Thursday, September 8, 2016

Uncovering "The Phynx"

Let's see... it only took us twenty-seven years from first hearing of this movie to actually being able to view it! We're hardly in the minority, however. The Phynx (1970) is so little-known, obscure and off-the-beaten-path that unless one has read or heard about it, it isn't likely to register at all! In fact, despite a fair amount of pre-release press, the film was never even properly distributed in the U.S., thus an actual poster is harder to find than the film itself. This publicity blurb - regarding many of the stars who were reporting to work on the piece - will have to suffice. (In case its too blurry to read, the text says, "The Phynx are pleased to welcome their great guest stars shooting today at Warner Bros - Seven Arts ...where the action is."

A combination of sorts of The Monkees, Get Smart and Laugh-In, peppered with pop songs by rock 'n roll songwriting legends Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller ("Hound Dog," "Stand By Me" or "On Broadway" anyone?), it was in no way a cheap film, but going virtually unreleased as it did it was a considerable failure and a teeming money pit. In some ways it bears resemblance to later movies (and, likewise, flops!) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) and The Apple (1980), so fans of those ought to be able to stick this one out, though perhaps with a nice strong beverage at hand.

The movie begins with U.S. government agent Lou Antonio trying desperately, via a variety of methods, to break into the Communist country of Albania (surprisingly, a true and actual country was named rather than coming up with a fictional one!) He tries scaling the walls, posing as a corpse for a funeral procession...

...and even shoots himself out of a cannon! But on the other side, Albanian colonel and de facto leader Michael Ansara is always one step ahead of him. The cartoon-like antics of Antonio as he continually tries in vain to enter the country give way to a brief, psychedelic, animated credits sequence done by the legendary Warner Brothers art department, the same one who gave us Looney Tunes.
Antonio is shown entering an Inter- national House of Pancakes, exchanging hand signals with the host/cashier on duty and then entering the men's room where a secret panel takes him to his home base and his boss, Mike Kellin. Kellin, who adopts a strenuously bad Humphrey Bogart accent throughout the movie, discusses with Antonio a growing emergency, one which necessitates a meeting of all the active covert agents.

Here we get a heavy taste of just how reinforced the stereotypes of the time are going to be in this film! A huge auditorium is filled with gun-toting government agents, divided into easily-identifiable sections. Here, we find bikers, The KKK, police, hookers (the only section containing females!), Cubans and Black Power advocates, each with their own group name. (Why this is needed at a meeting, who knows... Kellin doesn't recognize his own people?)

Not done, we also find priests, boy scouts, Chinese laundry workers (!) and advertising executives. This mass collection of people is informed that the Albanians are kidnapping various notable figures from the entertainment world for reasons unknown. They collectively try to brainstorm for a solution.

Kellin introduces the big man, Number One, who has adopted a disguise, for some reason, consisting of a box over his head. The voice emanating from this creation belongs to Rich Little, doing a startlingly poor imitation of then-President Richard Nixon.

When no one seems to know exactly how to proceed with rescuing the famous detainees, a boy scout stands up and announces that they need to consult with "M.O.T.H.A," a female-shaped computer with cards at its disposal for every man, woman and child in the country!

Kellin informs M.O.T.H.A ("Mecha- nical Oracle That Helps Americans") of the dilemma and soon "her" reels (located within plexiglass breasts!) are spinning and her belly contains a television that displays images. She determines that the U.S. needs to concoct a globally-famous rock group, comprised of four specially trained young men, who will head to Albania for a concert and rescue the captives! One by one, the names of the selected young gentlemen spit out from the computer's crotch and each guy is shown being "recruited."

Dennis Larden is a university student and would-be activist from a small town who is interviewed by Antonio posing as a newsman. While Larden is giving his answer to a question posed by the "reporter," a tree in the background creeps closer and closer, eventually swallowing him up entirely and spiriting him away from the campus!

Next, Ray Chippeway, a Native American, has graduated college and returned home to a pair of unimpressed parents. Upset by their attitude, he heads off to a saloon (reinforcing the stereotype of "drunken injuns," the place has "FIREWATER" in big letters across the top of the entrance) where he is captured and taken away, just like the previous fellow.

A. Michael Miller is seen lifting weights as a curvaceous coed enters his dorm room for a roll in the hay. She's there to see his roommate, but that guy isn't there, so Miller is expected to fill-in! However, before he can complete his reps and start a new set on top of her, he's sucked up into a air vent by a powerful magnet and stolen away.

Finally, we meet Lonny Stevens, a TV spokes- person who's seen filming a beer commercial. He steps away from the set and is soon kidnapped, completing the foursome that M.O.T.H.A so carefully selected. In a jab at southern states, the makers of the commercial are shown doing a retake of the very same beer ad, this time with a white actor in Stevens' place!
The quartet of recruited young men are taken to a remote outpost, a cobweb-ridden dump, in order to be rigorously trained (whether they want to be or not!) as not only successful rock stars, but as top-level secret agents!

Putting the boot in boot camp is a very special instructor, none other than Poseidon's Under- world's very favorite hunk, Clint Walker! He's playing a version of himself, forced against his own will to knock the young men into fighting shape.
The men are more than reluctant to be put through their paces this way against their will, but Walker has been given a job to do and he intends to do it at any cost.

He isn't the only famous person who's been called upon to do his part, though. The boys are also shown how to appreciate soul (via a large smorgasbord of soul food!) by none other than Richard Pryor! And Trini Lopez is enlisted to teach them how to play the guitar.

Also on hand is Harold Sakata to teach the guys martial arts. Sakata, if you don't know, was famous at the time for portraying "Oddjob," a villain in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger, who used a bowler hat with reinforced steel in the brim to damage or kill his enemies!

Next, they're given mod makeovers so that the visual impact on the world will be unmis- takably "now." So who is brought in to pass judgement on how well the makeovers have gone? America's oldest teenager and the head of the legendary teen music show American Bandstand, Dick Clark!

Antonio, from this point in the movie on in his guise as the band's manager, is saddled with a preposterous Afro wig. (Did this eventually wind up on Victoria Principal's head in Earthquake, 1974,??) Oh, and have I mentioned that the band's name is The Phynx? (Presumably, the fact that it sounds like "The Finks" has some sort of meaning?)

In order to ensure that The Phynx deliver the very best sort of sound on their debut album, a top producer is dragged in to oversee the recording. Larry Hankin (seen here with groupie Ultra Violet) plays a zoned-out character named Philbaby, inspired by Phil Spector who apparently declined taking a cameo role in the film.

While the band records its songs, Hankin indulges in all sorts of crazy behavior inside the booth, with a bikini-clad chick stretched out on the counter and Ultra Violet bathing his feet!

In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, Guy Lombardo is shown conducting background vocalists for The Phynx's album. Then we see Ed Sullivan being forced at gunpoint to be in this movie to introduce the band on his iconic variety show! Lombardo isn't around long enough to register, but Sullivan looks more than a little baffled by the whole thing.

The band is an instant hit, though it turns out that the entire audience is made up of trenchcoat-wearing secret agents anyway. I never got to see The Ed Sullivan Show, but no clips I've ever witnessed from it had this black background for the acts. I thought it was always a brightly-lit set??
Antonio heads to record stores and machine- guns away many of the existing merchan- dise so that shelves can be stocked with The Phynx's new album. It's a runaway hit (there's nothing else to listen to!) and soon the four boys have scads of fans beckoning for their autograph. Here, one fan has offered up her baby's bottom for a quick signature!

A small army of secretaries is enlisted to help handle all the incoming calls, requests and so forth for anything related to The Phynx. One fun aspect of this film is that, being made in 1969 for a 1970 (non!)release, the clothes, hair and makeup on the ladies is fun. I especially love this curvy blonde chick.

The band has earned a gold record and making a special appearance to present it is none other than the "Godfather of Soul" James Brown! For those of us who only know him from his later days with all the longer hair and elaborate clothing, this comparatively mild look on him is a bit fascinating.

More and more (once)famous celebrities are going missing, the latest casualties reported to television audiences by famed columnist and gossip queen Rona Barrett.

Sick to death of their special training, missing their old lives and not at all willing to complete their mission, the four young men escape the training camp where they've been living and head back to their respective homes. They soon find (as a Sonny Bono-ish Larden is shown here) that they no longer fit in with their families or friends, so they return to the base.

Kellin & Co. have realized the error of their ways in restricting the libidinous boys so much and so as a special treat, the band is gifted with an elaborate orgy! The barracks has been transformed into a day-glo paradise of buxom babes and chirpy cheerleaders, each ready to give her all to The Phynx.
Note in this shot that Stevens has his eye on a young lady in Indian garb. Frieda Rentie, the gal in question, is Marla Gibbs' sister and is famous to fans of The Poseidon Adventure (1972) as "India Lady," an emotive tablemate of Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine and Stella Stevens, who is featured next to them as the ship capsizes. It boggles the mind that she is wearing the very same sari here that she did in the latter film and even the very same necklace!! We never stop trying to connect the dots of cinema history in The Underworld! LOL
Antonio isn't permitted to partake in the orgy, much to his chagrin. Instead, Patsy Kelly shows up out of nowhere in WWI-era Salvation Army garb and offers him a doughnut as his treat!

The boys are just plain spent after their raucous night (as are the girls, some of whom are removed from the barracks by forklift and laid in a row outside until they recover!) But the mission is on. The gang heads to Europe where they begin their quest for the castle which houses the captive stars. Someone who can help is espionage agent Martha Raye.

She has three daughters sprinkled throughout Europe who are tattooed on their bellies with part of a map that will lead to Ansara's hideaway. Unfortunately, Kellin accidentally shoots her and she expires before she can tell the band their names or how to contact them. However, she does have photos of each girl. They just aren't, as you can see below, particularly helpful ones!

The boys embark on a three-city tour in order to find these gals and piece together the map. In London, they have a concert and search the audience for a redhead with a bracelet like the girl is wearing in the photo. In Copenhagen, they hold "interviews" with about a thousand blondes until they find the girl in question. They then head to Italy in order to seek out the third one.

This one is the most fun of the exploits. The guys are given special rose-tinted glasses which give the wearer the ability to instantly see beneath people's clothing! Thus, whenever one of the band members dons the glasses, we see the before and after of various Neapolitan citizens and visitors.
This pair of "ugly Americans" are seen toting cash, a gun and an LBJ t-shirt under their street wear.
At a party, the nubile young people on the dance floor are shown wiggling around in their undies.
Of particular note is the couple shown here dancing. With the switch to the rose-tinted lenses, we find that it is in actuality a male-male couple!
No one is safe from the prying eyes of The Phynx as they travel the streets, marketplaces and in some cases even the monasteries and nunneries of Italy!
This group of sightseers is shown stripped of their travel wear.
Finally, with all the tattoos collected, the gents are free to arrive in Albania for a concert, as arranged by dictator Ansara (note the names/ initials of the TV stations covering his announcement.)

Once in place, they take the opportunity to sneak into the castle, which houses not only the figurehead leader of the country, but reportedly all the missing celebrities as well! They gain entry surprisingly easily considering the alleged importance of the location.

Once they creep up inside the castle, they discover that the (practically powerless) leader of Albania is George Tobias (then still portraying Abner Kravitz on Bewitched!) He explains to The Phynx how Ansara runs the show because he's the one with the tank.

But why all the stolen celebs?! It turns out that Tobias' wife Joan Blondell (as a character named "Ruby") was once one of Busby Berkeley's "Gold Diggers" (as in the musical films Gold Diggers of 1933 and Gold Diggers of 1937, which Blondell truly did star in) and, as a virtual captive herself - albeit in total luxury - who misses America tremendously, she had various stars of the era snatched and brought to live with her in Albania!

She has also nabbed Colonel Harland Sanders, the Kentucky Fried Chicken magnate, to personally prepare and serve up his legendary fowl to Tobias and her on a daily basis!
Once confronted with the error of her ways, she sees how selfish she's been to have collected all these people from America, denying her fellow countrymen the right to enjoy their presences any longer. (But, in a bit of sad irony, was anyone truly missing them in what was by then a youth-driven, disposable culture?)

A private perfor- mance is arranged, emphat- ically endorsed by Tobias and Blondell's nostalgia-loving son Joseph Gazal, and the ballroom is arranged with rows and rows of chairs.

The surreal nature of the situation grows greater when Tobias' butler Fritz Feld takes his place at the doorway and begins to announce each of the captive celebrities as they enter in small clusters of two or three! Far from being mistreated, they actually have enjoyed their "captivity" in the castle and nearly all of them are decked out to the nines in evening finery. I will caption each photo with the participants.
Actor Pat O'Brien and Maureen O'Sullivan, looking quite smashing I must say!
"Toastmaster General" and actor George Jessel and actress-singer Marilyn Maxwell (who was found dead just two years after this of a heart attack at only age fifty.)
Olympian-turned-actor Johnny Weissmuller, singer Cass Daley and boxing legend, aka - "The Brown Bomber," Joe Louis.
Dead End Kids-turned-Bowery Boys Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey.
Spanish bandleader (and then-husband of Charo!)
Xavier Cugat. Not shown in this post is his orchestra, who were also brought to Albania.
Hoofer and actress Ruby Keeler, singing actor Rudy Vallée and "The Sarong Girl" Dorothy Lamour, who, in addition to many South Sea set movies was the sidekick to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in their many Road movies.
Charlie McCarthy with his ever-present friend Edgar Bergen, one-third of The Andrews Sisters, Patty Andrews, and actor Louis Hayward. Andrews' husband Marty Melcher left her for Doris Day, but she was well rid of him and wed another man who was her spouse for sixty years!
The Lone Ranger and Tonto. This wasn't Clayton Moore, but John Hart, who'd replaced Moore for one season of The Lone Ranger when producers seemed to feel that almost anyone could portray a masked hero, but fans balked. He and Jay Silverheels just don't seem to be meshing here the way Moore and Silverheels did.
Legendary kaleidoscopic choreographer and director Busby Berkeley.
Easily the hootiest of the entrances in this section, the arrival of Berkeley's original Gold Diggers! They come sashaying in together in rhythm with arms wafting!
For some reason, two guests are denied the same "red carpet" treatment as all the rest and it's rather annoying. They couldn't spend an extra eleven or twelve seconds of film to let Andy Devine and (shown here) Butterfly McQueen enjoy a proper entrance along with the others?!

Now all the guests are assembled for this command perfor- mance and it's quite a sight.

It's also a little bit disheart- ening to see how unkind time has been to some of the faces of 1930s and '40s movie stars (though I would likely rather have this than some of the garishly-augmented pusses we're currently confronted with by an appearance-obsessed society.)

I mean, there isn't a tremendous amount of difference in the waxen, creased, static face of Jessel and the wooden noggin of ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy!

Hayward was a four pack a day smoker for fifty years who died of lung cancer. Anyone who can watch this film and look at his visage (he was but sixty years of age!) yet still light up is a more determined person than I!

Onetime collab- orators Berkeley and Keeler are shown sitting next to one another as the first song of the concert begins. It is knee- slappingly funny to see Keeler rocking her head to what is truly an ungodly awful song, poorly sung through Miller's nose.

The song, though, is especially designed to make the celebrities feel guilty about having abandoned America (even if America, in effect, abandoned them) and one of the clever lyrics referring to the U.S. flag "Old Glory" goes, "...the stripes were there, but the stars were all gone."

Soon, many of the stars are seen sniffling in sadness until Gorcey gets up and announces that they have to find a way to get back home. They must all escape! (It's a sad fact that the two people in this shot, Gorcey and Daley, were dead within five years of this movie. Gorcey, an alcoholic, died of liver failure before it was even released while Daley suffered a horrific home accident in which her throat was sliced by broken glass!)

Anyway, after O'Brien agrees with Gorcey that the time has come to get out of Albania, a plan is concocted to spirit the celebs away via - get this - cartloads of the country's top export, radishes!! In another hilariously surreal moment in a film filled with such, the stars are allegedly riding inside these shallow carts, quite comfortably, still dressed in their evening finery!

Colonel Sanders seems amused by the entire enterprise. I have to say that no matter what, I'm glad he did this movie because his old world charm is an antidote to the annoying new commercials that KFC has been putting out, loaded with fake, insulting renditions of him.

McQueen asks cart-mate Vallée if he's com- fortable, which he mistakes as a financial question!

Lamour looks on in repugnance as Devine bemoans the fact that they're stuck inside a radish cart without so much as one shaker of salt!

FINALLY, we get a moment of one-time Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) costars O' Sullivan and Weissmuller together and they mark the occasion in a charming and appropriate way.

Andrews listens while a highly-stiff Louis informs everyone of what he'll miss about Albania...

O'Brien relates the irony that if he and Ronald Reagan had swapped roles in 1940's Knute Rockne All American, Reagan might be the one sitting in the turnip cart while he might be in the California Governor's Mansion! All through this, Maxwell hilariously eyes him up and down like a turkey leg she's eager to devour.

Now free, the celebrities can return to the country that almost forgot about them and The Phynx could then, in turn, be almost completely forgotten, in the movie and in life! Of the four men selected to enact the musical secret agents, only one enjoyed any sort of acting career (Stevens), though even that was limited, while only one other (Larden) had success as a singer, though the greatest part of that (his participation in the band Every Mother's Son) was already behind him by this time.

Antonio started working on TV in 1960 and remained busy, occasionally appearing in a feature film such as America America (1963), Hawaii (1966) or Cool Hand Luke (1967.) He's remembered by Star Trek fans for his guest role as Lokai, an alien whose face was snow white on one side and pitch black on the other. Over time, he began to direct as well as act and, eventually, his directorial duties took center stage in his life, three times being Emmy nominated for that ability. Currently eighty-two, he retired in the mid-2000s.

Burly, gravel-voiced Kellin began working in movies in 1950 and balanced work there with plenty of television, often portraying gruff characters or gangsters. He also had a highly-successful Broadway career, even earning a Tony nomination for 1955's Pipe Dream. Some might recall him as Brad Davis' concerned father in Midnight Express (1978.) His final film was 1983's Sleepaway Camp thanks to his death that year of lung cancer at age sixty-one.

The imposing Ansara played a wide variety of stern, threatening characters over his long career. Like Antonio, he'd been a Star Trek guest star as well, playing the Klingon Kang. He also guest-starred three times on his then-wife Barbara Eden's series I Dream of Jeannie. Stricken with Alzheimer's disease later in life, he passed away in 2013 at age ninety-one.

Surprisingly, Tobias began working in movies way back in 1927 and proceeded to play bit roles in films as famous as Ninotchka (1939), Sergeant York (1941), and Mildred Pierce (1945.) He even had a role in the musicalization of Ninotchka, Silk Stockings (1957), among many others before settling in on Bewitched (enduring two Gladyses along the way!) His last role before dying of bladder cancer in 1980 at age seventy-eight was, appropriately enough, on an episode of the Bewitched spin-off Tabatha in 1977.
Blondell enjoyed a fifty year career in front of the camera starting in 1930. She was Oscar-nominated once for The Blue Veil (1950), but Kim Hunter won that year for A Streetcar Named Desire. A valuable character actress in her later years, she also was twice nominated for an Emmy for her work on Here Come the Brides, with the statuettes going to Barbara Bain for Mission: Impossible and Susan Hampshire in The Forsyte Saga. Leukemia claimed her in 1979 when she was seventy-three.

Really the whole reason we ever truly wanted to even SEE The Phynx was the knowledge that our beloved Clint Walker was in it. Until I saw the movie, I never knew if he was one of the captives or what... Only hearing about the movie rather than witnessing it, it was hard to know exactly what was going on in it (and even then it ain't easy!) Mr. Walker is still with us today at age eighty-nine.

Now there's no way I can go through all the rest of these people. However, I will try to share a couple more photos I've found. One is this one with starlet Pamela Austin putting the young recruits through their paces. I have no idea what she was instructing them in, but she was cut out of the final print.

There was another spy group intended to be seen in The Phynx, but for whatever reason never made the final cut. See the publicity here which includes Kellin and Antonio all dolled up as well!

Here also is a cast photo taken on the M.O.T.H.A. set with most of the participants in evidence. The movie might be lame and bizarre, but it is nonetheless fascinating that these people were all flung together in order to make it!

Tarzan fans can't help but be happy to see the most famous couple of all the ones who played their parts reunited once more, ever briefly. (The two did reunite one last time in 1977 on The Mike Douglas Show as well.) Weissmuller passed away in 1984 from a series of strokes at age seventy-nine while O'Sullivan lived until 1998, acting until 1994, when a heart attack took her at age eighty-seven.

I said before that this wasn't a "cheap" movie. Longtime Hollywood costume designer Donfeld created all the clothing for the band and for most of the stars seen in the picture. For all that went in to the design of the movie for it to go unreleased is mind-boggling. Allegedly, a changing of the guard at Warner Brothers resulted in a big push for Woodstock (1970) and a trip to the woodpile for this one.

Plans had been in place at one time to release a tie-in soundtrack album of all the songs performed by The Phynx, but in the end that didn't happen and so these record album covers remained what they were in the movie... just props.

I hope that at least the celebrities stuck in this thing had fun. It appears that Maxwell, shown here delivering a K.O. to Louis, did. I also hope that they were paid something decent for their trouble. You know how we love to try to hold back the sands of time here in The Underworld and pay tribute to the performers that aren't "hot" anymore. I don't know that this movie did any of them any good, but I'm glad it exists so that we can check in with some of these folks at the time it was made.

Incidentally, Albania is no longer a Communist country and its amazing scenic beauty is now available for the rest of the world to see along with its historic physical structures.

One final bonus. I encourage you to visit this page, which has a critique of the film along with more photos and even interviews with two of the participants who share a (sometimes deliciously juicy) detail or two regarding the stars involved.

16 comments:

petercox97 said...

just for the record, victoria principal gives me life in her gorgeously styled afro wing in earthquake. i recently saw a classic episode of carson where she wore it and spent most of her interview time fending off the lecherous advances of fernando lamas and the allegedly murderous robert blake. then in a surreal moment, lamas and blake went on a homophobic diatribe about how paul newman and robert redford needed to stop riding out into the sunset with each other and needed to spend more time with women. what the hell was that? robert blake one of the most undesirable men on television in any decade had the nerve to take cheap homophobic shots at gorgeous men like newman and redford?

Rick Gould said...

Wowsa! This movie sounds right up there with "Skidoo!" These late 60's and early '70s flicks that mixed young unknowns with stars from yesteryear really showed how desperate studios were to fill theater seats...

Lou Antonio directed one of the first HBO made movies, "Between Friends," with Elizabeth Taylor and Carol Burnett. Which you can watch on YouTube. Antonio did a great job directing these two icons.

Clint Walker reminds me of "Mad Men's" Don Draper, or should I say Dick Whitman, flinty-eyed hunk in uniform!

I don't know if I ever want to see this movie, but I loved reading your post about "The Phynx."

Rick

hagai aviel said...

it's not turnips but radishes

Gingerguy said...

I saw this movie was going to be on TCM at 4 a.m. but just couldn't make myself wake up or record it, so thanks for taking one for the team Poseidon. Ditto that it reminded me of "Skidoo" and also the very odd "Magic Christian" the formula being surrealism mixed with lots of old star cameos. I truly laughed out loud at the Victoria(The Wig Principal)comment. Some things stick with me and that afro is unforgettable on her. Speaking of wigs, the one on Joan Blondell doubles the size of her head, impressive. Is Fritz Feld the guy who made popping sounds with his mouth, usually as a snotty Maitre'D? the cast just kept getting odder and odder and a little sad to see my favorite stars of the 30's/40's in such bad lighting. Dorothy Lamour was not that old, and around this time she showed up in a beach party movie. Yikes. As this relic is rarely shown I doubt I will run across it, but sure did love the recap.

Panalex said...

Hooray! Much as I've been used to being surprised by your discoveries, I can't believe this is the actual plot of an actual movie with actual stars!

Roberta Steve said...

OMG Poseidon, this movie is a trip - a very, very bad acid trip! Instead of the egg-frying "this is your mind on drugs" commercial they should show this movie to warn others of the dangers of doing drugs. I picture some studio executive finding his hippie kid's stash of peyote, smoking it while watching the Late Show (Berkeley's Gold-diggers, no doubt) and then having the "vision" for this film. I can't believe TCM showed it. I'll have to scour their schedule for the next air date. It is sad to see how time was not listed d to many of the stars. I can't believe Maxwell was only in her late 40s! I do, however, think O'Sullivan looks lovely and I LOVE her dress.

Poseidon3 said...

Rick, you're not the first person to mention "Skidoo!" in the same breath as this. They share some similarities, but this has a different sort of feel to me. This is a little bit more frolicsome, I think, for better or worse. There are a fair amount of scenes I didn't focus on (it was a long enough post as it is!) which might make it seem a teensy bit more coherent than my tribute suggests.

Gingerguy, I cannot believe you KNEW this was going to be on and still skipped it! It seems like just the sort of craziness you'd enjoy. Yes, Fritz did mouth noises and so on. Very rubber-faced and often played waiters, hotel clerks, etc... and is perhaps best known as the maitre d' at Harmonia Gardens in Hello Dolly?

Panalex, surreal isn't it?! I'm glad you got a kick out of this.

Roberta, as I say, I waited EONS to see this. I rarely, if ever, shell out for burn-to-order DVDs and this one is available as such. I waited for TCM to deliver it to me. (What was another year or two?! LOL) I also had trouble believing Maxwell was only 48... younger than I am now, but seems older! When Maureen O'Sullivan came around the bend, I was like, "Rosalynn Carter?!?!" Ha ha! But she does just look terrific and I ADORE the dress. So unusual and flattering. Not everyone can pull off that fabric, especially all those sitting scenes!

fandex said...

I remember this movie being hyped in the pages of "16" and "Tiger Beat" magazines as a young teen. The Phynx were supposed to be the next big thing ala The Monkees. Then it just seem to disappear, I never realized the movie actually got made.

joel65913 said...

Like you Poseidon I was anxious to see this and recorded it when it popped up at last on TCM.

Going in I knew zip about it, I had read the cast list somewhere-probably a Leonard Maltin movie guide and based on that was eager to see it but had always assumed because of the time period it was made and the sorry projects Golden Age actors at that point were subjected to I expected a horror movie!

In a way that's what I got just a different kind. While it was mindnumbingly stupid it was also fun after a fashion. Until they got to the castle it was mostly insufferable but that galaxy of stars at the end made up for it. It was fascinating-sometimes sad and sobering, sometimes intriguing to see the mashup of talents but always bizarre. Maureen O'Sullivan and Ruby Keeler looked great, Patti Andrews aged just as I imagined she would-big and brassy and Butterfly McQueen despite a less than flattering hairdo looked fine but everybody else looked awfully rough. I was horrified at Leo Gorcey and wasn't the least bit surprised when you said he was gone before the film's release, very sad.

Funny the least shocking were George Tobias and Joan Blondell but I suppose that's because the two of them just kept in their pitching, working consistently and we watched them slowly age into the looks they had here whereas most of the others had withdrawn from public view.

I was delighted to see it and loved reading your recap but I will never watch it again. Also thanks for that link, it was a great remembrance of this farago.

A said...

Wonderful!

paintbrush said...

Sort of "Night of 100 Stars" but the movie version. Who sold the Studio on this idea? I'm kinda speechless.

EricSwede said...

Loved the recap. Of Cass Daley it was said she could eat corn on the cob through a tennis racket.

Poseidon3 said...

Fandex, it's fascinating that the studio would release so much press on the movie and then not release it at all! It was like one showing in an Indiana mall cineplex and a cast screening and little, if anything, else! Then it was seen on TV some. I guess sort of a version of what later became straight-to-video when movies would be shelved and then put out for sale as VHS rentals, etc...

Joel, I couldn't understand some of the pairings of the people. Why didn't Fritz announce Maureen and Johnny together? I never thought that Maureen and Pat ever even really knew each other or worked together. But what's hilarious is that I looked that up and they did, in fact, play spouses in an episode of "The Ford Television Theatre" in 1954. Get this, the cast was Pat O'Brien, Maureen O'Sullivan and Margaret O'Brien! "O'" my....!

A, I'm glad you liked this!

Paintbrush, that's a hilariously apt description of the finale of this movie! More like "Night of a Dozen Stars" but nonetheless! Thanks.

Poseidon3 said...

Eric, oh god... LOL I was trying to avoid Ms. D's orthodontia. My stepfather used to say, "She could eat an apple through a chain-link fence!" Must vary slightly based on the crops grown in one's region?

Ken Anderson said...

Wonderful post, Poseidon! Way back in the early 80s I worked for a time at bookstore on the Sunset strip with Dennis Larden, one of the members of the Phynx (almost unrecognizable from his pic here...he had a thick Elliott Gould moustache, sideburns and much shorter hair. We were just co-workers and he told me once belonged to a band and they appeared in this big Hollywood movie that was supposed to launch them as the next Monkees. I had never even heard of the film at the time.
That was over 30 years ago and I finally got to see the film when it aired on TCM. Boy! Had I known what an oddity it was I would have grilled him for details. After all these years, Larden must be thrilled this movie has finally seen the light of day.

Poseidon3 said...

Ken, that is positively amazing that you worked with and knew one of the stars of this movie! He's one of the people interviewed at the link towards the end, I believe? He was born with a different last name, but music industry people wanted it changed so he combined his brother Larry's name with his own (Dennis) and came up with Larden as a new last name! Thanks for reading and sharing your info with us.