Monday, September 25, 2023

The Broken (Great Britain, 2008)

This flawed but slick and engrossing horror film is the second feature-film project written and directed by Sean Ellis, his follow-up film to his absolutely repulsive feature-film directorial debut, Cashback (2006 / trailer). That film, a surrealistic and mostly lauded indie film that he likewise scripted, for all its incessant celebration of the beauty of the nude female form, is perhaps one of the most unconsciously anti-women films of the century so far, a cinematic mistake that basically reduces beautiful women to objects that need not give consent to be stripped and that makes a hipster serial molester of women its hero. Luckily, while all the lead babes in The Broken, of which there are really only two, are babalicious — we doubt director Ellis would have it any other way, and are still surprised that the woman playing a consulate secretary was made up to look like a normal consulate secretary instead of a model — The Broken refrains, at least as far as we could tell, from any subliminal or overt objectification or misogyny. Whereas Cashback, for all its Emperor's clothing and ignorance, is a horrific film, The Broken is simply a horror film. As such, it is an extremely polished and methodically paced one that doesn't really tread any new ground but is both well-acted and well-shot. And while it doesn't exactly offer a twist ending that you don't already see miles in advance (and that doesn't really hold water), it remains both interesting and watchable to the end.
Trailer to
The Broken:
Much like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 / trailer, with Dana Wynter) and all its remakes and reimaginings, The Broken is a tale of the sudden appearance of doppelgangers and the slow replacement of the original. There really isn't any true explanation for the why of the sudden timing or occurrence of the doppelgangers (no witchcraft, no scientific experiment gone wrong, not aliens from outer space or some other dimension), they just suddenly start happening without any real rationalization. One day, in the homes and workplaces of upper-crust London — and probably, one imagines, in the lives of any and all crusts everywhere — the doppelgangers suddenly start breaking out of mirrors (and mirrors have been around a damn long time). But freed from 2-D into flesh-and-blood 3-D reality, they coldly do away with those they once reflected and coldly, emotionlessly, replace them. 
Not that anyone in the world of The Broken realizes this; only the successful radiologist Gina (the almost always excellent Lena Headley, of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies [2016 / trailer], Dread [2012 / trailer], and The Purge [2013]), a few days after a family dinner at which a mirror mysteriously shatters, comes to notice something is off when she suddenly sees someone who looks exactly like her drive past in her own car and enter her own apartment building. She follows her doppelganger, only to flee in her car and, distracted, to promptly have a major car accident. She barely survives, her memory gone, and eventually moves into the place of her successful architect boyfriend, Stefan, to recuperate. But Stefan (Melvil Poupaud of 44 Inch Chest [2009 / trailer] and Black Heaven [2010 / trailer]) is oddly cold and indifferent, the apartment oddly alienating, and the nightmares constant, and Gina cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong. And so she begins to play Miss [sexy-looking but bruised] Marple, looking for what she does not know...
The Broken is a deliberately paced film that is pretty much a detective mystery, complete with a thrilling escape from someone battering at the door of a locked bathroom, when it doesn't pause for its moments of dread and shock (and its singular money-shot gore scene), but by the movie's resolution it is 100% end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it horror. The London setting is appropriately bleak, and even the scenes that are not set at night or in spottily lit apartments or bathrooms or offices or hospitals or car-repair shops come across as cold and drab and unwelcoming. The Broken has moody atmosphere in spades.
In addition to the excellent cinematography and appropriate narrative ambience, Ellis also culls truly good performances from his entire cast; as Gina, Headley in particular really proves her acting mettle and she even manages to believably deliver what should be the hardest punch of the movie with a simple change of her facial expression. One does occasionally get the feeling, particularly due to the use of not only dream sequences but even a dream-within-a-dream sequence, as well as the movie's very deliberate pacing, that Ellis found it slightly difficult to stretch his narrative to feature-film length. Luckily, however, he manages to reinvigorate the viewer's interest — a slow-motion accident here, a fist-in-the-mouth killing there — often enough that the movie never truly becomes cinematic valerian. A director interested in details, he even tosses in a throw-away scene that, upon later consideration, implies the inexplicable doppelganger phenomenon is also occurring amongst animals (re: the dog[s] in the automobile graveyard). 
The Broken is anything but revolutionary or new; in fact, most of its tropes can be found in other movies, though many of those movies aren't as well made as this one. And that is the saving grace of The Broken, for while you may have seen the ingredients before, the director mixes them adroitly together into a deliciously high-quality cinematic cocktail. The Broken is hardly indispensable or unskippable, but it is nevertheless an absorbing slow-burn of a horror movie that keeps you captivated until its nicely depressing and appropriately bleak conclusion. 
If Sean Ellis first feature film, Cashback, gave us the feeling that we never want to watch another movie of his (indeed, had it registered to us The Broken was from that the director of Cashback, we would probably not have bothered with the movie), The Broken makes us think that his latest feature film, The Cursed (2021 / trailer), might be indeed worth a watch. But it also raises questions that it does not answer, and not just the one of why did it take so long for the reflections to decide to break free. To wit: Do the killer reflections themselves have reflections? And will their reflections one day break free and kill them? Is this thus the beginning of a möbius strip of reflective deaths?

Monday, September 18, 2023

Space Marines (USA, 1996)

Whether or not you will like Space Marines will probably depend on what you are expecting and how you approach this D2V movie. It is doubtful that most people who decide to watch this flick are actually in any way familiar with John Weidner, the director of the movie, but if one is familiar with his two prior (and to date only other) feature-length film directorial projects, Private Wars (1993 / trailer) and Midnight Man (1995 / trailer), or his screenwriting credit on films like Dead Man Walking (1988 / Portuguese trailer), Maximum Force (1992 / trailer, with Richard Lynch) or Midnight Kiss (1993 / trailer), and you go in expecting something equally "adult", well, you gonna hate this flick.
Trailer to
Space Marines:
While John Weidner surely knew he was making something somewhat different from his normal action cum gun-play flicks when he made Space Marines — otherwise he surely wouldn't have allowed some of the characterizations in the film — the true influence that makes Space Marines the kind of film it is likely comes from its screenwriter, Robert Moreland, who seems to have begun his film-writing career with this film only to quickly moves into kiddy films — specifically: animation films like Gnome Alone (2017 / trailer) and the generally forgotten Happily N'ever After (2006 / trailer). And that is a tidbit of trivia that is perhaps good to know before watching Space Marines, for despite this movie's inexplicable R-rating, the movie is very much a kiddie film, perfect for the children of the sort of people who like the kind of movies reviewed at Comeuppance Reviews.
Okay, there is a lot of adult fun stuff like cussin' and alcohol and lots of shooting — considering that the film is set in space and therefore obviously in the future, everyone still uses nice, old-fashioned stuff like rocket launchers, handguns and (the weapon of choice) M-16 rifles — and a lot of explosions and blood and death (all three in one when someone explodes from the inside) and fistfights and even strategically covered, holographic mega-titties (courtesy of plastic babe TJ Myers), but there is nothing in the movie you won't find in many of today's pay-channel TV series, where it is all shown far more convincingly and realistically (and, in the case of the titties, uncovered if normally smaller). But unlike most of today's quality TV product, Space Marines consciously veers in a direction seldom taken: high camp and persiflage. And that is the movie's saving grace.
[Get ready for a paragraph or two of run-on sentences.] The plot is fairly linear and unoriginal B-movie stuff: space pirates, headed by the hilariously arch Colonel Fraser (Australian John Pyper-Ferguson, of Wolves [2014 / trailer], Die [2010 / trailer] and "the Blue Velvet [1986 / trailer] of high school horror movies", Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II [1987 / trailer]), and his nasty second-in-command Gunther (Michael Bailey Smith*) — who, unluckily, never gets naked and oiled-up to flex his impressive, professional bodybuilder body — kidnap Vice Minister Adams (John Mansfield of Forbidden Sins [1999 / trailer]) while hijacking a yitload of raw nuclear material.
Retaliation comes in the form of the intergalactic warship The Missouri, commanded by the by-the-books Commander Lasser (Meg Foster**), and a group of marines (the modest size of which was obviously dictated by the film's budget) commanded by the hard but fair Capt Gray (Edward Albert [20 Feb 1951 – 22 Sep 2006] of the anti-classic Galaxy of Terror [1981 / trailer] and the fondly remembered if terrible TV movie "classics" Killer Bees [1974 / full film] &  Death Cruise [1974 / full film]). But things go south, and soon Fraser has Ambassador Nakamura (James Shigeta [17 Jun 1929 – 28 Jul 2014] of Brother [2000 / trailer], Drive [1997 / trailer] and Death Walks in Laredo [1967 / Italian credit sequence]) and his two attachés, the prerequisite female interest for the hero named Dar Mullins (Cady Huffman of Choose [2011 / trailer]) and the hero himself, Zack Delano (Billy Wirth, whose tall, dark and handsome droolability we already noted in the fiasco that is 7 Mummies [2006]), who's actually a marine in disguise...
* Sporting an abysmal haircut in the film, former competitive bodybuilder and current business man Michael Bailey Smith, whose muscles just make you wanna squeeze 'em, made his film debut as "Super Freddy" in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989 / trailer), impressed as Pluto in The Hills Have Eyes remake (2006 / trailer), and deserves recognition for playing The Thing in the infamous and never officially released first film version of The Fantastic Four (1994 / trailer). More successful now in the world of business, he has not been all that active since Bus Driver (2016 / trailer), but his resume of fun to terrible films includes Cyborg 3: The Recycler (1994 / trailer, with Richard Lynch), Monster Man (2003 — he's the titular character), the slasher Chain Letter (2010 / trailer), the truly trashy and fun Blood Shot (2013 / trailer), and the what-were-they-thinking? Kids vs Monsters (2015 / trailer).
** Let's hear it for Meg Foster, an actor whom we still cannot figure out why Tarantino hasn't cast in at least a tiny role. For that, Rob Zombie has: she's in both The Lords of Salem (2012 / trailer) and 31 (2016 / trailer). She may have never achieved major-name status (her eyes were/are probably too unique for that), but since her early role in the cult horror Welcome to Arrow Beach (1973 / trailer), a film that has yet to have a stateside release uncut, she has appeared in curious and insulting time capsules like A Different Story (1978), classic genre films like They Live (1988 / trailer), major misfires like Masters of the Universe (1997 / trailer), intentionally culty fair like Oblivion (1994 / trailer) and Oblivion II: Backlash (1996 / trailer), and so much more — like Carny (1980 / trailer), The Wind (1986 / trailer), Leviathan (1989), Blind Fury (1989 / trailer), Relentless (1989 / trailer), Stepfather II: Make Room for Daddy (1989 / trailer), Shrunken Heads (1994 / trailer), Victor "I Like 'em Young" Salva's Jeepers Kreepers III (2017 / trailer), A Reckoning (2018 / trailer), Any Bullet Will Do (2018 / trailer), Overlord (2018 / trailer), There's No Such Thing As Vampires (2020 / trailer), Hellblazers (2022 / trailer) and The Accursed (2022 / trailer). She is a character actor extraordinaire.
So far, perfectly generic, and so it pretty much remains — including even a point in the narrative when the normally by-the-books Commander Lasser finally bends the rules to help save the day — so there is really no reason to explain much more about the plot. Were it all played straight, Space Marines would be a pretty dry and abysmal film, especially since no one gets completely naked and the violence is all so half-assed.
But Space Marines doesn't play it all straight, and in doing so it manages to achieve the luster of the pirate films or war films — perhaps even peplum films — of yesteryear. Indeed, John Pyper-Ferguson's Colonel Fraser seems to have walked in from the wrong film: he is a retro-dressed, killer psycho channeling Dr Evil or Hans Gruber possibly originally intended for some unproduced John Waters pirate flick. Even Gunter, despite the cold-bloodedness initially shown in an opening scene where he kills three innocent people, becomes more and more of an obvious joke at the movie progresses. 
The filmmakers — scriptwriter, director and actors — obviously knew that Space Marines is an Aldi-level movie at best and play with it. Some (Pyper-Ferguson & Smith) by camping it up, most others (including Foster and Wirth) by playing totally straight, no matter how inane the dialogue or situation. Some jokes, like the shoot-outs, are less blatant: Space Marines is one of those films in which the bad guys and good guys shoot at each other at a point-blank range for an incessantly long time without hitting each other before the bad guy finally gets shot — but here, it is often in such excess that it eventually hits that it is done this way as a joke. Other jokes, like the difficulties Dar Mullins has with an inter-space telephone operator, are pretty in-your-face.
We are not in any way saying that Space Marines is a "quality" movie, because it really isn't. But there are many levels of "good" and the movie does achieve several of them, particularly if you know that the flick you're watching is truly meant to be fun. It's quick and cheesy and entertaining, doesn't drag or dwell too much on any given plot point, gets more than enough giggles and easy laughs, and more than a couple of hearty ones. Space Marines is a kiddy film in adult clothing, and as such makes for an easy evening of entertainment with a joint and your kids.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

B.o.Y.: The Women of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Part XIII – Phyllis Davis, Pt. I (1966-73)

Fifty-three years and three months ago, on 17 June 1970, Russ Meyer's baroque masterpiece Beyond the Valley of the Dolls hit the screens in the US of Anal. One of only two movies he ever made for a major Hollywood studio (in this case, Fox), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is without a doubt one of the Babest movies ever made.
 
"Using unknowns you avoid highly exaggerated salaries and prima donnas."
 
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 of the two appear in the film.
 
"This is not a sequel. There has never been anything like it!"
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Russ Meyer films are always populated by amazing breasts sights, but Beyond the Valley of the Dolls literally 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. The film is simply Babe Galore.
And so we continue our look at the flesh film careers of the breasts women of the Babest Film of All Times, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The size of the women's breasts roles is of lesser importance than the simple fact that they are known to be in it somewhere, and so far we have looked at the cleavage known unknowns and mildly knowns in the background and the headlining semi-knowns in the front for exactly twelve monthly blog entries — with more breasts babes to come. Our entries focus on their nipples careers in film, if in a meandering manner, and we have slightly less than another year to go before we're finished drooling with the project.*
* One set of love pillows Babe we don't look is she who is an American National Treasure: the Great Pam Grier. Though she had her film debut in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls unseen somewhere in the background of the opening party scene 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 undertake. That's her below on the set of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, standimg next to Cissy Colpotts (See Pt. XI & XII).
So far, we have looked at the T&A careers of the following women:
 
Part I:
The Non-babe of Note — Princess Livingston
Part II:
Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the DollsJacqulin Cole
Part III:
Background Babe of BVD Bebe Louie
Part IV:
Background Babe of BVD Trina Parks
Part V:
Background Babe of BVD Lavelle Roby, Pt. I (1968-76)
Part VI:
Background Babe of BVD Lavelle Roby, Pt. II (1979-2021)
Part VII:
Killer Babe of BVD Samantha Scott
Part VIII:
Background Babe of BVD Karen Smith
Part IX:
Background Babe of BVD The Five Mysterians
Part X:
Background Babe of BVD Gina Dair
Part XI:
Background Babe of BVD Cissy Colpotts, Pt. I (1970-80)
Part XII:
Background Babe of BVD Cissy Colpotts, Pt. II (1981-88)
 
If success is based on name familiarity, then of all the women to appear in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Phyllis Ann Davis (17 Jul 1940 – 27 Sept 2013) went on to have the most successful career, albeit primarily on television. For a while there, anyone who watched mainstream American TV knew who she was — a level of fame no other actress in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was to achieve, not even Edy Wiliams.
Born on Planet Texas in Port Arthur, she lived with her parents and siblings on the second floor above her parents' mortuary business. After graduating in 1958 from Nederland White School, Davis briefly attended Lamar University before dropping out and moving to La La Land in the mid-60s. She never married, but was known to have dated Joe Namath (of Avalanche Express [1979 / trailer]) in the 60s, to have had "a long-term relationship" with Dean Martin* during the 1970s, and to have been a thing with racehorse jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. during the mid 1980s.
Joe Namath doing a commercial:
* Some pen-pushing writer-for-hire, the factoid-challenged and unknown Nick Tosches (23 Oct 1949 – 20 Oct 2019), in his non-definitive biography, Dino — Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, has all of the following to say about her relationship with the "Percodan with Scotch"-slinging singer: "By then [1978], he had a new broad living with him: a young actress, Phyllis Elizabeth [sic] Davis, who would be co-starring in the fall in the new ABC-TV crime-drama series 'Vegas.' Dean would make a guest appearance as himself at the start of the show's second season." By January 1979, in any event, Phyllis seems to have been replaced by another "new broad", Joni Anderson.
Dean Martin sings
Everybody Loves Somebody:
Phyllis Davis's name became widely known in the US of Aggravation when she co-starred (1978-1981) on the popular TV detective series Vega$ as Beatrice Travis, office manager and girl Friday for the show's main character, Las Vegas private detective Dan Tanna (Robert Urich). She seemed to have taken a shine to the desert area, as she eventually retired to that nowhere outside of Las Vegas known as Henderson, Nevada, where she died of cancer at the age of 73 on 27 September 2013. For further details, we would suggest visiting the blogspot Hills Place.
Phyllis Davis's
gravesite location:
But now, let's take a typical (for a wasted life) all-over-the-place look at the career of Phyllis Davis, beginning with her first know film part in...
 
 
Lord Love a Duck
(1966, dir. George Axelrod)

Phyllis Davis made her screen debut in a film that is often described as the inspiration for later, darkly humorous teenage black comedies like Heathers (1989 / trailer). Based on the novel of the same name by Al Hine (11 Dec 1915 – Nov 1974), Lord Love a Duck was a critical and financial flop; nevertheless, in Germany — poster above — the third lead, Lola Albright (20 Jul 1924 – 23 Mar 2017), won the Silver Bear award for Best Actress at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival for her acting in the movie. Who Phyllis Davis plays, or whether she speaks, we know not, but: her name is listed in the opening credit sequence.
Credit sequence with the title track
(sung by The Wild Ones):
"George Axelrod's unclassifiable satire is one of the oddest Hollywood movies, which over the years has engendered passionate support and derision. For some it's an incisively bizarre portrait of sixties America, for others it's a sloppily made, undisciplined mess (with more boom mikes visible in full frame than even Play It Again Sam [1972 / trailer]). However, nothing can dim the luster of the incredibly perverse scene where Tuesday Weld's horny dad (Max Showalter of The Monster that Challenged the World [1957 / trailer]) practically ejaculates while watching his sexy daughter try on sweaters. [Trailers from Hell]"
Lord Love a Duck:
The plot explained at Filmbrain: "Roddy McDowall (in his greatest screen role) plays Alan 'Mollymauk' Musgrave, a dangerously intelligent high-school senior who becomes a Mephistopheles of sorts to beautiful classmate Barbara Anne Greene (Tuesday Weld). Barbara Anne wants to be a star, and Mollymauk is determined to make it come true, even if it requires mass murder. The performances are top notch, and Weld exudes a genuine innocence that is so vital to the role. The supporting cast (including Ruth Gordon, Martin West, and Lola Albright) also gives it their all, with the exception of Harvey Korman [...] who resorts to literally chewing the scenery. The music by Neal Hefti is even better than his infamous Batman theme, and the title song (sung by The Wild Ones) is an infectious bit of psych-pop. Where the film fails is in its story — while Axelrod's wonderful screenplay contains dialog that's as good as anything else he's written, the story structure is just a bit too episodic, and there's too much of too little. Though his critical gaze extends in many directions, none of the attacks go deep enough. While this might not seem a major criticism, it's what has prevented the film from being universally recognized as one of the great comedies of the 60s. Still, there's quite a lot to like about the film [...]."
The slab of yummy beefcake known as Dave Draper (16 Apr 1942 – 30 Nov 2021), pictured above at the 1965 Mr. America competition, appears in Lord Love a Duck as Billy Gibbons and gets his ass kicked by Roddy's Alan Musgrave.
Lastly: the photo above, from Lord Love a Duck, shows Barbara Ann Greene (Tuesday Weld of I Walk the Line [1970, theme song further below]) and Sally Grace (Lynn Carey) talking about cashmere sweaters...
Johnny Cash sings
I Walk the Line:
And what's so special about Lynn Carey, Penthouse's Pet of the Month for December 1972 (below), who made her acting debut in this film? Well, an accomplished singer, she went on to be the singing voice of Dolly Read in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls — yep, Lynn Carey is the actual lead singer of The Carrie Nations!
 
 
The Oscar
(1966, dir. Russell Rouse)
 
Plot: "A snotty Hollywood actor (Stephen Boyd [4 Jul 1931 – 2 Jun 1977]) becomes even more full of himself after he's nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. [Mubi]" For further reading, may we suggest chapter 19 of Michael Sauter's The Worst Movies of All Time (1995)? Phyllis Davis appears, uncredited, somewhere in this much-maligned hit drama as an actress.
Opening sequence to
The Oscar:
The Oscar, like The White Buffalo (1977), is based on the novel by the "American screenwriter, pulp writer, and film director" Richard Sale (17 Dec 1911 – 4 Mar 1993).
The film was brought to the screen by director Russell Rouse (20 Nov 1913 – 2 Oct 1987), the scriptwriter of that classic noir, D.O.A. (1949 / full film); co-scripter Harlan Ellison (27 May 1934 – 28 Jun 2018) helped write the screenplay. So, whose fault is it that The Oscar is such a turkey?
Scene from
The Oscar:
Deep within Poseidon's Underworld, it is said: "The type of movie (think Showgirls [1995 / trailer] or Battlefield Earth [2000 / trailer]) that was a camp classic practically upon release and which becomes more and more so with each year that separates it from the time in which it first appeared, it is manna from heaven to those who enjoy that period in the mid-60s when studio films still clung to that clean, sharp, sleek visual style while the subject matter was beginning to turn more sordid than in previous decades. Then, of course, there is the female hair of that period, when it was de rigueur to tease it as high and full as possible and, often, to augment it with skyscraping appendages, anything to achieve that Nouveau-Grecian look."
Stephen Boyd (above), however, was as handsome as ever. Yummy, yummy, yummy... Speaking of eating, one of Boyd's last appearance in film is as Count Dracula in the wonderfully terrible German horror comedy, Lady Dracula (1977); Lady Dracula herself is played by the memorable Euro-starlet Evelyne Kraft (22 Sept 1951 – 13 Jan 2009), of other fine stuff like The Mighty Peking Man (1977).
German Trailer to
Lady Dracula: 
 
 
The Swinger
(1966, dir. George Sidney)
Phyllis Davis appears, uncredited, somewhere in this mostly forgotten movie as a model, as does the pneumatic Veronica Ericson, also of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, whose breasts career we will look at in two months. You can see the two of them directly below, sitting next to each other, in the middle, front row of the photograph of the women of The Swinger.
Title track
sung by Ann-Margret:
Director George Sidney (4 Oct 1916 – 5 May 2002), we might add, never made a feature film that we here at a wasted life have watched to the end — although we still hope to make it through Jupiter's Darling (1955) one day...
Yes, it's a trailer to a real film —
Jupiter's Darling (1955): 
We took a quick look at The Swinger way back in 2012 in our blog entry They Died in September 2012, Part III, which is when the character actor Lance LeGualt died — the film is his first screen credit. There, we wrote: "A 'hip' comedy from George Sidney [...]. TV Guide says: 'Ann-Margret plays a naive girl from Minnesota who wants to become a writer. The editors at the publication she sends her stories to, Girl-Lure Magazine, don't think her material is up to their standards of excitement and sexual exploitation. So Ann-Margret writes a story that will please publishers [Anthony] Franciosa and [Robert] Coote. She lifts lines out of other girlie publications and claims that they describe her own lifestyle. To prove it, she stages an orgy and has her neighbor, a cop, make a bust to heighten the luridness of the situation. This makes Franciosa believe it his duty to reform Ann-Margret. When he tries to do so, he discovers her true background. This film is a humorous satire against overly sex-oriented culture. Ann-Margret is good in a role that takes advantage of her bombshell image. The script also satirizes what that image represents.'"
Also sung by Ann-Margret in the movie,
I Wanna Be Loved:
To the above, we would add: "One of the reasons The Swinger is such an adorably awful piece of cinema trash is that it tries so very hard to be 'hip' and fails at nearly every turn. During the 1960s, Hollywood was woefully behind the times. The counter-culture youth movement left Hollywood filmmakers clueless as to what the American public wanted to see. Old guard director George Sidney (who worked with Ann-Margret on Bye, Bye Birdie, 1963 [trailer] and Viva Las Vegas, 1964 [trailer]) seems at a total loss with the material in The Swinger. [...] With its crazy costumes, wacky musical interludes and faux bohemian concepts, The Swinger is a star vehicle that features everything a bad movie aficionado could ask for. When Ann-Margret is added to the mix, well, that's when a movie like The Swinger truly becomes a slice of bad movie heaven. [Will Kraus]"
"Sexy scenes" of
The Swinger:
Robert Coote (4 Feb 1909 – 26 Nov 1982), who also does the narration in the movie, is found (and killed) in one of our all-time favorite movies, the classic English (or, as the case may be, Vincent Price) body counter, Theatre of Blood (1973)...
Trailer to
Theatre of Blood (1973):

 
Spinout
(1966, dir. Norman Taurog)
Phyllis Davis appears somewhere in this Elvis Presley movie as an uncredited background babe. Director Norman Taurog (23 Feb 1899 – 7 Apr 1981) was the dubious distinction of having directed the most Presley movies of any director. 
Trivia: In 1931, Taurog became the youngest director to win the Oscar as Best Director, for a forgotten film titled Skippy (scene). He retained that dubious honor until he was ousted by the 221-day-younger Damien Chazelle, for La La Land (2016 / trailer).
Spinout features the last silver-screen appearance of Una Merkel ([10 Dec 1903 – 2 Jan 1986] of The Bat Whispers [1930]), who got to pull Marlene Deitrich's hair in Destiny Rides Again (1939 / trailer). For more about Spinout, may we suggest reading Harry Medved & Randy Lowell's The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (and How They Got that Way).
The title track
sung by some blonde guy with dyed hair:
The "plot": "This time Elvis is Mike McCoy, part-time racecar driver and full-time rock'n'roller. Though popular, Mike refuses to join the big-time music scene, preferring to modestly tour the country with band mates Larry (Jimmy Hawkins), Curly (Jack Mullaney), and Moe Les (Deborah Walley), she a drummer long in love with Mike. Mike races a Cobra 427 (towed around the country by his pristine 1929 Model J Duesenberg; ah, the simple life!) that is nearly wrecked when spoiled but perpetually cheery rich girl Cynthia (Shelley Fabares) runs Mike off the road. Later, Cynthia's father, Howard Foxhugh (Carl Betz), proposes Mike race his new Fox Five Car at the big Santa Fe race, but contrary Mike wants no part of it. Cynthia becomes determined to marry Mike, and meanwhile best-selling author Diana St. Clair (Diane McBain), decides she wants to marry him, too. [DVD Talk]"
Trailer to
Spinout:
 
 
The Last of the Secret Agents?
(1966, dir. Norman Abbott)
Phyllis Davis appears somewhere in this comedy as uncredited background filler (or, as imdb calls her, "Beautiful girl" — which makes us think you see her in the trailer). Edy Williams, whom we look at later this year, is there , too, somewhere — playing "Edy".
The movie, the only feature film ever directed by TV comedy "specialist" Norman Abbott (11 Jul 1922 – 9 Jul 2016), was meant to bang-start the film career of its two lead actors, Marty Allen (23 Mar 1922 – 12 Feb 2018) and Steve Rossi ([25 May 1932 – 22 Jun 2014] of The Man from O.R.G.Y. [1970 / full film at a NSFW website]): "Allen & Rossi were a popular comedy team in their nightclub and television appearances, notably on The Ed Sullivan Show. Paramount Pictures had highly successful comedy teams of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the 1940s and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in the 1950s and no doubt wished to recreate their success with the duo's screen debut in the film. (This proved not to be the case, and no sequels were produced for the film, although the duo did appear in the 1974 film Allen and Rossi Meet Dracula and Frankenstein.*) [Wikipedia @ 20.07.23]"
* The vagaries of internet "facts": while the movie was discussed as a project, Allen and Rossi Meet Dracula and Frankenstein was never made, never released — and never existed.
The Last of the Secret Agents?:
The trailer looks stupid enough to make the film seem watchable, as does the presence of a then small-fry daughter of a famous singer, Nancy Sinatra. She had not yet had her career-making classic hit song, These Boots Are Made for Walking — it became a hit while the film was in post-production. Lee Hazlewood (9 Jul 1929 – 4 Aug 2007) wrote a James Bond-like song for the movie, which ended up being reused in 1997 for the Bill Murray vehicle, The Man Who Knew Too Little (trailer).
Nancy sings
The Last of the Secret Agents:
"The plot involves Marty Allen and Steve Rossi as two American ex-pats looking for work in Europe. They soon discover that they've been unwillingly used as couriers for art thieves who are part of an evil organization known as THEM. They get recruited by the GGI (Good Guys Inc.) and help concoct a plan to put an end to the criminal activities of THEM. Naturally lots of chase scenes and fights take place in the process. Like any good spy film there are plenty of beautiful women that help and hinder the two stars. Last of the Secret Agents? also contains a musical number performed by Steve Rossi and it ends with an appearance of Allen & Rossi on the Ed Sullivan Show. [Cinebeats]"
The NY Times doesn't notice Nancy in their review, which claims "The film's only bright note is the burlesque performance by Theo Marcuse as the head of the gang. He owns the arms of the Venus de Milo and, in a climactic caper, aims to obtain the rest of her. Neither the script, the director nor Mr. Allen and Mr. Rossi display the kind of mad comic invention, which can sometimes run smoothly. Not even the kids will get a ride out of this one. [NY Times]"
 
"The movie is stolen by Harvey Korman, who, in one scene, displays the focus and timing that the rest of the movie lacks. Outside of his scene, the best moments involve a film being shown to the two new agents showing their probable fate if they don't join the agency (good use of stock footage here), and a scene in a topless dance club where, through the magic of careful camera placement, you manage to avoid seeing anything. [Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings]"
 
 
Live a Little, Love a Little
(1968, dir. Norman Taurog)
Phyllis Davis appears in her second Elvis Presley movie, the last of the nine in total directed by the forgotten Norman Taurog. Coincidentally, Live a Little, Love a Little is also the second movie to feature Veronica Ericson, though she remains uncredited. Phyllis Davis, however, does get credited — as "2nd Secretary". (BTW: Merri Ashley, in her only known feature-film appearance, is "1st Secretary".)
The movie is based on a novel, Dan Greenberg's Kiss My Firm but Pliant Lips, from 1965, and at least one review online says the film follows the book relatively closely.
Trailer to
Live a Little, Love a Little:
The "plot" of what could possibly be the Pelvis's only foray into Fatal Attraction (1987 / trailer) territory, though things are played for laughs and songs: "Greg Nolan (Presley) is a photographer who loses his job, apartment and freedom to do what he pleases when he meets Bernice (Michelle Carey). To pay for a new apartment that Bernice finds him, Greg works two photographer jobs at the same time while trying to [prevent] his bosses (Rudy Vallee, Don Porter) from finding out. [Comet over Hollywood]"
"Live a Little, Love a Little [...] contains a single scene of naive surrealism at its most jaw-dropping, 'WTF were they thinking?' level, which almost makes the whole enterprise worthwhile. [Alfred Eaker]"
TarTarkas explains the WTF moment (a dream): "Imagine that waking you up in the middle of the night [is a man dressed as a dog] and [you] calmly start to discuss your love life. It then insists Elvis walk through the door to a pit of blackness where he is accosted by the entire cast, each taking turns, taunting him with Bernice's true identity and motives. Elvis then must sing a song about how her mysterious nature is driving him wild while different women appear and dance with other men, pretending to be Bernice. [...] But then, Elvis wakes up. And, worse yet, the unthinkable occurs. The movie becomes... boring."
Junkie XL's remix of a song from the film:


 
The Big Bounce
(1969, dir. Alex March)
The second of the only four feature film movies TV director Alex March (4 Feb 1921 – 11 Jun 1989), The Big Bounce is based on the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, about which Paperback Warrior says: "The book is mindless with its lack of plot structure and features one of the most uninteresting protagonists I've read. [...] There isn't anything remotely compelling about the story, the character development, pace, or dialogue."

The novel was adapted to film again in 2004 (trailer) — in an article in the LA Times, they write: "Leonard calls The Big Bounce 'the second-worst movie ever made.' The first-worst, he says, is the 2004 remake." 
In this one from 1969, the second-worst film adaptation of Leonard's book, a credited Phyllis Davis shows up somewhere in a bikini.
Trailer to
The Big Bounce (1969):
Over at All Movie, Dan Pavlides has the plot: "Jack Ryan (Ryan O'Neal) is a cucumber picker who is fired after a fight with a Mexican-American (Victor Paul) co-worker. He finds work on a ranch owned by Ray Ritchie (James Daly). Soon his private secretary Nancy (Leigh Taylor-Young of Soylent Green [1973]) is after Jack. She spends her free time in pursuit of hedonism and reckless pleasure by fornicating on tombstones and breaking hearts as well as windows. Sam Mirakian (Van Heflin [13 Dec 1908 – 23 Jul 1971]) of The Ruthless Four [1968] is the motel owner whose lonely resident (Lee Grant) makes a play for Jack. She ends up killing herself and Nancy ends up killing someone else for sheer pleasure. This forgettable and pointless movie — one critic described it as 'a rancid piece of trash' — is O'Neal's big-screen debut. Some nudity required an 'R' rating."
About the performances: "Taylor-Young delivers a performance of fearless sexuality and delirious abandon. She's absolutely mesmerizing, as is Lee Grant as a heartbreakingly fragile single mother with whom O'Neal dallies. In its superior first half, The Big Bounce excels as a pitch-black comedy about dark deeds and evil desires under the big California sun, but as it moves into conventional thriller territory in its third act, the bitter laughs dry up, the film turns humorless and dour, and every actor who shares a frame with O'Neal upstages him. [AV Club]"
The Mike Curb Congregation's title track to
The Big Bounce:

 
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
(1970, dir. Russ Meyer)
And after all that small stuff, Russ Meyer gave Phyllis Davis a career-making role as Susan Lake, the voice of reason and integrity in his over-the-top soap opera, perhaps the only women of note in the movie who doesn't go through hell or end up dead. Her role "was originally meant to be a continuation of the Anne Welles role played by Barbara Parkins (of Asylum [1972 / trailer]) in the original Valley of the Dolls (1967 / trailer below) back when the film was planned as a direct sequel to the earlier film. [Hill Place]"
Trailer to
Valley of the Dolls:
"Originally intended as a sequel to the 1967 movie version of Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley of the Dolls (trailer above), 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.' [a wasted life]"
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 [above from the film]), 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."
Trailer to
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:

 
Diamonds Are Forever
(1971, dir. Guy Hamilton)
The one that got away. "Phyllis Davis (measurements: 36C-22-34) reportedly was originally cast as Bond Girl Plenty O'Toole in Diamonds are Forever (1971). However, sometime after she had signed the contracts, but before she was to report for work in Las Vegas, she was replaced by Lana Wood (measurements: 36D-24-35). Davis mentioned in a 1992 interview for Femme Fatales magazine that she was deeply disappointed in missing out on the Bond movie, but maintained that she still received residual checks whenever the film airs on television or cable due to having signed the contracts before being replaced. [Hill Space]"
For more on Diamonds Are Forever, take a look at Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the DollsTrina Parks.
Trailer to
Diamonds Are Forever:

 
Sweet Sugar
(1972, dir. Michel Levesque)
(A.k.a. Hellfire on Ice, She Devils in Chains, Chaingang Girls, and Captive Women 3.) "Instead of appearing in the Bond movie [Diamonds Are Forever], Davis made a memorable lead in the Costa Rica-shot women's prison film Sweet Sugar (1972), playing a sassy, quick-witted prostitute named Sugar who has been railroaded into working on a corrupt banana republic sugar cane plantation prison run by a psychotic doctor. [Hill Space]"
Low quality & NSFW trailer to
Sweet Sugar:
Sweet Sugar is the second feature film of director Michel Levesque (22 Aug 1943 – 14 May 2010), the man who wrote and directed the anti-classic disasterpiece Werewolves on Wheels (1971 / trailer). The script was supplied by Don Spencer, whose only currently known scriptwriting credits are this film, The Student Nurses (1970 / trailer) and The Big Doll House (1971 / trailer).
The plot: "After being set up and arrested for drug possession, the sexy Sugar (Davis) is given an option to avoid a drawn out trial — spend two years in a Central American prison working the vast sugar cane fields. She agrees and it isn't long before her libidinous ways get her and her fellow inmates into serious trouble. Torture, rape, cannibalism and death ensue when the girls are at the mercy of the sadistic Dr. John (Angus Duncan [11 Jul 1936 – 22 Mar 2007] of Simon, King of the Witches [1971 / trailer]) and his bizarre sexual experiments. [Cool Ass Cinema]"
"The flick is rife with memorable moments. There's a great scene where Dr. John shoots Sugar up with an aphrodisiac to test her orgasm strength and she breaks the machine (in a bit straight out of Barbarella [1968 / trailer]). We also get a choice scene where the guards burn one of the girl's boyfriends alive and feed him to the prisoners. And while the flick may have its share of lulls, it's the only Women in Prison movie I've ever seen where the prisoners get pelted with feral cats; so it's got that going for it. If Sweet Sugar works as well as it does, it's because of Phyllis Davis. Not only does she have a great bosom, she also has a Tura Satana-like vivaciousness about her that's sexy as hell. She also gets all the best lines of the movie, including: 'I hope someone hacks off your hambone!' [Video Vacuum]"
Don Gere's theme to
Sweet Sugar:
"Sweet Sugar is a fast-moving film that is, most of all, fun despite ridiculous scenarios and a lot of unexplained plot somersaults. Viewers who enjoy Blaxploitation, women in prison, and other exploitative cinema will find a lot to love about the movie, which combines all of those elements into one dynamic whole. And Davis, Pamela Collins, and Jacqueline Giroux are all in their sexy prime, delivering a bevy of buxom beauties to pair with the crazy pacing. [Cultsploitation]"
"Outtakes and unedited footage of Phyllis Davis's nude scenes were featured (without the actresses consent) in the direct to video Famous T & A (1982). [...] When asked about her nude scenes, Phyllis Davis said 'I was modeling in New York and making more money doing that, but I came out to test for another part and wound up with Sweet Sugar. I had signed a 'no frontal nudity' agreement and when I got to Costa Rica, all of a sudden I had to go nude. So I called the union and said I refused, and they said I'd get sued. They weren't helpful at all, I always remember that. I had to hire a lawyer, myself, and I was only making scale starring in this film. He went down there, so I wouldn't have to do full-frontal nudity. [imdb]" He obviously wasn't that good of a lawyer, however, cause she shows a lot of skin.
Like all good WIP films, Sweet Sugar ensures itself some Blaxploitation appeal by including at least two Black side characters, in this case Timothy Brown (see R.I.P. Carrol Speed and Babe of Yesterday Marilyn Joi) as Mojo and Ellaraino (7 Oct 1938 – 10 Mar 2017) as Simone. Spoiler: They both die.
 
 
Terminal Island
(1973, dir. Stephanie Rothman)
The type of exploitation film that gets serious academic attention, Terminal Island was released theatrically in the U.K. as Knuckle Men.
Phyllis Davis goes blonde (and far more generic-looking) as Joy Lange: she is not the star of the film, but she gets naked. Remade in 1989 as Caged in Paradiso (8 minutes) — but then, make all the characters male, and the movie also exists as No Escape (1994). Odd about most of the poster(s) — not that odd, actually — is that the actress playing true main character of the movie, an Afro-American Ena Hartman, is not on it, while even honkies of lesser note are.
 
NSFW trailer to
Terminal Island:
Plot: "Sometime in the future. Carmen Sims (Ena Hartman) is sentenced to San Bruno Island off the coast of California, a prison where convicted murderers are abandoned by society. On the island, she is forcibly recruited into the encampment led by Bobby Farr (Sean Kenney of The Toy Box [1971 / opening] and The Cult [1971 / trailer], both with the Great Uschi) where she learns that it is her duty, along with the other women prisoners, to service the sexual needs of the male prisoners and act as a workhorse. She and the women are liberated by a group of outcasts from Bobby's camp and enjoy the freedom to be found amongst their rescuers. However, this pitches the two encampments into war with one another. [MORIA]"
"The wild, weird Terminal Island: a progressive B-movie that New York Times critic Dave Kehr calls a 'crafty feminist allegory'! And if you want another (strange) reason to watch, it features future Magnum, P.I. stars Tom Selleck and Roger E. Mosley. [Mubi]"
"[Terminal Island] IS super violent, there's plenty of that almost pink-hued, seventies tempera-flavored blood flowing; axes pierce flesh, bullets and explosions rain, people are whipped and kept as sex slaves and political correctness is not even a glimmer in a schoolmarm's eye. Still, I was kind of shocked not by the rampant degeneracy but by the winking social commentary. [...] The island is a mad Lord of the Flies (1990 / trailer) meets Battle Royale (2000 / trailer) microcosm overruled by grotesque, primitive 'might makes right' ideology and the simple fact that the assholes outnumber the non-assholes. The many work as slaves for the few. (Could never happen!) That is until the last remaining women team up with a small band of tight-jeaned revolutionaries and they, using their superior brains, overthrow their oppressors by any means necessary. Here I was expecting to be all scandalized by this movie but I found myself instead enthralled, vaguely inspired and really happy when the bad murderers died and really sad when the good murderers died. [...] In any case, if you fancy fisticuffs and have a soft spot for chika-chika-wow porn music here ya go; consider TI cloud nine. It's probably not everybody's incarcerated cup of T&A, but what the hell is? [Kindertrauma]"
As mentioned earlier, in Great Britain Terminal Island was renamed Knuckle Men. As evident below, it played on a double bill with Ed Forysth's 1973 Superchick (trailer below), which we looked at in detail at back in 2019 in Babes of Yesteryear: Uschi Digard, Part VII: 1973-74. The lead non-thespain of Superchick, Joyce Jillson (26 Dec 1945 – 1 Oct 2004), went on to become Ronald and Nancy Reagan's personal astrologer after her non-acting career fizzled out.
Trailer to
Superchick:

"Outtakes and unedited footage of Phyllis Davis and Barbara Leigh's nude scenes were featured (without the actresses' consent) in the direct to video Famous T & A (1982). [imdb]" (We take a look at that in Part II.)
Jeff Thomas sings It's Too Damn Bad 
to the end credits:

 
The Day of the Dolphin
(1973, dir. Mike Nichols)
Three years after the semi-A flick that is Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Phyllis Davis finally makes a real A-film! True, a minor part as a receptionist, but it was a step towards leaving exploitation films behind and moving into mostly TV projects and name recognition. (Her next two projects after this movie were the failed TV-movie pilots The Boys [1974] and The Wives [1975].) For that, however, the movie was a major flop: it cost over $8 million to make, but brought in less than $3 during its stateside release.
"The Day of the Dolphin was based on a French sci-fi thriller about talking dolphins involved in a plot to assassinate the president. Its Greenpeace Meets James Bond storyline managed to attract directors as disparate as Roman Polanski and Franklin Schaffner but the task eventually fell to Mike Nichols who enlisted his Graduate [1967 / trailer] scribe Buck Henry to tap out the screenplay. Starring George C. Scott as a kind of water-logged Dr. Doolittle, Nichols described the Bahamas-set shoot as his 'toughest' ever. Georges Delerue's achingly lovely score was nominated for an Academy Award. [Trailers from Hell]"
Day of the Dolphin:
Film Frenzy has a plot description: "A strange hybrid of family film and adult drama, this ends up playing like Flipper (trailer) meets the Parallax View (trailer). George C. Scott stars as Jake Terrell, a scientist who, with his wife Maggie (Trish Van Devere, Scott's real-life spouse from 1972 until his death in 1999) at his side, teaches dolphins how to speak, only to learn that a shady group of businessmen hopes to use them in an assassination attempt. The political subplot is sloppily crammed into the second half, while the talking dolphins will annoy those who have an aversion to all things Pokémon (they sound like Pikachu). But the movie offers several pluses, including Paul Sorvino's supporting turn as an unpredictable government flunky, Georges Delerue's effective (and Oscar-nominated) score, and, of course, the irresistible antics of the various dolphin stars."
Georges Delerue's theme to
Day of the Dolphin:
Spoiler: Downer ending for the humans.
 
 
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