Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

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Who would think that a movie featuring an aging Elvis impersonator joining forces with a man who believes he is John F. Kennedy dyed “black” fighting a soul sucking mummy could work? How about Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis as our leads in director Don Coscarelli’s film from a short story by Joe R. Lansdale.

In a totally quotable movie we have Bruce portraying an aged King of Rock’n Roll. No one believes he’s the real King but in a flashback story he relates how he wound up living out his final years in a decrepit home for the elderly. He befriends Ossie’s JFK and the two of them embark on searching out this soul sucking entity from Egypt who preys upon the elderly in Mud Creek, Texas.

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Davis determines that the Mummy needs to feed and in so doing preys upon those at the home he and “Elvis” inhabit. All he needs is an orifice to drain one’s soul.

“Watch your ass.” Davis tells the King as they intend to draw out the creature and “take care of business.”

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As way out there in plot as this film is, it works. Partly because the actors are taking their roles seriously like Lee and Cushing used to do. Campbell is wonderful as Elvis and the flashback scenes to a younger version of himself are memorable in relating how he became Sebastian Haff, a noted Elvis imitator.

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Adding to the fun is the fact that Ossie and Bruce accept the other for who they claim to be. There’s a respect there as they learn to call each other by their supposed identity.

Quite a bit of the humor comes from Campbell’s narration and his very sexual imagination of how it used to be when women fell at the King’s feet. Once again there are plenty of quotable lines from his voice overs which I won’t repeat here but will hopefully elicit some laughs should you take the time to seek this title out if you already haven’t. But you can expect some of the King’s favorite lines from Campbell’s fine work here as the King. TCB baby, peanut butter and banana sandwiches and ‘thankyou, thanyou very much” come through loud and clear.

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The film is directed by Don Coscarelli who has given us the Phantasm series of cult films. Reggie Bannister who starred in that series featuring the silver balls and Angus Scrimm as the Tall man also appears here as the rest home administrator in what amounts to more of a cameo.

Sadly the much rumored Bubba Nosferatu never materialized leaving Bruce’s legion of fans highly disappointed. The film is still rumored to be in the works and was at one time attached to Paul Giamatti as Colonel Tom Parker and Ron Perlman stepping into the Kings belt buckle.

I have revisited this one a number of times and it never fails to hit my funny bone. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always been an Elvis fan and find humor in the imitators and Elvis festivals that go on around the globe since the King’s death. So take some time here to give this one a watch while enjoying a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. “TCB Baby.”

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October = Horror and Fantasy film festival

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For as long as I can recall the Halloween month has always meant scanning the tv guide to see what horrific treasures awaited me on late night television. Inevitably there was always one or two titles that caused me to set my alarm to wake up at all hours of the night in the days before my parents could afford a monstrous VCR machine.

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When the machine came along it was down to any and all video stores to snag a few horror titles and have an all night fest with the kids I’d hang out with in the neighborhood.

Now of course we can find pretty much any movie if we look hard enough and are willing to shell out the money to secure them.

So for this October I am going to sprinkle in plenty of horror flicks including my mad movie challenge from Kristina at Speakeasy. I’ve given her a low budget campy effort from the mind of Jack Hill.

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I am kicking off the month with a favorite Bruce Campbell flick that isn’t called The Evil Dead and co stars one of Hollywood’s most talented character actors. Also I am looking forward to running five straight days of Jack Palance  horror titles as we get to the 31st.

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If things go as planned I’ll also be attending a three day Hammer film festival mid month as well in Pennsylvania. That is hopefully the months highlight.

Any Halloween favorites that you enjoy revisiting?

The Gay Falcon (1941)

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Playboy Criminologist!

So flash the newspaper headlines in describing our dashing crime solver played by a devilishly entertaining George Sanders.

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While this is the first film in the series of Falcon films, it seems to pick up where one may have left off. Sanders stars here as Gay Laurence whose fiance, Nina Vale is trying to keep him out of murder cases and stop his roving eye from landing on the likes of Wendy Barrie. No such luck.

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With comedy relief supplied by Allen Jenkins, Sanders finds himself in the middle of a murder and stolen gems. It all takes place at a swank party attended by the likes of Barrie, and smooth talking ladies man Turhan Bey.

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With evidence pointing towards Jenkins, Sanders is pulled into action despite having real cops Edward Brophy and Arthur Shields doing their best to solve the case.

With Vale trying to keep Sanders out of trouble and attractive Barrie luring him deeper into the plot, Sanders has his hands full. With a little undercover scheme and some help from his costars he may just unveil who the killer is and perhaps even a silent partner.

Sanders had moved over to The Falcon series after starring in five films in The Saint series. One could argue the characters are similar but that may have more to do with Sanders’ casting in two noted series of the day. With a bride in waiting I was reminded of the Bulldog Drummond series and his troubles in trying to finally tie the knot throughout that series run. It’s refreshing to see George as a fun character on screen who is also the hero as opposed to his later roles.

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Sanders would only appear in the first three Falcon movies before turning over the role to real life brother Tom Conway. From here on in George always seemed to be a bit of a cad who is never to be trusted and equipped with a dry wit. Both director Irving Reis and Allen Jenkins would move along after the first three films as well.

Leading lady Wendy Barrie also played opposite Sanders in three films from the Saint series and would reappear in his first follow up here as well, A Date With The Falcon.

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As is usually the case with many of the sleuthing series of the day, there is much to enjoy here so I’ll have to get at the other Falcon titles soon.

The Cat Creature (1973)

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I freely admit I have a fondness for the thrillers that television would regularly feature as the movie of the week. They were creepy when your a kid and quite often had an above average cast of actors from Hollywood’s golden age mingling with up and comers. It’s always fun to seek out some of these titles from the forgotten genre of horror films. The made for TV movie.

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Kent Smith who starred in the original Cat People opens the film as an appraiser who happens upon a room full of Egyptian antiquities. In a female sarcophagus he uncovers a mummified body with a cat’s head. Around the neck is a golden amulet with the face of a cat carved into it. Before you can even think it, Keye Luke turns up and steals the golden artifact.

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Black cats begin appearing and so does creepy Gale Sondergaard. She runs an antiques store where Luke tries to pawn off the golden prize. Poor Keye should have left things alone and remembered how he used to hunt down killers with his Pop, Warner Oland in the great Charlie Chan films. Now he’s the victim whose case needs to be solved.

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Enter Stuart Whitman and David Hedison of The Fly fame. Stu is the cop and Hedison an Egyptian historian from the local University. The trail of clues lead them from Gale to Keye to wondering just who is the attractive lady to appear from nowhere working for Gale. It’s beautiful Meredith Baxter who immediately catches Hedison’s eye.

Mixing Egyptian cults and vampire priestesses adds up to an amusing bit of fun from director Curtis Harrington. Curtis gave us a slew of these telehorrors including Devil Dog and The Dead Don’t Die. His Dennis Hopper film from 1961 titled Night Tide has garnered a cult following over the years.

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Another popular name in the credit list is popular writer Robert Bloch who supplied the teleplay. Bloch was credited with various teleplays throughout his career but is of course joined at the hip with his Psycho credits.

One more face that is always a welcome sight in genre films is the head of the Carradine clan. John Carradine never seemed to slow down or say no to anyone willing to pay him to show up. I for one always took pleasure in seeing his face and distinct voice making even the smallest of appearances in films from any era.

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The Americano (1955)

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Most movies I seem to pick up get lost in the ever growing pile on the shelf. But give me a Glenn Ford western I haven’t seen since I was a young boy watching Sunday afternoon television matinees and I’m all over it.

This time out Glenn is appearing in a western with a different locale that takes pieces of other popular film plots of the genre and twists them together for a diverting 85 minutes of fun and adventure.

Glenn is on his way to Brazil with 3 Brahma bulls he has sold to a local rancher played by Frank Lovejoy. Upon his arrival in a small village no one seems to want to talk to Ford. They close their doors at the mere mention of his contact’s name. It almost seems like Glenn has stepped into Jonathan Harker’s shoes as he asks for  the whereabouts of Castle Dracula.

Stepping up to lead Glenn through the wilds of the jungle is the films highlight. Cesar Romero. He’s unshaven, a supposed outlaw and as colorful as can be. Very much like a Dan Duryea character in an Audie Murphy western. He’s thoroughly enjoying himself.

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En route to Lovejoy’s sprawling ranch Glenn encounters Ursula Thiess and her small time operation. It seems that rich landowner Lovejoy would like one of two things, either she marry him or be forced off her property so he can dominate the territory. Now we seem to be moving into a Shane scenario.

It won’t be long before Glenn realizes what’s going on and with the attractive Thiess to serve and protect you can be sure where his sympathies will be lying.

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While no classic and with plenty of jungle stock footage, this is a very entertaining “western”. Surprisingly it’s directed by the king of self promotion, William Castle. Yes that Castle. The one who gave us The House On Haunted Hill among many other thrillers of the late fifties.

Glenn encounters snakes, pirahna and the cleavage of Abbe Lane as a Brazilian temptress while tramping through the jungle trail.

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But it’s Cesar Romero who shines brightest when he’s on screen. Every now and then you’ll see a character that you take a liking to and wish that a spinoff might be built around him or her. I couldn’t help but think that this time out with Cesar.

This was apparently a troubled production that ran out of money while down south but was eventually pulled together and released by RKO. Thanks to the folks over at Olive Films for rescuing this rare Ford title from obscurity and releasing it on blu ray.

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Zachary Scott : Hollywood’s Sophisticated Cad by Ronald L. Davis

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Reading bios on actors who are not household names can be quite enlightening at times. The reasons can vary and with this book it’s in part because we often associate the typecasting with the individual when sometimes nothing can be further from the truth.

Zachary Scott was a notable actor in the Warner’s stable of stars throughout the forties and achieved his greatest fame opposite Joan Crawford in the now classic Mildred Pierce. The typecasting stuck. A bit unsavory, not to be trusted, a slickster. The third lead. That’s the Zach we know and love.

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I really had no idea about his personal life as his name rarely pops up in other bios that I have read on Hollywood’s golden era stars.

Zach was born in Texas and came from a wealthy background. His father was a Doctor who moved into the cattle business and ultimately oil. Money always seemed readily available when roles were not. He was married twice. His first wife actually left him for writer John Steinbeck. His second wife came into his life after a failed marriage to actor Peter Van Eyck.

He seemed to be a well liked individual and loved by his family members as well as maintaining a friendly relationship with his ex.

It’s the stage work that is sometimes surprising when you read an actors bio. Today we can only look back at their screen roles and have no idea about the versatility they could display on the stage. Would you believe Zach played the Yul Brynner role of The King and I on stage or the Jimmy Stewart role from Bell, Book and Candle? He did.

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Whether it’s this book or another on a lesser known actor. Give them a try as they can add to your enjoyment of the films they did appear in. A tip of the hat to Kristina at Speakeasy for lending me her copy.

Born to Be Bad (1950)

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This RKO feature from director Nicholas Ray plays like a Noir film with some of the genre’s key elements. But it’s perhaps the single most important feature of a Noir film that’s missing, a body.

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Oscar winner Joan Fontaine is cast here as a woman with an agenda. She’s a social climber who invades the happy lives of those around her.

First up is moving in on poor Zachary Scott who is engaged to be wed to attractive Joan Leslie. Scott is a wealthy bachelor and sure to be a good catch. To get close to the duo, Joan takes up with family friend and aspiring writer Robert Ryan. Ryan is of course one of Noir’s leading figures.

With a nudge here and planting a seed there, Joan soon finds herself the benefactor of not only Ryan’s passion but Scott’s love. Poor Joan Leslie has been cast aside. She sees through Joan and corners her for one of the film’s better scenes.

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Ryan is up next giving us his best when tearing into Joan with an angry close up. “It’s just a sex attraction.” Strong words he accuses her of. Especially in a 1950 film.

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Eventually hubby Zach Scott begins to see through Joan and begins to wonder if marriage was the right thing. She’s cold to the touch and when Ryan drifts back into their lives the truth will set him free.

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Joan’s eventual downfall is one of those scenes worthy of having Ace Ventura doing his victory dance on the porch screaming while opening and closing the sliding glass door. You can’t help but do a fist pump when her world comes crashing down.

As for being classified as a Noir film, I can see it up to a point. The presence of Robert Ryan definitely adds to the notion of this fitting in to the genre. Scott had done his fair share of flirting with Noir cinema as well. While Joan does alright here I think the role would have been far better suited overall to a real temptress like Ava Gardner. Mel Ferrer is used mainly here as a bit of a comedy relief. A devil may care painter who seems to know all with a drink in hand.

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What I really believe is that the film would have made a decent soap opera vehicle for Joan Crawford. She was always one to play tough and loved to get ahead on screen and off. It also would have allowed for a reunion with her Mildred Pierce costar Zachary Scott for a third time.

 

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Movie Challenge…… The Blue Lamp (1950)

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Before Jack Warner played P.C. George Dixon in 432 episodes of Dixon of Docks Green he portrayed the character in this award winning film from Ealing Studios.

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It’s this black and white police thriller that has been assigned to me by Kristina over at Speakeasy. It’s when two movie lovers challenge the other to a film they may not normally have watched without a push from the other. Previous challenges may be checked out here.

What we have here is a film a bit similar in tone to The Naked City. It follows the life of an everyday patrolman played by Warner and a new recruit on the beat portrayed by Jimmy Hanley. Warner is six months away from retiring and living comfortably with his wife while our young rookie is learning the ropes under the veteran’s guidance.

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There’s a parallel story going on here with a young runaway played by Peggy Evans who is caught up in a relationship with a small time hood played by Dirk Bogarde. Dirk’s a loose cannon and out to make a fast buck. It’s a home invasion where he runs off with the keys to a jewelery store that sets the course of the film’s direction.

Bernard Lee makes his appearance as a police inspector looking into the jewelry store robbery while at the same time Bogarde has landed himself a gun. He’s now more threatening than ever to both the public and his girl Evans.

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The inevitable is about to happen. Guns and robberies are a bad mix. When confronted by one of our policemen face on while coming out of a theater box office loot in hand, he shoots down an officer of the law.

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The film then moves through the steps in tracking down the unknown killer and piecing the evidence together in order for the police to get their man. Lee of Bond fame is in charge of the investigation while our young rookie comes up with a key piece of evidence. Bogarde who is chillingly effective here does his best to outsmart the police and lay an alibi at their feet. Perhaps the tail that Lee puts on him will turn something up.

It’s the location filming on the city streets that gives this film some of it’s flavor and adds greatly to it’s authenticity. The actors involved are all well suited to their roles from the elder statesman Warner to the new kid on the force in Hanley. But it is of course Bogarde who gets the key role here of the cold blooded killer. He’s on the edge throughout the film which keeps us squarely on the edge of our seat as the violence he is capable of can come forward at anytime.

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Peggy Evans as his girlfriend can attest to that and does a wonderful job conveying the fear that she experiences whenever in his presence.

The Blue Lamp of the title figures prominently in the  fade out  of the movie from director Basil Dearden. Dearden was a busy man through the forties and fifties with his pace slowing a bit in the sixties with films like Khartoum starring……. yes sir, Charlton Heston cameo time.

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One film of Dearden’s I like to recommend when given the chance is The League of Gentleman.

While watching films I am always looking for a line or two to share and label as my favorite from any given film. This time out we have a hysterical young woman screaming at her door “It’s Murder!” Running to her aid is our new officer Hanley responding with a very British “Oh dear.”

I was really unaware of this title but thanks to Kristina at Speakeasy that has been rectified. For me it’s Bogarde who delivers the impact of the film upon the viewer with the remainder of the cast giving us a fine ensemble piece. Give it a try.

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Now head over to Speakeasy and check out one of those early Alec Guinness classics that Kristina had yet to see.

Cyclone (1987)

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Cheesy straight to VHS films were plentiful in the eighties. This one from low budget king Fred Olen Ray fits right into that category.

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Fresh from her stint on televisions The Fall Guy is Heather Thomas as a tough biker babe. Surprisingly her boyfriend is the nerdy scientist type. It’s Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs. It seems that he is working on a prototype motorcycle loaded down with missiles for military use. Evil forces are lurking.

When boyfriend Combs is murdered, Thomas is left with the knowledge of his creation and quickly learns that not everyone is who they seem.

Hammer Films queen Martine Beswicke and Robert Quarry of Count Yorga fame turn up as Government agents hoping to relieve Thomas of the cycle. She’s not ready to hand over anything. Not until she talks to ……….. would you believe Troy Donahue?

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Pulling the strings in the background is Oscar winner Martin Landau. He’s an arms dealer who wants results and he isn’t happy with the way Dar Robinson has been handling the situation. Robinson was one of Hollywood’s premier stuntman at this time before his untimely death the year before this titles release.

It takes a twist in character to finally bring Thomas to her knees allowing Landau the opportunity to reason with her and take possession of the super cycle. She passes and so the torture scene begins. Not to worry because help is on the way via our aging Hammer queen.

This sets off a car chase which features a solid crash done the old fashioned way. Using real cars. Wake up Hollywood! It’s all going to come to a predictable close with a couple surprises along the way. Still, you’ll probably see them coming.

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During the VHS era, director Ray put out a fair amount of films and seemed to land an abundance of aging stars and well known faces to fill out the cast lists of his low budget efforts. See Armed Response for another fine example.

Landau was in a number of B films through out the video age before being brought back to prominence by Tim Burton portraying Bela Lugosi to great acclaim in Ed Wood.

Beswicke, Quarry and Combs are of course familiar faces to horror film experts and turning up here as well is Huntz Hall of The Dead End Kids/Bowery Boys fame in a rather embarrassing cameo.

I picked this up in a fine budget pack from Shout Factory which gives us four titles from the VHS era.

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Directed By Robert Aldrich : Part 2

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I’ll come back and take this grenade and shove it down your throat and pull the pin!

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Oh, Blanche? You know we’ve got rats in the cellar?

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The only thing outstanding about you, Mr. Towns, is your stupidity.

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Getting ourselves killed is not going to make any difference to anyone except us.

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Apache war parties come in all sizes… sometimes with a hundred braves… sometimes with one.

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Bonus shot of Burt.

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Mr. Aldrich in action.

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