Archive for John Agar

Thursday’s Child

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , on February 13, 2014 by dcairns


Shirley Temple as Philadelphia Thursday in John Ford’s FORT APACHE reacts to the sight of a cavalry officer having his ass spanked.

Very early in this smart, revisionist, conflicted western, our Shirl is shown reacting joyously, first to the sight of John Agar shirtless — her expression cycles through shock, fear, shame, and winds up on “This is great, and it’s totally not my fault that I happened to walk in and see this, so I’m going to enjoy it!” — and then to the sight of him getting spanked — expression saying “This is REALLY shocking — but fun!”

These non-prudish reactions make us like the smooth, creamy Philadelphia, but they also made me think that perhaps the reasons audiences didn’t embrace Shirley in adult roles was that she was sexual, while still using the same palette of performance that had been her stock-in-trade in the thirties. Here, she even does the adorable, momentary trying-not-to-laugh routine, which involves a tightening of the corners of the mouth as they attempt to hold back a smile — Shirley only ever holds back for an instant, and we know it must be a trick because she does it so often and so consistently in her kiddie performances, but it ALWAYS works — we smile too. Seeing this in an adult perf, the public might feel that she was tainting their memories of Curly Top, or that she was making visible the adult qualities that had always been a part of the child star’s persona. It feels wrong to say that Shirley Temple turns you on.

In the sense that she creates a cognitive dissonance, that she has one foot in an earlier age of film storytelling, Shirley might be the perfect star for FORT APACHE, a movie that succeeds in being iconoclastic and placing the US cavalry on the wrong side of the Indian wars, and does not quite succeed in frantically back-pedaling out of danger and leaving us with a comfortable printed legend, all our revered institutions standing proud and unblemished.

The most beautiful tribute.

The ’68 Comeback Special will appear later today.


They Came From Beyond Poverty

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2011 by dcairns

INVISIBLE INVADERS was one of a mere handful of movies (how many movies can you fit in a hand?) still to be viewed in my demented ongoing quest to se every damn film illustrated in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, a quest I have termed See Reptilicus and Die.

Reader, I watched it.

Edward L Cahn was a Z-list schlockmeister with a mildly redemptive actual interest in sci-fi, leading him to make the above-average space monster outing IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. Consequently, his 1959 invasion from space cardboard epic has a few intriguing ideas floating around in it, albeit all mismatched and ill-thought-through.

As Joe Dante points out over at Trailers From Hell, II shares a plot motor with the legendary PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE — alien invaders (who have colonized the moon) reanimate the dead, turning our own deceased relatives against us. Since this is an available location + stock footage kind of epic, the visual effect here is a little more like the later NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, so we can say that the movie has combined two cheap tricks of the B movie: monsters you can’t see, and monsters which are just zombified guys in suits. For some reason, the possessed corpses in this movie are all male.

A very special episode of  Little House on the Prairie…

Immediate problems are apparent: the aliens attack by sabotaging us and turning our own weapons against us — “Holland, Finland and Russia have been blown up!” — which means they’re only really effective when invisible. The possessed corpses are a cumbersome add-on who seem to add nothing to the invasion beyond a bad odour. It’s also not clear how the aliens can become intangible enough to enter the corpses, but leave dragging footsteps in the dirt, and can be sealed inside locked rooms.

Similar confusion arises when our heroes fight back with an acrylic spray. This might easily be used to make the invisible invaders visible, but instead they use it to seal one into his futile corpse-vehicle, transporting him back to their underground lab (shades of Darabont’s Walking Dead show, and indeed the phrase “the walking dead” is used throughout), where they crack the plastic shell with high pressure and attempt to destroy their prisoner with a battery of experimental techniques. Finally, sound waves reduce the poor invisiblite to a soapy mound of foam.

What’s not clear is why they assume the alien will survive being hermetically sealed in an acrylic coating. Wouldn’t they go the way of Shirley Eaton in GOLDFINGER?

John Agar wears a terry-cloth hazmat suit.

Ah, John Agar, his very presence the stamp of low, low quality. In biology class, agar means is a jelly used to cultivate germs. In movies, it’s roughly the same. Agar’s last movie, THE NAKED MONSTER, came out three years after his physical death, which is always a sure sign of a very special kind of career. Also, he was married to Shirley Temple. In my book, that makes him a pedophile. That may not be fair, or true, but since when did that stop anybody?

True star of this movie is wattled scientist and pacifist Philip Tonge, in a dignified and sincere turn that manages to inject a bit of humanity into the thing. He’s joined, briefly, by John Carradine as the first victim of alien resurrection, Dr Karol Noymann — a name previously assigned to Edgar Barrier in writer Samuel Newman’s earlier THE GIANT CLAW. Again, this info comes from Joe Dante. It was nice to see Carradine as he’d just appeared, via stolen clips from VOODOO MAN, in Craig Baldwin’s MOCK UP ON MU, which I watched not five minutes earlier, thus adding to my ongoing sensation of being trapped in an uncanny web of coincidence. This is the feeling that’s held sway since I started reading Ulysses, “the book with everything in it,” and I wondered if the invisibility theme encountered in Cahn’s film and Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman and another film I watched, THE AMAZING MR BLUNDEN (directed by Lionel Jeffries, who’s also excerpted in MOCK UP ON MU) had anything to do with Joyce. It does!

“For I’m the boy / Who can enjoy / Invisibility!”

Thanks to the mysterious Andrew deSelby for pointing this out.

Observe the sonic death ray. It’s clearly made of wood. Since it’s been hastily improvised in response to an unexpected alien invasion, that’s actually reasonable. But the wily humans, not wishing to give away their ultimate weapon’s jerry-built origins, have painted it silver.


Can anyone explain why I find the above image so funny?

Joe Dante also claims that the zombie motif is reprised from Cahn’s CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (scripted by Curt Siodmak), “but without that film’s squibbing” — in the print we saw, the squib effects were present and correct, providing some slight added value as little explosions puncture the zombie army’s business suits.

Usually Hollywood movies with pacifist characters exist in order to show the pacifist either learning the error of his ways and wading in, fists a-flying, or getting disintegrated, thus illustrating the necessity for violent action. This movie’s take is more nuanced, or one might say fucked up, since the pic ends with Tonge’s dewlapped peacemonger uniting the nations of the Earth — against the common enemy, those invisible bastards from the Moon.