Saturday, April 18, 2020

Gold Gems

This is my first entry in the Vincent Price Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Cinematic Catharsis

From the TV cartoon series Pinky and the Brain:

Pinky:  "What are we going to do tonight, Brain?"
The Brain: "Same thing we do every night, Pinky...try to take over the world!"

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)
Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966):

The essence of American International's Dr. Goldfoot movies is parody.  The hit movie series of the 60's was Sean Connery and his James Bond films.  The most recent one of these had been Goldfinger (1964).  Dr. Goldfoot was an evil scientist, who like many of Bond's nemeses, had a goal to try to take over the world.

In the first outlet for the series, Dr. Goldfoot's nefarious plan is creating girl robots who entice rich men, marry them and then drain them dry financially, to the benefit, of course, of Dr. Goldfoot.

In the second entry, Dr. Goldfoot, in cahoots with the Chinese, endeavors to start World War II between the Russians and the Americans, the ultimate goal being to destroy the two superpowers and divide the spoils between the Chinese and our "hero", Dr. Goldfoot.  To enable this, first Dr. Goldfoot sends his newly developed girl robots, accompanied with bombs, to blow up the NATO generals.  Then he hijacks an American plane with a hydrogen bomb, to blow up Moscow.

The agent, if you can call him that, is from Security Intelligence Command (S.I.C., which is pronounced "sick", leading to a couple of snickering moments when the agent says he is a "S.I.C. agent").  In the first film, the agent is played by Frankie Avalon and in the second the agent is played by Fabian, both heralding back to American International's popular "beach movies".  (In fact, in one scene in Bikini Machine, Annette Funicello makes a guest cameo.)

Both movies are highlighted by an elaborate slapstick chase.  In the first movie it is Dr. Goldfoot chasing the agents and in the second it is the agents chasing Dr. Goldfoot and his cohorts.  In both the chase is just a ploy to extend the length of the movie with numerous sight gags, regardless of the plausibility.  (i.e. a streetcar that leaves its rails and rolls down the highway or a hot air balloon that manages to keep pace with a jet airliner.)

In between you get Vincent Price at his campy best.  Sure, Price made a great evil villain, but he could pull off comedy pretty damn decently, too.  Neither of the Goldfoot entries are anywhere close to classics in the comedy realm.  And there are some flaws in the second entry.  For one thing the Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs film serves not only as a sequel to the first movie, but it was also made as a sequel to a favorite Italian series.  Hence the appearance of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrrassia as a pair of Italian dolts who help our secret agent in his quest to stop Goldfoot.

For those Mario Bava fans in the crowd, it may disconcert you to know that Bava was the director of the second feature.  Definitely not up to the standards of Black Sabbath or Kill, Baby, Kill, and maybe Bava fans have a right to be disappointed.  It would be the only time that classic horror actor Price teamed up with classic horror director Bava and that's a shame.

These movies are fun, but I highly doubt they are re-watchable, even for Price fans.  But since you are probably qurantined at least for part of the day right now, it can make for a somewhat enjoyable break from all that housekeeping or whatever it is you are doing to keep active.

Drive safely, folks.



Sunday, April 12, 2020

Blues for a Sunday

On October 11, 1975, a group of performers gathered together to foist upon the public what is one of the longest running TV shows in history, Saturday Night Live.  It has only a few rivals for that  distinction (all of which are either soap operas or news shows).  Three months into the show's first season, on Jan. 17, 1976, during the 10th episode, cast members John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd dressed in bee costumes, touted as "The Killer Bees" and performed a Slim Harpo song "I'm a King Bee".  This was the first incarnation of what would eventually morph into "the Blues Brothers".

Initially, the genesis stemmed from Ackroyd and Belushi's affinity for old blues records.  It did take a while for the Blues Brothers to emerge.  They performed as the bees characters 11 times during the first season.  But Belushi notably was quoted as saying he hated the bees.  Not long afterwards they reincarnated as the "Blues Brothers".

Ackroyd and Belushi pulled together a monster list of well known studio musicians from the blues world.  These included Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Tom "Bones" Malone, "Blue" Lou Marini, Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Willie "Too Big" Hall, Murphy "Murph" Dunne and Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin.

They performed together for a notable concert, released as an album, Briefcase Full of Blues, in 1978, with Belushi and Ackroyd taking on the personas of "Joliet" Jake and Elwood Blues respectively.  This was parlayed into a movie contract.  Belushi and Ackroyd played the titular Blues brothers while the rest of the band basically appeared as themselves.

The Blues Brothers (1980):

"Joiliet" Jake Blues(John Belushi) is just being released from prison for serving time for committing armed robbery.  He is picked up by his brother, Elwood (Dan Ackroyd).  To Jake's consternation, Elwood picks him up in a police car.  It seems that during the time that Jake was in prison, his brother had parlayed the original "Bluesmobile" in a trade for a microphone, and had since gotten the used police car at an auction.  Jake is upset, but Elwood convinces him that it is a good new "Bluesmobile" after engaging in a car chase with the police which manages to destroy a mall.

Jake and Elwood have to go see "The Penguin" (Kathleen Freeman), their name for the Mother Superiior at a Catholic school where they had schooled in their younger days.  The Penguin breaks the bad news to the boys that the Catholic Church intends to shut down the school because the property taxes on the building are too high and the church wants to sell the old building outright.

Spurred on by the janitor, Curtis (Cab Calloway), who had spun old blues records for them when they were kids, Jake and Elwood try to devise a way to raise the money to pay the taxes.  Ultimately they decide to reunite their old band.  The problem is most of them have moved on to real jobs and are unlikely to be willing to join up.

For one thing, Mr. Fabulous is now head maitre' d at a fancy French restaurant.  Matt Murphy has gotten himself hitched and works with his wife (Aretha Franklin) at a chicken jointin downtown Chicago.  Murphy Dunne and some of the others have a gig in a hotel bar playing cheesy music for the patrons.  Most of them are somewhat initially reluctant to reunite, but Elwood and Jake shame them into reuniting in various ways.

Together the band load up the equipment and go out to a gig that Jake has lined up for them.  Except Jake really has no gig.  His first act is to convince a local redneck bar that they are the scheduled headliners "The Good Old Boys" a country band.  How they manage to pull that off is a sight to see.  But when the real band shows up, and the Blues Brothers attempt to skip out on their bar tab with the redneck bar owner, a chase is on.

Over the course of the movie, the Blues Brothers manage to wangle themselves into a serious altercation with a neo Nazi group, the aforementioned redneck band and bar owner and of course the entire police forces of the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.  The whole movie, from a plot aspect, is just one long car chase with lots of cars getting destroyed (all except the Bluesmobile, which manages to escape any damage until the final reel).

But what really makes the movie are the guest stars, a who's who of blues music.  You get Aretha Franklin performing her classic song "Think".  You get Ray Charles performing "Shake a Tail Feather".  You get the band performing "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love' and my absolute favorite version of my absolute favorite blues song "Sweet Home Chicago".  And to top it off you get James Brown as a revivalist preacher doing a bang up job of an old gospel song "The Old Landmark".  Plus Cab Calloway sizzles in one scene doing a warmup for the concert the Blues Brothers are scheduled to perform by doing his classic "Minnie the Moocher".

The plot of The Blues Brothers is good enough for one or two viewings by itself, but the music is sure to keep you coming back time and again.

The same could be said about the sequel Blues Brothers 2000.  In this case the plot is pretty much crap, however.  But damn, the songs on it are well worth sitting through the rest of the movie.  Unfortunately by the time they got around to this sequel, Belushi, Calloway and John Candy from the original movie were dead, but John Goodman does a halfway decent job taking over on the music side.   Plus, at the end of the movie you get a battle of the bands with the Blues Brothers on one side and an all-star cast of blues musicians called The Louisiana Gator Boys, with B. B. King leading them on the other side.  (Way too many to list here, but among them is Eric Clapton).  I highly recommend sitting through the claptrap plot just to see the musical interludes.

Well folks, time to fire up the old Plymouth and head home.  Watch out for the rednecks... and the Nazis... and especially the cops.



Can't believe I've been out of touch on this blog for 3 weeks.  And I haven't even been sick...

I'm going to have to get something up later today.