Friday, June 14, 2024

Risque Happenings


This is my entry in the Seventh Broadway Bound Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room


 "Rumors spreadin' 'round

In that Texas town

About that shack outside La Grange.

(You know what I'm talking about.)

Just let me know

If you wanna go

To that home out on the range.

(They got a lot of nice girls there.) 

  Lyrics to "La Grange" by Z Z Top

It was featured in a movie.  Before that it was in a hit Broadway play.  Before that it was paid homage by a boogie band from Texas, Z Z Top (see above).

And before that it was a REAL place. 

"The Chicken Ranch", as it was known, operated from the early 1900's until 1973. Quite a bit of the folklore behind the actual place became a part of the play (and subsequent movie) that was eventually produced.  Local constabulary were indeed involved in keeping the place open and there was also a crusader, Marvin Zindler, who was behind it's eventual closing, in 1973.

Vintage icon


The historian (and general "in your face" provocative person) in me thinks the place ought to have been made a state treasure and kept as a historical site. To his credit, the owner has been trying to get a historical marker for the site. The building itself is in such disrepair that it's nothing to look at. Part of it was used to build a bar in Dallas and the rest is in shambles.

Breaks the heart, don't it?

The city of La Grange would like to have visitors come for more than just the "less than reputable" historical site, but there are some memorabilia available on their city website which feature "The Chicken Ranch" on it, so it's not exactly like they are trying to sweep the past under the carpet.

Shop La Grange  (just in case you're interested...)

In 1978 a Broadway musical was produced based on the place and the events surrounding it's eventual closing, written by Peter Masterson and Larry L. King (no relation to Larry King, the radio talk show guy, as far as I know...).  The name of the town was changed from La Grange to a fictional town of Gilbert, but the story was basically the story behind the real place. 

In the play, Miss Mona and the local sheriff, Ed, kept the place running on the up-and-up (so to speak), but pressure from an investigative journalist, Melvin Thorpe, caused the place to come under scrutiny. And eventually causes it to have to close down.

The play garnered some Tony Award attention. (The Tony Awards are the Oscar equivalent for Broadway shows.) It won Best Actor and Best Actress (for Henderson Forsythe and Delores Hall, respectively).  It was also nominated in the categories of Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (the story), Best Direction and Best Choreography.

In 1982, the play was produced as a film, with Dolly Parton as Miss Mona and Burt Reynolds as Ed, with Dom DeLuise as the crusading Melvin. The movie also added a new song (which wasn't exactly "new", as Dolly Parton had first recorded it years earlier) "I Will Always Love You" (later to be recorded by Whitney Houston for The Bodyguard). Note: I always thought "Hard Candy Christmas" was an original Dolly song, too, due to the fact that her version is the one I always hear, but it turns out that it was written for the original musical.

The film version had the production team of Miller-Milkis-Boyett. Who are they, you might  be asking (especially if you don't pay attention to the credits)?  Well, under various incarnations of those three we got a plethora of TV shows of the past.  Those three together were behind the Tom Hanks / Peter Scolari TV show Bosom Buddies. But under Miller-Milkis, we got Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork Mindy. And under the Miller-Boyett production label we got Family Matters, Full House (and Fuller House), Perfect Strangers and Step By Step. Surely you've seen one or more of those. (Of course they also gave us Joanie Loves Chachi , but don't hold that against them.) 

This time around, the story was not quite the boffo event that the play had been.  It only made about double it's budget back in ticket sales. Impressive, maybe, but that's only $69 million against a $35 million budget. Musicals, by the early 80's, had become passe', so it's not entirely surprising. I went to see it in it's original theatrical release (mainly for the story; even then I wasn't big on musicals.) But there was also another reason...

Dolly at 36

(Hey, what were you expecting from a 20 year old [at the time] male?) 

The movie did garner some notice in the awards community.  Charles Durning as the Governor got a nod for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars.  And the Golden Globes committee gave noms for the picture and Dolly for Best Picture and Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. 

No. I'm serious... 36...

It was rated R, of course.  I mean, what were you expecting in a movie about a whorehouse? Eight course dinners? But there are no overtly explicit scenes in it.  Of course, late in the movie there is a raid on the place and many in attendance are caught in flagrante delicto. But it's pretty tame for the most part.  Of course, you wouldn't want to watch it with the young 'uns in the room, but if I have to warn you of that, you didn't read the title of the movie...

So, was it a good film?  Read on.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982):

Note on the pictures: If the caption has "" on it, the caption is the title of the song being sung in the scene.

The film opens with a shocker.  Deputy Fred looks through an old -fashioned stereoscope and then turns and breaks down the fourth wall and addresses you, the viewer:


It was the nicest little whorehouse you ever saw

And if you can get past Gomer Pyle touting a house of ill repute, you 're halfway home...

The background is told about the original madam and the original sheriff, both of whom moved the base of operations from the back of the town feed store to a place on the outskirts of town.  And through two world wars, and thick and thin, the place managed to survive.  With sometimes other ways of paying the piper when money was tight. Which included trading chickens for services (thus explaining how the place became know as "The Chicken Ranch"... cute, huh?)

"20 Fans"

The action moves to present day (1973), where the whole plot takes place.  The original madam has passed away, leaving the house and it's environs to Miss Mona (Dolly Parton) who runs the house, with the blessing of the town sheriff, Ed Earl Dodd (Burt Reynolds), where everything is under control by Mona, keeping the place on the up-and-up (more or less).

"Little Bitty Pissant Country Place"

Mona and Ed have a romantic relationship outside of the professional relationship, even though Ed sometimes gets on Mona's nerves, due to his unwillingness to actually be romantic about it. And at this point we get Dolly and Burt (Burt sings???) singing about their relationship.

"Sneakin' Around"

The get together is interrupted by Deputy Fred who tells Ed earl that the mayor is looking for him. Business before pleasure... Trouble is brewing.  The mayor (Raleigh Bond) and town bigwig C. J. (Barry Corbin) inform Ed that a Houston news personality, Melvin P. Thorpe, who has an expose' program called The Watchdog Report, is planning an expose' on the Chicken Ranch.  Not exactly the kind of publicity that the town wants. (although it's intimated in the beginning that the existence of the place is already a known quantity, so you'd think it wasn't that big a deal).

But Ed decides to take matters in his own hands and goes to Houston to take care of the "little peckerwood". Melvin (Dom DeLuise) is not a man to shy away from controversy, especially if it means ratings.  Despite Ed's polite democratic chat, Melvin goes on the air anyway.

"Texas Has a Whorehouse in It!"

And that ain't the worst of it.  Melvin takes his show on the road and sets up a live broadcast in front of the county courthouse.  But he may have bit off more than he can chew as Ed runs his oversized butt out of town, with a few choice words to go with him.  But then again, maybe Ed misjudged the power of an egotistical self-righteous publicity hunter like Melvin P. Thorpe.

Ed and Mona go out camping and (Product placement warning) drink Schlitz beer.  Now, why, in God's name, are they not drinking Lone Star?  It is Texas, after all... oh, well...  Anyway, that night Melvin runs the video of Ed chewing him out. Shoulda been a little more discreet, there, Ed.

The city leaders convince Ed to have Mona shut down the place for a couple of months until the storm blows over and Mona agrees.  But she forgot about the annual celebration.  See, after every year's Texas / Texas A&M football game the seniors of the winning team get treated to a party at the Chicken Ranch.  And we can't be breaking tradition, what would we be if we broke tradition...? Savages, that's what!

So she goes back on her promise, but it's only going to be for the football celebration, so things should go all right if she waits until tomorrow. And with A&M the victors, the team is highly anticipating their celebration.

The Aggies Song"

(Just a side note: it's supposed to be a winning present but it's also supposed to be only the seniors. If that's the case, then when this class graduates, A&M may have trouble next year... Because it looks like the whole team is in attendance.)

And, of course, as luck would have it, the Watchdog crew goes through town on it's way out to the Ranch.  And Fred gives Ed the bad news.  Miss Mona is not closed down entirely. Melvin and his crew arrive and take pictures which includes one of the district's Senator (Robert Mandan). Ed arrives just a little too late to put out the fire before it starts. Mona and Ed have some harsh words, and he leaves. 

He leaves town to go to Austin to discuss the situation with the governor. And finally, an hour and 20 minutes into the movie we finally get to see The Governor (Charles Durning).  

"The Sidestep"

Why do I say finally?  Because Durning was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at that year's Oscars.  While admittedly there have been nominees with less screen time in a film (his on screen time only amounts to about 10 minutes, 6 of which is his song and dance number...), I would hazard a guess that it was the latest in a movie for one of those who garnered that nomination to make their appearance.  (And, BTW,  I'm not going to speculate on who SHOULD have won. Louis Gossett, Jr actually took the award for An Officer and a Gentleman, but also in the running were Robert Preston for Victor/Victoria, John Lithgow for The World According to Garp and James Mason for The Verdict. Based on those, I'm guessing that Durning was possibly lucky if he came in fourth in the voting.)

Ed tries to get the Governor to use his power to keep the place open, but being a politician, he refuses to do anything before knowing which way the wind blows. Once he gets the results of a poll that has a majority in favor of closing it, however, he tells Ed he has to shut it down.

Ed calls to break the bad news to Mona, who has to break the news to her girls.  And she finds out about Ed's trip to Austin to try to get the Governor's help in keeping it open.

"Hard Candy Christmas"

The ending of the movie has Ed showing up and repairing the damage as best he can.  He tells Mona he wants to marry her.  Mona, for her part, tells Ed he would be better off, since he has a future in politics, to do without being married to a former prostitute.

"I Will Always Love You"

But Ed is nothing if not determined. He takes Mona's stuff off the truck she had packed to leave town and throws it in his own truck.  And they drive off into the sunset.

So it occurs to me that this movie quite possibly could be rated as a "romantic comedy". If so, it is one more in a very relative few in that genre that I like.

If you made it this far into the review, and haven't decided it offends your sensibilities, I'm going to leave you with a final few tidbits of trivia. All courtesy of IMDb, so take them as you will, depending on your trust in the authenticity of the site:

First, the part of Ed Earl went to Burt, but there were several others who had been considered for the part including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Gene Hackman.  Miss Mona had her own list of candidates, including Crystal Gayle and Barbara Mandrell. And by the way, does anybody else besides me think Lois (Dulcie Mae) Nettleton looks a lot like Mandrell? I actually though she was until I watched the credits...

And also, in the role of The Governor, Mickey Rooney was considered.  It was Burt himself who suggested that Charles Durning be given a shot at the role.

At the end of the movie Burt picks up Dolly and carries her to his truck.  He supposedly suffered a double hernia as a result.

Despite the prurient subject matter, this movie is a fun movie to watch. 

Really... 36!!!

Well, folks, time to get the old Plymouth on down the road.  I'm going straight home.  Really.  I am NOT going to route a detour through some little pissant country place.  Honest!


Friday, May 24, 2024

The Neighbors Are Coming Over: The Neighbors Blogathon Roll Call


Well folks, it's Memorial Day Weekend and the neighbors are coming.  Open up the bottle and set the table for the dinner.  (Or lock your doors and put up the "Gone for the summer." sign... your choice.)

We have a full slate of guests on their way.  Keep checking back to this page or check my co-host's page at Taking Up Room. We will be updating our respective pages as the neighbors start showing up.

Earl and Enid and Vic and Ramona get to know each other as new Neighbors (posted by The Midnite Drive-In)

Daniel meets Bruno in Next Door/Nebenan (posted by Realweegiemidget Reviews)

Grady and Fred Sanford are neighbors on TV's Sanford and Son (posted by By Rich Watson)

Those wacky Satanists next door are the focus in Rosemary's Baby (posted by johnrieber)

Laurel and  Hardy are neighbors in Sons of the Desert  (posted by Critica Retro)

Tommy has trouble with the neighbors in The Window (posted by NitrateGlow)

The Neighbors from Hell



This is my entry in The Neighbors  Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room and yours truly.

OK.  So here's a premise.  You've got a low-key, sedate and almost milquetoast man.  He lives a day-to-day life with his equally mousy wife.  Until a loud brash and overly invasive neighbor and his sexpot wife move next door.  Now you cast Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the male characters.  So which one is the obnoxious one and which one is the guy you would be comfortable with because you know he is a quiet kind of guy?

It's just quite possible you've got those two roles switched.  At least, if you are like me and remember Belushi as Bluto in Animal House or Jake Blues in The Blues Brothers. If that's the case you probably think Belushi is playing to type and is the radical invasive new neighbor.

But here's the kicker.  It's Belushi who is the laid back quiet guy and it's Aykroyd who is the neighbor from Hell.

If you've ever wondered what kind of future Belushi might have had if he hadn't let drugs take priority in his life, Neighbors is an insight into his potential.  Aykroyd lived long enough to show a wide range of possibilities as an actor Sure he made a mark in some off-key roles in movies like Doctor Detroit and, of course, Ghostbusters, but he also had some straight-laced roles like the son of Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy. I like to think that Belushi might have made some similar roles work, too.  And as Earl Keese, I think he showed some potential to move that direction.

For instance, Eating Raoul, which involves a couple of would-be swingers who put in want ads for sex couplings in the personal ads with the intention of luring them in and killing them to supply food for a struggling restaurant.  (It's funny, trust me, if you can get past the somewhat off-setting initial premise.)

Neighbors was based on a novel by Thomas Berger.  Berger is probably best known as the author of the novel Little Big Man, which was filmed starring Dustin Hoffman.  The  script for Neighbors  was written by Larry Gelbart, the man behind the scenes writing for the TV series M.A.S.H. The movie was directed by John G. Avildsen, the Academy Award winning director of Rocky (as well as having directed the first three Karate Kid movies).  The soundtrack was written by Bill Conti, himself an Academy Award winner (The Right Stuff).  As you can see, the movie has enough of a cache of talent that it should have been a winner.

Oh, and by the way, just a point of pre-history.  The original casting of this film did have Aykroyd and Belushi playing the opposite roles.  Would it have been the same?  Or would this be a movie buried even farther into the dark past as just a knock-off follow up to previous Belushi/Aykroyd endeavors?  Who knows?

So here we go with Neighbors (not to be confused with the movie of the same name with the same name from 2014 with Seth Rogen and Zach Efron).


Neighbors (1981):

One of the hallmarks of what I refer to as dark comedy is that expectations are never what you get. Watch out with this one, though.  Just when you think you've finally got a line on it, the fish wil slip the hook and leave you wondering where it went.

Earl (John Belushi) and Enid (Kathryn Walker)  Keese are a typical suburban couple who live on a cul-de-sac in which there are only two houses.  


The Keese household looks pretty sedate, although the neighboring house is kind of run-down.  (To me it looks sort of like a reject for the Bates house in Psycho... which may or may not be fitting considering what is to come.


The neighbor house has been empty for a few months, but there are new neighbors moving in.   Here comes the neighbors.  Vic (Dan Aykroyd) and Ramona (Cathy Moriarty).  Earl observes they've got new neighbors and they are not shy at all. 

First to show up is Ramona, who basically makes herself at home (in more ways than one).  

Then Vic shows up. 


Both of them are uninhibited.  As to why, well, that's a secret we don't find out until late in the movie.  Suffice to say, the (mostly) proper Earl is a bit put off.  Especially since his wife doesn't seem to ever see much of the strangeness, and that which she does see is taken for charm by Enid.

At the outset, Vic invites himself and Ramona over for dinner.  He volunteers to go get take out from an Italian place in town, generously offering to drive Earl's car for the job. And use Ear's money.  (Geez, what a stand-up guy...)

Except Vic takes the money and then goes over to his house and cooks up a spaghetti meal in his own kitchen.  Earl spies on him and, apparently, decides that is not too kosher.  So he decides to play a trick on Vic and move his truck.  Except the truck has no brakes, so it ends up at the bottom of a swamp. (Why is a swamp in this cul-de-sac in suburbia?  Who knows?)

Things go back and forth between Earl and Vic.  And Earl also has to deal with Ramona who seems determined to put Earl at ill ease by coming on to him.  Which Earl is not entirely put off by.  (Maybe Earl isn't the dedicated husband he tries to put up a front as, after all..)

Interspersed with this is the arrival of Earl and Enid's daughter,  Elaine (Lauren-Marie Taylor), home from school because she has been kicked out of the private school she was attending.  Elaine also likes Vic and Ramona and doesn't see any of the shenanigans.


One of the highlights of the film is the appearance of Pa Greavey (Tim Kazurinsky), a crotchety old geezer who operates an all-night auto shop and towing service who shows up to get Vic's truck out of the swamp.  Of course, initially, he thinks Earl's car is the one he has been called to tow, and is quite put out when he finds absolutely nothing wrong with it.


Eventually Vic's actions end up with the house next door catching on fire and burning down.  And the truth comes out.  Vic and Ramona did not actually buy the house.  They just commandeered it from their nurse at the mental institution they escaped from.  Vic and Ramona are not married, they did not have insurance on the house and they are basically on the run from the insane asylum. And are going to hit the road (because what other choice do they have?)

They return, however and invite Earl to go with them.  And because Earl's boring life has been dramatically changed (for better or worse, you decide), he decides to go with them.


There you go.  As much as this movie had going for it, it did manage a profit (probably due to expectations from fans of Belushi for another madcap performance from the star of Animal House). But it never really was  a big hit. Of course, dark comedy is what might be called an "acquired" taste/ but if you like movies like Heathers and War of the Roses this film might appeal to you.

Well folks, if your neighbors are not like these guys, you probably owe a prayer of thanks.  Or maybe, just maybe, you could use something to shake up the dull life.  Either way, be sure to drive safely.


Sunday, May 19, 2024

MCU Sunday #19 and #20 Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame


 Preface: As promised last year, I plan to review every single currently available movie in what is known as the  Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) over the year 2024. These will appear in order of their release over that time period. This is the nineteenth (and twentieth) installment. (Oh, and by the way, after I've exhausted all of the currently available MCU movies I will be rounding out the year with some of the other available movies made from the Marvel comics pantheon.)

Notes: In each of the MCU installments you will be seeing references to two recurring events that occur in nearly every MCU movie.

Where is Stan Lee?: Stan Lee was the driving genius behind Marvel Comics.  He usually shows up in a cameo.  Sometimes these are so quick you gotta be sure you don't blink. Occasionally he gets a line  of dialogue.

And the Credits Roll: You should always stay in the theater for the credits when watching a MCU movie, because during the credits and at the end there is a teaser (or two) that is worth the wait.  Often they were a teaser for the next installment of the films.



Note: As stated in the last post (MCU Postponed) I decided to post a review of both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame as one post, since both are together essentially one longer film divided into two movies.  This means that the chronological portion of the series is going to be out of order, but I felt it necessary to do it this way.  Beginning next week I will circle back to Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel, both of which appeared in theaters before the second movie in this post.  I will be back on track when I get through those two.  Patience.


When these two films hit the theaters there was a change in the way that Marvel did films.  Although there was a running thread in the other 18 movies in the MCU cycle, with these films, for the first time, there was what was obviously a cliffhanger aspect. In my experience of 45 years of watching movies in theaters, I had only experienced this a few times. The most recent one (for me) at that time, had been when I saw Back to the Future Part II. Understand that I was not in the know when I saw that one, but late in the movie I realized that there was no way this was going to end as a complete story.  And sure enough, the credits rolled with the enticement to come back for Back to the Future Part III.

Now, I am not so rigid in my film viewing that I don't like to see those words "... to be continued... appear.  But I have to admit that I prefer to wait until the cycle is complete and watch all of them in succession rather than wait for the next installment, since sometimes it can take a couple of years before the next one.  By which time I will probably have forgotten a lot of the previous movie.

Which is why I decided to pair these two as one movie.  Three weeks is a lot less than three years (and no, it wasn't three years between the two, that's just a metaphor for the post...). 

With this iteration of MCU, all of the previously introduced characters over the past 10 years or so are brought together in one climatic showdown.  And much of the previously only tantalizing tidbits of what the future held finally come to fruition.  For instance, we finally get to see the significance of the Tesseract, an object first introduced way back in the first Captain America film.




Avengers: Infinity War (2018):

The first thing that happens is Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his cohorts are attacking the refugee ship of Asgardians who have escaped Asgard after it's destruction (See Thor: Ragnarok).  Already having acquired one of the Infinity Stones, he is seeking the rest of them, and he knows that one of them is being held by the Asgardians.  And, of course, it is encased in our old friend, the Tesseract. During the encounter, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is killed and The Hulk, who tries but fails to subdue Thanos by his lonesome, is cast to Earth.  Which is Thanos' next goal.


Back on Earth, Hulk has reverted back to Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and enlists the help of Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who in turn seeks out Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Banner tells Stark about Thanos and his goal to acquire all the infinity stones.  But since Stark has no idea what the hell the infinity stones are, he gets an education in them.


See. at the beginning of the Big Bang, the Infinity Stones were created and scattered throughout the universe. The Stones, which control various aspects of the universe keep the universe in existence by their presence, but if someone were to put them all into one place they could manipulate the universe to their own wishes.

The Stones govern six various aspects of existence: Power, Space, Reality, Soul, Mind and Time. (and Thanos already has the Power and the Space Stones.  Thus he is a third of the way to that power to change things (and not necessarily for the better... he is a villain, after all...)

But the threat is imminent in New York.  While discussing the options of what to do about the Time Stone which is currently in Dr. Strange's possession, a spaceship appears.  

And on a school bus nearby, Peter Parker, alias Spiderman (Tom Holland), senses something is up.

Where is Stan Lee?

Stan is the bus driver who dismisses the imminent danger to the kids of the bus with the comment "What's the matter with you kids?  You never seen a spaceship before?"


So Iron man and Dr. Strange and Spiderman do battle with Thanos' main man, Ebony Maw ( trying to prevent him from taking the next stone, the Time Stone.  But, though they succeed in not being eliminated from the scene, Maw manages to get the stone, albeit with Dr. Strange still attached to it.  (There's more than one way to get what you want...)

Meanwhile the Guardians of the Galaxy, consisting of our friends Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Gamora  (Zoe Saldana) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) answer the distress call pit out by the Asgardians, but arrive late and see the destruction that Thanos put on the ship. They rescue Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who somehow is still alive.

And revived, Thor tells them that Thanos' next objective is probably to get the Infinity Stone, which is being held by The Collector (Benecio Del Toro) on Knowhere.  He thinks the Time and Mind Stones are safe because they are on Earth under the protection of The Avengers. (He doesn't know yet that the Time Stone's safety has been compromised.) And since no one even knows where the sixth stone, the Soul Stone, is, ergo, Thanos must be going to acquire the one held by the Collector.

But before they go after Thanos, Thor needs to have a new hammer made for him to replace the one his sister destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok. Thus half of them head off to Nidavellir, while the other half head of to Knowhere to confront Thanos.

Meanwhile, despite Thor's insistence that the Stones on Earth are safe, after the Time Stone has been compromised, Vision (Paul Bettany), who has the Mind Stone in his forehead, is attacked by a couple more of Thanos' henchmen.  But Vision an Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) are saved by the efforts of Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie). They take Vision to Wakanda where, maybe, with the help of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and War Machine (Don Cheadle), they can prevent Thanos from getting the Mind Stone.

Back on Knowhere, the remaining Guardians confront Thanos, but are too late to prevent him from acquiring the fourth Stone.  And it turns out that "no one knows where the sixth stone is" was a bit premature presumption.  It turns out that Gamora has that knowledge, and Thanos not only gets the Reality Stone, but also gets Gamora (and we can all guess what he is going to do to get her to reveal the location the Soul Stone (the sixth stone we mentioned.)

WE do get some insight into Thanos' motivation, albeit somewhat twisted.  See he knows that if life is unchecked it will expand beyond the capacity for the resources of the universe to sustain it.  A valid observation, true, but his solution is to eliminate half of the known universe's life to keep the other half from starving from this low capacity of resources.  Not exactly the most equitable of solutions, even if it does solve the immediate problem.

THe movie starts to get a little complicated here, so try to keep up.  Thor and Rocket and Groot have gone to Nidavellir to get the dwarves to make Thor another hammer.  Star Lord,  Drax and Mantis have gone to Titan in search of Drax.  Meanwhile, Dr. Strange, Iron Man and Spider-man have escaped captivity but had to crash land on the nearby planet, you guessed it, Yitan.  Where the two forces meet up and, initially, not knowing who the other force is end up in combat.  But that is quickly resolved when it is revealed that both have the same goal; the defeat of Thanos.

Back on Nidavellir, Thor finds out that the dwarves were the ones who made the glove that Thanos is using to combine the power of the stones.  And, of course, Thanos being Thanos, he killed off every last dwarf on the planet except one. (Should've finished the job, since now there is one left to recreate the mighty hammer of Thor.

Thanos, meanwhile has sought out the Soul Stone.  Which is guarded by... Red Skull (remember the bad guy behind the nefarious Hydra in Captain America: The First Avenger? Yeah, everybody;s getting into the act in this film...) But the Soul Stone is special.  It requires a sacrifice, a soul for the Soul. Thanos must sacrifice one that he loves so he can acquire the stone.  End of movie, since Thanos loves no one.


Not so fast.  Apparently Thanos really does love his adopted daughter, Gamora, surprise surprise... At least it is to her and to the viewing audience, since he certainly doesn't show it very well. So if you are keeping track, Thanos has now got 4 stones.  He still needs Dr. Strange's Time Stone and Vision's Mind stone.  Which of course is Thanos' next objectives.  While Thanos fights on Titan to get the Time Stone, his allies battle the remaining Avengers in an attempt to get Vision's Mind Stone.

Ultimately Dr. Strange surrenders the Time Stone to save Iron man, and Thanos immediately transfers to Wakanda to get the final stone. Vision begs Wanda to use her power to destroy the Mind Stone, but Wanda, thought successful, fails because Thanos has the Time Stone and can reverse time to a point before she destroyed it, and Thanos gets the stone.  He then uses the power of the stones to eliminate half of all life in the universe and we watch as many of the Avengers and the rest of the universe dissipates into nothingness.

And the Credits Roll:  

In New York, the dissolving people are creating a bit of havoc, and among those who disappear is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).  No hint at a preview here, just a continuation of the effects of Thanos' goal.

Thus we move on to how the remaining Avengers will try to set things right, but that won't come until after the intermission.



Avengers: Endgame (2019):

The movie opens, of course, after half of the universe has been eliminated by Thanos' use of the Infinity Gauntlet(And note: Since I jumped the sequential portion to do this, you have to accept that Captain Marvel and The Wasp are going to be present, even though they haven't been formally introduced as characters yet.)

The remaining Avengers assemble after Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) rescues Iron Man and Nebula from being stranded in space.  The remaining Avengers aren't exactly going to go quietly into that good night.  Along with Iron Man, those remaining Avengers, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, War Machine and Hulk seek out Thanos in his "retirement Home" in order to retrieve the Infinity Stones and (hopefully) reverse the damage Thanos had done.

But when they find him, it turns out that after he succeeded in eliminating half the universe he destroyed the stones.  Thor, not exactly a happy camper at this news, decapitates Thanos.

Five years later, the remaining Avengers are still struggling to adapt to this new life. Enter Ant-Man, who has been trapped in some kind of time loop.  When he breaks free he has no idea what has happened.  But gradually learns the truth, especially after he finds his name among those who were lost during the dissipation.

He seeks out the Avengers where he reveals that 5 years earlier he got stuck in the quantum realm, and even though 5 years passed here in the physical realm, only 5 hours passed for him in the quantum realm.  So maybe, just maybe, they could use that quantum realm in some way to alter the present reality. (Can you say "time travel"? Yes! Finally! One of my favorite topics!)

Unfortunately, they need a big brain to help pull it off.  And Tony Iron Man Stark is too cynical and set in his new ways to commit.  But the team finds Bruce Banner, who now, more or less, is The Hulk.  Except with the brain capacity of Bruce, They could still use Tony's expertise, but it may require some convincing.  Especially since Bruce's expertise is not quantum physics.  He has a couple of glitches trying to make that time machine work.  (Maybe they should have sprung for the DeLorean instead of that second hand minivan...)

Time to gather the remaining Avengers.  Thor has turned into an alcoholic wallowing in self-pity, but he may not be the toughest challenge. What really may be the challenge is Hawkeye, who is now basically a mercenary. A good mercenary, to be sure, since when they find him he is in the process of taking out the Yakuza, the Japanese equivalent of the mafia. (No, not just a few key members of the upper echelon... the whole damn Yakuza...)

So with all these (admittedly limited) heroes, plus Tony Stark's modifications, the Avengers plan is to go back in time and get each of the stones before Thanos has a chance to get them. (So I'm thinking... If they are successful in getting just one, wouldn't THAT be enough to stop the damage Thanos caused? Well, it may not be that simple...)

So the Pym Particles that Ant-Man has to power these trips back in time are limited, since, after all, Hank Pym is no longer around to create new ones.  So each member has one and only one opportunity to acquire his or her Infinity Stone from wherever in time and space they choose to make their attempts.  But, hey, a cake walk right, since no one knows they will be going back to try to collect them.

The first team, which includes Cap, Hulk, Iron man and Ant-Man end up in New York City during the Battle for New York (See The Avengers).  There are 3 stones in the same area at this time, so they have objectives to kill three birds with one trip.  Hulk makes an attempt to take the Time Stone from the Sorcerer Supreme, who is reluctant to give it up, until Hulk convinces here that after they have set things aright, the stone will be returned to it's original point mere nanoseconds after it disappeared with him.

The second team, with Thor and Rocket, go to Asgard. And the third team, War Machine, Nebula, Black Widow and Hawkeye end up on Morag.

And on Morag, where the past iteration of Thanos and Gamora and Nebula are seeking the Power Stone, Nebula, who is part machine after all, is getting some interference in her memory from the present iteration of Nebula.  Thus, the past iteration of Thanos discovers some of the details of the Avengers' plans. So maybe this whole time travel scenario may not be a cake walk after all.

Especially when the New York team fails in acquiring all three stones.  It seems during the encounter that had previously happened at SHIELD with Loki captured ended up a bust because Loki managed to escape and take the Tesseract with him.  But Iron Man and Cap have a new plan, one which involves another time leap.  They go to 1970, where not only is there the Tesseract, but they also have the possibility of acquring more Pym Particles for their time travelling.

Where is Stan Lee?

In 1970, Stan Lee (who had in reality died by this time) is a CGI de-aged hippie who tells people "Hey man, make love, not war" as he zooms by a military installation.


Which is the destination of Cap and Iron Man. Tony meets his father and has a lasting moment as his father is just on the verge of becoming a father, (to Tony).  And they get away with the Tesseract  and a few Pym particles.

Meanwhile on Vormir, where Red Skull tells Hawkeye and Black Widow the price to get the Soul Stone is a "soul for a soul" the two battle with each other to see which one of them will be the one to be sacrificed.  (Yeah, OK, these are heroes not villains... They are battling to see which one of them will give up his or her life as a sacrifice so the other can retrieve the Soul Stone...)

Having acquired all of the stones and fitted them to the Infinity Gauntlet, the question then becomes who will be the one to put it on and reverse the effects.  As Hulk points out, the power being mostly gamma ray operated, he, having become Hulk in the first place from gamma rays is the most obvious choice. Although he succeeds, it turns out that Thanos, who found out about the Avengers plan, may have other ideas about how things should go.  (After all, after you have accomplished a life long goal, would YOU want a bunch of malcontents disrupting YOUR success?)

Of course, Thanos fails to take into consideration that, having reversed the damage he originally did, he not only has to deal with the survivors of his destruction, but all those heroes who had been eliminated... Here comes Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Star-Lord, you know, the whol she-bang.  Oh, it's going to get good...

"Avengers! Assemble!"


After the (eventual) defeat of Thanos, the Avengers have to return the stones to their proper point in time.  And, spoiler alert!) not ALL of the heroes are going to come out on the other side of the battle and it's solution.  But, boy, is it going to be a glorious battle to the finish (sort of like the legendary battle of Ragnarok from the original Norse mythology...)

Ultimately, when Cap goes back to return the stones, he doesn't come back the same way.  He is now an old man.  It seems he decided to go back to the 40's and live out the life of his dreams that would have happened if he had not gone into hibernation.  Sad but also happy ending.

And the Credits Roll

There is no after credits scene previewing upcoming sequences here.  I think maybe this was originally intended to be the final in the MCU sequence.  Of course, you know that's not the case as a new Phase came on the scene later.  

So where do these movies rank in the pantheon?  Well, to be honest, I can't rank them separately, because if I did, Avengers: Infinity war would be unfairly ranked lower just because of the unresolved issue of the ending.  (Reemember, I did say i didn't particularly like the to be continued endings of films.  I prefer my movies to be wrapped up in a neat little shell so that each can be watched without having to cue up another movie.  But that is only when I don't expect to have to see another one, so something like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit get a pass because I knew going in they would be left unresolved.

So when you see that ultimate ranking at the end of this MCU jaunt, you will see both ranked together. And they do get a fairly high ranking when paired together.

Well, folks, its time to head home.  The old Plymouth is not going to be a time machine.  So I can't go back in time and alter the past, so please drive safely.


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Gorilla Of My Dreams

This is my first entry in the It's In the Name of the Title Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Taking Up Room

 Way back in the early 2000's, I was in the habit of ordering a pizza on Saturday nights.  On one occasion the pizza place I did business with had a deal.  Pizza and a Movie.  What the deal was, you order a large pizza and along with it came a DVD of some movie,

They only did it a few times. It probably wasn't all that profitable. You didn't get a big budget gonzo movie. To be honest, the ones I got in those deals were public domain movies that I could have gotten anywhere on multi-disc sets for a few dollars.  I only have two of them, now, 20 years later.  One was Abbott and Costello meet the Mummy, (which came with a bonus episode of the TV show The Munsters, so it must've been a Halloween promotion.) The same thing could probably be said about today's movie. 

...I mean Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla? Just Lugosi's name suggests horror.  Unfortunately for Lugosi, he got typecast, although given the career he had under that typecast, I would have been happy with it, even if, as I have heard, he wasn't necessarily so happy. But at any rate, even if it wasn't for Halloween, it was a decent bonus to go along with pizza.

The DVD itself, I mean, not necessarily the movie on it.  But, as I've said before, I enjoy low budget trash as much as those huge budget epics, sometimes even more so. I like pushing the envelope and see if I can get a reaction from people.  

A few of the movies I've reviewed over the course of the history of this blog fall into a category of what I would call "Really??? That's your movie choice?"  (I can imagine the consternation of some of my fellow bloggers with the choices I came up with to join heir blogathons.)

Case in point.  A few years ago I posted a review of a double feature: Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter  (both directed by the same guy who directed today's feature, BTW). Neither of these movies would be on the radar of most people (in fact, most people have probably never even HEARD of them).

So back to the focus of today. Some interesting tidbits of trivia:  Sammy Petrillo, half of the comedy duo of Petrillo and Duke Mitchell, got his start because Jerry Lewis saw him perform and liked the almost dead-on imitation of Lewis that Petrillo had perfected and gave him his first role (as a baby version of Jerry Lewis on his own TV show}.  But apparently there was a falling out at some point, because by the time this movie came out, Lewis was ready to sue over the obvious similarity between the two characters and his and Dean Martin's comedy pairings.

William Beaudine, famously referred to as "One Take Beaudine" for his tendency to stay on budget by going with the first take of filming no matter how bad, is often ranked with Ed Wood as one of the worst directors to ever come out of Hollywood (Make room, Ed...). He had a huge career. From 1915 until 1970 he directed over 400 movies.  None of which are all that memorable. He did direct a slew of movies featuring The Bowery Boys, so those who are interested in 40's and 50's comedies may have seen his films (albeit maybe not know it was him behind the camera...)

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla was one of the movies that Martin Landau watched to get a feel for Bela Lugosi in preparation for his role as the actor in Tim Burton's biopic of Ed Wood. Landau commented on Beaudine's film that it was "so bad it makes Ed Wood films look like Gone with the Wind. " (Ouch!) 

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952):

First thing you notice in this film is the title sequence. After the movie title it lists the cast. "Introducing Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo" comes immediately after the title, followed by a list of the rest of the cast that merited getting listed, including the major roles played by Charlita as Nona and even Ramona as Ramona (the chimp).

Missing from the cast list is Bela's name... Wait a minute! I thought this was Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla... Is Lugosi not in it? Well, you get his name in the title, so maybe that counts for saying "Starring Bela Lugosi"...

The movie opens with one of those old-style documentary featurettes, featuring some stock footage of jungle creatures and a voice over: "This is the jungle..." which ends with the camera on two bearded men lying on the jungle floor while the announcer says "Who are these men? What can they possibly be doing in this cruel tropical wildness?"

The men are Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo (playing themselves), a comedy/singing duo who were on their way to do a show for Armed Services personnel, but end up on the jungle floor.  Waiting to be discovered by... what else... jungle natives. 

Duke and Sammy

The head medicine man (Milton Newberger) is insisting that they kill them (At least, that's what I think "hoo li ga vahntay" and slicing his hand across his throat means...) But the two have a savior in the person of the daughter of the chief, Rakos (Al Kikume) of the tribe who doesn't want them to be killed (OK, so that is what the medicine man is insisting..) Instead they get cleaned up and shaved.

Upon awakening, the two introduce themselves to their savior, Nona (Charlita) and the rest of the tribe. And the real reason that Nona has saved them from sacrifice becomes evident... she has the hots for Duke.  And her baby sister, Saloma (Muriel Landers), has a likewise attraction to Sammy,

Nona and Rakos


Dean and Jerry, I mean Duke and Sammy, perform a song from their act for the tribe, with Duke singing one of the two songs featured in the film, " 'Deed I Do".  But they want to get off the island and back to civilization.  Fortunately (coincidentally..) for them, Nona works part time helping a scientist on the other side of the island, Dr. Zabor (Bela).  

Dr Zabor

Seems that Dr. Zabor is working on some experiments in the science of evolution.  And (plot point that drives the last half of the film) Zabor also has the hots for Nona. (Of course, he does.) So Nona takes Duke and Sammy to meet the Doctor.  Who lives in a fairly creepy mansion on the other side of the island with his native manservant, Chula (Mickey Simpson).  Nona is not only acquainted with Dr. Zabor, she also works part time  as his laboratory assistant.  (Which explains how the doc has become so enamored with Nona, she's always hanging around his lab doing assistant things.

Zabor has a monkey named Ramona, who is probably a potential victim of his nefarious experiments in the future.  Ramona takes an immediate shine to Sammy, but Sammy, of course, does not consider Ramona to be much of  an improvement over Saloma...

The first thing that Zabor notices about the two is Nona seems to have an interest in Duke, which makes Zabor a little jealous... (A little?)  So since the doc has his secret experiments on the study of evolution (you know the science that says man was originally a variation of the ape in it's past), he decides to use his knowhow to eliminate the competition.

How?  His experiments have been on how to reverse evolution.  Or at least that's what his ultimate goal is.  He experiments first on Ramona (I told you see was going to be a victim...)  He injects Ramona  with is serum and ends up with a monkey that has reverted to an earlier life form.  He tells Chula that now he can turn a man into a gorilla.  But don't worry Chula, he has another victim in mind to test out this serum...

But the problem is that the serum he used on Ramona did not last, and before he can show off the results of his success, Ramona has reverted back to her normal self.  (And, see, all those tears you were crying for poor Ramona turn out to be tears too soon...)

The terror is only just beginning however.  Remember how I said Zabor wanted Nona for himself and was getting a little peeved that Duke was getting somewhere with her when he couldn't?
  Well he gets Chula to kidnap Duke and, while Sammy and Nona have gone back to the village to look for him, Duke is stuck in Zabor's cages, having been injected with Zabor's new and improved serum. Which is a resounding success.  Duke is transformed into a gorilla, played, as usual, by that whiz who made his living doing gorillas in the 50's movies; Ray Corrigan. I think it was his suit, so it was probably in the contract that he would be the one to wear it... (You didn't REALLY think it was a REAL gorilla, did you...?)

When Nona and Sammy return. Zabor tries to convince that the gorilla is really Ramona.  But Sammy eventually becomes convinced otherwise.  See, even though Duke has become a gorilla physically, he still retains the mind and intelligence of Duke and takes various steps to try to convey the situation to Sammy.  Which may take a bit of effort, since Sammy is a couple of marbles short of a hopscotch game.

While trying to figure out how to resolve the situation another gorilla appears on the scene. The new gorilla turns out to be a female gorilla whose hormones go into overdrive on seeing Duke.  The two manage to escape and get back to the tribe, but they have been followed by Zabor, who has his eyes set on killing Duke.  Sammy jumps in front of duke to save him, but the doctor ends up shooting Sammy instead.

And then, in the classic ending, it all turns out to be a dream. Sammy dreamt the whole thing and everyone he knows was actually a part of the dream (shades of The Wizard of Oz!!), which it turns out he was having while waiting to go onstage with Duke as part of their act.  Nona and the chief were an act that involved, apparently, a trainer and her gorilla, which was actually the chief in a gorilla costume. Chula is apparently a bouncer.  And the guy who is in charge of the theater? None other than Zabor. 

The End.  And since there are no closing credits, Bela is STILL not credited as having been a part of the movie....

Folks, this is one of those films that requires that you leave your brain at the box office and just go in with only your eyes, because you won't need the rest of your body.  Entertaining?  On one level, yes.  But if you are a big fan of the Martin/Lewis pairing, you may have some issues with the more than obvious imitation by Petrillo trying to do Lewis. Which may convince you that Lewis had a good reason to get annoyed by the act.  Of course, this kind of thing couldn't have much to keep it afloat.  Sammy only had 5 roles in movies and Duke only had 9 and as near as I can tell, this was the only one that paired them together.

After this movie, Bela Lugosi was only able to get work with Ed Wood.  Only 4 movies before he passed away and three were with Wood.  A sad ending for man who had a great career scaring the bejeebers out of people for years in his heyday. 

Well, time to get the next boat out of the theater and get back to civilization.  Drive safely, folks.