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What? No Peter Cushing?

Spoiler Alert! I’m actually not going to give a lot away, especially not the ending, because I had stopped paying much attention by that time. In my defense, it was Saturday night and way past my usual bed time.

I DVR’d Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) with high hopes, thinking it must be the sequel to The Mummy, which I enjoyed recently. As I learned from Ben Mankiewicz’s pre-movie commentary, it is the second of four Mummy movies made by Hammer Studios (I referred to them as Hammer Films in my post on The Mummy, but I specifically noticed Mankiewicz said Hammer Films this time) (in the interests of accuracy). The movie was directed by the son of the guy that owned Hammer at the time. I suppose that would explain it.

My first disappointment was that neither Peter Cushing nor Christopher Lee were in the movie. I like Lee better as Dracula than as the Mummy anyways, but I felt Cushing was a real loss. Still, I thought I would try to enjoy it. A Hammer Studios monster movie must be worth a watch, right?

The movie opens with some guy tied by his hands to two stakes in the desert, guarded by an Arab-looking guy (1960s Hollywood version) (but I didn’t need to tell you that). A group of nomad-looking guys ride up on horses. Without a word, one of them kills the guy and chops his hand off. This gives everyone a good laugh (except, of course, the dead guy), and they ride off with the severed hand.

Cut to a luxurious tent, apparently the living quarters of the archaeologists excavating the tomb. A guy is pouring a French lady another drink. She flirtatiously asks is he trying to get her drunk. He says he will try to do so when they return to London (another spoiler: he doesn’t), and she coquettes that she will let him. It must be pretty dry out there, even for a desert, because I didn’t think he was such a much.

It turns out the dead guy of the previous scene is her father. She flees in tears.

“Let her go,” somebody says wisely to the boyfriend. People are always saying that in movies. I don’t know if they do in real life, because I am usually the one fleeing in tears, or at least I was in my dramatic adolescent past (although in my case, I sadly suspect it was more of a collective, “Thank God she’s gone!”) (but I digress). I think in the case of this movie, the movie makers wanted French Lady to be alone when she discovers in her bed (I did include a spoiler alert, didn’t I?) the severed hand (oh, you probably saw that coming; I did).

Another dramatic shock happens when they discover a dead body amongst the artifacts they are taking back to England. I got a good laugh over that, because, well, the body looked a little comical. Meaning no disrespect to the fictional dead.

Speaking of good laughs, Steven and I both cracked up when… I can’t remember who said what, but suddenly everyone froze in a dramatic pause and looked at… the sarcophagus. Which looked a little like Tutankhamen with a pig nose.

Soon they’re on a boat headed back to England. A couple more dramatic things happen, including the introduction of a mysterious, handsome stranger. He beats up a would-be assassin and tosses him overboard. That seemed a little careless to me. Wouldn’t you, for example, like to ask the guy who he works for?

Things get a good deal less exciting in London. French Lady starts playing Old Boyfriend against Handsome Stranger, but that isn’t very compelling, because Old Boyfriend doesn’t get very jealous. We find out, via dialogue, not demonstration, that French Lady is a rather brilliant Egyptologist, having studied hard to earn her father’s love (remember him? She doesn’t seem to). It seems Old Boyfriend wants her for her brain. What an insult! It is so refreshing that Handsome Stranger understands she wants a home and to stay in it. Well, this is before the feminist ’70s (no, I am not going to entertain a discussion on family vs. career; this is not that kind of a blog).

Where was I? Ah yes, losing track of the movie. It’s not what you call fast-paced and action-packed. And I don’t remember the ending. Something happens in a sewer after we find out a BIG secret about Handsome Stranger. So if this movie pops up again on TCM, I may try to watch it till the end. I may even write another blog post about it.

The Post is Cheesier than the Movie

I DVR’d Paid (1931) purely because it starred Joan Crawford. I don’t know why I do that. Back in the days of the studio system they simply ground out movies. Even the few stars that never signed or fought their contracts made a few stinkers. Then again, shouldn’t I be looking for a stinker, given my penchant for writing about cheesy movies? I thought it was a win-win situation. Turns out not so much.

Paid was made pretty early in Crawford’s career. So early, in fact, that some would say it was before she was really Joan Crawford. By that of course I mean without the famous eyebrows and shoulder pads. She already has a presence, though, or she does as the movie progresses. In the first scene she looks pretty terrible as she is sentenced to three years in prison for theft she did not commit. She shows a flash of strength as she vows revenge on the man pressing charges, the owner of the department store where she slaved away for wages that didn’t pay the bills.

They don’t waste too much time in prison, but long enough for Crawford to make a friend who promises her a way to make money when they get out. This turns out to be prostitution, which our Joan does not end up going through with. At least, she goes home with a guy but doesn’t sleep with him, so I guess it’s prostitution. You know how circumspect these old movies are about sex stuff.

After turning down an invitation to lead a different life of crime, she finds a “legal” way to make money. Suddenly she’s all self-confident and calling all the shots. And the cops are SO after her. Then the plot gets a little convoluted.

She marries this handsome rich young thing, who turns out to be — surprise to us but not to Crawford — the son of the store owner she has vowed revenge against. I guess marrying the son is her revenge. And she claims not to love him, although she can’t look him in the face when she says so.

Her crooked friends — who were never quite comfortable living on the right side of the law anyways — are conned into one last big score. Of course that is a movie staple to this day: one last big score.

This was about the time I left the room to make popcorn, leaving Steven to keep track of what was going on. It wasn’t just my usual not paying attention mode: this is a boring movie. I don’t know why. The plot actually seems pretty good. And Joan Crawford — there could be no possible objection.

I’m afraid my write-up is pretty boring too. I am in a hell of a mid-week slump and I don’t know that things are going to get any better. I look forward to Non-Sequitur Thursday and Lame Post Friday. I do hope you’ll stay tuned.

If You Like the Psycho-Biddy Genre

Spoiler Alert! I’m going to give away practically everything for the following movie, because I want to comment on what happens.

I wasn’t going to write about this one at all, because I ended up disliking it so much. However, I mustn’t be selfish. Some of my readers like to read my movie write-ups. And I think many of them particularly like the psycho-biddy genre.

When I saw Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969) on the schedule for TCM, I immediately set it to DVR. We subsequently discovered (but were not surprised, considering the title) that it was produced by Robert Aldrich, the man behind Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (original title Whatever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?).

Aunt Alice stars Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon. What a pedigree! How could we go wrong?

A better question is how could the script writers go so wrong? The movie opens promisingly enough with a funeral and Geraldine Page all set to be a merry widow. The next scene reveals to her and us that in fact she is left penniless. On to the murders!

The move wastes no time in getting to the murders. On must give them that. My problem is they don’t really explain what’s going on. I know from the description the lady kills her maids for their money and uses their bodies to fertilize her garden, but if that had not been the description, I think I would have gotten a little confused.

Another minor caveat, she’s not exactly fertilizing a garden. She gets her gardener to dig a big, deep hole, gets the maid into the hole and kills her, then plants a big old pine tree on top of the body. That old lady planting a big old pine tree (not a sapling, like a normal murderer would plant) is one of the most unbelievable parts in the picture.

Probably the most unbelievable part is how she gets the maids to work for her in the first place. According to this movie, there are plenty of lonely old ladies with large bank accounts willing to work for chicken scratch. Oh, and who are prepared to work for a raging virago. Seriously, Page is so mean I can’t believe she can get anybody to work for her.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Page was still killing the first maid. In general I have no problem with a thriller that gets right down to the killing. In this case, however, I could have used a scene where she gets the idea to kill the maid for the money. For one thing, they could have explained how the maid got so much money in the first place.

So there Page is, living in Arizona (also never explained) (at least I don’t think she started out in Arizona). At this point I usually make a little self-deprecating remark about how I ought to pay more attention to these things. I’m not sure it would have done any good.

Before Page offs the second maid (that we see; there were others in between), we see a little more of her method. Apparently she dangles her highly profitable stock market investments till the maid invests her own life savings. Without meeting the magic broker or signing any kind of contract. Well, I guess that’s not so far-fetched. People make a lot of stupid mistakes when they think they will get a large return.

Soon another tree is planted and Page is looking for another maid (we suspect now there have been other murders judging by the row of pine trees) (and can I just say, who plants pine trees in the desert, for heavens’ sake?). Enter Ruth Gordon, and we see some more of our killer’s evil method.

“I won’t pay you much,” she says smoothly, as if this were a minor glitch, like not having a vacuum cleaner. “So you won’t be able to save much.”

For God’s sake, who does that? Who makes it a job requirement that the employee have savings because the job pays crap? And who takes a job under those circumstances? Working, I remind you, for a mean, nasty old lady who treats you like dirt?

Then there’s this random beautiful chick who moves into the cabin next door with her nephew. This is a set-up right out of a romance novel: she’s a grieving widow and the nephew has really bad asthma, so the family sends them both to Arizona to heal their respective wounds. Only, of course, she’s not the main character and there’s no Mr. Rochester-type brooding mysterious guy for her to be suspicious of slash fall in love with (yes, you need to say “slash”). What a waste of a perfectly good set up!

She does get a love interest, by the way. It seems both our biddies have nephews. Page’s is married but I doubt that would stop him if Widow were having any of it. She’s not. She has some history with Gordon’s nephew, yet another thing not very well explained. It figures hugely into the plot, however, when they’re off canoodling while Gordon could REALLY use her nephew’s help.

I haven’t even gotten to the dog yet! Beautiful Widow and Asthmatic Boy (yes, it’s her nephew, but I think there are entirely too many nephews in this movie) adopt a stray dog. Of course anybody watching this sort of movie is immediately apprehensive on the dog’s behalf (unless you are an animal hater, in which case, stop reading now, we have nothing to say to each other).

Page is obviously (and not surprisingly) a dog hater. She is additionally concerned that the dog will dig up her handiwork, but come on! Each maid is six feet under with a pine tree planted on top. No mutt is going to dig that shit up without a backhoe.

I had a lot of other problems with this movie, but I think my post is running a bit long. Which, by the way, the movie did, too. I suppose it was entertaining, because I did watch it through to the end, but I didn’t like it. Still, if you like the psycho-biddy genre, it might be worth your time.

The Bluebeard Blues

Some time ago I was unable to complete a blog post about a cheesy movie, although I managed as usual to write something about how I couldn’t write anything (funny how that works). Today I shall try again.

Oh, yeah, usual Spoiler Alert.

I decided to take a break from my flooding woes with a movie from “50 Horror Classics,” the DVD collection I purportedly bought for Steven on his last birthday (I say purportedly, because I’m the one that watches them) (and because I like the word “purportedly”).

I chose Bluebeard (1944) starring John Carradine. I seemed to remember that Carradine was Kung Fu on a TV series years later, but I never used to watch that show, so I could not be sure (later my husband Steven told me it was David Carradine. I guess there were a few of those Carradines).

Leonard Maltin says this is a “surprisingly effective story” (Leonard Maltin’s 2013 Movie Guide, Signet, 2012). I’m surprised he thinks so, although I often disagree with Maltin.

The action takes place in Paris, I forget what year (if they ever said so), but the ladies are in long dresses and big hats. Some unknown murderer is strangling ladies and dropping them in the Seine. At least, since it is Paris, I thought it must be the Seine. I kind of shy away from the water scenes after my recent flooding experiences (that’s in addition to my usual not paying too much attention).

Nobody wants anybody to walk home alone. Some girls leaving work impatiently await their co-worker. She sidles out and tells them they needn’t have waited. She is blonde and obviously “the sexy one,” so I accordingly waited for her to make trouble, perhaps leaving that sweet, innocent-looking brunette to be the heroine.

Sweet Brunette introduces her friends to this puppeteer they meet while walking safely home. He hasn’t been giving many puppet shows lately, because of people not wanting to stay out so late, what with the murderer in all. The girls talk him into it, leading to a rather long scene with no action except for these puppets singing opera.

It turns out Sexy Blonde, not Sweet Brunette, is the heroine, but she stops acting so Mae-West-y about the time the puppeteer/murderer asks her to make some costumes for his puppets. Um, you knew as soon as I mentioned the puppeteer he was going to turn out to be the murderer, didn’t you? Oh well, that’s why I include a spoiler alert.

It seems this guy is also a painter. He paints a lady, then kills her. I gather he dates his assistant, dumps her when he goes to paint another lady, then comes back to the assistant after he’s strangled the lady he painted. I found it a little convoluted, but I guess I’m easily confused.

Maltin says the killer “falls for smart girl… who senses something is wrong.” Oh well, I suppose she is smart enough, but she’s no intrepid girl reporter. I’ll be perfectly honest, I was not paying a great deal of attention by this time and I don’t remember much. This whole review is written from my notes in the TV Journal and the blurb in Leonard Maltin.

I must say I think my posts about not being able to write about this movie were more effective than my actual post about the movie. However, since it is Wrist to Forehead Sunday, I make bold to hit publish. Wait till you read about the next cheesy horror movie I watched.

Stopped by the Seine

So there I was, writing away at a post about a cheesy movie, when I began to write a sentence I had clearly written before. I completely remembered writing it. Those words were in my head, and I had put them there. Definitely. There was no way I could continue the sentence I was about to write next without using those very words again.

Why, you may argue, would that stop me? I repeat myself in this blog all the time, especially when I’m having any kind of trouble writing the damn thing. I argue back, in the first place, give me a break. In the second place, this sentence involved a murderer dumping a dead body into the Seine.

How many movies could that possibly have happened in? And how many of them could I possibly have seen recently? I was stopped cold.

Before I go on, a little background (another way to put this: in my defense). Earlier this week I experienced a flood. No, not as bad as other people have experienced (I’m also quite certain I’ve written about how there is always somebody who has worse problems than me), certainly not as bad as it could have been. But, still, a pretty bad experience.

I believe I mentioned briefly yesterday that some have believe I am handling it well. Oh, I am trying to. I really, really am. But at intervals, I suppose it’s bound to happen: not so much. I was having, as they say, a moment earlier today. Rather than write about it and look like I was making a colossal bid for sympathy, I decided to write about the cheesy movie I had viewed. Surely that was a good plan (and I’ll call you Shirley if I want to).

My first move, when I could move at all after coming to a complete standstill, was to go to the computer and search previous blog posts. Hmmmm… nothing that takes place in Paris, no place where I possibly could have mentioned the Seine.

After a couple of more distractions (when I have a moment, I really have a moment), I found the notebook I have been writing blog posts in for the past couple of weeks. On going through the whole thing (it’s not a big notebook), I found very few movie posts, none I did not remember, and no mention of the Seine. I sat and pondered.

At last I picked up the TV Journal. Oh. There it was. In a note I had made about the very movie I was attempting to write a post about. I tell you what, I felt so stupid about that, I almost had another moment.

But not quite, because I thought I could make a decent blog post about that silly writing crisis and then I would have two posts for the price of one. I ought to anyways, because I’ve taken a long enough time about this.

By the way, my moment is over. I’m back to handling things, if not exactly well (I’m not that competent), at least cheerfully and with a sense of humor. No need to make a colossal bid for sympathy. Thank you for bearing with me.

Sorry, Cecil and Rays

Subtitle: “More Beastly Cheese.”

I remember mentioning that I had DVR’d two movies with “Beast” in the title. I wrote about one (The Beast from the Haunted Cave). Today I will write about the second: Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953).

Spoiler Alert! I probably won’t give away the end of the movie, but I might tell at least one dramatic development. I personally prefer to watch a movie without knowing any dramatic developments beforehand. This is why I don’t like trailers and I don’t read reviews of movies I intend to see. However, there is no real reason for any of you people to ever watch Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. If you do perceive a reason, at least you’ve been forewarned.

The reason I probably won’t give away the ending of the movie is that I don’t exactly remember it. Of course, I could always consult the TV Journal and see if I made a note about it, but I don’t have
the TV Journal handy right now. If you gather from this that the movie is not very memorable, you may congratulate yourself on your perspicacity (that is one of my favorite words).

The movie opens with yet another demonstration of how movie time has nothing whatever to do with real time. I have no problem with this — heavens, I know movies are not real life. However, when you have these military types actually counting down the seconds till they… do whatever it is they are supposed to do, I feel it is kind of slapping me in the face with it.

“We’re a movie! We don’t have to worry about the laws of time and space!”

At last the countdown is complete and we go to some stock footage of a nuclear blast. This reminded me of a wonderful scene in the marvelous movie Ed Wood where Johnny Depp, as Wood, is being shown some scenes by an old cameraman.

“Why, I could make a whole movie out of this stock footage alone!” he enthuses and goes on to outline his plot.

Of course, that doesn’t really have anything to do with this movie, because I think the blast was the only stock footage they used (unless they were a lot more clever about integrating it, in which case this is a better movie than I thought it was). I just thought I’d mention it.

That was as far as I wrote with the TV Journal unavailable. When I could consult the Journal, I found… not very extensive notes.

The movie was suggested by a story by Ray Bradbury and features effects by Ray Harryhausen. I must say I don’t think the movie took sufficient advantage of these resources, nor of the presence of actor Cecil Kellaway.

The only other note I took was that the beast has a face remarkably like Godzilla. Say what you will about the makers of cheesy movies, they reduce, reuse, recycle.

So I guess the nuclear blast wakes up the beast or creates the beast or whatever. In addition to paying more attention to these movies, it might behoove me to write about them sooner after the viewing, when I might remember those plot points I do manage to pay attention to. Then again, how long of a blog post do people actually want to read? (Seriously, I’m asking. How long do people like blog posts to be?)

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.

A Not Indestructible Movie

Spoiler Alert! I don’t know why I bother with these, really. Yes, I’m going to give away the ending, but quite frankly, I think you can see this one coming.

I had high hopes when I DVR’d Indestructible Man (1956) with Lon Chaney. After all, Lon Chaney as a man who is brought back from the dead, what’s not to like?

The short answer is, this movie, although I’m not sure that’s strictly accurate. I didn’t hate the movie, but I was disappointed. I guess I don’t know what I expect out of these things.

The movie opens with Chaney in a jail cell, talking to his lawyer prior to execution. Apparently his lawyer set him up then talked his partners into turning him in. The lawyer says, “You know that’s not true,” largely, I think, because people are listening (not just us). Chaney is apparently having the last laugh, because he knows where the loot is. The lawyer promises to take care of Chaney’s girlfriend if only he’ll reveal the location of the dough. Chaney, however, promises to take care of his own girl and to kill his betrayers, by means unspecified at that time.

“Remember what I said,” he rumbles. I did.

My question is, how does he know? As it turns out, a mad scientist’s assistant bribes some prison guys for Chaney’s body, but this has not been planned in advance with Chaney’s collusion.

Oh, about the mad scientist, the character is really, I guess, just a dedicated researcher seeking a cure for cancer. I added the description “mad,” because, come on, experimenting on dead felons’ bodies? Is that the sort of thing they teach in regular scientist school?

So you know what’s going to happen, and they happily don’t take too long getting there. After being zapped with apparently more juice than they used in the electric chair, Chaney comes back to life with his cells reproducing madly, rending him indestructible but not visibly any different. Oh, he can’t talk, but I believe that is the result of the original execution, not the mad science.

And off he goes on his rampage, killing everybody in his path, except of course his girlfriend. Oh, yeah, she isn’t really his girlfriend (don’t they all say that once he’s indestructible and on a rampage?). She’s a burlesque dancer. To me the most striking feature of the movie is that she doesn’t do anything stupid, unless you count marrying the cop at the end (yeah, this is why I added the spoiler alert).

I watched this picture the afternoon of closing night of Dirty Work at the Crossroads, the play I was in at Ilion Little Theatre. Perhaps I was distracted by that and did not give the movie sufficient attention to appreciate it. As I write this post, I am still convalescent from the heinous stomach ailment that has been plaguing me, so perhaps I am still not paying sufficient attention. Then again, if the movie was as indestructible as the title character, I don’t think these things would have mattered. I say it was neither cheesy enough to horror enough to be worth your time.

That’s a Classic?

Imagine my chagrin when I tuned into Tarantula (1955), which I had DVR’d in expectation of a nice slice of cinematic cheese, to find out that TCM considers it a classic!

TCM was in the midst of their Classic Film Festival. I’ve never been to a real film festival, where you go somewhere, stay a few days, decide which screening or panel discussion you will attend. I am envious of those who have. However, one can’t have everything. I have cable television and a DVR. It’ll do.

So there I was, about to watch a classic film. Then again, the 1933 King Kong is considered a classic. Plenty to laugh at there. What makes something a classic anyways? That people keep watching it. Apparently people have been watching Tarantula since 1955. Who am I to argue?

I wrote the preceding the week before last. I did not continue because I was quite pressed for time. My movie posts (can’t quite call them reviews) tend to run up to 1,000 words. I did not think I would have time to type it in. Today I will have time, but will I have the inclination?

As it turns out, I don’t think that matters much, because after two weeks, I don’t seem to remember much about the movie. I remember the science was spurious, even for a horror movie. For example, why did the animals injected with the stuff just get big while the people got big and deformed? There could be a philosophical discussion in the answer to that, but as usual we’ll save the half-baked philosophy for Lame Post Friday.

I seem to remember something about the beginning that made me want to watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers again (the 1956 original, not the 1978 remake). I’m not sure I can describe what it was, but Tarantula didn’t do it as well. Something to do with the atmosphere of normalcy before things got horrible (and of course I mean horrible as in belonging to a horror movie, not horrible in a bad movie sense).

Ah, I just checked in the TV Journal and the note I made was that Invasion moves fast and Tarantula moves slow. I think what I mean is that Tarantula gets bogged down in the “normal” part while Invasion does not. I seem to remember watching Invasion thinking, “Ooh, I wish I was there, having cocktails and a cook-out — no I don’t!”

I just re-read what I wrote so far and noted the words “Who am I to argue?” Apparently I think I’m someone, because I didn’t think this flick was such a classic. When looking up the year, I noticed that Leonard Maltin thinks highly of it. Then again, Maltin and I often disagree. Perhaps I can come up with a little half-baked philosophy on why for Lame Post Friday.

Giving Up On Godzilla

That sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it? If Godzilla’s feelings are hurt, please tell the big guy I’m not really giving up on him. However, the first Godzilla movie I actually watched kind of left me cold, and you know how I love to put alliteration in my titles.

Spoiler Alert! I am going to give away almost the entire plot of Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954). That is, the stuff that is in addition to Godzilla stomping Tokyo, which you probably already knew about. Come to think about it, most people only watch these flicks for the Tokyo stomping or other mayhem, so I guess I’m in the clear.

When I saw a Godzilla movie was on TCM, I thought surely my search for cheese had found a prize. Not just a big monster — THE big monster! The king of monsters, according to the title.

Actually, I think that’s a little false advertising right there. It turns out Godzilla is the only monster in the picture. I was kind of hoping for a battle of the beasts, so Godzilla would be, you know, king of somebody. But, no, it was pretty much a straight Godzilla-stomping-Tokyo-what-are-we-going-to-do that one expects when one see Godzilla in the title.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Any number of delightfully entertaining cheesy movies have been made around just that plot-line: people meet monster, monster terrorizes people, people destroy monster. It’s not the tale, it’s the telling.

The telling of this tale is dull. It starts out promisingly enough: we open on a devastated Tokyo and a ponderous voice-over lamenting the destruction. We find it’s Raymond Burr, in the handsome leading man role, which was kind of refreshing. I’m used to seeing him as the heavy or as Ironside.

Soon we are flashing back to our story thus far (viewers such as my husband Steven will be happy to hear that the whole movie isn’t a flashback) (he hates that framing device). Burr is a newspaperman. I think. Oh, all right, I didn’t pay any attention to the story except for one plot point, which I am about to spoil for you.

It seems there is this scientist who has a beautiful daughter who does NOT turn out to be Burr’s love interest (he doesn’t get a love interest. I bet Burr was pretty miffed about that: finally gets to be the leading man, doesn’t get a love interest! What’s that all about?). She is engaged to some big shot scientist — some arranged marriage bullshit — but has fallen in love with another guy. Burr intones (I mentioned it was a ponderous voice-over, didn’t I?) that a love triangle is nothing unusual, but this one will have Implications in our story.

I was all agog to find out what the implications would be. Would the spurned fiance sic Godzilla on the usurper? Would he be bitter enough to CREATE Godzilla?

Once again, I should have had a job writing 1950s monster movies. My wild ideas of what might happen next are much more exciting that what the actual writers came up with. Or perhaps I flatter myself.

I did not see that there were any implications at all. The girl goes to break if off with the fiance — whom she has liked and respected all her life — but before she can, he shows her… something horrible. So she’s too upset to break up. Later on, when a gazillion volts of electricity (I didn’t make a note of the number) fail to kill Godzilla, she breaks her vow of secrecy to reveal that the horrible thing was a weapon the guy discovered quite by accident that will destroy EVERYTHING in the water within a certain radius.

So the girl and the third point of the triangle go to convince the scientist to unleash his powerful weapon. I forgot to mention that the reason he is keeping it a secret is so it will not fall into the wrong hands, because he didn’t invent anything to counteract or fight against it. The fact that the girl cheated on him and wants to break up with him does not even enter the conversation. My personal suspicion is that he was never all that into her to begin with.

I may be selling the movie short. It was obviously dubbed from the original Japanese, so perhaps things were lost in the translation.

What remains, though, is deadly serious, and I think that was why the movie ultimately lost me. I don’t mind a movie that takes itself seriously; that often adds to the cheese factor. In this case, however, the seriousness leads to a dirge-like pace and one thing a monster movie needs is a good, brisk pace. In fact, the pace of this movie is so slow, I watched it in two parts. You know a movie is slow when you don’t mind pausing it to go to bed early. That’s what gave me the idea for today’s title, by the way.

To end on a positive note, the effects are very good, especially for the time. They used miniatures and pretty much kept people and Godzilla in different frames, so nothing looked obviously superimposed. It was good miniatures too: I never felt like I was watching a toy stomp dollhouses. Of course, that would have made the movie more cheesy, and you know how I love my cheese.

I discovered after I wrote this post that Godzilla, King of the Monsters was the original Godzilla movie. As such, perhaps some of you feel I should have treated it with more respect. Oh well, too late now.