12/16/15

Retro Film Report #52:


Today we're looking at another mixed bag: Mister Jericho (1970), Deadly Weapons (1974), Boeing Boeing (1965), The Big Switch (1968) and Please Turn Over (1959).  Enjoy!


Mister Jericho (1970)



I would imagine a lot of people mistakenly assume Austin Powers was just a parody of the Bond films, when in fact, it more resembles the hundreds of Bond clones of the mid to late sixties and early seventies.  The Dean Martin Matt Helm movies and the James Coburn Our Man Flint trilogy were essentially parodies themselves; however, there were a respectable number that tried to do the Bond thing their own way, without a wink and a nod to Ian Fleming.


Macnee as Jericho in fancy ascot and mod suit; he'd never be caught dead in this on The Avengers


Jericho gets a call poolside.  Marty Allen plays Wally, his bumbling partner.
Mister Jericho features a suave conman as its hero instead of a government agent.  However, it has all the trappings of a typical spy thriller, with plenty of twists and turns, foxy ladies, swingin' music, cool cars, exotic locals and eye popping fashions.

Mister Jericho was made for TV in the US and released theatrically in the UK.  It features Avenger Patrick Macnee as the suave conman intent on swindling Herbert Lom out of a diamond.  Connie Stevens dons numerous disguises and wears a healthy number of miniskirts throughout the film.

Stevens as "Claudine", one of her disguises to fool Lom for the diamond.  A little heavy handed with the eye shadow, perhaps?
Stevens' disguise is uncovered.  But it's Jericho to the rescue.
Bond... er, I mean - Jericho - always gets the girl... and the diamond.  
All in all, it's a fairly forgettable flick; however, it's fun while it lasts without falling into tedium.  Macnee is always fun to watch and Stevens is always easy on the eyes.  Not bad, but not likely to end up a favorite either.


Deadly Weapons (1974)
You can tell right off the bat we're not dealing with a Merchant-Ivory film here.  Still, it's directed by Doris Wishman and stars Harry "Deep Throat" Reems and a woman with grotesquely huge boobs... so, it may be worth a look.


I'd like to introduce you to Chesty Morgan.  Apart from her monstrous 73 inch bust, she likes to wear bad wigs, grandma clothing, giant platform heels, and an expression that can only be described as "barely awake".


I can't be alone in thinking Chesty's chest is unpleasant to look at, but different strokes for different folks I suppose.

Chesty Morgan is actually Liliana Wilczkowska of Warsaw, Poland.  Her parents were murdered by the Nazis, and she survived by escaping to Israel.  She later married and moved to Brooklyn, where her husband was murdered in a robbery, leaving her to raise two small children in the 1960s.

Chesty ended up marrying a National League umpire, but he was killed in an automobile accident.  Her daughter was later killed in an auto accident as well.

Lots of tragedy in Chesty's life to say the least.


Never has a film contained so much wood paneling.  And look what Chesty's wearing today!

Chesty starred in two Doris Wishman flicks: this and Double Agent 73 which were filmed back to back.


I love a good street scene in a film.  This three-second shot is the film's only break from wood paneling and polyester.


The "plot" is basically this: Chesty's husband is killed by the mob, and now Chesty is out for revenge - and her brand of justice is to smother the murderers with her freakishly huge jugs.


More wood paneling to behold.  I actually dig this living room.  The girl is Eve, played by Denise Purcell who would only appear in two films - the two Chesty flicks.  She is the only good looking lady in this entire film - I wonder what became of her.

Eve is the girlfriend of mobster Tony, played by the one, the only.... (drum roll, please)....


Harry Reems!  Yes, this is the guy from Deep Throat (and kabillion other 70s pornos).  I guess this was his big break from Rated X.  His moustache is a thing of beauty.

In this scene Reems takes his tie and strangles Eve....


I point this scene out because it is actually quite shocking; I'm not sure I've seen a much more realistic strangulation scene in film.  It's a lengthy and disturbing scene, and the camera doesn't shy away from the violence a bit.

Deadly Weapons epitomizes the dark side of the decade: bad fashion, ultra-violence, thick mustaches, tacky dress and decor, and dirty sex.  You'll need a shower after this one to wash away the 70s.


Boeing Boeing (1965)



Have a look at movie posters from this period - they all look pretty much the same with caricatures running after each other (usually illustrated by Jack Davis or Frank Frazetta).  You just know it's going to be a zany, madcap adventure!


Tony Curtis is living the high life in Paris as a swingin' sixties stud.  His poor bedraggled  housekeeper (Thelma Ritter) has to cover his tracks, keeping one chick from finding out about the other.


To complicate matters, Curtis has a fiance (Suzanna Leigh) who he's trying to keep oblivious to his adulterous shenanigans.   Then Jerry Lewis arrives, gets wise to Curtis' swingin' lifestyle, and wants a piece of the action.  To make matters even worse, this newfangled Boeing is so fast, it throws his infidelity schedule into a tailspin.


The movie is basically one long manic joke: keeping their lecherous ways hidden, often with the girls in the same apartment, oblivious to each other's presence.  It's funny at first (I suppose), but an entire movie of this is perhaps a bit much.  Even Three's Company wouldn't work at an hour and a half.


Thelma Ritter gives one of his backdoor honeys a sleeping pill which totally conks her out.  Trouble is, Curtis' fiance is on her way and won't exactly approve of another blonde in her soon-to-be-husband's bed.


Time to hide the unconscious doll - a startlingly common gag back then.  We saw it in another Retro Film Report (Sorry  Wrong  Number ) where Elke Sommer takes sleeping pills and Bob Hope and his housekeeper, Phyllis Diller, must "hide the body" from his wife.  A scene almost identical to this from the exact same year!


Not long after, we find the same trope in California Suite (where Walter Matthew finds himself in a predicament with a KO'd one-night-stand) and then in I Dream of Jeannie (covered here on Retrospace) where the General's niece gets KO'd via a slipped Mickey.  I could go on - it's an intriguing phenomenon, but we'll stop there.

Suffice it to say, this film is a cookie-cutter standard, full of typical gags meant to be hysterical, but ultimately forgettable.  It's frenetic, manic, and full of unrelenting forced energy; but you'll still be yawning before it's through.


The Big Switch (1968) AKA Strip Poker



Not sure why they chose for the lobby card a picture of ultra-suave Sebastian Breaks doing a Mr. Bean impersonation, but we'll roll with it.


Aforementioned ultra-suave playboy, John Carter (Sebastian Breaks) is out on the prowl at a mod discoteque. His partner in crime, introduces him to a pretty bird.  Within minutes, he's completely up in her face...


"Do you want a drink here, or do want a drink at my flat?" are the first words out of his mouth.  Ron Burgundy would be pleased.  It should be noted that Carter sounds exactly like actor Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, Snuffbox, The Mighty Boosh).

The bird is only too quick to oblige.  They head to her place.  John gets some smokes, while she freshens up.

Unfortunately, there happens to be a black man in her shower.


The aforementioned black man kills the white girl and splits.  John returns to find his hopes for getting laid tonight dashed.

The next day, John heads to work and is promptly fired for no apparent reason.  (Things really aren't going his way lately.)

And just when it this day seems to have reached rock bottom, John heads back to his flat to find this...


A bunch of gangsters playing strip poker in his living room.... and they claim he owes them money!  John has no idea what they're talking about, but they're not the understanding and compassionate type.


The gangsters hold him down while the moll burns him with a cigar.  John Carter truly is the unluckiest guy in all of England. Let's take stock, shall we?  In the span of 24 hours John has had his one night stand murdered, become unemployed, randomly indebted to gangsters, and burned repeatedly by a cigar.  Talk about bad days!


Carter is summoned to a local burlesque club to meet with mob kingpin, Mendez (Derek Aylward). Considering how things have been going, it's probably safe to be a bit pessimistic on how this will turn out.  Yet, despite all these troubles, John Carter, wears his turtleneck with calm and poise, not letting down his facade of Bond-like charm for a second.


Mendez has the murder weapon with Carter's fingerprints on it.  He could frame him for murder, but instead offers him a job.  Just do a little deed in Brighton, and the murder and his gambling debts will be forgiven.


John Carter finds himself in a posh apartment with one of Mendez' henchmen, Hornsby-Smith (Jack Allen) and a mysterious woman named Karen (Virginia Wetherell).  What's the game here?  What sort of terrible thing is going to happen next?


And so the humiliation continues.  John Carter (and Karen) are forced to pose for pornographic pictures.


Ah, but Mendez has underestimated his man.  Carter is ace with the ladies, and wooes one of the molls to bed.  There, his bedroom skills entices her to confess the master plan: a couple criminals are trying to gain entry into the country - the plan is to have them look like John and Kathy via plastic surgery, then have John and Kathy "disposed of".

No, this plan makes almost no sense whatsoever.  Just roll with it.


It ends with a pretty decent climactic shoot-out and chase at Brighton Pier in the snow.  Carter dispatches of the criminals, the police arrive, and he walks off with his girl, Karen under his arm.  It all worked out in the end, I suppose.  But it was a bumpy ride to get there.  A more apt title for this film would be: John Carter and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Overall, a pretty forgettable crime drama.  A healthy supply of T&A keep it above the TV movie level, but not by much.  This looks very haphazard and clumsy; almost as if it was thrown together at the last minute (which it probably was).

Director Peter Walker would go on to direct such cult horror classics as House of the Long Shadows 
(1983), Schizo (1976), House of Whipcord (1974), The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) and Die Screaming Marianne (1971) - all of which are a lot more interesting than this.  Probably worth skipping unless you are a fan of the genre and can appreciate the tropes and Austin Powers-esque ridiculousness of it all.


Please Turn Over (1959)


From the Carry On gang comes this wonderful comedy about a "perfectly respectable" family being scandalized by the publication of the daughter's sleazy novel.


We are introduced to the respectable (albeit eccentric) Halliday family.  From left: (1) Gladys (June Jago) the health obsessed sister of Janet who's still single and lives with the Halliday family, (2) Mrs. Janet Halliday (Jean Kent), beautiful but not the brightest bulb in the family, (3) Mr. Edward Halliday (Ted Ray), an overly straightlaced banker, and (4) daughter Janet (Julia Lockwood) who's growing a bit tired of living the "proper" and "respectable" lifestyle of upper middle class suburbia.


Mr. Halliday gives his daughter a stern lecture on being an upstanding member of society, but Janet clearly isn't buying it (although, he's convinced he's gotten through to her).

Little does Edward know, his world will soon be rocked by little Jo's book, which she's been writing in secret.


Edward wishes his daughter could be more like his secretary, Ms. Jones (Dilys Laye) who is clearly the most organized and efficient human being on earth.


One of the funniest scenes I've had the pleasure of seeing in recent years is Mrs. Halliday's driving lesson.  Her instructor, Ian (Lionel Jeffries), is unemployed; so, he's earning some money by giving her lessons... but it's turned into a living nightmare.  Janet is a menace on the road, and poor Ian is going to have a heart attack.  Jeffries is clearly a comic genius; the way he pulls of this scene is nothing short of brilliant.


Finally, we are introduced to Doctor Manners (Leslie Phillips - the voice of the Sorting Hat on Harry Potter BTW). He's a great doctor, but highly unsuccessful, with almost no patients. Gladys is his nurse, and she happens to be secretly in love with him.

And so, the final stage is set before the book is published


The book is Naked Revolt by Jo Halliday, and the women of this small town are lining up to purchase it.  Think 50 Shades of Grey, but it's 1959.

The trouble is, not only is it a risque read, the characters in the novel are based on people in Jo's life: her family, the driving instructor, the doctor, her father's secretary, etc.


Suddenly, the previously unsuccessful Dr. Manners has women lined up outside his practice to be examined.  (Dr. Manners is quite the loverboy in Janet's novel)


But it's not only the doctor who's getting treated differently - the whole Halliday family is feeling the effects of Naked Revolt.

But what exactly does it say about them that's so scandalous?


In the story, Mrs. Halliday is having an affair with Ian (another brilliant scene, with Jean Kent and Lionel Jeffries playing very different roles).


Also in the story, Jo catches her father having an affair with his secretary, Ms. Jones. (Her clothes are tattered and torn because, as in any good tawdry novel, she ran frantically through the forest).


She also catches Dr. Manners in the act with one of his patients.  Also, the obnoxiously healthy Gladys is a filthy alcoholic in Naked Revolt.



I should also mention that the First Lady of Carry On films, Joan Sims, is in this film.  She plays the Halliday's maid, who's normally brash with cigarette always dangling from lips, gets a sexy makeover in Jo's book.

Unfortunately, the town views the novel as an expose rather than a work of pure fiction.


The depiction of Naked Rage does go on a tad too long, but we do get to see Jo in her underwear.  Even in '59, the Carry On folks knew how to squeeze in some gratuitous eye candy.


In the end, things are happy for everyone.  The family gets rich from Jo's book (and money makes everything okay).  Jo gets engaged to a playwright who wants to adapt her work, and Gladys gets engaged to Dr. Manners.  Everyone lives happily ever after - even Ian who has opened up a driving school.

All in all, the film is great fun, with solid comedic performances from everyone.  It's not likely to top your list of all-time greats, but you won't regret giving it a look.

7 comments:

  1. I have been wanting to see all of Please Turn Over since I saw the driving lesson sequence in a British comedy clip film of the 70s called To See Such Fun. I think it was a satire on the controversy surrounding the book Peyton Place.

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  2. For all its infamy, Chesty's chest is actually pretty gross, plus she was never - y'know - that much of a looker.

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  3. A Peter Walker film starring a man with the voice of Matt Berry! I must check that out.

    Other than the fact that Matt Berry has the greatest comedy/action voice ever, I've always found Pete Walker to be a strange film maker. He clearly has a lot of talent as a director, but his films are always sleazy and unpleasant.

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  4. That shot of Jo in her underthings is a true joy to behold.

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  5. On dealing with unconscious women: THIS is how it's done:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEqrL44n4b0

    It's from Buster Keaton's 1929 feature "Spite Marriage." Dorothy Sebastian plays a fiery actress who drags meek Buster into marriage because she's furious at her boyfriend. On the wedding night she gets roaring drunk in public, and this is the aftermath back in the hotel room.

    Red Skelton recreated the routine in "I Dood It", a 1943 remake with Buster working behind the scenes as a studio gagman. Eleanor Powell, a dancer, was his collapsible mate.

    Any time there's a limp body to be moved in a comedy, I view it as a desperate attempt to imitate Keaton.

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  6. Excuse me, but what was the THIRD James Coburn "Flint" film you referred to?
    I have only heard of the two.

    Big Avengers fan. I'll have to try to find Mister Jerico. Thanks for he heads up.

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    1. Yeah, there's only two proper Flint films. There was a 1976 TV movie called "Dead on Target" that technically is a Flint movie, but no means does it compare.

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