’s absolutely impossible to care one way or the other, although pretty much ever duff B-movie of the fifties and sixties would have been improved by a downbeat ending. In many, many ways, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is just a duff B-movie with a great downbeat ending…

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