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.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Bad Movies We Love (1): Lana, Hedy & Genghis!

Lana Turner certainly had a career resurgence in the late '50s with the success of PEYTON PLACE and then IMITATION OF LIFE after her sensational court case in '58 - then in 1960 Ross Hunter cast her in his glossy thriller PORTRAIT IN BLACK which was also quite a hit - but maybe for all the wrong reasons! Like his MIDNIGHT LACE with Doris Day the same year PORTRAIT is a daft thriller, more comic than thrilling in fact. Lana - again gowned and furred by Jean Louis - is the rich unsatisfied wife of wealthy cripple Lloyd Nolan who can give her everything but sex. They live in luxury in San Francisco. We are told right away that Lana and Lloyd's doctor Anthony Quinn are having a clandestine affair but the only way they can be together if is the doctor gives the husband a lethal injection ...

Sandra Dee and John Saxon are teamed again, as the invalid's daughter and her beau. Anna May Wong (her last role) is the sinister housekeeper, Richard Basehart is Nolan's business partner, Ray Walston the annoying chauffeur, and Virginia Grey the office secretary, who may know two much. The guilty lovers seem to have got away with their crime, but then a note arrives - someobody knows what they did. Will they be exposed or blackmailed? The red herrings pile up as Lana suffers in style. But it all hilariously over the top. They have to commit another murder which requires Lana to follow Quinn in a separate car as they dispose of the body - but Lana cannot drive! A hilarious sequence ensues ... until we get to the final twist - do not read on if you have not seen it yet: it is Lana herself who is sending the blackmail messages to keep the increasingly guilty doctor tied to her as he has been trying to get away. Then Sandra finds out and is in danger too ... delicious fun then - particularly when in a double pack dvd with Lana's 1966 sudser MADAME X ! Or, as they say over at IMDB: "Adultery, murder, blackmail, and Lana Turner, what more could one ask of a Ross Hunter production? Perhaps a good script, but that would spoil the fun. "Portrait in Black" will have lovers of camp in stitches at dialog that makes daytime soaps seem Shakespearean...Lana is the ultimate drama queen, and she is in peak form" as she suffers and emotes in different gowns and jewels in each scene. Directed by Michael Gordon. It is very 1960, I remember it's release well, being about 14.

THE FEMALE ANIMAL – From the lush Ross Hunter productions to bargain basement schlockmeiser supreme Albert Zugsmith for Hedy Lamarr's last film in 1957, this is another delirious melodrama which would in fact make a great double feature with Joan Crawford's FEMALE ON THE BEACH, with which it has certain similiarities - the beefcake there is Jeff Chandler. Here Hedy is the ageing movie goddess who picks up studio bit player George Nader, very wooden, and she installs him in her beach house, but George also meets her daughter Jane Powell – rather old for the part, but everyone’s career is in decline here – who drinks a lot. Add in Jan Sterling, as a rival actress and has-been cougar in a ratty wig and mink coat, always with a young gigolo in tow, who has some amusing lines and would like to get George for herself. Its mercifully quite short at 80 minutes but each one packs a punch. I am saving a second look at it for a nice rainy day. Director is one Harry Keller.

GENGHIS KHAN arrived at the end of the great epic era in 1965, and seemed rather tatty by comparison, but I like it a lot now. Here we find Stephen Boyd as the villain Jamuga to Omar Sharif’s mongol chief. One thing about Boyd, when playing evil he attacks it head-on with relish! Omar seems a bit too drippy to be a Mongol warlord. Francoise Dorleac is the very 60s love interest and hilarity is provided by James Mason and Robert Morley as Chinese warlords! Its certainly an epic to savour for all the wrong reasons, as the likes of Yvonne Mitchell, Telly Savalas and Eli Wallach pop up now and then and its fun to see Michael Hordern mugging as usual. Young actors of the time like Don Borisenko and Kenneth Cope are also present and Henry Levin keeps it moving. It is any better than John Wayne's THE CONQUEROR? probably not, but certainly as much fun.

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