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Catch My Soul, and six more movies

THE
NEVERENDING
FILM FESTIVAL

#107

Tough guy Mike Hammer is on the verge of tears, Joan Crawford goes to Congress and then back to college, Shakespeare comes to a hippie commune, and there's a time traveling mansion, science fiction under glass, a comedy with no hint of humor, and multiple orgasms for Richard Harris.

• The Bubble (1966)
• Catch My Soul (1974)
• Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid (1986)
• Goodbye My Fancy (1951)
• House of Time (2015)
• I, the Jury (1953)
• Your Ticket is No Longer Valid (1981)

There's nothing truly great in this batch, but Catch My Soul is a pleasant oddity, the first 2/3 of The Bubble is quite good, and Your Ticket is No Longer Valid is an occasionally hilarious mistake.

— — — 

The Bubble (1966)

A young man and his very pregnant wife are on a small plane, headed into a storm. The pilot makes an emergency landing, and these three find themselves in a city that seems typical at first glance, but isn't. 

The locals are able to say only a few words, over and over. "Cab, mister?" says the taxi driver. And then he says it again, and again. A doctor provides medical care, but doesn't answer questions. The bartender at the saloon only asks, "What'll it be?" and polishes the same glass again.

It takes far too long for the movie's three main characters to become concerned about the town's catatonic state. Scene after scene, they acknowledge that, Gosh, this is sure a strange place, but they're unworried. When they finally decide to give a darn, their theory is that the whole town might be an exhibit in some otherworldly museum or zoo. 

"Either I'm in some kind of a nightmare from which I can't wake up, or if what you say is true then I'm part of a human zoo? I'd rather be in that nightmare."

"In a zoo? Were we so free before? Was I? The 9-5 routine, year after year? Since when haven't I been under an eye? First there was school, then there was the Army, and after the Army, the job. When hasn't there been some kind of eye watching over me?"

So it's a not-subtle allegory, but overall this is a smart piece, hampered by some in-your-face sequences intended to show off that it was originally a 3D flick.

At one point, two beers lift up off the counter and float in midair. On a flat screen it's not an impressive special effect, and you can see the wires, but — is it supposed to be the zookeeper saying "No beer for you," or is the man simply drunk and hallucinating that his beers can fly? My guess is the latter, but only because the scene's accompanied by silly music.

I was willing to go along with most of this. It's a good movie, but it could've been better, and the story's resolution comes out of nowhere.  

Written and directed by Arch Oboler. Michael Cole, later of Mod Squad, stars. And it's maybe the oldest movie I've seen that holds all the credits to the end.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Catch My Soul (1974)
a/k/a Santa Fe Satan

This is a hippie Othello, with almost all of Shakespeare's words replaced by songs, and the setting switched to a beachfront religious commune.

Richie Havens, who improvised "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" on-stage at Woodstock, plays Othello as a soft-spoken cult leader. He's just married the lovely but perhaps too young Desdemona (Season Hubley, from Loose Change and Vice Squad). Iago (Lance LeGault, later of The A-Team) is a member of the commune, angered that he was passed over for promotion to deacon in favor of country-boy wino Cassio (Tony Joe White, writer of "Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia", and a lot of this movie's music).

Though the story takes place in New Mexico, it was written by a British TV executive named Jack Good, based on his play, and it's the only film Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner) ever directed. Cinematography by Conrad Hall (Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Edited by Richard A Harris (The Candidate, The Terminator). There's ample talent here, and little dialogue, but hey, Shakespeare's plot is in there somewhere.

LeGault devilishly hams it up as Iago, but Catch My Soul is not about the acting. This is very much a musical, with almost nonstop music, and all the songs are worth hearing — none of them are duds like "Cheer Up, Charlie," in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It's 100% mellow, folksy music, and that's the essence of the movie.

Who needs plot or dialogue? Think of this as a concert film, shot on a beach, with lots of shaggy people dancing. Othello is supposed to be a tragedy, but this version is a good time.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid (1986)

A mental patient sneaks out with a couple of slightly more sane people, but very, very unfunny material doesn't become a comedy just because the actors act loudly and wave their arms a lot. There's nothing here for anyone who got past second grade.

Music by Leo Kottke. 

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Goodbye My Fancy (1951)

Joan Crawford is a US Congresslady, high-power and always being chased by reporters and men in general. She rarely has time to stop and talk, but she's cleared an entire weekend to attend ceremonies at a college, where she'll get an honorary degree.

Most of the people at the college don't know it, but she was expelled years earlier, for staying out all night like a tramp, so for Crawford this is vindication.

It's a drama with sorta comedic undertones, and Eve Arden is great as Crawford's always-bemused secretary. Arden was always great in roles like this. Frank Lovejoy plays the reporter who wants to ask her maybe more than the ordinary questions, and he's fun too. As for Ms Crawford, she's Ms Crawford.

This is based on a play by Fay Kanin, who later wrote Friendly Fire, with a screenplay by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, who later co-created Charlie's Angels

Verdict: YES, but it's nothing special.

♦ ♦ ♦

House of Time (2015) 

You know the movie trope where some rich dude invites a group of guests to his fancy mansion — Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill, or Tim Curry in Clue — and spooky things are quickly afoot? That's the set-up here, except that instead of ghosts or a murder, the rich dude wants to show off the mansion's time portal, leading back to World War II.

And whoosh, we're in 1944, a few weeks before the Normandy invasion. House of Time is a French movie set in France, which means this time it's personal, especially if you're French or had ancestors who helped liberate France.

When these visitors to occupied France interact with Nazis, and with a member of the Resistance, in addition to the immediate danger there's also the chance they could say the wrong thing to the wrong person and screw up the turning point of the war.

This flick never played in American theaters, but it's a major league movie, nicely put together. There's too much hesitation, as the filmmakers want to keep you wondering whether it's real or a hoax, but it offers some genuine suspense, and for the most part, the story goes where it goes and you'll go along willingly.

It's only as it finishes that you might notice all the threads that weren't stitched so well, and that it's all even more impossible than time travel.

Verdict: YES, but again, nothing special.

♦ ♦ ♦

I, the Jury (1953)

This opens with cold-blooded murder as a choir sings a Christmas carol, and I was instantly pretty sure I'd like this flick about Mickey Spillane's thuggush private eye, Mike Hammer.

It was a friend of Hammer's who got killed, and he's gonna punch everyone in town until he can chase down whoever done in his buddy. 

Camerawork by John Alton, music by Franz Waxman, and it's written and directed by Harry Essex, who wrote or co-wrote lots of good stuff — Creature from the Black Lagoon, He Walked by Night, It Came from Outer Space, Kansas City Confidential. And Elisha Cook Jr plays Santa Claus, though he's not in the credits.

This is a good movie, telling a complicated story, and I had to watch it twice to catch all the twists. It could've been much better, but the problem is Biff Elliot, the lead actor. Hammer is a difficult character to play — fists first, brains second, and he has to be unlikable to most of the other characters in the movie, but likable to the audience. Whatever it takes to pull that off, Biff ain't got it. He never seems smart, always seems angry, and when he's especially angry, it's like he's about to cry. 

My Mike Hammer of choice remains Stacy Keach, but he's not in this because he was 11 years old when it was made. Google tells me Spillane himself played Mike Hammer once — and that's a movie I gotta chase down, fists first, brains second.

Verdict: YES, if you can get past Biff.

♦ ♦ ♦

Your Ticket is No Longer Valid (1981)

Jason Ogilvy (Richard Harris) is an aging millionaire who wears old-style English riding apparel as he gallops his several horses, and silk suits as he drives his Rolls-Royce. He boinks a beautiful woman half his age, and they have insipid post-coital conversation, but— 

"Suddenly," he says, "my life was becoming clouded with self-doubt, agonizing confusion." Yes, he's tortured by his Learjet and caviar existence, and you're supposed to give a damn. 

This is a British movie, but the theme song is sung in French, without subtitles, over the opening credits and several more times during the film. Ordinarily I'd click off or flip off a move this pretentious, but then comes one of the most inadvertently hilarious moments in the history of bad moviemaking:

Ogilvy's lovely lover is having Harlequin Romance sex with some other man, on a tabletop amidst hundreds of burning candles high atop a church bell tower while a rhapsodic symphony plays and she screams in thrusting delight and… the camera pulls back, revealing that it's actually Ogilvy who's been pounding her with proper porn power, not the other man we'd seen at the beginning of the fuck.

After that I had to keep watching, to see how ridiculous this could get.

George Peppard plays Ogilvy's best buddy from America. He's rich too, of course, and crude, loudly racist, generally obnoxious, and insists on discussing his impotence, repeatedly.

Ogilvy and Peppard go to a sex bar where a man wearing chains dances over a naked woman as entertainment, but wait — is that man in chains the same dude from the Harlequin Romance fuck?

Ogilvy's mistress or lover, she of the bell tower fuck, locks him out of his Bentley in a rainstorm, so he strips in the street. He soon develops erectile dysfunction like his buddy Peppard, and continues being "clouded with self-doubt, agonizing confusion," as if he's the millionaire who discovered angst and limp dick.

The movie's extreme awfulness continues, trust me, but I must stop writing or I'll give away all its dipshit delights. I'll say only, if you yearn to see middle-aged Richard Harris's O-face, in several scenes and from several different angles, you must see: Your Ticket is No Longer Valid.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Coming attractions:

Futz (1969)
The Girl Hunters (1963)
Hell is a City (1960)
Red (2017)
Repo Chick (2009)
Roar (1981)
Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966)

11/13/2022   

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twentyplex, you're missing out.

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Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. I try to make these reviews spoiler-free, but sometimes screw up, sorry. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.   

 

4 comments:

  1. Mickey Spillane was in one of my favorite Columbos, which is nearly all the original Columbos. But Publish or Perish from season 3 has that great typewriter score as I recall. For its time, this is experimental background and scene transition music to say the least. Mr Spillane played one of the victims, so his screen time was limited, but he did fine.

    From the early '60s, Spillane appeared regularly on talk shows to sell his books, which couldn't have taken long to write, so he was on often. (He wrote his first book, "I, the Jury", in nine days and it sold over six million copies. Fortunately, he didn't take time to polish it.) He generally portrayed himself as a tough guy, but with a quiet wink to the camera. He seemed genuinely likable, but you never know. At least I don't.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm guessing he had to be a Republican, cuz his books were full of hating commies and loving the flag. It was a different time, though. I don't think 'Republican' was a certified synonym for 'asshole' then, as much as it is now.

      By coincidink, I watched a Columbo just yesterday, and reminded myself that I liked that show a lot.

      Also watched Spillane's turn as Mike Hammer, and he was... well, no spoilers. Review tomorrow, or maybe the day after.

      Delete
    2. I'm a bit of a detective fiction fan, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, several others, and I've never read a Spillane book. Never even considered it. I don't know exactly why. These authors aren't exactly high art (except for Hammett, and he disguises it like a pitcher throwing a change-up). It just looked a little too gritty for whatever taste I have.

      Earl Warren was a Republican of that era. Now cops have to inform you of your rights, you get a lawyer if you are charged with a felony, and a public school can't be intentionally segregated.

      John

      Delete
    3. The bastards have started chipping away at Miranda, of course, and they'll keep chipping.

      My dad was a Republican, but back then it wasn't the fascist group it is today. Dad wouldn't have stood for that.

      Delete

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