Super-suave 32 year old Sean Connery utters the iconic catchphrase “Bond, James Bond” for the first time, in the very first Bond movie Dr. No . This was not the first Bond movie I saw, that was Goldfinger*, which I enjoyed so much that I sat through 2 consecutive viewings in the theatre. Goldfinger was a big hit, so they re-issued the first 2 Bond films: Dr. No and From Russia with Love (the films were yet to be shown on TV, back than if you wanted to see a movie, you went to the theatre). Dr. No also featured Joseph Wiseman in the title role (the first Bond villain!), in a very tightly controlled performance, a study in stillness & menace. Here’s a scene where Bond tries to get under Dr. No’s skin.
*Goldfinger: the best Bond Title song!
We used to watch this entertaining film on TV when I was young. Vincent Price stars as an eccentric millionaire, who, along with his 4th wife, invite 5 people to their “haunted house” party. The seemingly random invitees are offered $10,000 each, if they are brave enough to spend the night in their creepy house. Crazy, strange & inexplicable (well, maybe explicable) stuff happens to each of the guests, but mainly it seems that Vincent Price just wants to scare his annoying wife to death, which he does, by using a full size marionette of a skeleton, getting her to fall into a convenient pool of acid he maintains in the basement. Great sound effects & music, by the way! Here’s the entire movie on YouTube!!! Watch the very beginning and end, for the fabulous intro and outro by Elisha Cook Jr.
Today, we can enjoy the great Ridley Scott film adaptation of The Martian but let us not forget the many, many Mars films which preceded it, like, for example, The Angry Red Planet released in 1959. I actually saw this film in a movie theatre when I was 9 years old! Even then, I was not fooled by the cartoonish special effects, but still, I was taken in by the film’s overall “weird factor” which was highlighted by the grim seriousness of the actors portraying the first earthlings to travel to the “angry” red planet and suffer through quite a traumatic experience. Written & Directed by Ib Melchoir who would later go on to write another Mars epic: Robinson Crusoe on Mars released in 1964 (I find out that Ib Melchoir just passed away this year at age 98!). Supposedly, the strange look of the Martian scenes resulted from a film developing error, which Melchoir decided to exploit, hoping to camouflage the fake looking special effects. Say what you will about the quality of the film, it has managed to stay lodged in my memory for over 50 years, and that’s a good thing!
Rather than post up a trailer, here is a scene from the film, wherein our intrepid explorers encounter a gigantic and horrible Martian “Bat/Spider Monster” which they (at first) mistake for a Martian tree. (I love it that they are equipped with machetes):
Note the comma (between Island and Earth). Sometimes it’s there, sometimes not. The comma pointedly appears in the original poster art from 1955:
And yet, somebody decided to omit it on the 1964 re-issue posters. Maybe some studio bigwig thought it was too arty and confusing for movie goers back in the day, go figure:
No matter, the film today remains a classic of 1950s Science Fiction with plenty of weirdness. A big budget affair from Universal Studios with lavish special effects all in beautiful Technicolor, and probably overshadowed by MGM’s production Forbidden Planet which came along about 9 months later.
Earths best scientists are (unknowingly) recruited by (they later find out) aliens from the planet Metaluna, which is dying and (they later find out) under attack from the Zagons (never explained). The scientists, at first, don’t notice that the Metalunans look sort of like earthlings, except they have rather high and bumpy foreheads with unusual gray hair. Anyhow, 2 of the scientists are kidnapped by the Metalunan named Exeter, and taken to Metaluna, where they witness “The Supreme Excitement of Our Time” (according to the films advertising campaign). Turns out, the Metalunans intend to bail out on Metaluna, and relocate to Earth and subjugate our free will. Thankfully, however, the plan doesn’t come to fruition as Exeter bravely saves the earth scientists (just before the Zagons destroy Metaluna) and returns them to Earth (which is none the wiser). Kinda makes you wonder about our place in the Universe: This Island, (pause) Earth. I think I prefer the comma!
Hey, it’s the day after Mother’s day, why not celebrate Mummies? Maybe the strangest of Universal Studio’s Monster Pantheon? The Mummy featuring Boris Karloff, made in 1932, was the first Mummy film (IMDb’s one sentence summary: A living mummy stalks the beautiful woman he believes is the reincarnation of his lover). The film remains a classic despite it’s low budget and wooden acting (except for Boris Karloff, of course). The scene where the Mummy first comes to life and very quietly surprises the young man reading the Scroll of Thoth is effective: shock, a sudden scream and then hysterical laughter as the Mummy casually grabs the scroll and shuffles off only to turn up later in the film as a “different” character named Ardath Bey, who is both creepy and mesmerizing. Karloff only made one Mummy film. Later incarnations featured Lon Chaney Jr. as the undead one, and in these versions he was not required to speak. He mainly shambled around dragging one leg, an outstretched arm ready to clutch a victim’s throat. Unless, of course, the designated victim would simply get out of the way, by side stepping or walking the other direction, running, whatever, but no, they would JUST STAND THERE HELPLESSLY while the Mummy inexorably approached at the speed of a turtle. Drove me crazy as a kid.
When I was a kid, there was only one Metropolis, and that was the city where Superman lived (I thought it was pronounced like “Metro-polis”). But then I stumbled upon a picture in a magazine from the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis. It kinda confused me at first, because I thought this was the same place where Superman lived. In the film Metropolis, The Future looks pretty cool, that is, if you can afford it. Turns out: it’s a dystopian nightmare for everyone else. In the film, an inventor named Rotwang builds a female robot (a Machinenmensch!) as an expression of unrequited love for a former flame. Original stills and posters from this film are valuable, this one was selling for $24,000 (no, I did not purchase it). Here’s the scene where the Machinenmensh is brought to life by Rotwang, reminiscent of the laboratory scene from Frankenstein (which came out 4 years later in 1931):
Although Metropolis is known for its ground breaking special effects, which are numerous and wonderful, I really dig the ridiculously exaggerated over-the-top acting styles embraced by the performers in the film. Here’s a recent trailer celebrating the 2010 release of a newly restored “definitive” version of the film:
Here is a posed publicity still from the original 1933 “King Kong”. King Kong and the Tyrannosaur are posed stop-motion puppets, perhaps 18″ tall. Foreground and background elements are painted. There is no scene exactly like this in the actual film, Kong never picks up a log, jamming it into the Tyrannosaur’s mouth, although maybe it would’ve been a good idea. For you collectors, click on the picture and you will get the full size version which you can copy.
Yes, I’ll reveal that it’s my favorite movie of all time. Here’s a fresh new trailer to remind us of it’s awesome majesty.
I have not seen this film! But listen carefully to the dialog which begins the trailer:
Blond-Haired Leading Man #1: “There are 2 forms of life fighting for survival out here in this valley and only one of them can win.”
Grim-Faced Man #2: “I’ll talk to the girls in the morning.”
Blond-Haired Leading Man #1: “The girls?”
Grim-Faced Man #2: “Yes. They should bear children as soon as possible.”
Robert Williams (born 1943) is an American Artist who paints insane, hallucinogenic art with a strong emphasis on American Pop Culture. (I give up, he is beyond description, ok?). He was part of the Zap Comix collective of artists which included R. Crumb, Rick Griffin, Gilbert Shelton & other notables.
(I noticed recently that his work fits neatly with my love of film posters which I collect.)
Oh yeah, dude’s really into Hot Rods also: