Archive for Reptilicus

Zero Displacement

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2017 by dcairns

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Two more Esther Williams movies, but they don’t make much of a splash.

ON AN ISLAND WITH YOU is supposed to be about a besotted air force pilot abducting a movie star to a tropical island so he can have a dance with her. The pilot is played by Peter Lawford, who I don’t think is a terrible actor, but he lacks chemistry — with anyone. Chemically, he is inert. Most straight guys, placed in a scene with Es, would be able to muster some excitement, but Lawford remains flat and petulant.

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To overcome this considerable problem, the movie tries deferring its plot indefinitely, spending a full 45 minutes mooning around a hotel before the romantic kidnapping gets started. Fortunately, Xavier Cugat is on hand. If you want to stop a storyline from ever getting underway, Xavier Cugat is just the man you need. He assails us with Latin swing music, and keeps pressing chihuahuas onto Jimmy Durante. This business was apparently judged to be a suitable delaying tactic by the suits at MGM, and it does pass the time in a desultory sort of way that is yet not as desultory as watching Peter Lawford drily articulate his yearning.

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The main entertainment is actually provided by little Kathryn Beaumont as an English child actor. She was the voice of Alice and Wendy for Disney. She’s supposed to play the young Esther in a movie, but Durante declares she’s too English. “But mother,” asks Kathryn, “How is it possible to be too English?”

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If ON AN ISLAND WITH YOU never gets started, the clumsily titled THRILL OF A ROMANCE gets started immediately, then smashes to a halt and expires in Yosemite Park. Esther is wooed and wed by the oddly creepy Carleton G. Young, who is not the same guy who says “Print the legend” in LIBERTY VALANCE. Something has been added — the letter G. Admittedly, this character is a sort of schnook set up to make Van Johnson look more marriagable (the plot ends in bigamy, a surprising recurring feature of Esther vehicles). And admittedly this is wartime, so all the proper leading men are in the army. Some casting director must have cried, “Get me a young Carleton Young!”

This 4F weirdball picks Esther up after seeing her dive, and gets her address from a naked Mexican boy he romances. But when the boy, still undressed, turns up at the wedding, Carleton is displeased. I was seriously expecting this to go in some kind of weird NAKED KISS direction.

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Without any narrative momentum among the redwoods, the film reaches not for Xavier Cugat but for opera singer Lauritz Melchior, who satisfies Louis B. Mayer’s demand for classical music to lend class to his pictures, while also allowing a lot of fat guy jokes. I wondered allowed if the Danish tenor was related to Ib Melchior of REPTILICUS! and PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES fame. “Not everyone in Denmark is related,” admonished Fiona. “Everyone called Melchior is related,” I admonished back.

And it turns out the ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS guys is indeed the son of the fat singer.

“This opera singer has some comedy chops,” says Fiona, part way through. And then, “Ib Melchior’s dad was really the whole show in that film.”

Yes, I agree, it was all Melchior all the time. It couldn’t BE any Melchior.

Robinson in Space

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2015 by dcairns

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ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, directed by sci-fi old hand Byron Haskin, is a movie I should really have seen as a kid, but I only just saw it now. Fiona kept insisting that we had watched it already, but that she wanted to see it again, only the second of which was true, apart from the “again” part. I may sometimes entirely forget the details of a film I’ve seen, but I’m generally right about what I’ve seen and what I haven’t.

Fiona likes monkeys. I like them too. Maybe I should say Fiona loves monkeys. So as far as we were concerned, Mona the monkey, billed only as “the woolly monkey” — to protest sensitive young minds to the fact that Mona was played by Barney — a monkey in drag, the obscenity! — was the star of the show.

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Fiona read up on the movie beforehand and was able to point out that when Man Friday is being agonized by his electric slave bangle, Barney/Mona started spontaneously copying actor Victor Lundin’s writhings.

Barney being so charismatic and so adorable in his spacesuit is kind of unfair to Paul Mantee, who holds the film together with a really committed and credible performance. I don’t really believe Mantee knew what oxygen starvation is like, necessarily, but I certainly believe he chose a way to play it which is compelling and disturbing. I do wish Haskin hadn’t introduced him hanging upside down, pretending it’s zero gravity: Mantee’s forehead veins look fit to burst. Mantee being main character, he ought to have been right-side-up, with co-star Adam West inverted. After all, West was good at defying gravity, look at all those wall-climbing scenes in Batman.

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Some really attractive Mars-scapes seal the deal. This is probably Ib Melchior’s finest hour, certainly finer than REPTILICUS! or JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET. PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES looks gorgeous and has some interesting sci-fi ideas to boot, but I always struggled with the boring characters and lack of humanity. The leads are so bland Mario Bava was able to replace one of them halfway through filming and hardly anyone notices (thanks in part to the dubbing, I guess). But I must confess I have yet to watch ANGRY RED PLANET, which always fascinated me when I saw stills of it. Old Ib, who passed away this March, had what you would call an interesting career — no masterpieces, but working in a genre if not despised then at least loftily patronised, he contributed to a bunch of amusing or fun movies and made them better than they might have been.

Fiona would also like you to know that co-star Lundin’s bizarre song, which he would perform at conventions, is available to enjoy on YouTube here. Few songs can be said to evoke so many emotions at once, none of which really belong together.

Movie is available with a really nice package of extras (including the song) from Criterion.

Reptivoli

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2014 by dcairns

Pictorial history of horror films back

A long time ago, in the early Cretaceous period I think it was, I swore to see every film depicted in the pages of Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies. I have not so far succeeded. I called by quest “See REPTILICUS and Die,” and I had been holding off on viewing the Danish dino non-epic until I had successfully tracked down such features as THE DEVIL BAT and THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE. I have not entirely succeeded. It’s not so much that several of the “most wanted” titles may or may not be lost films, it’s more that THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET seems unwatchably dull, even more so that it’s Hammer remake (known locally as ANTON DIFFRING’S ARSE IS ON FIRE), and that BLACK DRAGONS is an incoherent mess that makes you feel unpleasantly stoned when you try to watch it. But I may get through them one day.

Braving the possibility of a vengeful deity striking me down for tempting fate, I plopped REPTILICUS in the laptop and perused it with Fiona from the comfort of the marital bed. At least we would be carried off together. An IMDb reviewer seems to have shared my concern: “This is the movie that we Danes can be proud of!! It is the worst movie ever made but it is so funny that I am about to die.”

“When nature defies its own laws…” Hmm.

82 minutes later (for we watched the AIP English dub, not the 92 minute Danish original) Fiona remarked, “That was really disappointing. Although I did quite like the way everyone spoke really slowly, and all the women looked the same.”

The people spoke slowly because they were Danes speaking a second language for the English version, not knowing that AIP would dub them all anyway.

Danes drilling for oil in Lapland strike dinosaur blood instead, preserved in a layer of what is technically known as “icy muck.”

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The film’s main title appears over a closeup of the man’s crotch and his bloody hands. Which is kind of strange when you think about it or don’t.

They exhume a tail, which isn’t what they were looking for but maybe works as a consolation prize, ship it to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, and stick it in a tank of nutrients (I think they mean meatballs), where it begins to regenerate, like Oddbod Jnr in CARRY ON SCREAMING. The logic being, if a lizard can grow a new tail, why can’t a tail grow a new lizard? Hang on to that logic, for it is the last you shall encounter for some time.

Not anticipating that a rampant dinosaur in their capital city might cause traffic congestion, the Danes carry on feeding the tail while the American officer brought in to supervise the military side of the tail-feeding goes on a sight-seeing tour of the city. The Tivoli Gardens get much play, with even their own theme song, “Tivoli Nights,” (AKA “the love theme from REPTILICUS”). Prolific sci-fi scenarist and Scrabble tray Ib Melchior obviously included this scene to make us ache all the more heartily for the destruction of Denmark’s capital along with its entire population, and he succeeded all too well. The bloodlust emanating from Fiona as she lay beside me staring at the scenes of Scandinavian merrymaking with a look of cold psychopathic rage was positively alarming. But when the eventual sauropod rampaged through the scenic grounds, spitting acidic venom in all directions, I heard myself cheering alongside her.

Fiona did, however, feel that it was a gross dereliction of the monster’s duty to fail to bite the head off the Little Mermaid statue.

Don’t watch this song unless you have someone conveniently positioned to punch on the arm right afterwards.

The dinosaur itself is a… I think “puppet” is actually dignifying it too much. I don’t know exactly how they’re making it move — nor do I know how it’s actually supposed to move in the movie’s reality, since as Fiona pointed out, it has feet but no legs, is sort of dachshund-shaped — but I think it’s a basically inert figurine being waggled about by an offscreen “effects artist” holding it by the tail. In effect, what the Lap oilman unearthed was the monster’s handle.

Via Facebook, Jim Earp draws our attention to the unsung figure of the drawbridge operator, who panics and raises the bridge so that a score of panicked citizens can cycle over the brink into the deep. “One of the greatest interpretations of anguished, imbecile helplessness in the history of cinema.”

THIS song wasn’t in the version we saw, otherwise I believe we would both be dead. They would have to cut us out of the mattress. The “singer” WAS in the film though, in his Stephen King CREEPSHOW costume, providing the kind of laborious light relief that wouldn’t even work as relief if surrounded by autopsy footage.

Also, in the English version he doesn’t fly. Nor does he emit pathetic firecracker pops from his slack, rubbery jaws — clearly, AIP decided to mask what they considered an effect falling short of their high standards, by superimposing great snotty spurts of green goop. Or maybe they were worried that a fire-breathing dinosaur was inherently implausible. Yeah, that’ll never work.

At the end, the big guy is not actually killed, just rendered unconscious, his eventual destruction something the Danish authorities will presumably take care of offscreen, with the same wisdom and efficiency with which they grew him from a severed appendage and turned him loose in the first place.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the ocean, a severed dinosaur foot, blown off in an earlier skirmish, awaits its chance to emerge and stomp the countryside in a sequel as yet unmade. I have Gilliamesque visions of the foot, which has declined to regenerate another legless dinosaur, bouncing around Jutland on its own recognizance, while a moron in dungarees warbles disturbingly.

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“I don’t want this to be the last film I see,” said Fiona. So we watched IT CONQUERED THE WORLD.