(The things I find going through my drafts folder….)
Meanwhile, Godzilla and Rodan are tearing it up. No sign of Ghidorah. Caught two Bogie references in the space of about thirty seconds a few monster attacks ago. Nick Adams at his jaded tough guy best telling the Japanese alien scientist dame madly in love with him that their whole thing would be worth a hill of beans if the aliens destroyed Earth. And then she’s Claire Trevor in Key Largo making a scene while furtively slipping her ray gun into Nick Adams pocket just as the alien robot thugs are taking him away. Finally Godzilla and Rodin, having switched sides at some point, destroy Ghidorah in a monstrous splash with the inevitable tsunami and the world is saved. Godzilla does a monster victory stomp dance and Rodan, flaps and soars in glee. Nick Adams finds out he’s being sent back to Planet X as earth’s first ambassador. Whatever’s fair, pal, he says, this looks like beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Every time I watch Plan 9 From Outer Space I’m disappointed. Not by the movie. I actually kinda like the movie. I’m one of those type of intellectuals who can while away time he could spend on something useful and instead watches Plan 9 From Outer Space. Unironically, even. But every time I do watch it I’m disappointed that it is nowhere near being the worst movie ever made. That’s what people call it. But it’s not. I mean arguably The Killer Shrews is worse, even with Ken Curtis, or the scientist in my favorite death scene ever (I totally identify with the guy, typing his fatal symptoms unto death). But the shrews, Jesus. Dogs in shrew costumes. I didn’t even know they made shrew costumes. Do they still? Can one buy one? Maybe a whole herd’s worth? Considerably less arguable is that From Hell It Came, which I’ve seen innumerable times, is a much worse movie than Plan 9, though I’ll spare you the details. I mean a tree monster? And it is an absolute physical fact that The Beast of Yucca Flats is worse, and indeed might be THE worst film ever made, well, worst science fiction film. I can only imagine the depths reached by directors and screenplays and casts in other genres. Those I can’t watch. But I’ve watched The Beast of Yucca Flats several times, and even written about it (one of my favorite pieces ever, in fact), something I’ve never even done with Plan 9 From Outer Space. And then there’s—oh wait, Lyle Talbot just walked on. I gotta go.
Just love this, Terry Reid—I so dig his voice and guitar playing, both unique as hell—performing ”Dean” at Glastonbury Fayre in 1971. He’s got David Lindley (Kaleidoscope had called it a day in 1970), and that’s Alan White laying down an incredibly loose unYes groove on the traps, and just as the tune is ending a thoroughly psychedelicized Linda Lewis wanders up on stage and carries it along tripping another four minutes (of which she remembers nothing, she confessed later, but she did remember dancing with a tree.) I never did understand why Terry Reid never made it, I suppose his thing was just a little too off center, his groove a little too serpentine and scratchy, even for those days. Oh well, rock’n’roll. This is from the Glastonbury Fayre documentary, which if not Nicholas Roeg’s finest moment is one of those incredibly hippie things with lots of naked muddy way out people way out on acid, and lots of way out great music. Even extremely way out music. Apparently they never got round to tell us who’s playing what, not even band names, which will drive you slightly nuts, but subtities are for squares anyway.
Alas, in the year since writing this, the clip from Glastonbury Fayre has been removed from YouTube, and hence I never posted this. It seemed a shame to throw out such a nice little piece, though, and now someone has posted the audio recording from the Glastonbury documentary so here that clip is. The still is from the film. I heartily recommend purchasing a copy of the film, though. It’s no Woodstock as far as production quality goes, but it still a pretty amazing document.
The Monster That Challenged the World is a 1957 film that MGM must have offered a big wad of cash to Tim Holt to come out of retirement for. They got their money’s worth, he does that Tim Holt thing like it’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre but instead of battling Bogie’s Fred C. Dobbs it’s some dude in a man eating snail get-up. “He was a quiet, nice man”, one of the cast said of Tim Holt, “the most unactor actor I ever met.”
The title of the flick might be a tad overwrought, the world so challenged is actually the Salton Sea (the plot never takes it further than it’s shores), and the monster is a giant killer mollusk. Of course, the huge octopus that Ray Harryhausen had destroy the Golden Gate bridge in It Came From Beneath the Sea was also a giant killer mollusk, but the monster in the Salton Sea in our flick here was some sort of huge mondo gnarly shellfish, apparently, and shellfish are only so scary. So you suspend your disbelief just a little more than usual. I liked the flick even better the second time than the the first time I saw it, several years ago. Not as good as, say, the Monolith Monsters (again with the necessary extra suspension of disbelief for that one) but it’s still one of the cooler weird shit in the desert 1950s movies.
David Duncan wrote the thing, he’d just written the surprisingly creepy Black Scorpion (with the giant scorpions created by Willis O’Brien, who had probably kicked off the whole giant monster thing with King Kong), after this he did a much better money gig penning The Time Machine and then did the story or treatment or whatever for Fantastic Voyage, where those weird squirmy things wrap themselves around Raquel Welch. Perhaps you remember.
Did I mention Hans Conried? He’s the scientist, in a rare non-comic part, and I kept expecting him to be funny. You totally age yourself if the first thing you thought of was Fractured Flickers. You’ll age yourself a little less if you thought of Snidely Whiplash. Joel McCrae’s kid Jody, who you didn’t recognize, plays a sailor and gets et by the critter. He gets to swim around and look quite fit, though, which probably landed him a role in those idiotic beach movies. And Max Showalter you’ll recognize from everything.
Some people never do outgrow old monster movies.
Nothing in this lobby poster has anything to do with the actual story of The Monster That Challenged the World, it never destroys a city. It doesn’t even flatten Bombay Beach.
Watching Laura for the zillionth time and Waldo Lydecker just had his seizure. I hope, says a recovered Clifton Webb to a radiantly overbit Gene Tierney, you’ll forgive my wee touch of epilepsy, my dear. Clifton Webb could sure say a my dear. He drops to a near whisper. It’s an old family custom he apologizes, but not really. There’s a touch of a boast to it. I grin. It’s my favorite line. Well, second favorite. You can’t top his I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. An opener, no less. And there’s a naked skinny epileptic Waldo typing in the bathtub. An epileptic in a bathtub. If he’d had his seizure then there’d have been no movie.
Been a decade or so since I saw John Ford’s The Informer and though I remembered it was riveting and powerful, unrelentingly so, I’d forgotten what a kick to the solar plexus that ending is. Jesus. Audiences in 1935 must have sat in stunned silence afterward for several long seconds. Talkies were only a few years old and I doubt they’d ever experienced anything like that before. Nearly a century later it’s still so intense it’s uncomfortable to watch and as the credits roll you’re left staring at the screen for a few long seconds, not feeling good about yourself at all.
Watching Wizard of Oz. This was a big national event when I was a kid, the one time all year you could see the Wizard of Oz and families would crowd around the TV to watch. CBS reaped incredibly high Neilsen ratings. It became one of my childhood memories. The Wizard of Oz was one of those rare things that stayed the same as we moved back and forth across the country, over and over. I’ve only seen it a couple times since then. The technicolor startles me everytime. When I watched it as a kid it was in black and white. We didn’t have a color set for years. My dad could keep any old TV running forever, so we had a black and white set long into the color era. Dorothy would open the door of the house and if she and Toto weren’t in Kansas anymore the hues gave no clue. My dad filled us in. The road was bright yellow he said. But I had no idea it was as bright as it looks now. Crazy yellow. Psychedelic yellow. And all those crazy midgets.
Watched Downstairs last night, from 1932, in which John Gilbert is incredibly convincing as a vile, thieving, conniving lowlife of a chauffeur with no redeeming virtues whatsoever. Weird choice of role for a leading man with a career on the rocks, weirder still that he’d written the story himself and wanted to do it so badly he sold it to MGM for a dollar. Gilbert is ridiculously good in it, his attention to detail verges on fanatical—the character picks his nose and wipes it on his clothes, ferchrissakes—and his voice is fine. He did not have a squeaky voice, despite the legend. He did have a fight with Louis B Mayer, tho’. Combine that with a thirst for drink worthy of John Barrymore—it killed him four years after this film—and you can see where his career went, and the squeaky voice rumors were just post mortem Hollywood viciousness. John Gilbert should have been one of the top leading men in the thirties and forties, as good as any of them, but he drank himself to death first. You really do have to wonder about the mindset of a movie star who goes to such incredible lengths to play an absolutely loathsome character. Oh, and this being the pre-code era, the chauffeur doesn’t even get his comeuppance. He wins.
Watching Five Million Years to Earth (aka Quatermass and The Pit) once again. I watched it last night too and while googling up some info on the flick I was saddened to see that Barbara Shelley passed on a month ago. She was just a few weeks shy of her 89th birthday. Though she is best known for her roles in string of Hammer’s quintessential horror films, I love her most as an unflappable scientist in this Hammer science fiction classic, one of my favorite films ever, and probably my very favorite science fiction film. (The original BBC four episode story, with a different cast, is also excellent.) Who knows how many times I’ve seen this movie since it first blew my mind when I was a teen, and it has only gotten better with age. Barbara Shelley was never better—subtle, smart, unflinching and beautiful—than she is here. Rest In Peace.
The Food of the Gods is the ne plus ultra of of giant chicken movies. Nuff said. Look lady, Marjoe Gortner says, I’ve already seen your chickens. Ida Lupino stares him down with a shotgun. He had seen them too, the rooster attacked him and he killed it with a pitchfork, blood and feathers everywhere. Admittedly it’s not the giant carnivorous chicken extravaganza that Night of the Lepus was a giant carnivorous rabbit extravaganza, but with a giant chicken oeuvre—I’ve waited my whole life to say giant chicken oeuvre—limited to Food of the Gods and Sleeper, I’ll take it, over easy.
OK, maybe I forgot other giant chicken movies. There could be hundreds of them. There could be entire giant chicken film festivals. There could be. I could Google “giant chicken movies” to find out, but the algorithmic possibilities terrify me.