Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Movie Review: The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960)

It's bungle in the jungle for "Marty" Milner and Mamie Van Doren in The Private Lives of Adam and Eve
I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit that my main motivation for watching The Private Lives of Adam and Eve was when I came across this publicity photo of the hunky Martin Milner from the film. Care to point out anything unusual?

"One Adam-12, one Adam-12, man with a gun..."

OK, I can't take credit for that creative naughty quip -- one of my followers on Facebook came up with it. And as it turned out, Frederick's of Hollywood -- who was responsible for the movie's costume design -- apparently went overboard with the plentitude of fig leaves and fabric used for the swimming trunks, because Milner's private parts were in reality a lot more modest, as evident by this yummy photo I found of him wearing tight shorts:

Anyhooo...this post is, sadly, not about crotch bulge (hee hee), but about The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, a forgotten project on Milner's extensive resume. When he passed away last year at the age of 83, much was mentioned about one of the television roles that made him a household name, that of Officer Pete Malloy in the popular NBC police drama Adam-12 (of which I am planning a much overdue blog post.) Prior to Adam-12, he had also starred in the series Route 66 and acted in a slew of movie and TV projects dating back to when he was a kid.

The Private Lives of Adam and Eve came out the same year Route 66 premiered on CBS, 1960. The first clue that this movie wasn't exactly Oscar-worthy material is that it was co-directed by Mickey Rooney, who also stars in it, playing the duel role of a casino owner and the devil. (Albert Zugsmith is the other director, and he was the man behind such exploitation titles as High School Confidential and The Girl in the Kremlin.) The second is that it opens with Paul Anka singing the theme song while riding on a self-driving jalopy that looks it came second-hand from the Clampetts themselves. (Lest we forget, Anka is the same guy that gave us "(You're) Having My Baby" years later. Sorry, Anka fans, but you're never going to live that one down.)

The Private Lives of Adam and Eve is classified as a B-movie, and thus it's campy, corny, schlocky, and everything else you'd expect a low budget production to be. And yet I found it strangely entertaining and funny in spite of its awkwardness. I can think of worse ways to spend an hour and a half than watching a flick where Martin Milner is shirtless for a good portion of it -- so there's that.

And for you guys, there's plenty of eye candy abound in this movie for you, too. How does Mamie Van Doren, Tuesday Weld, Fay Spain, and Playboy Playmate June Wilkinson sound? Pretty good, right? So on with the review...

As one would expect from a movie of this caliber, the plot is pretty simplistic. A group of people end up on a Nevada bus bound for Reno. There's Ad Simms (Milner), a car mechanic/garage owner married to Evie (Van Doren), who wants to divorce him after she caught him kissing their neighbor Lil Lewis (Spain.) Lil is seeking a divorce of her own, from her crooked casino owning husband, Nick (Rooney.) Also on the bus is a traveling salesman, Hal, played by Mel Torme, and a runaway blonde named Vangie (Tuesday Weld.) Or, as the bus driver Doc (Cecil Kellaway) tells us at the beginning of the tale, Vangie's nickname used to be Bobby Sox, but now everyone calls her Baby Sex. Rounding out the crew is Pinkie Parker (Anka), a beatnik that wants to be a big singer "like that Crosby fella."

Ad actually doesn't board the bus in Paradise like the other passengers, but ends up chasing after it in Pinkie's souped up car. The car meets its untimely demise over a Nevada cliff when Nick, who has manhandled his way into taking over the bus, forces it off the road, nearly killing Ad who leaps from it just before it goes over the edge and bursts into flames.

Ad had been trying to warn the bus driver that a passing storm has made the road ahead impassable. Once night falls and they head into the pounding rain, they realize they're in danger and barricade themselves up in a church to wait out the weather. Ad and Evie end up falling asleep and having parallel dreams that they're Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This is where the movie changes from black and white to color...and when it really takes a turn for sillyville...

It's hard to tell who had the more embarrassing role in The Private Lives of Adam and Eve: Milner or Rooney. As Adam, Milner reacts to his "new" body like a baby discovering his or her toes for the first time. "Hi! I'm Aaaadddammm!!!" he yells out to no one in particular after gleefully discovering himself. But Rooney plays Satan in both his devilish and snake forms. Eve/Evie is presented to Adam and all is well and dreamy and lovely until she is tempted into eating the forbidden apple. God isn't pleased, but instead of killing Adam and Eve, the couple find themselves bickering in paradise and experiencing friction in their relationship. Eve gets increasingly whiny, complaining about everything from the placement of the "furniture" in their cave to the fact that Adam doesn't have a job. Adam is soon faced with a new temptation -- that of the sultry brunette Lil. Lil gets Adam drunk, introduces him to a bed, and feeds him grapes. "There's only one man in this world -- and you know it!" says Eve when she confronts Lil. Adam is caught hiding under the bed, and Eve begins pelting the two adulterous lovers with coconuts.

After Eve runs away in anger and hurt, a storm descends as Lil pleads with Adam to forget Eve, and go with her. "But she's a part of me!" he exclaims, referring to the rib that was taken from his side to create Eve. Eve trips in the rain and the mud and begs for God's forgiveness for eating the apple. As the sky clears, Adam finds her and the two discover that she's pregnant. Cue the melodramatic, swelling music...

Had the "Razzies" existed in 1960, surely this movie would have been nominated for several of them. Mamie Van Doren's acting is atrocious, and she was notorious for making a string of bad movies after Universal Studios declined to renew her contract in 1959. Milner makes the most of the role, playing Adam as a gullible, "aw shucks" type of guy. Rooney looks like he was having the most fun in this production. I'd say the movie's biggest flaw, however, isn't the acting but the lack of inclusion of the other actors in the Garden of Eden sequence. Only Rooney, Milner, Van Doren, and Fay are present during this portion of the movie. Where are Torme, Anka, Weld, and Kellaway? Ah, who gives a rip when we have this hunk of a man?

A bit of trivia about the film, revealed on Wikipedia...Universal planned to premiere it in every town in the U.S. with the name Paradise at the same time. Then producers discovered that there's only nine such American towns, and only two had movie theaters. Eight of them at the time also had populations of less than 500 residents. An organization affiliated with the Catholic church also declared the movie blasphemous, which is pretty ridiculous even for early '60s' standards.

And by the way, this was not the only time Milner made this type of film, and worked with Van Doren, Weld, and Zugsmith. He not only had a role in Sex Kittens Go to College (also released in 1960) but he was one of the associate producers as well. (Guess which title is next on my bucket list of cheesy movies to watch?)

So The Private Lives of Adam and Eve is not a "good" movie...but I also didn't find it boring and it isn't without its humorous moments. And if you want to appreciate what Milner went through earlier in his career before stepping into the more demanding role of Officer Malloy, then check it out. It's been uploaded in its entirety to YouTube.

The trailer isn't available without commentary, but here's some scenes from the movie.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ten Politically Incorrect Songs That Would Be Considered Offensive in 2016

Warning: if you're easily "triggered" (the buzz word of 2016) by songs about fat shaming, racism, school shootings, sexual assault, and more then best to click away NOW. Because I've just compiled, off the top of my head, ten songs from the 20th century that would be considered very politically incorrect and offensive by today's standards. In my honest opinion, most of these songs were just the artists having fun...no harm intended...but in today's overly PC society quite a few of them would cause an uproar.

"Too Fat Polka (She's Too Fat For Me)" by Arthur Godfrey (1947)

Growing up in a Polish-American family, I'm well acquainted with "Too Fat Polka" as it was a regular staple of the polka radio special my parents would listen to on the A.M. dial every Sunday. Back then the version that got regular play was by "America's Polka King" Frankie Yankovic and it was also played at the polka dances my parents used to go to when I was a kid. So it's safe to say it really didn't offend much people back in the day -- back when obesity was still so rare it wasn't attracting media attention. Yet, when I recently posted a link to Arthur Godfrey's version on a Facebook thread, my friend count dropped by one later that night. (Shrug.) 

"Too Fat Polka", although intended as a novelty record, reached #15 on the charts in 1947. Its success led to The Andrews Sisters cutting their own version while altering the lyrics to be from a woman's point of view. And while "the old redhead" -- as Godfrey was known -- was one of America's most popular radio and TV personalities during the 1940s and '50s, his tyrannical management skills and crude behavior became the stuff of Hollywood legend. Recording a song about fat shaming was the least of his sins. 

"Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo)" by The Andrew Sisters and Danny Kaye (1948)

This song wouldn't have even made this list if it weren't for the fact that shortly after it was released, Alan Clark -- a British member of Parliament -- supposedly referred to Africa as "Bongo Bongo Land." Clark denied that he meant anything derogatory by the term, saying that he was referring to the President of Gabon, Omar Bongo. As recently as 2013, the term was used yet again on camera by another member of Parliament, and this time thanks to the Internet, he got into hot water. Note to the British government: please simply refer to Africa as Africa and take the "bongo" out of it. 

"Fatty Fatty" by Bobby Rydell (1958)

So maybe Arthur Godfrey didn't dig fat chicks, but teen idol Bobby Rydell did, because his strange song "Fatty Fatty" tells of his love for a girl that weighs 365 ("one pound for every day of the year") and resembles a Sherman tank and elephant. Whatever floats your boat, buddy. The slowed down tuba to indicate rotundness is a nice touch. 

"Clementine" by Bobby Darin (1960)

Could it be my beloved Bobby D. was a fat shamer as well? Believe it -- "Clementine" is a take on "Oh My Darling, Clementine" with the subject being a North Carolina miner's daughter who weighed 299 pounds and drowns after her weight causes a bridge to "tremble and disassemble." The lyrics also compare her to a whale. The thing is, Bobby doesn't sound the least bit sorry about failing to rescue Clementine, which causes her untimely demise -- as evident by his bubble sound effects and gleeful "BYE!" at the end of the song.

"Wives and Lovers" by Jack Jones (1963)

I actually think the advice dished out in this Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition is quite sage: wives, be sure not to let yourselves go and stay attractive and flirty with your husband, lest he has an affair with one of the girls at the office. But, I know a lot of women -- especially feminists -- would work their panties into a wad over it today. I don't know how or why this was NEVER heard once in Mad Men; perhaps whoever was in charge of the soundtrack thought it would be too obvious? But c'mon, it would have been perfect for the series!

"If You Wanna Be Happy" by Jimmy Soul (1963) 

Jimmy Soul is more concerned about his wife cheating on him, so he picked himself an ugly one that will never stray. If her eyes don't match, take it from Jimmy Soul, she's a better catch. Plus, she sure can cook.

"Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones (1966)

I think most of my readers know by now that I love the Stones. I also love this song, even if it does make the hair on my arms bristle just a little bit. Again, the feminists would be burning this record in public (or whatever the modern-day equivalent is of destroying vinyl records is) had it been released today.

"Rape" by Peter Wyngarde (1970)

Lest the advertising censors come after me, I was wary about embedding this song into this post, so you'll have to Google it yourself. Without a doubt, this IS the most bizarrely offensive song I've ever heard in my life, so prepare your ears. Peter Wyngarde is an English-French actor best known for the British TV series Department S and Jason King. In 1970, he released an album of strange songs done in a spoken word style a la William Shatner. But where Shatner was having fun with innocent songs such as "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and "Mr. Tamborine Man," Wyngarde's collection included such curious tracks as "It's When I Touch You" and "Hippie and the Skinhead." "Rape" was actually issued as a single under the title, "Peter Wyngarde Commits Rape." Not only does he "sing" about the violent sexual crime (and sounds like a dog barking while doing it) but Wyngarde manages to insult just about every ethnic group that exists by vocalizing in gibberish and fake accents. This one really is offensive and inappropriate on so many levels and I have no more words for it. 

"Illegal Alien" by Genesis (1983)

How many Mexican stereotypes could Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks of Genesis shoehorn into one song and music video? How about sombreros, ponchos, mustaches, drunkiness, laziness, sneakiness, and even prostitution? ("I've got a sister who'd be willing to oblige // She will do anything now to help me get to the outside" was omitted from the radio version of the song, as well as the music video.) The song is also sung by Collins in a fake Mexican accent. Ay, caramba! I'm sure the guys didn't mean anything derogatory by it (and it IS an addictive ear worm of a tune) but it would certainly never pass muster if released today.

"Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun" by Julie Brown (1984)

Remember when school shootings were just a bad joke and the subject of equally bad '80s songs? Yeah, how times have changed. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Forgotten Prince Film: Under the Cherry Moon

I only remember three parts of Under the Cherry Moon: the very beginning, the ending musical performance as the credits rolled (I think it was to "Kiss") and a very lame joke about pronouncing "record store."

That would probably explain why the 1986 film totally tanked, earning only $10M at the box office (of which a friend and I contributed $5 each to that amount or whatever the going price was for movie tickets in the mid-80s.) By comparison, Prince's first movie, Purple Rain, grossed over $68M and had cost just over $7M to make.

Under the Cherry Moon was a cherry bomb. It even won several Razzie awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor and Worst Director (both Prince), and Worst Original Song ("Love or Money").

That's right; Prince directed this movie in addition to starring it in. He'd fair a little better the following year with Sign 'O The Times and later with the semi-sequel to Purple Rain -- Graffiti Bridge -- but it's safe to say that music and not film directing was his stronger talent.

I think part of the problem with this effort, that I was reminded of when watching clips of the movie online 30 years after I first saw it, is that Prince's character in this film is obnoxious. He plays a gigolo named Christopher who, along with his brother Tricky (Jerome Benton), enjoys seducing and swindling rich women of their fortunes. When Christopher meets a British heiress named Mary (played by Kristin Scott Thomas in her big screen debut) he initially plans on robbing her of her inheritance, too -- until he inconveniently falls in love with her. This development causes a complication between the two partners in crime.

Style-wise, the movie is a pretty sophisticated looking film. It was filmed in black and white, takes place in the Mediterranean, and has an Art Deco look about it. Unfortunately, all of that outward appearance lacks serious substance. The acting is often hammy and the storyline is a yawn-inducing one that's been copied many times over. The only highlights are the musical performances, and even those can be appreciated mostly by Prince fans.

One weird detail about this film is that although the costumes, sets, and some of the cars suggest the plot is taking place during the 1930s, Sam Cooke's name comes up in conversation (his career spanned the late '50s and early '60s), and Christopher and Tricky break out a giant 1980s boom box during the scene below and start jamming. Maybe the brothers were secretly time travelers? The sequence can be viewed below--and it's also the one where the two conmen make fun of Mary's accent.

Roger Ebert called this film "disastrous" and included it on his list of the worst of cinema released during 1986. The only participant that made out the best was Kristin Scott Thomas -- it put her on the map and in a few years she would star in The English Patient.

Here's an interview of her promoting the movie in which the interviewer tries to trick her into admitting that Prince was difficult to work with. As an aside, I would have loved to have had her cool and colorful '80s dress here -- and those EARRINGS -- as a teen during the era!

The movie also gave us "Kiss" on the soundtrack and a few other decent songs, but even then it's not in the same league as Purple Rain.

Here's the trailer to Under the Cherry Moon -- which wisely left out any actual dialogue. Maybe that's why my 14 year-old mind at the time was so duped into thinking this would be a production of quality? However, there are some diehard Prince fans that consider the film to be a cult classic, so to each his or her own.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Speak...Speak A Song: Telly Savalas Vs. William Shatner

Two huge television stars. Two TV appearances. Two hilarious, craptacular "singing" performances in the '70s.

These are the kind of retro gold gems that I live for when they get unearthed. I'd seen both of them before, but not the Telly Savalas one in its entirety -- in which he performs Bread's hit love song "If" on a German show called Disco. It's rather creepy with the close-up shot of the blonde looking awkwardly on. Who loves you, baby? Remarkably, I've listened to some of Savalas' other musical recordings online and didn't think he was that bad of a singer.

Then we have William Shatner performing Elton John's "Rocket Man" at The Science Fiction Film Awards, which he also hosted. Virtually everything that Shatner has ever laid down on vinyl was delivered in a spoken and perhaps unintentionally comical style. I have to say, however, that the 1970s special effects in this one were nicely executed. Props also to the Shat Man for holding his cigarette like it's a joint.

Which one do you feel "sang" their song better (or worse?) Leave a comment!

Monday, May 02, 2016

And the Winning Charity Is...

Well, I had a feeling a lot of fellow kitty lovers read Go Retro, because the votes from the charity poll are in and the winner is the Ellen Gifford Cat Shelter! There's going to be a lot of happy aristocrats!

I'll be donating the ad revenue I make during this month from the Blogger Network and Google AdSense to the cat shelter. So for the next few weeks, I'll be tweeting and posting content to Facebook as much as I can, including some older posts. How can you help? You can simply share (or, as I like to say, Cher and Cher alike) my blog posts...share them on your own social networks...help drive extra traffic and readership. Every little bit helps!

Next month I'll post how much was made and will donate it to the shelter. This was fun, and I look forward to doing this again around the holiday season, perhaps with some more national charities. Thanks to everyone that voted! 

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