Thursday, February 28, 2019

R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part I (1955-60)

25 Dec 1928 – 30 Jan 2019

The American thespian treasure known as Dick Miller, one of our all-time favorite character actors, entered the Great Nothingness on January 30th, 2019.
A Bronx-born Christmas Day present to the world, Miller entered the film biz doing redface back in 1956 in the Roger Corman western Apache Woman (trailer). He quickly became a Corman regular and, as a result, became a favorite face for an inordinate amount of modern and contemporary movie directors, particularly those weaned and teethed in Corman productions. (Miller, for example, appears in every movie Joe Dante has made to date.) 
A working thespian to the end, Miller's last film, the independent horror movie Hanukkah (trailer), starring fellow low culture thespian treasure Sid Haig, just finished production. In it, as in many of Miller's films, his character is named Walter Paisley in homage to his first truly great lead role, that of the loser killer artist/busboy Walter Paisley in Roger Corman's classic black comedy, A Bucket of Blood (1959). 
What follows is a multi-part career review in which we look at the feature films in which he appeared. The films are not necessarily looked at in the order of their release... and if we missed one, let us know.

Apache Woman
(1955, dir. Roger Corman)
Written by Lou Rusoff (3 Aug 1911 – 29 June 1963), who died of brain cancer during the editing of his final film, Beach Party (1963 / trailer). The title Apache Woman was reused in 1976 for the English-language release of Giorgio Mariuzzo's Spaghetti Western Una donna chiamata Apache (trailer), which does not feature Dick Miller.
Shot in ten days, Corman's Apache Woman was the first film ever released by American-International Pictures (more fondly known as AIP). Dick Miller makes his feature-film debut playing the Native American (here still called "Indian") Tall Tree, but without showing his face he more or less plays a variety of other people, especially those who die. In one scene, in fact, he (as one person) famously kills himself (as the other person). 
Trailer from Hell
to Apache Woman:
The plot, as supplied by Dennis Schwartz at Ozus' World Movie Reviews: "At a small Arizona town, the government agent Rex Moffet (Lloyd Bridges [15 Jan 1913 – 10 March 1998]) investigates a string of deadly robberies. Apaches from the nearby peaceful reservation are the prime suspects, and receive the enmity from the white locals. Joan Taylor (18 Aug 1929 – 4 March 2012) plays [Anne LeBeau,] the half-breed that Bridges falls for. Lance Fuller (6 Dec 1928 – 22 Dec 2001) plays Taylor's demented college-educated brother [Armand LeBeau], who is the mastermind of a white gang behind the robberies." Miller can be seen in the image below: he's the guy to your far left with the bowler.
"Cult director Roger Corman's low-budget ($80,000) second feature Apache Woman (1955) is an interesting and capable if fairly tame (by his standards) Western, notable for his attempt to mix action with romance, an anti-racial prejudice message, and some bright comic relief from Keystone funny man Chester Conklin (11 Jan 1886 – 11 Oct 1971) in a supporting role as the town crazy man. [derek]"
Forgotten Lance Fuller (bad guy LeBeau), by the way, is also found (and credited) in such fun stuff as the Ed Wood Jr-scripted The Bride and the Beast (1958 / trailer), Voodoo Woman (1957 / trailer), and The She-Creature (1956 / see further below). His first role, uncredited, was in the background of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943 / trailer).
Of his debut in Apache Woman, Dick Miller told AV Film in 2012: "So I was playing an Indian for [Corman]. No lines. There was a scene where a guy's coming around the corner, and he says to [co-star] Lance [Fuller], 'You got to shoot him!' Lance says, 'I'm over here at that time with the girl. Let Dick do it!' And then there was another one like that. And it was one of these things where just by chance I wound up the killer. Killed about four people in it, you know, for no reason. And I got one line, and I never knew what it meant. Lance Fuller was playing my boss, and I say, 'Good chief, you chief now.' And he doesn't know what I'm saying either. We still don't know."
Below, Joan Taylor wearing her PI Halloween squaw outfit from the film. What gams.

It Conquered the World
(1956, dir. Roger Corman)

"Okay, THIS is how you do a stellar 'lingerie-wearing girl terrified of a monster' poster. The distressed damsel looks genuinely terrified and the monster [at least on the poster] looks pretty scary. The actual film version of the baddie wound up looking like a reject from the Sid and Marty Krofft workshop [...]. [Topless Robot]"
It Conquered the World is Dick Miller's next film, and this time he has a few more lines as Sgt. Neil. Directed by Corman, the movie was half-written by Lou Rusoff. According to another early regular scribe of Corman, Charles B. Griffith (23 Sept 1930 – 28 Sept 2007), "[It Conquered the World] was my first script to get made. The original writer, Lou Rusoff, was a cousin or brother-in-law — I forget which — of [American International Pictures co-founder and producer] Sam Arkoff. He had written an incoherent script and left for Canada because his brother had died. I was brought in to fix it up in a couple of days. I got into the habit of writing very quickly without realizing it and, because I was raised in a radio family, I didn't know that you were supposed to take a long time to write a film script. [Sense of Cinema]" For whatever reason, Griffith was not credited for his script.
Trailer from Hell
to It Conquered the World:
It Conquered the World was shot in five days and, eventually, released on a double bill — anyone still remember them and/or triple features? — The She-Creature (1956 / see further below). Some ten years later, in 1966, the legendary grindhouse schlockmeister Larry Buchanan (31 Jan 1923 – 2 Dec 2004) remade the It Conquered the World as Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966 / trailer).
The plot, as given by (Re)Search My Trash: "The USA sends its first satellite into outer space from some small village in the middle of nowhere under the supervision of scientist Dr Paul (Peter Graves [18 March 1926 – 14 March 2010]), while his best friend Dr Tom (Lee Van Cleef [9 Jan 1925 – 16 Dec 1989], of Kansas City Confidential [1952]) warns those in command that the expedition will launch an alien invasion. This is the 1950s, so of course Tom is right and aliens — or rather an alien, a carrot-like monster from Venus — land on earth. But the alien soon befriends Tom and makes him a vital part of his invasion plans since he serves as the Venusians perfect agent and is actually made into a believer of collective brainwashing to prevent future wars in no time — and without having his own brain washed, actually. He soon helps the alien to spread bat-like brainwashing devices throughout his village, but only 8 of them, because the Venusians are obviously slow to produce those things. One such brainwashing device should have been attached to Paul, actually, but he was already given advance warning by Tom's weird behaviour and weirder theories and was able to destroy the one meant for him, and he even shoots his wife (Sally Fraser [12 Dec 1932 – 9 Feb 2019] of War of the Colossal Beast [1958 / trailer] and Giant from the Unknown [1958 / trailer]), who had undergone the alien treatment. Then he pays Tom a visit to talk/beat/shoot some sense into him, but Tom only comes to his senses when he hears the alien kill his wife (Beverly Garland [17 Oct 1926 – 5 Dec 2008] of D.O.A. [1949 / full P.D. movie]) via intercom. Then he takes it upon himself to destroy the Venusian which is already under attack by an entire army of eight soldiers* (commandeered by Dick Miller) — but of course it's Tom who's allowed to kill the alien and redeem himself dying a hero's death... "
* "The infamous "Sixth Man": The eight-man squad led by Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze goes to the cave and leaves the two-man bazooka team outside. Six men enter the cave, but when they reach the monster's lair, there are only five men. The missing sixth man never reappears. [imdb]"
Trailer to
The She-Creature:
"Portions of the film, including the sequence in which people rush in panic through the small town of 'Beachwood', were shot on location in Hollywood, CA's Beachwood Canyon, in front of the Beachwood Market and adjacent shops in an area called Hollywoodland. The same neighborhood had also been used the previous year as a location for Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 / trailer). [AFI]"
"What a resounding title, huh? Say it with me: It Conquered the World. Grand. Sensational, yet dignified. And far more likely to get people to come see your movie than It Conquered Beachwood, which is what this movie probably should have been called, seeing as the small, rural town of Beachwood is all 'It' manages to conquer, and only temporarily at that. Another title that should perhaps have been considered is Roger Corman Presents: How to Make 71 Minutes Seem Like Three Days. [1000 Misspent Hours]"
Remember, kiddies: Better dead than red....and better red than in Trump's bed. That said, most people view It Conquered the World as "one of Roger Corman's most-beloved 1950s drive-in double-bill quickies."
The advertisement above is for a Halloween screening of the original double feature with The She-Creature at the since-demolished Capitol Theatre of Grand Island, Nebraska.

The Oklahoma Woman
(1956, dir. Roger Corman)
Gee, another 1956 quickie directed by Corman and written by Lou Rusoff. This western is the third of the four westerns Corman ever directed (prior to the previously mentioned Apache Woman, Corman had made Five Guns West [1955 / trailer], and following Oklahoma Woman he did Gunslinger [1956], which we look at later.) The Oklahoma Woman was eventually released as part of a rather incongruent double feature with a Bruno VeSota* (25 March 1922 – 24 Sept 1976) directed cheapie, Female Jungle (1954 / full movie further below). Currently, The Oklahoma Woman has disappeared into the void, without even a trailer to be found online.
* Cult fave Bruno VeSota, film fanatics might remember, is found in any number of cult faves, including Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) and The Wasp Woman (1959), but above all plays the main heavy in the surrealist Beat Horror masterpiece, Dementia (1955 / full film).
Female Jungle:
Derek Winnert has the plot: "Richard Denning (27 March 1914 – 11 Oct 1998) stars the ex-convict gunslinger Steve Ward, who returns to Oklahoma after six years in jail to claim his homestead, a ranch left to him in a will. But there in Oklahoma the locals are fighting. His former girl Marie 'Oklahoma' Saunders (Peggie Castle [22 Dec 1927 – 11 Aug 1973]), the Oklahoma Woman, leads the bad guys, including shootist Tom Blake (Mike Connors aka Touch Connors [15 Aug 1925 – 26 Jan 2017] of Moon of the Wolf [1972]), who plan to put a tame candidate in the US Senate. They are opposed by kindly, decent politician Ed Grant (Tudor Owen [20 Jan 1898 – 13 March 1979]) and his sweet daughter Susan Grant (Cathy Downs [3 March 1926 – 8 Dec 1976])." Dick Miller, credited as Richard Miller, appears as the bartender working in the Bad Gal's bar.
"[…] The Oklahoma Woman's poster stands out for a pair of reasons and we don't mean boobs. Well, technically, we do. You don't see a lot of western posters with women whipping men or two women either fighting or making out. And this was in the '50s! We fully support these elements making a comeback in modern westerns. [Topless Robot]"
While hardly an early women's lib tract, this obscure and difficult to find movie does stand out as a rare western in that the lead bad guy is a bad girl, and the lead good girl has a fistfight with the bad girl at the end of the movie to get the info she needs to save her man… As Once Upon a Time in a Western says, The Oklahoma Woman "is unique for having two females who aren't afraid to wield a gun or a whip in lead roles."
Lead man Richard Denning, by the way, was the husband of the great Scream Queen Evelyn Ankers (17 Aug 1918 – 29 Aug 1985), "the only actress to appear in a Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein film. She played Gwen Conliffe in The Wolf Man (1941 / trailer), in Son of Dracula (1943 / trailer) she played Claire Caldwell and she appeared in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942 / trailer) as Elsa Frankenstein."
Bad Gal Peggy Castle, born Peggie Blair in Virginia and crowned "Miss Cheesecake" by the Southern California Restaurant Association in 1949, came to rely on the bottle a bit too much and died by the age of 45 from cirrhosis of the liver; her body was discovered by her third ex-husband, William McGarry, on 11 August 1973.

(1956, dir. Roger Corman)

Screenplay by Charles B Griffith and Mark Hanna (12 Jan 1917 – 16 Oct 2006); year's later, Hanna co-wrote the entertaining Blaxploitation flick, Slaughter (1972 / trailer). Gunslinger only made it to Germany in 1961, where the poster (above) was supplied by Klaus Dill (6 Oct 1922 – 19 Feb 2000). 
Trailer from Hell 
to Gunslinger:
"Sexy B-movie icons Beverly Garland and Allison Hayes enthusiastically enact a Johnny Guitar-like (1954 / trailer) enmity in Roger Corman's offbeat feminist western-cum-Greek tragedy. The climax is a sort of a mini-budget Duel in the Sun (1946 / trailer)." Gunslinger is possibly the first western to have a female marshal.

Male lead: He of the legendary third leg, John "The Whopper" Ireland (30 Jan 1914 – 21 March 1992).* Dick Miller, credited as Richard Miller, plays Jimmy Tonto — spoiler: Bad Gal (Allison Hayes) shoots him in the back and dead. In fact: "Just about everyone in town ends up getting shot, ha ha! There's not much of a town left by the time Sheriff Bev canters her way out past the bodies of Corman stock players that are stacked like cordwood along the roadside! [Ha ha, it's Burl!]"
* As we mentioned at R.I.P. Umberto Lenzi, Part II: 1964-68, "According to forgotten actress Joanne Dru (31 Jan 1922 – 10 Sept 1996), Ireland's 'staunch Republican' wife from 1949 to 57, Ireland was hung like a horse: 'I got John, and he ruined me for all other men. […] John, I'm sure, had more than Monty [Clift], Marlon [Brando] and Jimmy [Dean] put together.' [Brando Unzipped, by Darwin Porter]"
Derek Winnert once again has the plot: "Heroine Rose Hood (Beverly Garland) turns into temporary Texas small town marshal after her husband is ambushed and gunned down. Then she is the target for quick-draw hired gunfighter killer Cane Miro (John Ireland of Salon Kitty [1976]), hired by gorgeous but nasty saloon owner Erica Page (Alison Hayes [6 March 1930 – 27 Feb 1977], seen below not from the movie)." Winnert goes on to share with us that "[…] Hayes broke her arm when she fell off a horse during the filming. Garland claimed it was not an accident and that she intentionally slid from her horse to get out of the film. Corman also shot a couple of close-ups of Hayes while they were waiting for her ambulance."
As Video Vacuum points out, Gunslinger is a "feminist western": "It features a female lead that is just as tough and quick on the draw as just about anyone in westerns at the time. Beverly Garland gives one of her best performances as the wife of a small town marshal (William Schallert [6 July 1922 – 8 May 2016]). He gets shot in the back in the opening scene and instead of grieving; Beverly immediately picks up his rifle […]. […] What's cool about Gunslinger is that no one really questions her. They accept Garland as a superior, or at the very least, an equal. […] The always awesome Allison (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman [1958 / trailer]) Hayes plays the villainess, a saloon owner who is plotting to take over the town if the railroad comes through. […] Garland and Hayes are equals in this. They play off each other rather well and both of them get lots of opportunities to shine. In your typical western, these roles would've been played by men and they would've been fighting over the affections of a woman. Here, John Ireland is the object of their affection, and since he is just as good of a shot as Garland is, it offers a unique dynamic than your average oater."
Unlike Video Vacuum, most people are less enamored by the movie and tend to think more like Film Fanatic, which calls the final shoot out "(unintentionally) humorous" and says: "Roger Corman's penchant for spending as little time and money as possible while churning out passable entertainment occasionally yielded unexpected cult hits […]. Just as often, however, his films show ample, unfortunate evidence of his slapdash approach — and Gunslinger is one of these instances. Despite a relatively intriguing premise […], this movie is simply a mish-mash of poor acting, sloppy continuity and editing, and a convoluted storyline. Whatever pathos could have been generated between Garland's character and the hitman she falls in love with (Ireland) is sublimated into silliness."
Despite what some websites claim and the sharing of a main character who's a widow seeking revenge, Hannie Caulder (1971 / trailer) is anything but a loose remake of Gunslinger. Gunslinger itself, on the other hand, if we are to believe what co-scribe Charles B Griffith says at Senses of Cinema, is a loose remake of an earlier film: "[Roger] took me out to see Three Hours to Kill [1954 / pointless scene] with Dana Andrews and said to me, 'I want you to do the same picture but with a woman as the sheriff'." 

Carnival Rock
(1957, dir. Roger Corman)

Carnival Rock is a remake of a "TV play" entitled Carnival at Midnight, directed by John R. Smight (9 March 1925 – 1 Sept 2003), the man behind that classic "bad movie", Damnation Alley (1977 / trailer) and the odd black comedy No Way to Treat a Lady (1968 / TV promo).

Trailer to
Carnival Rock:
The original TV production of the tale aired as an episode of Climax! (1954-58) on 3 January 1957. That episode, like this movie, was written by Leo Lieberman (12 March 1916 – 31 March 2000), who five years earlier had written that cultural milestone known as Bonzo Goes to College (1952 / trailer).
Carnival Rock features musical performances by The Platters, David Houston, Bob Luman and His Shadows (NOT the British group of the same name), and some long-forgotten group called the Blockbusters. The movie is also noteworthy for being the first Roger Corman movie to feature cult actress Susan Cabot (9 July 1927 – 10 Dec 1986),* "Miss Motion Picture Sweater Girl of 1951", the later star of Corman's The Wasp Woman (1959), which was also her last feature film role.
* Susan Cabot was rather popular with the men, and among her well-publicized relationships was one with King Hussein of Jordan (14 Nov 1935 - 7 Feb 1999), which ended when he found out that she was Jewish. As per The Jewish Chronicle]: "The actress [Cabot] dated the King for seven years and gave birth to their son Timothy in 1961. He was adopted by her second husband, Michael Roman, after they married in 1968 and took his surname. Timothy Roman, who was born a dwarf, eventually grew to 5'4” due to weekly injections of a hormone derived from the pituitary glands of cadavers. He killed his mother in 1986. She was beaten to death with a weightlifting bar. Her son was charged with involuntary manslaughter and convicted in 1989. During the trial he said that she had attacked him and his reaction was due to the drugs he was forced to take. Chester Leo Smith, a lawyer in the case wrote in court filings that Ms Cabot was found to have received $1,500 a month from the King. 'For better or worse, it looks like child support,' he said. King Hussein married three more times after his relationship with the actress. His official biography does not mention Cabot or his illegitimate child." Timothy died at the age of 38 on 22 Jan 2003; in 1998, when interviewed on E! Mysteries & Scandals, Timothy "I never intended to hurt my mother."
Dick Miller plays Christy's loyal right-hand man, Benny. Brian G. Hutton (i.e., Stanley) went on to greater success as a director than he had as an actor, and even directed a few genre favorites, namely two of the few war flicks that we here at a wasted life truly enjoy: Where Eagles Dare (1968 / trailer) and Kelly's Heroes (1970 / trailer). Nevertheless, it has been said that "Hutton quit directing in the mid-80s to become a plumber. [Pink Smoke]"
Full Public Domain Film:

The German website Tofu Nerd Punk rates Carnival Rock "6 von 10 traurige Clowns", or "6 out of 10 Sad Clowns". The plot description at TV Guide gives an idea of why: "Nightclub owner Christopher 'Christy' Cristakos (David J. Stewart [8 Jan 1915 – 23 Dec 1966]) loves singer Natalie Cook (Susan Cabot), who loves gambler Stanley (Brian G. Hutton [1 Jan 1935 – 19 Aug 2014]). Stanley wins Cristakos's club cutting cards, but Cristakos stays on as a clown between rock acts just to be near Natalie. The finale has Stanley and Natalie married and Cristakos fired." Nothing sadder than the tears of a clown. 
David Houston performing
One and Only:
Among the music acts is also the county music singer David Houston (9 Dec 1935 – 30 Nov 1993), a fact we only mention as an excuse to embed him performing One and Only above, from the film, and because he also sang in the next movie as well (which does not feature Dick Miller anywhere).
As the page above, which comes from the weekly program of the former Gainsville Drive-In Theatre, reveals: Carnival Rock was part of a double bill with (the now public domain flick) Teen Age Thunder (1957). Written by Rudy Makul (20 July 1920 – 22 Feb 2006), perennial second-unit director Paul Helmick (24 Jan 1919 – 23 May 2006) directed. Helmick's only known other feature-film directorial credit followed three years later: Thunder in Carolina (1960 / scene) — despite the similar name, not a sequel.
Teen Age Thunder's basic plot: "A father's lack of understanding of his son's enthusiasm for drag strip racing widens the breach between them. The stars are Charles Courtney (23 July 1930 – 19 Jan 2000 [suicide] of the classic disasterpieces, Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula [1966 / trailer] and The Food of the Gods [1976 / trailer]) and Robert Fuller." Or, if you prefer: "Eighteen-year-old Johnnie (Courtney), chafing under his father's (Tyler McVey [14 Feb 1912 – 4 July 2003] of Night of the Blood Beast [1958 / trailer] and Attack of the Giant Leeches [1959]) authority, seeks to get a job, buy a hot-rod, woo his girl (Melinda Byron [20 Oct 1936 – 30 May 2018]), and stand up to the local bully (Fuller, also found in The Brain from Planet Arous [1957 / trailer] and What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? [1969 / trailer])."
Teen Age Thunder
Full movie:

Sorority Girls
(USA, 1957)

"The dark and sleazy side of sorority life." A camp classic that is right up there with Mommy Dearest (1981 / trailer) for fun and campy sustained bitchiness. Aka Sorority House, and released in Great Britain as The Bad One.
Dick Miller plays Mort, and while his character is not the lead character — and doesn't really fit to the college settings — he is the main male character, made it onto the posters, and is even billed second in the credits. Leo Lieberman supplied the story, and Ed Waters (23 Sept 1930 — 30 Oct 2004) the screenplay. Sorority Girls was originally released as part of a double feature with Edward L. Cahn's Motorcycle Gang (1957 / trailer).
Trailer to 
Sorority Girls:
Blogster Derek Winnert quotes Corman as having said, "Sorority Girl was a good idea, but the script didn't turn out too hot. Despite a few gaping plot holes, we managed to get a lot of really good performances out of our young actresses. Cabot was simply great." The last is a sentiment shared by many.
In his book Spinegrinder: The Movies Most Critics Won't Write About, Clive Davies has the plot and some relevant commentary: "Sabra (Susan Cabot) is a spoilt, lonely and vindictive rich college girl who vents her frustration by abusing a pledge girl (Barbara Crane of Unwed Mother [1958 / trailer]). Unable to connect with her cold, widowed mother (Fay Baker [31 Jan 1917 – 8 Dec 1987] of She Devil [1957 / trailer] and The House on Telegraph Hill [1951 / trailer]) (their dinner scene together is an icy bitch-fest), she tries to hurt those around her with gossip and blackmail, almost resulting in a pregnant girl's (June Kenney of Bloodlust! [1961]) suicide. Her nemesis is a serious member of the student council (Barboura Morris [22 Oct 1932 – 23 Oct 1975]) with her own secrets (and she's dating Dick Miller!). Corman's answer to the major studio The Strange One (1957 / some scene) is a slight but quite effective melodrama, with good acting (Cabot is excellent), interesting characters and dialogue. [sic] And check out Bill Martin's superb opening credit sequence [below]."
Credit sequence of 
Sorority Girl:
"In Sorority Girl (1957), Martin* uses a series of expressive charcoal drawings to illustrate the struggles of the film's protagonist. Its tone is dark and foreboding, with timed cross-dissolves between the drawings alternately depicting her as an outsider and as a monster. Secondary animation and graphic overlays further reinforce the premise, complemented by a haunting score from composer Ronald Stein — often referred to as 'Corman's Bernard Hermann'. [The Art of Title]"
* Martin also did the credit sequences for Carnival Rock and, in 1958, Cry Baby Killer [trailer], Teenage Caveman [trailer] and Machine Gun Kelly [trailer]... and then seems to have disappeared. Anyone know what happened to him?
Over at Amazon, someone named Thomas Gabriel (who gave the film 5 out of 5 stars) says, "For those Corman freaks out there, this film marks the first teaming of Corman regulars Susan Cabot and Barboura Morris [...]. The two beauties make a solid team in this low-budgeter, an 'expose' of sorority girls (what else) at an unnamed college/university in Southern California. [...] Just the usual campus hi-jinks circa 1957, right? [...] All in all, a fun low-budgeter to watch when you're in the mood for 1950s exploitation melodrama. This brisk, hour-long 'B' is more fun to watch than a lot of big-budget 'A' flicks from the same era with the same kind of subject material (which take themselves much more seriously). It is directed with vigor and a sure hand by Corman, who makes the most of the very sparse sets with careful camera angles and lighting, and keeps the story going so we don't want to hit the Pause button and go get a snack."
Cinema Gonzo might add, "For a film from 1957 about a 'bad girl' (Sabra) manipulating others for her own selfish gain, you might expect a 'bad seed'-esque portrait of an evil monster. However, what we have here is a tragedy borne out of what Sabra thinks it means to be human, like a robot feebly attempting to blend in with the human race. Director Roger Corman, utilizing the bluntness of characterization and plot machinations of exploitation films of the time, manages to craft a fairly realistic portrait of a sociopath, even by modern Hollywood standards."
Sorority Girl was remade for television in 1994: Uli Edel's Confessions of a Sorority Girl (trailer), one of series of ten B-movie remakes — two of which, Allan Arkush's Shake Rattle and Rock! (scene with a future star) and Joe Dante's Runaway Daughters (trailer), also feature Dick Miller — for a TV series called Rebel Highway.

Rock All Night
(1957, dir. Roger Corman)

Supposedly one of the director's favorites among his early films and one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite Roger Corman movies. When originally released, Rock All Night was part of a double bill with Edward L. Cahn's Dragstrip Girl (1957 / trailer).
Like Carnival Rock, Rock All Night is based on a television play, this time an episode from The Jane Wyman Show (1955-58) entitled Little Guy Dick and written by David P. Harmon (3 Sept 1919 – 28 Aug 2001). In Corman's Rock All Night, the "Little Guy" character, called Shorty in both versions, is played by Dick Miller — written large on the poster!
Charles B. Griffith, who fleshed out the final screenplay, said about the movie: "I wrote it in one day. What happened was that there was this 30-minute teleplay entitled The Little Guy and it had won an Emmy, so Roger threw me that and said, 'We're shooting Monday.' This was a Friday, you know! So I had to stretch this out to feature length. I cut it up with a pair of scissors, this original screenplay, and added new characters like Sir Bop, which was to be played by Lord Buckley (5 Apr 1906 – 12 Nov 1960), but Mel Welles (17 Feb 1924 – 19 Aug 2005, future director of Lady Frankenstein [1971]) ended up playing it because Buckley was out of town. Mel wrote his own 'hiptionary' for sale in the theatre to go with it. [Senses of Cinema]" 
Full Movie:
At All Movie, Hal Erickson has the plot: "Its title notwithstanding, Roger Corman's Rock All Night is a tense little hostage melodrama. Corman regular Dick Miller stars as Shorty, a much-maligned hanger-on at the Cloud Nine tavern. Shorty's hotheaded pugnaciousness comes in handy when a pair of gunmen (played by Russell Johnson — yes, 'The Professor' on Gilligan's Island [1964-67]! — and Jonathan Haze) invade the Cloud Nine and terrorize the patrons. Mel Welles [...] is a riot as a hip-talking showbiz agent. [...]"
"[Rock All Night] is probably the best of the low budget rock n roll revue films of the era. For one, instead of the normal innocuous wraparound narrative that these films carried, Corman's flick goes from performance film to a tense barroom siege story. If you ever wanted to see Dick Miller (as the hero) square off with psychotic killer Russell Johnson (the Professor from Gilligan's Island!), this hour-long noir divergence is the film for you. [...] One of the most entertaining films from Corman's early period. [Teenage Frankenstein]"
Go to This Island Rod for a somewhat more intellectual viewpoint of why Rock All Night is a decent flick. 
From the soundtrack,
The Blockbusters doing 
Rock All Night & I Wanna Rock Now:

The Undead
(1957, dir. Roger Corman)

Dick Miller appears as a leper in medieval France (?) in The Undead, an early and obscure Corman sci-fi horror mélange that bears similarity (but predates) his later Poe adaptations. Miller's leper ends the film healed, but bearing the mark of the devil.
For all The Undead's obscurity, and the ignobility of being targeted by Mystery Science Theater 3000, the movie tends to prompt positive opinions from most of those who watch it. The poster sure ain't shabby, either: "There's something very simple and scary about the poster for 1957's The Undead (one of Corman's nine movies released that year). The looming skeletal figure plus the tied-up woman create a sense of claustrophobia and looming terror that really draws you in. [Topless Robot]" 
to The Undead:
Shot in 6 or 10 days (depending on the source) with a budget of $70,000 on a soundstage in a converted supermarket, it was first released as part of a double bill with Edward L. Cahn's Voodoo Woman (1957 / trailer below), Marla English's last movie. (Only 21 years old at the time, she subsequently chose marriage over her B-film career. That's her below, not from the movie.)

Once again, the screenplay was supplied by Mark Hanna and Charles B. Griffith. At Senses of Cinema, Griffith says: "[The Undead] was originally called The Trance of Diana Love. Roger [Corman] said to me, 'Do me a Bridey Murphy picture.'* And I told him that by the time Paramount finishes theirs, ours will fail. At the time, everybody was saying that they were making a bad picture. He just said that we'd get ours ahead of theirs and clean up. So I did Trance of Diana Love [...]. It was in iambic pentameter and I had to rewrite it after it was ready to shoot because somebody told Roger that they didn't understand it. Roger would give it to anybody to read or anybody out on the street. He'd send girls out with scripts. [...] And then get panicky and change everything."
* "Bridey Murphy" is mostly forgotten by now, though the book can still be found. "In 1952, Colorado businessman and amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein put housewife Virginia Tighe (Ruth Simmons) of Pueblo, Colorado, in a trance that sparked off startling revelations about Tighe's alleged past life as a 19th-century Irishwoman [named Bridey Murphy] and her rebirth in the United States 59 years later. Bernstein used a technique called hypnotic regression, during which the subject is gradually taken back to childhood. He then attempted to take Virginia one step further, before birth, and was astonished to find he was listening to Bridey Murphy. [...] The case was investigated by researchers and concluded to be the result of cryptomnesia. [Wikipedia]" The book was filmed as The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956 / scene) and "inspired" I've Lived Before (1956 / full film)... not to mention the Ed Wood Jr-scripted The Bride and the Beast (1958 / trailer). It also was the basis of some pop songs, including For the Love of Bridey Murphy and Do You Believe in Reincarnation?, and joke recordings like The Quest for Bridey Hammerschlaugen.
The Spinning Image, which says that The Undead "surely ranks among the most audacious and inventive horror movies of the fifties", has the plot: "Arrogant psychic researcher Quintus Ratcliff (Val Dufour [5 Feb 1927 – 27 July 2000]) picks up sassy streetwalker Diana Love (Pamela Duncan [28 Dec 1924 – 11 Nov 2005]) to serve as the test subject for a radical experiment. Using hypno-therapy, Quintus transports Diana's subconscious mind back in time for a glimpse into the life of her Medieval ancestor, Elaine (Pamela Duncan, again) who stands wrongfully accused of witchcraft. Elaine's sweetheart, Pendragon (Richard Garland [7 July 1927 – 24 May 1969] of Mutiny in Outer Space [1965 / trailer]) stands ready to rescue her, but sexy, shapeshifting witch Livia (Allison Hayes) and her hideous imp (Billy Barty [25 Oct 1924 – 23 Dec 2000] of Masters of the Universe [1987 / trailer]) have designs on selling his soul to Satan (Richard Devon [11 Dec 1926 – 26 Feb 2010]). [...] Watch out for the three leggy Vampira look-alikes performing an interpretive dance number at Satan's climactic shindig."
"The Undead is only a horror movie in the loosest sense of the phrase, really more a playful fantasia on the traditional imagery of folk-tale mysticism with its parade of Halloween-party witches, pseudo-Arthurian setting, and pitchfork-wielding devil collecting souls with his ledger book. Incredibly cheap and lacking drive, The Undead nonetheless betrays the antic intelligence of Corman and his regular screenwriting collaborators Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hannah, in a film that feels something like a rough draft for The Twilight Zone, down to the blackly comic twist ending. [This Island Rod]"
"[The Undead] is unlike any movie ever made, and certainly may be the most original to come from Corman and Charles B. Griffiths. At first, the past-life angle seems like a frame to tell a story of witchcraft, but it isn't; it ends up playing an unexpectedly active part in the storyline at about the halfway point, and from there the movie veers off into some fascinating directions. [...] It's peopled with interesting characters and familiar faces; Mel Welles practically steals the movie as Digger Smolkin, who spends most of his time singing nursery rhymes with changed lyrics (usually about coffins), but Alison Hayes* is also on hand, as well as Bruno Ve Sota [...]. This is definitely one of the oddest horror movies ever made. [Fantastic Movie Musings & Ramblings]"
* The Undead was the second and last picture the delectable Alison Hayes (born Mary Jane Hayes), above from the movie, made with Roger Corman. Hayes, "a statuesque 5'8"," later achieved eternal cult fame as the buxom title character of Attack of the 50 Ft Woman (1958 / trailer), aka "fifty feet of feminine pulchritude". According to B Movie Babes, she's the one who first said the famous quote, "Who do I have to fuck to get off this picture?" Hayes represented Washington D.C. in the 1949 Miss America pageant, which she used as a springboard to local television and then Hollywood. "The last decade of [her] life found Allison fighting sickness. Seems that some food supplement that she ingested for many years resulted in fatal leukemia. She made personal efforts to inform the public, in such a way that the American government changed its laws on the subject. Her physical appearance changed drastically and she passed away at only 47 years of age. A tragedy. [Cult Sirens]"
The advertisement above is for the original double feature screening with Voodoo Woman at the Grand Theatre of Grand Island, Nebraska.
Trailer to
Voodoo Woman (1957):

Not of this Earth
(1957, dir. Roger Corman)
One of the most popular of Roger Corman's early science fiction cheapies, which also explains why it's been remade so often. Written by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna, it was originally released as a double feature with Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957 / trailer further below).
Trailer from Hell
to Not of this Earth:
The first remake came 31 years later in 1988 (trailer); directed by Jim Wynorski, the cheap-feeling but mildly funny color movie is perhaps most notable for the picturesque way Traci Lords' famous floppies flop during her totally gratuitous and enjoyable nude scenes. (Wynorski's Not of this Earth was Nora Louise Kuzma's first non-porn lead role.) Seven years later, in 1995, Terence H. Winkless shot a version of Not of this Earth starring Michael York (full movie) for the Showtime series Roger Corman Presents (1995-96), which was followed four years later by Jon Purdy's direct-to-video version, Star Portal (trailer).
According to scriptwriter Charles B. Griffith, "After we did Gunslinger, I went in and said [to Roger Corman], 'Why don't we do a science fiction film?', and he gave me the okay. And that's when I came up with Not of this Earth. […] Dick Miller played the vacuum cleaner salesman in Earth, which I originally wrote for myself. [Senses of Cinema]" (Perhaps it should be mentioned here that the vacuum cleaner salesman dies.)
Griffith later expanded on the film, "During the production of Not of This Earth, I was married to a nurse, and she helped me do a lot of medical research. I remember how we cured cancer in that script. Somehow the film was a mess when it was finished. About the time we saw Gunslinger, my wife was so shocked at the difference between the script and the picture that she never went to see another movie of mine. [UC Press Ebooks]"

"No nurse would dream of earning more than $200 a week. It's ridiculous."
Nadine Storey (Beverly Garland)

The plot: "A strange man named Paul Johnson (Paul Birch [13 Jan 1912 - 24 May 1969] of Queen of Outer Space [1958 / trailer]) comes to a blood researcher Dr. F. W. Rochelle (William Roerick [17 Dec 1911 – 30 Nov 1995] of God Told Me To [1976 / trailer]) for a transfusion. Hypnotizing him, he gets him to give up his nurse Nadine Storey (Bevery Garland) to help him with his research. With a police officer named Harry Sherbourne (Morgan Jones [15 June 1928 – 13 Jan 2012]), Nadine is out to find the secret of Paul Johnson. Johnson is an alien that's trying examine Earth for the effects of human blood on his dying race… will he get the samples he needs and if he does is Earth doomed? [Basement Rejects]" 
The double-feature trailer:
"A character actor who played few leads, Birch is very good playing an alien being unfamiliar with Earth customs, yet intelligent enough to fake it pretty well. He also didn't get along with Corman and walked off the picture during production (actor Dick Miller says it was because of Birch's drinking). Lyle Latell, who receives screen credit, conspicuously doubled Birch in many scenes. Johnson's mission is to find out whether human blood is fit for Davannan consumption. […] He uses a transporter to communicate telepathically with his world and send Earth blood samples home. Johnson doesn't literally suck blood. He uses a contraption housed in a metal briefcase to drain his victims' blood and store it in transparent tubes. He's one of cinema's most interesting vampires, subverting most of the clichés that go along with the genre. After he's through sucking his victims dry, he shoves the corpses into the cellar's furnace. Though it isn't a comedy, Not of this Earth is notable for its occasional dry humor. [Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot]"
"All in all though, this is a much stronger version of the film. The dialogue Beverly Garland was given was stronger. Birch makes a fine Johnson and there is an earnestness with the whole film. The soundtrack lends the film a paranoid edge, the sensitivity Johnson has to loud noises is used more appropriately in the ending and the whole thing is played with an earnestness that belays the cheese that would garnish the future versions and make this a great piece of 50s sci-fi. [Taliesin Meets the Vampires]"
Film Fanatic probably concurs, "[Not of this Earth] speeds along at a fast clip, barely giving us a chance to chuckle over the campy effects (note the brief, incongruous presence of a jelly-fish-like predator used to kill one nosy character) and gaping plot holes […]. Such quibbles aside, we're kept in suspense throughout about the true nature of Birch's mission — and once he encounters a fellow alien (Anne Carroll [7 Oct 1930 – 30 April 2017]) in distress, our sentiments towards this presumed villain palpably shift. Watch for Garland's especially camp-worthy response when she learns who Birch really is: this is mid-century female strength and presence-of-mind at its best!"
"How do you make aliens seem alien without expensive makeup effects?" asks the blogspot Cult Movies, only to answer: "You give them strange eyes, mind-control powers and telepathy, all of which have the advantage of costing nothing. You also give the aliens a teleportation device, much cheaper than having to provide spaceship models! None of that would suffice without the right acting performances, and that's where Paul Birch comes in. He's disconnected enough to seem truly alien and he's sinister whilst also being rather tragic. Anna Lee Carroll is equally effective as a Davana woman trying to flee her doomed home planet."
The advertisement above is for the original double feature screening with Attack of the Crab Monsters (trailer further above) at the since-demolished Capitol Theatre of Grand Island, Nebraska.

Naked Paradise 
(1957, dir. Roger Corman)

"Then-girlfriend Beverly Garland stars in the fourth of five pictures for Roger," yet another Corman cheapie with a screenplay by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna. Rereleased in 1960 as Thunder Over Hawaii. Not to be mistaken with the Italian film Velluto nero (1976), aka Naked Paradise …. aka Black Emmanuelle White Emmanuelle (trailer).
Shot on location back-to-back with She Gods of Shark Reef (trailer), Naked Paradise was originally released as part of a double bill with Edward L. Cahn's western Flesh and the Spur (full movie), and then later with Voodoo Woman (1957 / trailer). The original story was supplied by Robert Wright Campbell (9 June 1927 – 21 Sept 2000), the brother of actor William Campbell; among RWC's later Corman movies, The Masque of the Red Death (1964).
Trailer from Hell
to Naked Paradise:
The complete plot, with spoilers, as currently (4 Feb 2019) found at Wikipedia: "Duke Bradley's (Richard Denning) boat is hired to sail a group to the Hawaiian Islands. His passengers include Zac Cotton (Leslie Bradley [1 Sept 1907 – 20 July 1974]), alcoholic girlfriend Max McKenzie (Beverly Garland) and a pair of thugs, Mitch (Dick Miller) and Stony (Jonathan Haze), who following a luau, without Duke's knowledge, rob a plantation of its payroll. The gang intends to continue on to another island in the South Pacific, but tempers flare after Max is struck by Zac, which causes Duke to quit, demanding payment. As he is about to set sail, Max asks to go with him, determined to change her life. A hurricane hits, however, forcing Duke to turn back. On arrival, he is beaten unconscious by Mitch and Stony while the woman is roughed up by Zac. Zac intends to make off with Duke's schooner and takes a local girl, Lanai (Lisa Montell of World without End [1956 / a trailer]), as a hostage, shooting Stony, who objects to this. A fight ensues in which Duke triumphs after Zac is killed by the boat's propeller. Duke and Max sail away."
In his interview at Senses of Cinema, Charles B. Griffith mentions "[Naked Paradise] was a Bobby Campbell story that I re-wrote. It became a structure for a few films afterwards including Atlas (1961), Beast from Haunted Cave (1960 / trailer) and Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961 / trailer). They were all basically Naked Paradise — all variations on that same structure, almost scene-by-scene, but with different dialogue and different characters."
"A lot of action and some good photography of the Hawaiian sights make this passable fare. Alvin Kaleolani [Isaacs] (1904-1984) provides some native songs, helping to create a little island flavor. [TV Guide]"
Thunder Over Hawaii / Naked Paradise is one of the many Corman movies that has yet to get a DVD release, and probably won't: "Research soon showed that the rights belong to a lady called Susan Hofheinz […]. Initially she was a minor actress in the sixties under the name of Susan Hart, a decorative presence in films like The Slime People (1963 / trailer), Ride the Wild Surf (1964 / trailer), or Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965 / trailer), but then she married James H. Nicholson, who had co-founded AIP with Samuel Z. Arkoff. She inherited partial rights to 40 movies after his death in 1972 and later gained sole ownership of a quarter of them when they were split up between the various partial owners, who also included the Arkoff estate, Orion Pictures and Herman Cohen. [...] Bizarrely, Hofheinz appears to see her rights less as an opportunity to earn money by releasing these films into the wild and more as a big stick with which to attack anyone with an interest. There are wild stories that suggest that she has spies roaming around at conventions, vehemently seeking out anyone who might possibly be infringing on her copyrights, not merely by illegally screening the movies but even by referencing them in some way, even if that way is clearly protected under copyright law. These stories sound so outlandish that I might not have believed them if I hadn't read some of the lawsuits that she's brought on hilariously flimsy grounds. [Apocalypse Later Film]"
The advertisement above is for the original double feature screening with Flesh and the Spur at the Grand Theatre of Grand Island, Nebraska.
Susan Hart sings 
Is This A Disco Or A Honky Tonk?

War of the Satellites
(1958, dir. Roger Corman)

Irving Block (2 Dec 1910 – 3 May 1986) and Jack Rabin (18 March 1914 – 25 May 1987) came up with the story, and Lawrence L. Goldman (18 Feb 1907 – 22 May 1990) wrote the script. In the US, it was released as a double feature with that great classic, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Dick Miller, a good foot shorter than the movie's heavy, plays the movie's lead hero... and you of course see him in the trailer.
Trailer to
War of the Satellites:

"After the Soviet launch of the spy satellite Sputnik, Corman sold Allied Artists on a related sci-fi programmer without so much as a treatment. Once he got his green light from Allied prez Steve Broidy, Corman set about a.) finding out what a satellite actually looked like and b.) scrambling his team to roll out in two weeks. Another of his ten-day wonders, War of the Satellites imagines that interstellar travel is the work of five guys (one of them being Corman, who cast himself as the ground controller to save paying another actor) sitting around what looks like the night desk of The Bergen County Record, that space ships can be sent up into space one after another, like stomp rockets, and that astronauts can mozy on over to their spacecraft three minutes before blast off wearing naught but USAF flight suits and white socks. You gotta love it! [arborgast]"
The plot: "The story begins with the U.S. trying to send manned satellites into space, only for them to be destroyed by some unforeseen force before get very far. Dr. Van Ponder (Richard Devon of Blood of Dracula [1957 / trailer]), the head of the project, gets permission to make one last attempt and decides to pilot the mission himself, with faithful aids Sybil (Susan Cabot) and Dave (Dick Miller) along for support him. Unfortunately, the heroes do not know that aliens are plotting to keep Earth dwellers on their own planet by any means necessary. They sneak down to earth, secretly killing Dr. Van Ponder and creating a duplicate version of him to derail the mission. When that doesn't work, they plot to have their Van Ponder clone destroy the satellite after its launch to discourage the inhabitants of Earth into ending their space quest. Dave figures out something is wrong with Van Ponder before the mission but is forced to go up into space to confront him. [Schlockmania]"
Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings gushes, "It's movies like this that make me really appreciate Roger Corman. Had anybody else tried to make an outer space epic like this on an Allied Artists budget, it would have probably been dull and laughable. Corman doesn't turn it into a classic, but he manages to keep it from being a waste of time, and except for the fact that the middle of the movie sags a little, he keeps the interest level up. He's helped by a likable and familiar cast; in particular, it's really a lot of fun seeing Dick Miller in a rare leading role. The special effects are primitive, but not embarrassing, and it's well acted throughout. All in all, it makes for decent low-budget science fiction adventure."
Video Vacuum, on the other hand, was not amused: "Because it was made in a rush, the movie is pretty much a mess. The plot is thin as Kleenex, the effects are a complete joke (the 'satellites' are hung on visible strings and have to move via jump cuts and/or fast motion to make it look like they're moving), and there is padding out the yin-yang. To make matters worse, there's no actual 'war' to speak of, so don't go in expecting a space battle or anything. The bulk of the film is made up of long dull scenes with people sitting around and having long boring conversations. If you're a Corman fan, you'll have some fun spotting all his regulars […]. The only really worthwhile part though is when the alien double gets his hands burned and it rapidly heals on its own. Other than that; it's a total snoozer."
That's Dick, of course, in the lobby card above.

(1959, dir. Roger Corman)
A great movie, with Dick Miller playing the lead character Walter Paisley, a somewhat simple milquetoast busboy cum artist. Dick Miller was to play characters named "Walter Paisley" in many a subsequent movie.
Click on the title above to go to our review of A Bucket of Blood, a film we listed on our very short roundup of The Best of 2017.
The "Blood-a-rama" advertisement above featuring A Bucket of Blood with Queen of Blood (1966 / trailer), Blood Bath (1966 / trailer), and Blood of Dracula (1957 / trailer) was for the drive-in of Grand Island, Nebraska. 
Trailers from Hell
on A Bucket of Blood:

The Little Shop of Horrors
(1960, dir. Roger Corman)

Perhaps the most famous and favorite of all Roger Corman's early no-budget B&W quickie black comedies — it is, in the end, the only one to first get the big budget Broadway musical treatment and then get remade as a big budget Hollywood feature film musical, poster below. The last added a happy end and more or less piddled out at the box office, though it did end up being a huge success on VHS.
The original B&W film version has long been in the public domain. In 1991, incongruently enough, the movie/musical morphed into a cartoon TV series for musical Fox Kids, where it ran for one season (13 episodes).
Trailer to
The Little Shop of Horrors:
"Written by Charles B. Griffith, the film is a farce about an inadequate florist's assistant who cultivates a plant that feeds on human flesh and blood. The film's concept is thought to be based on a 1932 story called Green Thoughts, by John Collier, about a man-eating plant. However, Dennis McDougal suggests that Griffith may have been influenced by Arthur C. Clarke's sci-fi short story from 1956, The Reluctant Orchid (which was in turn inspired by the 1905 H. G. Wells story The Flowering of the Strange Orchid). […] Produced under the title The Passionate People Eater, the film employs an original style of humor, combining black comedy with farce and incorporating Jewish humor and elements of spoof. The Little Shop of Horrors was [supposedly] shot on a budget of $28,000, with interiors being shot in two days utilizing sets that had been left standing from A Bucket of Blood. [Wikipedia]" (It should perhaps be mentioned that the legendary length of the shoot and budget size changes depending on who does/did the talking.)
Charles B. Griffith once said, "I wrote Bucket as a satire, and then Little Shop as a farce. Different characters, different names and gags, but it was absolutely scene by scene the same structure. Both were around 64 pages, which was 64 minutes. [Senses of Cinema]"
Way back in 1960, Roger Corman was too cheap to pay the copyright charges for some of his movies, including this one. Thus, today the original Little Shop of Horrors is in the public domain. The legends surrounding its production are numerous and contradictory. It is hardly the first movie to feature man-eating plants — see, for earlier examples: The Land Unknown (1957 / trailer], From Hell it Came (1957 / trailer), Untamed Women (1952 / full PD film), Voodoo Island (1957 / trailer), Angry Red Planet (1959 / trailer) or even Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943 / a trailer) but it is, arguably, the first movie (and black comedy) to feature a sentient man-eating plant as a main character.
"I've got to get home. My wife's making gardenias for dinner."
Burson Fouch (Dick Miller)

Oddly enough, Dick Miller (seen to your left in the picture above) was supposedly offered the lead role of Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, but turned it down in favor of the much smaller role of the flower-eating Burson Fouch. Jack Nicholson, famously enough, makes an early and very short appearance as a masochistic dental patient (his character is played by Bill Murray in the later musical). Little Shop of Horrors was screened out of competition at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival and subsequently picked up by AIP as the highly incongruent second feature for their US release of Mario Bava's early masterpiece Black Sunday (1960 / full masterpiece). A year later, Little Shop of Horrors was rereleased in a double feature with Last Woman on Earth (1960 / trailer).
The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review has the plot: "Gravis Mushnick's Skid Row florist shop is floundering financially. Mushnick (Mel Welles) is about to fire his inept assistant Seymour Krelbonid (Jonathan Haze) when Seymour shows him the unique new hybrid plant he has created. Seymour has named the plant Audrey Jr in honour of Mushnick's other assistant Audrey (Jackie Joseph), whom he secretly loves. The opportunistic Mushnick uses the plant as a drawcard and succeeds in drumming business back up. However, Audrey Jr soon begins to wither and die but Seymour revives it after he accidentally drips blood onto it from a cut. As the plant grows bigger, it demands more blood and forces Seymour to go out and acquire human bodies to satiate its appetite."
366 Weird Movies, which rates the movie as "Recommended" but says that "it's not weird enough, though it certainly marches to the beat of its own drummer", opinions: "[...] The Little Shop of Horrors is a fast, fun ride that every cinephile should check out at least once; it's a triumph of imagination, dedication, and sheer luck over budgetary constraints.  It's too bad it’s not a little bit weirder. […] Corman and Griffith tried to repeat the formula of Horrors the very next year with The Creature from the Haunted Sea, another whirlwind horror/comedy packed with quirky characters. The abysmal failure of Haunted Sea demonstrates just how much luck was involved in the success of Little Shop; everyone involved just happened to be clicking on all cylinders the week they made it."
Shades of Gray concurs: "The Little Shop of Horrors is a bizarre, chaotic, strange, and thoroughly entertaining comedy. The jokes, nonsensical situations, and oddball characters keep coming non-stop, and along the way, Corman and crew manage to parody cop dramas, monster movies, romance films, and even swashbuckler movies. The film unfolds almost like a dream, so random are some of the characters and dialogue exchanges, yet it all comes together in a film that exudes a great surreal atmosphere. […] This may look like the low-budget movie that it is, but it was made with a crew that understood the limitations they were working under. It's also blessed with a fun script, and a cast of energetic actors with fine comedic timing — I particularly love the three leads (Haze, Welles, and Joseph), Miller (as the 'flower eater'), and the two girls* buying flowers for a parade float. This is one of Corman's very best, and I think it's a film worth seeing for anyone who loves kooky comedies... because this is one of the kookiest!"
* Morbid trivia: The first taste of success Audrey brings Mushnick's flower shop is when the interesting flower causes two girls — Shirley ("Tammy Windsor") and Shirley's Friend (Toby Michaels) — from the local high school to decide to spend the $2000 flower budget of the Homecoming Parade Committee at Mushniks. The attractive "Tammy Windsor", pictured above, real name Karyn Kupcinet (6 March 1941 – 28 Nov 1963), was (possibly) murdered at the age of 22 on Thanksgiving Day, 1963, in her apartment at 1227 1/2 North Sweetzer Avenue in West Hollywood. The crime has never been solved. She "was romantically involved with actor Andrew Prine (of Eliminators [1986 / trailer], The Town that Dreaded Sundown [1976 / trailer], Grizzly [1976 / trailer], The Evil [1978 / trailer], The Centerfold Girls [1974 / trailer], Crypt of the Living Dead [1973 / trailer], Nightmare Circus aka Barn of the Naked Dead [1974 / theme song], Simon King of the Witches [1971 / trailer] and so much more) at the time of her murder" — a fact we bring up only as an excuse to include a photo from Prine's May 1974 Viva pictorial below.
Follow the Link for
Part II (1961-67)

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