October 8th, 2008

TRADER HORNEE (1970) **

A group of explorers led by Trader Hornee (“The E’s are silent!”) go looking for an heiress who was abandoned in the jungles of Africa when she was a little girl and has now grown up to be a foxy jungle goddess named Algona.  When the search party gets captured by a tribe of jive-talking natives, Algona saves them, but not before balling Hornee’s brains out first. 

 

Trader Hornee is exactly the sort of lame sex spoof you would expect from writer/producer David F. Friedman.  While it isn’t exactly a “bad” movie, it suffers from comparison to his other classics.  It’s not as dirty as The Defilers, not as sexy as A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine and certainly not nearly as much fun as the Friedman produced Herschell Gordon Lewis movies.  Therefore it’s not necessarily essential viewing, but since I have a soft spot in my heart for Friedman, one of the best hucksters in the 60’s smut business, I can’t be too harsh on it. 

 

The film has just about everything that you’d want in a softcore jungle spoof.  There’s a (literal) man in a gorilla suit, sepia tone flashbacks, comic relief black natives, badly edited-in stock footage, and of course, lots and lots of boobies.  We even get a talking crocodile tossed in there for no good reason too. 

 

Most of the chicks in the cast have decent bodies and so-so faces.  The only legitimate hottie in the movie is Deek Sills, who plays Algona.  She never appeared in anything else, and that’s kind of a shame because she’s pretty good in this flick.  She’s really sexy and looks hot as Hell in a loincloth.

 

Although you have to sit through a lot of tepid sex scenes and some truly awful jokes, once Sills gets nude and starts popping her leopard skin bikini top, it’s pretty fun stuff.  It’s not very good but I bet if I saw it when I was fifteen I would’ve loved it.  At least some of the dialogue is good for a chuckle or two.  Among some of my favorites: “I never met a dyke I didn’t like!” and “Come blow your Horn!”

 

AKA:  Legend of the Lost Goddess.  AKA:  The Legend of the Golden Goddess.  AKA:  Trader Horne.

THE SEVENTH SEAL (1958) **

Well I’ve never actually sat down and watched any of Ingmar Bergman’s films and supposedly The Seventh Seal is one of those movies that you just HAVE to see before you die or something.  While I may have never seen this flick, I’ve certainly seen it parodied enough (my favorite being in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey) to at least warrant me checking it out. 

 

Max von Sydow stars a knight coming home from the Crusades who gets a visit from Death himself who tells him that his time is up.  Max says, “Let’s play some chess instead” and draws out his inevitable demise long enough to get into a series of interminable misadventures.    

 

Von Sydow’s spiritual dilemma is very compelling but Bergman spends way too much time on a lot of irritating side characters that kinda gum up the works.  There’s a clueless juggler who has visions of the Virgin Mary and spurns the advances of a hottie maiden.  There’s a painter who does a bunch of plague graffiti in a church.  And don’t even get me started on the troupe of weak ass medieval community theater players.  All of these idiots get on your nerves real fast and take away from the business at hand, namely Max von Sydow trying to whip Death’s ass at chess.

 

Watching Max von Sydow in this movie is kinda odd.  I’ve always seen him play the old man in so many movies that it was weird seeing him looking so youthful.  His performance is easily the best thing about the flick as he really commands the screen with his indomitable presence. 

 

While (to me anyway) The Seventh Seal isn’t wholly successful, I’ve got to give Bergman credit on the chess playing scenes as they are truly gripping.  I mean think about it, people sitting around and playing chess isn’t the most cinematic of activities.  It’s just a shame that everything else in the movie is nothing but artsy fartsy bullcrap.

BOP GIRL GOES CALYPSO (1957) ** ½

Remember the good old days when calypso music was almost as popular as rock n’ roll?  Neither do I.  At any rate, with Bop Girl Goes Calypso you can enjoy that tiny sliver of time when calypso music was all the rage. 

 

A college student invents a startling new gadget (today it would be called an “Applause Meter”) that predicts that rock n’ roll music will soon be D-E-A-D.  That doesn’t sit well with Jo Thomas (Judy Tyler), the titular “Bop Girl” who’s pledged her soul to rock n’ roll.  Together they try to find the next big deal musical genre, which turns out to be… CALYPSO?!?

 

If you have a weakness for these cheesy 50’s rock n’ roll musicals like I do; then you may have some fun with Bop Girl Goes Calypso.  In addition to having one of the funniest titles in screen history, it also has it’s moments of unintentional hilarity.  (Chief among them, the idea that an idiotic device can predict the “death” of rock n’ roll.)  Bop Girl isn’t quite the camp classic I hoped for, but it sure made for a breezy 80 minutes of antiquated adolescent antics. 

 

Over a dozen songs are featured; most of them are instantly forgettable.  The numbers themselves though are staged pretty lively.  There is one good number where the band plays their instruments while swinging upside down from a trapeze and then does another song while lying in coffins. 

 

I’m sure the kids who saw this in the theater back in ’57 dug it.  There wasn’t any MTV back then so this was the only way they could see a bunch of singing and dancing.  There was the Ed Sullivan Show sure, but was he all about the Boppin’ Calypso?  Didn’t think so.

 

Tyler also appeared in Jailhouse Rock and died in a tragic car accident shortly before this film was released.  Director Howard W. Koch returned the next year with Frankenstein 1970.

 

The square college student gets the movie’s best line when he says, “Tonight I’m going to record the first mass hysteria induced by calypso!”

 

AKA:  Bop Girl.

MACHINE GUN MCCAIN (1970) **

John Cassavetes stars as a cold-blooded killer who is released from prison early in order to rob a Mob owned Las Vegas casino.  An ambitious Mob enforcer (Peter Falk) is the brains behind the scheme but when the head Mafioso (Gabriele Ferzetti from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) finds out about it, he has everyone involved killed.

 

Italians made a lot of cheap crime pictures in the 60’s and 70’s.  Why did they make so many you ask?  Maybe it was because the Mafia comes from Italy that Italians have this fascination with Mob movies.  My guess is that was just easy to sucker in a lot of talented American actors into accepting easy paydays and starring in crap like this. 

 

Speaking of which, I will give Machine Gun McCain one thing:  it has a dynamite cast.  Not only do we get a lot of good American actors like Cassevettes and Falk, but also Italian ones as well.  Fans of Mario Bava will have fun spotting Tony (The Whip and the Body) Kendall and Luigi (Twitch of the Death Nerve) Pistilli as gangsters.  Britt Ekland and Cassavettes’ wife Gena Rowlands also appear as well.  Too bad no one in the cast is given anything particularly worthwhile to do. 

 

Since this is an Italian made action flick, it’s only natural that Ennio Morricone provided the score.  It’s not one of his finest 90 minutes, that’s for sure.  Oh well, bad Morricone music is better than no Morricone music. 

 

Everyone seemed to be just in it for the paycheck on this flick.  Even the usually intense Cassevetes was just going through the motions here.  I think my biggest complaint with this movie though was that he was playing a guy named “Machine Gun” McCain and he only used the machine gun about two times in the whole damn movie!  Cripes. 

 

If anything, the film provides a good look at Las Vegas strip (especially Fremont Street) during the late 60’s.  If you are like me and you prefer the kitschy charm of old school Las Vegas to its current bastardized form, it’ll be worth a look solely for the excellent nighttime location work. 

MOTHER OF TEARS: THE THIRD MOTHER (2008) ***

Well, Dario Argento has made us all wait around for 28 years for this final installment of his Three Mothers Trilogy, and you know what folks, it was kinda worth it.  Am I saying it’s as great a film as Suspiria?  FUCK NO!  Am I saying it’s as beautifully shot as Inferno?  BITCH PLEASE!  Am I saying it’s a gory as all get out fun time?  SHIT YEAH!

 

Okay imagine for a second if The Happening had kinda rocked, then what you’d get would look something like this movie. 

 

The plot has Dario’s daughter Asia working in a Roman museum where she opens up a trunk of relics that contain the spirit of the dreaded witch, Mother of Tears.  Once the spirit is unleashed, it causes mass hysteria in the streets and people start offing one another left and right.  Since the malevolent mama gains her strength off of other people’s suffering (she has a penchant of licking people’s tears right off of their damn faces), all is good in her satanic hood.  Luckily for Rome, Asia’s mama (played by Daria Nicolodi, her real mother) was a good witch and she pops up periodically a la Obi-Wan Kenobi to help Asia fight off the meddlesome Mother. 

 

In Suspiria and Inferno, Dario Argento slowly built up the suspense before unleashing upon the audience a tightly constructed and spectacularly gory death sequence.  In Mother of Tears, there’s a crazy gory death scene about every ten minutes or so.  No suspense, it just happens.  If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t mind quantity over quality, then this shouldn’t matter to you one bit because this movie is an insane gorefest from start to finish.

 

Speaking of finishes, the ending maybe kind of a letdown (The Mother of Tears gets killed when her negligee is thrown on the fire) but that’s okay because my man Dario sure knows how to film people getting mutilated in just about every way possible.  The carnage includes:  mouth bludgeoning, someone having their guts ripped out and then being strangled with ‘em, psychotic goth girls ripping people’s throats out, eye popping, head crushing, Udo Keir getting his face hacked to itty bitty pieces with a meat cleaver, heart ripping, pussy impaling, and some kinky S & M stuff that would even make Pinhead himself blush. 

 

And I’m just hitting the highlights here, people.

 

You see, the thing I like about Dario is that when he films a scene where a baby gets thrown off of a bridge by its mother, he likes to show a shot of the kid smacking it’s noggin on the side of the bridge on the way down before it hits the water.  Most directors would just be content to show the baby getting thrown off the bridge and be done with it, but not Dario.  He’ll show you that gratuitous insert shot of the kid’s head getting thumped on an unyielding concrete structure BEFORE it reaches its watery grave.  That’s just the kind of guy he is.  

 

Although not quite in the same league as its classic predecessors, Mother of Tears:  The Third Mother is still good enough for me to hope that Dario’s got a couple more Mothers like this one up his sleeve.