Monday, May 30, 2011

Short Film: Harvey (Australia, 2002)



No 6-foot-tall invisible white rabbit here. Harvey is the name of the man down the hall, peeking through his mail slot...

This obscure short Australian student film, entitled Harvey, was written and directed by Peter McDonald, who seems never to have done anything else since this brief excursion into the deeper backwaters of Lynchville. Clocking in at a little less than ten minutes, the surreal and disturbing film is less a full narrative than a series of related vignettes telling a disquieting tale of loneliness, desire, obsession, love, hate and loss.
Nudity and blood abound in shadow-drenched B&W when the lonely Harvey (Nicholas Hope of the equally odd Bad Boy Bubby [1993 / trailer] and, somewhere, the turkey Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid [2004 / trailer]), who is seriously less than a full man, decides he needs his female neighbor (Lisa Angove) to make him a complete person. Director McDonald took full advantage digital compositing technologies when he made his film, and the effects hold up remarkably well even today.

Harvey
isn't exactly a film you want to show your kids, and while some of the visuals could even be disturbing for adults I figure that if you're here at A Wasted Life you should know what to expect. Virtually silent with an oddly creepy background melody, Harvey is an intensely symbolic film – enough so to be labeled an art horror film.

So whatever happened to Peter McDonald? Hard to believe that someone who creates a film so weird, so one-of-a-kind, so unique has never gone on to do something else...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Soylent Green (USA, 1973)




OK, I'll admit it: there are films out there I have problems watching simply because of the creative personalities involved. I really find it difficult to watch a Leni Riefenstahl film, be it one she made or one she acted in, without feeling repulsed by the fact that I'm being mesmerized and amazed by an unapologetic major player in the propaganda machine of the Third Reich and a close friend of Adolph Hitler – hell, had he but snapped his fingers, she probably would have given him a blowjob with feeling. (Who knows, maybe she did.) Likewise, Lex Barker sort makes me feel nauseous: I can't see a film he's in without thinking "That child molester!" (See: Crane, Cheryl: Detour (1988), pp. 182–187.) If he did it once, he surely did it again – and that concept sort of makes even his six-pack repulsive. And then there's Charlton Heston, a liberal in his youth who became a brain-boiled and vocal right-wing conservative once he got too old to get an erection; it's hard to watch any of his films – even the more than occasional classic he took part in – without feeling at least an occasional pang of disdain and disgust.
But who am I to let personal opinions get in the way of my viewing choices – particularly when it comes to viewing a new release of one of Chuck's three seminal science fiction films. Alongside the original Planet of the Apes (1968 / trailer) and Omega Man (1971 / trailer), Soylent Green is without a doubt one of the highlights of the twilight of the man's career as a headlining box-office draw. (Many people also see Return to the Planet of the Apes [1970 / trailer] as additional highlight, but aside from the fact that film starred more of James Franciscus's sweaty and leanly muscular torso than it did the aging and bad-toothed Heston, the film is way too fanatical to be any good – I can't watch the flick without thinking that Bin Laden would probably do the same thing today, too, if he could.*)
Soylent Green is rumored to be on its way to remake hell, so a second viewing seems in order – especially since the first (and last) time I saw it was the year it came out, way back before I even knew what men and women really do when they take a shower together.
What can I say but that the film has aged well and is still as good as I remembered it to be....
Loosely based on the 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, Soylent Green is set in 2022 NYC in a world where the greenhouse effect has long burnt the world brown, progress has bled the world dry, and mankind has played bunny rabbit to the point of total overpopulation – a point well conveyed in what is probably one of the best opening credit sequences ever made: a 2-minute long masterpiece of editing and montage created by Chuck Braverman. In 2022, fresh food is a luxury of the rich, as is running water, cigarettes, electricity, clean clothes and virtually everything else we of the western world take for granted today…
Of course, 2022 looks remarkably retro now: when they made the film, the now-dead director Richard Fleischer (the son of Max Fleischer and the director of Conan the Destroyer [1984 / trailer], Mandingo [1975 / trailer], The Boston Strangler [1968 / trailer], Fantastic Voyage [1966 / trailer], Compulsion [1959 / trailer], 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea [1954 / trailer] and The Narrow Margin [1952 / trailer] – to name but a few of his better films) went for a future-like-now look, but now the now-look of the film is already almost 40 years old. But this outdated look rather helps, for Soylent Green is as much a dystopian science fiction film as it is a crime thriller, and the oddly retro look of the film suits the detective aspect well.
Likewise, Fleischer never gets to flashy or too staid in his direction, and instead simply keeps the film moving smoothly and quickly along, pausing only long enough to occasionally offer embellishments that assist in making the world and events more believable and tragic, making the events hit closer to the bone, making the given character more fleshed out. OK, the blood does look incredibly fake even for the 70s, and the night-time streets and alleys are oddly noirishly empty for a world in which stairwells are overcrowded with sleeping itinerants and cars are used as homes, but the film is so involving and enthralling that such flaws are easily overlooked. Particularly critical folks might bitch that the film has absolutely no special effects, but hell, it really doesn't need them.
Charlton "Spare the gun, spoil the child" Heston does an exceptionally effective and believable job playing Thorne, a typically overworked and corrupt but also observant and intelligent cop sent to investigate the murder of a retired businessman named William R. Simonson (Joseph Cotten of Citizen Cane [1941 / trailer], The Third Man [1949 / trailer], Lady Frankenstein [1971 / trailer / full film] and Guyana: Cult of the Damned [1979 / trailer], amongst others). Thorne is assisted at home by his roommate research assistant Sol (E. G. Robinson of Key Largo [1948 / trailer], The Stranger [1946 / full film], Scarlet Street [1945 / full film], The Woman in the Window [1944 / trailer] and many other classics, in his last film role), and though they bicker like a couple heading for divorce their deep friendship is apparent. In the course of his investigations Thorne ends up developing feelings for the "furniture" named Shirl at Simonson's apartment (a delectable Leigh Taylor-Young of I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!** [1968 / trailer] and Looker [1981 / trailer]) and becomes convinced that Simonson was not killed in a bungled robbery but assassinated. And ain't it odd that Simonson’s bodyguard/chauffer Tab (Chuck Connors of Tourist Trap [1979 / trailer] and The Butterfly Revolution [1987 / trailer]) can afford to buy his furniture Martha (Paula Kelly of Cool Breeze [1972 / trailer], Tough Guys [1974 / trailer] and Drum [1976 / trailer]) 150-dollar jars of strawberry jam?
When Thorne asks too many questions, he gets told by his boss Chief Hatcher (Brock Peters of Slaughter's Big Rip-Off [1973 / trailer] and To Kill a Mockingbird [1962 / trailer]) to lay off the case, but that only makes Thorne more determined to find out the truth, especially after someone tries to kill him. Sol, however, is the first to discover the truth, and realizing that he can no longer live in the world as it is, he decides to "go home," a euphuism for taking advantage of the state-supplied and -assisted suicide services. Thorne arrives too late to save his friend, but for the first time in his life he sees (on film) the beauty the world once was.
And then, Thorne decides to find out what exactly happens to the body…
Soylent Green: a classic sci-fi detective film from the 70s, intelligent and well made, thought-provoking and intriguing, that remains ageless even as it ages. Well worth watching if you have not yet seen it, and well worth watching again if you have…

* This review was written before he supposedly was killed and his body was flown to Afghanistan for burial at sea. As we all know, Afghanistan has such nice beaches.

**Go here for the real recipe for Alice B. Toklas fudge, not brownies. It tastes great!

Monday, May 23, 2011

[REC]2 (Spain, 2009)




The curse of the sequel strikes again: a very good film begets a very crappy one.
Not that, per se, there is really that big of a difference between part one ([REC]) and part two ([REC]2), the latter which starts within moments of the end of the former, but seldom has a film proven itself so pointless, so unnecessary, so obviously an attempt to simply milk more money from the success of the first than [REC]2. With two more follow-up films in the planning – parts 3 ([REC] Genesis) and 4 ([REC] Apocalypse) – Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza's [REC] franchise seems on its way to becoming the least-needed and disappointingly uninteresting viral-evil franchise since Paul W.S. Anderson's money-making but dreadfully uninteresting Resident Evil franchise, a franchise that likewise began with an unexpectedly interesting first film – Resident Evil (2002 / trailer) – and then devolved into pointless idiocy quicker than the average American (North, Central and South) loses an international geography quiz.
[REC]2 is very much the Piranha II: The Spawning (1981) to Piranha (1978 / trailer), the Alligator II: The Mutation (1991 / trailer) to Alligator (1980 / trailer), the An American Werewolf in Paris (1997 / trailer) to An American Werewolf in London (1981 / trailer), the Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995 / trailer) to Candyman (1992 / trailer), the Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977 / trailer) to The Exorcist (1973 / trailer), the Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985 / trailer) to The Howling (1981 / trailer), the The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985 / trailer) to The Hills Have Eyes (1977 / trailer). In other words, [REC]2 fails in any way to be even a smidgen as interesting as the film that inspired it, and really should have been entitled Been There, Done That instead of [REC]2. (To give credit where credit is due, however, some of the previously mentioned crappy sequels are at least laughably enjoyable; [REC]2 isn't even that.)
Balagueró, like Stephan King, never misses the chance to add even the most banal indication of the supernatural, so possibly taking the cue from the numerological fun of King's 1408 (2007 / trailer), [REC]2 starts exactly – GASP!! – 13 minutes after the end of the extremely effective part one. (OK, that the film starts 13 minutes later could be just the imagination of the reviewer over at Arrow in the Head, but I for one find the film, as a whole, so half-assed that the concept becomes believable.)
Now, however, instead of a bubbly bonkable babe with enough of a prior introduction to provide a core character to care for (and a variety of other quickly dead fodder that are at least given some introduction and likable traits), we just get a bunch of interchangeable SWAT team members and a doctor/priest with a broomstick up his ass. And instead of one camera to supply the disorienting but at least centralized Blair Witch eye, we get 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 different cameras to jump around between – the result is less disorientation than total confusion and, eventually, a headache and total alienation. By the time [REC]2 finally ends, the retinal relief felt makes one as happy as one is pissed at having wasted one's time on such a piece of cinematic mierda.
Halfway through the film, Balagueró and Plaza seemed to have realized that the small group of SWAT members was decimating much too quickly and that more fodder was needed, so they came up with an additional five dead-to-be, three of which are pulled into the story from so far out of the left field that it would have made about as much sense (and been equally believable) to simply beam half of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise into the story.
And the result of adding more fodder? More running around and attacks and blood and virally infected, all in the exact same manner of the first film; without an iota of the audience's sympathy, however, it all becomes boring and disinteresting, if not simply aggravating.
[REC]2 does clarify a few things from the first film. The priest that supposedly headed for the hills after creating the virus is revealed to have never left the house: he drops into the picture at one point in a highly dead and mummified form. The boy in the attic, seen for all of five seconds in the first film, proves to be but one of many: the mummy priest seems to have had a whole trove of pre-pubescent kiddies in his attic as playthings – er, I mean, as lab rats – and they don't just inhabit the attic, but the air ducts as well (an architectural feature I don't think I've ever seen in an old multi-floor European apartment house before).
Oh yeah: [REC]2 also introduces a new aspect which is surely to be of importance in parts 3 and 4: the evil is more than just a viral form of possession, it is also a worm-thing that can inhabit the body – sort of like the mother cockroach in They Nest (2000 / trailer). That three-second scene is perhaps the only truly effective money shot of the film, but by the time it happens you really don't give flying fuck anyway.
Unlike, say, with Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978 / trailer) or Cameron's Aliens (1986 / trailer) or Robocop II (1990 / trailer) or Blade II (2002 / trailer) or Mad Max II: The Road Warrior (1981 / trailer) or Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987 / trailer) or even Final Destination II (2003 / trailer), Balagueró and Plaza do very little in way of trying to make [REC]2 stand alone as a film with personality of its own: for all intents and purposes, it is a simple and uncreative regurgitation of part one, but without most of the non-visceral features that made part one work so well such as all character-introducing aspects (or even characters) or unpredictability. If you've seen part one, part two is unnecessary in all respects; it's a bit like drinking, say, a glass of Paul Masson after a nice glass of Reserva – theoretically, both wines are made from grapes, but the same ingredients simply don't amount to the same final result.
[REC]2 is a film made for the brain dead, the undiscerning and easily pleased, for those who think a regurgitated steak and lobster with a side of Cheez Whiz is the culinary highlight of the world. [REC]2: to be avoided at all costs – unlike the film that preceded it, [REC], which is unadulterated steak and lobster without any Cheez Whiz.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Doghouse (UK, 2009)




After stumbling badly with Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes (2006 / trailer), director Jake West returns to the horror comedy genre with Doghouse, and though the film never reaches the same delirious and gore-drenched heights as Evil Aliens (2005 / trailer), Doghouse is definitely a step back in the right direction and mostly a lot of fun.
A bunch of blokes – or is that lads? – get together to help one of their own regain his joie de vivre following his divorce. Vince (Stephen Graham of Snatch [2000 / trailer]), it seems, has been in the dumps since his ex-wife divorced him. Neil (Danny Dyer of Severance [2006 / trailer]) organizes a trip to the town of Moodley where women should outnumber men 4 to 1 and Mikey (Noel Clarke of Centurium [2010 / trailer]) has an aunt at whose house they can crash. The plan, as Neil puts it, is: "When we get to the country, we are gonna piss up all the trees to mark our territory, then we are gonna find a pub and get so drunk we can't remember how to speak, and we'll communicate in grunts like Neanderthals, before passing out in the woods!"
All the lads seem to have with less than stellar relationships with their gals (with the exception of the happy lad Graham [Emil Marwa], who has less than stellar relations with his [obvious] bottom other half), but luckily the aspect of all the significant others is simply used for some introductory humor and not dwelt upon again after it serves as an expedient later on to have everyone leave their mobile phones in the van.
The chartered van from West Tours (as in "Jake West," the director) driven by the sexy driver Candy/Ruth (Christina Cole of Surviving Evil [2010 / trailer] and The Deaths of Ian Stone [2007 / trailer]) shows up and off it is to the middle of fucking nowhere. Once in Moodley, the lads head off to the local pub of the oddly deserted town for a beer, but before long they come to realize that all the women in the town have mutated into murderous, man-eating zombies – "Zombirds" – and, having killed all other men in town, now have their sights on the interlopers. The guys head for the van, but Candy has gone zombird, too, and with no way to escape they must fight for their survival. (That she even goes zombird is a flaw in the story: it is revealed somewhere along the line that the chemical agent causing the mutation requires extended dosage over time and is not viral – and therefore not in the air – so Candy's changeover after simply entering town is illogical.)
Yes, Doghouse is funny despite its overt misogyny and occasionally noticeable dislike of women, an accusation that the film could have easily avoided simply by making its lads – especially Neil – a tad less obviously sexist and so totally disrespectful of woman – although, let's face it: we men do often talk like that when alone on the range. (In the same vein, with the exception of Candy, who is actually the funniest [and sexiest] lad of the lot until she changes over, all the non-zombie women – the various significant others – are spectacular bitches.* Good for a laugh, perhaps, but a tad one-sided... although, keeping Graham in mind, one could argue that it is less women who are pains than simply "significant others" as a whole.)
The gore is present but low in comparison to the almost baroque excesses of Evil Aliens, which was, in comparison to Doghouse, extremely equal opportunity in the direction of its jokes, but for that there is still enough body fluids and visceral to satisfy the average gorehound. The group of friends does lack certain credibility – perhaps they might once upon a time have been friends, but they are too broad in type and thoroughly different to conceivably still be best buds that still enjoy each other's company – but were the group not so large and wide, there would have been far fewer jokes to laugh about. Every introduction of a new zombird, stereotypes one and all, but for Candy, is also good for a cheap laugh of recognition, and not always due to sexist or misogynist reasons. On the whole, however, the film leaves the feeling that it could have been so much more, been so much better, been so much funnier.
Doghouse particularly loses steam at the end: pretty much once Vince gives his (in the eyes of every man, truth-based) rant about sexist assholes and women, Doghouse begins to fall apart, and the ending is both forced and mildly groan-inducing. Luckily, however, up until then the visual gags and dialog and situation comedy are often and fast enough to make one's beer and the film flow quickly and easily. But unlike Evil Aliens or even the far less mean-spirited Shawn of the Dead (2004 / trailer) or the ten times gorier and funnier goldie-oldie Brain Dead aka Dead Alive (1992 / trailer), you probably won't find yourself thinking "Gee, I really want to see that again!"

* With the exception of the one-night stand Neil tactlessly disses and dumps at the start of the film – she is less a bitch than justifiably enraged.

Monday, May 16, 2011

R.I.P.: Three Women – Yvette Vickers, Dana Wynter and Dolores Fuller

Yvette Vickers
Aug 26, 1928 (probably) – Sometime in 2010

Of the three cult actresses we are paying respects to today, the passing of Yvette Vickers is perhaps the most tragic. For although "she she still got cards and letter from all over the world requesting photos," when her body was discovered on April 27, 2011, by the actress Susan Savage, she may well have lain there for up to a year. (As the LA coroner's office spokesman said: "The skin is still intact but the body is like dried skin, leathery.") Yvette Vickers was born Aug 26, 1928 (or maybe 1935 or 36, depending on the source) in Kansas City, MO. Her parents, according to Yvette, were the jazz musicians Charles and (Iola) Maria Vedder, for whom Yvette herself recorded a tributary jazz CD circa 1991 entitled A Tribute to Charles and Maria. (Across the Internet in reports of her death, mention is made of "The Chuck Vedder Trio" having released "primarily rock and roll and jazz instrumentals," but oddly enough no paper, photographic or aural documentation is offered anywhere.)
According to the website Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, by the late 1940s she was attending a Catholic high school in Los Angeles, and by the early 50s she was doing local theatre and making her first uncredited appearances as an extra in films, the most famous of which is undoubtedly Sunset Blvd. (1950), where she is notably to be seen for a few seconds giggling on a telephone at a party. In general, most of Yvette Vickers' film appearances were of the two-three-lines or somewhere in the background variety, for which her name was seldom added to the film credits and even less often to the poster.
Despite occasional stage success, she quickly slid into the nether regions of low and no-budget films where, according to the author Tom Weaver "Her performances would have been fine in much, much bigger pictures... [and] ...she gave her all in rock-bottom B-movies." She never became a household name, but over the decades since then, she gained a certain level of cult popularity as the star of two well-known cult films of her early years, Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). (A review of the former film, which was released the year that she was the Playboy centerfold for July [in a spread – from which the delicious photo above comes – was photographed by the great Russ Meyers], is found here in A Wasted Life.)
From 1963 to 1970, she made no more films, but the early 70s saw her appearing sporadically on TV. Supposedly, in the 70s, Yvette Vickers went into real estate to earn a regular income and, also, pretty much abandoned her career to care for her parents, who suffered ill health. According to Christian Vedder, a sports broadcaster in Kansas City and relative of Yvette, "[Yvette] had a very glamorous life in her youth and then, later, it took a darker turn. She became a loner and really preferred to be by herself."
A loner that lay dead on the floor of her rundown Benedict Canyon home for possibly up to a year, unmissed by fan and friend and distant relative and faceless institution (i.e., the IRS, the phone company, the bank, the electric co., etc. etc.) alike until the yellowed mail in her mailbox and the cobwebs on her door instigated her neighbor, the actress Susan Savage, to crawl through a broken window and look around. Passing boxes of junk and unopened fan letters, Savage discovered the mummified body upstairs in front of a running electrical heater.

Here is a look at the films Yvette Vickers was known to be involved in.




Sunset Blvd.
1950, dir. Billy Wilder


The film noir classic starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim. Gloria Swanson as the demented and forgotten has-been Norma Desmond living alone in a mansion with her butler (and former director and husband) Max (Erich von Stroheim). Into this cocktail comes Joe Gillis (William Holden), a would-be, broke and desperate film writer... the mixture is explosive. Yvette Vickers' three-second (uncredited) film debut is as a giggling girl on the phone at the party. You won't see her in this trailer, a trailer that doesn't do the film justice, but as the photo here shows, she is there to be seen in the film. If you haven't seen Sunset Blvd. yet, you really should.


The Sound of Fury
(aka Try and Get Me)
1950, dir. Cy Endfield

The above is the kidnapping scene from The Sound of Fury, "one of the most neglected films from the fifties" according to this review here at Noir of the Week. Written by Jo Pagano, based on his novel The Condemned, the book and the film is loosely based on the real-life 1933 kidnapping and murder of Brooke Hart of San Jose, California, which resulted in the eventual lynching of the two kidnapping suspects in St James Park. (The composite tourist photo below is of the real thing, showing the dead and pantless kidnappers blowing in the breeze.)
In regard to the film, according to A Panorama of American Film Noir 1941-1953, "The prison assault remains one of the most brutal sequences in postwar American cinema." Yvette Vickers has another uncredited appearance as an extra on the dance floor – which basically means that she is nowhere to be seen in the film.


Reform School Girl
1957, dir. Edward Bernds

This enjoyable slice of prime 1950s exploitation, directed by the man who brought you The Return of the Fly (1959 / trailer) and produced by the great Samuel Z. Arkoff, was remade for TV by Jonathan Kaplan in 1994. The original 1957 version, which was the film debut of the less attractive but far more successful Sally Kellerman, was Yvette's first screen credit (as the trouble-making bitch Roxy). The title (but little more) was taken from a pulp novel by Felice Swados and tells the tale of a good girl Donna (Gloria Castillo) who goes to juvi for not squealing on her asshole boyfriend Vince (Edd Byrnes) when he kills someone with a stolen car. To ensure Donna's eternal silence, Vince gets the rumor spread at the reform school that she is a snitch... will the others succeed in doing her in? The film also features Luana Anders as Josie Brigg.



Short Cut to Hell
1957, dir. James Cagney
James Cagney's only directorial project, based on the Graham Greene novel A Gun for Sale (which had already been filmed in 1942 as an Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake vehicle, the highly patriotic A Gun for Hire (trailer). Yvette Vickers has a small part as Daisy in this remake, a tale about a hitman who gets paid for a double-rubout with stolen money, which the police soon trace back to him. On the run and hot for revenge, he kidnaps the girlfriend of the police detective on his tail and goes after his contractors.


I Mobster
1958, dir. Roger Corman
Based on the novel of the same name by Joseph Hilton Smyth; one of Corman's less remembered films about a gang leader (Steve Cochran) going in front of US Senate subcommittee. His life and times get revealed before the Syndicate finally has "Black Frankie" Udino (Robert Strauss) rub him out. According to Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, Yvette Vickers plays "a sexy junkie".


Juvenile Jungle
1958, dir. William Witney
Robert Conrad's film debut, released on a double bill with Young and Wild (1958), which was also directed by William Witney. According to the website The Video Beat: "Scheming juvenile delinquents hatch an elaborate plan to fake the kidnapping of a rich girl to get her father to pay the ransom. Problems arise when one of the juvenile kidnappers falls for the girl and wants to call off the plan..." Yvette Vickers has an uncredited appearance at a party.



Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
1958, dir. Nathan Juran

Though the titular woman is played by Allison Hayes (as Nancy Fowler Archer), Yvette Vickers is third-billed and does fine as Honey Parker, a conniving gold digger that steals Nancy's no-good husband Harry Archer (William Hudson). Inspired by the previous year's The Amazing Colossal Man (1957 / trailer), in this version Nancy's run in with an alien force results in her growth in size. She sets out to take revenge on those who have wronged her...
A classic of bad cinema, the movie has inspired countless imitations, homages and a 1993 remake. In all truth, though the movie is highly enjoyable in its own special way, the poster is better than the film.




Attack of the Giant Leeches

The full film for your viewing pleasure. In the swamplands of Hicksville, giant leaches are sucking white trash dry and putting a serious dent in the local moonshine business. Great title, passable film. Reviewed here at A Wasted Life. A universally unseen remake appeared in 2008.



Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond

(1959, dir. John Newland)

OK, here is an episode from one of the many television series Yvette Vickers in the late 50s and early 60s. A mostly forgotten Twilight Zone style TV show, One Step Beyond ran from 1959–1961, but unlike the Twilight Zone, the tales of One Step Beyond were supposedly not fictional: the paranormal events shown are reenacted "true" stories that defied logical explanation. Yvette Vickers appeared in this episode of the first season (aired April 28, 1959), entitled "The Aerialist" and directed by the show's host John Newland, tells of a creepy experience had by circus performer. A new One Step BeyondThe Next Step Beyond – was revived for a season in 1978.



Pressure Point
1962, dir. Hubert Cornfield

Yet another forgotten message film produced by Stanley Kramer, starring Sidney Poitier and the Doctor, Bobby Darin as the Patient, and Peter Falk as the Young Psychiatrist. If the film is half as wild as the trailer, it must indeed be something to see. Yvette Vickers makes an uncredited appearance as a drunken woman. Bobby Darin got nominated for best actor for his role as the inmate.



Beach Party
1963, dir. William Asher

The first of the series of beach party movies starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, which for some inexplicable reason enjoy great popularity in the USA. Yvette Vickers makes an uncredited appearance as a beach girl extra. Robert Cummings appears as an anthropologist studying the mating rituals of US teens, Dorothy Malone is his hot-to-trot secretary. Followed over the years by Muscle Beach Party (1964 / trailer), Bikini Beach (1964 / trailer), Pajama Party (1964 / trailer), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965 / trailer), Ski Party (1965 / trailer), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965 / trailer), The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966 / trailer) and Back to the Beach (1987 / trailer) – not to mention by countless imitations and homages (our favorites being Psycho Beach Party from 2000 [trailer] and Del Tenney's trashy, fun classic The Horror of Party Beach [1964 / trailer]).


Hud
1963, dir. Martin Ritt


Yvette Vickers has a small part as Lily Peters in this Oscar-winning flick; here's a small scene with her. The website The Stir (among others) claims: "[...] Most of her scenes cut from the Paul Newman film Hud when Newman's wife Joanne Woodward objected to the smoking onscreen chemistry between Yvette and her husband." Sounds like a nice but unlikely story...



What's the Matter with Helen?
1971, dir. Curtis Harrington

A crappy trailer to a good film (crappy in that it reveals how the movie ends) starring Debbie Reynolds (Adele) and Shelley Winters (Helen) as the mothers of two Leopold and Loeb like murderers who leave their past to go to Hollywood and open a dancing school. Their lesbian-tinged relationship gets strained when Dennis Weaver begins wooing Adele and a mysterious man begins to terrorize them both, thus sending Helen of the deep end. Yvette Vickers appears briefly as Mrs. Barker, a redhead stage mom.



The Dead Don't Die
1975, dir. Curtis Harrington
A forgotten and seemingly unavailable TV movie directed by cult fave Curtis Harrington and written by Robert Bloch. In the 1930s, George Hamilton returns home from abroad in time for the execution of his brother at in the Illinois State Penitentiary for murder. Determined to clear his brother's name, his investigations lead him to Varek, the Zombie Master – who has his zombiefied brother at beck and call. Yvette Vickers has a small part as Miss Adrian. Cold Fusion Videos gives it a thumbs-up; Video Graveyard tends to dislike it.



Vigilante Force
1976, dir. George Armitage

Although not listed on most online sources as being a film in which she participated, she listed it on her CV in Tom Weaver's book Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes: Interviews with Actors, Directors, Producers and Writers of the 1940s through 1960s. Starring Kris Kristofferson and pre-bloat Jan-Michael Vincent as warring brothers and (hot and young) Victoria Principal and (hot, young and curvaceous) Bernadette Peters as the Babes, who knows where Yvette Vickers might possibly be found in this violent piece of 70s hick-town exploitation.



Evil Spirits
1990, director: Gary Graver

Yvette Vickers's return to films is also her last film appearance, a direct-to-VHS horror film ever so loosely based on the true crimes of Dorothea Puente. Here, Yvette plays a snoopy neighbor of boarding house owner Mrs. Purdy (Karen Black) who discovers that Purdy is killing her elderly tenants for their monthly social security checks. The interesting cast includes a lot of familiar names – aside from Yvette Vickers, there is also Martine Beswick, Virginia Mayo, Bert Remsen, Arte Johnson, Robert Quarry, Anthony Eisley, and Michael Berryman. Basement of Ghoulish Decadence says: "Evil Spirits is honestly one of the worst horror movies I've ever seen."




Dana Wynter
8 June 1931 – 5 May 2011

A stunningly beautiful brunette, Dana Wynter was born Dagmar Winter in Berlin, Germany, to British parents and raised mostly in Great Britain. She entered films in 1951, leaving England for the stage and TV screen of NYC before finally moving to Hollywood in 1955. She married the divorce lawyer Gregson Edward Bautzer in 1956, with whom she had a son in 1960; the couple divorced in 1981 and she never remarried. She died on May 5th in Ojai, CA, of congestive heart failure.
Dana Wynter retired from acting in 1993, but unlike Yvette Vickers she never suffered a dearth of acting jobs: from the big screen, she simply moved to the little screen. But for all her film appearances (mostly of the A-film variety, often with name directors, and many in which she was one of the headlining stars on the poster), today Dana Wynter is probably only truly remembered by anyone for one film alone – and that is the film for which we honor her here today: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which, over a half century later, still remains the best version of the story...

In all truth, it is alone for The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (and her undeniable hotness) that A Wasted Life feels to need to honor Dana Wynter here, for on the whole she did not do films of the type that interest us. But, while researching her films, a few interesting (and unknown, but for one) projects were discovered.




Invasion of the Body Snatchers
1956, dir. Don Siegel

There is a reason why this film on the American Film Institute's list of Top Ten Science Fictions Films: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the first of the four official and numerous unofficial versions of Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchers, is a masterpiece. Dana Wynter, absolutely gorgeous (and not a bad actress, either), got aboard primarily because the film's limited budget didn't allow the involvement of a bigger name. Co-starring the great Kevin McCarthy and an oddly plain Carolyn Jones (the original TV Morticia), you can't claim to be a fan of genre films if you haven't seen this film – the plot of which is much too well known to need a recapitulation here. Currently, aside from an unnecessary and distasteful colorized version, the film can be found in both its original cut (the unhappy end) and the studio-forced cut with the intro and epilogue that promises hope of a more positive outcome...


The List of Adrian Messenger
1963, dir. John Huston

Above is the short pre-credit scene to Dana Wynter's last film before moving into television, a gimmicky mystery entitled The List of Adrian Messenger. Based on a novel of the same name by Philip MacDonald, the selling point of the film when it was released was that all the guest stars (Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra and Robert Mitchum) appear in unrecognizable disguise and are only revealed at the end of the movie. As the scene above reveals, while the given star might be unrecognizable in the makeup, they also don't look very real... For a review of the film, go here to Classic Film Freak.
The credit sequence following the opening scene above is below.





If He Hollers, Let Him Go!
1968, dir.: Charles Martin
Her return to feature films, once again co-starring with Kevin McCarthy (who, as everyone knows, was the lead in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Based on the novel by Chester Himes, supposedly little of the book made it into the film, directed by the forgotten hack director Charles Martin. The film also stars Raymond St. Jacques – now that he has been dead for over twenty years, isn't it time that the perennial bachelor and childless man finally be outed and the truth be revealed about him and his different, consecutive live-in "sons" Raymond St. Jacques Jr and the model Sterling St. Jacques – and Barbara McNair, who does a nude scene in the film but, contrary to some reports, was not the first Afro American female to pose for Playboy (that honor goes to the extremely white-looking Jennifer Jackson, the centerfold of the March 1965 issue). (Ramin Setoodeh should see a couple of Raymond St. Jacques movies; maybe then he might finally realize how full of shit he is when claiming gays can't portray convincing breeders.) Roger Ebert, in his very short, three-paragraph review to the film from November 19, 1968, wrote: "If He Hollers, Let Him Go is trash. That it should be playing in a reputable first-run theater is astonishing [...]. The plot is insulting garbage. The story panders in prejudice, deliberately exploiting black-white tensions with a series of scenes in which characters pound, gouge and kick each other bloody. This is an evil film, a dishonest film, an ugly film."
Sounds like a good movie, doesn't it?



Airport
1970, dir. George Seaton
This film we have all seen – probably once too often. Airport may not be the template of the airplane disaster movie – that honor probably goes to the John Wayne film The High and the Mighty (1954 / trailer) – but it does set the template of the "star-studded" disaster flick, the flick in which every part right down to the airport toilet attendant is filled by a familiar face. As Cindy Bakersfeld, Dana Wynter gets lost in the shuffle of the known faces of all the special appearances of familiar and once familiar but now forgotten faces of 1970 that flit through the first film of the once popular franchise. Followed by Airport 1975 (1974 / trailer), Airport '77 (1977 / trailer) and The Concorde... Airport '79 (1979 / trailer) – none of which she sank to participate in. The great main theme by Alfred Newman to the film – his last job as a film composer – can be heard in the following YouTube clip.





Dolores Fuller
10 March 1923 (South Bend, Indiana) – 9 May 2011 (Las Vegas, Nevada)

When it comes to actual credited film roles, Dolores Fuller doesn't even have as many as Yvette Vickers, but as sparse as they are, what credits! (Arguably, she also didn't have as much acting talent, either.)
Born Dolores Eble, she and her family were already in California by 1933 when, at the tender age of ten, she was a (naturally uncredited) extra in the motel sequence of It Happened One Night (1934) – an event that made her decide she wanted to go into the movies. She began modeling around the age of 17, but it wasn't until 1952, at the age of 29, the divorced mother of two sons, Donald and Darrel, that she got her next known (and uncredited) part in a film, Outlaw Women. (Which is not to say she wasn't active as a TV actress/model – she was – she just wasn't on the big screen.)

On a casting call for the film Behind Locked Doors (aka The Human Gorilla, 1948 / full film) with her actress friend Mona McKinnon she met no one less than the great Edward D. Wood, Jr. As she mentioned later in an interview, "Ed always said he'd make me a star. I just didn't realize it would take 42 years."

Wood and Fuller soon moved in together and she began acting in his films, eventually appearing in his first masterpiece Glen or Glenda (1953), starring in his mildly diverting thriller Jail Bait (1954) and, lastly, being featured in his entertaining Bride of the Monster (1955). As Fuller remembers, she, not Wood, put the "bread on the table" at the time; this, combined with her losing the promised lead in Bride of the Monster to Loretta King, and Woods transvestism and increasing alcoholism, is probably what finally drove her away.

She moved to NYC to study at the Actors Studio in New York (a classmate of hers was Warren Beatty), but ended up turning to songwriting when her friend Hal Wallis, who was producing an Elvis movie Fuller wanted to be in, put her in touch with Hill & Range, a music publisher that provided Elvis with songs. Teaming up with the composer Ben Weisman, beginning with the song Rock-A-Hula Baby she went on to write not only 11 more songs for him – including Clambake and Spinout – but also did the lyrics for songs sung by Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and others. (Across the Internet, she is said to have founded Dee Dee Records and helped jumpstart the careers of Johnny Rivers and Tanya Tucker, but we could find no documentary evidence of this on the Net, other than in her interview with Tom Weaver in the book It Came From Hollywood [we could find no online access to her autobiography A Fuller Life]. We could, however, locate about four different former record labels – ranging from northern soul to punk – called Dee Dee Records.)

Dolores Fuller married the film historian Philip Chamberlin in 1988. Although she pretty much intentionally forgot her past career as a B-actress after entering the music business, she changed her opinion as Ed Wood Jr and his films gained popularity; by 2000, she could be found as a pleasant guest at conventions, where she would often show up with the angora sweater Wood had so cherished.
Fuller, in less than rosy health towards the end of her life, spent her final years in Las Vegas, where she died at her home on 9 May 2011 following a stroke.

Link


It Happened One Night
1934, dir. Frank Capra

Pulled in off the street by director Frank Capra, Fuller says she's the little girl seen playing "very briefly" in the background at the motel where Claudette and Clark have their famous motel room separated by a sheet scene. One of the last screwball comedies before the introduction of the Hayes Code, it went on to win all five major Academy Awards.



Outlaw Women
Starring the great and uniquely beautiful Marie Windsor. Dolores Fuller appears somewhere, uncredited, as one of Uncle Barney's girls in this odd western about a woman-run town.



Glen or Glenda
1953, dir. Ed Wood Jr.

Ed Wood's first film and masterpiece. Low-budget film producer George Weiss wanted to do a film on the then-current discussion surrounding Christine Jorgensen's sex re-assignment, and Wood convinced him to let him make it. Instead, Wood made one about a transvestism – an incredibly surreal and truly unique, heart-felt "docudrama" that Dolores Fuller, who plays Barbara in the movie, later claimed she found humiliating; up until it came out, she hadn't even realized he liked wearing women's clothes. Also starring Bela Lugosi, Lyle Talbot, and Edward D. Wood Jr (as "Daniel Davis").
Watch the full film below.

Glen or Glenda (1953)




Girls in the Night
1953, dir. Jack Arnold
One of the great Jack Arnold's more obscure films, Fuller is an uncredited extra during the sorority clubhouse party scene. Francois Truffaut gave it a good review in Cahiers du Cinéma in February 1954, among other things stating: "Each scene, whether it is the first (the very lively election of Miss 43rd Avenue in a neighborhood movie theater), the last (a very carefully controlled chase), or yet a prodigious dance scene in a sleazy club, makes us think that it was the one that the author treated the most lovingly; the directing of the actors (all newcomers) is perfect."
Was it all just
Gallic irony? Or perhaps it is a film worth being rediscovered?
Plot: A young couple of the slums decide to rob a supposedly rich fake beggar, but another young couple have the same idea first and accidentally kill the old man. The first couple become the prime suspects in the murder...




The Blue Gardenia
1953, dir. Fritz Lang
Fuller in an uncredited part as a Barschlampe in a B&W film noir by Fritz Lang! The Blue Gardenia is the first of his three "newspaper noirs", the other two being While the City Sleeps (1956) and idiotically-ended Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956 / trailer). Peter Bogdanovich calls The Blue Gardenia "a particularly venomous picture of American life."
Plot: A heart-broken woman wakes up after a night of drinking to forget only to find that she might be a murderer.

Here's Nat King Cole singing the title song of (and in) the film
.




Count the Hours
1953, dir. Don Siegel

Fuller is not credited and (not) seen somewhere in the background of the film as a reporter. Noir of the Week says of the film: "Resolutely a B-movie and with plot holes you could drive a truck through, Count the Hours is a white-knuckle ride that nevertheless offers many incidental pleasures."



Mesa of Lost Women
1953, dir. Ron Ormond &Herbert Tevos
This film was originally started by Herbert Tevos as Lost Women of Zarpa, but the project was abandoned. Ron Ormond bought it up and finished it a few years later to create the infamous cult film Mesa of Lost Women, considered by some to be one of the worst films ever made. Fuller, seen here to the left as she appears in the film, is the blonde "Watcher in the Woods." The soundtrack was recycled for Edward Wood Jr's Jail Bait, where it is just as out of place as here. A fun and Situationist watch, with Jackie Coogan and Lyle Talbot.

Full film:




The Body Beautiful
1953, dir. Max Nosseck
Starring the legendary Robert Clarke, Fuller, listed in the credits as "Sherry Caine," plays the character of Jane. The plot seems to involve a secretary jealous of her boss's attention to a model and who sends him a photo of herself in underwear (face hidden) that he then enters in a contest. It wins, so he must find the girl...
Director Max Nosseck was a Yiddish filmmaker who had to leave Germany due to the rise of National Socialism. He has a position in film history as having made, with the low budget Yiddish crime drama Singing in the Dark (1956), the first US American feature that uses the holocaust as plot element. He also did exploitation films like this one, which is probably not one of his better films. (He followed
The Body Beautiful up with a nudie-cutie entitled Garden of Eden (1954), supposedly the first one ever shot in color.) Going by the screenshot found online and shown here – of Miss Body Beautiful, as the film was entitled in England – not every body in the film is a beautiful one. According to imdb, the soundtrack includes a song by Fuller entitled I Never Felt This Way Before.


The Moonlighter
1953, dir. Roy Rowland
Of the four movies Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray made together, this justly obscure 3-D western by the director who helmed the great The 5000 Fingers of Doctor T (1953 / trailer) is undoubtedly the worst. Dolores Fuller is once again uncredited as Miss Buckwalter; Fred MacMurray is a cattle rustler and Barbara Stanwick his ex-girlfriend. Snore.



Playgirl
1954, dir. Joseph Pevney
An unconvincing film noir starring a thin and curvaceous Shelley Winters, with an uncredited Dolores somewhere as a girl. In NYC, the hardened Fran Davus (Shelley) causes the downfall of her naïve, fellow Nebraskan-born model roommate Phyllis (Colleen Miller) but comes around in the end to save her. Here Shelley sings a song in the film, Lie to Me. Of Playgirl, in her second biographical volume Shelley II, Ms. Winters said: "I eventually did that film ... to settle the contract. Nobody remembers it, and I have never even seen it."




Jail Bait
1954, dir. Ed Wood Jr.
"This afternoon we had a long telephone conversation earlier in the day."
Doctor Gregor (Herbert Rawlinson)

Dolores Fuller in her biggest part as Marylin Gregor in Ed Wood's most conventional film, a crime drama named after the gun ("It's jail bait"), not any underage fem fatale. Steve Reeves' first film, and he gets shirtless – the photo left, of Reeves without shorts, does not come from the film (it is probably a beefcake shot by the great Bruce of Los Angeles). Herbert Rawlinson, who plays Dr. Gregor – "Plastic surgery, at times, seems to me to be very, very complicated" – was a former leading man of the Silent Age who enjoyed a lengthy career as a character actor once sound came around; he died the day after the film was put into the can.
A Wasted Life's review of the film can be found here; the full film can be watched below.
Full film:




The Raid
1953, dir. Hugo Fregonese
Another role in which she receives no credit and is not seen somewhere in the background. The movie is said to be good, if forgotten. It stars Van Heflin, Anne Bancroft and Richard Boone, and features Lee Marvin, Peter Graves and Paul Cavanagh. The film is based on a true historic incident, the St. Albans Raid, in which a group of Confederate soldiers raided a town in Vermont. You can watch the full film here in China at 56.com.



This Is My Love
1954, dir. Stuart Heisler
Another uncredited appearance somewhere in this forgotten film from a forgotten director. Vida (Linda Darnell), a would-be writer, has an imagination that saves her from the unforgiving realities of life; her sister Evelyn (Faith Domergue), married to the bitter, crippled Murray (Dan Duryea), is stuck in her miserable life without a safety net. When Vida introduces her new beau Glenn (Rick Jason) to Evelyn, Evelyn decides she wants to have the handsome plaything herself. Lies, heartbreak and murder follow...



Bride of the Monster
1955, dir. Ed Wood Jr.


"One is always considered MAD, if one discovers something that others cannot grasp!"
Dr. Eric Vornoff (Bela Lugosi)


Need this film really be introduced? One of Ed Wood's best. Look at the poison spit between Margie (Dorothy Fuller) and Janet (Loretta King) – are they acting? Allegedly the only Wood film that enjoyed a financially successful first release.


Full film:




The Opposite Sex
1956, dir. David Miller

Yet another uncredited role for being somewhere in the background in this, the first remake of the classic Frank Capra film The Women (1939 / trailer) – this time around as a musical, and with men onscreen. Take a gander at the trailer: Any wonder no one has ever heard of it?



The Ironbound Vampire
1997, dir. Karl Petry

Thirty-nine years after her last appearance as an unseen extra in the background of a film, her position as a cult name is now firmly established alongside Ed Wood's posthumous fame – true mainstream recognition is cemented with Tim Burton's classic bio-flick Ed Wood (1994 / trailer). Dolores Fuller, as a cult figure, returns to the world of film with this direct-to-VHS home movie vampire flick made by the Newark clairvoyant Karl Petry. The Ironbound Vampire also features fellow Ed Wood alumnus Conrad Brooks. Neither Fuller nor Brooks are in this trailer of what looks to be a pretty crappy film – which, according to the blog Taliesin meets the Vampires, is exactly what the film is.



Dimension in Fear
1998, dir. Ted V. Mikels
Leave it to cult filmmaker Ted V. Mikels to cast yet another cult figure in another one of his numerous later and lesser-known direct-to-VHS films. Aside from Fuller, who appears briefly as a TV station owner, Mikels features another aged cult figure from the past, former stripper Liz Renay (the highpoint of her film career is undoubtedly John Waters' masterpiece Desperate Living [1977 / trailer]). According to the website Something Awful, "For a Ted V. Mikels movie, Dimension in Fear isn't all that terrible. For any other movie, it's a piece of shit."



The Corpse Grinders 2
2000, dir. Ted V. Mikels
The direct-to-video sequel to Mikels' infamous exploiter The Corpse Grinders (1971 / trailer), though it is less a sequel than a remake with aliens (i.e., people with fake-looking furry cat ears or people with fake-looking furry dog ears). Both Dolores Fuller and Liz Ramey appear again in this turkey, the last film appearance that Dolores would ever make – perhaps she realized that making films with Mikels was not exactly a step up from making films with Wood. The reviewer at The Video Graveyard says: "Corpse Grinders II [...] is an often painful 103 minutes I'll never get back."
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