Saturday, November 30, 2019

DRAGNET 1968 : THE STARLET

Season 2
Episode 20

Original Air Date Feb. 1 1968

"We've seen her stills"
"Not these kind...."



"It was Wed, May 9th. It was warm in Los Angeles"
"We were working the day watch out of Juvenile Division"
"The boss is Capt. Morris"


     By the second season of Webb's late 60's Dragnet revival it began to fall into a pattern of a light-hearted episode followed by a couple more serious minded which were usually dire warnings of succumbing to vice or the horrors inflicted on society by the counterculture. Running at 9:30PM EST on Thur it did well in ratings and NBC was probably pleased with the show as far as the low production cost with Webb's use of stock and/or previously used footage along with his quick no-nonsense approach to filming. 
    Proceeded by one of the series more comedic episodes THE BIG AMATEUR, it's follow-up THE STARLET remains one of the darker ones and one of the few times a dead body was actually shown in the series. Sharp-eyed viewers will also spot the same group of Sunset Blvd. footage that was used in The LSD Story and there's some great views of the LAPD's porn stash at Parker Center. 
   One again working out of Juvenile Division, Friday and Gannon are altered to the presence of a 16-year old runaway from Medford, OR. who came to L.A. to break into movies. The young girl named Patty Lee Bundy is reported missing by her aunt (played by character actress Amzie Strickland who passed away in 2006 with 268 (!!) acting credits to her name) and Friday and Gannon are told she's been seen in "one of those psychedelic places" (or psychopathic as the Aunt says) on Sunset. Heading over to The Flower Pot (a hippie espresso shop) they question Jo-Elle, a young hippie girl played by a cute as heck JoAnne Harris from THE BEGUILED and ACT OF VENGEANCE in one of her first speaking roles.



    Getting a tip from Jo-Elle that Patty Lee "has fallen into a thing... you know a movie thing.." the trail leads them to part-time actress Eva Graham (Susan Seaforth - who was on THE GUIDING LIGHT for about sixty years) which in turn leads them to the discovery that the Bundy girl has fallen into the porno movie racket. Along the way we visit Detective Shaidell & Dectective Sgt. Zabel (Webb regulars Leonard Stone & Robert Patten) of  the Vice Dept., who fill Friday and Gannon in on all the ins and outs of the smut racket ("You name it...We got it... Books, magazines, Tijuana bibles, films, stills, devices...") and meet up with a porn director played by 40's "B" leading man Lyle Talbot.
   Climaxing with Friday giving one of his patented in-your-face lectures to Talbot followed by the discovery of Patty's body at a seedy rooming house where they learn she OD'd on reds while listening to jazz music on a phonograph. As mentioned this is one of the more downbeat episodes of the color series and makes a nice companion to the shows 1954 B&W episode The Big Producer with future ADAM-12 star Martin Milner as a teenager pushing dirty books at his high school.



Porn evidence room !!


Lyle Talbot as shifty porn director. You can tell he's slimy by the sloppily knotted garish tie



Cool shot of a pre-restored Hollywood Sign


This establishing shot of Parker Center showed up in about every episode

Sunday, November 10, 2019

HALLS OF MONTEZUMA 1951





"The everlasting story of the everlasting glory of the United Stares Marines!"



    Released by Fox, this 1951 Technicolor war epic features a terrific cast many of whom were just starting out on long careers and while at first glance it does seem to be something that would have been made about 6 years or so earlier (one of the "why we need to fight" WWII pictures) it does attempt to get into a bit more into the psychological side of things and thanks to full corporation on the USMC it features scads of post WWII Marine armor and vehicles. Filmed in Southern Calif. around Camp Pendleton (along with a stop off at famous Bronson Cavern) the filmmakers were allowed the full corporation of the USMC which as a result along with the bunches of Marine hardware (for armor buff lots of Sherman tank & Amtracks) they had access to hundreds of Marines for use as extras.
   Although basically a 113 minute recruiting advertisement for the Marines with recruiting stations even set up in theatre lobbies, it was directed by Lewis Milestone who rather ironically had directed what is considered to be one of the greatest anti-war films of all time - ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT in 1930. Some shots in HALLS OF MONTEZUMA, espically the long tracking shots of lines of charging and falling soldiers, are very reminiscent of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. Although filled with gung-ho rousing action sequences as the Marine Hymn blasts away on the soundtrack as mentioned the story does attempt to get a little deeper into a few of the soldiers back story with some admittedly overdone melodrama. We feel something for the them and when the characters do die, they die an agonizingly slow death while dragging themselves heroically through the mud.
   The movie was parodied in Robert Altman's M*A*S*H* in 1972 as one of the PA announcements for an upcoming movie night using one of the actual (and rather embarrassing) tag lines for the movie "Only the screen could capture their story and their glory...cheer those lovable mugs with the wonderful mugs we now love more than ever". What the hell (??)




     Focusing on a Marine platoon during an unnamed WWII Pacific battle (it's based loosely upon Okinawa and it was titled as that in some overseas releases) the film features Richard Widmark as the Lt., Karl Malden as the medic, along with Neville Brand (EATEN ALIVE), Jack Palance, Skip Homeier (THE TALL T), Robert Wagner, Martin Milner (ADAM-12), Brett Freed (HANG 'EM HIGH) who as the tough Sgt. is constantly trying to build a moonshine still (and would in a few years would be replaced by Aldo Ray in this type of role) and Richard Hylton (FIXED BAYONETS!) as the remainder as the central group of soldiers that we're introduced to in the film's opening sequences. The remainder of the cast includes Richard Boone, in his big screen debut, as the command figure in the form of a Col. perpetually suffering from a cold, along with Reginald Gardner as an intelligence officer and Japanese interpreter (who also supplies a bit of comedy relief) and Jack Webb as a war correspondent.
     This ensemble (sans Boone) is sent on a mission to locate a hidden Japanese rocket battery that must be destroyed by a certain time in order for an offense to start. Earlier in the movie we were introduced to various members of the squad is flashback (which does stop the action-oriented narrative a bit) and how their problems such as Widmark's migraine headaches, Hylton's cowardice and Homeier's tough guy attitude play out in the upcoming plot as the groups numbers are whittled down and they become more desperate and disillusioned. It's interesting to see how it's mostly the younger actors who perhaps were newly under contract at FOX, receive the lion's share of the back- story sequences with Wagner, Homeier and Hylton each receiving a segment.
   The movie features some spectacular battle footage with actual color combat footage neatly worked in and once the action moves primarily to the island  and the "mission" begins the plot holds interest and excitement in spite of its rather long running time and as far as a war picture, you couldn't ask for a better cast.
    The film works well with giving all the individual marines distinct personalities and we feel a sense of loss as various members of the patrol are killed or wounded. There is also a realistic feeling and look to the men in combat as they become more disheveled, bloody and dirty as the film progresses and although filmed in Southern Calif. the scenery is well chosen and doesn't scream "California" like a lot of productions although film buffs will instantly recognize the Bronson Caverns setting from about a gazillion films.




    The entire cast is excellent with most looking impossibly young including dark-haired & slim Richard Boone (who as the commanding officer basically just stands around and yells at everyone) and Jack Palance (here right after his first major role in the wonderful PANIC IN THE STREETS) is already one those actors that you just can't take your eyes off of.
     It's always interesting to watch Jack Webb in his early movies as you swear you actually see the wheels turning in his head as he observes the creative process. He would later use Boone in the 1954 DRAGNET movie (where he would essentially play the same character as here) and with even more fortuity this would be his first meeting with a young actor named Martin Milner and there's an integration scene here with a captured Japanese officer that's eerily reminiscent of his later work in DRAGNET. Richard Widmark has always been a highly intriguing actor to me. He always seems to bring some depths (no matter how small) to every character he plays from the highly consciences and caring role here to his more evil portrayals such as in KISS OF DEATH.
    HALLS OF MONTEZUMA is available on a Fox DVD that's re-packaged every so often in multi-packs with other Fox war films, although a Blu-ray hopefully one day should look pretty spectacular.














Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Rosalba Neri News # 30 LA CASA DELLA PAURA (THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A) 1974 On Blu




    X Rated Kult have announced the upcoming release of THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A for later this fall. Although a release date of Nov. 8 has been posted over on Blu-ray.com there is no pre-order has of now on Amazon. X-Rated doesn't have much of an internet or social media footprint and their initial media book style releases tend to disappear quickly with a standard package release following.
   Although a European production it features a couple of Americans in the mix being the last movie directed by skin-flick specialist William Rose (THE SMUT PEDDLER and RENT-A-GIRL) and it was produced by Dick Randall (THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS and FRANKENSTEINS CASTLE OF FREAKS) who had a hand in bunches of features starting in the early 60's such as THE WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD before heading to Europe where he spent the majority of his career.
    Owing a bit more to ROSEMARY'S BABY (with a bit of Val Lewton's THE SEVENTH VICTIM mixed in) then the giallos its most often lumped in with it works a pretty decent little thriller with creepy atmosphere but things never quite completely gel like you would hope. Daniela Giordano (YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY) plays a young woman who after being sent to prison on trumped up charges goes to live in creepy rooming house overseen by Giovanna Galletti (KILL, BABY...KILL!). Rosalba plays a social worker for Giordano and Karin Schubert (THE COLD EYES OF FEAR) also appears. 
     The Blu-ray DVD package will be released in a mediabook format with the four covers shown in a limited edition (usually 333 or 666 or some such number) and later a standard edition with the book. It was previosly released on a now OOP DVDfrom Mondo Macabro.






The above screenshots are from the Mondo Macabro DVD 




Wednesday, October 16, 2019

DRAGNET 1967 : THE LSD STORY

Season 1
Episode 1

Original Air Date Jan. 12 1967

"Your pretty high and far out. What kind of kick on you on, son ?"



"It was Tuesday March 15th. It was fair in Los Angeles"
"We were working the day watch out of Juvenile Narcotics"
"The boss is Capt. Richie" 


    In 1966 Jack Webb relaunched DRAGNET for NBC television and a featured length movie was produced as a pilot which did not actually air until 1969. The series proper premiered on Jan. 12, 1967 with this episode which has become of the best loved for fans of the series. Playing it would seem constantly in reruns somewhere during the 70's and beyond, these newer color episodes have somewhat sadly become more readily available the series classic B&W run in the 50's. With the new color episodes Webb's never changing wardrobe of dark slakes and grey sport jacket stand out along with the brown smog drenched opening shot of Los Angeles ("This is the city...")
   Now produced in color Webb decided it was time for the TV version LAPD and Sgt. Friday to confront the exploding counter culture moment and the associated drug use which in turn accounted for some the more infamous &  entertaining episodes of the series (including next seasons THE BIG PROPHET and the much-loved THE BIG HIGH). One more major change for the series revival was a new partner in the form of Webb's old friend Harry Morgan as officer Bill Gannon. Like Ben Alexander's portrayal of Det. Frank Smith in the B&W series run, Morgan's deft touch of comedy was a perfect foil for Webb's portrayal of the ramrod straight Friday and their interactions would become highlights of the new episodes (you see Webb trying his best to stifle laughter during some sequences).  
   Sometimes known as the "Blue Boy" episode this initial episode of the resurrected DRAGNET took the no-nonsense Joe Friday crashing headlong into the world of psychedelics, Sunset Blvd. and hippies. It takes place in the historical time frame before the outlaw of LSD on 10/6/1966 - which the episode takes note of.



  Working out of the Juvenile Division Friday & Gannon respond to a call concerning strangely behaving teenager Benjie Carver (child actor Michael Burns) whose been reported tripping out in vacant lot with his head buried in the dirt. Popping out of the ground with a yellow & blue painted face he utters such classic lines as "I'm green, I'm a tree!" and proclaims himself to be "Blue Boy!"
  Arresting him and bringing him back to station the officers face the wrath of the boy's parents who being obviously upper class start throwing their weight & money around ("Are saying my son is a drug addict !?"). We then get a trip to forensic chemist Ray Murray (Webb regular Olan Soule - and probably my favorite actor in the Dragnet universe) where he relates the history and effects of LSD with the some hoped-for chilling asides with ominous cue music concerning its effects.



     With Benji let off with probation Friday & Gannon begin coming across various kids who become involved with LSD but are set straight with Friday sternly explaining how a simple experiment with marijuana can lead to LSD and as mentioned the episode takes place in the historical context before the drug was outlawed.  The story ends with the passage of the law outlawing LSD and the expected tragic climax of the episode. Along the way we get some great footage of the Sunset Strip (used in later episodes) including Pandora's Box and The Trip - complete with a Marquee for The Ted Neeley Five (Neeley later played Jesus in the original Broadway production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR). At one point Friday and & Gannon bust a hippie drug pad that features psychedelic lighting and a guy eating paint (!!) all set to some trippy music played backwards on reel-to-reel tape deck.
    Shari Lee Bernath (THE FIEND WHO WALKED THE WEST 1958) and Heather Menzies-Urich (PIRANHA 1978) show up as a couple of wayward teens who after experimenting with LSD are put back on the straight path by Friday & Gannon (with the girls even becoming snitches!).  Also on board is soon to be series regulars Alfred Shelly (usually playing secondary Sgts or detectives), busy TV character Arthur Knapp as the pushy father and Art Balinger (usually as here playing the stern captain).




Monday, October 7, 2019

GIRLS ON THE ROAD (aka HOT SUMMER WEEK) 1972


"Looking For Men...Looking For Trouble...And Finding Both!!"



      A frustrating example of film that should (and could) have been a nifty example of early 1970's drive-in/exploitation, this was first released under the title HOT SUMMER WEEK in early summer 1972 and after having not made nary a ripple was sent out the following year re-titled GIRLS ON THE ROAD which played up the thriller elements a bit more. Producer Joe Solomon and Fanfare Productions had pretty good run before this with HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS (1967), THE LOSERS (1970), EVEL KINIEVEL (1971), WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971) and he was the subject of an article in Esquire ("The Last of the Schockmeisters" written by Roger Ebert). Not featuring a whole lot of "road", "girls" or "hot" sadly GIRLS ON THE ROAD (or HOT SUMMER WEEK) is a bit of an outlier in Solomon's career as went on to produce the solid Blaxploitation police drama TOP OF THE HEAP (1973) and A SMALL TOWN IN TEXAS (1976 - directed by the great Jack Starrett). 
    Part of that 70's sub-genre of dangers of the road which included JOYRIDE TO NOWHERE (1977), HITCH HIKE TO HELL (1977), THUMB TRIPPING (1972) and THE YOUNG CYCLE GIRLS 1978 , the opening credits for GIRLS ON THE ROAD start off promisingly enough with a quick shot of softcore big bust queen Uschi Digart (YAAH!! Uschi!!) in a bikini which is followed by a desperate attempt to be cool as the credits roll through on bumper stickers, graffiti and various signs interspersed with such classics as "Honk If Your Horny". We're then introduced to a pair of SoCal. high school girls studious bespectacled nice girl Karen (Dianne Hull ALOHA BOOBY AND ROSE) and somewhat spoiled rich girl cheerleader Debbie (Kathleen Cody SUPERDAD). It's quickly reveled that neither one of them gets into much trouble in school and being self-proclaimed "wallflowers", they cling to each other during a party chaperoned by Debbie's parents and watch in envy to some PG rated debauchery by their fellow classmates. They decide this being the first day of summer vacation to take off on a spur-of-the-moment road trip.
     Driving off in Debbie's new Mustang for her parent's beach house in Big Sur the pair joyously decide to "let their hair down" which involves driving like idiots while bouncing off a few curbs & running red lights, flashing older motorists and throwing their bras out the window. Being the 1970's they decide to pick up some hitchhikers ("only the cute ones") and soon give a hippie a ride but end up stranding him and steal his guitar.

 An Uschi cameo is always a good thing!



     Unbeknownst to the pair there's a serial killer operating in the vicinity of the beach house where they're headed who's been killing young girls and leaving their bodies on the beach. There's a likely suspect in the form of a recently discharged Vietnam Vet named Will (Michael Ontkean from THE NECROMANCY and later the sheriff in TWIN PEAKS) who periodically suffers from flashbacks that appear to be pieces of various colored clear plastic bent & waved in front of the camera. He's first shown in a roadside diner where he gets in a fight with a couple of pool playing bikers (one played by famous stuntman Charlie Picerni) and gets the best of the situation by pulling a gun on them.
     After the encounter at the diner Will wanders out to the road to hitchhike where he's picked by you-know-you. Seems he's heading to the same general area in Big Sur as the girls. He's going  back to a place called The Institute Of Human Potential (??) which is one those California encounter group things unique to the 70's which pop up constantly in movies from that era (there even one in MAD MEN) where folks sit around in a circle, engage in meditation and everybody and everything is "beautiful". The Institute (conveniently enough) is located right next door to the girl's beach house destination and plus just happens to be where bodies from the serial killer are showing up. 
     Upon arriving they meet the head of the institute John (a shaggy haired and bearded Ralph Waite from THE WALTONS) who's been worried about the till now gone-missing Will and immediately shows a creepy interest in the underage Karen while Debbie and the still flashback induced Will start a romance. Also lurking about is Lt. Williams aka "The Maker" (John McMurty GROUP MARRIAGE) who's a former comrade of Will and who paints people faces, carries around a dove, constantly wants an audience as he acts out his "fantasies" in glitter makeup and stares creepily at the two girls. Throughout the film we're constantly hearing newsflashes blaring out breathless reports concerning the killer even when there's no radio or TV in sight (which were probably added post-production) and despite the non-stop media coverage there's disturbing lack of police presence about the area (meaning none).




     The plot unfolds as a curious mish-mash of a coming of age along with road film (although played up in the advertising we only spend about 20 min. on "the road") and a serial killer/proto-slasher with a strangling and a climax that features an axe welding maniac as Will's wavy colored flashbacks take up an inordinate amount of screen time. The trailer included on the Scorpion DVD carries a PG rating which is very well in line with what you could get away with in 70's as the film features some scant nudity and blood. You get distinct feeling that this originally started out as an R rated production before something happened along the way.
    Waite walks away with the acting honors without even half trying and the two girls even though looking distinctly different often seem to be playing the same rather bland character. The films ends really abruptly as if they simply stopped filming or there were a few pages of script missing. Dianne Hull was later very touching as one of the title characters in Floyd Mutrux's sadly underappreciated ALOHA BOOBY AND ROSE in 1975. Producer Joe Solomon shows up in a cameo has a liquor store customer who buys the girls some beer.
    The film features some attractive cinematography courtesy of David Walsh (CLEOPATRA JONES) and director Thomas Schmidt was a second unit director for John Struges on HOUR OF THE GUN and ICE STATION ZEBRA but passed away at age 35 with this being his only director credit. The music is by Tom McIntosh and there's a couple pieces of 70's AM fluff with one titled "Fantasy in Love" that's played ad nauseum throughout the film (much like the newscasts) and is guaranteed to begin grating on one's nerves well before the closing credits. The two bikers Will fights in the bar wear the Devil's Advocates colors on their jackets from THE LOSERS and some footage from that film shows up in Will's flashbacks.
    The film also features some odd poster designs with one picturing the girls disembodied heads floating in a hippie prayer circle while a second one has a spoiler filled illustration of the climax's axe killer. Scorpion issued this on a now OOP DVD with it's more common HOT SUMMER WEEK title card along with a trailer, alternate titles and an interview with writer David Kauffman.