Monday, April 24, 2023

R.I.P. Bert I. Gordon, Pt. II (1960-70)


Bert I. Gordon
24 September 1922 – 8 March 2023
 
After 100 years, he's gone! Trashmaster Bert Ira Gordon, "Mister B.I.G.", a seminal influence on the filmic taste of a wasted life, has entered the Film Palace in the Sky. He will be missed... 
Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Gordon was already making his own movies for fun by his teens. After a stint in the army during WW II, he married his first wife, Flora Gordon (1925–2016) — whom he divorced in 1979 — and started making TV commercials for a living. Soon after working as a production assistant on the TV series Racket Squad (1951-53), he produced his first genre film, Serpent Island (1954, see Part I) and never looked back. He may have made "Bad Films" — he has the dubious honor of being the director/producer with the most films to have ever been on Mystery Science Theater 3000 — but many, though trash, are classics of their day and remain truly memorable. And all get "better" with repeat viewings and age.
And now, the first of a three-part typically meandering and all-over-the-place career review...
 
Go here for Part I (1954-58) 

 
 
The Boy and the Pirates
(1960, prod., writ, & dir. Bert I. Gordon)
What is it about horror and exploitation and low-budget movie directors that makes them all turn to kiddy films eventually? Think: George Miller, from Mad Max (1979 / trailer) to Babe (1995 / trailer); Stuart Gordon, from Re-Animator (1985) to writing Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989 / trailer); Eli Roth, from Cabin Fever (2002 / trailer)  to The House with Clocks in the Walls (2018 / trailer); Robert Rodriguez, from El Mariachi (1993 / trailer)  to Spy Kids (2001 / trailer); Bob Clark, from She-Man (1967 / trailer)  to Christmas Story (1983 / trailer); H.G. Lewis, from The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (1961) to Jimmy the Wonder Boy (1966 / trailer); Barry Mahon, from Girls Incorporated (1959)  to The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969 / trailer)  — the list is endless.

And thus did go Bert Ira Gordon: two years after his third film of 1958, the wonderfully stupid big-spider flick Earth vs. the Spider (see Part I), United Artists released this independently produced kiddy flick, Gordon's first non-drive-in flick and full-color movie. (Nevertheless, though the film is the first movie of his that does not focus on "BIG" or "TINY" special effects, it does feature a tiny character: the genie Abu, played by Joe Turkel [15 Jul 1927 – 27 Jun 2022] of Cycle Psycho [1973 / trailer] and Blade Runner [1982 / trailer]).
German trailer to
The Boy and the Pirates:
"In addition to directing Pirates, Gordon also supplied the original story, crafted into a screenplay by two more-practiced writers.* It was rare for a children's film of the time to possess the structure of an irony — the sort of story in which all moral compass seems in doubt — but Gordon may have taken some inspiration from Lewis Carroll's Alice books. As Carroll's young protagonist falls asleep and dreams herself into a Wonderland full of creatures who celebrate pain and death as a rollicking good time, Gordon's kid-hero Jimmy Warren gets a taste of the distasteful realities behind his fantasy. [Naturalistic! Uncanny! Marvelous!]"
*
The "two more-practiced writers", BTW, were married couple Lillie Hayward (12 Sep 1891 – 29 Jun 1977) and Jerry Sackheim (21 Oct 1904 – 13 May 1979). Sackheim's most notable films, at least as far as a wasted life is concerned, are the oddly forgotten Universal horrors The Strange Door (1951 / trailer) and The Black Castle (1952 / full film), and the cheesy, "Ed Woodsian" Guns, Girls and Gangsters (1959 / trailer). Lillie Hayward, however, was the truly seasoned writer of the two, with roughly 70 films to her credit going back to the silent days, of which those most interesting to us would be the western Blood on the Moon (1948 / trailer), the contentious Undying Monster (1942 / trailer), Follow Me Quietly (1949 / trailer) and The Walking Dead (1936 / trailer). The Boy and the Pirates is the only feature film screenplay that they ever collaborated on.

DVD Talk, which demurs that "the film is slightly more violent than you might expect", has the plot: "Jimmy Warren (Charles Herbert [23 Dec 1948 – 31 Oct 2015]) spends his days dreaming of being a pirate. Though his parents (Morgan Jones & some actress) want him to bone up on his house chores, he instead prefers to hang out on the beach, wandering up and down in the surf and pretending he's a buccaneer. During one of his walks, what should Jimmy find but a bottle washed up on shore, and what should be in this bottle? A genie! Jimmy lets the bottle out and he gets a wish fulfilled in return and before you know it, Jimmy's been whisked back in time to the 1800s where pirates are real. [...] The genie tells Jimmy that if he doesn't return the bottle to the very same place he found it in seventy-two hours, he'll find himself taking the genie's place, trapped in the bottle for all time. [...] With pirate life starting to suck more and more, Jimmy realizes that he'd better get back to land and get the bottle taken care of so that he can get back to the modern day and get back to his regular life. Blackbeard (Murvyn Vye [15 Jul 1913 – 17 Aug 1976]) isn't necessarily heading in that direction, in fact, he's heading out to the ocean but Jimmy's got a plan to make the ship turn around and get him back to where he needs to be before it's too late. [...]"
Although not mentioned in the plot description above, Bert I. Gordon's daughter Susan Gordon (27 Jul 1949 – 11 Dec 2011), who made it onto the poster, plays two roles in the film: she is Jimmy's friend Kathy in the contemporary set portion, and the equally endangered Katrina Van Keif on Blackbeard's ship.
"There are some nice things about this movie. The special effects are quite good, and the movie manages to achieve the right balance between cuteness (the pirates dealing with bubblegum having gotten in their stew; Blackbeard discovers safety matches) and brutality (the boy is threatened with a red-hot metal rod at one point; Blackbeard has the habit of spontaneously offing those who defy him). It also has a fun sense of irony that could have been played up; the boy doesn't care much for having to mop the floor at home or having to eat vegetables (which pirates never eat, he believes), but once on the pirate ship his first job is swabbing the deck, and he also has to serve in the galley by peeling vegetables. [Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings]"

Oh, yeah: What parents need to know (according to Common Sense Media): "Parents need to know [...] Jimmy and Katrina are frequently in danger, narrowly escaping with their lives. The movie includes lots of swordplay, gun battles, and cannon fire. While it's not very realistic, numerous pirates and their victims are killed during the extending fighting. Swords, knives, and ammunition hit their mark; men are felled, sometimes with a bit of blood to sell it. Very young or super-sensitive kids could be frightened by the much larger-than-life Blackbeard the Pirate and his mates, who snarl, shout, threaten, and kill at will. The pirate captain loves his rum, too." (The last we do, too, here at a wasted life.)

Charles "One-Take Charlie" Herbert, the highest paid child actor of his day, followed The Boy and the Pirates with the William Castle feature 13 Ghosts (1960 / trailer). But, as Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net explains at imdb: "Then film offers for Charles completely stopped. Growing into that typically awkward teen period, he was forced to subsist on whatever episodic [TV] roles he could muster up [...]. By the end of the 1960s, however, Charles was completely finished in Hollywood, having lost the essential adorableness that most tyke stars originally possessed. Unable to transition into adult roles, his personal life went downhill as well. With no formal education or training to do anything else and with no career earnings saved, he led a reckless, wanderlust life and turned to drugs. Never married, it took him nearly 40 years [... until October 2005] to turn his life around. [...] Charles Herbert died of a heart attack on October 31, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada."
Murvyn Vye, who plays Blackbeard, is found in such fine stuff as Pickup on South Street (1953 / trailer) and fine junk like Voodoo Woman (1957 / trailer), not to mention James Cagney's sole directorial effort, Short Cut to Hell (1957 / full film, with Yvette Vickers). A popular TV actor, he made his feature-film debut in 1947, skin darkened like that of Marlene Dietrich (27 Dec 1901 – 6 May 1992) and Ray Millard (3 Jan 1907 – 10 Mar 1986), in the now probably P.I. but still fun A-flick Golden Earrings (1947), where he sang the title tune, Golden Earrings, which has since gone on to become a cocktail bar standard, possibly thanks to a truly fabulous hit version sung by Peggy Lee (26 may 1920 – 21 Jan 2002). Personally, however, we prefer the more difficult version sung by...
Golden Earrings:
Like many a movie back then, The Boy and the Pirates had a comic book tie-in released: Dell Four Color #1117 (June 1960). The adaptation was written by Leo Dorfman a.k.a. Geoff Brown & David George (17 Feb 1914 – 9 Jul 1974) and illustrated by the "mostly self-taught" artist Tom Gill (3 Jun 1913 – 17 Oct 2005). Dorfman created one of our favorite comic series back when we were an impressionable prepubescent, DC's Ghosts (1971-82).


 
Tormented
(1960, prod., writ, & dir. Bert I. Gordon)

"My conscience? Why should it bother me?"
Tom (Richard Carlson)
 
As pointed out at Ryan Watches 50 Movies, "The director of Tormented was Bert I. Gordon, who shares his names with three Sesame Street characters: Gordon, Bert, and the letter I."
Five months after the release of his kiddy film, The Boy and the Pirates, United Artists released Bert I. Gordon's first stab at a supernatural horror movie, Tormented, the last of the five films that Gordon collaborated on with George Worthing Yates. "It's somewhat like a Beatnik version of The Tell-tale Heart."
 
"All I want is what's coming to me, Dad!"
Nick (Joe Turkel)
 
Now in the public domain, Tormented was, for a long time, one of Gordon's more obscure early films — two facts that might explain why Something Weird chose to re-release it. At SW, a catty Hal Moffat (the second unit director of Frank Henenlotter's Bad Biology [2008 / trailer]) writes: "Take the director of The Amazing Colossal Man (1958, see Part I), the star of It Came from Outer Space (1953 / trailer), and the writer of Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959, with Yvette Vickers), add the guy who composed the score for Giant from the Unknown (1958 / trailer), and the big-shot cinematographer of Logan's Run (1976 / trailer) and Fantastic Voyage (1966 / trailer), and you've got Tormented, the story of a vengeful she-ghost haunting her self-absorbed, social-climbing killer, [played by] Richard Carlson (29 Apr 1912 – 25 Nov 1977). Social climbing has got to be the reason Carlson [playing Tom Stewart, a jazz musician] allows his gorgeous ex-girlfriend (Juli Reding [28 Nov 1935 – 16 Sep 2021]) to plunge to her death from a rickety lighthouse catwalk. She's a doll, she can sing, she's got great cleavage, and the woman he wants to marry (Lugene Sanders) is a skank... but rich. You don't get the idea from the start but, little by little, Carlson is revealed as a guy who'd kill anyone that stands in his way. Since this is a Bert I. Gordon movie, it's also a special effects movie, and the effects are both effective and, well... not so effective. [...] Richard Carlson was one of those solid American types (like Joseph Cotten [15 May 1905 – 6 Feb 1994] and Dana Andrews [1 Jan 1909 – 17 Dec 1992]) who ratcheted up the quality of any film in which he appeared. He worked tons in the '50s, but he was 46 when he made Tormented and his star was waning. He didn't appear in another movie for five years but shows that he doesn't have a pot belly, and he also gets to read of lot of interior monologues which may remind you of all those voice-overs from [the TV series] I Led Three Lives (1953-56 / clip). [...]"
 
"It's bad enough to accept a musician into this family, but a jazz musician is asking too damn much."
Frank Hubbard (Harry Fleer [26 Mar 1916 – 14 Oct 1994])
 
Tormented:
"A surprisingly effective supernatural drama [...], Tormented starts off with a bang and keeps a nice little pace for its 75-minute runtime. [...] I've seen the film a handful of times at this point and I must begrudgingly admit the story is a pretty good one. The special effects are nothing exciting and beg for a contemporary update; but the story is spooky enough. There are a few effective, nasty scenes involving the innocent people getting tangled up in the drama: neighbor Mrs. Ellis (Lillian Adams), and Meg's little sister Sandy (played by Susan Gordon, the director's daughter). It isn't until the final few moments of the film we really know which directions things are going to go, and the ending is nicely creepy and well-done — if a bit grim. The film also has a handful of fun goodies the performance of then-10-years-old Susan Gordon (who was given bad lines but still gave a great performance) and character actor Joe Turkel [...]. A fun little domestic drama for those of us who enjoy ghost stories! [B-Movie Bff's]"
 
"What's the matter with a jazz magician?"
Sandy Hubbard (Susan Gordon)
 
Monster Hunter, however, hated the film: "Director Bert I. Gordon shoots this in about the most bland way you can imagine, using the same ugly establishing shot of a beach house about ten times during the movie. [...] And the effects used to depict the hauntings make you long for William Castle's tricks, especially when Richard Carlson is forced to hold a mannequin's head and act scared of it. For his part, Tom is an unsympathetic moron, and the movie can't even decide if the she-ghost was just a product of his imagination or not since everyone saw her handiwork at the wedding. But if it wasn't his imagination, then he really wasn't driven insane by his guilty conscience, which renders the whole concept [...] of the movie void. Tormented is an apt title for this film, but for all the wrong reasons. It's an experience about as welcome as wilted flowers, obnoxious wind, and a wad of stinky seaweed at your wedding!"

Elsewhere: "Tormented is one of [Gordon's] better efforts. The film is unique in that it takes the classic noir construct, where a fundamentally decent man makes one error in judgment which he witnesses spiral out of control. Vi, while being a ghostly apparition, is very much a femme fatale whose seductive powers seal men's fates (obviously, the film is not the most woke with its gender politics). The blaring jazzy score feels more in place with a crime thriller. The cinematography was done by the legendary Ernest Laszlo, who brings the same dark shadows and Expressionist lighting to this film as he did The Big Knife (1955 / trailer), Kiss Me Deadly (1955 / trailer), and While the City Sleeps (1956 / trailer). The ghost angle itself is campy yet creepy enough. The film is no classic, but it's worth watching as a unique melding of sensibilities. [Teenage Frankenstein]"
In November 1960, at least at the Big Sky Drive-in in Chula Vista,CA., Tormented was screened with Mario Bava & Riccardo Freda's science fiction flick Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959).
 
Trailer to
Caltiki – The Immortal Monster:
As it is in the public domain, you can easily find the full film for free online — like here, at the Internet Archives. Joe Turkel [15 Jul 1927 – 27 Jun 2022] also appeared in such fine stuff as Kubrick's The Killing [1956 / trailer] and The Shining [1980 / trailer]).
If you take a closer look at the German/Austrian poster below, you cannot help but notice that Susan Gordon and Juli Reding's names are mixed up and printed as Juli Gordon and Susan Reding, and Bert I. Gordon's name is printed as Bert J. Gordon.
And while we wouldn't necessarily agree with Hal Moffat's catty judgment of Lugene Sanders, Juli Gordon Reding (below, not from the film) definitely had impressive cleavage that every cis-gender man only wants to do one thing with. Richard Carlson's long list of notable genre films include The Amazing Mr X (1948, with Turhan Bey), the classic that is The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954 / trailer), and the flawed Valley of Gwangi (1969).
Lastly: Vi (Juli Gordon Reding) is supposedly a singer in Tormented, and there's even a scene in the movie in which a record player turns itself on and plays a song, Tormented, supposedly sung by Vi. The real vocals of the song, however, are supplied by one-hit-wonder Margie Rayburn (3 Jun 1924 – 14 June 2000), whose one wonder, I'm Available, peaked at #9 on the charts in 1957.
Tormented
 from Tormented:

 
Famous Ghost Stories
(1961, Bert I. Gordon)
Poster look familiar? Bert I. Gordon tries for the quick buck, but fails. Famous Ghost Stories is a "TV pilot masterminded by Bert I. Gordon and Herts-Lion International. Vincent Price (of The Monster Club [1981], Robert Fuest's The Abominable Dr Phibes [1971] and Dr Phibes Rises Again [1972], The Witchfinder General [1968], The Masque of the Red Death [1964], The Last Man on Earth [1964], The Bat [1959] and so much more) hosts and plays a poltergeist while introducing the ghost story to follow, which turns out be an edited version of Gordon's Tormented."
Vincent Price introduces
Famous Ghost Stories:
Herts-Lion International, BTW, was a small distribution firm that handled films ranging from the classic West German propaganda film Flucht nach Berlin a.k.a. Escape to Berlin (1961 / trailer) and the truly obscure A Matter of WHO (1961 / full film) to low-budget trash like Day of the Nightmare (1965 / full film) and The Dungeon of Harrow (1962 / trailer below) to the low-budget classic Carnival of Souls (1962).
 
Trailer to
The Dungeon of Harrow:
In any event, even an abbreviated version of Tormented must have had the pneumatic Juli Reding in it, a fact we use as an excuse to present yet another photo of the woman and her assets. This time with a strained smile on the cover of Minx, below, a magazine many think was a non-existent invention of new, eponymous HBO series (trailer) — but, nope. A magazine titled Minx had a run of at least six issues sometime between 1959 & 63, as can be seen at My Comic Shop.

 
The Magic Sword
(1962, prod., writ, & dir. Bert I. Gordon)
"Bert I. Gordon may have been one of the few true kings of schlock but he was also one of the best. While his films are all pretty terrible from an academic standpoint, they all exude a special sort of charm and are very watchable if you are a fan of pure hammy schlock. [Talking Pulp]"

Bert I. Gordon does his second children's movie, if perhaps for a slightly older set than his first. This time he turns to the legend of St George and the Dragon for a low-rent Ray Harryhaussen homage co-written with film noir specialist Bernard C. Schoenfeld (17 Aug 1907 – 25 Apr 1990).
Common Sense Media is always there for kiddy films to tell "What Parents Need to Know": "Parents need to know that The Magic Sword is a kitschy B-movie from 1962, a campy take on the knight's quest story that is more Bewitched (1964-72) and Munsters (1964-66) than King Arthur. The special effects are laughingly dated, taking the sting out of the several violent battle scenes. Some of the transformations of characters into hideous monsters might be scary for younger viewers, but as a whole, The Magic Sword is a lighthearted swords-and-sorcery story tweens might enjoy." Oddly enough, they overlook the fact that the hero, George the Knight, is a bit of a voyeur, and that Princess Helene takes a nude swim — nudity, as all parents know, corrupts the morals of the young. But then magic is also the gateway to Satanism, and this film is full of magic. (Hail Satan!) The film, in any event, Available here at Internet Archives.
Trailer to
The Magic Sword:
Dennis Schwartz has the plot: "The wicked magician Lodac (Basil Rathbone [13 Jun 1892 – 21 Jul 1967] of Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet [1965]) abducts Princess Helene (Anne Helm of The Couch [1962 / credits], the uncomfortable Unkissed Bride [1966 / full film] and Nightmare in Wax [1969]) and plans to feed her to his dragon. The knight George (Gary Lockwood of Night of the Scarecrow [1995 / trailer] and William Girdler's Project: Kill [1976 / full film]), the adopted son of the witch Sybil (Estelle Winwood [24 Jan 1883 – 20 Jun 1984] of The Cabinet of Caligari [1962 / trailer] and Dead Ringer [1964 / trailer]), fell in love with Helene before she was abducted by gazing at her from far away and is pumped to rescue her especially upon learning that the king (Merritt Stone) offers Helene's hand in marriage to her rescuer. George hurries off to the rescue with the help of six knights he releases from fossilization, as Sybil presents George with a magical sword, invincible armor, and an enchanted horse (all necessary things needed in such rescue work). But George was in such a hurry that Sybil forgets to give George supernatural powers, which results in his capture by Lodac's black magic. But Sybil, the well-intentioned witch, kills the sorcerer, as she takes the form of a panther. Meanwhile George uses his magic sword to slay the two-headed dragon and save the princess."

"In the run-up to its release the movie suffered several title changes including St. George and the Dragon and St. George and the Seven Curses before settling on the prosaic but marquee-friendly title, The Magic Sword [although it did become St. George and the Seven Curses again for its UK release]. [...] The script was by Phantom Lady (1944) scribe Bernard Schoenfeld who followed a template favored by a battalion of writers before him — a comely princess is spirited away by a malignant force and the hero jumps to her rescue. This time the princess is played by the fleshy starlet Anne Helm, first seen enjoying an early morning skinny dip while bobbling like an inflatable pool toy. It's a shot that looks more Russ Meyer than Ray Harryhausen while offering a preview of the risqué right turn Gordon's career took in 1982 with the soft core shenanigans of Let's Do It! [...] The dragon is slain but a curse hangs over the movie more daunting than any dreamed up by Lodac — The Magic Sword is haunted by its budget at every turn — the low-rent court of the king, the threadbare studio sets — let alone the less than artful work of its own director. And the actors, aside from Lockwood (who manages not to embarrass himself) and stalwart pros Winwood and Rathbone, aren't any more convincing than that dragon. [Trailers from Hell]"

An unrecognizable Maila Nurmi (11 Dec 1922 – 10 Jan 2008) — a.k.a. Vampira — appears twice in the film: she plays "The Hag" as well as the "Apparition" that kidnaps Princess Helene. Another notable name in the background, as "Second Dwarf", is an uncredited Angelo Rossitto (18 Feb 1908 – 21 Sep 1991), of Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971), Dementia (1955), Scared to Death (1946), The Corpse Vanishes (1942) and so much more.

Though a children's film, it was originally rated "Adults Only" in Great Britain; it was reclassified for general audiences when it hit the video market in the 80s. According to the AFI Catalog, when first released, The Magic Sword was supposedly often part of a double feature with the Italian-made Ed Fury (6 Jun 1928 – 24 Feb 2023) film Mighty Ursus (1961 / trailer),* an unverifiable fact we mention only to have an excuse to include the vintage photo below of a young and delectable and teasing Rupert Edmund Holovchik (i.e., Ed Fury).
* Mighty Ursus, a.k.a. Ursus, was the first of a three-part trilogy of films starring Ed Fury and was followed by Ursus in the Valley of the Lions (1961 / full film), and Ursus in the Land of Fire (1963 / Italian trailer).

As with The Boy and the Pirates, a comic book version of The Magic Sword was published (September 1962) by Dell Comics; we were unable to determine who wrote or drew it, but it can be read in full over at Destination Nightmare, which posits that it might be drawn by Norman Nodel (1922 – 25 Feb 2000).


 
Take Me to Your Leader
(1964, pro. & dir. Bert I. Gordon)
The image above is not to the Bert I. Gordon project in discussion here, but is the cover of a forgotten book from 1961.
Video evidence of a dumb idea:
As described in the 25 Jan 1964 issue of TV Guide, the "offbeat" ABC comedy project "Take Me to Your Leader stars Will Hutchins, and leans on unusual visual effects and running characters, who are a couple of traveling salesmen from Venus." As the description found all over the web adds, Gordon's "unsold TV pilot" Take Me to Your Leader is an "attempt to cash in on My Favorite Martian's success." (The latter show ran 107 episodes from 1963 to 66.)
 
The title is, of course, a cliché. Per Wikipedia (accessed on 20 Mar 2023): "'Take me to your leader' is a science-fiction cartoon catchphrase, said by an extraterrestrial alien who has just landed on Earth [...] to the first human they happen to meet. In cartoons, the theme is frequently varied for comic effect, such as a pun on the phrase to suit the setting, or the alien addressing an animal or object they assume is an earthling. It is believed to have originated in a 1953 cartoon by Alex Graham (2 Mar 1918 – 3 Dec 1991) in The New Yorker magazine [above]. The cartoon depicted two aliens telling a horse, 'Kindly take us to your President!' By May 1957, when the Mr. Zero episode* of the Adventures of Superman aired [24 May 1957], the phrase was already a popular cliché." (Those of you who don't recognize the name Alex Graham might recognize his most famous creation, Fred Basset.)

* Plot: "An unidentified rocket ship has been seen flying over the desert. The United States Department of Defense wants Superman to investigate. Daily Planet editor Perry White has been contacted by the government, and, in turn, he has ordered Clark Kent, who has been making paper helicopters, to get in touch with the Man of Steel. Meanwhile, cub reporter Jimmy Olsen cannot believe his eyes. A little man in a space suit has just asked him to take him to his leader. That unusual request is just the beginning of one of the quirkiest adventures that Jimmy, Superman and their friends have ever faced. [...] [Wikipedia]"
 
Has nothing to do with Bert I. Gordon,
but here is Hawkwind's
 Take Me to Your Leader (2005):
Who exactly plays the two salesmen from Venus and who are human is not definitively documented online. Vince Terrace's Encyclopedia of Unaired Television Pilots 1945-2008, for example, seems to be a bit off going by the clip further above, which shows Will Hutchins' character as decidedly human: "Will Hutchins, Cheryl Holdridge and Jack Alberston as aliens from another planet who attempt to adapt to life on Earth. Produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon."
Will Hutchins is found in The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977, with Marilyn Joi & Cissy Colpitts), while former Mouseketeer Cheryl Holdridge (20 Jun 1944 – 6 Jan 2009) never did anything we here at a wasted life found interesting — in contrast to Jack [of all trades] Albertson (16 Jun 1907 – 25 Nov 1981), who's found in any number of intriguing flicks, including Dead & Buried (1981, with James Farentino), The Poseidon Adventure (1972 / trailer, with Leslie Nielsen), and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 / trailer).

Aside from Hutchins, Holdridge and Alberston, the pilot is known to also feature Dee J. Thompson (7 Jun 1920 – 5 Aug 2009) of The Killer Is Loose (1956 / trailer), Jack Grinnage of Riot in Juvenile Prison (1959 / trailer), Harry Townes (18 Sep 1914 – 23 May 2001) of The Screaming Mimi (1958 / trailer) and The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984 / trailer), and the pneumatic Juli Reding, seen below from the pilot in a scene that proves aliens like mammery glands as much as a wasted life does. The biggest mystery that remains is: Who wrote the pilot?


 
Village of the Giants
(1965, prod., writ, & dir. Bert I. Gordon)
"What did mid-century adults fear more than anything? Teenagers! Genre-movie maestro Bert I. Gordon turns the concerns of the aging establishment into a teen dream with his 1965 fun-fest Village of the Giants, filmed in Perceptovision! [Cereal at Midnight]"

Yep, three years after his last kiddy film and one after his failed attempt at a TV sitcom, Bert I. Gordon returns to being "Mr. B.I.G.". Turning once again to the early H.G. Wells science-fiction classic The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth for inspiration, which he even credits in the trailer, Gordon added a healthy dose of beachless beach-party shenanigans and comedy to come up with Village of the Giants, his first and only 100% teensploitation film.

"Village of the Giants is pretty much Bert I. Gordon's giant-creature formula blended with teen comedy, with some teen rebellion and even bits of titillation thrown into the mix — and to a degree it works: Sure, the comedy is hardly top shelve, the sexy bits positively tame by today's standards, and even as science fiction it's a bit far-fetched. Plus the movie shows very little compassion for teen rebellion, instead making the wholesome kids the heroes — even if it was Tommy Kirk's character who started it all. But there is a certain light-footedness about the whole thing that's hard to resist, and its inherent silliness becomes the movie rather well. [...]. [(Re)Search My Trash]"
Trailer to
Village of the Giants:
Great cars, good music, hip dancing, embarrassing teen proselytizing, cheesy special effects make for some pretty dumb fun: Village of the Giants is a classic of Bad Film, and as such it is also one of Gordon's most popular movies. A Village of the Giants GIF is even found permanently enshrined on the right-hand column of a wasted life, just above the rubric Misc. Film Fun @ a wasted life. (That's former Mouseketeer Johnny Crawford [26 Mar 1946 – 29 Apr 2021] on "Joy Harmon's bust".)
 
"I'm gonna need both hands for this."
Horsey (Johnny Crawford)
 
From Village of the Giants,
not Deathproof (2007 / trailer) —
Jack Nitzsche's The Last Race:
Over at All Movie, Robert Firsching, who thinks that "this silly but good-looking fantasy from Bert I. Gordon is among his more entertaining films", supplies the plot: "The young Ron Howard plays Genius, who develops a substance which causes animals to grow to monstrous size. After eight kids (led by Beau Bridges and Tisha Sterling) crash their car in the mud, they dance and get drunk, then steal some food containing the growth-gunk, causing them to attain huge physical size as well. It's up to the good teens of the town (including Tommy Kirk [and] Johnny Crawford [...]) to set things right. That involves a gas-like antidote and a lot of subpar musical numbers from the likes of Freddy Cannon and the Beau Brummels. Joe Turkel [15 Jul 1927 – 27 Jun 2022] of Paths of Glory [1957 / trailer] and The Dark Side of the Moon [1990 / trailer]) and Rance Howard are also in the cast, and a jokey ending features a number of midgets, including Felix Silla, best known as Cousin Itt on TV's The Addams Family (classic theme). The first in a projected 13-picture production deal with Joseph E. Levine, Gordon followed this with the William Castle-inspired Picture Mommy Dead."
 
"Hey, who's size 40?"
Chuck (Hank Jones)
 
From Village of the Giants
Mike Clifford sings Marianne:
Despite the deal to produce a full 13 features over three consecutive years for Levine's Embassy Pictures Corporation, it never happened. Two wonderful titles that were announced as future projects but were never realized are The Creatures of Dr. Freak and Horror House. After Picture Mommy Dead, Embassy Pictures, as far as we can tell, never released another Gordon film.
 
"I was big enough before!"
Merrie (Joy Harmon)
 
From Village of the Giants
The Beau Brummels' When It Comes to Your Love:

While it might be hard to imagine, as one tends to think that "teenagers" have dancing in their blood, the dance scenes were actually choreographed — by no one less than the '60s beauty Toni Basil, née Antonia Christina Basilotta (of Head [1968 / trailer], Slaughterhouse Rock [1987 / trailer], Tom DiDimone's low-rent Angel III: The Final Chapter [1988, with Dick Miller], and Rockula [1990, with Susan Tyrrell]), who plays Red, the Dancing Gal. Her last choreographer credit found at imdb [as of 21 March 2023] is on Tarentino's bloated and over-praised Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019 / trailer), in which she is seen briefly dancing with Margot Robbie (of Vigilante [2008 / trailer] and I C U [2009 / trailer]).
 
The talented Toni Basil is also a one-hit wonder: in 1981, she had the number one hit Mickey, with infamous couplet: "So come on and give it to me / Any way you can / Any way you want to do it / I'll take it like a man." (One of her best songs remains her first, the non-charting soul song Breakaway [1966], in which she sounds very much of a different skin color. The image above is of her dancing in the original "film" to the song, made in the day when music videos could still be considered art films.)
Toni Basil's
Mickey:
Unlike Attack of the Puppet People (1958, see Part I), most of the teenagers were at least very young adults when they made the movie, so a few sort of look their parts. And were Village of the Giants made today, those who don't know what's worth fighting for would be screaming "Nepo Baby! Nepo Baby!" because: bad boy Fred is played by Beau Bridges, son of Lloyd Bridges ([15 Jan 1913 – 10 Mar 1998] of Strange Confession [1945 / music] and Rocket Ship X-M [1950 / trailer]); Genius is played Ron Howard, son of Rance Howard ([17 Nov 1928 – 25 Nov 2017] of A Crack in the Floor [2001] and Ticks [1993 / trailer]), Jean is played by Tisha Sterling, daughter of Robert Sterling ([13 Nov 1917 – 30 May 2006]) and Ann Sothern ([22 Jan 1909 – 15 Mar 2001] of The Manitou [1978 / trailer], Crazy Mama [1975, with Dick Miller], Golden Needles [1974, with Jim Kelly] and The Killing Kind [1973 / trailer]), and Pete is played by Tim Rooney(4 Jan 1947 – 23 Sept 2006), the son of Mickey Rooney ([23 Sep 1920 – 6 Apr 2014] of The Intruder [1975 / trailer], Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker [1991 / trailer], The Thirsting [2007 / trailer] ). The injustice of life.
From Village of the Giants
Freddy Cannon singing Little Bitty Corine:
Nepo-casting aside, the biggest name of the cast when the film was made was undoubtedly Tommy Kirk (10 Dec 1941 – 28 Sept 2021), Disney's method actor and star of some of their better kiddy films, like Old Yeller (1957 / trailer) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960 / trailer). A drug scandal and Disney's discovery that Kirk was queer led to the young actor moving into fun trash like this film here and, to list a few other "career highpoints": Pajama Party (1964 / trailer), The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966 / trailer), the what-were-they-thinking Unkissed Bride (1966 / full film), Larry Buchanan's Mars Needs Women (1968 / trailer) and It's Alive (1969 / trailer), and Al Adamson's Blood of Ghastly Terror (1971 / trailer). Soon after the last, Kirk pretty much abandoned Hollyweird.
From Village of the Giants
The Beau Brummels* singing Woman:
* The Beau Brummels are not exactly a band people remember, and more likely than not they are given flack. Example: "They never rose above second-tier status, with only a few songs in the top 40. Their best was No. 8. They got the name from a 19th-century Englishman, famed as a fashion plate. [...] Viewers will note that the band members are dressed in old fashioned suit coats and Col. Sanders-style ribbon ties. Old fashioned attire was their stage gimmick. The band did not last long. [Classic Sci-Fi Movies] That snidely said, they were nevertheless an influential band: they were among the first of the 60s' San Francisco music scene to make it big and pioneers of country rock fusion and psychedelic pop — their first hit, Laugh, Laugh (1965), was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 1994 exhibit The 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and, in June 1997, Mojo magazine selected their song Magic Hollow (1967) as one of the 100 Greatest Psychedelic Classics. The album whence that song comes, Triangle, is among those reviewed in Tom Moon's book 1,001 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Unluckily, the songs on Village of the Giants are not their best.
"It's simply impossible to watch Village of the Giants and remain in a bad mood. It's the definition of feel-good cinema with fantastic pop music, beautiful twenty-something Hollywood youths in beach attire dancing The Watusi and The Jerk, and a goofy premise that rejects any ironic take and reminds us not to take ourselves so seriously. It's the epitome of escapist cinema and a must-see for fans of any teen-geared sub-genre from the era. Thanks to the new 4K restoration and Blu-ray, it looks like it was filmed yesterday. [Cereal at Midnight]"

For the sake of equal opportunity, let's turn to Trailers from Hell for a voice of contrary: "Is Village of the Giants really too Hip for the House? Is it an overlooked Camp classic, an unacknowledged bit of brilliance from the '60s from just before the psychedelic Summer of Love upset the teensploitation applecart? No way. [...] Village is a Dirty Old Man movie in disguise. Shots of two of the growing women's tops flying off are more daring than any mainstream release of the year, and are certainly not kiddie content. Remember George Axelrod's wild, off-balance California culture satire Lord Love a Duck (1966 / trailer)? With his bikini-brained focus on shaking bottoms and shimmying tops, Bert Gordon shares a mindset with Duck's schlock producer T. Harrison Belmont, the King of Beach Party movies (Martin Gabel [19 Jun 1912 – 22 May 1986]). Axlerod cited Beach Party movies as evidence of the decline of Western civilization, and his dancing close-ups are filmed from the viewpoint of a middle-aged lecher. Village follows the same formula: 1% authentic teen spirit and 99% male menopause hysteria."

Classic Sci-Fi Movies also notes Gordon's special fascination for the "Treasure Chest": "Gordon makes the most of actress Joy Harmon's 41" assets [above, not from the film]. Much footage is invested in watching her upstairs while she dances. Joy's other memorable movie moment was in Cool Hand Luke (1967 / trailer) as Lucille, the girl who does the lathery car wash scene [GIF below]. Gordon had a giant model of her chest made up for the scenes in which Horsey is 'riding' on her bandeau top while she dances. Perhaps this was figured to be a teen-boy fantasy — riding bucking-bronco style, on a rack the size of a sofa. That moment was chosen for the poster. Gordon was not shy about sexual innuendos in his script. [...]"

Tisha Sterling, who plays bad-gal Jean in the film (and went on to do stuff like The Name of the Game Is Kill! [1968 / trailer] and The Killer inside Me [1976, with Susan Tyrrell]), said in Tom Lisanti's Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema: "I felt exploited throughout the whole movie. It was all tits and ass. But that's part of Bert Gordon's thing when making movies." Vicki London, who up and left the industry soon after this film, was cast as the original lead bad-gal, Georgette; she found her part substantially reduced in favor of Joy Harmon's bust: "During the wardrobe fittings, Bert Gordon wanted us [Joy Harmon, Tisha Sterling, Gail Gilmore] to take off our shirts and show him our breasts because he wanted the girl with the biggest ones to play the lead and be featured in the movie poster. I refused and Tisha did too. They still gave Tisha a very nice part but it was downhill after this for me. They made an issue out of me not willing to show my breasts, so they threatened that if I didn't do it they were going to cut me out of everything and they did. [imdb]" Her distaste for her experience on the film is rather palpable in the dry, terse interview she gave here.
In any event, according to the AFI Catalog, "[...] the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Production Code Administration ordered the editing of dance sequences featuring scantily-clad actresses Joy Harman and Tisha Sterling, and another in which actor Johnny Crawford (below, not from the Viilage of the Giants but The Naked Ape [1973 / trailer], with an enviable six-pack) removes a piece of Harman's clothing. Nearly two months later, the 20 Aug 1965 DV reported that the excised footage had been stolen from an editing room at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, CA. The sequences were stored in a box labeled 'censored cuts'." Lost forever...

"If you are interested in what the cast members of Village of the Giants are up to nowadays, be sure to check out the Unofficial Village of the Giants Homepage. It's jam packed with more information than any human could ever possibly need to know about this cult movie favorite. Inquiring minds will find pages devoted to technical inconsistencies, behind-the-scenes info and maps to the films back lot locations. There's even a page highlighting the memorable skewering the film received on an episode of MST3K. [Cool Trash Cinema]"
Lastly, Gordon co-wrote Village of the Giants with actor-writer Alan Caillou (9 Nov 1914 – 1 Oct 2006), whose most notable other writing credit would be Jack Skarrett's The Losers (1970 / trailer) and everyone's favorite TV film featuring William Shatner, John "Bud" Cardos's Kingdom of the Spiders (1977 / trailer). But among the films that Caillou appeared in as an actor, if but a tiny role, is one of a wasted life's favorites, the early (1982) Albert Pyun (19 May 1953 – 26 Nov 2022) film starring Richard Lynch...
The Sword and the Sorcerer:

 
 
Picture Mommy Dead
(1966, prod., writ, & dir. Bert I. Gordon)
Great title! Bert I. Gordon does his first traditional "dramatic" horror film, which almost became the first film in eight years to feature the fabulously beautiful Gold Age legend, the by then 52-year-old Hedy Lamarr (9 Nov 1914 – 19 Jan 2000, below from her first film, Ecstasy [1933 / full film]), who took over an "important" role in the film when the somewhat younger but almost as glamorous Gene Tierney ([19 Nov 1920 – 6 Nov 1991] of the masterpiece Laura [1944 / trailer] and Where the Sidewalk Ends [1950 / trailer]) left the project.
But the by-then long capricious and troubled Lamarr decided to stay home and rest the first day of her shoot, which resulted in Gordon replacing her with the vapidly attractive live-action joke, Zsa Zsa Gabor ([6 Feb 1917 – 18 Dec 2016] of Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie [1984 / scene] and Queen of Outer Space [1958 / trailer]). The fact that Ms. Lamarr was in the midst of her first shoplifting scandal may have also contributed to Gordon's decision, but the final upshot is that as a result The Female Animal (1958 / trailer) remained Lamarr's final film. (Go to the great blogspt Poseiden's Underworld to "Picture" Hedy Fired!)
Trailer to
Picture Mommy Dead:
The AFI Catalog has the plot: (Total Spoilers!) "Young Susan Shelly (Susan Gordon [27 Jul 1949 – 11 Dec 2011]), suffering from shock and amnesia, is confined to a sanitarium-convent following the death of her mother, Jessica (Zsa Zsa Gabor, above not from the film), in a fire. After three years Susan returns home to her father, Edward (Don Ameche [31 May 1908 – 6 Dec 1993], below from fitter days), and his new wife, Francene (Martha Hyer of House of 1,000 Dolls [1967, with Maria Rohm] and Pyro... The Things Without a Face [1964 / full film]), Susan's former governess. Francene, who married Edward because she thought he would inherit his wife's total estate, applies pressure on Edward to have Susan recommitted, knowing that her inheritance would revert to Edward should she be declared insane or die before her 25th birthday. Failing this, Francene persuades her lover, Anthony (Maxwell Reed* [2 Apr 1919 – 31 Oct 1974]), the caretaker, to help her recover from Susan a valuable necklace once belonging to Jessica and now missing. During a thunderstorm Susan reconstructs the events leading up to the fire in which her mother perished. She realizes that she did steal the necklace and finds it but refuses to give it to Francene, believing in her hysteria that the woman is Jessica. A chase ensues; Francene discovers Anthony calling the police and stabs him to death. Edward joins in the fray and strangles Francene, just as he killed Jessica, and for the same reason, because of her adultery with Anthony. The scene is witnessed by Susan, who, as she did three years before, sets fire to the house and departs with her father, happy in the thought that she is the only woman in his life."
* According to Joan Collins, Maxell Reed was a thoroughly typical man: "In the BBC documentary This Is Joan Collins (2022 / trailer), [...] the Dynasty (1981-89) star, 88, said that the Irish actor raped her, after spiking her rum and coke with the drug Rohypnol, on their first date at his London apartment. She was 17 and a virgin at the time; Reed was 31. [Yahoo]"
Picture Mommy Dead opened 2 Nov 1966 in New York City and the following month in Los Angeles. Reviews were generally negative and the movie was not exactly a money-maker. Even today, it remains overlooked and reactions to it are generally not positive.

But for an exception to the rule, let's look at what Cult Oddities says: "Picture Mommy Dead is essentially a stage play in the guise of a film. It's slow, talky, and 16-year-old Susan Gordon sleepwalked through the movie acting like a 9-year-old who had discovered the joys of her parents' drug stash. But these flaws are simultaneously the film's greatest strengths. [...] And if Susan had behaved like an average 1960s' 16-year-old, the story wouldn't work at all. Although she's not the top-billed star, Martha Hyer owns the movie. She turns in such a wonderful, nuanced performance as a spoiled, self-centered, gold-digging bitch that you truly believe she is her character. Similarly, Don Ameche gave his henpecked, potentially unlikable character a lot of depth which clearly wasn't written on the page. Maxwell Reed devours the scenery as Zsa Zsa's sinister, scarred, bird-lovin' cousin. Gabor, who was plopped into the cast at the zero hour, gives a typically vapid Zsa Zsa performance, but she has a very minor amount of screen time, so it works. [...]."

The Last Drive-in might agree: "This Grande Dame horror film is a little gem from the vintage 60s, [...] and also boasts a great supporting cast with Wendell "I Need A Drink" Corey ([20 Mar 1914 – 8 Nov 1968] of The Astro-Zombies [1968 / trailer]), Cyborg 2087 [1966 / trailer] and Women of the Prehistoric Planet [1966 / full film]), Signe Hasso ([15 Aug 1915 – 7 Jun 2002] of A Reflection of Fear [1972 / trailer]), and Anna Lee ([2 Jan 1913 – 14 May 2004] of Bedlam [1946 / trailer], The Man Who Lived Again [1936 / Trailer from Hell] and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? [1962 / trailer]). It's creepy, it's campy and a wonderfully colorful psychosomatic romp. Cinematography by Ellsworth Fredericks, who was director of photography on Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, with Dana Wynter) and the sublime Mister Buddwing (1966 / trailer) [...].'

Elsewhere: "How can a film with the likes of Don Ameche, Martha Hyer, and Zsa Zsa Gabor be so bad? [...] Far from the worst horror film [...], Picture Mommy Dead is on par with several late-1960s horror movies featuring once A-list stars. The problem lies in our leading actress, Susan Gordon, who single-handedly destroys any sense of suspense the movie evinces. [...] Being director Bert I. Gordon's daughter explains her casting. Only 17 at the time, this was the last film of Gordon's career before she retired. Her affected performance generally consists of scrunching up her face in a cross between confusion and wondering what stinks. Failing to help matters is there's never any depth to her character. Too often the script has her repeat questions, as if she doesn't understand or is mentally incompetent. By the third act, she's taken on this child-like quality that's creepy in itself, but then segues into a bizarre incestuous relationship where she refuses to let any woman 'take' her father from her. At the end, father and daughter are placed in a position where you're thinking they're dating. It's weird as all hell. [Ticklish Business]"

"Now I must admit that even though one can easily figure out the ending before it happens, I was surprised by the peculiar incestuous twist. Summing it up: So what if Picture Mommy Dead is a cheap, corny carnival of camp, resembling a TV movie? After all, where else can you see Zsa Zsa Gabor being strangled just so she'll finally shut up? [Thinking Film]"

Picture Mommy Dead was filmed at Greystone Mansion (a.k.a. Doheny Mansion), a popular shooting location in Los Angeles that was the second largest house in California (after Hearst Castle) when it was built and is now a public park. At the time of writing this [24 March 2023], Wikipedia says: "[...] Architect Gordon Kaufmann designed the residence and ancillary structures, and construction was completed in 1928. It was a gift from oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny to his son, Edward "Ned" Doheny, Jr. and his family. [...] When it was built, it cost over $4 million (equivalent to about $63 million in 2021) and was the most expensive home in California. [...] On February 16, 1929, four months after Ned Doheny, his wife Lucy and their five children moved into Greystone, Doheny died in a guest bedroom in a murder-suicide with his secretary, Hugh Plunkett. The official story indicated that Plunkett murdered Doheny either because of a 'nervous disorder' or because he was angry over not receiving a raise. Others point out that Doheny's gun was the murder weapon and that Doheny was not buried in Los Angeles' Calvary Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery, with the rest of his family, indicating he had committed suicide. Both men are buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, within a few hundred yards of each other."

As is evidenced by the book cover below, a novelization of Picture Mommy Dead was published in paperback by Lancer Books, the publisher of mos Ted Mark books, including Circle of Sin and The Unhatched Egghead.
 

How to Succeed with Sex
(1970, writ, & dir. Bert I. Gordon)
It was another four years after the less-than-successful Picture Mommy Dead before Bert I. Gordon did another film, this time an X-rated (if softcore) exploitation sex comedy — a true change of direction, to say the least. For How to Succeed with Sex, he left the production duties to famed genre & exploitation producers Sam Katzman (7 Jul 1901 – 4 Aug 1973) and that man's son Jerome F. Katzman so as to concentrate on the script and direction.
The final product, which actually got banned in Kentucky, where Gilmore Phelps, the sheriff of Pulaski County raided the local drive-in showing the flick, stopped the show, and arrested both the theater manager and projectionist [Film Censorship in America: A State-by-State History by Jeremy Geltzer] is undoubtedly the most obscure film of Gordon's entire career: How to Succeed with Sex! But weep ye not! The film is not lost: you can watch the entire film for free here at Rare Film.
Regardless of what happened in Kentucky, the advertisement above, found at Chateau Vulgaria, sees How to Succeed with Sex playing at Raleigh's Center Drive-in in North Carolina where it played with an equally obscure (if also older) film, David F. Friedman's The Brick Dollhouse (1967, trailer below), the plot of which is: "Min Lee, an attractive fashion model, is found murdered in her house which she shares with five other models. Lt. Parker is called to investigate the killing and during interrogation of each of Min Lee's roommates, Danielle, Carmen, Sherry, Linda, and Sandy, give their own version of events and the debauched orgies they hold on a daily basis in their home"
Trailer to
The Brick Dollhouse:
As late as 25 May 1972, How to Succeed with Sex was still flickering on the screens of sticky-floored cinemas, for example at Donn Davison's infamous Dragon Art Drive-in in Florida, where, as shown by the newspaper advert below, the man evidenced his excellent exploitation taste by combining Gordon's sex comedy with cameraman's Victor Petrashevic's directorial debut Love Me... Please (1969). ("The Love Child... A Hunger Inside Her Exploded" is not a film but rather the film's adline.) According to lor, that film "is definitely worth watching, and should prove to be a turn-on if you're a fan of softcore porn". Available at Something Weird.
The title credit illustrations to Gordon's How to Succeed with Sex, one of which is seen directly below, were supplied by the great American comic artist Alex Toth (25 June 1928 – 27 May 2006); more of his illustrations for the film can be found at The Alex Toth Archives.

Interestingly enough, perhaps only to us, Gordon even published a tie-in novelization of the film, cover below, now entitled How to Succeed with (the Opposite) Sex, that same year. (Note how the use of the chosen preposition "with" is actually gramatically [semantically?] correct, unlike in the film title.) The publishing house is one of our favorites: Holloway House! We always buy their books when we find one while scavenging some filthy thrift store, and we've never been disappointed by any Holloway House book yet. Among the many Holloway House books we still hope to find [cheap] somewhere some day, Inside Black Hollywood (1980) by Carol Speed (14 Mar 1945 – 14 Jan 2022).

But to return to the film — Psychotronic Review, like most trash-film aficionados, "didn't know that Gordon ever made a sex comedy. And it's not bad. It isn't as sexy or as funny as Russ Meyer. But some of it works quite well. The ending is absolutely ridiculous. Starring Zack Taylor, Linda Vair, and a number of women showing off their breasts."
Basically, all women in How to Succeed with Sex show their breasts. Should you be interested, you can see shots of virtually all breasts — and find out how the movie ends — over at the great website Video Zeta One, which thinks the film is "sexy and actually really funny at times; this was great fun" and gives it seven stars out of ten.

The film pretty much tanked and sank into oblivion once released, but before disappearing into the nether regions of nowhere, The New York Times actually reviewed it (11 April 1970), saying that How to Succeed with Sex is "an occasionally pleasant dirty movie [...]. Principally, one will wish to see this movie for its women, who are lovely. But one may also listen to its dialogue, which is ironic, literate, and occasionally even funny. The title derives from a book that Jack (Zack Taylor [of Group Marriage (1972 / trailer) and The Young Nurses (1973, with Dick Miller)]) buys to help him seduce his fiancée, Sandy (Mary Jane Carpenter [a.k.a. Linda Vair, of the Roberta Findlay sleaze disasterpiece, Janie (1970 / scene)]), a most resolute and unlikely virgin, and that speaks to him, in a gravelly voice, throughout the movie. He succeeds part of the time and fails part of the time, and fantasizes like crazy all off the time. Often the fantasies get in the way of success or failure, and then How to Succeed with Sex declines into a nervous classy photography approach to its subject that seems designed chiefly to keep you from seeing enough. But once in a while the fantasies suggest a real point of view that is more complicated and more sophisticated than the film's premises might have led you to expect. An amphibious film, at least half of How to Succeed with Sex takes place in swimming pools and at marinas and on a sailboat off the California coast. In this context the cult of the body, especially the Southern California body, seems a reasonable religion — for which Victoria Bond [of H.G. Lewis's The Ecstasies of Woman (1969 / trailer)] and Bambi Allen [(2 May 1938 – 21 Jan 1973) of Satan's Sadists (1969 / trailer) and so much more] and Luanne Roberts [of Simon, King of the Witches (1971 / trailer), The Psycho Lover (1970 / trailer), The Ravager (1970 / scene) and so much more] and all the nameless beauties who bounce through Jack's dreams are healthy prophets. But on the other side, Shawn Devereaux [of Russ Meyer's Europe in the Raw (1963 / Florence), below, from neither film], a cocktail lounge pick-up, and the only girl in the cast who looks old enough to have graduated high school, parodies pornography consciously, and with a civilized wickedness that indicates she is all together, body and soul."

So, if the film is that good, why doesn't anyone know about it? Well, it could be that time and tastes and attitudes have changed, something one feels may have colored Steven Puchalski's eyes back in 2010 when he reviewed How to Succeed with Sex for his great magazine, Shock Cinema: "[...] Director Bert I. Gordon [...] radically shifted gears with this misguided attempt at a raunchy, mainstream, X-rated sex-comedy. It's utterly braindead, thoroughly misogynistic and, despite all of its bare flesh and endless discussions about sex, lacks any genuine eroticism, with most of its episodes played for limp laughs. Thankfully, this nonsense is kept to a merciful 73 minutes. [...] Gordon tries to liven things up by inserting kinky, quick-cut photo-montages and tinted fantasy sequences, as well as a goofy, grass-induced operating-room-castration nightmare, but it only makes the end result a bigger mess. Taylor (in his screen debut and, no surprise, only starring gig) is forgettably generic, Carpenter's uptight role lacks the twisted edge of her 1970 teen-psychopath-incest romp Janie, but I'm sure Gordon had a blast casting this flick, since all of the women are extremely hot (and a world away from today's skeletal excuses for sex symbols)."
While it lasts at YouTube –
How to Succeed with Sex:
At one point in the film, blue-balled Jack goes to a porn cinema (with an oddly mixed audience) to watch Man & Wife. The film is a real white-coater: it's Matt Cimber's "thoroughly insulting, ineptly made fake documentary" Man & Wife: An Educational Film for Married Adults (1969 / full NSFW film), poster below.



Coming Soon:
R.I.P. Bert I. Gordon, Pt. III (1972-2015)

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