Those Meddling Kids
The creators of Scooby Doo did not invent the meddling kids sub-genre of fantasy (or, in Scooby’s case, faux fantasy) films. Kids were poking their noses into places where they didn’t belong well before Scooby and gang. Case in point are the two movies we review in this post. Both are products of American International Pictures, a well-known purveyor of B movies in the 1950s-1960s, both have “Ghost” in their title, both can be found on the same DVD, and now both appear on Cheese Magnet.
Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)
File under: Ghost: haunted house; teens: hotrods
GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW is one of those movies where they start filming more or less at random, lay down a bunch of loosely connected scenes, then when they have enough footage in the can call it a day. GHOST comes in at a slim 65 minutes, most of it sheer padding.
The first scene is perhaps the least thrilling drag race ever put on film, wherein Lois, the girlfriend of Stan, the goody two-shoes leader of our gang of teen-aged hoodlums, races the film’s bad girl on LA’s paved arroyos, without a giant ant in sight, at a harrowing forty or fifty (maybe) mph.
After she crashes the scene shifts to the gangs’ clubhouse where Stan is being interviewed about this hotrod stuff by a reporter who follows him around for the rest of the movie for no apparent reason. We learn that the gang’s about to lose their hangout and everyone repairs to the local malt shop to drown their sorrows.
The house band is playing a rockabilly tune that isn’t too bad for a film like this (see next review) and Lois and Amelia, the hot chick, and some other girl sing a song.
Bonzo, a quasi-beatnik, provides quasi comedy relief by talking jive. The scene switches to Lois’s house where she’s grilled by her long-suffering parents, who end up giving her permission to have a party. The gang shows up, as does the bad hotrod kids whose leader and Stan trash talk, then the leader of the bad kids dances with Lois and leaves. Meanwhile, also in attendance is the annoying reporter and Alice’s Dad’s client (I don’t know, he’s an accountant or something who lets his clients drop by the house for extended visits.) Anatasia Abernathy, an old maid with a talking parrot who vies with pseudo-beatnik Bonzo to be the film’s resident wit. It’s close, but I’ll give Bonzo the nod, barely, over the bird.
Then the slumber party. This is the high point of the movie, only because we get to see Amelia in her pjs, and Amelia is absolutely stunning.
She is a tall, statuesque brunette who wears nerd glasses, which only somehow add to her smouldering charm. She’s played by Sanita Pelkey, and God only knows why she didn’t have a bigger career in film. Pelkey was runner up in the 1957 Miss Exquisite Form pageant (really) and then won the Miss New York Pageant and was a Miss Universe semi-finalist. She was a showgirl in the Latin Quarter and the Moulin Rouge review, turned that into acting bits (or maybe a bit) on Steve Allen’s Tonight Show, and then had a few small movie gigs, including a stint as a Moon Girl in MISSILE TO THE MOON. Her role in GHOST is probably her biggest part, and she steals every scene she’s in.
Anyway, when Miss Abernathy learns that the gang has lost their club house, she says that she has a place down on Dragstrip Hollow, but it’s supposed to be haunted. The reporter, still suspiciously hanging around with the kids, says, well, let’s go check it out, and the kids agree. Finally, after about two-thirds of the movie, we get to the ghost stuff. Hijinks ensue.
The bad hotrodders show up AGAIN, challenge Lois to another race, and they go have their showdown offstage. Peculiar, for a supposed hotrod movie. At first it seems as if the place does have some kind of creature haunting it, then they discover that it’s only Paul Blasidell, AS HIMSELF, in a version of the suit he wore in SHE-CREATURE who when caught complains about how no one appreciates him and his work and storms out of the scene. Odd, to say the least.
Finally, in the last minute as the kids are dancing around to their badda-badda music, an actual ghost appears,
complains about the noise and, I don’t know, leaves or something. It wasn’t clear.
There is no plot to this movie. No real conflict. No story arc. Nothing gets resolved. It’s like some French avant garde flick from the 1970s. It’s only saving graces are Sanita Pelkey, her stunning good looks and undeniable cinematic presence, and the unexpected and bizarre appearance of Paul Blaisdell. Both bits make you go, huh, and wonder why. Oh — a third saving grace. It’s short. Very short. For these positives, it gets a 4.
THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI (1966) Starring (loosely): Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Nancy Sinatra, Tommy Kirk, and Deborah Walley
File under: Ghosts: haunted houses; teens
THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI was the last of AIP’s seven Beach Party films, though in this one they had to settle for frugging by the pool. They also had to carry on without Frankie Avalon, who for some reason was getting tired of these movies, and Annette Funicello, who opted to stay at home with her new family. They both probably made the right decision.
Instead, we get Tommy Kirk and Deborah Walley and, let’s face it, if you’re relying on Tommy Kirk to be your male romantic lead, you’re already in a world of hurt.
The screenplay is an absolute mess. I couldn’t even begin to attempt a coherent rundown of the plot, and if I did you wouldn’t want to read it. Much too tedious. Let’s just focus on the villains in the piece, so you’ll get a taste of the crazy this film brings. This is what you get, I suppose, when one of your writers was a scenarist for the The Three Stooges (Someone WROTE their skits? Really?).
Okay, you’ve got Basil Rathbone as Reginald Ripper the evil lawyer,
who is trying to prevent the rightful heirs (Kirk, Walley, and some crazy middle aged woman who has an apparently brain damaged nephews who brings all his grifter teen friends to hang out at the mansion resorting in some awful music as discussed below) of his client, Hiram Stokley, from inheriting his fortune, which turns out to be hidden somewhere in the mansion. Basil’s henchman is J. Sinister Hulk. He also has an evil daughter named Sinistra (the otherwise delightful Quinn O’Hara) who tries to seduce and then murder the brain dead nephew numerous times. J. Sinister (the henchman, not to be confused with the daughter, Sinistra.) decides that he can’t handle the job alone, so he hires Princess Yolanda (beach party movie veteran Bobbi Shaw), Chicken Feather (some old-time actor who stepped in for Buster Keaton who died before he could appear in this film and defame his career), and Monstro (a guy in a gorilla suit who, amusingly enough, also played Ro-Man in ROBOT MONSTER). Along the way, Beach Party vet Eric von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and his biker gang also join the party. Finally, yet also some random guy in a monster suit left over from another movie I haven’t been able to track down appears. I have no idea who this last guy was affiliated with, and he probably didn’t either.
Notice I haven’t mentioned Boris Karloff or the Ghost, yet.
Well, here goes. I read somewhere on line (so it must be true) that the suits were unimpressed with the movie’s original cut. What it needed (instead of better characters and a better script) was to have the confusion level punched up, so they added the Karloff/Ghost subplot. Karloff by this time was not mobile, so basically he just sits in his coffin and talks to Cecily the Ghost (played by vivacious Susan Hart) who carries out his wishes. Karloff (Hiram Stokley) had amassed his fortune in a dubious manner, so he has twenty-four hours to do a good deed or he’ll end up you know where. He decides to ensure that his rightful heirs get his money, so he sends Cecily (his wife or girlfriend who predeceased him) to make sure this happens. Why? I suppose because she looks better in an invisible bikini than an eighty-some year old Karloff would. But don’t get your hopes up too high. The bikini isn’t invisible. The parts of the ghost being covered by the bikini are.
GHOST ends with a twenty minute (at least) slapstick fest in the haunted house’s basement.
Just about what you’d expect from a Three Stooges scenario writer. Besides the usual rack, chains, and other torture devices, this basement also has a huge circular saw/conveyor belt contraption that of course our heroine gets tied to, with only Tommy Kirk to save her. Good luck with that.
But that wasn’t the worst torture in the movie. The music was. You got the Bobby Fuller Four, who actually had a worthwhile hit (“I Fought The Law And The Law Won”). They were okay, although the songs they sang weren’t much. This movie came out right before Bobby Fuller’s mysterious death, possibly at the hands of a disgruntled fan who saw this movie. The Nancy Sinatra songs were awful. Like most of the music in movies of this ilk, they weren’t rock or even pop. They were what suits in movie production companies like AIP THOUGHT were rock or pop, which made them dreck. One song was sung by an Italian starlet who had a fortuitously brief career, in this country anyway, by the unfortunate name of Picola Pupa, which sounds like the name of the creature in some hideous mutated bug movie.
Claudia Martin, daughter of Dean Martin, was also in this film. I kept expecting her to break into song at any moment, but it seemed that the best she could muster was a terror-stricken deer staring into a spotlight gaze, which put a merciful stop to her brief film career.
So, what’s to like? Boris was kind of charming in his role as the corpse. Basil Rathbone really worked it hard with the little he was given. Quinn O’Hara also worked it hard in her bikini-clad scenes. I couldn’t hate this movie (except for most of the music), but all and all it was a disappointment, so it gets only a 4.
This double DVD is for completists only.
I’m getting a little tired of bad movies. Next time I promise some good ones.