APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: The Scare Film Archives Volume 1: Drug Stories!

Something Weird has made out lives so much richer, saving the strange, the smutty, the scary and everything in between. Working with the American Genre Film Archives, they created this mixtape of sheer lunacy which adds up the scare films of the past. You’ll never do drugs again until the next time to do drugs.

This blu ray has the following movies, all uncut and in 2K:

Beyond LSD (1967): This movie astounded me because instead of telling parents that their kids are maniacs, it tells them to listen to them because they’re going through some things. How is this even real?

Director Paul Burnford mainly made shorts and documentary films, like 1944’s Nostradamus IV and the 1943 blood transfusion ten-minute epic Brothers in Blood. He also directed the first movie in the Rusty series and an entry in the A Crime Does Not Pay series, Dark Shadows, which is about a psychiatrist matching wits with a killer.

In short — it’s less about drugs and more about how to treat your kids. It’s still relevant today.

The Bottle and the Throttle (1961, 1968): Narrated by Timothy Farrell, who was one of the two narrators and the psychiatrist in Glen or Glenda, as well Girl Gang, Pin-Down GirlDance Hall RacketTest Tube BabiesThe Violent YearsJail Bait and many more. He was also a bailiff for the Los Angeles Marshal’s Department when he was acting in movies like Paris After Midnight, which was raided by the Los Angeles Vice Squad during filming.

A bunch of kids a drinking beach beers — Budweiser, Schlitz and Hamm’s — and Bill has had one too many. He ends up driving home and killing a child and breaking the back of her mother. Was it worth it?

Do you remember that wheel of how many drinks you had and how long until you sober up back in driver’s ed or health class? Man, I used to think of that all the time and here I am, now trying to gauge edibles which are magical and unpredictable lunacy when compared to whiskey.

The major difference between the 1961 and 1968 films is that the former is made with the help of the Culver City Police Department and the Culver City Unified School District while the latter is made with the West Covina Police Department. I’d like to think these organizations were scammed and paid twice for one movie.

“The little girl died on the way to the hospital and the mother will probably never walk again. No matter how your trial comes out, you’ll always have to live with those facts, won’t you Bill. A child dead. A mother crippled. Not a pleasant future to face at the age of 18.”

Pure nihilism.

Sidney Davis Productions also made The DropoutBoys Beware (an anti-homosexual scare movie), the Ib Melchior-directed — yes, the guy who wrote Death Race 2000 and directed The Angry Red Planet — Keep Off the GrassSkateboard Sense and LSD: Trip or Trap!

Curious Alice (1971): Dave Dixon, the Culture Czar, was the lead DJ of the legendary “Air Aces” on Detroit’s rock station WABX and the first person to play Sabbath, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and The Doors in the Motor City. Beyond co-writing Peter, Paul and Mary’s “I Dig Rock & Roll Music,” he co-wrote this animated film that explains drugs through Alice In Wonderland which is totally right on with the kids and four years after Jefferson Airplane did the same thing in “White Rabbit.”

The art in this movie is mind-boggling, however, and you’ll be entranced as Alice learns about LSD from the Mad Hatter, speed from the March Hare, heroin from the King of Hearts and barbituates from the Dormouse.

Made by the National Institute of Mental Health in 1971 and meant for use with ten-year-old students, if I had seen this before my teen years I would have done all the drugs in high school. The National Coordinating Council on Drug Education agreed, writing that viewers “may be intrigued by the fantasy world of drugs” after watching it.

The Distant Drummer (1970): A short-lived series of four 22-minute American documentary films that warned the kids about drugs, these were all directed by William Templeton (The Fallen Idol) and written by Don Peterson.

The first two movies in this series, A Movable Scene and A Movable Feast, were narrated by Robert Mitchum, who served 43 days at a California prison farm for possession of marijuana in 1948, a conviction that was overturned in 1951.

Here’s just a sample of Mitchum’s speech: “Thousands of snapshots on police station walls remain the only link between many of America’s most affluent families and the children who embodied their great expectations. Nearly everyone in the hippie community smokes marijuana — whether they call it pot, grass, hemp, gage, joint or mary jane — the marijuana is the basic background for the shared drug experience. The experience is shared to such an extent that roach pipes are always in demand — a roach is a marijuana butt and it requires some form of holder for those last few drags. The new generation, whether they are runaways or rebels-in-residence, use marijuana as a symbol of discontent with the basic values of the establishment. For some, there exists a social imperative beyond flaunting society’s rules — for these adventurers the mind-expanding drugs open a window on a whole new frontier…”

The other two parts, Bridge from No Place and Flowers of Darkness, were narrated by Rod Steiger and Paul Newman.

Drugs, Drinking and Driving (1971): Herbert Moskowitz is now here to explain why you should never mix the three things in the title. I love that this movie has no issues with using the Mission: Impossible theme over and over and over, flaunting copyright law with each successive refrain.

This also seems pre-Jackass with a stunt where two drivers are each given drugs, one amphetamine and one barbituates, and then told to drive for 36 hours straight until they either pass out or wreck their cars.

LSD: Insight or Insanity (1967): “Now, everybody who takes it admits that there’s always the risk of a bad trip, a bummer, a freak-out, even a flip-out. But, why be lame, baby? Give yourself a real kick. Yes, a kick in the head!”

That’s Sal Mineo talking in this Max Miller-directed (the same dude who made the Sonny Bono anti-drug movie Marijuana) film which explains what LSD is, how it’s made and when people take it they jump in front of cars and take leaps off cliffs like Diane Linkletter out of the windows of the Shoreham Towers, blamed on LSD even if the last person who saw her alive — Edward Dunston — may have also was the last person to see actress Carol Wayne alive. Then again, both Dunstons could be different people and for some other reason, people seem to confuse them with David E. Durston, the man who taught us that Satan was an acidhead in I Drink Your Blood.

See, I may make some detours, but I always get you back on the road.

This ends with a Russian Roulette freakout and Mineo singing over the closing credits, which inform us that everyone in this movie was not an actor. You won’t be surprised.

LSD 25 (1967): Directed by David Parker and written by Hank Harrison — the father of Courtney Love — this movie is narrated by an LSD tab which proves that the creators of this may very well be getting high on their own supply.

“Today, you’re high. Tomorrow, you’re dead.”

Yes, LSD starts all happy explaining all the good things it does and by the end, your fingerprints can’t get out of any police database.

So go ahead and take that sugar cube. You’ll learn all the secrets of the infinite and then, you know, you won’t be able to tell anyone.

Because you’ll be dead.

Narcotics the Decision: Goofballs and Tea (1958): Written by Pittsburgh native Roger Emerson Garris, who was the story editor for the Sherlock Holmes TV series, this police training film is all about barbituates and marijuana. Yes, people once called drugs these words.

Narrated by Art Gilmore, who was on Dragnet and voiced the radio announcer on The Waltons, this movie lets kids know that it starts with sneaking their parent’s booze and ends up with you in jail, dead or worse. Avoid weed, avoid malt shops, avoid everything.

None for the Road (1957): Margaret Travis wrote 83 shorts that we know of, movies like The Other Fellow’s FeelingsHealth: Your Clothing and Rowan and Martin on the Driveway One Fine Day, an industrial film for Phillips 66 Petroleum where the future Laugh-In stars run a gas station. This movie, too.

But the director? That’s Herk Harvey, who made around four hundred or more industrial films like Shake Hands with Danger. And one very important movie, Carnival of Souls.

Three men all use alcohol in different ways: not at all, a little and too much. They’re like the lab rats that we later see injected with alcohol, which sounds like a good way to spend a weekend. But wow, we’ve been warning people about drunk driving for 65 years and not everyone listens.

The Trip Back (1970): It’s no accident that an episode of Strangers With Candy was titled “The Trip Back.” Jerri Blank on that show is literally the star of this movie, Florrie Fisher, played for comic effect.

Fisher was married four times by the time she filmed this speech, first an arranged marriage, then to a pimp, then another drug addict and finally to a man she met via the mail. She credited her recovery to Synanon, which was originally established as a drug rehabilitation program and became one of the most dangerous and violent cults America had ever seen.

Wait, what?

Founded by Charles E. “Chuck” Dederich Sr., Synanon — a mix of togetherness (“syn”) with the unknown (“anon”) — was an alternative community centered on group truth-telling sessions called the “Synanon Game”, a form of attack therapy during which participants humiliated one another and exposed each other’s innermost weaknesses. There are theories that Dedereich was given LSD by Dr. Keith S. Dittman and Dr. Sidney Cohen, as well as encouraged to start Synanon as part of the CIA MK Ultra program.

Headquarted in a former beachfront hotel in Santa Monica called the Club Casa del Mar, women who joined Synanon had to shave their heads. Men were given forced vasectomies. Pregnant women were forced to abort their babies. Married couples were broken up and had to take new partners as the group became the Church of Synanon.

After Synanon’s transition into an alternate society in 1968, the game became a 72-hour ordeal for most members. The program of rehabilitation went from two years to a lifetime rehabilitation program, as they now preached that addicts would never truly be well enough to return to society.

Throughout this period, San Francisco area media covered the adult and child abuse caused by the church, but were often sued for libel by Synanon’s lawyers. If all of this sounds like Scientology, well…there was a group within the group called the Imperial Marines authorized to beat members into oblivion.

When NBC started reporting on the church in the late 70s, executives received hundreds of threats and Paul Morantz, a lawyer who had helped members escape, had a de-rattled rattlesnake placed in his mailbox. It bit him and put him in the hospital. A police search found a tape of Dederich speaking about Morantz, saying: “We’re not going to mess with the old-time, turn-the-other-cheek religious postures. Our religious posture is: Don’t mess with us. You can get killed dead, literally dead/ These are real threats. They are draining life’s blood from us, and expecting us to play by their silly rules. We will make the rules. I see nothing frightening about it. I am quite willing to break some lawyer’s legs, and next break his wife’s legs, and threaten to cut their child’s arm off. That is the end of that lawyer. That is a very satisfactory, humane way of transmitting information. I really do want an ear in a glass of alcohol on my desk.”

The teachings of Synanon influenced groups like CEDU, Daytop Village (the very place Nancy Reagan visited and became aware of the drug problem, which led to Just Say No), Phoenix House and those boot camps that always show up on daytime talk shows.

Back to Florrie Fisher.

An interview with David Susskind led to her appearing on The Mike Douglas Show, speaking at schools and an autobiography, The Lonely Trip Back. This film captures her speaking at a New York City high school, barraging the audience with a rambling dissertation on turning tricks, six of her marijuana friends all dying in the chair, jailhouse sapphic antics and shouting things like “I now know that I can’t smoke one stick of pot! I can’t take one snort of horse! I can’t take one needle of cocaine because I am an addictive personality! And that’s all I need is one of anything. Ya know I need one dress. If I happen to like this dress in tan, I buy the same dress in green and black and pink. This is the type of personality I am!”

Despite how horrible Synanon was for some, it worked for Florrie. Sadly, she died during the lecture tour she’s on in this movie due to liver cancer and kidney failure.

This movie is totally worth the price of this entire blu ray.

Users Are Losers (1971): Think drugs are for teens? This kid is saving up his milk money to pay for his habit, doing odd jobs and being incredibly thrifty just to get some marijuana. It made me think, parents are always on kids for throwing their money away, but this kid knows what he wants, works hard for it and then is selfless and shares what he gets with his friends.

Some kids also find one of their friends dead on a mattress and some young narc says, “If you blow pot, you’re blowing your future.” Get off my TV, kid.

Plus, you also get DRUG STORIES! NARCOTIC NIGHTMARES AND HALLUCINOGENIC HELLRIDES, a full-length mixtape from the AGFA team.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go blow some pot. Get toasty toast. Go clambaking. Fly Mexican Airlines. Run within an endless field. Walk the green ducks. Roll into the Backwoods. Be a ninja. Do some chiefing at the Rooney statue.

You can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

CURTIS HARRINGTON WEEK: Night Tide (1961)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Originally running on our site on April 4, 2019, this is a movie that has obsessed me in the same way Marjorie Cameron, the occult, Crowley and Jack Parsons have for many years. Remember the words of Ms. Cameron, who said, “I shall plunge down into the abysmal horror of madness and death—or I shall walk upon the dawn.” Here’s hoping you find a new obsession.

Written and directed by Curtis Harrington — one of the leaders of New Queer Cinema and also the director of Queen of BloodWhat’s the Matter with Helen?Who Slew Auntie Roo?, Ruby and so many more — this film was always one I wanted to see as it features Marjorie Cameron in a small role.

Harrington had also shot a documentary about her — The Wormwood Star — and I’ll forgive you if you have no idea who she is. Cameron was many things — an artist, poet, actress, and probably most essentially, an occultist. A follower of Crowley’s Thelema, she was married to rocket pioneer and nexus point of all things 20th century occult, Jack Parsons. In fact, Parsons believed that he had conjured Cameron to be the Whore of Babylon/Thelemite goddess Babalon as part of his Babalon Working rite, which he conducted alongside L. Rod Hubbard. No, really. It may have also opened our world to the aliens that have obsessed us since Kenneth Arnold reported a UFO in 1947.

After a suicide attempt and being institutionalized, Cameron gathered a group of magic practitioners around herself that she called The Children, whose sex magic rituals were to create a moonchild. She was now pregnant with what she referred to as the Wormwood Star, but that ended in miscarriage. Many of The Children soon left, as her proclamations of the future had grown increasingly apocalyptic.

Cameron’s orbit — much like her husband’s — unites both the worlds of art and the occult, straddling appearing in the films of Kenneth Anger, working with UFO expert and contactee George Van Tassel and appearing in Wallace Berman’s art journal Semina.

Why did I tell you all this? Because it fascinates me that she’s in Night Tide.

Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper!) is a young sailor on shore leave who meets Mora (Linda Lawson, who is also in William Castle’s Let’s Kill Uncle), a woman who makes her living appearing in a sideshow. They fall in love before he learns that her past boyfriends have drowned under mysterious circumstances. That may — or may not — be because Mora is a siren, a legendary creature who exists to lure men to their deaths. Adding to her suspicions is the mystery woman (Cameron) who calls to her and demands that she follow her destiny.

One evening, under a full moon, she invites him deep sea swimming, but cuts his hose, forcing him to surface so that she isn’t tempted to kill him. She then swims into the depths of the ocean, fulfilling the call of the mystery woman. And when he returns to the boardwalk, her dead body is still in the mermaid sideshow, now there for visitors to gawk at her dead eyes.

Despite a police confession as to who the killer is, the strange woman in black and her call to the sea is never explained.

Anton LaVey discussed this film in Blanche Barton’s The Secret Life of a Satanist: The Authorized Biography of Anton Szandor LaVey. “There’s a whole genre of films that are just little evocative low-budget gems that I certainly wouldn’t call schlock but that are also being revived as a consequence of more attention in those directions. Director Curtis Hanington’s first movie, Night Tide filmed around the Santa Monica Pier and Venice. California in the late ’50’s, is a psychologically intricate story about a young sailor (Dennis Hopper) who falls in love with a mermaid It’s just wonderful to see these precious works of art being finally given the attention they merit.” This also appears on the Church of Satan film list.

According to Spencer Kansa’s Wormwood Star: The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron, Anger introduced Cameron and LaVey, who was delighted to meet the actress, having been a fan of the film.

You can download this movie from the Internet Archive or buy the Kino Loberblu ray. Or check out the gorgeous restored version at Nicholas Winding Refn’s ByNWR site. Refn also owns the film’s original print.

Mill Creek Drive-In Classics: The Devil’s Hand (1961)

About the Author: Shannon Briggs has been a passionate fan of cinema ever since his grandmother recorded The Monster Squad on VHS through cable and gave it to him. You can see more of his musings on Twitter @MisterShannonB and read more his reviews at https://letterboxd.com/MisterShannonB/

Just a few seconds into the opening titles of “The Devil’s Hand”, the viewer isn’t greeted with the ominous score you expect from a horror film about a deadly cult. No, Baker Knight’s theme for the film is instead a surf-rock medley that would be a comfortable fit for a fun beach comedy with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. It’s a head-scratching choice. This is indicative of the film’s overall out of touch nature with tone and how incredibly goofy it is when tackling the subject of cults.

The plot of The Devil’s Hands consists of Rick (played by character actor Robert Alda, probably best known for his guest roles in a plethora of 1960s and 1970s television shows and was Alan Alda’s father.) haunted/mesmerized by vivid visions of a beautiful woman (Linda Christian, from the 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale) and is shocked when he passes by a doll shop and sees a doll identical to this mystery woman. He brings his fiancé, Donna, (Ariadna Welter) to the shop and not only does the shop owner, Francis Lamont (Neil Hamilton, Commissioner Gordon from the 1960s Batman) recognize him, but states that it is of Bianca Milan and also declares that Rick ordered the doll. Rick has no memory of this, and things get even weirder when a doll that looks like Donna is discovered by the couple as well, but Francis refuses to sell it because it already belongs to someone else.

As soon as Rick and Donna leave, Lamont walks into a secret room in his shop and stabs the doll that looks like Donna with a pin. Donna collapses and is taken to a hospital for heart spasms. Rick has another vision of Bianca and tells Donna he wants to deliver the doll to Bianca but pledges his loyalty to Donna. However, minutes after meeting Bianca, Rick folds like a poker hand and is immediately DTF for Bianca. Turns out Bianca was using thought projections to appear to Rick and convinces him to join a cult meeting of the devil god, Gamba, led by Lamont. The meetings consist of bongo playing and interpretive dance around a statue of Buddha for some reason. Oh, and the occasional human sacrifice as well. Can Rick withstand Bianca’s charms enough to realize that joining a death cult probably wasn’t probably the best idea?

The Devil’s Hand attituded towards cults seems to mix fear of otherness pertaining to African/Asian iconography and huge smattering of voodoo. In fact, the most notable scene is when the worst undercover reporter is discovered, and Lamont stabs a pin through the head of the like-like doll of said reporter. The reporter is seen immediately clutching his forehead in pain and the car comically goes off the road and falls down a cliff where it immediately explodes. The voodoo stuff, while obviously ignorant, at least makes sense in the plot. When the film is trying to convey the evils of Eastern religion through bongos and sensual dancing, it’s just embarrassing.

As far as the cast, Christian’s Bianca is really the main focus as the story focuses on her allure and sensuality. However, the film cannot seem to make its mind on if she is a femme fatale or a more sympathetic character. Her scenes with Lamont seem to hint at a seething animosity but nothing really comes of it, and she mostly comes off as a loyal second in command. Alda’s Rick is the most frustrating because it never really confirms whether his initiation into the cult is due to brainwashing or lust. At times he seems to be under some sort of spell. For example, after joining the cult, it is revealed that Rick has done substantially well financially and has newfound luck. You think something may come of this revelation but…shrug. Most of the time, he seems to have all of his senses and eventually reconciles with Donna after basically gaslighting her for the second act of the film (our hero). Hamilton’s Lamont is by far the best performance even if saddled with some of the silliest dialogue in the film. Weltner’s Donna isn’t given much to do outside of advancing the finale and being a link to Rick’s humanity when the film decides to make him a loyal fiancé again. 

Directed by William J. Hole Jr., The Devil’s Hand (a.k.a. Witchcraft, The Naked Goddess, Devil’s Doll and Live to Love) was completed in 1959 but wasn’t distributed until 1961, when Crown International Pictures acquired it. Surprisingly, while mostly filmed in Los Angeles, some production was done in Mexico City, Mexico. Hence, the use of Mexican actresses Christian and Welter (whose stilted English is noticeable). Not surprisingly, the film seemed to made on cheap and quick and most of the cast wasn’t fond of it, specifically Christina and Alda. Screenwriter Jo Heims would go on to write the Elvis as twins’ vehicle, Double Trouble, and Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut, Play Misty for Me. Hole Jr., primarily a television director, would do a few more B-movies throughout the 1960s but finish out his career directing episodes of The Bionic Woman

The Devil’s Hand is a more of a curiosity than an enjoyable movie. It’s 50’s viewpoint of cults and primarily Satanism is so quaint that it would make 1975’s The Devil’s Rain chuckle. Like I said at the beginning, having a surf rock score for your Satanic horror film was a choice.

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.