|It's bungle in the jungle for "Marty" Milner and Mamie Van Doren in The Private Lives of Adam and Eve|
"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.