(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Night Tide (1961)

night tide 01

Sirens go off: A figure of speech, as it were.

night tide mpSpoiler Theater: In Curtis Hanson’s beautiful, haunting and unsettling romantic thriller, it’s a case of Boy meets Girl, Boy gets Girl and Boy, Oh Boy, does Boy lose Girl, But That’s Sort Of A Good Thing?  Night Tide is a dark and moody film set by the Pacific, with an old pier carnival and its seaside surroundings as the main setting and what could be seen by some today as a few problematic elements in some of its troubled characters. I still think it’s an excellent film, mind you. But after watching it with a few friends recently, I see it’s also a film where some viewers applying more modern thoughts to its story may find an issue with their overall enjoyment. You’ll see.

A young sailor on leave named Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper) goes to a seaside amusement park at night. He pops into a jazz club where he sees a lovely woman (Linda Lawson) sitting alone enjoying the music. He crosses the room, asks her if he can sit at her table because he can’t see the musicians from where he is, then proceeds to sit facing the woman, not the musicians. He tries to strike up more conversation, but she asks him to let her listen to the tunes instead. He then tries to buy her a drink twice, but she refuses both times. Suddenly, a strange, middle-aged black-clad woman (Marjorie Cameron) comes into the club, approaches the other woman and starts speaking an untranslated foreign language (Greek?) to her. The young woman is upset by this and quickly hands Johnny some cash to pay for whatever she was drinking and rushes out of the club.

 

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Random Film of the Week Quickie: The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

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It’s too hot for meatballs, but it’s going to get hotter, Tor.

yucca_MPI first saw this really awful and brilliantly bad sci-fi flick very late at night some years ago and again recently after overhearing someone in a diner hilariously recast the Avengers movies as period pieces set in the early 60’s. Yes, Tor Johnson was The Hulk in that person’s version. While you roll that around in your noggin, be warned that The Beast of Yucca Flats is a pretty horrible movie with only three redeeming factors:

1. It’s only 54 minutes or so long. Okay, it’s a long 54 minutes, so there’s that.

2. If you’re in a foul mood, you very likely won’t be in 54 minutes or so*.

3. It almost makes Plan 9 from Outer Space or Robot Monster look like Star Wars movies (which ones are up to you).

(Thanks, Alistair Knight!)

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Random Film of the Week(end) Quickie: The Pit and the Pendulum (Or: That Funky Cold Medina)

The Pit and the Pendulum 1961So, here’s how MY Saturday night went. I’m sitting in the living room watching “The Price of Fear” marathon on This TV (which seems to be an offshoot of WPIX here in NYC that shows better movies, albeit edited for network standards) and during a commercial break in The Pit and the Pendulum (I know, I know – but I can’t pass up those Vincent Price/Roger Corman films anywhere they’re aired), I heard some loud music booming outside from someone going deaf in his or her car.

A few seconds later I end up nearly falling off the couch laughing because the song playing with its bumpy bass hanging out the window is none other than Tone Loc’s ode to lousy overpriced wine, Funky Cold Medina. Bwah and ha. Suddenly, my Saturday night got a great deal more interesting…

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Random Film of the Week: KONGA

(thanks, Movie Trailer Graveyard!)

Konga MPWhile it’s not the worst man in a gorilla suit sci-fi/horror hybrid out there (Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla or A*P*E*, anyone?) 1961’s KONGA is nevertheless a terrifyingly bad movie that’s worth a watch for a few reasons. You’ll marvel at the ferocious, scenery chewing by Michael Gough’s mad botanist/scientist Dr. Charles Decker, the kitchen sink plot that tosses in carnivorous plants, terrible, inaccurate science, botany and biology, a love triangle that’s actually a square that gets whittled away corner by corner as the film progresses and some mostly lousy special effects that make this a total howler. I’ll get back to the ape suit later and the man in it, as both are another key to making this film so hysterically funny.

You have to admire a film that wants you to believe that Dr. Decker returns from his year-long trip to Africa (he’s actually missing and presumed dead!) with some strange ideas, some recipes for a serum that can make plants and animals grow to extreme sizes and a cute baby chimpanzee. His plant experiments end up creating a number of oversize man-eating varieties including (eek) some that look like gigantic black rubber penises with green veins a’poppin’ and red tongues hanging out (seriously). Before that rolls around in your head too much, Decker’s real showpiece is Konga, that baby chimpanzee he gives his serum who SOMEHOW changes into a gorilla (Wait, WHAT? Science takes another hit, folks POW!) before using his new “pet” to get revenge on a few of his peers (spoilers inbound, but it doesn’t matter because even if it’s all given away, this one’s worth seeing for the laughs it provides)… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: Master of the World

Master of the WorldAh, Master of the World… you’re so well intentioned but when all is said and done you’re just not as good a film as you wanted to be… and that’s too bad. Even the great Vincent Price reading the words of the great Richard Matheson (who reworked elements from two of the great Jules Verne’s books into a screenplay) can’t save you from your crushing mediocrity. Nope, those barrel bottom visual effects work and an unfunny comic relief chef character tossed into the rather serious story can’t keep this Albatross afloat at all. That said, it’s an OK flick if you don’t mind it reminding you of a few better ones it tries so hard to template.

Now, call me crazy… but I think the idea of a war-hating kind of madman flying around the world and waging war against people who wage wars is both nuts and necessary in this day and age. However, this film fails to excite on a few levels other than giving Price his juicy lead role and Charles Bronson a chance to play a rugged-looking 19th century good guy for a change. For all its explosions and shouting, it makes the idea of Price’s bomb-dropping anti-war antihero Robur a pretty dull one and the film wears out its welcome around the halfway point… Continue reading

Happy Perihelion! Go Out And Get Some Sun Today (It’s A Lot Closer!)…

(Thanks, ClassicMovieTrailers!) 

Okay, so it’s not actually THAT hot out today, but yes, today is that day where the sun and earth are closest, which may not be any comfort at all to those of us who dislike the freezing weather and wish that closer hit star would do some rapid melting of what’s on the ground while super-heating the air around so it’s… well, just like that silly film clip above. Hey, silly – actual science doesn’t work that way and besides, things are already disrupted here enough (hotter, stranger summers and colder, stranger winters have been a thing for a while now). Oh, I know Perihelion isn’t a “day” to be celebrated like a traditional holiday – it’s just a term at the end of the day. So don’t go zipping into that big box party store looking for decorations any time soon.

You can however, get a fine start on next year’s Perihelion by going out and getting a few dozen boxes of glow in the dark stars of assorted sizes and a current map of the solar system and make a heroic attempt to recreate what’s on that map on your walls and ceilings. Er,I hope you live in a REALLY big house and don’t mind guests wondering who decorated your entire place like it was a planetarium gift shop. Or you could just do what everyone else here in the US does and wait until Aphelion (which is around July 4th) and get a free fireworks show as a backdrop for that non-holiday. One of those is a lot less maddening to accomplish (in most cases)…

Random Film of the Day*: Mysterious Island

(Thanks, bttfportugal!)
*For the next week or so, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

Mysterious Island PosterYet another Charles H. Schneer/Ray Harryhausen production featuring a brilliant Bernard Herrmann soundtrack, 1961’s Mysterious Island is another classic fans of the master stop motion animator cite as some of his best work of the decade as well as a pretty solid genre entry. It’s certainly got a nicely varied cast of creatures going for it from a giant crab, an very angry and huge prehistoric bird, a few huge bees in their cliffside hive and a majorly over-sized cephalopod near the end. You also get a nice balloon escape at the beginning that gets most of the cast to that titular island, a few ladies tossed into the mix courtesy of a shipwreck and a surprise appearance by Captain Nemo that adds another layer of the fantastic to the film…
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Random Film of the Week(end): Reptilicus

(thanks, horrormovieshows!)
 

reptilicus posterAfter the successes of Godzilla and other Japanese and American giant monster movies in the 1950’s it seems that a few other countries wanted to get aboard the money train and come up with their own flicks featuring mutated reptiles or other gigantic beasts. Now, Denmark is the absolute last place I’d think of when I think “giant slimy lizard terrorizing the masses!”, but it seems that a combination of national pride and the over-eagerness of its Danish producers to make a big splash onto the scene brought the world Reptilicus … and TWO versions of it, to boot.

If you were a kid growing up in the US in the late 60’s and 70’s, this one was a staple on a few TV channels across the country, popping up either in the afternoon or evening and sometimes late at night to not scare you at all. In fact, I can recall seeing this as a kid and being baffled, then bored, then amazed at how bad and cheap the movie looked, but still watching it to the very end each time…
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