Halloween Havoc!: QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE (Allied Artists 1958)

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QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE has quite an interesting pedigree. Screenwriter Charles Beaumont (THE TWILIGHT ZONE) adapted a story by Ben Hecht, of all people, then director Edward Bernds got his frequent Three Stooges/Bowery Boys collaborator Ellwood Ullman to punch things up a little. The resulting mishmash is a huge contender in the “so-bad-it’s-good” sweepstakes, a sci-fi schlockfest featuring goofy special effects, sexism, and Zsa Zsa Gabor!

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The movie’s right up there with PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE  in its cheesiness, except in glorious Technicolor. Set in a futuristic 1985, space Captain Neil Patterson (Eric Fleming, RAWHIDE’s trail boss) and his intrepid crew (Dave Willock, Patrick Waltz) are assigned to shuttle Professor Konrad (sci-fi stalwart Paul Birch) to Space Station A, where there’re “indications of some trouble up there”. Off they go into the wild blue yonder, where they witness the station being blown to smithereens by a mysterious ray (via cartoon animation), then are pulled by a mysterious force to crash-land on Venus! How do they know it’s Venus? Because Konrad takes a look at some leaves and pronounces it so, that’s how!

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The crew (wearing leftover space suits from FORBIDDEN PLANET ), are captured by a gaggle of beautiful Amazonian Venusians, who all speak perfect English. They’re taken to the palace of masked Queen Ylana (Laurie Mitchell), who has wiped out all men on Venus save for a handful of scientists living in exile on a satellite to do her bidding. Ylana believes them to be spies and imprisons them while she makes plans for a counterstrike. She sends for Patterson to be taken to her boudoir, where they share space cocktails for two. Ylana tries to seduce him, and almost succeeds, until Patterson rips off her mask to reveal her horribly disfigured face due to atomic radiation. “Men did this to me”, she says, “men and their wars”,  which explains why she hates men so much- the woman’s downright ugly (in a pretty decent makeup job by Emile LaVigne).

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Having rejected Ylana (and who can blame him!), Patterson’s sent back to his men, who’re taken by some rebel girls to the lab of scientist Talleah (Zsa Zsa, who’s NEVER spoken perfect English!). Talleah tells the Earthlings that Ylana plans to destroy Earth in two days by means of a beta disintegrator ray. They all escape and search for the weapon of mass destruction and the girls, horny after being deprived of men for so long, engage in a  make-out session with the guys inside a cave (except poor Konrad, who goes to gather firewood). After an attack by a silly looking space spider that resembles a child’s plush doll, Konrad warns them an Amazon patrol is outside. Talleah and her girls pretend they’ve captured the men in order to gain access to Ylana’s death ray.

Queen Ylana is captured by the gang, and Talleah disguises herself as Ylana to give the order to stop the destruction of Earth. Ylana breaks free and recaptures everybody, then forces them all to watch as Earth is about to be zapped to kingdom come. But Talleah’s rebels have sabotaged the death ray, causing Ylana herself to be disintegrated. The rebels take power, and are sad to see the Earthmen go. But a communication from Earth tells Patterson and his crew not to fly home in their battered spaceship, they’ll send a rescue mission that’ll take about a year or so. The men rejoice as they realize they’re about to spend a year on a planet filled with sex-starved, beautiful Amazon women!

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Yes, it’s sexist and nonsense and pretty bad, but not PHYNX-like   bad, more like a third season episode of STAR TREK  bad. It’s certainly fun, especially to watch the camera linger lovingly on all that female pulchritude. Oh yes, DP William Whitley knew EXACTLY what he was doing, and the result is a voyeur’s dream. Among the Amazons, you’ll spot 50’s babes like Lisa Davis, Barbara Darrow, Marilyn Buferd  , and Mary Ford (Mrs. Les Paul), all minor actresses who dressed up many a low-budget flick. There’s even an uncredited bit from sexy Joi Lansing  as the girl making out with Waltz’s character before they fly into space.

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Marlin Skiles’ score isn’t bad, featuring some weird instrumentation, using that 50’s sci-fi standard the theremin as well as xylophones and even a harpsichord! The sets and art direction do the best they can with a limited budget, but the special effects are just plain ludicrous. QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE won’t tax your brain, and isn’t (to be honest) very good, but if you’re in the right mood, it’s goofy enough to entertain you this Halloween season. Especially if you’re a guy, and feel like spending 80 minutes ogling hot 50’s sci-fi Amazonian babes! Just ask Commander Trump:

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“Will ya quit gropin’ me, ya big ape!”

 

Twilight of the Gods: HILLBILLYS IN A HAUNTED HOUSE (Woolner Brothers 1967)

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Let’s face it, HILLBILLYS IN A HAUNTED HOUSE is a lousy excuse for a movie. The acting is atrocious, the script derivative and juvenile, and the direction nearly non-existent. It’s a scare comedy that’s neither scary nor funny, and if you’re not a fan of 60’s style Country & Western music you’ll absolutely hate it. The only reason this Woolner Brothers drive-in dreck is remembered today is the presence of horror icons Basil Rathbone , John Carradine, and Lon Chaney Jr as the villains. But even this trio of terror can’t save the movie.

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The plot (such as it is) concerns country entertainers Woody Weatherby (Ferlin Husky, a classic country singer who can’t act), Boots Malone (blonde bombshell Joi Lansing), and Jeepers (country comic Don Bowman) forced to spend the night in the eerie Beauregard Mansion. There put through the usual fright paces with ghosts (obvious sheets on strings), a “weird-woof” (as Jeepers calls it), and a gorilla (George Barrows, Ro-Man of the immortal ROBOT MONSTER). Of course, it’s all a plot by some nefarious spies led by Madame Wong (Linda Ho, CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER) and the horror vets. A secret agent from the Master Organization To Halt Enemy Resistance aka MOTHER (Richard Webb, TV’s CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT) rescues the singers, and a “real” ghost (a Confederate general, no less) helps in bringing down the bad guys.

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Then we get about half an hour of Ferlin Husky introducing acts at the Nashville Jamboree. If you’re not into twangy 60’s honky tonk country you might as well turn the film off, but if you are, you’ll get to see the late Merle Haggard perform “Closing Time”, lovely Molly Bee singing “Heartbreak USA”, Husky doing “One Bridge I Haven’t Crossed”, Bowman talk/sing a novelty tune about a drunk who can’t find his house, and the sexy Miss Lansing do the upbeat “Part Time Lover”.  I think I enjoyed this part of the movie more than the actual “story”.

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As for the classic heroes of horror, Chaney comes off best as Maximilian. Despite his ragged appearance and bloated body from years of alcohol abuse, Lon gives the most energetic performance here, clowning around with the gorilla, cruelly locking Joi Lansing in an Iron Maiden, and seemingly enjoying himself. Carradine, once a fine actor in films like STAGECOACH and THE GRAPES OF WRATH, had been coasting for years now in Grade-Z trash like this. He hadn’t made a prestigious picture since 1962’s THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, and wouldn’t again until 1976’s THE SHOOTIST with old pal John Wayne.

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The fall from grace was even harder for Basil Rathbone. Once hailed as a Great Screen Villain in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, DAVID COPPERFIELD, and A TALE OF TWO CITIES, Rathbone hit it big portraying master sleuth Sherlock Holmes in a series of films that remain popular even today. He is widely considered THE filmic Sherlock Holmes, and I certainly won’t debate that! But Rathbone tired of being typecast and fled Hollywood to return to the New York stage, causing resentment among certain studio types. When he returned to movies he was cast in smaller supporting roles, and by the 60’s was reduced to low-budget crap like THE MAGIC SWORD and VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET. HILLBILLYS IN A HAUNTED HOUSE was Rathbone’s last American film (he did one more in Mexico, AUTOPSY OF A GHOST), a sad ending for one of movies greatest actors. Basil Rathbone died later that year at age 75. (This was also the last feature for director Jean Yarbrough, the man who brought you THE DEVIL BAT !)

So there are a few reasons to watch this turkey: (1) if you’re a classic horror buff and want to see these icons one more time (2) if you’re a Country & Western fan and are willing to sit through the bulk of this nonsense to get to the music (3) if you’re into the pneumatic Monroe/Mansfield/Van Doren wannabe Joi Lansing . If you’re not in any one of those three categories, steer clear.

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