Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A "Terminal" Case

Have a look at this montage of TV person- alities of the 1960s, '70s and '80s. You may recognize them as Don Marshall of Land of the Giants (1968-1970), Phyllis Davis of Vega$ (1978-1981),  Ena Hartman of Dan August (1970-1971), Marta Kristen of Lost in Space (1965-1968), Randy Boone of The Virginian (1964-1966), Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988), Roger E. Mosley also of Magnum, P. I. (1980-1988) and Geoffrey Deuel of The Young and the Restless (1973) and many TV guest roles. That's quite a cross-section of celebs and it wouldn't be out of line to expect to see a rundown of this sort at a nostalgia autograph-signing fan event or some such.

However, this gaggle of performers has something else in common with one another. They, along with sexy starlet Barbara Leigh and Drive-In movie actor Sean Kenney, were all cast in the 1973 prison exploitation flick Terminal Island! This grimy, but fun, cheapie took a look at what might happen if death sentence inmates were shuttled off to a remote island to fend for themselves rather than be housed in a typical prison in the wake of the removal of the death penalty.

In an interesting prologue, we're greeted with seemingly authentic citizens on the street giving their viewpoints on the pros and cons of the fictional island. In this story, California has determined that it's better off dropping prisoners who would ordinarily be executed onto the island of the title, where occasional supplies are delivered to help make life plausible.

The island, located 40 miles off the California coast, has no guards, is surrounded by mines and is patrolled by a circulating ship. Anyone convicted of first-degree murder is sent there to meet whatever fate awaits them.
A newswoman and her producer discuss the details of an upcoming special commem- orating the one-year anniversary of Terminal Island. They examine stock footage of the place and leaf through mug shots, trying to select which convicts' stories will make for the most interesting presentation possible. This background info also helps set up the various characters for us so that they won't be completely foreign when they make their appearances a bit later.

We see some film of a recently convicted woman (Ena Hartman) stampeding out of a courthouse, apparently headed for the penal colony herself.

Sure enough, she's soon dressed in the requisite get-up of the place, a pale blue shirt and slightly darker denim pants, and being transported via speedboat to the one accessible beach there. Upon arrival, there are a couple of fresh corpses either lying face down in the water or washed up on the sand! (The actor on the sand does a pretty good job of remaining "dead" as the water washes over his face.)

Deposited onto the shore with basically a knapsack to her name Hartman looks about for signs of other people (or anything resembling a settlement) before finally gathering up some wood for a fire.

She's approached by young and handsome Tom Selleck (the iconic mustache already in place), who is a doctor convicted of euthanasia and now addicted to powdered mimosa, which he continually snorts, leaving him in a haze most of the time.

He informs Hartman that while she may not have seen any of the other inmates, they've seen her! He also informs her of where the primary camp is, so she proceeds to pack up and head there before long.

Entering the grounds, which are basically a series of shacks and a few rudimentary structures and a few fires burning, she sees a lot of men, some working, some loitering. There are, however, only three other woman on the island: Barbara Leigh, Phyllis Davis and Marta Kristen.
Things head south pretty quickly for her when Roger E. Mosley (who's been shown doing sit-ups in the presence of the camp's self- proclaimed leader, Sean Kenney) comes out and is instructed to "break the bitch in!"
She extends her hand in a greeting and is promptly whalloped, then tussled with violently before being tossed to the ground, where her head is ground into the dirt by Mosley's construction boot. No one lifts a finger to help her, despite her pleas.

The other ladies of the camp aren't any more welcoming. The mute Leigh begins to fight with her over a particular corner of the flimsy shack they share. Davis informs her that the second corner she chooses is also off limits because Leigh likes that one, too! Then Hartman is informed that, like Davis and Kristen, one of her many job duties on site is to sexually service several male prisoners in a row!

The next day offers the vivid depiction (chosen for the movie's poster as well) of Hartman and Kristen being basically used as plowhorses, pulling a till across the soil of the camp's garden, where much of the food for the prisoners is grown.

Davis, a ho with a hoe, is exhausted yet deprived of anything to drink. When fellow prisoner Geoffrey Deuel offers her a sip of water from a canteen, it leads to a fight between him and the prisoner who's been overseeing the ladies.

Next our gals are seen building a retaining wall. Hartman's hands are shredded from all the manual labor and one-time doctor Selleck bandages them for her. She chides him for not warning her about the hellish conditions of the camp, but he protests that she never could have survived completely alone either.

Leigh, who is spared from having to bed down all the other prisoners, is nonetheless required to put out for Kenney. Kenney (who it appeared might be gay after the way he was helping Mosley with his sit-ups and patting him afterwards) is deathly afraid of the dark and keeps a light on at all times. He has an amusing, strategically-placed chess set over his privates for this scene in which he instructs Leigh to disrobe and join him on his bed.
The next day, we see a chow line run by the ladies where Kristen sarcastically utters the immortal line of dialogue, "I've got tits, so I have to play Betty Crocker." Somehow they have fresh-baked bread on the menu (and some raw beans that Kristen plops onto each plate!)

An unintentional knocking over of one inmate's food leads to a full-on brawl between two prisoners. One of them is dunked into the soup (you thought it tasted terrible before!) and then slammed into the "buffet" where his head is crammed into the bread and the beans are rubbed into his face. And it gets worse from there.

Every duty one might think of as belonging to a female is assigned to the four gals of the prison. So we next see them doing laundry in a particularly cruddy looking stream. No one would ever get any whites white here! Suddenly, they are abducted by a pack of renegade prisoners who had earlier left the primary camp.

All is not lost, though, because this faction of inmates actually demon- strate a modicum of humanity and respect for one another. They aren't exactly high class, but it's a definite step up from what the girls were enduring at the other encampment.

Kristen is given some honey wine from Randy Boone (which he calls "C.P." -- "cow piss!") and they all sit around a campfire sharing from flame-broiled chicken (captured from where, I couldn't tell you! The main camp had some chicken, but I doubt the fugitives stole and kept all these on hand for a special occasion...)

One of the inmates, Clyde Ventura, is a little more aggressive than the rest and makes his intentions towards Davis vividly known! She's not interested in him at all, however, and seems to prefer Boone.

In fact, she and Boone fall into a hilariously tawdry bit of business in which she drops chicken down her bra-less top and has to undo her shirt to find it, then tosses some down his shirt and discusses having to find a bone as she runs her hands down it. Ventura is less than pleased by this display.

Meanwhile, Hartman finds herself tentatively drawn to the new group's leader Don Marshall.
One day while foraging, Kristen announces that she has found some niter. No dumb blonde, she claims that with some ingenuity and combined ingredients, she will be able to create some makeshift hand grenades for use against Kenney and the other oppressors.

Marshall and Hartman are growing increasingly fond of each other and, while out and about on their own little sojourn, they seal the deal.

Meanwhile, Boone is explaining to Davis (whose wig looks insanely different from shot to shot in this movie) how he makes his honey wine. There's a tree stump filled with bees and he somehow is able to retrieve their sticky honeycomb. Still recalling Ventura's amorous advances, jealously and even an attempted assault, Davis begins to plot some revenge.

She times things so that Ventura will come upon her while bathing in the lake (a scene likely to please fans of the busty actress.) She very teasingly comes out of the water and begins to dress before him.

Next she leads him to a "secluded" spot where she suggests that they fool around together. (Do take note of the nearby stump!)

She teases and taunts him by slathering the raw honey all over his private parts, then turns him over and coats his ass with the stuff!

Then she takes a small log and begins beating the stump with it, causing the bees to zoom towards his honey-coated behind. (For unknown reasons, the bees ignore her hands, which are also covered with the stuff!) He takes off screaming as his "bee"hind is continually stung.

Finally, he reaches a pond and jumps in to stop the bees from stinging him any further. An unap- ologetic Davis mocks him and tosses him his jeans from the edge of the water. However, the revelry is short-lived as Mosley and a gang of prisoners from the main camp invade the area and begin killing!

Marshall has rigged a few traps and mechanisms of his own for protection and one of Mosley's goons gets stabbed in the stomach by one speared contraption. The fringe gang, despite losing a couple of members, manages to get away. Since one of them is alive, but badly injured, they go and get Selleck from the main camp to come and try to heal him.

They reconvene, setting up a new temporary camp, and begin to devise ways of killing off the members of the main camp who continue to dominate the island and maraud them at every turn. Hartman has discovered a root which contains deadly poison once boiled down, so they fabricate darts which are dipped in this stuff to go along with the grenades they're making.

Leigh wanders off to drink from a waterfall and wash her face, but is appre- hended by one of the men from Kenney's camp. She is dragged back there against her will.

Kenney has a new plan. The regular delivery of supplies is due and he intends to distract the guards by tying Leigh up on shore. Then when they see her and, hopefully, go to her, he can pick them off and steal their weapons.

To help make her an even more pathetic distraction, he rips apart the back of her shirt and savagely whips her.

Right on time, the boat arrives and two guards on an inflatable raft head to the shore with the supplies while the ravaged Leigh remains desperately and forlornly tied to the posts.

As they drop off two large crates, one of the guards exclaims that he can't take any more and heads over to her. With that, the guards are attacked and killed (as is the one driving the boat. Another inmate swam out to it and boarded it from behind.)

Kenney takes off with the automatic rifles he has procured, leaving one inmate on the shore to guard the supplies, but Boone swims up from behind and, crouching below the raft, manages to use the poison darts on him, killing him.

Now the team assembles to plan out their full on assault against Kenney and Co. back at the primary campsite. (Take note of how the blue prison uniforms all stand out vividly against the green foliage of the island. This is a surprisingly lush-looking movie thanks to being filmed on location.)

The director is fond of tableau like this one (and if you know me, you know that I, too, have a thing for arranged per- formers.) This team of stragglers plans to blow up most of the camp, kill anyone who resists and re-take control of Terminal Island from the fiendish Kenney. I won't reveal any further of whether they do it or not (or who among the group survives.)

It must be said, however, that even though Selleck was far from the best-known of the participants in this movie, his looks and star quality do manage to draw attention to themselves and he winds up being a more memorable, and focal, part of the movie over top-billed Marshall.

Marshall first came to be known by me for his portrayal of the fiery, almost insubordinate Lt. Boma on an early episode of Star Trek ("The Galileo Seven"), though I eventually got to see him on Land of the Giants as well. He had been working on a good amount of 1960s TV (including a few appearances on Julia) prior to this. By the mid-'70s, he'd turned to producing commercials and documentary films, though he still acted regularly into the mid-'80s. He died just this past October at age eighty of undisclosed causes.

Davis first came to prominence from, no surprise, her curvaceous body. She played showgirls, bikini-clad bimbos and sexy secretaries before making inroads with 1970's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (as a character first intended to be Barbara Parkins' role from the parent film!) and appearances on Love, American Style. Her chief claim to fame arrived with Vega$ (in which her practically omnipresent camel toe seared my preteen eyes!), though she also popped up on many episodes of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Having retired in the mid-'90s, she was sadly claimed by cancer in 2013 at the age of seventy-three.
Hartman began appearing in small roles in movies and on TV in the early-1960s. In 1970, she appeared as one of the stewardesses in the blockbuster Airport, which offered few lines, but some decent visibility. That same year she was among the cast of Burt Reynolds' detective series Dan August, which was cancelled after one season, though shortly afterwards became very popular in reruns. Hartman only acted one more time after Island and is currently eighty-one.

Kristen was born in Norway to German-Finnish parents, but wound up in an orphanage until being adopted by an American couple. Her blonde good looks attracted the attention of a producer-director and she was soon popping up in several early-1960s series. 1965 was her year, for she not only played a mermaid in Beach Blanket Bingo, but was cast in Lost in Space on TV. She has continued to work sporadically right up to last year and is currently seventy-one.

Leigh was a model who began acting in 1969. As one might imagine, her movies usually tended to focus on her body (with titles like The Student Nurses, 1970, and Pretty Maids All in a Row, 1971) though 1972 brought a role in her then-boyfriend Steve McQueen's rodeo movie Junior Bonner. Already a mother by the time of Terminal Island (from a teenage pregnancy), she worked on screen only until 1979 (with the infamous Mistress of the Apes her final credit!) A 2002 book relayed her famous romances with Elvis Presley, McQueen and notorious CBS executive Jim Aubrey. She spent 17 years working for Playboy Enterprises, though is now retired at age seventy.

Boone, like his cousins Richard Boone and Pat Boone, was a descendant of pioneer Daniel Boone. He began acting on screen in the 1962 sitcom It's a Man's World and proceeded to costar in three key (and all 90-minute) westerns of the 1960s: Wagon Train, The Virginian and Cimarron Strip. A country singer as well, he began to drift out of acting after the mid-'70s with only occasional forays after that. He is currently seventy-five.

Kenney didn't work a great deal onscreen, but his place in cult fandom is assured by the mere fact that on Star Trek, he portrayed the severely injured, mute Captain Pike in a two-part episode. (He later appeared twice as another crew member, DePaul.) After his screen career dried up in the mid-'70s, he turned to photography with success.  He is currently seventy-two.
Selleck is, of course, the most famous member of this cast by far, thanks to his long-running role on Magnum, P.I. and subsequent film stardom from movies such as 3 Men and a Baby (1987), An Innocent Man (1989), Quigley Down Under (1990) and Mr. Baseball (1992.) He had earlier gained fame as a model and enjoyed small roles in Myra Breckinridge (1970) and The Seven Minutes (1971.) More recently, he's found success again on TV with a series of Jesse Stone telefilms and the police series Blue Bloods. He is currently seventy-one.

Mosley began working in small roles on TV and the occasional movie in the early-1970s. Just before Island, he'd appeared in some Blaxploitation movies like Hit Man (1972) and The Mack (1973), later returning to more TV guest parts and the lead role in Leadbelly (1976), about blues singer Huddie Leadbetter. Other films followed, though he is closely associated with Selleck due to his being cast in Magnum, P.I. as well for the show's entire run. He continued to act, mostly on TV, until 2010 and is currently seventy-eight years old.

Deuel is perhaps best known for his role in the 1970 John Wayne movie Chisum and for his many TV guest roles in the 1960s and '70s. His older brother Peter Deuel (aka - Pete Duel) was arguably more famous from his own roles, including Alias Smith and Jones, though he committed suicide during that series' run when he was thirty-one. Deuel's career all but ended in the late-'70s though he did make occasional on-screen appearances up to about 2001. He is seventy-four at present.

Ventura worked from the mid-'60s on as a TV guest star until winning roles in several 1970s drive-in flicks like this one and Bury Me and Angel (1972), Black Eye (1974) and 'Gator Bait (1974.) His greater mark came, however, in the theatre where he worked as an artistic director (for Theatre West in Los Angeles) and an instructor at Actor's Studio West Coast until he was taken from us by AIDS in 1990 at only age fifty-four, one of countless creative people to have been lost to that epidemic.

Terminal Island is rare in that it was directed by a female, Stephanie Rothman, who'd made a name for herself helming gritty movies for Roger Corman. Though this is an exploitation cheapie, with orders to have a certain amount of violence and nudity, Rothman was one of the first to insist on having men unclothed as well as the women, not that there is a lot of male skin in this one. After leaving the company who made this film, she found little to no success as a director. (She's seen here during her last film The Working Girls, 1974, which starred Sarah Kennedy.) The exploitive jobs she'd taken to gain experience (and just plain work as a director) left a stigma that prevented her from moving on legitimately. She is eighty years old today.

7 comments:

Scooter said...

What a mix of famous faces - some more famous than others. Anything with Phyllis Davis has my vote! Even though the height of her fame came in the 70s to early 80's, she always seemed to be an actress that hearkened back to an earlier time.

Gingerguy said...

Very interesting to read as this film was not on my radar. I had to reread the beginning as I mistakenly thought it was a TV movie from the familiar actors in it, would have been a little shocking for tv. The plot reminded me a little of "Lost" (which had an exhausting cycle of alliances) and reality television. A creepy idea and love the telegenic mugshots. The island uniforms look like the real life androgynous hippie uniform of the early 70's, though I did love how the ladies customized theirs into hot pants. I would have done the same.
The honey trap is hilarious and LOL on bee-hind Poseidon. I was thinking this movie is a little dreary but that bit pulled me right in.
Phyllis Davis would only have been 30 In "Beyond" but she seemed so old compared to everyone else, same on "Vegas". Also loved Ho with a hoe.
Tom Selleck was gorgeous here and made a great looking patient in "Coma" too.
I think the most shocking thing I learned about "Terminal Island" is that Richard and Pat Boone are cousins. Truly shocking! Thanks for this odd bit of exploitation. I don't think I will see it on this month's Turner Classics "Stars Behind Bars" so glad to find it here.

joel65913 said...

Oh Poseidon the paths you lead us down!!

I had never seen, nor quite frankly heard of this opus, before reading your amusing overview of it but curious about the cavalcade of familiar faces I checked to see if I could find it. Glory be there it was on Youtube in its entirety!

Having just finished watching it I can say it was all you said. It wears the cloak of the period it was made, the last grasp of low rent drive-in fodder. As it unspooled I could practically click off the requirements, ridiculous situation-check, ultra violence-check, complete absence of foundation garments for the women-check etc. It was actually better with the foreknowledge of what was coming since there were times it made little sense.

Not that it provided much opportunity for acting of ANY depth but I see what you mean about Tom Selleck, SO thin and ruggedly handsome, he did stand out from the pack. Of course by luck he had the most sympathetic character.

I noticed when the credits were running that the well known production designer Jack Fisk, longtime husband of Sissy Spacek, was the art director-for all he had the chance to do much with it. Just like with Selleck it interesting to watch the credits on these bargain basement cheapies to see who worked themselves up through them.

As Gingerguy said it often has the feeling of a TV movie and with some strategic cuts probably was repurposed into one with a starring lineup running along the lines of Tina Louise, Kay Lenz, Doug McClure, Peter Graves and Billy Dee Williams!

Poseidon3 said...

Hi Scooter! Glad you liked this one. I'm always waffling as to which hair I like on Phyllis. I first knew her as a blonde from "Vega$" then later saw her in "Beyond" as a brunette and sort of liked it. She switched it up several times, so she must also have been torn with maybe a nod towards the blonde. I didn't even realize she was dead until this post. Very sad.

Gingerguy, this movie clips along at a good pace with sordidness and unintentional laughs sprinkled about liberally, so I really think you would like it! As for the Boone's, I didn't go into it in the post, but Richard is a slightly further removed cousin than Pat and Randy are, but they all descended from ol' Dan'l Boone! LOL I'm grinning over the makeshift hot pants!

Joel, I'm glad you hunted this up! That looks like a reasonable print, too, and the right running time (some are shy of about 3 minutes), though not quite as nice as the one TCM chose when they ran it a while back. I can't say I'm "proud" to have steered you towards it, but it's one less thing off your bucket list! LOLOL As I was looking at youtube to see what the quality was of the full movie, I found a trailer (of far worse quality) with HI-larious, pulpy Paul Frees commentary throughout! I swear it almost makes me want to watch it yet again.

Beware of spoilers if you choose to watch this and haven't seen the movie yet:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh-C1s0tXhM

BTW, everyone, I am leaving this evening for 6 nights in Florida and will likely be COMPLETELY out of touch with this blog. So please don't take it personally if you don't see any replies to comments from me before then. Somehow my phone always winds up using a different screen name than Poseidon3 and so I don't comment from there. Best wishes to you all in the meantime!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Ooh, but now is your chance to comment as someone else entirely and we'll never know the difference. Let us know what you really think! :-)

petercox97 said...

Whenever I see Tom Selleck with his seductive mustache and killer looks in pre-Magnum projects I always wonder where was the agent I needed to do my bidding to steer him into doing a softcore movie where he'd be required to drop his kit when he was a hopefully starving actor. How is it that Stallone was convinced to strip down when he really was not that good looking in his youth and yet somehow Selleck slipped through the cracks of not showing his butt crack?.

Poseidon3 said...

I have to assume that Tommy had some sort of scruples about getting naked? Or maybe he'd saved up enough modeling money to not have to go that route? I have never really looked into it closely, but I think the only nudity he ever did was maybe a brief, dim rear in "Lassiter" and I think something in "Mr. Baseball" which I've never seen? But, yes, I'd have loved some early-career skinsploitation! LOL