Thank you once again, BoingBoing, for introducing us to a groovy animator and a groovy short film, a groovy short film that is but one groovy short film of many groovy short films that the groovy animator has made.
The animator in question is the historically important Japanese Yoji Kuri (above), who was born Hideo Kurihara on 9 April 1928 in the coastal city of Fukui, which is a "Sister City" of swinging New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Fullerton, California. Why Yoji changed his name, we know not, but sometime in the late 50s (or early 60s — different websites give different dates) he co-founded the independent animation collective Animation Sannin no Kai (i.e., Animation Association of Three) with Ryōhei Yanagihara (17 Aug 1931 – 17 Aug 2015) and Hiroshi Manabe (3 Jul 1932 - 31 Oct 2000). Kuri's work was "a favourite among the fervently counter-cultural audiences [of the 60s], which included such filmmakers as René Laloux [(13 Jul 1929 – 14 Mar 2004), the director of Fantastic Planet (1973)]." BoingBoing quotes Swapnil Dhruv Bose (without credit, oddly enough) at Far Out: "A leading figure within the landscape of independent animation in Japan, Kuri's work played an important role in shaping the unique sensibilities of Japanese animation in the 1960s. [...] Kuri's approach to animation conducted a radical examination of the artistic frameworks through which contemporary animators were viewing the world around them. During his tenure as a filmmaker, Kuri made around 40 short films, but one of the most interesting examples of his contributions to the cinematic medium is a 1972 gem called The Midnight Parasites. Set in a relentlessly unforgiving world, The Midnight Parasites pushes the logic of modern capitalism to its logical conclusion. Kuri's world is populated by entities who are stuck in an endless cycle of consumption and defecation, eventually blurring the lines between food and faeces."
An independent filmmaker, Kuri's work displays a noticeable disinterest in any commercial sensibilities, tending far more towards personal, artistic expression. His drawing style is primitive, even childish, though his topics are generally anything but the latter. The Midnight Parasites is a visual travelogue through an alien landscape, born from the nightmares of Bosch and Breughel, populated by creatures of all kinds and all sexes, known and unknown. There is less a narrative than a steady and surreal continuation of blackly comic scenes and situations, some peaceful and some destructive, often tinged with a disturbing sexuality that can verge on misogynistic.
The Midnight Parasites (1972):
The soundtrack to The Midnight Parasites was supplied by Isao Tomita (22 Apr 1932 – 5 May 2016), whom some out there might recognize simply as Tomita, a pioneer of electronic music along the lines of Wendy Carlos. Alongside his production of original music and LPs, Tomita did the music to numerous films, ranging from the mid-career Kinji Fukasaku (3 Jul 1930 – 12 Jan 2003) film Black Lizard / Kuro tokage (1968 / trailer) to the hard-to-find Prophecies of Nostradamus / Nosutoradamusu no daiyogen (1974 / trailer); from the very Japanese fantasy horror Demon Pond / Yashagaike (1979 / scene) to the two (of three*) X-rated but hardly pornographic animated films by Eiichi Yamamoto (22 Nov 1940 – 7 Sept 2021), A Thousand & One Nights / Sen'ya ichiya monogatari (1969 / trailer) and Cleopatra / Kureopatora (1970 / trailer). Years ago we were always lucky enough to find our Tomita LPs (like our not Wendy but Walter Carlos LPs) in thrift stores; should you stumble upon one somewhere, spend the bucks and buy it. *The third being the underground classic Belladonna of the Sadness (1973 / trailer).
As an extra, Yoji Kuri's earlier short
"Whereas the age of a live-action film, no matter how classic, can always be discerned by the appearance of its actors, the cinematography, and the style of acting and direction, great animation has the capacity to be timeless. Take Yoji Kuri's short AOS. It was made 46 years ago [59 years ago], yet the visuals feel as raw and disturbing today as when it first appeared. [Cartoon Brew]" The last can easily be said of The Midnight Parasites as well.
(Spoilers?) A cast of thousands! Over the years, the original King Kong (1933 / trailer) has inspired more imitations, riffs, sequels and remakes than COVID has variants, and some of those big ape flicks are pretty bizarre. And while it is perhaps a matter of taste when it comes to claiming which Kong-inspired flick out there is the most psychotronic, it is without doubt that Dino De Laurentiis's announcement of his planned production of a remake — the subsequently financially successful but artistic and critical flop that is John Guillermin's King Kong (1976 / trailer) — definitely resulted in one of the most enjoyable bastard mockbusters around. No, we're not talking about decidedly low-rent comedy Queen Kong (1976 / trailer), a German-English production which even hit its few screens before De Laurentiis's project, but rather the camp classic best described as "King Kong goes to Hong Kong" that is the Shaw Brothers' rip-off usually known as The Mighty Peking Man.
The Mighty Peking Man:
It is arguable that this movie might have remained a mostly forgotten blip on the landscape of international film had Quentin Tarantino not only claimed that the movie is one of his favorites but also re-released it on DVD. The version we saw had the title Colossus of Congo, which offers a slight indication of the schizophrenia of the movie: a colossus — whether a giant ape or a giant hairy man is open for discussion — from the Congo that originated in the Himalayas in Asia but is taken to Hong Kong advertised as a giant version of a subspecies of H. erectus originating from China, the Peking man.
In truth, the finer details of the goliathan's origin vary from country to country, version to version, edit to edit, so perhaps they are immaterial; but if you're lucky enough, the version you catch might include the two alternative takes featuring the movie's innocently naïve jungle babe Samantha (Evelyne Kraft) topless. Without or without the seconds-long added attraction of love pillows, however, The Mighty Peking Man remains an absolutely wonderful clusterfuck of a movie. Seldom has there been a movie that gets so much right by doing so much wrong.
The plot is old and familiar, with but a few new twists to add some full-color sleaze and exploitation shots that definitely (if cheesily) trump the scenes of Kong snacking on natives and the Fay Ray boob shots that were once found in the original pre-code version of King Kong. The Mighty Peking Man opens with the origin of the titular gargantuan, which is freed from entrapment within the Himalayas by an earthquake and promptly lays waste to a jungle village. In Hong Kong, possibly years later as one must assume that enough time has passed for the jungle babe and "Peking man" to meet and become friends, asshole tycoon Lu Tien (Feng Ku of Vengeance, The Web of Death , Peking Opera Blues [1986 / trailer] and so much more) finances an expedition to capture the creature, hiring the freshly brokenhearted Johnny Feng (Danny Lee of The Killer [1989 / trailer], Infra-Man [1975 / trailer], The Oily Maniac [1976 / trailer] and more) to lead the undertaking.
The results are breathtaking: they travel through the jungles of India on ox-drawn cart, get attacked by lions and elephants, and fall off the faces of cliffs in scenes that are anything but exciting or thrilling (unless, perhaps, you substantially prepubescent) but for the most part wonderfully entertaining and laughter-inducing — but then, the film as a whole is laughter-inducing. People die, people kill people, things fall apart and suddenly Johnny is deserted and left behind by the entire team.
But then Johnny ends up meeting Samantha (Evelyn Kraft [22 Sept 1951 – 13 Jan 2009]), the less-breast-heavy first cousin of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. Before you can even say, "She survived an airplane crash in the jungle that killed her parents as a child and was raised by the Peking Man" — something that, timeline-wise, really doesn't cut the mustard in any way – Johnny and Samantha are prancing through the forest to disco music, doing the vertical tango to baleful eyes of the creature, and having all sorts of jungle fun.
Too bad Johnny is a dumbfuck and convinces the always scantily clad innocent with perfect makeup not only to go back to civilization with him, but to get the Peking Man to come along, too. The rest of the story, barring a few soap opera additions and the numerous scurrilous peculiarities of the movie, is familiar territory. You more or less know the ending, of course, only instead of falling from the Empire State Building or Twin Towers, the creature takes a dive from Jardine House (formerly known as the Connaught Center), at that time the tallest building of Hong Kong.
Truth be told, no description of the film or what transpires during its 1.5 hours of running time can properly convey how wonderfully off-the-wall and entertainingly oh-so-wrong but oh-so-right The Mighty Peking Man is as a whole. Director Meng-Hua Ho, a man who has helmed many a WTF movie, if not an occasional Hong Kong or Shaw Brothers classic, seems unperturbed (like normal?) by the idiocies of the script and keeps the narrative flowing at a speedy pace, moving quickly from animal attack and leopard love to stormy seas to emotionally indecisive men to rape to mob rage and army attacks to one pissed-off Peking Man on the rampage.
The movie never comes truly across as cheap, and the cinematography and miniature work are for the most part pretty good, occasionally even excellent, even if the miniature work is often not exactly of the greatest verisimilitude. The ending is unexpectedly tragic in a manner beyond that of the simple and expected death of "Utam", as Samantha calls her gigantic surrogate parental figure, but even that is oddly laughable, if only for all its irony.
Speaking of Samantha, or the forgotten actress Evelyn Kraft* to be exact, she really does deserve some respect for the job she delivers. While all the men play their parts in the almost burlesque manner typical of most Chinese and/or Hong Kong movies of the day, she actually tries to conduct her acutely ridiculous role with a level of sincerity. Occasionally she even succeeds, like in the scene when she gets her first kiss: her look of confusion turns to enjoyment, but her technique remains obviously inexperienced. There is more to her possibly limited talent than just her looks and appearance, the latter of which is generally one of a constant threat-of-falling-out-of-her-costume.
That aside, she and almost everything she does nevertheless continually instigates laughter, if only due to the comprehensive and advanced level of the movie's campiness — a campiness which deeply infuses most of the movie. But unlike movies that are intentionally campy (see, for example, Psycho Beach Party  or Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls [1968 / trailer]), the campiness of The Giant Peking Man is an unintentional but innate aspect that obviously, and fabulously, arises on its own. Somehow, this makes even the campiness more enjoyable.
Children would probably love The Giant Peking Man, though exploitive scenes like the snakebite-sucking scene or the previously mentioned rape scene, or the scene in which Lu Tien shoots a man dead in cold blood after the latter has had a limb torn off by a tiger, definitely move the movie outside of the kiddy-film realm. Spectacularly inept in almost every way, this slab of prime-quality cheese doesn't require viewers to accept its idiocy and ridiculousness as much as it slowly but surely simply infects you with enjoyment. The Mighty Peking Man is in no way a good movie, but it is also without doubt a great movie. Two thumbs up!
*The Russia-born Swiss actress cum business woman Evelyn Kraft had a relatively short career in the 1970s, but her short list of 11 film projects over nine years includes some fun stuff that should have ensured that her name would enjoy at least some level of lasting cult popularity. Not exactly untalented, and definitely attractive, she inexplicably remains pretty much forgotten, if not simply unknown. Aside from the camp masterpiece of cheese that is The Mighty Peking Man, she played the lead in Lady Dracula (1977 / trailer, see Walter Giller), another film that should have given her cult respectability. Equally entertaining, if more obscure, are the Hong Kong Charlie's Angels ripoff, Three Deadly Angels (1977 / trailer), and her turns in the serious slices of Eurotrash, The Fifth Commandment (1978 / film in German) and Assassination Attempt (1981 / trailer). Her fame, however fleeting it was, was probably propelled the most by the two hit comedies (in Germany-speaking countries) Superbug, the Wild One (1973, see Walter Giller) and Superbug, the Craziest Car in the World (1975, see Walter Giller). Both are Herbie the Love Bug (1969 / trailer) rip-offs and it is doubtful they ever reached any English-language shores... Evelyn Kraft is, in any event, a viable candidate for a future Babe of Yesteryear spotlight here at a wasted life.
To more or less repeat what we have written in all previous entries of out multi-part Babe of Yesteryear review of the babes of Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Russ Meyer's baroque masterpiece from 1970, one of the only two movies he made for a major Hollywood studio (in this case, Fox), is without a doubt one of the Babest movies ever made. While we have yet to review it here at a wasted life (if we did, we would foam at the mouth in raging rave), we have looked at it before: back in 2011, in our R.I.P. Career Review of Charles Napier (12 Apr 1936 – 5 Oct 2011), and again in 2013 in our R.I.P. Career Review for the Great Haji (24 Jan 1946 – 10 Aug 2013) — both appear in the film.
"This is not a sequel. There has never been anything like it!"
In Haji's entry, we were wrote, among other things, the following: "Originally intended as a sequel to the 1967 movie version of Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley of the Dolls (trailer), Meyer and co-screenwriter Roger Ebert instead made a Pop Art exploitation satire of the conventions of the modern Hollywood melodrama, written in sarcasm but played straight, complete with a 'moralistic' ending that owes its inspiration to the Manson-inspired murder of Sharon Tate and her guests on August 9, 1969. Aside from the movie's absolutely insane plot, the cinematography is also noteworthy — as are the figures of the pneumatic babes that populate the entire movie. For legal reasons, the film starts with the following disclaimer: 'The film you are about to see in not a sequel to Valley of the Dolls. It is wholly original and bears no relationship to real persons, living or dead. It does, like Valley of the Dolls, deal with the oft-times nightmare world of show business but in a different time and context.' [...]"
"Any movie that Jacqueline Susann thinks would damage her reputation as a writer cannot be all bad."
The plot, as found at AFI: "Tired of playing to high school audiences, Kelly (Dolly Read), Casey (Cynthia Myers), and Pet (Marcia McBroom), members of a rock trio, travel to Hollywood, California, accompanied by Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), the band's manager and Kelly's lover. There, they are befriended by Kelly's Aunt Susan (Phyllis Davis), an advertising executive, who, despite the misgivings of her lawyer, Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod), decides to share with Kelly the family fortune. At an orgy the band is discovered by the effeminate entrepreneur host, Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (John La Zar), who rechristens them 'The Carrie Nations.' Among lovers quickly acquired at Ronnie's party are Lance (Michael Blodgett), a boorish gigolo, who enters into a liaison with Kelly; Emerson (Harrison Page), a law student who wins Pet's love; and Roxanne (Erica Gavin), a lesbian designer who captures Casey's heart. As the celebrated trio perform on national television, Harris, distraught by Kelly's infidelity and Casey's impregnation by him, hurls himself from the catwalk. He is rushed to the hospital, where Dr. Scholl (Dan White) informs Kelly that Harris can look forward to life as a paraplegic. Realizing that Harris is her true love, Kelly devotes herself to his care. Touched by Casey's plight, Roxanne arranges an abortion. Ronnie invites Lance, Roxanne, and Casey to a private party, at which costumes are distributed. Dressed as Superwoman, Ronnie attempts to seduce Lance, who is attired in a loin cloth. Rejected, Ronnie binds the gigolo. After revealing that he is, in fact, a woman, Ronnie bears her breasts, brandishes a sword, and chops off Lance's head. She then plunges a gun into the sleeping Roxanne's mouth and fires. Terrified, Casey phones her friends, who rush to her rescue but arrive too late. As Emerson and Kelly attempt to subdue Ronnie, the gun discharges, killing the transvestite. During the fray, however, the crippled Harris is miraculously cured. In a triple wedding ceremony, Kelly and Harris, Pet and Emerson, and Aunt Susan and an old love are united."
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:
Alone in the above plot description, multiple Babes of Yesteryear are named, but to say that there are even more in the movie is an understatement. Russ Meyer films are always populated by amazing sights, but this one latterly overflows its cups in an excess of pulchritude that (even if somewhat more demurely covered than in most of his films) lights the fires of any person attracted to women of the curvaceous kind that preceded today's sculptured plasticity.
And so we will take a look at the film careers of the women of the Babest Film of All Times, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The size of their breasts roles is of lesser importance than the simple fact that they are known to be in it somewhere, so we will look at the known unknowns in the background and the headlining semi-knowns in the front.
That is, but for one notable exception: the National Treasure that is the Great Pam Greer. Though she had her film debut in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls somewhere in the background, and therefore should be included, we feel that a Wonderment of her caliber deserves an entry all of her own — a Sisyphean task we might one day take on...
In any event, Babes of Yesteryear is currently looking deep into the cleavages eyes of the various females known to be in the movie, although one or two might barely register. They were all date material (barring, perhaps, the ethereal-looking one, now dead, that ended up murdering one husband and tried to do away with the second). So far, we have looked at:
Who knows where they came from, who knows what else they did, and who knows where they went... we just hope they all kept their day jobs and lived happily ever after (though no one ever does).
Ashley Phillips, assuming that is her real name, plays a fashion model in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. According to some Norwegian website (which we can longer locate), the babe on set above with Russ Meyer should be Ashley Phillips — personally, we find her a bit chesty to be a fashion model, but to us she seems to look a lot like Angel Ray (further below). Due to her almost generic name, we could locate nothing about Ashley Phillips — but we can assuredly say that she should not to be confused with Ashley Phillips, the American porn actress [born 10 May 1971] active at the start of the 1990s; the imdbdoes that, which is why they incorrectly list the video hand-helper Double D Dykes 3 (1992) on Phillips's extremely short filmography.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
(1970, dir. Russ Meyer)
As mentioned above, she shows up to play a fashion model. See top of the page for a film synopsis.
(1970, dir. Van Guylder)
"This was Hollywood, once considered a suburb of sprawling Los Angeles — destined, perhaps doomed, to become its very heart. In 1916, however, it was just a junction of dirt roads and a scattering of orange groves. If there was sin, it was not to be seen. Scandalous sin that is, for what was going on at the studio on Sunset Boulevard was merely play-acting, a Babylonian orgy involving hundreds, nay thousands of actors and extras, portraying the doom Belshazzar. This passion play, D.W. Griffith's most ambitious epic, was titled Intolerance (1916 / full film below) and it set the tone for Tinseltown... something to live up to, something to live down. The shadow of Babylon had fallen over Hollywood. Scandal was waiting just out of camera range."
The full film —
"This faux documentary riff on Kenneth Anger's legendary book provides amusement for those who happen to be both fans of silent Hollywood and 70s softcore sexploitation. Anger's legendary book paved the way for disreputable contemporary tabloid journalism, so it's interesting to see an exploitation take on what was exploitation to begin with. It includes much archival footage (occasionally I forgot the sex scenes given the abundance of silent film highlight clips). This is interrupted for reenactments of Tinseltown's most sexually depraved myths, including Fatty Arbuckle, Clara Bow having a gang bang with an entire football team, Charlie Chaplin impregnating an underage girl, and the death of Wallace Reid, among others. Most of the sexploitation performers do little to change their 70s hairstyles to play the parts. The most hilarious casting comes from cult favorite big bust model Uschi Digart (Supervixens [1975 / trailer below]) as a combination Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo! [Teenage Frankenstein]"
Russ Meyer's Supervixens:
We don't know the extent of Ashley Phillips's appearance in Hollywood Babylon, but it is because of the Great Uschi's casting in Hollywood Babylon that we took a look at this "documentary" back in June 2019, in Babes of Yesteryear –Uschi Digard, Part VI: 1972. Ashley, in any event, had a headlining alongside the great Uschi on some VHS releases. The highpoint of her career, perhaps.
"[Joe] Van Guylder" is an oft-used pseudonym of Edward J. Forsyth (2 June 1920 – 29 Aug 2004), a man who made a variety sleaze flick in his day. The title and content of this film were lifted by scriptwriter/producer "L.K. Farbella" from Kenneth Anger's fun but often factually inaccurate book, cover below. (Two years previously, in 1970, "L.K. Farbella" wrote and produced The Tale of the Dean's Wife [full NSFW movie], his or her only other known credit. [For more on that film, see our Babes of BVD entry on Samantha Scott.]) Kenneth Anger, however, had nothing to do with this film — despite the reference to his book on many a poster to the movie.
The film is available at Something Weird, where John Harrison writes, "One wonders what Kenneth Anger thought of this cheapjack [...] bastardization of his famous tome, if indeed he's even aware that it exists. Hollywood Babylon follows the path of Anger's book almost to the letter, with each 'chapter' taking the form of a staged vignette, and tied together by tinted newsreel footage and old silent film clips. The first scandal on our tour of Sin City is that of [Vargas Girl] Olive Thomas [drawing below], popular silent star who, in 1920, swallowed a fatal dose of mercury granules in her Paris hotel room. [...] In the staged footage, we get to see one of [Mary] Pickford's debauched parties, where guests smoke opium and get their gear off for an orgy [...]. Things proceed to get even more exciting with stories about movie star addict Wallace Reid (accompanied by a nude poolside orgy [...]), followed by Valentino voyeuristically watching lesbians writhing on his bed, Uschi Digard playing none other than a butch Marlene Dietrich (discovered in a German music hall doing a lesbo act [...]), and the infamous Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle scandal. In this film, Arbuckle grabs doomed starlet Virginia Rappe (portrayed as an insatiable nympho) and ruptures her insides while pleasuring her with a champagne bottle. The most outrageous reenactment depicts the love triangle between William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, and Charlie Chaplin. No names are ever mentioned, and all the events are only 'alleged' to have happened, but mention is made of Chaplin's rumored 'organs of equine proportions'. We see Hearst killing producer Thomas H. Ince aboard his ship, then manipulating the newspapers so they all report Ince's death as acute indigestion! Other sights for you to savor include: Charlie Chaplin trying to convince his sixteen-year-old wife of the joys of fellatio; Clara Bow taking on the members of a football team [...]; Eric Von Stroheim filming one of his 'orgiastic classics' and enjoying a gal getting whipped at his home ..."
The Spinning Image basically dismisses Hollywood Babylon, saying 'All those suspicions may or may not have been true (though it is doubtful that at least half the stuff in Anger's tome was), but if it sounded like a good story, it was worth repeating. This documentary was an unofficial version of the text, a cash-in that mixed acres of stock footage with re-enactments of what had been supposed by Anger on the page, and though he had plenty of photographs to illustrate the salacious rumors and on the record facts, none of these were to be seen here. Mostly you got a bunch of skinflick performers ('The beautiful people of Hollywood!' according to the credits) dressing up in vintage clothes, or more often taking them off, and acting out what may or may not have occurred.'
At All Movie, Clarke Fountain likewise lambasts the flick, saying: "Though it purports to be a documentary/docudrama based on filmmaker Kenneth Anger's book Hollywood Babylon, it uses the book's theme — scandals in the early Hollywood era — as a takeoff point for making a softcore porn film. That in itself would not be cause for particular disgust. What arouses professional scorn is that it rehashes nearly every salacious rumor ever heard in Hollywood from the 1920s to the '70s. Even that, perhaps, might not have so deeply offended [...], if it were not so clear that the makers of this film had money-grubbing rather than honest muckraking in mind. As it stands, the movie violates just about every ethical standard going, without actually breaking the law. Abounding in simulated sex with unknown actors standing in for their famous counterparts, it has a certain stomach-churning fascination."
To distill all that said above about the movie into one sentence: Hollywood Babylon is good, dirty exploitation fun. The 1972 softcore porn version can be found all over the web, like here at the very hardcore Tube Porn Classic website.
Trailer to Edward J. Forsyth's
Guylder, under his real name, Edward J. Forsyth, directed a few
exploitation cult faves of varying degrees of effectiveness. His two
most famous films are probably Superchick (1973 / trailer above) and Shari Eubank's swansong Chesty Anderson U.S. Navy (1976 / full film).
At the Tower Art in Milwaukee, as seen above, the faux-documentary Hollywood Babylon was paired with "A Carefree Romp", a film that never existed. Might well be Henry's Night In a.k.a. The Incredible Peeping Tom (1969 / scene), a film about a man who discovers an invisibility formula and goes sex happy. At the Dragon in Florida, the film was paired with another Uschifilm, Gary Garver's sleazy The Kill (1968).
This Angel Ray is definitely not the "Angel Ray" of today, otherwise known as the former porn actress of questionable attractiveness a.k.a. Mandi Milton (and Amanda, Amanda Jayne, Mandy, & Mandy Milton). Russ Meyer's Angel Ray is an unknown person: her only known appearances are in two Meyer films, and then she was gone, disappearing into the void that she came, possibly returning to a "real" name.
Cherry, Harry & Raquel!
(1969, dir. Russ Meyer)
The year prior to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, in which she had her career-making role as "Girl in Hot-tub", Angel Ray had an almost as important role in this lesser Meyer film as "Young Girl".
Cherry, Harry & Raquel!
A.k.a. Megavixens & Three Ways to Love. Depending on the version you believe, this movie is either a Russ Meyer classic of surreally episodic narrative, or a movie cobbled together from a project crippled by accidents. In any event, Cherry, Harry & Raquel! features the premiere appearance of two Russ Meyer's favs actors: Uschi Digard and Charles Napier (12 April 1936 — 5 Oct 2011). The movie also featured the first full frontal of a nude male in a Meyer's movie, courtesy of Charles Napier's romping through the desert with Larissa Ely.
We took a look at the movie in our R.I.P.: Charles Napier career review, among other places, where we mention that Cherry, Harry & Raquel! is enjoyable in a disjointed way. Napier plays Harry, a corrupt, drug-smuggling sheriff who's out to get Apache (John Milo), who has gone into the business for himself. Harry is shacked-up with Cherry (Linda Ashton), a nurse, and bonking Raquel (Larissa Ely), a hooker writer. The guys all die violently and the gals smoke pot and get it on.... in between, Uschi Digard romps around the desert naked. There are three stories to why she does so: Russ Meyer supposedly needed to fill the running time after 1) one of the lead actresses quit the film early, 2) a photo-lab fuckup resulted in the loss of much of the original footage, or 3) it was an intentional artistic decision on Meyer's part. (Meyer always claimed the last after he gained critical respectability.) Napier once said that the scene of him wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and boots as he romps across the desert with Ely was the most embarrassing thing he ever had to film. That scene of him flopping in the wind is possibly also the first and last male nude scene in a Meyer's film to feature a "real" wiener instead of the lengthy (and rubber) male appendages found in Meyer's subsequent skin flicks.
Music to the film —
The Toys of Our Time:
Uschi, billed as "Astrid Lillimorr", appears here and there throughout the movie as "Soul", often wearing nothing or not much more than an Indian headdress (below).
Oddly enough for a Meyer movie, the two female leads, Linda Ashton and Larissa Ely a.k.a. Larissa Cartier, though typically pneumatic for a Meyer's project, are oddly lacking in presence, which might explain why neither ever made another movie.
Oh, yeah: "Tom Wolfe", the credited co-scriptwriter, is actually Tom McGowan, a man best known as one of the co-directors of the infamous disasterpiece Night Train to Terror (1985). His segment in that movie, "The Case of Claire Hansen", was cobbled together from his 1980 movie, Cataclysm a.k.a. The Nightmare Never Ends ("trailer").
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
(1970, dir. Russ Myer)
The film synopsis, as you know, is found at the top of the page. As mentioned, Angel Ray is the girl in the hot tub — the lucky guy she's getting it on with is no less than future successful TV and film producer and director Ian Sander (22 Nov 1947 – 3 May 2016), making his film debut. His limited feature film acting career consisted of this film, Jack Hill's The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974 / trailer), and the Kosher Spaghetti Western God's Gun (1976 / trailer below).
Like the equally generically named Ashley Phillips, further above, Susan Reed plays a fashion model in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The photo of her above standing alongside a clothed Erica Gavin comes from Mr Skin, which says: "The challenge with a simple name like, say, Susan Reed, is that there are many women who have it throughout various walks of life. Check out the nearest academic professor, author, artist, producer, violinist, vocalist, or criminal district attorney and you'll find the same moniker belongs to all of them. Even within the film industry, there are several actresses called Susan Reed. So how does one stand out? By letting it all hang out! At least, that's what stacked starlet Sue did in the Russ Meyer camp classic Beyond theValley of the Dolls (1970). Not only does the Valley of the Dolls (1967 / trailer) spoof mark the ingénue's movie debut, it's also her nude debut! [...] As a fashion model, the topless babe bares her beautiful breasts during a costume change."
Greatest Heroes of the Bible
Susan Reed's filmography at imdb is meager indeed, especially if you realize that she was already much too old to be the "Young Bella" she is [incorrectly] credited for in Lasse Hallström's Once Around (1991 / trailer). On the other hand, the Susan Reed credited as "costarring" in Sodom and Gomorrah (1979), the last tacky episode of the tacky Christian propaganda series that features an untold number of has-beens and never-beens in need of a job, Greatest Heroes of the Bible (1978-79), does have a slight resemblance (if different colored hair). Written by Brian Russell, the guy who gave us Claws (1977 / full film) and The Annihilators (1988 / trailer), two films which, like this TV series, were really never needed but, unlike this TV series, are at least trashy fun.
The full episode —
Sodom and Gomorrah:
So, when was she born, 1922 or 1944? No two websites seem to agree, although they do all say she was born in happening Chelan, Washington. In the BVD photo above, she looks too old to be 26 (1944) and way too young to be 48 (1922). What is undeniable is that she had a gravity-defying appearance, and made a gravity-defying Marion Harrisburg. Her incredibly sweet smile ain't too bad, either.
The George Raft Story
(1961, dir. Joseph M. Newman)
Supposedly while in financial straits, George Raft ([26 Sept 1901 – 24 Nov 1980] of Background to Danger ) sold the film rights to his life story; this fictionalized version of his life, the final feature film project of Joseph M. Newman (7 Aug 1909 — 23 Jan 2006), was the result. Newman made a better film once upon a time: the slab of sci-fi kiddy cheese known as This Island Earth (1955 / trailer / full film).
The George Raft Story:
Raft actually did begin his life as a dance hall gigolo, so maybe it isn't surprising that "the first thirty minutes of this jokey biopic resembles a revue, where Raft's story comes second to song, dance and comedy routines. All of this plays against a backdrop of gangsters, casinos and rum-running, with Raft himself in the thick of it. But by his own admission, [...] Raft was more of a dancer than a fighter, and thus heads to Hollywood when things get too dangerous. Jayne Mansfield, in a role reportedly based on Betty Grable, seems to be in permanent danger of toppling over such is the dual effect of her tight skirts and large bust. [Bio Pic Story]"
Joyce Rees, if we are to believe the imdb, appears uncredited somewhere as a night club dancer...
From the movie —
Julie London sings
What Can I Say (After I Say I'm Sorry)?:
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
(1970, dir. Russ Myer)
The Red Skelton Hour
In the 1967 season of the The Red Skelton Show, Joyce Rees seems to have had lineless, walk-on parts in one or the other sketch. If you feel like wasting your time, she has two gravity-defying appearances, dressed "Mexican", for a few seconds in the 1967 sketch...
For Better or Worse Like George Appleby Got:
That's her standing to the left of Phyllis Davis in a scene from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; Davis, who plays "Susan Lake" in the movie will be looked at in a few months. Koko Tani played Ms. Lake's assistant. She does not seem to have had a big career in Hollyweird, though she did appear in minor roles in an occasional TV series. She made tiny appearances on I Spy ("Always Say Goodbye" ), Laredo ("The Short, Happy Fatherhood of Reese Bennett" ) and It Takes a Thief ("Nice Girls Marry Stockbrokers" ) before landing her non-career-making part in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls...
(1978, dir. Robert Mulligan)
Koko Tani plays some "Chick" (a.k.a. "Hooker") in another Robert Mulligan (23 Aug 1925 – 20 Dec 2008) meaningful drama. The plot: "Detailing the trials and troubles of a working class Italian-American family, where brothers Paul Sorvino (13 Apr 1939 – 25 Jul 2022) and Tony Lo Bianco try to persuade the latter's sensitive son (a slightly too old Richard Gere) to join them in the construction business. Gere has more of an interest in working with kids, and gets a job offer by doctor Floyd Levine at the local hospital. Dad of course, sees social work as woman's work, and belligerently disapproves, but he [the son] gets some support from his waitress girlfriend (played by Marilu Henner). Meanwhile, Lo Bianco's frustrated wife Lelia Goldoni has become mentally unstable and her lashing out at their youngest son (Michael Hershwe) has led to his anorexia. Kenneth McMillan plays a disabled bartender, whilst various well-known character actors and faces play construction workers (Danny Aiello, Robert Costanzo, Eddie Jones, etc). [Shameless Self Expression]" Even if you don't blink while watching the movie, you'll probably miss her.
A Rumor of War
(1980, dir. Richard T. Heffron)
A two-part CBS TV mini-series in the US, A Rumor of War got a cinema release in Europe: the poster above is from Germany. She appears in both, supposedly, playing someone named Simone. We know not whether she speaks.