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.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Ooh that Ekberg

Those big-bosomed blondes of the '50s were all the rage by the middle of the decade, Jayne Mansfield was fun in THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT and WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? - probably her best two and then there was Mamie Van Doren - but for me the most mysterious and attractive was that Swedish import Anita Ekberg who certainly got a lot of attention and movie roles in the '50s and '60s as Fellini showcased her in both LA DOLCE VITA and BOCCACCIO 7O. She was married for some years to British actor Anthony Steel. She also lit up WAR AND PEACE in '56, some Martin and Lewis films and lots of programmers like these here:

SCREAMING MIMI, 1958 - Exotic dancer Yolanda Lang sees a man get shot moments after he tries to knife her in a shower, so she goes to a psychiatrist for therapy. He falls in love with her and takes over her life, although she continues dancing at a nightclub. The club's tough owner is none other than Gypsy Rose Lee who also dances and sings and entertains young cuties - “I didn’t realise it was tea (slang for dope apparantly) for two” says Phil Carey, who is trying to solve the mystery of the maniac who is stabbing these dancers. Each victim had purchased a sculpture of a woman called the Screaming Mimi… is Yolanda the next in line or does she know more in her troubled mind? Then there is her dog who protects her … I saw this when I was about 12 and it certainly made an impression, so it has been fascinating to catch up with it again.

From the opening showing the amazon Anita emerging from the sea and taking a shower as the maniac with the knife kills her dog and then attacks her, and that amazing dance of hers which we get to see twice, it certainly holds the attention. Gypsy Rose Lee also does a shimmy and sings “Put The Blame of Mame”. It is 77 minutes of ‘50s noir showing that dark underworld of nightclubs and lonely rooms. Yolanda wanders through it totally distracted with only that great dane for comfort… Phil Carey becomes obsessed with her, as is the doctor from the sanitarium who thinks he is controlling her.

It is really an early version of those Italian giallo lurid thrillers which came to fore in the 60s and 70s. Here Anita Ekberg is the show and she does not disappoint, with that mane of hair and her dance [its on YouTube]. If you like pulpy noir, psycho-killers and hot exotic dancers this Columbia B-movie is one not to miss, and as my friend Melvelvit says in his IMDB review, it could have influenced PSYCHO as “the Hitchcock also has a surprise ending concerning the star and a shower stabbing”, and was also shot in black and white with that pulp B-movie look!

More desert exotica in ZARAK a ’56 release by Warwick Films who seem to be an English company released through Columbia – they often featured Victor Mature and/or Anita Ekberg (SAFARI, INTERPOL, THE BANDIT OF ZHOBE etc). We get both here along with Michael Wilding (with Eunice Gayson as his wife), Bonar Colleano and old reliables like Finlay Currie. – there is also a young Patrick McGoohan. It is set on the North West Frontier between India and Afghanistan, with much crossing back and forth, as Mature is Zarah Khan who becomes a notorious outlaw after being flogged for falling for his despot father’s latest wife, Anita – who does not have much to do but looks sensational as she does a few dances, and of course with that obligatory ruby in her navel (see top). We get all the usual uprising against the British Raj with Wilding as the very correct officer and he and Zarak grow to appreciate each other before the final conflict. There are also a few more floggings. The same team of executive producer Albert Broccoli, writer Richard Maibaum and director Terence Young would provide the first Bond adventure DR NO a few years hence, also with Gayson as the first lady to hear that “Bond, James Bond” reply.

BACK FROM ETERNITY - a good 1956 entry in the "doomed flight" movies, its the one where the plane crash-lands in the jungle where head-hunters are. Can they fix the plane and get out in time as they are picked off one by one? I saw this as a kid and it was quite scary actually, so it certainly made an impression. It's a John Farrow film and his second film on the same story. The motley cast here include Robert Ryan and Anita as a shady lady down on her luck but of course she looks stunning. Rod Steiger has one of his early roles as the criminal being taken back to be tried, Keith Andes and Phyllis Kirk make up the crew and the other passengers include Beulah Bondi. Anita gets a few good moments before the exciting climax, as Steiger predictably goes into over-drive.

1 comment:

  1. Anita Ekberg! What a siren! There are some amazing pictures of her out there. No wonder guys like Power, Cooper, Sinatra etc were dating her.