Reform School Girl (1957)

Released on a double feature with Shake, Rattle and RockReform School Girl is the story of Donna Price (Gloria Castillo, whose song Joshua Kadison wrote the song “Mother’s Arms” about her), a girl in the wrong place who went on the wrong date with the wrong man at the wrong time. He leaves the scene of a hit and run, telling her that he’ll kill her if she tells the cops he was there. This leads her to, you know it, reform school.

Meanwhile, that wrong man remains convinced that Donna is going to tell the police what really happened, so he makes it seem like she’s a police informant. This leads to a girl on girl battle over a pair of scissors with even badder girl Roxy (Yvette Vickers, whose Playboy Playmate of the Month centerfold for July of 1959 was shot by Russ Meyer).

Reform School Girls is an American-International Pictures film directed by veteran Edward Bernds, who started his career with Three Stooges shorts (he struggled with the first few, as Curly’s health was in bad shape and it was difficult to work around) and films in the BlondieGasoline Alley and Bowery Boys series. He’d go on to direct Queen of Outer SpaceReturn of the Fly and 59 episodes of the new Stooges TV show and two of their full-length movies, The Three Stooges Meet Hercules and The Three Stooges In Orbit.

Keep an eye out for Luana Anders (Easy Rider), Diana Darrin (The Incredible Shrinking Man), Edd Byrnes (Vince Fontaine!) and Sally Kellerman in her first acting role.

You can watch this on Tubi.

SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: The Mysterians (1957)

Known as Chikyū Bōeigun (Earth Defense Force) in Japan, The Mysterians is important to our kaiju studies as it contains the first appearance of Moguera, who would one day become M.O.G.U.E.R.A. (Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero-type), who took over the role intended for Mechagodzilla in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla. While the robot never was in a Godzilla film in the Showa timelime, he would become the big green guy’s only ally in the Heisei films*.

But here, he starts the movie blowing up a village and then gets destroyed by the military before the Mysterians show up, demanding their own land and the right to marry Earth women.

That’s because 10,000 years ago the planet Mysteroid was destroyed by a nuclear war. Once it was the fifth planet from our sun and now it’s nothing, with the Mysterians losing eighty percent of their people and needing to get at least five Earth women to make their race strong again.

Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka recruited Jojiro Okami, an aeronautical engineer and military test pilot who later became a science fiction writer to write the script for director Ishirō Honda.

The story of this movie would continue in 1959’s Battle In Space and 1977’s The War In Space. As for its influence, the band ? and the Mysterians would get their name from this film.

*The original Moguera suit was destroyed by an accidental fire during the filming of The Prophecies of Nostradamus.

Untamed Youth (1957)

If I were to go back in time and make a bad kids movie, I would put all of my budget into getting Mamie Van Doren, who is to this genre what Sean Connery is to the Eurospy film.

Mamie and Lori Nelson (Hot Rod Girl) play Penny and Jane Lowe, two sisters who have been arrested for hitchhiking and skinny dipping. This sends them to a Texas work farm owned by Russ Tropp (John Russell, TV’s Lawman). He’s got a great scam going, because he’s dating a judge (Lurene Tuttle, the “First Lady of Radio”) who he’s using to get any teen who commits a minor crime sent to his business as cheap labor.

Eddie Cochran plays Bong, another prison worker, and Mamie does four songs. I love every single one of them and really wish that I hadn’t seen nearly every one of her movies, because then I could see them all over again and get the charge I had when I saw them for the first time.

Howard W. Koch, who directed this, also made Frankenstein 1970 and went on to produce the Airplane! movies.

You can see the Mystery Science Theater version of this on Tubi.

The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly (1957)

Seven years after The Invisible Man Appears, Daiei released this sequel which begins with a series of murders that seem to be the work of an invisible man. However, there seems to be the sound of buzzing with each kill.

It’s the work of a war criminal who created the formula and as a result, was left stranded on the island where his lab was. Now, he’s killing each of his associates in their new lives with the help of his brutal assistant, who is now addicted to the formula that allows him to become a human fly.

Now that scientists have made the invisible formula safe for humans, can a brave soul — or two — use it to protect the world from the Human Fly, who is now leaving bombs on trains and killing hundreds of people at a time?

At one point, this was going to be released in the U.S. as The Murdering Mite. It was never released, however.

How awesome is it that this movie basically has two Vincent Price characters, the Invisible Man and the Fly, fighting against one another? Seriously, the little fly man is super sinister and awesome in every scene, making this movie for me.

You can get this with The Invisible Man Appears on a new double blu ray from Arrow Video.

Beginning of the End (1957)

American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, or Am-Par, decided to create their own film studio to make low-budget movies that they could place into their theaters, signing a deal with Republic Pictures to make them. And after the success of Them!, who else but Burt I. Gordon to make more giant bug movies?

Gordon did the effects by himself in his garage, bringing the magic effect he used for King Dinosaur: grab some animals and shoot them in front of a still photo. So he grabbed 200 non-hopping, non-flying live grasshoppers in Waco, Texas and brought them to California. At that point, the agriculture department got involved and somehow, only 12 grasshoppers live after they all turned into cannibals. One would assume the dozen that are in this movie are the toughest ones of all time.

That said, the film’s title was prophetic. For some reason, the studio stopped making films. Luckily for Gordon, he landed at American-International Picture where he kept making giant movies. The Amazing Colossal Man was next.

There’s a decent cast in this, with Peter Graves* as the scientist who uses radiation to better grow crops until some crazy locusts eat it all and — you guessed it — get big as well. Peggie Castle, Miss Cheesecake of 1949, was born for films like this and Invasion U.S.A. It also seems like character actor Morris Ankrum was a lock for nearly any science fiction film of this time, as he made Rocketship X-MFlight to MarsRed Planet MarsInvaders from MarsEarth vs. the Flying SaucersFrom the Earth to the Moon and this movie in the 50’s.

*Whose brother James Arness was in Them!

You can watch this on YouTube.

Drag Strip Girl (1957)

One of American-International Pictures first winners was this movie, released as a double feature with Rock All Night.  It has Fay Spain in the title role, in a story that would pretty much be recycled as Motorcycle Gang along with cast members John Ashley (this was his first movie) and Steve Terrell.

Ashley had never acted before but went with his girlfriend on her audition. He got a contract with AIP and she didn’t. He’s a total winner in this, the perfect jerk who doesn’t care that his love for speed keeps getting people killed.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Louise Blake character must choose between the rich Ashley — who impresses mom — and the resourceful mechanic Terrell — who dad likes. It doesn’t help when a game of chicken — which I think only happened in movies until impressionable youth watched AIP films — leads to more death.

One of the reviewers of the day claimed that this movie was, “a depressing and irresponsible film… glorifying the defiance of law and order, lax morals and the discardance of civilised behaviour.” When I read things like that, it’s hard not to contain my glee.

This is one of the many filmes Edward L. Cahn did for AIP. There’s nothing flashy, but he’s dependable and unafraid to be sensationalistic. You can also check out It! The Terror from Beyond SpaceShake, Rattle and Rock and Runaway Daughters, which is one of the best titles of all time.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Mister Rock and Roll (1957)

Charles S. Dubin was blacklisted but still ended up being a TV director of some reknown five years afterward. He’d go on to direct 44 episodes of M*A*S*H*, as well as TV movies like The Deadly Triangle and the 1979 remake of Topper.

Here, he’s putting together a jukebox musical featuring Mr. Rock and Roll himself, Alan Freed, playing himself.

Freed made his “acting” debut — as himself, natch — with Rock Around the Clock (1956) alongside Bill Haley and the Comets; he followed up with Rock Rock Rock! (1956), Don’t Knock the Rock (1956; shot-for-shot and word-for-word remade as Don’t Knock the Twist with Chubby Checker), and Go, Johnny, Go! (1959), the last which Freed produced. In addition to those films, on the small screen, Freed starred as host of the feature-length Rock ‘N’ Roll Revue (1957), which aired on ABC-TV on May 8th of that year.

Here, in Mister Rock and Roll, we learn the story of how Freed helped discover rock and roll, yet it doesn’t shy away from the roots of the form in gospel, jazz and the blues. You get to see it performed by many of the earliest stars, including Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Clyde McPhatter, The Moonglows, Little Richard, Ferlin Husky (attention all fans of Hillbillys In a Haunted House and by that, I’m talking to myself) and Chuck Berry.

Teddy Randazzo plays himself and his love story with Carole (Lois O’Brien) is the central part of the story. She’s a reporter whose boss believes that rock and roll is going to ruin society. Those kids loving this music would grow up to hate hippies and feel the very same way.

Rocky Marciano also shows up for romantic advice in between the twenty some odd songs, making this nearly a 90-minute music video. No complaints. It’s a time capsule worth your time.

Cat Girl (1957)

An unofficial remake of Cat People, this Alfred Shaughnessy-directed (he wrote Upstairs Downstairs) film is all about Leonora Johnson (Barbara Shelley, perhaps Hammer’s best-known female actress with roles in Dracula, Prince of DarknessThe GorgonRasputin, The Mad Monk and Quatermass and the Pit), who may have inherited a family curse — when angered, she transforms into a murderous cat — along with an ancestral estate and lots of money.

Somehow, Dr. Brian Marlowe is still Leonora’s psychologist, despite them dating years before. I have no idea how he’s able to serve in this role, which feels like a violation of ethics, nor stay married to his wife Dorothy when Leonora continually is either trying to sleep with him or transform into a wolf and kill her. Dorothy is either a saint or a moron, as she keeps forgiving and helping.

If you were at the drive-in in 1957, you probably could have caught this on a double bill with another American-International Pictures release, The Amazing Colossal Man. Shelly would also star in another cat-themed horror movie, The Shadow of the Cat.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Kiss Them for Me (1957)

Stanley Donen has one hell of a directorial resume: On the TownSingin’ In the RainSeven Brides for Seven BrothersDamn Yankees and so many more. Here, he’s working from a 1945 Luther Davis play that was in turn based on the Frederic Wakeman Sr. novel Shore Leave.

Wakeman had worked in advertising until the war and as he healed up in a hospital, he wrote his first novel about a fellow crew member but called him Andy Crewson instead of his true name. Critics tore this movie apart and the studio punished its stars. Actually, it mainly punished Jayne Mansfield.

It’s all about three Navy pilots — Lieutenant McCann (Ray Walston, in his film debut), Mississip (Larry Blyden, a Broadway star who would become a game show host) and Commander Andy Crewson (Grant), who is a master grifter — who are enjoying the spoils of war while trying to adjust to what the world will be afterward.

A ship company owner named Eddie Turnbill (Leif Erickson) wants the men to give speeches to his workers to keep them on the job, but they’re all burnt out, despite the fact that Turnbill offers to set them up for life.

While all the men are on the make, Crewson only has eyes for Turnbill’s fiancee (Suzy Parker, who is in the Twilight Zone episode “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” and married Bradford Dillman later in her life), which makes sense when you see the scene where she removes her nylons. Actually, it’s a wonder anyone can look at any other woman in this film when Mansfield is firing on all cylinders, delivering sly comedy while making her way through nearly every male member of the cast.

Look for Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink from Hogan’s Heroes) as Lieutenant Walter Wallace, Kathleen Freeman (Mother Mary Stigmata!), Harry Carey, Jr. and Frank Nelson, who starred in The Malibu Bikini Shop right before he died.

Siouxie and the Banshees recorded the song “Kiss Them for Me” in 1991, not only referencing the way she said “divoon” but also discussing her heart-shaped swimming pool and the tragic way she died. To wit:

“It’s divoon, oh, it’s serene In the fountain’s pink champagne. Someone carving their devotion In the heart-shaped pool of fame, oh.”

You can watch this on YouTube.

The Wayward Bus (1957)

Jayne Mansfield and Joan Collins in the same movie? My dreams do come true.

Joan is Alice Chicoy, the owner of a restaurant that likes her booze. Her husband Johnny (Rick Jason, The Witch Who Came from the Sea) owns a bus that is falling to pieces. She’s unhappy with life, so she determines that she needs to leave her husband.

Meanwhile, Camille Oakes (Mansfield) is a stripper on her way to Mexico and falling for a salesman (Dan Dailey, who most often worked in musicals).

All of their lives — and others — will come together on that falling apart bus as it makes its way through the California mountains. Dolores Michaels plays a passenger that makes a pass at Johnny in a scene that eclipses the sexiness of the two female leads, but this movie really showcases Mansfield’s ability as any actress.

Actually that scene was so hot — some compared it to Jane Russell’s The Outlaw — that two different versions were shot by director Victor Vicas, who was trying to make a high brow film — this is based on the John Steinbeck novel — but for shredded by critics.

This is kind of, sort of Jayne’s version of Bus Stop, which her rival Marilyn Monroe made a year before. The difference is that 20th Century Fox spent $3 million on Monroe and made her film in color. This was a $1.5 million black and white film that barely made its money back, while Monroe’s film went on to be a major success.

You can watch this on YouTube.