Monday, June 28, 2010


This is a great drive-in movie. If it was sandwiched between "Thunder Road" and "2000 Maniacs (1964)" and you had a couple of bottles of Hi-Fi Peach Wine and some Slim Jims, you would have one more great evening of entertainment. Unfortunately, watching it on TV in your own house with no cheap alcoholic beverages or greasy meat snacks, it would be a huge stretch to call Buckstone County Prison great entertainment.

One of the tag lines for Buckstone County Prison (originally released as Seabo) was "First there was Cool Hand Luke, then Billy Jack, but there has never been anyone like Seabo. " Well, Seabo is a half-breed like Billy Jack and he does go to a chain gang prison like Cool Hand Luke, but that's pretty much where any similarities to those two movies end. And in one very odd part of dialogue in the movie he also claims to be part Mexican!

This movie may or may not be available directly from Earl Owensby Studios. The web page appears not to have been updated since 1998 and they're offering all of their movies in VHS format, which seems a little outdated for 2010. Otherwise, you can sometimes find this title on some "collectors' lists".

I wanted a copy of Buckstone County Prison ( because IMDB showed it as the first movie David Allan Coe (DAC) was in and the poster touted DAC as one of the two co-stars. DAC probably has less than 15 minutes screen time in Buckstone, although his role is integral to the plot. We first get a brief appearance by DAC, playing a character named Reb Stock, when Seabo, who is a bounty hunter, has tracked down a couple of escaped convicts. Seabo has killed one, but is going to take the other convict in alive. However, the farmer, whose daughter was about to get raped by the dead convict (well he was alive at the time), shoots the other convict in the back. Seabo takes the rap for this so the farmer won't have to go to jail, but DAC, also a bounty hunter, spreads the word that Seabo is the one who shot the convict in the back.

DAC's second scene is much better than his first appearance in the movie, even taking into account his terrible fake laugh during this scene. Seabo has left town because of all of the harassment he is getting for being a half-breed and a communist (this has something to do with him getting kicked out of the Marines, which won't be revealed until much later in the movie). Seabo goes to the local whorehouse to get some breakfast (I mean, what else would you go to a whorehouse for?), but DAC is also there and they have a brief confrontation. Seabo decides to leave but is confronted by a "Barney Fife" type deputy who has come to arrest him for some trouble Seabo caused in town. Seabo refuses to go with the deputy and DAC sneaks up behind Seabo and knocks him in the back of the head. The deputy is now able to arrest Seabo, who is sent to trial and sentenced to the chain gang at Buckstone County Prison.

Buckstone's plot really bogs down at this point in the film: The Warden (Don "Red" Barry) blames his son's death on Seabo; the other prisoners don't like the trouble Seabo brings to the camp; of course, there's one prisoner who becomes Seabo's friend and looks out for him. All this was pretty much your standard chain gang prison plot and I was glad when the movie finally moved past this point.

Buckstone picks up the pace when the same night that the whores come to service the prisoners (WHAT KIND OF CHAIN GANG IS THIS!!!) , a few of the "Yankee" prisoners escape.... Guess Yankees ain't up for sex! It seems these prisoners killed some bank tellers during a robbery (and they just got a chain gang sentence!!!) and they're mighty dangerous. They're headed across the mountain or "high country" as it's called in the movie and only two men know that area...Reb Stock (DAC) and Seabo. Since Seabo is in prison, it can only be Reb Stock (who is now decked out in what looks like DAC's own "outlaw country" regalia).

Only one thing to do (at least as far as the plot of this movie is concerned), call the governor and make a deal. If Seabo will capture the men and bring them back alive, then he'll be pardoned. Seabo agrees if he can take his prisoner buddy, plus beat the snot out of one of the guards that has been his nemesis. Reluctantly, Seabo's wishes are granted and he sets out to track down the prisoners and bring them back. Setting the stage for a final showdown between Seabo and DAC....guess who wins....well this movie ain't called Reb Stock!

There's a little bit more to the movie after DAC gets killed, but I won't delve into the plot any further, except to say, that Seabo has already killed one of the escaped prisoners, so it looks like the pardon deal would be off, making the ending inconsistent. Since the ending involves a lot of loud guns being shot, I think we weren't supposed to notice that fact.

Earl Owensby played Seabo (HEY! It's his studio, he can be the star if the wants to) delivering most of his lines through clenched teeth. The only decent actor in the cast was Don "Red" Barry of Red Ryder fame (that's him above right). I also got a kick out of seeing the old B- movie cowboy star, Sunset Carson as The Sheriff (above left). It appeared Sunset was wearing his own clothes throughout the movie, since they all looked like they were custom made for him.

Was it worth watching this whole movie for the three DAC scenes. I would say barely. DAC wasn't bad... I mean I've seen worse actors....and a lot of them were in THIS MOVIE! Since most of the drive-ins are now closed, the best niche this movie could fulfill would be as a drinking game. Every time someone said the name "Seabo", you would have to take a shot. Believe me, you would be laying on the floor way before you got to the halfway point of this movie.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


There's just a little bit of plot in Jamboree that holds the musical performances together. The story centers on a girl, Honey Wynn (Freda Holloway), and a boy, Pete Porter (Paul Carr), trying to break into the music business as solo acts. Their managers, Grace (Kay Medford - think Penny Marshall crossed with Eve Arden) and Lew (Bob Pastine), used to be married to each other. The managers come up with a plan to make them a duo and they're a big success. Pete's manager Grace conspires to break them up and make him a solo star. Through some underhanded dealings she succeeds, but he's not happy without his girl, who by the way hasn't had any success as a solo act. Eventually Pete's manager realizes that she has made a mistake and with the help of her ex-husband they reunite the couple for a happy ending.

The plot is used to wrap around the musical performances. First up is Carl Perkins. He's doing a recording session and since he never uses all of his studio time, Honey and Pete get their first tryout in the recording studio after Carl has finished. It should be noted that Connie Stevens voice is dubbed in for Honey's singing. The duo record a hit song and we don't get another musical act until we find Honey's manager auditioning Frankie Avalon in the studio.

Next up is a device the movie makers obviously thought up in order to give them a lot of free publicity. They use DJ's from across the U.S. and Canada, and a few international ones, to introduce acts at a big telethon hosted by Dick Clark. Dick says my favorite head scratching line in the movie: "they have raised $70,000 to help in the fight against this terrible disease".....WHAT one ever says! Most of the DJs are pretty run-of-the-mill, except for Jocko Henderson who appears in a spaceman's suit! The marathon includes performances by Jodie Sanders, Jerry Lee Lewis or The Jerry Lee Lewis Trio as they are introduced in this movie, Louis Lymon (Frankie's brother) and The Teenchords, and Ron Coby.

Pete goes on his solo tour to England and we get performances by Slim Whitman (with that mustache, he always reminds me of a used car salesman) and The Four Coins. After Pete's tour, we then return to the U.S. and get the final offering of musical stars at the Music Operator's Convention. Here we get to see Count Basie, Joe Williams, Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, and Fats Domino. The fake duo of Honey and Pete close the show and are joined on stage with their managers singing along.

The main reason for this movie being made was to showcase the musical talent and it was great seeing SOME of the stars in this movie, others could have been left out completely, in my opinion; but I guess everyone would have their own favorites when viewing Jamboree. My favorites in the film were Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Louis Lymon, and of course, Fats Domino. I was in New Orleans once when Fats was performing at a free show outside The Riverwalk Mall. I had never seen Fats live in concert, but the closest I could get was a view from the side of the stage, and then all I could see was Fats' leg pumping his piano.....That was still a thrill for me!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


After enduring Spirit of '76 , I was hoping I would have better luck with my next choice and I certainly did with the dancingest high school this side of Rydell High - -- Rock 'n' Roll High School (RRHS) featuring The Ramones. I was hooked from one of the first scenes in the movie as Riff Randell (PJ Soles) plays a song over the school's P.A . system and ALL of the students in the school stop what they're doing and start dancing......HOW can anyone not love this movie!

It seems the Principals of Vince Lombardi High keep going crazy trying to keep the kids in line. The school board thinks they have found the right person for the job when they hire Miss Togar (Mary Woronov), the strictest of all administrators. But it looks like Miss Togar is really going to have her work cut out for her, when she comes up against Riff Randell and the students of Vince Lombardi High School.

There are a lot of subplots that run through the movie besides the struggle between the Principal and the students. Riff has written a song called "Rock n Roll High School" that she thinks would be perfect if she could just get it to The Ramones. Riff's best friend, Kate Rambeau (Dey Young) has a thing for nerdy football player Tom Roberts (Vincent Van Patten), who has the hots for Riff. Kate and Tom both seek love advice from Eaglebauer (Clint Howard), who holds court in a stall in the boys bathroom (you'll just have to watch the movie to see the huge size of his stall/office). Eaglebauer has a great scene in which he demonstrates "the art of dating" to Kate and Tom. All of this might seem disjointed, but the movie really flows from one scene to the next. The director Allan Arkush really knew how to keep the energy and the laughs flowing from the start of the movie until the explosive climax.

Of course, the main reason that most people are going to watch this movie is The Ramones. They make their first appearance arriving at the venue where they are going to perform. How do they make their arrival - sitting in the back of a pink Cadillac convertible singing and playing "I Just Want To Have Something To Do". They get out of the Cadillac and continue singing and playing as they walk down the sidewalk into the theater. This was a Very,Very Cool scene.

Riff skips school and waits in line for three days at the theater to get Ramones tickets for everyone at school. When Miss Togar finds out about this, she confiscates Riff's and Kate's tickets. After school is out for the day, we find Riff alone in her bedroom smoking a little weed and listening to The Ramones. This leads to a fantasy sequence with The Ramones in her bedroom (well, bedroom, backyard, and her shower) singing "I Want You Around".

The Ramones are up next in their concert which is attended by the kids from Vince Lombari High and their music teacher (Paul Bartel) in a giant yellow beret. Speaking of giant, there's also a giant white mouse at the concert (this will make sense....or at least as much sense as a giant white mouse can....when you watch the movie). The concert is emceed by DJ Screamin' Steve Stevens played by real life DJ Don Steele. Screamin' Steve lets Riff makes an annoucement from the stage: "On behalf of the students from Vince Lombardi High who are here tonight, I'd just like to say one thing: Screw you, Principal Togar, we made it to the concert anyway! " Miss Togar hears it over the live radio broadcast and has reached her boiling point.

Miss Togar is out for her revenge and the next day she gathers all of the parents to help her burn those horrible Rock and Roll records. I know this sounds like something out of the 1950s, and in a way, the plot of RRHS is reminiscent of some of the Rock and Roll teen movies from that era. But in RRHS there won't be a meeting of the minds between the two groups, because the teens led by Riff are going to take over the high school. The Ramones arrive in their Cadillac convertible just in time to join the students in their rebellion. There are a couple of great lines during this part of RRHS. Most people choose Miss Togar's line - "Do Your Parents Know You're Ramones" as one of their favorites; however, I think mine might be Johnny's line "Things sure have changed since we got kicked out of high school", it just sort of embodies the spirit of the whole movie.

Inside the school, we get The Ramones final number - "Rock n Roll High School", which is similar in choreography to their first performance in RRHS. This time The Ramones sing and play while walking through the halls of Vince Lombardi, as the student body has its final dance sequence. The cops are called to quell the riot and it looks like the students have given up when they exit the school...... but in the end there's one more surprise for Miss Togar, as we get every kid's fantasy that hated school.......BLOW THAT SUCKER TO THE GROUND!!!

Roger Corman originally had in mind using music as a backdrop for a teen movie like he did in a couple of his earlier productions, i.e. "Carnival Rock" and "Rock All Night". Roger's idea was to call the movie "Disco High" but was convinced, by the director Arkbush and the writer Joe Dante, that Disco wasn't rebellious and he needed to use Rock and Roll instead. According to the commentary from Corman, this was one of the few times he let someone change his mind. In a sly reference to Disco High, at the beginning of the first dance scene, you can see Tom reading "Dancing Fever", this was a book published by Rolling Stone that dealt primarily with showing you Disco moves. I can't even imagine what this movie would have been like if Corman had prevailed. As it is, RRHS is one of the best goofy teen movies I think I've ever seen.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

SPIRIT of '76

It had to happen sooner or it finally happened.... What Happened?....After the previous 30+ good movies I have watched, my streak came to an end when I chose to watch....Spirit of '76!

It included a lot of interesting names in the cast list, but unfortunately it wound up wasting those actors with a bad script and bad direction. Spirit of '76 was just 82 minutes taking up space on my TV screen.

America in 2176 has gone to Hell and for some reason they think it's because all of their important documents, like The Constitution, have been lost. A trio (David Cassidy, Olivia D'Abo, and Geoff Hoyle) are selected by part of the government (DEVO) to go in Cassidy's time machine back to 1776 to get a copy of The Constitution (facts be damned that The Constitution wasn't adopted until 1787.....but, don't worry this won't be the last time facts get dammed). Cassidy plays Adam-11, D'Abo plays Chanel-6 and of course after those two are just one number off (Adam-12, Chanel #5), for some reason Hoyle plays Heinz 57. WTF!

The time machine goes a little wacky and unbeknown to the travelers they land in 1976. A couple of stoner teens, played by Steve and Jeffrey McDonald of Redd Kross doing a weak version of Bill and Ted, are going to help them out. There's another teen played by Liam O'Brien, who comes off like a bad Jerry Lewis, who is hoping to capture the "aliens" and win the science fair. At the same time, Leif Garrett, who is excellent in his role as Liam's brother, is trying to bed D'Abo. On top of everything else, The CIA is after the futuristic trio. At this point I would normally say - hilarity ensues. Unfortunately, nothing ensues.

It appears that the makers of the movie were more interested in showing you iconic items/events from all of the 70s, rather than having any good jokes. Which presents another problem, instead of concentrating on items that were relevant in 1976, we get a whole slew of things that are from different eras of the 70s. Some are from before 1976, but were well past their significance by 1976 (i.e. 8-tracks), but could still loosely fit into the time line. However, some objects/events were from after 1976, which of course, didn't make a bit of sense (see I told you earlier facts would be damned again). Not everything will jump out at you, but even a person with only a casual knowledge of 1976 should be able to catch a few. I would have probably overlooked most of these, BUT since the movie wasn't funny and the plot was thin, I had little else to do while watching Spirit of '76 other than noticing some of these errors and I'm sure I probably missed many of them.

You can't really blame the actors for this stinker of a movie, since Spirit of '76 had a great cast. The makers of the movie just didn't utilize the talent they had. Besides the actors mentioned previously, the cast also included Julie Brown (Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun), Carl and Rob Reiner, Barbara Bain, Tommy Chong, Frank Zappa's daughter Moon Unit Zappa (Valley Girl), Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci), and even Iron Eyes Cody makes a disastrous appearance spoofing himself.

I understand that this movie has developed somewhat of a cult following. I can't understand why (unless seeing David Cassidy in some very tight jeans is your thing). I do know that sometimes a second or third viewing is necessary to "get it" with some cult movies. However, I don't see any way that I could be cruel enough to force myself to watch Spirit of '76 again.....EVER!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Vincent Minnelli (ex-husband of Judy Garland and father of Liza Minnelli) directed this morality tale in 1943. Cabin In The Sky stars Ethel Waters, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Lena Horne and features Louis Armstrong. The huge cast also includes lots of other top Black performers of the era: Bill Bailey (Pearl's brother), Butterfly McQueen, Willie Best, Mantan Moreland, Nick Stewart, listed as Nicodemus (best known as Lightin' from The Amos n Andy Show) and many more.

Cabin In The Sky was originally a play that ran on Broadway for 156 performances. Ethel Waters reprises her role as Petunia Jackson, as does Rex Ingram in his role of Lucifer Junior. An interesting note is the part of Little Joe Jackson played by Eddie Anderson in the movie was originated on Broadway by Dooley Wilson, the never to be forgotten piano player, Sam, from Casablanca.

The plot of A Cabin In The Sky (ACITS) is about Little Joe Jackson and his wish to do better and his wife Petunia's attempt to try to help him be a better man. We first see Little Joe going to church with Petunia and she's all excited about him becoming part of the church. At church, Little Joe gets called to come outside by some of his gambling buddies, who convince him to go into town and gamble with a big time gambler named Domino. Little Joe, unbeknown to him, gets slipped loaded dice by his buddies and Domino, thinking Little Joe is cheating, shoots him.

At home on his death bed, as Petunia prays for him to get better, the armies of The Devil and The Lord are both arguing over the soul of Little Joe. And when I say armies, I MEAN armies. Both sides are dressed in military type uniforms, with of course, The Devil's side being black and The Lord's side being white. Another good touch is that The Devil's army all have their hair twisted into little horns at the front of their heads.

It looks like Little Joe is on his way downstairs, but because of Petunia's strong prayers, Little Joe is given another chance. He's granted six more months of life to turn himself around. But Dang It! Wouldn't you know that there's a catch. Little Joe won't know he only has six more months to live and he must turn his life around on his own accord. I'll let you watch the rest of the movie yourself, to see how things turn out.

Ethel Waters was great in her role as Petunia Jackson. The five songs she performs in ACITS are all top notch, with "Taking A Chance On Love", a duet she performs with Eddie Anderson being my favorite. Eddie Anderson had performed in a song and dance act earlier in his career with a group known as Three Black Aces. His singing in ACITS isn't that strong, but his dancing was a joy and it was nice to see someone who could actually play a guitar, instead of just pretending to make chords.

I was disappointed that Louis Armstrong had such a small role in ACITS. He only appeared in one scene as one of The Devil's Idea Men. In that scene Louis is only featured playing the trumpet. Doing a little research, I found that he had another song "Ain't It The Truth" cut from the film. That song had also been cut from the film earlier, when it featured Lena Horne singing it in a bubble bath, since that was deemed to provocative for 1943 audiences.

The Duke Ellington Orchestra get to do a couple of swinging numbers near the end of the movie. Duke and his band are featured doing the first song. During their second song they are mainly background music for a great dance sequence.

Lena Horne, as Little Joe's temptress Sweet Georgia Brown, has two musical numbers, one by herself and one a duet with Eddie Anderson. While both songs are good, neither in
my opinion, were on the same the level as Ethel Waters' performances. I've read, that Ethel wasn't very happy with all the attention paid to Lena and it somewhat soured her on the movie, which is too bad, since Ethel is the real standout female performer in the film.

Two final things to watch for in ACITS, a dance number by Bill Bailey, which will make you remark "So, that's where Michael Jackson learned that move!" and a tornado scene, with the set and the tornado lifted straight from The Wizard Of Oz.

ACITS garners some criticism from people who see racial overtones in the film. I guess if you watch the movie looking for such, you may see something that I didn't. However, if you go into ACITS expecting to hear some good songs, see some good dancing, and get a few laughs, all included with a nice story and superbly acted, then I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I know that some of the facts in this biopic are not correct and that some events shown are not in the correct time line of the history of Sonny and Cher. However, that certainly did not keep me from thoroughly enjoying And The Beat Goes On (ATBGO). When you see facts below that are wrong, please remember, I'm only reporting the facts as ATBGO showed them to me.

The main reason I probably liked the movie so much is the two actors playing Sonny and Cher - Jay Underwood and Renee Faia are both fantastic in their roles, with Renee being somewhat more of a standout than Jay. That's not taking anything away from Jay who really does a good job. It's just Cher is such an interesting person that it seemed my attention was more drawn to her.

After watching ATBGO, much of what makes Cher tick is still a mystery to me. Some of that may be the result of the movie being based on Sonny's memoir "And The Beat Goes On", so we're really only getting Sonny's side of the story. Not that Cher comes off bad....anything but, in my opinion.

In Cher we see a person who is enormously talented and is guided by the somewhat Svengali Sonny. I really thought they both got something from the business part of their relationship. Cher got someone who knew how to guide a career and work the music business. Sonny got someone with talent and charisma, who he could attach himself to and have the music career he desired.

Besides the music/business side of their career, I also saw a couple who really loved each other and I don't think that love ever died, even though they eventually split up.

ATBGO starts with Sonny on David Letterman with Letterman asking him "What Happened". The movie then flashes us back to Sonny delivering meat, before he broke into the record business at Specialty Records as an A&R man. At Specialty, Sonny does a good job, even though we see one scene in which Sonny fails to get Little Richard (Walter Franks) to fulfill his contract with Specialty. This was during the period when Little Richard turned his back on Rock 'n' Roll and turned to religion. Little Richard consults Jesus for a decision...but Jesus says "No"!

Sonny eventually loses his job at Specialty, because according to the movie he had too much ambition. It seems he was pursuing other career lines, such as producing his own records, at the same time as his A&R job. Not long after Sonny is fired he meets Cher and they move in together. Sonny is out of work and needs a job to support him and Cher. He has always admired Phil Spector (Christian Leffler), so he goes to a Spector recording session and talks his way into a job as Spector's West Coast Promotion Man.

One day in the studio, Spector needs a demo vocal recorded, but his female singers have gone to lunch. Cher is in the studio hanging out with Sonny and Spector says he wants her to do the demo. Cher refuses to sing by herself, so Sonny stands by her side and sings a little bit with her until Cher's confidence is built up enough that she can sing on her own....thus we get the beginnings of the duo Sonny and Cher. Sonny really gets it into his head that he can make Cher into a star. When Spector won't record her, Sonny does it on his own and as they say....the rest is history.

After having huge success in music, Sonny wants to branch out and make a movie starring Cher, since The Beatles and Elvis had done movies. Cher tells him they're not that big of stars, but Sonny plows right along and almost loses everything they own in making the movie "Chasity". This is the first point in ATBGO that we see a strain on their relationship with Sonny eventually cheating on Cher.

Desperate for money, Sonny convinces Cher to take a job in Vegas opening for Pat Boone. Cher doesn't think they're "Vegas Acts", but eventually goes along with Sonny's plan. They're a big success in Vegas and this leads to, according to the movie, Sonny creating their TV show. With the TV show, having a child, and Sonny signing them up for more Vegas shows, we see the next strain on their marriage and Cher openly cheats on Sonny.

This is really the beginning of the end for the duo known as Sonny and Cher. The movie quickly moves to Cher suing Sonny for divorce over "involuntary servitude" and then skips ahead 14 years until their reunion duet on "The David Letterman Show" singing "I Got You Babe". As a coda to ATBGO, there is a short segment featuring the real Sonny Bono.

I enjoyed the movie from start to finish, and as far a biopics go, I thought it was one of the better ones, especially considering that it put 15 years into 85 minutes. You'll enjoy the movie more if you don't get too hung up on details; but after watching ATBGO, if you would like to read more on their career, the Wikipedia entry: Sonny and Cher, while incomplete, will still give you a rough idea of their career.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I really thought this movie wouldn't be all that good, but it wound up really entertaining me for 85 minutes. Hillbillys In A Haunted House stars Ferlin Husky as Woody, Don Bowman as Jeepers, and Joi Lansing as Boots. Joi fulfills the part usually played by either Mamie Van Doren or Jayne know...the doll with platinum hair and the big rack. I'll be referring to them by their real names during this review, because it's easier on my brain.

The movie starts with Ferlin Husky, Don Bowman, and Joi Lansing driving down the road singing their way to Nashville, where they're going to be part of a big Country Music Jamboree. They have to stop the car, since police are having a shootout with some spies. AHH....The Good Old Days, when Police and Spies had shootouts and you could just stop your car to watch.... Shucks! I bet if you had a gun you could probably join in! The police tell the trio that there are spies all through the surrounding areas because of a missile base that the government built nearby.

The trio travels along their merry way, but Don is so stressed out that Ferlin and Joi tell him they'll take a night off and stay somewhere so he can unwind. They drive into a nearly deserted town and find that everyone has moved closer to the government base, but a gas station attendant tells them they can stay in the old Beauregard Mansion. After they drive off, the attendant remembers he forgot to tell them the mansion is haunted. Oh, Well! if he HAD told them, they might have driven on and we wouldn't be able to get a bunch of Hillbillys in a haunted house and then of course the producers would have had to come up with a different name for the movie and why waste a perfectly good title.

After arriving at the Beauregard Mansion, they find the electricity is working, which is pretty sweet for an abandoned property. Plus the electricity will come in handy later, since the trio travels with their own portable TV, which seemed strange to me, but since it plays into part of the plot later, I guess it sorta makes sense.

Don Bowman is still all tensed up and Joi tells Ferlin to sing him a song since that always relaxes him. Surprisingly, even though they are in the middle of nowhere, the sounds of Ferlin's singing carries to the neighbors who show up with their own guitars. The neighbors are played by Sonny James and The Country Gentlemen who tell the trio the house is haunted. Sonny and his band are encouraged to play a couple of songs.... and what the hell...they got their guitars they might as well. After playing their songs, some spooky going-ons occur and Sonny and his band flee the premises. Joi convinces Ferlin and Don that it was some type of mass hypnosis that made them all think they saw supernatural things and the trio decide to stay in the mansion for the rest of the night.

We seem to be missing part of the plot, since the movie next jumps to
a scene in the basement, where we see an Oriental Spy played by Linda Ho, but we'll get back to her later. Upstairs Joi has found that one room in the mansion is completely decorated. There are lots of nice clothes in the room and Joi imagines she's a Southern Belle back in olden times. The movie cuts to a fantasy sequence as Joi is dressed differently and she sings a song (see video at end of this review). The clothes she wears in this fantasy scene look more like they're from the 1950s instead of the 1850s, but it Joi's fantasy and I think she has a right to dress in whatever she wants to imagine.

Now back to the basement where we find Linda Ho arguing with Lon Chaney Jr. about letting his gorilla get loose. Not only is Linda not happy with this, but the other two spies played by Basil Rathbone and John Carradine are a little pissy about it also. It seems Lon for some odd reason (none is given in the movie) really likes the big ape. The credits state that George Barrows played Anatole the Gorilla, so this guy must have had a good agent to get him a credit when he was always dressed in a gorilla costume....oops!, I hope I didnt give anything away and you thought this was a real gorilla.

Back upstairs, the trio is trying to get some sleep, but Don is restless and decides to watch TV.......NOW! we understand why they were traveling with a TV (it was needed for the plot)....Don tunes into a Country Music Show (hey it's The South, we run Country Music Shows 24/7) and catches Merle Haggard singing. I had something of an out of body experience as I watched Don's TV on my TV...hoping no one was watching me on TV watching Don's TV on my TV! When Jim Kent (someone I can find nothing about) starts singing, we find that he's obviously not much of a star and certainly not as big a star as Merle, since his performance keeps getting broken up with the spies in the basement watching Don and Don watching them on his TV. DANG! I just thought about it, I was watching them on my TV watching each other on their TV.....this is getting out of hand!

Next up is one of my favorite parts of the movie, Lon is leaving the spies basement lair to go to the missile base to pick up a secret formula. When he leaves, it's through a door that comes out in an old graveyard. He locks the door behind him and hides the key on the ledge above the door. LOVE IT...a secret lair full of spies and they still hide their door key like everyone else.

At the missile base Lon runs into a janitor, who tells Lon that all janitors have top secret clearance since they're in and out of rooms all of the time. The janitor thinks Lon is one of the government men working late and opens a door for him (see why you shouldn't give janitors top secret clearance). Inside the room Lon meets his contact and is given the formula, but before he leaves he shoots the traitor, saying "Anyone that would betray his country would betray us". Little does he know that this traitor has given him a fake formula and is actually an undercover agent for MOTHER (Master Organization To Halt Enemy Resistance) .....Yes, for some reason, someone decided to throw in an acronym three quarters of the way into the movie.

Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Joi has been kidnapped by the gorilla. Ferlin and Don are looking for her when an agent from MOTHER arrives and wants to ask them some questions. Ferlin tells him "We don't have time to answer questions, our Girl Singer is missing". Shows you how important Girl Singers were to Country Acts back in the 1960s! The agent finally gets them calmed down and has Ferlin prove they're entertainers by playing a couple of chords on his guitar..I'm not sure what this proves, since I could probably play a couple of chords on a guitar and I'm CERTAINLY not an entertainer. However, this method seems to satisfy the MOTHER agent.

It seems the spies have captured Joi, since they think Ferlin, Don, and Joi are counter spies working for MOTHER. This gives you some indication of the level of the spies, if they think this wacky trio are super agents. Anyway, the spies put Joi in an Iron Maiden (of course, now I've got a metal riff running through my head, while I'm trying to watch country artists) as they try to make their escape. In the meantime, upstairs the real ghost, General Beauregard has made an appearance wanting everyone to leave.

Now back downstairs where the MOTHER agent sees the spies hiding the key and is able to get into the secret lair (I KNEW it would have been better if they kept that key with them, instead of always hiding it). After releasing Joi, one spy gets shot, another spy tries to shoot the ghost and when they run out of ammo, Ferlin and Don capture the spy. The last spy is rounded up and everything is cool and the next thing we see is Ferlin, Don, and Joi back in the car once again singing and on their way to Nashville. This made me a little nervous because Ferlin would tilt his head back while singing and this appeared that it would be as dangerous as texting and driving.

Thankfully, they make it to Nashville and the Country Jamboree. We get performances from Marcella Wright (who I can find no evidence of actually being a country singer, plus her cowboy hat looks funny on her head), Merle Haggard, Molly Bee, Don Bowman, Joi Lansing, and Ferlin Huskey bringing us to the end of the movie.

All in all, I had a great time, had a few chuckles, heard some good country tunes, got to see Lon Chaney Jr., Basil Rathbone, and John Carradine (three favorites from my youth, plus glad to know they picked up quick paychecks for basically playing themselves). Too bad I never saw this one at a Drive-In Theater because Hillbillys In A Haunted House just screams out to me that a drive-in would have been the perfect place to see it...but at least my windows aren't steamed up :-)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


One of my current favorite TV shows is Fringe and the main arc in that series concerns an alternate universe that exists parallel to ours. That other universe is sort of like ours, but has some slight variations. The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash is like watching a documentary from an alternate universe. The characters seem familiar, the songs sound almost like what I'm used to hearing and the history of the group sounds mighty familiar. The only thing that keeps me from being completely convinced that this isn't from another universe is a few spots of broad humor that play out through the movie. These spots sort of give off a Monty Pythonesque: wink, wink, nudge, nudge, which is understandable considering Eric Idle conceived, wrote, co-directed, and stars as Dirk McQuickly (Paul McCartney) The Rutles.

The other three Rutles are Stig O'Hara (George Harrison) played by Rikki Fataar
(The Beach Boys drummer), Barry Wom, shortened from Barrington Womble (Ringo Star nee Richard Starkey) played by John Halsey, and best of all Ron Nasty (John Lennon) played by Neil Innes of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Neil not only made a great John Lennon, but also composed the songs for the movie, which are as enjoyable as the original Beatles' songs.

In The Rutles, we have songs such as: "Get Up And Go," "OUCH!", "Hold My Hand", "Piggy in the Middle", "Doubleback Alley" and more. The amazing thing that Neil Innes did is that he didn't just copy the original songs and exchange the lyrics for something silly, but instead he wrote new songs with lyrics that simply remind you of the original songs when you hear them. The songs in The Rutles are so good that listening to the soundtrack is like listening to a "lost" Beatles album.

Anyone that is a fan of The Beatles should enjoy The Rutles. John Lennon and Yoko Ono let it be known that they got a kick out of The Rutles even though the movie really skewers them with Nasty and Chasity's meeting at The Pretentious Gallery, plus their Shower-In For Peace. George Harrison even makes an appearance in The Rutles as an interviewer. With his short gray hair and mustache, I'm sure he could walk the streets without
being noticed. An interesting fact from the commentary track is that during the filming of The Rutles, George "the interviewer" was pushed aside, so some fans could ask The Rutles if they were Beatles! I have read that Sir Paul didn't find the movie all that amusing, but that could just be hearsay.

Mick Jagger and Paul Simon are featured in The Rutles, lending even more credence to the fact that you're watching a real documentary. Mick talks about The Rolling Stones rivalry with The Rutles among other things and Paul Simon talks about being on the record charts with The Rutles.

The Rutles have their own web site: The Rutles Tragical History Tour and it includes lots of photos, history of the band, lyrics to all of their songs, album covers, and even a trivia game. So if you want to visit some more into that alternate universe that includes The Rutles, click on the link provided above.

There are lots of Rutles clips to enjoy on youtube, below is a video from The Rutles animated movie "Yellow Submarine Sandwich". It should be noted that The Rutles employed the same artists who did The Beatles "Yellow Submarine"