Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Swamp Virgin (1947)

Director: Ewing Scott

Starring: nobodys trying and failing to be Rednecks

More Info: IMDB

Plot: A native son returns to the isolated, backwards village in the Okefenokee Swamp where he was raised, with ideas of bringing modern-day progress in terms of schools, canals, new roads, running-water and other needed changes, but is met with resistance by nearly all of the residents, some out of ignorance and some with selfish vested-interests in seeing that no changes be made.

My Rating: 6/10

Would I watch it again? Only if I should come across the full version - just out of curiosity.

This is a VERY cut version originally titled, UNTAMED FURY. Originally it ran an hour. The version I saw (as SWAMP VIRGIN and why it's called that is beyond me) was 25 minutes. I didn't know I watched a cut version until afterwards when I looked it up. Knowing that now it makes a little more sense with how this one plays out.

It starts with a writer from the city sitting on a dock in the Okefenokee Swamp with an old man who starts on about the story of these two young competitive boys. Flashback time and the boys are friends who are always showing off on who's the fastest swimmer and so forth. Years later, after his father had saved up and sent him to school (which the other kids didn't get) Jeff comes back to the swamp to visit and he's the object of affection by the ever-so-cute-and-now-HOT Judy.

"I'm not kiddin', Judy, you're going to be a very attractive young lady someday."

Is that this guy's idea of a compliment? Gee whiz, man, is that the best you can do?

Jeff's childhood rival, 'Gator Bait' Blair, wants him gone and tries to kill him in the deep marsh. As good as Blair is in the swamp he's clouded by his hate and he falls into quicksand. Jeff saves him despite Blair shooting at him and Jeff's no longer pissed and accepts Jeff as his friend. Here's why he's called 'Gator Bait':

Now, apparently there's 35 minutes more movie in there somewhere. What I saw wasn't bad. It was OK and it seemed to work for what it was. I would be curious to see the entire thing now just to see how it plays out. The music is wall-to-wall which gives you very little opportunity to lose interest. Surprisingly, the accents are pretty decent. They're better than a lot of what I've seen from Hollywood.

There's also some nifty underwater photography at play here and some really neat live alligator work that sells it.

This came as an extra (along with a bunch of like-themed trailers) in a Something Weird Video box set of Drive-In Classics. This particular disc features two Okefenokee Swamp classics, SWAMP GIRL (1971) and SWAMP COUNTRY (1966). The set (found at Sam's Club) also includes 3 other DVDs (5 more films, each LOADED with extras) and was a steal for $15. I love this company's product because they usually slap a shitload of trailers and other extras on each of their discs. I didn't expect to like either of the two swamp movies on the disc but I did and that's coming up next.

Secret of the Incas (1954)

Director: Jerry Hopper

Starring: Charlton Heston, Nicole Maurey, Robert Young, Thomas Mitchell

More Info: IMDB

Plot: Harry Steele is a tough young American soldier of fortune, eeking out a living as a tour guide in Cuzco, Peru. He has heard the legend of the Inca treasure, a fabulous golden Sunburst which has been missing for centuries, and his intention, when he can get hold of a private plane, is to head for the long lost Incan city of Machu Picchu.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Would I watch it again? I can see that happening.

I recently came across this website, theraider.net, dedicated to all things Indiana Jones. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) is my favorite action adventure movie of...all...time. I've seen it more than any other film (nearing 50 viewings I expect - 25 of them in the theater) and nothing will ever topple it from the top spot. They have a section for films that inspired Luca$ and Spielberg in the character of Indy and for RAIDERS. INCAS was one of a dozen films and serials that have something that later made its way into the Indy films.

Before I got this movie I read quite a bit about it as it's touted by fans as the film Spielberg forced Paramount to suppress because he stole so much from it he doesn't want the public to know. I figured it was horseshit but I read on. After seeing it, it is surprising at the number of scenes and ideas that made its way into RAIDERS.

First things first. Heston looks like Indiana Jones but for the scarf. Side note: what is it with Heston and scarves? He's worn them A LOT in his movies. There's no doubt L&S modeled Indy's look after this guy. But then this isn't the first time this getup has been filmed. It's not uncommon to see the same sort of look in some jungle/desert adventure films of the 30s and 40s. To see it here and in color it really brings it home.

Harry (Heston) is a likeable guy but he's clearly a bastard and a scoundrel. You'd like him. LOL. He's a fortune hunter that's currently making a few bucks as a tour guide. The tour, btw, includes an artifact museum. Harry doesn't care much for others and he's got a really cynical attitude. This plays out well because he's got a lot of biting dialogue that's just cruel and this is a big distinction between him and Indy.

Miss Morris: Most men don't enjoy taking money from women.
Harry: I do. It's the hardest to get, and it smells so good.


Harry has been flirting with an older woman, Mrs. Winston, since she and her husband arrived in Cuzco. While on a tour of the museum she notices Harry eyeing a much younger Elena to his right.

Mrs. Winston: You thinking of changing horses in mid-stream?
Harry: [pauses and grins slightly] Wouldn't you?

That's some cold shit. Later that evening at a restaurant he stops by the Winston's table where they invite Harry to join them afterwards...

Mrs. Winston: We thought you might go with us.
Harry: I'm meeting a girl.
Mrs. Winston: Awwww. We don't want to interfere with your private life.
Harry: Oh, you won't.


"I've seen so many women cry it doesn't impress me anymore."

What a badass. This movie's filled with great lines like that and not just from Harry.

There's a shady man that Harry's dealt with before who wants the portion of stone tablet Harry has because it supposedly is helpful in finding out the location of the treasure everyone wants so bad. Eventually Harry succeeds in stealing a plane and takes Elena to the excavation site where the treasure is said to be.

There he discovers that an archaeologist, Stanley Moorehead (Young), has beaten him to it. In another nod to what would later become RAIDERS, Harry used a gold piece that, if placed in the right spot with a light shone onto it, will give the location of the treasure. Sound familiar? It's not nearly as exciting as the map room scene in RAIDERS but it is cool, jus the same.

Harry does a lot of lying and betraying in this film and he largely stays true to his character through to the end. The love triangle business is rather forced and ridiculous (Stanley proposes to Elena after knowing her for a day) and it plays out about par for the course for Hollywood during this time. But in all, I enjoyed it if only for looking for clues as to the origins of Indiana Jones.

If you're remotely interested in this film I encourage you to go to THIS SITE which is basically a love letter by a fan to the film. There's lots of pix and you can even view the entire movie.

The cool thing about all of this is that it's got me on a kick to see the other films and serials that served, in some way, as an inspiration for my favorite adventure film of all time, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. It's got me feeling like a kid again, like when I first saw RAIDERS during the summer of '81 in a big dark theater and I made a journey to the other side of the world and back a little more than two hours.

Emperor of the North Pole (1973)

Director: Robert Aldrich

Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Keith Carradine, Charles Tyner

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Lee Marvin & Ernest Borgnine meet in the fight of the century.

Plot: Famous for brazenly hopping the most dangerous trains, even legendary hobo A no. 1 (Lee Marvin) won't ride a locomotive guarded by brutal railway cop Shack (Ernest Borgnine). But when his young protégé, Cigaret (Keith Carradine), boasts that he'll hop Shack's train, A no. 1 joins him, unwilling to lose his hard-won moniker. Soon, the two tramps are in a life-or-death battle with the sadistic Shack in this intense Depression-era drama.

My Rating: 6/10

Would I watch it again? Nah.

Here's a flick that just screamed "Watch me!". You've got director Robert "THE DIRTY DOZEN" Aldrich and badasses Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine! What's that? There's a big fight between these two manly men on top of a moving train? You can't keep me away from this any longer.

Too soon. It's a two hour disappointment with one letdown after another. So what went wrong? It's too "light". There's too much comedy. I love Marvin but there are too many moments where he's being Lee Marvin, the badass movie star instead of being his character, A No.1. Keith Carradine is absolutely annoying as the young upstart who thinks he's a badass. Listen, this guy doesn't have the testosterone in his entire body that Marvin has in one hair off his head! It'd be like watching Hayden Christiansen in the same scene with...uh...just about anybody. You'd know instantly who's got it and who doesn't. I can't blame Carradine too much. After all, who wouldn't look like a schmuck in the presence of the great Lee Marvin? Ernest Borgnine, that's who.

Here's a fucking badass that people don't consider him one. Look at this face and tell me he couldn't kick your ass just thinkin' about it!

See? You can almost hear him growling and gnawing on your severed leg that you gladly cut off with a pocket knife as a sacrifice to him for not beating the snout out of you.

Everything that happens with Borgnine (Shack) is serious and straight down the line. He's a sadistically brutal man who will kill anyone who tries to catch a free ride on his train. They show you right from the beginning what he's capable of so you know he means business.

So Borgnine's character is presented very well, Marvin's could have been better (but it's still good) and Carradine's is downright annoying. The music, by the not so great Frank De Vol (I've never really cared for this man's scores), is amateurish and sounds like something from a DUKES OF HAZZARD episode. It's very silly, thin and it seriously detracts from the film. Put in someone like Goldsmith and you'd likely have a much better movie.

Here's a Baptist wet t-shirt contest. Niiiiiice!

Something I didn't quite get considering the two hour run time is why there are so many off-train mini adventures with Marvin and Carradine. At least twice they leave the train, go off and do their thing and then come back the next day to hop back on (often the same train) for more travelling. I would have thought that there would be brief pit stops from time to time but not ones that lasted a day or more. It's possible but it seemed forced so we could watch Marvin go steal some chickens and hang out with other hobos and shit. I would have sacrificed a few scenes just to tighten the picture and lose some of Carradine's antics.

It was really neat, though, to see the principle actors (and there's a lot of Borgnine) doing their scenes on top of a moving train. It's not the kind of thing you'd see these days and it also goes to show that Borgnine and Marvin aren't some namby pamby actors who are afraid of a little danger.

Oh, and that fight at the end? Well, it's not what the tagline suggests, I'll tell you that much. But like some of the earlier spots of violence in the film, it's got moments of harsh brutality. When someone gets it with an axe - you feel it. It's a pretty good climax considering but it could have been better. And...


It's a happy fucking ending. Nobody dies and Marvin, having thrown Carradine and an injured (but still very much alive) Borgnine off the train, yells a long-ass speech to Carradine about how he ain't got what it takes and so on. Give...me...a fucking...break!


Sadly, this film ain't got what it takes, either, but it's still worth watching for Borgnine and Marvin.

Death Race 2000 (1975)

Director: Paul Bartel

Starring: David Carradine, Simone Griffeth, Sylvester Stallone, Mary Woronov, Louisa Moritz, Fred Grandy

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: In The Year 2000 Hit And Run Driving Is No Longer A Felony. It's The National Sport!

Plot: In the near future the ultimate sporting event is the death race. Contestants get score points for running people down as they speed across the country. The sport has crazed fans who sacrifice themselves to the drivers. An overt agency is trying to bring an end to the immoral death race and has infiltrated one of their followers in to the race as a navigator. In the end of the race the lives of the competitors, the President and the death race itself are in peril.

My Rating: 9/10

Would I watch it again? Damn straight!

DEATH RACE 2000 is yet another film that solidifies my belief that the 70s was the greatest decade for movies. Film makers tried to top each other in bringing audiences something outrageous, something fun and something you hadn't seen before. This is one of the all-time great drive-in movie classics. If you haven't seen it yet then take your head out of the fucking sand and do something about it. It's balls-out spectacularliciuos!

"Darth Vader, a personal friend of mine..."

Just another pretty face!

"Wanna dance?"

The whole thing is tongue-in-cheek and just about everyone plays it straight. Carradine is hysterical as the seriously wooden Frankenstein. Everyone else is perfectly cast and has their moment in the sun. But it's Stallone that steals the show as the hot-headed Machine Gun Joe Viterbo. Everything that comes out of this man's mouth is a riot.

Junior: Joe doesn't look too happy, but you just can't keep those Frankenstein fans down.
Joe: Lousy sons of bitches! Frankenstein...
Myra: Give it to 'em, Joe!
[She hands Joe a Thompson sub machine gun]
Joe: Frankenstein! You want Frankenstein? I'll give you Frankenstein!
[Joe opens fire into the stands]


Special agent: You know, Mr. ViTurbo, as a representative of Mr. President's government, I happen to hold the power of life and death.
Joe: Yeah? Well I happen to hold the clam sauce.
[Slings a handful of clam sauce into the Special Agent's face]


"Lousy, stinkin' dirtball! You got just two seconds to live!"

And the women! WOW!!! Every last one of them is smokin' hot!

HOW does she do that? Is she broken?

The HOTTEST of the hotties...

Well, they're hot except for this one:

That's one broad that CANNOT have my babies! YIKES!!! It's like Jack Palance with boobs. Ugh!

"Is that a grenade?"

"A hand grenade."

This movie's priceless. The only thing that keeps this from getting a perfect "10" in my book is the somewhat sluggish final act that suffers from pacing issues and a lack of the lightning fast dialogue and action that we saw for the first 3/4 of the film. Other than that it's a friggin' blast to watch and it never gets old. It's the perfect drive-in movie or my name ain't Nathan Arizona!