Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963)

Hogan (Jack Lemmon) has quite a life. He’s an independently wealthy landlord of a California apartment complex that he rents exclusively to beautiful women for just $75 a month. Women are his passion, which is why he has a swinging bedroom to rival Dudley Moore’s pad from Foul Play.

Now, he has his sights set on Robin Austin (Carol Lynley, Beware! The BlobThe Night Stalker), which is the perfect thing to get his mind off his breakup with Irene (Edie Adams, who was both emotionally and financially devastated by the death of her husband Ernie Kovacs, so friend Jack Lemmon got her hired and her part expanded from the play that inspired this movie). And who cares if Robin is Irene’s niece, right? Well, those are Hogan’s morals…

Speaking of morality, Robin wants to live with her fiancee David (Dean Jones, as always just on the edge of screaming and being mad at everyone), but doesn’t want them to sleep together. As you can imagine, this drives David mad and gives Hogan plenty of chances to break them up.

The best part of this movie? The older married couple that works for Hogan, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, who are played by Paul Lynde and Imogene Coca.

Hogan’s cat, Orangey, had quite the career. Trained by Frank Inn, who also was the owner of Green Acres’ Arnold and Petticoat Junction’s Higgins — also the first Benji — Orangey was in everything from the TV series Our Miss Brooks and The Beverly Hillbillies to This Island Earth and The Diary of Anne Frank. He’s most famous for his roles as the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and for menacing Grant Williams in The Incredible Shrinking Man. He also was the lead in the movie Rhubarb, which was a name that he also used.

Director David Swift may be best known for Pollyanna and The Parent Trap, but he also wrote How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and directed another movie on the Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection set, Good Neighbor Sam.

Mill Creek’s new Through the Decades: 1960s Collection has twelve movies: How to Ruin a Marriage and Save Your Life, The Notorious Landlady, Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Chase, Good Neighbor Sam, Baby the Rain Must Fall, Mickey One, Lilith, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Scum of the Earth! (1963)

The first roughie and the work of Herschell Gordon Lewis and producer David F. Friedman, Scum of the Earth! tells the story of Kim Sherwood (Vickie Miles, AKA Allison Louise Downe, who was also in several other Lewis movies like She-Devils on Wheels), a college girl She-Devilshe wrong way and ends up trying to pay her tuition with glamour photos. But you know how the road to hell goes. It ends up going deeper and deeper, with Kim getting blackmailed into doing more and more explicit photos and dealing with sexualized violence, which is pretty insane for 1963.

Shot in six days and filmed in the same Miami locations that Blood Feast stained, it was made in black and white so that it would look filthy, like some kind of smoker film that would start turning on some old cigar smoking men before turning on them and shocking them with its willingness to make its sex violent. There’s also the matter of Sandy, another older girl, and her willingness to put the young Kim through all this so that she herself can escape.

Lewis — and Friedman — were the kings of talking you into the theater. They blessed this movie with some of the best taglines ever, like “Hell is their only address and they offer you a cheap substitute for fulfillment … in exchange for your soul!” and “Depraved. Demented. Loathsome. Nameless. Shameless. These are the Scum of the Earth!”

Lewis also knew how to write some dialogue, with stuff like “All you kids make me sick! You act like little Miss Muffet and down inside you’re dirty, do you hear me? Dirty! You’re greedy and self-centered and think you can get away with anything. You’re no better than the girl who sells herself to a man, you’re worse because you’re a hypocrite. And now little Miss Muffet is in trouble and she’s all outraged virtue. Well you listen and you listen well, you’re damaged merchandise and this is a fire sale.” 

This was beyond hot stuff in the early 60s. Now you can stream it into your home. Times have changed.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Dementia 13 (1963)

Despite owning multiple copies if this film — its public domain status means that it ends up on all manner of DVD compilations — I’d never sat down to enjoy it before.

Shot after Corman Corman’s recently completed The Young Racers* — on which Coppola had worked as a sound technician, this was intended to be a rip-off of Psycho, but with more brutality. So, you know a slasher. Or a giallo, more to the point.

Coppola wrote the script to Corman’s requirements and although he was given total directorial freedom, Corman declared the finished film unreleasable and brought in Jack Hill to finish the movie.

Monte Hellman also filmed a five-minute intro that had a D-13 test to see if people were psychologically fit to see the movie. That’s what we in the movie-loving business call padding.

While out rowing in the middle of a lake after dark — really a bad idea all around — John Haloran and his wife Louise (Luana Anders, who along with William Campbell and Patrick Magee, had come to this movie from the cast of The Young Racers) are arguing about his mother’s will, which will all go to a charity in the name of Kathleen. As they bicker — and row, row, row the boat — John keels over from a heart attack and dies, which means that Louise will get nothing of his fortune. So she pretends that he’s still alive and invites herself to the Haloran family castle while her husband is away on business or at the bottom of the lake.

Perhaps going to that castle was not the best of ideas. The family is, charitably, bonkers. Her dead husband’s brothers Billy and Richard join their mother in a ritual that remembers the long-lost Kathleen, who also drowned, and Lady Haloran faints every single time.

That’s when Louise gets the bright idea to start acting like Kathleen is communicating to her from the land of the dead. At one point, she swims to the bottom of the lake and begins placing the dead girl’s toys in the water. Underneath the water, she finds Kathleen somehow perfectly preserved and when she surfaces, she’s killed with an axe. This is the sequence that sold Corman on the movie.

Here’s a crazy fact: this movie is where the Tom Petty song “American Girl” gets some of its lyrics from. In reference to another woman, Referring to another woman, Louise says, “Especially an American girl. You can tell she was raised on promises.”

It gets wilder from here with statues at the bottom of ponds, long-buried secrets and plenty more murder. It’s not the best film ever, but for a debut — well, Coppola had only made two nudie cuties before this — it’s worth a spin. And now Lionsgate is releasing a Director’s Cut nearly sixty years after this was made that will include an introduction and commentary by Coppola, as well as the D-13 test.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*They had $22,000 left, just enough to make a movie. Coppola was already a mover and shaker, gaining an additional $20,000 in financing himself by pre-selling the European rights to a producer named Raymond Stross. Now, he didn’t tell Corman that and had moved the original $22,000 into a bank account in case Corman wanted his investment back.

Bluebeard (1963)

Also known as Landru, this movie finds French New Wave director Claude Chabrol telling the absolutely true story of serial killer Henri Désiré Landru. Nicknamed the Bluebeard of Gambais, Landry kiled at least seven women in the village of Gambais, as well as at least three other women and a young man at a house he rented in Vernouillet. He also had met or been in romantic correspondence with 283 women during the First World War, many of whom he swindled out of money. The true number of Landru’s victims — as their remains were never found — could possibly be even higher. After a trial — which had no small amount of controversy due to a lack of bodies for evidence — Landru was executed by the guillotine. Somehow, his severed head ended up in Los Angeles’ Museum of Death.

Played by Charles Denner, this monster of a man seems respectable until you get to his scheme: lure wealthy old women with the hopes of romance to his home, get their money and then chop them up and set the bodies ablaze.

After this movie was released, Chabrol was sued for defamation by Fernande Segret, Landru’s last mistress, who was not pleased by how Stéphane Audran played her or the fact that she was not consulted or asked for permission for her name to be used. She’d used the money she made from telling the story to be a teacher in Lebanon for forty years and came back to France only to learn that she was the subject of a major motion picture. Segret received modest damages and retired to a care home in the town of Flers, where she later killed herself in 1968, drowned herself in the moat at the Chateau de Flers on the anniversary of Landru’s marriage proposal to her.

She wasn’t the only person unhappy with Audran. Producer Carlo Ponti hated her acting so much that he screamed, “Who’s that slut who’s playing Fernande?” Chabrol slapped Ponti and shouted back, “That’s my woman!”

This was the fourth box office failure that Chabrol would endure after Les Bonnes Femmes, The Third Lover and Ophélia. As a result, he was forced to make more commercial movies rather than the ones he wanted to make. The same thing happened to Charlie Chaplin, whose take on the same story — 1947’s Monsieur Verdoux — also was a big time bomb.

You can get Bluebeard from Kino Lorber, complete with commentary by Kat Ellinger, and a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative.

Maciste Contro i Cacciatori di Teste (1963)

Known as Colossus and the Head Hunters here in America, this peplum was directed by Guido Malatesta, who also made Tarzana, the Wild Woman and a few other sword and sandal films, as well as the Eurospy Riuscirà il nostro eroe a ritrovare il più grande diamante del mondo? (Will Our Hero Be Able to Find the Largest Diamond in the World?).

Partially shot in Yugoslavia, this Maciste sequel takes the same volcano footage from Malatesta’s Maciste contro i Mostri (Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules in the U.S.).

It stars Italian bodybuilder Kirk Morris as Maciste, but you can see original star Reg Lewis — he was in Maciste in the aforementioned Fire Monsters — in a few long shots. That’s how much care this movie put into this, a film released at the near death of the sword and sandal cycle. Queen Amoa (Laura Brown, Colossus of the Stone Age) gets kidnapped by headhunters and our heroes defies the fates to save her.

This may be the movie that you need Mystery Science Theater 3000 to get through.

Neutrón contra el Dr. Caronte (1963)

For some reason, the mongoose to the cobra that is the mad scientist is the lucha libre hero. Across several other films, Neutrón and Dr. Caronte have fought to the death. Literally, I’ve seen Caronte let slip this mortal coil several times in this movie alone.

Wolf Ruvinskis plays our hero and he was known as El Lobo Letonia (The Latvian Wolf). Born Jewish in Latvia to a Latvian mother and Ukrainian father, Wolf began wrestling professionally in Argentina as a way to help put food on the table for his poor family. He toured the world, ending up in Mexico where he wrestled until 1950. Injuries pushed him out of the ring and into acting where he played the lead in Ladron de Cadaveres and as this character in four other movies, including Neutrón vs. the Karate Killers, Neutrón vs. the Maniac, Neutrón vs. the Death Robots and Neutrón the Man in the Black Mask.

Dr. Caronte would inspire the real life rudo Dr. Karonte. According to Luchawiki, Leonardo Morgado, promoter of Arena Monumental, had the idea of featuring Neutrón and Dr. Karonte in the ring. However, there were not many matches between the wrestling versions of Neutrón and Dr. Karonte, as the rudo had a higher status than his archrival.

The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963)

The Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn comes from a series of novels by Russell Thorndike and was inspired by 18th-century smuggling when brandy and tobacco were smuggled into the U.S. to avoid British taxation. The books were originally made as movies in 1937 as Doctor Syn and in 1962 as Captain Clegg, which starred Peter Cushing.

The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh was produced for the Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV series. Shot on location in England, it was directed by James Neilson, who also made the Disney movies The Moon-Spinners and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin.

Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner) plays Dr. Syn in three different parts, which were all edited together to run in British theaters as Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow on a double feature with The Sword in the Stone.

Dr. Syn, a country priest, leads his rebels against the armies of the King of England, who is enslaving American colonists for his Royal Navy. Think of Zorro in the pre-Revolutionary War and you have a good idea of what this is all about,

The first part of the film deals with General Pugh, who has come to the New World to destroy the smuggling ring of Dr. Syn, who is dealing with a traitor in his midst. Finally, Syn rescues his men from General Pugh before faking his death.

I’ve always been fascinated by Dr. Syn/The Scarecrow, who is nearly a horror movie character within the Disney universe. I was so happy when Disney Adventures magazine started featuring his stories in the 2000s, even crossing his story over with Jack Sparrow from The Pirates of the Caribbean.

Diary of a Madman (1963)

Based on “La Horla” by Guy de Maupassant, this Reginald Le Borg-directed film starts at the funeral of Simon Cordier (Vincent Price), who had been possessed by one of the horla, a race of evil monsters who exist only to make humans go nuts.

Trying to find a hobby after thinking that a prisoner has infected him with a horla, Cordier got into sculpting and fell in love with the already married Odette Mallotte DuClasse (Nancy Kovack, The Silencers). The horla makes him believe that she’s merely after him for his money, so he cuts her head off and tosses it in a river. When it’s found, her husband is executed for the crime, but Simon knows he has to get rid of the creature. So he does what any of us would — he sets his whole house on fire and dies along with it.

This was written by Robert E. Kent, who would make Twice-Told Tales with Price the same year.

Obviously, Ozzy Osbourne has seen this movie.

The Raven (1963)

The fifth of Roger Corman’s Poe movies, this was written by Richard Mattheson and based on the poem “The Raven.” It has an astounding cast with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff — who was also in the 1935 adaption — as sorcerers locked in magical combat with one another.

In the book The Raven, Mattheson said, “After I heard they wanted to make a movie out of a poem, I felt that was an utter joke, so comedy was really the only way to go with it.”

As Dr. Erasmus Craven (Price) pines for his lost wife Lenore (Hazel Court, The Man Who Could Cheat Death), he is visited by a raven that he helped to transform back into the human form of Dr. Bedlo (Lorre). Now, Bedlo wants revenge on the man who turned him into a beast — Dr. Scarabus (Karloff) — and gets Craven to come with him, claiming that he’s seen Lenore’s ghost in his enemy’s castle. Along for the ride are Craven’s daughter Estelle and Bedlo’s son Rexford, who is a very young Jack Nicholson.

It all turns out that Lenore is alive and faked her death to become Scarabus’ mistress and doesn’t even bat an eye when the evil wizard tortures her daughter. Of course, a duel between magicians is the only way this can all end.

Lorre was given to improv, which Price grew to enjoy, Nicholson loved and Karloff hated. Between that and the goofy Latin phrases the magicians say when they cast spells, this movie always makes me laugh.

Twice-Told Tales (1963)

Of the three stories featured in Twice-Told Tales, only one of them — “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” — is actually from the Nathaniel Hawthorne book. The other two — “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and The House of the Seven Gables — come from another story and a book the author wrote.

Much like Tales of Terror, all three of these stories feature Vincent Price as narrator and star. It was written and produced by Robert E. Kent, the man who brought Roy Orbison to the screen in The Fastest Guitar Alive. This was directed by Sidney Salkow, who also worked with Price on The Last Man Alive.

In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” Carl Heidegger (Sebastian Cabot, The Time Machine) and Alex (Price) meet to celebrate Heidegger’s 79th birthday. As they look back on their lives, they learn that Carl has never gotten over the death of his fiancee Sylvia. In a drunken depression, he wanders down to her grave, only to find her perfectly preserved. As he drinks the water that rains down on her coffin, the old man — and then his friend — become young again.

Both of them decide to inject the dead woman with the water and she returns, only to inform Carl that Alex was her lover. The two men clash, only for Alex to die and Sylvia to wither to a skeleton. Alex wanders the crypt, unable to find any more of the water.

While dramatic, this story doesn’t match Hawthrone’s, during which four older people use water that they’ve found from the  legendary Fountain of Youth, near Lake Macaco in Florida. It doesn’t end on such a down note either.

“Rappaccini’s Daughter” is the story of a man (Price) who has kept his daughter like a plant in a garden, treating her with the extract of an exotic plant that makes her very touch deadly. Yet what happens when she falls in love with a young man (Brett Halsey!)?

This story inspired the DC Comics character Poison Ivy, while the story itself was based on Indian fairy tales of poisoned maidens. The pop culture life of this story also extends to the Fleetwood Mac song Running through the Garden.”

The last story is “House of the Seven Gables,” which finds a cursed family, reincarnation, an inheritance and skeletal hands emerging to attack Price. The same story had been previously filmed in 1940 and also featured Price (he plays Gerald Pyncheon here; he played Clifford in the original).

The Hawthorne novel was a major inspiration for H. P. Lovecraft, who claimed that it was “New England’s greatest contribution to weird literature.” You can detect the novel’s shadow cast over his stories “The Picture in the House”, “The Shunned House” and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

They even made this into a Dell comic book!

If you enjoy anthology horror and Vincent Price, this one’s for you. If you don’t, never speak to me again.