Category Archives: VINTAGE MOVIES

Vintage Movies: “Henry Fool”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

HenryFool

Henry Fool (1997, 138 minutes)

Fair Warning Department: The final film in Hal Hartley’s groundbreaking black-comedy trilogy that began with 1997’s Henry Fool and continued with Fay Grim in 2007 is about to reach critical mass with the April release of Ned Rifle. Those who want to catch up, or take a quick refresher course, have a couple of weeks to get it together. That’s about as much time as I had to plough through the first 50-plus episodes of Breaking Bad before the final eight chapters were telecast about two years ago.

After the morning truck full of recyclable garbage is unloaded, Simon Grim (James Urbaniak), dressed in a grimy, dark grey jumpsuit, punches the time clock and drinks a beer, all alone, for lunch. The stern-faced young man in the Buddy Holly glasses who looks as though he’s never laughed in his life, is shocked to see a young couple having sex right in front of him in one of the below-street level windows that surround the place where he works. The girl screams when she sees Simon, and the guy runs after him prepaired to beat his brains into pulp.

Safe at home back in Queens, Simon senses something big may be headed his way and puts his ear close to the pavement. Marching up the street as bold as Custer just before Little Big Horn, Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan), in a three-piece suit, stops before the sign that reads “Basement Apartment For Rent” and struts right inside to have a good look around. He cranks up the gas furnace and turns to Simon, who’s followed him in. “Where do you have to go to get a six-pack of beer around here?” he asks, tossing the kid a crumpled bill.

Simon grabs a six pack of Bud from the cooler of the local convenience market as the two love-birds he’d interrupted earlier smirk at one another. She drops her panties then bends over and says, “Kiss my ass!” to Simon, while her partner heads off any possible escape. He grabs Simon’s head and yanks it toward his girlfriend’s bottom. The mute Asian lady behind the counter pushes the police alarm button, which triggers Simon to vomit all the clotted, spoiled milk he’d accidentally drunk for breakfast all over the girl’s rear end.

Back in the dingy basement apartment, Henry Fool carefully loads his books into a bookcase as Simon turns over the name tag on his suitcase. “Centuries ago, it had an ‘e’ on the end,” Fool remarks of his odd surname. “Where do you come from?” asks Simon. “Nowhere in particular,” replies Fool. “I go where I will, and I do what I can. That’s why I’m in trouble. I’m what you might call an exile. An honest man is always in trouble, Simon. Remember that.”

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Vintage Movies: “Kill Or Cure”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

KillOrCure

Kill Or Cure (1962, 98 minutes)

Gap-toothed, British comic genius Terry-Thomas plays himself, once again, in Kill Or Cure, a moderately funny, but none the less enjoyable, work from 1962, recently unearthed from the archives of its American distributor, MGM. And why not? Fifty years ago, he was the best thing going in a well stocked British comic pantry that also included Peter Sellers, Alec Guinness, Alastair Sim and Ian Carmichael. All Terry-Thomas had to do was look down his nose, past his time-worn RAF mustache, and snidely declare, “You’re an absolute shower!” at some poor sod, and he’d done the business.

He plays hare-brained private eye Capt. J. Barker-Rynde here, hired for some bloody reason to investigate a murder at a summer holiday retreat hotel nestled somewhere in the idyllic English countryside. Barker-Rynde’s photography shop in town has a posh-looking, high-street facade whose window advertises, “Weddings A Specialty.” The less conspicuous window of the second-floor office above offers the services of Barker-Rynde, Private Detective and adds a single line beneath: “Divorce A Specialty.”

Whether he’s spying on some shapely girl’s second-story bedroom while perched high atop his collapsible, pocket-sized ladder, or selecting his stiffest cosh from a rattling, heavy bag of detective tools, Barker-Rynde is TT at his “chocolate teapot” best. There will be many bandages applied by the hotel’s medical staff to the shiny noggin of Detective Inspector Hook (Lionel Jeffries) before Barker-Rynde falls asleep again. After a quick assessment of the evidence at the hotel, Hook offers his verdict on the nature of the crime at hand. “Murder, sir,” he states to Dr. Julian Crossley (Dennis Price), the hotel’s owner. “According to our lab reports, there was some sort of poison called Ricin in the lady’s tin of carrot juice.”

As the tale unfolds, Barker-Rynde will acquire a bumbling “Watson” in his crime-solving slight of hand in the person of Rumbelow (Eric Sykes) who’s employed as the hostelry’s physical-training director. The pair decides to throw in together soon after they are caught red-handed, dressed like second-story men in dark hoods and trousers, independently sneaking around the cabin of the young lady who has somehow recovered from the work of the poisoner.

She has easily got the drop on both and is pointing a small pistol in their direction and saying, “Point straight and shoot.” Rumbelow nervously squawks, “This man is a paid assassin!” jabbing a finger toward Barker-Rynde. “Don’t be so ridiculous!” expostulates Barker-Rynde. “I’m a fully paid-up member of the Detectives Association.” He shows them both his membership card, then, flush with victory, accuses Rumbelow of the same foul crime. “Do you deny the deceased appears in your physical therapy files with the most curious notation ‘AV2′ added to it? Some deadly poison, no doubt.” Rumbelow smiles broadly and declares, “No, no, no! AV2! Apple vinegar, two squirts.”

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Vintage Movies: “Monterey Pop”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Monterey

Monterey Pop (1968, 79 minutes)

There’s no better example of a musical golden age quickly falling into a period of wretched excess in the 20th century than to view a pair of documentaries, Monterey Pop and Woodstock, back to back. Both are flush with high-octane performances by the biggest pop stars of the late ’60s, with even a few overlapping artists. And that’s where the similarities end.

Woodstock, from the summer of ’69, appears to be a sprawling, barely controlled mess held out in the country, attended/invaded by well more than a million of the great unwashed. Once the gates were trampled down and it became “a free event,” it was anybody’s guess. And let’s not even mention the sanitary facilities that should have been in place for this mighty horde.

Monterey Pop, on the other hand, was a civilized, sit-down concert at the Monterey Fairgrounds, created by John Phillips of the Mamas & The Papas with a cross-section of talent that included soulful belter Otis Redding, folk-rockers Simon & Garfunkel and sitar legend Ravi Shankar. There were also debut U.S. performances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Who, alongside hip young California bands such as Jefferson Airplane, the Mamas & The Papas, Country Joe & The Fish, Canned Heat and Janis Joplin fronting Big Brother & The Holding Company. Many top-notch acts didn’t even make the film’s final cut: Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Johnny Rivers, Moby Grape, the Grateful Dead.

More to the point, the real stars of this movie are its attendees, shot for long stretches by D.A. Pennebaker. No better testament to the “Summer Of Love” vibe exists than the fresh faces, long hair and hip costumes caught here in June of ’67. Monterey Pop also captures the extremes of weather at the fairgrounds, as anyone who’s attended the on-going Monterey Jazz Festival can well testify. It’s shirt-sleeves, cut-offs and sunglasses weather during the daytime performances, but at night, it can turn as frigid as Candlestick Park in August with parkas and snow-ride blankets well advised.

So many little moments from this film stick in your mind for years: David Crosby of the Byrds remarking onstage, “Oh groovy! A nice sound system, at last”; Mama Cass, with no mean set of pipes, herself, clearly mouthing, “Wow!” after Joplin’s performance; the camera making it appear Airplane chanteuse Grace Slick is singing “Today” when the vocals are clearly those of Marty Balin; festival organizers sharing a laugh with Monterey’s Police Deptartment; Joplin doing a little skip of joy as she leaves the stage in her sharp Alvin Duskin pants suit; S.F. Chronicle music columnist Ralph J. Gleason wearing his trademark deer-stalker’s cap; a young girl explaining a “love-in” to a cameraman; and John Phillips trying to reach Dionne Warwick and being given the bum’s-rush by her people.

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Vintage Movies: “Smashing Time”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

SmashingTime

Smashing Time (1967, 96 minutes)

All right then, who else do you know who would heartily recommend a British comedy that isn’t really all that funny? The casting folks must have thought they’d scored a major coup for Smashing Time by landing both Lynne Redgrave (who starred in Georgy Girl in 1966) and Rita Tushingham (who won BAFTA’s best actress for 1961’s A Taste Of Honey). Both women got raves in Girl With Green Eyes in 1964. Trouble is, those previous kudos were earned for their work in films with at least a modicum of sensitivity. None of that happening here.

When the two chicks arrive in London, gaudily dolled up in what they believe to be hip threads, they begin their search for Carnaby Street to get jobs as fashion models. But they decide to count their money before buying breakfast. Brenda (Tushingham) immediately falls into a mud puddle. As financial manager, she fishes from her purse the 23 pounds that took the girls months to save. While she doles out a small sum to Yvonne (Redgrave), the rest of their cash is knicked from her purse by a wandering hobo. Then Brenda falls in a mud puddle for the second time. Hmmm.

Leaving her chum to pay for their meal, Yvonne swans off to begin her life as a runway pro and to find them a hip flat to rent on Carnaby Street. With no cash, Brenda is left to wash towering stacks of dirty dishes in a particularly foul high-street cafe. That’s when the fun really begins, some might think. A disgusting, no-dialogue food fight ensues between customers and the cafe’s staff using large squeeze bottles of everything from super-bubbly dish soap and artist’s dayglo paint to ketchup, mustard and liquid horse manure meant for the home garden. Everyone gets as filthy as if they’d been working at the local sewage treatment center.

So what’s the matter? You’re not laughing, I can sense it. You see, you can’t really judge this movie by its sorry attempts at slapstick. It falls flat at a genre best left to those who knew how to pull it off: Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy.

Smashing Time‘s trump card lies in the fact it was shot in 1966-67, right at the same time the Swinging London/Carnaby Street phenomenon was really happening. All the kooky art galleries, old-school pubs and trendy boutiques you see on location here are the real deal. The splendid mod clothing, swell parties and the raving, high-octane sounds spilling from smoky, uncomfortably small night clubs are exactly what they seem to be. They’re not some set decorator’s attempt at recreating an era never experienced first-hand. You might even look at this as a documentary of a long-gone time that will never come again—because that’s what it is.

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Vintage Movies: “Amadeus”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Amadeus

Amadeus 1984 (151 minutes)

Tom Hulce hit the jackpot early in his career with key roles in a splashy pair of movies. He was Larry Kroger, one of two wide-eyed pledges to Delta Tau Chi in 1974’s Animal House, which absolutely nailed an out-of-control, keg-swilling, early ’60s college fraternity. It was done so well nobody has even attempted to do it since. Then there was Hulce’s career zenith as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus, a lavish costume drama depicting the young man who was at once a baroque musical prodigy and a foul-mouthed womanizer. With the titles of both movies filed under the letter “A,” Hulce’s career, unfortunately, never made it to “B” and “C,” let alone “X, Y or Z.” But it was a hell of a start.

Amadeus, meaning “one who loves God.” opens with Mozart’s musical rival, Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), now an old man near death living in an insane asylum after a failed suicide attempt, confessing the murder of the brilliant young composer to a priest, after which Salieri begins a winding narrative.

The highlight of Salieri’s early encounters with the “boy genius” is Mozart’s arrival at the court of “the musical king,” the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II. “Young man,” says the emperor (Jeffrey Jones), ‘we’re going to commission an opera from you. Have we decided whether it will be in German or Italian?” the monarch asks the kapellmeister and other musical dignitaries. “I believe it was to be in Italian, sire,” says one. “Oh, German, please let it be German,” begs Mozart. “I’ve already found a libretto that is quite amusing.” His interest piqued, the King commands, “Tell us the story.”

Mozart stammers, then emits an insane cackle, “Well, well, it’s, it’s, it’s…It takes place in a harem, Majesty.” The gasps in the room feel as though someone has opened a window. “You really believe that subject quite appropriate for a national theatre?” asks the monarch. “It’s not indecent, it’s full of German virtues,” responds Mozart. Salieri, the court composer, asks what those might be. “Love,” Mozart responds. “Ahh, of course, we know nothing of love in Italy,” quips Salieri, a transplanted Italian, to much laughter. “Ah, well, let it be in German,” decides the emperor, a native German as is Mozart.

Salieri has written an homage, a welcoming march, to the precocious musician and plays it perfunctorily on the keyboard. When Mozart critiques the melody, the King asks him to play it on the harpsichord and hands him Salieri’s transcription of the piece. “It’s all up here,” replies Mozart, pointing to his head. He sits down to play the simple tune as the Italian has written it, then proceeds to embellish the work with every show-stopping element in his arsenal, leaving Salieri feeling like a horsefly squashed by a coach’s windscreen.

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Vintage Movies: “Apocalypse Now”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

ApocalypseNow

Apocalypse Now (1979, 153 minutes)

You have to remember one important difference between harrowing recent film portrayals of Middle Eastern combat, such as The Hurt Locker and American Sniper, and Apocalypse Now, a terrifying look at the Vietnam War. Troops seen in the first two films all volunteered for service, but most of those sent to Vietnam were there against their will, victims of a hungry, ever-expanding American draft. With this war’s reason for being getting murkier by the year, one thing was perfectly clear: President Lyndon Johnson refused to be the first American chief executive to lose a war. As it turned out, he, himself, would die in 1973 before this insane conflict would finally end in 1975 with the fall of Saigon.

The first thing you hear as you awake from a self-induced coma is the “thwip thwip thwip thwip” of those damn helicopter blades, cruising the jungle all day, dropping tons of napalm bombs on the Viet Cong in a fiery barbecue that would rival hell, itself. Then it’s Jim Morrison singing the first chorus of “The End,” the Doors’ addictive death knell: “This is the end, my only friend, the end, of our elaborate plans, the end, of everything that stands, the end, I’ll never look into your eyes again.”

The helicopter blades have turned into the insistent ceiling fan of a steamy, cheap Vietnamese hotel. Lying on the bed, staring upward, is Captain Benjamin Willard, a U.S. Army officer recently returned for another tour of duty, who’s beginning to regain his senses after a rough night. “Shit! I’m still only in Saigon!” says Willard (Martin Sheen), waiting for a special-ops mission. “Every minute I stay in this room, I get softer,” says Willard to himself. “And every day Charlie squats in the jungle, he gets stronger.”

Willard’s mission comes sooner than expected when two soldiers report to his hotel room with orders to transport him to the air field to meet Lt. General Corman. “It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I’d never want another,” says Willard, narrating the scene. Col. Lucas shows Willard into the general’s office where Corman rolls a tape of the voice of Col. Walter E. Kurtz, a maverick Army officer now operating without authorization in Cambodia.

“Walt Kurtz was one of the most outstanding officers the Army’s ever produced,” says the general (G.D. Spradlin). “But in this war, things get confused. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature.’ Every man has a breaking point, and Walt Kurtz has reached his.'” Col. Lucas (Harrison Ford) steps in, “Your mission is to proceed up the Nung River to infiltrate the colonel’s team and terminate his command.” A man in civilian clothing addressed only as Jerry, adds gravely, “Terminate with extreme prejudice.”

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Vintage Movies: “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

OneFlewOverTheCuckoosNest

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975, 133 minutes)

It’s funny how things can fall into your lap just because you write for various indie-rock magazines—MAGNET being top of the heap. In 1994, I got a free pass into an all-star benefit concert for storied San Francisco rock promoter Chet Helms, the Texas transplant who ran the Avalon ballroom back in the ’60s, in competition with Bill Graham’s Fillmore auditorium.

While sipping a beer in the dressing room of Big Brother & The Holding Co., 25 years after their lead singer, Janis Joplin, flew the coop, a grizzled, muscular guy walked up to me and introduced himself. It was Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes A Great Notion, as well as the former leader of a loose-knit entourage calling themselves the Merry Pranksters, a vital part of the early SF rock scene, before LSD was declared illegal. I didn’t think to ask Kesey if he liked Jack Nicholson’s performance in Cuckoo’s Nest, but I can’t imagine he didn’t dig it.

In an opening sequence, parodied five years later by Stanley Kubrick in The Shining, a car is seen in the distance far below, winding its way through rugged, dew-soaked Oregon back country early in the morning. Instead of a luxurious ski resort, the car pulls up in front of a mental hospital just as the morning shift is reporting for work, and the driver opens the door for a handcuffed man in a knit cap. “OK, my friend, let’s go,” says the driver, leading the man inside.

A sugary female voice over the hospital PA announces, “Medication time,” as if instructing a kindergarten class. The stupefied inmates line up to take their morning meds under the watchful eye of Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). A crazy half-laugh reverberates from the rotunda stairs above as a few of the inmates observe the new arrival, J.P. McMurphy (Nicholson), as he’s signed into the joint for what he believes will be a short stay. One of the uniformed guards removes the manacles from McMurphy who promptly jumps up and down, screeching like a baboon, then grins at the other guard and kisses him squarely on the cheek.

McMurphy is brought to the office of Dr. John Spivey (Dean Brooks) for evaluation. “What a pleasure it is to meet you,” says Mac. “Sure, pull up a chair and let’s talk,” replies the doctor. “That’s a helluva fish, there, doc,” says Mac, noting a photo on Spivey’s desk. “It took every bit of strength I had to hold it while they took the picture,” says Spivey, reviewing McMurphy’s rap sheet. The doctor says, “You’ve got five arrests for assault. What can you tell me about that?” Running his fingers through greasy hair, Mac answers, “Five fights, huh? Rocky Marciano’s got 40, and he’s a millionaire.”

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Vintage Movies: “Laura”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Laura

Laura (1944, 88 minutes)

Otto Preminger’s Laura fits squarely into film noir’s pigeon-hole, but it’s done with a more lyrical touch than usually seen in this genre. Not to say it doesn’t have a hard-boiled mug as Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), the cop assigned to investigate the grisly shotgun murder of socialite Laura Hunt. Maybe it’s the haunting David Raksin melody bearing the film’s name that sands off any rough edges.

“I shall never forget the weekend Laura died,” intones NYC newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), musing aloud about the death of his friend. “A silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass. I felt as if I was the only human being left in New York City. With Laura’s horrible death, I was left alone. And I was the only one who really knew her.”

Lydecker’s reverie, trying to soak away this devastating event while sitting chicken-chested, pecking away at a manual typewriter set up on the side of his bath tub, is interrupted by McPherson’s arrival. Aided by his notes, the columnist begins to repeat the statement he’s already given to two investigating officers. “Laura phoned and canceled our dinner engagement at precisely 7 o’clock. After that I … ” McPherson finishes the alibi for him: “You ate a lonely dinner, then got into the bath to read. Why did you write it down? Afraid you’d forget it?” Lydecker’s story lies limp, like a washcloth on the bathroom floor. “I am the most widely misquoted man in America,” he sputters, fishing for a valid explanation.

The journalist dresses quickly as McPherson plays a kid’s game, trying to get four tiny ball bearings to settle into holes in the four bases of a pocket-sized baseball diamond under glass. “Something you confiscated from a raid on a kindergarten?” Lydecker snipes. “Takes a lot of control,” says McPherson. “Would you like to try it?” “No, thanks,” replies the older man.

Out of the blue, McPherson asks, “Were you in love with Laura, Mr. Lydecker? Was she in love with you?” As he inserts a carnation into his lapel, Lydecker answers, “Laura considered me the wisest, the most interesting man she’d ever met. I was in complete agreement with her there. She thought me also the kindest, the gentlest, the most sympathetic man in the world.” “Did you agree with her there, too?” asks the cop. “Let me put it this way,” says the writer. “I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbor’s children devoured by wolves.” On that cryptic note, Lydecker asks if he can accompany McPherson on his round of interviews with possible suspects. “I should like to study their reactions,” he says. “You’re on that list, yourself, you know, ” reveals the detective. “Good. To have overlooked me would have been a pointed insult.”

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Vintage Movies: “Monkey Business”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

MonkeyBusiness

Monkey Business (1952, 97 minutes)

A slight adjustment to the suave character he always played finds Cary Grant fumbling distractedly at his own front door. He’s pondering the lab experiment that occupies his working hours instead of carrying out the simple instructions his wife has given him. Edwina (Ginger Rogers) will warm up the car while Barnaby (Grant) turns off the hall light, then turns on the porch light and locks the front door of their lavish home.

The prototype of the absent-minded professor, Barnaby gets it all wrong, wandering back inside the house while stroking his chin, then locking the front door from inside. Patiently, Edwina knocks on the door until Barnaby opens it. “Oh, it’s you. Come on in,” he says, peering at his wife through horn-rimmed glasses with lenses as thick as a Coke bottle. “Barnaby, we’re going to a dance, and we’re going to be late if we don’t hurry,” she scolds him lovingly. Nowadays, this might be diagnosed as a sign of the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Sixty-five years ago, it was just lovably eccentric behavior of a brilliant mind.

“Barnaby, are you thinking?” she asks in their darkened hallway. “It’s a test we made in the lab today,” he says. “We proved that only 23 percent of the formula is being assimilated by the chimpanzees we’ve been using.” “Oh, the formula,” she says. “Now, you know that means that 73 percent is absolute waste,” he says. “Seventy-three, what happened to the rest of it?” “No, not 73, it’s 77,” he says. “What did I say?” “Seventy-seven,” she confirms. “Being a chemist doesn’t allow you to think,” he says. “Things are not going well at all.”

“Well, what about that one monkey you told me about?” she asks. “Oh, you mean Rudolph. He’s about the equivalent of 84 years old in a human,” he says. “But didn’t you tell me the formula has cured his rheumatism and made his coat much glossier?” she asks. He shakes his head. “Theoretically, it should have had a much greater effect by now.” Jolted back to reality, Barnaby looks lovingly at his wife and says, “Oh, is that a new dress? I like the way it sticks out in the back. Or is that you?” “Well, you ought to know,” she replies, removing her husband’s evening jacket. “You should be going somewhere in a dress like that,” says Barnaby.

Not all sweetness and light, Rogers’ character gets off one of film’s great put-down lines after Barnaby takes the rejuvenating formula, himself. He immediately purchases an MG sports car, gets a trendy college-boy crew cut and spends the afternoon roller-skating with Oxly Chemicals’ secretary Lois Laurel (Marilyn Monroe). Edwina pops her cork, confronting Miss Laurel: “You peroxide kissing-bug, I’ll pull that blond hair out by its black roots!”

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Vintage Movies: “Help!”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Help

Help! (1965, 96 minutes)

Hidden deep within an underground cavern before a statue of the beloved eight-armed deity Kaili (this picture was originally titled Eight Arms To Hold You), the sacrifice of a virgin is about to take place. Before the membership of this strange Eastern cult, a chanting Clang (Leo McKern), dressed in golden armor, is about to strike the death blow. “Hold!” shouts out Ahme (Elinor Bron) before the shimmering assegai can be plunged into the girl. “The ring! She’s not wearing the sacrificial ring! She cannot be sacrificed without the ring!” Dazed, Clang removes his helmet and shouts, “Search her!” to his scrambling minions who, of course, find nothing.

Yes, it’s the second feature-length film by the Beatles, again directed by Richard Lester. But this time, it’s in color, as is made perfectly clear by the multi-hued darts being thrown into a movie screen showing a black-and-white film of the Fab Four crooning the movie’s title song. The man flinging the tiny arrows is Clang, furious at the Beatles’ drummer, Ringo Starr, who is now wearing that same sacrificial ring missing from the virgin. Not much more required for a story line than Ringo being hounded world-wide by this loopy cult, from the chilly Swiss Alps to the lush greenery and warm sands of an exotic Caribbean island.

A black limousine pulls up next to four adjoining London flats, each one’s door painted a different color: red, blue, green and white. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo each enters one of the doors, only to reveal that all four dwellings have been hollowed out inside to become one cavernous maxi-flat. “Lovely lads and so natural,” says a middle-aged neighbor lady as the boys wave back. “Still the same as they was before they was,” replies her companion.

John spins around a fake shelf of fake books only to reveal real books on the other side. He chooses his current fave read, a slim volume of his own verse and sketches called A Spaniard In The Works (a play on the cliché “a spanner in the works”; that’s what you’d call a “monkey wrench”). He hops into his sunken bed and begins to read. George asks his gardener to mow the grass, planted where you’d expect a carpet, with a pair of novelty-store fake teeth. Paul plays a music-hall flourish on an electric organ, and Ringo heads for his own personal automat-style sandwich machine.

As he tries to extract a sandwich, Ringo shouts, “Hey, someone’s got ahold of me finger!” He screams in pain when the girl inside tries to bite the famous ring from his famous finger. “She had me finger, y’know,” he says to a disinterested Lennon. Next stop, Scotland Yard to see if something can be done about these miscreants.

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