Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Movie misfires .....

Not quite trash classics, this bunch of oddball movies are amusingly awful now ..... let's start with Richard Burton as BLUEBEARD. Did this seem a good idea in 1972?, a new version of the grim fairytale of the new bride finding all those corpses of previous brides in Bluebeard's castle - only here it is played for comedy with softcore porn touches, as a selection of Eurobabes gamely play the brides and reveal almost all ....

The Burtons threw a lavish party during the shoot in Budapest (it was made in Hungary) for Elizabeth's 40th birthday (the likes of Ringo Starr et all were there) which got lots of publicity but what was there to celebrate if this was the end result. I saw the Burtons 2 years earlier in 1970 on stage in London, with director Joseph Losey, bemoaning that their SECRET CEREMONY (a notorious flop then) had been re-edited and sold to television withouth their consent, and Richard had been ranting that he was being perceived as having sold out - but here 2 years later the Burton juggernaut rolls on. He plays BLUEBEARD on autopilot, being there but hardly acting, while the cast of Eurobabes disrobe and try to inject some life into their brief roles. Virna Lisi comes off best as a comic turn, she sings non-stop (until guillotined), Raquel Welch is the lascivious nun recalling her past loves (until entombed alive) and oddest of all, Nathalie Delon is the shy bride who hires prostitute Sybil Danning to teach her the arts of seduction, which of course turns into a full-on sapphic encounter (with the Baron secretly watching), later the naked ladies are entertwined in sleep under the conveniently placed giant antlers on the ceiling, so they too pay for their lusts. Bluebeard of course turns out to be impotent and cannot satisfy his brides who have to be killed when they demand love and sex...

The first bride is despatched in a very graphic animal shoot with lots of animals realistically being killed, and then there is the very masochistic bride Marilu Tolo who has to be whipped and humiliated .... the latest bride is Joey Heatherton, a very modern miss, who discovers the secret room where the corpses are hidden and realises she has to use her wits to escape the now mad Baron. (Heatherton seems an odd choice as leading lady, I only know her from the Susan Hayward/Bette Davis sudser WHERE LOVE HAS GONE, though she was popular on tv and as a singer).

The tone though, like the period, is all over the place. It seems to begin after World War I as the baron arrives in his bi-plane, then we are in what looks like the Roaring 20s or 30s. There does not seem to be any continuity and it is leadenly directed by Edward Dmytryk - where is the zip and pace he brought to real trash classics like his THE CARPETBAGGERS or WALK ON THE WILD SIDE? (and we are a long way from his hits like RAINTREE COUNTY or THE YOUNG LIONS). I don't think BLUEBEARD even played in London, so a real oddity then! Produced by the Salkinds who went on to Richard Lester and those MUSKETEERS films next.

GO NAKED IN THE WORLD is another 1960 morality tale, a terrific companion piece to BUTTERFIELD 8 which is also about a high-class call girl enjoying the lush life who finally falls in love. Liz got an oscar for her Gloria Wondrous, but there were no awards for Gina Lollobrigida here, but she is surprisingly sympathetic and makes a lot of the role, and of course she is a knock-out, as ever.

She is Julie, a popular call girl (who gets an admiring wink from a lower-down street walker as she arrives in furs at a nightclub with her latest guy) and as she says to the guy who has to leave that she "has not been alone for 10 minutes since she was 12"! New in town just out of the army is Tony Franciosa - they meet and for the first time Julie falls in love. He of course has no idea of her profession until he brings her to a family gathering where his bully father Ernest Borgnine, firing on all cylinders, as the local big shot builder knows her all too well, as do several other men at the gathering. The lovers fight, separate as the father tries to keep them apart but cannot leave each other alone, the father in time relents but it cannot be. It all climaxes at a cliff-top hotel in Acapulco when Julie realises her past will follow her - so like Gloria in BUTTERFIELD 8 exiting through the car windscreen, it is a long fall down from the luxury hotel to the sea below ..... father and son weep over the body and are reunited. This rich hokum is directed by one Ranald McDougall (who also directed Joan Crawford as QUEEN BEE and Lesie Caron as a beatnik in THE SUBTERRANEANS, also 1960. What a year it was. No wonder Dassin's NEVER ON SUNDAY was a surprise hit - a happy hooker who is still alive at the end!

A brace of Romy Schneider films, one lurid trash and one surprisingly effective...
MY LOVER MY SON from 1970 is one of those British Swinging London films which is never seen now and one can see why. It is a cheaply made lurid melodrama where Romy (she must have been mad to have signed up for this) is the mother of the rather mature Denis Waterman (from UP THE JUNCTION) and they seem too close, arousing the suspicions of her stolid businessman husband Donald Huston (the Welsh student from DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE). Cue lots of psychedelic flashes as mother and son swim and are alone in the big house a lot .... then there is a murder and a court case. The son has a girlfriend who is of course a mini-skirted dolly bird who lives in one of those houseboats on the river at Chelsea, so we have lots of driving around Sloane Square and down Kings Road to throbbing pop music. It is all wildly risible, and looks very late 60s - Waterman (now a craggy elderly detective in the cop show NEW TRICKS) wears the regulation white polo neck pullover, we all wore those then. Romy is of course lovely but wasted, she and Waterman were lovers at the time; she fared better in England in the fun spy caper OTLEY in '68 (as per my review of that, at Romy label).

BLOOMFIELD, this 1971 drama is directed by Richard Harris (his solo directing credit) who also stars, so the project must have been close to him, resembling as it does his THIS SPORTING LIFE in 1963. He is also a sporting hero here (its original title was THE HERO). It was made in Israel and here is the blurb: "Richard Harris (who also receives writing and directing credits) plays Eitan, yesterday's soccer hero waiting for tomorrow. He consults the unheroic prospects of having to find a new profession and having to face a loving woman who doesn't understand his problems. Meanwhile he is idolised by Nimrod (Kim Burfield) the best 10 year old soccer player in his village. Filmed in Israel amid a stark landscape." It certainly is stark, sometimes it looks like it is set on a different planet!

It is all a bit ponderous as the ageing sports star looks in vain for a contract from the sports club (who have their own agenda), and he also looks in vain for a bank loan and a job, as his options run out, a "friend" also wants him to throw the next game as a lot of money is involved. Harris and the little boy play it out, but the ending is oddly inconclusive - for me though Harris, like Burton and Caine, is oddly uninteresting as an actor and also ended up in some routine run of the mill fare. Romy though shines here as the sculptor girlfriend who is becoming quite famous in her own right and she is very attractive and sympathetic. The film though was not a hit and barely surfaced in London at the time.
Next: Burton again, Romy again and Delon (as the assassin) in Losey's 1972 misfire (again, it barely sufaced in London) THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY.


  1. The only one of these films I've seen was "Go Naked in the World". It was enjoyable enough, since I so love the movies of this period, their look and style. Gina was fine and Ernest Borgnine very entertaining, chomping on the scenery for all he was worth, though you didn't quite know whether to like or hate his character. The lurid plot only disappointed in its double standard regarding Gina's sexuality, making her pay for being a "wanton" woman, though the males who used her services were just guys being guys. There again, though, very typical of the period.

  2. Yes I too love that cinemascope and colour early 60s look - the houses, the furnishings and of course those people and fashions. 1959 being the end of the 50s and 1960 being a whole new modern world - the silly melodramas of the time are huge fun too: Kirk and Kim in Strangers When We Meet, Doris in Midnight Lace, Lana in Portrait in Black and By Love Possessed, the young lovers of All The Fine Young Cannibals, Leslie Caron as a beatnik (quite a change for Gigi!) in The Subterraneans, and Gina being very sympathetic as the call girl here, but of course it as Liz's call girl who got all the attention in Butterfied 8. The early 60s too of course was that last great era for black and white films, all those 1962 titles like Days of Wine and Roses, A Kind of Loving etc.