Bloodlust! (1961)

Man, don’t ever do what Betty, Johnny, Jeanne and Pete do in this movie. They go on a vacation together and when their ship’s captain gets too drunk to navigate, they head off to a jungle island to have some fun. Have we learned nothing from, well, every movie ever?

Johnny (why yes that is Robert Reed) falls into a pit right away and is saved by Dr. Albert Balleau and his servants. Like every rich white man who moves to an island hell to conduct experiments — just asked the cucked great men of Blood Island — Dr. Balleau is dealing with his wife Sandra (Lilyan Chauvin, whose acting credits are all over the place in respected movies like The Other Side of Midnight and the junk we love like Silent Night, Deadly Night and playing Van Damme’s mom in Universal Soldier) loving it up with houseguest Dean Gerard (Walter Brooke, the man who said the word plastics in The Graduate).

As our four protagonists wander around the home of the doctor, they find a woman floating in an aquarium and a vat of acid big enough to kill people in. That’s when our villain comes on out and announces why he does what he does. No, he didn’t see The Most Dangerous Game so many times that he decided to cosplay it. He was a sniper in the war and his dislike of killing became a lust for blood. He proves that by showing off his trophies, which now has his wife and her lover on display.

Can you believe that Pete was played by Eugene Persson, who went on to co-produce and co-create You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown?

This movie was made in 1959, but didn’t play theaters until 1961, when it was the double feature with The Devil’s Hand. Both movies were sold to TV in 1963 by Westhamtpon Features, a division of Desilu, along with First Spaceship on VenusVaran the Unbelievable and Secret File: Hollywood.

This is a horrible movie. But as we all know I love the worst films.

The Absent Minded Professor (1961)

Based on the short story “A Situation of Gravity” by Samuel W. Taylor and in part on Hubert Alyea, a professor emeritus of chemistry at Princeton University known as “Dr. Boom*” for, well, blowing things up, The Absent Minded Professor is the start of the Medfield College shared universe that has been obsessing me over our two weeks of Disney live action movies.

It was also the first Disney film to get a sequel, as well as the first to be colorized. There was also a spiritual sequel made in 1988 for the Disney Channel and a Robin Williams-led remake.

Professor Brainard (Fred MacMurray) teaches chemistry at the aforementioned Medfield College. He’s invented a substance called Flubber that gains energy whenever it hits a hard surface and can even fly. He gets so excited over inventing this crazy rubbery stuff that he misses his wedding to Besty Carlisle (Nancy Olson, Airport 1975) for the third time, which leads to another professor making a move on her.

Medfield is also in debt to the villainous Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn), who will one day also be the nemesis of Herbie the Love Bug. As for now, his son Biff (Tommy Kirk) has become ineligibile for basketball by failing Brainard’s class, but all his father cares about is getting Flubber for himself. For some reason, Flubber can make cars fly, transform Brainard into a better dancer and truly make white people jump (and play better basketball).

Was Flubber ever real? Well yeah. Kinda.

In the fall of 1962, Flubber was brought to toy shelves from Disney licensee Hassenfeld Bros., Inc. of Rhode Island. You may know them better today as Hasbro. They made Flubber out of butadiene, a synthetic rubber, and mineral oil. Think Silly Putty.

It turns out that the product was leading to rashes and contact dermatitis, which Hasbro claimed couldn’t be the fault of their toy, which had been tested — on convicts, no less. Even though they were cleared of any wrongdoing, the same rash kept showing up across the country until the brand pulled the product in May of 1963.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Hasbro tried to incinerate the leftover product, but it left a black cloud floating around the city of Providence. They also tried to sink it with the help of the Coast Guard — did G.I. Joe team member Cutter pitch in? — but it kept floating back to the top of Narragansett Bay. Finally, they used it as landfill in the parking lot of their new headquarters, but Hasbro employees claim that every summer, you can see Flubber come pouring out of the cracks in the pavement.

*Russian observers of his demonstrations at the International Science Pavilion of the Brussels World’s Fair gave him this name. Walt Disney was in attendance and because Alyea had given him the idea for the movie, he invited the teacher to meet with MacMurray. The actor said that he’d never understood chemistry until he met the professor.

The Parent Trap (1961)

Based upon the 1949 book Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kästner, The Parent Trap is the kind of movie Disney made in the early 60s — sure, it’s funny and financially successful, but it also has the kind of high quality that gets a movie nominated for two Academy Awards.

Teenage girls Sharon McKendrick and Susan Evers (both Hayley Mills) meet at Miss Inch’s Summer Camp for Girls* and they hate one another near instantly. Their outright anger at the fact that one another even exists leads to a fight that destroys the annual summer dance, which lands them in isolation for the rest of the summer. That’s when they find out that they are twin sisters who were split up by their parents, Mitch Evers (Brian Keith) and Maggie McKendrick (Maureen O’Hara, who only made one movie for Disney because they billed Mills over her). Yes, in the non-family court world of the Parent Trap, child custody is as simple as simply taking the child you want and never communicating with each other — much less letting the kids know their twin exists — ever again, which really feels like mental child abuse.

But hey! Let’s have fun! The girls decide that they want to see the other parent they are missing, so a haircut and some studying up on each others’ lives goes down and before you know it, Sharon is Susan and Susan is Sharon. If this sounds kind of like The Patty Duke Show, well — they were cousins and producer, writer and creator Sidney Sheldon spent a week with star Duke and discovered she had two very different personalities, which led to his concept of identical cousins. Not to get super dark — I mean, I already talked about mentally abusing children, so why not, right? — but years later, those two sides of Patty’s personality would be explained because she had manic depression. And yet a hot dog made her lose control!

But I digress…

As they switch lives, Sharon as Susan learns that Mitch is getting married to a younger woman who only wants his money (Joanna Barnes, who went to the same school and won the same poetry award as Sylvia Plath; a magazine article that she wrote convinced her to become an actress. In a neat moment of serendipity — which is not just the isolation cabin that Sharon and Susan work out their differences in — Barnes would play the mother of her character’s daughter in the Lindsay Lohan-starring remake, which not only puts it in the same universe as this film, but supposes a monumental coincidence where Barnes’ character would meet two sets of families with two sets of separated twins. I am not good at math but I cannot even calculate how big of an improbably integer this must be). That’s when the girls conspire to bring their parents — who literally seem like they want to outright murder one another, which means their arrdvarking must be volcanic and always make twins — back together.

This movie has everything you want out of live-action Disney. An unreal situation in the real world. Songs by Richard and Robert Sherman. A love story. And plenty of sequels that didn’t come out until the 80s and involved Sharon hooking up with Tom Skerritt, Susan getting down with Barry Bostwick and a honeymoon to Vegas. There’s the aforementioned remake, a Disney+ series in production and more than one cover movies of The Parent Trap made in India, including 1965’s Kuzhandaiyum Deivamum and 1966’s Leta Manasulu, both of which star Kutty Padmini.

*Mrs. Inch is Ruth McDevitt, who was bird shop owner Mrs. MacGruder in The Birds. You can also find Nancy Culp in a pre-Beverly Hillbillies role as one of the counselors.

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

A loose — very loose — adaption of the Edgar Allan Poe story, this film was written by Richard Mattheson*, directed by Roger Corman and learns from the success of The Fall of the House of Usher by bringing back much of its creative team — cinematographer Floyd Crosby, art director Daniel Haller and composer Les Baxter — which led to six more Poe adaptions.

I often bring up the influence of Italian horror cinema on the films of other countries, I can freely admit that the Corman Poe adaptations had to have made a major impression on Mario Bava**.

Englishman Francis Barnard (John Kerr, South Pacific) visits the castle of his brother-in-law Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price) to figure out what has happened to his sister Elizabeth (Barbara Steele). There’s a bad excuse — Elizabeth died of a blood disorder — and no real details, so Francis decides to remain until he gets his answers.

Soon, he learns that his sister died from fright, at which point Nicholas confesses that the oppressive nature of his family home obsessed his wife until she began to play with the torture devices, locking herself into the iron maiden while repeatedly saying the name Sebastian. So yeah, Nicholas is a mess, but who can blame him? His father was one of the main torturers of the Spanish Inquisition and as a child, he watched his dad kill his brother Sebastian, who was cuckolding him, before torturing his wife until she died.

This is one of those times in life when you shouldn’t ask questions you aren’t ready to hear, because the true story is that Nicholas walled his wife into the castle — that’s another Poe story, The Cask of Armadillo — and now “if Elizabeth Medina walks the corridors of this castle, it is her spirit, not her living self.”

Even the idea of a premature burial — Nicholas claims his wife was dead — upsets the rich noble, so when they cut through the wall and find her corpse, which died trying to claw her way out, he finally loses his mind. He keeps hearing his wife calling to him, begging him to come into the torture chamber.

And we haven’t even got to the pit and the pendulum yet!

I’m so obsessed by this movie that my old band had an entire song called “Truth” that was pretty much me singing one of Price’s rants from the film as he reveals how the torture chamber obsessed his wife. And has any image been so stunning as Barbara Steele’s eyes looking out from the darkness?

If you haven’t seen this — fix that right now.

*In The Movie World of Roger Corman, Matheson explained how he wrote the Poe movies: “The method we adopted on The Pit and the Pendulum was to use the Poe short story as the climax for a third act to the motion picture… because a two-page short story is not about to give you a ninety-minute motion picture. We then constructed the first two acts in what we hoped was a manner faithful to Poe, as his climax would run only a short time on the screen.”

**In an interview with Tim Lucas in Video WatchdogThe Whip and the Body screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi claimed that the producers of that film showed him a print of The Pit and the Pendulum and said, “Give us something like this.”

The Phantom Planet (1961)

William Marshall was born in Chicago, Illinois. He started his entertainment career as the vocalist for Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians — Waring was “The Man that Taught America to Sing,” as well as the inventor of the first commerically available electric blender in the U.S., the Miracle Mixer, which Dr. Jonas Salk used to help mix up his polio vaccine; plus he had one of the largest collections of original comic strip art in the world — before moving to Hollywood to be an actor.

Marshall acted in twnety-five movies, including Knute Rockne All AmericanState Fair and Blackmail before becoming a director. He wrote and directed 1951’s Hello God, which starred Errol Flynn, as well as directing a movie Fynn wrote, Adventures of Captain FabianThe Phantom Planet would be his last film.

In addition to all that singing, writing and directing, Marshall also found time to get married four times. He was with his first wife, French leading lady Michèle Morgan, for seven years and they had a son Mike* (who is in this movie), then was married to Devil in the Flesh star Micheline Presle, with whom he had a daughter, director Tonie Marshall. Then, he was married to Ginger Rogers for a decade* before he found a lasting marriage– 23 years before his death — to Corinne Aboyneau.

But hey, didn’t we have a movie to discuss?

The Phantom Planet takes place in 1980, a time when In 1980, the United States Air Force’s Space Exploration Wing has bases on the Moon and is getting ready to head to Mars. The only problem is that spaceships and astronauts are disappearing. Rumors abound that it’s yet another case of phantom planets and space monsters, so Captain Frank Chapman and Lt. Ray Makonnen are called in.

Don’t get too attached to the latter, as he dies about two minutes later, before Chapman crashes on to the Phantom Planet and shrinks down to six inches in size. Now he has become a citizen of Rheton, where he will have the full rights of everyone else, but can never leave. He even has the choice between two women, the leader Sessom (Francis X. Bushman) entitled daughter Liara or the mute and kind Zetha (Dolores Faith, who disappeared from acting when she married the heir to Maxwell House, James Robert Neal, after a long courtship; she supposedly died in 1990, but there were reports of her still alive as late as 2006).

After some romantic misadventures and trial by combat with Herron, who is in love with Liara, our hero repels the evil forces of the Solarites (Richard Kiel is ond of them) before leaving behind the planet and growing back to full size.

This is the very definition of made on the cheap, as all of the film’s sets, spacesuit helmets and special effects originally appeared in the CBS TV series Men into Space. Speaking of recycling, there are some rumors that Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea reused some of these sets.

Hey but someone loved this movie! It has a Dell comic book, after all.

*Marshall’s first two wives were friends and he’d begun dating the second (Micheline over Michèle) while still married. She’d already started an affair with her co-star Henri Vidal, so he hired detectives who caught her in bed with him and Marshall got full custody of his son Mike.

Strangely enough, Marshall hated France, despite three of his wives coming from there and would call his first wife Mike because he refused to learn how to pronounce her name.

Strangely enough, Marshall had really conservative values, so when hisfirst wife moved from France to Hollywood, he refused to live in the house she built at 10050 Cielo Drive. He demanded that she sell the property, which years later would be purchased by Roman Polanski and, well, we all know how that turned out. In some level of irony, his daughter Toni was one of the people who sigbned the Free Roman Polanski petition following the director’s arrest in Switzerland in 2009.

**Actually, he produced a movie for her that bombed called Quick, Let’s Get Married and they were seperated for most of the time they were officially betrothed.

You can watch this on YouTube.

SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Mothra (1961)

Godzilla may be the most popular kaiju there is, but at least when it comes to Toho’s stable, Mothra is number two, appearing in thirteen of Godzilla’s movies and her own trilogy in the Heisei era.

She got her start when producer Tomoyuki Tanaka hired author Shin’ichirō Nakamura to write an original kaiju story. Working with Takehiko Fukunaga and Zenei Hotta, their story The Glowing Fairies and Mothra was serialized in Weekly Asahi Extra magazine. To play the fairies, the idol singing group The Peanuts were hired, bringing a new audience to kaiju movies.

They are just two of the many odd inhabitants of Infant Island, a place whose juice can heal radiation sickness, vampire plants nearly eat trespassers and gigantic lavra can grow into fantastic moth creatures.

Let me say this again. One of the main plot points of this movie involves singing miniature women called the Shobijin who can speak directly to giant monsters.

Much like so many kaiju films, a shady businessman kidnaps them and attempts to make money off them. That plan has failed every time it’s been tried, dating all the way back to King Kong. So they call out to be rescued, singing to the egg god of their island which hatches to become a gigantic silk-spinning worm that cocoons itself until it becomes a gigantic butterfly, saving the women and taking them home.

Columbia Pictures had the rights to this movie in America and they went full William Castle selling it. They came up with a press book that told theater owners to put up signs on construction sites saying “Mothra was here” and to hire cute girls and make them walk around with signs that read “Mothra, the world’s most fantastic love story!”

They even wanted theaters to have radioactive material and geiger counters for audiences to play with. Anything to sell a monster movie, I guess.

The Dead One (1961)

The Dead One is a significant movie because it’s one of the first two zombie films made in color — the other is Dr. Blood’s Coffin — and it was made outside of the Hollywood system in New Orleans. It mostly played in Southern drive-ins, in Mexico and the UK before it disappeared for 41 years.

Shot in Eastmancolor and Ultrascope, a form of Cinemascope from Germany, The Dead One has a cool looking zombie and otherwise would be an unremarkable film other than the fact that it’s a Barry Mahon film and stands out from the rest of his output, which is either falls into the disparate genres of nudist films, roughies, propaganda movies or childen’s films.

Actually, the poster for this would like you to know just how remarkable this movie is, saying that The Dead One is “The Greatest VOODOO Film Ever Made – Filmed on Location in New Orleans Where VOODOO was introduced to the New World.”

A zombie is haunting the plantation of Kenilwort and commanded by Monica Carlton (Monica Davis, who is also in Mahon’s 1,000 Shapes of a FemaleRocket Attack U.S.A. and She Should Have Stayed In Bed), the mistress of the decaying plantation.

This is probably the most restrained Mahon film I’ve seen. It played double bills for a long time, a filler for drive-ins that would run late into the night while what happened in the steamed up cars looked a lot like the other movies Barry was known for making.

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Gorgo (1961)

A co-production of the United Kingdom, the United States and Ireland — all united to rip off a film from Japan — Gorgo is all about a pearl diving crew taking a little monster to London and being gobsmacked when its mother comes to tear up Big Ben.

Originally, this was going to be set in Japan, then France and even Australia, but the filmmakers decided that — and I’m not making this up — no one cared about Australia.

Director Eugène Lourié already had some kaiju experience, making The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and The Giant Behemoth.

This film also sets up that perhaps kaiju have been with us since the beginning of time and thought of as monsters, as a Viking relic shows an image of a beast called Ogra the sea spirit.

Monarch Books, who seemed ready to release a book for any giant monster movie*, put out a novel version that had way more sex than the movie. Way more meaning any at all.

Charlton Comics also published 23 issues of a comic book with pencils by Steve Ditko. They also did a three issue sequel miniseries called The Return of Gorgo and Ditko included Gorgo and Konga in a Captain Universe back up story in Web of Spider-Man Annual #6.

You can watch Gorgo on Tubi. The original version and Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff are both available.

*They also released books for Reptilicus and Konga.

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Reptilicus (1961)

As Jonah taught us on the new Mystery Science Theater 3000, every country has a monster.

This movie was filmed twice in Copenhagen, Sjælland and Jylland, Denmark.

Huh?

That’s because it was shot once in Danish and once in English because why dub this movie? Only Danish actress Bodil Miller doesn’t appear in the American cut because she couldn’t speak the language, so she was replaced by Marla Behrens.

Well, that was the plan.

The truth is when American-International Pictures saw the American cut, directed by Sidney W. Pink* (Bwana DevilThe Angry Red Planet), they realized that there was no way that it could play even the fourth feature at a drive-in. Ib Melchor, whose story The Racer became Death Race 2000 and who also wrote the American dialogue for Godzilla Raids Again and Planet of the Vampires, did major rework to get it into theaters.

Pink sued. Then he saw the new version of the movie and dropped the legal fight.

All they find in the beginning of this movie is Reptilicus’ tail, a fact that frightened me as a child, because it soon grows into a full creature who goes wild in Denmark until those wacky Danes ply it with downers and blow it up real good with a bazooka.

Charlton Comics — the soon-to-be home of Steve Ditko — published two issues of a Reptilicus comic book. They changed his name to Reptisaurus the Terrible and the series lasted until issue eight with one special issue. In 2012, that series was republished by Scary Monsters Magazine with the even better title of Scarysaurus the Scary.

There was also a Monarch paperback that referred to the creature as the “spawn of hell” on the back cover, which is way cooler than this movie. The book is also filled with sex, which upset Sidney W. Pink so much that he — you guessed it — sued them.

*Poul Bang did the honors in Denmark.

You can watch this on Tubi. If you have Netflix, I recommend the Mystery Science Theater 3000 take on the film.

Repost: The Devil’s Hand (1961)

Editor’s Note: We reviewed this way back on November 22, 2018, during one of our first Mill Creek blowouts with the Chilling Classic film pack of 50 movies. Now Mill Creek’s brought it back as part of their Gorehouse Greats 12-pack. Two box sets, twice the movie fun!

Also known as Witchcraft, The Naked Goddess, Devil’s Doll and Live to Love, this black and white film is all about some people in Los Angeles who want to be ahead of the Black House’s curve in San Francisco and start worshipping Satan…err, Gamba, the Great Devil God.

Probably the most interesting thing that I can tell you about this movie is that Chess Records released Baker Harris and the Knightmares’ “Theme from ‘The Devil’s Hand.” No word on how many people bought it.

Rick Turner (Robert Alda, Father Michael from the bastardized version of Bava’s Lisa and the Devil that was retitled The House of Exorcism, which strangely enough also has a similar plot to this movie, so Satan has to be behind this coincidence) keeps seeing a succubus, a nearly nude vision of a woman dancing in the clouds. Soon, he has come to a doll shop that has one in the exact image of his dreams, which is a likeness of Bianca Milan (Linda Christian, the first Bond girl).

Understandably, his girlfriend Donna (Ariadna Welter, El Vampiro) is freaked out when she finds a doll that looks just like herself. Rick is too after the shop owner Frank Lamont (Neil Hamilton, Commissioner Gordon from TV’s Batman) knows him by name. He also refuses to sell Donna her doll, instead stabbing it and causing her no end of pain.

Of course, while his lady is in the hospital, Rick becomes Bianca’s lover. She’s been sending thoughts into his mind and wants him to join her cult and takes him to a meeting, where Gamba decides if a woman lives or dies when his wheel of knives descends on a woman. She lives, but a cult member takes photos of the event.

Donna is cured by midnight and released from the hospital. There are bigger problems, as the cultist who took the photo is a reporter who Frank curses and kills like Dr. Lavey cutting out photos of Jayne Mansfield.

Soon, the cult is having another meeting to test Rick, asking him to choose if Donna lives or dies. Who knew being in a devil cult had so many meetings? It seems like an awful lot of commitment to make. He chooses her and all of the cult dies in a fire.

The film ends quite ambiguously for when it was made, as the couple thinks everything is copacetic and we soon see in the skies, waiting for him. This is one weird movie, one that feels like a waking dream.

You can watch this for free on the Internet Archive or on Amazon Prime with your membership.