Terry Reid

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

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.

An epileptic watching Laura

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.

The Informer

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.

Recommended, obviously.

Wizard of Oz

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.

John Gilbert

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.

Barbara Shelley

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.

Giant chicken movies

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.

Watching The Lion in Winter on Christmas Eve

I never thought of The Lion In Winter as a Christmas movie, but it is. Well, it’s certainly set at Christmas time. Henry II inviting estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine over to his vast Norman castle for gift exchange and feasting and fucking in High Medieval style. He even lets her out of jail for the holidays though sends her back come the New Year. There’s murder and mayhem and some gloriously wrought English (which almost none of them could speak, actually) and an enormous meal with apalling table manners. Still, it’s hardly a film that brings to mind tree trimming or Silver Bells or waiting for Santa to bring the presents from Amazon. But there it is on TCM, between Christmas in Connecticut and Holiday Affair. Perhaps there is Christmas in it. Katherine Hepburn’s Eleanor saying “he came down from the north with a mind like Aristotle and a form like mortal sin; we shattered the Commandments on the spot” could be an earthier I Saw Mommy saw kissing Santa Claus when you think about it, if you’re sleazy enough, and Peter O’Toole’s Henry bellowing “I hope we never die!” in the final scene could stand for the immortality of Santa Claus, who doesn’t, though Santa is more likely to bellow a “Merry Christmas to all”, which is what I’ll say too, in this tawdry plague year.

Bluebeard’s Ten Honeymoons

I don’t think I’ve ever seen George Sanders so unctuously vile as he is in Bluebeard’s Ten Honeymoons. Delightfully so, as he might say. Eek.

British, 1959. Noir fans will love it, though it’s actually one of those British pathological killer flicks, heartless and cunning, and George Sanders seems to revel in it. I’ll never forget those eyes, a woman says, so blue and cold.

Recommended.

Fantastic Spanish poster, the English and American don’t capture it.

Fantastic Spanish poster, the English and American don’t capture it.