I Saw A Film!
In my continuing effort to understand more deeply the world in the age of my birth (mid-1960s) I occasionally delve into the popular entertainment of the era. This is one of those comic, though inept romps that not only includes Erich Von Zipper (and his catchphrase “You stupid!”), but a guy in a gorilla suit and a haunted house. This is also sprinkled liberally with girls in bikinis and a few other Scooby Doo-style rubber suited ghouls and such that terrorize the kids. These elements were apparently desperately of interest to people of the early Vietnam, post Kennedy Assassination period.
Our story opens with a lovely blonde ghost waking up legendary Boris Karloff who having explained to him by said ghost finds out he needs to do a good deed to get to heaven. He points the ghost in the direction of his mansion and an inheritance that he needs to insure falls into the right hands, those of lily white dullard Tommy Kirk and another cute young lady who is apparently not directly his relative so he can kind of be sweet with her. So the ghost here, the story tells us, died in an accident 30 years earlier, making her a child of the Wright Brothers and Titanic era. She’s somehow our invisible bikini ghost. True to the description her hips and bust are see-through as she’s variously enhanced on the screen. It does seem a little disingenuous to imagine this beauty who grew up in the roaring 20s wouldn’t be a flapper-girl, but it’s just a movie and just fashion, I still feel like they missed a fun opportunity there! Also, it seems clear, since Karloff interacts only with the ghost, and she’s basically an added effect, that both invisible bikini ghost and Karloff himself were after-thoughts to the film production.
Boris’s character also, although it’s not mentioned until late in the film, maintains a full “chamber of horrors” complete with “wax” replicas of Jack the Ripper stabbing a young woman, and a guillotine, and a rack with a cutie tied to it (they aren’t wax of course, but actors). This all results in a magnificent confusion of silliness where the criminal parties as well as the kids and Von Zipper’s biker gang (The Rats) mix it up in one giant mess of very tired gags. When our antagonists need to hide they can pretend to be wax, though, the “wax” were real too, fooling no one, so you don’t get much contrast. One of the lovelies being strapped to a log on a very long traveling circular saw, to heighten the peril, has to travel on it a few times –threatening her nethers– before she’s “rescued” by her totally clownish friends, her poor struggle one of the meanest of the film. Basil Rathbone slumming it here with a severely near-sighted, lovely but dangerous, daughter fights the kids with axes and knives as well has his crooked mobster side-kick named Sinister, just in case you weren’t quite sure of his alignment. So many bonks on the head, and near misses occur that it’s difficult to keep up. People of sixty years ago had great attention spans. It’s like watching a basketball game with all the teams playing at once and about fifteen balls.
Also making a comeback, is an aged Native American character, previously played by the late Buster Keaton in one of his last roles in the equally silly How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, now Benny Rubin takes over the generic silly character as Chicken Feather. I’m sure no one would find themselves negatively represented by these old silent film stars (I’m being sarcastic here). I had never heard of Benny Rubin before however, so there’s a bit of a window into a deeper film history. See you can always get something out of these messes. Most of Rubin’s hits were in the 20s! Which to be fair were much closer in the sixties, now these films (none of which I’ve seen) are nearly 100 years old!
It is a little sad to think of all these cute ladies being mostly dead by this time, but they are frozen in a kind of saturated pastel loveliness (though with weird screen aspect making them all a little lankier than human) for all eternity, for us to fall in love with over and over. Not so bad I suppose. Nancy Sinatra is still around and she drops a couple of cornball songs as does a totally unknown to me petite Italian actress and singer by the terrific name of Piccola Pupa, who tries to convince Nancy to wear a bikini, using a song about fighting for what you think is right as her musical argument. It works of course. I guess I never considered the beachwear to be a point of human rights progress. Apparently another Rat Pack daughter, Claudia Martin (daughter of Dean) was in this too, but I can’t say I noticed her. Such is the style of these films that so much is shoehorned in that you can’t really pay attention to enough of it to catch all the people and seconds of screentime given the characters.
While I enjoyed looking at all the old lovely ladies, the only joke that made me snort at all was when the operator told our Mr. Kirk that he was about to be disconnected, and then we see a pair of snips cutting the line.
Free on Prime (USA) and great for a lark, and if you’re an Erich Von Zipper completist!