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Beastly Cheese

I DVR’d two movies from TCM on the strength of the word “beast” in their titles. I felt sure a monster would be involved.

Spoiler Alert! There isn’t really a whole lot to give away, being as there’s not a whole lot to the movie, but what little there is, I’m going to consider fair game.

I’ve only watched one of the beastly movies so far, The Beast from the Haunted Cave. I couldn’t make out the year during the credits (beastly Roman numerals), but it has a definite ’60s feel to it due to the music and the font of the credits.

It also has a definite B-movie feel to it. B for boring. I wondered why they were taking so long to get to the beast as well as so long between beastly sightings. Then it occurred to me: the purpose of the movie was to give teenagers at the drive-in an opportunity to make out. Really, the movie makers were practically performing a public service. If only my husband would have been home, I could have honored their original intentions.

As it was, I watched and knitted. And, you know what, I’m going to render my spoiler alert unnecessary and just talk about the movie in a general sort of way, because as I sit here with my pen in my hand (before my shift starts at work), I don’t feel like recounting the by-the-numbers plot and the so-obvious characters.

I could probably digress at this point into theories of writing, most particularly the Don’t Wait Till You Feel Like It school of thought. After all, today is Monday. It could be a Monday Middle-aged Musing. It would fit the movie, too, because this one gives plenty of opportunity for your thoughts to wander.

The action of the movie (Oh, OK, I’ll write about the movie) takes place on a snowy mountain, first at a lodge then at the hunky, upright ski instructor’s remote cabin (at least, he wasn’t my type, but they obviously meant for him to be hunky). Three bad guys plus the head bad guy’s girlfriend (or maybe secretary)(you know I don’t pay attention to these things) are planning to blow up a mine, steal a bunch of gold, then cross-country ski to the aforementioned cabin to meet their plane which will take them to Canada.

I would have liked to see the plane that could land on a mountain in the middle of the woods. Unfortunately, it never shows up, due to a blizzard which we also don’t get to see. We also don’t get to see the mine explode, which I think would have been pretty cool.

Speaking of not getting to see things, we also don’t get a good look at the beast till nearly the end of the picture. This, of course, is often an excellent means to build suspense and render the monster even more scary when it finally shows up. The technique was used to great effect in Jaws. I’m pretty sure Spielberg didn’t have anything to do with this movie.

When we first encounter the beast (as I said, not as early as I would have liked), we see some weird double-exposured gossamer-looking stuff, then a hairy tentacle — a giant spider leg? — grabbing a beautiful brunette (never be a beautiful girl in a monster movie unless you’re the main one; she’s the only one with a shot at making it to the end).

Then we get to watch a LOOOOONG sequence of everybody cross-country skiing to the cabin. They even camp out in the snow. What kind of a getaway plan is this, anyways? But I suppose one mustn’t look too closely at the plot gyrations which lead the characters to encounter the beast. I think I’ve mentioned before, if movie people behaved sensibly, we would have much shorter movies (which might not have hurt this one, but then what would I be writing my blog post about?).

I’d just like to also mention, we don’t get to the Haunted Cave till almost the very end. Hunky ski instructor and secretary/girlfriend are escaping on cross-country skis when the blizzard hits (of course, the effects budget only covered grey skies). He suggests they hole up in a “haunted cave” that just happens t be nearby till the storm is over.

Excuse me, what? Like a haunted cave is a feature just anybody might have on their vacation property. What does that look like on the real estate listing?

The ending (guess I did need the spoiler alert) is extremely disappointing. Basically, the beast dies and its the end of the movie. You don’t even get to find out which characters live (there’s even some question about the beautiful brunette, remember her?) or what happens to the gold. I don’t mind assuming hunk and secretary get together, but are the other bad guys all dead, do they go to jail or reform their life of crime? What?

I know what regular readers are thinking: I need to start paying better attention to these movies I write about. Well, I thought I was, and I’m not about to subject myself to this turkey again to find out. I can only hope I like the next beast better.

As an added note, I looked the movie up in VideoHound’s Golden Retriever (Thomson Gale, 2005) and learned that the movie, which was made in 1960, was produced by Gene Corman, who is Roger Corman’s brother. A Roger Corman movie, of course, has unimpeachable cheese credentials. I had noticed Gene’s last name but hadn’t thought he could be related. Small world. And speaking of brothers, one of the actors was Richard Sinatra, Frank’s brother. VideoHound thought highly of his performance.

More of a B Feature

I wanted to make sure I watched a movie this weekend, so I would have something to write about one day this week. I don’t know that I picked a cheesy one, though. I would say more of a B feature. But it featured an intrepid girl reporter, so I thought it would suit my purposes: Fly Away, Baby (1937).

The description in the digital cable guide, on the strength of which I DVR’d it from TCM, said something about newswoman Torchy Blane proving to her policeman boyfriend that she could so solve a murder. The words “intrepid girl reporter” were not actually used, but I can read between the lines. With a name like Torchy, I figured she’d be wise-cracking as well. Right on both counts.

In pre-movie commentary, Ben Mankiewicz tell us this is the second of nine Torchy Blane movies. I believe TCM was going to or did show more of them, but this is the only one I caught. So, apologies to any Torchy Blane fans out there who might have been hoping for multiple posts.

The movie starts right out with the murder. The police are not letting anybody in, especially reporters. The door is being guarded by a hapless beat cop whose name I don’t remember, largely because it is one of those names that when you hear it you have no idea how it’s spelled. I could have made a note in the TV Journal. He shows up again later on, in a part I thought was going to be a whole lot more important, but I suppose I should not ask for miracles in a B picture.

Back at the city desk (I don’t remember the names of the papers; you know how I am), the editor is looking for the one reporter who can surely get in — Torchy Blane. So right away this movie is different from other intrepid girl reporter tales: the editor likes her and considers her a good reporter. Perhaps he learned so in the first installment, which makes this a worthy sequel in my book. So many sequels want to act like the first one never happened and we have to solve a bunch of stupid problems all over again. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Where is Torchy? Off to get a marriage license. Oh no! We all know married ladies don’t have jobs (this was the last century, after all). But no fears. Torchy’s boyfriend stood her up because of the murder (he’s a cop, remember?). So Torchy makes it to the murder after all and, true to her editor’s expectations, she manages to get in.

Another reporter also manages to get in. He’s a spoiled brat whose daddy got him a job on a rival newspaper. And he’s friends with the dead man, a jeweler. Or is he? It is brought up several times that Rich Boy is a heel, but as Cop Boyfriend points out, that does not make him a murderer. Of course it’s up to Torchy Blane to find out.

A reporter from a third paper also plays a role. He’s a fun guy with a rich wife and a way with words. He and Rich Boy are about to have a race around the world.

“I intend to show him the backs of two heels,” Fun Guy tells reporters. “Counting him, that will make three.” See, everybody says this kid is a heel.

As you may have expected, Torchy gets in on the race, in hopes of catching Rich Boy with the evidence.

Mankiewicz says this part was inspired by an air race in which Dorothy Kilgallen, a real life intrepid female reporter, took part. I may have to look up some Kilgallen biographies and read more about this, because quite frankly, I don’t get it. The reporters are not flying the planes themselves. They all get on the same plane. Then stay in the same hotel. They end up on the same zeppelin for the dramatic climax. Where’s the race?

This is only one of several “Waaait a minute” plot points. There are also a couple of clues that Torchy seems to find way too easily. What self-respecting murderer just leaves clues lying around in such a careless fashion? (I know, all of them.) But “Waait a minute” plot points are a movie staple, be the movie A, B or C for cheesy. The question is, does the movie carry us along in an entertaining manner so that we don’t say “Waaait a minute” till much later (ideally waking up in the middle of the night to ponder the points, from a movie maker’s point of view)?

The answer is this one pretty much does. The supporting characters are fun (not just Fun Guy), and Torchy Blane is an endearing heroine. She cracks wise, she doesn’t make egregiously stupid mistakes, and she’s always hungry. What’s not to like? I may try to catch further entries in the series.