The Eternal Question and Attack of the Flying Saucers (1956)

Editor’s Note: We’ll also discussion two, even more obscure Ormond family productions, with the films Surrender at Navajo Canyon (1980) and The Sacred Symbol (1984), in the context of this review.

You wouldn’t know it by the lobby card, but this isn’t a soft skin flick or film noir rife with sexual innuendo: it’s a film about palm reading.

Yes. Palm reading.

Well, at least the guy’s palm is pawing the woman.

“What stark and naked emotions lie ahead?”

If you know your Ron Ormond history, you’ll know the Nashville-based indie filmmaker began his show business career as a vaudeville magician, while his soon-to-be-wife, June Carr, worked the stages as a dancer and singer. So it makes sense, since palm reading was part of the traveling circus and carnival roadshows of the day, that Ron Ormond would want to preserve the art of palm reading and fortune telling — as he did with minstrel shows in the frames of Yes Sir, Mr. Bones.

The Eternal Question, a black and white-shot film, is actually an Americanized remake of a part documentary/part dramatic film produced in the U.K. about a palm reader and the life of his clients, known as Hands of Destiny (1954). Produced by Ron Ormond, he took a co-writing credit as result of his tweaking screenwriter Tony Young’s initial script. They both co-directed the remake, which features the same cast as Young’s film.

Courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Hands of Destiny concerns then famed Austrian palmist-to-the-stars Josef Ranald, who rose to fame with his book, How to Know People by Their Hands (1941), which served as the source material for the film. As a reader of everyone from Adolf Hilter to Bob Hope and Gary Grant, Ranald claimed — in the pages of his book and the film he co-scripted — the “evil” of people could be read in their hands. To that end: though the course of the film, Ranald, appearing as himself, saves the life a woman from a suicide-drowning via a reading; he reunites a long-lost mother and son by comparing their similar palm prints, etc. And that’s the tale: a collection of vignettes of Ranald’s work as a palmist. During the course of the film, we’re treated to his signed collection of palm prints from U.S. presidents, celebrities, and even Nazi officials.

It is said that Ormond’s version isn’t so much a remake, but a re-editing of the British film (thus the identical cast), with new inserts added, such as an intro sequence with Charlie Chaplin. Jr. as a psycho-mugger in the park — and he doesn’t appear in the British original. Bill Nagy (Fire Maidens from Outer Space), however, appears in both films.

Courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

The newsprint ad below tell us The Eternal Question was paired with another Ron Ormond release, Attack of the Flying Saucers.

Ron Ormond did a UFO film?

Attack of the Flying Saucers was an imported, West German science fiction short (17 minutes) known as Fliegende Untertassen, aka Flying Saucers (1954), shot at Filmaufbau Studios in Göttingen with direction co-credited to industrial filmmaker Georg Zauner and animator Friedrich Wollangk. Famed contactees Daniel Frey and Reinhold Schmidt appear in the film.

Courtesy of the Tapatalk group-forum Monster Kid Classic Horror.

These two Ormond obscurities were paired in a triple feature with Fire Maidens from Outer Space by way of producer-distributor Robert L. Lippert. Ormond and Lippert collaborated over the years, especially on several westerns from 1948 to 1951 starring Lash LaRue (who worked on Ormond’s non-western, Please Don’t Touch Me There). Fire Maidens also features stock Sfx shots from Lippert’s own Rocketship X-M (read up on that production in our review of 1951’s Flight to Mars). But let’s not forget star Bill Nagy’s connection to The Eternal Question.

Outside of a new, English-language narration and dialog track created by Ron Ormond, the film remained the same. It’s also said the Ormonds planned to make their own UFO feature following the release of Attack of the Flying Saucers. Titled Crusade to New Horizons, it was to consist of “contact” stories told to Ron Ormond and feature insights from various UFOlogists. The feature-length film — which may or may not have incorporated footage from Attack of the Flying Saucers — was never made.

Ormond’s interest in otherworldly subjected led to his co-authoring a series of late ’50s books on the subjects of psychic phenomenon, Asian mysticism, hypnosis, and psychic surgery with his magician-mentor Ormond McGill. (Ron Ormond, born Vittorio Di Naro, derived his vaudevillian stage name, Rahn Ormond, in tribute to McGill.) Those “self help” books led to Ron working as the editor-in-chief for Flying Saucers From Other Worlds magazine. (By the mid-60s, Ron Ormond added television programming to his resume: as a producer of Roller Derby games for broadcast. His son, Tim, later a filmmaker in his own right, appeared as one of the Derbities in the child’s version of the games broadcast.)

Upon developing and undergoing medical treatment for bladder cancer in 1959, Ron and McGill traveled on an eight-month spiritual quest to the Far East that also took them into India and the Philippines. Those travels were documented in the photo journals Religious Mysteries of the Orient, Into the Strange Unknown, The Master Method of Hypnosis, The Art of Meditation, and The Magical Pendulum of the Orient. Also filming those travels, that footage — such as Filipinos ritually flagellating themselves — would be used in his later, ’60s films, such as Please Don’t Touch Me and The Girl from Tobacco Row.

That footage, shared in those films, also reappeared in Tim Ormond’s The Sacred Symbol (1984), a part documentary/part dramatic reenactment tale that examined, not only Christianity, but religions from around the world. Footage from Untamed Mistress (1959), which was actually footage shot-on-safari by a family friend, also appeared in the film.

It was after two, light-plan mishaps, with the second in 1970, that Ron Ormond dedicated his talents to spread the world of the Lord by producing a series of films with Southern Baptist pastor Estus Pirkle, the first of which was If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?. Ron’s final film before his May 1981 death — which was completed, in full, by Tim Ormond due to Ron’s failing health — was The Second Coming (1980).

Prior to the production of The Second Coming — a film mixed with science fiction, theology, special effects — Ron combined his extensive, past westerns experience with his later religious endeavors for the film Surrender at Navajo Canyon (1980). That promotional film was produced in conjunction with the ministry of Pete Rice to chronicle his efforts in ministering to the members of the Navajo Nation.

Courtesy of Letterboxd.

Tim spoke at length about the production of The Scared Symbol during a 2007 interview on the digitized pages of Mondo Stumpo:

“So from that point, the last Christian film I made [The Second Coming], which does not mean I’m not still a Christian, I am, I’ve just kind of gotten involved in other things. I still keep in touch with some of my other friends. But the last one I made was The Sacred Symbol, which was, in essence, when my dad went to the Orient. He shot a whole lot of footage of very unusual and strange things. Anything from fakirs to snake handlers to Buddhists to the flagellantes. Well, I had all this footage, but I was now making Christian films, so I thought, ‘What can I do with this strange footage?’

“So I wrote a script around the footage, and it was called The Sacred Symbol. And basically the storyline was, some people met at the Adventurer’s Club, and they discussed their guest speaker, John Harvey, who in real life was John Calvert, who was a famous worldwide magician and who was a friend of my dad’s back in Hollywood [when Ron, himself, was a vaudevillian magician]. And so, at the Adventurer’s Club, they discussed John’s travels, and he talks about, ‘I’ve been here and seen this, and I’ve been there and seen that, but I finally found something which amazed, even me, when I uncovered the sacred symbol.’ And then [John] started talking about Christ and such and such, and that led us into the finale of the movie, which was, ‘There’s all these various, different things and religions, but there’s the true path,’ and such.”

Our thanks to British film fans David McGillivary and Leowine/IMDb and the website for their previous research regarding The Eternal Question in helping B&S About Movies chronicle this truly lost Ron Ormond film — in our quest to catalog his secular and Christian films — as there are no clips, trailers, or full streams of The Eternal Question to share.

You can learn more about the film’s British counterpart, Hands of Destiny, as well as television producer, writer and director Tony Young, with his career biography at Tony’s best-known production to American audiences is his final film, Penny Points to Paradise (1951), as result of it serving as the film debut of Peter Sellers.

You can pay-for-view stream Hands of Destiny from the BFI – The British Film Institute. There are no copies of Attack of the Flying Saucers or its German counterpart online.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Yes Sir, Mr. Bones (1951)

Editor’s Note: We’ll also touch upon another lost, forgotten Ormond historical document, Parisienne Creations, concerned with the vaudeville-inspiring cabaret halls of Paris, within the context of this review.

The many who are quick to denounce this entry on Ron Ormond’s resume, unfortunately, don’t know the man behind the lens.

Ron Ormond directed a series of westerns for Robert L. Lippert Productions* — twelve of them with Lash La Rue, plus one non-western with Lash, Please Don’t Touch Me. Ron was then contracted — in a style similar to his “jukebox musicals” Square Dance Jubilee (1949) and Kentucky Jubilee (1951), his western-musical Forty Acre Feud, and vaudevillian document Varieties on Parade (1951) — to recreate, for the sake of documentation, a 19th century minstrel show to put on drive-in screens.

Born Vittorio Di Naro, anglicized to Vic Narro, Ron got his start in show business as a vaudeville stage magician, “Rahn Ormond,” in tribute to his friend and mentor, magician/hypnotist Ormond McGill. It was on those touring stages where Ron met singer and dancer June Carr, who soon became his long-time wife and co-partner in film, many of which we’ve reviewed at B&S About Movies.

Again: This film is not a minstrel show committed to film: it is a documentary — presented in a dramatic format — about minstrel shows.

It is important to understand Ron’s work and affections for his vaudeville years, which he paid tribute to with Varieties on Parade (1951), because the precursor to vaudeville, which lasted until the 1930s, was minstrels shows, which dated back to the mid-1800’s. Both entertainment forms included a wide variety of acts consisting of comedians, singers, dancers, acrobats, magicians, ventriloquists, animal acts, and even male and female impersonators — with one exception: minstrel shows mostly featured white performers adorned in black face for the purpose of portraying black people. We say “mostly,” because African-Americans were also part of the casts (as shown in the clip, below). In fact, as the “white” shows toured, there were black-only minstrel shows that also toured the U.S. in the early days of the 19th century.

So, while many express outrage with the mere existence of Yes Sir, Mr. Bones, the film is not a case of Robert L. Lippert “putting on a minstrel show” and capturing it on film. The film is a case of Ron Ormond creating — for the times — a document regarding the earliest beginnings of vaudeville: an art form that gave birth to the iconic, “Borscht Belt” talents of Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Henny Youngman, and George Burns. Even illusionist Harry Houdini developed his skills on vaudeville’s touring stages. The African-American equivalent, the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” gave rise to singers such as James Brown, multi-performers like Sammy Davis, Jr., comedian-impressionist Flip Wilson (who dabbled in female impersonation, long before Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry), and comedian Redd Foxx, who rose to the top of U.S. TV ratings in the early ’70s with his updating of the Amos ‘n’ Andy comedic formula with his series — featuring situations and characters based on his stage act — Sanford & Son.

As with Ron Ormond’s other works in the jukebox musical format we’ve previously reviewed at length, or the jobs where he had to “make a movie” out of stock footage and the pieces-parts of other films (Untamed Mistress), Ron needed to come up with a “plot” to present the material. In the case of Yes Sir, Mr. Bones: a plotline was additionally needed to soften the presentation, so that the production didn’t come across as “putting on a minstrel show” and capturing it on film — which would be, admittedly, offensive.

Ron Ormond and his wife June also preserved the days of the Moulin Rouge-era cabarets of Paris with Parisienne Creations (year unknown; sometime in the ’50s)/courtesy of the Internet Archive.

So Ron came up with story about a young boy visiting an entertainment retirement home occupied by ex-minstrel and vaudeville actors, so as to learn more about the art form that grew out of Parisian Moulin Rouge theaters (which is the whole point of the film: to work as a historical document to preserve a moment in U.S. history that shouldn’t have existed, but did).

Enraptured by the boy’s interest, the residents start to reminisce; the film flashes back to an old riverboat holding an old-fashioned black face minstrel show — one filled with song and dance numbers and various vaudevillian skits. Unlike real-life minstrel shows, the usual, raunchy humor is cleaned up for the drive-in crowd who, until this film, may have heard of or seen photos of minstrels shows from the early 1900 to 1930s, but never seen one, in the ever-changing, maturing times of the 1950s.

If you go into Yes Sir, Mr. Bones as a historical document of a bygone era, and allow the film to work as what it is, a “historical document,” you’ll realize that man, while making grave mistakes, has the fortitude to see their errs — and change. And change Ron Ormond did: in his later life, for the remainder of the ’70s until his death, he created a succession of Christian films (The Second Coming) concerned with his own salvation through Jesus Christ.

In this clip, below, which features Scatman Crothers (The Shining; a longtime friend and associate of Redd Foxx, he came to guest star on Sanford & Son) in his feature film debut, his partner is Flournoy Eakin “E.F” Miller. A later vaudevillian actor, writer, and lyricist, Eakin came to work on Broadway, and then as a writer on CBS-TV’s Amos ‘n’ Andy. While the full-length film is not available, there are several clips in a playlist preserved on You Tube to sample. Those clips come from the authorized, DVD reissue by the VCI imprint, which offers an extensive, contextual commentary track as part of their reissue.

Ugh. Yet another movie trailer is deleted.
You can search the film’s title on You Tube to find clips.

* We previously reviewed the Robert L. Lippert sci-fi productions Flight to Mars (1951) and Project Moonbase (1959) as part of our “Outer Space Week” tribute. Both are, needless to say, Bechdel test failures when it comes to their documenting women working in outer space. We also recently reviewed the Lippert-Ormond rock ‘n’ roll flicks That Tennessee Beat (1966) White Lightnin’ Road (1967).

** We discuss, at length, racial portrayals in film — by both black and white actors portraying the other — in our review of the radio station-based dramedy, Loqueesha (2019). We also analyze the portrayal of white, rural Americans, aka, rednecks, hicks, crackers, with our “The Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys Film List – A collection of down-home films produced from 1972 to 1986” featurette examination on Hicksploitation cinema.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Varieties on Parade (1951) and Forty Acre Feud (1965)

We’ve made it our life’s mission to watch and review — sans his twenty-plus westerns as a producer, writer and director — all of Ron Ormond’s secular and Christian films. (The westerns will get done, eventually.) And we’re almost there. We’re left with The Eternal Question (1956), a soft skin-flick of which we have yet to locate a copy — hard or streaming.

The two most recent, Ormond non-western secular flicks we’ve watched are the films headlined on this review. We spoke of Ron Ormond’s work in the jukebox musical format with Square Dance Jubilee (1949) and Kentucky Jubilee (1951), each which thread a dramatic-cum-comedy plot through the film’s many musical acts. While Varieties on Parade and Forty Acre Feud both end up on some critics’ jukebox musical lists, these two works are less plot-driven and more about capturing a variety stage show in its entirety.

Remember, at the time of the release of each of these films, the new, technical advancement of television was not as integrated into our lives as it is today. Not everyone owned a television to watch the variety show styling of Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan. So, films, such as these Ormond productions, brought the show to the silver screens in outdoor, rural America.

Forty Acre Feud

Back in the day, country music concerts incorporated comedy into their sets, and this jukeboxer is filled with a gaggle of country singers (each doing two songs), including George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Bill Anderson, Ray Price, Del Reeves, and Roy Drusky (each lip-sync their hit songs, but doing it so well, you can’t tell), while Minnie Pearl and Ferlin Husky bring on the comedy. Shot at Bradley’s Barn in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, the “plot,” of what little there is to keep the acts hitting the stage with some semblance of rhyme and reason, concerns local election shenanigans.

Ferlin Husky went on to star in two films Sam the Bossman and I really love: The Las Vegas Hillbillys (1966), and its sequel, Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967). Both are, in fact, jukebox musicals themselves, with plots about organized crime and an inherited casino, and a mad scientists hiding out in a haunted house.

By the close the decade, as televisions became more prevalent in homes, the jukebox musical format of the silver screen was rendered obsolete by the premier of CBS-TV’s “Kornfield Kounty” series Hee-Haw in 1969.

Varieties on Parade

The whole purpose of this film is to give you “60s minutes of Star-Studded Entertainment” by bringing a big-city, vaudeville stage show to the drive-in screens of rural America. Unlike Ron Ormond’s other jukebox musicals — outside of the film’s opening POV shot, as you walk up to the box office and get a ticket, then are taken to your seat by an usher — there’s no plot to speak of to thread the acts.

This time capsule gets right down to it with an endless stream of singers, dancers, and magicians. There’s a mother-daughter bicycle stunt team and a brother juggling act, while former kid actor Jackie Coogan spoofs a routine with fellow comedian and the evening’s emcee, Eddie Garr. Are you in the mood for two comedians coming out on stage dressed as a horse? A three-woman trampoline act? An aerobics routine along with slapstick interludes? Then buy a ticket for the show!

Jackie Coogan, who got his start as a child actor with Charlie Chaplin in The Kid (1932) — but since this is B&S About Movies: The Phantom of Hollywood (1974), Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), and the slasher The Prey (1980) — also appeared in Ron Ormond’s Outlaw Women (1952) and Mesa of Lost Women (1953).

You can get both of these films — and other Ron Ormond jukebox musicals (Yes Sir, Mr. Bones) — as part of VCI Entertainment’s “Showtime USA” DVD series. The restores on both are excellent and they also offer bonus commentary tracks with in-depth examinations on all of the films in the series.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Kentucky Jubilee (1951) and Square Dance Jubilee (1949)

Bruce Eder, in the liner notes of the 1989 The Criterion Collection reissue of A Hard Day’s Night, reminds us that, in a 1964 review of that classic Beatles’ film, critic Andrew Sarris described it as “the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals.”

Since then, the term “jukebox musical” has, in my opinion, gone a wee-bit off the critical rails. I don’t see music-oriented biographies, such as the recent (each a barely one-watch-and-done abysmal) Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) and Rocketman (2019), and the Aretha Franklin bio, Respect (2021), as part of the genre. My opinion carries over to, speaking of the Beatles, Across the Universe (2007) and Yesterday (2019) centered on their catalog. Is the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (1968) a jukebox musical, as well? Is Harry Nilsson’s Son of Dracula (1974) a jukebox musical or a visualized rock opera, like the Who’s Tommy (1975), which no one considers a jukebox musical?

For me: when you say “jukebox musical,” I reminisce having to watch a singing-and-dancing James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) while babysat by my Aunt Martha. For me, a jukebox musical means my enjoying Billy Haley and the Comets and the Platters in Rock Around the Clock (1956), the first rock n’ roll musical — of which famed DJ Alan Freed made five*. Then, there’s one of Kentucky Jubilee‘s offspring with the low-budget, major studio cash-in by MGM to jump on the folk music bandwagon with Hootenanny Hoot (1963). And who can forget — oh, how we try — when accordionist Dick Contino graced our screens as a hipster, Elvis-styled leading man in the likes of Daddy-O (1958) and Girls Town (1959) alongside Paul Anka and the Platters. And there’s no way to forget “The King of Swing,” jazz trumpeter Louie Prima (?!), jumpin’ on the jukebox bandwagon with Twist All Night (1961).

Sure, there was a little bit o’ plot n’ action in the frames (e.g., mobsters muscling-in on the club; Louie Prima throws a punch between trumpet blows), but the celluloid raison d’être was to market music (yes, even the outdated Louis Prima). Back in the day, not everyone owned a television set. Not as many people saw Elvis and the Beatles for the first time on television as you think: their first visual experience of both was in a movie theater. Today, going to a concert — now major industry unto itself — is a common place event in our lives, but not back in the day. In fact, to hear my dad tell it: he went to one concert in his entire life: the tragic Buddy Holly tour in 1959 at the Syria Mosque in Squirrel Hill, east of Pittsburgh.

So, the best way for record labels and promoters to expose their artists to the masses: take the acts to the people — by way of a movie. And in most cases, the movie wasn’t so much a “movie” with a plot, but a loosely connected series of pre-recorded “pop clips” of bands inserted into the film (e.g., kids would be sitting in a living room, they’d turn on a television; the Platters would play their latest hit). Unlike a Beatles or Elvis flick, the songs were not original to the film itself, just the latest tune from an artist’s catalog.

Kentucky Jubilee

Let’s bust-out that barn with a “real” jukebox musical!

Such a film is this entry from our ever-expanding, beloved Ron Ormond catalog (Mesa of Lost Women, Girl from Tobacco Row, The Second Coming), himself a filmmaker loosely connected to the Earl “Snake” Richards-starring jukebox rock-musical, That Tennessee Beat (1966), by way of producer Robert L. Lippert.

Remember us calling out the cinematically-challenged Dick Contino and Louis Prima? Well, not only were unfashionable accordion and trumpet players squeezing out their last moments of relevancy via films: even bug-eyed, mustachioed Ritz Brothers knockoffs like the Vaudvillian-bred Jerry Collona (a Bob Hope associate; appeared in 1940’s Road to Singapore) just gotta try. He stars, here, as a music festival emcee involved in — like just about every jukebox musical before or after — a crime caper. Which is even more ludicrous than Louis Prima “getting the drop” — in full comic effect — on the bad guys.

While this was shot-in-Florida with a gaggle of that state’s regional talents, this all takes place in Hickory, Kentucky. (Why not title the film Hickory Dickory Rock? Well, when one of the acts is a one-man band playing oil funnels and a banjo, it’s not rockin’.) And — like just every jukebox musical before or after — a big time, Hollywood director comes to town to find musical acts to make ern’ of dem dere movin’ picktures. This time, instead of having a corner on the jukebox racket, our mobster (Russell Hicks, a Phil Silvers associate; also in the 1950 jukeboxer, Square Dance Kathy) has control of the town’s lone club and its annual jubilee — and he can’t have any big city outsider musclin’ in on the territory.

Of course, the director (the equally-hammy Fritz Feld, later of The Phynx and Hello, Dolly!, also Professor Greenleaf in TV’s Batman) and Jerry Colonna, are kidnapped. Why not have the cute blonde, Jean Porter (who made it to the MGM lot by way of winning a Texas talent show), be a damsel-in-distress to spice it all up? Doh!

Making pillbox hats, sexy : GULP! MGM contract player, Jean Porter.

So, a cub-reporter (Jimmie Ellison) sent to cover the shindig, and the members of the fifteen we-never-heard-of-before-or-heard-from-again acts (also finding time to curse us with 25 songs, along with corn-bred comics, contortionists, a whip-act, and vaudeville bits) join forces to save the day. If you know your Ron Ormond westerns, you’ll notice Jimmie “Shamrock” Ellison and Raymond Hatton starred in six Robert L. Lippert westerns directed by Ron Ormond. So, yeah . . . bad jokes, not-so-wise cracks, Colonna sportin’ a turbin and reading a crystal ball, and puddy-faced camera mugging that would give Joe Piscapo pause, ensues.

Hey, scoff if you will, but movies like Kentucky Jubilee were more convenient and cheaper than going to an actually hootenanny or jubilee. And Ron Ormond incorporated all of his well-honed western skills to string together one of the better-plotted jukebox musicals.

Yes, this once, long-lost Ron Ormond film has been digitized (a stellar restore that keeps you watching) for your enjoyment at the Internet Archive.

Learn more about the Ormonds in the pages of Filmfax, Issue 27 (1991), preserved on The Internet Archive. (The extensive article begins on Page 40.)

Square Dance Jubilee

Prior to Ron Ormond writing and directing Kentucky Jubilee — of the seven films he directed that year — he earned his “jukebox musical” stripes writing and producing this “musical western” starring 250-plus credits strong, gruff n’ tough-as-nails western/cop actor Don “Red” Barry (’60s TV’s The Virginian and Surfside 6) and redhead-to-platinum blonde, 20th Century Fox/Universal/MGM B-Movie contract player Mary Beth Hughes. On the musical front, we have the-then-hip fiddler Spade Cooley and his western-swing band. (Laugh, but there’s some serious, Hendrix-styled theatrics with fiddles and upright basses goin’ on up in this ‘ere jubilee.)

As with the later Kentucky Jubilee, the story is the same: In the earliest days of some new-fangled contraption called tele-ee-vish-un**, two talent scouts for a New York-based country music TV show called “Square Dance Jubilee” (hosted by Spade Cooley), are sent out West to find authentic western singing acts for the show. In addition to finding acts, they find themselves mixed in up in cattle rustling and a murder mystery.

If you’re familiar with, and didn’t mind, Rock Around the Clock being retooled as Twist Around the Clock and Don’t Knock the Rock returning as Don’t Knock the Twist, then you have fun as Don “Red” Barry plays the straight man to another, fading vaudevillian in the form of a camera-mugging Wally Vernon (in the Jerry Colonna role) taking care of the crime drama. The Cowboy Copas and Claude Casey handle the tunes. Of course, variety acts also show up, this time with ventriloquist Max Terhune. In a twist: Red Barry croons a tune, “Girl in the Mink Blue Jeans,” and Wally Vernon’s goofy-rubbery soft-shoe must be seen to be believed.

So, what’s not to likey, here? We’ve got Ron Ormond scripting, Robert L. Lippert producing, and a western-driven crime drama threaded by the way of music, vaudeville bits, and comic relief.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes . . . Spade Cooley had a contentious marriage with Ella May Evans, a singer in his band; she’d go on to have an affair with . . . TV and film cowboy Roy Rogers . . . and Cooley was eventually convicted of murdering Ella May. His biggest hits during his ’40s heyday were the #1 “Shame on You,” the #2 “Detour,” and the groundbreaking-influence on popularizing the use of the steel pedal guitar, “Steel Guitar Rag.”

Since Amazon shelved Nicolas Cage’s “Tiger King” project, I wonder if the Cage would be up for doing a Spade Cooley biography flick?

Meanwhile, behind the scenes . . . the twice divorced Don “Red” Barry had an affair with Susan Hayward in the mid-’50s . . . who got in cat fight with another woman visiting his apartment. In July 1980, Barry shot himself in the head, shortly after a domestic dispute with his estranged, third wife, Barbara.

Yeah, sometimes reality, aka truth, is stranger than fiction. And the reality of Don “Red” Barry and Spade Cooley are sad, graphic tales.

Anyway, you can enjoy a very nice, restored rip of Square Dance Jubilee on You Tube.

Me and Jean Porter at the sock hop under the tent under the stars . . . heaven. Uh, Mary Beth, er, what are you doin’ here?

* We’ve reviewed Alan Freed in Rock, Rock, Rock (1956), Shake, Rattle and Rock (1956), Mister Rock and Roll (1957), and Rock All Night (1957). There’s more ’50s rock ‘n’ roll films to be had, daddy-o, with our “Drive-In Friday: Fast & Furious ’50s Style Night” featurette.

** You need another movie inspired by that new fangled contraption? Then check out our Mill Creek box set review of Trapped by Television (1936).

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and B&S Movies, and learn more about his work on Facebook.

Untamed Mistress (1956)

“Who will be her mate, man or beast?”

Untamed Mistress is of a time and place. It’s a film that’ll probably offend, since it’s basically a stag film, aka a nudie-cutie. Before Internet pornography — although this is not pornographic in the least — films like Untamed Mistress is how your dads and your dads’ dads got a peak at nudity, at least until the “Golden Age of Porn” broke thought in the early ’70s with the likes of Behind the Green Door, Deep Throat, and The Devil in Miss Jones (we delve into that genre with the ’80s VHS-rental, Spine, and the ’70s drive-in grindhouser, The Last Victim).

However, the operative word here is “nudie-cutie,” and this is a Ron Ormond production, so whether it’s a (very) soft-core skin flick or a “jukebox musical” (such as his Kentucky Jubilee), Ron’s bringing along an inventive storyline to tie the pieces together. In this case: the pieces fit into a jungle/ape picture — with a damsel-in-distress tossed in for a feminist take on Tarzan.

In fact, Untamed Mistress — considered a horror film — treads pretty much the same ground as Ron’s Mesa of Lost Women (1963) — which is considered a sci-fi film. Only the latter was set in the desert and not a jungle, and has human-sized tarantulas and women with the abilities and instincts of spiders. This time, we have gorillas and a woman with the abilities and instincts of a gorilla — and she’s possibly “married” to a gorilla.

The film came together when Ron Ormond severed his partnership with producer-distributor J.N Houck, Jr., the Drive-In huckster-guru of Howco International Pictures (Night of Bloody Horror, Creature from Black Lake, Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws). Part of Ormond’s severance package was retaining the rights to the Sabu movie Law of the Jungle, aka The Black Panther, but he couldn’t use the image of Sabu. So, Ron and his wife, June Carr, concocted a storyline to recycle the footage. Additional footage was also cut into the film courtesy of a family friend: a wealthy doctor with an adventurous spirit who shot reels of his own African safari and donated it to the project.

The story concerns an injured and dying Indian guide (Bryon Keith, a white actor in brown make-up, cut in from that Sabu footage; he was Mayor Linseed for several Batman episodes) of two brothers (Allan Nixon, of Ormond’s Outlaw Women, 1952, as well as Mesa of Lost Women; the other the one-and-gone John Martin) on safari. The guide tells a tale, in flashback, that he was once a prince and that a jungle girl, the love of his life, ran off to live with a tribe of gorillas. One of the brothers is also romancing Velda (Jacqueline Fontaine, also of Ormond’s Outlaw Women), his own jungle girl. When she’s captured by the tribe, the brothers go to battle to rescue her. They come to discover an entire tribe of gorillas and their human-female brides — and a shocking secret of Velda’s.

Laugh at you will at the mismatched Sabu footage to the family-friend shot travelogue, mismatched to the backyard plastic jungle footage populated by mostly white actors in brown make-up — with lots of voiceovers — but the Sabu footage had naked, topless African women bouncing around, and nudity is nudity in the 1950s. Meanwhile Velda, when topless, is always conveniently obscured by jungle brush. Add in a few guys in gorilla suites, a cursed jewel, a flying shrunken head, a mythical white gorilla, along with Velda bending and spinning around in a tribal dance, and you have film that cleaned up at the rural drive-ins.

As much as Untamed Mistress is critically derided for its “mismatched footage,” the transitions aren’t that incompetent; this is a Ron Ormond production, after all, so it all works pretty well. Well enough for a film with a “provocative” angle that was grossly oversold, as the “nudity” here, is a joke. But in 1955, this was pretty racy stuff for a film . . . of a time and place.

You can watch a very clean rip of Untamed Mistress the Internet Archive, as well as You Tube.

The inversion of Tarzan is of interest here, as Allan Nixon, who played with the Washington Redskins (aka now The Washington Football Team, aka now The Washington Commanders), turned to modeling in New York and scored a studio contract with MGM Studios. At one point, he was in contention as the replacement for Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan, as well as a bungled studio contract with Republic Pictures, interested in casting him as a western star.

Sadly, after a draft-stint in WWII, followed by a bout with alcoholism and drunk and disorderly arrests, Nixon derailed his career. He continued acting in bit roles in TV series and B-movies until the early ’60s. By the early ’70s, he developed a new career as a writer (he had a journalistic degree) of several exploitative romance novels, as well as several novel-sequels to Shaft under the pen name of Don Romano. Allan Nixon died at the age of 79 in April 1995.

Nixon made the tabloids when his third wife, Velda May Paulsen, an ex-model, was arrested in January of 1958 when she attacked him with a steak knife following a domestic argument. The fight was the result of Nixon’s upset that Paulsen was still friendly with her ex-boyfriend — Burt Lancaster. She was killed later that year in an explosion at their apartment caused by a lit cigarette and a gas leak.

Learn more about the Ormonds in the pages of Filmfax, Issue 27 (1991), preserved on The Internet Archive. (The extensive article begins on Page 40.)

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.